Chapter 1: Prologue
She remembers her father disappearing when she was just a small girl. She remembers the way she felt her mother’s anguish, pain, the anger. The way it seemed to seep into her own bones, wash over her like a tidal wave.
She remembers feeling confused the way she could feel, and sense what other people were feeling, what they were thinking of she could hear. How loud it was, how it made her entire body tired, weighed down by all of the energy around her.
But only when she was a teenager did she become frightened of all she could see, hear, and feel. She’d have recurring nightmares. Dreams of smoke and ash, rot and decay. Sleep was a terrifying thing for her. She could not close her eyes without seeing her own mother dying right in front of her. Her skin pale, damp, and cold, her hands held no comfort now.
It was when she was fifteen did her mother send her away to learn about the gifts she had.
“It’ll be good for you. Much better than taking care of me.” Her mother said. “Luke, he’ll be good to you. He’ll teach you, take care of you. He’s kind. And he’ll understand, he’ll understand everything.”
Arriving at the academy was terrifying. People she hardly knew, people she would now spend her days and her nights with on a secluded planet. No longer would she be in the comfort of her own home, watching over her mother. Things were serious now. She’d have to learn the ways, the history of the Jedi. She’d have to obey by the rules some old coots created.
Chapter 2: Ben
Yes, I heard you needed me. Yes, I'm here to open you. Yes, I know that your heart is blue. Come just a little bit closer to me. Step just a little bit closer to me.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Sleep didn't come easy even after she joined the academy. If anything, her nightmares got worse. It was like her work with Luke meant nothing to whatever was torturing her mind with images of ashes, and flames surrounding the huts in the academy. Familiar faces in her dreams would be laying lifeless on the grass, caked in blood, dirt, and soot.
Luke always spoke about how dreams sometimes are just dreams, even if they're reoccurring. But they didn't feel like dreams. They felt like an inevitable end. The end of the academy, the end of the students, the end of Luke. An impending doom of sorts.
But still, she begged and she begged Luke to let her try and intercept the meaning of these dreams. To find the looming threat over their heads.
"You shouldn't meddle in the ways of the force." Luke would tell her. He meant well, she knew this. He cared. He cared too much. He cared so much that he was too scared to tell her that he was worried about her never-ending nightmares about the academy ablaze. And if she'd stop meddling, maybe he'd find the time to stop her nightmares. To stop the visions. To stop what was possibly the inevitable.
But she did meddle. Because Astrae never took a no for an answer when she could take a course of action instead.
She remembers when Luke's nephew joined the academy. She could feel his mind, his emotions better than anyone else's even if they never exchanged a word past training. He drowning in his self doubt, loneliness, his nightmares never-ending as well. His dreams kept her awake more times than her own. Nightmares of fire, anger, and grief. So much grief, she thought. Like he was being torn up inside by a creature of his own making he could no longer keep satisfied.
And at nights, when he didn't sleep Astrae could still feel him. Sometimes she'd see him sitting on the cliff edge of the island, always in thought. Always feeling so lost, and hopeless. He was so unsure if he belonged here. If he wanted to be here. If he was meant for it.
Her mother once told her that everyone is comprised of dark and light. One cannot live without the two in harmony. But he was off balance. The light within him did not agree with the dark, he was stuck in a battle with himself. And darkness seemed to take a bigger place within him.
Ben remembers the first time he saw Astrae. It was during training. Her hair in one long braid, she was dressed in gray attire, it was after practice. She'd been walking with Luke, deep in conversation. He could hardly eavesdrop, they were too far away, but she was upset.
But he noticed she was alone a lot of time when she wasn't training. Alone, always alone. Like him.
Things changed one night. He could hear, and feel her approaching him. Usually he could feel her studying him from afar, afraid to confront him like he was some wild beast one shouldn't try and approach lest they get bit.
She was wearing a nightgown, and her hair was loose, flowing down her shoulders. The moonlight casting on her skin made her look a slight blue hue. Ben swears that she should live among the stars.
Astrae sat down beside him. Legs tucked under her body, hands on her knees. Neither of them said anything.
"You're Ben, right?" she asked. "I'm Astrae. But you probably knew that. We all know each other here, either way."
"Not a talker, huh.." she murmured.
"No one talks to me that much." he replied.
"Well, I'm talking to you now, aren't I?" she glanced at him, giving him a slight grin.
"Why? he blurted.
"Why are you talking to me. Now. I mean, you usually spent your time staring at me from afar."
Astrae silently pondered his question.
"Because we both have horrible nightmares. And yes, I did spy on you from afar. But I know how awful it feels to see the same nightmare in your mind for weeks, months, maybe even years. And I don't want either of us to be alone."
She reached out to lightly touch his hand. Even if he didn't want to share or speak, he shouldn't have to think he's alone. Especially when she's experiencing the same awful visions as him.
They fell into a routine after that. Seldom would they talk, but they spent time together. Especially at night, at their most vulnerable. Spending their time counting stars in the sky, talking about how their training was going, sometimes they would even fall asleep under the stars. But his dreams didn't improve. It seemed like he could never fully rid himself of that awful voice in his head that was telling him, instructing him, to join the dark. To abandon all light.
He cracked a month later. Sobs raking his body as he tried to silence himself by covering his mouth with his hands. Hoping, begging, that whatever higher power there was that they would protect him. Help him. Save him from himself and this feeling of anger, and hatred, that was growing in his bones.
Astrae saw him. A numbness in his eyes, and tear stains on his cheeks. She sat right next to him. Putting her head gently on his shoulder, putting her hands in his. A silence growing between the two, as it always did. A silent agreement made between the two long ago. She didn't want to push him, to pressure him or force him to speak if he didn't want to.
"I want it to stop." he whispered. "The voice, the dark. I want to make it all fade away."
"What voice?" she inquired, now angling her head to look up at him, placing her chin on his shoulder.
"He says his name is Snoke. And that he knows things. Knows things about my grandfather, who was Darth Vader. That I have potential. That he'll show me the power that sleeps dormant in the dark side."
That name. Snoke. She doesn't know why, but something in the pit of Astrae's stomach drops at the sound of his name. But she knows, she knows that whatever this creature, this man with no body, no face, it isn't there to help Ben. Just the mention of Snoke's name makes her feel the flames on her skin, she can see the huts burning, can feel Luke's despair, his grief, and Ben's anger.
song mentioned in chapters summary is: Mary Magdalene by FKA Twigs.
Chapter 3: Astrae
I know what you're doin' here, made your intentions clear.
I deliver to you a time jump. We're entering PRE-TFA territory. Getting into the groove of things now. Will have more chapters emphasizing on the time at the academy, don't worry. xx
Ten years is a long ass time. Especially if you spend those ten years avoiding one specific person who is now a commander of one of the most notorious fascist regimes. It's also a long time to keep putting up a wall in your brain so said person cannot track you down through the force.
Abellio was a heinous planet, with stormtroopers on every corner someones looking to buy smuggled goods for half their price. It was a dried up wasteland. All the war between its natives and the first order has turned it into a hive for scum. What once was a luscious planet with large bodies of water has now turned up into a desert, with somebody dying on almost every corner for being a sleazy fuck.
It was one of Astrae's stops before she left to another planet. The word home was foreign to her. Everyone had chosen a side in this war, returning to her home planet would be pointless. Going anywhere to start a life would be pointless. You'd have to pick a side, and that she could not do.
She saw the way the war tore apart Abellio, how the first order stormed villages filled with innocent people and ripped them out of their homes to slaughter them. You either complied, or you died.
The resistance was a different story. There was only a small handful of them, they'd been recruiting left and right. A noble cause, but for what? They didn't have the weaponry or the power the first order had. Astrae heard rumors floating around that they'd been looking for a way to find Luke. Pointless is one word for their efforts to find Luke.
When she left the academy, in the dark with only the clothes on her back and her two blades, she didn't look back. And yet, she could feel the deaths of the students no matter how far away she was. And she could feel Luke and all his pain until she couldn't. He wasn't dead, no. It was much worse. He was a recluse. Hiding from everyone, from his failure that he could not prevent no matter how hard he tried.
She got by with smuggling to earn money. She'd sold weaponry to the resistance, practically given it away. And she'd done business with the first order. Even though they're the height of all villainy, they pay really well.
But to live life moving from place to place for ten consecutive years wasn't easy. And it wasn't made easier by the fact that Ben, now notorious Jedi killer Kylo Ren was trying to chase her down for Force knows what fucking reason. She'd seen her face plastered in bars and markets under the words fugitive. Astrae had to learn to be extra careful around force order controlled planets. Which made smuggling and in turn, earning money real hard.
And now she was sat in some dingy joint, outside of Abellio's main city where there were no important markets, no stormtroopers, and no eavesdroppers who could turn her in for a few credits and a chance to kiss Kylo's boots.
"Did you hear?" Onhar whispered.
Onhar Feles was Astrae's "partner in crime", if by partner in crime you meant that she made him do all the dirty work while she used her force powers to threaten people into compliance during deals. He was of Omwati race, and apart from the fact that his skin was a light blue you'd think he was a human male. Astrae met him when looking for transport off of Jakku after killing scavengers for trying to rob her.
"Hear what." Astrae spoke, fiddling with the coaster on the table.
"I've heard from my friend that the commander of the first order is coming to Abellio, today."
Astrae stopped playing with the coaster, pushing it aside and putting her elbows on the table. "Who told you that?"
Onhar shrugged. "An insider. He works closely with the order, sells them blasters and shit like that. But it seems like the commander isn't here on regular business."
"What kind of business is he on then?" Astrae asks.
"I don't know. I just know he'll be vetting the entire planet. Must be that Skywalker search bullshit."
She leaned back in her seat, thinking. It couldn't possibly be him searching for her. No. She's kept her mind like a giant brick wall. An impenetrable brick wall. She's been on Abellio for barely a fucking week. How would he know? He wouldn't.
"Listen," Onhar says, gently reaching for her. "It's not like we're in trouble. We've been on our best behavior."
"When can we leave?" She says, moving to step out of the booth.
"Leave? Why the fuck would we leave? We've not finished our deal with the officers. Fuck, are you trying to leave us broke?"
"No," Astrae sighs. "I'm just trying to keep us alive."
Before Onhar can answer with some quip or a disbelieving sigh of disappointment, the door opens. In walks in a man clad in all black, using a scythe like weapon and wearing a hideous mask. Astrae tries not to look at him. He's a force user, obviously one of Kylo's babysitters.
The knights of ren are notorious, a group of silent assassins and mercenaries. They run around after Kylo and do as they're told, and when they don't, they run around on their own and slaughter innocents. She swears she saw them in her nightmares about the academy. Bunch of fucking bastards.
"Listen, Onhar, you stay here. I'm going to go. Clear my head. Maybe chill on our ship. Think of our next stop, yeah?"
She tries to move silently, slowly, like a cat, or perhaps a mouse. She's done nothing wrong. Nothing illegal. And there's no way that the knights know who she is. But caution doesn't hurt, she thinks. And cautious she is. Until she feels a firm arm wrap around her bicep and force her to look up at the ugly mask.
"You." The knight says to her.
"Me." She answers, giving a small smile. "Can I help you?"
"He's looking for you."
"Who?" She asks.
"Don't play." He says, gently shaking her. "It'll be easier for you if you just comply. Less headaches for all of us."
Astrae fidgets and thinks for a moment. She could comply, leave with him, get kidnapped and probably murdered on some hideous first order ship. Or, she could unsheathe her kyber crystal infused blade from her sleeve, and stick it through the knights helmet, right where his eye would be.
She chose the latter. And with that, the whole bar went into chaos. The knight doubled over in pain, he was no doubt going to be left one eyed. The patrons, along with Onhar looked at Astrae like she was insane. Who the fuck would stab a knight of ren in the eye. A brave person, or a moron. Or both.
Astrae wasted no time scrambling to the exit door before the knight could get up and call for his backup. Unluckily for her, at least twenty meters outside of the bar two more masked motherfuckers stood waiting around for their companion. And as her luck would have, they'd be the ones she bumped into whilst trying to get away from the bar.
They stared at each other. Astrae knew she couldn't take on two of these fuckers with two small knives.
She sighed. "Fine. I know the spiel. You're going to ask me to come with you, comply. Make it easier."
The knights stood silent.
"I'm saying," she loudly announced "that you can take me to your commander. No fuss. I already took an eye from your buddy back at the bar."
Chapter 4: Kylo Ren
In the blazin' sun, I saw you. In the shadows hidin' from yourself. When the lights are on I know you, see you're gray from all the lies you tell.
The walk was silent, and tense. The two knights shared no words, no glances at her. It felt like she was walking straight to the executioner. She only hopes Onhar is safe, hopes that the now one eyed knight doesn't slaughter the patrons of the bar.
The knights took her to a clearing where the command shuttle was docked. The shuttle was in one word, bland. Hideous and bland, Astrae thought. With all that money and all those resources you'd think the order could spare some credits on making their ships a little bit exciting.
"Give me your hands." One of the knights spoke.
"So I may handcuff you. Guarantee you won't try to kill us, or run away." The knight answered.
"Or both." Astrae quipped.
The knight had nothing to say to that, he just placed the shackles on Astrae's wrists and tightened them. The knights made a move to board the ship.
"Are you leaving me here?" She asked.
"He wishes to speak with you alone. Not on board." The knight answered.
Astrae raised her shackled wrists, "Then why the cuffs?"
With that, the two knights stepped onto the ramp of the shuttle. Leaving Astrae in total silence, to look around at the barren desert surrounding her. She could still make a run for it, but at this rate what good would it give. She'd already handed herself over, practically gift wrapped. Ten years of agile training dodging troopers and for what. She's probably going to be murdered right here on this filthy sandy planet. Her body wont be found for days, weeks, fuck maybe even months. When Onhar finds her he'll write "Moron" on her gravestone, if she even gets one.
But suddenly, the energy shifted. And she felt it. Felt him standing a few feet behind her.
"You gave yourself up easily." Kylo spoke, vocoder distorting his voice. Rendering it almost unrecognizable.
Astrae huffed. "I won't continue this conversation until you take off that stupid mask."
Behind her, she heard a soft whirring and then a clunk of metal being tossed unceremoniously onto the sand. She could feel him moving silently, slowly as if she were a helpless animal lost, and frightened. Could feel him reaching his arm out, trying to touch her.
"I swear to whatever higher power there is, if you lay a hand on me I will bite your hand off." She spoke.
Kylo chuckled. "So much hostility. What did I ever do to deserve it?"
Astrae turned around to face him, they were chest to chest. He looked almost the same as when she left. Older now, with longer hair, and tired eyes. She could feel it. How tired he was, how lonely and sad he was. It's as if nothing had changed, he was still the same confused and lost nineteen year old boy. Except he wasn't nineteen anymore. He was twenty-nine. He was a commander, dubbed the name 'Jedi killer'. He had an army, a fleet of loyal subjects, six knights who would kill anyone if he told them too.
And still, he was so alone. She felt it. And it almost made her feel guilty. Guilty for leaving, for not saying why, or saying goodbye. But even if she had stayed, what could she have done? She knew his turning was inevitable, and had she not left, he would've asked her to join him or killed her if she had said no.
"Are you here to kill me?" She whispered, raising her head to be eye level with him.
He stepped closer, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. "No," he said, swallowing what clearly was a lump in his throat, "I've come to take you home."
"Home?" Astrae blurted, stepping away from him. "What home? I hope you don't mean living with you on some hideous ship, or desolate planet where the order is hiding. I'd rather you'd kill me right now."
They both stood there for a moment.
Kylo cleared his throat. "I'm offering you a chance to live. No more scrounging for work, no more smuggling. I'm offering you a place in this galaxy."
She scoffed. "Offering me a place in this galaxy? What kind of shitty manipulation tactic is that? You're not offering me anything, you're instructing me. You want me to climb aboard that hideous shuttle," she ranted, pointing at the ship with her index finger. "and you want me to do something for you. Isn't that right? That's why you haven't killed me. You need me for something you know I want no part of."
He was taken aback by her statement, that much Astrae knows. And now she knows that he's thinking, processing the information. Pacing in front of her, jaw clenched and unclenched, biting the inside of his cheek. This was going to take a while, obviously, so she sat down on the ramp of the command shuttle.
Kylo let out a deep breath. "Fine," he moved to pick up his helmet, with it in hand approaching Astrae sat on the ramp. "I need you. For what, I won't say. But if you get on that ramp, I'll take your cuffs off and we can have a civil conversation."
Astrae scoffed. "So you're just going to withhold information from me until I get onto that shuttle, no doubt trapping me and flying me away from this desert wasteland. And then you're going to land on some equally hideous, larger vessel, where you shove me in some cramped room and torture me for information."
"Torture you for information?"
"Yes. You're clearly here to gather information about Luke. Newsflash, buddy, I don't know where he is."
Astrae was taken aback by his nonchalant tone. "Know what?"
"I'm not here to find Luke." He assured her. "I came here for you, specifically. I don't know what happened last night but I felt you. Clear as day. All defenses gone, everything laid bare for me." He reached out to tap his index finger against her temple.
She slapped his hand away with a sour look on her face. Muttering under her breath how she never should've tried Onhar's special cocktail.
"Who's Onhar?" Kylo asked, a tense energy radiating off of him.
"Jealous, are we?" She said, a smile tugging at her lips.
"Never." He murmured.
What neither of them realized is that while they were having the little heart to heart near the command shuttle, Onhar was practically shitting himself thinking Astrae was kidnapped. Once she left the bar after wounding the knight, he scrambled to help the knight in hopes of finding Astrae. And now, he was helping the half-blind, stumbling knight back to the command shuttle.
Astrae and Kylo both felt a shift in the force, something was approaching. They both stood up, tensing slightly. Astrae wiggled her hands slightly, focusing herself to unlock her shackles. They fell off. Kylo stared at her incredulously as if wanting to ask why she let herself get cuffed if she could just.. remove them. There was no time for him to ask her that, as they hear four pairs of footsteps approaching, sand crunching underneath the unidentified individuals' feet.
It was only when the knight and Onhar stepped into view did both Kylo, and Astrae relax.
"Onhar! You're alive! And so are you!" Astrae exclaimed, pointing at both her friend and the knight.
Kylo let out a huff. "Sion, go inside." He nudged his head towards the ship.
Sion removed his hand from Onhar's shoulder, nodded to his master and made his way up the ramp of the shuttle, not sparing a glance at Astrae.
"So," Onhar coughed out. "you guys know each other?"
"What's it to you?" Kylo grumbled.
"I mean," Onhar said with a wave of his hand. "there's clear tension between the two of you."
Astrae chuckled. "Pay him no mind, Onhar. He's just fussy."
"Yes, Onhar," Kylo spoke through gritted teeth. "Pay me no mind. Or better yet, leave, and let me resolve business with Astrae."
The Omwati was taken aback by the anger directed towards him. "I can't just leave her, she's my friend."
"Leave, or I'll make you leave." Kylo fiddled with the hilt of his lightsaber, weighing out the options he currently has.
Slowly, but surely, Kylo was moving towards Onhar with a murderous glint in his eye. Noticing that, Astrae made her way towards him, gently placing her hand on his chest.
"Cool off, please." She looked up at him, "There's no need to shed blood over this, do you hear me?" She reached to cup his cheek with her free hand, moving his head ever so gently to look at her. He placed his leather clad hand over hers and closed his eyes. He missed this.
Onhar was watching this spectacle with wide eyes. Who was Astrae to the commander? Yes, Onhar never asked her about her past, and she never pried into his. They had a silent agreement about that. But now, he had to know. How had she come to know the famous Jedi killer? To know him so.. intimately. To know him so well that with a single touch, she could prevent a murder.
"Ask him to leave." Kylo huffed, with eyes closed.
"Hmm.. No." She replied, moving her hand away from his cheek, and chest. "Let him join me, and I'll leave with you."
Kylo opened his eyes, piercing Onhar with his stare. "You," he pointed at the Omwati. "You're leaving with us."
Without a second glance, Kylo turned around and stepped onto the ramp. Standing by the shuttles entryway, he waited for Astrae to follow suit. She nudged her head towards the ship whilst looking at Onhar, a reassuring smile on her face. No, she would not let Kylo maim her friend.
Chapter 5: Homecoming
You can coax the cold right out of me, drape me in your warmth.
"I don't mean to pry into your intense and mysterious past but when were you going to drop it on me that you're essentially best buddies with a first order commander?" Onhar whisper yelled. "I mean your business is your business, but I'd like to ya know.. be warned about these things. He has six knights, six! And they could kill us at any moment. That man is a ticking time bomb, 'Strae!"
Astrae looked at Onhar. "You're going to calm down."
"I'm going to calm down." He repeated.
"And now that you're relaxed, you're not going to create a fuss over the fact that I'm going to ask Kylo about our journey and where we're headed."
She stood up, patting Onhar on the head as she passed him. She loved having force powers. Of course, Astrae would never maliciously use them on Onhar, but sometimes when he got a bit neurotic she'd have to center him. His worries were not at all unfounded. After ten years out of dodge, Kylo somehow finds them and plans on delivering them wherever he's stationed. It's all very bemusing to her.
Kylo was sat in the cockpit, his mask placed on the co-pilots chair. His fingers were tapping at the pilots chair and he seemed lost in thought.
"You okay?" Astrae asked.
He turned around to face her, seemingly lost in a daze as if he's once again seeing her for the first time in his life. Kylo wanted to stay in this moment forever. Just him and her, staring at each other. For a moment it felt like she'd never left, and he'd never slaughtered fellow students at the academy.
She was gorgeous, he thought. I mean fuck, she was always gorgeous but now, even covered in sand and dirt, hair all frizzy and mussed up, she still managed to look like she was the most beautiful creature in the galaxy.
"I missed you." He spoke. "Ten years without you.. It tore me apart."
Astrae stepped closer to his seat, "So. Where are you taking me and Onhar?" she spoke.
He reached for her, gently grabbing her hips and bringing her to stand closer to him in between his legs. He rested his head on her abdomen and let out a content sigh. He wished he could just meld their bodies together, so he'd never have to be apart from her.
Not knowing what to do with the current predicament, Astrae gently stroked Kylo's hair. "Where are you taking us?" She whispered.
"Finalizer." Was his muffled answer. He started nuzzling his face into the fabric of her shirt like some drunkard.
"Why?" She asked.
He lifted his eyes up slightly, staring at her. "Home. I told you. It's home."
Kylo sighed. "It's all apart of the bigger plan. Snoke said so." He spoke, toying with the fabric of her shirt between his fingers. "He's seen visions, shared them with me. Of you and I ruling together. Finishing what the Empire started, what my grandfather started."
It felt like Astrae's head was twisted upside down. So this was all Snokes doing, no doubt. Crackpot visions of grandeur planted into Kylo's mind and for what? For her to be a toy, a mere chess piece in some old mans game. Snoke obviously learned information about her through Kylo, he learned about her training with Luke, and her force powers. Of course. Of course. It makes sense. Why have one apprentice, when you could have two, why have one apprentice when if need be, Kylo would drop everything to supply Snoke with heirs at her expense.
That's when she felt something. Something mulling deep inside her, a festering anger she hasn't felt in a long while. A thought crossed her mind about how easy it would be to slash Kylo's throat and make a run for it. With him dead, she could take his lightsaber and fight his knights with ease. But what would she do with the ship. Fuck.
"You have to take me back." She rasped. "Take me back to Abellio. Please."
Her hands were shaking now, and she was detangling herself from him, her head was spinning.
Kylo stood up, "Why? Why am I even asking, of course I'm not taking you back. You're coming home with me. Like you said." he reached for her.
She put her hands up "No!" she shrieked. "Take me back! Take the both of us back to Abellio and fuck off back to Snoke. Tell him you failed. There is no future where I would join you."
He reached for her again, and this time she clawed at him, trying to escape him. She could feel tears stinging in her eyes, her hands now in his grasp as she was thrashing against him. Before she could shriek for Onhar, she felt a slight pressure on her temple and everything around her went black.
When Astrae opened her eyes, she was on a bed, no longer on the shuttle. She felt like her head was scrambled. Throwing the black sheets off of her body, she tried to ease herself out of bed. The room was large, sleek and modern, but empty. There were no knick knacks, no personal items strewn around. It's as if nobody lived there at all. But the room felt familiar.
She had to assume she was on the Finalizer. After all, she was subdued by Kylo on the shuttle, so no doubt that he brought her body onto the Finalizer like a little rag doll. She probably weighed nothing to him, it was probably like carrying a singular apple in ones hand.
As she started to take in her surroundings, she realized she was not wearing the same outfit she had left Abellio in. She now donned a long, silk nightgown. The idea that Kylo had to manhandle her, and undress her made her throw up in her mouth a little. You spend ten years apart from someone, and suddenly they're dressing up your unconscious body like in some horrible ghost story.
Astrae stepped into the living room, and there he was. The motherfucker. Absolute shithead. But Kylo himself was no longer wearing the ugly robes he wore when he was on Abellio. No, now he was in slacks and a black t-shirt, skimming through something on his datapad.
"You're awake." He noted.
"Yes, I would've enjoyed not waking up. For death would be sweeter than being with you at this moment." She fumed.
He chuckled. "Go ahead, let out all of your anger. You've no means of leaving anyway. Though, you'll be happy to know, your friend is unharmed, situated in his own quarters on the other side of the ship with higher ranking officers."
Astrae scoffed at his statement. No, of course he would separate her from Onhar whichever way possible. Peeing on her would be less obvious than these passive aggressive and honestly, pretentious, shows of jealousy.
She moved to sit across from him on a plush loveseat, taking a small throw pillow into her arms and hugging it to her chest.
"What are you thinking about." Kylo asked.
"Murdering you in your sleep. Haven't decided whether I should suffocate you, or use your own blade." She huffed.
The air in the room was tense. He jumped up from his seat on the couch and bent down in front of her on the loveseat. He gently bumped his forehead with hers, nuzzling his nose against hers.
"I have half a mind to kiss you right now." He whispered.
"And I'd let you. If you hadn't used your little sith tricks to get me here against my will, like an asshole." She replied.
Kylo groaned, he looked at her, his eyes flitting between her lips and her hazel irises.
You could cut the tension with a knife at this rate, both of them participating in the ridiculous stare down. Daring each other to break first and share a kiss they both want. Before either of them could break, there was a knock at the door.
Chapter 6: Intu
Tired, my resistance. Smothered is my distance.
They've successfully taken over Intu. That's all that echoes in Astrae's mind after eavesdropping on the conversation between Kylo and the general.
Intu. Her home. The planet she longed to return to, the planet with all the memories of her mother, her father, her entire childhood. It makes her entire stomach twist. Her home is nothing but collateral damage for the first order, for them, it is just a stepping stone in enhancing their stronghold on the galaxy.
She closes her eyes, tries to soothe herself with images of her home. She hasn't been there for so long, wondering if the deep lakes and lush forests haven't drowned in the fire and destruction that the first order creates. Astrae wonders if her childhood home is still intact. Her room, littered with shiny rocks and small houses she used to craft for the frogs living down by the lake. And her village, Bathi, just outside of the capitol of Intu, she wonders if it is still unstained by destruction and war.
It hurts, she thinks. Thinking of a home she cannot go back to now. For a time, Luke's academy was her home, but then she had to leave, and she couldn't go back to Intu, she felt like she didn't deserve to. And she tried to work, tried to make a few credits and maybe then, maybe, she could go back home. Home where she spent her childhood chasing frogs by the lakes, where she spent her time reading in the fields, where she helped her mother to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.
She feels defeated. And it's the first time she felt this way since she left the academy. She sits on the bed, fiddling with her hands in her lap. What is she to do? What exactly is there for her to do. She can't leave, and she can't plead to go back home to Intu, no. It's first order territory now. She can only stay here and bide her time.
Standing up from the bed, she makes her way towards the closet. With a gentle wave of her hand, the closet door slides open, revealing an array of gowns and pantsuits. She skims her hands against the material, it's as if he's been preparing for her arrival, she thinks. She opts for a pantsuit, it has sun insignia's sown onto the chest, and a cape that's attached with golden sun buckles.
After she's done getting dressed, she scours the room for her blades. She ransacks all the drawers in the closet, even going so far as to look under the bed but to no avail. Sighing, she makes her way to the metal doors separating the bedroom and the living room. With a light touch, the doors open.
Both Kylo and the general turn around to face her coming out of the bedroom. Astrae notices two stormtroopers standing guard by the door.
The general clears his throat, "A pleasure to meet you Miss..?"
"You can call me Astrae." She replies.
He gives a curt nod, "I'm general Armitage Hux."
Astrae eyes him for a moment, he's a weasel looking man. He stands tall, arms behind his back, an aura of superiority surrounding him. Not a hair out of place, and not a speck of dirt seen on his robes.
She turns to Kylo, "I want to have my own quarters."
Kylo blinks, starts approaching her, "Is this the conversation you really want to have right now?"
She looks at the stormtroopers and the general, "Leave us."
The troopers fidget for a moment, looking at the general. He nods, gesturing for them to start exiting the room, following suit.
Astrae tries to move past Kylo, he stops her by grasping her wrist and forcing her to turn and look at him.
"Why do you need your own quarters?" He asks, stepping closer into her personal bubble.
"I would prefer to have my own space, if I am to rot away in this heinous hunk of metal." She retorts.
He studies her for a moment, "You're angry."
"Why wouldn't I be?" She rips her wrist from his grasp, "You've taken over my home planet. Don't deny it, I heard the general. You're going to turn it to fire and ash, like you did to countless other planets."
Kylo's hands clench at his sides, "You're being difficult over a planet? A planet you haven't been on in a fucking decade."
He runs his fingers through his hair, huffing and muttering under his breath about what nonsense this is. He sits down on the couch, and rubs his hands over his face. They look at each other. Astrae looks calm, she's always so fucking calm, he thinks.
"What if you liberated Intu." Astrae mumbled
"What if you asked Snoke to liberate Intu."
"You know I can't do that."
Astrae made her way slowly to the couch, standing in front of Kylo, arms loosely at her sides.
"Why not?" She said softly.
Before he could reply, she made a move to straddle him, her hands gently cupping his face. "Why can't you indulge me, this once?"
Kylo closed his eyes, exhaling a silent breath and feeling his entire body relax into her touch. She leaned in to press her forehead against his, gently stroking his face.
"Please," she whispered against his mouth, "just this once, my love. Just this once."
He sighed, "I cannot promise you anything, but I'll see what I can do."
They looked at each other, a small smile tugging on Astrae's lips. She pressed a kiss against his forehead, murmuring a 'thank you.'
Chapter 7: FN-2187
What you don't tell no one, you can tell me.
Life on the Finalizer was dull, the days seemed to meld together. Astrae wasn't allowed to sit in on any of the meetings, or roam the hallways. Even when she did want to roam, she always had to have a trooper for a guard, and everybody avoided her like she carried the plague.
Nevertheless, that wasn't going to stop her. Stepping into the living room, she eyed the stormtrooper waiting for her by the door.
"You're not DN-5953." She said.
The trooper fidgeted, "No, maam. I'm FN-2187."
Astrae tilted her head, "What happened to DN?" she started stepping closer to FN-2187.
"He's uh.. he's been promoted, ma'am." The trooper stammered.
"Remove your helmet." She instructed.
FN tensed up. He was not allowed to remove his helmet, under no circumstance. Not even if the commander's paramour beckoned him to. That'd be breaking protocol.
"I'm.. not allowed to do that." He trailed off.
"Why not? There's no one in these quarters apart from me. I'd like to see the face of my new guard. I requested the same of DN, even though he was much less chatty."
FN fidgeted with his hands, raising them up to remove his helmet. He was terrified. As a stormtrooper, you're not supposed to have an identity. He's apart of one big regime, he is a nobody, that's the point of the helmet. To keep him in his place.
Astrae clasped her hands in front of her, taking in her new companion. He was much younger than the last trooper, handsomer too. He had this look in his eyes, a look she's seen before, he didn't want to be here. Not in the room, no, but on the Finalizer. It seemed like he wanted to go home, wherever that was.
She reached out her hand for him to shake, "I'm Astrae. You can, and will refer to me by my name. No ma'am's, no formal titles."
He shook her hand, "I.." he stammered, "I've no name so, you should refer to me by my code."
Astrae inched closer to the trooper, taking him in. He had brown eyes, short black hair, and dark brown skin. But his entire being was wracked with a longing for something different.
"What do you do, FN?" She asked.
"I'm in training, ma'am, I mean," He cut himself off, "I'm in training, currently, the captain, Phasma, thought it'd be good training for me to take care of you."
Astrae scoffed, "Take care of me?"
"Y-Yes." FN stammered. "The commander, he.. he finds it important that you are kept safe."
She let out a low hum, "You can put your helmet back on, you'll be helping me familiarize with the Finalizer today."
The Finalizer itself is dull and lifeless and fucking boring. It's a hunk of metal in space, the least the people on it could do is be a bit more lively. Every officer and lieutenant looks like they're just husks of people. Sometimes it looks like they're not even breathing.
"And this," FN speaks with a wave of his hand, "is the main bridge."
"It's quite ugly, isn't it." Astrae quips, turning to look at her new friend.
FN lets out a small chuckle that he passes off as a cough when an officer walks by them. He finds it easy talking to Astrae, she's a calming presence aboard the Finalizer, but he can't seem but notice a slight sadness in her eyes. He's heard the rumors, of course, he wasn't on the hangar when she arrived, but that didn't stop him from eavesdropping on idle gossip about how the commander cradled and carried her unconscious body off the ship, straight to his quarters.
But now, looking at her, speaking to her, she seems so different. Nothing like the uptight and superior officers and lieutenants aboard this ship, nothing like the commander who wouldn't hesitate to slice an officer in half for something as small as stammering. And the way she looked at him, like he was human, like he wasn't just a faceless soldier in a crowd who would live and die for the first order.
Which begs the question, why was she here in the first place?
Before he could ask her about her current situation, the hairs on the back of his neck rose up as if sensing a presence that was anything but pleasant approaching the bridge. It's as if Astrae could sense the same, smoothing her pants and looking at the person stomping down the hallway to the bridge.
It was the commander with hands clenched at his sides, shoulders tensed, stomping up to the bridge like he was about to commit a murder. He stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed a figure in a red pantsuit and a trooper at her side. Astrae.
"What are you doing." He seethed. "You're supposed to be in your quarters. I thought you'd been taken."
"I didn't know I was being held against my will."
Kylo let out a deep huff, body tensing. "You aren't."
"Then why should I be confined to my quarters?"
"You shouldn't. A warning of your roaming would be.. nice."
Astrae straightened, slowly approaching Kylo. FN watches the scene unfold before his eyes, she's bold, he thinks. He's never seen someone approach the commander so calmly, let alone after talking back to him so.. passionately.
He's wearing his hideous helmet again, she thinks. Kylo likes the power it gives him, makes him seem less human, everyone would have more of a reason to fear a beast in a mask rather than a man. She draws nearer into his personal space, her fingers reaching for his gloved ones.
"You're tense." She mused, "Has my unannounced wandering caused a commotion, Commander?"
Something in the way she says his title makes Kylo's cheeks heat up and he's thankful she can't see it.
"Yes, it has." He affirmed. "I would enjoy it if you would accompany me back to our quarters for dinner."
"Yes, right now."
"But I was having so much fun with my new friend." She spoke, gesturing to FN standing a couple feet behind her.
"He's dismissed then."
Both Astrae and Kylo were staring at FN now. She looked at him with a softness in her eyes, the gaze instructing him to go before he faced the wrath of the commander first hand. Giving a small nod, the trooper made his way off the bridge wondering if he'd ever see Astrae again or if tomorrow, a new stormtrooper will be assigned to her.
"He's nice." Astrae mumbled, walking alongside Kylo. "Much chattier, and friendlier than the last one."
Kylo didn't reply. The walk to their quarters was a silent one. Not tense, just silent. It seemed like he had no interest what she thought of any of the stormtroopers he assigned to her. After making it back, he hurried off to the refresher before Astrae could even cut in a word and ask about how his day went.
She stood alone in the living area, throwing her red cape on the nearest chair. She hadn't asked him about getting her own room, he seemed to evade that question like the plague. He seemed to evade all her questions though. Any questions about Intu? Dismissed. Questions about her own room? Ignored. She had even asked him to return her blades, he pretended he didn't hear her. A thump and a groan from the bedroom snapped Astrae out of her thoughts.
She entered the bedroom to see what had happened, just to stumble Kylo in his slacks, no shirt, sprawled out like a starfish on the bed. His eyes were closed, but she could still sense how tired he was.
"I missed you." He grumbled.
"Have you taken up talking to the bed now?"
"No. I've missed you." Kylo propped up his body on his forearms, "C'mere." he said with a nudge of his head.
Astrae approached the foot of the bed, staring down at Kylo as she climbed on the bed, sitting down on the plush mattress with her legs tucked under her body. She didn't make a move after the fact, so he yanked her by her arm so she would topple on top of him, trapping her on his chest by hugging her tightly.
"You smell so nice." He exclaimed, "Like.. honey. And lavender."
Astrae didn't make a move, or a sound. She just listened to his heartbeat as he blabbered on about how nice she smelled, and how after her showers she always makes the entire bedroom smell like her, and how the smell is ingrained in the pillows now. After his mumbled speech about her smell, she could feel his breath evening out, he was asleep. She made a move to roll off of him, slowly, and precisely as not to wake him, turning her body on her side to look at him.
He looks so calm, she thinks. So harmless, so peaceful. Hair fallen on his face, his entire body relaxed into the mattress. She wishes he was always like this, she wishes things were different. Astrae wonders about what would it have been like if he wasn't supposed to turn to the dark side. Wonders what it would've been like if she had never left the academy, had she stayed would things be different?
She studies him for a few more moments before closing her eyes, and scooting closer to him. All these questions and pondering can wait for another day.
Chapter 8: Tethered
The welts of your scorn, my love, give me more. Send whips of opinion down my back, give me more. Well it's you I've waited my life to see, it's you I've searched so hard for...
Kylo wakes in the early morning, yesterday still heavy on his mind. They've found a lead on the map that leads to Luke, it's so close he can taste it. And yet something still sits heavy on his mind. A feeling, an instinct, a sort of flame lapping at his head, and he can't trace what it is or what it means. It eats at him. He's so close, yet so far from his goal. Still so vulnerable to the light that calls to him, that beckons him to come home.
He turns his head to look at Astrae sleeping beside him. He's missed her so much, so fucking much. He's spent a decade turning the entire galaxy inside out just to find her, even if for a moment before she inevitably lodged a blade in his leg and ran away. He's kept tabs on her this entire time. Her time smuggling goods and selling them to the order has not evaded him.
But she's changed now. She's different, stronger in every way. She knows her way around a blaster, a blade, any weapon, really. He's seen what she did to Sion, didn't even hesitate. Kylo wonders, would she have done the same to him? He's hid her blades away, stored them in a little vault hidden inside the closet for that very reason.
It's a childish fear, he knows this but there's still such a small possibility. He's felt her rage and anger aboard the ship, like a flame that'll engulf anything in its path. And yet, she's still always so calm, so cool, so collected. She's everything he's not. Where Astrae controls her impulses, Kylo falls victim to them. He thinks she's the human embodiment of light.
If there was ever a reason, a being who could change his mind about the path he's on, it'd be her.
And he loves her, he loves her so much that it makes his stomach clench, makes his heart do jumps, his hands twitch, and his head spin. He wonders if she feels the same, or if her love died the day she left the academy.
He stares at her, taking in her sleeping form. Her hairs mussed up against the pillow, hands clutching the sheet, and she's wearing the clothes she did yesterday. He wants to reach out, to touch her, stroke her cheek, but he's so scared of waking her. Waking her from whatever blissful dream she's having. And he's scared for other reasons. Scared she'll jerk away from his touch, reject him.
Sometimes Kylo wonders if it's all a big dream. If he's always hallucinating her presence, wondering if he's in a coma, or if he's died in battle and now this, this is his personal heaven. Because there's no reason for her to be as compliant as she was, there was no reason for her to be as kind and warm to him as she was that day on Abellio. She'd stabbed his knight in the eye one minute, and the next she had embraced him for the first time in years.
Her touch, her touch is so fucking warm, tender and loving. He's longed for her for so long, it doesn't feel real. Her laying next to him, so blissful, so serene. None of it feels real.
He wonders if she'd join him on his path. If she'd abandon her morals, her kindness, her control. He wonders if she thinks he's a monster.
Astrae moves beside him, still asleep. Her hand reaching out and lightly smacking his shoulder. She grumbles something incoherent under her breath, clearly still immersed in her dream.
Her touch is warm against Kylo's cool skin. He wonders if she's ever laid with someone like this before. If she had someone in her life, someone she loved more than him. Someone she wanted to go home to, lay next to, spend the rest of her days with.
Anger starts bubbling in his chest at those thoughts, a jealous flame lapping at his heart.
Oh how'd he love to know. To know what bastard has tried to take his place in her life. To look that person in the eyes before he kills them in whichever way he pleases.
Astrae moves again, this time inching closer to him, laying her head so close to his chest her hair tickles his neck. And he cools, for the first time, he cools down at a simple gesture. No, he thinks, she would never replace him. If she had, she would've never complied to see him on Abellio.
If she had sought out to love someone like she loves him, he would feel her betrayal. He would sense it from however far away. But he hasn't. Because they both know they're tethered to one another. They can't avoid it, can't avoid the fact that their souls have been entwined from the beginning. The link only strengthening that night she finally approached him at the academy.
It was always inevitable, her return to him, or perhaps his return to her. The force would always bring them back to one another, no matter what.
She grumbles in her sleep again, hand reaching to splay across his chest. He wants to hold her hand, but he's scared. Scared he'll wake her up, ruin whatever dream she's having, but he's also scared to touch her.
Kylo's been avoiding it. Touching her, being close to her, it's intoxicating for him, and he thinks if he runs from it, her hold on him will lessen. But he misses her. He misses her when he leaves, misses her when he returns and she's already asleep in the bed, misses her even when she's in the other room. He wants to hold her so bad, he wants to just feel her against his skin, merge with her.
But sometimes it's unavoidable, just like now. When her sleeping form moves and wiggles, and her hands touch and bump him. He's sucking in his breaths, waiting for her to wake up and un-cling herself from him like he's radioactive. But she doesn't, she never does.
Even when she's not asleep, she touches him. She'll bump his arm with her shoulder when he's meditating, she'll play with his hair when she wakes up before him, hell, she'll even try and hold his hand like she did yesterday. She doesn't care, she doesn't fear his touch, doesn't fear holding him in her arms like he's a precious jewel.
Every day that he's woken up before her, she's like that. She'll have her arms wrapped around him, entangling their limbs, as if even in her unconscious state she knows, knows he needs her more than the air he breathes, needs her touch more than any god damn thing in his life.
He wonders if she needs him like he does. Wonders if at nights when he's on the bridge, and she's in the bedroom, and he feels her melancholy and pain if it's about him, and his lack of physical contact towards her.
Without thinking, Kylo moves his arm to wrap around her shoulders, nudging her towards him ever so gently, as if his body is acting of its own accord. He feels her nuzzling against his neck, her legs tangling with his.
He places his chin on her head, closing his eyes. And he thinks, he thinks long and hard. Thinks about how much he loves her, how much he adores the way she challenges him, the way she spits out venom towards him one minute, and the next she's stroking his face gently in silent apology for her anger. But she doesn't have to apologize, he thinks. Because he loves her anger, her fire, her passion. And he loves stoking that fire, seeing it flick and move and adapt.
And he thinks there's no one else in the galaxy he'd want to be tethered to.
Chapter 9: Treachery
Sometimes I think it's gettin' better, but then it gets much worse. Is it just part of the process? Well, Jesus Christ, it hurts.
Astrae never liked mornings, but she did like morning baths. She hadn't had a bath in ages, when you're a smuggler you hardly have time to stay anywhere but dingy huts with showers that run mostly cold water and a singular bar of soap. Perhaps the one good thing of living on the Finalizer was the baths she could take. Baths, showers, whatever she chose. She could run a bath with bubbles, scented bath oils, and other ridiculous things if she so wished.
And that's what she does the minute she wakes up, runs herself a bath. It's become a comforting routine for her. She doesn't have her own quarters, but at least she has the privacy of the fresher. In front of the bath was also a folding screen that in case of emergency, protected her from being seen in the nude. It was her own little haven, the warm water making her forget for a moment where she was.
That was until peace was disrupted by the giant who shares the quarters with her. See, the trouble of living with a man who as is already neglects the basics of privacy and a personal bubble, is that you also have to share a fresher with him. An attempt from Astrae was made to perhaps arrange a second fresher, so they both would have ample amount of privacy during their respective bath times. Of course, the attempt was shut down.
See, Kylo Ren was more often than not a man who did not fully realize his surroundings early in the morning. And it was only when he stumbled into the fresher to ready himself for the day to come in front of the sink, did he notice the nude silhouette of the woman he lives with. At first, he thought it was a trick of lighting, a little pathetic hallucination.
And then he heard those words. "What the fuck are you doing?" She asked.
Kylo stood still, licking his lips and letting out a very slow and deep breath. What the fuck was he doing? What kind of man barges into the fresher without knocking? Without checking if she's even still asleep? Was he stupid? His hands fidget, his eyes cast down to the floor.
"Nothing.. I'm doing.. nothing." He mumbled.
"Then why are you in the fresher?"
"Lapse in judgement." He answered.
He heard a light sloshing sound, and then the sound of the drain absorbing the water. He turned around to face the door, to give her at least a semblance of privacy. After a lot of shuffling behind him, he heard her clear her throat. He turned around to face her, his entire being tensing up at the sight before him. She was in but a robe, droplets of water dropping from her hair. He could smell the oils she'd used in her bath, the entire fresher smelled like her now. She looked ethereal.
Kylo wanted to congratulate himself on his own self restraint, he felt like he was seconds away from throwing caution to the wind and kissing her.
She reached out to touch his arm, "You okay? If you needed to use the fresher you could've just, y'know, told me through the force." she spoke gently, her free hand reaching to swipe the unkempt hair from his forehead.
He bit back a pleasurable groan, hands now clutching the sink behind him, knuckles turning white. How is it that one singular touch of hers could make him such a mess? Has he been so deprived of sexual pleasure that a fucking swipe of his hair has him almost cumming his pants?
The main question dancing at the forefront of his mind was if she knew. If she knew that the slightest touch would have him putty in her hands, if she knew, and was doing this on purpose. He also wondered if he could affect her in such a way as well. Make her come undone just by gentle, innocent touches.
He opened his mouth and closed it, like a little fish.
"It's fine. It was just.. thought you were still asleep. Thought I'd get ready for the day."
She let out a little hum. "Would you let me get dressed, please? Then you may have your turn in the fresher." She asked.
Kylo just nodded, and made his way to leave. His head in the clouds from the mere thought of seeing her change. He's never seen her change into her day clothes or her pajamas, he respect her privacy, of course. But how delicious would it be to see her change. He must be a starved man to be practically drooling over a mere idea of her bare skin, he thinks.
Marching his way into the kitchenette, he's ripped from his own thoughts by an incessant knocking on the door. With a wave of his hand, the metal door hisses open, and in comes a trooper. FN-2187.
FN is slightly taken aback by the commander. He's shirtless, only in his slacks, hair slightly disheveled, and beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He tries to evade the small tent that has formed in the commanders slacks.
"What is it?" Kylo inquires casually, making a move to grab an apple from the counter.
FN stammers a bit, "It's uh, The Supreme Leader, sir."
"What about him."
"He requests yours, and, as he put it, Lady Ren's presence." FN states.
Kylo leans on the counter, "How do you know this?" he asks, mid chew.
"General Hux told Captain Phasma to tell me, to tell you." The trooper fidgets.
Kylo stares at the counter top for a few minutes, absorbing the information. Why would Snoke ask Hux to relay such information, and not contact Kylo himself?
"Wait outside until me and Astrae are ready, then you may escort us to speak to Supreme Leader." he states.
The Supreme Leader Snoke is a hologram. An ugly one at that. His face, deformed and contorted even in hologram form, makes Astrae's stomach churn in the worst ways. He is a giant, an imposing beast. Upon their arrival, both the general and Kylo sunk to one knee in front of the Supreme Leader as a form of greeting. Astrae refused such embarrassment, which earned a grotesque laugh from Snoke.
"She is a feisty one." he stated, arms gesturing at Astrae. "I do believe she'll be a wonderful addition to the First Order."
"What exactly am I here for." she queried.
"Why," he leaned back on his throne, "you're here to aid my apprentice in his journey. And once his current mission is done, you'll wed. And perhaps, along the way, you'll have children." he leered.
Astrae felt her entire body shiver at the idea of a forced marriage, followed by a no doubt, a pressure to become pregnant in order to please Snoke.
"Why me?" She wondered out loud.
"Because, you've known him since the beginning. You're strong, and you have a little bite to you. You're more than worthy to stand beside my apprentice. Even if you have tried to exchange your willingness to stay here for the liberation of your little planet."
She looked up at him, "Are you saying you won't liberate Intu?"
Snoke chuckled, "My dear, we have liberated it. We have successfully usurped it from its Senator, of course, at the cost of her life, and her children's freedom. A small price to pay when one wants to rebuild the galaxy."
His statement made her stomach clench. Was it true? Did he lay waste to the Senator, and take her children into the stormtrooper program? The Senator, she was so.. young. Her children, merely of school age had to watch their mother die. She felt the ground slipping from under her, like her entire world had been twisted upside down. She felt so ill, so ill like she hasn't felt in a while.
Shortly, everything fell black.
She woke up back in her bed, soft sheets covering her.
"Ah! You're awake!" FN exclaimed, walking into the room with a tray in his hand.
"What happened?" Astrae asked, sitting up slowly. She looked at the tray he now placed on the bedside table. It was filled with fruit, a cup of tea that was still steaming, and porridge.
Removing his helmet, FN sat on the foot of the bed. "You passed out. The Commander, he carried you back. He told me to stay here until you awoke."
"Kylo. Did he, did he know about the Senator of Intu?" she asked.
"Yes." FN answered. "You cannot tell him I told you but, he and the General, they..."
"They what." She snapped.
FN flinched at her tone, "They both met with the children when they were taken. They had them shipped off to a camp for children in the stormtrooper program." he answered.
He looked ashamed. As if it was his fault. It wasn't, Astrae knew it. He was merely around to hear and see these exchanges, and she couldn't blame him. What could he do? He was a trooper. If he had stood up, which she feels he wanted to, he would've been murdered, killed, perhaps brought into conditioning. Stripped of his humanity like everyone aboard this ship.
She wondered if that was the reason Kylo had ignored her incessant questions about Intu. If he had shrugged her off knowing what he had done, what he was privy to. She felt herself getting angrier. All that kindness, devotion she had shown him just for it to be spat back in the form of murder, and kidnapping. Astrae scolds herself mentally for not killing him on his shuttle that night. She let her feelings for who he once was cloud her judgement.
Astrae clenches her jaw. The Maker as her witness, she will get off this fucking ship. And if she has to kill him, and lay waste to everyone who stands in her way, so be it.
Chapter 10: Subtlety
And didn't I do it for you? Why won't you do it for me? When all I do is for you.
Astrae found her blades inside a small vault in the closet, she had spent all day looking for them. Now she was mulling over the course of action. Could she go through with this? Killing him will take an ungodly amount of strength morality wise, can she bare the guilt of it? Yes, she's killed before. But those men, those men were awful, sick, and they were going to murder her if she hadn't murdered them.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn't even register the sound of the doors to the living room opening. Kylo was shocked to see her awake, rarely did she wait for him to return. He thought she'd be asleep til now, after her little slip in front of Snoke. Perhaps this was a show of change, a show of domesticity, a show of love between the two. He eyed her, she was no longer in the gown she had worn earlier today, now she was clothed in black robes. His heart caught in his throat when he saw her fiddling with one of her blades in her hands.
Perhaps this wasn't her waiting for him to return as a show of love, no, perhaps this was about to become an assassination attempt.
"Why?" She spoke.
Kylo took a hesitant step towards her, kneeling in front of her. "Why what?"
Astrae glanced at him, "Why did you lie?"
"I didn't. I just never told you the truth."
"Ah, and that absolves you from betraying me." She mused.
She fiddled with the blade in her hands, looking back and forth between him and the blade in her hands. Now, more than ever, it'd be easy to slice his throat open and leave. Consequences be damned. If Snoke had asked his men to kill her, she'd willingly serve herself up if that meant escaping this fucking purgatory of a ship.
He tried to reach for her, gently, calmly, like one would approach a feral animal. She didn't hesitate, using the blade in her hand to press it against his neck.
"Don't." She fumed, "Don't try and subdue me, for once, face me like a man without your little sith tricks."
Kylo reached to hold her wrist, pushing her blade further against his neck. "Do it then." he challenged her, "If you're so sure of yourself, kill me. Kill me right now."
They stared each other down. Astrae's blade still digging into Kylo's neck, his hand still grasping her wrist. She made a move with her left hand to knock him out but he caught her fist before it could even land, he had her in a hold. Astrae tried tugging her left hand back out of his grasp, to no avail.
"Is this some sick foreplay for you?" She seethed. "Is this what you do now? You exploit my trust, my love for you, just to tear apart my home planet? To make me suffer?"
"I have no control over what Snoke does, you know this." He barked, pulling her closer to him by tugging her left hand. "If I could've, I would've liberated your planet. I would've gift wrapped it for you if I had to."
She headbutted Kylo, he tumbled backwards onto the floor, releasing her from his hold. She stood up from the couch, standing above his body on the floor. Astrae toyed with the blade in her hands, processing her next move. It would be so easy now, stab and go. Stab and go, stab and go. Noticing her pensive face, Kylo grabbed her by the ankle, toppling her down onto the floor next to him, resulting in her blade dropping and skidding across the living room.
"What the fuck is wrong with you." He panted out.
"What the fuck is wrong with you." She retorted, trying to kick him with her free leg.
He let her ankle go for a momentary notice just to stand up, and pick her up off of the floor as she was crawling towards her dropped blade, throwing her over his shoulder. It resulted in her scratching at him. She tugged at his robes, and at his hair, trying to grasp at something, anything really, that would induce pain. Though to no avail.
Kylo brought her to the bedroom, unceremoniously dropping her onto the bed with a little thump. He started pacing around the room as she propped herself up on the bed.
"You are so annoying." He was tugging at his hair now, "All of this bullshit over a planet. I'm starting to think you're throwing these fits on purpose."
"This isn't just over Intu. This is over the fact that you've kidnapped me as a means to use me as some sort of magical womb to pop out force using children!" She barked back.
He stopped in his tracks, turning to look at her.
"You brought me here, because of Snoke's orders. So he could use and exploit me as some fucking secret weapon. Except my only power is to give birth and be your little wife as you prance around the galaxy like a fucking fool!" Astrae continued.
"You think I'm a fool?" He asked.
She was in disbelief, "Is that all you heard? Were you listening to what I just said?"
"Of course I was listening. But do you think I'm a fool?"
"Yes." She answered without missing a beat.
He sat down on the foot of the bed, fiddling with his hands and glancing at the floor.
"I'm sorry." He mumbled.
"Beg your pardon?"
"I said, I'm sorry." He apologized.
Astrae was taken aback by that, this might as well be the first time in his life that Kylo Ren has apologized. She didn't know what to say, how to react. He made a move to lay close to her, much to her dismay. Wrapping his hands around her. and nuzzling his face into her stomach. He took in a deep breath.
"I hope you can forgive me," he started, "I've had... a hard time. A hard time with you around now. It seems, you've been gone for so long from my life that I.." he stammered. "I've lost all tact in how to speak to you. You're right, I am a fool. A fool who was blinded by his masters ambition."
The cogs in her head started working again, she reached to stroke his hair. "Just promise me one thing." She spoke gently, softly, as to not provoke him further.
"Yes, anything." He breathed.
"Promise me, you'll put me first. That anything Snoke tells you about me, you'll address it to me, before anyone else."
"Yes, of course, I promise." He pledged.
Perhaps, Astrae could use Snoke's blind ambition against him after all.
Chapter 11: Awakening
A woman's time to embrace, she must put herself first. A woman's war, unoccupied history. True nature won't search to destroy if it doesn't make sense.
[A small filler chapter]
Astrae felt lonely in the weeks to come. FN was taken back into training, he'd be going on his first mission. To Jakku, he'd said. She'd been to Jakku, long, long ago, it was a fucking junkyard. But it's not the planet itself that has kept her on edge surrounding the mission, it was what it would lead to. She'd been having nonstop dreams about Jakku. The sandy dunes being scurried by scavengers who needed their next meal, and among those scavengers was a girl. Astrae could never see her clearly, but she could feel her. She was young, barely an adult, and she was waiting. Always waiting for someone, for something.
These visions, sights, whatever they were, terrified her. It seemed that her entire body has been on pins and needles ever since she had met Snoke. It was as if the Force was pulling her towards something, trying to show her what she definitely did not want to see. Sights of a village, blaster shots, blood, so much blood, and so much agony, it felt as if it was happening to her all at once. And then it'd stop. Abruptly.
She avoided her connection to the Force as much as possible. Spent her days holed up with a book, or in Onhar's company. Onhar. She'd missed him, truly, but he'd made fast friends with people in the Order and that left a sour taste in her mouth. Hux even opted to hire Onhar as an officer on board, and he was more than happy to assume the position. So there they were now, on the bridge of the ship. Onhar, in his neat and tidy uniform, stood straight and looking down at the people below them. Astrae, on the other hand, was leaning on the railing, wearing a black jumpsuit and cowl.
"Do you wonder if I'll ever be promoted?" Onhar asked her, stepping a bit closer to where she was leaning. Trying his damn hardest to look like he was a hard worker.
Astrae didn't look up at him, fixing her gaze on the hangar below them. "If you intend to stay, yes." She'd answered.
"And you don't?" He asked in disbelief. Onhar, as sweet as he was, he was also naive. Ever since his reunion with Astrae he'd raved about the Order, she'd half the mind to think they conditioned him while they've been apart. No, they hadn't. She checked. But they did feed him false narratives about the New Republic, a new galaxy, all that propaganda bullshit they gave everyone. And he lapped it up like a starved man.
Onhar would never admit it, but he wanted a place to belong. Smuggling was something he did because he was raised to, it wasn't his path.
"I don't intend much of anything aboard this ship." She murmured. Eyes now fixated on Kylo's command shuttle docking in the hangar. She straightened up when she saw him disembark, followed by two troopers that were dragging a new prisoner in a tight hold.
Her friend leaned over the railing, "What are we looking at?" he asked.
"No one." She spoke, turning to look at her friend. "Don't you have duties to attend to?"
Onhar chuckled, "Don't you?"
"You know I've nothing to do here."
They stare at one another, an unspoken understanding between the two. He knows she doesn't want to be here, and Onhar thinks of a way to liberate his friend. He knows codes to the ships, knows departure and arrival times, he thinks how easy it would be to create one for Astrae. What a relief it would be to set her free from this ship, this life.
"Shouldn't you be at your post, Officer?" Kylo speaks, his vocoder voice sending shivers down Onhar's neck. He turns around to look up at the visor of the commander, Astrae stands unflinching next to Onhar, as if she can't see Kylo standing there like the Grim Reaper. Without an answer, Onhar nods at both his commander and his friend, making his way to his post.
Astrae leans on the railing with her back, now staring at Kylo. "What news do you bring?"
"We're closer to finding Luke. We found a resistance pilot on Jakku, he gathered the map to Luke from Lor San Tekka, a piece of it, at least. Now we just have to find where it's hidden." He states. He inches closer to her, gloved hand reaching to move a wispy hair from her cheek as a means to garner a reaction from her. He gets none.
She casts her eyes down, chewing the inside of her cheek. Luke. Jakku. Luke. Jakku. Unknown prisoner brought aboard. Jakku. Map. Luke. The thoughts bounce inside her head looking for a means to connect. Her visions, dreams, the girl, they all have to be connected. Connected to Luke.
"Kylo," she speaks, looking up at his visor. "May I.. Ask you something?"
He cups her face gingerly, "Yes, of course, anything."
Astrae licks her lips, left hand reaching up to cup the hand that's cupping her cheek, "I've unfinished business on Jakku. Long ago, this slimy scavenger stole a poisonous blade from me, it was one of a kind. And I've browsed the First Orders weapons arsenal and I just think..." She cuts herself off, thinking for a moment. "I just think if you let me, I could retrieve it. And at the same time, if luck would have it, garner information about the map that leads to Luke."
His mask betrays no emotion, but Kylo's always been a loud thinker and right now he's doing the most thinking he's ever done in his entire life.
"You'd go alone, no doubt." He states.
Astrae steps closer to him, her hands playing with his cowl. "It's only a days journey, my love. I'd be back before you know it. Why not let this be a means for me to prove my loyalty, all the ships have trackers anyways. You'd know if I'd escaped."
"Jakku is useless to you. Although, if you so wish to prove yourself, you may go to Takodana for a few days. There's been a bustling about a possible Resistance hideout there."
She lets out a soft hum, "And you trust me fully with this?"
"Of course I do. I'll prepare your transport myself."
"I suppose I have to pack then."
Chapter 12: Ache
And I just want to feel you're there, and I don't want to have to share our love. I try but I get overwhelmed, when you're gone I have no one to tell.
Oh. A flashback.
Astrae took to meditating when she wasn't training, it seemed it was the only thing that kept her visions at bay. Ever since that night with Ben, where she could practically flames at her feet, swallowing everything in sight, she took to meditating more and more.
It seemed like her nightmares only got worse after that night, they would slip into her morning routine now too. Flashes of dead bodies, the flames consuming everything, shrieks echoing in her head. It was inescapable. She wanted to tell Luke, desperately. But what would she tell him? Master Luke, turns out there's some faceless man who's trying to corrupt your nephew into the darkside. I think Ben's going to slaughter the academy.
She feels as if she can't tell anybody. Wouldn't that be meddling, wouldn't that be doing the thing she promised Luke she would not do. And it's not like Ben is an inherently malevolent person, no, he's quite popular in the academy. He's got friends he spends his breaks between training with, he's got girls fawning over him, he's got the younger padawans aching to be his friend.
Astrae sucks in her bottom lip between her teeth, deep in thought. She thinks of leaving, doesn't think she can bare to stay here. She's been itching to leave for a while now. It's not like she doesn't like the academy, it's just that she doesn't want to be here. She doesn't want to be a Jedi, a fighter, a knight. She wants to go home. That's where she belongs. On Intu, in her little house with a garden, where her room is stacked with books, and texts, and ancient artifacts long forgotten that her mother gifted her.
She feels heavily out of place here. It's not for lack of trying. She's got friends, she's got Luke, she's got Ben now. But she longs for something else, a sense of freedom. Astrae knows she cannot go home, for she has no home to go to. Her mother was long gone, Astrae knows this. Knows that the reason that Luke let her in, gave her a home, is because her mother would no longer be there when she would be given the chance to go home. But she can't be mad. Can't hold any anger or contempt. Her mother always had her best interest at heart.
Astrae fiddles with her necklace, an old pendant her mother gave her for her eighth birthday. Inside is a picture of her mother and father on their wedding day. Astrae has never taken the pendant off. Not since she was gifted it. She thinks of her father, wondering if he's still alive. Does he miss her? Does he miss his daughter, and the wife he left behind to take care of her? Does he know his daughter is at an academy, that his wife is long dead?
She's taken out of her trance by the sound of footsteps approaching, she wonders who it is. No one ever goes to this clearing of the island. It's surrounded by trees, far away from the huts of the academy, apart from her, no one comes here.
"What are you doing?" Ben asks, circling her sitting form, opting to sit in front of her. "You've missed lunch, and a sparring session Solia's kinda mad at you for that. She said you guys were supposed to partner up, but then she had to spar with Wini, and they hate each other so she was nagging the entire time." he continued, absentmindedly plucking grass and fiddling with the tufts between his fingers.
She nodded her head slowly, trying to process the information. Is that why he came into this clearing? Just to tell her about Solia and Wini's contempt for one another, and that she missed lunch. Which she knew. She missed these things on purpose.
"You're awfully silent. I mean, you're always silent. Always hidden away somewhere." Ben said with a soft chuckle.
"I like silence. It's comforting."
Ben reaches out a hand to put on her knee, gently stroking the fabric of her pants. "If it's about your nightmares.."
"It's not." She cuts him off, she's lying. She pats the hand on her knee, "I'm fine, Ben, really. I just.. I prefer silence over the bustle in the academy."
They look at each other, exchanging soft smiles. They don't say anything for a moment, enjoying the moment of peace they've got. Until they hear their names being called by one of the older padawans, Denon is his name.
Astrae and Ben let out a sigh at the same time. Standing up, they make their way out of the clearing. Ben's fingers brushing against the back of Astrae's hand, hooking his pinky with hers. Once they're out of the wood, they're met with the stern face of Denon. Even though he's older, he's shorter than Ben, with frizzy blonde hair and green eyes, he's everything but intimidating.
"You." He points his finger aggressively at Astrae, "I know you're Luke's golden girl and all, but you've missed sparring, and I've had to deal with Solia's whining for the past half hour."
"I'm no one's golden girl." Astrae huffed. "I didn't come to spar, yes, but I did it because I didn't want to spar. I'm allowed to do these things. I'm not here to become a fucking Jedi, I just live here with Luke."
"So you're saying you're above us? That the rules don't apply to you? Just because you're Luke's babysitting project doesn't mean you get to-" Denon was cut off with a swift punch to the face from Ben.
The punch sent Denon backwards. Any rational person would've walked away after decking someone in the face, but Ben was anything but rational. Within a second, he punched Denon square in the face again, this time sending him onto the ground. Ben was heaving.
"Don't you fucking talk to her like that." He spat at the padawan, who was groaning in pain on the grass.
Astrae was shocked. Ben's never done anything like this. Not for her, not for anyone. She could feel it, feel the hatred and anger radiating off of him, if she reached out, she thinks, she could touch the darkness swirling in the air. She lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding, tears stinging in her eyes. Astrae feels as if she can't breathe. Her hands clutching at her chest, trying to calm down but to no avail. Her breaths come out more in ragged pants than anything. Ben notices this, hands reaching for her as the ground slips out from under her. He holds her against his chest as she's sobbing now, uncontrollably. He picks her up swiftly, throwing one last dirty glare at Denon and taking Astrae to her hut.
It's a short walk, and he's thankful no one else is around. No one to see him almost beating the shit out of Denon, but also no one to see Astrae sobbing in his arms. It's a bad thought, but he thinks he should be the only one to see her as vulnerable as this. She's seen him at his most vulnerable, she's held it down, held down all his sobbing, all his pain as if it were nothing, and it's weighed on her, he knows this.
He wonders if she felt what he felt. The anger, the rage, a little darkness seeping out of him. Wonders if he's the reason she's sobbing in his arms now, even as they're in her hut, and he's sat on her bed. And yet, she's clutching onto him like he's the only landline she's got. He feels greedy in this moment. Feels greedy for wanting to be her only, only landline, only sense of security. He wants to be the first person she turns to when she's hurting, when she's angry, sad, fed up. It's who she is to him, after all.
Ben can't bare the thought of not being with her. He aches when she's not there, aches when he feels her sadness, when he feels her nightmares haunting her, knowing he can't do anything to help her. He can't even help himself, he thinks. Can't shake that voice in his head that comes to him at night, can't shake away the anger he feels, the confusion, the hatred that seems to burn inside him towards everyone. Everyone but her.
She's the only light in his life, he thinks. The only person who takes away the ache of living.
Chapter 13: Havoc
Give your heart and soul to charity. 'Cause the rest of you, the best of you, honey, belongs to me.
Bold of me to stray a teeny bit from canon but, the knights were underused in TFA.
Takodana was humid, but it was gorgeous. And also slightly confusing to get around.
Astrae had cut the comm links of her ship, but kept the tracker intact just in case. Soon, at Maz's castle, she would trade off the ship for safe transportation to whatever fucking planet she pleased. Good fucking riddance, Kylo.
She was making her way through the thick and luscious greenery, complaining to herself. Why would she wear the clothing Kylo got her? It's so incredibly stuffy, clearly created for a much colder climate.
Her internal monologue was broken when she heard footfalls behind her. Unsheathing her blade, she turned around in a position to attack. "Who goes there?" She shouted. "Show yourselves."
"Lady R— Astrae! It's me! Finn!"
Astrae's eyes narrowed, looking at the people who were not far behind her now, one of them was waving. She relaxed when she recognized him, Finn, her little trooper friend who kept her company on the Finalizer. Wait. What was he doing on Takodana. Why was he with Han Solo. And Han Solo's friend, Chewbacca. Also why was there a confused scavenger girl with a BB unit droid.
"Finn.." She spoke in relief, sheathing her blade in her sleeve, "What are you doing?"
He tensed, looking at his new found friends, "We were.. we were.. making our way to Maz's.. What are you doing?"
"Planning an unceremonious escape, what's it look like." She quipped.
"I'm sorry, you two know each other?" Han interjected, pointing a finger between Astrae and Finn.
Astrae had met Han before. Long, long ago. Back when Ben joined the academy, and Luke had introduced her to his family. She remembers how she stole Han's blaster off of his ship in secret. Leia found it cute, Han and Luke did not.
"Hi, Han. Long time no see."
Finn was taken aback, "How do you two know each other?"
"Smuggling." They replied at the same time, letting out small chuckles.
Finn stepped closer to Astrae, grabbing her gently by her shoulder, guiding her to go in front of the entire gang. "Listen," he whispered, "The girl, Rey, she's.. she doesn't know I'm an ex-stormtrooper. And I told her I'm resistance and it's just.. I.."
Astrae cut him off, "Finn. I'm very familiar with lying to people, even if you don't mean it. I won't say a thing. But, if you like her," she cast a glance at Rey who was having an in depth talk with Han about blasters, "don't lie to her. Be honest."
Finn nodded, and they continued to walk in silence until they reached Maz's castle.
Maz had greeted them kindly, she was a tiny little lady, clearly familiar with Han. She offered them fruits, which Finn and Rey scarfed down as if it was their last meal. The conversation got heavy, conversing about The First Order, and The Resistance. All topics that both Finn, and Astrae were not fond of. Finn announced he was leaving, which caused a small commotion between him and Rey.
Astrae kept feeling a pressure on her head, like somebody was trying to reach her.
Where are you? The droid was spotted on Takodana, I'm coming to get you.
"Shut up." She muttered to herself. "Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Leave me alone."
"You okay, kid?" Han asked.
Astrae shook her hand as if it was nothing, "Yes. Fine. I just.. need to leave. Need to get off this planet."
"Can I talk with you, kid? Outside?" Han nudged his head towards the exit.
"No. We can talk here. It's fine." She cast a glance over her shoulder, looking at Finn and Rey. She could feel how heartbroken they both were. Finn had told Rey he was leaving, that she should too. Both were conflicted. Reading thoughts is still meddling, Luke's voice echoed in her mind.
"I haven't heard from you. Heard you never showed up to a deal on Abellio, what happened?" Han asked.
"Your son happened." She looked at Han. "And right now, he's about to land on Takodana, and he's going to collect the droid, and slaughter everyone in sight if we don't all leave."
Han tensed at the mention of his son, opting for silence as a decent response. He hadn't seen his son in ten years. Ten agonizing years. He'd heard of what he had become. Heard of his crimes, his cruelty, but he'd never seen him. Never heard him, never got to stare into his dark brown eyes for one last time.
Astrae's hands were tapping on the table, she couldn't be here anymore. His presence growing ever closer, mixed with something else. She got up from her chair, unceremoniously scraping it against the floor, heading for the exit. She pushed the doors open, taking in a deep breath.
And then she felt it, death. Somewhere, an echo of a thousand voices in pain played in her head. She felt her legs growing weaker, grasping at the cobblestone walls for balance. She sat on the ground, one hand on her heart, the other on the wall, her breathing grew labored. Tears stung in her eyes.
Then came the sounds, of first order and resistance ships shooting at each other. Could see the Command Shuttle docking on the island from the corner of her eye. The entire island devolved into chaos. Blasters shooting everywhere, people fleeing.
Astrae felt him, before she saw him. Felt his ever growing presence searching for hers. She stood up on shaky legs, making firm steps outside of the castles courtyard. From the corner of her eye she saw one of his knights go into the deep wood, as if in a hurry to find someone.
Half of the people on the island were either dead, or gathered by stormtroopers. Passing through the bodies, Astrae glanced around. She saw Han, Finn, and Chewie, all held at gunpoint by a few troopers. Finn looked at her, then his eyes flitted to someone else. Kylo.
Kylo, sensing her distress and noticing her halted movements made strides to reach her, hand outstretched. She looked at him. Looked at his hand, then her eyes darted to Finn's. They looked at each other, Finn mumbling a no under his breath, softly shaking his head. She bit back the tears that were threatening to spill, murmuring a sorry. She took Kylo's hand. Letting him lead her onto the command shuttle.
Aboard the command shuttle were his knights, the eyeless fellow clearly missing. She heard another pair of footsteps aboard the ramp, turning around to look at Sion and an unconscious body in his arms. Rey.
"She put up quite a fight. She's definitely a force user, master. But she knows where the map is." Sion spoke.
Kylo nodded his head, "Good. Then we have no more reason to stay here."
The journey was long. Astrae kept chewing the inside of her cheek and looking at an unconscious Rey on the bench. It was her, she was certain. The girl from her dreams, but she was so young. No older than Astrae when she had left the academy, no older than Kylo when he'd slaughtered the students. Why her?
Her thoughts were interrupted with a cough from a knight, "Master Ren would like to see you. In the cockpit."
Astrae nodded, standing up from her seat slowly, thoughts still swirling about Rey, and what she could mean to Luke, does she even know Luke?
Finding the cockpit was easy. Kylo was sat without his mask on, eyes focused on the big expanse of space one could see through the window. He was tense. Thoughts loud, and jumbled. One of the many thoughts was about his father, no doubt. He turned around to look at her, spreading his legs slightly in an invite for her to come closer, Astrae stepped in between his legs. Her hands reaching to comb through his hair with her fingers, Kylo let out a content sigh.
"Thought you were going to escape." He whispered, "Comm links were cut, but the tracker wasn't so I thought you'd make a run for it. You're smart like that." He stroked her hip with his thumb, "You were gonna sell the ship, weren't you."
Kylo let out a chuckle, hands gripping her hips and pulling her onto his lap. "You're so smart, and yet. You didn't leave." He looked up at her, taking in her messy appearance.
Her hands were still in his hair, still combing through his locks. He hummed in response.
"Hm." She imitated him. "You're always thinking, always worrying. Is it that hard to trust me?" Her hand reached to cup his cheek, bending her head down so that their noses were brushing against one another. "I had an idea of fleeing, but I didn't. I chose to go with you when I just as easily could've rebelled."
Kylo didn't answer her, just spent his time looking at her eyes, and then her lips.
"You are so greedy." She whispered. "Isn't it enough to have my life entwined with yours? Do you have to always have me attached at your hip?" One of her fingers trailed down to his neck, grazing the pulse point. Kylo sucked in a breath, hands traveling down to clutch the back of her thighs. Astrae moved her hand that was cupping his cheek, using her thumb to lightly skim his bottom lip.
"Yes," he rasped, "I am greedy. I'm a greedy man, and I want you whichever way possible. I would die before I let you ever leave me again."
She hummed in response.
Chapter 14: Foregone
Dragging my roots through the snow, no home sweet and no sweet home. I've got nowhere to go. I'm rootless.
1. Saw TRoS, so we'll be going slightly off canon in some places now.
2. Another filler flashback chapter. Building on Astrae's past is my favourite thing, can't you tell?
Baths were nice. Baths were warm, and comforting. But baths were for people in higher standing, or people who have a place to call home. Showers were reserved for people who had no homes, who were bouncing from place to place constantly. Smugglers, thieves, assassins, mercenaries, fugitives.
And when you couldn't acquire a bath or a shower, you'd result in scrubbing yourself raw at the sink. For Astrae, it was a ritual of sorts. After every unsuccessful job that resulted in violence she'd find a spot where she would scrub the blood and failure off of her. It was a painful ordeal every time. She didn't like that she had to hurt and sometimes kill the people she worked with. But it was her, or them. Smuggling was never easy, especially when she had no master or boss to answer to. It was a free for all.
She's twenty-five now. If she were still with Luke, they'd celebrate that it's been ten years since she joined the Academy, and in turn, his life. They'd laugh and celebrate like they did all her birthdays. No presents would be exchanged, but there wouldn't be any need for them. It only mattered that they'd spent that time together. He'd tell her stories of his youth, of what he did at her age, he'd share some of his 'wisdom' about the woes of teen-hood.
The water that runs down the drain is clean, but she's still scrubbing. Trying to scrub away her memories, her past, her present. She wants all that pain, all that anger, and pain to detach itself from her. To circle down the drain like the water does.
Astrae tries not to think about it, she usually doesn't acknowledge her past. There's no time for it when you're too busy smuggling goods across the galaxy. But today was different. Today her and Onhar made a new partner, his name is Rix. He used to work for the resistance, or so he says. He cornered them in a marketplace on Abellio, raving about how he needs a job to get the fuck off the planet. Said he'd defected from the resistance because he wasn't cut out for that. Wasn't ready to put his life on the line in the name of the galaxy.
She felt a bitterness creep inside her at his statement. Some people never had choices, people were born into this war, fighting it from infancy. The resistance tried its fucking best with what they had. She'd never tell anyone that, but she would send anonymous shipments of valuable weaponry and spare ship parts to their base on D'Qar. The only person who knew where the shipments came from was the General, Leia.
But she'd never pry, and she'd never ask Astrae to join the resistance or their cause. It was an unspoken agreement. Astrae helps them as much as she possibly can, and in the darkest hour of need she will be there for them, no matter what.
Rix was a loudmouth. And a coward. Probably a spy for the resistance. And nosy. Too fucking nosy.
It was why Astrae was resigned to scrubbing her skin raw at the sink now. He's always asking questions. Questions about her, her past, her attachments to people, her relationships, her force powers. And it made her angry, made her skin burn in hatred, her blood boiling. And it would make the wall she put up to keep Kylo out dwindle, chip away giving him easy access to try and contact her, like now.
"Something must've happened for your walls to crumble." He mused, voice echoing in her head. "Talk to me. I know you want to. Desperately."
She shut the water off, hands clutching the edge of the sink. "Get out. Get out of my head. Get out." She chanted through gritted teeth.
A knock was heard on the door of the fresher, a pale hand pushing the door slightly ajar. "'Strae?" Rix spoke, "You good? Onhar's worried."
Kylo sucked in a breath, "And who's that? Found a new companion? Was the blue one getting on your nerves?" He mocked.
Astrae let out a deep breath, pushing herself off of the sink. She looked in the mirror and she swears she could see a flicker of Kylo's form behind her. She bit the inside of her cheek, closing her eyes and taking in a breath, "Leave me alone, please." she whispered, "Please. It's all I beg of you."
"'Strae?" Rix asked again, hand reaching to gently touch her arm, "Who are you talking to?"
She didn't feel it, she only realized it after she heard a body thud against the walls. When Rix reached out to touch her, she jerked back letting out a choked back no and something within her snapped. She'd never done something like that. Never used the force unknowingly to hurt someone, let alone for trying to comfort her. The anger within her just unleashed itself in a most unnatural way, in an uncontrolled way.
Astrae looked at his unconscious body with wide eyes, "What did you do." She whispered to herself, "What did you do. Why did you do that." she inspected her hands as if they were radioactive, as if they would burst into flames any second.
"What did you do?" Kylo asked.
She shook his voice out of her head, putting the wall back up, "Get out."
A silence ensued, followed by Onhar's hurried steps.
"What the fuck was that! The entire ship just fucking shook." He yelled, eyes casting down to where Rix was laying. "Fuck happened to him?"
"I happened." Astrae answered. "The force happened."
Onhar's eyes softened, lips turning down in a frown, "Again?"
She nodded. Making her way past Onhar and out of the fresher. Moving into her sleeping area aboard the ship. It was a small, cramped room. But it was the closest thing one would consider home. It had no special sentimental trinkets, or items she'd collected. It was metallic and empty apart from the cot in the corner of the room. She sat on the cot, looking at the walls of the room.
Ten years ago she was with Luke, her nightmares were just that, nightmares. She had a home, and she had a family, and a place of comfort, safety. And now it was all gone. Now she was aboard a dingy ship, going from planet to planet. She had no home. No family. No safety. No one to turn to, no one to help her. The only person who she'd loved, she's now actively running from.
It's a suffocating feeling, she thinks as she lays down. The loneliness, the anger, the fact that she keeps running. Because she knows she can't run from him forever. Life, the Force, whatever it is it will find a way to bring them back to one another. And if her little stint today is any indication, it'll be sooner rather than later.
Chapter 15: Intimacy
We have different heartbeats, but all the same heartbreak and I can feel it in the way you hold me. I know you're lonely too.
Back to the present. Also canon? What's that.
"You'd die without me?" She whispered against his mouth, her eyes closed, right hand stroking his jaw.
Kylo sucked in a breath, "Yes. A thousand times, yes."
He looked at her through half lidded eyes, she was so close to him. If he were just to move an inch, their lips would touch. His hands still on the back of her thighs, he doesn't know what to do. His heart is hammering in his chest, a heat pooling deep in his stomach. Kylo feels like he can't move, too hypnotized by the mere sight of her sat on his lap, hand still tenderly stroking his jaw. Her left hand is stroking the hair matted to his forehead, it's a soothing gesture.
"You're so unsure of what to do." Astrae whispers, eyes opening to look into his. She moves, only slightly. Back straightening out, her hands no longer caressing his face, but instead placed firmly on his chest. "Does intimacy scare you?"
Kylo's left hand moves to gently touch one of her hands on his chest, stroking the back of it. "No. It doesn't." He affirms.
A smile tugs at the corners of her lips, "Then why are you so hesitant. Is the Commander afraid of a little kiss?"
"I'm not afraid of anything." He spoke.
"Clearly, you are." She teased.
He tugged her closer to him by the hand he was holding, face once again inches from hers, their noses brushing together. She braced herself on his chest with her right hand, cracking a small smile.
"Clearly, I'm not." He quipped.
Astrae hummed, hands reaching to cup his cheeks, lips merely inches from his. "I don't think you deserve a kiss, Commander."
"Why not?" He asked, lips in a slight pout like a child that was told they weren't getting any sweets.
Before she could answer, they both heard a horrid thud from somewhere far back in the ship. Heads snapping into the direction of the door, Astrae was the first to get up and unsheathe one of her blades. Tensing at the sound of heavy footsteps, she inched closer to the door that separated the cockpit from the rest of the ship. The metal hissed open, and a knight stepped into their line of sight, clutching their torso.
"The prisoner." The masked person hissed, "Is awake and violent, Master."
Astrae turned her head to look at Kylo. His face was blank.
"Let her take care of it." He gestured at her, propping his head on his fist. "She spent time on Takodana with that little rat, she'd be left unharmed."
Swallowing back a retort to his 'little rat' statement, without another word, Astrae made her way into the main part of the ship. By the time she reached the room where Rey was being held she could hear curses and pained grunts. The door hissed open, the sight before her was one of chaos.
Three knights cornered Rey, weapons pointed at her. Clearly they were inept in dealing with the job of taking in alive prisoners. Astrae pinched the bridge of her nose, letting out a deep sigh.
"Leave us." She spoke. "Now. Lest I invite your master to witness your inability to take care of our guest without hurting a hair on her head."
Without another word, the knights straightened up and exited the room. Rey was still in the corner, tense and frightened.
"Who are you. Really." She asked.
"I'm not your enemy." Astrae spoke softly, hands raised, walking slowly towards Rey. "Had their master come, you'd be dead on this cold floor. Dead to the world and to Finn and Han."
Rey took her in, exhaling shallow breaths. "Finn.. Is he alright? Is he alive? Did he.. Did he leave? Did he find a transport to escape?" She was spewing questions one after another. It would almost be cute, if the situation they were both in wasn't life or death.
Before Astrae could answer her, and tell her everything she saw before boarding the ship Sion unceremoniously entered the room. Kneeling in front of Astrae.
"My Lady," he spoke, "We have received news from the Resistance, and we are taking a short detour. We will be landing on Abellio shortly. They've offered up the map to Skywalker in exchange for the girl."
"This is an ambush. A ploy." Astrae hissed. "Are you dumb?"
Kylo was donning his mask again, about to disembark from the ship. "I know this is an ambush. We're prepared."
"There are six knights, one you, and one me. Who knows how many people are with the Resistance."
"We've stationed officers and troopers around Abellio long ago, they know of our plan." He stated.
Astrae scoffed in disbelief, throwing her arms up and letting them fall back down at her sides. "You are a fool."
"I'm your fool." Kylo quipped, punching in codes to let down the ships ramp.
"You're going to be a dead fool."
"Your dead fool."
She didn't answer him, just followed him off the ship with six knights behind her and Rey in cuffs being pushed around like a mule. Abellio was hideous in nighttime. Dry, and dimly lit. They'd landed in some dodgy clearing, and so had the resistance. She could make out two familiar figures. Finn and Han. There seemed to be no one else with them.
"You're not with them." Kylo spoke, voice emotionless.
With a signal of his fingers, the knights pushed Rey forward, the impact causing her to fall onto the sandy ground. Astrae noticed Finn's body tensing, ready to jump to her aid but Han's outstretched hand had stopped him. Rey's nails dug into the sand, anger radiating off of her. With a little help from the Force, Astrae unlocked Rey's cuffs moving to kneel beside her.
"Enough." Astrae spoke up, glancing at both Han and Kylo. "We came here for the map. Nothing else. We've brought her back in exchange."
Han spoke up. "Take off that mask."
"What do you think you'll see if I do." Kylo asked.
"The face of my son." Han replied.
With a little hiss, Kylo unlatched his mask, dropping it onto the sand.
"Your son is dead." Kylo hissed. "He was weak and foolish like his father, so I killed him."
Han was stepping closer, going towards Kylo and something in Astrae's head was telling her to diffuse the situation. To leave. To get them all out of here.
"Kylo." She choked out. "The map. It's the only thing we need."
He didn't respond to her, his boots thudding on the ground as he walked towards Han.
"I know what I have to do, but I don't know if I have the strength to do it." Kylo spoke quietly, a solemn tone in his voice. "Will you help me?"
Han put his hand on his sons cheek in a comforting gesture, "Yes."
Kylo unclipped his lightsaber from its belt, outstretching the hand holding it towards Han.
What happened next happened in the blink of an eye. Han was stabbed through the chest with Kylo's saber, not a hint of remorse shown on his face. Astrae could hardly register Rey catching a lightsaber that Finn threw towards her, launching herself to attack Kylo. The knights spurred into action at the sight. The entirety of the clearing was now a war zone with both first order and resistance fighters coming out of the shadows armed at the ready.
Everything happened in a flurry, she could hardly breathe. She wasn't used to battles like this. There were blaster shots missing her by sheer concentration of the Force. She didn't like fighting, always opted to just toss people aside with her gift. And that's exactly what she did. It's not like anyone was actively shooting at her. She was of no threat to anybody, just collateral damage.
Surveying the battle field she'd realized that Kylo, Finn, and Rey had disappeared somewhere deeper in the clearing. A feeling of dread set into the pit of her stomach. She'd stayed to the corners and edges of the battle that was slowly, but surely dying out. The knights were gone too, she noticed. Astrae's ears perked up at the sound of two lightsabers clashing, followed by a yelp and a thud.
She could see Rey circling a body laying in the sand, a body that could hardly stand. Kylo.
"Stop!" Astrae yelled, stretching her arm out and stopping Rey from moving with the Force. "Leave now. You don't have to do this. Please." She choked out.
Letting her go from the force hold, Astrae inched closer to where Rey was standing. "Please. Don't. You don't want to carry the burden of killing someone. Trust me." Her eyes darted to another unconscious body laying in the sand, Finn. She felt a sting in her back at the sight of him. He was gravely injured. Astrae turned to Rey again. "There's a medic deep in the village of Foss. She doesn't ask questions. It's a short distance from here, take Finn, and run. Please." She choked out.
Rey blinked at her, eyes brimming with tears. "What about you?" She whispered. "Do you intend to stay with him here? After what he did to Han? He's a monster."
"I have to. You may not understand it, but I have to. Now go, go before the knights find you and slaughter you and Finn."
They exchanged a look, Rey nodded making her way towards Finn. Somewhere in the corner of her eye Astrae could see Chewie coming to her aid. He didn't glance at her or Kylo's body in the sand. Perhaps he didn't see. He had picked up Finn and ran with Rey towards the village.
"'Strae.. That you?" Kylo choked out, head moving from side to side, hands grasping at air. "My love.."
She kneeled beside him, cradling his head in her lap. There was a gash on his face, splitting open the skin on his cheek and forehead. "You fool." She spoke, biting back tears. "I told you. It was an ambush. You could've died."
"But I didn't." He slurred. "As you can see.. 'am in one piece.."
He chuckled, the pain clearly making him delirious. "I'm.. So happy."
"That you almost died?"
"No, that you saved me. And stayed. You stayed. Saved me and stayed. Saved and stayed." He breathed out. Slurring his words the more he repeated them.
She sighed, looking behind her to see the knights approaching. "Finally." She exclaimed. "Carry your master to the ship. We're going home."
Chapter 16: Collude
Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love. Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love. Listen to me... I cannot see clearly. Isn't that she coming to me nearly here?
If people could emit smoke from their ears, Armitage Hux would look like a train in the medbay aboard the Supremacy.
"This is humiliating. An outrage." He grumbled. "First, they send their little trainees to plant bombs aboard my Starkiller, completely eviscerating it. And now Ren returns with no map, no lead, and he's been beaten by an untrained force-using brat!"
"General," Astrae cuts in. "Your failure aboard the Starkiller is neither my, nor the Commander's fault. As for the map, we were ambushed. In his blind ambition to chase down Skywalker per the request of your Supreme Leader."
Hux points a finger at her, "You know nothing of these politics, woman." He spits venomously. "I've worked tirelessly, I've annihilated the Republic. The Commander can barely chase down a droid for a map."
"Then perhaps," Astrae took a step closer, looking at him. "Your Supreme leader is to blame." She concluded.
The General guffawed at her statement. "The Supreme leader is wise,"
"Not wise enough." She cuts him off before he can continue his speech. "Perhaps he should learn of his predecessor's failures before sending the Commander on a wild chase for a map we may not need, since Skywalker is the least of our current issues. Or do you forget that planets filled to the brim of Resistance sympathizers conspiring against you exist?"
Hux opens and closes his mouth, looking for what to say, but nothing comes to mind. He hates to admit it, but she is right. But to admit that this current predicament might be due to Snoke's own failure is treason within itself.
"What would you have us do then." He asks, calmer now, hands behind his back.
She looks at him, a sly smile forming on her face. "Perhaps someone else should take over the Order."
Hux chokes at the statement. "What, get rid of Snoke? Are you insane, woman?"
"It's not too far fetched, General. He's ambitious, but he has no grasp on the reality of our situation. The downfall of many is blind ambition." She states, moving past Hux further into the medbay. "Now if you'd excuse me. I'd like to visit the Commander."
Kylo's still unconscious, sleeping soundly on the cot. A bacta patch on the left side of his face. He was in an out of sleep ever since they'd left Abellio, but Astrae never left his side on the ship, nor on the Supremacy until Hux came in fuming.
"'Strae.." He murmured.
She hummed, hand reaching to stroke his. It wasn't anything new for him to speak her name in his predicament. He'd done it on the ship, he'd done it when he was administered to the medbay.
"When can I leave.." He mumbled. "Wanna go back.. Back to my bed. Where the sheets are soft. Mattress is soft.. Oh and you're so soft. So soft." His hand was clutching hers, and his head was slightly moving left to right.
"You're tired." She spoke, placing the back of her head on his forehead to check if he had a fever. "You're going to be here until the doctors let you leave."
"Wanna leave now." He grumbled. "Wanna.. leave."
Astrae sighed and stood up, looking around the ward. She spotted a nurse. "Excuse me," the nurse turned to look at her, straightening out when realizing who she was. "The Commander wishes to leave. Can he do so in his state?"
"I, I suppose." The nurse stammered. "Of course we'd have to administer medical droids to his quarters and-"
Astrae cut her off with a raise of her hand. "You do what you must, just send him back to his quarters. That is his only wish."
"He's failed." Snoke spoke, leaning back on his hideous red throne, in his hideous red throne room.
"With all due respect," Astrae said, stepping an inch closer, hands clasped in front of her. "His failure in this situation means nothing. You should worry about the political climate rather than Luke."
"Oh? Why is that." Snoke leans forward to look down at Astrae, eyes narrowing.
Astrae takes a calm breath, "Does it not worry you that Abellio, a hive for First Order sympathizers housed a bunch of Resistance fighters outside one of its villages? Your own army was laid to waste due to the fact that you know nothing of the people disloyal to you."
"And you do?"
She smiles slightly, letting out a small laugh. "My mother worked for the Empire. She'd kept their plans and the intricate texts of the Sith even after its untimely fall from power. You'd do well to learn from your failed predecessors, sir."
Snoke said nothing, eyes studying Astrae while he propped his head up in his palm. "What do you know of the Empire, girl."
"More than you, I can assure you that."
"And if the Resistance finds Skywalker? If the scavenger who brought down my pupil returns as a Jedi? Then what." He snarls.
"A mere bump in the road." Astrae shrugs. "Kylo failed you. I will not. I alone saved his life from her, had it not been for me your apprentices body would be rotting away on Abellio and you'd lose your most beloved toy."
Snoke leans down to look at her. "You know not of what you speak, you are a nuisance. You are nothing. You are a passing fancy, the day will come when he will strike you down and return to me at his most powerful.
"I am what makes him powerful." Astrae states, walking closer to Snoke's form, back straightened. "His passing fancy, as you call it, is the only thing that fuels his passion towards the dark side."
He doesn't answer her, hands gripping the armrest of the throne.
"You may think me insolent and useless, but right now, I am your most valuable ally. The Order would crumble if I left, for your Commander would tear it piece by piece to find me."
The room is empty when she comes back, draping her cloak over the couch. She hears a small bustling in the bedroom, no doubt Kylo is awake. She enters the bedroom to see him sat up in the bed.
"What are you doing?" She asks.
"Was wondering where you went. Was gonna go find you."
"I went to see Snoke."
He pauses. Looking at her for a long moment, "Why."
She sits down in front of him on her side of the bed, "You were asleep, he had asked me about Abellio."
"You mean my failure on Abellio." He says through gritted teeth. "This hideous scar," He reaches to touch the bacta patch, "Will be a daily reminder of my failure."
Astrae sighs, moving so she can put her head on his shoulder. "You did not fail. It's not in your nature to."
"But I've lost the map."
Her hand grasps his, stroking the back of it with her thumb, she turns to look at him. "We never had the map. We had a scavenger who saw a piece of it, and the piece of it she had was useless to us. It was a failed mission from the start."
"But Snoke said," He begins.
"Snoke is a fool." She cuts him off. "He's using you for your power. You do not need him." She sits up, moving to straddle him. His face in her hands now. "You didn't fail, Kylo. He had sent you on a mission that was a dead end. He knows nothing of the things he preaches. He knows nothing of the power you can harness if you were to get rid of him."
Astrae gently angles his face to look up at her, "You are so much more, my love." She states, stroking his cheek with her right hand. "You could be so much more. You do not need him, you never did. You have what you need, your knights, me. The Order is yours for the taking you just need to be willing."
"Why?" He rasps. "Why now?"
She sighs, pressing her forehead to his. "Because when he's done with you, he will kill you. You know this, I know you do. We are but pawns in his game."
He takes in a breath, processing this information. His left hand shakily clutching hers. "Do you think I can do it."
"Yes." She says, pressing a kiss to the bacta patch adorning his face.
"And what if I fail." He breathes. "What if I fail and he kills us both."
"You won't fail." She speaks with conviction.
"How do you know?" He asks.
She smiles at him, "Because I will not let you fail."
Chapter 17: Attachment
Glory, glory, glory to the night. It shows me what I am.
Bit of the past paired with current events.
Astrae's mother was no ordinary woman by any means. Between being raised among Imperials, trained under a Sith master, and being a mercenary all by the time she was thirty was no small achievement. She also had a robotic leg, which she never discussed with her daughter. "Life gets in the way, my little star." She would say. Born to a bloodline of royalty on Intu, her mother's mother had renounced the monarchy, leaving Intu as a democracy.
Her mother never acknowledged their royal roots, she never spoke of her grandmother either. Being honest, Astrae's mother never brought up her time within the Empire, or her force training. It's something she avoided as much as possible, and when asked about it, she'd shrug it off.
Motherhood weighed on her like nothing else. Mercenary business, murder, force training, it's all easy when you compare it to the fact of raising another living, breathing, baby. A baby that has inherited those gifts, who will need to hone them, learn how to use them, control them. When Astrae was barely a year old, she'd already used the force many times just by the change of her emotions. If she was upset, rooms would rattle, things would float and drop, but when she was happy, everything seemed so much lighter in the house, so much calmer, serene.
Astrae remembers when she was ten, and she'd come home to a fire burning in their backyard. Remembers her mother with her hair disheveled, nightgown billowing in the breeze of the night air, the way the fire was reflecting on her skin. When asked what she was doing, her mother coo'ed soothing words and mumbled explanations whilst stroking her face. Words of comfort about how she's doing what's best for the galaxy.
It was clear she was ill at that point. Her eyes no longer looked as fiery, warm, and loving, they were bloodshot, her skin clammy and cold.
"We have to help her, Poe." Finn's pacing circles on the Resistance base as he speaks. "You didn't.. You didn't see her, she looked so alone. She always looked alone, but that's not the point. She never wanted to be there. Kriff's sake, he brought her there! Took her from wherever she was hiding, and just.. Brought her on the Finalizer and then never told anyone why or how. Had troopers assigned to take care of her, the whole thing." Finn's panting by the end of his rants, eyes locked on Poe.
"Buddy," Poe begins softly, "She helped you, and Rey, to get to safety meanwhile she chose to stay. Doesn't that show at least a bit of compliance from her to stay with him and the Order? Clearly she has her own reasons for it if she's risked her neck to get you to a doctor on Abellio, and also un-cuffed Rey before you even made the trade."
Finn stands there, biting the inside of his cheek. "You don't get it, Poe." He's shaking his head, pacing again. "It's a feeling I get, you know. I don't know if you know, maybe you do. But I felt.. I felt her wanting to leave the first day I met her. Even if she's there willingly, she's all alone there. No means of help. Or escape. And I'm terrified for her, Poe. She was the first person to see me." Finn stands in front of Poe now, eyes brimming with tears. "To see me as a person, not a trooper. You know?"
Poe places a hand on Finn's shoulder, nodding his head. "Yeah, I get it. We'll send one of our own as a spy if that'll make you feel easier. We've got a few mercenaries and agents who'd do this in a heartbeat."
The Supremacy is a nightmare. The workers are a nightmare, Snoke is a nightmare, even Hux is a nightmare. Everything about it makes Astrae's skin crawl, especially now that she's stuck as Kylo's caretaker until his wounds heal. Who knows how long he'll be on bed rest until the doctors, or the Supreme Leader himself will see him fit to rejoin the bustle of the Order.
Since Kylo has been indisposed since his altercation with Finn and Rey on Abellio, Astrae was a sort of 'stand-in' Commander. It's boring work. It's all fluff meetings which she doesn't necessarily have to attend. But today is different. Today has thrown her off her rhythm. Usually, Kylo spends his time stomping from Snoke's thrown room to the overbridge. Astrae wouldn't touch Snoke with a ten foot pole, so she just stays within the confines of the overbridge.
"Lady Ren," Hux lets out a cough as to signal his presence.
Astrae turns around, face blank. "Yes?"
The General straightens out, "We've got a new officer aboard."
"How is that related to me." She asks, raising an inquisitive brow.
"It's.. It's not. He's just been assigned to you."
Astrae clasps her hands in front of her, exhaling a sigh. "You seem to forget, General, I am not the Commander. I'm merely cleaning up while he's on medical leave. You can take this up with him if you wish."
Hux blinks at her, dumbfounded. He licks his lips before speaking. "I- Of course, when shall I.."
She raises a hand to cut off his babbling, "You may go now. I'm sure Kylo's not that busy. He's been instructed to lay in bed, after all."
"Will you accompany me?"
Hux wants to shriek. Yes, yes she must, because being trapped in Ren's own quarters with no middle man is a nightmare. It'll be even more of a nightmare if he asks Hux about Astrae and where she is, and then he'll beg him to go call on her, leaving Hux to run around the ship like a little puppy back and forth. Even though he hasn't answered her, she has taken the flurry of panicked thoughts as a yes to her question. She strides past him, only sparing a glance to see if he's trailing behind.
Kylo feels very lonely when she's away. Doesn't help that he has barely anything to do now that he's confined to rest, and she's taken up his mantle to keep the Order in balance. He's taken up tracking her via his datapad as a hobby now, seeing where the little dot that represents her moves, and whenever he sees her coming back to their shared quarters he feels a little giddy at the thought of seeing her coming through the doors.
But today, as he's lounging in the living room, datapad in hand he hears the doors woosh open behind him. Scrambling off of the couch to stand up and greet her properly, he's taken aback by the face of an unknown officer staring dumbfounded at him.
"Who are you?" Kylo asks, checking his datapad to see that Astrae is making her way towards their quarters, with Hux right behind her. Fuck.
The officer opens and closes his mouth, removes his hat and twists it in his hands. "It's uh, Flax, sir. That's my given name. I'm new here. Been assigned to a Lady Ren, but I seem to have stumbled upon the wrong rooms.."
"No. You're not lost." Kylo says, eyes narrowing. Why was an officer assigned to Astrae? "It's me and my wife's room."
"Wife?" The officer asks.
"Wife?" Kylo thinks to himself. "Why the fuck would you say wife." He takes in a deep breath, nodding at the officer. "Yes, wife." He affirms.
The metal doors open again, to reveal the woman in question. Kylo's heart skips a beat. She's wearing one of the outfits he'd asked a seamstress to sow her, it's a suit adorned with stars on the blouse, and a cape that goes with it. He's in awe of her every time he sees her.
"Who's this?" She says, pointing to a nervous Flax whilst looking at a awestruck Kylo.
The General enters the room, standing slightly behind her, arms behind his back. "That," he speaks, leaning in. "Will be the officer assigned to you, both of you."
Astrae and Kylo both turn their gazes to the General. "Both of us?" They say, in complete sync.
"Both of them?" Flax pipes up. "I was told I was only assigned to Lady Ren."
Astrae makes her way to sit on the couch, taking in the officer in the living room. He seems familiar, perhaps, too familiar. "I have a question," she says. "Why do either of us need an officer for a babysitter. Kylo has his knights, I've got myself. It's not like either of us are ill equipped."
"Right, well, I got my instructions from Supreme Leader. He deems it fit to have an officer at your beckon call for now. Especially since Ren is indisposed, and you are..." Hux cuts himself off.
"She is what. Spit it out, General." Kylo fumes, hands clutching at his sides.
"Difficult. He means I'm difficult." Astrae cuts in. "No need to get upset over that. General, you may leave."
Hux looks at them both, a sour expression on his face. He gives them a curt nod before exiting. Now they're left with the nervous officer. Astrae studies him, trying to point where she's seen him before. He's so familiar she can almost, almost place him.
"What's your name?" She asks.
He fidgets, "Flax, ma'am." He looks at her with silent pleading eyes now.
Flax. She's heard that before. That was the nickname of the little Resistance mercenary that stuck around with her and Onhar for a few months in her smuggling days. Ah. That's why he's nervous. Is it because he's former Resistance? Because he's just terrified to be in the presence of her and the Jedi killer?
"Tell us about yourself, Flax." She speaks, leaning back into the couch. "Don't be scared. You're loyal to us now, yes?"
Kylo moves to sit next to her, he looks way more tense. Eyes scanning every move of the officer before him, as if analyzing him, reading him.
"Not much to say, I joined the Order not long ago. Felt like I needed to help out, I used to be a mercenary, and a smuggler for a time. So I suppose that's why they saw me fit into an officers position. I didn't think it'd be such a personal ordeal, though." He trails off, clearly unhappy and anxious with the situation.
"You're of no use to us." Kylo pipes up, standing up and approaching the officer in just a few steps. "The Supreme Leader may have assigned you for whatever reason, but you are useless to me, and to her."
Flax straightens out, not afraid to look the Commander in the eye. "With all due respect, sir, I think I'm assigned more to her than I am to you. After all, you have missions to go on, battles to win, I'm just the middle man in watching over her."
Kylo clenches his fists, stepping more into Flax's personal space. "You think you can defend her, officer? Think you can stop her from doing whatever she wants when I am not aboard this ship? Think her incapable of holding her own if I am not here?"
"No, sir. I just meant that I will be at her beckon call like a servant when you are not around, if need be, sir." Flax answers through clenched teeth.
Astrae sighs, looking at the mess unfolding in front of her. Yes, she did not need Flax. But she didn't need Kylo causing a scene, or committing a murder in their living room. "That'll be enough." She asserts, standing up from the couch, she lets out a small sigh. "Kylo, my love, you're on bed rest. Straining yourself over these issues isn't good for your health."
"I'm not straining." He hisses, eyes still locked on Flax. He moves back to Astrae's side, eyes still glancing back at the officer now and again.
She pats his chest. "You're tense." She points her finger at Flax, eyes never leaving Kylo's. "And you, you're excused."
Flax wants to protest, but he can feel her own anger radiating into the room. He nods and with a whispered out yes ma'am, leaves the room. Astrae sighs and removes the cape from her shoulders, throwing it onto the couch.
"You tire me out." She murmurs. "You're always causing a fuss over nothing, always worrying, always making a mess I have to clean up." She makes her way to the bedroom, not even looking back at Kylo who's trailing behind her like a sad puppy. He feels bad. For losing his temper over nothing. For disappointing her, again. She points for him to sit on the bed as she rummages through the first aid kit, it's time for his scar to be attended to.
She stands in between his legs, cupping his chin in one hand and dabbing the scar with an ointment. He hisses in pain.
"I know." She says, more to herself than him. "It's painful, but it's necessary for it to not get infected."
"I know that." Kylo mumbles. "Just haven't got used to the sting. That's all."
A small smile tugs at her lips, "You've been shot, stabbed, you've refused treatment at the medbay when we brought you back, yet all it takes is an ointment to make you feel pain?" She smears the paste with her fingers a bit more, before applying a patch over it. "Done."
As Astrae cleans up the first aid kit she rummaged through, Kylo fiddles with his fingers. "Is it hideous?"
"Is what hideous?" She asks, not looking up from her tidying.
"My scar." He speaks, louder now. A tinge of shame and disgust in his voice. "The one on my face."
She looks at him now, shaking her head. "No. It's not hideous. It's perfectly fine, apart from the fact that it's a wound, now that's not fine."
"Does it make me look hideous." He prodded. "Does it make you.. ashamed of me?"
Astrae studies him for a moment, lips turning down into a frown as she makes her way to sit next to him on the corner of the bed. Grabbing his hand gently, she places it in her lap. "You look the same as you always did." She states, whilst stroking his hand with her own. "No more grotesque and no less handsome."
"You find me handsome?" Kylo asks, turning his head to look at her, studying her.
"Of course I do." She places a kiss on his cheek as she stands to put the first aid kit back into its rightful place. His ears turn a warm shade of pink at the gesture.
Chapter 18: Familiar
If you could only see the beast you've made of me, I held it in but now it seems you've set it running free. Screaming in the dark, I howl when we're apart. Drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart. My fingers claw your skin, try to tear my way in, you are the moon that breaks the night for which I have to howl.
Kylo centric chapter with flashbacks and current events... *BOINK*
Kylo dreams about Astrae a lot. Especially after the battle on Abellio.
He dreams about how tenderly she cradled his head, how the moonlight shone down on her, making her brown skin look a blue hue. How her hair fell onto her face. The worried expression painted on her features, her gentle hands trying to soothe him however which way.
But then again when hasn't he dreamt about her? He's had ten years worth of dreams. Some which were visions, some of which were memories from the past, and some were just simply things born of his wants. He has dreamt about her touch, her smile, her love, and her warmth. And when he couldn't dream, he'd simply lay awake at night thinking about her. He knew she was a distraction, but she always was.
From the moment she had joined Luke's academy, she was all he could possibly think about. And it wasn't just the bond they shared, wasn't just the push and pull of a connection. It was his own pure curiosity. She'd sit out practice, and he'd wonder why. She wouldn't talk to anyone, and he'd wonder why. She'd become a hermit in the academy as time went on, preferring her own company, and like clockwork, he'd wonder why.
"You're distracted." Nej spoke after training. "Always gawking at that girl."
Ben huffed, "I'm not. She's just always gawking at me."
Nej chortles, giving Ben a funny look. "No she isn't. You just want her to gawk at you, just like every boy wants her to gawk at them."
Ben straightens up, walking to the dining hall with Nej. "She's got admirers?" He mumbles.
"She's a pretty girl, of course she does. Just like you've got your admirers." His friend bumps his shoulders with a little wink and eyebrow raise.
They sit and eat in relative silence, joined by other padawans who gossip and chatter about the day and what waits for them after this break. Ben sits silently, staring down at his half eaten meal, lost in thought yet again. He thinks about Astrae, again. She's skipped lunch, again. He wonders if she eats it alone, or with Luke. Maybe she hangs out with Artoo. Ben gets up from his seat abruptly as he makes his way outside, ignoring the inquisitive murmurs behind him.
He steps outside, looking around. The fields are empty, everyone's gathered in the dining hall or holed up in their huts. He starts wandering aimlessly, quietly waiting until the next training session starts so he doesn't have to think about anything. Doesn't have to think about her. Ben's wandering takes him to a clearing, with only a few scattered huts and trees overlooking the sea. It's what the younger padawans call 'Luke's territory.' It's where Luke's hut is, on the highest hill. Below it are huts for the elder padawans, the ones that get sent on assignments and missions. It's also where Astrae's hut is, but Ben doesn't know that. Yet.
Ben notices Astrae before she notices him. She's sat by her hut, legs crossed, back leaning on the cold stone of the structure. Astrae's scribbling something on paper, mumbling to herself and not even paying attention at the lanky boy just a few feet away from her, gawking. Ben swallows the lump that's formed at his throat, hands clenching and uncleanching, palms growing sweatier by the minute. He licks his lips, collecting his courage to approach her. He's taken out of his reverie by a shrill voice yelling his name, his head snaps towards the sound, not noticing that Astrae's head snaps up.
"Ben!" Zalia, his sparring partner shouts. She's waving at him, running towards him at a light pace. "Nej is looking for you. Sparring practice is about to begin, and he wants you to swap with his partner."
He looks over his shoulder, noticing Astrae staring at the both of them with a confused look on her face. She furrows her eyebrows when he doesn't quit staring.
"Hey." Zalia speaks, snapping her fingers in front of his face. "Stop making googly eyes at her. Practice is about to begin."
"I'm not going." He replies.
Zalia stares at him, a blank expression on her face. "Suit yourself." She casts a glance behind his shoulder, looking at Astrae, then she moves to leave.
Ben's still stood with his back to Astrae, feeling her stare burn into his back. He's anxious to turn around and face her, afraid of what she'll say or what she'll do. Will she ask him why he's there, will she tell him Luke's busy and he'll have to stammer out a shitty explanation on how he was subconsciously looking for her. Or will she walk back into her hut, slam the door in his face and pretend this never happened.
"You good?" Astrae pipes up, and Ben flinches at the sound. He turns around to see her packing up her paper and pencils, shoving them in a small rucksack.
He rubs his neck, anxiety spiking. "Yeah." He stammers, clears his throat and tries again. "Yeah. I'm good. You?"
"I'm fine." She doesn't turn to look at him as she's making her way towards the cliff side, where there's a small patch of trees. "If you're looking for Luke, he left. He's probably in the little library holed up, he's going to teach the first years how to craft a lightsaber."
Her hair is loose, bouncing with every step she takes. Her robes, different from those of the students, billow in the wind as she walks further away from Ben.
"Wait!" He yells, she snaps her head towards him. "Where are you going?"
She looks him up and down, before letting out a scoff. "None of your business, fly-boy."
Astrae marches away before he has anything else to say. "Am not a fly-boy." He thinks, kicking pebbles. He slowly walks back towards his own hut, back in the main part of the island, where everybody else has a hut, and the Academy has its main buildings. Ben doesn't want to spend the rest of his day holed up in his hut, though. He still shares his hut with his roommate, Nej. He's not yet old enough to go on missions or get his own private room. It irritates him to no end. Nej is always snoring, always bringing the younglings into the hut to brag, and show off his skills. Sometimes he'll bring back girls from their classes to entertain them, show them cheap little tricks he learned on his own.
"Why the sour face." Nej asks as Ben enters the common hall. "Zalia said you skipped practice due to your infatuation with that girl."
"Her names Astrae." Ben answers with a clipped tone. He unceremoniously falls onto one of the armchairs. "And I skipped practice cause I was lazy, not because of her." Ben picks at his nails now, not wanting to look at Nej and the smug little smirk adorning his face.
Nej fakes a deep sigh, "If you want a girlfriend so bad, there's at least three, yes, three girls who would date you in a heartbeat my man."
Ben looks at him now, eyes narrowing in a glare. "I don't want a girlfriend, Nej. Kriff. I'm just wondering why Astrae's skulking around the academy if she doesn't do anything here."
His friend shrugs, "Isn't Luke your uncle? Can't you ask him."
"Luke would never tell me." Ben shakes his head at Nej's statement. "It doesn't.. bother me. She just seems so alone, Nej. Always in some corner, and when she comes into training she beats her partners time and time again. She doesn't even try and yet, she's perfect."
Nej lets out a low whistle. "You've really got it in for her, huh."
"No, I don't." Ben denied. "I just.. admire her.. study ethic."
"Bet her study ethic isn't the only thing you'd like to admire."
The statement earns Nej a pillow to the face, he cackles as Ben makes his way out of the common hall, the tips of his ears a shade of pink. Ben almost gets the shit scared out of him when he bumps into a smaller being when he's five feet outside of the hall. It's Astrae.
"Shit. Sorry." He mumbles. "My bad."
"It's fine. Luke wanted me to give you something." She says, face angled up to look at him. She looks down only for a few seconds, reaching into her rucksack to take out a lightsaber. "He said you needed it repaired, so, good as new."
Ben grasps the lightsaber, holding onto it yet not quite taking it out of her grip. "Did he repair this?"
"Nope." She says, popping the p. "I did." A little small tugs at the corners of her lips, fingers grazing the hilt of the saber. "See, you did some fairly good work when crafting it, but I studied a bit on classic Jedi saber structure, so I just.. improved the hilt and its mechanisms, as well as repairing it."
"How do you know this stuff?" Ben mumbles under his breath in awe, eyes focused on her hands still touching the lightsaber. "You don't even.."
"Don't even attend class?" She cuts him off, a lightness in her voice. "No, I learned these things back home. Jedi and Sith tomes were old family heirlooms, I practically scarfed down their ancient texts."
He nods slowly, not knowing what to say or do. She lets go of the saber.
"It's a fine weapon, for a student." She quips.
Ben furrows his brows. Is she.. flirting? With him? Or is he mistaking her familiarity and kindness with romantic interest?
"A thank you would be nice."
"No, yes, absolutely." He stammers. "Thank you, so, so much. Really." Both hands clutching his saber, he nods his head towards her, still fumbling over his words. "Really, I.. I don't know what to say. I thought Luke did the repairs.. Or had droids do them but you, yeah, you.. you're.. yeah."
"You're not quite the hot shot people say you are." Astrae states, head tilted slightly to the side.
He fiddles with the saber in his hands. "People say I'm a hot shot? I don't.."
"You don't what?" She cuts him off. "It's fine. They just say you're cocky. Rambunctious."
Ben lets out an 'ah' sound. So Luke discusses students with her.. Maybe Luke discusses only him with her. Does she ask Luke about him?
"I don't." She states. "You think too loud. Learn to silence and control that."
He stares at her gobsmacked. How could she hear his thoughts. Rarely anyone could. He tries to stammer out an answer before she gives him a final 'you're welcome' and goes back the way she came. He doesn't try and call her, doesn't try and explain himself or his thoughts. "Oh, she thinks you're an egomaniac now." He thinks to himself. "Now you've ruined any chance you ever had with befriending her. Good going, idiot." Ben sighs to himself, gently smacking his sabers hilt against his forehead. "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid." He exclaims loudly. "Couldn't talk to her like a normal person. Had to fuck it all up." He continues his mumbled rant towards himself til he gets to his hut.
Ben tries to walk as slowly as human possible. Hoping that he'll bump into Astrae wandering, strike up a conversation, apologize for his loud thoughts. His feet take him to the same cliffside where Luke and Astrae's huts reside. He hears voices speaking loudly.
"Luke. Please! Just this once, she needs me." Ben hears Astrae pleading, staying within the shadows as to not disturb the conflict unfolding.
He hears Luke sigh. "I know. But you can't leave. I promised to your mother that I'd take care of you." Luke's voice is calm, but firm.
"I never wanted to be a Jedi." Astrae seethes, and Ben can sense a shift in the air. "That's not who she was. Not who I am."
A silence ensues. Ben hears Luke sigh, followed by footsteps walking away from where Astrae is standing. Ben stands still for minutes, holding his breath. But he doesn't hear anything. No shuffling, no moving, no doors slamming. No Luke, no Astrae.
"What are you doing?" Astrae asks, causing Ben to jolt.
"Sweet maker!" He says, hand over his chest as he steps from where he was hiding. "What is wrong with you? Scared the shit out of me."
She's sat on the grass by her hut. Now her eyes are closed, she's clearly meditating. "What's wrong with you? Didn't Leia ever tell you it's rude to eavesdrop on people?" She clicks her tongue, "And here I thought the child of a politician would have more manners."
Ben sits in front of her, plucking the grass. "I wasn't eavesdropping."
"You're trying to be my friend. Stop it." She says. "I help you with your nightmares, you help me with mine. You fit in right at home now, and I don't enjoy being here as much. You'd better leave it alone."
"Can't." He replies.
"Why not?" She huffs, opening her eyes, body slouching slightly.
Ben shrugs. "Dunno. I want to be your friend."
"Well aren't we already friends? Friends help their friends. We," he gestures at the air between them. "helped each other."
Astrae sighs, putting her head in her hands and sighing. "Fine. We're friends. Would you stop stalking me now?" She mumbles.
"I don't stalk you." He says defensively. "I just happen to stumble upon you today."
She lets out a laugh-like sound at that. "Sure. If that's what you call it? Sure."
"Are we friends?" Kylo asks Astrae as she's getting ready for bed.
"What?" She stops in her tracks, hands still drying her hair with the towel.
He sits up in the bed, "Are you and I friends?" His gaze pierces hers.
She shuffles around the room, throwing the towel in the hamper and taking off her robe, hanging it in the closet before she turns to look at him again. "I mean.. I guess."
"You guess? What makes you say you guess?"
Astrae sucks in a breath, "I don't.. I don't know, exactly. We're more like.. business partners."
"Business partners?" He says. "Business partners?" He repeats the two words in disbelief, shaking his head slightly.
"I mean.." She starts off, making her way to the bed. "You can't actually expect me to say we're friends. You've spent ten years terrorizing the galaxy, and me. I mean, you knocked me out when I said I wanted to go back to Abellio!"
Kylo furrows his brows, still processing her words. He looks at her, "But you stayed. You stayed." he says in an accusatory tone, pointer finger jabbing at the air in her direction. "You saved my life. You saved my life, and you stayed!"
"Out of duty!"
"Duty to who! You're not bound by the order! You've no loyalties here!" Kylo sits up on the bed, knees bracing on the mattress. "You have duty to no one! You could've left me on Abellio to rot, and I would have forgiven you! You could've left!"
"Is that what you hoped I'd do? Let you die?" She yells, chest heaving. "I saved your life, not for the order, but for you."
"But we're not friends." He seethes. "I'm just your business partner."
Astrae leans in, wisps of her hair falling on her face. "What do you want from me. Tell me what answer you want."
Kylo lets out a shaky breath, leaning back, his hands in his lap. He sucks his bottom lip between his teeth and bites down on it. "I don't.." He begins. "I don't know."
She climbs on the bed, hands reaching to embrace him. He allows her to, his hands limply circling her waist, his head on her shoulder. He bites back a sob he didn't even know he was holding in. "I'm just."
"I know." She whispers into his hair. "You're tired. I know. We're.. partners, Kylo. Not friends, not.. business associates, but we're partners. It's different."
Kylo buries his head in her neck, inhaling her scent. Her skin warm and soft from her bath. She smells like lavender and roses this time, smells like home to him no matter what scent she brandishes after her time in the fresher. Kylo's body starts going into a more relaxed state the more she holds him. He feels at home.
Chapter 19: Needy
I know who I am when I'm alone, I'm something else when I see you. You don't understand, you should never know how easy you are to need. Don't let me in with no intention to keep me. Jesus Christ! Don't be kind to me. Honey, don't feed me. I will come back. It can't be unlearned, I've known the warmth of your doorways. Through the cold, I'll find my way back to you. Oh please, give me no mercy no more! It's a kindness you can't you can't afford.
I want you baby tonight, sure as you're born. You'll hear me howling outside your door.
more flashbacks.. then current events... what's happening... p r o c e s s i n g . . .
"Friends. We're friends. We're friends. She's friends with me. I'm her friend. Friends ask friends to join them at lunch. Friends ask friends to go to the library or study halls together or the common hall. Friends." Ben thinks to himself as he paces his hut in the early morning, feet softly padding against the wooden floor as to not wake Nej on the other side of the room. "Friends train together. Friends hang out. A lot. Friends invite friends into their huts to spend―"
"Dude." Nej speaks, rubbing his eyes and sitting up in his bed, his short brown hair messy and sticking into every which direction. "Are you okay?
Ben turns to look at his roommate, "Yeah. Just anxious."
"For what? Today's our off day."
"Yeah but, you know. So much to do, to plan, to see, to think." Ben starts pacing again as he's rambling. "So much stuff."
Nej's lips upturned into a small smile. "You need a hobby my man." He says, easing himself out of bed and padding into a fresher. "Or a girlfriend, at least!"
"Don't need a girlfriend." Ben calls back, head turned to where Nej has disappeared.
Ben continues pacing around, biting the skin around his fingernails anxiously. It was just sunrise, but they're all used to waking up at the crack of dawn anyway. Luke has given them a day off to rest, to prepare for what's to come. The students that have been on missions or assignments have returned, thankful for a days break. He hears a small knock at the door, tensing instantly. The knock gets louder and Ben approaches the door, hesitating on whether to open it or not. "What if it's her.." he thinks to himself.
He gathers up the courage and opens the door as wide as possible. Oh. It's not Astrae at the door. It's his fellow padawan, Maree. She's a sweet girl, always nice to the younger students, always tries to help her partners in class. She's got medium length strawberry blonde hair, always intricately braided and today is no different. She stands before him in her school robes, hands twitching at her sides.
Ben breaks the silence. "If you're looking for Nej, he's inside. In the fresher so you'd have to wait." He says, thumb pointing behind him.
"No! I mean," she clears her throat. "No. I'm.. I wanna talk to you."
Ben leans his shoulder on the door frame. "Okay. What can I do for you?"
"You're not.. Not gonna invite me in?"
He shrugs, "Is there a reason you need to go inside? Nej steal something again?"
Maree shakes her head, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "I've been.. meaning to ask you something."
Ben stares at her, letting her take the time to pluck her courage. He gazes out at the view behind her, everyone's up and running now, going into the dining hall to have their breakfast meal or enjoying it outside. "It's good weather. Real nice, and warm. Wonder if Astrae likes it warm." he thinks to himself. He notices a mess of long, brown hair flurrying outside, accompanied by an oh so familiar rucksack.
"Listen, we've known each other for a while and you're so funny, and sweet, and I was just wondering if―" Maree is cut off with Ben raising his hand in front of her, still gazing out behind her.
Ben, not even hearing what she was saying, "I gotta go." He doesn't even give her a moment to collect herself, he just leaves her there. His and Nej's hut door still wide open. As he's marching towards Astrae, he doesn't even notice Maree's gaze following him, her mouth agape.
"'Strae!" he shouts, cupped hands lifted to his mouth. "Astrae!" he shouts, again. This time loud enough to get her attention.
She stops, and turns to look at him. He's only a few steps away, goofy smile adorning his features, a small bounce in his step. Ben lets his arms outstretch, preparing to greet her with a hug. Astrae outstretches one hand, using the Force to throw him backwards, straight on his ass.
Astrae approaches him whilst he's writhing on the ground. "I don't do hugs, fly-boy."
"Not a fly-boy." He wheezes out. "What'd you do all that for? Could've just told me."
She looks down at him with a smile, "That would take away half the fun of getting to use the Force."
Ben's heart skips a beat at the sight of her smile. It's unnerving, she's never smiled at him. Of course, in their quietest moments together after all the nightmares, she's shown kind, loving, and tender gestures. But never a smile. Never a show of such joy, or happiness. Not towards him, anyway. He's taken out of his gazing at the sight at her outstretched hand, offering to help him back up. He takes it.
Astrae's hands are unbelievably soft, and tiny, compared to Ben's. As he's standing up with her help, he catches a whiff of her. She smells like pine trees and an oceanic breeze, smells like every best aspect of the island they live on. She's still holding his hand when he's standing straight, and Ben's too afraid to call her out on it, too afraid to let go, to lose this soft connection.
"Ben!" Nej called, stomping from the hut towards the pair, Maree trailing behind him. "What is- Ohohoh.... I see" He says, smirking at the sight of Astrae still holding Ben's hand.
"What." Astrae asks.
Nej gestures between her and Ben with his finger, "You guys.. dating?"
Astrae furrows her brows, letting go of Ben's hand to fold her arms over her chest. "Because I held his hand? What are you, twelve?"
Ben kind of just stands there, arms at his sides. He glances at Maree who's glaring at Astrae, and then glances back at Astrae who's glaring at Nej, who's got a smug smile on his face. "She looks pretty when she's angry." Ben thinks to himself.
"Shut up." Ben says.
Astrae turns to look at him, "Excuse me?"
"Oh. Oh shit. You said that out loud. You moron." Ben thinks to himself. He scrambles to get a word out, "No. Not you, I just. Was talking. To.. myself."
"You talk a lot to yourself?" She asks.
Nej lets out a laugh, "All he does is talk to himself, you'd know that if you attended practice more often."
Astrae tenses at that statement, licking her lips. "Yeah. Maybe." She looks at the three of them, arms falling to her sides as she slowly starts backing up. "I gotta go. Luke wants to talk to me, and I was on my way anyway so. Bye."
Ben stares as the air shifts as she starts walking away, making her way up the hill. Nej lets out a low whistle behind him, and Maree is still quiet.
"She's a handful." Nej claps a hand on Ben's shoulder. "Don't know what she's got on you but, maybe you should chase somebody else now."
Ben shrugs his hand off, hands clenching. An oh so familiar anger bubbling inside of him. "Maybe you should've just minded your business." He spits, staring at Nej. "Everything was fine til you and her came along. You don't even know her."
His friend raises his hands in defense. "Dude, let it go. It was a joke."
"She's my friend, Nej. It's not a joke to her, and not to me."
In this heated discussion, neither of them noticed that Maree has scurried somewhere further away from the inevitable argument.
Nej scoffs at his statement. "She's your friend? She doesn't talk to you, Ben. She doesn't show up to class. I don't think I've ever seen you speak. So how is she magically your friend."
"Do it, you know you want to." The sinister, rumbling voice in Ben's head speaks. And he does. He loses whatever control he had on his anger and uses all his energy to force throw Nej against a nearby tree. He hits the stem with a loud thud, groaning as his body slumps back down to the ground.
"Ben." Luke's voice booms, Ben turns around to see Astrae standing next to Luke, and a small crowd of students watching what just happened in disbelief.
He inhales a deep breath, walking slowly towards his uncle.
"Astrae," Luke turns to her. "Lead him away. I'll take care of Nej."
She nods, gently taking Ben's hand and leading him away from the loud murmurs and inquisitive stares. Her touch is gentle, soothing, but he can still feel the crackling of darkness and anger in the air. She can feel it too. They walk for a long time, passing huts and other buildings. They reach a small clearing that overlooks the ocean. "This is where she disappears to." He thinks.
"What happened?" She asks, looking up at him with a stare that he can't place. Something between sadness and curiosity.
He tries to shrug, but his body has a hard time reacting. "Don't. Don't know."
Astrae takes a tentative step towards him, hand outstretched just far enough to brush against the fabric covering his chest. "Was it.. him. Did he make you do it?"
"I don't.. know." He chokes on his words, hand that's holding hers just clutching tightly as he sinks to his knees in front of her, head bowed. She walks closer to him, hands brushing through his hair as she kneels in front of him, cupping his face in her gentle hands, bringing his head up to look at her.
She wipes at the tears that stain his cheeks, "You'll be okay, Ben." she whispers. "You'll be fine."
"What if I won't be?" He blubbers. "What if all I am is this.. encompassing darkness. What if he's right. What if it's my only path. All I'm good at is hurting people."
"But you've never hurt me." She speaks quietly, leaning her forehead on his. "You've just.. lost control. He's exploiting that."
He looks at her, tears still running down his cheeks. She's got her eyes closed, breathing in and out slowly, trying to get him to mirror her breathing subconsciously. She's trying to calm him down. Trying to help him, when he hasn't asked her to.
"I think I love you." He whispers, her eyes shoot open.
"Do you love me?" Kylo whispers, laying on his side, staring at a sleeping Astrae.
She lets out a grumbling sound. "What?" She tosses onto her stomach, turning her head to look at him. "What'd you say?" She says, eyes still half lidded and sleepy.
"Do you love me." He whispers, firmer now.
Astrae lets out a little breath, still coming to grips with her conscious state, body turning to lay on her side. "Sure."
"What do you love about me?" He pries further.
She tosses and turns, still uncomfortable in her current laying position. Finally, she settles for laying on her back, one arm draped over her eyes. "Dunno." She says, pausing to think. "Guess you're funny sometimes."
Kylo inches closer to her, hand cautiously reaching to drape itself over her stomach. Scared that she'll rip his hand off if he puts it there. "I'm funny?"
"Yep." Astrae says, popping the p. "A real clown if you ask me."
He falters in his hand moving, "What."
Astrae lets out a small laugh at her own joke, "I said you're funny, didn't I. Isn't that enough?"
Kylo braces himself on one of his elbows, looking down at her now. "What." He says again, leaning into her personal space, one hand now gently trying to remove the arm from her eyes, she swats at his hand.
"You asked me what I liked about you, you're funny. There."
"No," he starts. "I asked you if you loved me. That's different."
Astrae peeks from under her arm, looking at his befuddled gaze. "What do you want me to say then?"
"Oh, you first then." She removes her arm from her eyes, looking up at him, not moving her stare from his.
Kylo's lost for a moment, he lays back down, head close to hers. Way too close. His hand reaches to snake itself around her waist, fiddling with the fabric of the bed covers. "Dunno.." He starts.
Astrae scoffs at that. "And what did you want from me, an essay?"
"Shush." He says, shaking her slightly by the waist. His other hand reaches to stroke her hair. "You're inquisitive, self sufficient, kind, passionate.."
She hums at that, nodding her head along to his words.
"You challenge me, push me, but you're always so.. tender with me." He continues. "You never.. you've never hurt me. You've tried to protect me. And you smell nice."
"Ah." Astrae laughs to herself. "I smell nice. My one greatest quality."
They stare at each other, breathing calmly in sync. "Now you." Kylo whispers.
"Me?" She feigns ignorance, clicking her tongue. "Oh, I love a lot of things about myself. Where do I even start?"
Kylo shakes her by the waist again, she laughs again. "I'm serious." He says. "Do you love me?"
Astrae cups his face in her hands, slowly bring his head even closer to hers, their lips almost brushing. She closes her eyes and kisses him, slowly. It's a chaste kiss, simple. He wants to respond, but his body and brain is in too much shock at this. She pulls back before he can even register what has happened.
"Oh see, now I have to say I do love your soft lips." She says, licking her lips.
Kylo's still frozen. He opens his mouth, and then closes it, still trying to process what the fuck just happened. "You, um, you." He begins, tripping and stammering over his words. "You just.."
"Me, I. Yes." She says. "What's wrong? Wasn't your entire end goal a kiss from me ever since I straddled you on your ship when we left Takodana?"
"Yes. I mean, no." Kylo is oh so terribly confused. "I mean, I wanted to kiss you, yes. I just, I didn't think you wanted to do. I didn't pry, but if you want to we can―"
Astrae lets out a little chuckle, "Oh, oh no. I'm not going around kissing you. You've got to earn it."
"Yes." She states. "Do you think you just get to lock lips with me whenever you feel like it?"
"I would.. hope so." He murmurs.
Astrae pats his cheek, "Oh, baby, no." She tsks, "Definitely no. You brought me on this shitty ship, made me look at that hideous master of yours, right now I'm even doing your job for you. If you think you have any chance of kissing me unless I say so, you've got another thing coming."
"But you're my.. wife. In a sense." He huffs. "Isn't that what couples do? Kiss? Hug? Do.. other things?"
She raises her eyebrows. "Do 'other things?'" She says, raising her hands to make quotation marks. "That a euphemism for sex?"
Kylo hesitates. "I.. I guess."
Astrae leans in, nose to nose, chest to chest, "I'll play the wife, sure," She starts, fingers grazing his skin as Kylo's breathing becomes heavier. "But I won't fuck you. Not until you're begging, not until you've properly earned it." She plants another kiss on his lips before she quickly gets out of bed, heading to the fresher to start her day.
Chapter 20: Unbearable
Oh you, you terrible thing.
Caelia always referred to her daughter as her little star, because she swears the day she was born all the stars in the entire galaxy shone a little bit brighter. She always told Astrae that she was a gift from the stars, that she was everything her mother ever wanted, that she was everything.
And Caelia loved her daughter more than anything. More than she ever loved the Empire she served, the master she served, more than the dark she aligned herself with. Because the minute her little star was born, none of it mattered.
Astrae's father, Rhao loved her too. But he was always scared of the unknown, scared of the powers his daughter would inevitably possess. That didn't mean he was going to abandon his child, no. It just happened one day when he'd gone to trade in the outer rim, his ship had disappeared. No signal, no tracker. He was just gone, vanished into the vast emptiness of space.
It led to her mother falling ill, perhaps she was always ill and that was just a pushing point for her. But her sanity started to dwindle, her love for her never did, but she'd become absolutely unhinged and isolated. Sporadically she'd have nightmares that would make her shake the entire house, and at one point she'd ripped her cybernetic leg off. Astrae didn't know what to do, there's only so much a child could do. Whatever sanity remained within her mother led to Astrae being taken in by Luke.
And she felt absolutely lonely at that forsaken academy. The older she got, the more she wanted to, no, needed to go home. A time came when she would beg Luke daily, plead with her hands clasped together, eyes brimming with tears. But the answer always stated the same. No.
Time came and went, and one night she felt it. Or, a lack of it. Her mothers force life had just dwindled out of existence and Astrae felt like she'd been cut open with a hot blade. The sobs that wracked her body made the trees shake, the ocean waves hit the rocks harder, the galaxy seemed to stop at that moment. Everything around her went numb, and nothing seemed to matter anymore.
Astrae lost herself in the scrolls and tomes she took with her from home, became obsessed with crafting and learning. It was her only healthy outlet. She hated talking to Luke about her loss, but she could never blame him for not letting her see her mother. She wouldn't be able to prevent the inevitable.
It's how she felt now too. Perpetually numb.
Everything on the Supremacy was dull and lifeless, people conditioned to behave like soulless machines with no empathy or care. Working on the Supremacy was dull and lifeless, too. A never ending flow of meetings with no end goal, just those machines speaking with each other about who's weaponry or plan is better.
"Ma'am?" Astrae was taken out of her daydreaming by the new officer, Flax. An incredibly dull man who was no doubt a spy. How could one tell? Simple. He'd disappear sporadically, always whispering things into a little device that was not First Order issued. Astrae learned to spot these things when they mattered.
"Yes?" She stares at him with a blankness in her eyes. "What is it?"
He fiddles with the high collar of his issued uniform. "Are you in need of assistance? General Hux has instructed me to be at your beckon call."
"Perhaps the Commander would need your assistance. He is after all, injured." She mused, arms braced on the railing behind her. "Why would I need help when I am merely overlooking the dullness of his post."
"Your husband he.. He's made it clear that he doesn't need my assistance." Flax says, a bitter expression on his face.
"What have you got against my husband?"
Flax's eyes widen at the question, he clears his throat. "Nothing, ma'am."
Astrae waves her hand casually, "Oh, go ahead. He's not here."
"In that case," Flax fixes his collar once more. "I think he is a beast, unworthy of title."
She hums at the statement, mind wandering away for only a moment. "You know what I think?"
The officer shakes his head.
"I think you're a spy for the Resistance." She states nonchalantly. "What do you think of that?"
Flax goes pale at the statement, feeling the room getting just a bit warmer than it was before, hands clammy at his sides. How could she know? And so quickly, too. He wants to avoid her gaze, but the little smile tugging at her lips makes him even more worried.
"Who sent you?" She whispers. "The General? Or perhaps, you're here on an infiltration mission?"
He gulps. "I was asked to save you, miss."
Her laugh catches him off guard, he looks around but none of the other workers on the bridge care. She turns around to lean her body on the railing, Flax standing at her side now. She continues laughing as she stares down at the people below.
"Save me from what? Boredom?" Astrae asks after her fit has passed, she tilts her head to the side whilst staring Flax down.
His hands grip the railing, gloves creasing. "From the Commander, miss."
"From my husband?" She asks incredulously. "Do I look like I'm scared of him?"
"With all due respect, Astrae," Flax begins. "He is not worthy of you. He has.. brought you here against your will. Only a beast would do such a thing."
"Ah." Astrae pushes herself off of the railing, hands still clutching it though. "And what a beast he is." Flax wants to ask her what she means, but he turns to look in the direction of the bridge which carries the loud thudding of boots. It's the Commander, Kylo Ren, in all his glory unmasked.
Kylo approaches the two. "My love." He speaks softly, running his finger against her cheek, she closes her eyes at the contact.
"I see you've intimidated the entire medbay into letting you back to your duties." She says with a sigh.
"You know me. I couldn't rest." He states.
Astrae glances at Flax who's standing still, and silent. Kylo turns to look at the officer, "And what are you doing?"
"Assisting your wife, sir." Flax stammers out.
Kylo hums, hand reaching to grasp Astrae's. "And with what are you helping with?"
"Are you an entertainer, or an officer?" Kylo asks.
"An officer, sir."
Kylo lets out a low chuckle, "Then go make yourself useful at your post. You're dismissed."
Flax nods and scurries off to fuck knows where.
Kylo looks at Astrae who is looking in the direction where the officer ran off, eyes narrowed. He cups her cheek gently, bringing her out of her reverie, angling her head up and leaning his head down to brush his lips against hers.
"I don't think so." She says against his lips. "You've not earned it."
"I'm your husband." Kylo states.
Astrae hums, "Not really." She says with a little shake of her head. "You've merely taken up the silly title to feel justified in kidnapping me from Abellio."
"Ah. So now I kidnapped you on Abellio?" Kylo smirks, body towering over hers.
"What else would you call it, Commander." Astrae says as her hands cup under his jaw, stroking his face gently.
Kylo breathes in a stuttering breath. "You were very compliant on Abellio."
"I took your knights eye."
"You could've done worse."
They stand there like that for a few minutes, the energy around them absolutely electric. Of course, it always has to be ruined.
"Ren!" Hux bellows, invisible steam coming out his ears.
Kylo sighs, straightening up and letting go of her face. He turns in the direction of the general. "What now."
Hux points an accusatory finger at him, "You!" he fumes. "You absolutely destroyed the medbay."
"He what?" Astrae asks in disbelief.
"This.. This absolute.." The general has a hard time in gathering his words. "Never mind what he is, he has wrecked the medbay because the doctors would not initially clear him for duty! This is a disgrace!"
Astrae gazes up at Kylo. "Why would you do that?" She reprimands him, hands placed on her hips.
Kylo looks at the both of them, they're both upset with him for two entirely different reasons. Astrae's mad at him for using intimidation tactic to be cleared for duty, and Hux is mad at him for wrecking the expensive equipment.
"When this comes back to the Supreme Leader.." Hux seethes.
"The Supreme Leader knows, General. I spoke with him today." Kylo states calmly.
Astrae's heart skips a beat. He spoke with Snoke, without her, without telling her.
Hux folds his arms over his chest. "And what did he say. What excuse is there for wrecking the most integral part of this ship!"
"Calm down, your precious medbay will be repaired in no time. He's allowed me to go back to my Commander duties, not my duties on the battlefield."
"I do not care about your duties, Ren!" Hux retorted. "I care about the fact that you're wrecking this ship whenever you feel like it!"
Astrae stands there, arms now hanging loosely at her sides, thinking. "Perhaps," she speaks softly, slowly. "We can chock this up to a failure on Kylo's part. Failure to negotiate with his own doctors."
"A failure will not pay for the medbay." Hux states, still fuming. "I want him reprimanded!"
Astrae chuckles, "By whom."
"I don't know! Somebody should get him under control!"
"Watch it, General." Kylo hisses. "Before I reprimand you."
Astrae scoffs, earning a stare from both of the men. "You're both so irritating. Kylo, apologize to the General. Hux, take the apology and go back to reprimanding your officers."
Kylo stares at her in disbelief. "I'm sorry?" He says.
"Like you mean it, baby." Astrae says.
He turns to Hux, who's still got a sour look on his face. "I am sorry, General." He spits out. "Sorry that you are incapable of doing your duties, and I'm sorry you are so beneath me that you feel the need to tattle on me to the Supreme Leader."
Hux's face goes beet red from sheer anger alone, hands clenching into fists. He wants to bite back, desperately so. But one look at Astrae and he knows it's a feeble attempt before Kylo slashes the entire bridge to bits. He bites his tongue and bows his head in acknowledgement, stomping away.
Kylo turns to look at Astrae, a 'you happy?' expression on his face.
"You're unbearable." She says. "Absolutely no manners, no empathy."
"But did I lie?" Kylo speaks. "He is beneath me. His precious Starkiller is but dust and scrap metal floating in the galaxy."
Astrae folds her arms over her chest. "And the both of you are beneath me. I'm the one with the least failures here."
"Does that mean I don't get a kiss?" He sighs.
"Is that the one thing you're worried about right now? Really?"
"Is there something else I should worry about at this moment?" Kylo asks.
Astrae approaches him, standing on her toes to whisper into his ear. "How you're going to usurp Snoke."
He turns his head to look at her, her gaze cold and unfeeling. "Do I have to." He whispers back.
"If you want to succeed, yes." Astrae states. "If you want to be the most powerful man in the galaxy, yes."
Kylo clenches his jaw, clenching his hands into fists, the leather squeaking. Fuck.
Chapter 21: Habit
How long must I wait for you, undone in the evening? How long must I wait for you to become what I need?
Ever since the injuries he sustained on Abellio, Kylo needed to do everything with assistance from somebody. Attending to his wounds, dressing up, even washing up at times needed to be helped. For a while the medical droids did most of the work, helped him walk to and from the fresher, changed his bandages. But now, he didn't need droids, or, didn't want droids to help him. He'd asked Astrae to help him, begged her, even. Told her how important it is for her to oversee his safety, especially in the bath. After all, he could strain himself, slip and fall to his death, or reopen his wound if left unsupervised.
And she'd obliged, she'd attend to his wounds, she'd help him get dressed sometimes, and she'd help him with washing up. It's not like she waited on him hand and foot, no. But she'd make sure he didn't slip or fall, that he didn't strain himself. Astrae would prep his baths with relaxing salts and oils, all things that would help him.
Kylo's a massive infant, though, so naturally he'd beg her to stay with him throughout his bath. And she would, she'd get herself a book, and she would sit with her back to the bathtub, completely immersed in whatever she was reading.
"What did Snoke want?" She spoke, turning the page of her book, not even looking at Kylo.
He hums, slightly sitting up in the tub, warm water sloshing around. "He'd just told me he left, something about getting an idea from you to find the Order a more.. permanent home."
Astrae nods in acknowledgement, not prying further into the subject. On one hand, she's glad that Snoke knows nothing of the ever growing plot of his murder. But, on the other hand, he's about to no doubt invade some helpless planet and make it his own. There's a bitterness that crawls into heart at that thought. She exhales through her nose, shaking the feeling away.
"What are you reading?" Kylo places his arms on the edge of the tub, head resting on his forearms.
She turns her head to see him looking over her shoulder. "It's nothing." She says. "Just a collection of old folktales."
Kylo hums again, eyes still fixed on the book in her hands. Astrae doesn't mind him staring, she just continues reading. It's routine for him to get transfixed with something that she's doing until he's ready to get out of the bath.
"Why don't you look at me?" He asks.
Astrae turns her body to face him, "What do you mean?"
"When you're helping me, you don't look at me. You sit there and you read." He states, brows slightly furrowed and lips forming a pout. "It's like you don't.."
"Don't what?" Astrae interrupts. "I'm not doing it on purpose. I believe that baths are a time for someone to spend alone, I am offering you that while taking care of you."
He nods slowly, processing her words, cogs turning in his head. He relaxes back into the tub, arms now thrown over each side of it. Kylo closes his eyes, taking a deep breath before sinking further into the warm water. It's now Astrae who rests her head on the rim of the tub, looking at him. They stay like that for a while, alternating between her reading her book and checking in on him every few minutes. When Kylo finds that he's had enough, she leaves the towels for him by the tub and disappears behind the divider.
Kylo steps out from behind the divider, towel wrapped around his waist.
"We need to get you a robe." Astrae says.
He says nothing, just watches her fiddling in the fresher and putting away all the soaps, oils, and salts she'd used to prep the bath. They hear the familiar whoosh of their room doors opening, and Astrae throws a glance his way. "Get dressed, please."
She leaves the bathroom, past the bedroom and into the living room where a tense Flax stands with one of the Knights, Sion, by his side. Any other day seeing either of those two wouldn't be out of the ordinary, especially since the Knights were sent on a mission just a few days ago to prevent a rebellion on Abellio. But what throws her off is the bundle in Sion's hands. A bundle that is wriggling and moving, and making babbling noises.
The three of them stand there in silence, and another gurgle comes from the tiny bundle in Sion's hands before Kylo enters the room. He's only in his slacks, completely shirtless, wet hair still dripping onto his chest.
"Ah, what do we owe the pleasure?" He quips as he enters further into the living room. It only takes a moment before he too, sees and hears the bundle.
Astrae looks at Kylo, then at Flax, then at Sion. "What is that." She says, pointing at the bundle in Sion's arms.
"A baby, madam." The knight states nonchalantly.
Kylo blinks. "A.. baby."
Sion nods, arms fumbling with the bundle before he reveals an infant wrapped snuggly. "No more than eight, maybe ten months old." He states.
"Why did you bring that to.. us." Astrae asks.
"Phasma's not accepting infants for the trooper program, and the Supreme Leader is gone. Hux would no doubt throw the child out of an airlock."
Astrae steps forward, arms outstretched, a silent 'may I?' across her face as she scoops the child from Sion's arms. He was right, the child is only shy of a year old, but it is tiny. She cradles the infant in her arms, cooing little words as she makes her way to sit on the couch.
Kylo pinches his nose between his two fingers. "You were.. instructed to stop a rebellion, and yet you collected a child."
"Master, this child would be great leverage against the people of Abellio. It was no doubt collateral during one of the village raids. In no time, the parents will be searching for their child, only for the Order to step in with it. We'd be proving ourselves as heroes." Sion states, masked head bowed slightly.
"That isn't your job though, is it. You're a knight, not a political strategist." Kylo hisses. "You've brought a child aboard. A worthless child, no less."
"But he's right." Astrae pipes up. "This could give us an advantage."
Kylo turns to stare at her, she's bouncing the baby gently in her arms so effortlessly. He lets out a deep breath, calculating the situation and the next thing they should do. "Sion," he starts. "return to your quarters, immediately. I'll discuss this with Astrae."
The knight wants to argue, wants to make a case for himself and his actions but he just nods and makes a beeline for the exit. Flax, however still stands gobsmacked in the living room.
"And what of me, sir." He asks.
Kylo pays him no mind as he kneels in front of Astrae and the baby, his hand gently placed on her knee. "Is it wise." He whispers.
"Kidnapping a baby? No, not at all." She doesn't look at him, still lovingly staring at the small child in her arms, it's fast asleep now. "But, we could use this to our advantage. Children are not apart of this war. They shouldn't fall victim to it, should be quite the opposite."
He huffs out a breath, nodding. "Yes, children are.. a beacon of hope." Kylo sucks his teeth, "But, must it stay with us?"
"There's no one more capable than me." She states. "Unless you'd rather saddle this child with some lifeless officer."
Kylo claps his hands together and stands up, "Flax!" he exclaims, now staring at the officer and extending his arms towards him. "You! You could take care of the child, yes?"
"No." Astrae interjects.
"Why not?" Kylo says.
Astrae stares at him, brows raised. "Does he look capable taking care of an infant? He can barely take care of himself." She huffs.
"I can barely take care of myself." Kylo says. "Hux can watch the baby."
She looks past Kylo, nodding her head towards the exit, a signal for Flax to leave. He doesn't miss the opportunity to let himself out.
"It's a baby, Kylo." She sighs. "They need tender love, care, they need to be fed, washed. There's no one aboard this ship with the emotional capacity to even feel empathy, apart from me."
He wants to argue, so bad. He wants to stomp his feet and throw a tantrum, wants to get on his knees and beg, shriek, and cry. He's feeling twenty emotions in one until he hears the child let out a wail, and time stops for him. Kylo doesn't even react, he just watches. Watches as Astrae hurries to soothe the baby, alternating in the way she's cradling it, whispering comforting, soothing words to the child. The child gurgles in her arms.
"Kylo." She whispers, standing up and extending the bundle in her hands to him. "Could you, please? I'll just be a minute to place an order for some baby clothes, food." He accepts the infant, a bit scared of dropping it.
The child's eyes bore into his, and it lets out another gurgle. Kylo walks around the room, bouncing the child in his arms, completely confused. What if it starts crying again? What if it needs to relieve itself? What if it's hungry? Oh, Maker, they've no baby food in their kitchen. But the infant calms in his arms, now letting out a small occasional snore. He holds it with one hand, the other wrapping the blanket it's in more snug around its small frame.
Kylo looks up to see Astrae standing in front of the bedroom door, hands folded over her chest and a small smile on her face. "What do I do?" He whisper yells, gesturing with his head at the bundle in his hands.
"Just, put it to bed." She gestures with her head towards the bedroom.
After the baby is put in the middle of the bed, a pillow safely confining it on each side, they look at each other.
"Someone's going to have to spend time with the baby." Astrae starts, "And since you," she pokes Kylo's chest with her finger. "are still wounded and incapacitated, you're perfect for this."
"Excuse me?" He chokes out. Arm outstretched in the direction of the baby. "I have no infant training. I am a Commander, not a babysitter."
Astrae shrugs. "Well, I can order a baby carrier and you can take her wherever you please."
"Her?" Kylo asks.
"Yes, the baby is a she. That's not the point right now. The point is, you're staying with the baby. You could do with a bit of empathy training."
"Empathy training?" He scoffs, arms folded over his chest. "For what."
Astrae's fists clench and unclench at her sides, she lets out a long deep breath. "For the fact that you slaughtered innocent villagers, mothers, and children on Jakku when you brought back that pilot." She spits. "Consider this repentance."
"I have nothing to apologize for. They were traitors."
"They were children!" She whisper yells. "Children are not traitors. You are so wrapped up in Snoke's ideals that you're alright with committing these atrocities, you're fine with it staining your soul. With it rotting it away."
Kylo steps closer to her, he's imposing. "I did what I had to do." He snarls.
"Did you?" She hisses, stepping closer into his space now. "Did you when you condemned those people to death? Did you do what you had to do when you abandoned the map so you could kill Han where he stood?" He doesn't respond, and she jabs another finger at his chest. "Did you do what you had to do when you sliced Finn's back open?"
"Ah." Kylo laughs bitterly. "Is this all because I hurt your precious trooper?" He says, mockingly.
Astrae clenches her jaw, an anger bubbling inside her. "No. This is because you're a murderer. You asked me why I don't look at you, that's why. Because I cannot stand the sight of what you've become."
He bends down to her eye level. "Then leave." He hisses. "It's not like I need you."
She's about to retort something, bite back when the babygirl starts weeping and she lets go of all that anger she's been holding in. She rushes to the side of the infant, unwrapping her from her blanket and holding her in her arms. Astrae rests her head atop the infants as she bounces her in her arms, cooing at her.
"He wants to tear us apart." Kylo states blankly. "Snoke."
Astrae doesn't answer him, still bouncing the child, so Kylo continues.
"I have.. failed you. And I have done bad things. Things you don't need to forgive me for, you are right. I was, I am, blind to his ambition." He takes in a deep breath. "Even now, everything I have done, that I have done for him, is a stain on our relationship. He is as much as my enemy as he is yours."
"You know I can't forgive you." Astrae whispers. "Not for the acts you've committed. No matter under who's leadership you commit them."
Kylo nods. "I know."
Chapter 22: Morality
Two feet standing on a principle, two hands longing for each others warmth. Cold smoke seeping out of colder throats. Darkness falling, leaves nowhere to go. It's spiraling down. Biting words like a wolf howling, hate is spitting out each others mouths. But we're still sleeping like we're lovers.
Jumping all over.. past, present, future?
It's not that smuggling isn't fun. It is, in its own right. But Astrae misses home, or at least having a home.
She misses having something to come back to, a space, a place where she feels like she belongs. But she'd signed that off when she left Luke and the Academy. And it's not that she feels bad for leaving, no, Astrae knows that it wouldn't have stayed a permanent home for her. Not with the imminent slaughter that was going to happen.
Astrae hates that she misses Ben, or Kylo, or whoever the fuck he is now. Hates that sometimes she second guesses her choice of building that wall deep within her head. Hates that sometimes she wants to let him in, just to feel him, even if for a moment.
But she can't be weak, can't let herself fall victim to a few impulses. She's running for a reason.
Astrae lays awake at night, the ship thrumming and moving slowly through the empty space until her, Onhar, and now Rix have a new mission. Her hands fiddle with the frayed ends of the blanket. Usually, when she can't sleep she'll meditate. Strengthen herself, her abilities. Can't let all that Luke taught her go to waste now.
She closes her eyes, relaxes into the stiff mattress of her cot, and reaches out. Just a bit.
And for a moment, she feels him. Feels all that he's feeling. He's clearly awake, clearly preoccupied with something that's making his blood boil. There's a little feeling she senses, that's not exactly his, not exactly hers. A small swirl of darkness just in the air that separates them, miles away. But she knows he can't feel her, because she's learned this trick far too long ago. Where she lets her wall soften up, just so she can peek through the cobblestone separating her mind from his.
Astrae sees him clearer, it's like she's a ghost creeping up on him. He's training, sweat pooling at his brow. Kylo's all alone in the training room, but he feels the smallest shift of energy. He ignores it, thinking his mind is playing tricks on him. But as he delivers another swift blow to the training dummy, he spots something from the corner of his eye and his saber slips from his hand, cluttering to the ground.
His heart is caught in his throat, because it's not possible. It's not possible for her to be here.
"'Strae?" He chokes out, a part of him thinking it's another one of his dreams. Another hallucination toying with him.
Astrae's shocked, her mouth slightly agape. "You.." She whispers, "You can see me?" She looks down at her hands, inspecting if what's happening is real.
Kylo takes an uncertain step towards her, "How.." he breathes, inspecting her.
"I don't know." She says back, taking an equally hesitant step towards him, hand slightly raised as if she wants to touch him but doesn't dare.
He reaches out his hand, fingers slightly brushing hers. And they both stare in shock. She can feel him, and he can feel her. Physically, skin on skin. And it's just a brush of fingers, but the contact alone makes them both realize how much they've missed each other. Kylo swallows down the anxiety in his throat, afraid to go any closer to her, but she beats him to it as she all but throws herself into his arms. Clutching onto him as a lifeline.
Kylo wraps his arms around her tightly, as if he's scared she'll slip through his fingers and become nothing. He closes his eyes, bends his head down, inhaling her scent. He can smell her. Can touch her, talk to her, be with her. With no restrictions.
They're nowhere and everywhere all at once. Because Astrae is still safe within her own ship, inside her quarters, and Kylo's still miles away in his training room, both alone. And yet, they're together. Someway, somehow, in some little in between space within the Force itself they are together, holding each other.
"How?" Kylo asks again, biting back a sob. "How is it possible."
Astrae looks up at him, and he's clutching her face between his hands. One hand smoothing her hair, the other one stroking her cheek. His eyes are brimming with tears, and so are hers.
"I don't know. I don't." She answers. "One minute I was just peeking, just looking, and there you were. Clear as day. And you saw me."
Kylo doesn't say anything, he's just glad she's here. That he can hold her. Even if for a moment. "You.. You were looking for me?" He asked.
Astrae doesn't answer at first, hands still grasping at his tunic. She licks her lips and takes in a deep breath before answering, "Yes."
A small smile graces his features, "You.. You're coming back." He states.
She's taken aback by the statement, hands no longer clutching him close, her hold more loose now. "What?"
"This is you showing yourself to me. Showing that you're ready to come back, come home, to me."
Astrae doesn't know whether to laugh or whether to cry, she lets out a disbelieving sigh as she wiggles herself out of his grasp. "That's not what I came to do."
"Then why?" He asks, voice laced with sadness and confusion. "Why show yourself to me? Why look for me?"
"It wasn't intentional. Not this, not the whole seeing part." She states. "I just.. I missed you."
Kylo takes in a deep breath, looking down at his feet before he looks up at her again. "But you don't miss me enough to come home?"
"What home? You chose your path, I chose mine. We have no home." She spits out.
"You're my home." He states. "You're all I had, all I have."
Astrae clenches her fists, that familiar dark feeling pooling inside her stomach. "Is that what you said to yourself when you slaughtered our fellow padawans? When you joined Snoke and swore to destroy Luke?"
Kylo clenches his jaw, taking in a deep breath through his nose. "What would you know about it. You left. I killed my past, you just abandoned yours."
She takes a step back, and he takes a step forward. They're both staring at each other with anger in their eyes, but neither of them wants to bow to the other. Kylo outstretches his hand, summoning his saber into his hand. His eyes never leaving Astrae's.
"That a threat?" She asks, hand motioning at the saber in his.
He clips the saber to his belt, "No. Never. I'm not capable of that. Of hurting you, I mean."
"You're just capable of hurting everyone else." She says, sadness in her voice.
Kylo shakes his head, biting back the sadness that wells up in his heart over her remark. "Do you hate me?" He murmurs.
"No. Never. I'm not capable of that. Of not loving you." Astrae says, letting out a sigh.
"How do you do that?" He changes the subject, "The whole spectator thing."
"Luke taught me."
She hesitates, "Because I missed my mother. And I could never be with her, not back home anyway. So he taught me how to, you know, follow that little thread that connects me to her. It's what I did now."
"Do you do that often?" He inches closer to her, wanting to feel her again. "Search me out, I mean."
"Not as often as I used to."
Kylo nods, licking his lips, a pensive look gracing his features. "It takes a lot of effort to do that, a lot of.." He pauses. "Strength."
"I know. This is the very first time someone can see me."
"So something, someone is helping you." He questions, stepping even closer. "Who?"
Astrae studies his face, and thinks for a moment. She's done no training, done no studying with any Master, not since Luke. Not since years ago. Onhar is force sensitive, but he's not quite the user. And Rix, well, he's just both intrigued and terrified of it all.
"I don't know." She whispers.
Kylo reaches out a hand to touch her and she flinches back. And his heart plummets. "She's scared of you." He thinks to himself. "She thinks you'd hurt her, even now."
"I'm sorry." He chokes out, arm falling at his side. "I shouldn't.." Kylo takes a step back and sucks in a breath. Biting down on his tongue, a sadness stinging inside his heart. He feels like he's failed her. They look at each other, and then Astrae starts to fade out of his line of sight before she's gone completely. And he sinks to the floor and lets out a wail.
Astrae opens her eyes, and she's back in her cot on the ship. But her cheeks are tear stained, and her hands over her heart. And she feels him, even now, the pain he's feeling. When he apologized, she wanted to tell him not to. Wanted to seek out his hand, and reassure him that she's not frightened. "It's just instinct now." She murmurs to herself. But then the connection dwindled, like she was being called back to reality and she had no time.
She sits up in the bed, feet planted firmly on the ground as she looks down at the floor. She lets out a choked sob.
Astrae doesn't know what time it is when she wakes. It's far too early, because Kylo's still unconscious, drooling away on his pillow. And the baby is calm, silent, blissful snores escaping her mouth. How little that child knows. Astrae hopes sooner, rather than later, she'll be reunited with her family. She'll be home, where she belongs.
There's a tugging sensation that she feels, like something calling to her. She slinks out of bed, careful not to wake the baby, who would no doubt wake Kylo. She slips out into the living room, bare feet padding on the cold floor. A figure stands before, glowing a light blue. Her mother.
"Mom?" She whispers in disbelief, walking closer to the figure, the ghost.
The figure turns, looking at her. And it is her mother, her protector. Astrae lets out a heavy breath, tears welling up in her eyes. She reaches a hand out, barely grazing her, but just close enough to feel her life force thrum underneath her fingers. "How?"
Her mother shoots her a melancholy smile. "You've still so much to learn, my little star." She takes a deep breath. "I felt that you needed me, every time you did I tried, tried my hardest. But this is.. harder than it looks." She lets out a laugh.
Astrae stands in disbelief, a few tears cascading down her cheeks. "But why now?"
"Because you need me now more than ever. I feel it." Caelia states. "Because you're in danger, my little star. The whole galaxy is. And it is so much bigger than you, or him," she points a finger towards the bedroom. "It is the entire galaxy that is at stake."
"I know, it's a war."
Caelia shakes her head. "No, it's much more. The enemies you think you know, are not what they seem. And what you are," she pauses. "You are so much more.."
"So much what?" Astrae whispers. "Much more what?"
"Powerful." Her mother replies. "What you're born with, what I passed down.. The power that the women in our family carry.. It's too much. I can't even describe it. And you're, you're already distressed."
"But we're nobodies, mom." Astrae says. "That's what you always said. It's you and me. Not our lineage, not our past, just us and our future."
Caelia bites back a sad laugh. "I lied, to protect you. But I can't, not anymore. And what you are.." She steps closer, hands reaching out to touch her daughter, to hold her face between her hands before her arms fall at her sides. "You have power many dream of. A power you have to learn to hone, to control to your benefit. That's why I joined the Sith."
"You were a sith?" Astrae says in disbelief, taking steps backwards before her back collides with a wall. She slips down to sit on the floor.
Caelia steps closer, but she's scared, scared she'll frighten her daughter. She knows this is too much for her as is. "I was, but not for the reasons you think. I want to tell you everything, there is so much I tried to protect you from but I." Caelia pauses, eyes focused on the bedroom door. She disappears before Astrae can ask her what's wrong.
"What's wrong?" Kylo grumbles, rubbing his eyes. He kneels in front of Astrae, studying her. "What happened?"
Astrae places her hand on his shoulder and shakes her head. "Bad dream."
"Anything I should worry about?"
"No." She pauses, and lets out a deep breath. "Just my own anxieties."
Kylo nods, unsure of what to do, or how to comfort her. He feels tense after last nights discussion, or argument. He wants to console her, desperately, but would she let him? "A gentle gesture is not an invitation for you to touch her." Kylo thinks to himself.
"I'm sorry." She breathes out. "For yelling at you last night."
He grasps the hand on his shoulder with his own, squeezing it. "No. I'm sorry."
Astrae cups his cheek with one hand, "You have to know that I can't. I can't turn a blind eye to what you are, to who you are. You've killed innocents, you've slaughtered villagers that have done nothing. I can't get up and forgive you."
"I know." Kylo nods. "I'm not.. I'm not asking you to. You being here, with me, beside me. That's enough. That's all I need." He moves the hand that's on his shoulder towards his mouth, and places a kiss on the inside of her wrist. "I am not asking for your forgiveness. I just want, I need you near me."
She leans her head on his shoulder. "And I'm here."
Kylo places a kiss on the top her head.
"Why are you awake?" She asks.
"You weren't in bed."
She hums. "Your senses tingling when I'm not near?" Astrae jokes.
Kylo lets out a light laugh. "Maybe."
"Can I ask you something?" Astrae whispers.
"Do you think the Force brought us together?" She shifts, head angled to look up at him. "I mean, is it inevitable. If I left, would I return no matter how far I ran?"
Kylo thinks for a moment, lips pursed. "I think so." He strokes her hair, looking at her. "Were we not bound by the Force? Did we not share visions, nightmares? I could feel you across the galaxy without lifting a finger. You were always going to return to me."
"Or you to me." Astrae finishes his thought.
They look at each other for far longer than any one person needs to look at another. Kylo leans in, nose bumping hers. He closes his eyes, sucking in a breath, his forehead resting atop of hers. He wants to kiss her so badly, wants to chase her lips with his, wants to lose himself in her. Kylo inhales her scent, and the tension that's been plaguing his body since last night dissolves. She's here, she's with him. She is incredibly real, in this moment with him.