He had dimples.
In the past year, that singular thought crossed Rey’s mind on an almost daily basis. It seemed so innocuous. Dimples. But they were a larger symbol of all that she didn’t know about Ben Solo. She also felt it was a great tragedy to hide those perfect crescent moons, which framed a rare, blinding smile, behind such a tacky mask.
What else had he hidden, both simple and serious? What side of the bed did he sleep on? What was his fondest childhood memory?
There was one thing they understood, though, and that was the Force. While Finn was sensitive to the Force, he never felt the full weight of the Jedi on his shoulders, what it meant to be integral to the cosmic balance of darkness and light.
Rey had been a fool for thinking she was no one, that she had the freedom to build her own legacy as the daughter of nobodies. It was a fairytale.
She was a Palpatine. Even now, the thought sickened her stomach. The only ones who knew her secret were gone. Dead, to be more precise. The friends and family that remained, who survived, could never know. They wouldn’t abandon her if they did; Rey felt that down to the marrow of her bones. But the shock would affect them, physically and emotionally.
A crinkling of brows in concern. The sharp, small intake of breath as they gasped. The slow drip of fear that would begin to pool in their guts. Something would change. Maybe not everything, but it was too big of a secret to expect their relationships to remain unchanged.
Besides, Rey was eager for a break. She wanted to help Finn address the trauma of being groomed by the First Order.
...to support Poe as leader of the Resistance, a position unexpectedly thrust upon him.
...to give Rose the nudge of confidence she needs to make her sister proud.
...to use her connections to reunite Jannah with her lost family.
Someone else should be the nucleus for a change and center their story. Rey hesitated to call these things a distraction; it made them seem inconsequential. They weren’t. There was meaning and depth in how they all loved one another. If one hurt, they all did. Let someone else heal and thrive and find the answers they so deserved.
Personal journeys aside, the Resistance needed new direction. Though the immediate danger of the First Order was extinguished, it seemed a waste to let the collective power of the Resistance atrophy. More good could be done.
And that good brought Rey to the thick, humid, and frankly quite...pungent atmosphere of the remote planet Akiva.
Finn’s sensitivity had been the catalyst to a Resistance mission, one that would breathe new life into the Jedi Order. There had to be more people like him or those who were what Rey thought she’d been: ordinary, but with extraordinary abilities. Those without the benefits of being a Skywalker or a Palpatine. Younglings who need a guiding hand or even individuals who suppressed their connection to the Force for years out of fear, necessity, or unfortunate circumstance.
A few months ago, the Resistance had put out an encrypted transmission. A new Jedi Order would be awakened. As they cultivated relationships between the comms, investigated claims, and met with potential Jedi who had been smuggled to safety, several transmissions started to go dark. At first, Poe assumed those reaching out had gotten spooked. Rose insisted on trying to improve their communication signal, as if their tech was to blame. Jannah and Finn thought it was something much more sinister.
It was possible that, like a Geonosian hydra, the First Order had sprouted another head. Abducting children--children with powers to the Force--certainly wasn’t above them. If Finn and Jannah’s histories were any indication, the backbone of the First Order was built upon the bodies of stolen children.
Perhaps capable Sith remained and their goal was reminiscent of what the Resistance had planned: a race to rebuild.
The last lead Poe received came from Akiva, a stale breath of a planet choking with smoke from underground droid manufacturing facilities. A group of Resistance supporters had gone “underground” in both the literal and figurative sense, but still needed aid to get off the planet. As Poe liked to gripe that it wouldn’t be a Resistance mission without complications, Akiva also happened to be a vocal sympathizer to the First Order.
It was likely that whoever had been sending the transmissions had been turned over by a nosy neighbor or something looking to save their own skin. But still, Poe wanted to be sure and when it came to Poe’s special brand of swagger and charm, it wasn’t long before everyone agreed that a reconnaissance mission was necessary.
Ben. My name is Ben. Black hair. Brown eyes. Two scars; chest & face.
He wrote these words every morning out of fear, a deep weighty fear that once more, he would wake up without a name, without a mirror, without an identity.
It happened three times already, and every time, he’d dream of the word Ben whispered by a faceless woman whose presence felt like sunshine on his skin. He truly didn’t know if that was really his name, but the way his lips pressed together and ended with his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth was very reminiscent of muscle memory. It seemed cliché to say it felt right; in fact, “right” didn’t do the feeling justice at all. It was more like a ship settling into port, when the engines turned off and all the mechanical aches and groans ended as they eased into a state of rest.
That’s what it felt like to give himself a name. That name.
His surname, well, that hadn’t come to him yet in dreams or otherwise.
Maybe it was for the best that it didn’t, given the hovels he often found himself in, garnering stares and sneers alike.
That was a lie.
It wasn’t for the best. It was only what he told himself to get through the constant frustration of discovering another dead end. And on Akiva no less.
The last of his credits were used to secure passage to the planet and even then, the smuggler seemed to feel some type of remorse taking his money to transport him to such a...joyless place. He sounded genuine when he wished Ben good luck in finding what he was looking for, which was a Chagrian by the name of Varlas Denaan.
But Varlas was a ghost or at least paid enough people to keep his secrets.
Before the First Order and the Galactic Empire, Akiva must have been a beautiful planet. Remnants of its wild, lush jungles still appeared here and there as vines circled around the ruins of old catacombs and wildlife howled, clicked, and hissed from darkened cages.
Now, industrialization had taken over and Ben wondered how long it would be before Akiva was completely stripped of its resources. The black market shipping things offworld would collapse and the ruling aristocratic families would begin carving up and selling off their territories.
Ben had one lead left for locating Varlas and he’d find it in the catacombs.