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The sight that greets them after a month on the road is expected and yet not.

"'Tis strange. After all that we've had to overcome, I would have thought that Exegol would be more heavily guarded than this," Hux says.

Kylo looks away from his beta's bemused expression to take in the twin spires that shoot high into the heavens, the gold minarets dotting their tops as dazzling as the sun. It is unusual—especially after battling an army of golems, a vampire coven, as well as a vicious sea dragon in the neighboring territory of Glee Anselm—to discover that their final hurdle should be something so seemingly innocuous.

"I have a bad feeling about this, my lord," Phasma says.

There's a frisson of worry in her clipped tone that gives Kylo pause. Both of his betas are methodical and observant—the perfect complements to his bold nature—and he doesn't dismiss anything they say lightly.

"I don't doubt that everything is not as it seems," Kylo admits, "But the Oracle was clear that Exegol held the key to my destiny and that the last test was to be mine to face. Alone."

Hux turns his destrier so he's facing Kylo as he remarks, "The Oracle may speak the truth, but her messages are often mired in duplicity." Hux's face is pale no longer, its complexion having tanned and freckled after the weeks outdoors and, for the first time, Kylo notices the worry lines that mar his general's forehead, faint though they are.

Phasma turns her head. "What lies in Exegol? If I may be so bold?"

Kylo tugs at the neck of his cloak. From the moment he presented as an alpha, he's trained to become the fearsome warrior he is now: the epitome of his designation's ruthlessness and prowess. No longer content to be subservient to another, he's cut ties with his parents and amassed his own societal pack along with Hux, Phasma, and his Knights.

The only thing Kylo lacks is a kingdom to call his own.  And now, seeing the verdant hills that lie beyond the gates, he realizes that Exegol looks like the promise of a life renewed and hope blooms in him.

"Exegol is our future." Kylo wishes he could answer Phasma's question more concretely but he knows that, no matter what lies ahead, it is the truth.

As he traverses the terrain, it quickly becomes apparent why Kylo was meant to complete the last leg of the journey on his own. It's arduous and daunting and definitely not for the faint of heart. The rolling hills grow steeper, the paths more crooked and narrow, and even his stallion, surefooted though he is, balks at the ascent. In the end, Kylo finds a small outcropping halfway up the mountain and dismounts, deciding to finish the remainder of the trip on foot.

In a way, it almost makes Kylo feel better, knowing that this too is part of his final test. In his experience, anything worthwhile comes with a price, and he can think of nothing better than to confront a future that's been years in the making by relying on little more than his alpha instincts, his own strength, and the trusty sabre at his side.

The sun is well past its zenith by the time Kylo reaches the last set of stairs leading up to the temple, although the air is barely cool even at this altitude. He undoes his waistcoat, his cape long having gone by the wayside, and welcomes the hint of a breeze. He pulls at his shirt, the muslin feeling sticky against his skin, and takes a deep breath. The sharpness of the meadow-grass and piney shrubs fills his lungs before giving way to something sweeter.

The scent is intoxicating. Kylo sniffs the air, chasing it. It reminds him of spiced nysillim tea: its fragrance almost too delicate to grasp, yet with nuanced layers that reveal themselves the longer they sit on one's tongue. The scent is crisp like the sky, deep like the woods, and as playful as a flower. It pulls at parts of him long buried and reminds him of things that whisper of belonging and home.

"What trickery is this?" Kylo muses. Perhaps the climb was even more exacting than he'd realized if his thoughts were inclined to such flights of fancy.

"You wander onto sacred territory, unannounced and uninvited, yet somehow have the gall to accuse others of trickery." The voice that greets him is feminine, with the cultured accent of one who studies the ancient masters and, if Kylo is not mistaken, is more than a tinge amused.

Kylo turns and promptly feels like his breath is being knocked out of his body. The one who addresses him so boldly is a mere girl, one who stands just short of his chin. Wisps have loosened from the leather strap binding her hair into a loose bun at the nape of her neck, and her body is a series of contradictions, full of soft curves and lean muscle. She's dressed in only a tunic that's both gauzy and scandalously short. Should she turn too quickly, the movement could damn her modesty by giving him a glimpse of the treasure nestled between her thighs.

Kylo wonders if he can cause her to do so.

As if reading his less-than-chivalrous thoughts, she tilts her head to gaze upon him, the curtain of her lashes unable to hide her mirth.

He takes a step forward, wanting to see what other reactions he can draw forth. And then it hits him—the girl's scent, her voice, the way his body reacts to hers, like the tides to the pull of the moon.

The girl is an omega.

He pushes aside the part of him that demands he take her in his arms and breathe in her scent. "Ah, but you are wrong, fair one," he says, lowering his voice to its alpha register, "for it was none other than the Oracle of Pelgrin who sent me."

The omega's breath hitches. "Why would the Oracle send you here? We have nothing of value." Her eyes flick towards the mouth of a nearby cave, the opening of which is dewy-wet and covered with moss;  Kylo can barely suppress his glee. 

"It is not for the Oracle to judge a prophecy's value, just to foretell it." Kylo smiles indulgently, as if explaining arithmetic to a child. "And someone must find Exegol important indeed, for I have battle scars from armies between here and Pelgrin to prove it."

The girl remains silent for a bit, her nose crinkling as she deliberates over his explanation. She clutches a longstaff to her side, dragging it to and fro, its pointed end digging a groove in the soft earth. The handle is well-worn and smoothed, and it looks more like a shepherd's crook than any kind of a weapon.

"It is curious that the Oracle sent you after all this time," she finally says with a shrug. "You are so very different from the others who have made the journey before you."

"There have been others?" Kylo asks, his hackles raised.

The girl waves her hand hastily. "Not for years. But, there are always those who are enticed by legends of what lies beyond the port—" She claps her hand over her mouth, her face red and eyes wide.

"The cave?" Kylo is unable to hide his rising excitement. "The cave is a portal? A portal to what?"

"It is nothing of interest to you. Ghosts of the past, secrets long buried…"

"Yet it is something others have deemed worthwhile. Maybe even died over." Kylo hazards a guess. He knows he can best the omega easily, even though he's reluctant to, but he's not sure if there are any others. "Your alpha must have a lot of faith in your prowess as a fighter to leave you here alone."

"Alpha? No. I don't have any… that is to say—" The girl hesitates. "I am more than capable of guarding the portal myself."

Kylo lifts a brow. "How terribly brave you must be."

"I have been training for this for as long as I can remember. Although I'm sure it's nothing compared to fighting an entire army."

There's a faraway look in her eyes as the girl bites down on her lower lip, the plump flesh turning red under her teeth. When she catches his gaze, a heavenly pink steals along the line of her neck and up into her cheeks. Seeing her steal a look at him from under her lashes Kylo realizes that she, despite her innocence, is flirting with him. Though he could best her quickly in a fight, it might be more fun to win her over in another way.

Kylo takes a step forward. "What is your name, little one?" He tosses his head; the breeze ruffles the strands of his thick mane and he puffs out his chest, back straight and shoulders strong.

She inhales deeply—she must catch a whiff of his alpha scent because her nostrils flare and her pupils dilate, the green and gold-flecked rims of her irises dissolving into inky blackness.

"Rey," she croaks, blushing furiously.

"I am Kylo, the alpha leader of the Knights of Ren. You have no need to fear me, for we are more similar than you think. We are both fighters, after all. Although, you might be the braver of the two of us, seeing as I have an army of men at my beck and call while you fight alone," he adds with a wink.

Rey casts her eyes down, her left hand worrying the fabric of her tunic. "Exegol is so quiet. You are the first outsider to have made it to the mountaintop in years," Rey admits. She blows out the air in her cheeks. "I don't have any scars or battle wounds. It's rather…"

Her voice trails off. Despite himself, Kylo is intrigued. Most of the omegas he knows are happy in more domestic pursuits, and none would be sad to avoid engaging in combat.

"Boring?" he suggests gently.

Rey gives him an embarrassed shrug. She lays her staff down on the grass and flops down beside it. Her face is like an open book, every emotion easy to read, so utterly vulnerable. It's been too long since Kylo's had the pleasure of omega pussy outside his rut and his mouth waters at the prospect.

"You are young. How old are you, fifteen? Sixteen? " Kylo deliberately mistakes her age, knowing it will rile her. "You have your entire life ahead of you to gain such experience."

"I am twenty!" Rey says, her voice quivering with indignation.

Kylo chuckles. "Forgive me. It is just that the omegas I am used to are more politically inclined, relying on charms and artifice to climb society's ladder."

Rey's lips thin. "Are you making fun of me?"

"Not at all. In fact, I find your unspoiled nature quite refreshing."

"I suppose you meet a lot of omegas in court." Rey sounds like she's trying to be nonchalant, but Kylo doesn't miss the way her mouth twists around the words.

"I do. But none as enchanting as you," he amends hastily.

Rey's scent blooms, deepening with pride and arousal. "You probably say that do all the omegas."

Kylo shakes his head. "I do not," he murmurs. He hasn't relied on such pretty words since he was a teenager and first presenting, his childhood insecurities warring with the onslaught of his pheromones as his body grew seemingly overnight from clumsy and awkward to tall and imposing. Now, however, he knows the difference between love and lust. There are plenty of comely men and women of all designations who are willing to sink to their knees with nothing more promised than a night of carnal pleasure. As a rule, he stays away from innocents—he has no time for the emotional attachment they invariably develop, and he refuses to be entrapped in a life bond by giving them his knot. 

However, the thought of some other alpha being Rey's first—a fumbling, bumbling youth, if the bucolic setting of Exegol is any indication—fills Kylo with indignation. Rey should be worshiped, her body coaxed to the heights of a pleasure she's never known, to revel in the bliss that can exist between an alpha and an omega. She should not have to worry about the consequences of being knotted by a substandard and inexperienced alpha.

Kylo takes her hand in his. "Were I in court, I would greet an omega I met like this," he says, lifting her hand to his lips.

"Oh." Rey licks her lips. "That's nice."

"It is. However, if you were to step foot in court…" Kylo turns Rey's hand to kiss it open-mouthed, with a hint of tongue. Her skin tastes divine—a generous helping of honey and cinnamon along with a hint of earth—and he finds himself purring in response. Her pulse bounds as he makes his way to her wrist; he nips at the underside with his teeth, hard enough to leave an imprint, gentle enough not to bruise.

Rey mewls, a noise that makes Kylo's alpha preen. She wiggles in place, the scent of arousal intensifying in the air, and Kylo has to hold himself back from dropping to his knees and burying his face at the source. 

"What would you do next?" she asks, excited and breathless.

Kylo schools his face into a show of reluctance. "Some things are better left to discover between you and your mate."

She hangs her head. "I don't… if I have a soulmate, they have yet to make their intentions known. There's a beta, Finn, who I thought could be the one, but he's now mated to an alpha named Poe. And there is another omega, Rose, but… well, she's lovely, and I love her, but it's more like a sister than a—"

"Than a...?" Kylo encourages.

Rey's face pinks under her sun-kissed skin. "Than a mate. And I don't know if I'm being unfair, if it's because she's not the one, or because she's not an alpha. I've heard that the connection between alpha and omega is a rarity that should be treasured. That it is a bond so beautiful the heavens pale in comparison, so strong it can only be matched by the love of a parent for their child."

"Such pairings are rare. But when it happens, it can be magical."

"I don't want you to misunderstand. If my mate were not an alpha, that would not matter, of course." Rey sighs, her hands dropping into her lap. She's back to twisting her tunic, its hem climbing up her thighs.

"I have no control over Fate's choice in your mate, but I can show you what it's like to be with an alpha."

"I... we just met." Her words are uncertain but her face is laden with want.

Kylo takes matters into his own hands and presses forward; his mouth is against her ear, ready to whisper the answers to her deepest desires, and he can feel her shuddering against the thinness of his shirt.

"I'll tell you what, I'll teach you and, in exchange, you'll show me what's beyond the portal."

"And you would only teach me what I'm prepared to learn? What I ask?"

Kylo's prick is so hard, his balls and groin are throbbing. "Absolutely. We could start off with the basics—the differences between an alpha and omega. The things that please many alphas, and what pleases you as well." The heat of his words curls in the space between them and Rey's skin turns goose-fleshed as she whines softly.

"Okay." Rey looks up at Kylo, a bit breathless. "And you'll teach me how to kiss?"

For starters. Kylo scoots forward so their knees touch. He traces the curve of her cheek, smiling as she leans into the touch, then he cups her chin and tilts it just so. When he slots his mouth over hers, she presses back into him with her eyes closed. It's pleasant enough, but feels like a kiss between cousins. When he makes a move to sit back Rey makes a sound of protest.

Rey's hands are clenched to her sides, her shoulders raised. "I thought it would be more like when you kissed my hand," she says, clearly disappointed.

Kylo raises a brow. "There are many ways to kiss." And so many places to kiss, too.

"Show me," Rey demands. "I want you to teach me how to kiss like the omega courtiers."

She takes hold of his shirt and pulls him close, smashing their mouths together. Kylo can't help the chuckle that escapes him. Rey appears to take it as an affront and tries even harder.

"Wait." Kylo breaks off their kiss as she stares, red-faced, and he tries to mollify her. "Like this, instead."

He presses their mouths together once more and lets his tongue skim the seam of her lips. When they yield beneath him, his tongue licks slowly along the inside of her mouth. She moans into the kiss, the sound making him growl, and then it's her tongue that's battling his, stealing away his breath and any rational thought. When they finally part, her mouth is swollen, painted a pretty pink and glistening with their saliva; he's left wondering what she would look like if they were slicked by fluid of a different sort.

"Better?" Kylo asks, his voice hoarse.

"Oh, yes," she says, and he's glad to hear that she's a little breathless, too. "You said there are many ways to kiss. You have shown me two. What else is there?"

Kylo hums, as if in thought. "Well, kissing doesn't just have to be on your lover's mouth."

Rey stares, and her face scrunches up like she's thinking of other places. When her gaze lands on his forehead, Kylo shakes his head. He looks pointedly at her breasts and she must understand his meaning because her face immediately colors.

"But they're for feeding a babe," she blurts.

"That’s true. But as they provide sustenance, they are also designed for a mouth to latch onto—the feeling it evokes can be quite pleasing."

Rey furrows her brows, then announces her decision. "I'd like for you to show me."

Kylo nods, his heart crowing with each new development. "Lower your tunic." Rey complies, her hands fumbling with the clasp. "Would you like me to help?"

Rey purses her lips. "I can manage. Do alphas like to have their teats played with as well? Perhaps you should get undressed, too."

Years of training have been kind to Kylo's physique, and he has no qualms about showing it off. He untucks the hem of his shirt from the waistband of his breeches and lifts it over his head, smirking as she stops and gapes.

"You're so…" Rey lifts her hand and reaches towards him.

"Go ahead, sweet omega," Kylo croons.

She places her palm against his chest and squeezes, the edges of her nails digging into his skin. The sting of pain along with her worshipful gaze sends a bolt of lust through Kylo. He hisses as her thumb flicks his nipple, then soothes the nub with a tender touch. It is the move of a courtesan, yet Rey does it without guile, her eyes wide and drinking in his reactions. Kylo feels his cock harden, its length straining and aching against the front of his breeches in response.

"My turn," Kylo growls. He gathers her in his arms, her surprised squeak muffled against his chest as he lays her down on the grassy carpet. He pushes the opened clasp of her tunic aside, the folds puddling to her waist to fully expose her breasts to his gaze. They're small and perfectly rounded, her areolae colored a gorgeous and dusky pink. She's as tempting as a peach and he thinks she will bruise just as easily. He cups a breast in his hand, kneading it gently before lowering his head, his hair brushing her bosom as he flicks her nipple with his tongue.

"Oh. Ooohh!" Rey shudders. She takes hold of his head, her fingertips gripping his scalp as he licks and kisses. He can smell her sweet scent turning heated as he squeezes her tit, and then spicier still when he wraps his mouth around her and suckles. He doesn't think he's ever been this hard; he fights against the desire to rut against the earth and seek some friction, but it's nearly impossible not to give in once Rey starts to moan.

"Please… please, Kylo, no," Rey pants as she arches into the heat of his mouth. She pulls his head towards her other breast and he attacks it with his tongue, lavishing it with similar attention. 

She's wriggling her body, seeking his touch, a damp patch forming at the front of her tunic. It's the omega's siren call: an omega's slick, ambrosia to an alpha, an aphrodisiac like none other. 

Kylo blinks, any semblance of coherence lost as he tries to shake away the need to fuck and mate and breed. He pulls himself back, almost violently. "Did you not like that?" he rasps, his voice unrecognizable.

"It's not enough," she says, clearly frustrated.

"If that's not to your liking, there are other ways to kiss." He runs a hand along the inside of her thighs, stopping inches from where she craves him the most. "Have you ever played with yourself? Has anyone ever touched you here?" Kylo cups her mons, jealousy flaring at the thought.

Rey gasps and shakes her head. "No. Never."

Kylo can't wait to sink his fingers into her heat, to watch her come apart from just his digits and his mouth. "Do you want to try it?"

"It seems strange to kiss someone there." Rey looks beautifully debauched with her hair loosened from its bun, her mouth swollen. "Do you like to be kissed down there as well?"

Gods above, the girl will be the death of him with all her innocent questioning. Kylo pushes away the image of Rey's lips wrapped around his prick, of the thoughts of fucking, then knotting, her mouth.

"It can be as wondrous as making love to an omega's cunt," he manages.

She opens her mouth as wide as she can. Kylo wants to fill it with his dick.

 "I've heard that an alpha's cock is very large," Rey demurs. She wriggles out from the remainder of her clothing, pushing the offending fabric down her slim legs and away from her ankles. "I'm not sure if I am ready. Would you think me terribly selfish if I declined but asked you to kiss me down there still?"

Perhaps Kylo can convince Rey to leave with him or, if he were to take over Exegol, agree to be his consort. He thinks about sampling everything she has to offer—her mouth, her ass, her cunt—and teaching her how to please him in return.

Even if she declines, he shouldn't be greedy. Stumbling upon the delectable omega has been an unexpected and delightful boon.

"The only selfish person is me, for I eagerly accept the gift you grant so freely." He positions Rey so her legs fall open at the knees, lowering himself over her pussy as she watches him intently. Kylo takes the folds of her labia between his fingers and spreads them apart, staring at their petal-pink wetness. Her curls are damp, beads of slick visible at the tips. When his thumb brushes against her clit, a gush of slick seeps between Rey's thighs, causing her to bring her thighs together with a mortified groan.

"Shhh. None of that." Kylo gently nudges her legs apart. "I want to see you open up for me." The last of his words are muffled against her pussy as the tip of his tongue darts out to taste. When he finally samples her juices,  sweet musk fills his mouth and he moans, never having tasted anything more perfect.

He could come in his pants like a callow youth, with his hips grinding helplessly against the ground, just from a taste. Kylo licks around her engorged folds, suckling her clit, stabbing at her hole with his tongue. The sounds are obscene—his breaths huffing loudly, lips smacking from pleasure, her slick squelching as she writhes against him.

"Kylo," Rey cries, scared and needy. 

He can't decide if he wants to protect her or ruin her for anyone else. Kylo buries his nose in her cunt, drags his chin along her sensitive things as he tries to mix their scents. He teases her, licks around her hole as he fills it with his fingers, marveling at the way in which her walls clench around him as he fucks her down to his knuckles.

Her eyes are nearly black, any semblance to the innocent omega who forbade him entry destroyed in this instance. She twists on his fingers—now three wide, buried deep—with the wantonness of an omega in the thrall of their heat. She's grinding along his mouth, but still it's not enough for her.

"More. Please, Kylo, I need more."

Kylo pulls his fingers out. He has her right where he wants her.

"I could add another finger," he says, considering. "Stretch you wider?" A frown settles over his face. "Of course, it wouldn't reach quite as far as an alpha's cock, but you might enjoy it, even if it's a bit lacking."

"I don't want something merely satisfactory," Rey grits out.

Kylo's grin is positively wolfish. "Little one, nothing I do is merely satisfactory."

"I mean…" She lets out a sigh as if the admission wounds her pride. "I want you."

"You have me," he says, feigning ignorance as his fingers trace the swollen outline of her cunt.

"I want you to fill me. Not with your fingers, though. With your prick." The words come out as a whisper and Rey averts her eyes, unable to meet Kylo's gaze.

"Are you sure you don't want to save that for your mate?" Kylo waits for her answer even as his fingers stroke her faster.

"No. My mate has left me alone for much too long." It is the first time Kylo has heard her speak with such unwavering conviction, and he thinks he hears an underlying vehemence. "I want this."

Kylo hastily undoes the fasteners of his breeches. "I will not do anything against your will. Tell me exactly what you want," he says as he takes his cock in hand and begins to stroke, lightly.

The head of Kylo's prick peeks in and out of his fist, purple and swollen and weeping. "I want your alpha cock," Rey says, staring at it as if transfixed. "I want to feel it buried inside of me. I want you to split me apart… fuck me like you would your mate, take me so hard that I'll remember it for days."

Fuck. Kylo grips the base of his cock and squeezes as he feels his knot pulsating in response. It takes him by surprise; he hasn't felt the urge to knot since he was a teen. More importantly, he can't. Rey didn't ask to be knotted, nor does he want to be tied down. It's something that's reserved for mates only, with the promise of a lifelong bond.

Kylo kneels between Rey's legs and grips her hips, hauling her closer. He positions the tip of his cock at her entrance, his balls swinging heavily between his thighs, loaded with seed. 

"Are you sure?" He rubs his cockhead along the folds, coating it in her slick.

"Goddesses above, yes! Don't tease me further—"

Rey's next words are lost when Kylo presses the spongy tip of his prick into her opening and rams his hips forward. Rey mewls, and then her hands are reaching for him. She clutches him tightly, drawing him so close that they become one, her nails leaving crescent-marked brands on his back. Kylo's hips tilt back then slam back in and he lets out a guttural groan as his cock sinks in all the way, the base of his shaft buried in the wiriness of her hair, his balls pressed against her taint. It's never felt like this for him before. Rey pulls at every bit of his restraint; he considers giving up all that he's dreamt of to live like this, kingdom and alpha status be damned.

Rey's hips buck, her tits bouncing from the impact as she meets his every move. Her cries grow increasingly desperate, as if her pleasure was too great for any mortal to bear. Kylo slots his mouth over hers and kisses her deeply, silencing her whines as his hips swivel, sinking then lifting, sweat and slick sliding between them. He can see the smattering of freckles that dot her nose, and how her irises, thinned though they are, are actually a myriad of golds and blues and greens. He can see the blush that extends from the line of her collarbone to the swan-like curve of her neck, and how it grows a bit splotchy at the apple of her cheek. He thinks he can stare at her forever and never grow tired of the view, always finding something to fascinate him.

Too late, Kylo realizes his knot is swelling.

"Gods above," he croaks. His body seizes as he tries to withdraw, fighting against the biological part of him that demands he knot Rey, fills her with his pups, and make her his own.

A hand slaps down across his buttocks, squeezing his ass almost painfully.

"Do it." Rey cants her hips and Kylo groans, losing the battle as he sinks in further. "Knot me."

The world grows white and fuzzy as Kylo surrenders to his alpha nature with a growl. He adjusts his angle and speeds his thrusts, the movement growing less steady as his knot swells and catches. He feels his orgasm build, the heat of it spreading along the base of his spine and into his groin. He remembers the Oracle's words, that Exegol is his destiny and that two broken halves would make a whole, as pleasure zings from his balls, centering at the point where he and Rey are connected, an omega's hole filled with an alpha's knot.

At some point during the haze of fucking and his lust, Kylo ends up on his back. He looks up to see Rey straddling his hips, her head thrown back as she grinds down on his cock. A light bursts from behind his temples, and suddenly he's coming, pumping what feels like gallons of come inside her. The last thing he remembers before he passes out is the look of pure bliss that transforms her face.

When Kylo awakens the sun is in the last stages of its descent, the sky a burnt-orange hue.

He scrambles to sit. When he looks down, he discovers that his knot has finally deflated.

"Looking for these?" Rey sits several feet away, Kylo's shirt and breeches folded neatly in her lap. Her hair is tied up once more in a neat bun and her tunic is back in place, though the stain is still visible on the fabric between her legs and her lips still look kiss-bitten.

Kylo takes his garments and dresses quickly.

"You still haven't shown me what's behind the portal," he says as he buckles his belt and checks his sabre.

"I was waiting for you to wake. After all, a deal is a deal." Rey springs up from her seat and motions for him to follow, looking much too chipper. In the diminishing light, the moss on the outside of the cave looks nearly black while the rocky outcroppings resemble jagged teeth. Apprehension washes through Kylo but he pushes it aside, attributing it to the remnants of a sex-fueled haze. When Rey pushes against a crevice with the end of her staff, the mouth of the cave transforms into two large metal panels that slide open with a loud and rattling groan.

Kylo gasps at the sight that greets him. Exegol is neither verdant nor pastoral, and it certainly isn't a throwback to a simpler life. Instead, he finds the remnants of what looks like it was once an advanced civilization, its infrastructure and achievements reduced to ghosts of their former selves, its remains awash with the smell of ash and smoke.

"You tricked me," he accuses. His world shatters as dreams of a golden empire crumble to dust.

Rey's mouth quirks. "You entered Exegol of your own volition. It was you who left your betas and knights outside Exegol's gates so you could complete the journey yourself."  She looks at him, her eyes hard and unapologetic. "Search your heart. Everything I told you was the truth. It is not my fault that you could not see past your own misconceptions."

He despises himself for admiring her ruthlessness. "Who are you?"

"Rey Palpatine—granddaughter of Sheev Palpatine, the last emperor of Exegol." Her eyes grow soft as she smiles, seemingly oblivious to his turmoil. "Exegol was once a great empire, with a knowledge of dark magic unrivaled by any other. Unfortunately, our people were also condemned for it. However, light and dark exist in all of us and darkness, just like other aspects of human nature, won't stay suppressed." When she turns towards Kylo, she's wearing a beatific smile, and her scent grows so sharp and bold it overpowers any sweetness.

Kylo shakes his head in disbelief. "You want to restore Exegol to its former glory."

"I will return Exegol to its former glory. In fact, I have already begun," Rey says, her eyes sparking with anger.

Kylo laughs. The sound of it echoes along the cave's walls, strained and hollow. "You're delusional. There's nothing left. It's absolutely barren."

"But that's where you're wrong. This is only the beginning. For one is both and both are one; two broken halves that make a whole. This is your destiny, Kylo. To help raise Exegol from the ashes. To take your place next to me on the throne and rule by my side."

"Never," Kylo whispers.

He takes a step back but Rey catches him by the wrist, her fingers encircling him like a steel trap as she places his hand on her belly.

"Don't be afraid," she murmurs, saccharine sweet. "I feel it, too."

The alpha part of him, tied forever by the bond that developed when he knotted her, already knows what lies beneath. Can feel the stirrings of a new heartbeat, life anew, made from his seed.

~⚜~