You can put away your costume
You can be yourself
There is nothing to be scared of
They can turn all the lights out
Leave us standing in the dark
But I'm not going anywhere, love
Walking out of the First Order compound for the last time felt like a religious experience. Ben shed the final remnants of his dark past, letting them slide off his shoulders. The burden was no longer his to bear. He’d put it all behind him.
Over the shouts of the SWAT team, he heard the rhythm of his heart steady. Rey fell to her knees beside him, placing her hands on the back of her head. Hux followed suit before shooting him an expectant glare. Some things never changed. With a sigh, Ben lowered himself to the ground.
Snoke’s demise had set forth a chain of events leading up to this moment. Those events were written in blood. The crimson fluid decorated his entire form. He wasn’t the only one who looked like a horror movie extra. Blood splatter dotted Rey’s tanned skin, adding a morbid layer of freckles to her appearance.
They’d taken out all of Snoke’s guards before splitting up. Rey went with Hux to download the files from the server room and Ben went after Palpatine. The First Order hadn’t killed one parent; they’d killed both. It was only fair he did the same.
An eye for an eye.
The old man hadn’t been surprised to see Ben stalking into his office. He’d been eerily amused by the situation. When Ben saw the three dozen men behind Palpatine, he understood why. The boss had been expecting this.
“You Skywalkers,” he spat, “always so headstrong and foolish. You lack vision. You lack the will to do what is necessary. What a waste.”
“It’s over,” Ben told him. “The police have what they need. You’re going away.”
“Really?” Palpatine scoffed. He snapped his fingers and one of the guards displayed an iPad with an image of Rey and Hux in the server room. “What if I propose a trade?”
Ben watched as the emergency procedures locked down the room, trapping Rey and Hux inside.
“There’s enough oxygen to keep them alive for ten minutes, nine if they suffer from claustrophobia,” Palpatine said with a sneer. “That’s how long you have to decide.”
He moved without pause. The last of the darkness in his soul flared viciously. Ben didn’t think. He didn’t have to. Instinct took control. He dodged, ducked, bobbed, and weaved. Not a single strike landed against him. With precise motions, Ben cut down each one of his opponents, a relentless machine of destruction unparalleled in his ability to incapacitate them.
When the last body fell to the floor with a heavy this, he turned to Palpatine. The old man had the gall to clap. “Impressive.”
“Release them,” Ben demanded.
It was a trap. He recognized the smug glint in the old man’s eyes. He also knew Rey had less than a minute of air left.
“What do you want?” Ben asked.
“You,” Palpatine answered. “Serving as my right-hand. Take up your mentor’s path. Serve the First Order as you originally intended.”
“Then watch her die,” Palpatine hissed.
Ben gazed at the screen. Hux and Rey had vanished from view. He grabbed the iPad, frantically scanning the image.
“Too late,” Palpatine preened.
“No!” Ben threw the iPad against the wall.
The old man cackled, delighted by his pain. “You should have learned, young Solo. I beat your grandfather. I beat your mother and now, I will end the Skywalker line with you.”
Ben didn’t see Palpatine raise the pistol. He was still staring at the shattered pieces of the iPad. It was the click of the hammer that alerted him to the threat. He turned to face the end. His breath caught.
Palpatine’s finger lowered to the trigger and that was when Rey stabbed her hairpin into his jugular.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d watched her. Her hair was hanging in her face and her hands were trembling as she removed the blade. Blood poured out, staining her shirt. Palpatine slumped forward and then collapsed to the floor. Ben watched her chest rise and fall as she stared at the body in disbelief. Her gaze flickered to her hands then returned to the crime syndicate’s boss. Her face paled.
“Rey.” Ben spoke softly, afraid to startle her.
“He...he was going to—to kill you,” she said. The words were a struggle but there was no remorse in her voice. “I didn’t plan for this.”
“Sweet thing.” Ben tucked her hair away from her face. “I don’t care about the plan. You’re alive. I’m alive. We’re together. That’s all that matters.”
Rey nodded, eyes lingering on Palpatine’s carcass.
“How did you get out?”
She glanced up at him. “That central air shaft Hux mentioned.”
“The one with the weight sensors?” Ben asked.
“Which are controlled by the security program which is stored on the server,” Rey explained with a smirk. “Once I hacked into the system, I had control over everything. Hux and I split up. He went to signal Phasma and I came back for you.”
He smiled. “You always do.”
“And I always will.”
The investigation took over eighteen months and served as a constant interruption. While Ben began campaigning for the vacant seat, Rey was left to question what was next. Though he insisted she didn’t need to work, there were only so many hours a day she could train. She quickly grew bored.
“Are you reading that again?” Ben asked when he arrived home to find her curled up in the window seat with Oliver Twist.
“It’s my favorite,” she answered without looking up.
“Which you stole from me.”
“You don’t have time to read it,” she returned. “I do.”
“I could buy you a junker,” Ben offered, sinking into an armchair next to her. “That way you could tinker while I’m in meetings.”
“Nah,” Rey said, waving off the suggestion. “Cars are all the same. Machines in general, actually. Fixing them is too easy.”
“But you like fixing broken things,” he reminded her.
“Yes, but when it’s the same thing every time, it starts to lose its appeal.”
Ben straightened up. “What if it wasn’t the same every time?”
Rey lowered the book into her lap, studying him. “What did you have in mind?”
The next day, instead of prepping with his team for his campaign, Ben drove Rey into Coruscant to Raddus Publishing.
“What are we doing here?” Rey questioned as he guided her into the elevator.
She’d thought something was up when Ben told her to dress nice. He’d vetoed her first outfit— a slinky red dress that dipped too low for her to wear a bra. After three more tries, Ben had selected a sleek pencil skirt and blouse.
“You have an interview with Amilyn Holdo, the Editor in Chief.”
This was not what she’d expected. Her assumption had been more along the lines of finally having dinner together at Pangalactus. And, if she was being honest, ending the night with a particular question and an even more specific piece of jewelry.
“I’m not prepared for this,” she hissed at him.
“Don’t worry. Amilyn’s an old family friend. She’s not your typical leader. She tends to do things...alternatively,” Ben assured Rey.
She wasn’t convinced.
As they stepped off the elevator and into the posh publishing office, Rey considered removing her hairpin. She’d just gotten it back from evidence last week. Phasma would be disappointed if she had to take possession of it again so soon. In Ben’s case, Rey was thinking she might make an exception.
Then a woman with vibrant amethyst hair came around the corner. “Ben! So nice to see you,” she greeted him, pulling him into a hug. “And this must be Rey.”
“Hello, Miss Holdo. Thank you for meeting with me.”
“Miss Holdo! Ben, what did you do to this poor girl?” the woman teased. “Rey, please call me Amilyn. We’ve never been that formal at the Raddus and we aren’t going to start now. Let me show you to my office and we can chat,” she said, hooking her arm through Rey’s.
Amilyn turned out to be as atypical as Ben mentioned. Along with her wild choice in hair color, she had rather progressive views on business. Rey instantly felt at ease with the other woman. They spoke about books— what she liked, what she didn’t— and at the end of the interview, Amilyn offered her a job as a Copy Editor.
Rey started at nine a.m. sharp the next morning.
Ben stared down at his parents. He’d visited each week since he’d been cleared of all charges for his crimes for and against the First Order. Ironically, his role in ending the crime syndicate was what had won him the votes to take the Senate chair.
To celebrate, he’d taken Rey to dinner at Pangalactus. She’d expected the champagne. She hadn’t been prepared for the ring he’d paid the waiter to hide in her glass.
In the time it had taken him to secure his place for office, Rey had excelled in her career as a book editor for Raddus. She’d gone from Copy Editor to Junior Book Editor in less than a year.
Amilyn appreciated her unique perspective. The company’s bottom-line appreciated it even more. Rey’s books had continuously increased their net income year over year, earning her an advance to Editor status.
She was up for a second promotion to Senior Editor under Amilyn, a position which Ben knew she’d have no trouble getting. His girl had a passion for books.
Her love for the written word was second only to him. No matter how involved Rey became with a new manuscript, she always made time for Ben. Whether it was a quiet night in watching another episode of Chopped or walking hand and hand through Canto Bight, Rey was committed to their relationship.
Ben was committed too, which was why he’d slipped a rather large diamond-studded ring into her champagne flute. Somewhere between her tearful cries of ‘yes’ and his proud grin, they realized dinner would have to wait. Ben barely made it back to Varykino before he was tearing her red dress off.
Nine months later, their son was born.
“I promised I’d bring him by once he was old enough,” Ben said, reaching into the stroller. “This is your grandson, Dylan,” he introduced the bundle in his arms. “Dylan, this is your grandmother, Leia and your grandfather, Han. They can’t speak to you the way your mother and I can but they will always be with you.”
His son’s green eyes took in the pair of headstones curiously before he broke into a toothless grin.
Ben smiled in return. “He’s got your lack of respect for the rules,” he told his father. “And your stubbornness,” he said to Leia. “I see so much of you both in him every day.”
He felt the familiar burn at the back of his throat, signaling he only had a few more minutes before his voice gave out due to tears.
“Rey’s started working from home so she can be with him more. She doesn’t want him to grow up the way we did. I haven’t told her yet, but I’m thinking of sitting the next election out. Maybe run for City Council instead. I think Zorii could run things. She’s calmed down since I made her my Counsel,” he shared.
As predicted, the First Order ceased to exist after Palpatine’s fall. Once Zorii became aware of Dameron’s role in the turn of events, her hatred of Ben lessened. When he approached her with a job offer, she was suspicious. In the end, it was Rey who convinced her to serve in government. She told Zorii it was what Poe would have wanted. Once she was on board, the Resistance fell in line.
It had been an uphill climb. There were days when Ben felt it would have been easier to take up his former mantle to garner results. Wielding a gun yielded immediate action. In the office, the only tool he brandished was a pen. It didn’t have the same effect. It also didn’t come with the same risk. When he had married Rey, Ben made her a promise. He made the same promise to their son on the day of his birth.
“I don’t want to miss anything,” Ben said, watching Dylan play with the edge of his blanket.
“And you shouldn’t,” a voice said from behind him.
Ben turned to find his uncle standing by the oak tree. He was carrying a bouquet of roses for his twin.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Luke quickly apologized. “Just wanted to drop these off on my way to Lor’s.”
Ben didn’t know if he’d ever forgive Luke but he’d killed enough for one lifetime. He refused to add the weight of his uncle’s death to his list of sins. He wanted to shed the chains of his past, not create another ghost.
“Maybe you two could stop by Varykino sometime. I’m sure Rey would like to see Lor,” Ben offered. “And this little guy,” he held up Dylan, “should get to know his family. All of his family.”
“A change of venue might be nice,” his uncle agreed.
“What about next Sunday?” Ben suggested.
“Noon?” Luke asked. Ben nodded. “I’ll bring the wine.”
Ben took a deep breath, feeling a calm settle over him. He tucked Dylan inside his stroller, careful to keep the blanket wrapped tight around him. With a wave to his uncle, he began his stroll back to the Maybach.
“By the way,” Luke called after him. “I liked the title of your last bill. A New Order. Quite fitting, given the circumstances, isn’t it?”
“What can I say?” Ben smirked with a shrug. “Skywalkers like to be dramatic.”