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The Promise

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The first time Rey heard his voice inside her head, she was certain it was her imagination. So much had happened in so short a time, and her mind was fragile from a sickening ride of highs and lows. She had left behind the only place she had ever called home just to lose the first person who ever seemed to understand her. She’d learned that she was different, special, and immensely powerful-but with it came responsibility on a galactic scale, an actual war between Light and Dark, like a bedtime story come to life. She’d come face to face with an evil incarnate, and she had bested him, but all she had truly done was start a battle she wasn’t sure would ever end. So to say that she was overwhelmed was a ludicrous understatement.

She was standing on the precipice of something great, but so terrifying. There were so many people depending on her now. Not just the Resistance, but all the billions of innocent people caught in the crossfire of this war, entire planetary systems resting on her small shoulders. She was more than just another forgotten wreck half buried in the desert world of Jakku. Master Luke had taken the lightsaber from her hand and accepted her into his tutelage. He was the last Jedi, but she was the first of a new generation. Rey was strongly needed now, but more importantly, she was wanted.

But to say that the loneliness had left her would be a lie. It still lurked there, beneath her thoughts, swam at the edges of her focus as she attempted to meditate with Master Luke, and ran through her veins as sure as her blood. There were friends and allies now, a makeshift sort of family she’d somehow been rewarded with for the kindness she’d shown a tiny droid in the desert, but they were no replacement for the real thing. She’d had some hope that maybe in the vast network of the Resistance, someone would have a name, a memory, or even a clue who she was and where she came from-what had happened to the family that had left her on that wasteland. But she was as mysterious as the Force itself, and there were no answers in sight.

It was a painful truth, knowing that at the age of nineteen, she might lead her entire life without feeling complete. Loneliness was the only companion she could call family. No wonder it had been so easy for the emotion to be wrenched from her by…by him.

Only a few short weeks had gone by since the monster that called himself Kylo Ren had carefully dissected that particular humiliation from her mind, his aim as calculated and precise as hers had often been during her scavenging days. He had seen it, felt it, tasted it. He’d rolled it on his tongue like a lover’s promise, with… an understanding perhaps? Not that it mattered. Nothing about him mattered. It didn’t matter that she still thought about him-how could she not? Wasn’t it wise to meditate on and examine one’s biggest enemy? How else could she identify his weaknesses, where to strike, how to bring him to his knees and pay for what he had done?

And it was at that moment, with these very thoughts drifting through her mind as she wished for sleep after another hard day of training, that she heard that voice, cold and stern, as if scolding her.

“Scavenger.”

She jerked up from the hard cot, eyes tearing wildly around the room, expecting every shadow to materialize into the nightmare silhouette of her enemy. It felt like hours ticked by, and she realized all at once that she’d been holding her breath. She gasped as the fear slipped away, her face burning not just with exertion, but with shame at her reaction. She shouldn’t fear him, because as Master Luke had said, that was just one of many paths to the dark side.

Still, her heart took just a little too long to return to its normal pace, and though her eyes grew heavy, she continued to scan the roughhewn stone walls for any trace of hidden malice. The word he had spoken-that she had imagined him speaking-seemed to echo in her head as sleep claimed her.

The second time, she mistook the voice for Master Luke’s, muffled by the wind as he waited for her to reach the top of the stone stairs she was ascending on her hands. She’d only just been thinking about the absurdity of the exercise, how she was sure to lose a digit or two any moment now, and whether her enemy had been forced to do the same when he had been under his Uncle’s instruction. Could it have been even harder with being tall as he was?

“Rey?”

She paused, almost losing her balance, waiting for further instruction. But he only stared right back at her, his brow slowly gathering in concern as she shook in the wind.

“Are you alright?” Luke asked kindly, sparing her a half-hearted grin as she attempted to both shake her head and nod at the same time, causing her balance to waiver even more. She took the last few steps with great care and gratefully placed her feet on the ground, shaking out the clenching muscles that had carried her there.

“I thought you called my name,” she panted out, bending at the waist and letting her arms hang loose to get her blood flowing the right way again. He shook his head and looked up to the sky.

“Must have been the wind, my young padawan,” he mumbled in that frustratingly calm voice of his. “A good lesson in focus, though.”

If she had any breath, she might have laughed, but when she found no trace of mirth on his face, she was glad the outburst hadn’t come. After she was sure every appendage had recovered, she began the long journey back down.

The third time was even more frightening than the first. Not because of where it happened, or the volume, or even the shrill keening the sound left in her ear. It was what he said.

“Stop this!”

She yelped at his angry shout, dropping the final rock that was to top her tower, the one she’d been building all evening under Master Luke’s watchful eyes. It clattered onto the rocks below it, and even though her attention was scattered and her breath labored, she managed to keep it solid and standing.

“Well done,” Luke nodded in approval, seemingly oblivious to her panicked state. “Now keep it standing until morning.”

With no further ado, he left her there on the cold, windy peak, his cloak whipping frantically behind him as he headed down to the stone structures she tentatively called home. She wanted so badly to call after him, to tell him what she’d heard, or at least what she’d thought she’d heard, but the moment she focused on speaking, the tower began to wobble again. Stubbornness silenced her then-she’d worked hard on this, and even if she was still a little frightened, nothing was going to take this victory from her. It could wait until morning.

She shivered fiercely, but the tower remained unmoved, and she strived to echo that. With the majority of her psyche focused on the task, the rest of it ambled right back into the train of thought she’d been having when the hateful outburst of Kylo Ren had nearly undone her handiwork.

‘Had he been kind once?’ she wondered again, her breath hitching as she unknowingly waited for his unsolicited answer. But nothing came, only the raging of the storm she was slowly finding the strength to ignore.

She had heard all the stories. About his seduction to the dark side through whispers and grand promises of power. He had heard the voice of Snoke since he was child, and perhaps even before that if such a thing was possible. Master Luke did not show much emotion, but whenever he talked about Kylo Ren, his eyes would mist over with a sadness that not even her own loneliness could compare to. True to the Jedi order, Luke had never married, had never had children. Rey didn’t even know if he had even loved, though the order had much to say about that as well, and it wasn’t a subject she was at all eager to broach. But she did know one thing-he had cared for Ben Solo as if he were his own.

“He’s dead.”

Rey was broken from her thoughts at the fourth sounding of his voice in her head. It was clear this time, almost as if he’d been standing right beside her. As she stared at her triumphant tower, she fought the urge to glance around her, just to check if it really had been all in her head. She remained focused, still intent on proving to Master Luke that she was worthy of his tutelage, that she was more than just raw power and a few mind tricks.

Settled again, she resumed her thoughts, if almost out of spite. There was no actual chance he could hear her or vice versa. Such a thing wasn’t possible-he had no idea where she was, what she was doing, and certainly not what she was thinking. It was Master Luke-maybe even her own mind challenging her, creating this voice to distract her, to break her concentration. There was no other answer. Even if the unthinkable were true, Master Luke would have been aware from the very first instance.

“He is weak.”

She had to admit, it was impressive how well the impersonation managed to capture the vitriol and malice of her enemy, and for a brief moment, she flashed back to that infuriating and terrifying twitch of his lips when she’d first attempted to defy him. There she saw him as he had stalked towards her, like some great predator, with absolute confidence that he would get whatever he wanted from her. Some would have called it a smirk, but it bore no humor, no lightness. It was primal and menacing, and not even the striking fullness of his lips could soften the ferocity-

The sound of a stone clattering to the ground tore Rey from the wandering of her mind, and even as she pleaded with herself to maintain her focus, she lost two more. Even there, in the middle of this howling storm, there was a stunned sort of silence in her mind that she could feel creeping beneath her very skin. She was so ashamed-why had she thought that? It was no redeeming trait! The thought was vile and disgusting, and she hated herself for even having the slightest bit of regard for anything but the evil of her enemy.

But what had shaken her the most was that the thought had proved something to her. There was no chance that Master Luke had implanted such an awful idea into her head. It left only one option-Rey herself was making up the voice, and Rey herself had recalled those lips with something bordering on fondness. She was driving herself mad, voicing her self-doubts in Kylo Ren’s instead. Maybe the training was wearing her thin, maybe too much had happened in the past few months, more than she’d realized. She could be ill. She could have gone stir crazy long ago in the AT-AT back on Jakku and everything was just some fever dream. What if she’d never even left and the people she cared for had never existed? It could be, anything could be more likely than her feeling anything but hatred towards Kylo Ren. As her thoughts whirled, the storm raged and more stones fell. In mere moments, her tower was just a pile at her feet, and she was a just a sobbing mess of a girl in the rain.

“Maybe you’re the one who is weak,” said the voice, the one she’d conjured up to mask her own self-loathing, though somehow she sensed it wasn’t completely directed towards herself.

None of this made any sense. Why was this happening to her? Hadn’t she been through enough? She’d fought hard to scratch out a living for herself, always on the verge of starving to death, isolated and enslaved by her own childish dreams that someone might someday come back for her. It had been a lie, and that voice that had promised to return for her might very well have been her own imagination, the result of her pitiful hopes. She had been left there to die, there was no doubt about that now. Like the Imperial and Resistance ships that still lay rotting in the endless sands, Jakku had been meant to be her graveyard.

“So alone,” the voice sadly echoed as she pulled herself from the mud and stared shamefully at the stones. The wind tore at her, screeching in her ears, practically chasing her away from the mess she’d created. As she made her way down the steps, she gazed out over the ocean surrounding her. She had dreamed of this place for so long-it seemed like a lifetime ago. Just as Kylo Ren had revealed, she’d tossed and turned on humid nights in her tomb-like home, seeing strange flashes of deep blue, cold gray, and vibrant green. Even as a child, the dreams had seemed too vivid to be real, and yet here she stood, living an impossibility. It did nothing to ease her suffering, but it did remind her that yes-she had been wrong before, and for so long. Things could get better, if she was patient enough. Soon enough, this business with the voice would fade away, and she might even laugh at herself for ever suspecting it might be real.

“Master Luke,” she called out softly, swallowing her pride as she entered the structure he called his own. He was waiting there by the fire, one bowl of stew in his lap and the other across from him, waiting in her usual spot. At first, she was hurt-did he really have so little faith in her? But there was a warmth in his eyes that seemed to soothe it away.

“We are not made one with the Force until we are one with ourselves, Rey.”

She nodded, flooded with relief as she realized that he had in fact not been blind to her recent distractions. This had been a test all along.

“I have a long way to go, don’t I?” She asked sheepishly, sitting as close to the fire as her body could stand, grateful for the warm meal he’d left waiting for her.

“As do I,” Luke said cryptically, his brow furrowing. “If we ever find ourselves believing that we can learn no more, then pride will be our downfall. It will be a step towards the dark side. I do not mean to mislead you Rey, but you must always remember the path of the Light is not any easier to walk.”

As Rey ate quietly, she wondered if maybe his words weren’t entirely meant for her. Luke had been alone for a long time. She was certain he’d had many conversations with himself, just as she had when she was a child.

“I’m hearing a voice,” she blurted out suddenly. He cocked his head curiously, as if he were also straining to hear something. “Not really, just in my head. And it’s not mine.”

His expression was equal parts concern and understanding.

“I experienced something similar during my own days as a padawan. By committing to the Jedi way, you open yourself to your own dark side, and often, the things you hear-the things you see-are so real and so frightening. But this is a test, and one I cannot fully prepare you for. Whose voice are you hearing?”

It was a full minute before she could bring herself to say the name aloud for the first time.

“Kylo Ren.”

Surprisingly, Luke seemed relieved at this. He nodded and gestured for her to continue eating.

“I heard my father. I saw him. I fought him and I killed him. And when I looked down at the face behind the mask, it was my own. All of it was in my head, but I didn’t know it at the time. That was my first encounter with the dark side. It was a powerful thing, experiencing such a hate, such a malice towards an enemy I knew so little about.”

“Did you know…did you know he was your father?”

“Not then. It was sometime later, and it did not end well,” he said pointedly, his eyes flickering to his own bionic hand. They fell into a somewhat comfortable silence, punctuated only by the crackling fire between them.

“He’s still alive, isn’t he? Ben?”

“Yes. He’s still alive. I still feel his presence in the Force. It is a faint thing, but I know it as well as I know my own.”

“I think I feel him, too,” Rey finally admitted, feeling embarrassed that it had taken her this long to say it aloud. “I know how his mind feels. I was in it once, it was terrifying. So much anger…so much darkness…so much longing.”

Luke nodded, his eyes looking distantly out at the rain beyond the doorway.

“Does that mean he can feel me?”

She felt her cheeks flush as their eyes met, groaning inwardly at how childish her voice had sounded.

“Rey, we are all connected. He can feel you, me, Leia. He can even feel those long since passed, and someday, when you are focused enough, you will feel them, too. The Force is a universe of its own, and whether it is to our liking or not, we will remain in it for eternity.”

“Then he’s seen or heard your father? Like you did?”

“So he’s been lead to believe,” Luke whispered in the most hopeless tone she’d ever heard come from him. It was heartbreaking to witness, and Rey turned her eyes downward to her cooling bowl, wishing she’d never started the conversation. But there was still one thing she had to know.

“How will I know what is real? I mean…if this goes further than just a voice in my head?”

Luke seemed glad she had changed the subject somewhat, and straightened up.

“You won’t. It will be frightening, but the Force will guide you through it. The only thing you have to do is follow the Light, Rey.”

The storm raged on throughout the night, and though the pattering of rain had lulled her into many nights of fitful sleep since she’d first arrived on Ach-To, it did not have that effect tonight. Instead, she tossed and turned, hearing footsteps where there were none, seeing phantom shadows with every flash of lightning. She could not shake the feeling that something was coming for her, someone was hunting her, and she was so afraid that she would not able to defend herself if-no, when- she was caught.

She was so frightened, felt so alone, she almost wished to hear that voice, or to even see him, if only just to get it over with. But the night wore on with no relief in sight. Eventually, her mind began to give into the demand of her body, and sleep came slowly over her. The most stubborn part of her still forced her eyes open every few moments, still searching the room for some unseen menace. She blinked slowly…once, twice. And when she blinked the third time, she barely opened her eyes in time to see the shadow passing before the stone archway of her home, almost invisible in the absence of lightning.

She sat up quickly, wondering if she really had seen anything, but her instincts brought her back to full wakefulness and she was on her feet before she could even fully flush the doubt from her mind. Dressed only in the threadbare tunic of her padawan robes, Rey crept out to the doorway, wishing not for the first time that she hadn’t relinquished the lightsaber back to Master Luke. She was defenseless, and her wits would do little to help her in a fight against whom she feared was lurking around out there.

The only thing that spurred her on through the doorway were snippets from her conversation with Luke. It was possible that this was all just a vision, and the Force was testing her will. Well, if that were the case, she would not fail for the second time in a day. She stepped out into the still pouring rain and scanned her surroundings. Movement from the corner of her right eye drew her towards the edge of the stone wall, and she ever so slightly glanced around it. Another fleeting glimpse of a disappearing specter was barely illuminated by the lightning that split the sky. But she had seen it. That unmistakable mask that had been haunting her dreams. Kylo Ren was here and there was no way she would be able to defend herself.

“It’s not real,” she whispered to herself, her voice lost under the rolling of thunder. She forced her body to move after him, but there was no glimpse this time. She walked much faster around the back wall of the house, the rain masking her hasty steps, but still no sight of any shadow around the next corner. She came full circle now, standing just in front of the doorway, wondering if he had moved onto the next structure. But something told her to look back into her room, and when she followed suit, she saw it.

His lightsaber lay on the bed, right where she’d just been drifting to sleep only moments ago. It was a trap, she knew that, but her feet were carrying her towards it as if the Force itself had taken over her body. She reached out shakily, her hand wrapping around the almost thoughtlessly crafted hilt, and she examined it closely. She’d cut it in half back on Starkilller base, just before she’d done almost the same to his face. But here it was intact, with no trace of mending or damage.

And then the lightning flashed behind her and his shadow was cast onto the floor beside her.

Rey whipped around, igniting the saber and almost losing her grip as the hum of power proved more powerful than expected. This was not a reliable weapon-it was dangerous just holding it. But the real danger was now standing but a few feet away from her and she needed every advantage she could get.

Kylo Ren did not step any closer. He watched her from behind his mask, another relic she was sure had been destroyed with the weaponized planet. She knew in her heart then that none of this was real. It was a dream, a nightmare. It was a test.

“I would doubt reality too, if I were in your place.”

That gravelly, modulated voice made her shiver with more than the cold. With another illumination from lightning, she saw him in entirety, and by the way he cocked his head in an almost birdlike way, she could tell he was observing her, too. She was drenched, and the cloth of the tunic clung to her in the most obscene way. But what did modesty matter in a vision?

“Why are you here?” She asked bravely, leveling the furious red blade towards him, muscle memory coaxing her body in to its favored sword from.
When there was no reply, she took another step towards him, yet he made no move.

“Take off that mask.”

“Curious at your handiwork?” he asked sharply at her demand.

“Take it off.”

They stood silent for a few tense moments, but sure enough, he followed her direction. Gloved hands lifted to the base of the mask, and after a small hiss, he removed it and let it fall to the floor in a crash that made her wince.

“Happy now?”

The scar she had given him had healed well, but it took away the sensitive look he’d had about him the first time he’d unmasked himself. He was unremarkable no more. The silvery-pink gash looked an angry shade in the light from his saber in the otherwise dark room.

“What would you care for anyone’s happiness?” she found herself asking, her voice soft and breathless. She cringed at it, forcing herself to try and shake the fear his intense gaze was filling her with.

“What will you do with that?” he gestured towards his lightsaber, completely disregarding her question.

“I will kill you. That’s what I’m meant to do. That’s why I’m having this vision now. I need to rid myself of any compassion for Ben Solo. He's dead, just like you told your father. There is no light left in you.”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

“This is too easy. You left this for me for a reason. Why would you disarm yourself? What lesson is this meant to teach if you don’t defend yourself against me?”

Kylo Ren gave her no sign that he meant to reply. Instead his eyes danced intrusively over her, and her skin burned as if she could actually feel his gaze.

“You are so strong. Look at what your life of scavenging has given you. Many padawan begin the Jedi path having never worked a day in their life. But you have never known respite, have you? Every day a struggle, every night a vigil of survival. No wonder you took to it so easily, after your awakening. You’ve been ready for the Force your entire life.”

“Why are you saying this?” she cried out, her voice half muffled by thunder.

“Kill me and I will say no more.”

“I can’t! Not until I know why!”

“Why does it matter?”

“Tell me why you are here, why do you offer your death to me like this?”

“No doubt your master has told you of his own vision. Why would you hesitate? He did not.”

“I’m not him! I am only me, and I need to know!” She screamed, her form wavering. “I lived so long with no answers! I suffered and fought and I learned nothing! I won’t waste this now. I cannot act until I understand!”

Hot tears rolled down her cheeks and before she could stop herself, she extinguished the blade. It clattered to the ground uselessly as her hands fisted at her sides. His face remained a mask, but his eyes softened in some indescribable way.

“Don’t pity me, I don’t need it!” she spat, taking a step towards him. He did not move, just stared at her impassively. The air between them was even more intense, as if she were far more dangerous now without the weapon. Finally he spoke.

“I was accused of something I could not understand, back when you were a prisoner. My master, he saw into my actions, my intentions. He said I felt compassion for you, and I denied it. I cannot deny it now.”

Rey was confused, angry, and she hated the fact that she could feel nothing but the truth radiating from him.

“Could it be that you feel compassion for me as well?”

His question was punctuated by a bolt of lightning, the light casting an eerie glow to his dark eyes. He looked almost…captivating.

“I don’t know what I feel. Towards you, towards this path. I don’t know anything."

Again, she sounded so lost and childlike. His gaze unraveled her determination, and her will to fight him was fading faster by the second.

“You called me a monster so readily.”

“You killed your father. Who only loved you and wanted to save you. How could you take something so precious as love and throw it away? I would have killed anyone just to feel anything close to it!”

His full lips twitched into an unbearable smirk.

“Now we are getting somewhere.”

Rey fought her urge to summon the lightsaber back to her hand if only to wipe that self-assured grin from his face. He looked so much like Han when he did that…

“I laid awake every night, wishing, praying to anything that would listen. Just to have someone care for me the way he cared for you. The way your mother cared for you. They would have done anything to bring you home. He tried, and you took his life. You don’t even know what you had! How can I not hate you for that? How could I not want to kill you?”

“And yet I’m still standing quite intact,” he mused, his tone deprecating. “Why do you think about me? Why do you wonder about who I was before when you know what I am now. What purpose does that serve?”

“This is my vision, I ask the questions!”

“I am asking your questions. If this vision is yours, so are my words, are they not?”

Rey took another step towards his imposing figure. She wondered, not for the first time, how she had ever bested him back on the base. Was it truly because he was injured? He could have killed her with a simple shove as she stood over that crevasse, and yet he almost begged her to give him a reason not to.

“You offered me something, back then,” she asked, her voice calmer now. “You wanted to teach me. Did your master tell you to sway me?”

Kylo Ren seemed to be affected by this question, and she found it strange for her own conjured image of him to seem almost abashed.

“No. He would have wanted me to kill you. He wanted to make an example of you, before you escaped. I was ready to comply, but when it came to doing it with my own hand, I could not. I still do not know why. I knew you would deny me. I asked you anyway.” After a slight pause, he added “Does that make me weak?”

This was not something she was expecting. If she was really having a vision, why would he ask her such a thing? Why would he offer up information she had no way of knowing?

“This isn’t real,” she murmured to herself, and her words drew another muted smile from him.

“Of course it isn’t. This is a vision, just as you said. You control this. Anything I say or do here is because you will it to.”

Another tear slipped down her cheek.

“Then I want you to tell me you regret what you did.”

His face fell, and he looked almost pained. His eyes glazed over, as if he was reliving his own awful deed, and he tore his gaze away.

“I will not.”

“You will because I say it. Tell me you were wrong to kill Han.”

“I won’t take orders-,” he countered, his voice rising.

“Say it!”

“I did as my Master-,”

“Tell me you were wrong!” Rey snapped, rushing towards him, her hand striking him across his scarred cheek. “Say it!”

His eyes flashed wildly back to hers and he seemed to grow taller in an instant. His voice boomed, even over the crashing of thunder.

“I regret it and I cannot undo it and it kills me! I wish you had just killed me when you had the chance! Why didn’t you kill me?”

And then, like a mountain crumbling, Kylo Ren fell to his knees, his jaw quivering as his eyes searched the floor wildly. His hands clenched and loosened over and over, his head shaking ever so slightly.

“You had every reason to kill me. Please end this and do it now. I cannot bear this.”

His voice shook, and his eyes were rimmed red as he stared up at her. Even on his knees, they were almost eye level. He looked every bit the lost, scared child Leia must still imagine him as. In that moment, Rey saw herself, standing on the furiously hot sand dunes of Jakku, looking skyward as her family left her without an explanation, only a vague promise. No one comforted her then. No one took her into their arms and told her she was going to be ok, that she would be safe, or that someday she would be loved again. She would have given anything for a scrap of kindness to be shown to her.

And that was exactly why she did so to Kylo Ren.

Rey stepped close him, cradling his head in her arms, drawing his head to lay against her chest. In an instant, his arms locked around her in a viselike grip, his body shuddering against hers as he held in his sobs. There was so much turmoil in him, so much doubt and self-hatred, and above all, so much loneliness. She could feel it now, flowing into her as steadily as the warmth of his body. It felt so real.

“If only this were real,” she whispered, mostly to herself. But he heard her anyway.

“You would have killed me by now if it was.”

And as his voice broke into stifled sob, the heartbreaking noise muffled by her skin, Rey finally understood. She knew why she wondered about who he was before he became Kylo Ren, why he killed Han, and why she needed him to admit it. She knew why she could not kill him back on Starkiller and why she couldn’t do it even now in this dream. It would be justified, it would be so easy...

But she didn’t want the easy way, she wanted the right way. She wanted his remorse and his suffering. She wanted him to understand and regret and admit that he had chosen the wrong path. She wanted him to forgive himself and to turn back to the Light she knew was still inside of him. Rey wanted him to kill Kylo Ren.

And she wanted to be the one to help him do it.

“There is no going back. Please do this for me,” he whispered pleadingly, his breath hot against her chilled skin. “Please lift this burden.”

“I won’t kill you. You don’t deserve such a relief,” she said softly, her tone betraying the harshness of her words. “But I will help you carry it. That’s the lesson, I know it now. I will bring you back. If not to the Light, then at least to somewhere in between. Somewhere safe.”

“I cannot be Ben Solo. He is dead,” he choked out, lifting his head to gaze up at her. Rey felt brave at his weakness and ran a hand through his thick hair, swearing that he ever so slightly leaned into her touch.

“He’s dead only to you. The rest of us are still waiting for him to come home.”

He regarded her for a long time, his dark eyes swirling with insecurity.

“Even if such a thing were possible…you would be waiting for a long time.”

Rey smiled, sinking down to her knees, guiding his head down to rest on her shoulder. His arms remained fiercely coiled around her slight frame. She was vulnerable like this. He could snap her neck in a heartbeat, and yet she had no fear. She nuzzled her head against his, feeling silly when she noticed the slight musk of his skin, thinking of his full lips so very close to her neck. Raising her head slightly, she whispered into his ear.

“Ben. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to wait.”

He breathed in sharply, his body tensing. With a shuddering breath, he said her name.

“Rey.”

And then he was gone.

Rey found herself kneeling on the floor alone, still soaking wet and shivering from the cold draft of the open doorway. But there was an odd warmth to her, where her vision of Kylo-no, of Ben-had been pressed against her. There was a sense of loss, and she felt tears blooming, but blinked them away. She had cried helplessly for days when she’d been abandoned on Jakku, and it had done her no good. It would not serve her now, not when she finally had a direction, finally had a true path shown to her by the Force. The aching loneliness she’d been living with had not been a curse or weakness. It was a weapon. She had found the chink in Kylo Ren’s armor. The last thing he could’ve ever prepared himself for was to meet someone as alone as he had felt his entire life, but here she was, a mirror image of his soul, holding out a hand in the dark.

Ben Solo was going to come home, and Rey would be the one to guide him there.

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Far across the galaxy, in a cold sterile room aboard a black ship that resembled a great bird of prey, Kylo Ren sat up with a start out of a dead sleep. There was a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach, an urge to smile foolishly, and a phantom scent of something feminine still swirling in his mind.

Over the past few weeks, he’d been so dismissive of her voice in his head, the way it would chime in at the most unexpected moments. He knew it was all a test. Likely something Snoke had implanted in his mind to throw him off balance, or even to punish him for his failure back on Starkiller base. There could be no other explanation…but this? This was something different.

He remembered everything about the dream. He remembered the pain and the mercy that followed it.

He remembered the confession that had been eating away at his soul, and the comfort she’d given to him in light of it.

He remembered the hope that had swelled in him when she’d placed her trust in him not to hurt her, leaving herself vulnerable.

He remembered the unhesitant touch of her hands, the feel of her skin, the almost unbearable urge to press his lips against her delicate neck.

But more than anything, he remembered her words, and her acceptance of his ragged, stained soul.

The darkness in him doubted it, dismissed it as a mere dream, but it had felt so real. The Force would not have shown him such a thing without reason. This was not just another temptation of the Light. This was an offer from the only being in the entire galaxy that could understand the desolation he had struggled with since birth. No, this was no dream.

Rey was waiting now. She had made a promise, but of what he wasn’t completely sure. It could be friendship, but it could be more…

And now it was up to him to decide just how much he was willing to give to find out.