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Fulcrum

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FULCRUM

The pivot point, or where balance is achieved.

 

PLEASE SEE PAST NON-CON AND DUB CON WARNING IN NOTES.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

I have a bad feeling about this.

Rey feels something shortly before the First Order shuttle appears on the horizon. She can’t pinpoint what it is, but it is familiar. It begins as a faint feeling of dread, but its intensity increases moment by moment like the wail of a siren coming closer, ever louder, until Rey’s inner voice screams “DANGER!” incessantly.   Utter panic paralyzes her for precious moments until Maz shakes her roughly.

“RUN!” Maz puts her thousand years of survival into that one word. She too has sensed the approach of the Dark Side’s prince. Rey grabs little Han while Maz throws the bag Rey uses for the boy’s essentials over her shoulder. In their haste, neither thinks to grab a weapon. Their only concern is the child. Then Rey is out the back door of the ramshackle cantina as fast as she can manage with a squirming toddler in her arms. She will disappear into the woods.

Rey doesn’t get far before she sees the first flash of white stormtrooper armor amid the thick forest undergrowth.   They are hunting her, methodically circling in to block any escape.   The chase is brief and soon she is surrounded on all sides by twenty or more troopers with guns raised at the ready.   Rey stands frozen in their midst, an unarmed woman with a child in her arms and fear in her eyes.  

The monster has finally found us.

The rustle of forest ferns and the throbbing, spitting sound of his lightsaber precede the approach of Kylo Ren. He picks his way slowly through the forest with the stealthy grace of a born predator. He is a shadow made flesh, sleek and deadly.   He comes into her peripheral vision and stops.

There is no escape from Kylo Ren.

Rey averts her head, unwilling to even look at this man. Everything about that day almost three years ago haunts her. From the interrogation room, to Han Solo, to the duel in the woods. Kylo Ren is the stuff of nightmares, and seeing him again brings all the awful trauma rushing back.

Does he want revenge? Is he here to kill us? Does he even know?

Rey trembles and her chest heaves with exertion and adrenaline. She pulls the child closer. For a moment, she fears her legs will fail her and she will crumple to the earth. It is but a momentary weakness. Rey of Jakku rallies to stand strong. Strong for herself and strong for her secret son.  

“I found your traitor,” Kylo Ren announces. “FN-2187’s head was full of secrets. You were one of them.”

He motions to the lead trooper. “Put her on board. Leave the kid.”

“No!” Rey resists as a trooper reaches to pull the boy from her arms. In an instant, it becomes a tug of war. She bares her teeth, as if hoping that by sheer force of will she can protect the child. Abandoned out here deep in the woods at dusk, the boy will have no way of making it back to safety on his own.   There are creatures in these woods. And who knows if Maz Kanata will be alive to know to come look for him. “No, you can’t!” Rey shouts, tugging harder as the boy screams.

A second trooper approaches to calmly level his blaster at the boy’s head. “Drop the kid,” he orders.

Rey ceases her struggle. Beaten, she turns her outraged eyes to Kylo Ren’s blank mask, finally looking at the fearsome man who forever changed her life.  

Does he know? He doesn’t know. I don’t think he knows.

“He’s just a baby,” she pleads. “Take him back to the bar. He’ll die out here on his own at night.”

“Then he’s one less Resistance sympathizer for us to deal with in a few years.” Ren turns back to the lead trooper. “Leave the kid,” he orders as he begins to stalk away.

Rey feels panic rise within her. And anger. A swelling, insistent anger at this man, at her situation, at the First Order, at the injustice of the universe at large.

The boy is roughly yanked from her arms and begins to wail even louder. Someone snaps tight cuffs around her wrists and suddenly troopers arrive to tug at each of her elbows, dragging her forward. They lead her away.

Little Han is left standing alone, red-faced and screaming.

His cries tear at her very soul. His incoherent screams are not words but she knows their meaning. Come back! Come back! She herself has said these words, and she has lived their meaning. Rey keeps twisting around to look at the boy. Finally she loses her balance, stumbles and falls hard to her knees. Come back! Come back!

Memories of her own childhood abandonment replay incessantly through her mind and Rey can see no other option. She will not allow her son to be left behind as she once was.   Revealing the truth might ensure the boy’s death, rather than save him. But Rey is desperate and willing to take that chance. She hollers like a mad woman at the black hooded figure who marches ahead of her.

“Kylo Ren, that’s your son!”

Ren freezes mid step, as do the troopers who trail in his wake. Every head turns to look at her.

Rey can’t keep the note of satisfaction from her voice as she reveals the child before so many witnesses. “That’s your son that you are abandoning here!”

Kylo Ren says nothing. He advances on her quickly. He is cunning mixed with rage, and he is focused solely on her.   There is nowhere to run.   Once again, there is no escape from Kylo Ren.

As his gloved hand comes close to her face it begins to tremble with his power. Rey feels the pain behind her eyes and the ringing in her ears as Ren invades her mind.   This time is worse, far worse than on Starkiller Base. He is deep in her mind before she can blink. Her body shakes uncontrollably as he rifles through her memories.   Rey is nauseous and dizzy, but she does not attempt to resist.

Go ahead and take a look. See what you did.

And so Ren sees the truth in its unhappy entirety. Sees her refuse General Leia’s request that Rey bring the lightsaber to Luke Skywalker and ask him to help the Resistance . . . Rey wants nothing to do with the Jedi or the Force after the Starkiller Base. . . sees her shock and confusion at discovering her pregnancy and her long indecision about what to do about it . . . knows that she has no memories of being with Kylo Ren but that she had seen the bruises, the blood and the stickiness and felt the injury later on and made the obvious assumption . . . hears the ever gallant Finn offer to marry her and raise the baby as their own . . . Finn urges her to confide in General Leia but Rey is too upset and besides the General is grieving and doesn’t need more bad news about her murdering son. . . sees secretly pregnant Rey leave the Resistance and arrive at Maz Kanata’s half rebuilt cantina to beg for a job . . . only Finn and Maz know her secret and Rey is determined to keep it that way . . . no one will ever know that Rey has birthed the son of the infamous Kylo Ren . . . a child born of rape who she loves more than anything else in the universe.

Then, it is over. Ren lowers his hand and the expressionless mask stares down at her a long moment.

Rey pants heavily. Sweat and tears mingle on her face. “Please,” she begs in a hoarse whisper, ”don’t leave him here to die.”

Ren turns and motions to the nearest trooper. “Take the kid,” is all he says. He turns back to Rey, waves his hand in her direction and everything fades to black.

 


 

 

He had never done that to any woman before the scavenger girl. Controlling his impulses has always been hard, but this act shocks even Kylo Ren himself. He had felt better about it after she had marked his face in the duel, figuring that Rey had deserved such treatment. No, she had deserved worse. Arguably, Kylo Ren had done worse. Many times. But in the immediate aftermath, Ren had felt uncomfortably ashamed.  

Even the Dark Side has its standards. He can only imagine what Grandfather would say.

She provoked him, he still maintains. It was her fault because the dirty trash picker had made him so angry. Angry that she had known and admired his father and that his father had known and admired her.   Angry that as an untrained Force-user she could best him in an interrogation technique that he had mastered years ago. Angry that she had dared to speak aloud to his face his secret fear that he would never equal Vader.   Angry that this Jakku nobody had accidentally found the map to Skywalker that he had searched for years to find.   Angry that she had looked so serene and pretty lying unconscious on the interrogation table while he had waited for her to awaken. Angry most of all that he was so drawn to the Light that seemed to radiate off The Girl.  

That was his forever weakness. The call to the Light. How humiliated Ren had felt by her attraction just hours after he had assured his master that he would not be seduced by the Light. We shall see. We shall see. Snoke had been unconvinced.   Rightfully so, as it had turned out.

Darkness will always eclipse the Light. After The Girl had resisted him, Ren had wanted to prove that to her, to punish her, to hurt her, to dominate her, to show her the Dark Side. And so he had hauled The Girl from the interrogation chair still confused from his mental assault, overpowered her half-starved frame to wrestle her to the floor and violate her until blood trickled down her thigh. Ren had warned The Girl that he could take anything. And he did.

The Force always leaves a lingering tie between minds after an intense mental connection, and he had sensed her horror, her pain and her utter outrage at his actions. But still, her Light did not dim. Kylo Ren could not sully her.   When it was over, her Light and dignity were intact, and he had only further lowered himself in his own eyes. The act had been unworthy of him.

It had felt something like killing Han Solo. A display of power that ultimately had proved deeply dissatisfying.   Afterwards he had felt weaker and more conflicted than ever. The Girl was right—he is a monster.

He had briefly considered whether to kill her to cover his crime. But The Girl was his only link to the map to Skywalker, so he had invaded her consciousness again. “Forget,” he had intoned, waving his hand before her eyes and blanking her memory of his attack with the Force.  

But the Force is fickle. Yes, it had erased her present conscious knowledge. But it had also let a child take hold in her body, creating a life to forever bear witness to his crime.  

That life now toddles around his command shuttle, babbling and wearing a First Order officer’s hat sliding off his head.   The boy keeps returning to the side of his mother, who slumps unconscious in a heap on the floor.   The child pokes at her and calls to her but she does not awaken. Then, the boy goes back to babbling and wandering the shuttle again.  

Ren does his best to ignore him.  

It is hard. For from that small boy blazes forth an enormous Force imprint, stronger even than the mother’s. It is pure, shining Light. It fascinates Kylo Ren and though he tries, he cannot look away.   He keeps sneaking furtive glances.  

My son. That is my son. Is that my son?

Consequences are an unfamiliar burden for Kylo Ren. While his Sith master demands strict obedience, Snoke rarely imposes other limitations.   He exists outside of the First Order military hierarchy and rules do not apply to the leader of the Knights of Ren.

So officers could be punished on a whim, equipment destroyed in a fit of rage, starships wrecked with casual carelessness, and soldiers and civilians alike maimed or killed in the crossfire of Kylo Ren’s violent life. And always, someone else would step in to clean up the mess while he walked away. The aftermath of Kylo Ren has always been someone else’s problem.

Until now. Ren is glad that to a man his troopers and officers have crowded themselves upfront for the shuttle ride back to the Finalizer. Few in the military voluntarily spend time in the company of Kylo Ren and today the entire detachment seems to sense that the First Knight should be left alone with the captive woman and the child she claims to be his. Ren can only imagine his underlings’ conversation.   His face colors beneath his mask at the thought of being the topic of their petty gossip.

His gaze wanders back to The Girl.   This time he had ordered a stormtrooper to carry her to the shuttle and she had been dumped unceremoniously at his feet.   She looks different from when he had last seen her on the Starkiller. She is clean now and no longer half-starved. Softer, more feminine. More civilized, less feral.   Altogether more ordinary.   Drab.

But she still has all that bewitching Light and caramel skin.

Rey . . . her name is Rey.   He has known her name for some time, but in his mind she is always The Girl. Somehow it is easier to think of her as a generic person and not an individual.   That is the way of the First Order. Its troopers are numbered not named and most of its officers are referred to solely by rank. Only those who matter are named.   If The Girl truly is the mother of his child, then he will have to think of her as Rey now.    

This was going to get very complicated.      

Ren shifts uneasily. His Master will have to be told. Immediately.

Chapter Text

 

Rey awakens to the sound of little Han crying. Thank the Maker! Rey could have cried herself in relief. Her son has not been taken from her. Not yet. It must mean that they don’t believe her. That’s just fine with her.

Her eyes begin to focus. She is in a prison cell somewhere. She is not restrained and someone has left her bag of supplies. This is not the Starkiller. This is not the Starkiller. Rey repeats that mantra as she cleans up the child as best as she can. Her fingers are trembling as she gives Han stale crackers she finds at the bottom of her bag.  

The cell door slides open and two medics enter. Behind them is a man dressed in a flowing black surcoat very similar to Kylo Ren.   He too wears a black and silver mask, but it looks different than Ren’s. The stranger in black moves very fast. He snatches up Han and produces a buzzing vibroblade to threaten the child.   “Cooperate,” he commands.

Rey takes one look at the knife and at Han and she nods.

The medics work efficiently. They are not gentle. Rey and Han both are jabbed with multiple needles for blood samples.   The baby screams his displeasure at this treatment. Then Rey is forced to her knees and her head pushed down to bare her neck. There is a sharp pinch at the base of her neck as she is injected with something.

The medics retreat and are replaced by a pair of stormtroopers. The troopers haul Rey to her feet and the man in black thrusts screaming Han back to her. His voice is amplified by the mask, making his words fill the small chamber.

“You will not be restrained so that you may tend to the child. But you will cooperate and follow instructions. Because Ren says you are dangerous, there is a kill collar in your neck now.” He displays a small gadget in his gloved hand. “I can detonate it at any time and it will blow your head off. Do not test me. I will not hesitate to use it. When you arrive at your destination, I will set a perimeter on that collar. If you exceed the perimeter attempting to escape, the collar will automatically detonate. Do you understand?”

Rey nods. Slavers on Jakku had used kill collars. Rey had never seen a collar activate, but she knew what they could do.    

Was she now a slave of the First Order? Great, just great. Rey swallows hard. Things kept going from bad to worse for her and Han.


 

That weasel General Hux exits the audience chamber as Ren arrives for his interview with the Supreme Leader. Hux doesn’t say a word, but his gleeful, knowing look says plenty.   It’s not surprising that the news from Takodano has spread to the highest ranks, but it rankles Kylo Ren nonetheless. He brushes past the general and resolutely presents himself to kneel before his Master.

The lightyears of physical distance between Ren and the hologram figure do nothing to dim Leader Snoke’s obvious disdain.   The old Sith is so powerful that he transcends time and distance.   Despite being holed up in his stronghold, Snoke seems to be everywhere, all the time. Nothing escapes his notice where his apprentice is concerned.

“Take your mask off, Kylo Ren.”  

He complies, but keeps his gaze fixed on the floor. It is preferable that way. Leader Snoke has a ruined face so disfigured that it is hard to tell if he once was human. In fact, he is a Muun, but few seem to recognize this from his twisted and broken countenance.  

Snoke’s voice is habitually low and deliberate. The Muun can make an insult sound like a poem. But when he is displeased, like today, his Master snarls and slurs every syllable.  

“Do you make it a habit of raping the prisoners?”

At least this leading question spares Ren the humiliation of a confession. He makes a terse reply. “She was an exception.”

“Why?” Always, his Master demands reasoned explanations. The mastermind behind the First Order eschews impulse. The wily old Sith plays the long game and so every decision is potentially strategic.   Ren respects this. His Master had once taught Darth Sideous, after all.

“She resisted interrogation.”

“She resisted your mind, but she could not resist your body, was that it?”

“Yes.” Something like that.   Ren jumps at the proposed justification.

“And it didn’t hurt that she was young, comely and Force-sensitive, did it? And shining with the righteous Light of the Resistance?”   Ren feels his cheeks flame with embarrassment at his Master’s insight.   Snoke always could divine his innermost secrets. Ren keeps his eyes to the floor. “No, of course not,” Snoke mocks him, “for you, my boy, are immune to the Light . . . or so you have told me. Repeatedly.”  

“Her midichlorian levels are impressive.”   Ren attempts to steer the conversation away from himself. For once, Snoke takes the bait.   Ren knows his old Master loves to discuss the eugenics of the Force. Snoke strokes his chin while he considers.

“Yes, she was the Awakening that we felt. Both mother and child are strong in the Force. Stronger even than you, Kylo Ren.” How his Master relishes imparting this unexpected information.  

“Yes, Master.” Ren grinds this reply out between clenched teeth.   Midichlorians are only a measure of Force potential, not a true measure of power. But Ren refrains from pointing that out.   Snoke has always enjoyed humbling him where his Skywalker lineage is concerned.

“The boy is especially strong. And there is no doubt of your paternity.” His Master waits for an acknowledgement of these words. His Master wants him to say it out loud.

“Yes,” Ren dutifully agrees.

“Who knows about the child?”

“The old pirate witch Maz Kanata, but she is dead. FN-2187 the traitor Stormtrooper who defected to the Resistance. He was interrogated and recently exchanged in a prisoner swap with the Resistance. Also, the officers and troopers on the Takodano mission.”

“All of them?”

All of them and more. “The girl was not discrete when she revealed her news.”

“Then by now your entire crew knows that you got a child on a former Resistance fighter turned barmaid.”

He says nothing.

“And we should presume that either through the traitor or through their spies the Resistance now knows of it, including their General and the Jedi Skywalker.” Snoke pauses a moment. “They will want to steal the child if they learn we have him. They will feel justified in taking him by the blood relationship.”

Again, he says nothing.

Snoke levels him a long, measuring look before asking, “How do you propose to deal with this situation?”

Ren has a plan. He will stash them away and forget they ever existed. “I will send the girl and the child to the Dantooine facility. It is secure. The Resistance will never break them out of there. Perhaps when the boy is old enough, he can be trained as a stormtrooper.”  

“A prison camp? A Force-sensitive stormtrooper?” The Supreme Leader’s eyebrows shoot up. “Have you considered this matter fully, my apprentice?”

Evidently not to his Master’s satisfaction. Ren readies himself for a lecture.

“Years from now you may take an interest in this boy. Tell me, how do you think a child who grew up imprisoned with New Republic political dissidents and Resistance fighters will come to view the First Order? And how do you think that child will feel towards the father he only knows as the man who raped his mother and sentenced her to a work camp?   And how will you feel when you come for that boy at age twelve and find him illiterate, uncultured, indoctrinated and wholly unsuitable to be trained as a Sith?   Have you learned nothing from your own family’s history, Kylo Ren?”

“I have no interest in the child.” The words come out as sullen, but they are the truth.   Ren wants nothing more than to forget the boy’s very existence.   And the mother . . . well he would make himself forget about her too.

“That is a mistake!” Master Snoke hisses his vehement disapproval. “He is an opportunity. You need to look past your surprise and annoyance at the situation to realize the gift that has just landed in your lap. The boy is a Force-strong son from the Skywalker line and a potential asset to the First Order. Perhaps even your heir and future apprentice.” The Supreme Leader casts a sidelong glance at the kneeling Ren. His ruined face wrinkles with contempt. “One day you may need that boy and his power, if only to kill me.”

Ren looks up sharply at these last words. He is a steadfast disciple, quick to disagree. “I am loyal to you, my Master.”

“Yes, yes,” the old Sith waives away these words. “All apprentices are loyal until the end. Vader was loyal until the moment he threw Sideous down a reactor shaft. Sideous was loyal until he tried to behead me in my sleep. It is the way of the Sith to seek to gain power. I understand. Your day will come.” His Master sits forward in his chair and wags a skeletal finger over him.   “Be mindful that the risk goes both ways. You might one day wish for the boy to join you to kill me.   But consider that if you should displease me Kylo Ren, I might one day wish the boy to kill you and take your place at my side.   So you see, the boy is an opportunity. For both of us. Now, I will ask you again: how do you propose to deal with the situation?”

His Master rarely ever makes veiled threats let alone direct references to his demise. He doesn’t need to. Ren is thoroughly chastised. “I . . . I will keep them.” He tries to sound as enthusiastic as possible.

“You will send them to Bast Castle,” Snoke commands. “There the boy will be cared for in comfort and security as befitting his potential future role in the First Order. Kylo Ren, you will cultivate a relationship with the boy. Give him no reason to distrust us or the First Order.”

Dump them on Naboo with old Milo? Yes, he could do that. “And the mother?”

“Use her as you see fit,” Snoke decrees, “but you may not harm her. She may yet be of some use to us.   There is Darkness in her. I have seen it. Inform the authorities on Takodano that mother and child are dead and produce some believable pictures.   Give the Resistance something to find if they come snooping around.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Rise, Apprentice,“ his Master commands. He frowns down at him, eyeing him with obvious distaste.   “Your . . . indiscretion . . . with the prisoner does not concern me.   But you have handled its aftermath poorly. You must learn to act with more subtlety, more finesse.   To look beyond what annoys you now for what will empower you in the future. Power is not solely the exercise of brute force and not all things can be gained by your lightsaber. The greatest Sith Lords were more than mere warriors in the Force. They were masters of manipulation and strategy.” The Supreme Leader settles back in his chair as he concludes, “Clearly, you require further training in these skills.”

Ren feels his face burn with humiliation. “I welcome the challenge, my Master.”

Snoke is not finished twisting the knife. “How very disappointing it would be for Darth Vader’s grandson to be remembered as a mere blunt instrument like Maul. Or a convenient means to an end, like Tyranus. Both were barely worthy of the title Sith. And neither would have been worthy to be my apprentice.”   His Master falls silent to let that threat sink in. Then he orders, “Get the map to Skywalker from the girl.”

The command puzzles Kylo Ren. “The map is of no use to us. The Resistance has had the droid with the map for almost three years. Skywalker is long gone by now. And neither you nor I can open a Jedi temple.”

“Perhaps. But the challenge still remains for you to get the map from the girl.” His Master’s face curls into a wicked smile. “You may not take it from her, Kylo Ren. She must give it to you freely. You must persuade her. This is your training.”


 

Rey marches out of the First Order shuttle, looks up and is momentarily awestruck. Wow. Buildings were never this big on Jakku or Takodano. Rising high above her looms a massive hulking black fortress with towering spires. The setting sun reflects off its edifice, making it almost appear to glitter in the fading light.   The fortress backs up against a steep mountain, but is otherwise surrounded by water.   It is boldly ugly and beautiful at the same time.   Staring at it, Rey is strangely reminded of Kylo Ren.

A slight man stands awaiting their arrival. He is pale and balding and looks to be a roughly the age Rey remembered Han Solo had been. The man is neatly dressed in black but it doesn’t look like a First Order uniform. He nods gravely to the masked man in black robes at her side and greets him formally. “Welcome, Knight of Ren.”

“I am delivering her into your custody.” Rey’s captor hands over the detonator to the older man. “She has been fitted with a kill collar. You will need to set a perimeter for her.   Ren says she is dangerous and will try to escape.”

The older man digests these words without comment. Rey watches as his eyes travel over her form, lingering on the limp toddler lying fast asleep on her shoulder. “The message did not inform us that there would be a child.”

“The child was . . . unexpected.”

“I see.” The older man nods. “Is there any baggage?”

“No, just the brat.”

“And will you be staying, Knight?” the older man inquires.

“No.” Then the Knight turns, motions the troopers back to the ship and soon they are gone.

Rey is left standing alone with the older man, wondering where she is and what will become of her and Han. Rey can’t help it—her eyes keep wandering to the detonator the man holds in his hands.   Seeing this, the man smiles at her. It is an easy, reassuring smile.

“Welcome. You may call me Milo. I am the keeper at Bast Castle.” He motions towards the entrance.   “Please follow me.”  

Bast Castle seems to Rey to be one long vaulting corridor after another. The interior is starkly elegant and mostly devoid of color. Its surfaces are a mixture of gleaming grey and black polished stones.   The impression is one of sharp angles and subdued wealth. Giant windows along the perimeter showcase the castle’s vistas. Rey can’t help but stare at the blaze of the setting sun reflecting off the lake that surrounds the castle. The sight of so much water still fascinates the girl from the desert.

Seeing that she has stopped, Milo does the same. He moves to stand behind her and begins punching buttons on the detonator.   It makes beeping noises and Rey stiffens.   “Forgive my touch,” the old man apologizes easily, lifting her hair to hold the detonator against the nape of her neck, “but I wish to deactivate the collar. We will need to get the chip surgically removed, but for now it is disengaged.”

Did she hear that right?

After a moment the beeping stops and incredibly Milo hands Rey the detonator. “You may hold on to this for your piece of mind.”

Rey stares at this unexpected kindness, uncertain what it means. She resists the sudden impulse to cry.

Milo again gives her a reassuring smile.   “This is not a prison. You are a guest. And Lord Vader would never have tolerated a slave collar on a guest at his castle.”    

Rey’s eyes widen. “This is Darth Vader’s castle?” she asks softly, both impressed and intimidated by this information.

“Yes.” The keeper seems pleased by her reaction. There is much pride in the old man’s voice as he explains. “You are in the lake country of the planet Naboo. During the Empire, Bast Castle was the private fortress of Lord Vader. Now it belongs to his grandson. But so long as I remain keeper here, Lord Vader’s standards will be respected, and Lord Vader permitted no slaves at Bast Castle.” Milo’s voice matches the man himself. It is calm and measured and full of quiet dignity.   “Now, my dear, please tell me who you are and who this sleepy little fellow is.”

She eyes the kind stranger warily for a long moment. He’s waiting patiently for her response. Finally, she tells him. “I’m Rey. This is my son Han.”

“Han?” Milo considers this information thoughtfully. “Rey, who are you to Kylo Ren that you are here at his castle?”

Rey is silent, unsure how to answer this question. Isn’t it obvious? She’s his prisoner. All this talk of being a guest doesn’t fool her. Rey settles on, “I’m no one.”

Milo grunts at her obvious evasion but his eyes twinkle. “My dear, if you are here then you are most certainly not no one.”  

Rey is relieved when he does not press her further.

Chapter Text

“Welcome home.” Old Milo is waiting on the landing platform to greet him, as usual. The castle keeper is a stickler for the formalities. It makes Kylo wonder whether his grandfather had enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of his position.   He had always envisioned Vader to be an impatient man who would prefer to dispense with the pleasantries. A man like himself.

Still, it is good to see Milo. Ren quite likes the old Imperial retainer for his devotion to the Empire and to Darth Vader. And they have known each other since he was Luke Skywalker’s runaway teenage Padawan.

“Thank you, Milo. It’s good to be back.” Kylo tugs off his mask and tucks it under his arm, flashing a rare, genuine smile at the older man. Kylo barely glances up at the imposing castle. “The old place is still standing, I see. Anything new around here?”

“Just the child and his mother.”

Kylo nods. “I came to see the boy.”

“Of course. They arrived yesterday. This way please.” The old keeper ushers him inside and falls into step beside him.   “Your knight who delivered the mother put a slave collar on her.” The comment is spoken in a neutral tone, but Kylo recognizes Milo’s quiet disapproval when he hears it.   “I took the liberty of having the collar removed this morning. Lord Vader would never have approved of a slave collar.”

“They are effective.”

“Agreed.” He feels the old retainer glance sideways at him. “But if you require that form of restraint, then she should not be here. This is not a prison.”

“Has she made any attempt to escape?”

“None that I am aware of, although she is not monitored like a prisoner. She spends her time with the child, except when he is napping.   She appears to be quite devoted. Ah, here we are.”

They stand on the threshold of a small darkened room.   Inside a child lies asleep nestled in a makeshift crib. It is an ancient storage crate open at the top and lined with blankets. The old Imperial insignia is painted on one side along with the now faded word ‘Executor.’  

Ren raises an eyebrow and turns to Milo.

“We were not informed that there would be a small child arriving, so we were unprepared.   This solution was the mother’s idea. Rey is a resourceful woman, as you can see.” Milo gestures about the room, and Ren’s eyes follow his hand. In the crib with the boy lies a small rag doll made from torn strips of towels tied together.   Someone has drawn a crude approximation of Vader’s helmet on its head. Scattered on the floor are blocks fashioned from folded and taped cardboard along with a few spoons and bowls that must have originated in the kitchen.  

These are the makeshift toys for the son of a Jakku scavenger, Ren realizes.

He turns his attention back to the sleeping child. On the shuttle flight back to the Finalizer, Ren had made every effort to ignore the child. But now he inspects him slowly, seeing his pale skin and pink cheeks, his chubby baby frame and his full head of black hair.   The boy is the picture of innocence. And Ren had nearly left him to die in the woods two days ago.  

It is an uncomfortable memory.   Then again, everything about this situation makes Kylo Ren uncomfortable.  

“The Force is with the child,” Milo says quietly. Almost reverently. Milo was once Vader’s man and he knows the power of the Force.

“Yes,” Ren confirms. He tears his eyes away from his sleeping son to look at the old retainer, intrigued by his observation. “How did you know?”

“I saw him levitating the blocks yesterday when he was playing with his mother. The boy was stacking them without touching them.”

Ren considers this. “That could have been the mother, Milo. She too is strong with the Force.”

The keeper’s eyes widen slightly. “Who is she?” he asks. “Is she Jedi?” The old veteran says this last word in a hushed tone, equal parts respect and disdain.

Who is she?   The question gives Ren pause.   She is The Girl who found his map, found his father and found the long-lost Millennium Falcon.   The latent Force-user who had marked him with Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber and then refused to train as a Jedi. The Girl who had helped destroy the Starkiller and then walked away from the Resistance. When he had accidentally located her in the traitor stormtrooper’s mind, Ren had seized the opportunity to find her.   And that had led him to his son.   Kylo couldn’t shake the feeling that the Force had led him to Rey so that he might find his son.

He is still reeling from the revelation that he is a father to a toddler boy.

Beside him Milo is waiting respectfully for a response. “Rey is a mechanic and parts scavenger from Jakku. Lately, she was a barmaid at Maz Kanata’s tavern on Takodano.”

Old Milo raises his eyebrows at this information. “Maz Kanata’s? The smuggler’s hangout? Does that place still exist?” The older man shoots him with a curious look. “That is a far more colorful background than I would have guessed. That girl has a Coruscanti accent. I haven’t heard that accent since your grandfather lived here. She sounds as if she could be a daughter of one of the aristocratic houses on the Upper Level.” The old man shrugs and admits, ”At our first meeting, I quite wondered whether I should address her as Lady Rey.”

“Yes, I have noticed the accent. She is an usual woman.”

“Why is she here?” Milo probes gently.

“My Master wishes it.”  

That is all the explanation that is necessary. Milo has served the Sith for decades and the keeper does not question their motives. “Then it is our pleasure to host her and the child,” Old Milo answers smoothly. “Is there a husband? Do I need to concern myself that the child’s father will arrive for them?   We keep minimal security here, as you know.”

“There is no husband. No one will come for them.”

Ren moves to kneel next to the sleeping child. He waves a hand above the dark downy head, feeling through the Force the child’s dreamy slumbering consciousness.   In his mind’s eye, Ren can see the corona of Light that flares off of the boy, his little Force imprint pulsing so strong. His son has the potential for so much power.   The thought is sobering and exciting at the same time. His Master’s words echo in his mind. The boy is an opportunity. For both of us.  


 

“Get away from my son!”

Rey bursts into the room and throws her hand up at her nemesis crouched above her sleeping son.   Kylo Ren has his own hand extended to hover above the child’s head in a gesture that instantly reminds Rey of her own interrogation.

Is that monster going to invade Han’s mind? NO!

Rey can’t control the Force, but some combination of desperate fear and a mother’s protective instinct summons a mighty Force push that sends Kylo Ren flying against the far wall.  

She stands there in shock with her hand upraised. He stares at her in shock from a heap on the floor. Rey is not sure which of them is more shocked.

She dives to snatch up the child. “Get away from Han! I won’t let you hurt him!” Hugging the drowsy boy to her with trembling arms, Rey backs away past Milo standing on the threshold. Her eyes never leave Kylo Ren as he pulls himself to his feet.  

“Han?? You named him Han?” Ren gapes at her in flustered outrage. His mask is off and his face is as intensely expressive as she remembers.   And oh, the scar. Rey’s eyes widen at the slashing scar that bisects Ren’s face. She had given him that ugly scar.

“Yes,” she breathes, still transfixed by Ren’s damaged face. “His name is Han Solo.”   Rey’s chin comes up and her voice is defiant. “I liked your father. And he liked me.”

“I am not calling him Han.” Ren’s voice is a low rasp.

“Feeling guilty?” Rey sneers, enjoying his reaction. “You should be. You’re a monster!”

“I am not calling my son Han Solo,” Ren spits the words out through clenched teeth. He advances on her.

Rey backs up a few more steps, but her voice loses none of her conviction. “He is my son, not yours! You have no rights to this child, Kylo Ren.”

“Perhaps I should leave you two alone.” Milo’s calm voice breaks in. Rey has forgotten that the keeper was even present.

So too, apparently, has Kylo. His voice is quiet now with a note of warning. First Order officers knew to be wary of Kylo Ren when he took this tone, but Rey did not. “I have every right to my son. That is Darth Vader’s great-grandson.”

“No,” Rey shakes her head. “No, he’s your bastard, Kylo Ren!” The label is ugly and unfair, but it rings true. Kylo Ren knows as well as she does that in many worlds legitimacy still matters.   The elite of the Core worlds do not accept children born out of wedlock into their social and political ranks. “Find yourself a wife if you want an heir. Let us go!”

A wicked smirk creeps across Kylo’s face. “Oh, you are free to go, Rey. But I’m keeping him.”

“No—no! You can’t—“ Instantly, Rey backs down.   Han is her only family and the only good thing that has come from that horrible, violent day on Starkiller Base. She cannot lose him. Not to Kylo Ren.

“I am taking responsibility for him. You are only here, Rey, so long as I permit it.”

“I’m his mother!” Rey’s voice is hoarse with emotion. “You can’t—you can’t take him from me!”   Rey has lived a lifetime of unfairness, hardship and bad luck. But to lose Han to Kylo Ren would dwarf all that she has endured until now. And then she would be alone again.

“I can take whatever I want, Rey. You can’t stop me.” It is the same quiet, goading threat he made on the Starkiller. She cannot deny the truth of his words. She has lived the truth of those words. Rey squeezes her eyes shut and feels hot tears leak onto her cheeks.

Rey of Jakku has faced danger alone for so long that she knows not to waste her energy on fear. But little Han has changed all that. Fear, she now knows, is the price of love.  For Kylo Ren might take away her son, might harm her son, might even kill her son. And so Rey fears Kylo Ren.

But most of all, in this moment, she hates Kylo Ren. And before she can stop herself, Rey tells him so.  

“I hate you!” she snarls.

“I know.”

Ren’s reply is devoid of emotion.   Completely indifferent to her rage. Rey stares at him for a long moment, turns and runs down the hallway with Han.   There is nowhere to go, but she flees all the same.


 

Ren is about to stalk down the hall after her when he feels a restraining hand on his arm.   It is Milo. “Let her go. Don’t make it worse.” Ren frowns, but he heeds the older man’s advice. “There is no place for her to flee. Let her be alone for a while.” The keeper glances sideways at him, giving him a wry half smile. “Are all your former loves this bitter, my boy?”

Ren says nothing. He just stares down the empty hallway and seethes. Han Solo. She named his son Han Solo just to spite him. What a bitch.

“Give Rey some time to adjust.” Old Milo has a patient, fatherly tone. “And may I suggest a more conciliatory approach?   She arrived in your knight’s custody wearing a slave collar. That is not a tactic that will endear her to you. Nor is threatening to take the child.”

“It’s complicated, Milo.” Ren sighs at his own understatement.

“Yes, I see that.” The old keeper’s voice is understanding. “How did she know your father?”   

“From the Resistance. Rey was a Resistance fighter for a short time.”

The old keeper raises an eyebrow at this information and then suddenly smiles mischievously. “Star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a war? That sounds very romantic. You must tell me the tale someday.”

Ren is annoyed by this comment and looks away. “It’s not like that, Milo.”   Snoke might save him from a confession, but evidently Milo will not. “Rey was not my lover . . . she was my prisoner.”

“Then how—?“ The old man stops himself from finishing the question. “I see,” he states simply. His words are neutral but the look Milo shoots him is a mix of shocked disapproval and deep disappointment. Ren cringes inwardly. He knows that he deserves this censure.

“Then perhaps the situation is not salvageable,” the old keeper concludes. He is silent for a long moment before observing, “She is correct about boy being out of wedlock. Those attitudes are outdated and unfair, but they may well limit his prospects at the highest levels.”

Ren disagrees. “Vader was a fatherless slave and that didn’t limit his achievements.”

“True,” Milo acknowledges. “But your grandfather seized power with Lord Sideous. He didn’t look to inherit it surrounded by rivals. There is a difference. It’s too bad that there is no relationship or I might have suggested---”

“Suggested what?”

The old keeper shrugs. “That you marry the girl.”

“It’s too late for that.” Two years too late for that.

“Only if you plan on being honest about the marriage date.”

“Milo, this is none of your concern.” His tone is sharp. Kylo Ren is done with this conversation. He wants nothing more than to disappear somewhere to destroy something. To vent his frustration and anger at the girl who has named his bastard son after a man he hated.

She’s a girl who is full of fear and anger. And so full of the Force.   Scratch a little beneath the surface of all that shining Light and there is a streak of Darkness lurking. No wonder Snoke is protecting her.   Perhaps he sees Rey as an opportunity too.

At his side, Milo is chastised. Sort of. “I have overstepped, my boy. Forgive me.”


 

She hates me. My kid is going to hate me too.

Rey knows that he is watching. She has glanced up at the balcony only once, but she looked right at him. Even from meters away, her eyes are hard and accusing.

And at this distance, the kid looks just like him. It’s unnerving.

The boy is kicking around a wadded bundle of fabric tied together with string.   Another sad little makeshift toy. His son doesn’t even have a proper ball to play with.   It is a temporary situation. Soon his son will have everything he could ever need.   Milo will see to that.

His Master had once demanded that Ren kill his father. It had been a test to prove himself worthy for more training. Now, his Master is demanding that Ren be a father. This too must be a test.   Mastering the Dark Side has yet again taken him to a place he had never before contemplated.      

Kylo has no idea how to be a father.   His only example has been Han Solo, who was always chasing credits across the galaxy for the one big swindle that would net a fortune.   The pattern repeated itself again and again: his father would be gone for months, show up to fight with his mother and borrow credits, then disappear again.  

His parents had long been a bad match. Whatever spark had ignited on the first Death Star had long since burnt out in the humdrum routine of domestic reality.   Leia Organa the matter of fact princess diplomat had little in common with Han Solo the wise-cracking petty criminal. So his mother buried herself in committees and cloaked herself in sharp tongued smugness. And his father had disappeared from their lives for long stretches, worming his way back in every now and then with a practiced charm that had grown stale in middle age.  

Ren wonders if his parents had ever actually divorced, or whether they had stayed married until the end.   At least they had been married, and once they had actually cared for each other.

Not like he and Rey. The Girl hates him, and rightfully so. In one moment of violence, he ruined her life.   Now he wonders whether in doing so he has ruined his son’s life too. The thought gives him pause. He’s not used to consequences like this. Or responsibilities like this.

I am going to fuck this kid up. Just like I was fucked up.

Kylo Ren will follow his Master’s command, but he can’t shake the feeling that he is being set up for failure. That the grievances of his own childhood will be passed on to his own son.

There are too many parallels to ignore. His parents had never been around. And so young Ben Solo had become estranged from an overscheduled mother slavishly committed to her cause and a negligent father whose wanderlust kept him mostly away. It will be the same for his own son. Leading the Knights of Ren and commanding the First Order is not a normal job. Kylo Ren lives mostly on a star destroyer between missions.   He can give his son comfort and security, but he can’t give him time.

And though the expectations will be different for his son, he suspects they will be no less burdensome.   Kylo himself had been the son of Rebellion heroes, the next Skywalker Jedi, the prince to the martyred Alderaan.   And he had rebelled against it, wanting to choose his own path rather than to fulfill the dreams of others. Will his son do the same? Will he sneer at his father’s life’s work and walk away from the First Order? Will the Vader legacy overwhelm the boy? Will the son of Kylo Ren even want to be Sith?

It all seems rather daunting, as he stands watching Rey and the boy roll on the grass below.   He knows that Rey can give the boy time and attention, but then he will have to keep her around. And for the boy’s sake, he will have to get along with her.

Ren frowns. He’s never going to get that damn map.  Coaxing Rey to like him, much less trust him, seems an impossible task.   He is reluctant to even begin.

So he doesn’t. With one last long look, he strides away back to his shuttle.

Chapter Text

Looking back in hindsight, it is clear what Milo had been doing those first few months. But at the time Rey imagines herself to be indulging a lonely old man in need of a listening ear. It is not a chore by any means, for the old keeper is endlessly entertaining as he imparts his long ago tales of the Empire.   It is a mystery how much of his stories are true and how he knows them, but Rey doesn’t mind.

So every day at half past noon, little Han goes down for his afternoon nap and Rey joins Milo for luncheon.   At first, she is intimidated. The table is always set formally and the meal unnecessarily elaborate.   Indulge me, Milo would say, with his grandfatherly smile. At least once a day he wants to keep up the standards of the castle’s bygone glory days.  

Rey does not take much persuasion. She genuinely likes the old keeper. Plus, she desperately needs the adult company.  

The domestic droids buzz in and out to conduct the meal and Rey learns to ignore them. One ancient protocol droid is habitually broken and narrates its actions ceaselessly. Serve from the left, remove from the right . . . salad fork, fish knife, dessert spoon . . . no elbows please . . . canapes, my lady?   Rey giggles and Milo smiles and little by little it all sinks in and the manners and rituals of an elegant meal become smooth second nature for Rey.

The faulty protocol droid is a relic of the formality of the Old Republic—“as old and outdated as I am” Milo quips—and somewhere along the way it had been programmed to impersonate various officials as a sort of training exercise. So once a week for laughs the droid becomes their pretend guest for lunch. The droid has five personas: Ambassador, General, Senator, Business Leader and Jedi.

Milo always lets Rey choose.   Her favorite is the Business Leader because under that guise the droid’s conversation is always direct and good-natured. The worst is the Jedi, who speaks in tangled sentences and makes vague, sometimes snarky observations.  

After a while she and Milo conspire to toy with the poor droid. “Let’s get the Senator angry today,” Milo might suggest. “Tell him that his export tariffs will be raised.”   Or “Watch me charm the Jedi, Rey.”   It’s harmless fun and it helps break the monotony of the everyday.   And over time the solitary war orphan from Jakku becomes accustomed--even adept--at the strategic art of conversation.   And a little of the old keeper’s understated charm rubs off as well.

‘Keeping up standards’ turns out to be more than a daily lunch. It is Milo’s ready excuse for indulgences.   He knows it too, for there is always a twinkle in his eye when he utters the phrase. Not a week passes by before Rey’s well-worn tunic and skirt are replaced. Milo phrases it prettily enough, but the message is clear: her barmaid’s outfit is not in keeping with the castle’s standards.   Which basically means this: Darth Vader wouldn’t like it.

Rey blinks in bewilderment at the elegant long day gown that is proffered as a substitute. Never in her life has Rey owned a dress. This dress is far too formal for chasing a toddler around the terrace and little Han seems to dirty everything so quickly.   Milo shrugs and tells her that the droids will launder the dress and doesn’t she looked nice in red.   Rey huffs—dresses, especially fancy dresses, were not her style--but yes, she does look good in red. Who knew? Rey has never worn colors before. She finds she likes it.

Packages from Coruscant keep arriving with additional items and soon Rey has a full wardrobe. It is all very fancy and very formal. And very not Rey.

Also from Coruscant comes a grooming droid whose sole function is to be her lady’s maid.   Rey finds all this artifice to be ridiculous, and she rolls her eyes at Milo. But he prevails in the end, even if Rey stubbornly enforces a twenty minute time limit to submit to the droid’s efforts.

At first, it is fun to play dress up, but the impoverished scavenger in her grows a little ashamed of the extravagance. It’s just her, Milo and Han at the castle. What’s the point of all this? When she complains to Milo, he shrugs and tells her that Lord Vader liked a lady with style. That comment strikes Rey as absurd. Rey laughs out loud and then demands proof of Milo’s claim.

“Come,” he tells her, grinning as he leads Rey to a set of rooms down the corridor from the suite that serves for her and Han. “These are the lord’s chambers,” Milo explains as he keys in the entry code. Inside the rooms are every bit as dark and as sleek as the pictures she has seen of Vader’s mask. Rey has no difficulty imagining the Imperial Sith lord inhabiting the space.  

“Here she is,” Milo beckons her across the room to stand before a large portrait.   It is a young woman dressed in an intricate white lace gown. She wears a matching lace cap with veil that covers her hair. Long brown curls trail out from beneath.   The woman is facing forward with her head turned aside and her eyes slightly downcast. She looks more sad than demure. Her hands clasp a bouquet of wilting flowers.    

“Who is she?” Rey looks to Milo.

“Lady Vader on her wedding day.”

“She was beautiful.” Vader’s wife is all soft skin, soft lips and long lashes. Utterly feminine in a way that Rey the underfed, overworked, sunburnt Jakku scavenger could never hope to be.   Rey steps closer to inspect the woman further. Something about this painting seems to draw her in.

“Yes, very beautiful. It was painted posthumously, but I’m told it is a remarkable resemblance. You should look her up on the holonet. She was quite famous in her day. And she was a notorious clotheshorse. Not like you, Rey.” Milo’s eyes twinkle as they catch hers. “This portrait hung downstairs for many years. Kylo Ren had it moved here.” Milo cocks his head at the painting. “Lord Vader would talk to her sometimes,” he confides. The old man smiles to himself at the memory.

“Really?” Rey is intrigued. “What did he say?”

The old keeper colors slightly. “Oh Rey, we didn’t listen.”

“Yes . . . yes, you did.” Rey can tell by his discomfort, and she pounces on it with an unholy glee. “I know you overheard something, Milo. Tell me.”

Milo stiffens into the loyal old Imperial retainer he is. “I keep Lord Vader’s confidences,” he reminds her.

Rey laughs at this remark. This time it is Rey’s eyes that are twinkling. “Yes, yes. But Vader has been dead over thirty years. Come on, tell me. What did he say to her?”

Milo turns back to the portrait, considering for a long moment. “I think he missed her. Terribly.” The old keeper’s tongue loosens.   Milo cannot resist a good story.   “I came here shortly after the first Death Star was destroyed. It wasn’t long afterwards that Lord Vader learned that the rebel Luke Skywalker had destroyed it.   Vader became obsessed with finding the boy. We just assumed it was for revenge.   No one knew that Skywalker was Vader’s secret son. Not back then.”

“But some of us had our suspicions. Vader would talk to her about Skywalker. Tell her about the intelligence that had been uncovered.   What he looked like, where he was raised, how Vader had chased him down the Death Star trench, things like that.   I think Lord Vader regretted very much that he had been unable to raise his own son. Darth Vader hated that he and his son were on opposite sides of a war.” Milo turns to give her a melancholy smile. “The Skywalker family seems to have that issue every generation. Father and son at odds with one another. Mother too, this time around.”

Rey sighs at these words. The conversation suddenly had turned serious. She looks away. “I was there when Kylo killed his father,” she whispers. “I watched him do it.”

Milo frowns as he turns back to the portrait. “It is not an easy thing to be a Skywalker, Rey.   Jedi or Sith, it doesn’t matter. They love each other but they destroy each other.   It would be good,” he tells her in his quiet way, “if that cycle could end. If you and your son and Kylo Ren could all be on the same side as a family, working together for the same things. That would be best for each of you . . . and for all the rest of us.”

Rey glances sideways at him. “Don’t be fooled by this living arrangement.” Rey’s voice is unusually sharp. “We’re not a family, Milo. Kylo Ren and I are not a couple. My son and I came here from a prison cell escorted by stormtroopers.”

Perhaps it is her blunt tone that convinces Milo to dispense with the dissembling. For the old keeper tells her plainly, “You and Han are bound to him, Rey. Whether you like it or not. And the Force is with you and with your son, which makes you both a potential threat. Kylo Ren and his master will never let you go alive.” Milo gives her a long, measuring look. “It is inevitable. One day your boy will be Sith too, like his father and great-grandfather before him. You might consider how to make the best of the situation because you cannot change it, Rey. You cannot change it.”

His words unsettle her, and Rey does not reply. Instead, she glances back at the sad looking bride in the portrait. “What happened to Lady Vader?” she asks, wanting to change the subject.

Milo’s voice is back to his usual decorous tone. “Ask Kylo that question. He tells the story better than I. He will be here tomorrow afternoon.” The keeper walks to the door and she follows him. “But first we will have guests join us for lunch. Tomorrow, you will get your chance to charm a real person, Rey. Not a droid. General Hux and his staff will be joining us.”


 

General Hux gives a lot of angry speeches. That is Rey’s conclusion after she spends a few minutes researching him on the holonet. He is handsome, and that keeps her watching the speeches longer than they really interest her. In photographs, the general’s cheekbones are as sharp as his uniform and his skin looks as if it has never seen a sun. She wonders what he will be like in person.  

After a few minutes, she has gleaned enough safe topics of conversation to store away for tomorrow’s lunch. Milo has requested that she charm the general. Rey does not want to disappoint.

Finished, she goes back to browsing Lady Vader on the holonet. Or rather, Padme Amidala Naberrie, as Milo has informed her. The Vader marriage was a secret, the old keeper had confided, as is often the case with Sith marriages. That had made Rey especially curious.   Why wait for Kylo Ren to tell her more?

Thousands of entries pop up for the Padme woman.   She is a queen and a senator of the Late Republic with an intimidating list of accomplishments and the social profile of a minor celebrity. The first few hundred entries look to be from official legislative archives. Rey ignores these boring bits and digs deeper until she finds the photographs.   Yes, she is Lady Vader. Rey recognizes the lovely face, long hair and graceful figure from the portrait.  Rey is drawn in deeply now, for the sad young woman from the portrait comes alive in pictures.   And she doesn’t look sad in any of them.

There are hundreds of pictures, mostly from official functions and social events. Rey sees her at the opera with a grim looking Chancellor Somebody, laughing and carefree with a tall disheveled young man at a party, and looking confident amid a cluster of fellow senators at a press conference.   Milo is right—Lady Vader liked clothes.   As Rey clicks through the pictures, she never sees the same dress twice.   In fact, the only thing she sees time and again in the photographs is the same tall young man. Rey starts clicking on the captions and quickly finds his name.

Anakin Skywalker. Jedi Knight hero of the Clone Wars. Kylo Ren’s grandfather.

The young Darth Vader.

A shiver runs down her spine as Rey realizes who she is seeing in the photographs. This is Lord and Lady Vader when they were young and secretly in love.   He is dashing with a roguish smile that borders on arrogance. She is poised and glamorous looking.   They are beautiful people living and working amid the galaxy’s glitterati at the height of the Old Republic.  

It’s romantic, Rey decides.   In a sad sort of way. When did Vader opt for the mask and end up in a bionic suit? How did his wife die young? What happened that Vader ended up here at Bast Castle talking to the painting of his dead wife about his lost son?

Rey recognizes nothing of handsome Anakin Skywalker in the awkward mix of features that makes Kylo’s face so compelling.   And their coloring is very different. Kylo must look like the Solo side of the family.   She smirks, thinking how much this must annoy him.

Kylo Ren will be here tomorrow and at long last Rey will have to face him again. It’s a sobering thought. The months without him have lulled her into a false sense of calm.   Life at Bast Castle has been perfectly tolerable, all things considered.   With all the luxury and relative freedom, Rey can sometimes forget that it is a prison.  

Every third day when she and Han together watch the delivery shuttle arrive, Rey contemplates escape. Calculating risks has been a part of Rey’s life for as long as she can remember.   And she has learned to trust her instincts.

If it were just her, Rey would have taken her chances to run long ago.   But there is Han to consider. Here, they are both safe and well cared for. And Kylo seems content to ignore them completely. And so she has decided that the risks of escape outweigh the benefits.

For now.

 


 

“Ren. You’re late.”

A run-and-fetch junior lieutenant awaits his arrival at the Bast landing platform with Milo at his side. These days Hux never travels anywhere without an ever expanding entourage.   Ren has forgotten the name of this particular lackey. To a man, they are forgettable. Ignoring the general’s aide and his comment, Ren turns to Milo.

“Welcome home,” the old keeper bows and receives him with more than his usual gravity.   Ren grins beneath his mask. Of course, Milo would make a showy display of deference to contrast with the officer’s insolent greeting.   The old keeper is always deft with disapproval.

“Thank you, Milo. It’s good to be back,” Ren replies their customary exchange. Then he motions him forward and Milo and Ren fall in step together, with Hux’s man excluded and forced to follow from behind. Milo had been in Lord Vader’s service for years, and he knows all the small ways to bleed power from a military man.   Vader had been notorious in his disdain for self-important officers who dared to disrespect the Sith.

It has been almost four months since Kylo Ren has been home. The delay has reasonable justifications, some honestly occurring and some manufactured. Mostly, he has wanted to avoid Rey and the boy.  

His Master knows, of course, and has engineered this war council to drag him back to Bast.   Naboo is a convenient halfway point between the Finalizer’s current position and the location of Ren’s last mission. Ostensibly, the meeting site is for efficiency, but Ren recognizes a warning from Snoke when he sees it. He has neglected his new training.

“I take it General Hux and his staff have already arrived?” Ren’s voice is distorted from the mask.   Normally, he never wears the mask and uniform while at home, but today his home will be anything but private.

“Yes.” Milo nods. “They arrived a few hours ago. Let me show you to them.” Four turns and three corridors later, the old keeper delivers them to their destination.

As Kylo steps onto the balcony, he sees them.

Rey—at least he thinks it is Rey--is chatting with Hux, her back to the doorway. The general looms over Rey in her space, standing close.   Kylo knows Hux to be a man of staged poise, his posture as stiff as his uniform. But in this moment, the red haired general looks loose. Relaxed. Rey is speaking and Hux throws his head back to laugh in response.   The general smirks down at her, his head leaning in, and then Kylo sees it for what it is. Hux is flirting.

“General,” he commands from the doorway, irritated. “Let’s get started.”

His words startle the pair, and Rey whirls to face him. For a moment the universe grinds to a halt. Hux is saying something but Ren isn’t listening. His eyes are raking over The Girl.

She is pale pink fingertips and glossy full lips and flowing dark waves that spill over her shoulders.   She is bright white silk that covers but clings as it meanders its way down her curves to the floor.   She is smart hazel eyes trimmed with dark lashes and smooth young skin that gleams in the sunlight.   She is beautiful, so very unexpectedly beautiful, and for a brief moment she looks happy . . . until she sees him. Then, the smile melts from Rey’s face and it’s almost as if her Light flickers and dims.  

Rey’s reaction to him stings, even if it’s not unexpected.

“Leave us.” He dismisses Rey without the courtesy of a greeting. Hux eyes him, taking note.  

Rey needs no encouragement. She excuses herself politely and makes for the door, casting a wide berth around him as she exits.

“Ren.” Hux addresses him, but watches Rey’s retreating figure. “You’re late.”

“I see that you have been wasting time during my delay.”

This exchange of slights is what passes for a welcome between he and General Hux. There are no friendships among the senior leadership of the First Order.   And between himself and Hux, there is very little respect. They are two very different men.

Hux is still staring at the door Rey has passed through. “Who’s the girl? She wouldn’t give me her full name.”

“She’s no one.”

Hux has two expressions where Kylo Ren is concerned, a smirk and a scowl. He turns his scowl on Ren. “If she is here, then she is not ‘no one.’ Who is she and why is she here?” he demands, irked at Ren’s evasion.

Ren ignores him, glancing into the adjoining conference room stuffed full with First Order officers. “Let’s begin, General.”

His prevarication sends Hux beyond curiosity and into suspicion. “Is she some dead Senator’s daughter? She’s obviously from Coruscant. Ren, if you are meddling in what’s left of the New Republic, I won’t stand for it. The Supreme Leader and I have crafted a very careful strategy—“

Ren cuts him off. “I care nothing for Republic politics, General.”

“Then why do you have some aristocrat’s socialite daughter hidden away in your castle?”

“Because my Master commands it. Would you second guess our Supreme Leader?”   Ren pauses a moment. “I thought not. Now let’s begin, General.”

“Will you be needing anything else, sir?” Ren has forgotten that Milo is still in attendance.

“No,” Ren replies. As the old keeper bows and retreats from the room Ren senses his hidden smile.   Milo is very pleased with himself.

Chapter Text

Let him wait.

Rey lets the droid linger longer than usual on her appearance. Twenty minutes become twenty-five, become thirty. She knows that she is stalling, but Rey is in no hurry to face Kylo Ren. Milo had delivered in person the summons to dinner with the First Knight.   Everything about the old keeper’s demeanor had indicated that the evening was not optional and that it was important.

It had only increased her nervousness.

For months, Rey has anticipated this meeting. And dreaded it too. In her mind she has rehearsed the conversation over and over in different scenarios that always lead to bitter confrontation. It would serve no purpose, she knows, other than to vent her frustration. Kylo is indifferent to her pain. And he has all the leverage.

So for now she is stuck here brooding in a castle with an old man and his stories and his staff of droids.   For all the luxury and formal politeness and lunches with generals, it is still a prison.   And to hear Kylo Ren tell it, Rey is lucky even to be here.

Tonight she will not get angry, and she will not cry. Rey will not give him that satisfaction.    

The droid is done now. Rey stands before her mirror staring blankly at the elegant stranger gowned in deep green. Her hair is caught up in a deceptively simple twist that has required at least twenty pins. Her lips are tinted and her eyes shaded and lined.   From head to toe, Rey is a careful balance of subtlety and boldness, and the effect is striking.  

It no longer unsettles Rey to watch her old self disappear from her reflection. She knows the scavenger girl is still there underneath. She hopes Kylo Ren will be fooled by the Coruscant finery and the droid’s artifice, that he will think her grown soft and inconsequential. Rey knows better.    

Rey has survived Jakku, and she and Han will survive Bast Castle and Kylo Ren too.


 

He senses Rey’s presence as she approaches, for her Force imprint blazes unguarded. Scared. Nervous. Excited. The door whispers as it admits her. In his mind he sees her standing on the threshold as she collects herself.  

He stands across the room in his vicar’s robes, his back turned and hands clasped behind him. He’s ostensibly admiring the large canvas of artwork that dominates the castle’s formal dining room. But he too needs to prepare for this conversation that he has avoided for months.

Rey has had time to adjust to life at Bast. He has had time to adjust to the idea of being a father.   Now, like it or not, it’s time for him to get on with his Master’s training. To say that this dinner is awkward is an understatement.   But at least Hux and his entourage are gone and Kylo has his castle to himself.   If this becomes a screaming match, there will be no one to overhear.

He decides that he will be civil to her, and they will converse like polite adults.   Perhaps they will find something in common besides the child.   They are strangers to one another currently, despite what they share.  

And even now, her Light beckons to him, a siren’s call that he struggles to resist. He hates the Light. And hates himself for wanting it. Kylo scowls at the painting. She is not Sith training, The Girl is a temptation.  

What game is his Master playing?

Rey is still standing there poised on the threshold. It’s his cue to speak. “Are you going to Force-push me across the room?” he drawls, still facing away.

“No.” Rey’s voice is soft but does not lack for confidence. “I do not harm unless there is a threat.”

“That’s admirable of you,” he observes, finally turning away from the landscape of Tatooine’s binary sunset to face her.   “I can’t say the same for myself.”

She is wearing green tonight and it turns her hazel eyes pure emerald. Stars, but she is gorgeous. His gaze flicks over her in cool appraisal, seeing the creamy skin on the slope of her throat that winds down the open neckline to reveal the smallest hint of breast. All vestiges of the dirty Jakku scavenger are gone. And the woman standing before him looks nothing like the drab barmaid he captured on Takodano. However much Milo has spent on her wardrobe, it has been worth every credit.

“You are looking well,” he observes aloud, after he has looked his fill and torn his eyes from the swell of her hips. She answers with a regal nod. He admires her poise. Her anxiety is screaming out to him through the Force, but her body language betrays none of it.

He can feel her eyes on his scar. It unnerves her and he is glad for that.

“Please, sit.” He gestures to the table and nods to the waiting droid to begin the meal service. He sinks into the seat at the head of the table and she settles adjacent to his right. Ren hasn’t been this close to her since he last invaded her mind.

She hadn’t been wearing a soft perfume back then.  

He frowns and gives himself a mental shake. How distracting The Girl is to him. Especially now that she is cleaned up.   She looks like a Naboo queen. The transformation is remarkable.

“How is the child?” Ren gets right to the point, but he can’t bring himself to say the boy’s name.   He will need to change it.   She’s not going to like that.

“Han,” she pauses ever so briefly over the name, "is doing very well. He is speaking more and more aloud. I have to remind him not to speak through the Force.”

“Through the Force?” He waits for her to explain.

Rey takes a fortifying gulp of wine. It’s a subtle thing, but it betrays how nervous she is.   “Han speaks to me in my head. It’s often easier for him to speak to my mind than to speak aloud. Han understands much more speech than he can physically say.”

Ren nods his understanding. “I was like that as a child.   Telepathy came naturally to me. I have always been able to communicate without speaking and to influence the thoughts of others.” It had driven his father, a non-Force user, to anger time and again when Ren had communicated directly to his mother’s mind to the exclusion of everyone else.

Perhaps he could do the same with his son. It might help bridge the physical distance. Rey has given him very useful knowledge.  

“The boy has enormous potential in the Force. He will need my guidance as he grows.” Rey glances up warily at his words, but she does not object. He hopes that it is a sign that she has accepted the situation.   “Have you and the boy been well cared for?” he wants to know. Of course, they have. But he wants Rey to admit it.  

“Yes.” Her reply has little enthusiasm, and she adds a begrudging afterthought, “Thank you. I guess.” Looking him straight in the eye, she ventures further. “Milo keeps referring to us as guests, but we are not free to leave, are we?”

“No, you are not.” Ren does not bother to hide this fact. “Do not attempt to flee. Wherever you go, I will find you.” He pauses to let this message sink in before adding, “You and the boy are safest here.”

Rey’s eyes narrow and she puts down her fork. “We were safe on Takodano. The only danger we are in is from you.”

“No,” he corrects her. “You and the boy are in no danger from me. But I have many enemies. If one of them knew of my child, the boy would be a target.” She looks skeptical so Ren repeats himself, wanting to be clear. “Rey,” he holds her gaze for a long moment, longer than he intends for he grows lost in her hazel green eyes.   “I will not hurt you or the boy.”

Rey does not appear reassured.   He isn’t surprised.

“What’s the plan then?” Rey wants answers. “Do we stay here until Han is old enough for you to train him in the Force? Until he’s old enough to join you on killing sprees?”

“The boy stays with me. Forever. The only issue is how long you remain here with him. I would like our son to grow up with a mother. But that depends entirely on you, Rey.” Ren settles back in his chair, looking pointedly at her. “If you displease me, if you impede my efforts with my son, or if you attempt to leave without permission, you will no longer be welcome in our son’s life.” He lets his warning sink in before continuing. “You and the boy will be well cared for. It will be an improvement over your prior life. You will want for nothing.”

“We will want for freedom!” Rey hisses at him, wrinkling her nose and baring her teeth slightly. Instantly, he is reminded of the girl who had loomed over him brandishing his grandfather’s Jedi lightsaber, ready for the kill. Yes . . . his Master is right. Scratch a little beneath the surface of her Light and there is Darkness lurking.

It only adds to her allure.

Her intensity provokes him, excites him. He can’t remember the last person who has dared to challenge him other than Hux and Snoke. It makes him enjoy the words he says next. How he loves to dominate in situations like this.

“Freedom is no longer an option for either of you, Rey.   The boy belongs to me.   For his safety and for his future. And if ever you are not here mothering the boy, then my Master will find a cell for you somewhere. To make sure that you don’t change your mind and go running to Skywalker.   And to punish you for the Starkiller business, of course.” He leans forward, closer to her, noting that she meets his gaze without flinching. Few can claim that feat. “Your future lies with me, Rey, and with my Master and the First Order. Stop looking for a way out. There is no escape.”  

His blunt words hang in the air a long moment before she looks away. She hides it fast, but he sees her lower lip quiver.

“Finn told me to terminate,” she whispers aloud. “He said that having your baby would ruin my life.   That I should abort and go train with Skywalker. I knew Finn was right but I couldn’t do it.” Her voice trails off and she mutters, “I should have done it.”

Ren has been curious about this issue, but had not planned to raise it.   It’s a moot point for him now. And if Rey has her regrets, then they are a consequence of her own choice. Still, Ren’s tone softens. “I admit that I am surprised that you kept the child. But I am grateful that you did.”

She glances at him with skepticism. But he is sincere. Yes, the boy has been a surprise. But in the months that Kylo has been away, he has thought a great deal about his Master’s words. About what it might mean to have his own apprentice and heir. Kylo Ren has spent years contemplating Darth Vader’s legacy, but of late he has started contemplating his own. Of what it one day will mean to be the son of Kylo Ren, the Jedi Killer and the founding father of the Second Empire. About how Kylo Ren will not just inherit the Skywalker legacy, he will expand its glory.

And here was a chance for a Skywalker prince to be raised and trained without the taint of the Jedi.   Who knows what his son might accomplish in the Force if he is taught from the outset that there are no limitations.

He nods encouragingly at Rey. “The galaxy will thank you for your sacrifice. You could be mother to the greatest Sith Master of all time.” He means these words too, but Rey eyes him coldly as if it were a dubious honor.  

He shrugs. “Jedi training is a waste of time. Skywalker was a failure as a teacher, trust me. He would have disappointed you. If you wish to learn the ways of the Force, Rey, I can teach you.”   He had made this offer on the Starkiller. Rey seems even less impressed now. Her look becomes pure resentment.

“Teach me to hurt? Teach me to kill? No, thanks, Kylo.”

He chides her. “The Force is much more than lightsabers, Rey.”   He isn’t sure that she actually knows this. Perhaps all she has seen of the Force is his interrogation and their duel.  

But Rey doubles down on her refusal. “I don’t want anything to do with you or with the Force.”  

Ren shrugs again. Right now, Rey will say no to whatever he proposes. Not for its merits, but just to be contrary. He has seen this before in interrogations. The powerless often say no to food, to water, to whatever as a means to exercise some control. Even when no is not in their best interest.

He leans forward, wanting to have her full attention. “You are foolish to deny your nature, Rey. To deny your intrinsic power. You have more power in your little finger than in an entire army of the First Order. But it is your choice. If you are curious . . . when you are curious . . . the power will await you. In the meantime, you may busy yourself with our son.” He takes another swallow of wine. “I will be here more often in the future. Expect to see more of me, Rey.”

She eyes him without enthusiasm and changes the subject.

“What happened to Maz Kanata on Takodano?”

“Dead.”

He watches as she swallows hard. “And what happened to Finn?”

“To who?”

“FN-2187 . . . Finn . . . the traitor whose mind you found me in. The one you cleaved up the back with your lightsaber.”

Ren purses his lips. “Oh, yes. Him. The traitor was interrogated and later exchanged in a prisoner swap a few months ago. I presume he is back with the righteous Resistance.” Rey looks so relieved at his words that Ren can’t stop himself from goading her.   A wicked smile creeps across his face.   “Perhaps I will get lucky and we will capture him again.”

“But you didn’t hurt him?” She looks so earnest now, so concerned about her friend. This annoys him. FN-2187 is unworthy of her regard.  

“No,” he tells her. “I had all I needed from him. The traitor was more valuable alive and whole as a bargaining chip. He is a hero to the Resistance, and they paid dearly in captured First Order officers and equipment to get him back. Think of it as a win-win for us both, Rey.”

He pushes his plate away and sets down his glass. “Now, it’s my turn for a question. Where did you get my grandfather’s lightsaber?” Rey looks confused and this confounds him.   Doesn’t she know that she had fought him with Darth Vader’s Jedi lightsaber?   “The lightsaber you used on the Starkiller,” he prompts her with impatience. “Before it was Luke Skywalker’s, it belonged to my grandfather Anakin Skywalker.”

”Maz had it.”

Her words ring true through the Force. The dead pirate witch had long been rumored to be Force sensitive. “How?” he demands.

“She didn’t explain.   Maz tried to give it to me and I refused. So she gave it to Finn instead.”

“Why did she offer it to you?”

“It called to me. And when I touched it, I saw . . . .” Rey’s voice falls silent. Her eyes have a faraway look as Rey relives the intensity of the moment. He watches as a multitude of emotions washed over her face.   Her lovely, expressive face.

“You saw what, Rey?” he prods, suddenly needing to know. What had the Force shown this powerful girl?  

“Lots of things, confusing things . . . but twice I saw . . . I saw . . . .” Again, Rey falters. He holds his breath until she whispers softly, “I saw you.” She looks at him, bewildered. “I saw you. But it was before I had ever actually seen you, ever met you. I saw you standing in the rain with your knights. And then again in the forest on the Starkiller.”

This was unexpected. Ren couldn’t shake the feeling that the Force kept searching for ways to bring he and Rey together.   The map, the lightsaber, the traitor, the child. But why?   He will need to meditate on this information.

“I frightened you.” This certain knowledge comes to him as a flash of insight through the Force. “That’s why you didn’t take the sword. That’s why you shot at me in the forest on Takodano.”

“Yes.”

“Do I still frighten you?” he asks quietly. It’s a stupid question. He knows he frightens everyone. The mask, the Force, the saber, the Sith. It comes with the territory. So he is not surprised at her answer, although it disappoints him somehow.

“Yes.” It is the truth spoken without reservation. “I am afraid to lose my son.” Rey stands to her feet, and he can sense that her honesty has made her want to flee. She’s embarrassed to have admitted her fear to him of all people. “I think we are finished. Good night.”

Rey makes to leave but he catches her wrist and stops her. “Wait,” he too is on his feet now, standing uncomfortably close in her space. It’s a habit of his—getting too physically close to people.   He knows it threatens.

Manipulate, he reminds himself. His training is to manipulate. Rey has confessed her fear, now is his chance to use it against her. That’s what a Sith would do.   Find a weakness and exploit it.

“You love your son.” Ren presses his advantage. “You don’t want to lose your son. Then show me that you are grateful, Rey.” He is close enough now to smell the wine she has drunk with dinner. For the briefest of moments, Kylo focuses on her lips and he knows now what he wants.   He will start small. “Show me that you are grateful that I let you stay. That I keep you here. Kiss me, Rey.” His voice is a command.   Subtlety is not his strong suit. “Kiss me now.”

Her eyes widen. Then she squints at him in disbelief. “W-what?? No!”

“Just a kiss, Rey. One kiss to stay here with your son.”

Confused, she hesitates a long moment before quickly brushing her lips to his cheek. Standing so close while touching her, Ren reads her unguarded thoughts. Anything to get rid of him, she’s thinking.

Kylo trails a finger down her check. She jerks away. “Next time, you will need to do better than that.”  He releases her wrist and she’s out the door faster than a pod racer on the final lap.

The door slides shut and Ren kicks hard at the table leg. The dishes leap and clatter with the impact. Once. Twice. A third time.  

I am immune to the Light, he reminds himself. Even when it shines out from a pair of lovely hazel eyes.

Picking up his wine glass, he chugs what’s left and hurls the glass to explode against the far wall. The destruction feels good. The shattering glass satisfies him and he sinks back into his chair.

Tonight went about as well as he could have expected.   At least there had been no screaming or crying—that was progress enough.   He will try again tomorrow.   And next time he won’t scare her by begging for a kiss like an idiot teenager.

Kylo Ren does not beg. For anything. A Sith does not ask permission. A Sith takes. He is Kylo Ren and he can take whatever he wants.

Fuck. He hates this new training.

Chapter Text

“Does he always make this much mess?”

Rey startles when she looks up to find Kylo Ren lounging in the doorway holding a steaming cup of caf. How long has he been there watching them? And oh . . . Rey feels her cheeks redden as she tears her eyes away from that wretched man. He is naked to the waist and barefoot, wearing nothing but sleep pants and a smirk. Rey doesn’t see all the scars that trace his arms and chest. All she sees is his impressive warrior physique. The man is all milky white skin with rippling muscles and thick black chest hair that trails all the way down to . . . she looks away to keep from staring. But not before she catches him grinning at her discomfort.

“Yes,” Rey is so caught off guard by the sudden appearance of Kylo Ren bare chested at breakfast that she forgets to be nervous.   Where are all those yards of black fabric that he swathes himself in? “Yes, he does make quite a mess.”  

Han is seated in a booster seat gobbling his breakfast and gleefully throwing dry cereal bits to the floor. Han is seated between Rey and Milo and the poor keeper actually has some cereal stuck to his lapel.

“Good morning,” Rey greets Kylo stiffly.

“Morning.” Kylo nods over at Milo and his eyes flick over her. He pushes off from the door jam and sinks into the chair opposite her at the breakfast table.   He crooks his finger in Han’s direction and suddenly the cereal takes flight above the child’s tray. Han breaks into giggles. A few pieces of cereal fly into Kylo’s outstretched hand. He pops them in his mouth and the boy bursts into laughter.

Kylo grunts. He reaches for the cereal box, pours himself a bowl and begins munching away. “I haven’t had these in years,” he mumbles between bites. “These were my favorite growing up.”

Rey gapes at him. Kylo Ren, half naked and sitting across from her shoveling in sugary kid cereal. Looking utterly at ease with the situation. She wants to pinch herself. It is surreal. She looks over to Milo, but the old keeper has a poker face.

Kylo again waves a hand towards Han and the floating cereal lands softly back on the baby’s tray. The boy pokes at it and then slowly a few bits begin to rise again.   Kylo grins. “That’s my boy. Blocks, cereal—it’s all the same, kid. Size matters not.”

Rey is still gaping at him when Kylo glances up at her and frowns. “What is that you’re eating?”

Rey eats rations for breakfast every morning. Portions are her comfort food. Especially when every afternoon entails an elaborate lunch with Milo. She puts down her portion bread. “I like rations.” Rey hates the way it comes out sounding defensive. Especially to a grown man gobbling up a kid’s breakfast.

Kylo gives her skeptical look and pours himself more sugar cereal. “I guess you can take the girl out of Jakku, but you can’t take the Jakku out of the girl, eh Milo?”

She scowls at him. She’s sitting at breakfast in a fancy dress and wearing makeup and he’s throwing Jakku in her face? Of course, Kylo Ren the prince of Alderaan would be a Core World snob.

“Look at him, Milo.” Kylo is watching his son very closely now. “The Force is second nature to him. Like breathing.” Kylo eyes her again. “You could be like that Rey. Easily.”

Was he back to harping on her about the Force? “No, thanks. I don’t use the Force.”

He cocks his head at her. “Yes, you do. I know you mind tricked your way out of a cell on the Starkiller, Rey. You’ve thrown me across the room. And you fought me with a lightsaber.” He’s not angry at these occurrences, it seems. More like proud.

“Are you looking for a rematch, Kylo?” she raises an eyebrow.

“Maybe.” He smirks at her before taking another drink of caf. “I like you when you’re violent, Rey.”

Rey rolls her eyes. “Do you want me to slash your face again? How about I do it the opposite direction this time and make you an X?”

There is a moment of quiet silence and Rey fears that she has gone too far. But then, Kylo throws his head back and laughs out loud. It is so unexpected that she flinches. Her reaction is not lost on Milo, who sits observing it all.

“Oh, I have forgotten how fierce you are, Rey.” Kylo takes another gulp of caf and it’s too soon and he’s still laughing and now he is choking too.

Now it’s Rey’s turn to smirk.

She turns her attention back to Han. “Here, sweetie,” she coos. “Eat some protein. That’s enough cereal for today.” She hands the boy some child size utensils and Han dutifully starts stabbing at scrambled egg. The keeper and Kylo are discussing new security measures for the castle and she’s focused on Han and only half listening.   “No, Han, hold it like this. Don’t use your hands, use the fork.” The boy is getting frustrated. He slams his baby fist down on the tray.   The egg begins to levitate, and he grabs the food to stuff in his mouth. “No, no, Han. Use the fork.”

Opposite her, Kylo Ren is again laughing. “Use the fork.” His shoulders shake as he rumbles. “Use the fork, kid, not the Force.”   She can’t help it, for Kylo’s laughter is contagious and now she too is giggling at the silliness of it all.   Milo joins in and they are all four laughing and this is so bizarre.

Rey realizes that she doesn’t know Kylo Ren at all.   At least not this relaxed and not-killing-people version of Kylo Ren.

Han once again picks up the fork. He’s waving it around wildly, playing and not eating. “Oh, very good. The boy will be a natural at Form IV,” Kylo observes with approval.

“What?” she’s confused.

“It’s a lightsaber combat form,” he explains. “Lots of short strikes.” He glances sideways at Rey and one side of his mouth turns up in a half smile. “Not like your run, stab and slash method, Rey.”

“Emphasis on slash.” Rey shoots him a glare.

That sets him off again and Kylo hoots with laughter. “Careful, Rey,” he warns her with dancing dark eyes. “If you keep making me laugh, I’ll start to like you and then we’ll cut our hands together and I’ll keep you forever.”

Huh?

Before she can ask, Kylo Ren taps his ear and she realizes that hidden beneath all that wild black bedhead is an earpiece. “Ren here,” he answers the com in a serious tone and she hears one side of the conversation. “No, I’m finished with them. Kill them.”

She watches as he stands and shuffles from the room with his caf.   He’s back to barking orders and firing questions. And killing people. The overgrown kid is gone and the First Order Sith is back. Rey stares after him, lost in bewilderment until Milo breaks the silence.

“So it was you who gave him the scar.” The castle keeper is looking at her with no small amount of respect.   He leans forward and asks in a near whisper. “Rey, did you really beat him with a lightsaber?”

She grimaces, remembering the scene. Remembering that day. “It wasn’t my best moment.”

“On the contrary, my girl,” Milo is looking at her like someone entirely new. “It’s something to be proud of.” He turns to Han and pats the boy on the arm. “What a fierce mama you have.”

Rey’s thoughts are still on the strange version of Kylo Ren that has just left. “Milo, is he always like this?   So . . . um . . . casual?”   And naked, she adds silently to herself.   Who knew that Kylo Ren had an eight pack hidden under his man dress?

The old keeper shrugs and grins. “A man’s home is his castle. Or, er . . . in this case, his castle is his home. Here, he can be himself without the thousands of watchful eyes on a star destroyer.”

“So no stomping about in that ugly black getup?” Rey asks.

Milo puts it more diplomatically. “He doesn’t wear the uniform unless there are guests.”

“Let me guess, he doesn’t put on a shirt or comb his hair either.”

Milo nods. He winks at her as he confides, “The First Knight of the First Order is not a morning person.”


 

It’s late afternoon, Han is up from his nap and running around on the castle terrace as Rey sits on a bench. They are not alone. Kylo is on the far side of the terrace practicing with his lightsaber.

She’s trying to ignore him. But the spitting, crackling sound of his lightsaber has her on edge. Rey remembers that saber swinging for her.

Five remotes circle Kylo and fire what she thinks are stun bolts.   He deflects them effortlessly. His movements are nothing like the lumbering swings she recalls from the Starkiller when Kylo had been horribly wounded and bleeding out.   Today, his motions are a predator’s ballet. Refined, efficient and perfectly timed.   The five-on-one swordplay alone is impressive, but Kylo does it all while holding a conference com on his earpiece.

Rey only catches bits and pieces of his side of the conversation above the sound of his blade. She gathers that the First Order is planning a raid somewhere on Corellia. She hears talk of neutralizing noncombatants and extracting targets for interrogation. Rey doesn’t understand all of the First Order military jargon, but none of it bodes well for Corellia.

Han has found a twig and he is waving it around in a rough imitation of his father’s movements.   Really, it would be very cute were it not so unsettling to see the hero worship in her son’s eyes.   Rey wonders if her sweet boy who laughs at butterflies and rolls in the grass will transform into his father’s son. Will Han be molded into a ruthless killer like Kylo Ren?   Will he too mask his face?

Very likely, she will be long gone from Han’s life by that time. Brushed aside with the toys and the books and the other outgrown remnants of childhood. Somehow, Rey has the feeling that the innocence of childhood won’t last long for a boy who will be Sith.  

The sound of the saber extinguishing interrupts her reverie. The com must be over. Kylo is striding towards them. He is winded and his simple black t-shirt and pants are streaked with sweat stains.

Kylo looks down approvingly at Han running about waving his stick while he makes buzzing noises.   Then Kylo frowns down at her and asks, “Do you always dress him in white?”

“Let me guess—you would prefer black.” Kylo has been away for months and all he can comment on is what the boy wears?  

Kylo looks back at Han. A faint smile tugs at his lips. “He’s my kid. He should look like my kid.”

Rey bites back her objection. Who dresses a baby in black?   “Okay,” she agrees slowly. “I will ask Milo to get him something in a darker color. Grey? Or maybe navy?”

“Acceptable.” Kylo crouches down to be on level with Han. He smiles as his son quickly wanders over to him. “You have grown since I have been gone,” he tells Han.

The boy ignores him. His attention is focused on the lightsaber hilt that hangs from Kylo’s waist and is now at Han’s level. “Red! Red!” the boy points excitedly to the sword. “Red!”

“He likes your lightsaber,” Rey translates for Kylo.   The irony is not lost on Rey: this is the sword that killed little Han’s namesake.  

Kylo grins at the boy. “You’ll have your very own someday. Red like mine. I will help you build it.” Then he unclips the saber hilt and offers it to Han. Rey’s eyes go wide and she leaps to bat away Han’s outstretched hand.

“You can’t give that to him!” Rey nearly shrieks. “Does it even have a safety??”

Kylo finds this amusing. “It’s a Sith lightsaber. We don’t make them with safety locks.”

“He’ll cut his hand off with that thing!”

Kylo finds this even more amusing. “Yes, well, perhaps eventually. It’s sort of a family tradition.”

“What?” Kylo isn’t making sense.

“Here,” he thrusts the saber hilt at her. “You hold it and let him look.”

Rey takes the hilt. For the briefest of moments, she considers turning it on to strike down Kylo Ren. The Sith meets her eyes and it’s almost like he knows what she is thinking.   And he doesn’t look the least bit fearful. More like excited. A slow smile spreads across his face and he looks downright devilish. It sends a shiver down her spine.

Kylo’s eyes watch her intently as she runs her hand down the weapon. Han reaches to mimic her movements. “It’s heavier than the one I used,” she remarks offhand. “Why does it look different from Vader’s sword?”

“It’s an ancient Sith design. I found the parts here at Bast. It was something my grandfather must have toyed around with. He was very technically adept.”

Rey traces the exposed wiring on the hilt with her finger and gives Kylo the sideeye.   “Looks like Vader’s prototype wasn’t quite finished. Why is the blade so ragged?”

“The sword has a cracked crystal.” Now it’s Kylo’s turn to give her a critical look.   He is defensive about his lightsaber.   And proud. “I like the blade the way it is. Ragged. Dangerous.”

“It certainly is scarier,” she agrees, remembering it poised at her neck on Takodano years ago.   “Vader’s sword was elegant and yours is—is--” Rey is searching for the right word.

“Is what?”

“Intimidating,” she finishes. Kylo seems pleased by this description. Rey hands back the saber.

“I like the kid,” he decides, watching Han go back to jabbing his stick at the air. “I like him a lot, Rey.” Kylo catches her eye and smiles at her. Rey smiles back. It’s a genuine moment and Rey thinks maybe this relaxed version of Kylo Ren isn’t so bad. He can’t be all bad if he likes Han.  

Rey catches herself. Those are dangerous thoughts. This man has done terrible things to her, to her friends, to his own family.  He is a monster.

Abruptly, Rey stands and calls, “Come, Han, let’s go inside. It’s time for your dinner.”

Kylo rises and follows them. “I’m leaving later tonight. But I will be back,” he tells her as they walk.   Rey nods, unsure how to she is supposed to respond. She watches as Kylo crouches down to Han’s level. “Goodbye, little Sith,” he ruffles Han’s already unruly hair.

“Bye-bye,” Han chirps back. Then he gives his father a big, broad smile.

Hours later Rey thinks Kylo to be long gone. Back to wherever he spends his time doing things she would rather not know about. But he’s still at the castle and he finds her on the balcony gazing out at the lake in the moonlight. He is wearing his black robes again, but thankfully the helmet is off. Rey hates that ugly helmet.

“I see you are back to being Kylo Ren,” she observes dryly.

He shrugs. “I’m always a Sith, Rey. Clothes don’t make the man.”

Rey is not sure she believes that. Today, watching Kylo out of uniform and out of his usual First Order context, he had seemed a different man.   But perhaps that’s just because she knows him so little. He’s much more human without the mask and the uniform and the squad of stormtroopers trailing in his wake. He’s less intense and more . . . well, approachable.

“Your robes are intimidating,” she observes. “That’s why you wear them.”

“Intimidating like my lightsaber?” He arches an eyebrow at her.

“Yes.”

He chuckles. “You have me all figured out, don’t you, Rey?”

“No,” she answers truthfully. “Just some of your posturing.”

He flashes that devilish grin of his. Then he leans back against the balcony railing beside her.   He’s in her space again.   Kylo Ren is always just a little bit too close for comfort. She reflexively steps back.

Then Kylo surprises her.

“I want to bring the boy back a toy. What does he like best?”

“Spaceships,” Rey tells him without hesitation. “Every third day the castle gets deliveries and we always wait on the landing platform to watch the shuttle come and go.” Rey smiles at the thought. “We absolutely cannot miss delivery day.   Maybe it’s the age, but Han can be a little obsessive.”

“He gets that from me.” Kylo says with utter seriousness. And maybe some pride? “Any particular kind of spaceships?”

Victory class star destroyers and super star destroyers.”

Kylo raises an eyebrow. “Rebellion era capital warships?” He finds this answer amusing. “How very specific of him.”

“I used pick those type wrecks on Jakku,” Rey explains a little sheepishly, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’ve shown Han pictures on the holonet. I happen to know a lot about those ships. You’d be surprised.”

Kylo smirks.   His dark eyes glitter in the moonlight as he leers over at her.   His voice is mocking. “I love what a techie you are, Rey. Will you school me on Imperial weaponry? Will you talk dirty to me about the Empire?”

Rey scowls. He may scoff at her scavenger knowledge, but it was hard earned and she won’t be made fun of for it. “I happen to like history.” Rey hates how defensive she sounds.

Something in that statement catches him off guard and Kylo abruptly drops his act. “So do I, Rey.” Suddenly, Kylo Ren looks . . . sincere. And so very different from his usual smirking and scowling.

“Before I came here, most of what I knew of history was from those wrecks and from the holonet. And now I’m living in Darth Vader’s castle hearing Milo’s stories of the glory of the Empire. And it’s not just history any longer. It’s real people who lived their lives and made decisions and shaped the galaxy. It’s your family. I suppose in a way it’s my son’s heritage. It is—it is--” Rey’s voice trails off.  

“It is an awesome legacy,” he finishes for her.   Kylo’s eyes shine bright with zeal. “And it is more than the past, Rey. It will be the future. The First Order will rebuild the Empire.”   Kylo Ren doesn’t spit his dogma like General Hux.   Instead, his words are soft, like a promise.   It’s much more persuasive this way, Rey thinks.

He reaches a hand up to stroke her cheek. Rey stiffens at the caress, but he does not remove his hand.  

“Careful, Rey. If you keep talking about the glory of the Empire, I’ll really start to like you.” He’s teasing her again. She thinks.

“And then you’ll lock me away in Darth Vader’s castle and throw away the key?” she goads him. “Oh, wait. You’ve already done that.”   Rey rolls her eyes.

She turns away but he tugs her forward. “Kiss me goodbye, Rey. Show me that you are grateful.”

“Are we back to this again?” she complains.   Her chin comes up and she’s frowning at him. He’s not entitled to touch her and he’s certainly not entitled to her kisses. This is a man who once attacked her.

He is undeterred. “Kiss me. Show me that you are grateful that I keep you here.” His voice is husky and he is way too close for comfort now. Rey takes an involuntary step back. “Show me you want to remain here with your son.”

She takes a shallow breath and glares up at him. “Why are you doing this? I don’t like it when you do this.”

“Well?”

Whatever game Ren is playing, she will play along. If only for the sake of Han. “You win, Kylo.” Rey stands on tiptoe to gently press her lips to his.   It is chaste and brief. More like a social greeting between friends than a true kiss.

“Better,” he approves. “Thank you.”

Rey wrenches herself back a few steps. She is annoyed at being manipulated.   She is not Kylo Ren’s plaything. “Are you always this passive aggressive?” she grumbles.

Kylo throws his head back to laugh out loud. “No.   Normally, I’m aggressive. Very aggressive.” And with that, he springs forward to grab her with both hands. Her back is against the balcony railing as he presses into her, pinning her firmly. “I’ll show you aggressive, Rey.”  He buries his hands in her hair, dragging her head back. Then his mouth claims hers, hard and insistent. She gasps in surprise and that’s the opening he needs to deepen the kiss.  

Oh, oh! Rey can’t breathe. She is dying, she is drowning in Kylo Ren’s deadly kiss.   And some small part of her thinks this might be a good way to die, all things considered.   She’s caught by surprise and unsteady on her feet, so her arms creep up his body. The initial brutality is gone from his kiss. Now his lips are soft but ruthless as they seduce away her reluctance.   “Rey,” he whispers, “Kiss me like you mean it.” He’s wearing her down.   It’s not taking much effort.

Rey doesn’t have a lot of experience with kisses. But this is nothing like the goodbye kiss Finn had given her before she left for Maz’s.

Then his hips grind into hers and Starkiller! Fear jolts through Rey. Reality comes crashing in. This is Kylo Ren that she’s kissing. The monster who raped her.

Rey gives him a mighty shove and breaks the kiss.

They stand there a moment facing one another. Staring at each other. Both with chests heaving and lips swollen.  

Rey is horrified. She is trembling and her voice is shaky as she warns him. “Do not touch me again! I am not yours, Kylo Ren. This is NOT the Starkiller.” She’s backing away to put as much distance as possible between them.   Eyeing the door behind him, wondering if she can dart past to escape.

Kylo doesn’t react. He just issues the same old threat. “I can take whatever I want. Remember that Rey.” It’s vague and scary. But he issues it without heat. It’s spoken matter of fact. Somehow that makes it even more threatening.

With one last look at her, he turns on heel and leaves. She sees his shuttle lift off not five minutes later. The sight fills Rey with relief. Good riddance to Kylo Ren.

Chapter Text

Mothering a two-year-old is frustrating at times. Mothering a two-year-old with Force powers is frustrating most of the time.

Rey doesn’t mind the harmless stuff, like levitating toys. But she does mind the heedless destruction. And there is plenty of that. A normal child might throw a cup when they get bored at mealtime. Han once overturned an entire table with the Force. A normal child might kick and scream when angry. Han can destroy an entire room.  

His lack of self-control is frightening and sometimes dangerous.

Once Han discovers a new trick, it becomes a compulsion to test its limits. He learns to levitate blocks. Then it is droids. Then people. One morning he discovers that he can shatter glass. By afternoon he is shattering floor to ceiling size transparisteel windows. The boy seems genuinely interested in improving his skills, rather than creating havoc.   But the consequences are the same.   Something is broken and there is a mess for other people to clean up. Even the unflappable Milo has grown frustrated at times.

Fucking Force. It ruins everything.

Where has Rey’s sweet baby gone? Most days, he has morphed into a petulant, foot stamping, red faced little tyrant. Did she disturb Han’s concentration while levitating blocks? Tantrum.   Was it raining when he wanted to play outside? Tantrum. Some days it feels like Han spends most of the day screaming and making a mess.

It is exhausting.

Is this a phase? Is it his Sith ancestry showing through? Is it the side effect of a Force-sensitive child living at Darth Vader’s creepy castle?   Rey has no answers, only questions. Setting boundaries is difficult, for more and more Han resists being told what to do. At this rate, discipline will soon be impossible.

Rey sees nothing of herself in her son—only Kylo Ren. From his black hair and dark eyes to his imperious nature and innate sense of entitlement.   Han is his father’s son, through and through. At times, it depresses her.

There is much more nature at work here than nurture. And that makes Rey feel even worse. Her sacrifices to remain with her son seem pointless when she has so little ability to influence the boy.  

She wonders whether Kylo had been like this as a boy. Whether General Leia had ever felt this frustrated and overwhelmed.   Whether her devotion to her work had been motivated in part by a secret desire to get away from the never ending intensity of a headstrong, Force-strong son.

And so standing over yet another mangled nanny droid, ruminating on all this and more, Rey bursts into uncontrollable sobs.   Milo finds her and holds her as Rey cries and cries.   I was supposed to be a Jedi trained by Luke Skywalker himself, she tells Milo . . . but instead I kept Kylo Ren’s baby and now I’m trapped forever raising a magical child I do not understand and cannot control . . . I can fly anything, I can fix anything, but I can’t convince my kid to listen to me . . . I am a hero for the Resistance, I helped bring down the Starkiller, but I am a failure as a mother . . . I miss Maz and the cantina . . . I should have married Finn when he asked. . . there’s nothing to do here and I’ve never sat around this much in my life . . . I am so bored in this dreary castle and I hate the First Order. . . this is so, so much harder than I ever thought it would be.

At least Kylo isn’t around to witness her repeated failures as a mother. Despite his statement about being at Bast more often, she hasn’t seen the First Order’s dark prince. But true to his word, he does send Han a toy.

It’s an ordinary day when Milo announces that the castle will receive a special delivery. She and Han are waiting on the landing platform with Milo when she hears it. The characteristic screaming screech of a TIE fighter fills the air.

Rey yells “RUN!” She grabs Han and is rushing past Milo when he catches her arm. “Their strafe fire is deadly!” she hollers at the old keeper. “Take cover!”

But the Imperial veteran doesn’t let go of her arm. He holds her gaze and tells her calmly, “It’s a friend, Rey, not a foe. You’re on the other side now.”

The fighter lands and Han is jumping up and down with excitement. “TIE! TIE!” He knows the ship from the holonet.   Out climbs a pilot who with great dignity salutes and hands over a box to Han. There are a few seconds of tearing and ripping followed by squeals of joy as the box reveals its contents. It’s a dozen small spaceship replicas, just the size for a small boy to carry around.   Sturdy too for lots of hard play. Every current capital ship from the First Order fleet is represented. But, as requested, there are Imperial ships as well.

Milo sits with Han as they rifle through the collection, and the old keeper patiently identifies them one by one. “What’s this?” Han demands thrusting the largest toy at the keeper.   Milo slowly turns it over in his wrinkled hands. He pauses before answering, a slightly wistful look on his face. “That’s the Executor, Han, the pride of the Imperial fleet.   It was Darth Vader’s super star destroyer.   All hands lost at the Battle of Endor.”

Of course, the Executor becomes Han’s favorite.   Like father, like son, it seems.


 

Kylo Ren kneels before his Sith Master. He is ready to present updates on half a dozen projects of strategic importance. And he can rattle off recent troop movements and weapons placement information with precision. But today it seems his Master is focused on other, less pressing matters.

“Do you have the map to Skywalker yet?”   The very tone of Snoke’s voice indicates that his Master already knows the answer. The question is meant as a reminder.

“No, Master.”

Snoke is displeased.   “That does not surprise me. You are so rarely at Bast Castle these days. Do I need to engineer another war council to get you there?”  

“No, Master.”

The old Muun leans forward in his chair and peers down at his apprentice. Ren knows this to be his Master’s habit before asking a probing question.   He steels himself for an uncomfortable interview. You cannot hide the truth from Leader Snoke.

“Why do you stay away?”

The question is his opening to come clean about the situation. Snoke probably knows anyway. And he needs his Master’s advice.   His Master is wise in all things.

“You were correct about Rey’s interrogation at the Starkiller. I had compassion for the girl. It distracted me. It kept me from obtaining the map.” Ren takes a deep breath before pressing forward. “I still have compassion for the girl,” he confesses warily.

“This troubles you,” his Master observes.

Kylo lowers his gaze. “Yes. I fear that she could become a weakness for me.” He knows that she will become a weakness for him.   Hell, she may already be a weakness. The memory of her kiss in the moonlight keeps rushing up at him at odd moments of his work day.

“I see.” The wily old Sith practically purrs this response. His Master does not look displeased in the least at his confession. That is unexpected.

“My boy, few Sith are capable of being solitary forever. It is not in our nature as emotional creatures. To connect with the Force through emotion tends to lead one to connect with others in the same way.   We are not Jedi. Attachment is not forbidden. It has its place, so long as you keep sentiment from clouding your judgment.”

Kylo nods, wondering where this is leading.

“Over the years, many Sith had wives and lovers. Children, certainly. Usually they were hidden away, which is why our holocrons contain so few records of Sith families.   They were hidden from other Sith during the Rule of Two, of course. And they were hidden to protect them from enemies who might wish to exploit them.   Think of your poor grandmother,” Snoke reminds him. His Master cocks his head to the side and settles back in his chair. For a moment, his gargoyle face has a slightly plaintive cast. “I last had a wife many years ago.”

Ren blinks at this revelation. His Master’s past is murky at best. Every so often he would drop a clue and the puzzle would shift around a bit.

“I hid her from all except my trusted apprentice.” His Master’s face becomes hard now, and Ren feels through the Force the intense memories that lay beneath his words.   “Darth Sideous made the mistake of killing her first. She lay beside me in bed and I knew the moment he struck her. It was the brief warning I needed to survive. Were it not for my lady, I would not be here today.” Snoke pauses a moment, as if to muse over this thought.   “In a way, she gave herself for me. Although, I would gladly have given her to save myself in the end.”

“There is no risk in attachment so long as you are mindful that you may one day be called upon to sacrifice it.” The giant hologram figure waves a bony finger over his apprentice in warning. “Always remember this: you may not love another more than you love power.”

Ren nods at these wise words.   Power, first and foremost.

“You were weak to show compassion to the girl during interrogation. She was an enemy then. You should be ruthless with your enemies, Kylo Ren. As an example to them and to others.”

“Is Rey an enemy now?” Ren doesn’t know the answer to this question. Yes, she hates him, sort of. When she’s not kissing him and smiling with him over their son.

“That depends on you, my apprentice. Gain her loyalty if you wish to make her your attachment.”

“But Master,” he sputters unhappily. He grimaces, for these next words humble him to speak aloud.   “What if her attraction is not herself but her Light?” The call to the Light is his forever weakness. He knows this. Snoke knows this too. There is no point in hiding it.

His Master raises an eyebrow and asks, “Has Milo the Keeper not made her pretty enough for you by now? I instructed him to make her an empress.”

An empress? Ren’s eyes widen at this word. Then he hurries to deflect any criticism from the loyal old keeper. “Rey is very beautiful now. Very poised.   Well spoken. Milo has exceeded in every way.” That is actually part of the problem, he thinks. It would have been far easier to resist the drab barmaid he found on Takodano than the mannered, confident princess who floats around his castle in a haze of Light.

“Good. There is Darkness in that girl, Kylo Ren.   She has much potential for you, even with all her Light.”

Snoke shifts topics. “Tell me about the child.”

“The boy already shows signs of the Force, my Master. He will not need to wait for an Awakening.”

“Good.” Snoke flashes a rare smile at this news. “What are the signs?”

“Telekinesis and telepathy. Already I have begun speaking with him in his mind.”

“Yes . . . get inside the boy’s head. As I once did with you. Over time, it will bond him to you.   How fortunate for us that he shows signs of your special talents. Mind control is such a useful skill. When the time comes, you will teach him all that you know.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Now, leave me. Get yourself to Bast Castle. I want that map.”


 

The first few times she hears it, Rey doesn’t recognize what it is. Little Han, like all two and half year olds, sometimes struggles to form words. He repeats syllables and mangles syntax just like an ordinary child. But ordinary children don’t speak directly into Rey’s mind.

So when his sing-song “da-dee” voiced aloud becomes “Daddy” in her mind, Rey freezes in shock.    

Daddy. Rey has never once referred to Kylo Ren as Daddy or Father.   As far as Rey knows, Ren has only three times been in her son’s presence.   For all his talk of raising his son, Kylo Ren appears content to stay away and leave Han in her care. Which is just fine by Rey.

“Daddy come home,” Han tells her aloud one morning between bites of cookie. “Daddy come home.”

“Daddy?” Rey is almost afraid to hear his response. “Who is Daddy?”

The child smiles at her and ignores the question, instead wandering to pick fallen cookie bits off the floor and pop them in his mouth. For once, Rey does not stop him.   She stares at her son, trying to reconcile the normal development of a toddler with the innate intuition of a Force-strong child.   How much does her son understand about his relationship to Kylo Ren?

“Han, who is Daddy?” she asks again to the perpetually distracted toddler. Thirty seconds of this, two minutes of that. Han is in many ways a typical child for his age. But in many ways, not.

“Daddy silly,” Han giggles. “Daddy wears a black dress. Boys don’t wear dresses. Silly Daddy.”

“Han, listen to Mommy,” she gathers the child into her lap, cookie crumbles and all. “Does Daddy talk to you?”

“Yes, Mommy.” The boy shoves the last of the cookie in his mouth. “Here,” he smiles, pointing to her head. “Daddy come home before nap,” he informs her with all the seriousness a toddler could muster.

And later that morning just before nap time, Kylo Ren’s command shuttle descends to the Bast landing platform and the castle’s master returns home. Just as Han had predicted.  

This time he’s not alone. Kylo has General Hux and a slew of officers onboard.

Han knows that his father is coming. He leads Rey by the hand to the balcony so that together they can watch the ship arrive.   Rey hasn’t seen Han this happy in weeks.

Chapter Text

“Come to the balcony with me, my lady. It’s been too long since I have breathed real air and felt natural gravity.”   General Hux offers her his arm and Rey falls into step beside him as they continue down one of Bast’s many corridors.  

The red-headed general is the intellectual statesman and public face of the First Order in contrast to Kylo Ren its strategic enforcer and resident Sith. Outsiders believe the two men to complement one another in their respective roles, but in truth they are bitter rivals. Milo has warned Rey of their constant need to one-up each other. So she knows that Hux is only interested in her to gain information.  

But there are times when the general’s attention seems genuine.

Rey likes Hux.   He’s different one-on-one than he is barking scary speeches on the holonet.   And it amuses Rey that General Hux acts so courtly around her.   The general has developed such a cult of personality that the rest of his retinue follow their leader’s example in everything.   And so Rey is treated with utmost respect by the First Order’s elite.

All except Kylo, of course.   But thankfully he hasn’t been around.

“What brings you back to the castle?” Rey asks, already knowing the answer from Milo. The First Order will be hosting secret negotiations at Bast away from prying eyes. Milo has told her to expect numerous visitors. Already, Hux and his men have been here three times in the last two weeks.

“Meetings. Long, endless meetings. And this is just the beginning. I will be at Bast frequently now.”

“Yes, I have noticed all the new security.   Stormtroopers keep popping up everywhere. Usually, it’s quiet here. But not anymore.”

Hux moves on to their usual game of evasion.   “You know, my staff tells me that there is a Senator from the Corporate Sector who has a daughter about your age named Reyanna. She’s away on an extended trip currently. No one has seen her for months.”

“Oh really?” Rey raises an eyebrow playfully. “Are you checking up on me, General?”

“Yes, of course. I’m thorough in all things.” He says this with no small amount of pride. Hux’s ego rivals Kylo’s, Rey is certain.   “Ever met this Lady Reyanna, Lady Rey?”

Rey shakes her head and smiles. “No, I can’t say that I have.”

Hux grins down at her. “No, I didn’t think so. It turns out she’s a Rodian.” That makes them both chuckle.   “Why don’t you make it easy for me and tell me who you are. And where you come from.”

The general asks these questions each time he comes to Bast.   And each time, Rey guards her mystery.

“Not today.” Rey’s eyes twinkle but she smiles demurely.   It’s a harmless flirtation and Hux doesn’t seem to mind, so Rey plays along.

Milo has warned her to be circumspect.   Only Kylo, the keeper and the Supreme Leader are entitled to know her full story.   The secrecy is for her own protection, Milo tells her, and to protect Han.   Her Resistance past must be kept private. And since Rey doesn’t have an easy lie to give Hux, she just refuses to answer. Which in turn only baits the general’s curiosity further.   There’s not much in the First Order to which General Hux is not privy.

He stops walking and she stops with him in the middle of the hallway. Hux is facing her now, reaching to take both of her hands in his. “Lady Rey, you know that you can trust--“

Footsteps. Heavy footfalls in rapid succession.

She knows who makes that sound. Sure enough, Kylo Ren is stalking down the hallway at full speed, robes flying.   Like a charging bull. Even with the mask on, she can tell that Kylo is seriously displeased.

Beside her, General Hux sighs loudly and looks annoyed.

“Rey, leave us. Now.”   Kylo barks his orders at her from meters away. She is summarily dismissed. Kylo seems to make a habit of storming in and telling her to go away when others are present.

Rey rolls her eyes and shoots Hux an apologetic smile. “Please excuse me, General.” She pulls away but the general lets his grip linger on one hand as if to stop her. “Next time, Lady Rey. Next time you will tell me.” When she tugs gently, he lets her fingers slip away.   It’s just more of the same game of cat and mouse.

Rey throws her head over her shoulder and flashes back a wide toothy grin. “Perhaps.”


 

Ren has looked at the sterile monotony of the Finalizer for weeks now, where everything including the occupants is either black, white or grey. By comparison, walking off his shuttle into the full bloom of Naboo’s springtime is like stepping into paradise.   And then he catches sight of Rey and she too is springtime. Her long pink dress is graceful with her movements. She has roses in her cheeks. Her pouty pink lips curl up in a smile.

But that smile is for his rival. He’s caught her flirting with that weasel Hux. Again.  

Even from down the hall, their body language reveals their familiarity. That stiff cold fish Hux never touches anything or anyone but he looks very comfortable holding Rey’s hand.

It infuriates him.

He has spent the last month reliving the kiss in the moonlight and waking up hard with Rey’s name on his lips.   And he returns home to this? Rey ought to be a better judge of character. Hux is a worm.

Kylo knows himself well enough to recognize that Rey has become one of his obsessions. Of course she has, for she is the forbidden fruit, the Light. And now his Master has unexpectedly shrugged off the matter.   This fruit is no longer forbidden. It is ripe for the picking. The possibilities that creates have him hot to see her again. Alone.

But not now. Now, she is dismissed.

He watches her glide down the hall, hips swaying slightly with the movement.   Hux is saying something he’s ignoring because Kylo can’t think straight for a moment.   All he can think is that he should have dismissed Hux and not Rey.

Then he’s moving after her. He’s faster, his stride is longer and he surprises her. In seconds, he maneuverers her into an adjacent room.

“Take your hands—“  

He wrenches off his mask and leans over her.

“—off me!” she finishes with a scowl.   His scavenger girl is never more fierce than when she is cornered.   

No one speaks to him like she does. Rey might fear for her son, but she does not fear for herself. And she has no idea how exceptional that makes her. Kylo Ren can count on one hand the number of people who don’t shrink from him.

“Stay away from Hux.” He speaks this in the tone of command he uses with his subordinates.

But unlike them, Rey talks back. “It’s harmless. He’s just fishing for information, that’s all. I’m not foolish enough to give it to him.”

Kylo repeats himself. “Stay away from Hux.”   This time the warning comes out more as a growl than real words. Rey needs to understand who she is dealing with.

He waits for her to acknowledge his command. But she says nothing. She’s glaring back at him defiantly, clearly annoyed by his manhandling.

His eyes wander almost involuntarily to her lips. They are twisted in a frown. The last time Kylo was this close, he was kissing Rey breathless on a balcony in the moonlight. What the hell. He dives for her inviting pink mouth. He’s always been impulsive, never more it seems than with Rey.

The kiss is urgency, hunger and irritation all rolled into one.   He doesn’t even give Rey a chance to respond. He’s late, there are watchful stormtroopers everywhere and General Hux is probably spying from outside the door.   Kylo pulls back abruptly and the kiss is over as fast as it began.

“What the??” Her hand flies to her lips and her mouth hangs open.   Then her eyes narrow. “Stop doing that!”

He has surprised her. Good. He likes to have the upper hand.

“You’re having dinner with me.” It’s not an elegant invitation, but he gets his point across.   He doesn’t have time for niceties and he’s not in the mood for them. Then Kylo jams back on his mask and stalks away. He has work to do.


 

Hours later, he watches her surreptitiously, this Jakku empress that Snoke is crafting for him. She picks at her plate like a bird, looking slightly suspicious at its offerings. Ren remembers her rations at breakfast. Evidently, food is sustenance for Rey, not pleasure.   He hopes that she is not as austere about everything else. There is precious little diversion in his life as it is.

He wonders whether Rey has any idea what his Master has in store for her.   And how she would react if she found out. Snoke has basically thrust him into her arms and, tempting as that is, it rankles him. Even this most personal of choices is denied to Kylo Ren. For the endgame is power, always power.  

Rey is, for so many reasons, a most unsuitable Empress. But she has the Force. Belatedly he has realized that from the moment Snoke saw the midicholorian counts for Rey and the boy, his Master has been angling to throw them together.   Raise the boy in your household, get the map from the Girl, use her as you see fit. This first set of instructions had enough vague motivations to slip past him, but this morning his Master had switched tactics to outright encouragement.   Even confiding that Snoke himself had once had a wife.

A wife. Kylo Ren has never contemplated a wife.   Not in any concrete terms at least. A wife has always been one of those ‘maybe someday’ ‘after the war’ concepts.   Along with children.

So much for that timetable.

Kylo Ren knows very little about women. Except for his m-General Organa, Captain Phasma and the few other women officers in the Order, most women he has had contact with have been for hire. You don’t have to please those women, their job is to please you. There is no effort involved. No guesswork. No talking. No feelings. No anything—that’s the point. It’s all very anonymous and forgettable.

Not anything like the woman who sits beside him tonight.

Rey is not exactly friendly, but she is much more relaxed this time around. The first course of dinner is finished and he and Rey have exhausted the superficial pleasantries. Rey has updated him on the boy’s progress and graciously thanked him for the toys.   The TIE fighter delivery was a nice touch, she smiles at him with sincerity.   Han talked about it all week.

He knows. The boy talked to him about it all week too. Through their mental bond.

“I did not intend to scare you.” Kylo feels as though he should explain this.  

“Did Milo tell you?” Rey blushes, clearly embarrassed at the memory of her awkward reaction. “It’s just that the last time I was that close to a TIE fighter, it was firing on me.” She looks away for a moment. “I was on Jakku running with the droid.”

“How did you end up with the droid?” He’s always wondered this.

“I found it in the desert. BB8 had orders to wait for its owner to return. So I dropped it at the trading post the next morning and the droid recognized Finn. But the First Order was hunting Finn and they saw us together and suddenly I was marked as a fugitive too.”

“So you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? You never actually signed up with the Resistance?”

“I suppose I was a Resistance sympathizer from afar,” Rey admits.   “But mostly I was a bystander.   I never intended to leave Jakku. Things sort of escalated quickly.”

“You were never a true believer, were you? You might sympathize but you weren’t willing to die for them.” He has thought this all along.   Ren grew up the son of Rebellion heroes, surrounded by high minded fools.   He knows the sort of people the Resistance attracts, and Rey is nothing like them. She’s far too pragmatic, for one. “That’s why you didn’t train with Skywalker.”

“Well, mostly it was because I was pregnant. But yes, I had enough of war and the Force. I did not want to fight for the Resistance.” She gives him a level look and asks, “Why do you fight for the First Order?”

Amazingly, no one has ever asked him this question.   Ren gives an answer Hux would approve of. “It will bring stability and order to the galaxy. And ultimately some degree of peace.”

“You promise peace, but all I see is violence.   There were billions dead on the Hosnian System alone.”

He will not dispute her facts, just their meaning in the overall scheme of things. “There is a purpose to it. We destroy in order to build anew. To build better. Throughout history, all progress has required destruction of some form or another. From the ashes of the Republic came the Empire. When the Empire fell, the New Republic had its time. Now that it has failed, the First Order is rising.”  

He eyes her a moment, noting to himself that they are discussing the galactic civil war and she is not screaming accusations at him.   No, Rey is clearly not one of the high minded fools of the Resistance like his mother. “The First Order has no monopoly on death. The New Republic and the Resistance both have blood on their hands.”

Rey nods slightly and he takes it for concession to his point. “The First Order is the future. One day my Master and I will rule the galaxy. As my grandfather and Darth Sideous once ruled the Empire.”

“So that’s the real answer to my question.” Rey has a gleam in her eye as if she has discovered a secret. She leans forward in her chair to scrutinize him. He can’t help but notice that it gives him a nice view down her dress. “Power. You fight for the First Order for your own power. This isn’t about ordering the galaxy at all.”

He shrugs. “Yes. I’m a Sith, Rey. Power is everything.”

Rey nods as if she understands, but he knows that she does not. He tries again. “Power is my goal as a Sith. Ordering the galaxy is my birthright as a Skywalker. Together, those things led me to the First Order.”

Then Rey surprises him by cutting right to the essence of things.   “Tell me about the Skywalkers. I’ve figured out that your family is the subtext of this war, but I don’t know why.   There are some pretty wild conspiracy theories on the holonet.”

“Have you been reading up on my family, Rey?” Ren can’t help it—he’s grinning like an idiot at her request.   He savors the blatant curiosity in her eyes.  

She looks down sheepishly. Suddenly embarrassed and squirming in her seat. “Yes. Milo showed me the portrait of your grandmother. But he didn’t tell me about what happened to her. He said to ask you. So . . . I guess I’m asking.”

He can feel the anticipation rolling off Rey.   This truly interests her.

Kylo pours them each another glass of wine and sits back.   Rey deserves to know this history. This is the pain of the Skywalker family for which the whole galaxy has suffered.   He takes a long drink of wine and sets his glass down.

“What I am about to tell you is true. Not everyone agrees with it, but that does not make it any less true.” He holds her gaze for a long moment. It’s hard to look away from her beauty. Rey is wearing that same green dress again tonight—the one that turns her eyes emerald. “Truth is not a point of view, Rey. Truth is truth, even if you don’t like it.“

She nods and he begins.

“My grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, was a famous Jedi Knight and hero of the Clone Wars at the end of the Old Republic.   The holonet reports describe him as the perfect knight but behind closed doors he chafed at the restrictions the Jedi placed on him. For years, the Jedi limited his powers in the Force and they forbade him to love. Over time, he grew disenchanted. He went seeking knowledge and power from the Sith Master Darth Sideous, who then was the Chancellor of the Republic. And he secretly married my grandmother, whom he had loved for many years.”  

“It all came to a head when the Jedi attempted to seize control of the Republic by assassinating the Chancellor. It was a coup attempt. They had learned that the Chancellor was a Sith Lord and they resolved to kill him. No trial, no investigation, no recall vote for the publicly elected Chancellor. Just assassination, Rey.   That’s how the Jedi handled things in those days.”  

“My grandfather was forced to choose between the Jedi and the Republic and he chose the Republic. He killed the Jedi assassins and renounced the Jedi Order. He became the Sith Lord Darth Vader, apprentice to Darth Sideous. The remaining Jedi were convicted as enemies of the Republic.   My grandfather and others hunted them down.”

“You asked about my grandmother, Rey.” She nods, her attention rapt at his family history writ large on the backdrop of galactic events. “The Jedi killed my grandmother for revenge. Vader couldn’t prove it, but all evidence supports it. She disappeared from her Coruscant apartment shortly after Vader and the Republic troops attacked the Jedi Temple. Within a week, an unidentified Jedi had dumped her body at a mortuary here on Naboo.”

“Only two people had known of her marriage to Darth Vader. One of them was the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Kenobi had been my grandfather’s best friend but they became mortal enemies. Kenobi was the man who terribly wounded my grandfather, causing him to live the rest of his days in a life support suit.”  

“My grandmother had been pregnant at the time she disappeared. At some point before she died, my mother and my uncle were born and stolen from her. Vader thought that his children had died with my grandmother. It was over twenty years before he learned the truth that they were alive.”

“The Jedi gave my mother to their allies on Alderaan who raised her on Rebellion propaganda. Then Kenobi hid my uncle in obscurity in the Outer Rim and raised him to kill his father. The Jedi lied to my uncle about Vader, so when they finally met Luke Skywalker had no idea that that Vader was his father.”

“The Jedi plotted a terrible revenge. They terribly maimed my grandfather, killed his wife, stole his children and raised them to destroy him. In the end they succeeded. Darth Sideous and Darth Vader were dead in the confrontation with my uncle on the Second Death Star and the Empire fell shortly thereafter.”

He takes another long swallow of wine. Just speaking aloud of his grandfather’s personal tragedy has Kylo seething inside. “My family was ripped apart by the Jedi,” he tells Rey bitterly, “and everyone in the galaxy has suffered years of war for it. I see it clearly, but my mother and my uncle cannot. They are blinded by the lies they were told as children.” He runs a hand through his hair and looks away, shaking his head. “They live in the past. The noble Jedi Knights, the grand old Republic—those are fairytales.  They are an idealized history that never truly existed. And they are not worth bringing back. Two generations later we are still—“

He stops abruptly, lost in reverie. Thinking of his gullible Uncle Luke waxing poetic over the virtues of the Jedi Order.   Remembering his mother’s obsession with forming the New Republic that had kept her away for months at a time. She had even named him for the cowardly Kenobi who had left his grandfather for dead.   Little Ben Solo had been brought up on this misplaced reverence for a glorified past.   Years later, Kylo Ren is still bitter about it.

Rey brings him back to the present. Her hand is resting on the table beside his, and she reaches to cover his hand with her own. Together they sit in silence for a moment.  

She’s looking at him with sad understanding, as if Rey feels the same sense of loss he does when thinking of his grandfather’s tragedy.   Maybe in a way she does understand, he thinks. Rey grew up a victim of her parents’ abandonment.   Perhaps she too had been trapped by the misfortunes and bad choices of others.

When Rey finally speaks, Kylo is not surprised at the part of the tale she reacts to first. “I can’t believe the Jedi stole Vader’s children. That’s so . . . so horrible. To steal children from their mother.”

“The Jedi claimed that they were saving the children, but really they were stealing them for their own agenda.   That’s what the Jedi did for generations—they stole children.”  

“What do you mean?”

“During the Republic, when the Jedi were at the height of their power, they routinely stole children to raise as their own. They liked to get them at age three or younger.   Babies, really.   That made it easier to control their abilities and fill their minds with lies.”

“But did they really steal the children?” she wants to know.

“Supposedly, the Jedi would request the children from their parents. But many systems allowed the Jedi to seize a child if the parents refused. Some systems even required all Force-sensitive children to be abandoned to the local Jedi Temple.” Ren glances sideways at her. “A lot of people fear the Force like you do, Rey. They looked to the Jedi to control Force-sensitives. My grandfather was actually sold from slavery to the Jedi. It was a sordid business.”

Kylo shifts his hand and now it is clasped with hers, resting on the table. “The Jedi took children at about the same age as our son is now. If we lived sixty years ago, Rey, the Jedi would have already come for our boy. And you and I would never, ever see him again. That was the consequence of being born Force-sensitive back in those days. The Jedi liked them young—without attachments.”

“What’s an attachment?” Rey is confused by this term.

“Love, Rey. They wanted the children never to know love. The Jedi Code forbids attachments. There can be no specific bond to another person. Not to a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling or a friend. Instead, the Jedi were supposed to feel some diffuse universal sense of compassion towards everyone.”

Her eyes narrow. “So Jedi couldn’t have families?”

“Correct. They took the children young so that they would not remember their families and would have no allegiance to anything other than the Jedi Order.   Then the Jedi trained the children to suppress their emotions and to deny their individual self. Even marriage was forbidden.”

“I didn’t know any of this.”

Of course, she wouldn’t. He forgets that Rey wasn’t raised on Jedi lore like he was. And for decades now the First Order PR machine has been revising the history of Luke Skywalker and his beloved Jedi knights into pure myth.  

“Rey,” Kylo’s eyes bore into hers and he squeezes her hand, willing her to understand the risks at play, “Luke Skywalker would steal our son if he got the chance. Jedi steal children. Never forget that. He and my mother would use our son as a pawn for their agenda, just like they themselves were used. Raise him with lies and train him to kill me.”

“That’s horrible!” Rey looks aghast. His scavenger girl is so naïve about the world she now lives in as the mother of his child.   Rey might not be a Skywalker, but she is trapped by his family’s history nonetheless. Like the Lars and like the Organas before her.

He shakes his head with an outward nonchalance that he does not feel. Kylo will gladly lock Rey and his boy away forever if that’s what it takes to keep his son from the clutches of the Jedi. “We Skywalkers are a treacherous clan. Do not trust my family, Rey.”

Rey shoots to her feet. Clearly, his words have deeply upset her. “I only told Maz Kanata and Finn about Han. Finn won’t tell my secret. I know he won’t.”

Kylo Ren doesn’t believe that the traitor stormtrooper will protect the identity of his son. And he knows that in time Luke Skywalker will sense the boy, if he hasn’t already. Their boy has far too much power to remain hidden for long.   Again, Rey is being naïve.

“Rey, if there’s one thing you should know about my family, it’s that our secrets always come out. My uncle and my mother will know. It’s just a matter of time.” Now, perhaps, Rey will understand why she and the boy must remain hidden here at Bast.

“And then they will want to steal Han?” Rey’s face is ready to crumple. Her emotions are screaming out at him through the Force.   “Is it to make him a Jedi? Or to keep him from being Sith?”

“Probably both. With some revenge thrown in against the First Order for the war and against me for Han Solo.”

Rey looks angry. “Why can’t you all just be a family? Why can’t you get along? It’s not supposed to be this way!”

He’s on his feet now too as he begins to understand the underpinnings of her dismay. “Oh, Rey,” he shakes his head sadly at her. “You don’t know what a family is. You never had one. It’s not like those silly holonet shows. Believe me, having a family isn’t enough to make you happy. Not all family cares, not all family loves, not all family stays.” He looks away with disgust, “Certainly not mine.”

Rey is looking at him now like she is crushed by his words. By his bitter experience. By his brutal reality. “But—but—“ she sputters.

Kylo grabs at her hands, holding them as the rest of the tale tumbles out. It’s the abbreviated version, but somehow he wants her to know this too. “I never wanted to be a Jedi, Rey. But they insisted on it. Finally sent me away at age ten anyway. I didn’t want to suppress the things I feel. I didn’t want to live a life of deprivation. I didn’t admire their history or their goals.   I wouldn’t accept their limitations on my power. And for that, I was made a teenage outcast and forced to make irrevocable decisions before I was ready.”

Kylo pauses to take a deep breath. Why is he telling her this? This is more than Rey needs to know. But somehow he wants her to know. His voice cracks slightly as he tells her. “Listen, I’m a Skywalker so everything personal is political.   My family only wanted me if I was a Jedi. Rey, they would only love me if I was a Jedi.”

“But—but—“

“This war is my destiny, Rey. Put in motion by forces and by people at work long before I was born. You can’t run from destiny. Our son won’t be able to escape it either. Once more the Sith will rule the galaxy. And my mother and my uncle will do everything possible to stop us. Even stealing our son.”

Rey is having none of it. “No one is going to use my son in that way! Not the Sith or the Jedi. When Han is old enough, he can decide his future. You don’t get to do that for him, and neither does your family!” He feels her conviction vibrating through her words and through the Force. Rey’s fierce love for their son touches him someplace deep.

“I am loyal to people,” she vows, “not to ideas. Whatever our son chooses, whatever he wants to be, I will love him. And I will always love him. That’s what family should do.”

Kylo stares at her, impressed by her bold claim to love without conditions.   Who does that? Only someone with no expectations, no appearances to keep up, no legacy to fulfill. And so for a moment, he feels jealous of his son. Envious that this humble scavenger girl could mother his bastard far better than his own famous and accomplished mother ever did him.

Rey would never scream to their son that he was the family disappointment. That she was embarrassed to be his mother. That he was the very worst of both sides of his family. That there was too much Vader in him--as if that could possibly be a bad thing.

“I will always love Han.” Rey repeats in a hoarse whisper.   She looks as if she might burst into tears. “I may not love everything he does, but I will always love him.”

“I know, Rey.” Suddenly, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to gather Rey into his arms. She fits perfectly, right under his chin. She lays her head on his chest and he strokes her soft hair.   “I know.” And then she really does start to cry a little.

Holding Rey calms her. But it calms him too. He hates the turmoil he feels when dredging up his own personal history. Ben Solo’s life ended unfinished and unresolved. It hurts to remember the neglected boy that he once was. It makes Kylo determined that his own son will not suffer in the same way.  

Manipulate. He’s supposed to manipulate Rey.   Here is his opening.   He’s still supposed to get that damn map from her.

“I’m glad that you’re still here and have not abandoned our son so you could run back to the Resistance.” Leia Organa Solo would have abandoned her son in a heartbeat to get back to her revolution, he thinks. “You are the mother to our son that I wish I had grown up with.   I want you here, Rey. With him, with me. Be loyal to us, Rey.”

He coats his words with meaning through the Force, hoping they will ring true to her ears. They should. He means them.

She doesn’t say anything, but he can practically hear Rey’s mind processing through all she has learned tonight. Ren knows better than to press her.   Allies are driven by pragmatism and circumstance, which can change with time. But true loyalty is freely given, his Sith Master has taught him. He wants Rey’s loyalty, and he can be patient for it.

They stand there clasped together for a long moment. There is something right about the pull he has to this woman. It’s her Light, of course. And her considerable physical lures. And maybe something else that he can’t quite identify.

When at last he releases her, they have stood together too long. The intensity of the moment has abated and in its wake there is awkwardness.  

Rey looks down and furiously wipes at her cheeks.  

He pretends to want another sip of wine.

Luckily, the serving droid interrupts to prompt him about the meal.

“Do you want dessert?” he asks Rey.

“No. Do you?” she asks.

“No.”

Dinner is over.

Chapter Text

Han has succumbed to another tantrum—his second of the morning—when Kylo comes striding into the courtyard garbed fully as First Knight. He takes in the scene—the screaming child, another mangled droid, her raised voice and frustrated scowl.

“Stop now,” Kylo commands sternly.

Surprised, Han quits wailing just long enough to look up at his father.

“Stop.” Kylo repeats.

Han stops.

Rey’s mouth falls open in shock and blatant admiration.

Kylo ruffles the boy’s hair to soften the criticism. “Even a little Sith needs discipline.” Rey can hear in his voice the smile behind the mask.

Kylo turns to her. “The boy doesn’t respect you. Stop asking him to obey. Tell him to obey.”  

In time, Rey comes to realize that this is not just Kylo Ren’s approach to tired two-year-olds, it’s also his strategy to conquer the galaxy.

The First Order was born in the anonymity of the Unknown Territories and nurtured by the lawlessness and poverty of the Outer Rim. These far flung systems are the natural constituency of the Order. Worlds which welcome a strong arm that forces factions to cooperate and stamps out dissidents and crime.   Worlds that desperately need to believe the Order’s promises of security, order and prosperity. They are easy pickings.  

The Mid-Rim and Core systems present more challenge.   These are the remnants of the New Republic, the very heart of the galaxy. Worlds with prosperity and opportunity. Worlds where the institutions of government function and are largely trusted. Worlds that are hostile territory for the destroyers of Hosnian Prime.  

One by one the Order makes plans to destabilize their governments. Corruption works but random violence and political assassinations are more efficient.   Then the Order makes its offer: join us, let us help you. It’s the offer of a handshake from a steel fist in a velvet glove. Refuse the handshake and reject the Order at your peril. For if you will not submit, Kylo Ren will lay waste to your cities, burn your homes and turn your children into stormtroopers.   And in the end, you will submit anyway.

But even after the destruction of the Hosnian System, there are worlds that doubt the sincerity of the threat. Fools who do not respect Kylo Ren. So, further examples are made. We don’t need the Starkiller Base to kill. Just watch us. The First Order will always call your bluff.

Now systems line up to negotiate their inclusion in the Order.  

They come in secret as supplicants to the man himself, and Bast Castle is yet again a crossroads for the powerful.   Delegations arrive to negotiate treaties, sell information and pay tribute. First Order shuttles come and go at all hours. Kylo wears his full regalia and Milo is in his element organizing protocol and security.

Amid it all, Rey and Han discretely exist as witnesses to the turning tide of the galaxy’s fate.

It’s a random afternoon when Rey pauses in a doorway, watching. Inside Hux’s men are projecting a live transmission from the Resistance. General Organa is speaking—“The more the First Order tightens its grip, the more star systems will slip through its fingers”—her speech is a pep talk to the free systems of the Core.

Kylo rounds the corner and stops behind Rey to watch for a few seconds. He knows General Organa better than anyone in the First Order. “She’s worried,” he leans in to tell Rey. “We’re winning.”


 

The envoys from Chandrila are lying and it doesn’t take the Force for him to know this. But no one else on the First Order side of the table seems to recognize it. So, when the negotiations stall once again, Ren is not interested in another break-out session to discuss alternative approaches. Chandrila has had its chance.  

The carrot has been refused. Now Kylo Ren will wield the stick. It’s time to start planning the invasion.

He walks out while Hux is droning on and goes in search of Rey. She won’t bore him with talk of war. She’ll talk to him about their son or share the joke that Milo told her or tell him that the repulsorlifts on his shuttle sound like they need maintenance.

Rey is growing more comfortable around him. No longer does she eye him with wary suspicion.   Now, Rey mostly looks at him like he annoys her but she will tolerate him anyway. Like this is her castle and he’s the permanent houseguest who can’t/won’t leave.

And on occasion, Kylo catches her looking at him softly. Usually, it’s when he drops by to play with the kid. But sometimes it’s at breakfast when they are all three together. Those are the times when he wonders if Rey has actually grown to like him, despite her determination not to. Or maybe she’s just grown used to him. Either way, it’s progress.

Today, Kylo finds Rey lost in thought, curled up in a sunny out of the way corner, poking around on a datapad while Han naps.  

He surprises her.   She startles and the datapad clatters to the floor.

“Kylo, you scared me!” She looks embarrassed and leaps to her feet.     Then she makes a face at her choice of words and starts babbling. “Surprised me, I mean. I’m not scared of you. You don’t scare me. Not at all.”

He’s grinning behind his mask. He likes Rey’s bravado, even if it’s unconvincing. “Does this help?” He pulls off his helmet. He’s noticed that she instantly relaxes when the helmet is off.

“Yes,” she smiles sheepishly at him. “Yes, it does.” He knew it would.

He bends to retrieve the fallen datapad and catches the gist on the screen. “Reading up on Darth Vader?” Ren scrolls down a bit to skim the text entries. “This is military history.”

She shifts her stance and looks embarrassed again. Almost as if she were caught looking at something she shouldn’t be seeing. “I like history.” Yes, he remembers that she has told him that. “I was trying to figure out what was so great about the man.”

Her interest piques his. “Careful, Rey. If you start to admire Darth Vader, I won’t just like you. I will adore you.”

She laughs off this remark. “That sounds like a threat.”

Kylo shrugs. “Sith don’t make threats, Rey. We only make promises.” He has just told the Chandrila delegation the very same thing, just in a different context.

He scrolls down the datapad and begins editing it. “This author is full of inaccuracies and innuendo. Not worth your time. This guy got the relationship between Vader and Tarkin all wrong. This,” he jabs a finger at the bottom entry, “is the definitive text on Vader’s military record. It’s a good read, Rey. You should start there.” He hands her back the datapad.

“Okay, I will. Thank you.” Rey nods and places the datapad on a nearby table. Then she crosses her arms and cocks her head up at him. “You know this subject. You tell me, Kylo. Why do you think Darth Vader was a great military man?”

A slow smile spreads across his face. This is a topic he has given much thought to over the years.   It is a favorite topic.   Much more interesting than invading Chandrila.

“It comes down to three things,” he tells Rey.   “First, Vader was an excellent tactician. But he was flexible. He was adept at reacting to the changing dynamics of a battle.   Second, he valued experience. He promoted soldiers who proved themselves in battle, without regard to their formal credentials. Vader didn’t care about your academy class rank. He cared about results. Third, his men loved him. The rank and file gladly fought and died at his side because Vader was there in the thick of battle. On his feet or in a starship, he always engaged the enemy himself. Not like Hux and his team of textbook warriors.“

“But didn’t Vader Force choke a lot of senior officers over the years?”

This is a common critique of his grandfather. And a petty one. “That’s true,” he acknowledges. “Vader was a hard man to please. He had high expectations for the Imperial elite. Risk comes with command, Rey.” Kylo shrugs. “We Skywalker Siths are an unforgiving lot. Vader cut my uncle’s hand off when he first met him.”   Kylo says this last bit with pride.

“So Vader was a warrior with the Force. Is that what made him Sith?” Rey looks a little uncomfortable as she asks the question. Like she’s asking about something she’s supposed to already know and revealing ignorance. “What exactly is Sith?”

Ah, now he understands why Rey is reading about Darth Vader. She won’t find those answers on the holonet.   Ren regards her steadily for a moment, wondering whether she’s curious because of him or because of her son.

“Do I intrigue you, Rey?”

She evades his eyes and he has his unspoken answer. Yes, very much.  

Oh, very good.

“To be Sith is to be fully human, Rey. To feel. Our power flows from our emotions—that is the fundamental difference between Sith and Jedi. The Jedi suppress their emotions. For a Jedi, there can be no love for another, no grief for a loss, no pride in an accomplishment, no desire for anything for the self.   That’s not truly living, Rey.”

He’s never explained this to anyone else before.   She’s listening intently, so he continues. She has a right to know.

“Sith lust for power. Jedi don’t lust for anything. They’re not supposed to want anything for themselves. Everything is for the good of the whole, nothing for the self. Tell me, Rey, would you have survived on Jakku if you did not pursue your own self-interest?   And where would ambition be if we were all to want nothing for our self?”

“The Sith respect the individual. In the greater scheme, that is the path to progress. The strong naturally overtake the weak to lead. That is how it should be. The strongest of all are the Sith.   Naturally, we lead the galaxy.”

“So the First Order is the strong overtaking the weak New Republic?” Rey is trying to understand the practical application of his words. His Rey is ever pragmatic.

“Yes.”

His Rey is also ever direct. “So where does the evil part come in?”

He can’t help but chuckle at this question. It’s so childishly Jedi. Good versus evil, Dark versus Light. Simple dichotomies that conflate the true complexities of the universe.

“Rey, morality has very little relation to power. You either have power or you don’t. The moral hows and whys of using that power are optional restrictions. Morality has its uses in the grand scheme of things, but not for a Sith.”

“I don’t understand.”    

“The Sith accept no limits on themselves or on the Force,” he explains.   “A Sith can do what he wants.”

“And he can take whatever he wants,” she whispers back Kylo’s words spoken to her.   He sees understanding dawn in her eyes.

“You’re catching on, Rey. We do not fear the Dark Side or the Light.   They coexist in the universe. We are each a mix of Dark and Light.   Even you, Rey, with all of your beautiful Light have a streak of Darkness tucked underneath.”   He leans closer to whisper conspiratorially and he catches the faint scent of her perfume. Gods, he is drawn to this woman. “I like it. I like the Dark hidden beneath your Light.”

Rey looks confused. “What Light? What are you talking about?”

Standing this close to her, speaking of Vader and the Sith, makes him aggressive. He wants to touch her. “You can’t see it. But I can.” He circles her slowly, feasting his eyes upon her.   “You leave an imprint in the Force.”

She tosses her head and rolls her eyes at him.   But she’s smiling. And blushing.

So he circles a second time, only closer. This time as he walks, he languidly trails his palm up one arm, down her back, around her body, up to her breast.   He leaves his hand there, boldly cupping her.   Mine. This will be mine. His other hand reaches behind to squeeze her bottom possessively as he jerks her close.   He hears Rey gasp in shocked surprise.

Damn, he is hot for this woman.   And she’s not batting his hands away like she should be. Incredibly, she’s letting him do this. It emboldens him further.

“The Light is everywhere in you. Shining out through the Force.”

Her head tips back and Rey is gazing up at him as if spellbound. The smile is gone but she’s hanging off his every word as he speaks.   “It’s like squinting into the sun, Rey. That’s what you look like in my mind.”   His lips brush against her cheek as he confides for her ears alone, “Sometimes, you blind me.”

She has given him a meter, so he takes a lightyear. He’s kissing her ear now, tracing circles with his tongue down her jaw. His hands are working her breast and her ass, kneading into her soft flesh.   A soft moan escapes her lips and he grows hard at the sound. “The Light is my weakness, Rey. I love your Light.” Maker, if she only knew how her Light winks at him to come hither.   This woman is such a temptation. “You are hard,“ he confesses, “so very hard, for me to resist.”

As if to prove his words false, Kylo abruptly releases her and steps back. Watching as she pants out her own desire, her breasts rising and falling with each breath. Her mouth slightly open, inviting his kiss. Wanting more.

This is her chance to run away. He almost feels that he should tell her to run away.   But Rey stands frozen on the spot. Confused. “Kylo, what—“

Insight flashes up at him through the Force. “You like this, don’t you?” he quizzes her. “You like me speaking of the Sith. About Darth Vader. You’re curious about Darkness.”

Of course, the scavenger living life by her wits would be drawn in by Dark power.   No one understands power, no one craves power, more than the powerless. It is a lesson from the life of his Sith grandfather, the slave boy from a wretched Hell-hole of a planet who rose to rule the galaxy. The more power you lack, the more power you want.

Kylo reaches to trail a gloved finger down her cheek and over her parted lips. “You are drawn to the Darkness in me. I am drawn to the Light in you.” He lifts her chin. “We could be good for each other, Rey.”

This time he will not frighten her with his desire. So, it starts with a single kiss. Small, almost chaste. But he goes back for another and then another. And it builds. His lips are on hers, his tongue is in her mouth and his hands roam her body freely.

“Oh, Kylo.” Rey commits to the embrace, pressing against him as her arms lift to encircle his neck.   Her body is stretched the length of his and they are a perfect fit. Her hands lace through his hair, pulling his mouth down on hers. He hears himself growl with pleasure as she returns his kiss.   This time, he wants Rey to be complicit.

It’s a timeworn Dark Side tactic to have you participate in your own fall from grace.

He lowers Rey to the couch, his body crushing down on her. He must not be too heavy because Rey is arching beneath him, writhing at the desire that is building in them both.   She’s wearing one of those damn high neck Alderaan-style day dresses his mother used to favor, so he can’t get at her breasts. He settles for mouthing her through the thin fabric. She gasps as he bites down on her taut nipple then sucks hard. It’s a little pain, but mostly pleasure. And Rey loves it.  Gods, he can’t wait to do this with the dress off.

Between them, they are yards of fabric and he’s still wearing his gloves. The only skin that touches skin are lips. All the barriers frustrate him. He should just throw Rey over his shoulder and march her back to his rooms and let someone else invade Chandrila. This is far more important.

Oddly enough, he thinks his Master might agree.

He whispers to her between kisses. “Rey, come with me.” He’s about to execute on his plan to get her to his rooms when--

“I see that I am interrupting something.”

Ren doesn’t have to look. He knows that voice. It’s that fucker Hux.

That man has terrible timing.   At least he’s alone when Ren sits up and turns around. The prima donna general seldom appears without his dour band of sycophants.

A wicked smile tugs at his mouth. Ren has been waiting for an excuse to do this for a long time. He lifts his hand, concentrates and squeezes.   And, oh, it feels good.   He channels all the lust that moments ago had been pulsating through him into violence.   Maybe he won’t get to thrust hard into Rey this afternoon, but at least he’ll get to kill someone.

Rey scrambles out from under him. Her face is vivid scarlet with embarrassment and it’s kind of endearing to see her so disheveled. She’s busy tugging her dress back into place and arranging her hair until she hears Hux’s choking noises. Rey looks up. “Kylo! Stop! Release him!”

Not a chance. He’s enjoying this way too much to stop.

Hux is turning blue. He rakes at his throat with his nails. As if that will help. Truly, this fucker will never comprehend the power of the Force.

“Kylo! Release him. Now!” Rey runs to the side of her favorite general.   Hux has dropped to his knees. “Kylo!” Rey wails with true alarm. “Stop!”

Belatedly, he realizes that explaining to his Master why he killed Hux might be a trifle embarrassing. Kylo thinks he might be forgiven if he could produce the map to Skywalker, but Rey’s outraged expression assures him that will not happen today. So, Kylo gives in.

“As you wish.” He drops his hand and releases the hold. Hux falls forward on all fours, sputtering and gasping. But he’s alive.

Rey glares at Kylo as she helps the general to his feet.   “That was a little too Darth Vader of you.”  

She seems to think this is a criticism.   But he appreciates the comparison nonetheless.

“The General is your colleague! You’re on the same side, Kylo.”

Rey clearly doesn’t know a thing about the First Order.   Among its elite, it’s every man for himself.

“Chandrila, Ren?” Hux’s voice is barely a croak.

Like Hell he is wasting more time in that meeting. “I’m done negotiating. It’s time to plan the attack.”

“Come, General. Let’s get you some water.”   Rey is tugging Hux out of the room, anxious to separate the two men.

It annoys him to see Rey fussing over his nemesis. If she’s doing this to piss him off, it’s working. He’d have Rey to himself now in his rooms if Hux hadn’t barged in.

With a pointed glare back at him, Rey exits the room with the still-gasping Hux.


 

“You need to be careful with Ren.” General Hux has icy blue eyes and they are fixed squarely on her. And filled with concern. “He is not a man to toy with, Rey.”

“Toy with?” Rey pretends not to know what he’s talking about as she busies herself searching for a glass in the expanse of cabinetry that is the castle kitchen.  There is enough cutlery here to bivouac an army, but where is the glassware? Rey is mortified by what just happened and trying not to think about it. At last, she locates a glass.

“I know what I just walked in on. Unless you and Ren are together?” The general is fishing again. “Is Ren why you are here at Bast?”

“Oh, no!” she rushes to correct him. “It’s not like that, General.” Kylo is why she is here at Bast, but she and Kylo are not together. Not together together. She fills the glass and turns to hand it to Hux. He takes it but doesn’t drink. Apparently, he has more to say on this topic.

“You looked pretty friendly with him a moment ago.”

Are she and Kylo friends? Rey has no idea what she and Kylo are. Except that they seem to end up in each other’s arms far too often for her comfort zone. “Kylo and I are not together.” That’s a true statement, so she goes with it.

“Then you should be careful about letting Ren paw you. He is a violent man, Rey. I could tell you stories that would terrify you. He is a brute in every way. And no doubt with women too.” The general says this last bit slowly as if to make certain she takes his underlying means. And oh, Rey knows that truth all too well.

Hux is peering at her over the rim of the water glass. “You know that Ren is a Sith, right? He has that magic Force and he doesn’t hesitate to use it. He can warp your memories and control your mind. You should never trust a Sith, Rey. Ren could make you do things you don’t want to do. And then you won’t even remember it afterwards.”

This is good advice and the general is far closer to the truth than he realizes. Rey knows she should hear him out but everything about this conversation is making her uncomfortable. She doesn’t need any reminders about what just happened on the couch with Kylo. Or what just almost happened. Truly, how could she have been so stupid?  

It’s just that every time Kylo takes off his mask and stops acting all Kylo-Ren-the-Killer and becomes semi-normal, he’s interesting. Often funny. And his angsty intensity is, well, kind of hot.

“General, thank you for the advice. Truly I appreciate your concern but—“

“Rey, do you know the story of that kid you play with? Did old Milo tell you about Kylo Ren’s son? He got that kid on a waitress. She fled from him and hid the child. It took him a year to hunt her down. When Ren found her, he killed her. Took her head off with that laser sword of his.   He probably would have killed the boy too but the Supreme Leader made him keep him. That’s the kind of man Kylo Ren is. He doesn’t just kill the enemy in war. He kills whoever he wants. And the Leader lets him get away with it.”

So these are the half-truths that the First Order knows about her and Han. Rey thinks this would be a fascinating conversation if it were not about her.

But Hux is right. Many times now she has watched Kylo morph from semi-normal-but-super-intense-guy to cold blooded killer in an instant. Rey has lost count of how many executions he has ordered calmly over a com at breakfast. It’s disconcerting and she has given up trying to reconcile it. Now Rey just accepts it as Kylo. She has grown far too comfortable with the brutal First Knight of Ren.

The general’s eyes narrow on her. But while his look is sharp, his tone is soft. “Why are you here, Lady Rey? It would be best if you kept far away from Ren.”

“I-I-I can’t leave,” Rey admits awkwardly. She looks away. “That’s the truth. I can’t leave. I wish I could, but I can’t. I’m stuck here.”

“Ren has some hold over you, doesn’t he?” Hux must sense her rising panic at his questions, for he backs off. But not before making her a gallant offer. “If ever you need help, Rey. Ask me. I’m not afraid of Ren.  He can’t kill me. The Leader won’t let him.”

She nods. “Thank you, General.” She means it.

Chapter Text

When there are no delegations and negotiations and no frenemies like Hux lurking about, Bast Castle is quiet again. And life with Kylo Ren can seem surprisingly mundane.   Like a sitcom on the holonet called ‘Honey, I’m Home from the First Order,’ the conquering hero returns to his castle to conventional domesticity.

These are the days Rey waits at the landing platform with Milo and Han for Kylo’s shuttle to land. Then Han is jumping up and down and running to Daddy as the amused Stormtroopers part for him to pass.   These are the days when the First Knight wanders in shirtless and rumpled at breakfast rubbing sleep from his eyes. He’s three cups of caf down before Rey has finished her one and his nose is buried in his datapad.   But don’t be fooled because he’s following every bit of what occurs in the room.

These are the days when Rey can almost forget why she is here and how her beloved son came about, who Kylo Ren truly is and what he has done. It all gets buried in the comfort of routine and the quiet luxury that is private life at Bast Castle.

And since Rey can’t change any of it, she won’t fight it.   It’s a lesson from Jakku: pick the battles you fight and when you fight them. Pick a fight with Unkar Plutt? Not if you want portions or salt tablets.   Pick a fight with Kylo Ren? Well, ask Chandrila what happens. Kylo Ren and Bast Castle are like so much else in Rey’s life. She will tolerate it and make the best of it.

One day, Kylo takes to dropping in on Han’s bedtime. The first time it happens, Rey is caught completely unaware.   “Get back here you!” she hollers grumpily from the refresher doorway, holding the towel Han has wiggled out of. Han is running around the nursery stark naked and wet from his bath. Thrilled to have eluded Mommy once more. On his next pass by the door, Rey snatches him up high over her head. “Gotcha!”  

Over the boy’s squeals, she recognizes Kylo’s snickering laugh. He’s standing in the nursery doorway observing it all.   Including her. His eyes pass over her hair piled haphazardly in a clip, her long sleeves rolled up past her elbows and the utilitarian kitchen apron worn to protect her elegant dress.   It’s her Bathtime Mommy Princess look, according to Han. Kylo laughs harder.

The tables are turned when little Han is dressed and ready for his bedtime story. “Daddy read it!” he insists. With a sly look, Rey rushes to agree with this plan. She can’t wait to see how Kylo’s dignity survives If You Give a Bothan a Bantha. To his credit, Kylo dutifully begins. He doesn’t get far when Han starts screaming “Jawa! Jawa!” Wrong book. “Here,” Rey grabs the holoreader and makes another choice. It’s the usual favorite. One Jawa, Two Jawa, Red Jawa, Blue Jawa.

There’s something incongruous but endearing about seeing this moment. Han’s eyes are heavy as he snuggles up on Kylo. But he’s listening intently and he corrects his father when he skips ahead a page.   Han has the story memorized and the little tyrant will tolerate no deviations.   When the book is read, it’s time for bed and she collects Han from Kylo’s lap. The boy looks down at his father and announces firmly, “Daddy, leave us. You are dismissed.” Rey can’t quite smother her laughter at the surprised look on Kylo’s face. Like his father, Han is quick to command.

The boy brings up ghosts for Kylo. Mostly, it’s bitter criticism of his mother. Rey learns that Leia Organa was away much of the time, and even when she was present she wasn’t a very hands-on mother. There were probably many good reasons for this, but none of them were understood by the child Ben Solo.   The grown man Kylo Ren only remembers distance and rejection. So when Kylo catches Rey up to her elbows in bath water or cutting up Han’s dinner into bite sized pieces, Rey comes to realize that what she’s seeing is his smirking approval, not his mocking ridicule.

It encourages her. Most days, Rey feels like she is a lackluster mother at best. She’s winging it, having never had a mother of her own to use as an example.

Kylo isn’t alone in wanting to redress the wrongs of his own childhood for Han. Rey, too, is captive to her own experience.   If she is overprotective, it’s because no one was ever there to pick her up, dust her off and kiss it better. And maybe it’s foolhardy to be encouraging Kylo Ren’s influence, but he is Han’s father. And any father is better than no father, she thinks.

“Have you always wanted children?” Kylo asks her one night after they have turned out the nursery light and shut the door.

Rey thinks a moment. “I have always wanted a family,” she tells him. “When I was growing up, I used to imagine having someone to look after me.   Now, I have a child and it’s my job to do the caring.” She flashes him a sad smile. “I never got my wish for someone to take care of me.”

Kylo scoffs at this. “You are very capable, Rey. I can’t see you ever needing much help in life.”

“It’s true that I am very independent,” she agrees with this assessment. In fact, she’s proud of it. “But just because you can do it all on your own, doesn’t mean that you want it like that all of the time. It would be nice to have someone to lean on. Maybe every now and then.”

Rey asks him the same question. “What about you? Do you think you’ll find a Mrs. Ren soon and give Han some half siblings?”

“I don’t know,” Kylo answers slowly. He gives her a searching look. “Do you think I should?”

“Oh, I definitely think you should.” Rey grins deviously. “That’s my best chance of getting out of here, you know. I can’t see your future First Order princess wanting Han and I hanging around. Aww-kward.”   She laughs at the thought. “Plus there’s the whole Vader legacy to pass on. Kylo, you need at least a couple of legitimate kids to name Anakin and Padme.”

“Do you still want to leave me, Rey?” Something in his tone wipes the smile from her face and her laughter dies in her mouth.   Kylo looks . . . vulnerable. It’s so at odds with the commanding man she knows that for an instant it frightens Rey.

She misinterprets his meaning. “If we left, you would always be in Han’s life, Kylo. He wants his father—I see that. And he will need someone to help him with the Force.”

“I’m not asking about the boy, Rey. I’m asking about you.”

“Oh,” is all she can say in the moment. Rey whirls away from him. She can’t think straight with those dark eyes of his boring into her.

Does she still want to leave Bast? Well, of course. It’s the epicenter of the First Order galactic domination strategy and it’s basically a glorified prison. But she’s lived in far worse places and Rey has everything she and Han could ever want except for freedom.   Is she desperate to leave? No. Would she prefer to leave? Yes, but not without Han.   Could she stay here forever if this was the only way to keep Han? Yes, she could.   Rey could tolerate almost anything to keep Han. Even Kylo Ren.

Kylo places his hands on her upper arms and he is standing close behind her. His breath is soft on her neck and his lips nearly upon her ear. “Here all three of us are together.   This is the way it should be.” He’s holding her from behind now, hugging her close with his chin resting on her head. It’s . . . nice. Not threatening, just comforting. Big, strong arms are holding her close.   These are the arms that must have held her down on the Starkiller, she knows. But right now, they feel good. Rey closes her eyes and sags back against him. She could get used to this.

“Yes,” she sighs, “some days it’s almost like we’re a real family.” Except they are not. She’s his prisoner, he’s her rapist. It’s . . . complicated.

Kylo chuckles at this. “Who knew we could be normal? There’s nothing normal about you or I.”

Rey agrees with this assessment. “You’re right,” she sighs. But let me pretend, she thinks.

And then, apparently, Kylo can’t help himself and he has to go and ruin the moment.

He releases her and steps back. The intimate, teasing voice is gone. The monotone voice of command is back. “Show me that you are grateful that I keep you here. Show me that you want to stay with our son. Kiss me, Rey.”

It’s been months now, but they have played this scene twice before. Kylo’s ultimatum is a show of dominance but it also feels like a plea for attention. One of the unfathomable contradictions that is Kylo Ren.   Some small secret part of Rey thrills to hear Kylo Ren demand her kiss. She has something he wants. It makes her feel reckless. Powerful even.

So she tells him no.

“I’m not playing these games any more. It’s been a long day. I’m going to bed.” Don’t start with this shit again, Kylo.   Without even turning around, Rey sets off back down the hall to her room.

She gets about five steps before she is frozen in place mid-stride. Kylo has wrapped his power around her and she is immobilized. Just like he had done on Takodano the first time they met. Damn, how she hates the Force.   Then, he’s doing that weird circling her thing he did once before. This time it makes Rey feel like she’s being stalked and it’s unnerving.   She can’t move a muscle right now. Rey can’t even flinch as he reaches out to cup her face with his hand.

“I can’t sleep with you next door.” Kylo has moved even closer and he’s cupping her face with both hands now. His forehead is bent to touch hers.   Rey is stuck staring at him in wondrous fascination because she is frozen and can’t look away. “I close my eyes and I can feel your Light calling to me, Rey. I am drawn to your power.” His voice sounds almost defeated. Like he is admitting something to her.

He breaks his Force hold and she stumbles slightly and somehow he catches her up into his arms and her feet leave the ground.

“Put me down!” Rey growls at him and immediately starts kicking and twisting.

This is not how Rey thought this evening would go. Just a few minutes ago they were putting their cranky toddler to bed for the night. Then, they would go their separate ways as usual. And Rey would have some rations for dinner, maybe watch a cheesy holovid and then sleep.

But now she is getting carried off by Kylo Ren.

“Don’t fight it, Rey. I have been so patient for you.” His long strides move fast and he’s down the hall and through the door and suddenly she’s in Kylo’s room.

Rey’s elbow finally connects with Kylo’s chin. Hard. He puts her down.

She stands before him, her head tipped back and her mind racing. Kylo is looking at her as if he might devour her whole. She needs to get out of here before things get out of hand. There will no Hux to walk in and interrupt this time. “What do you think you are doing?” she demands.

“This.”

His mouth comes down on hers before she can react. It feels as if all the looming intensity that is Kylo Ren has been distilled into this kiss. It’s hot and dark and it scorches her.   This man is Sith. Beneath his veneer of civility lurks a beast unashamed to lust for power and to lust for blood.

But tonight, he lusts for her.

Rey yields her mouth to him completely. There is a vehemence to this man and to his desire. He outright demands that she capitulates. And in a moment of weakness, Rey does.  

Oh, stars, is that her moaning? No, no, no. Rey needs to stop this. Now. Before Kylo thinks that she wants this. But, oh, this man’s mouth tastes like heaven.   And his lips are soft. So soft, she wouldn’t mind feeling them on her—stop thinking like that!  

Kylo has found the zipper at the nape of her neck and in two seconds it’s down and her dress is falling around her shoulders. “Let me look on you,” he commands. Rey is busy grabbing at the fabric while Kylo is busy sucking on her collarbone and dragging his hot mouth over her shoulder. Rey stops fumbling with her dress when she feels Kylo’s fingers creep over and then under! the lacy bralette she has on.   Then he is walking her backwards and Rey is more focused on keeping her clothes on than resisting. That’s a mistake because suddenly she tumbles backwards halfway onto his bed.

Her dress is at her waist, the bralette is off and Kylo Ren is laving his tongue across her bare nipples.   “They’re perfect,” he breathes out as he skims over her petite breasts. He’s doing that thing he did on the couch weeks ago when he bites her and then sucks. Gods help her, because Rey’s head is thrown back and her torso is arching to give him better access.   She whimpers. This is all wrong and it needs to stop now.   But, oh. That’s feels good. Don’t stop, Kylo.   Not yet.

He is wearing a black shirt and trousers today, and not his uniform. He pulls back for a moment to wrench his shirt over his head. Rey has been taking covert peaks at his naked chest over breakfast for months now, but running her hands over all that solid muscle is much more satisfying. And the gleam in his eye when she does this makes something in her twist with longing.  

Then his mouth claims hers once again. Rey is so caught up in his rapturous kiss that she doesn’t notice his hand hiking up her long skirt until it’s too late. Belatedly she realizes that this is the same two-pronged diversionary assault strategy he used on Correllia. It’s just as successful for him this time.   Kylo is propped on one elbow stroking her hair as he kisses her senseless and the other hand is lurking up her skirt stroking ever higher on her thigh.  

This is what General Hux had warned her about. Rey is leading Kylo on and it’s not safe. Ren is not a man to toy with, Hux had told her. It is good advice.   Hux knows his rival well.

“Hux?? You’re thinking of Hux!” Kylo drags himself roughly from her mouth and his eyes are hard with accusation as he glares down at her. Outrage oozing from his every pore.

Well, that broke the mood.

Rey hesitates a moment as she is jolted back to reality. Her hands fall back from Kylo’s chest and he grabs them both, pinning her to the bed.

He shakes her. “You’re here with me now thinking of Hux??”

Rey screws up her face. How had he figured that out? Oh. Right. “Get out of my head, Kylo! NOW!” she snaps back at him.

“I’m not in your head! You mind is always open and usually shrieking at me. It’s easier to peak into your thoughts than it is to peak under your skirt, Rey.” He pushes off of her in disgust and stalks across the room. “You need a teacher!” he rails at her hotly.   “You are way too powerful to be this transparent to me.”

Rey stares at him a moment. She’s confused if Kylo is mad because she was thinking of Hux or mad because he could tell she was thinking of Hux.

It doesn’t matter. This is her chance to flee. Rey is not going to squander it. She simultaneously pulls her dress down her legs and up her chest.   Where is her bra? Who cares. She’ll let him have it for a souvenir. Rey heads for the door.  

“You need a teacher!” Kylo is still berating her as he advances. “I can teach you to hide your thoughts. You need to learn this.” Kylo beats Rey to the door and only at that moment seems to suddenly realize that she was leaving him. “Wait—where are you going? We’re not done yet.”

Rey doesn’t know if he means that he wants to yell at her more about the Force or whether he wants her to climb back into his bed. Either way, she’s not going for it.   “Out of my way. I’m leaving. Good night.”

His eyes narrow as he takes in her sudden frosty demeanor. “Rey,” he reaches out to her but she sidesteps him easily.   He frowns and tries again with the help of the Force. And, of course, it works.   Now Rey has her back against the wall by the door now and his grip is so tight it hurts. “Hux was right—you shouldn’t toy with me, Rey.”

Her knee comes up aiming for the Skywalker family jewels, but he anticipates her. “Don’t do that,” he warns.

“This was a mistake.” Rey says this in no uncertain terms.  “Let me go.”

“Ah, but you keep making this mistake, Rey. Once on the balcony. Once in the library on the couch. And tonight you lay in my bed and moan for my touch. Did I miss any? How many times do you think you get to kiss me and then call it a day?” He leans forward to whisper to her. “I know that you are wet and ready for me under that dress.   And you know that I can take whatever I want.”

“Yes, I know,” she tells him bitterly. “But don’t expect me to give it to you, Kylo.”

“You were ready to give it to me a minute ago!” He’s mostly right, and she knows it. Rey’s face flames with humiliation.

“Aren’t things difficult enough between us?” she asks between clenched teeth. “Do you want to make it worse? You once said that you wouldn’t hurt me. That I was in no danger from you. Prove that. Let me go.”

He considers a long moment. Then he steps back and releases her. “Do not tease me again,” he fairly growls this warning at her. Then he opens the door and physically thrusts her away from him and out the door.   “Get out, then!”

“Go to Hell, Kylo!” she yells at him, knowing full well he can still hear her through the door. Milo can probably hear her two floors above.

Rey races down the hall to her rooms and locks the door.


 

Alone with her thoughts, Rey freely admits that she is lonely. Even with little Han and Milo, still she is lonely. Rey the war orphan from Jakku has always been lonely. But in her darkest moments, when she felt the most helpless and hopeless, still she has persevered.

There were plenty of men at Niima who would have sheltered her, shared their portions with her, perhaps even grown to care for her, in exchange for her body.   Once or twice, she had been desperate enough to consider approaching one of them. But then her independence asserted itself and, pragmatic as she is, Rey had declined to bargain with her body. She had pressed forward alone. Always alone.

Why then, is it so enticing to forget herself in the arms of Kylo Ren?

He does not care. He has never once apologized for his treatment of her. For his rape that thankfully she cannot remember. For erasing her mind. For his abduction. Twice. For ransacking her memory. Twice. For his imprisonment.   Twice. She could go on.

All Kylo has ever managed is a few vague statements that he will not hurt her. As if keeping her here with the constant threat to take away her son did not hurt already.

How desperate is she that she welcomes his attention?

Rey buries her face in her hands, feeling the hot blush of her cheeks as she recalls the feel of his torrid embrace. Kylo Ren’s kiss is the worst sort of lie. In the moment, it seems to promise everything. Comfort. Pleasure. Understanding. Maybe even happiness. But he would deliver none of these things. Kylo Ren does not give, he takes. And then he takes more. Because he can.  He even says it proudly. I can take whatever I want.

And, Gods help her, Rey had almost been willing to give it to him tonight.

She looks down at her body in the shower, seeing the faded, silver scars on her knees and on her palms. Remembering how the Resistance medic droid had told her that she might have be two inches taller had she grown up with proper nutrition.   Knowing that even years later she preferred the bland taste of rations to real food that overwhelmed her taste blind palate. This was the physical imprint of Jakku.

But there are deeper, hidden scars of Jakku. From the abandonment that makes her cling tightly to her own son.   Makes her ready to sacrifice anything to keep him. Because no one had done that for her. From the loneliness that leaves her craving the monster’s kiss because he makes her feel desirable.   Because he lusts for her, the throw-away that no one has ever valued. Even if he will only throw her away in the end too.

The droid can paint her face and paint her nails, and she can slip into Coruscant’s costliest couture to float around Lord Vader’s castle, but the scavenger girl is still there underneath.   Jakku . . . fucking Jakku. Where she had starved for food and starved for love.  

But where she always had been free, Rey reminds herself.  

Chapter Text

Kylo Ren does not handle rejection well.

The next morning there are two grumpy two-year-olds at breakfast with Rey and Milo.   Kylo is glowering at her over the rim of his datapad, his anger vivid in his body language.   He looks like he could snap at any moment.

Rey returns the silent treatment in kind.

Old Milo notices the chill in the air. He raises an eyebrow covertly at Rey.   She just looks away.   It’s not like her to be distant, but this isn’t something she can explain to the keeper.

Thankfully, Bast is expecting visitors today so Kylo is in uniform and Rey doesn’t have to make a show of avoiding staring at his muscled chest.   That would be a little too much to take this morning.

Milo breaks the tense silence and begins his daily briefing for Kylo.   Rey munches away on her rations, only half listening when Milo tells her, “The negotiating team arrives early for lunch today. It is a social gathering, not a strategy session. Will you be joining us, Rey?”

More and more, Milo has been including Rey at all non-restricted events.  She has become something of the unofficial hostess of Bast Castle. This is ridiculously ironic given her Resistance past and her murky status as permanent-houseguest/de facto-prisoner with no official explanation. But so much of her life with Kylo Ren is a series of secrets and lies that she just plays along with this role too. It’s not like Rey is killing people for the First Order—she’s no collaborator. All she’s doing is showing up at lunches and cocktail parties to make small talk and smile at stressed out middle aged men.  

As a general rule, assuming at least one of the nanny droids is functioning, Rey makes an effort to appear whenever Milo asks. Today will be no different. Rey nods. “Sure, Milo. What time?”

“No.” This comes from Kylo. It’s the first time he’s acknowledged her presence.

“What?” she asks.

“Hux will be there. I told you to stay away from Hux.”

“We are expecting fifteen for the luncheon,” Milo informs them quietly. Meaning this is not an intimate gathering with just her, Hux and a few others.

“No,” Kylo commands. He’s glaring at her now. All petulance and disdain. “Perhaps I should confine you to quarters, Rey. That way you won’t get a chance to perform your damsel in distress act if you happen to pass Hux in the hallway. He’s such a fool for your air of mystery routine.”

Kylo is sneering at her and she sneers back. “Then maybe you should just tell him who I am.”

“It’s tempting. The Starkiller was Hux’s command, you know. He was a little too proud of that technological terror. I wonder how long it would take him to shoot you if he knew you helped to bring it down.   Hux thinks the girl with the map to Skywalker died when the planet blew. We need to keep him thinking that.”

Rey rolls her eyes. “This isn’t about the Starkiller and you know it, Kylo!” Rey doesn’t much care whether she goes to this boring luncheon. But she’s not going to let Kylo know that.

Rey turns back to Han for a moment. Han is getting agitated, mirroring the tension in the room. Her boy always feeds off the emotions of those around him.

“One of these days, Hux is going to put it all together and figure out that you’re the scavenger from Jakku with the Force and the map. And that you escaped to blow up the oscillator with my f--Han Solo and your traitor stormtrooper boyfriend.” Kylo scowls at her. “Stay away from Hux.”

Oh, please. Rey doesn’t believe for one minute that this is about protecting her. “You’re not worried that he is going to hurt me.   You’re worried that he’s going to help me.”

Kylo slams his fist down on the table and the dishes leap. “Must you play the femme fatale of the First Order the way you did for the Resistance?” Ren is getting nastier by the minute. “At least you’re aiming for a higher rank here. I’d hate to think I needed to worry about you seducing the stormtroopers the way you did FN-2187.”

That was a low blow. “Leave Finn out of this!” Rey has had enough of Kylo Ren this morning.   Han has started to fuss. She unbuckles him from his booster seat. Han is done with his breakfast and Rey is done with this conversation. So what if she misses the luncheon.

“If I catch you sneaking off in Hux’s shuttle, I will kill him and throw you back in a cell. That’s a promise, Rey!” This time Kylo slams down his mug of caf and it slops over the rim to splatter on the table. He is leaning forward leering at her across the table. “I remember how much I liked you in a cell, Rey.”

Rey leaps to her feet, fuming.   She doesn’t need any reminders about the Starkiller cell. Rey’s eyes narrow and she regards him with withering disdain. “You make it very easy to hate you, Kylo Ren.”

He gives her a knowing sneer. “You didn’t hate me last night.”

Rey can feel her face flush scarlet. Her expression hardens. She grabs the knife from her place setting. It’s the closest thing she has to a weapon.

Kylo raises an eyebrow. “That’s a butter knife, Rey. How terrifying.”   He is mocking her with glee.    

Rey just smiles and stretches out her left hand. Kylo’s datapad flies from his unsuspecting grip into her hand.   Thank you, Force, she thinks.   Somehow the Force never fails her when she’s super pissed at Kylo. Rey slams the datapad on the table and thrusts the knife through it hard.   The screen cracks and splits from the force of her blow.   “It’s sharp enough.” She tosses the pieces of broken data pad across the table at Kylo.

His stunned expression is very satisfying.

Han is screaming now. “No fight! No fight, Mommy Daddy! No fight!” Rey cringes at these words. She should never have let this argument escalate so far in front of their son.   Han doesn’t need to witness this. He should think Mommy and Daddy love—er, like—er, tolerate each other. She gathers the child in her arms and hugs him close, telling him it will be okay.

Ren ignores the boy. “Oh, I have missed the violence in you, Rey.” He practically purrs these words at her. Kylo’s eyes have an odd gleam that makes Rey think that yes he really does like her violent.   “Remember how you tried to kill me when we met? You shot first, Rey. I respect that.” He’s telling her this like it’s a happy memory, like it was a meet-cute and not him hunting her down in the woods and holding a lightsaber to her neck.

Gods, Kylo is fucked up. Looking at the Sith man-child across the table from her, pouting because he didn’t get his way last night, Rey wonders how she possibly could have ended up in his arms.   She might be Jakku trash, but she is way too good for Kylo Ren.

“You are the violent monster here, Kylo.   Not me.”  

Hugging Han close, Rey charges from the room. 


 

Rey has the Lady of the Castle bit down Kylo thinks as he watches her approach from the doorway.

She is graceful and elegant, drawing the appreciative eyes of his men as she walks their gauntlet with confidence. Her hair is piled high and she’s covered neck to toe in blood red silk, so it’s hard to miss her. But it’s noli me tangere, Ceasaris sum, for there is nothing about her manner that is encouraging.   You may look, but you may not touch.

The full Hux entourage is scattered about loitering, waiting for him to finish this last matter before the shuttle carrying them all will depart for the Finalizer.   Kylo catches the respectful nods and the friendly looks cast her direction. Whatever it is these men think they know about Rey, it’s clearly positive.    

Kylo ushers Rey into the office and shuts the door. He does not remove his helmet. He knows she hates the helmet and he’s spiteful like that.

“You wanted to see me?” Rey has dropped the pleasant half smile she wears as a mask among the First Order elite. She’s outright scowling at him again. Just like at breakfast. Just like last night.

Is she still mad? Well, good. So is he.

“I am leaving on a mission. I will be gone a week or more.” He notes that she looks pleased by this news. That annoys him. “I have something for you, Rey. Give me your hand.”

There’s no enthusiasm, but Rey dutifully reaches out her hand. He drops a palm-sized cube with intricate gold engravings into it.  

“Oh.”

He’s noticed that this is what Rey always says when she’s at a loss for words. In the moment, she is almost childlike and it is beguiling. But then he remembers how angry he is. And then she’s not beguiling, she’s back to being the ignorant-Jakku-Resistance-slut in his mind.

Rey stares at the heavy cube. It glows blue through the engraving marks, as if something alive lies within. Blue like the Skywalker heirloom lightsaber she had once swung at him. Rey turns the cube over in her hand and testing its weight.

“What is it?” she finally asks. “It’s beautiful. And—and—“

“And what, Rey?” He can’t help it—he is hanging on her words, intrigued by what she had been about to say.  He has been wondering how she will react.

“And familiar?” The word ends up, as if she is uncertain. “What is it?” she asks again.

“It’s a Jedi holocron.”

She blinks at him, not understanding. “A Jedi what?”

“Holochron. The Jedi stored their teachings in recordings sealed in these cubes. They can only be opened with the Force.”

“The Force,” Rey echoes, wrinkling her nose slightly. It frustrates him how stubbornly disdainful she is of the Force. It is a waste. And in the long term, it will become a problem with their boy.   Ren remembers well the distance he had felt for his own father who was completely oblivious to the Force.   Over time that distance had deepened into contempt.   Rey doesn’t know it yet, but she needs to develop her powers to stay close to her son.  

And, scared as she is by the Force, Rey keeps refusing his offers to teach her. So, he has a new strategy. Rey will teach herself.

“Inside the holochrons are the secrets of the ways of the Force. From the Jedi point of view.”

“Why do you have this?” she sounds and looks suspicious. “Did you steal it from Luke Skywalker?”

“No, it belongs to me. And now I am giving it to you. It’s a present.”

That gets her attention. “A present?” she says this last word softly, with wonderment. Damn. She’s back to being beguiling again. “I’ve never received a present before. Well . . . your father once gave me a blaster, but that’s not the same.”

He snorts at this. “If I gave you a gun, you’d probably shoot me, Rey.” She would too. Trust it to Han Solo to give her a blaster. He wonders if it was the one she had shot at him on Takodano. Rey had been an awful shot.

“Find someplace quiet, clear your mind and open it. See what’s inside.”

“Why? Why are you giving this to me?” Again, she sounds suspicious. Rey cocks her head at him. “Is this some sort of peace offering?”

“Peace is a lie, Rey. I’m giving it to you because the Force is more than lightsabers and trashing my datapad.”

She makes a face at the reminder of this morning’s confrontation. “Thank you for the gift. I guess,” Rey mutters. “But I’m not interested in the Force.” She tries to hand the holochron back, but Kylo won’t take it.

“It’s yours. Take it. You should not waste your abilities,” he complains.  

“I don’t want to be a killer like you,” she accuses.

Belatedly, he realizes that today might not be the best day to give the holochron to her. Rey is just as stubborn as his m-Leia Organa, he thinks.   She too had resisted any training in the Force.

“This holochron is not about killing. Open it up, learn from it. It will be useful for you. Our son is growing day by day in the Force. If you will not learn the ways of the Force for yourself, learn them for our son. So that you can share the Force with him.”   Amplified by his mask, his voice sounds especially exasperated. If Rey won’t do this for herself, perhaps she will do it for their son. Her love for the boy makes Rey so easy to manipulate.   “Keep it. Think about it,” he urges, trying to sound encouraging and not just annoyed.  

Rey looks up.   Her brow furrows.   Yes, she is still mad. Very mad. She puts a hand on one hip and jerks up her chin.   It’s the universal posture of outraged women everywhere.

“Do you ever apologize? For anything?”

Is that what Rey had been expecting when he summoned her?   An apology?   Sith do not apologize. Sith do not explain.   And if anyone should be apologizing, it is Rey. She had broken his datapad with Sith-like glee, he recalls.   Normally, that attitude might have impressed him. But really, destroying a man’s datapad is a petty move.

“No,” he answers plainly. “Sith do not apologize. But if you prefer to think of this as a peace offering, you can.”

Apologies are a slippery slope. Once you start apologizing, you are admitting to a transgression and allowing someone else’s expectations to limit your behavior. And if he apologizes for last night, then what’s next—apologizing for keeping Rey here? For the Starkiller? For Han Solo? Not a chance.

And really, the thing Kylo regrets most about last night is letting Rey go.  

Rey’s expression hardens and she scowls at him a long moment, deciding. Then she slams the holochron down on the table, jabs at the door release and heads down the hall.  

She’s intensely angry and as usual her mind is completely unguarded, so he catches the gist of her thoughts as she brushes past him to walk away. Fuck you, Kylo. Fuck you and your Force. And fuck your holowhatever thing too.

Nice. Not fucking him is precisely what had started this fight. He needs to get away from Bast because Rey is driving him crazy. If he stays here any longer, he might do something he truly will regret. Something like the Starkiller.

Despite her head screaming profanities at him, Rey is back to playing Lady of the Castle, he notes. Her body language doesn’t betray any of her anger.   For a moment, he lets himself admire how controlled she is. If the roles were reversed, he would be stomping and igniting his lightsaber to go destroy something.

“Rey!” he calls after her, giving in to impulse. She freezes and turns in time to reflexively catch the holochron cube he has lobbed right at her. Good catch. That’s my girl. “Consider it a challenge,” he calls to her.

The hallway full of uniforms is puzzled and staring at this exchange.   He ignores them and strides past stopping only to lean down to speak directly into Rey’s ear. “Show me that you can do it,” he tells her before continuing on his way to the landing platform.

Maybe that will motivate the stubborn-Jakku-Resistance-slut.

She was expecting an apology. Just who does she think she’s dealing with exactly?

So she’s still mad. Who cares. So is he.

Stupid-Hux-loving-Resistance-slut.


 

 

Rey never plans to open the holochron.   She’s tired of Kylo mansplaining the Force to her.   And he wants her to open it, so of course she won’t.   Five minutes after Kylo gives it to her, Rey places it on the table beside her bed and promptly forgets about it.

Then Rey makes the mistake of letting Han play with it for a few minutes as she takes a shower. Ever since then, Han has been fascinated by the little cube.   He climbs on her bed to reach it and tumbles off in the process. So, she stashes the cube in a drawer. He climbs for that too and this time he succeeds. Rey turns around to find Han sitting on the night table holding the cube. She is surprised, he is surprised. The boy loses his balance and tumbles off. The cube falls back and the Han falls forward. Now he is screaming with a small bloody scrape on his forehead.

Thanks, Kylo, she thinks to herself.   Best gift ever.

It takes a moment before she realizes that Han is screaming for the cube and not because of his injury. So Rey crawls on all fours and blindly gropes around to find the little cube fallen under her bed. She sits with her back propped against the bed and pulls Han into her lap. Together they turn the little cube over, tracing the gold markings on its sides. What is so special about this? She’s frowning at it, looking intently, when suddenly it opens.

Inside is a holovid of some stern Twi’lek lady named Vokara Che giving a short beginner lesson on how to heal with the Force. Rey watches it through three full times. It doesn’t sound too hard. She looks over at the small cut on Han’s forehead. Rey closes her eyes, tries to concentrate on the cut and . . . nothing.   Fucking Force. It only seems to work when she’s fighting with Kylo.

“Again, Mommy,” Han urges her and really, she cannot tell her son no. So she tries once more. Rey remembers the moment in the woods on the Starkiller when she had summoned the Force against Kylo Ren. And there it was again—that loose, floating feeling of being diffuse in the universe, of boundaries slipping and consciousness blended. Yes . . . the Force is with her. Rey reaches to stroke at Han’s bloodied forehead and all evidence of the injury erases at her touch.

Wow. Just wow.

It turns out to be a useful skill. Toddlers run and fall all the time. By the end of the week, Rey has healed Han five more times.   And each time, it gets a little easier to do.

Maybe the Force isn’t so bad.

Chapter Text

The Ren are coming.

Milo delivers this news as if he were announcing the arrival of a plague of locusts. A transcript of his words would betray nothing of his disdain. It is all in the delivery.

From time to time, the Knights of Ren spend a few days carousing on Coruscant after a difficult mission, Milo tells her. His words are vague but his meaning is clear: boys will be boys. Every so often, the party spills over to Bast Castle. Tonight will be one of those times.

Lock your door, the keeper tells her with a stern look. Keep to your room and to the nursery. These are fighting men back from war.   Not like Hux and his careful spreadsheet soldiers who would rather negotiate than join the fray. The Ren get their hands dirty for the First Order.  

Milo holds her gaze and tells her plainly: they are an undisciplined and disreputable lot.   And then he tells her not to repeat this.

Taken aback, Rey hastily nods her understanding.

It’s already late when she hears the whine of an ion engine shutting down.   Rey first spies discretely out the window, then wanders to the balcony off her room. She is made bold by the four stories difference between herself and the castle landing platform below.

One by one, seven TIE Interceptors swoop down to the platform. One misjudges the distance and nearly slams into the ground.   Another skitters several meters upon landing, sending up a shower of sparks.   It bumps hard up against the adjacent ship. No one seems to care.

The Ren emerge. Seven men all in belted black surcoats that whip in the wind.   They are like a flock of ravens come home to roost. And like the carrion birds they resemble, their very presence is a reminder of death.  They are here, after all, to celebrate their latest killing spree.

Rey watches the backslapping, the high-fives and the elbowing.   Hears snatches of laughter and shouted insults for greetings carried high up by the night breeze. Both sides would hate the comparison, but Rey is reminded of the Resistance.   Poe Dameron and his pilots also fight hard and play hard. Trusting one another to have their back whether that means dragging them home drunk from a bar or blowing a TIE off their tail. It is the comraderie of men at war.

The Master of Ren stands tall in the midst of his knights. Helmet off. Kylo’s left profile faces her. It’s the unmarked side. The handsome side. Even from many meters above, Rey can see that his expression is unguarded. He is relaxed in a way Rey only sees when he is home alone here at Bast.

He must be drunk, she decides.   Several of the Ren appear to be drunk.

Kylo’s command shuttle sets down among the TIEs, like a mother bird returning to tend her young. Whoever is aboard must be important because the Ren flock to the shuttle ramp.   A pair of stormtroopers disembark first and then the passengers follow.

Rey now understands Milo’s disapproval.

She counts nine women, all humanoid but not all human. Even from above in the dim light, Rey can see that these women are dressed to be the night’s entertainment.   It’s nothing she hasn’t seen before. Jakku had its share of prostitutes. It might be the galaxy’s oldest profession, but it was never a career a woman chose freely.   Rey had always felt sorry for them. And a few times, she very nearly was them.

Rey is leaning over the railing for a better look when there is a knock on her door. It’s Milo and he looks unusually annoyed.   But not at her.

“The master would like you to join the party downstairs.”

Rey has not expected this. “Oh,” is all she can think to say.

Milo prompts her, “Shall I tell him that you have already retired for the night?” It’s a leading question and, remembering the keeper’s words of warning, Rey rushes to agree.

Not two minutes later, Milo is back.   Only this time, he steps in her room and shuts the door. He turns and she sees the dignified old keeper visibly swallow. “The master insists. I’m sorry, Rey.”

Milo dutifully delivers the rest of the message but omits the dripping sarcasm that had originally accompanied it. “The master remembers how much you enjoy attending social gatherings here.   He would like you to join him tonight as hostess.   The master requests that you grace the Ren with your presence in the same manner and with the same enthusiasm that you receive General Hux and his staff.”

Then the Imperial veteran apologizes again. “I’m sorry, Rey.”

So Kylo Ren will not accept her refusal.   That should not surprise her. Kylo is not big on ‘no.’

“Guess he’s still mad,” Rey sighs aloud. Kylo has already told her that he doesn’t apologize. Apparently, he doesn’t forgive or forget either.   It must be a Sith thing.

Rey looks down. She is half dressed for bed, needing only to brush out her hair and wash off her makeup before sleeping.   “Alright. I will be down after I have changed.”

“No, Rey.   You need to come now.”

“Like this?” She is wearing a long nightgown with matching cape. The package from Coruscant had described it as a peignoir, whatever that means. It is sheer, flesh colored and cut low. Rey is wearing it because it’s one of two nightgowns she owns and this is the less fancy option if you can believe it.

“Yes.” Milo nods his approval. “Like that will do.”

It’s dim in the room so maybe Milo can’t see how truly sheer her nightgown is. “I can’t go in wearing th—“

“Rey,” Milo interrupts. Something he never does. “You will be wearing far more than most of the women here.”

Rey feels herself blush. Her eyes widen. “Milo, w-w-what are they doing down there?” Something tells her this party will be nothing like lunching with General Hux and hearing stories of his academy days.    

“Drinking mostly.” Rattled as he is, Milo is as circumspect as ever. His evasion does nothing to reassure her, and Rey is already imagining a drunken orgy led by the Master of Ren himself.

“I’m not going—“

“Rey.” The old keeper places his hand on her arm and looks into her eyes. “Rey, it will be fine. Go now as you are. Hold your head high and enter as though you are meeting Darth Plag—the Supreme Leader himself. No one in that room save Kylo Ren has authority over you. Have one drink—no more--and come back as soon as possible.”

“But—“

“Rey, it would be best to get this over with before the party gets more . . . er . . . lively.”

Rey blanches at the implication.

“Alright.” She can do this.   Rey tugs up the neckline of the nightgown and smooths her hands down over her hips. “Wish me luck,” she smiles lamely at Milo, who is already reaching to press the door release. He can’t push her out the door fast enough.

Milo calls one last piece of advice after her. “Tolerate no disrespect, Rey. Even from Ren.”


 

Rey enters the room with the calm self-assurance he has come to admire. Her expression is enigmatic and her head held high.   It’s her Lady of the Castle routine. Rey looks and acts as though she owns the place. As though she happened to walk into her castle great room to find a bevy of prostitutes cavorting with his knights and this amuses her somewhat.

Milo would have been proud of that entrance, Kylo thinks. Empress, indeed.

At first glance, she is attired for bed in demure pale lace, looking like a virgin bride on her wedding night. But a second closer look reveals that Rey is nude beneath the lace. Well, maybe. The strategic placement of the spidery pattern protects her modesty, but reveals hints of everything else. All around him, the room is full of barely clad women brashly displaying their charms. But the coy, almost discrete tease of Rey’s allure arrests him.  

Kylo stares.  

He has been imagining those curves beneath the lace for the past ten days. Obsessively reliving Rey moaning and arching under him. Remembering the taste of her skin and the smell of her hair. Recalling her greedy fingers exploring his chest. If only he had not lost his cool about Hux, things might have ended differently.

One of his men lets loose a long, low whistle and he snaps out of his reverie. The buzz in the room has gone quiet at Rey’s arrival and the atmosphere has shifted. Everyone stares expectantly at her. A few glance back at him wondering who the newcomer is.

“Come, Rey.” Kylo beckons her forward, sloshing liquid out of the glass still held in his hand. His words are slightly slurred but he’s not nearly drunk enough yet. The night is still young. “Come, meet the Knights of Ren. Victorious again today against the Resistance.”

The room cheers and drinks to his sentiment. The Ren are a rowdy crowd.

Rey stands there rooted on the threshold, hazel eyes scanning the room. Taking in his men scattered and lounging, most with a girl at their side and a drink in their hand. Some with a girl in their lap.   Noting with interest the pile of weapons and discarded bits of armor lying by the door. Noting without interest the First Knight himself seated at the back of the room.

Kylo doesn’t bother to conceal his grin.

Rey’s gaze might be cool, but her Force imprint is screaming her discomfort to him. She is equal parts extremely annoyed at him for dragging her here and utterly mortified by the debauchery that surrounds her. It’s just as he had hoped.  

Kylo has been looking forward to knocking his Jakku empress off her pedestal a little. To shocking his prim and haughty babymama. Okay, maybe he’s still a little mad and it’s payback for leaving him hard and hot the other night. But mostly he just wants to see Rey.   It’s been a long time since Kylo has gone ten days straight without seeing Rey.

And, yeah, Milo is right to think that he’s being an asshole (his keeper would never actually voice that thought aloud). But it’s clearly the right call because now he gets to see Rey in her lingerie.

Nestor Ren is the boldest of his knights where women are concerned. He grabs a bottle and an empty glass and saunters over to Rey. “Join us,” the knight welcomes her easily, pouring a full glass to offer to Rey.   “Drink to the glory of the First Order and to the death of the Resistance. Drink to the Bothan blood that we have spilled today.”

In the back of the room, Kylo snorts. There’s no way his Rey will ever lift a glass to that toast.

Kylo watches Rey shake her head slightly, her lips turned up in what he knows to be a fake smile. She gives Nestor a good-natured refusal. “No, thank you, Knight. That looks too strong for me.”

“Only the first glass is strong, sweetheart,” his knight cajoles, moving closer. “After that, the other glasses go down easy.” Nestor Ren reaches to physically lift her hand and places the glass in it.   The Knights of Ren are aggressive men, and they do not make it habit of taking no for an answer. “You’re from Coruscant, aren’t you? I recognize the fancy accent.” The knight gestures around the room, “These girls are from Coruscant too. Only you look like you cost a lot more for the night than they do.”  Nestor Ren casts a glance back in his direction, calling out, “Kylo, is this one just for you, or will you share?”

Kylo frowns. Perhaps this little prank has gone on long enough.

He sees Rey shift her stance slightly at his knight’s words. She raises her chin and tosses her hair slightly in a gesture Ren knows means that she is angry. Kylo is ready to rise and intervene when one of the girls steps in front of him and boldly climbs into his lap.   He manages to remove her just in time to see Rey splash her drink all over Nestor Ren.

Well, fuck.

There is a moment of stunned silence. A few seconds of hastily stifled laughter.

Then his knight lunges towards Rey. Kylo leaps to his feet. But Rey has already flung out her arm and is moving towards the weapons hoard piled in the corner. The discarded bo staff of Jonor Ren leaps two meters to land into her outstretched hand and suddenly Rey is unleashed.   She attacks.

Rey always shoots first. He loves that about her.  

She is a thing of beauty to watch. This is the Rey that he remembers from the snowy woods on the Starkiller.   Hyper-focused and lethal, swinging with a vengeance. With that hidden streak of Darkness blazing from her eyes.  

He needs to ask Rey where she learned to fight with a staff. She’s great with that staff.

Kylo has only seen her use the Force three times before tonight. Untrained though Rey is, the Force seems to leap to her command whenever she is desperate for defense. He wonders if she even knows it is happening or whether all those latent midichlorians, all that secret power, is summoned unconsciously.

There are fifteen other people in the room with them, but really there is only Rey and himself. For Kylo can’t take his eyes off her. Nestor Ren is down now and the staff catches him cleanly across the jaw. Through the Force, Ren can feel his knight losing consciousness. He is no longer a threat. But Rey holds her staff cocked back slightly from his neck. Poised for the vertebrae cracking killing blow and . . . she hesitates.

Rey had once stood over him brandishing his grandfather’s Jedi lightsaber and hesitating. Then the earth split between them and Kylo Ren lived to fight another day.   Was Rey remembering that same moment now?

She looks up and locks eyes with him standing in the back of the room. Raises her eyebrows. This is his knight and she’s questioning Kylo what to do next.   Needing his guidance. Like he is some ancient potentate who will signal thumbs up or thumbs down to decide the fate of the fallen.

Rey is panting and her face is flushed. He cannot look away, for she is the most erotic thing Kylo has ever witnessed.  All that lace, that bare skin and that violence. Her open lips, her heaving chest, her warrior stance. The flowing hair, the flashing eyes, the gritted teeth. All of this and the Force too.

Gods, this woman is perfect for him. And tonight, he decides, Rey will be his.

His eyes never leaving hers, Kylo crosses the room and steps over his unlucky knight. Rey relinquishes the staff to him automatically and his knight is spared.  

It is thumbs up tonight for Nestor Ren.

“I almost killed him.” Rey’s voice is low for his ears alone. Unhappily, she confesses, “I wanted to kill him.”  It’s a statement of fact and not an apology. Rey is all fierce Jakku survivor now, and his Lady of Bast Castle is gone.  

Kylo nods to reassure her. Who is he to judge her for bloodlust? “I understand, Rey. I understand.”   Oh, how he understands. He knows there is such Dark satisfaction in finishing the fight.

Rey is wary as she stands surrounded by hostile onlookers. Now that the fight is over, it’s time to flee before another begins.   His other five knights are all on their feet now, and a few have moved closer. “Get me out of here,” Rey whispers as she furtively scans the room full of menacing Ren.   Some are none too pleased with her treatment of their fellow knight. But all are waiting to see what Kylo will do about it.

He had dragged Rey here in a peevish fit of provocation. To enjoy her girlish embarrassment at the exploits of the Knights of Ren.   Yeah, it was juvenile of him. And he had expected Rey to be hostile. But he had not expected her to kick the shit out of his best knight as her opening move.

And damn if he isn’t proud of her for doing so.   Nestor Ren is NEVER going to live this down.

Part of him wants to throw his head back and laugh at the whole situation. And then throw Rey over his shoulder, slap her ass hard in front of the Ren and take her to bed.

Except his victorious Rey looks so vulnerable right now. She has efficiently dispatched Nestor Ren, but she’s not gloating or even proud. She looks dazed by all of it. The fight, the Force, the killer instinct within that had roared to life.

And then sudden insight rushes up to him through the Force. Rey grew up with daily violence on Jakku. She won’t run from a fight, she’ll even start a fight like tonight, but she doesn’t like it. And perhaps that’s why Kylo Ren had lived to fight another day in the snowy woods. Because his Rey doesn’t find pleasure in violence the way he does.

Of course she doesn’t. She is the Light.

Rey is looking up at him again like he has all the answers and can make everything right. Their kid looks at him like that too sometimes. Like he trusts Daddy to take care of things. Because that’s what Daddies do.

“Take me away from these people. Please, Kylo. I do not belong here. You should never have brought me here.”

She’s right.   He should never have dragged her here. And right now, he’s the only person who can get her out of this room alive and unharmed. Rey knows it, too.

Kylo will do as she asks. In that moment, with Rey looking up at him with eyes wide and full of trust, he will deny her nothing. Because truly this woman is perfect for him.

Kylo casts aside the staff, takes her hand and leads her from the room.   Once outside, she opens her mouth to speak but he beats her to it.   “Come with me, Rey.” This time she does not resist as he sweeps her up and swiftly carries her off to his rooms.

Chapter Text

***PLEASE READ THE NOTES AFTER YOU HAVE READ THIS CHAPTER***

 

Kylo sets her down as he locks the door and the first thing Rey says is, “I need a weapon.”  

Talk of further violence might spoil the moment for a lesser man, but not for Kylo Ren. “Gods, Rey, you’re perfect for me,” he groans as he turns back around.   His dark eyes are sparking at her.

But Rey doesn’t notice. She is focused on Kylo’s men, not Kylo. The prospect of six drunk and angry Knights of Ren coming for her has Rey on edge. “I need a weapon,” she insists again, her face determined. “I mean it, Kylo. When he wakes up, that knight might come for me.   Or the others will.” There is real danger here, Rey knows. Somehow she senses it.

Kylo considers for a moment. Then “No.”

Rey wants to protest. But she never gets the chance, for he dives into her mouth. It is a long, searing kiss. Hot, insistent and possessive. Tonight Kylo will not ask her for her kisses, he will take them.

He tastes like strong, sharp liquor.   But she’s the one who’s swaying on her feet as if she has been drinking. Rey clings to him for a moment as the world tilts around her. It’s glorious, this feeling of spiraling passion in the arms of Kylo Ren. Rey could lose herself in this feeling.  

But she won’t. Rey jerks her head away. There will not be a repeat of last time.

Undeterred, Kylo just moves his kisses to her neck and shoulders. He flings aside her elegant cape and slides down the straps of her nightgown to find more bare skin. What was she saying? What had she wanted? Oh, yes, a weapon. Rey is panting and her words come out between gasps. “I need a weapon to protect myself. It’s not safe. That knight will come for me.”

“He won’t.”

Why is Kylo fighting her on this? Rey is pretty sure that she just knocked a few of that guy’s teeth out. This request is very reasonable, given the circumstances. “I’m not staying in my room alone without a weapon. Milo warned me about your knights. He told me--”

Kylo drags his mouth from her neck. “You’re staying here tonight,” he rasps, sounding impatient with her repeated requests. “I will protect you.” His hand is at her breast now and Rey forgets talk of weapons altogether.

“Back off, Kylo.” She gives him a hard shove. “You’re drunk.”

“No, just buzzed. Still fully functional,” he assures her.  “Not to worry, Rey. I can still protect you.” Then that slow, devilish grin spreads across his face. “And I can still perform.”

“No.” Rey’s eyes widen and she takes a step back, shaking her head and bringing up her hands to ward him off. “No, this is not happening, Kylo Ren.”

“Why not?” He cocks his head at her. He doesn’t sound mad. Just sort of curious.  Really, this man’s sense of entitlement cannot be underestimated.

“Why not?” Rey parrots incredulously. Are they actually having this conversation? Does Kylo need her to list all the reasons why she should not go to bed with him? Rey starts with the easy one. “Because you have a room full of willing girls downstairs to choose from. Go take your pick.”

“None of them is you, Rey.” He looks her in the eye as he says this and Rey feels his sincerity.   He doesn’t want just any woman for the night. Kylo wants her.

No one has ever wanted her before Kylo Ren. Back on Takodano, Rey caught the occasional drunken leer from one of Maz’ patrons. That was laughable and usually harmless. Nothing like this. Nothing like having the most feared man in the galaxy, a masked Sith prince from the Skywalker clan, wanting her for the night.   Behind the locked door of Darth Vader’s old bedroom. With the bridal portrait of the long ago doomed Lady Vader looking on. Dressed in lace like a sacrificial virgin to the First Order.   Tonight is like some twisted gothic fairytale come to life. It is thrilling and terrifying at the same time.

Terrifying wins. Rey ducks past Kylo to head for the door. She only makes it a few paces before she is caught from behind in the steel grip of his sinewy arms.

“You’re not going anywhere, Rey. Not this time.”

“Let go!” She squirms against Kylo until she has the sudden awareness that he likes the feeling.

“My knights are out there drunk and angry. You’d better stay here with me.”

Rey is willing to take her chances. Her voice is low as she warns him, “You need to let me go. Now.”

Kylo’s head bends low as he whispers into her ear from behind. His voice is hoarse and husky. “I need to do this, Rey. To rid myself of your temptation. For months now, I can’t stop thinking about you.” His hands squeeze and then shake her slightly, as if to get her full attention. As if he’s sort of angry about the situation. “You drift around my castle in a haze of Light and you tempt me.   You sleep next door just steps away and you tempt me. I see you kiss our son and I’m jealous because you tempt me.”

Rey isn’t moved by this speech. They need to go to bed so Kylo can get her out of his system?   Seriously, that’s one of the all-time worst come on lines ever. And is this his way of telling her it’s just a one-night stand? “Go back to your orgy, Kylo.”

His hands have dropped from her arms down to grip her hips. He steps up flush against her. “I don’t want an orgy. I want you.” He’s chuckling now and his breath is hot on her cheek and smells of alcohol. “The girls are for my men. They don’t interest me. We would have stayed on Coruscant but I wanted to come home to you.”

Oh, Maker, he is grinding her from behind. Just for a moment, she closes her eyes and lets herself enjoy it. Buzzed Kylo is so boldly. . . raunchy. Then something catches in her breath when she realizes that even through his uniform she can feel that Kylo has grown hard for her.    

Rey needs to get out of here. Now.

And he is still talking. “I know who you really are, where you are from, and what you have lived through. Hux thinks you are a pretty face in a pretty dress.   But to me, you are powerful and capable. And that makes you irresistible.”

Truly, this man has no game. Being told that she is capable is not going to get Rey into bed. She is strong because it was necessary for survival.   Not because she wanted to be strong all the time.   Just for once, Rey thinks, I would like to be weak. To have someone take care of me. Now that is a fantasy she might give in to.

And, yes, she understands. He is a Sith and he responds to her Force power. It’s the power he cares about, not her.   Rey isn’t fooled. “You don’t care about me. You’re keeping me here as a prisoner, remember?”  

That accusation must cut through because he releases her. Steps in front of her. Kylo is always intense, but never more so than tonight as he stands looking down on her.   He raises a hand to stroke tenderly at her cheek. “If I didn’t care, you’d be dead or in a prison somewhere. But instead you are the queen of my castle, the mother to my son, the Light to my Darkness.”

Then his hand shifts from her cheek to the nape of her neck, winding into her hair and clasping tight. He steps forward and roughly jerks her head back and now she is staring up at him open mouthed. His dark eyes and that scar are all that Rey can see with his face mere inches from hers.

His actions are rough, but his words are soft. “Stop pushing me away, Rey. This isn’t Jakku. You don’t have to be lonely anymore.“

She should say something in response, she should tell him that she’d rather be alone than be with him, but somehow Rey knows that would be a lie. The raw intensity of this man is hard to resist. What is it about him, about his Darkness, that she cannot resist?

When Kylo sees her hesitation, he presses his case. He’s nuzzling her now and he has switched tactics. The Sith no longer demands, now he quietly requests. “Will you let me care for you? Will you let me be your Sith?”

Rey is used to Kylo’s blunt commands.   But this is something new entirely and it’s disarming. It’s all a lie, she knows. Kylo Ren does not give, he takes. And he will never care. But it’s said so sweetly and sincerely that she lets herself pretend for a moment. Oh, yes, this is a fantasy that Rey could give in to.    

“Kylo—“ she breathes his name aloud. Her nightgown is slipping off her shoulders and traveling down and his hands are on her bare breasts now.   “Kylo, I-I-“ She’s at a loss for words. She can’t think straight and this is all happening so fast.   Ten minutes ago she was beating a man with a stick and now she’s half naked in Kylo’s arms.

“Yes,” he urges her between kisses. “Say yes. We would be good for each other. Let me care for you.”

“I-I-I,” she stutters again as she feels her nightgown slip all the way down. It’s puddled at her ankles and she is completely naked in his arms. He is still wearing all that leather and wool and she feels so small beside him.

“Stay with me tonight,” he urges. “Let me be your Sith.” His tongue is in her mouth and his fingers reach between her legs. And, oh, yes!   Before she can stop herself, Rey moans. Her eyes are closed, but she swears she can see Kylo’s triumphant smile before his lips descend on hers again.    

“I can take care of you, Rey.”

Her body is saying yes, her head is saying no and her heart is on the fence.

“I can take care of you, Rey.” He says it again, dangling in front of her the comfort and protection Rey has always wanted but never known.

Tonight, it’s especially appealing. The rush of adrenaline from the fight has faded and it’s way past midnight. Rey doesn’t relish the prospect of sleeping on the floor of the nursery with a pilfered kitchen knife tucked under her.

Gods, life with this man is exhausting. Rey is tired. Tired of fighting this passion. Tired of fighting him. Tired of fighting period.   For so long, Rey has been fighting to survive.   She is weary tonight and ready to surrender. Just this once, Rey thinks, she will let herself be weak. She will give in to her desire.

“Tell me yes, Rey, and I will be your Sith.”

Rey can’t think straight with his hand down there. And are those dark eyes of his always this hypnotic? It’s as if his eyes are pulling her down deeper into his Darkness and she might actually drown in his lust. Willingly.

“Yes.” It comes out almost involuntarily as Rey arches and moans beneath his hand stroking her sex. Some part of Rey knows it’s a mistake the moment the word leaves her lips, but she won’t take it back.  

There’s no going back now.

Rey doesn’t know how she ends up on his bed again laid out on black silken sheets. It all feels so natural, so effortless, so inevitable. Like it was foolish for Rey to resist in the first place. Because this is destiny and no matter how hard you try, you can’t fight destiny.  

Especially when it involves a Skywalker.

Kylo sheds his weapon and his uniform, stripping down to his warrior physique. There is a dark twist to his mouth as he gazes at Rey naked and sprawled before him.  Kylo looks as though he might devour her.  Rey remembers that look from last time she was on his bed. It makes her shiver.

She is trembling and it is with fear and not from cold. He must sense it, for as he climbs into bed he whispers not to be afraid. He will not hurt her. Rey nods, not trusting herself to speak. Kylo is doing enough talking for the both of them.   He’s telling her between kisses that she is perfect for him.   That this is destiny, that the Force wants them to be together. He knows it, deep down she knows it, even his master! knows it.

Rey is only half listening. The flesh of it all is just so new and distracting. She can’t get enough of those strong hands that stroke her skin. Of those soft lips that trail kisses where no one has ever touched her before.   Of that hard, muscled body that she wants to touch all over.

Rey is inexperienced, but Kylo does not let that deter him.   His hands and his mouth roam everywhere. She feels the scrape of his stubble on her inner thigh, feels the rake of his nails down her throat, feels the bite of his teeth at her nipple.

Still, Kylo is patient. Slow even.

Rey is the one bucking beneath him with anticipation. Pushing for more.

When finally he slides into her, Rey is ready. The feel of him stretching her, filling her, throbbing within her, is like nothing she has ever felt.   “Oh, Gods,” she breathes out at the intrusion, her wild eyes searching his for reassurance.   This might possibly be the worst decision she has ever made. But oh, just this once how she wants this.

And he does too. “I have wanted this.” Kylo’s words are a lover’s whisper. “I have wanted you since the day I met you. Like this. Not in a prison cell. Like this.” He smooths her hair back from her eyes and strokes her cheek. It is a final moment of tenderness before the frenzy of his passion consumes them both.   The time for gentleness is over.

“Peace,” he groans aloud, as he begins to move. “Peace is a lie.” Slowly, he builds until he is thrusting into her.  Rey meets his movements instinctively. She doesn’t know what she is doing, but the hot, rough friction of him in her makes Rey gasp with pleasure. Kylo is still talking, and his voice is panting and ragged in her ears. “There is only passion.” He is pumping into her now and her legs come up to encircle his body. Lifting her hips up and pulling him deeper into her as she lets him take control.  Lets him ravish her in Darth Vader’s bed.  

Rey feels the heat build within her, feels her face flush red and hot. She is moaning loudly now between gasps of air. And she is reaching, struggling for something she doesn’t understand. “P-p-passion,” he stumbles over the word, his face contorted as though in pain, eyes shut with intensity. He’s got her legs up and over his shoulders now.   Rey can’t move like this, so she just lays back and feels it all.   He is so deep into her.   She clenches down on him and the friction increases with every movement. “. . . through passion . . . .” Kylo slows now to withdraw completely and then slam hard into her. Over and over and over again. It should hurt, but it doesn’t. It’s as if her body were made for this.

Rey is so close now to something, and her head falls back as her eyes squeeze shut. “I . . . gain . . . strength . . . .” He says a word each time he thrusts—whatever it is that he is saying—and at this last movement Rey tips over the edge of the precipice she has teetered on. Her body spasms uncontrollably beneath his and Rey sees stars as she lets out a choking cry. Her release triggers his and Kylo surges forward into her, shouting in guttural triumph as he spills deep into her.

And then, for some reason, everything changes. Rey isn’t exactly sure what happens but Kylo feels it too.

“Oh, your Light . . . your Light!” he gasps. “Gods, Rey, your Light!”

When Rey regains herself and opens her eyes, he is up on his knees straddling her. Staring down at her with eyes wide and nostrils flaring. Black hair askew and falling across his forehead.   His mouth is slightly open and he’s not blinking.

Kylo looks like a man who has just discovered something holy. All wonderment and awe.

“Rey . . . Rey . . . I did not know . . . how I need this. . . I need your Light.” Kylo Ren keeps talking, the words repeating between kisses now. Maker, but the man can talk. “Oh, Rey, how I need your Light. More. I need more, Rey. More.”  

He is not done with her. Not yet.

His mouth is at her throat, his tongue at her ear, his hands are on her breasts. He is rebounding fast because she feels him growing harder as he brushes against her thigh. He flips her over face down. “More. I want more!” It’s a demand not a request. Now his hands sink into her backside and his mouth follows his fingernails down her back.   He is hungry, so hungry for her. Kylo is impatient to go again. “Give me more, Rey.”

Rey is on all fours now and he is taking her from behind. Like a rutting animal in the wild. One long sinewy arm snakes around her hip to hold her in place. The other sneaks around between her legs where he pinches and flicks at her swollen bud.   Rey is a dripping mess of wetness, mostly from her and some from him.   It is nasty and exciting at the same time. Kylo has resumed chanting something about passion and power, but Rey can’t follow what he is saying because in the moment all she can do is feel, not hear.

This is different from before. Kylo doesn’t bother to caress or kiss her.   His touch is purposeful now, all pretense at leisurely seduction left behind. Rey thinks this is what people must mean when they talk about fucking. It’s a raw and wild pursuit of pleasure.  

It has to stop soon because Rey can’t breathe.   The jolt of his body into hers makes her gasp and she can’t take in enough air so fast is his pace.   And whatever his hand is doing down there has her so sensitive that it almost hurts. But don’t stop. Please don’t stop, Kylo. Never stop. Yes, more, please, more.

Abruptly, he slows and the creeping friction of his entry triggers something deep within her throbbing core. She can’t be sure if that is her voice wailing or his because the world has exploded behind her eyes and all she feels is a burst of pleasure and her spasming sex. Is he finished? She doesn’t know and she doesn’t care because Rey is done. She collapses face first on the bed, utterly spent.

Kylo reaches to pull her into his arms and gently arranges her head on his chest. They lie together sated and drifting while he absently strokes her hair.

And this might just be better than the sex. This tenderness—this silent closeness to another—makes her heart ache, for Rey never felt it as a child and she craves it now.  It feels so good. But to feel this afterglow in the arms of Kylo Ren has Rey reeling.   She’s in bed with a murderer, her lips swollen from the monster’s kiss, her body full of the Sith’s seed. Her confusion is overwhelming.  

She is his prisoner, he is her rapist. This is wrong. They should be enemies.

She fought for the Resistance, he commands the First Order.   This is wrong. They should be enemies.

She might have been Jedi. He is Sith. This is wrong. They should be enemies.

Tonight cannot be right. But why does it feel so right? Her befuddled mind twists in the wind. And it all comes down to this: what have I done?

Tonight does not mean anything, she fears. Tonight does not mean anything, she hopes.

Once Kylo has regained his breath, he pours lies into her open ears. And this only confuses her further.

“This is what you cannot remember from the Starkiller,” he tells her. “This is the pleasure that conceived our son.” Kylo weaves his tale convincingly.   But somehow Rey knows it’s a flat out lie.  Well, maybe not all of it. “I never wanted to fight you in the woods.   I wanted to rescue you from the traitor’s lies, to teach you, to keep you. We are not meant to be enemies. We are meant be lovers.”

No, they should not be lovers. This, Rey knows for certain. It is just this once. Never again, just this once.

So she silently vows to remember forever every detail.

Tonight does not mean anything, she fears. Tonight does not mean anything, she hopes.

But Kylo keeps talking with that quiet zealotry that makes her want to agree. About how this is destiny. How they are drawn to one another. How she is the Light and he is the Dark and together they are the balance of the Force. As if the Force cares whether she has sex with Kylo Ren.

Those are only pretty words. He isn’t her Sith. She isn’t his lady. Rey is just a substitute for the hired girl he had planned to sleep with tonight. Somewhere in the castle, one of his knights is getting a threesome because Kylo went to bed with the trash-picker from Jakku tonight.

Tonight does not mean anything, she fears. Tonight does not mean anything, she hopes.

She’s going to pretend, Rey decides. Just for tonight, she will pretend that the arms that hold her actually care. That the muffled heartbeat she hears laying on his chest beats for her. That she is desired for herself and not just the convenience of her body. For if Rey is lucky, and she gets to remain here with Han as he grows up, then she will spend the prime of her youth alone with her son. Locked away in Darth Vader’s castle.

Which means tonight with Kylo Ren is all the man there will ever be for her.

And really, this might be the case no matter where she lives. For what good man would want to be stepfather to Kylo Ren’s secret son? What respectable man would want the First Knight’s leavings? What honest man would want a girl with a Resistance past and a First Order prison record?  What established man would want the uneducated scavenger from a graveyard world?  

No man will ever love her after Kylo Ren. Rey is sure of it.

Her secrets are many, and the only person who knows them all is naked in bed with her tonight. And he’s the asshole that drags her to his orgy to parade her before his friends. He’s the killer who murders his father and destroys entire planets.

Yet he’s the closest she may ever get to happily-ever-after.

Kylo sneers more than he smiles. The man is petty and he holds a grudge. He doesn’t apologize or forgive. So how could he ever love? It’s a fantasy, she knows. But just for tonight, she’s going to pretend.


 

Her churning thoughts are screaming at him. It’s a jumbled mess of confusion, regret and satisfaction. And Kylo will say any lie and make any pillow promise to soothe her.  

He has to make this better. Because he needs more.  He wants more.

Tonight means everything, he knows.

He took something very personal from Rey on the Starkiller. Something you can’t give back. So tonight Kylo had wanted to ease her fears and to give her the experience she deserved. He had wanted tonight to be more about her than him. And it had been initially, until Rey had found her pleasure the first time and he had been utterly dumbfounded at the result.

Of all the things he had expected from this night, he had not expected this. But now that he knows what it feels like to be buried deep within in her willing body, he will never get enough. Already, he craves again the feel of her flutters and shudders as Rey finds her release, her intense connection to the Force sending shockwaves of healing Light washing over him.   For those few precious seconds, Kylo Ren had been bathed clean of his sins.  

It had been intoxicating. Overwhelming. Liberating.  

Entirely too fleeting.

The past week of raids has been a bloodbath. Shameful as it is, Kylo has needed this reconciliation with the Light. He knows from experience that the darker his deeds, the stronger is his call to the Light.

Had he known it would be like this, he would have seduced Rey that very first night at Bast and every night thereafter. He had thought that he needed Rey to mother their son. But now he knows that he needs her for himself. For her Light.

Kylo sends silent thanks to his Master for tolerating his weakness and for giving him Rey to use to manage it.   Leader Snoke had known this would happen, Kylo is certain of it. Tonight is why Rey is to be his Empress. Tonight is why he had been tasked to earn her trust to get the map. The map had always been a pretext. Using her Light had been the goal.  

Always, his wise old Master knows what is best for his apprentice.

Kylo’s mind is already considering the implications of tonight’s discovery. How there might be no limits to his Dark power if he could regularly return to her arms for communion with the Light.   How he might be the ultimate Sith by day if he could secretly worship her Light by night. His power combining with hers to be unstoppable.

Tonight means everything, he knows.

Holding Rey close in his arms feels right on so many levels. Tonight, he knows, the Force is with this union. And it makes Kylo wonder if perhaps Rey holds more than just the promise of her Light.

For something is broken in her. Rey hides it well but over time it has been revealed to him. It’s in her dogged determination to make everything perfect for their son. It’s how she wears her Coruscant finery the same way he wears his mask. It’s in her self-doubt about her mothering and her insecurity about Jakku. He no longer wonders why she kept his child. She’s so clearly trying to fix herself through her love for their son.

Kylo knows this struggle. For something has been broken in him for as long as he can remember. He has tried to fix it through power and through blood. Through achievements and headlines. Through communing with artifacts and killing his father. Some nights, watching Rey struggle to stuff his wiggling kid into pajamas, he has thought that maybe he too could find his fix through their son. But after tonight, Kylo thinks that maybe the connection he seeks, the comfort he can never seem to reach, can only be found in Rey’s arms. For truly she is the perfect woman for him.

Maybe that’s the answer: Rey can fix him and their son can fix Rey.   And maybe, if she will let him, Kylo can help fix Rey too.

They can be the family she never had and he didn’t know he wanted.

Inside and out, he and Rey are a matched pair. Under the elegant nightgown he now knows that her body is covered in scars. Just like him. Kylo is sure that there is a story behind each and every one. His are from battles and from his Master’s punishments for his weakness and for his many failures. Hers must be from accidents, from the rough life of a penniless orphan surviving by her wits on a backwater planet. And maybe from abuse. The ones on her back had looked suspiciously like scars from a beating.

It angers him to see the imprint of Rey’s suffering. To know that many people had failed her, hurt her and used her long before their paths crossed. And then, he too had hurt her and used her.  

What a foolish mistake that had been. To have hurt the only one who might help him.

She had not been willing then. That was the difference. Tonight, Rey had been willing. And the experience had been amazing.

So Kylo craves more. Wants more. Needs more of her Light. Needs more of her.

But now he knows that this is not something he can simply take. First she has to trust and then he has to give and to please.

This is unfamiliar territory for the selfish Sith Kylo Ren. For the man who could take whatever he wanted. Until tonight, that is.

He is Dark again now after his brief baptism by her Light. Plotting to control her power, lusting to possess her body, angling for how to seduce her loyalty.   Rey will be the crutch upon which he will lean his many upcoming misdeeds. His war has entered an especially brutal phase.   Kylo will have need of her Light if he is to do what needs to be done and to show no mercy. And when the Darkness prevails and the war is over, he will have need of Rey and his son at his side as he rules his Second Empire. Each with their Force power allied solely to him.

They will be a new era of Skywalkers for a new era of Sith. It’s a heady thought.

“Tonight means that you are mine,” Kylo announces with much satisfaction. It comes out more as a threat than an endearment. As if he is staking his claim and not promising her a place in his future. “Forever mine and mine alone.”

Me. Me. Mine. It’s always about me. Kylo can’t seem to find the words to tell Rey that to be his is the ultimate benediction. For there is nothing Kylo Ren cares for more than himself.

And so he repeats it again. “You are mine. Forever mine and mine alone.”

It is the wrong thing to say to the girl who is utterly confused and scared by what just happened . . . to the girl who for months has felt trapped and more desperate than she cares to admit . . . to the girl who acted recklessly tonight to start a fight and then rashly succumbed to his kiss . . . to the girl who knows how to hotwire a starship and can fly anything.

Tonight there are eight ships waiting on the landing platform. And in the morning when he wakes, there are seven.

Chapter Text

“Finn!”

He is the first thing Rey sees as the shuttle ramp lowers. Loyal, courageous, big-hearted Finn. Her first ever friend. Rey gives him her biggest smile. Just seeing Finn gives her hope that everything will turn out alright in the end.

From the moment they first met, Finn had wanted to protect her, to help her, to hold her hand through the dangers that surrounded them. She knows that Finn would gladly have been her one true love. But that had seemed terribly unfair once Rey had decided to keep Kylo Ren’s baby. She would not let Finn raise his enemy’s son as his own. Especially knowing how he had argued against her decision.

Finn looks nervous now, shifting his weight side to side and wiping his palms on his fatigues.   He’s holding a blaster in his hands. In fact, she’s surrounded by blasters. Rey spies at least six of them, all pointing right at her.

Instinctively, Rey’s hands go up.

“Don’t shoot! Finn! Finn—it’s Rey! Don’t shoot!”

“Rey!” Finn jogs forward to stop at the bottom of the shuttle ramp. “Rey, is it really you?”  

“Yes, yes, it’s me. Finn, it’s me.”  The relief on his face melts her heart. She has missed Finn. She has needed a friend. “Can you lower the weapons?”

“Rey, we thought you were dead! They told us that you were dead. We saw pictures and--”

She’s grinning at him. “No, we’re alive! Han is with me.” As if on cue, the boy peaks out from behind her cloak and skips down the ramp, oblivious to the danger. Several of the blasters are now following Han.

“Lower your weapons!” Rey’s voice is sharp now. Instantly, she’s in mother-bear mode. “He’s a child!”

Finn nods. “It’s just a precaution, Rey. We weren’t sure it was really you. You’re supposed to be dead and that’s a First Order ship and you know old Akbar. He thinks everything is a trap.” Finn looks back at her for confirmation. “This isn’t a trap, is it?”

“Of course not, Finn. It’s just me and Han on board, I promise. There’s no one else. This is not a trap. Please lower your weapons.”

Finn nods and motions to the Resistance fighters to stand down. The weapons are lowered, but kept at the ready. Satisfied, Rey runs to bear hug Finn.

“Thank the Maker you’re alive!” His equally enthusiastic welcome lifts her feet from the ground. Once he sets her down, Finn is grinning ear to ear as he overwhelms Rey with rapid-fire questions. “What happened? How did you survive? Where have you been? Are you okay?”  Then he stops abruptly and squints at her. “You’re different, Rey. You look different. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

Suddenly, Rey is self-conscious and she reaches to smooth her hair.   Finn had known her as the desert scavenger in a sandy tunic and boots. And then later with the Resistance in a mechanic’s greasy coveralls. But always with her hair in a tight trio of buns and her signature arms wraps.   Rey gives Finn a nervous smile. “It’s just the hair and the clothes. Don’t let it bother you. I’m still Rey.”

It is the wrong thing to say because Finn now begins to study her in earnest. Seeing her elaborate hooded cape embroidered black on black with the First Order insignia.   It’s the only outer garment she owns and space is cold so Rey had grabbed it without thinking. Both the cape and the red gown that peaks from underneath are the work of Coruscant’s costliest atelier, and apparently even an ex-stormtrooper can recognize their luxury. Suspicion dawns in Finn’s handsome face.

“Oh, no, Rey.” Finn’s eyes are wide and he’s shaking his head in disbelief. “Tell me you’re not—you didn’t go to—tell me you are not with him.” The ‘him’ needs no explanation.

But Rey is looking away, searching for where little Han had gone to. The boy is nearby talking to an older man who squats beside him in a pool of sandy robes.   Han shows the man the small toy spaceships from his father that never leave his hands.

Rey frowns. On Jakku, she had learned very quickly that any stranger is a potential deadly threat. But her young son knows no strangers. Han lives in a tightly controlled world where virtually every person wears a uniform and works for his father.

“Rey?” Finn wants an answer.

But Rey’s attention is still on her son. She calls softly to Han and beckons him back. “Stay with me please.” Reluctantly, the boy returns to her side. One toy ship is clutched in his hand, the other levitates slightly over his open palm.  

The old man rises to his feet and Rey feels his gaze settle on her. He strokes his sandy grey beard thoughtfully. Something about the man makes Rey uncomfortable. “Stay with me, Han,” she repeats as she reaches down to grab his small hand and pull him close. “And don’t talk to strangers.”

“Rey?” Finn will not be put off any longer. “Are you with him? I mean with him?”

She turns back to Finn, knowing he will not understand but unwilling to lie. “I live with him. But it’s not what you think.”

Finn’s dark eyes widen at this information. “Not what I think??” Then what is—“

“Finn, not now. Please.” Rey cuts him off. “I promise to explain everything.” This is not the time or place for that conversation. “Please I’d like to see General Organa. Is she here? Can I speak with her? I don’t have much time. Finn, this is very dangerous for me.”

Finn gives her a hurt look and steps back.   His tone is curt now. “I’ll go see.” Then he motions back to the guards. “Keep an eye on them both,” he orders as he departs the hangar bay. “But set for stun.”

Once again, six blasters are aimed at her.

Rey eyes the guards and then sighs in resignation. It’s a security precaution and of course she understands it. She has arrived unannounced in a First Order shuttle after all.   But, still, it depresses her. The First Order had pointed guns at her. Now the Resistance points guns at her. Was neither side of this war safe for her and Han?

Once Rey had hotwired Kylo’s command shuttle and jumped out the Naboo system, she had not known where to go.   None of this had been planned. So she had spent a good half an hour staring out into deep space at a complete loss for what to do next. Now what? Rey had only wanted to get away. Away from the First Order, away from that dreary castle and, most importantly, away from Kylo Ren.

Kylo . . . the memory of last night is burned forever into her brain. Mine. How that word had scared her.   Rey has no idea what Kylo had meant by it. But she had been afraid to stay and find out.  

So she had fled to the Resistance. To the only people who wouldn’t automatically turn her back over the First Order.   To Finn, her only friend in the galaxy and the keeper of her secrets. Once he had begged her to confide in General Organa. Now, over three years later, Rey is finally ready to take Finn’s advice.

And then Rey will figure out what to do next.

“What is your name, son?” It’s the creepy old man asking. He has walked closer to them and once again he squats to be on level with the boy. Rey frowns. None of the guards seems to mind that this man has approached them. Whoever this guy is, he has status in the Resistance.

Han is levitating his toy ships again.   There is no point in Rey telling him to stop. The boy can’t hide his unconscious use of the Force.   It comes naturally to him and asking him to stop will only risk a tantrum. Rey has bigger battles to fight just now.

“Sheev.” Han answers. “My name is Sheev.”

“What?” Rey is only half listening, her mind back on Finn. She needs to make things right with Finn. “Han. His name is Han,” she answers absently for her son. But she tightens her grip on his little hand.

“Sheev.” Han repeats with stubbornness that only a two-year-old can convey. “Daddy calls me Sheev.”

Rey’s ears prick up at the word ‘Daddy.’ “Don’t be silly, Han. You are confusing this man. Han Solo. Your name is Han Solo.” Rey glances apologetically at the older man. “Forgive my son. He’s only two.”

The old man looks from her to the boy and then back again at her. “He looks just like his father.”

That remark gets Rey’s full attention. She focuses on the old man for a long moment and suddenly Rey feels threatened. Very threatened. She reaches down to gather Han in her arms. Rey is about to say something when Finn reappears and motions for her to join him.

Finn refuses to look at her as he leads them to a small conference room. And that hurts. Inside General Leia Organa stands waiting. The old man from the hangar bay quietly slips into the room behind Rey.

Finn’s face is a thundercloud but at least General Organa is smiling at her. She envelopes Rey in her arms with a warm, motherly hug. “Rey, I’m so glad to see you.”   If the General is surprised to see Rey with a child, she doesn’t let on. “We saw horrible pictures. We thought for certain that you were dead.”

“That’s what the First Order wants you to think,” Rey responds. Of course, Kylo would want the Resistance to think that she and Han were dead. So no one would come looking for them. “Kylo wants us alive and with him.”

The General is beaming at her and it feels strange. Almost overly familiar. But for a few tense conversations years ago, Rey has only known Leia Organa from afar. To Rey, she has been the stately veteran, an intimidating figure of respect and admiration. The heroine of the Rebellion, destroyer of Death Stars, architect of the New Republic and leader of the Resistance. But looking at her now, Rey can only think of her as Kylo’s mother. Rey knows too many intimate details of this woman all filtered through the bitter memories of her estranged adult son. And all Rey can think is that she never wants Han to think of her the way Kylo thinks of General Organa.

Beside the General stands the old man from the hangar. What is he doing here? Again, Rey’s sense of unease increases. “General, could you and I have a moment alone with Finn? This is personal.”

“Rey, it’s alright,” Leia Organa smiles to reassure. “This is my brother. Luke—“

“Skywalker,” Rey finishes for her. That mythical name drops from Rey’s lips with undisguised dismay. Her eyes narrow as she turns to look anew at the old man.   So this is Kylo’s uncle Luke. The man he has sworn to kill. “You’re the Jedi,” Rey whispers. The old man nods politely at her, but says nothing. His milky blue eyes seem to look right through her.   To see the truth of her and little Han and last night with Kylo Ren.  

He knows. I think the Jedi knows everything.

Alarm bells are ringing in her head. The danger of Rey’s rash flight from Bast has just increased ten-fold. Kylo will kill her if he learns that she has brought their son to meet the galaxy’s last Jedi. Kylo might disdain his mother, but he hates his uncle. He hunts his uncle.

As if sensing her reaction, the General reassures her.   “Rey, there’s nothing that you can share with me that my brother can’t hear.” It’s smoothly said and there is no way for Rey to reasonably object.   Not when she’s here asking for their help. Leia Organa smiles again. “We’re all family here.”

It might have been an innocent remark, but the words take the breath from Rey’s lungs. Does she already know too? “Oh, stars!” Rey gasps as she starts to back away.   Her mind is racing as she looks from the General to the Jedi to her son.   Kylo’s stories of the Jedi snatching Darth Vader’s children leap to the forefront of her mind. Rey is starting to get a bad feeling about this.

“I think we should go. Yes, we need to leave. This was a mis--”

“Rey,” General Leia’s voice has the steely note of a woman long accustomed to command. “Stop. Don’t run from us.” She gives Rey an encouraging smile, full of compassion. “Please, sit. Let us help you. We can help you.”

Rey doesn’t sit. But she does stop backing towards the door.

She looks down at Han, seeing the two-year-old who had been excited to wake up aboard his father’s starship wrapped in his favorite blanket. The little boy who can use the Force but still can’t use a fork. His father has grand plans for him, but all Rey really wants is for Han to be with her and for them to be safe and happy. And maybe the General and the Jedi can help with that.

Right now, she needs all the help she can get.

So Rey takes a deep breath and plunges forward.   “This is my son. His name is Han Solo and he is two.” Rey looks the General in the eye as she bluntly reveals, “He is your grandson, General.”

“Sheeeev, Mommy,” Han tugs at her to skirt. “Sheev.”

Leia Organa exchanges glances with her brother. The General is quick to follow up. “So when you left the Resistance after the Starkiller, you went to my son?”

Rey looks to Finn, wondering if he had revealed her secret once the Resistance thought she was dead. But Finn refuses to meet her eye.

“No. I went back to Takodano to work at Maz Kanata’s cantina. She was rebuilding and she hired me on. I worked there until Han turned two. That’s where Kylo found us. He took us and we have been living with him ever since then.”

Rey can see the General mentally doing the math. “Then you must have been pregnant when you left us. I don’t understand, Rey. Did you know Ben before the Starkiller?”

Ben? Who’s Ben? Oh, right. Kylo Ren was once Ben Solo. Rey can only think of him as Kylo.

“No. I was his prisoner for a short while on the Starkiller.” Rey bites her lip, supremely uncomfortable with this information.   This trauma is her private pain. It is not something she ever wishes to voice aloud, especially in front of Han and the stranger Jedi. But it doesn’t look like she has any other options. So Rey swallows hard and looks away. “Prisoners don’t get to consent,” she explains softly, cringing at her own words.

Rey hopes that she has been sufficiently vague to keep Han in the dark. The child is unnaturally perceptive. She wants Han never to know the circumstances of his conception.

The room is silent for a long moment before the General speaks. “I see.”

There is so much pity in those two words that for a moment Rey fears she will burst into tears.   Behind the General, Finn half-raises clenched fists for a moment before dropping his hands back to his sides.   The Jedi does not react. Skywalker just stands there staring at her like he can see what she’s thinking. At least Kylo doesn’t look so obvious when he reads her thoughts.

The story tumbles out now, Rey’s words spilling forth in a rush of pent up fear. “It was a secret. Only Maz and Finn knew. When Finn was captured again, Kylo Ren interrogated him. He found the secret in Finn’s head. That’s how Kylo knew where to find us. He killed Maz and then he took us. And now I have to live with him or I lose my son. And he—he--” Rey stops to take a fortifying breath. She can feel her composure slipping fast.   “General, I want you to know. I don’t know what will happen to us. But if someday the Resistance runs across Han, I want you to know. Don’t kill him. Whatever happens, none of this is his fault.” Rey rambles on awkwardly. “It’s not his fault who his father is.”

Leia Organa’s face is full of compassion. “Rey, you should have told me.” Finn’s face is a scowl at the General’s words, and Rey knows Finn is remembering his long ago advice to her.   “I could have helped you, Rey. Let me help you now--” Leia Organa is reaching for her now, but Rey instinctively backs away, her hands coming up to fend off the embrace.   Rey is extremely uncomfortable. Right now, Rey just wants to speak her peace, get a ship and then leave as soon as possible.

Seeing her skittishness, the General quickly backs away. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman and a mother herself, but Leia Organa seems to be the only person in the room who understands Rey’s extreme state of anxiety right now. “You’re safe now, Rey. Ben can’t hurt you here with us. You have escaped and you are safe.”

“There is no escape from Kylo Ren.” This comes out as a wail, but it is the unhappy truth.   Rey feels a tear spill over onto her cheek.   She hurries to brush it away. If the tears start falling, Rey fears she will melt down into hysterics for her predicament. “But I’m going to try.”

“Why are you living with him?” Finn explodes hotly. His face looks so anguished. Rey feels her heart sink. “You know what he is! You know what he’s done! You were one of us--part of the Resistance. You fought him! He attacked you! Rey, how could you?”

“With him?? Finn, I’m not with him! I’ve been his prisoner for months.” Rey’s reply matches his indignant tone. This judgy, angry version of Finn is a stranger to her and its confusing. “This was never my choice and it’s not my fault.”

“Right,” Finn’s sarcasm is as biting as it is uncharacteristic. “That’s why you show up here flying his fancy shuttle and looking like the queen of the First Order--because you don’t have a choice. I’ve been in the First Order, remember? And I’ve been their prisoner. I know how Ren treats prisoners. And his prisoners don’t look like you do, Rey.”  Finn looks her up and down again and then asks, “Just what are you to Kylo Ren?”

Does she really look that different?  Rey is taken aback by this question, but the General and the Jedi seem to think it’s fair game. What’s the answer? Well, it’s far more complicated than Finn would ever suspect. And Rey does not want to get into any of that.

“I’m his prisoner, Finn!” Rey snaps back. It’s the truth, after all. “Kylo may give me everything I could possibly want, but he won’t let me leave with my son. That makes me his prisoner.”

Finn isn’t buying it. “There’s more to this, Rey, I know it.”

Rey blinks, hurt by and angered by Finn’s quick assumptions.   “I am trying to stay alive. For myself and for my son. So don’t judge me!” Can’t Finn see what an impossible situation she and Han are in?   This is not at all how she had expected Finn to react. His expression is hard and it goads her on. All the stress and confusion of the last twelve hours is getting to Rey. “Do you like the dress, Finn? It has a high neck in the back to hide the scar from the slave collar implant they put in me!”

“Rey—“ The General tries unsuccessfully to break in.

“Oh, it’s nothing but fun with Kylo Ren,” Rey is growing more bitter by the moment. Frustrated that Finn won’t even try to understand what she has been through these last months.  He’s her friend—he’s supposed to understand. “Last night I knocked teeth out of one of his knights who had the gall to ask Kylo for me! Like I was one of the girls they hire and pass around.”  

“Oh, so you’re sleeping with Ren now?” Finn’s face is a mask of betrayal. General Organa shoots him a warning look but Finn pays it no heed. “You are, aren’t you?” Finn keeps arguing like he and Rey are alone in the room without an audience of the two most powerful figures in the Resistance.

Now everyone is looking at her but there’s no way Rey is going to answer that question. It turns out that she doesn’t have to. Her face flames bright red to silently confirm Finn’s accusation.

“That’s enough, Finn.” General Organa steps in to end the awkward silence. Then she turns back to Rey. “You’re safe now. Rey, you and Han are safe now here with us.”  

“No, General,” Rey shakes her head ruefully. “We will never be safe. Kylo Ren will burn down the galaxy to find Han if we don’t return and there will be a trail of blood lightyears wide in our wake.”

“You sound like you’re going back to him!”   Finn instantly accuses. “Are you going back to him?”

“I don’t know where we are going,” Rey retorts. Unhappily, that’s the truth. She has no plan other than to get away. “But we can’t stay here. I’m through with war. I’m not fighting for the First Order or the Resistance. I have Han to think about.”

But Finn won’t let up. He keeps pressing. “After all this time, I find out you’re alive. You’re alive and you’re with him!” His voice is rising. “I offered you better than this, Rey!” Finn looks so hurt and bewildered by what he has learned.   Finn is a good man and it’s not like him. But he lashes out at her. “What is it like to live with him, Rey? As his—his—“

“Finn, don’t--”

“Whore!”

Rey winces at the word. Beside her, Han screams and thrusts both hands out before him. Instantly, Finn flies hard into the far wall and crumples to the floor. It was a mighty Force-push and it had been done by a two-year-old.

“Han!” Rey yells down at her son in horrified disbelief. Had Han even understood the meaning of that word? He couldn’t have. Could he? “Han, stop!”

“Enough!” shouts General Organa. “Finn, be civil or you will need to leave. And please remember there is a child present.”

Little Han stamps his foot and tosses his head defiantly. The boy is every inch his father in this moment. As Finn struggles to his feet, Han points right at him.   His baby voice and grammar do not obscure the intensity of his words. “I not like him, Mommy! Can I hurt him again?   Please, can I?”

Rey stares down at her child. Not for the first time, she feels an overwhelming sense of dread for Han’s future.   Knowing that very soon she will be powerless to control her Force-strong, headstrong son.   Han only seems to listen to his father.   And for all she knows, Kylo is in his head this very second. Rey never really knows when they are talking to each other, although sometimes she suspects.

“Leave the boy with us.” Luke Skywalker speaks for the first time.   After all the screaming and emotion, his calm words sound like a whispered secret from a trusted friend. He waves his hand slightly as he repeats himself and Rey hears the Jedi in her ears and in her mind. It is almost seductive, his urging. And for a moment, Rey can only think to agree. “Leave the boy with us.” Leave the boy with us. Leave the boy. Yes, I will leave the boy.   Wait—what?

Rey blinks away the thought and turns outraged eyes on the Jedi. “Mind tricks, Jedi?”

Luke Skywalker does not deny it. “The boy belongs here with us. On the Light Side. With the Resistance.”

General Organa jumps in and it becomes a two-pronged attack.   Her voice too sounds calm and reasonable. “It’s safest for Han, Rey. And he will be with his family.”

“Kylo and I are his family!” Had she actually said that? Well, it’s true—in a way.

Finn scowls at her.

General Organa shakes her head ruefully. “Rey, Ben will make Han into a monster. He will make him Sith. In a few years’ time you won’t recognize your boy.” The Rebellion’s famous princess sighs with heavy regret. “Trust me, I know. I lost my own son to the Sith. If you love Han, then please leave him here with us.”

The Jedi agrees. “Han will need to be taught the ways of the Force, Rey. Or he will be a danger to himself and to others.” Luke Skywalker looks pointedly at her. “Already, it seems, you cannot control him.”

This criticism hits home, but Rey brushes it aside. “He’s two! Even normal two-year-olds are difficult to control at times. Han is mine. He stays with me.”

Leia Organa, the trained diplomat, smoothly turns that argument. She smiles and speaks in a soft, welcoming tone. “Rey, we want the both of you here with us. On the good side. Han would grow up with you and his extended family here with the Resistance.”

“No.” Rey is firm. “That will never work. And our presence would only endanger the Resistance.”   She will be damned if she lets Han be trapped into being an emotionless Jedi like Kylo was. Plus, they will raise him to hate his father.   And if there is one good thing about the bizarre relationship they have with Kylo, it’s that Han adores his father.

Suddenly, it’s clear to Rey that the Resistance is not the answer. No, she will have to take Han away from all of the Skywalkers—the Jedi and the Sith—if they are to be safe and to be free.

So Rey starts to bargain. It’s an old habit from Jakku. “I need a clean ship.   I’ll trade you the shuttle I stole for an untraceable ship with clean codes. Han and I will make a run for it.”

The General considers for a moment and counters. “I can get you a clean ship, Rey. But first the boy stays with us. It’s for the best. Trust me, you will thank us in the long run.”  Leia Organa steps closer and bends over Han. “Han,” she smiles down at the young boy. “I’m your grandmother.   I’m your Daddy’s mother. Would you like to come and live with--”

“No!” Rey snatches up her child.   “I’m not leaving Han with you.” Leaving Han is non-negotiable. “The shuttle is encrypted but I broke the code to hotwire it and to disable the tracker. I’ll give you everything you need to do a data dump from the shuttle. It’s Kylo’s personal ship. You can probably get a com to Leader Snoke at home directly from it. It will be full of useful information for the Resistance.”

The Jedi speaks up and affirms his sister’s position. “The child is more important to us than your ship. Rey, Han is something very special. So, I’m afraid that this is not just about what you want for your son.” Luke Skywalker’s face is eye level with hers. He is not a tall man, but through the Force Rey senses his enormous power.   Maybe that’s what makes him so creepy. “There are larger forces at work here. Han cannot be allowed to become Sith. We will not lose another Skywalker son to the Dark Side. I’m sorry, Rey, but we cannot allow it.”

Rey stares at the long lost Jedi and full awareness dawns. This is why Kylo had warned her about his family. This is why Lady Vader looks so sad in her portrait. Because the Jedi steal children. Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker want to keep Han. And they are not going to take no for an answer.

Kylo had warned her. She should have listened to him. She should have trusted him to be truthful where Han’s safety is concerned. But now, thanks to her stupid idea to flee to the Resistance, she and Han are caught in the middle of the Skywalker clan and their never-ending Force war.   Rey had been a fool to come in good faith to tell the truth and to ask for help.

But it’s becoming harder for her to tell who is friend and who is foe.

Rey’s eyes flash and she is through with all dissembling. “I know why you want Han. I know the history—I know what you Skywalkers have done to the galaxy! It ends with Kylo Ren. There will be no more split families and endless wars and raising sons to kill their fathers in the name of the Force. At the very least, I will spare my son that heartache. Han is mine! You cannot have him. He will not be your pawn.”

The Jedi is calm in the face of her outburst. In fact, all his zen-like chill is damn annoying. This was the man who had stared down Darth Vader and his Emperor, Rey remembers.   Of course, arguing with a Jakku nobody wouldn’t rattle him.  

“If you run, you will have to keep running. You’ll spend your life alone on the run one step ahead of the First Order.” Luke Skywalker says this with kind condescension. Like he is patiently explaining the obvious to a small child. “That’s no way to raise your boy. You and Han are better off here with us where we can protect you.” The Jedi’s milky blue eyes bore into hers and for a moment his intensity reminds Rey of his nephew. “If your boy becomes Sith, then he is certain to kill his father. The Sith apprentice always kills his Sith Master. That is the way of the Sith. One way or another, your boy will kill Ben. It’s just a matter of time.”

Is that true?   That can’t be true. Rey doesn’t trust Skywalker after that mind trick.   But even if the Jedi is right, that’s a problem for another day. And so what if the Resistance doesn’t want Kylo’s shuttle. She can sell it for parts and get enough to buy a small ship. Selling the hyperdrive alone ought to net her what she needs. Sure, it will take longer and have more risk, but Rey will find a way to get a clean ship from somewhere. If anyone knows about starship part sales, junkyards and unmarked, off-grid ships, its Rey of Jakku.

“We will run. I’ll take my chances,” Rey tells them with more confidence than she has. “I survived Jakku. I might just survive Kylo Ren.”

“Then you give us no choice, Rey.” Skywalker reluctantly nods to his sister and she speaks into a comlink. “Send them in.” Several of the armed guards from earlier suddenly appear in the open doorway. The General nods to them and her meaning is clear. If she doesn’t give them Han, then the Skywalker twins will take him by force.

Of course.   The Jedi steal children.

Oh, Kylo, she thinks, I should have trusted you.

Rey’s mouth hardens into a tight line. The Resistance doesn’t know it, but stealing Han might just be their undoing. “You can’t hide him from his father. Don’t you understand? Kylo’s in his head! All of the time. They have a connection—some sort of mental bond.   They talk to each other in their heads. If you try to keep him, you will only endanger yourselves and the rest of the Resistance.”

“If we can’t keep him, then how are you going to keep him on your own?” Skywalker counters. It’s a fair question and one that Rey hasn’t quite figured out yet. With each passing moment, she feels more and more hopeless about her options.

While she hesitates, the General gestures to her troops. “Take this woman and her son to a holding cell for now.” Kylo’s mother sighs heavily and meets Rey’s eyes. “Trust me, you will thank us for this later.”

Like Hell she will. Rey’s eyes narrow. She will be damned if she will escape being Kylo’s prisoner only to end up a Resistance prisoner. She looks down at Han and suddenly the answer becomes clear: the help she needs right now is from Kylo. And just like that, Rey switches sides again.

“You’re making a mistake! I’ll prove it to you.” Instantly, Rey is on her knees holding Han’s sweet face in her shaking hands. “Han, listen to Mommy. Talk to Daddy. Get Daddy’s attention now. Now! Please.” She can see his mouth moving as he mimics the words he has said in his head. “Good. Tell Daddy we are coming home. Mommy was wrong and we are coming home.” Rey shakes Han slightly as she speaks, willing her son to understand the urgency of the situation. After a moment, he nods to her. “Good. Now, ask Daddy to tell you something about FN-2187. Ask him about the traitor. And tell us aloud what Daddy says.”

Han nods. Then he starts speaking. The words are Kylo Ren filtered through a toddler. “Daddy hurt him with his red sword. Cut his back. He’s a trai-tor to the First Order. All trai-tors must die.” Han is speaking in halting breathes, like he is translating from another language for them. “Mommy, Daddy says don’t go home.  Meet him on the Fine-all-izer big ship.   Like this one!” The boy grins as he raises his toy star destroyer for all to see. “The bad guys will track your ship, Mommy. Don’t go home.”  

Rey glances up at the General and the Jedi. Skywalker’s mouth has a grim set. His sister looks horrified. This was working, then.

Rey presses forward. “Han, listen to Mommy. If ever you are separated from me or from Daddy--if ever anyone takes you from us, tell Daddy in your head. Tell Daddy where you are and who you are with. Keep talking to Daddy. He will come for you. Daddy will save you. He will bring his armies and his spaceships and he will save you.”

Han nods to her, looking scared. It breaks her heart. “Daddy will save me,” he repeats. “Daddy loves me. Mommy, I want to go home now. I want to see Daddy.”

Rey clasps the boy to her, rocking him back and forth in her arms. “Oh, Han. I’m so sorry for this.   All of this.” She stands, still holding the boy. “Now try and take him from me,” she dares the Jedi and the General.

“You win, Rey,” Skywalker concedes. “The responsibility for that boy’s fate now rests solely on you now.” He gives her a long, disappointed look. “The consequences are on your conscience. For him, for you, for everyone that you will hurt by this.”

Those words hang heavy in the air for a moment. Rey looks at angry Finn, at the frustrated General, at the uncertain Resistance guards waiting to take her to a cell. How did this go so wrong? She’s one of them, don’t they understand that? Wait--is she one of them?

Skywalker peers at Rey and his mouth twists in a grimace. “Is he training you?” the Jedi asks quietly.

“No,” Rey’s tone is bitter. “I don’t want anything to do with the Force. I hate your Force.”

“How convenient for old Master Snoke.” The Jedi manages to make her refusal to learn the Force sound like she is complicit with the Sith. “I am glad that you never came to me for training, Rey. I would have refused you. Your feelings do you credit, but you are trapped by your attachments and making bad decisions.   That kind of selfishness can lead to a dark place.”

Yes, the Jedi forbid attachments . . . just like Kylo had explained to her.   Rey is starting to think that the Dark Side has the better argument, at least where love is concerned.

“My love for my son is not selfish!” Rey snaps back. She’s also starting to understand how Kylo ended up hating his uncle. The man’s smugness rankles. Maybe she ought to be giving the Last Jedi more deference, but Rey suffered to protect the man who today had wanted to take her child.   All Rey can think is that if she had given Kylo the map to Skywalker three years ago, none of this would be happening now.  

“You haven’t proven yourself to such be a great teacher, Luke Skywalker.” Rey gives the Jedi the withering look she used on rival scavengers back on Jakku.   “I wonder if you are even worth all the lives that were lost searching for you. A lot of people died for your map.”

General Leia purses her lips into a hard line, disapproval radiating off her. “Finn will show you back to your ship, Rey. It’s time for you to leave.” The General pauses and adds as an afterthought, “Thank you for telling us the truth.” There is little enthusiasm in her words. If Rey wasn’t certain that the General knew her secret before today, she is now.

Finn too is frowning at Rey.   Despite his anger, he’s still concerned for her. Because he’s Finn. “Wait—is it even safe for you to go back, Rey?” Finn turns to the General and the Jedi. “She stole his ship and she stole his kid. Kylo Ren is not going to be happy about that. He’s not the forgiving sort of guy, you know.”

The General snaps back at Finn. “A few minutes ago she told us Kylo wanted her and the boy.”

“You’re staking your life on this, Rey.” Finn looks very skeptical.   “Maybe you should just send Han back in the shuttle and then you make a run for it.”

There’s no way she’s sending Han back alone to his father. But in her mind, she can hear Kylo warning her that if ever she tries to leave he will take Han from her and throw her in a cell.  

Kylo Ren does not issue idle threats.   Just ask Chandrila.

“Well, Rey?” General Organa is impatient for this interview to be over. Beside her, Finn looks increasingly alarmed at her hesitation.

Running from Bast Castle might just be the worst decision she has ever made, Rey thinks. She closes her eyes and the memory of how this all got started replays in her mind. She and Kylo are naked and tangled in each other’s arms. Kylo is stroking her hair and vowing that she is his.   Scaring her with the lure and the threat of his Darkness.

If Rey is lucky, that’s what she is going back to—Kylo’s bed.   And if she’s unlucky, well then there is a prison cell somewhere with her name on it and she’ll never see her son again. And if she’s really unlucky---no, she’s not even going to think about that.

“I’ll take my chances,” Rey informs the three of them coldly.  Right now, she needs to get Han away from the Resistance. She doesn’t have to follow through on Kylo’s instructions to head for the Finalizer. She can still make a run for it.

Leia Organa is satisfied. “Then it’s time for you to leave, Rey.” Her eyes wander over to her grandson and her face softens. She adds, “And thank you for naming him Han Solo.”

“Sheev!” Han whines. “My name is Sheev!” He is tired, out of his routine and it is way past naptime.   “I want to go home, Mommy.”   He’s tugging hard on Rey’s skirt. “I want to go ho-o-o-me.”

Rey looks down at her beloved son and decides.

Chapter Text

PLEASE READ THE STORY TAGS--YOU ARE FOREWARNED--THIS STORY IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!

 

Rey sets his stolen shuttle down precisely on its mark in the cavernous hangar bay of the Finalizer. His regular pilot rarely accomplishes that feat, but Rey manages it on the first try. Rey appears to be a quick study at most everything she attempts. But he is livid and refuses to be impressed.

He will kill her. Kill her and then beg forgiveness from his Master.

If Rey had taken one of the TIEs, he might have kept this hushed up. But no, that stupid bitch had to steal his shuttle. His all-black, thoroughly customized inside-and-out personal Upsilon class command shuttle. Rey might just as well have stolen the Finalizer. His shuttle is one of the most recognizable ships of the First Order, with landing clearances and data access at the highest levels. Even Kylo Ren isn’t arrogant enough to ignore that sort of security breach. So now the entire First Order fleet has been snickering at the order to be on the look-out for his stolen shuttle piloted by a pretty young brunette.  

Which leads him to the next complication. From behind, he feels the approach of an unwelcome presence. Ren does not turn around as he snaps, “Go away, Hux.”  

He does not want an audience for this reunion, least of all his would be rival for leadership of the Order. There is too much Hux might overhear. And the man already knows way more of his personal history than Kylo would prefer. The hangar bay is full of eyes as it is, but most everyone is out of earshot.   For once, Kylo is grateful that his fearsome reputation keeps everyone at bay.

Except Hux. The First Order’s most famous general is undeterred as he comes to stand alongside him. Together, he and Hux command the Finalizer.   The general has every right to be here, and he knows it.

“I’m here to make sure you don’t kill her,” Hux informs him.

“This is none of your concern.” Kylo’s tone is dangerous. He is spoiling for a fight and if Hux wants one, he will gladly oblige.  

Kylo has already ripped apart the minds of the two stormtroopers on guard overnight at the Bast landing platform. Neither trooper had any memories of Rey. She must have mind-tricked them. Kylo killed them anyway. Now, he’s looking forward to killing Rey. And if he gets to kill Hux too, then all the better.  

The shuttle ramp lowers and he can see a shadow appear at the top.

“You don’t get to kill her on my ship, Ren. I won’t allow it.”

The shadow is moving forward now. “As if you could stop—“

“Daaaaaaddy!” The shadow is Sheev, barreling full speed down the ramp still clutching his toy spaceships. The boy happily crashes into Kylo’s left leg, hugging it tightly as he grins up at his masked father. “We back!” Sheev announces.   “We home. We flew your ship. And I helped.”

How Kylo longs to wipe the smirk off Hux’s face with his lightsaber.

Kylo reaches down to tousle the boy’s black hair as he beckons over a stormtrooper. “Take the boy on board the shuttle I arrived on. Tell them to prep for takeoff.” He needs to get the kid away from here. The boy shouldn’t see him kill her.

Another shadow appears at the top of the shuttle ramp. And hesitates.

This time it’s Rey and she is terrified—he can feel it through the Force. Good. She should be. Kylo will let her disembark and then look her in the eye as he chokes the life out of her, just like Darth Vader would have. Vader’s steadfast Padme would never have rejected her Sith. But the scavenger slut is no Padme Skywalker.

At least since he’s going to kill her, Kylo won’t have to fight with Rey over changing the kid’s name.   No more Han-fucking-Solo. From now on, his son is Sheev Ren.   The new Emperor’s son, named for the original Emperor.

Rey is still standing frozen at the top of the shuttle ramp.   It’s making him impatient.

“Ren, don’t kill her. I mean it.” It’s Hux again. Whining on her behalf.

Kylo ignores him.

Finally, Rey finds her courage. He watches as she descends. Rey is graceful and stately in her black hooded cloak, her face half hidden. The random thought occurs to him: Rey looks very Sith like that.   Like she could be his lady.  

Except she’s not. She’s the bitch who fucked him and then slunk away in the night while he was foolishly dreaming up plans for their future together.   He had been willing to give her the family she always wanted, and in turn she would have given him the Light that he could not resist. And together, they might have ruled the galaxy. They might even have been happy.

But not anymore.

For months Rey had tempted him.   And then once she had given him a taste of her magical Light Side pussy, she had dared to leave him. That uneducated-Jakku-scavenger-barmaid-slut had dared to leave Kylo Ren, the next Emperor, now Commander of the First Order, Sith Apprentice, Prince of Alderaan and heir to the Skywalker legacy.  

Who the fuck does Rey think she is that she can leave him?

She’s a dead woman. That’s who she is. Kylo slowly clenches his gloved hands into fists. Soon, very soon, he’s going to kill her.

Rey stops a few meters from him.   She reaches both hands up to brush back her hood. Gods, but she is beautiful. Even with puffy, red rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks. Outwardly she is completely composed, but he knows that inside Rey is utterly distraught.

She says nothing.

He says nothing.

They eye each other in silence.

Rey had fallen asleep first last night. It was the first time ever a woman had slept in his arms.   He didn’t sleep with the anonymous hired girls who sucked him off with practiced professionalism.   They didn’t mean anything. He sent them on their way. But not Rey.   He had wanted to keep her close. And then . . . after all that they had shared last night and after living together for months, Rey had left him.  

It had been like all the betrayals of his past crashing down on him again.   His father disappearing for up to a year at a time without explanation, his mother sending him away because it was ’for the best’, his uncle dismissing him from his academy because he wasn’t talented enough to be a Jedi. Again and again, the boy Ben Solo had been rejected by those closest to him.   Well, that boy had long since grown into a man. Into a powerful Sith who will never again be rejected by anyone.  

With effort, Kylo drags his mind back to the present. Back to the cloaked woman trembling and silent before him. He knows that Rey too is remembering last night.

He remembers everything.   The taste of her lips on his mouth, the softness of her hair wild about him, the touch of her hands on his skin, the scent of her aroused and ready for him, the feel of burying himself deep within her.   And, most of all, the moments that her bewitching Light shimmered around him as she screamed out her pleasure in his arms. All that intense, healing, forgiving Light.

He could live like a pious Jedi for the rest of his life with just the company of his memories of one night with Rey.   But, being the Sith that he is, Kylo Ren just wants more.

More. He still wants more.

New plan. He will wait to kill her. He will take her back to Bast, fuck her until he has had his fill, and then kill her.   And beg forgiveness from his Master.

Rey speaks first. “I came back,” she reminds him softly, “I didn’t have to come back.” Her eyes dart nervously over to General Hux. Her face softens slightly as she sees him, and that makes Kylo scowl deeper behind his mask.

His reply is full of menace. “You don’t get to leave me. Ever.”

Slowly he peels off his gloves. He will feel her skin again now as he vents his anger. He wants Rey to suffer for the fear she caused when he discovered Sheev was missing. And for the rejection he felt waking alone to his cold, empty bed.

“Confess, Rey.” He gestures over to Hux. “Your champion the General has come to hear it. Tell us now what you have done and where you have gone. I think I know most of it already. But you know I can take whatever I want from you, so give us the truth. All of it.”

Rey looks from his mask to his bare hands and takes another step back.

Kylo just steps forward, his expressionless mask looming over her.

“Well?” he prompts her.

Rey’s words are shaky. “I took Han to the Resistance.”

He nods. Behind him, he can feel Hux’s shock and anger at her words. Now, he thinks, the meddling general will begin to understand.  

With a mighty swipe, Ren backhands her across the face. Rey doesn’t make a sound, but she falls hard on her knees and stays there.  

“Go on.”

“I met with your mother General Organa.”

Again, he lands the same blow. Rey catches herself with her hands. She’s on all fours now.

“I have no mother!” he hisses.  There is a commotion nearby, but he ignores it. “Go on.”

“And I met with your uncle Luke Skywalker.”

Rey is struggling to stand as he catches her again clear across the face. She goes down again.   This time he does not hold back. It is the hardest blow yet. The very mention of the Jedi’s name enrages him and to hear her dare speak of the blood relationship aloud has him seeing red. “I have no uncle!” he rasps.  

Rey raises her head up to look at him. Her lip has split and blood trickles down her chin to fall in large drops on the floor. “They know about Han. I told them, but I think they already knew. Skywalker knew, I’m sure. But I don’t know how.”

Because he is Jedi Master Luke-fucking-Skywalker and he sees the Light halfway across the galaxy. Ren seethes. “Go on.”

“You were right, Kylo. They want him. When I refused to leave Han with them, they tried to take him.   So I showed them your Force connection to convince them that they could never keep him.   That you would always find him. That to try to keep him would only endanger themselves. It worked. They let us go.”

“Anything else?”

“Finn was there.”

“Ah, the traitor. Is FN-2187 still in love with you, Rey? Will he still fight and die for you?” She touches her hand to her mouth to stem the dripping blood and blinks up at him blankly. “Come now,” he gestures to his colleague, “General Hux should know how many hearts you have broken on both sides of this war.” She says nothing, so he reaches down to haul her roughly to her feet.  

He’s holding Rey by the neck now, shaking her.

“Well? Does the traitor still love you? Does he know that you came to him from my bed? Will he take you ba--”

“Stooooop!” The cause of the earlier commotion arrives as fast as his little legs can carry him. Sheev slams himself into his father’s leg, bites down hard and doesn’t let go.   A stormtrooper is racing two steps behind the boy but is too late to catch him.

“Owww!” Surprised, Kylo drops Rey and she melts to the floor.

“No hurt!” Sheev scrambles to crawl atop his dazed mother, casting his arms and legs wide as if to shield her. “No h-h-hurt Mommy!” Staring hard up at his father, the young boy screams his outrage.   The words are painstakingly formed and come out slowly, but they are loud and clear. “I k-k-kill you if you hurt Mommy!”  

“Mommy??” Hux whispers in disbelief.

The trooper’s heavy duty blaster rifle flies into the boy’s outstretched hand and suddenly Sheev has it pointed at his father. The weapon is far too long and much too heavy for an almost three-year-old. It swings wildly unbalanced in his hands before falling to the ground and discharging. General Hux jumps just in time to avoid the shot that would have destroyed his ankle. Scared, the boy starts to scream and cry.

This needs to end now.

Kylo waves his hand to instantly steal consciousness from Rey and Sheev. Next, the fallen weapon flies into his hand and Kylo calmly points it at the trooper he had charged with his son’s care.   “This is for failing me and for not using the safety.” He fires a single, devastating shot into the trooper’s chest. Then, he turns to snarl at a fast approaching officer come to investigate. “Get the boy on my shuttle! And lock the door.”

Kylo stalks over to the trooper he has shot and kicks the dead man savagely. Not satisfied, he ignites his saber and thrusts it through the trooper’s gut before decapitating him.   Blood begins to puddle. It’s a grisly scene and it satisfies him. He had needed to kill again today.

“That’s enough, Ren.” Hux orders. “Stop making a mess. He’s dead.” The scowling general kneels next to Rey and gently rolls her over. He leans close to check for breathing and gingerly inspects her still bleeding face.

“Hands off, Hux.” Seeing Hux touch her angers Kylo, but it also makes him defensive. “She’s asleep, not dead. I’m not going to kill her.”

Hux ignores him and checks for Rey’s pulse. Satisfied, the general rises to his feet.

“Your boy is very bloodthirsty. Quite the chip off the old block, Ren.” Hux smirks openly. “He’s not even three years old and already he wants to kill you. Does he know that’s there’s a long list ahead of him?”

“And you’re at the top of that list, aren’t you?” Kylo bites back, humiliated by the public scene that has transpired.  

The general isn’t finished gloating. “Does Leader Snoke know that you can’t find Skywalker but you managed to find a girl who can? Who can steal your ship and fly right to meet with him? And it seems Rey knows all of your family secrets, too. Careful, Ren, that you have your priorities straight.”

Kylo is annoyed to hear Hux speak of Snoke. Hux doesn’t know his Sith Master at all, not the way Kylo does.   Hux is as interchangeable as the rest of the First Order military types. Same uniform, different name. Nothing special.

“The Leader knows who she is—you’re the only one in the dark, Hux.   Rey was supposed to be Skywalker’s next Jedi apprentice but I found her first.”

The general frowns. “Rey is Jedi?” His voice sounds both impressed and appalled. But as usual, Hux has to have the last word. “It’s touching to see how much your bastard loves his mommy. And here, I thought the mother was a waitress in some Mid-Rim dive bar. Rey really had me fooled.”  

Fucking hell. This was yet another reason he had not wanted Hux as an audience for this confrontation. Kylo Ren will rule the galaxy one day. Eventually with a Skywalker Sithling or two by his side.   He’s not ready to concede Sheev’s potential claim yet. Not when the boy is so young and his potential still so uncertain. Which means Kylo needs to correct Hux now or raise suspicion if he wants to gerrymander the boy’s legitimacy later.

Kylo stares down at Rey lying face up and bloody on the hangar deck. Seeing her asleep once again reminds him of last night.   And he realizes that he has done it yet again: he has hurt the only one who might help him.

He makes a decision.

New plan. He will take her back to Bast, fuck her until he has had his fill, and then marry her.   And keep fucking her.  

“Your intel is off, Hux,” Kylo snaps at his rival.   “The boy is not a bastard. Rey is my wife. And until she finally chooses sides in this war, she is the most dangerous person in the galaxy.”  

He speaks this last bit with something akin to pride.   For three generations, the Force-strong Skywalkers have determined the fate of the galaxy. Treacherous bitch that she is, Rey should fit perfectly into his family.  

Chapter Text

Kylo finds her sitting on the floor, propped against the wall and staring up at the portrait of his long dead grandmother. Rey is swallowed in his black bathrobe, her damp hair slicked back from her brow.   She must be naked and clean beneath his robe.   Washed free of the taint of the Resistance. Washed clean of last night with him.

Hours have passed since Kylo had laid Rey unconscious on his bed, locked the door and walked away. He had needed more time to cool down. And time to figure out what to do next.

There is no need to ask for the details of what had transpired on D’Qar. Not after Sheev had smiled and lifted his father’s hand to his temple to welcome Kylo into his memories. Through the boy’s vantage point, Kylo had seen it all. Rey’s heartsick traitor hurling insults, his manipulative mother giving hugs before she pounced, and the sly brooding Jedi attempting to mind-trick away their boy. Even Rey’s last ditch effort to bargain away his shuttle for a chance to disappear.

And then came the part that was hard to watch.

Rey sobs as she tells Sheev that there are no good options for them, so they will make the best of life with his father.   She tells him that his father isn’t all bad. Not really. And this will give Sheev the family Rey herself had never known.

Rey begs the boy please to not hate her once he grows to understand the consequences of her choice.   This is for the best, she hopes.

Rey tells him that no matter what happens, Mommy will always love him, even if she can only be with him through the Force. Then Rey sends him first down the shuttle ramp. But not before warning him to close his eyes if Daddy pulls out his red sword.

Sheev had understood very little of what had actually occurred. Only the intense emotion of it all had penetrated. Mommy angry. I-don’t-like-that-man-who-yells-at-Mommy. Force push. Mommy yelling. Going home now to be with Daddy. Mommy scared. Very scared.   Don’t hurt my Mommy. I kill you if you hurt my Mommy.

Even with the details a blur, the events had made a lasting impression on his son. And watching it through his son’s eyes had made a lasting impression on Kylo Ren.

He is fucking his kid up. Just like he knew he would.

Kylo had watched his own parents fight more times than he can count. They hurled bitter, angry words back and forth. And sometimes a few plates. But not once had his father laid a hand on his mother. Instead, Han Solo did what he did best: he left.

Which brings Kylo to now. To Rey. To the girl who too had left him.

But she had come back.

Kylo hovers over her, the hem of his surcoat swaying to brush against her. Rey does not look up, her eyes still fixed on his long dead grandmother’s portrait.   If she is afraid, she doesn’t show it. Rey’s Force imprint is oddly blank, as if all emotion has been leeched out of her by the events of last night and today.

It’s the first time he has ever seen Rey look defeated. And that is an unwelcome realization.

Yes, he has really fucked this up.

Rey is here, Sheev is here, they are safe. Even the ship is returned. If Rey is correct and his former family had already known the truth of Sheev, then there is no lasting harm done other than illuminating the facts to General Hux and Kylo’s lie about a marriage.   Revealing the Force-bond with his son to the Resistance might actually be a benefit for its deterrent value.   Skywalker and his m—Leia Organa will think hard before coming after Sheev.

And so Kylo’s rage has cooled and reason has crept into its place.

Now is the moment for the grand gesture. To be magnanimous about Rey’s transgression. To ignore the sting of her rejection and to welcome her home. The lesson is learned, the point has been made, and the horse is dead, no need to beat it further.

But Kylo Ren doesn’t have the words for this situation. He’s a man who issues orders, fires off questions and pronounces judgements. He has two tones: sarcasm and sneer. He doesn’t apologize and he rarely bothers to explain. And he most definitely does not talk about his feelings.

So kindness eludes him now when he needs it most. And when Kylo finally speaks, the words come out as a growled threat. Old habits die hard.

“Do I need to put the slave collar back on you?”  

“No.” Rey winces as she moves her mouth to speak. Her hand reaches up to poke tentatively at her bruised right jaw. Her voice is barely above a whisper. “I will stay.”

Kylo sinks down beside her and Rey rears back as he moves to inspect her face. She shies from his touch now, when last night she had been desperate for the feel of him. It’s yet another rejection, but this time Kylo understands its context. Instantly, he pulls back his hand. It won’t help to frighten her further.

He had left his mark on Rey. Her lip is swollen and her jaw is an ugly purple. And really, Rey ought to be grateful given the circumstances. Any other woman in her place would be dead. Yet seeing her now, eyes averted and split lip trembling, Kylo knows Rey doesn’t appreciate the mercy he has shown her today.

“Did you open the holochron?” He’s curious. Hoping.

“Yes.”

“Good.” He rises to his feet. “Then let me see you heal yourself.”

He half wants her to refuse, to roll her eyes at him and glare. But all fight has gone out of Rey. Or perhaps she now sees the benefit in obeying his requests. Fuck. He has never felt more the tyrant. Today it brings no Dark satisfaction, for this is not how he wants his Rey. Cowed and subdued.

He watches as she closes her eyes and summons the Force. And, oh, how beautiful she is in this moment, purple face and all. The air feels electric when the Force swirls about them. It lasts only seconds, but the room pulses and the air sings as her wound is made right.

Rey’s face is lovely again. As if nothing had ever happened. Once more, the sins of Kylo Ren are erased by her Light.

This is the healing power of the Force. It soothes pain. Restores what is broken. Promises hope. Forgives sins. This is what he had basked in last night with Rey.

“Beautiful.” Kylo breathes this word more than speaks it. Such is his awe at witnessing her nascent ability. It is so easy for her. After last night, he’s not surprised. The Light leaps to do her bidding. “That was beautiful, Rey. Well done.”

The praise gets her attention. Finally, Rey looks up to meet his gaze.

“Kylo Ren, don’t you ever hit me again.” Her hard expression makes it a warning, but her unshed tears make it a plea.

Fuck. “I won’t,” he agrees automatically.

“Don’t you ever beat me again.” Rey is still staring at him without blinking. “I swore years ago that I would never let anyone beat me again.”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. “I know, Rey. I saw the scars.”

She blinks now and the tears start to fall. And fall and fall.

And then Kylo knows that she doesn’t appreciate the mercy he has shown her today. Some part of Rey would rather he had killed her this morning than beat her. Like someone else had beat Rey before him.

He is the biggest prick in the galaxy. And he is at a complete loss for how to handle this situation. He knows that he should do something. Say something. Maybe hug her? Apologize? Sympathize? Grovel? Something. But he just stands there. Transfixed by the pain he has caused.

Kylo Ren is not used to dealing with the aftermath of his actions.

This is part of his training, he realizes with a flash of insight. Snoke always has multiple angles. Kylo had wanted to send Rey to a prison camp, but his Master had insisted otherwise. To make certain that he would have to deal with her. Because dealing with Rey is dealing with consequences.

Rey rises stiffly to her feet. She shuffles past him to stand before the portrait of his grandmother. After a moment, Rey rallies. She is composed once again.

“You were right. You were right about them. Your mother—your uncle—they want Han. To raise him and train him as a Jedi. To repeat the life of your uncle.” Rey wraps his robe tighter around her frame, squaring her shoulders. His robe is laughably big on Rey and has the effect of making her look small. “I should have trusted you, Kylo,” Rey concedes. Then she turns to face him, her face an ugly scowl.   “I think I hate your fucking family.”

“That makes two of us,” he observes dryly.

“They said you will make Han into a monster. Like yourself.   And you will, won’t you?” Rey looks away and mutters, “I know you will.”

Kylo shrugs.   He is a monster, if you judge him by the rigid moral constructs of ordinary beings. Of men with lesser lives, smaller ambitions and fewer burdens.   Kylo Ren is a leader and leaders do what needs to be done.   It is his responsibility to take the actions others fear to commit. He is Sith, after all.

“I am what I am, Rey. That will not change. One day our son will be what I am too.”

She nods at him. “Well, whatever your ambitions are for Han, at least he won’t be at odds with his own father. And maybe this generation can be on the same side.”

Yes, she truly does plan to stay. Rey’s words are a bitter concession, but they encourage him.   Kylo thinks of his rash announcement to Hux that they are married.  

“If you want, we could be a family, Rey,” he tells her. “You, me, our boy. A real family.”  

Rey looks skeptical. “Does anyone ever survive the Skywalker family? It’s kill or be killed, isn’t it?   Your grandmother didn’t survive Vader’s enemies. Your father didn’t survive you. Vader didn’t survive your uncle.   It’s only a matter of time now before you and your uncle kill each other. Maybe your mother too.”

It’s a fair point. “We Skywalkers are a treacherous lot,” he agrees. There is an even longer list of victims than Rey knows. He silently adds Beru and Owen Lars and Breha and Bail Organa to her tally. Perhaps even Ben Kenobi belongs, since the Jedi had supposedly been like a brother to Vader.  

“I will survive,” Rey vows quietly. Bitterly. “I survived Jakku for years on my own. I will survive you too, Kylo Ren. You and your family.”

“Good, because I’m counting on that.” Her fierce conviction prompts a genuine smile from him.   Defeated though she may be, Rey is strong to her core. A lesser woman would be in hysterics by now, he knows. But not his Rey. Rey dries her tears and soldiers on.

It actually depresses him to see how automatic that response has been for her.

Kylo steps forward and fuck if she doesn’t take a half step back. He ignores it and crosses to stand before her.  

“You need to survive. Our boy needs you. I understand that now, Rey.”

He had seen it today when Sheev had turned on his father to protect his mother.   There could be no truer expression of love than watching his toddler son hold his ground and stare down his Sith father.   Enemies and allies alike trembled before the wrath of Kylo Ren, but his little Ren had not.   Sheev had threatened to kill for her, he recalled with pride. Just like a little Sith should. Yes, his boy would be a credit to him and he would never deprive his son of his beloved mother.   No matter what stupid shit Rey might do in the future, Kylo will keep her. If only for his son.

Sons need their mothers, he reflects ruefully. Which prompts him to urge her again. “We could be a family, Rey. Together, the three of us. A real family.”   He lifts a hand to cup her cheek, ignoring Rey’s flinch.   “That is what you came back for, isn’t it?”

Rey is still skeptical. “What does that mean exactly—to be a real family?”  

The question stumps him for a moment.   They would be a dysfunctional, Force-wielding, shot-gun wedding of a family.   A messy alliance with a Resistance girl who screams ‘I hate you’ and a baby who points guns at people.   Its foundation built upon his violent impulse in a prison cell and her abandonment issues. But at least their little family would be intact and on the same side. That would be more than any previous generation of Skywalkers had.  

He remembers Sheev running towards him, arms outstretched calling ‘Daddy!’   And he remembers hugging Rey one night after dinner. Just standing there, holding her. Kylo couldn’t have been more than thirteen the last time someone had hugged him. It had felt good. So perhaps this marriage and family idea wouldn’t be all bad.

And who knows? They might actually end up happy together. Like the future Kylo had planned for them last night when he had been drunk on the potential of her Light and giddy with the afterglow of her body.

The future where he would become the master of the universe, a Sith of legendary power and lasting influence. Completing Darth Vader’s vision to end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy. And his Rey would find contentment at her Emperor’s side, mothering his little Siths. With all the comfort, security, respect and position that she has never known and long deserved. Together, they would be the Skywalkers who finally got it right and had it all. An empire, a dynasty and the Force in balance, with her Light aligned in support of his Darkness.

But Kylo won’t tell her this. Not yet. For Sith do not reveal their plans. It’s a lesson from Darth Sideous. Sith let their future unfold by design.

So, what does it mean to be a real family? Kylo isn’t sure how to put what he’s thinking into words.   But he tries gamely nonetheless. “It means that we would be loyal to one another. We would share our lives and shape our future together.”   These are perhaps the most flowery sentences Kylo Ren has ever spoken in his life.   He cringes inwardly. He sounds like a greeting card.

“As Sith in the First Order?” she wants to know.

“I am Sith, our boy will be Sith. But you will not be Sith.” No, Rey will not be Sith.   He will not allow her to dim the Light he craves so much. As long as you aren’t a Jedi apprentice to my uncle, he thinks to himself, things will be fine.

“And the Order?”

He plans to rule the First Order. But she’s asking about herself, not him. “I will not let you fight for the Order, Rey. Your place is here with our boy in safety. But you are forbidden to interfere with Order business.” He shoots her a serious look. “No spying for the Resistance. No running back to the Resistance. All those ties are severed now.”

“So how would it be different from how we have been living?” Rey wants to know.  

That’s a good question. Kylo realizes that he really has not thought this through. “I suppose it’s a matter of mindset. You would need to accept living here with me. And to stop hating me for it.” He glances at her sideways. “Perhaps now you see that this is partly for your own protection.”

She nods silently.

“You also need to get past the Starkiller.”   He knows that she is still angry about the interrogation at the Starkiller. Rey just needs to get over it. It was years ago.

“I can try,” she says and it’s an honest answer.

“What about you?” Rey asks. “Will you forgive me for taking Han and running away? For fighting for the Resistance? For the scar?”

The scar?? Rey clearly worries more about the scar than he does. When Snoke first saw it, his Master had laughed and told him he finally looked like a man and wouldn’t his grandfather be proud. After that, he kind of liked the scar. And Kylo doesn’t much care that Rey once fought for the Resistance. She’s no zealot revolutionary, and Rey won’t have an active role in the Order. As for running away? Well, she came back that’s all that really matters.

“They are the past now, Rey. We would each need to let go of the past and to focus on the future.” Kylo gives her a long measuring look. “Can you do that?” He himself has long practice burying the past. It’s second nature for him now. Or it was, until Rey and Sheev came along to stir up old memories.

“I can try,” Rey says again. Then she gives him a nervous look. “What about you and I?” Rey doesn’t complete the question, but watching her cheeks bloom pink he understands her meaning perfectly.

Tempting as it is to set conditions, he resists.   Kylo will be satisfied today with a truce on this point.   “We can figure that out.”

Rey seems to accept this punt. He’s relieved. Kylo suspects that last night is mostly why Rey ran from him. It’s the elephant in the room that he is choosing not to acknowledge. Not yet. Not while she’s so skittish.

Kylo can tell he’s making headway, so he presses forward. “I promise to treat you better, Rey. If you will let me, I will take care of you. Together, we could take care of each other. Like a family should.”

She looks up at him, hopeful. Almost childlike. Yes, Rey will agree. “So we would be a family like the way it’s supposed to be?”

He knows that she’s probably thinking of those stupid shows she watches on the holonet. With the bumbling idiot patriarch no one respects, the bossy mom and a brood of undisciplined, sassy kids.   Where the biggest conflicts are where to go on vacation and meddling neighbors. Not conquering the galaxy and the controlling the Force.

Will they ever be a typical family? Not a chance, he thinks. He’s a Skywalker. He can’t give her that fantasy. But Kylo nods anyway. “Sure,” he lies with a smile. “We will be a real family like the way it’s supposed to be. Things will be better—you’ll see.”

Rey smiles. It’s a small, fleeting smile. But it’s everything he is hoping for. Yes, she will agree.

Encouraged, Kylo keeps pressing his case. “This would be a fresh start.” After today, they desperately need a fresh start. “We can only change the future. We can’t change the past.”

Rey nods. She turns back to the portrait of Padme Skywalker. To the doomed secret wife from his family’s past. “If I could change the past, I would. Now that I have met your uncle, I really wish that I had just given you that map.” He can tell she means it. They wouldn’t be in this situation if she had given him the map.

Kylo smirks ruefully and moves to stand beside her before the painting. If he could change the past, he would too. Kylo has his own regrets from the Starkiller interrogation, not that he will ever confess that to Rey.

“The mystique of Skywalker has always been more impressive than the man himself,” Kylo muses. “Perhaps that’s why he stayed in exile so long.”   Ren glances sideways at Rey before dangling his bait. Now is his opening. “I would like to know where Skywalker hid, even if he is long gone. If the Jedi ever stole our son, it would be a logical place to hide him.   So if you are in the mood to give me the map, Rey, I am willing to take it.”

She meets his eyes and nods. “Here,” she beckons to him and he steps forward to take her in his arms. Oh, how good she feels in his arms. Kylo lays her head on his chest and she leans into him.   “Take it, Kylo,” Rey whispers, closing her eyes.   “So this too will be the past.”

Chapter Text

Kylo reneges on the ‘we can figure that out’ bit that very night.  

When Rey awakes groggy the next morning, at first she thinks it is just a vivid erotic dream hazy in her memory the morning after. A dream of Rey on her stomach, her cheek pressed deep into a pillow that muffles her cry as she screams out Kylo’s name.   A dream where Kylo’s eyes are squeezed shut and his mouth hangs open as he alternates between talk of power and begging Rey never to leave him again. All the while, he’s thrusting deep into her body and she loves it.

Hours later in the bright light of day, Rey is blushing at the lusty dream when she rolls over and sees Kylo sleeping sprawled next to her. Naked.   She’s naked too, she realizes. Rey’s mind reboots and that was no dream.

It was a marathon round of makeup sex.

The details take shape as last night comes flooding back. Rey remembers waking to the feel of Kylo’s lips on her knee. Before what’s happening can register in her drowsy mind, his lips were up her thigh. Then his head of black hair was nestled between her legs and Rey gave herself up to pleasure beneath his greedy mouth.   In the middle of the night, Kylo had crept into her bed and into her arms and they had done unspeakable things. Lots of unspeakable things judging by the state of the twisted sheets with multiple wet spots.

Finn is right. She is his whore. Not a full day has gone by before Rey is back in bed with Kylo Ren.  

All the same old confusion rises up and Rey starts panicking and second-guessing everything all over again.

Part of her thinks that she should not have come back. When she left the Resistance, she should have sold the shuttle for an old, untraceable clunker and headed for a crowded Core System to disappear with Han. The Skywalkers be damned—every last one of them—Rey would make it on her own with her boy or die trying. And that’s how it probably would have worked out. Rey would have stayed one step ahead of the First Order for a while. And then one day she would make a mistake or her pursuers would get lucky. Then Han would be back at Bast and Kylo would kill her and that would be that.  

But instead she has swallowed her pride to come crawling back to Kylo Ren. Because Han is worth it. She will sacrifice so that her son will grow up with the mother that Rey did not. And with the stability and security and education that Rey never knew. Now Han won’t be raised to kill the father he so clearly adores. The father that Rey isn’t at all sure how she feels about.

And if the price of Han’s future is Kylo Ren, a few hard pops across her mouth and bygones-are-bygones, then so be it. She is Rey of Jakku and she has known true suffering. Bast Castle is not suffering.   What she remembers of last night was definitely not suffering.

But, oh, how she wishes that things were different.  

Rey has watched too many cheesy holovids over the years with love pledged, promises made, promises kept and happily ever after. With families that laugh with each other, stay together and love one another.   Stories of ideals that come true for so many people. But not for Rey.  

Whatever this ‘we can be a real family’ stuff is that she has agreed to try with Kylo, it sure as Hell isn’t true love.   And she’s skeptical it will work anyway.

So Rey really, really hopes she hasn’t made a big mistake by coming back.

“Don’t look back, Rey. Never look back.”   Kylo doesn’t open his eyes as he says this.

“Huh?” Rey says blankly as it takes her a moment to realize what’s going on. For how long has he been feigning sleep?   “Get out of my head, Kylo!” she accuses.

“I’m not in your head, Rey. Your thoughts are screaming at me,” he says softly. Kylo rolls on his back and looks up at the ceiling of her bedroom.   “I’m older than you. I’ve made more decisions like this.   Trust me when I tell you not to look back. This will work. You’ll see.”

She says nothing.

Kylo leans over to give her a long, lingering kiss. “No regrets, Rey,” he whispers. “Only look forward, never look back.”

Then Kylo rises from the bed and stretches while he yawns. His tall warrior body is stark naked. Scars and all, it is beautiful with all its pale streamlined muscle.   Rey gazes at him frankly, enjoying the sight.   Well, if she has to be stuck in Vader’s castle in bed with a First Order commander, at least this one looks like he should star in a porn holovid. And he has the skills for it too.

“Your thoughts are still screaming at me, Rey,” he chides her with a chuckle. Instantly, she colors bright red. Kylo bends to swipe his discarded bathrobe from the floor. “I need some caf,” he mutters as he heads out the door.

Not five minutes later there is a knock from Milo.   “Good morning, Rey. I have a healer downstairs who I would like to bring up. It would be best if she examined you. May I bring her up?”

Rey hesitates, scrambling to the closet for a robe to cover herself. “Uh . . . just a minute, Milo.” A healer? What does she need a healer for? Then Rey glances over at the rumpled bed that has obviously slept two and she starts arranging it as fast as she can. She’ll never be able to face Milo with the evidence of a last night with Kylo all about her.

From outside the door, Milo misinterprets her silence. “Rey, please. I know that you are hurt. I saw it when the master carried you in. I would have had a healer here last night but the master—“

Rey sighs and opens the door.

“forbade it,” the old keeper finishes awkwardly. He’s staring at her face, seeing the absence of injury.   “You healed,” he observes. Something about his awestruck tone tells her that Milo knows exactly how she healed. Rey steps back and invites Milo in.

“I have never seen this Jedi power, but I have heard of it.   May I?” he asks reaching his hand up. She nods. Holding her chin, Milo inspects her face. “Amazing,” the old keeper grins at her. “You’re better than bacta, Rey.”

Milo looks wistful now so Rey knows that he is remembering his Empire days. “Lord Vader spent years looking for one such as you. But the Jedi healers were among the first to fall in the Purge. They were noncombatants, so they were easy targets for the clones.” The castle keeper looks at her face again, thoroughly impressed. “Oh, how pleased my old master would have been to find you, Rey.”

That doesn’t make sense. “I thought Vader hunted Jedi.”

“Oh, he did.   But he would have kept a healer, if he had found one. Lord Vader had been terribly maimed and burned. He suffered greatly. My master could have used a Jedi healer’s skill.”

Rey must look skeptical, for Milo explains, “Lord Vader respected knowledge and he even admired some of his enemies.   He might have surprised you, Rey, had you known him.” Milo nods at her with approval. “I think Lord Vader would have liked you.”

Rey doesn’t know what to make of that comment.

Milo’s face softens. The veteran retainer is far too formal for a hug, so he takes her hand and pats it paternally. “Rey, I am glad that you and Han are back safe with us. Welcome home.”

Rey nods. She doesn’t know what to say to this either. She wonders how much of the events of the past two days the old keeper knows.

Suddenly, a buzzing noise interrupts and Rey knows that sound. It’s Kylo’s datapad and it’s laying on the table beside her bed. How had she missed that?? Well, she’s busted now and there’s nothing she can do. Rey crosses the room to grab the datapad and on the way she almost trips when she steps over Kylo’s sleep pants strewn across the floor.

Oh, Gods. Her face is aflame and she avoid Milo’s eyes as she completes her mini-walk-of-shame back to the doorway.

The old keeper is circumspect as always. He takes the datapad without comment.

“That is a rare gift you have, Rey. I hope the master appreciates what he has in you.” Milo’s voice is serious. Rey has the distinct impression he’s not just speaking of her Force healing abilities.

And thus begins her new beginning. Which is to say that life at Bast Castle is the same, only different.  

She and Kylo become friends with benefits. Well, maybe not friends. More like amiable roommates. Or maybe that co-parent-consciously-uncoupled thing she read about on the holonet. But whatever it’s called, there are lots of benefits. LOTS of benefits.

Immediately, things between she and Kylo become downright torrid. Rey is in his arms nightly and still he wants more. One night, impatient with dinner, he simply sweeps the dishes away with his arm. Then he kisses her breathless and bends her forward over the table.   He doesn’t want dessert, he whispers. He only wants her.

Rey is willing. She’s probably shouldn’t be, but she is. To be desired makes Rey feel powerful. It makes her feel valued after a lifetime of neglect.  

As Kylo kisses each scar, he tells her that she is beautiful. He vows that no one will ever hurt her again. He will always keep her safe at his side.   For Rey is the perfect woman for him.

Her lure is more than just her body, it is the Force. Always, it is the Force that drives Kylo.   He confesses this to Rey when she works up the nerve to ask.   He is brutally honest in the way that only Kylo can be. And she respects him for it.

The Light is his weakness, he tells her. And Rey is the Light in his life. She is his chance to control it, to channel it, to limit it to her and her alone. She is the weakness that will give him the strength he needs to do what must be done. A crutch that he can lean upon to hone his Darkness for all else.  

So he will kill, maim, burn and ruin for days, then return to the respite of Rey’s arms to heal. To find a temporary balance to his Darkness. And then once more unto the breach to make war again.   Peace is a lie, after all.

And lest he forget his destiny while in her arms, Kylo reminds himself that he is Sith. That through passion he gains strength, and through strength he gains power.   These are the words she hears recited in ragged gasps deep in the night. The phrases that punctuate his thrusts and narrate her pleasure. Sith, I am Sith, he warns them both. Reminds them both. Even if for a few moments he wallows in her Light.

Trust it to Kylo to find a way to combine sex, power and his precious Force all in one.

It’s risky behavior in several ways. But practical Rey focuses on the obvious reason. “If we keep this up, you are going to get me pregnant again,” she warns Kylo.   Rey herself isn’t sure how she feels about this. A part of her wouldn’t mind another child to love. But she’d just be doubling down on her predicament. Is she more trapped with two of his children than one?   Probably so. And she can barely manage parenting Han as it is. But Milo provides everything she needs and there is no way she is going to ask the old keeper for birth control.

Rey’s words give Kylo pause, and he considers. “I’m fine with that,” he decides. “Growing up, I always wanted a brother.” Kylo muses a moment. “Darth Maul had a brother,” he tells her, as if this settles the matter.   Rey doesn’t ask who the Hell Darth Maul is.

And what about a sister? Rey doesn’t bother asking this either. From what she knows, the Sith are mostly a boys’ club. Certainly, the First Order is. Supposedly, there are women in its senior officer ranks, but Rey hasn’t spotted one yet at Bast.

Living among the First Order, Rey becomes accustomed to her former enemy. Maybe a little too accustomed.   Familiarity has bred empathy, and empathy is a dangerous thing while at war.

It’s a little like her and Kylo. She hates that monster for what he has done to her and to others she cares about. But somehow, she keeps forgetting that she hates him.   Well, not forgetting it exactly. More like consciously ignoring it.   She did agree to put the past behind her, after all. But really, everything to be forgiven is on his side. From running away to slashing his face, all Rey has ever done is defend herself and her son.  

Stop, Rey tells herself. She needs to stop thinking about this. It just confuses her more.

There is a lot of confusion in Rey’s mind right now, and it’s not just about Kylo. The bad guys wear white and black, right? Well, maybe.

Wandering the castle halls on a rainy day, Rey and Han pass stormtroopers playing sabaac on their break. These are the men who let Han try on their helmets and who return her boy’s salute with utter seriousness.    They nod to her respectfully and she even knows a few of their names. And yet Rey had not hesitated to shoot their comrades on Takodano and on the Starkiller. It had been kill or be killed back then, and so she had killed.   Situational ethics in its most practical application.

Rey knows that she is far removed from the suffering and violence of the war. That she does not see what the polite uniformed officers actually do when they are not in conference rooms. But seeing the human side of the First Order war machine is perplexing.   Her old constructs of black and white increasingly merge into grey.  

The moral complexities of war make her head hurt and her heart ache.   It’s hard to know what is right any more when the good guys want to steal your child and when your traitor friend thinks you are the one who has turned traitor in the enemy’s bed.

And maybe Finn’s right. But Rey can’t change any of that now. She’s made her bed and now she's going to have to lie in it.  With Kylo Ren.

Yes, she feels guilty here and there. But there is an ever widening streak of indignation in Rey. Her whole life she has done what it takes to survive, and that’s what she’s doing now. And if she’s having fun in bed with Kylo Ren along the way, then so what? Rey has had so little comfort and pleasure in her life. She’ll take it where she can get it.

She knows from experience that it rarely lasts.

And Rey can only spend so much time worrying. But for a lost droid in the desert, none of this would ever have mattered to her. She’s no fascist and she doesn’t like war, but politics has never been her thing.   Ideals were a luxury not found on Jakku where her main concerns had been food and water.

So smiling as her son happily picks at his breakfast one morning, Rey thinks that maybe none of the ideology matters.   Han is what matters.   She doesn’t need to choose the Resistance or the First Order. She has already chosen him. Family matters more than any principle.   That’s where the Skywalker clan kept going wrong. Rey would gladly die for Han. But she’ll be damned if she will die for the never-ending galactic civil war that rages around them.

Kylo grunts from across the breakfast table. Rey looks up to find him peering at her strangely over his datapad and caf. “Let me guess,” she rolls her eyes. “My thoughts are screaming at you again.”

“Maybe a little. You really should let me teach you how to shield your thoughts sometime.” Kylo nods down the table to Milo and rises to leave. “By the way, we are married.” Kylo tosses this surprise over his shoulder as he heads for the door.

Rey’s heart skips a beat. And not in a good way. “What?” she jumps to her feet.

“We are married. My master knows. Hux knows. Others will learn of it eventually.” Kylo looks impatient to be off to other things. His datapad is overflowing with unread reports and his earpiece is buzzing with a waiting com. “It’s for the boy. To make him legitimate in the eyes of the galaxy. That might matter one day.”

Rey’s hazel eyes snap with irritation. “Isn’t it customary to ask the bride first?”

He shrugs.

“Right, I forgot.” Rey shoots him a glare. Her voice is acid. “You aren’t big on consent, are you?”

He looks annoyed. “Get over it, Rey. Move on.”

She fumes and Kylo ignores it.

“We were married on the Starkiller,” he informs her. “A few months before its collapse.”

She nods, understanding his ploy. “Convenient. Let me guess—all the paperwork and witnesses are gone.”

“Regrettably so.” Kylo flashes her a wry smile. “You catch on fast. Not to worry, wife. A copy of the marriage papers was filed in the First Order archives. For the sake of history. So the evidence remains.”

“Did you forge my name?”

“No. But someone did. The easiest way to lie is with paper.” Kylo yanks out his buzzing earpiece. His face softens a bit as he looks on her. “Actually, I didn’t think that you would mind, Rey.” He is sincere. “I know you want what’s best for our son. I respect that. You’re a good mother.”

Now, Rey is really caught off guard. She must look confused because Kylo tries to reassure her.

“Think of it as a formality,” he tells her gently. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

And then Rey isn’t certain if that explanation makes it better or worse.

Kylo looks serious as he tells her, “This will give our family the dignity it merits. A man in my position doesn’t have a lover and a bunch of out-of-wedlock kids. He has a wife and legitimate children as heirs.”

A bunch of kids?   Just how big a brood is Kylo planning on? And was he even planning on consulting her? It would be just like Kylo to want a dynasty of long-nosed, big-eared mini-me’s. And what’s all this about dignity?

“Wait, so we got married to make things look good for the First Order?”

He nods. “It’s mostly for the kid, but yes. Marriage is the universally accepted norm. This is just a civil marriage. A piece of paper, really.”

Rey’s eyes narrow. “So does this mean I can divorce you if the Order loses the war?”

Kylo laughs. “Oh, no, Rey. You don’t get to leave me. Ever. Remember? And besides, if we lose, I’ll need you to come visit me when I’m in jail for war crimes.” He flashes that devilish grin of his and his black eyes dance. “Conjugal visits, Rey. That’s all I will have to look forward to then.”

She scoffs at the very idea. “The Republic won’t put you jail. No one with your Force power gets to sit in jail. They’ll execute you.”

“Probably.” He nods his grim agreement. “But then you won’t need that divorce.” Again Kylo flashes that sly grin. “Then you can be my grief stricken widow, Rey.   All decked out in black like the adoring Sith wifey you once were.”

Rey sniffs and rolls her eyes. “Not likely. I’ll probably throw a party and marry the next man I meet.”

He considers for a moment. “If your stormtrooper is still single, maybe he’ll take you back. Just think—you could be Mrs. Traitor.”

“Finn. His name is Finn.”

Kylo smirks as he warms to his theme. “Yes, and then I will come back and haunt you as a Force ghost, Rey. Every time you go to bed with Finn the Traitor, I’ll show up all blue and sparkly and spoil the mood.”

“What?” Rey has no idea what Kylo is talking about. But she understands very clearly that he’s mocking her.

“Let me be the first to wish you congratulations, Ren.” Milo speaks up from the far end of the table. His kind old eyes settle on her and he smiles like he’s the father of the bride. “And best wishes to you, Lady Ren.”

“Milo, don’t you dare call me that!” Rey snaps at the keeper. She’s not exactly thrilled to discover that she is now Mrs. Kylo.

Kylo throws back his head to laugh out loud. “Oh, it’s all Milo’s fault, Rey. Blame him. It was his idea.” He nods over at the old keeper across the room. “Do be careful, Milo. She has a butter knife within reach.” Then he strides from the room calling out, “Have a good day, Lady Ren.”

Chapter Text

When Rey next sees General Hux at the castle, it is just as awful as she has feared. To say that the man is displeased with her does not do his glower justice.  

They are in public but, thankfully, they are alone.

Rey is standing on the balcony overlooking the landing platform waiting for the castle’s master to return. It is a busy day for the First Order. She watches as the steady stream of shuttles arrive and depart. General Hux and his retinue have already arrived, and the Order’s premier general promptly seeks her out.

Hux’s shoulders are stiff and his jaw is tight as he approaches.   The man is outraged at her deception, and rightfully so.   This time there is no courtly greeting or pleasant smile hello. He gets right to the point.

“So . . . you are Ren’s wife.” Hux spits these words out with disdain. “The most dangerous person in the galaxy, he brags to me.”

Had Kylo really said that?   Yes, he of course he had. That sounds just like him.   Competing to outdo Hux in everything, herself included.

Rey manages a weak, apologetic smile. “My husband loves to be dramatic.” Husband. It’s the first time Rey has said it out loud and the word sounds so foreign to her ears.   It does not roll easily off her tongue.

“Did you two enjoy making a fool of me, Rey? Did you laugh at me behind my back?”   The general’s words have the drawn out syllables that he uses in his speeches, when he is intensely in the moment. “Did you giggle when you told Ren that I warned you about him and his abilities? To think that I warned the Jedi girl about Ren’s Force powers.”

“No,” she replies softly. “No, I did not laugh at you.” Rey looks the general in the eye as she says this.   She understands why Hux feels wronged, and Rey wishes that she could explain it all to him. But that would only make matters worse. There is no good way to have this conversation. Rey just wants to get out of it unscathed.

At all costs, she needs to keep the general from knowing that she helped the Resistance blow up the Starkiller. And, if possible, she needs to keep intact Kylo’s marriage machinations for Han’s legitimacy.

“You have always been kind to me, General. Far kinder than Kylo.” Rey looks down and then away.   It feels callous to repay this man’s friendliness with lies.    

“Why did you hide it?” Hux asks plainly. “Why did you lie to me about being with Ren?”

“For a long time, Kylo and I were married, but not together.” It feels disloyal to admit that they are less than the perfect couple, but Rey says it anyway. It can hardly be news to General Hux, since he saw her arrival on the Finalizer. “The marriage just sort of happened. Quickly.” She cringes at her own words.   They sound so unconvincing, even if they are vaguely true.

Unfortunately, her explanation only serves to make the general more suspicious.

“When did you marry him?” Hux is on to her, looking for details. He uses the same clipped tone he uses on his underlings when he demands a report.  

“A few months before the Starkiller.” Wasn’t that what Kylo had said? She hopes that was what Kylo had said. Hux will most definitely check up on the facts, she knows.

“How did you meet him?” Rey hesitates, and those icy blue eyes of his bore into hers. The general is not going to be put off. “Tell me.”

So Rey tries more vague truths. “Kylo went looking for Skywalker. For his map. Instead, he found me. Kylo and I are . . . complicated.” That is the understatement of the year. They both know this, but only Rey fully knows why.

The general scowls. “Ren and his map.   Did he tell you that he finally found it? Now, when it’s useless to the Order. If Ren had done his job, we would have had that map years ago when it actually mattered. And Skywalker would be long dead by now.”

Rey says nothing.

“Of course, we don’t need the map to find the Jedi. Not when we have you, Rey. You who apparently can easily go meet with Skywalker.”

Again Rey says nothing.

“Did you really fight for the Resistance?” Hux looks so disappointed in her as he asks this.   Almost hurt. Like this makes her a completely different person to him.

Rey swallows hard, searching for a way to mislead but to avoid an outright lie.   She’s not good at these verbal games.  Life on Jakku was negotiated bluntly. There was never any sophisticated sleight of hand.

“I spent a couple of months hiding out with the Resistance after the Starkiller. But I didn’t do any fighting.” This too is technically true.   When she had first found out that she was pregnant, Rey had been too busy crying and vomiting to do any fighting. “I was . . . confused.”

“Clearly,” he snorts.   “Why were you hiding?”

“I was pregnant. Alone. Scared.” Hux is still staring at her expectantly, apparently unsatisfied with this answer. So Rey starts improvising. “I thought that Kylo was dead on the Starkiller. So I went to his family.”

“How strange that you went to the enemy for help and not to the First Order. That you went to the family that disowned Ren. The family that he hates and wants to kill.” General Hux raises an eyebrow. “And how strange that no one in the Order seems to know that Ren has had a wife for years.”

Rey is starting to think that there’s no way she’s going to get out of this conversation without tripping over one of her lies.  She needs to say as little as possible or she will never keep this all straight.  Kylo was right—she should have stayed away from General Hux.

“So where did you go after the Resistance?” the general wants to know. “Did you reunite with Ren?”

“No. I didn’t want the Skywalker clan fighting over my son. So I ran from all of them. I hid from the Order and the Resistance.” This is a bit of revisionist history, but she hopes Hux will accept this explanation.    

His face softens and she sees the spark in his eye as understanding dawns. “You were the bar maid, weren’t you? That really was you Ren captured on Takodano with the kid.   Ren told everyone it was a Resistance fighter, but that was just a cover story. Technically correct, but misleading.”

“Yes,” Rey admits. “That was me.” She gives Hux a wry smile. “It was a good disguise while it lasted.” Rey sighs, thinking of the many kindnesses crusty old Maz Kanata had shown her. Poor Maz. “It took Kylo over two years to find us. He . . . er . . . wasn’t pleased.”

Hux nods slowly, then gets right to the point. It’s the same question he has been asking since they met. “So who are you really, Rey?” The General looks her up and down and steps closer. His eyes narrow as he looms over her. “Why did I get a message from the Supreme Leader himself telling me to stop Ren from killing you when you arrive on my ship?   You—the girl who stole a shuttle and ran straight to the enemy?   Anyone else would have been shot on sight. What’s so special about you?   Who are you?”

“I’m no one, General.”

“You’re lying.”

“Not really,” Rey admits.

General Hux looks at her thoughtfully.   He is not the First Order’s lead tactician for nothing. Rey can practically see the thoughts whirling around in his mind as he considers her story. But what she hasn’t planned on is that General Hux knows more than she does.

“Leader Snoke was very pleased to get that map, even though it is worthless. In fact, he thought it amusing that Ren had at long last achieved his goal.  Snoke laughed and said that Ren will never seduce anyone to the Dark Side if it takes him this long to seduce a woman.”

Hux is looking at her closely. “Ren got that map off a woman. I figured it was one of his sleazy whores, but it wasn’t, was it? It was you! That’s why the Leader sent me to make sure Ren didn’t kill you—because you had the map to Skywalker.” Her face must be confirming his truth because Hux looks triumphant in his eureka moment. “Yes, of course! The girl who knows Skywalker also knows where he hides.”

Rey starts backing away from Hux. With each passing moment, he is getting closer to the whole truth. Why, oh why, hadn’t she listened to Kylo?   Rey knew that Hux would be at the castle today. She should have locked herself in her room to avoid running into him.

“All this time, the wife of Kylo Ren has hid the map to Skywalker.” Rey is about to flee when General Hux snakes out a hand to grip her wrist hard. Full understanding is beginning to dawn. “There was once another girl with the map. A scavenger Ren interrogated. The one with the Force who resisted him.” Now Hux is looking at her incredulously. He’s connected the dots and got it all figured out now. “That was you!”

“I don’t know what you’re—“

“That was you!” The general is certain. “That’s why Ren couldn’t get the map from you on the Starkiller. Because he couldn’t bring himself to sufficiently torture his own wife!” Hux’s eyes widen as he recalls all the details Rey has shared. “His pregnant wife.”

Well, it’s not quite the right story, but it’s getting far too close for comfort. If things get uglier, Rey thinks she can take Hux. He isn’t wearing a sidearm. The general never does. And though he’s nearly as tall as Kylo, Hux is much thinner and less muscled. The man doesn’t even lift his own briefcase—he’s got a subordinate to do that. So Rey thinks that with a sweep of her leg and a strategic bite or two, she ought to be able to get away.

“How did you escape the Starkiller?” he demands. Hux doesn’t even give her an opportunity to deny it.

So Rey just goes with the story. “I escaped the cell and I stole a ship.” The lie rushes out of her mouth.

“Yes, you’re good at that, aren’t you?” This is all hanging together for Hux now. “And that’s why you left Ren and fled to the Resistance—because your loving husband tortured you on the Starkiller for the map to Skywalker.”

“Yes.”   A second lie.

“And that’s why you and Ren are estranged.”

“Yes.” And then a third.

Now Hux asks the question for which Rey has no good answer. “Why didn’t you just give us the map in the first place? Why did Ren have to torture you for it?”

“I wish I had given up the map, General. I wish I had.” This comes out as a husky whisper. Thinking of the Starkiller cell has brought tears to Rey’s eyes, which the General quickly misinterprets for remorse. He lets go of her wrist and Rey whirls away to stand at the balcony.

Hux frowns behind her. “Don’t cry Rey. I’m not going to hurt you. You obviously have the Leader’s protection.   And the Leader knows all of this, doesn’t he?”

All of this and more. Rey nods.

“So the Jedi girl finally gave the map to Ren.” The general quizzes her. “Does this mean that you have chosen sides now? That you will support the Order?”

Rey gives him a non-answer. “I have decided to make the best of life with Kylo Ren.”

General Hux nods and steps forward to stand beside her at the balcony. With his curiosity satisfied, his anger seems to have dissipated. “There’s more to this story, isn’t there?” he asks quietly. “The girl with the map was supposedly a grimy rough thing. Some parts scavenger from Jakku. Not anything like you, Rey.”

She doesn’t deny it. Rey just takes a deep breath and lets out a ragged sigh. Perhaps Hux sees her distress, for he doesn’t press her further.

Rey’s hand is resting on the balcony railing, and the general reaches over to cover it with his own. Surprised, she looks up at the gesture. Suddenly, the First Order’s chief zealot seems downright compassionate. “That’s an unhappy tale, Rey.   Are the parts I don’t know any better?”

She shakes her head. “No.” And, oh, Gods! Rey feels a single tear leak down her cheek. Rey makes a show of looking down on the landing platform. Of looking anywhere but General Hux’s blue eyes and handsome face.   They are full of silent pity for her.

“I’ve seen Ren hit you. Does he still hurt you?”

Rey stiffens at the reminder of the confrontation with Kylo on the Finalizer.   “No. No, he does not hurt me. I am well treated now, General.”  

It is true. Kylo could have thrown her in a prison cell, but instead he welcomed her back to her usual life at Bast. And oddly enough, things between she and Kylo are better now than before she had fled to D’Qar.   Maybe it’s because they spend so much time in the bedroom together, but a lot of the petty tension between them is gone. She and Kylo are very much at ease with one another these days.

Which is good, because when you speak of the devil sometimes he appears.

Four stories below, down the ramp from the newest arriving shuttle strides Kylo Ren in his full regalia.   He looks up straight at Rey and Hux.   Even from this distance, Rey can see his body tense and his fists clench.   Kylo has warned her to stay away from General Hux. With good reason, Rey now concedes.

Her husband’s stance radiates his displeasure.

Hux sees this too.   “You need to hide.”

“I need to leave.”

“Yes,” Hux agrees. But first he leans in slightly to Rey. “If ever you need to run again, Rey, don’t run to the Resistance. Run to me on the Finalizer. I’m not afraid of Kylo Ren.”

This is the second time that Hux has offered Rey his help. And in this moment, the First Order’s famed general reminds Rey so much of the traitorous stormtrooper FN-2187. Both men would cringe at the comparison, but there is something inherently gallant about both Hux and Finn.

“Thank you.” Rey means this. “But I’m done running.” She’s fighting the urge to hug Hux right now. Like she used to hug Finn. But Kylo is watching from below and Hux isn’t really that huggable. So she just nods.

The general smiles his understanding. It’s the first smile he’s given her today. “It’s an open offer, Rey. Just in case.”


 

Rey dashes into the safety of her room only to find Kylo waiting for her.  Uh oh. He is seated in her comfy reading chair in the corner, his gloved fingers tapping impatiently on the chair arm.  

“I told you to stay away from Hux.”

The man before her is the fearsome Kylo Ren of the First Order, cold and angry. Not the private Kylo she alone knows.   His voice is almost unfamiliar modified by the mask he rarely wears at home. But his tone is clear: he is spoiling for a fight.

“I told you to stay away from Hux.” Kylo repeats himself, as if to underscore his frustration. He is menacing, and Rey takes a step back.

“I know.” Her words come out small and contrite. Rey is still reeling from her conversation with the general on the balcony. She doesn’t relish the prospect of an argument with Kylo right now.

“Well . . . do you have an explanation?”

“He came to find me. I was on the balcony watching for your shuttle.” She had been hoping to catch a glimpse of Kylo before he disappeared for the rest of the day with his generals. “I have missed you, Kylo. I wanted to see you.” Rey feels a little sheepish admitting this, but it’s true. Kylo has been away eleven days this time, but who’s counting.

If Kylo is touched by her wifely vigilance, he doesn’t show it. “I do not set arbitrary limitations for you. I do it to protect you, Rey. And otherwise you have complete autonomy as the queen of my castle and the mother to our son. So when I tell you to stay away from Hux, I want you to stay away from Hux.” He pounds his clenched fist on the chair arm to reinforce this last bit.

“Yes.”

Kylo crosses his arms over his chest and cocks his head at her. “Well, you’re alive, so the good general can’t have figured everything out yet. What did you talk about?”

Rey takes a deep breath. Then she does her best to relay the scenario Hux had derived and she had not contradicted. Rey thinks she got the story straight. At least most of it. But she leaves out the part at the end when the general offers her sanctuary on his ship. Rey’s no fool.

Kylo listens in silence.

When she finishes, Rey stands there a moment, fidgeting. Waiting for his explosion of rage.

She watches as Kylo rips off his helmet and tosses it to the ground.

Then, he throws his head back and laughs.

Well, that was unexpected, Rey thinks.

“So we are star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a war? From opposing sides of the Force?”  Kylo’s grin stretches from big ear to big ear. “That’s so romantic, Rey,” he gushes. “Forbidden love. Just perfect.”

She frowns. “Well, he didn’t ask for any details about how we met—“

“Then we married too quickly and I knocked you up fast. Hux is gonna think it was love at first sight and fuck at first sight.”

Rey shoots him a look. “Well, it is what we do best—“

“And how Dark of me to torture your poor preggo self.” Kylo’s eyes flash with excitement. “Oh, you made me very ruthless, Rey. I like that part.” He pauses for a moment and the thought occurs to him. “And now my not getting the map from you in interrogation isn’t a failure. It is a hidden mercy for my secret wife.” Kylo is choking with unholy glee now. He leers at her. “I’m a Sith, but I’m a softie Sith for you, Rey.”

Okay, so that makes her smile. Now Rey is starting to see the morbid humor in this convoluted tale too.

Kylo keeps going. “And then you escape and steal a ship—just like you did here. That’s a nice detail, Rey. It gives credibility since it’s a pattern of behavior.” He nods his approval. “And then you’re pregnant and alone and a desperate young widow, so you flee across the galaxy. I’ll bet Hux loved that part. He’s so hot for you as a damsel in distress.”

Rey rolls her eyes. She’s heard this before.

“But all’s well that ends well, because years later I show up pissed off to reclaim my wife and son. And you’re mad and I’m mad, and we’re stuck fighting in my castle. Acting just like the old married couple we are now pretending to be.” Kylo snort laughs, he finds this part so hilarious. “Oh, the irony!”

“But wait—“ He has to stop to catch his breath now before he can continue. “The best part of all of this—the very best part—is that half of it is all true!” Kylo runs fingers through his messy dark hair. “Well done, Rey!   All the best lies are part truth. Come here,” he beckons her forward and then yanks her unceremoniously into his lap.

He hugs her close and gives her a serious look. “So our friend Hux still doesn’t know that you helped to blow up his Starkiller? He doesn’t know that you ever actually fought for the Resistance?”

“No.” Rey is very relieved about this. “I told Hux that I went to your family for help.” She frowns, remembering. “Come to think of it, he was a little skeptical about that part.”

“Understandable. Kylo Ren’s wife runs to the mercy of her mother-in-law who commands the Resistance? Yeah, that’s pretty far-fetched. But just crazy enough to be true since you just got back from running to her yet again.”  

Rey makes a face at the memory of her ill-fated trip to D’Qar. “I have the worst in-laws in the galaxy.”

“Everyone thinks that about their in-laws, Rey. Although, in your case, it’s true.”

“I hate—“

“My fucking family,” Kylo finishes for her. He chuckles. “Oh, Rey, you’re perfect for me.” He leans in to give her a big smooch on the tip of her nose. “But stay away from Hux.” He warns her in a serious tone. “I mean it. The man is dangerous for you.”

Rey shifts and now she’s perched in his lap, straddling his knees and looking him in the eye. “Not half as dangerous as you are, Kylo.”

That makes him laugh yet again. Kylo’s dark eyes flash at her. His gloved hands reach around to cup her bottom and squeeze. “Oh, you did miss me, didn’t you? Or maybe you just missed this.” He grabs her hand and pulls it between his legs to cup his bulge.

Rey starts to stroke him through all the fabric and he flashes that devilish grin that makes her weak. “When does your meeting start?” she asks coyly.

He shifts slightly to give her better access.  “Ten minutes ago.” Rey reluctantly moves to pull away, but his hands grip her like steel, holding her in place. “They can wait on me.” He looks so arrogant with that lustful smirk on his face.

Rey considers for a moment. Kylo is in full Sith Lord mode today. Somehow, she has grown so used to Kylo shirtless at breakfast and naked all night, that seeing all his stately black fabric does something to her.  Finding him sitting in her bedroom looking so commanding in full regalia had sent a jolt of fear through her. But now that he’s relaxed and laughing, well, his uniform is kind of hot.  

It is Rey’s turn to issue orders. She bends over to scoop up his helmet. “Put it back on,” Rey thrusts it at him.

Kylo blinks at her. But then he complies.

Rey slides down his legs to kneel before him. She looks up into the blank mask. She swears that she can see his crooked grin beneath the mask. Yes, Kylo is very hot in that mask.

This is totally twisted, but she’s going for it anyway.

Rey knows his uniform well. Her hands work efficiently under all the fabric and she has him set free in no time.   She’s teasing his tip with her tongue when he lets out something between a moan and a growl. Amplified by the mask, it’s sounds inhuman and it drives her wild.

“You waited for my shuttle so you could suck my dick? Oh, Gods, Rey. Am I glad that I fake married you.”

Hearing Kylo crass and raunchy just eggs her on. Rey is licking up his underside, working him with her hands and her mouth. Diving underneath to suck gently at his balls as he buries his gloved hands deep in her hair.

“Eleven days is too long without you.” So, he’s been counting too. After their twice daily habit of late, eleven days might as well have been eleven years.

He gasps as once more she takes the whole length of him into her mouth. Through the helmet this comes out as a long hiss. Kylo is throbbing under her tongue and his body is tensing and Rey knows he’s close.   Kylo clamps his hands on her head as if to keep her there, but there’s no need because she wants this too. Swallowing his seed makes her feel boldly sinful, and Rey wouldn’t have it any other way.

She sits back on her heels now, licking her lips. Kylo’s head is thrown back and she can hear him pant through the mask.

“Remind me,” he exhales, “to thank my Master for you. For insisting that I keep you at Bast.”

“So you can mix business with pleasure? How very efficient of the First Order.”   Rey tucks him away now, zipping him up.   All evidence of their tryst is put to rights. Kylo is already late and so she will have to wait until later for her turn.  

Rey stands and he leans forward in his chair to trace the curve of her waist down her hip to her thigh. Rey shudders. She can’t help it. It’s been so long without his touch. Kylo takes it as encouragement because his hands catch at her skirt and now they are sliding up the back of her bare thighs. He teases a finger up under her panties.

“You’re ready for me now, aren’t you?”

Hell yes, she is. Dripping wet. Slick and ready to go. “Aren’t you late?”

“Yes. So you had better come fast, Rey. Come, give me your Light.” With that he walks her back to lean her over the bed. Her skirt is bunched at her waist now and her legs are splayed wide. He looms over her, his hard mask at her shoulder. His hand is still sheathed in his leather glove and it’s tracing her inner folds and teasing her bud so fast and hard that she can’t breathe. “Oh, Kylo,” she gasps as he gives her the slightest pinch.

She is so ready for this. That mask hard against her cheek, the friction of those gloves down below—this is what it feels like to be ravished by a Sith Lord. Kylo doesn’t even get through the first two lines of his beloved Sith Code before Rey is quaking and keening from his touch. Then Kylo is his usual smug self. “Well done, Rey. Record time.”

He must feel quite the stud, for Kylo struts to the refresher to check to make sure he’s presentable in the mirror.   “Where are my extra gloves?” He drops his soiled ones in the trash.

“In your room,” she calls from the bedroom. “Top drawer left hand side.”

“We really need to put a door in here,” he grumbles at having to walk into the hallway to his rooms next door.   Rey’s room adjoins to the nursery, and not to the master’s rooms.  

“Wait,” she stops him, rushing over to thumb at something on the underside of his mask. “Lipstick,” she explains as she rubs a few more times. “Ok, got it. You’re good to go.”

He chuckles. “I hope Hux complains that I am late so that I can tell him why.”

“Kylo, don’t you dare!” Rey is scandalized. And worried he might actually do it.

Kylo gathers her into his arms for the briefest of moments. “These meetings will go late,” he warns her. “But wait up for me. I want to hear all about those eleven days I was gone.”

Rey smiles. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Kylo wants to know about Jakku. So she tells him of the ships graveyard. Of the glory of the Imperial Navy slowly rotting over decades in the desert sun.   How she had explored the giant wrecks one at a time for months, wandering darkened halls that once had housed thousands. She tells him about the mummified downed X-wing pilots entombed in their cockpits.   About the still-live but unstable munitions that would explode from time to time without warning.

Rey tells him that she lived in a downed AT-AT, but it seems Kylo already knows this. After she quizzes him, he admits that he went looking for her on Jakku after the Starkiller. “You made an impression on me,” he tells her lightly, “and I wanted to know more about you.”

“What did you learn?” Rey is smiling at him, tickled by his interest and wondering what he’ll say. His gaze meets hers and the smile fades from her lips.   Kylo suddenly looks solemn and understanding. “I saw the marks on the wall, Rey. All those marks on the wall.”

Rey nods and looks away. She won’t talk about the trading outpost, Unkar Plutt or the daily struggle for portions and water. She won’t speak of the loneliness that constantly threatened to consume her. And she will never acknowledge the waiting. Endless waiting for a faithless family who never came. She was betrayed first at her abandonment and then daily by the unfulfilled promise to return. So trust will always be hard for Rey of Jakku.

These are her Things I Don’t Talk About. They are memories best left buried in the deep scars of her heart. And Kylo seems content to let it be. He reaches to take her hand and squeezes it slightly.   “You had no future on Jakku,” Kylo tells her and he says this like it’s the worst thing he can possibly imagine. Because Kylo Ren lives only for his glorious future. He never looks back.  

Rey knows that Kylo hides things too.   He shares only sketchy details of his Master, whom she hopes never to meet. And rarely will Kylo speak of the time before he became Sith.   He speaks occasionally of his mother, but it’s always in the impersonal Leia Organa or General Organa. He never uses her married name Solo. Kylo does not mention his father.   Ever.   And Kylo never speaks of the massacre at the Jedi Academy that Han Solo had once described to her and Finn.   This are his Things I Don’t Talk About.

Rey is fine with this. He doesn’t push for her confidences, and she doesn’t push for his.   Some things are hard to put into words and some things are best left unsaid. Especially for a man in his line of work.

Then there is a whole category of Things We Don’t Talk About, and it encompasses everything about that fateful day on the Starkiller.   Not Han Solo’s murder, not the duel, not the interrogation or the rape.

It helps that Rey can’t remember anything about Kylo attacking her in the interrogation room, and she’s no longer entirely sure it was rape. But it bothers her. It will always bother her. And she will never fully trust Kylo because of it. That’s probably a good thing. General Hux has warned her never to trust a Sith, and, from what she knows of Kylo, that’s good advice.

Rey has long practice at pushing the uglier parts of life out of her mind. Sometimes, you just have to choose happiness, she thinks.   It’s a lesson learned from her hardships on Jakku: you don’t just survive physically, you survive mentally as well. So she pushes the Starkiller out of her mind for the most part. Pretends that what she doesn’t remember, never happened. That what she doesn’t know, can’t hurt her.

Kylo’s right, it’s better this way.

And maybe it’s foolish, but Rey has decided to look for the best in Kylo Ren, and not to dwell on the worst. There are plenty of things to admire about the First Knight that don’t involve the Force.  

The longer she is at Bast Castle, the more she sees Kylo the leader. For coms and alerts happen at all hours across the varied time zones of the galaxy. Rey comes to realize why the datapad never leaves their bedside.

The man is amazingly efficient.   When Kylo puts on the uniform, he is the man in command and he starts barking orders and resolving problems left and right. Watching as he juggles six different crises at breakfast is impressive.   It’s uncanny how he can distill issues and ideas down to their essence so quickly, always cutting through to focus only on the most significant details.

She can’t help but think that Kylo will make a great emperor someday if the First Order wins. That maybe Kylo Ren really will be as powerful as Darth Vader.

But Kylo is more than just good at his job. He can be darkly witty at the most unexpected times, and that’s usually how she can tell that he is happy. His default demeanor is sarcasm and even then Rey begins to appreciate Kylo’s dry wit. And her earnest pragmatism makes her the perfect foil for his wisecracks.

Kylo has a detailed knowledge of galactic history and politics going back millennia and he loves debating it with Rey and telling it to their son.   The man is steeped in history, from his family to the Force to his future. What has been exerts a very strong influence over what will be.   And the orphan girl of unknown origins finds it all endlessly fascinating.  

When Rey bemoans that she has no past, Kylo quickly corrects her. You’re pretty much a Skywalker now, he insists. At least that’s what the galaxy will think. So take my family’s past as your past. And take my family’s future as your future. We are a family and you belong with me.

And really, they are starting to be a family in all the ways that Rey had hoped. It’s not perfect, but it’s better.   Kylo is trying, and it shows.

He is good with Han in ways that Rey is not, especially discipline. For Kylo can end bad behavior with a simple look. Indeed, Han seems to instinctively respect his father, never showing him the defiance that he shows to Rey.

She wonders whether that is because Han saw Kylo hit her on the Finalizer. Did that scene teach her son scorn for her and respect for his father’s violence?  Is Kylo’s brutality already transforming her son? Or do sons just relate differently to their fathers? Has the everyday familiarity of Mommy bred contempt? Rey doesn’t know. But when the doubts and fears plague her mind, she doggedly reminds herself: any father is better than no father at all.

Little Han loves having Daddy around. He basks in his father’s attention, riding high on his shoulders around the gardens and running to meet Kylo’s arriving shuttle.  And oddly enough, fatherhood seems to suit Kylo.   Although there are times when Rey wonders if he sees their boy more as an extension of himself and his grand ambitions than as a person in his own right.  

All of this family togetherness is downright wholesome for the galaxy’s fake Mr. and Mrs. Sith. But it leads to some unexpected complications.

“Mommy, where are your clothes?” Han walks in on them one morning early when she’s straddling Kylo. Laughing about it later, Kylo swears that he has never seen a woman move so fast. She must have used the Force, he tells her, for she dove under the covers in a blur. In the moment, Kylo curses under his breath and her face is flaming. They respond simultaneously: “Go back to bed!” “Hey, Sweetie!” Han chooses the answer he likes best. He climbs up in bed and happily settles between them, oblivious to the awkwardness.  

Rey is certain that she has scarred their son for life, but Kylo assures her Han didn’t see anything he won’t be searching the holonet for in ten years. That doesn’t make her feel any better.   And then Kylo adds that in twenty years their son will probably be snuggling up to some naked girl calling her Mommy and that’s NOT funny.

After that, Rey takes to locking the adjoining door to the nursery.

Indeed, security keeps increasing everywhere at Bast, especially in the private areas of the castle. Rey suspects that her ill-fated flight to D’qar is the reason why. But whatever the cause, there are lots more observant eyes around Rey and Han.

And so with Han having the run of the castle and innocently calling her Mommy in front of everyone, Rey’s relationship to Kylo becomes something of an open secret.   Rey is not certain what everyone knows, but she’s overheard the stormtroopers refer to her as ‘the Missus.’   Milo frowns at this informality when she tells him, but Rey just laughs.

And while she strives for utmost discretion in the public parts of the castle, every now and then Kylo will do something obnoxious like swat her on the ass when he thinks no one sees. But this is the First Order, so there are watchful troopers around every corner whose job it is to see and hear everything.   So, she’ll shoot Kylo a glare and he’ll chuckle under his breath. And then Lady Rey, the Mistress of Bast Castle, will glide gracefully away.

She keeps her head held high through it all.  


 

“Who is Sheev?”

All three of them are on the castle terrace when Rey finally just comes out with this question.   Rey has heard the word far too often from Han to ignore it any longer. And she thinks she knows why.

Kylo meets her eyes. “Our son is officially named Sheev Skywalker Ren.”

Yes, it is as she has suspected. She’s noticed that Kylo never refers to Han by his name. He’s always ‘the kid’ or ‘our boy.’   Never Han.  Because to Kylo, he is Sheev.

“Since when?” Rey asks.

“Officially, his name changed with the faked marriage records. The marriage is mostly for our son, so I took the opportunity to revise his birth records to be consistent.”

Rey frowns. “He has birth records. On Takodano.”

“Not anymore.” Seeing her reaction, Kylo explains. “You didn’t list me as the father, Rey. And you didn’t list yourself as my wife. If we are going to lie, we need to lie consistently. So, the records were fixed.”

Rey rolls her eyes. “And let me guess—the new records are now filed in the archives of the First Order for the sake of your biographers.”

“However did you guess?” Kylo smirks and his sarcasm grates on her. It annoys Rey how blasé Kylo is about revising history.   But then, what should she expect from a man who once revised her own memory. There are very few limitations on what the man sitting beside her can and will do.

“You’ve been calling him Sheev for longer, haven’t you?” she accuses.

Rey is expecting this conversation to escalate into a full-fledged argument, but Kylo surprises her and stands down. His voice is subdued when he answers. Kylo seems reluctant to have this discussion.

“I cannot call him Han Solo, Rey. I cannot.”   Kylo sighs and looks away. It is rare to see him so rattled. “That name is the wrong choice for many reasons . . . many reasons.”

She watches as Kylo runs a hand nervously through his hair. This is important to him she realizes. Important enough to make him uncomfortable.

And then Kylo is unexpectedly flexible on his point. “If you wish,” he concedes, “you may continue to call him Han as a nickname. But I would prefer that you do not.”

Coming from a man who issues outrageous demands and negotiates mostly with ultimatums, this accommodation is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Rey takes a deep breath. It is time to pick her battles. Kylo has shown her goodwill since their return from D’Qar, and Rey needs to return the favor.

“Okay,” she exhales slowly. “Why Sheev? Who else is named Sheev?”

“It was the given name of Darth Sideous, Emperor Palpatine. He was my grandfather’s Sith Master. And long ago he was the apprentice of my Master.”

“So it’s a Sith name?”

“Yes.” Kylo gives her a serious look. “Names are powerful, Rey. Our son needs to have a better name than Han Solo.”

“I liked your father,” she tells Kylo in a small voice, watching as Han Solo’s namesake wanders out of earshot to explore.   “And he liked me.”

Kylo frowns and his expression hardens. “You didn’t know him long enough, Rey. He would have disappointed you.”

She remembers that Kylo had told her this back on the Starkiller. Then, as now, his words drip with bitterness. Don’t go there, Rey. Don’t go there!   But, of course, she does.

“Is that why you killed him? Because he disappointed you?”

Rey expects a flippant comeback but instead Kylo considers this question a long moment. He looks away as he answers. “I hated Han Solo because he constantly disappointed my mother and I. But I killed him because he was weak. And because he made me weak.”

“I don’t understand.”

Kylo gives her a look of reproach. “Were you blinded by his lines, like my mother? Women never could see through that guy.” Kylo looks disgusted for a moment. “Han Solo was little more than a criminal. He conned his way around the galaxy for years—cheating, stealing and lying for credits.   He loved credits more than he loved anything else, including me. He was a deadbeat in every sense of the word. His name was a byword for a con.”

This description doesn’t square up with what Rey knows of Kylo’s father. She remembers a man who bravely confronted his son, only to fall by his sword.

“Wasn’t he a Rebellion general?” she asks. “A hero?”

Kylo scoffs at her words and Rey thinks that he will cut the conversation off. But instead, the words flow forth as Kylo releases pent up anger. “He mostly used the Rebellion to hide out from creditors and bounty hunters. And to impress my mother. Trust me, there was never any cause Han Solo loved more than himself. He was my biological father, yes. But my Master is my true father. My Master raised me to be the man I am today. I owe my Master everything.”

“Supreme Leader Snoke,” Rey whispers the name aloud.

“Yes. That is his current name in the First Order. My Master has lived many lifetimes and has gone by many names. His Sith name—his true identity--is Darth Plagueis.   But only a Force-user may address him as such.”

“And you love your Master like a father?” Rey asks carefully, still trying to understand this mysterious relationship.

“Yes.” Kylo’s answer is unequivocal. “Whenever I have needed something—anything—my Master was there for me. He has taught me everything I know. He has challenged me to be better. And he understands me—my strengths and my weaknesses.”  Kylo looks down at the ground. “My Master has been the constant figure and the guiding hand that my father ought to have been.”

“I thought that the Sith were brutal to each other.” Rey wants to understand this better. For Kylo and for her son.

“That’s the Jedi perspective, Rey. They have a very narrow view of the Force and its uses. So they label anything Sith as evil.” The bitterness over Han Solo has left him and Kylo actually smiles now as he speaks of the Force.   How Kylo loves his Force, she thinks.   He always speaks of it with such reverence. It makes him happy, she’s noticed.

“The Sith embrace a larger view of the Force and that makes us more powerful than the Jedi. But power requires discipline. And you cannot discipline a Sith the way you would an ordinary man. So yes, my Master has on occasion taught me harsh lessons through the Force.   But my Master is always very rational.   It is always for my own good. To help focus me along the right path.”  Kylo eyes Rey up and down and then smiles. “It is not all punishment. There are rewards along the way as well.”

He continues. “The Jedi would have you believe that every Sith Master is a sadist and his apprentice a masochist.   That the Sith worship mindless destruction.   That we exist only to hate and to kill. That’s ludicrous. And it would be terribly ineffective. If the Sith are anything, we are effective.”

Rey nods her agreement to that sentiment. She’s read the history. Say what you will about the Empire, it was effective. Darth Vader and the Emperor made the transports run on time and stamped out corruption and crime across the galaxy.

Emboldened by Kylo’s openness, she asks the question that has bothered her since D’Qar. “Skywalker told me that a Sith apprentice kills his master. And that one day, our son will kill you. Is that true?”

Kylo shakes his head no. “Not any more. The Rule of Two is outdated. My Master rejected it over a century ago.”

Han—no Sheev has wandered back over to them. Rey watches as Kylo reaches to stroke at the hair of their son. The boy looks up and smiles at his father.   It’s a sweet moment, and Rey herself can’t help but smile.

“What’s the Rule of Two?” she asks tentatively. Worried that any minute, Kylo will lose patience with her questions. But instead, he seems to welcome her interest. He likes speaking of the Sith, she realizes. She should have asked him about this long ago.

“Old custom held that there were only two Sith at a time. A master and an apprentice. Ultimately, the apprentice would grow powerful enough to kill the master and take his own apprentice. Then the cycle would begin again. It was a stupid fiction and it unnecessarily limited the Sith.   And it was a rule observed mostly in violation. Rarely have there ever been only two Sith in the galaxy.”  

Kylo looks at her steadily. “Rey, Skywalker knows very little of the ways of the Sith. And very little about the ways of the Jedi, for that matter. He operates on legend and hearsay from a few stubborn hardline Force ghosts in the absence of true knowledge.” He shrugs. “It’s not his fault, actually. There has been no one to teach him. And all the Jedi knowledge that remains is here.”

“Here?” Rey echoes. “At the castle?”

“Yes. Here at Bast.” Kylo smirks wickedly as he reveals this information.   “Luke Skywalker could have had it all, had he accepted Darth Vader’s offer to join him. And things would have been so much different.” Her interest must be written all over her face because Kylo prompts her, “Go on, Rey, ask me more. I like it when you ask me about the Force.”

“Where is it? Can I see? I want to see this Jedi knowledge.”

Kylo grins like a little boy at this request. “Come. I will show you the treasure of Bast Castle, Rey.” Kylo reaches over to scoop up their boy. “You too, Sheev.   Let me show you your birthright, little Sith.”

Together they descend deep into the castle basement. Rey has only been down here once to help locate an old crate to use as a makeshift crib for Han—no Sheev to use when they had first arrived.   It is dusty and damp down here, with an air of long neglect. Finally, they arrive at a simple doorway. It doesn’t seem to have a lock. Kylo simply waves his hand and the door opens and they step inside.

“Holochrons!” Rey cries.  

Beside her H-Sheev jumps and claps his hands.

The room is full of holochrons.   Hundreds of little gold and blue cubes are stacked on shelves in neat rows. There seems to be some sort of categorization, but it’s not apparent to Rey from first glance. Clearly, someone has taken great care to organize them. Grouped all together, they glow brightly in the dim light.

Rey closes her eyes, feeling the Force energy vibrating in the room. She can almost hear a hum.   No, she feels the hum from deep within.

Kylo gestures about the room. “This is the true legacy of Darth Vader. My grandfather was raised a Jedi before he became a Sith. When the Republic fell, he and Darth Sideous wiped out the Jedi Order.   But Vader did not reject all of the Jedi teachings. My grandfather was a pragmatist and he understood the power of knowledge. So he collected Jedi holochrons from temples and dead Jedi all across the galaxy. And he stored them here.”

The glow of the cubes shines a faint blue cast on Kylo’s pale features. In the moment, he looks otherworldly.  

“This is all the knowledge of the Jedi that remains today.   Luke Skywalker would give his remaining hand to own these, if he knew that they existed. They are beyond value.”  

The irony is not lost on Rey. Kylo Ren is a Sith apprentice who safeguards what’s left of the Jedi heritage. It’s yet another bizarre aspect of life among the Skywalker clan.

“Darth Vader did all this?” Rey speaks her thoughts aloud. More and more, she’s coming to realize what a remarkable man Darth Vader truly was.   Or maybe some of Kylo’s hero worship is rubbing off on her.   But for Vader to collect the knowledge of his enemy seems a very enlightened task indeed.

“What are those?” Rey points to a much smaller collection of red pyramid shaped holochrons on the far right side of the room.

“Those are Sith holochrons. Like the Jedi, the Sith stored their knowledge for posterity. Vader collected those too. They are far fewer in number. We Sith are secretive by habit. We tend to pass down our knowledge between master and apprentice, and not make it generally accessible to other Sith.”

“The holochron you gave me—the one that taught healing through the Force—did it come from here?”

“Yes,” Kylo confirms. “My grandfather wore the mask and the suit because he had been terribly burned. He lived with the help of biomechanics, but he lived in great pain. For years, he searched the galaxy in vain for Jedi healers to help him. But all the Jedi healers were long dead.   Vader did manage to collect many of the healers’ holochrons though.” Kylo gestures to the largest pile of blue holochrons.   “Much of this collection focuses on Force techniques to heal. I think you would like them, Rey.”

“What about the rest?”

“Mostly combat techniques. Lightsaber forms, battle trances, that sort of thing. There’s a few on treaty negotiation strategies and Jedi history. And there’s even one my grandfather made when he was still a Jedi.”

“So you have opened them all?”

“Oh, no,” he hastens to tell her. “I have focused on the Sith holochrons. And I have only gotten through a few of them so far.”

Rey nods. Kylo has been busy. What with dominating the galaxy and all as a day job.

She closes her eyes a moment, feeling that gentle hum resonating from deep within. Being in this room is so soothing, she thinks.   When she opens her eyes, Kylo is watching her closely.

“Someone should learn the knowledge of the Jedi. Rey, you could do it,” he urges.

There Kylo goes again—pushing the Force on her. “I don’t—“

“Rey,” he overrides her. “I know that you are bored sometimes. You want something to do here besides fixing nanny droids during naptime. Do this, Rey. Study the Force through the holochrons.  Then one day, you will teach it all to our son.”

There is a gleam in Kylo’s eye and a tone to his voice which tells her that Kylo really wants this.   Then he starts backpedaling a bit to be accommodating and it’s like their discussion of Han’s name change earlier—now she can tell that Kylo REALLY wants this. “You can skip the combat ones and focus on healing and meditation. And there’s no rush. Do it at your own pace.”

“I don’t know—“ Rey hesitates. The Force sometimes scares her, to be honest. It can do some pretty awful things.

“Rey, my grandfather was The Chosen One from an ancient Jedi prophesy. Vader was supposed to bring balance to the Force. And in a way, he did by destroying the Jedi stranglehold on the Republic. But Vader never finished the job. He was supposed to teach his son—Luke Skywalker—all he knew as a Jedi and as a Sith. To create a leader who could command the Light and the Dark.   But Skywalker was a fool and turned him down.”

Kylo’s words tumble out with excitement. He’s so earnest when he speaks of his family and the Force. She likes this Kylo. Rey wishes she saw more of this Kylo. And less of the scary angry Kylo and the obnoxious asshole Kylo.

“The Force has given my family another chance with Sheev. Learn the Light, Rey, and teach it to our son.   And I will teach him the Darkness. Sheev will have the knowledge of both the Jedi and the Sith, and his power will be unstoppable.”

Kylo’s argument is made with quiet intensity, much like his soft spoken zealotry about the First Order.  The man before her looks so committed.   Like this is his calling in life.

“Unstoppable!” Kylo repeats barely above a whisper. “Our son will lead a new generation of Skywalkers who will finally find the balance of the Force.”

Rey is thinking about it. “So if I learned these holochrons and taught Sheev this knowledge, there might be no more war of Light versus Dark?” She’s wondering if maybe this is a way to preempt their son and his children from repeating the conflicts of their Skywalker forbearers. “And there would be no more Jedi versus Sith?”

Kylo nods. “The Jedi will die with my uncle. And then you and I will remake the ways of the Force. The Sith will triumph and subsume the knowledge of the Jedi.”

Kylo reaches to take both her hands in his.   His looks so hopeful in this moment. Gone are the sneer and the sarcasm and the smirk and the frown.   He’s utterly compelling as he speaks of his longed for future.  

“Together, you and I will raise a new generation of Force-users. The Dark will learn from the Light and the conflicts of the past will fall away into history.”

Rey nods at this sentiment. But still, she hesitates. Thinking of creepy old Luke Skywalker with the blue eyes that seemed to see right through her. Thinking of Kylo erasing her memory and twice ransacking her brain. Thinking of the terrifying vision she experienced holding the lightsaber in the basement of Maz’s bar. She can’t help it—the Force intimidates Rey.

“But I don’t want to be a Jedi, Kylo.” This comes out as a sputter. “I don’t like Luke Sky--”

He squeezes her hands to silence her. “All you need is here in this room. You don’t need Skywalker or his Jedi Order. All I am asking is for you to master this knowledge and pass it on. If you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for our son. Do it for the galaxy, so that this wisdom is not forever lost. I know of no one else who can do this but you, Rey.”

Rey is torn. And she is curious, thinking of the basic healing touch she has mastered. What other marvels are hidden inside these blue cubes?

“Look around you, Rey. This is everything known of the Force today except for what Skywalker and my Master know.   I know you feel it. All the power of this knowledge.” She watches as Ren takes a deep breath like he is drinking in the Force. “All this Light Side power is here for the taking. I’m offering it to you, Rey. For yourself, for our son, for our future.”

Sheev has been wandering wide eyed around the room. He comes back to tug on Rey’s dress to get her attention. She untangles her hands from Kylo’s grip and bends to pick up her son. “Mommy,” Sheev asks. “Can we play down here? I like this place. Please, Mommy?”

“I need your help, Rey.” She turns back to Kylo and the man is down on one knee.

Rey blinks at him in surprise. He looks like a man about to propose marriage. But, instead, he’s proposing that she learn the Force. Looking down at Kylo, she has the sudden realization that his offer to entrust the Jedi holochrons to her is far more important to Kylo than any offer to entrust his heart could be. Because for Kylo, the Force is everything.  

Kylo reaches his hand up, seeking hers. So she shifts Sheev into one arm and gives Kylo her free hand. The three of them stand there together in silence in the spooky room full of Darth Vader’s holochrons.

Rey has the sudden urge to cry.   There is something profound about this moment.   Scary, yes. But exciting too.

“This is why the Force keeps trying to bring us together. This is our shared destiny. To reconcile the Dark and the Light and bring balance to the Force. For ourselves and for our family. Together, Rey, you and I can finish what Darth Vader started.” Kylo’s eyes glitter with the reflected blue and red that surrounds them.   He beseeches her, “Please, Rey. Please, I need your help.”

Did Kylo just say please? Well, there is a first time for everything.

Sheev pipes up to whine, “Please, Mommy? Can we play here again?”

Rey looks down at Kylo humbled and kneeling before her and then back at Sheev in her arms. This is her family. And they are asking for her help. She takes a deep breath.

“Okay. I will try, Kylo. If I can start with just the healing ones, then I’ll try. As long as I don’t have to hurt anyone.”  

Kylo nods silently at her.

Rey puts down her boy. “Yes, Sheev, we can play down here.”

Her son beams up at her. It’s the first time Rey has used his new name aloud. “Sheev! She called me Sheev, Daddy!”

Kylo stands to his feet. He leans in to kiss her cheek. “Thank you.”

 

Chapter Text

Their conversations about the future begin on a sunny afternoon.

Kylo has grown tired of listening to the debate over the strategic importance of sparing the major cities of the Core Worlds. He wants the war over soon, and if he has to raze Coruscant to subjugate it, he will.   Snoke won’t care and Kylo Ren is more concerned with the ends than the means.

So, thoroughly bored, he has left the meeting table to stare out the window at the mountains behind Bast Castle.   There is a nearly sheer rock wall at the end of the garden terrace where the castle backs up to the mountains. And something is slowly moving up it. Kylo watches for a few seconds before he abruptly leaves the room, motioning to a pair of stormtroopers in the hallway to accompany him.

He’s halfway across the terrace when he recognizes it’s a person, dressed in black scaling the wall. An intruder. Set for stun, he orders the troopers, but hold your fire. He wants this interloper alive.

Standing beneath the intruder at the rock wall, he lights his saber.   The loud snap-hiss is all it takes for the intruder to freeze. “Come down,” Kylo orders. “Or we will shoot you down.”

The heretofore oblivious intruder turns slightly. A long brown ponytail falls free over the intruder’s shoulder and down her back. Rey? He recognizes those brown waves.  

Come to think of it, he recognizes that pert ass too.

“Don’t shoot me, Kylo!” Rey hollers over her shoulder. She’s annoyed. “Not unless you are prepared to catch me.”

Rey makes him wait, fuming as she painstakingly picks her way back down the ten meter climb. He has to admit that Rey looks like she knows what she is doing. Like she has done this many times before.

He looks her over as she drops the last meter to the ground. Rey is wearing what look like Milo’s old clothes, a black tunic and baggy pants.   Somewhere she has found an officer’s cap to shield her hair from dirt. And is that a pair of his own gloves on her hands?  

“What the Hell are you doing?” he demands. “Is this your new escape route?”

Rey scowls up at him. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m climbing. I have to do something for exercise around here. I never used to sit around all day.”

“With no rope? No harness? If you had fallen, you might be dead, Rey.”

He’s fuming again. Why has Rey never mentioned her climbing before? Probably because she knew he wouldn’t approve. Which is appropriate because Rey really could kill herself pulling a stunt like this.

Her eyes flash. Rey does not appreciate his concern.   “I’m good at climbing. And I’ve fallen from higher heights on wrecks, trust me.” She eyes his lit saber. “Turn that thing off, Kylo. It’s far more dangerous than this climb.”

“Does it intimidate you, Rey?” He raises the sword and twirls it with a flourish. Behind him, he can sense the stormtroopers take a step back.

Rey just crosses her arms over her chest. “Yeah, it does.   And you know it.” She rolls her eyes gives him a look. “Although I’ve gotten pretty used to your posturing by now, Kylo.”

He extinguishes the sword. “Next time you want exercise, go for a swim.” He turns to leave.

“I can’t.” She frowns at him. “I don’t know how. It’s on my list.”

“What list?” he turns back to Rey.

“The Things to Do After the War Ends List.” She gives him a sheepish smile. Dressed like that and smiling up at him, she’s simply adorable.   But he’s not going to let Rey know that. “Also known as the When Kylo Lets Me Out of Here List,” she adds.

It turns out that The List isn’t terribly long, and he thinks that he will permit her to accomplish some of the items.   Learn to swim. Take Sheev to a park with a playground so he can meet other children. Visit the shipyards on Kuat.   Take Sheev to a parade. Visit Coruscant.   Go to school for something, anything.        

What’s on his list, Rey wants to know over dinner that night. He has his Second Empire to build, Kylo reminds her. The real work begins once the war is over so there will be no rest for the weary.   With her limited experience, Rey doesn’t seem to understand what it will mean for him to rule the galaxy. Or for her.  

But Rey presses him, softly pushing him to tell her what he wants for himself alone.   So Kylo plays along. He sits back and thinks a moment. “The holochrons, Rey. I want to get through all those Sith holochrons downstairs.   And then I want to make my own holochrons. To pass on what I have learned for Sheev and other Sith.” He pauses to muse, “Knowledge is power, Rey. Once you learn the Light, together we will hold all the power.”

Rey puts down her fork. “I really shouldn’t be making a When Kylo Lets Me Out of Here List, should I?  Because I’m going to be stuck here at Bast at holochron Force school forever, right?” She grumbles at him. “I really should have bargained to learn the Sith ones and not the Jedi. There are a lot more blue cubes down there than red ones.”

She’s complaining but she’s smiling at him all the same. He knows that Rey is enjoying the holochrons. Not that she’s ready to admit that to him yet. She’s so stubborn about the Force.

Kylo gives her a serious look. “Rey, once I am Emperor, you and Sheev will have to live someplace much more secure than here. And things will be very different. But don’t worry.” He smirks at her over the rim of his wine glass. “You can bring your holochron homework along with you.”

“So you’re going to lock me up in your imperial palace? That sounds just like you. Can’t have me going rogue running about the galaxy Force-healing people left and right, can you?”

He chuckles at this. “I plan to keep my Empress by my side. That’s where you belong, wife.”

“I’m not your Empress. And I’m your fake wife, Kylo. Remember?”

“No one knows that but us and Milo.”

“And some First Order lawyer.”

“Oh, the lawyer is dead, Rey.” Very dead. Kylo has made sure of this. “And old Milo has been loyal to the Sith for forty years or more. Vader trusted Milo, my Master trusts Milo, so I trust Milo.” He pauses over her frown. “Does it bother you that the marriage is fake?”

Rey considers. “It bothers me that you never asked. You just announced that we were married. And then you told me it didn’t mean anything.” She looks confused. “Does it mean anything? It’s a lie to us but not to everyone else. Is that the answer? It only means something to others?”

“Do you want it to mean something for us?”

Rey is caught off guard by this question. She fidgets as she prevaricates. “Well . . . only if you want it to mean something. I mean, it doesn’t have to mean anything. I guess. Oh, I don’t know. Forget I ever said anything.” Her face is blushing bright red and she’s kind of cute looking so flustered.

So Rey wants to get married. For real. Well . . . okay. He’s fine with that. Why not? They might as well.

“It’s a full moon tonight, Rey. If you want, we can marry for real as Sith.”

“Here? Now?” Suddenly, Rey looks as if he has put her on the spot. Which annoys him because this was all her idea.

“Yes. Here. Now.” He remembers that she was mad that he didn’t ask her. So he asks her. “Will you marry me, Rey?”

She blinks at him. Then her eyes narrow and he can see that she is skeptical. “Is this for real?”

“Yes. This is for real.“ Did she want him to make a speech and go down on one knee? The thought of a flowery proposal makes Kylo regret his impulsiveness. He’s not good at romance. He’s only good at the Force and this isn’t the holochrons, after all, so there’s no need to go overboard with sentiment. So he asks her again, in the same manner as if he were asking her to pass the salt shaker. Well, more like he’s impatient that she’s refusing to pass him the salt shaker.

“Just marry me okay, Rey?” Wait, that came out wrong.

“Hold on, Kylo. Slow down--what does Sith marriage mean exactly?”

Oh, great. Rey brings this up and now she’s getting cold feet. How did the Hell did they get on this topic anyway?  

“Sith marriage means that we are allied together forever. For life. I can never leave you. You can never leave me. Don’t say you weren’t warned.” Wait, that came out wrong too.

Rey just rolls her eyes. “I can’t leave you now anyway, so nothing much will change.”

He thinks a moment. “The only thing that changes is that you are choosing this, Rey. You are choosing me.” And, actually, that is a big change. Would Rey commit to him of her own free will? Suddenly, he is holding his breath. He has sprung this on her, he knows. Well, really she brought it up.

“Well, do you want this, Kylo?” Rey wants to know. “You wouldn’t get to back out either, right?”

Back out? He doesn’t want to back out. Kylo looks her in the eye. “I choose you, Rey. I want only you, Rey.”

This is true. There is not another woman in the galaxy who can mother Sheev and learn his Jedi holochrons. And there is not another woman in the galaxy who can be the Light in his world and in his bed. Rey has seen the very worst in him—the Starkiller interrogation, killing his f-Han Solo, that wretched mistake of a slave collar, the brutish company of the Ren, he could go on. But the point is, she’s still here. And yes, he keeps her here. But she did return voluntarily to him from the Resistance. From his fucking family that she hates too, Gods bless her. And she’s still here now.   Rolling her eyes and pouring his caf and hugging his child and sucking his dick and it’s pretty good.   Plus, she’ll make an excellent Empress and his Master approves. So, yes. He chooses Rey.

Opposite him, Rey chews her bottom lip, taking her time as she decides.  

An unwelcome thought occurs to him: she wouldn’t dare turn him down, would she?

Watching her, he wonders when along the way this had stopped being only about the map. When had Rey become more than an exercise in manipulation? More than his Master’s tedious training that was an unwelcome distraction from his war?

First he had liked her, then he had lusted for her, then he had fucked her. And now they are a family, she’s part of his future and she’s agreed to learn the Light. She’s been his prisoner, his victim, his lover and the mother to his child. Now she’ll be his wife, his Empress and his partner in the Force. His one-woman Sith Auxiliary. All this for the orphan from a junkyard planet with a mysterious accent and an unknown past who once bested him in a duel.

Shit, this woman has destiny written all over her in boldface caps. Because nothing about this relationship makes sense. None of it has to make sense when destiny is involved. And really that’s how it should be for him. He’s a Skywalker, after all.  His slave grandfather had overreached himself to snag a triple threat queen/senator/hottie. So why can’t he spring for a mésalliance with the sassy Jakku Resistance girl who shines like a beacon of the Light? He’s a Sith and the Sith dare anything.

Suddenly, he wants this marriage. Very badly. Kylo stands up abruptly, and then he’s down on one knee after all. Grabbing for her hand and staring up into those intelligent hazel eyes of hers. “Commit to me. Commit to our family. Commit to our future.” Rey is staring at him and she hasn’t said yes, but then again she hasn’t said no. So he keeps talking.   “We made it official for the lawyers. Let’s make it official for us. You and me, Rey. Together forever in the Force.”

“Forever?” She sounds as if the word terrifies her.

“Forever.” He tells her with confidence. He’s a Sith and he deals in absolutes. If Kylo Ren is going to get married, he’s going to do it one time and it will be forever.

“Okay,” Rey nods slowly. “Let’s do it.” He’s not sure who is more surprised that she said yes—he or Rey. Her eyes are wide and her mouth is open. His pragmatic Rey looks reckless now and it’s sexy as Hell. Because she’s reckless for him. “Now, Kylo, before we talk ourselves out of it. What’s this full moon business?”

“It’s tradition for the Sith. Come,” he picks up a steak knife from the dining table, grabs her by the hand and leads her out onto the balcony.   Naboo’s moon is full tonight, showering silver light down upon them both. They stand together holding hands.   He in his vicar’s robes and she in that long white dress she wore the first time had returned to Bast and she had dazzled him.

“Don’t we need witnesses or something?”

“No,” he tells her. “This is a Sith marriage.   They were mostly done in secret. We need only the full moon and a knife.”

“What’s the knife for?” She’s eyeing it warily.

“Give me your left hand, Rey.” She holds it up and he matches it to his own larger version.   They stand facing, palms touching palms, fingers intertwined.  

Suddenly, he senses the eddies and flows of the Force around them both.   He can feel the subtle charge in the air. The meaningful change that is about to happen. He closes his eyes to experience the moment. To cherish and remember it forever. Yes . . . this is destiny at work. What they do now will matter.  

Kylo is certain that far away, tucked in his stronghold, Darth Plagueis senses it and nods his approval.

The might-have-been Jedi Padawan and the Sith Apprentice will slash hands in the moonlight at the Chosen One’s castle. He plots with the First Order to take over the galaxy. Together they plot to take over the Force.   Once again, the Sith are in ascendancy with help of a wayward Jedi’s good intentions. The Light will willingly corrupt itself to serve the Darkness.   This time in pursuit of balance.

“The Force is with us, Rey,” he whispers. Kylo knows this with utter certainty.

“Yes,” Rey’s eyes are staring at him with such intensity that he dares not look away. “I feel it.” Her voice sounds small. It’s scaring her. The awesome Dark power of the Force intimidates Rey, for the Light always shies from the Darkness.

“Don’t be afraid. I feel it too.” He squeezes their intertwined hands. “Trust me. This is right, Rey.”

She nods and he begins. His voice is low and deliberate and his eyes never leave hers as he speaks.   “I will be your passion. I will give you strength. And together, we will gain power and victory.”  

The arcane vows are simple, a restatement of the Code of the Sith in promises. A ritual thousands of years old. Spoken in secret by Darth Malgus to his Eleena and maybe even by Darth Vader to his Padme. And by countless other covert Sith lovers through the ages.

He commands to her, “Say it. Make your promise for me, Rey.”

Rey nods, and she echoes the words. “I will be your passion. I will give you strength. And together, we will gain power and victory.”

Kylo continues. “The Force has brought us together, the Force will bind us, and the Force will set us free. “

Again, he commands, “Say it.”

Rey repeats, “The Force has brought us together, the Force will bind us, and the Force will set us free.”

And before she can resist, Kylo grabs her left palm and slashes it roughly with the sharp dinner knife he is holding concealed in his right hand.

“Owwww!” Rey flinches and pulls away, pressing hard against the flowing blood and the sharp pain. It’s a shallow, wide wound. It won’t need to be stitched, it’s nothing serious. But it stings and bleeds. “Kylo, what was—“

She stops, watching as he displays his own left palm to her before slashing it as well.   Unlike Rey, he doesn’t react to the pain. Then Kylo clasps his bloodied palm to her bloodied palm, and their fingers intertwine again.  Blood drips down their forearms to stain the sleeve and the skirt of her long white dress.

“Now,” he tells her with much satisfaction, “forever you are my lady and forever I am your Sith.   We are married, Rey, truly married under the tradition of the Sith. A blood oath given with slashed hands by a full moon. I am yours and you are mine. Together forever in the Force.”

He cups her cheek with his bleeding hand, and his blood drips down her jaw.   “Do not heal the wound, do not bind the wound. The tradition is to let it scar. The scar represents our bond. The scar, like the bond, stays with us until death.”

Rey nods solemnly. Then she raises an eyebrow, slightly confused. “So that’s it? Aren’t you supposed to kiss me or something?”

He chuckles. “The Sith revere passion. We don’t kiss to seal a marriage vow.   We fuck. Come.” Abruptly, he throws Rey over his shoulder, then sneaks a hand up the back of her skirt because in this position she can’t stop him. “It’s time for bed, wife. Let’s go make a disturbance in the Force.”

Chapter Text

History is ever doomed to repeat itself. Even for the First Order. For despite all its increased internal security and new protective shielding, Lord Vader’s fortress falls to an ancient but time-honored ruse. This time it’s a troop transport and not a Trojan’s horse. But it’s effective, all the same.

Bast Castle has no barracks so stormtroopers rotate in shifts from a nearby base. Four times a day.   Day in, day out. Today when the second shift of troopers arrives by transport, they disembark and report for duty. The changing of the guard is straightforward: new shift meets the old shift in formation for the transfer of command.

It is then that the new shift opens fire on the old.   

And just like that, the onsite security at the castle is neutralized in seconds. With the attackers hidden in white armor, friend looks like foe and confusion reigns for the few minutes it takes the Resistance to subdue the castle.   

It is simple to storm the meeting rooms. The blame lies mostly with General Hux who won’t wear a sidearm. It wrinkles his uniform and besides he has others to do his dirty work. Unfortunately, most of his entourage takes their cue from the general.   Later when the security holos are analyzed, they show only two officers armed and firing back. The pair fall quickly and the rest are overwhelmed. 

It is all too easy. 

Only one castle occupant refuses to surrender quietly. The holos show a grainy image of a Resistance fighter dragging in a young woman wearing a long pink dress.   She fights him like a rathtar, with thrashing arms and flailing legs.   The woman is not especially big, but she is vicious. Twisting and biting. Ultimately, it takes two men to subdue her. 

“Captain, we found this one in some kid’s room. Says her name is Jabba the Hutt.” 

“You think this is a joke?” the Resistance captain levels a blaster at the girl.   

She doesn’t flinch. Instead, she spews forth an impressive string of profanities in the gutter patois used by smugglers and scavengers.   

Their captain blinks at this blue streak of curses, then recovers himself. “How charming, Jabba,” he observes. Then he turns to the captured and cuffed General Hux standing nearby. “General, is this your girl?” 

Hux does not respond. 

So their captain jabs his blaster to the girl’s temple and asks again. 

This time Hux answers. “No.” 

“Then who is she? Who is this bitch? What’s she doing here?” 

“She’s no one,” says Hux.   “She’s not with the Order.” He pauses a moment before adding, “She’s the housekeeper.” 

Their captain takes a good look at the girl. Seeing her elegant chignon now somewhat askew, her torn dress that looks like it costs more than his yearly salary, her manicured hands and lip gloss. No, this is definitely not the housekeeper. This woman has never done a hard day’s work in her life. 

“Take her with us,” their captain decides. “She must be somebody if the general here is willing to lie for her.”

 


 

 

Kylo is on the bridge of the Finalizer when Lieutenant Mitaka creeps up to anxiously break the news of the raid at Bast Castle.   Kylo only half listens to the details because he has immediately reached out through the Force to find Sheev.

Yes, his boy is fine. Sheev is extremely upset but in no imminent danger. Someone with him is trying to calm him down. Relief washes over Kylo and now he can breathe again.

If Sheev is fine, then Rey must be fine. Rey would be with Sheev.   She is rarely away from their son unless he is sleeping.

“Who’s dead?” Kylo demands, not waiting for the nervous lieutenant to finish.

“Hard to tell, sir. It appears that they took prisoners. So far there are twenty-nine confirmed killed. Twenty-four troopers and five junior members of Hux’s staff. General Hux and his two most senior officers are missing.”

The Resistance has captured Hux??   THIS IS A FUCKING DISASTER. Kylo sees red at the news. He knows that in a matter of hours the Resistance PR machine will be parading the captured Hux before cameras for the holonet. Trumpeting their capture of the Starkiller mastermind to humiliate the First Order.

And all twenty-four troopers are dead?? That’s the entire Bast security force. What the Hell happened at Bast?

“What about the others? There are noncombatants at Bast.” He’s worried about Milo.

“Onsite staff is mostly accounted for. Only one missing. The castle keeper survived, as did a child in his care.”  

The keeper has the child in his care. It is not Rey with the child in her care. Where is Rey?

“Who is missing onsite?” Kylo growls. He needs to know about Rey. Where is Rey?

Mitaka hurries to the comm officer on the bridge, and the officer relays the question. “The sergeant in charge says a woman from the staff is missing,” the comm officer reports back. He adds, “He thinks she must be the nanny because there’s a kid who won’t stop screaming for her.”

There’s a kid who won’t stop—oh, fuck. This is NOT good.

Kylo stalks to loom over the two men. “Put the keeper on the comm. NOW!” he barks, impatient to speak with someone he trusts.   His words are terse when his request is met. “Milo, this is Ren. Where is Rey?”

The veteran keeper’s voice crackles over the garbled fuzz of the long distance deep space commlink.   It’s an extra five seconds delay that Kylo does not want to wait. When the transmission finally clears, the keeper repeats his unwelcome news.  

“Rey is missing. It was naptime and Sheev was sleeping. I made it to the nursery first, grabbed him and headed below to the basement safe room. Rey never made it. She was last seen alive chatting with General Hux in the hallway not far from the meetings. But that was probably half an hour before the raid. If she was still there when they arrived, Rey would have been in the thick of it. I’m sorry, Ren.”

FUCK!

The Resistance has her. The fucking Resistance took her. And all because she was chatting with Hux again.

In a split second blur, his lightsaber ignites in his hand.

FUCK!

He told Rey to stay away from Hux. And she defied him.

Everyone scurries to obey the command of Kylo Ren except his own damn wife.

FUCK!

Enraged, he cannot resist the dark urge to destroy.   With his chest heaving and the weapon glowing, Kylo gives in to the lust for violence. He destroys the comm console he’s standing over in five swift swings.

Mitaka and the comm officer have leapt back to safety and they, along with the rest of the bridge personnel, watch in fearful fascination at this latest eruption of Kylo Ren.  

He would destroy the entire command bridge, if he could. So great is the throbbing rage that has overtaken him. But this will not help Rey. And so the moment is over as quickly as it occurs.

He extinguishes the saber.

The bustling bridge has gone silent now. All eyes are on Kylo Ren.

Standing there before the wreckage of the console, he calmly summarizes the information his Finalizer officers all know and surprises them with information they did not. “The Resistance knew who they were coming for. They killed the troopers and the junior officers. But they took the commanders. And they took my wife.”

That last word hangs heavily in the air. It’s almost awkward for the crewmen to know this personal detail about their most feared commander.   The faceless terror Kylo Ren has a wife. And the Resistance just stole her.

After a moment, Mitaka breaks the collective silence. “We will contact the Resistance and attempt to confirm their capture. It’s possible that they may be willing to bargain for their release.” The earnest lieutenant is attempting to be positive, but it comes off as hopelessly naive.

“They will execute Hux.” Kylo states this coldly. Because he knows this for a fact. There will be a trial with lots of cameras and then Hux will die. “The rest will only be released once the Resistance gets enough information out of them.”

That is the First Order’s way: torture a prisoner for information. If he lives, use him as currency to negotiate with the Resistance and send him back in disgrace for his betrayal. Recently, the Resistance has begun to adopt similar tactics.   It is a sure sign of their desperation.   For the gods of war have heavily favored the First Order of late.

And maybe that’s why the Resistance undertook the raid on Bast Castle, Kylo thinks. The Resistance can’t manage to win victories against the First Order in the field, but this small raid has netted them big dividends now that they have Hux and his direct reports. It’s a splashy victory after a string of humiliating setbacks as the Order has pressed ever deeper into the galaxy’s Core.

First Officer Phelps, second in command of the Finalizer, has crossed the bridge to join the discussion. From his swagger, Kylo can see he’s angling for a battlefield promotion now that his boss is captured.   Loyalty is fickle among the Order elite.

“Hux won’t talk,” Phelps is confident and it sounds, well, smug like Hux. “Neither will the others. They have been trained to resist. And your er . . . wife, sir—is she privy to much Order business?”

On its face, it is a reasonable question for which Kylo Ren has no real answer. At the very least, Rey has seen all the comings and goings at Bast. That alone is valuable information.   But who knows how much Rey has gleaned from conversations that spilled into corridors and from her own interactions with Hux and his staff. And who knows how much Rey has overheard from listening to his side of the com calls that occur at all hours of the day and night. No one knows Rey’s past with the Resistance save for him, Snoke and Milo. So no one at Bast had known to guard their tongue.

And Phelps doesn’t know it, but Rey’s military knowledge is the least of their worries. Rey knows all about the two most precious things to Kylo Ren: his son and his holochrons. Their strategic importance dwarfs any outdated troop information Rey might recall. For if Skywalker gets his hands on Sheev or the holochrons, the tide of the war might change in an instant.

FUCK!

This is a complete disaster. His Master will be livid.

Ruefully, Kylo thinks he should have known that something like this was bound to happen. Things have been going far too smoothly for the Order recently. And much too smoothly for he and Rey as well. Of course, their newlywed contentment together at Bast was too good to last. He had allowed himself to be lulled into a sense of complacency.   And now he has lost his wife and the Order’s best general as a result.

FUCK!

This is a complete disaster. His Master will be livid.

Do her captors even know who Rey is, he wonders. Surely they must, or she would be dead with the others. For all he knows, Rey was the main target of today’s raid and Hux was just an accidental prize. Well, if they don’t already know who Rey is, they will know soon. Prisoners as valuable as Hux and his lieutenant generals will attract attention at the highest levels of the Resistance. And those highest levels know who Rey is and who she is to Kylo Ren.

Kylo’s mind is racing. Rey had once told him that she was loyal to people not ideals. What exactly does that mean in this context? He remembers that once Rey had attempted to trade data from his shuttle to the Resistance.  And long ago, she had fought for their cause. Will she resist a true interrogation by the Resistance?   It might depend on whether they ask her about the Order or about Sheev or about him.

It’s humiliating to admit this, but Kylo doesn’t really know where his wife’s loyalties lie and how deep they run.  All he knows is that Rey will do anything to protect Sheev.

Maker help the poor Resistance grunt who gets to interrogate Rey, Kylo reflexively thinks, remembering her steely resolve on the Starkiller. But then he recalls all that had transpired in that Starkiller cell.   There are many ways to punish, and Kylo Ren is an expert in the subject.   He hopes—no, he prays—that the Resistance has more scruples in this area than he himself does.

Silently, he vows to slaughter those responsible, to hunt down their families and slaughter them too, if they harm Rey. Every last fucking one of them will die if they harm her. For Kylo Ren will give no quarter to those who harm what is his.

“Sir?” Phelps prods him out of his thoughts. Phelps is Hux’s chosen right hand man on the Finalizer and that alone makes Kylo distrust him. Is Phelps already setting Rey up to take the fall for any disclosed Order secrets?

The Force drags First Officer Phelps by the neck across the floor and into Kylo’s open hand. He clenches down. His words are loud enough for all on the bridge to hear. “Do not dare speak of the Lady Ren. My wife is not your concern.”

The point is made for all to witness. He releases the First Officer, resisting the dark urge to end him then and here.   As much as he would prefer otherwise, Kylo will preserve what’s left of the chain of command. “You have Hux’s command for the time being, Captain Phelps,” he growls.  

Then Kylo turns back to the now terrified looking Lieutenant Mitaka, “Do not confirm to the Resistance that they have my wife. You need to protect her identity. If we can. And for as long as we can. Refer only to the officers to confirm their capture.”

Perhaps it’s a foolish hope, but Kylo needs to buy time if he can. Time to get Rey back before Skywalker and his mother get to her.

Chapter Text

The fog of war doesn’t just occur in the heat of battle, it persists all throughout wartime.   Uncertainties and mistakes persist, and they get passed up the ranks to decision-makers. Who then rely upon them as the basis for reasoned judgements and strategies.   All of which can combine to make for a lucky break for the enemy.

This is the case for Resistance Prisoner 4377, the erstwhile Rey of Jakku. One-time Resistance fighter, sometime Force-user and lately, secret wife to the notorious Sith Lord Kylo Ren. AKA Jabba the Hutt to the Resistance interrogators who to a man are not amused by this cheeky nom de guerre.

The Resistance is far more interested in the First Order officers captured at Bast than in the mysterious young woman who refuses to even give her name.   When she arrives, the lead interrogators take one look at Rey’s pink dress and painted face and they decide she isn’t military.   She must be somehow connected to the First Order, but Rey strikes them as too young and frivolous to know anything of real value.   Whoever she is and whatever she does, they determine that she is low priority and mention of her is omitted entirely from the reports to senior staff.

And so Rey realizes that the Resistance had not come for her or for Sheev, they had come for Hux. And now that they have him, he is their sole focus.  No one seems to know who Rey is.

So she is detained and mostly ignored. For a time, they ask a lot of perfunctory questions she refuses to answer but they don’t lay a hand on her.  

This is a great relief because Rey is pregnant again. She thinks.   It’s early days but all the signs Rey remembers are back.

She must keep this secret as long as possible. Rey knows that she has burnt her bridges with the Resistance leadership, that Kylo’s mother and uncle will view her as the enemy now.   And, after their last meeting, that’s how Rey views them. Skywalker and General Organa will never let her go if they know there is another magical Force baby on the way. The Jedi steal children, after all.  

Staring up counting the tiles on the ceiling for the umpteenth time, Rey thinks that Kylo would be happy about the baby. He would gladly welcome another Skywalker Sith for his Second Empire.   Rey is happy about the baby too. For thinking of the tiny life growing in her womb gives her hope. And Rey doesn’t feel quite so alone in those moments.

Rey will only talk to Finn. Though Finn may no longer be her friend, she thinks he might not be her enemy. And unlike Skywalker and General Organa, Finn had never seemed to want to steal Sheev.

But when Rey asks for Finn, they laugh in her face.   Major Finn is a big deal with the senior Resistance leadership. He doesn’t have time to speak to prisoners, they tell her. Does she know his name from the testimonial videos on the holonet that the former stormtrooper stars in? The videos have gone viral since the Resistance PR machine kicked into high gear. Now everyone in the galaxy claims to know Major Finn. Apparently, even the young starstruck First Order girl prisoner who is bored and trying to mess with her guards.

So the days drag on. She’s not sure how many days. They never turn the lights off and besides there is nothing Rey can use to mark the wall.

It’s lonely. Very lonely.

Rey has become so used to a household—to Sheev, Kylo, Milo, a dozen droids, even the anonymous friendly stormtroopers—that her prison cell is unbearably lonely. Even on Jakku, Rey had not felt this alone. It’s a scary thing to feel alone and to know that people are missing you. On Jakku, when she was alone the pain had been hers alone.

Rey can’t be certain, but she thinks that Sheev survived the raid on the castle. Her boy wasn’t taken prisoner she knows, for Sheev wasn’t on the shuttle with her and the other captives. And Rey thinks that somehow she would sense if her little boy were dead.   No, she pictures Sheev somewhere safe. Pining for the mother he has never before been apart from for a single day of his young life.

With all this solitude, all this quiet, Rey’s mind drifts.   And she goes a little crazy.   She starts to hallucinate cheerleading dreams of Kylo.  

Mostly, they occur at night.   Kylo is shirtless, barefoot and in sleep pants. Like at breakfast at home at Bast, except now he’s alone in an empty functional room of grey. Other times, it’s a daydream out of the blue. Kylo is masked and robed and commanding at the helm of a great ship. Whether it’s the private man or the public Sith, the dream is the same every time. Kylo tells her not to worry, that Sheev is fine. But Sheev misses her. He does too. Kylo tells her that he will come for her, but she must be patient. Tell them anything, promise them anything, do anything, but stay alive. Above all, stay alive. For him and for their son.

Yes, she can do that. There’s nothing Rey of Jakku does better than survive.

She contemplates escape from time to time. Rey knows that she could probably break out of her cell. But the real trick to escaping is getting to a hangar to steal a ship.   She has no idea where she is and if that is feasible. And it seems an awful risk to take given she is pregnant and so far the Resistance hasn’t hurt her. Better to stew here a while longer and wait for Kylo, she thinks, than to leave Sheev without a mother or to lose this new child.  

So Rey stays put and stays alive. And anonymous. For now.


 

It takes Kylo Ren three weeks and sixty lives to discover where the Resistance hides the Bast captives.   And during those three weeks, his men walk on eggshells. Their leader is in the mood to punish.

So when Kylo’s shuttle lands askew in the hangar bay, he is reminded of how Rey once had expertly set the shuttle down on the first try.   He executes the pilot on the spot. For his ineptness, yes, but mostly because his ineptness has reminded Kylo of her.   And that reminder hurt.  

Humiliating as it is to admit, Kylo knows he has never needed Rey’s Light more than now. As he had feared, he has come to depend on it.   For months now, Kylo has been gorging himself on it.

And truth be told, he also misses Rey’s laugh and her little snores when she is especially tired and how she always has a steaming hot cup of caf waiting for him on the bathroom sink in the morning when he gets out of the shower.   And he misses the look on her face when she smiles down at Sheev, her off-key lullabies and the way she sweeps down the hallways of Vader’s castle like she owns the place.  

Well, maybe now Rey kind of does own the place.

He sighs. Heavily through his mask.

You don’t get a honeymoon when you are trying to conquer the galaxy. He is Kylo Ren, Commander of the First Order, and he has responsibilities that don’t stop for his private life. And so they barely had five days together after their impromptu wedding.

At the time, Kylo hadn’t thought anything of it. He comes and goes at Bast Castle and this mission had been more of the same.   When he returned, Rey and Sheev would be waiting for him, as usual.   Kylo has grown accustomed to how their quiet lives accommodate his ambitions.

Five days together. And really it had been only five nights, for his days had been spent on Order business. But those nights had been amazing. For a long time now, he and Rey have been fucking like rabbits. But somehow this had been different. He had liked married sex. He had liked the trust in Rey’s eyes and the smile in her voice and all the small, subtle ways he could see that Rey was happy. Happy Rey is good for him. It makes him kind of happy too.

But happiness doesn’t last, Kylo knows from experience. This time it had lasted five days together and then another ten days of contentment apart while he was on a mission.   And then it was over. Sixteen days into their marriage, his wife was gone.

Kylo had assumed that he and Rey had a lifetime ahead of them. But they only had sixteen days. Barely time for the slash on his hand to fully heal.

His son is aboard the Finalizer now. The boy alternately cries and rages for his mother. Sheev will not be comforted, and neither he nor Milo can bring themselves to discipline the distraught child.   Kylo has no answer for when Mommy is coming back and where Mommy has gone and is Mommy okay. So the boy’s sense of abandonment grows day by day.

The worst days are when Sheev accuses: You hurt Mommy again! Where did you put Mommy? What have you done to my Mommy? I will kill you if you hurt my Mommy!   Kylo realizes that, short of erasing Sheev’s mind, there is no way to take back what his son saw in the hangar bay of the Finalizer.   Then he wishes that he had killed that incompetent trooper slowly so that he could suffer the way Kylo suffers when he hears Sheev worry that his father has killed his mother.   His son should never have witnessed that argument. Just remembering that afternoon on the Finalizer fills Kylo with regret.   He should have handled that better.

Kylo tries repeatedly to reach Rey through the Force, but mostly he calls out in vain. When he does get a vague sense of her, he strains to send Rey as much mental comfort as he can. If—no, when—she is returned to him, Kylo vows that he will work with Rey to establish a mental bond like he and Sheev share. So that never again will anyone be able to take her from him.

His son’s impatient anger lurks at the corner of Ren’s mind through the Force bond, ready to merge with his own at the slightest provocation. Kylo vents their combined frustration on the shuttle pilot, on two bumbling junior officers and on five Resistance prisoners. The violence provides a temporary respite. But then Kylo goes back to his obsessive misery.

He suffers thinking of her. For each night laying alone in his empty bed, Kylo ties his brain in knots rehashing a Monte Carlo simulation of possible outcomes.   The prospects coalesce into a few abhorrent scenarios.

First, it’s Rey being questioned by the Resistance. They think she’s turned traitor and that’s especially unfair given that he knows Rey didn’t choose him—not at first at least. Rey has never been a true believer in the First Order. She’s no collaborator. But the Resistance won’t see it that way. So her jailers are giddy to vent their vengeance on the wife of Kylo Ren. If they cannot hurt him, they will hurt what is his.   And so Rey suffers on his behalf.    Yes, she can Force-heal, but even that has its limits. Soon his Rey is battered and bruised and wishing it all would end. And though he thinks his mother and uncle won’t kill her, you never know. He might never see his wife again. And even if he does, Rey might never be the same again. Kylo Ren has tortured enough vacant-eyed prisoners to know that.

And then there is something entirely different, and perhaps even scarier, to worry him. Rey is back with the Resistance. They have welcomed her with open arms and she’s safe and happy back with her revolutionary idiots. Back in the arms of her traitor stormtrooper boyfriend. Thrilled to have been rescued from the demon that is Kylo Ren. She’s missing Sheev, of course, but Rey doesn’t give her husband a second thought. Good riddance to Kylo, she thinks, as she spills forth everything she can possibly remember about the First Order. Skywalker and his mother proceed to fill her head with lies. Then Rey signs on as the new Jedi apprentice and soon Snoke is sending Kylo to kill his own wife. He sees her again but only when their swords cross. His wife is brainwashed now and lost to him forever.   And then she is dead by his own hand and Sheev’s worst fears have come true.

There’s a third scenario, but it doesn’t bother him quite as much. Rey escapes, just like she once did on the Starkiller.   Then she’s alone and on her own in the galaxy. Maybe Rey is desperate to get back to him and Sheev. She shows up at the nearest Order base and tells some skeptical low level regional officer that she wants to talk to Kylo Ren and they show her the door. Or maybe Rey just wants to forget him and Sheev altogether.   So she heads back to Jakku to lick her wounds and resume her life before him.   Or she starts a new life on a neutral planet anonymously working as a tech.   However it turns out, Rey escapes the Resistance and is safe. Maybe eventually even happy. But he and Sheev lose her anyway.   He never sees his wife again.

Night after sleepless night, his brain burns through the possibilities. There is only one solution to this torment: Kylo needs to get Rey back.

Ostensibly, his efforts are all to regain the very valued General Hux. But that fucker Hux can rot in Hell for all he cares so long as he gets Rey back and his boy will stop crying.   And if Rey has betrayed First Order secrets, he will just frame those disclosures on Hux & Co., yell at her and then move on.   He no longer cares that she might have been flirting with Hux before her capture. Whatever. He can forgive Rey anything so long as he gets her back.

It will be a tricky thing to pull off. Kylo knows that his biggest hurdle is his Master and not the actual mission.

So standing before the familiar hologram, Kylo Ren feels worried. Absently, he rubs his left thumb along the slashing scar that lies beneath his leather glove. He needs the comfort of the memory of Rey standing under the light of a full moon while the Force swirls around them. Kylo hasn’t felt this nervous before his Master since his defeat on the Starkiller.

Ironically, that too had involved Hux and Rey.

“We have the location for Hux and the other prisoners,” he reports in as disinterested a manner as possible. “They are on D’Qar in the Illeenium system but not at the main Resistance base. They are at a heavily guarded and isolated secondary bunker located several kilometers away.”

Master Snoke considers this information. “So the location has the benefit of all the defenses of the main base, but not the prying eyes.”

“Yes, Master. We are developing a plan for an attack on the main base as a diversion for a raid on the bunker.  Our sources tell us that General Hux is scheduled for execution in three days’ time.”

The old Sith nods. “Tell me, my apprentice, do you think General Hux has given up our secrets?”

“No, I do not.” Kylo does not like Hux, but he does not doubt his commitment to the cause.   The man has an iron will.   It’s part of what makes him so annoyingly effective. It begrudges Kylo to admit it, but the loss of General Hux has been a blow to the Order.

“And the others?”

He has no clue whether the others will crack or not. Kylo settles for a non-answer. “They have all been trained to resist interrogation.”

“But not your wife.” A shadow of a smile creeps across his Master’s twisted face.

Kylo does not want to discuss Rey, but his words rush to her defense anyway. “She resisted my interrogation, if you recall.”

His Master’s smile broadens into a macabre grin. “Oh, yes, I recall. I recall all the details of that particular interrogation.”

Kylo has nothing to say to this.

Then, finally Snoke asks the question he has anticipated answering. “Tell me, Kylo Ren, would you rescue General Hux and the others?”

“No.” He is unequivocal. This is key.

“Why not?”

“We have other competent senior officers. There is no need for the First Order to appear desperate to retain any particular man. We are a cause that is bigger than any single person.”

Snoke nods his approval. “Why else?”

“Already we look weak for allowing our leaders to be captured. We will look weaker still if a rescue attempt fails.”   It’s easy to see how the downside risk outweighs the upside risk for this mission.   Especially, if Hux or his men have talked.

“And? Speak to me as a Sith, Kylo Ren, not as your Supreme Leader.”

Ren knows this answer, but pauses to find the way to phrase it without using the word ‘rival.’ He doesn’t even want to acknowledge that Hux might merit that status. “Because General Hux believes himself to be my peer. Having the Resistance eliminate him saves me the effort. And it avoids any resulting dissention in the officer ranks.”

His Master nods his approval. “So would you have the First Order ignore the capture of these prisoners altogether?”

“No. I would focus our efforts on a counterattack that would make meaningful progress in the war effort. The return of the prisoners will not end the war. But destroying the D’Qar base might. If we attack the Resistance base, we should intend to destroy it, not merely to create a diversion. We should be ruthless in the pursuit of our objectives, and not deviate from them for the sake of these few prisoners.”

“One last question, my apprentice.” With Snoke, there is always another question. The wily Sith delights in considering all the angles. “If you led the Resistance in this situation, how would you handle the risk of a raid?”

“I would have standing orders to execute the prisoners at the first sign of any attack. These prisoners are too high profile to be allowed to escape. And death of the prisoners would make the raid a waste of resources.”

“Well done, my apprentice. You have given me wise counsel in this matter. And you have not allowed sentiment to cloud your judgement.”

There it is—the reference to Rey. His wife is the subtext of the entire conversation, Kylo knows. The hidden test beneath the tests. And Kylo Ren has passed the test with his apparent indifference to her survival. His feigned indifference to her survival.  

Kylo wants his wife back. He needs her back. Mostly for her Light, of course.

“What do your sources tell you of Lady Ren?”

“The Resistance doesn’t know who she is. They have mostly ignored her since she is not military. No charges have been brought against her, so there is no death sentence.”

This information surprises his Master. “The Resistance does not recognize one of their own? Your old keeper Milo has exceeded my expectations if the scavenger is so transformed as to be unrecognizable to her friends in the Resistance.” The old Sith considers this, then asks, “What does that tell you, Kylo Ren?”

Of course, more questions. More tests.

“That Skywalker is not on D’Qar. He would know her Force imprint.”

“Yes, yes. Tell me, does her loyalty to the First Order surprise you?”

It feels like a trick question, so Kylo sidesteps it. “I believe her loyalty to be to me and to her son, Master, and not to the First Order.”   Rey had told him she was loyal to people, not ideals. He hopes that Rey is loyal to himself and not just to Sheev.  

“That is as it should be,” Snoke approves. “She is a Sith’s lady. Her only concern is you and yours.   Let them execute Hux and the other officers,” he decrees.   “Plan your counterattack to destroy the Resistance base. Be in no hurry to strike. Wait a sufficient time after the executions for the enemy to be lulled into complacency.   Kylo Ren, you personally shall lead the counterattack from the Finalizer.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Send your Knights down to retrieve Lady Ren during the battle. She shall be returned to you, my apprentice. You have earned it.”

Kylo nods gravely in acknowledgment of this reward. He struggles to hide his elation.

“Kylo Ren,” his Master has something further. “Once the Lady Ren is recovered, you will bring her to me. It is time that I meet your scavenger.”

Chapter Text

Rey leaves her cell once, and it’s for an execution. General Hux dies bravely.

The Resistance gives him a big name lawyer and a perfunctory trial. Of course, they don’t let the First Order’s orator speak. Instead, a judge reads out the general’s sworn statement. They call it a confession, but the testimony makes clear that Hux has no regrets for using the Starkiller on the Hosnian System.  

During the closing statements, the Resistance plays a recording of General Leia Organa speaking solemnly about the lasting impact from the destruction of her home world by the Empire decades ago. Then there is a tearful parade of Hosnian survivors who were off-world on that fateful day. There is no acknowledgement of the lives lost on Starkiller Base. Through it all, the Resistance is angry and righteous and Hux is callously unrepentant.

And therein lies the stalemate that is the crux of the galactic conflict. This war is not a failure to listen. It is two irreconcilable visions of the future advanced by parties each entrenched in years of blood.

If there was ever a chance for compromise, it has long past.

The day of the execution arrives. Rey stands in shackles out of view of the cameras with the other First Order captives. She watches as General Hux refuses the blindfold they offer him. Standing tall and proud before the firing squad, the handsome general catches Rey’s eye to hold her gaze. He winks.

In the hail of shots that follow, Brendol Hux becomes an instant martyr. The Resistance claims that justice has been done, but all Rey sees is more death. So she cries as she sees him fall. For Hux, for herself, for the innocent billions on the Hosnian System and for all those loyal lost souls on Starkiller Base.

What they say is true. War is Hell.

Then her jailers pull the hood back over her head for the trip back to her cell and back to hours of wondering if she is being foolish by not attempting an escape. Rey hadn’t agonized over escape on the Starkiller. She just did it and didn’t look back. That was the way Rey had handled decisions back on Jakku when there was only herself to think about. But once Sheev had come along, everything became much more complicated.  There is more to consider than herself now. And that makes her uncertain about the risks.

So, Rey waits and waits.

What the Hell good is it to be married to a Sith lord if he won’t come rampaging in to rescue you from his enemies? Isn’t vengeance supposed to be a Sith specialty? Rey has fantasies of Kylo marching into her cell, his mask on and his blade lit, to carry her off to freedom. He’s slaying Resistance fighters left and right with his sword and with the Force and he is unstoppable in his swirl of black robes. Every bit as powerful and fearsome as Darth Vader had ever been. And, unlike Grandpa, Kylo succeeds in rescuing his wife and unborn child from the Jedi. And then she and Kylo are the Skywalkers who live happily ever after.

It’s a nice thought, if only it were true.

Kylo, where the fuck are you?

If this keeps up much longer, Rey is going to have to take matters into her own hand. Sheev or no Sheev. Baby or no baby. The longer she sits and waits, the greater the chance that the Resistance will finally focus on her.

Plus, all this waiting is beginning to shake Rey’s confidence. She’s the Jakku throw-away that no one has ever valued. No one until Kylo, that is. And maybe, Rey worries, her imprisonment is a handy excuse for Kylo to throw her away too.   The Resistance has rid him of his rival Hux. Maybe it will also rid him of the accidental wife that he never wanted in the first place.   Kylo can let her rot in a prison cell and eventually he will be a widower and Sheev will still be legitimate. Problematic wife, solved.

And then Kylo can trade up to a more suitable Empress. Rey thinks back to all the holonet entries she had seen for Padme Amidala. Now that’s the kind of woman Kylo needs for a wife. A beautiful girl from an impressive family who has educational credentials and a resume of achievements. A girl with effortless self-confidence and easy grace and all the other intangible hallmarks of social class that Rey of Jakku will always lack. None of Kylo’s knights would ever have mistaken Padme Amidala for a high-priced whore.

It’s in those shaky moments that Rey stares down at her palm, tracing the slashing scar with a finger.   I am yours and you are mine. Together forever in the Force. It comforts her.

Under the baggy medical gown they have her wear, nauseous and tired Rey hides the beginnings of a baby bump. She thinks that she is showing much faster with this child than the first. Or maybe she just has the dates wrong?  Whatever week she is, she won’t be able to hide it forever. Kylo, where the fuck are you? There is definitely a baby growing inside her that she needs to protect.

So Rey just waits and waits some more.

And then one day, the cell door opens.   It’s not her jailer with another too rich meal that she can’t bear to eat. No, it’s . . . Luke Skywalker.

Oh, shit! Rey groans inwardly as her heart skips a beat. They know who she is now. This is not good. She just lost her chance to escape.

Rey stares daggers at the bearded man in sandy robes. The Jedi is creepy. He’s been in her cell less than a minute now, but he makes the hair on her arms stand on end. The Last Jedi looks like he has seen things, like he knows things, that a person should not.   Rey is very glad that she was never his apprentice. For all his brooding calm and soulful eyes, the man is unnerving.

And he had once tried to Jedi mind-trick her into giving up her son.

Skywalker’s opening line is spoken casually even as it expertly twists the knife. “I’m surprised that Ben hasn’t come for you by now.”  

Yeah, me too. Rey had expected something to happen after the Resistance executed Hux.   But that was weeks ago. She thinks.

Skywalker stands there silently, waiting for her to speak. He’s not hostile, but he’s not friendly. He’s just very chill. It must be a Jedi thing. After living with a volatile Sith for the past year, the Jedi’s absence of emotion befuddles her.

“Am I baiting your trap?” Rey stares him down. She is seated on the floor propped against the wall and Skywalker is standing over her, but still she stares him down. “Am I a disappointment as a lure?”

Skywalker is unflappable, as she remembers from D’Qar. He gives her an easy smile. “You are an accident as a lure, Rey. The Resistance didn’t even know you were at Bast Castle. And the crew here has no idea who you are. General Hux and his officers did not reveal you. With all that is going on, no one thought you were important enough to alert the senior command.” The Jedi shrugs and crosses his arms. “In fact, you were first on the list for the next prisoner exchange offer.”

Hux had protected her. A fresh wave of sadness washes over Rey.   Brendol Hux may have commanded the Starkiller, but he had only ever been kind to her.

“Then how did you figure it out?” Rey wants to know.

“I felt your presence when I arrived on base this morning. I’m sure you know that you have a powerful Force imprint.”  

“So Kylo tells me.” Emphasis on Kylo. It annoys Rey to hear his enemy call him Ben.

“Your imprint is different this time, Rey. Larger.” Skywalker raises an eyebrow at her. He’s curious. “Have you been training?”

Rey thinks of the hours she has spent on Force-healing techniques gleaned from the holochrons. “No,” she lies blithely.

Skywalker gives her one of his signature ‘I can see right through you’ looks. It makes Rey wish that she had taken Kylo up on his repeated offers to teach her to hide her thoughts.

The Jedi leans back against the far wall of her small cell. When he speaks, he tries to make amends. “Rey, I feel badly about the last time we met. That conversation went all wrong . . . all wrong.”

Rey is inclined to agree, but she says nothing.

“I’m sorry, Rey, that Leia and I tried to take your son. We had no right to do that, but I wish that you could understand why we did it. Truly, we have Han’s best interests at heart.”  Skywalker runs a hand through his hair and looks away. The gesture reminds her of Kylo when he’s rattled. The master Jedi’s voice is quiet and full of regret. “Rey, if you knew what my sister and I know about the Dark Side, you would understand. Trust me, you would understand. Leia and I are trying to help. We are not the bad guys here.”

Rey doesn’t believe this for a second. After their last meeting, she will never believe anything that comes out of the Jedi’s mouth. And she tells him so.

“There was a time when I believed in the Jedi and the Resistance. Back then, I was even willing to suffer for you, Luke Skywalker. But I’m not that naïve idealistic girl any longer. I won’t be a fool for you and your sister anymore.”

Skywalker is undeterred by her vehemence. His eyes are kindly, seeking her forgiveness. “I wish that we could start again, Rey.”

“It’s too late for that.” Rey of Jakku learned long ago not to give second chances. You don’t survive by trusting unreliable people. So her voice is cold and determined. “I’ll never join you. I’ll never give you my son.”

The Jedi nods like he was expecting this response from her. “Ben has filled your head with lies. I see that now. I didn’t understand that before. When you came to us for help, I thought you were running to the Light. Now I see that really you were just running from Ben.”

Skywalker’s voice is so calm and his tone so reasonable that it grates on Rey’s nerves.  He’s refusing to argue with her. And that pisses Rey off even more.

“Did you go back to Ben or did he catch you?” Skywalker wants to know.

“I went back to him.”

The Jedi nods again. Like he was expecting this answer too. But then he adds, “Rey, the last time I saw you, you were desperate to escape Ben.”

“I chose the devil I know. ” Rey practically hisses this at him. She doesn’t have to explain her choices to this man.

“I have thought a lot about you, Rey. About why the First Order lets a Force-user as strong as you sit mostly untrained. I know that Ben isn’t fool enough to train his own replacement. But I also know that Ben is drawn to the Light.”

Rey looks up sharply at this observation, betraying its truth. “Yes, I’ve known that for years. It’s no surprise that he is drawn to you, Rey. Ben doesn’t want you to be Sith. You’re far more useful to him untrained in the Light.” Skywalker leans against the far wall. He peers down at Rey with a sigh. “He is using you. You’re his enabler now, aren’t you?  You’re his little fix of Light every now and then, aren’t you?”

It’s true, and Rey knows it. But she also knows something else. “I am his balance. Together, he and I will find the balance in the Force.”

“Is that what Ben tells you?” Skywalker looks down at Rey like she is the greatest fool in all the galaxy. “Do you believe that lie? Ben leaves you and returns to the slaughter of innocents and the destruction of entire worlds because he has found balance in the Force?”

“The Resistance kills too. It’s a war. People die.”

“Ben was killing people long before he was involved in the war.   He slaughtered children at my Jedi academy before he was even a man grown. War isn’t why Ben kills, it’s just his current excuse for killing.”

Rey has no comeback for this.

The Jedi lets the silence hang heavy for a moment before he asks, “Tell me, how do you excuse his attacking you?”

Rey shifts uncomfortably. She glares at the Jedi, but again she has no response.

“Can’t you see that you’re Ben’s victim and yet he has manipulated you into supporting him? That’s what the Sith do: they twist the reality of the situation to fit their desires. Rey, none of this is your fault. My sister and I know that. We want to help you. Please let us help you.”

“How? By taking away my son?”

“The Resistance will shelter you. With or without your son.” Luke Skywalker coats his words with the Force, and it’s so obvious that Rey fights the urge to roll her eyes. It’s not quite a mind-trick, but it’s a very heavy mental suggestion. The Jedi still thinks she’s a weak-minded fool.

“You don’t want to help me,” Rey snaps back. “You want to keep me away from Kylo. Because I enable him. Isn’t that it?”

“The only way to help you is to get you away from Ben. He is using you for your power. Sith use people and then they betray them.  You deserve better than him.” The Last Jedi’s face is surprisingly kind. His compassion is genuine, Rey senses. Manipulative though it may be. “If Ben truly cares for you, he will not drag you down deeper into his Darkness.”

Maybe, just maybe, she thinks, Skywalker’s words are true. But they do not persuade her. Rey is in far too deep with Kylo Ren to back out now. It’s been a long and strange journey from Jakku to the Starkiller to Takodano to Bast Castle to D’Qar and then back to Bast. But along the way life kept changing and Rey has changed too. She’s a survivor, and she adapts to survive.

Kylo Ren is many things, she knows, and only a few of them are good. But he is her husband and the father of her children. For better or for worse, Rey stood in the moonlight and chose Kylo until death do they part. Now, after weeks spent languishing alone hoping that Kylo will keep his faith in her, Rey will keep her faith in Kylo. And if that means he drags her deeper into Darkness, then so be it. He is her Sith and she is his lady.

So Rey rejects the Jedi’s olive branch. “Kylo has a vision for the future.   For the galaxy, for the Force and for our family.   I will not leave him again.” She looks down and mutters, “Look, I’m sorry if you don’t agree with his politics.”

Skywalker seizes on this last part and now he’s beginning to sound righteous. “The politics is superficial in this war. The Sith only care about power. No matter what their promises and justifications are, the end game is always the same. Ben lusts for power, just like my father did. And he will destroy anything or anybody to get it. My father was the same way until the very end.”

“Well now that the Resistance has killed General Hux, you’ve cleared the path for him. There’s no one to rival Kylo in the Order now,” Rey informs the Jedi.

Skywalker chooses not to respond to this, although she can see that her point has hit home. The Resistance may have won the battle but lost the war when they killed General Hux. A unified First Order commanded by Kylo Ren is more lethal than one easily fractured by senior level infighting.

“What was it like?” Rey changes the subject. “Fighting your own father?” She dives right into the uncomfortable questions. Rey wants Skywalker on the defensive, for once. “Did you even know Darth Vader?”

“What do you mean?”

“I lived in Vader’s castle for almost a year. They tell stories at the castle about your father. About how he would talk to the portrait of your mother and tell her about you. About the great lengths he went to find you. About how much he wanted you back. He must have hated fighting you.”

“My father lived to fight. And he wanted an apprentice, not a son. For many years, he loved only power. He saw me as a means to overthrow the Emperor to gain more power.”

“So you weren’t ever tempted to join Vader?   Even though he was your father?” She’s curious about this. It’s hard for her to understand how Skywalker could scorn his long-lost family and turn down the holochrons.

The Jedi answers without hesitation. “My father was a man with burning ambition. He was brutal and ruthless. Ben is like that. But I am not. Nothing Darth Vader could ever offer me would tempt me into Darkness.”

“So it never bothered you that you were stolen from your father?” Rey grew up an orphan, like Kylo had said Skywalker did. She wonders whether that had made the Jedi as angry and sad as it has her.

“It was for my own protection. It saved me from my father.” No, apparently, not.

“And that’s why you want my son? To protect him?”

“Yes. Protecting him also protects all the rest of us. The galaxy will not withstand a Skywalker Sith dynasty, Rey.” Finally, the Jedi makes his offer. “I can get you out of here. Agree to tell us what you know about the Order and you will be set free. You will remain with the Resistance and we will keep you safe.”

“No.” Rey flat out refuses. “The Resistance is losing this war. I can sit in this cell until then, if I have to. But one day, I will be back with my husband and my son.”

“Husband?” The Jedi is genuinely surprised at this news. Then disappointed. “You married Ben?”

Rey raises her left hand palm facing up to show the slashing scar across her palm, still red from its newness.  

“What’s that?” Skywalker squints at her.

“Kylo has the matching scar on his left palm. It’s from a Sith marriage ritual.”

“That’s very Ben,” Skywalker says dryly.   “Just like that arcane lightsaber of his."  The Jedi shakes his head in disdain. “Ben is such a piece of work.” 

Rey shoots him a look that says ‘go fuck yourself, Master Jedi.’ She hopes he read her thoughts on that one.

But apparently Skywalker still can’t wrap his head around her refusal. He needs to confirm it. “So, after all Ben’s done—to you and to others—you want to go back to him? To play the loyal wife and mother to the Sith of the First Order?”

Rey looks up at the mythical man the galaxy either reveres or hates.   A man who, like her, was once an anonymous desert dweller ignorant of the powerful forces at work around him.   Along the way, the Jedi had made his choice. Now, Rey will make hers.

“Yes. I want to go home to my husband and my son. I will never leave my family.”

Skywalker gives her one more chance. “Please think carefully about my offer, Rey. I’m duty bound to tell my sister who the anonymous female prisoner is.   The Resistance will become very interested in you now.” The Jedi sighs heavily and looks down. He’s uncomfortable with what he says next. “Things might get ugly for you then.”

Rey is not swayed by this implied threat. “I’ve been tortured before, Jedi.”

He looks up at her scorn and repays it with sarcasm. “Yes. By your husband, right?”

Rey scowls. She tells Skywalker exactly what he can do with his offer.

The Jedi strokes at his beard thoughtfully. “I’m sorry, Rey,” he tells her. “I do pity you” are his parting words before he exits her cell.

Chapter Text

Trigger Warning: Dark stuff here, including miscarriage. Having had that sad experience myself twice, I don’t take it lightly.

Just so you know, neither Luke nor Leia ordered Rey’s torture and no one at the Resistance knew she was pregnant. More to come on that later.

 

The rank and file of the First Order tell a lot of stories about Kylo Ren. Most have a kernel of truth that gets exaggerated in the retelling. Ren beating a woman to death in the hangar bay. Ren killing a Resistance fighter by igniting his lightsaber through his heart. Ren’s shuttle getting stolen for a joyride by some hooker after a wild party with the Knights of Ren. Ren Force-choking six senior officers on the bridge. That sort of thing.  

But the Battle of D’Qar gives rise to a juicier, far more humanizing legend for the Sith prince of the First Order. There are so many witnesses to what happened that surely it must be true. Or mostly true. By the next day, everyone aboard the Finalizer has heard it and retold it at least once.

The battle to destroy the Resistance home base is raging at its peak and the hangar bay is choreographed chaos. Troop transports and TIE fighters deploy one after the other in quick succession.   Into their orderly midst, a lone TIE Interceptor careens. It’s missing half a wing and has taken heavy fire. The smoking ship skids to a halt, overshooting its mark badly and sending a squad of troopers running for their lives.

Nestor Ren, the trusted second in command of the Knights of Ren, emerges from the TIE. Then he hauls forth a woman who is all thrashing bare legs and tangled greasy hair. The Knight sets her on her feet and there is blood. The woman sways and stumbles as she begins to scream like a she-devil.

“I’m not giving you anything!”  

Her arms are outstretched and she moves blindly, her drugged and dilated eyes squinting in the bright white fluorescence of the hangar bay. Medical tubing and IV ports are still taped to her bare arms and she is wearing a stained white hospital gown that barely reaches her thighs.  

The Knight tries to intercept her, but she won’t be taken. So he backs away, hands raised up in a gesture of wary acceptance.   Nestor Ren later says he has seen what this woman can do.

Then a stormtrooper squad leader thinks to intervene. But she shoves the trooper away hard. In some versions, she shoves him ten meters across the hangar bay but surely that’s hyperbole. No normal woman can do that.

Then up stalks Kylo Ren, the First Knight himself. He’s abandoned his command on the bridge in the heat of battle. He arrives in time to catch the screaming madwoman in his arms.  

“I’m not telling you anything!”  

The crazed woman even fights Ren, if you can believe it.   She’s out of control. Baring her teeth and spitting.

“Good girl . . . good girl. It’s over now. Rey, you’re safe . . . you’re safe.”

She sinks down to the floor and Ren sinks with her. There is blood, more blood. Kylo Ren is shouting for a medic NOW or someone will die by his laser sword. He’s searching her, looking for wounds. It’s a moment before he or anyone else realizes where she is bleeding from. The smear of red spreads slightly with each passing minute. Lips turn blue, eyes roll back and she goes limp.

There are eyewitnesses from the hangar who swear that Ren took off his mask as he knelt to clasp the failing woman to his chest.   But Kylo Ren never takes off his mask, so that’s probably a lie.

No one knows what he looks like under that mask.

But hours later everyone knows that the madwoman was his pregnant wife. Taken and tortured by the Resistance. Rescued only to bleed out the child on the floor of the Finalizer in her husband’s arms.  

There are first ever stirrings of sympathy among members of the First Order for their harsh commander. Everyone loses something or someone in war. Even Kylo Ren, it seems.


 

Today is the beginning of the end.

The Resistance headquarters base on D’Qar is no more. Kylo Ren again is victorious and the news and his name reverberate across the galaxy. He knows it is a turning point in the war, but still there are those who live to fight another day. And so it will grind on. The Resistance is like a cancer on the galaxy.   If even a few malignant cells are left alive to disperse, the tumor will grow again.

But at least the day is won, and at last Kylo Ren can make it back down to the medibay.

Rey looks half dead lying unconscious before him on the gurney. Her skin is stark white beneath the faint freckles that are a legacy of the Jakku sun.   She looks painfully thin, thinner even than the scrawny scavenger he remembers from the Starkiller.   Had the Resistance starved her? A pregnant woman should not look this thin.

No, not pregnant, he thinks. Not anymore.

Kylo reaches down to rip off a bacta patch that some well-intentioned medic has placed over the still-red scar on Rey’s left palm.   Luckily, the patch hasn’t seemed to take effect. A medic droid approaches to investigate, earning Kylo’s wrath. “No,” he pushes the droid back hard with the Force. It draws the attention of several sentient healers who rush respectfully to their leader’s side. Kylo ignores them. He pulls the glove off his own left hand and threads his fingers with hers. Scar matches scar as the onlookers pretend not to notice.

I am yours and you are mine, he thinks. Together forever in the Force.

He nods to the chief healer and the medical team presents their report. It’s all good news. Rey’s miscarriage will not compromise her fertility, they assure him.   And while the hemorrhage led to significant blood loss, Rey has responded well to the transfusion. The greater concern now is the drugs.   Rey was injected with at least three variations of sodium pentathol was well as other interrogation enhancements with longer scientific sounding names. All administered in dosages strong enough to make a bantha hallucinate.   The Resistance either was inexperienced with these type drugs or they were desperate to break her.   Or maybe a little of both.

Otherwise, Rey is physically unharmed. Apparently, the Resistance is squeamish about beating its prisoners, but not drugging them senseless.  

The medics will keep Rey sedated until the drugs clear her system. Assuming no complications, in about a week’s time, she should be released. In time, Rey will make a full recovery.   But she is very weak and considerably underweight, so she will need to take it easy for a few weeks.

This is the best news Kylo Ren has received all day. Better than the news of his victory.

Staring down at Rey, he makes a silent vow. He will find the ones who did this to her if they are not already atomized on what’s left of D’Qar. The fighters in the raid on Bast, the jailers in the bunker, the officers who approved it all. He will find them and he will kill them.

He is imagining his terrible vengeance when a small voice wandering in his head volunteers, “I help, Daddy. I kill them too.” Which reminds him that his Sith princeling is waiting outside.

Kylo waves a hand and the door behind him opens to admit Milo and Sheev. Their son had sensed his mother in the Force from the instant of her arrival on the Finalizer. But he had been kept away as the medics stabilized her. Rey’s captivity has been very hard for Sheev, and Kylo does not want to prolong the separation any further. Kylo Ren remembers another small boy who once pined for his largely absent mother.

He lifts his boy up to the gurney and instantly Sheev nestles himself into his mother. “Mommy sleeping,” Sheev says, laying his head on her shoulder. “I sleep too.”   Milo and the healers discretely withdraw and they stay like that a long time.   Kylo stands masked and holding Rey’s hand and their son in pajamas snuggles up against his mother.  

They are an accidental family, created by his violence and his Master’s manipulations and held together by Rey. Rey who values their little family more than she values any ideology. Rey who has sacrificed her freedom and her independent future for this threesome. And now, she has shed her blood for them as well.   The blood of their unborn child.

Try as he might, Kylo can’t get the image of Rey in the hangar bay out of his mind. Blood streaking down her thighs as she collapses incoherent to the floor. He hadn’t known that she was pregnant, didn’t know that she was miscarrying.   Kylo had never factored a baby into his imagined scenarios. In the moment, all he could think was that the Resistance had raped her raw and bloody because she was the wife of Kylo Ren.   That Rey had been punished for what she is to him.   For the things that he had done.

He had felt such rage and sadness in that moment, mixed with utter powerlessness. And then afterwards, once he knew the truth of the injury, came the soul crushing guilt. It rushes up to him still, a nagging, unfamiliar distraction that he struggles to push away. For the Resistance had not been the ones to violate his prisoner wife, he himself had done it years ago.   And never before has Kylo felt the true meaning of that act the way he does now.  

All his rage at Rey’s mistreatment by the Resistance, and all his frustration at his Master’s delay of her rescue, fall away in the face of this bitter realization. Because suddenly nothing matters more than the wrong that he himself did to Rey on the Starkiller.  

He is grateful that she is sedated. He would never be able to face her if she were awake.

This reunion should be a happy moment of relief, but it’s not. Kylo couldn’t describe how he feels if he wanted to, for the emotions that overwhelm him are all so baffling. And some are unfamiliar from long lack of use.

He’s not sure where to go from here. For he can never make the Starkiller right, can never take it back.   And if somehow he could, then the little boy nestled alongside Rey would never exist. The boy that Rey loves so much.

And without his crime, there would be no Rey in his life.   No wife to miss, no mother for his child, no partner for his future. He’s certain that Rey would have remained his enemy. She might even have become his Jedi counterpart. Until, of course, he would be sent to kill her.  

So Kylo can’t decide how he should feel about the Starkiller. For somehow something good has emerged from his bad act.   But then remembering Rey in the hangar bay, oh how intensely he regrets it. Like he has never regretted anything before in his life.

It’s a twisted, fucked-up life he and Rey have made together. They are a family that never should have been, a marriage that no one but they would understand. But he knows that there is meaning in it.

There must be meaning in it, Kylo thinks, for their separation and now her homecoming to hurt so much.


 

In the evenings, he sits with her. Alone in her private room in the medibay.   Holding her hand in silence.

Rey’s sedation waxes and wanes and at times she raves aloud for hours.   The interrogation drugs the Resistance gave her were intended to loosen her tongue, and they succeed. But it is not the secrets of the First Order that fall from her lips, it is Rey’s secrets. As she relives her questioning, the past tumbles out her mouth.

I’m not giving you anything! I didn’t give him anything on the Starkiller. I sure as Hell am not giving you anything now.

When she speaks of Jakku, it’s all talk of food. Rey is hungry all of the time. She complains bitterly about being cheated out of portions. Shouting that the hyperdrive motivator she pulled off a downed transport was worth twice the portions some guy named Plutt had paid her.   Someday, Rey snarls, Plutt will pay for all he’s done to her.   One day her family will come and then Plutt will be sorry.

You want to know about Kylo Ren? Here’s all you need to know about my husband: he’s gonna kill you. Slowly.

Rey thinks she’s pregnant and she’s terrified. He’s a creature in a mask. What if he finds out?   Stop pressuring me! I’ll decide when I’m ready. Then Rey yells at someone that all life has value. Trash-pickers on Jakku like her have value, stormtroopers stolen from their parents have value, and so does the innocent son of Kylo Ren. No, Finn, I will not do it. Two wrongs don’t make a right. This kid is the only family I will ever have. And that’s when Kylo realizes that she’s speaking of Sheev and not the child she doesn’t yet know she miscarried.

I’m his wife, not his general. I don’t know anything about troop movements. There’s nothing to tell. If you wanted information about the Order, you shouldn’t have killed General Hux.

Rey skips forward in time and she’s tending bar on Takodano with a newborn strapped to her chest in a sling. The baby doesn’t sleep and she’s on her feet all day and she’s tired. So very tired. Rey is not worried about food any longer, but she’s desperate for money.   Deeply in debt to her boss and clueless on how to manage real credits. She didn’t know a baby could cost so much.   Finn, you have to stop sending me cash. I know you don’t make enough to spare these credits. Then Rey thinks she’s surrounded in the woods. Kylo Ren, that’s your son! That’s your son that you are abandoning here!

He voted against this? How convenient. Is everything in the Resistance a fucking democracy? I can tell he’s right outside that door. Tell him to man up and step in this room. At least my husband did his own dirty work.

Rey’s mind shifts and she’s frantic to save her unborn child. Oh, Kylo, where are you? Rey pleads over and over for him to save them both. Crying that she’ll be his grandmother all over again dying after the Jedi steals her baby. I can’t wait any longer. Tomorrow I’m escaping. I won’t end up like Padme Amidala.   They’ll raise this baby to kill Sheev and to kill you, and I can’t let that happen. I don’t want another generation of Skywalkers killing each other. Oh, Kylo, where are you?   We need you. I hate your fucking family. They’re even worse than mine.

I don’t give a damn about your war and the Sith. I only care about my family. I waited fifteen years on Jakku for a family that betrayed me. So I can hold out forever for my husband and my son. You’ll run out of drugs before I tell you anything.

She’s anxious too about Sheev, although she seems to know that he’s alive. Mommy was coming for you when they caught me. I miss my little Sheevy so much. Mostly Rey rambles on about everyday things. It’s time to brush your teeth, doesn’t my little boy look cute in his wookiee pajamas? But more serious thoughts surface too. Tell Daddy that we are coming home. Mommy was wrong and we are coming home. This is for the best, I promise you. Remember to close your eyes, Sheev. Don’t look.

I don’t need time to think it over. The answer is still no. Does she know you’re doing this?  Was she part of your little committee? Kylo says she loves a committee. Let me guess, she voted no too.

When Rey speaks of him, she is conflicted. I swear if Kylo ever beats me again, I will leave his Sith ass for good this time. Forever is bullshit if he ever hits me again. Oh, Kylo, I miss you. I miss my Sith. Your grandfather would be proud of you. One day, you’ll make a good emperor. And maybe then all the killing can stop. Kylo, why won’t you come for me? I wish I had never given you that scar. What the Hell good is it to be married to a Sith lord if you won’t come kill some people to rescue me?  Where the fuck is the Dark Side when I need it most? Don’t you dare abandon me! If I don’t get to leave you, you don’t get to leave me either, Kylo Ren. I need a weapon. That knight might come for me. I need a weapon.

If you’re trying to shock me, it won’t work. My eyes are open where my husband is concerned. I have no doubt that everything you are telling me is true. And more.

Night after night, Kylo forces himself to listen. Rey’s stream of consciousness monologue repeats over these same themes: the deprivation of Jakku, the struggle of single motherhood, her concerns for her children and her complicated history with him. She says nothing about the Resistance or the First Order. Rey isn’t much for ideology. It’s a bittersweet mix, for there are happy memories mixed in among the bad. But all Kylo hears is the many ways in which he has failed his wife.

The medics are pleased with Rey’s progress. They wake her up from sedation early on the fifth day.

After that, Kylo stays away.

Chapter Text

“Rey?”

She hears someone call her name from far off.   It’s a man’s voice. She doesn’t recognize it.

“Can you hear me?” The man is closer now. It sounds like he’s right beside her. “Open your eyes if you can hear me.”

Rey takes inventory. Her head aches. Her ears ring.   Everything hurts. Same old, same old. She’s getting used to feeling this awful. They’re waking her up for more drugs again, aren’t they?   Well, fuck them.

Rey keeps her eyes shut.

The man’s voice speaks again. “Bring the droid. Give her a little more stim.”

There’s a mechanical hum as something moves closer. Oh, Gods, it’s that droid again.   The one with the needles to stick in her arms. The hum gets closer and louder and Rey has had enough.

Her eyes pop open and her right arm jerks up. Wait--what? She’s not restrained? Her eyes can’t quite focus on the medical droid hovering near her arm, but her mind does. She hurls it across the room with the Force to smash loudly into the far wall.

The Force never fails Rey when she is desperate.

The people in the room are not expecting this and Rey thinks at long last this is her chance. She heaves herself off the gurney and onto shaky legs. Her vision focuses and now Rey can see that they have moved her to a new cell. It’s another small room with medical equipment and a gurney. There’s even a new shift of interrogators waiting to fire more questions at her. An old man in a light colored uniform stands off to the side and a younger man and woman dressed in medic’s scrubs hover near the gurney.  The woman comes rushing at her and Rey sends her into the wall hard with the Force.

“Didn’t the Jedi warn you about me?” Rey sneers but it comes out as one long slur.

She stumbles headlong for the door but the male medic gets there first to slam the lock on the control panel.   Rey is unstable on her feet and propelling herself mostly by momentum. She tries to stop but loses her balance to fall right into the man’s arms.

“Let me help you. You need to rest.” The medic holds her firmly to walk her back to that damn gurney. Rey fights him as best as she can.   It’s a losing battle, for she has no coordination and little strength. She ends up back on the gurney despite her best efforts.

“I’m not telling you anything!” This time her voice comes out clearly. Rey is panting from the exertion and feeling utterly defeated. But she’ll be damned if she’ll let her enemies see that. “Go ahead, keep drugging me. All you’re doing is giving me a better buzz.”

The old man across the room speaks. His voice is deep, calm and soothing. “You are safe now. We’re the good guys, Rey.”

“Oh, so we’re back to good cop, bad cop again? Nice. Skywalker already gave me his good cop routine.” She eyes the old officer with withering disdain. He must be the new interrogator. “Trust me, the Jedi’s a lot more persuasive than you are, old man.”

He speaks again. “You are safe now, Rey. You are home now. With your family.”

“Shut up, old man!” Rey snaps at him.  “That speech is getting old. Skywalker already gave me the hard sell on coming home to the Resistance. That man and his sister are NOT my family!”

Again comes that deep, calm and soothing voice. “Rey, this is not the Resistance. You are safe on the First Order star destroyer Finalizer. You were rescued by the Knights of Ren five days ago.”

“Don’t fuck with me!” Rey is wary for more tricks. That’s their goal—to take advantage of her confused mental state, earn her trust and get her talking. “If this is the Order then where is my husband? Where is my son?” The old man hesitates and Rey pounces. “You’re lying! You’ve drugged me up and you know I’m confused and you’re tricking me. And—and--”

“Come.” The new interrogator steps forward and holds out his hand. Rey hesitates a moment, then takes it. Leaning heavily on the old man’s arm, Rey walks with him out of the cell and into a busy medical center. She looks around.

“Oh,” is all Rey can think to say.

This is the First Order. Everywhere on uniforms and equipment there is the medallion of the Order.   There’s a stormtrooper with his helmet off sitting at his injured buddy’s bedside. There are a few officers garbed in black milling around. There’s even a small makeshift shrine to General Hux with lit candles.

“Oh,” Rey says again.

The old officer too repeats his earlier words as he slowly walks her back to the small room. “This is not the Resistance. You are safe on the First Order star destroyer Finalizer. You were rescued by the Knights of Ren five days ago.” He dismisses the other two medics and they are alone together. He seats Rey back on the gurney.

Rey searches the grizzled face of the old man. He looks to be about the same age as Milo, maybe even older. A veteran of the Empire probably. The old man meets her eyes and holds her gaze.  

“I’m safe?” she whispers. She needs to hear it again to believe it. Her mind is so confused. “I’m really safe here? You are not going to hurt me?”

“Yes. You are safe, Rey.” He nods encouragingly to her. “I am Chief Healer Smath. I command the medical team on the Finalizer and for the rest of the Order.   I have been personally overseeing your recovery. You are in withdrawal from the interrogation drugs the Resistance used on you. You spent five days in sedation and—“

“I’m pregnant!”   Rey blurts it out. She can tell her secret now. This man is a healer and he can help her. “I’m pregnant. My husband doesn’t know yet.”

“He knows, Rey.” The chief healer reaches to take her hand in his and that simple gesture tells Rey that her worst fears have come to pass.   He looks down for a moment before he continues.   “I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this—“

The healer keeps talking but Rey stops listening after the first few sentences. She doesn’t really want to know any more. She knows all she needs to know.

The child is lost.

Rey can’t process this news now. Not like this with her head splitting and a strange man holding her hand.  

Not alone.

She has woken up from one nightmare into another. And there is only one person who can comfort her now. “Where is my son?” Rey interrupts. Right now, more than anything, she needs to hug the child she has that lives. To feel small arms around her calling her Mommy. “I want to see my son. Please, I need to see my son.” All her bravado is gone and Rey is begging now. Clutching at the healer’s sleeves in her earnestness.  She needs to see for herself that Sheev is alive and well.

“Of course.” The chief healer nods his understanding. “We will have the boy brought to you at once. Your son is most anxious to see you.”

“And my husband? Where is my husband? I want to see my husband.”  She never even got a chance to tell Kylo that she was pregnant. She had been looking forward to telling him that she was pregnant.

The old man pats her hand. “We will let him know that you are awake.”


 

Old Milo calls him on his absence from the medibay.   Deft as always with his criticism, the keeper casually inquires whether Kylo plans to drop by to visit Rey today.   There’s no challenge in the keeper’s mild tone but Kylo hears the reprimand loud and clear.

“Is she asking for me?” Kylo’s eyes narrow behind his mask, considering.

“I know Rey would love to see you.” Milo skirts a direct response. Which tells him no.

Good. No, not good. Not exactly.  

“She’s doing much better, Ren,” Milo tells him, encouraged. “Now all the medics are concerned about is getting her to eat. They will release her once they are satisfied that she’s eating enough.”

Kylo knows this, of course. The chief healer sends him updates on Rey’s condition three times a day. “Rey never eats. Tell them that.” Kylo thinks for a moment. “Tell them to get her those short rations she likes to eat—you know, the kind with the blue muffin?   And send her salt. Tell them she snacks on salt.” None of this would be on the standard menu for an underweight invalid, Kylo suspects. But it’s comfort food for his wife. He’s seen his formerly starved wife lick salt from her hand the way Sheev gobbles candy.

“Of course.” Milo dutifully nods but Kylo can tell that the old man is not satisfied with his response.

So he tells Milo that he wants Rey to have plenty of time to focus on Sheev. He won’t monopolize her after Sheev has pined for so long. And when Milo still seems unconvinced, Kylo falls back on his standby excuse that duty calls. The Order is keen to track down the remaining Resistance fighters while they are on the run without a base to use to regroup.   Already, he is urgently needed on the bridge.

His old keeper shoots him a look of reproach that only a retainer of his long standing would dare risk.

Two days later, Milo gets his way. For ironically, the duty that is Kylo’s pretext for staying away is what ultimately drags him back to Rey’s bedside.

Even for a civilian, there are First Order protocols to be observed for a former captive. But standard procedure be damned. Kylo will not let the First Order debrief Rey. But he will allow witnesses to be present when he asks Rey the one question he wants to know. So two intel officers shuffle nervously into the medibay behind him.

Actually, Kylo is glad of their attendance. The official witnesses will force the meeting to be detached and formal. He’s not ready for a personal conversation yet. He’s not ready for emotions. His or hers. So he will keep this interview short and business-like. And maybe tomorrow he will see her privately.

Rey knows to expect them, and he finds her sitting up and dressed, legs dangling over the side of the gurney. She’s wearing some stiff grey canvas coveralls that look like they belong on a greasy hangar mechanic and not the wife of Kylo Ren. Some part of him is surprised and pleased to see her in any garb of the First Order. But couldn’t Milo manage to find her a female officer’s uniform at least?   Dressed like that, she’s among the lowly herd of techs that fills the Finalizer. Rey looks the part of the anonymous everyman/everywoman of the First Order.  

She does have some color in her cheeks today, and that’s a definite improvement from before. But overall, Rey looks just terrible. There are deep purple shadows underneath her bloodshot eyes. Has Rey been crying or are those red eyes from the drugs? He notices that the collarbone that shows at the open neck of her jumpsuit juts out in a way that is sort of unpleasant to look at. His Rey needs to eat a dozen blue ration muffins. Daily.

Rey is oblivious to his inspection. It’s yet another benefit of the mask. She nods pleasantly to the two men as they step forward, but she smiles up at him.   It’s a girlish, easy smile.

He sucks in a breath. He has missed that smile. He’s Kylo Ren, and he can count on one hand the number of people who smile when he walks through the door. And no one smiles at him like Rey.

He’s glad now for the mask that conceals the flush that surely fills his face. She doesn’t know it, but he’s grinning back at her. Oh, how he has missed his Rey. It feels good just to be in the same room with her. Suddenly, he’s glad that he stepped in to do this interview himself.

For once, Kylo lets his flunkies lead. It allows him to keep covertly staring at Rey. “Ma’am . . . Missus . . . er . . . .”   The more senior of the intel officers is stuttering and at a loss for how to address the civilian woman sitting before him.  

“Lady Ren,” Kylo corrects impatiently.

“Lady Ren, we have a few—“

“One,” Kylo corrects again.

“—question about your imprisonment with the Resistance. Please be as honest and detailed as possible. Even small recollections could be of use to us.”

Rey nods. The intel officer looks back to Kylo expectantly.

That’s his cue. “How did they learn that you are my wife?”

Rey answers the only two words he was not expecting to hear. “Luke Skywalker.”

The senior officer’s jaw hangs open at mention of the number one enemy of the First Order. The junior officer at his side begins furiously fumbling with his datapad.  

“Luke Skywalker paid me a visit,” Rey explains. She looks up sheepishly at him. “I told him that we are married.”

“Skywalker,” Kylo breathes out the name with fierce hatred, and his fists clench. “Skywalker found you. How?”

Rey ignores the intel officers. She speaks only to him, as if they are the only two people in the room. “He showed up at the base and recognized me in the Force. From the time we met on D’Qar with Sheev. Until then, the Resistance had no idea who I was.   Skywalker even said that they were close to releasing me in a prisoner exchange until he showed up and recognized me.”

“So our officers did not betray you? It was all Skywalker?”

Rey nods. “Skywalker told me that General Hux and the others did not betray me, Kylo. He said that the Resistance was so focused on them, that no one bothered with me. And that fits with what happened.”

The senior intel officer finds his tongue. “You met Luke Skywalker??” They both ignore him.

“It was the same pitch as before,” Rey tells him. “Skywalker wanted me to defect to the Resistance. If I talked, they would set me free but I’d have to stay with them.”

“Before??” The senior intel officer sputters and again they ignore him.  

Rey looks down and bites her lip. “He wants to separate us,” she half whispers. She’s blushing now and she stammers out, “Because I enable you. Skywalker knows you are drawn to the Light . . . er . . . my Light.”

How the fuck had Skywalker figured that out? The Jedi has lived as a virtual eunuch for his entire adult life. Kylo wishes he could read Rey’s thoughts to learn exactly what was said between her and his uncle. But Rey’s mind is far too fragile for that just now.   Kylo won’t risk it. The healers have stressed to him how delicate her mental state is currently. He’s not supposed to upset her or ask hard questions.

“You weren’t drugged when you first spoke to Skywalker, were you?” Kylo says this through clenched teeth and with clenched fists. Now that he is piecing together the sequence of events, Kylo hates his uncle more than ever.   Fuck . . . he knows where this is leading.

“No, they didn’t drug me until after I met with Skywalker. Not until after I refused his offer to defect. Skywalker warned me that he would tell the Resistance who I was. And that they would become interested in me.”   Rey’s face darkens. “I knew what was coming.” His wife looks straight at him through the mask. “I would not betray you, Kylo. I would not leave you and Sheev.”

Kylo nods at this declaration of fidelity. He feels like a complete ass for ever doubting his Rey.

“When?” he growls.   Already, he can feel his anger rising. “When did they start drugging you. How much longer after your conversation with Skywalker?”

Rey considers. “A couple of hours maybe?   It wasn’t even a full day later. First they had some committee vote to decide what to do with me.”

Yes, of course they would have had a committee. His fucking mother loves committees. It’s a convenient way to spread responsibility to others and minimize her own culpability.

“Skywalker told me he voted against my interrogation.” Rey says this is a small voice. “He didn’t tell me how your m-General Organa voted.”

Enraged now, Kylo sums up for Rey what she evidently could not comprehend in her drugged state. He’s heedless of the two intel officers in the room now. And he shouting. “Skywalker intentionally killed our child! Hours after he leaves your cell they start drugging you to kill the baby they know you won’t give to the Jedi. Because you won’t defect.”

Rey looks up sharply, defensive and annoyed. “I didn’t tell him I was pregnant. I’m not that stupid.”

“You didn’t have to tell him! He knew! He’s Luke Skywalker! He can feel the Light in the Force halfway across the galaxy.” She’s squirming now and he can tell that Rey is very uncomfortable with this conversation.   Oh, Gods, does she think he’s blaming her for the baby?   He’s not blaming her. Kylo rushes to explain. “The Jedi would sense the child just standing next to you.”

A lone tear trickles down the inner corner of her eye and Rey brushes at it furiously. She looks up horrified.  Fuck. They warned him not to upset her.

Rey’s voice is shaky now. “Skywalker did say that my Force imprint was larger . . . he asked if I had been training. I told him no, but I don’t think he believed me. I have been doing a lot of healing work with the holochrons.   Would that change my imprint?”

Why are they having this conversation? It’s so obvious to him that Skywalker knew that Rey was pregnant from the moment he met her. “It was larger because of the baby. The baby had the Force, Rey.” Kylo sounds impatient and exasperated even to his own ears.

“You don’t know that! I was early on, Kylo. I’m not even sure how many weeks.” Oh, Gods, Rey does think he’s blaming her.   She looks agitated. Keeps furiously pushing her hair back behind her ear.

“Twelve weeks, Rey. The baby was a little over twelve weeks when we rescued you.”  Kylo says this bitterly because damn it hurts to even speak aloud about his baby the Jedi killed. Another Skywalker killed by one of their own.

Rey processes this news a moment and then she leaps down from the gurney she’s sitting on. Then she’s shouting up in his mask. “You think I should have told them, don’t you?   That I should have told them that I was pregnant so they wouldn’t interrogate me! So they would try to keep me long enough so they could steal the child. I’d give birth and then they would kill me--just like your grandmother!” Rey is screaming at him now. “They already tried to steal Sheev and they would have stolen this baby too if they could! I wasn’t going to let that happen, Kylo!”

“Rey—“ he tries to break in. This interview is spiraling out of control. Through the Force, he can feel Rey’s pent up emotions rushing out.   It’s the trauma of her capture, her imprisonment and her torture rising to the surface. And the aching hurt from the loss of their child. Sith that he is, Kylo feeds off her intense feelings and he too can feel his temper boiling over.   So he struggles not to match her tone and volume. To speak quietly and to soothe.   The healers have warned him not to upset her.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if you had told them. Skywalker already knew. That’s why they gave you far more drugs than is typical. They clearly wanted to kill—“

Rey cuts him off with sweep of her hand. It’s something only his Master can do. “Better that our baby die than be raised a Jedi to one day kill his brother or to kill you! I will not let any son of mine be a pawn of the Jedi in your family’s never-ending Force war!”

“It was a girl, Rey,” Kylo tells her softly. “It was a girl. Our daughter is dead and the Resistance killed her.”

His words instantly quell her anger. Rey looks up at him, stricken. “D-d-daughter?”   She backs away from him to stumble up against the gurney. “D-d-daughter?”  

His wife looks utterly destroyed by this news.   It’s as if this piece of information suddenly has made the loss very real for her. His poor, valiant Rey who would endure anything for her family looks crushed.   And in that moment, all he wants to do is gather her in his arms to comfort her and let her cry to her heart’s content. But he allowed in those fucking intel officers so they have an audience and he can do nothing.

So Kylo just nods to confirm. “It was a girl, Rey. Our baby girl. Our Padme.”

Rey blinks at him in silence for an eternity. And then the tears that had threatened before begin to pour down her cheeks.   Rey doesn’t make a sound. But her Force imprint is screaming her pain all around him. Raw and unabashedly Dark.  

Hell has a fury greater than a woman scorned—it is the wrath of an aggrieved and bereft mother.   This is the flip side of nature’s instinct born into every mother to protect her young. It is the dark primal impulse for vengeance against anyone who would dare to hurt her child.

Kylo lets her pain wash over him and feed his own intensity. He cannot change the past, but he can give his wife retribution.   He vows, “I will destroy Skywalker. There won’t be enough left of him to be a Force ghost.   I promise to kill him for you, Rey. For this and for all of his treachery.   No one who hurts our family will live to tell of it.”

Rey nods. Her eyes are hard.

“Skywalker will never separate us, Rey. No one will ever take you away from me again. Ever.”

Rey nods again. She is trembling, he sees.

But she is also unconvinced. “Can I trust that promise, Kylo?” There is an ugly edge to her voice. “Can I? Because you left me pregnant and alone for weeks with the Resistance. At the mercy of your worst enemies! Where you knew they would consider me a traitor!” She looks him up and down, coldly. Rey’s blinding rage has found a focus now, and it is him. “Where the fuck were you, Kylo?   Too busy building your empire to spare a few stormtroopers and a couple knights to retrieve your wife?   I know why you didn’t rescue Hux but why the Hell didn’t you come for me?”

“Rey, I—“ He falters. How do you explain to your tortured wife that you are a Sith and, yes, building your empire does take precedence over her rescue. At least, that’s how it has to look to your Master.   But that’s not really how it was. That was never how it was. You were sleepless and worried sick and missing her the whole endless time she was gone.

Rey is just warming up. “Skywalker and his sister are lifelong fanatics—I see that. Raised to kill their father and destroy his empire. And now they are trying to keep you from rebuilding the empire. Trying to steal our children and end our marriage, just like the Jedi did to their own parents.  But you are as bad as they are, Kylo Ren! Unable to put aside your ambitions when I needed you most! When is either side of your clan going to realize that family matters more than politics? More than the Force? More than war? What the fuck is wrong with your family?”

Only his Master gets to speak to him like this. But he stands there now and takes it from Rey too.   Before witnesses.

“It’s not just me and the baby--how many more people in this galaxy have to suffer and die? You need to end this war, Kylo. Soon! Sheev and I will never be safe while Skywalker lives and this war rages on.”

Rey pauses a moment to take a breath and Kylo says nothing. There is nothing he can say to make this better.   What’s done is done.

She eyes him a long moment, looking disappointed by his lack of rebuttal.

Rey breaks the silence and her voice is low now. Bitter. “Where were you, Kylo? It took them weeks to discover who I was and if you had rescued me sooner our d-d-daughter,“ Rey stumbles over this word, “would still be alive.”

It’s a low blow and Kylo doesn’t want to play the blame game.   It won’t bring back their dead baby. Nothing will.   And has Rey forgotten that they have an audience?

Fuck— this is the farthest thing from the short, easy discussion he had intended. And this ugly scene is exactly why he has been avoiding Rey.   Kylo doesn’t want to talk about this—any of it. Because when he thinks about her torture, he thinks about the baby. And when he thinks about the baby, he thinks of her bleeding in the hangar bay and then he can’t help but think about the Starkiller. It’s all one big jumble of pain and confusion and he doesn’t have time to sort it all out and and conquer the galaxy ASAP.

“Skywalker and the Resistance are responsible for killing our child. Not you. Not me.” He announces this like it’s an order. “We are done, Rey.” This conversation is over. Now.  

Rey nods her agreement. She looks almost relieved to end this discussion.

And it truly is ended, and not deferred. This is the only time that they ever speak of the lost baby.  Padme Ren is added to the list of Things We Don’t Talk About.

Now what? Kylo follows Rey’s gaze to the two intel officers who look on in terrified fascination. What to do about them? He could erase their minds but really, it would be best if they died after witnessing such an intimate scene. Plus, it would feel good to kill someone just to vent the frustration that is boiling within him now. Kylo’s sword leaps into his hand to ignite when Rey stops him. She knows what he’s going to do.

“No, don’t. Please, Kylo. Don’t.” He refrains, wondering how Rey plans to salvage the situation. “Turn it off,” she instructs and he hesitates, but then complies.  If he can do nothing else for Rey, he will do this.

Rey turns her attention back to the officers who now cringe against the far wall of the room. They are both wide eyed with fear.

“You,” she nods to the junior officer.   “You are writing a report, yes?”

He nods nervously.

“Hux and the others did not talk.   Put that in your report.”

He nods again.

“This was General Hux’s ship, right?”

The officers nod in unison.

“Tell the crew that their leader went to his death bravely and loyal to the First Order.   I was there. No one begged, no one cried. Hux didn’t even flinch. Your general stared them down as they shot him to death.   Let his courage be an inspiration to his crew.”

“Yes, ma’am.” They reply in unison.

“And if you would please,” Rey continues, choosing her words carefully.   She looks grave, but she’s composed now.   “As a personal favor to myself and to my husband, please leave mention of the child out of your report.   It is not of any strategic importance. And it would comfort me to know that our loss will be kept private.” She wipes at a lingering tear. “As you have seen, this loss is very painful to us and still very fresh. Please accept my apologies if this interview has made you uncomfortable. In our grief, we forgot that we had an audience.”

“Yes, ma’am.” In unison.

“My husband and I are trusting you to be discrete in this personal matter and to keep our confidences. Can you do that?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Emphatically and in unison.

“Thank you.” Rey nods. “Have you anything further for them?” Rey looks to him and Kylo replies no.   The men are dismissed.

He and Rey are alone now.

He wants to rip off his mask and take her in his arms and hold her as she cries. To tell her that he did everything he could to get her back as soon as possible but his hands were tied. That he meant what he said and no one will ever take Rey from him again. That they will have another baby. Lots more babies—as many as Rey wants. That he will do anything and everything to make this up to her.

But the square of her shoulders and the set of her jaw don’t look very welcoming right now.

So Kylo just stands there and offers up lamely, “Thank you for concluding that meeting. It was neatly done.”

His praise is sincere. Kylo knows that letting those officers live will stoke the rumor mill on the Finalizer, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.   Nothing stays secret on his ship for long. Soon, his crew will be buzzing about how the long-suffering Lady Ren had intervened with her husband for mercy before he went on one of his violent rampages. About how Lady Ren had admired and praised the Martyr Hux. And about how Lady Ren herself had courageously confronted the villain Skywalker.   Maybe even how Lady Ren had sworn like a sailor in her fancy accent as she had dressed down her husband for waiting too long to rescue her. And then his crew will know that Ren’s lady is as fierce as he is. That he and his wife are a matched pair.

Kylo has watched Rey play the Lady of the Castle many times before. But watching her today is even more impressive. Weakened in body and spirit, his wife held strong nonetheless. Her inner strength is for certain a legacy of Jakku. And her grace and poise were honed with Milo at Bast Castle. But just now watching her handle the intel officers, Kylo wonders if her grave dignity is a remnant of the Resistance prison cell. Where even Luke Skywalker himself couldn’t break her.  

Rey will be an excellent Empress. He doesn’t deserve her. She’s far too good for him.

And thank goodness she is his wife and ally, and not his adversary. His wife would surely have defeated him were she Jedi.

Rey is still eyeing him hostilely.   Like she’s ready to resume the fight at the slightest provocation. “You should go.”

He nods and agrees. “I should go.” He doesn’t really want to go. He says it mostly to end the conflict. He was never supposed to upset her in the first place.

But Kylo hesitates. They have been separated for just over eight weeks, but with the gulf between them now it might as well have been a year. Of all the times he has pictured this reunion with Rey, he never imagined a bitter screaming match and tears over their dead baby. He sighs and yanks off his helmet.   Just for a moment, he wants to look on Rey with his own eyes again.

Five days of happiness together—that’s all they had before the Resistance took her and ruined everything.

Rey is looking at him impatiently. “Well, go!” she snaps.

Kylo nods again. He jams back on his helmet, turns and stalks back to the bridge.

Chapter Text

It is Milo who escorts Rey out of the medibay on the day of her release. Kylo wanted to be here, the keeper assures her with a steady smile, but he was called away. With General Hux gone, Kylo has consolidated his leadership and he alone commands the Order doing the work of two men.   Rey catches the keeper glancing over at her, as if gauging her reaction. Your husband is working very hard to end the war, Milo underscores his point.

Rey nods at this pleasant speech, but she only half believes it. And, to be perfectly honest, Rey doesn’t much mind Kylo’s absence. Rey is still angry. She wants to heal her mind and her heart without any more emotional scenes that leave her head aching for hours afterward. So let Kylo focus his energy on his war. Even on a good day, her volatile Sith husband can be exhausting.

Rey needs some space.

It’s bittersweet to welcome this distance between them after all the hours Rey had spent in her cell fantasizing about their reunion. How Kylo would take her in his arms like she was the most precious thing in the universe, how Sheev would be there too. Each would be overjoyed to see the other. The three of them would spend time together as a family and then, after Sheev had been put to bed, she and Kylo would lock the door and go at it like it was their wedding night all over again. But they can’t even do that, for the healers have given her strict instructions to avoid Kylo’s bed until her body has time to heal from the miscarriage.

Rey sighs. It’s a long walk to wherever they are going, so she distracts herself by observing the inner workings of the Finalizer. As they pass through hallway after hallway, Rey can’t help but notice that Kylo’s flagship is so much like the ghostly decades old star destroyer wreck she had explored on Jakku. Except this ship is brightly lit and full of busy uniformed personnel.   In that respect, it uncomfortably reminds Rey of Starkiller Base.

A lot has changed since then. Now it’s the Resistance that has interrogated her and the First Order that welcomes her home.

She and Milo exit an elevator that requires special security clearance and now they are in an empty corridor together. It’s the first time Rey has been alone with the castle keeper since her return. Rey stops. He follows suit.

“Milo,” Rey looks down as she speaks in halting spurts. “I didn’t tell them anything. I mean—I don’t think I told them anything.” She wants him to know this.

Milo reassures her. “I know that, Rey. He knows that. We all know that.” Then he reaches to pull her into a grandfatherly hug. He whispers into her ear. “You’re a brave, brave girl.”

It’s one of only a few occasions on which Milo acknowledges the reason for her absence.   Otherwise, he acts as though Rey has been away on an extended vacation during which their household has relocated and now he has a few details here and there to explain.   It’s as if he’s expecting Rey to pick up where she left off. And she tries, gamely. In time, Rey comes to appreciate the keeper’s determined effort to return to normalcy.

It’s a new normal, for Milo tells her that it is too dangerous to go back to Bast Castle. She and Sheev now live on the Finalizer in General Hux’s old quarters directly across from Kylo’s rooms. The physical proximity is misleading, for she and Kylo live completely separate lives in separate rooms.

Their distance continues.

On his flagship, Kylo is all war, all the time. He’s commanding the bridge, in a meeting or on a mission from early in the morning until the wee hours. He and Rey go weeks at a time between actual meetings. If she’s lucky, she and Sheev will catch a glimpse of him every few days stalking across the hangar bay to his shuttle.   Once in a totally random moment they pass like strangers in the hallway.   He’s issuing orders to a trailing crowd of officers as he sweeps past. She and everyone else stand aside for him to pass. Rey is not certain whether he noticed her.  

Kylo wants Rey armed at all times now. The first morning she is out of the medibay, he drops by to present to her a pistol blaster. “You were a bad shot on Takodano.” Kylo is blunt as he issues his instructions. “If you are going to wear this, you need to know how to use it. Get Milo to take you down to the firing range for some lessons.”   Then, he ruffles Sheev’s hair and strides off for the bridge.

Rey dutifully wanders down to the practice range for Milo to give her some pointers. Sheev comes too, and Milo produces a small snub blaster with the energy cartridge removed for the boy to play with.   Three years old and he is already pointing a real blaster at people. Rey swallows hard and raises an eyebrow. Milo shrugs. “He will be Sith,” is his explanation for this outrageous lapse in parenting.

Kylo is right, she is a bad shot. And Milo acts like that is an affront to the Skywalker family name—on both the Jedi and the Sith side.  

According to Milo, back when she was a notorious rebel fugitive, Princess Organa could famously bullseye anything with a blaster. The old keeper grins when he tells Rey that half the men of the Empire had fallen for the young Princess’ beauty, but the rest admired her for her blaster aim alone.   It’s weird for Rey to think of General Organa as a young heroine whose Imperial Most Wanted mugshot had been tacked up next to pin-up posters in stormtrooper lockers. Rey has only known her mother-in-law as a grey haired, somber veteran.   The rebel Princess didn’t get that old by being a bad shot, Milo pokes at her.   His point is taken, and when Milo demands a week of daily practice at the range Rey concedes.  

Now that Milo is back to telling stories of the glory days of the Empire, Rey feels more normal again. And day by day, she is feeling better. Recovering from the Resistance drugs is like recovering from a hangover from Hell. And Rey had worked at Maz’s. She knows hangovers.

She still awakes fuzzy headed most days and has little mental stamina. After an hour perusing the holonet, Rey is utterly exhausted and her head hurts.   The healers assure her that this is normal and it will improve in time. They caution her not to think too hard. Which is just fine because there’s a lot Rey would rather not think about currently.

She wishes Kylo had not told her that the baby was a girl. Really, she didn’t need to know that. It would have been easier to accept the loss of an abstract child with no details that Rey could extrapolate a future from. But now the child has a sex and even a name—Padme—and Rey finds herself wondering what their daughter might have looked like, what she might have been like, even sounded like.   And then she’s thinking of what Sheev would be like as a big brother and how crazy protective Kylo would have been of their little girl and soon Rey’s mind has built an entire future for their family that will never be.   It makes the sense of loss overwhelming and her tears flow.

Rey takes to managing her grief. She finds it helps to let herself cry a little every day in private. Crying is like breathing these days because she’s a hormonal wreck from the miscarriage. But after a few minutes, Rey dries her tears and soldiers on. She has never let herself fall apart before, and she won’t start now. Rey of Jakku survives and moves on. She is nothing if not resilient.

But the trauma of captivity keeps surfacing at odd times.

It’s the second night that she’s out of the medibay and Rey is anxious to reestablish her old routines with Sheev. There’s no bathtime—even the captain’s quarters on a star destroyer don’t merit the luxury of an actual bath—so she discovers that Sheev now loves a shower.   Rey towels him off and pulls on his favorite pajamas only to blink at the half inch of bare tummy showing between his top and bottom.   Sheev has grown out of his wookiee pajamas during her absence. Time had stood still for Rey in her cell, but not for everyone else. She’s staring at the tangible evidence of how her boy has grown and changed in her absence when Rey bursts into tears.  

“Don’t cry, Mommy,” Sheev pipes up, misunderstanding.   “Daddy says he hates these pajamas. He doesn’t like wookiees. He once got shot by a wookiee.”   Rey nods, thinking of Chewbacca and his bowcaster rifle that would kill an ordinary man but had only made her Sith husband take a knee. “Yeah,” she confirms, “he did once get shot by a wookiee.” And the bizarre exchange distracts Rey enough to make her grimly smile.

For Sheev, life aboard a star destroyer is something akin to an amusement park. Everywhere there is something to explore. Milo is his chief tour guide, taking the boy below decks to the see everything from the stormtrooper barracks to the commissary to the sublight engine room.   Together, they have the run of the place and they make good use of that freedom.   It’s a habit they fell into while Rey was captive, and their adventures continue now as a way to give Rey some time alone to use her Jedi healing techniques for her own recovery.

Looking like grandfather and grandson, Milo and Sheev wander the ship with the old veteran ceaselessly narrating everything he recalls from the Imperial Navy.   The boy soaks it all in. His tantrums have almost completely disappeared, and Rey isn’t sure if it was just a phase or whether Sheev, like her, had just been bored and frustrated by the sameness of their routine at Bast.

There’s no place on the Finalizer that Sheev loves more than the hangar bay. Each morning he and Rey perch atop a pile of cargo crates in a far corner to observe the endless bustle of activity.   The hangar bay is the crossroads of the ship, where troopers await transport next to officers, contractors and visitors. All ranks mingle, all jobs are represented.   Ships arrive and depart, cargo is loaded and unloaded, and uniformed personnel stream from all directions.  

Were she alone in her nondescript coveralls, Rey might pass for a member of the crew on break. But sitting with Sheev, or ‘Master Ren’ as Milo now calls him in public, Rey is far from anonymous. There’s only one child aboard the Finalizer and everyone knows that little boy is the son of Kylo Ren. And that the slim young woman who trails after him is Lady Ren.   Look, the crew nod discretely in her direction and then whisper--she’s the commander’s wife that the Resistance tortured.   You know, the one from the hangar bay.

It feels strange to have status. As a scavenger, Rey had been one small notch above a slave.   Truly, she had been no one on Jakku. Things had improved when Rey worked at Maz’s. She had been ordinary then--just another hardworking mother with bills to pay. On Takodano, she was no longer no one. Instead, she had been everyone.   But here on the Finalizer, for the first time Rey is important. Not in her own right, she knows, but as an extension of the feared Kylo Ren. Here, she is someone. Even in her borrowed jumpsuit and ponytail.  

It’s . . . weird. At Bast, there had been plenty of protocol but most of it had involved the visiting delegations with whom Rey had zero contact. She had interacted with the same twenty or so First Order officers. And to a man, they had treated the mysterious Lady Rey with the same courtly courtesy as General Hux.   Life on the Finalizer is different. Fifty thousand walk its brightly lit halls with a complex hierarchy of ranks and jobs that Rey can’t begin to understand.   All that matters, it seems, is that her husband is at the apex of this giant triangle. And, unlike at Bast, Rey is his publicly acknowledged wife. Here she is Lady Ren from the outset.

Rey catches the many curious second looks and cool appraisals cast her direction. There is even the occasional fleeting smile of sympathy.   But thankfully, the vast majority of the crew keeps their distance.   Some even avert their eyes. Apparently, the terror that follows in the wake of Kylo Ren extends to Rey as well.

Every so often, an obnoxious officer will make a fuss.   Rey is alone waiting her turn for the elevator when a major she’s never seen before insists that she jump the line.   “Lady Ren,” he beckons her forward. “After you, my lady.” It’s a courtly gesture that she knows Milo would approve. So Rey nods coolly to the major as she steps forward, then sends an apologetic smile towards the small crowd that has clustered to wait.   She won’t demand this sort of treatment, but then again she won’t be churlish and refuse. Rey isn’t used to being singled out. But that begins to change.

She becomes even more conspicuous once a shuttle returns from Bast with her wardrobe of Coruscant couture and her lady’s maid droid.   At Milo’s insistence, Rey is once more painted, perfumed and elegant. She misses the coveralls.   In the sterile monotony of the Finalizer, everyone wears a unisex variation of black, white or grey. So when Rey appears in public, her boldly colored feminine dresses draw every eye.   Rey is dressed for an elegant afternoon reception amid men and woman uniformed to wage war.   And truly, it is ridiculous to wear a long silken day gown with a pistol holster strapped to your waist.  

She complains and Milo tells her that she looks like a Sith’s lady—elegant and deadly. Whatever.   Rey rolls her eyes and Milo frowns and speaks sharply to her. Give the First Order their Lady Ren, he tells her. Give them a beautiful heroine who endured torture at the hands of their enemy and survived.   Give them a lady as distinctive as their First Knight. The vast majority of the crew will never do more than lay eyes on you and on your husband.   So you need to look and act the part of a couple who command.

And so Rey begins to play a role. She’s not the mysterious but friendly Lady of Bast Castle any more, she’s the aloof Queen of the First Order flagship. The next time she sweeps by Kylo randomly in the hallway she’s in her blood red silk dress with her hair piled high and her chin lifted.   Kylo pauses, then nods before continuing on. It’s the first time Rey has seen him in weeks.  

She misses him.   She misses them.

 


 

 

In the first few weeks following the Battle of D’Qar, the air of inevitability solidifies. The galaxy no longer questions whether the First Order will win, they only debate how soon and at what cost. Political momentum builds quickly, even if the military campaign drags on.   For with the war’s conclusion now foregone, more and more hostile systems approach to swear fealty to Kylo Ren.     It’s a safe bet now to make peace with the Order, and everyone wants to be on the winning side.

Now the Order’s long amorphous plans for transition and governing begin to take shape. And with them come new responsibilities for its leaders and shifts in the hierarchy. Which is why Kylo has taken Nestor Ren with him to Coruscant. The First Knight is soon to be the Emperor, and the Second Knight is soon to be the First. Nestor Ren is now the acknowledged heir apparent to lead the Knights of Ren.

The mission is concluded. It’s on to the next mission. There’s no rest for the weary and the ambitious.

But even in Kylo’s ultra-fast command shuttle, it’s seventeen hours in hyperspace back to the Finalizer in the Outer Rim. Hours into the journey, Kylo has lost interest in his datapad and he’s unwilling to sleep. So he sits unmasked and alone. And he broods.

“How’s your wife?” Nestor Ren asks casually as he hands over an open beer and sinks into the empty chair beside Kylo in the far back of the shuttle. Both men wear the inky black surcoats of the Ren. They have been brothers in arms for a decade now.

“Better. She’s been released to quarters now.” Kylo isn’t keen to have a conversation about Rey but he sort of owes Nestor an answer since the knight had been the one to rescue her.

“No permanent damage, I hope?”

No, Kylo thinks to himself, other than my dead kid and our crumbling marriage. He frowns.

“She’s a fighter, that one,” Nestor remarks lightly when Kylo doesn’t answer. “She’ll pull through and be stronger for it.” Nestor kicks back and takes a long pull on his beer. “Your lady is fierce, Kylo.” It’s a compliment.

“Because she kicked your drunk ass?” Kylo can’t resist this dig.

“Yeah, she did, didn’t she?” Nestor grins unabashedly over at him. “But let’s be honest, Kylo. If she hadn’t kicked my ass that night, you would have. And that would have hurt a lot more.”

“Yeah, probably.” Kylo smirks despite himself. He’s remembering Rey wearing all that sheer lace while she pummeled Nestor Ren to the ground with a borrowed bo staff. Rey hadn’t needed him to defend her honor. She took matters into her own hands.

“How was I supposed to know that she was your wife?” his Second Knight complains good-naturedly.   “You never mentioned a wife and kid before. And that’s bad form, bro, to invite your wife to party with the hired girls.”

“Yeah, probably.” Kylo takes a drink.

“Why’d you keep her a secret for so long?” Nestor wants to know.

“To keep her safe.”

That answer cuts off his knight’s easy banter. There is uncomfortable silence.

“Fuck the Resistance.” Nestor Ren says this emphatically and it ends the awkward moment.

“Fuck the Resistance.” Kylo agrees and they clink their beer bottles to toast the sentiment.

“So what are you gonna do for her now?”

“What?”

“You know, now that’s she’s home safe and recovering.” Nestor Ren gives him a knowing man-to-man look. “You need to do something. She got tortured for your sorry ass.” Nestor takes another long drink of beer and considers. “Yep . . . that’s true love, Kylo. My old lady would sing like a canary if the Resistance got her.” He nods approvingly of Rey. “Yeah . . . you need to do something. Something big.”

“Like what?” Kylo is listening. Nestor Ren knows two things: women and war. Kylo learned long ago to take his counsel on both topics.

Nestor thinks a moment. Then decides. “Jewelry. The big, important stuff, too. Go get her an Empress crown or something like that. She’s earned it.”

Kylo thinks of the Rey he first met in filthy rags and last saw dressed in mechanic’s overalls.   He doesn’t think his wife owns a single piece of jewelry. Of course, she doesn’t. She could barely feed herself on Jakku and she had struggled to support herself and Sheev on Takodano.   He knows that even now when she can have whatever she wants, his Rey still cares little for material things. If he bought her flashy jewelry she would wear it like she wears her exclusive Coruscant dresses. The jewels would become another part of the uniform of Lady Rey. And she would have little joy in them.

And, really, he couldn’t think of a worse gift for Rey now than an Imperial crown. She doesn’t need any reminders of his ambitions. His wife is probably the only woman in the galaxy who could care less if she ends up being an Empress.

Still, Nestor Ren has a point. “Yeah, I’ll have to think of something.” Maybe a gift is the answer. He and Rey are barely on speaking terms currently.

The Second Knight stands to his feet. “Want another beer?” he asks. Kylo shakes his head no. Nestor claps Kylo on the back on his way out. “Don’t let this come between you. If it does, the Resistance wins.”

Too late, he thinks. But Kylo nods at Nestor Ren’s wisdom. “Fuck the Resistance.”  

“Fuck the Resistance.”   Nestor agrees.

The advice gets Kylo thinking. If he could, he would bring back the Rey he had kissed goodbye one morning at Bast, foolishly thinking he would return in a week’s time and everything would be the same.   If he could, he would give Rey back her joy. Make her smile. Jewelry won’t do it, he knows. But there’s one thing that never fails to make Rey happy—Sheev.   That’s his angle, Kylo decides.

He grabs for his datapad and starts right then and there. He sends a message to Sheev’s datapad.  His kid’s holoreader loaded with inane bedtime tales had been left behind at Bast.   So, in the midst of a Sheev screaming fit upon his arrival at the Finalizer, Kylo had appropriated some underling’s datapad and thrust it at his boy. Sheev had been delighted to have a datapad just like Daddy’s and it had stopped the screaming at least temporarily. More importantly, his kid’s datapad is now the current repository of inane bedtime stories. So Kylo knows that Rey will pick it up each night.

On a whim, he sends Sheev a picture of the Kaliida Nebula near Naboo with the caption ‘Not as beautiful as your mother, but worth a look. We’ll see it when we finally go home to the castle.’

And then he waits.

He gets a reply hours later. ‘This is going on the Things to Do When the War Ends List.’

Yeah, he’s feeling smooth now. Sure, he and Rey are talking about nothing, but so what? They’re talking. Sort of. Kylo is both relieved and excited. It’s so much easier not to have to do this in person.  There’s no screaming and no uncomfortable topics. And he can do it on his own time, when he gets to it. This might be the perfect solution, Kylo thinks.

A few days later, Kylo sends a picture of the primary school the First Order is constructing on Jakku. No tuition—free to all, he makes sure to include this detail. ‘It needs a name, little Sith. Suggestions?’

‘Starkiller U?’ Her sarcasm makes him laugh. ‘Just kidding. Name it for Hux. He would have loved that sort of thing.’ Rey’s right.  So he does.

After that, it becomes a habit and Kylo sends a message every few days. The notes are random enough to be unpredictable but reoccur regularly to hopefully make her look forward to them. All of the messages are sent ostensibly to Sheev, but the kid can’t read so of course they are for Rey. And who knows? Maybe she reads them aloud to Sheev too.

Once, Kylo sends a picture of the latest TIE prototype with complete specs. He knows that his techie wife will explain a few of the more basic elements to Sheev but then pour over them in detail later herself.  ‘Sheev, ask Mommy if she wants to take it for a spin.’   She replies, ‘Are you for real?’ He confirms, ‘Yes. It will be in the hangar bay at 0800 tomorrow morning. You are expected as co-pilot. Do not crash it. It’s already over budget.’

The next day, Rey sends him a complete evaluation of the prototype ship, including recommendations for how to streamline the cockpit display and a note on how the addition of a ventral cannon is ridiculous for this size fighter and compromises overall maneuverability. Kylo forwards the evaluation on to the project engineer.

He’s feeling emboldened after a few weeks of messages with replies, so he sends Rey a picture from the remodeling project Milo is overseeing at Bast. Vader’s castle will receive new security fortifications, an enlarged landing platform and other upgrades befitting its role as the Emperor’s private residence. But there are a few other tweaks in progress as well.

‘A door???’ she replies, clearly confused. He responds, ‘Yes. Between our bedrooms at Bast.’ And he can’t resist adding, ‘This is your cue to sext me back, wife.’

He does receive a picture in reply, but it’s Rey and Sheev clowning around making faces. It’s not the sexy selfie he had been hoping for, but it makes him smile nonetheless.

As the weeks go by, this is the extent of their communication, for Kylo is consumed with ending his war and building his empire. It is too large a task for any one man, and there are times when he sorely misses General Hux.   But Kylo will not show weakness to anyone. No one works harder and longer than Kylo Ren, and the pace he sets overwhelms many of his officers. But he will not let up—not now, when he is so close to achieving the goals of a lifetime and winning it all.

He has to win it all, Kylo knows. For it’s the only way that his enemies will die and his family will truly be safe. For so long Kylo has wanted this glory for himself, but after Rey’s ordeal he needs it for his family too.

Rey herself had told him to end the war. He’s only doing what she has asked.

Afterwards, he thinks, there will be time for Rey and for Sheev. And then they really will see the Kaliida Nebula together. He will be home to read a bedtime story and tell his son goodnight. Then he and Rey will have dinner together and she will smile as she takes his hand and leads him to bed and to her Light.

Thoughts of the future are what sustain Kylo through the unrelenting grind of the present. He is grateful that no one sees behind the mask. For the young face that stares back at him in the mirror is tired and increasingly haggard. War has its toll.

In the end, it will be worth it and his family will understand—he’s doing it for them too, after all. Rey has sacrificed for their family. Now it’s his turn.

Chapter Text

Wars are easy to start but hard to end. This is a lesson that Kylo Ren plans to remember for the future.

If he does not stamp out the Resistance now, they will regroup and rebuild and the galaxy will be fighting this war another five years. So Kylo Ren has been especially ruthless in the aftermath of D’Qar.   It is bloody, tedious work and if innocents have been caught in the crossfire, then that is the price of victory. Fewer will die in the long run if more die now. The ends more than justify his means.   Not that it matters. Kylo just wants it to be over.

Peace might be a lie, but he’s starting to want to believe it.

Now that the dispatches from Mygeeto have arrived, Kylo will allow himself to sleep.   Walking the corridor to his quarters, he reaches out to feel his family in the Force. Sheev is asleep. Kylo can feel his dreamy consciousness.   Rey is awake. Wide awake.   He pauses.   That’s unusual.   The healers were adamant that she needs to rest. Well, whatever. Kylo waves his hand wearily and the door to his quarters opens. His day is finally done.

Kylo plods in, looks up and sucks in a breath. Rey is waiting for him.

This is a surprise. And it’s not precisely welcome. Kylo is exhausted and he’s not sure he’s up for this conversation tonight. But maybe he can’t put it off any longer.

He knows how this is going to go. They will argue, she will cry and he will lose his temper. Then things will be worse. And since they are Sith married, there’s no way out of this mess for either of them.

Rey hasn’t moved. She’s standing at the windows gazing out into the cosmos, her back to him. Either Rey didn’t hear him come in or she’s lost in thought. She’s dressed in the lace nightgown he remembers from their first night together at Bast.

“Rey.” Time to get this over with.

She turns around at her name. Her expression is concerned as her eyes travel his form. “My handprint works on your security panel,” she explains lamely.

Of course it does. They are husband and wife, for Gods sake. It annoys him that she sounds a little surprised at this.  But he’s tired, and when he’s tired everything annoys him.

“You are looking more like your old self,” Kylo remarks. Even he can hear the fatigue in his voice.   He places his saber on a nearby table and removes his helmet. Runs a hand through his rumpled sweat damp hair. Rey is at his side now, taking the helmet from his grasp. It has been many long weeks since he has been this close to her. Several months really, if you don’t count the medibay. Since Bast.

“Oh, Kylo,” she reaches up to cup his cheek. Rey looks more concerned than ever now that his haggard face is revealed. “You look terrible.”

He shrugs it off as he strips his gloves next. “War is supposed to be Hell, right?”

“Have you eaten? I can order something.”

“I’m not hungry.” He’s unbuckles his belt and removes his surcoat to toss it on the couch. “It’s too late to eat.”  

“Here, let me help.” Rey is standing behind him now, helping him peel off his arm guards. The feel of her hands on his bare skin brings back memories of languid nights at Bast.   Of Rey in his bed and in his arms. That seems so long ago now.

Kylo sighs and lets his shoulders shrug out of his uniform. He says what comes to mind. “It’s been a long time since you have been this wifey.” Rey is behind him, but he senses her small smile.

“I haven’t seen much of you lately,” Rey agrees. She tosses the arm guards atop the pile of mask, surcoat and gloves.   “I was wondering how you were.”

“I’ve been busy.” It’s true, of course, but not the whole truth. His voice sounds clipped and defensive.

“I know.”  

Something about the way she says it makes Kylo wonder if Rey truly does know that he has been avoiding her.   He knows that they need to talk and that he should explain, but he just can’t. Because he’s exhausted and overwhelmed and his work demands all of his focus right now. Because he just can’t take another emotional confrontation like in the medibay. And because some part of him can’t bear to face her after all that has happened.

“Are you sure you shouldn’t eat something?” Rey is giving him her concerned look again.   He’s seen her give this same look to Sheev.

“I’m fine,” he mutters. “There’s no need to nag me, Rey.” The very thought of someone nagging at him seems ridiculous. He is Kylo Ren. Only his Master gets to bully him into submission.

“You look like you need someone to fuss over you.” She says this in a way that is both endearing and annoying. Yes, Rey is back to her old self again.

He looks her over. Stars, but she is gorgeous.   Clear eyed, pink cheeked and healthy looking. Rey appears fully recovered now, as the healers had promised.   So much improved from the white-faced, strung-out woman Kylo had clasped to his chest as she bled out in the hangar bay.   The sheerness of her nightgown reveals that she is no longer gaunt. Her body is once again the streamlined curves he once worshipped nightly.   But as his eyes travel her figure, something is missing.

“Are you wearing your pistol?”

“Yes.”

“Now?” he demands.

“Now?” Rey looks down at her nightgown, confused. “No.”

“Keep it with you at all times, Rey.” He says this sharply. Maybe a little too sharply. “I told you to wear it at all times.” He’s berating her like he might a clumsy junior lieutenant.

Rey rolls her eyes and gives him a look that says he is being ridiculous. “We’re alone in your quarters on secure floor of your star destroyer. There isn’t much risk. And your lightsaber is on the table. You can protect me.”

“No!” That is the point—he hadn’t been able to protect her.   Not at Bast. He grabs her upper arms because he needs Rey to understand that this is important. “You were alone before I got here.   If someone had come for me, they would have found you instead and you’d be dead. I have enemies, Rey! So do you. I can’t be with you all of the time.”   Rey squirms in his grip but he doesn’t let go.  She needs to hear this. “Keep that pistol on you at all times. That’s an order, Rey!”

“Kylo, you’re hurting—“

“Promise me!” he growls loudly.

Rey rears back away from him. His sudden intensity has taken her unaware. “I promise,” she placates him.   Then she repeats it softly. “I promise you, Kylo.”

Satisfied, he releases her. Then he sits down heavily on the couch and begins yanking off his boots.   The first one comes off easily, but he tugs at the second.   Kylo swears.   He has been standing on the bridge for at least the past twelve hours and his foot has swollen from an old injury.

“Here, let me help,” Rey kneels at his feet to help tug.   As usual, Rey is not gentle, but she is effective. On the third tug, the boot comes off and the force of her pull sends her sprawling backwards. Rey chuckles. It’s a happy, spontaneous little laugh. He catches her eye and he can’t help but smile.

He feels like his face might crack. It’s been weeks since he has smiled.  

What would the rest of the ship think if they were to witness this domestic scene? The great Kylo Ren weary at the end of a long day with his wife nagging at him and pulling off his boots.   Husbands everywhere have probably experienced a variant of this moment.   His life is rarely so ordinary. But ordinary feels good right now.

Rey clamors to her knees, caught up in the fabric of her nightdress. She’s charming on the floor in her lace.

“I have a new one for our list for after the war ends.” She’s smiling up at him absently as she pulls off his sock.   Like he is Sheev and he needs help with his socks. But he lets her do it.

“Oh?” He’s rolling his shoulders, stretching his stiff arms.

“Thanks to you, I have a thing for TIE fighters now,” she gives him an almost guilty look.

Kylo thinks that’s quite a turnabout for the girl who once fled in terror from the TIE that landed at Bast carrying toys. But he just nods for her to continue.

“I want to get in the cockpit of one of those special TIE Interceptors. The kind your knights fly.” She nods at him, her hazel eyes bright even this late. His Rey is such a nerd for tech. “Ever since I tried your new prototype, I’ve been eyeing those in the hangar bay. Once this war is over and no one will shoot me down on sight, I’m taking one out for a spin.”

This gets his attention. He sits back, looking at her closely. “You came back from D’Qar in one of those. Nestor Ren brought you back to us in an Interceptor. Don’t you remember?” Rey looks at him blankly, so he offers up more details. “He was the knight you fought at Bast. He begged to be the one to rescue you, so I let him. Nestor broke you out of your cell and brought you back to us.” Rey had been drugged out of her mind at the time, so perhaps her return to the First Order is a blur.

She’s still looking at him blankly. “I don’t remember that. I only remember waking up with the medics.”

He nods easily, not wanting to dwell on this topic.   The memory of her return to the Finalizer makes him queasy enough as it is. “Well, then the TIE Interceptor stays on the list.”

“With that Naboo nebula and the parade,” Rey reminds him.

“I’m not going to any damn parade,” he grumbles. “Kylo Ren does not go to parades.” There is such a thing as too ordinary.  

Rey huffs and rolls her eyes at this and for a moment everything feels truly normal again. On impulse, he sits forward and pulls her between his knees for a gentle kiss.

“Oh, Kylo,” she breathes into him, her hands sliding up his thighs. “Kylo, I have missed you.”

“I missed you too, Rey.”

It is the truth. He has missed her terribly.   He hadn’t realized how intertwined their lives had become until suddenly Rey was gone. And then the very absence of her had highlighted all the things they had come to share.

Looking back now, Bast Castle seems like a pleasant daydream. With Rey and Sheev waiting at the landing platform for his shuttle, the only two people in the galaxy who actually looked forward to his arrival and counted the days. Where he could wander from a morning meeting to catch sight of them in the courtyard. Rey would be sitting in the sunshine with her toolkit repairing the latest damage to the nanny droid while Sheev ran around at play.   Where some evenings they would wander down to the holochrons and she would choose a blue cube and he a red pyramid. Or sometimes they would just sit together in that small, darkened room to feel the hum of the living Force around them. Then he would whisper for Rey to come to bed and for a few moments each night lying in her arms all would be right in the universe.

Rey is returned to him and to Sheev. She is healed now. But their life on the Finalizer holds none of the intimacy, privacy and contentment of Bast.  

Her fingers are at his waist now, reaching to undo his trousers. Rey knows he loves it when she is bold.   Her fingers are fumbling and Kylo realizes that she is nervous.   Her fingers are trembling.

“Rey, is this safe? The healers wanted us to wait--“

“It’s fine.” Her words are meant to soothe, but her voice sounds nervous now too. “I healed weeks ago. There is no risk.”

He stills her fingers. Rey gives him a questioning look. And Kylo wants to explain why he’s reticent but the words just will not come.

He stares at her open mouthed.

Sith do not apologize. Sith do not explain. So guilt is a long forgotten emotion for Kylo Ren. So forgotten that it has taken him weeks to identify the root of what has been gnawing at him.  

Yes, he had waited to rescue Rey at his Master’s order. But he had mistakenly thought that because she had not already been identified, Rey would continue to remain anonymous and unharmed. He hadn’t known that Rey was pregnant. Hadn’t known that Luke Skywalker had found her. Hadn’t known that they were drugging her to extract information.   And neither had his Master.

It had been a series of calculated risks gone awry, with Rey as the unlucky victim. Kylo bore some responsibility. But really, the Resistance had been the culpable party. The Resistance had stolen Rey in the first place.

He had blamed the Resistance when obsessively watching the security cam video from Bast. Over and over, seeing the intruders dare to manhandle his Rey. He had blamed the Resistance in the quiet moments pining alone in his empty bed. Thinking of his wife lying on the floor of a cell somewhere. He had blamed the Resistance walking in to find Sheev red-faced and screaming once again. His little boy looking utterly lost without the soft soothings and constant presence of his mother.

All along, the blame had stuck with the Resistance until the day of her rescue. Until Rey had sunk to the floor of the hangar bay with blood streaking down her thighs.

And then, with startling clarity, the blame had stuck to him.   And it had nothing to do with the Resistance.

“Kylo?”   Rey is confused and her voice sounds hurt. She pulls back from him.

“Rey, I have to tell you something.” Kylo stares at her, summoning his courage. “Rey, I-I,” he fumbles for words.   It’s so uncharacteristic of him. But ‘sorry’ is not in his vocabulary.

He has ruminated on this guilt, trying to master it.   To compartmentalize it. To rationalize it. To bury it deep down with the faces of younglings at Uncle Luke’s academy and the touch of his dying father’s hand to his face. But those tried and true techniques fail him this time.   And so he’s hoping what they say is true--that confession really is good for the soul.

He’s not taking Rey to bed until he gets this off his chest. He just can’t. It’s not fair to her any longer. This will only make things worse, he knows, but the impulse to unburden himself is too strong. He needs this for himself, and he owes this to her.

So Kylo clasps his wife to him and contrition begins to spill from his lips. It’s a rush of words in a hoarse, horrified half-whisper.    

“When I saw you in the hangar bay rescued finally and you were bleeding everywhere . . . Rey, I didn’t know that you were losing the baby . . . I didn’t know you were pregnant . . . I just saw the blood all over your legs and you were dying in my arms and I thought that they had—that they had . . . .”

“Shh—I’m all healed. It’s fine now. The healers have said that it’s fine--”

“No, it’s not fine!” He will confess this to her.   She will listen to him.   He thrusts Rey away from him to arm’s length so he can speak these words to her face.   Emotion is the stock and trade of a Sith, and he has learned to channel it and fuel it. Now it bursts forth hot and raw.

“Rey, I thought that they had raped you like I had done on the Starkiller. I saw you hysterical and bleeding and I just knew what they had done.” He shuts his eyes at the memory. But then he’s back to staring at her, dark eyes intense and pleading. “But they hadn’t--I was the one who did that to you! I was the one who hurt you that way, not the Resistance.”

She is silent a moment, staring back at him.   Processing what’s he’s said.

“I was the one who did that to you.”   His admission is spoken harshly.

He watches her swallow. It feels like an eternity before she speaks.

“It is the past, Kylo.” Rey decides. There are tears in her eyes but still she is half-smiling reassurance at him as if this were something understandable.   Something forgivable. As if this were not the crime that had set everything in motion for them. “I don’t remember it, so I do not dwell on it. Let’s not dwell on it.” She brushes his guilt aside.

Kylo shakes her roughly. He’s angered that she is not listening to him. “Rey, I lied to you that first night at Bast. The Starkiller was rape! I was rough, I was violent, I hurt you. And you screamed and fought me. You bled. It was every bit as bad as you could imagine. And I did that to you. I did that!”

Her hands are upraised as if to ward him off physically. But it’s his words she’s pushing back against. “Kylo, please, don’t—“

Rey is crying now and her emotion triggers his.   He’s still shaking her. This is important. Can’t she see how important this is? “I did that to you! Just because you can’t remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!” His confession is half tantrum and half choking plea.

Rey breaks free of his grip and struggles to her feet.   She takes a deep, ragged breath. “I know . . . I know. But it is the past and you can’t change it. I have accepted that. For almost a year now, you have been telling me to get over this. And so I have.” Her chin is down and she slants him a darkly resentful look. “I knew you were lying to me about it. Somehow I just knew.”

The Force is how she knew. And Kylo hopes maybe that means the Force is telling her how honest he is being now. He stands to face her and to promise, “I have never, ever done that to any other woman, Rey. And I never will again. Believe me.”

She nods. “I believe you.” She means it. He can sense this.

“I am a monster, Rey. Truly, I am.” He steps forward and gathers Rey back into his arms. He is stroking her hair and holding her close. Holding her like she is the most precious thing in the universe.   “But I am sorry. I am so, so sorry for the Starkiller.” He hears himself repeating this over and over. As if by saying it more times, he might convince Rey how sincerely he means it.   She needs to know that he finally understands the enormity of what he has done. The crippling, insistent guilt he feels is eating away at his soul. “I am so, so sorry, Rey. And I can never make it right.”

“Oh, Kylo,” Rey pulls back from his arms to stroke at his pained face. “I forgive you, Kylo. I accept that the Starkiller is the past.” They are staring into each other’s eyes now. One tearstained face into another.    

“Rey, I-I--”

She stops him with a finger to his lips. A wisp of a smile crosses her beautiful face. “You and I—we are more than that moment on the Starkiller. So much more now. I have let it go. You should let it go now too.”

In his mind’s eye, Rey is blinding him with her shimmering corona of Light as she absolves his sin.   Gods, he does not deserve this woman.  

“Why?” he’s befuddled at her reaction. This is not at all what he had expected. “Why are you forgiving me? Why--after I hurt you so badly?”

“Because I really don’t have any better option.” She says this matter of fact through her tears. Of course, his Rey is always pragmatic. “I don’t want to live my life hating you. You are my husband and the father of my son. And I want to be happy. I want us to be happy.” She gives him a sheepish smile. “Don’t look back, only look forward, right?”

“But it’s not just the Starkiller. I have failed you, Rey. So many times.” Kylo is tired of holding this in. Worn down by the grind of his war and the unexpected rediscovery of his conscience. Tonight, all his regrets come tumbling out in a torrent of self-disgust and maybe some self-pity. Truly, he is the worst husband in the entire history of husbands.

“Kylo, don’t do this—“ Rey’s voice has a warning tone and he ignores it.

Kylo knows that he’s married to the one woman in the galaxy who doesn’t like to talk about her feelings.  His lonely wife has never had a confidante and at this point she wouldn’t accept one. Well, fine. He doesn’t like to talk about his feelings either. But tonight, he’s making an exception and she’s going to listen.  

He pulls her closer, trapping her in strong arms.

“When I scared you and you ran from Bast only to have my family try to steal Sheev, I was furious. Even when you came back, I was furious. You were so brave marching out of my shuttle and you even admitted that I had been right all along but I was still furious. And then I hurt you. And our boy watched the whole thing.”  

He pauses, remembering Rey in a crumpled bloody heap at his feet. He had beat her like some brute who comes home drunk from a podrace to smack around his wife when she’s mad he blew the rent on a sure thing bet. Gods, he thinks, I was born a fucking prince. I know I’m better than this.

“If Hux hadn’t have been there, I might have killed you, Rey. I was so angry because I was so . . . hurt . . . I had wanted you so badly for so long, Rey. And then when we were together it was amazing and I wanted to keep you with me forever and I woke up and you were gone. You left me! Like every person who has ever loved me before . . . .”

“Don’t you ever beat me again, Kylo.” Rey’s words are muffled into his chest but he hears them loud and clear. “And don’t you ever lay a hand on our son.”

“I won’t.” He rushes to reassure her.

“Promise me, Kylo. Promise me that you will never lay a hand on our son.” Rey’s voice is deadly serious. And the suggestion takes him by surprise until he remembers that he and Sheev are Skywalkers.   His family is notorious for father-son conflicts. Well, really for all sorts of conflicts.

Again, he tries to soothe her fears. Whatever the past, this generation will be different. Rey has made sure of that. He and Sheev are on the same side, and they will love each other as father and son.   He will never harm the boy that will be his legacy and his future. “I promise. I will never harm Sheev. And, Rey, I will never harm you again either.”

His poor Rey has suffered so much harm already.   First the cruel neglect of her childhood, then her abuse at his own hands and now her torture by the Resistance. Her past is a lifetime of pain and deprivation. But his survivor Rey endures it and transcends it.

His wife is the most resilient person Kylo has ever met. It used to impress him, but now it saddens him. Rey has been mistreated by himself and by others for so long. He worries that some small part of Rey doesn’t believe she merits better treatment.   As he has brooded over their screaming match in the medibay, it actually has encouraged him.   It makes him feel better to know that Rey has some limits to what she will accept from him. Because Rey has accepted far more than any ordinary woman would. And she stayed loyal to him under the worst circumstances.

And that reminds Kylo of more that he needs to atone for.

“Rey, when the Resistance took you, it took too long to find you. Three weeks to find you. If I had known right away where you were, we would have gone after you without my Master getting involved. But it took so long and then there was a public trial for Hux and you were caught up in a larger strategic decision about a rescue.”

Oh, Gods, that trial! The moment Kylo had learned of Hux’s trial he had known that Rey’s fate was out of his hands. And he had guessed correctly that his Master would demand Kylo demonstrate willingness to forfeit her.   He knew that this was a test of loyalties old Darth Plagueis could not resist.

His Master might have forbidden him to rescue Rey, but instead he merely demanded delay. At the time and under the circumstances, Kylo had thought this to be a good outcome. His Master is not cruel and the delay was not arbitrary. It was completely logical in the larger scheme of their objectives. Darth Plagueis is nothing if not strategic and logical.

“For so many reasons, the right decision was to wait. And I thought there would be no harm since they didn’t know who you were.  Rey, believe me that I didn’t know that you were pregnant. I didn’t know they had found out who you were. I didn’t know that they were drugging you.   I thought that you would just have to wait longer, but it wouldn’t hurt you.”

“Kylo, please--don’t do this—don’t--“ He feels Rey stiffen in his arms. She doesn’t want to talk about this. It’s too soon. But he can’t stop the flood of words.

“Oh, Rey, I never meant for you to suffer. I trusted my mother and my uncle not to hurt you. I guess I didn’t really believe that they would hurt you. The Resistance never used to torture prisoners, only the Order did that . . . .”

He can feel through the Force her panic rising. She’s worried he going to talk about the baby. No, he won’t do that to her. Rey needs no reminders of her grief. So he moves on to the crux of the matter.

“I promise to keep you safe, Rey. I am your Sith and I will take care of you always.”

Does she believe him? She has to believe him. But he knows that trust is so hard for his Rey.

She pulls back to look up at him. “I dreamt of you, Kylo. When I was in the cell, I dreamt of you. Telling me Sheev was fine. Encouraging me to stay alive. It helped. You gave me strength. Because you and Sheev were waiting for me.”

He strokes her cheeks to wipe away the fresh tears. And he vows, “No one will ever take you from me, Rey. You and I will be together forever, just like we promised each other on Bast.”

“Yes.” Rey takes her scarred left hand and holds it up. Kylo mates it with his own. “I am yours and you are mine,” she whispers.

“Yes.” He smiles now, a genuine smile. “Together forever in the Force.”

Rey’s nose is running and her eyes are red and puffy but in this moment she is the most beautiful thing Kylo has ever seen. She is the Light shining pure and steadfast for him, and Gods how he secretly loves the Light.

“I don’t deserve you, Rey. I’m a monster who doesn’t deserve you.”

“Oh, Kylo. You are a monster. But you’re my monster.” She kisses him gently. “You’re my Sith.”

The gentleness quickly fades as a spark of heat kindles. It has been a long time, too long a time, since they have been together. She peels off her nightgown and he gropes her like a blind man. Then he sweeps Rey into his arms and takes her to bed.  

How he has missed her. How he has missed this.  

Exhausted though he may be, his body is hard and hot for her.   He needs this connection desperately. Thankfully, her pace matches his own. He and Rey have always been in sync in each other’s arms. She is slick and ready for him when he plunges in.   He won’t last tonight. His body has waited too long for this and the physical need is too urgent. But Rey beats him to it as she loses herself to pleasure on his fifth deep thrust. That’s all it takes to push him to fulfillment as well. Kylo never makes it past even the first line of the Sith Code.

It’s an amazing feeling being inside his wife, pumping his seed deep into her as the Force shudders and quakes around them both. Her Light washes over him, healing his lost soul if only for this moment. Her shining Light pierces through to the deepest depths of his Darkness. Past the constant veneer of anger, the petty vindictiveness and the casual cruelty. Down to the buried regrets, to the secret shame, to the unacknowledged self-loathing, to the despair. Kylo knows he cannot be forgiven all of his sins, but tonight at least Rey has forgiven his worst against her.

He is Sith. Tomorrow he will hurt, kill, maim and lie again to others. But not to Rey. For Rey alone he is truly repentant. For Rey alone, he will be a moral man.  

Chapter Text

“Tell me again why I have to do this?” Rey shoots him a sideways glance as together they disembark from his command shuttle.   She’s nervous and fiddling with the hood of her cape. Whatever Milo has told her about the Supreme Leader has clearly terrified his wife.

Kylo ushers her forward and they enter Snoke’s bunker escorted by a squad of troopers. “Because he is my Master and he has requested your presence. There is nothing to fear, Rey.”  Kylo again tries to downplay this interview. It’s as much to soothe his own fears as to soothe hers.  Rey had better not fuck this up.

The stated reason for Rey’s audience with the Supreme Leader is to learn about her interactions with Luke Skywalker. But Kylo knows his Master well enough to know that there are always multiple layers of purpose. Subterfuge is the stock and trade of a Sith Master. Kylo is as much in the dark about this meeting as Rey is, but he doesn’t want her to know that.

“Stop fussing, you look beautiful,” he reassures her. She does, too. Rey is wearing that embroidered black velvet cloak he remembers from her return to the Finalizer with Sheev. Underneath is a demure red silk dress.   Her hair is loose in a riot of haphazard curls that spill over her shoulders.  Come to think of it, Rey looks very Padme Skywalker with her hair like that.

“I feel like I’m meeting your parents,” Rey grumbles.

“It’s not as bad as that, Rey,” Kylo smirks behind his mask. “And besides, you’ve already met my family.”

“Well, I hope this goes better than that did,” Rey frowns grimly. “I have the worst inlaws—“

“--in the galaxy,” Kylo finishes for her. It’s true. Who the fuck tortures their pregnant daughter-in-law? Only in his family does that magnitude of dysfunction occur. “Just remember what I told you and it will go fine.”

Do not speak unless asked a question, always tell the truth, show utmost respect, do not under any circumstances resist him. Kylo drilled these four rules into Rey during the shuttle ride to his Master’s stronghold.   And, for good measure, he made her recite them back to him.  

In retrospect, it might not have been the best strategy for calming Rey’s nerves. But Kylo would prefer to have Rey appear frightened and intimidated than to have her roll her eyes and mouth off to his eternal Sith Master. It would be just like Rey to provoke old Darth Plagueis into busting out the blue lightning.

Kylo has delayed this interview for as long as possible, hoping to give Rey the maximum time to heal from her ordeal. His wife needs to be as mentally sharp as possible today, for he’s expecting his Socratic Method-loving Master to test her with questions. And he’s expecting his Master to rip into Rey’s head.  

But, in the end, nothing quite goes as Kylo expects.

“Welcome, Lady Ren. I have been expecting you.”

He and Rey enter the audience chamber to find his Master standing waiting as they approach. This is unusual. When Kylo arrives, the old Sith is always enthroned up high on the dais, looming over him.   It’s slightly unnerving to see his Master be so welcoming.   Like this is a social visit and they are all friends.

Snoke’s gaze flits over him, but he honors Rey with a slight bow. Kylo takes a knee in the traditional obeisance of an apprentice. Snoke leaves him there on the floor, his attention focused on Rey.

“Long brown hair.” Snoke speaks at last after a minute of perusal. “But, of course. You Skywalker men are all so predictable.”   His Master throws his head back and laughs. It is disconcerting as always to hear the old Sith cackle.   Rey says nothing, but she favors his Master with that coy half smile of hers that felled Hux and so many in his retinue.

His Master is in a mood to talk. “To a man, the Skywalker princes all fall hard, milady.” Snoke gestures dismissively towards his kneeling Apprentice. “His grandfather fell in love at first sight as but a boy. It took Darth Vader years to win his queen, but in the end he succeeded. Even the wretched Jedi Skywalker found his match.   Such a pity that no one thought to tell him that he had been kissing his own twin sister.” Snoke shoots Rey a rueful smile. All his Master’s attention this morning is for Rey, it seems. “Just one more instance in which the lies of the Jedi have caused so much pain. How pleased I am that you have evaded their clutches. My dear, how wise you are to reject them.”  

“Arise, my Apprentice.” His Master bids him to stand as he returns to talk of Skywalkers. “And now our current prince has found his match with you. What a lucky man he is.” The tall Muun Sith leans in slightly to Rey, as if sharing a confidence. “You must forgive Kylo Ren for your first meeting. It was out of character for him, my dear lady. Let us just say that you were irresistible to him.”

Behind his mask Kylo frowns.

Rey says nothing. Good girl.

Snoke reaches for Rey’s left hand, turning her palm up and slowly tracing a skeletal finger down the pink slashing scar. His gargoyle face smiles down at Rey as he reveals his own deeply slashed left hand with a flourish of bony fingers.   How has Kylo never noticed that before? So, his Master had indeed once had a wife.

“I am an old Muun, milady,” his voice is slow and confiding. “Five wives have I outlived. But I honored each of them, like a Sith should.”

His Master looks to him for the first time. “She is so raw and untrained. And yet so powerful.” The Muun nods his approval. “All that innocent potential in the Force. How . . . beguiling.” Dropping Rey’s hand, he reaches now for her face. Kylo watches as Rey’s chin lifts and her eyes fall closed.

Here it comes. His Master is going to rip into Rey’s mind as he has done so many times to Kylo himself.    

Good girl. Rey’s control is impressive. She doesn’t even flinch as his Master continues to intone his commentary.   But Kylo knows full well what Rey must be feeling right now. He himself can feel the pressure in his ears that comes from his Master summoning the Darkness.

Snoke speaks slowly, his words soft like a whispered secret. “You were awakened to the Force and then you ran from it.   Yes, I see your fear.   You might have been Jedi, but for that fear. Wise were you to trust your feelings. To listen to your emotions. Your instinct for survival is impressive . . . most impressive.”

Those long, bony fingers caress Rey’s cheek and she moves into him, nuzzling against his hand like a favorite pet might pander for attention. His Master’s deepset eyes seem glitter at this reaction.   Kylo watches as Snoke now trails his fingers down her cheek, across her neck, and down her throat. Rey moans softly.   Her eyes are still closed, but her head is thrown back and her lips slightly parted. And suddenly, Kylo realizes that it is pleasure he is witnessing, and not pain.

His breath catches in his throat. He does not know what to make of this.

The old Muun towers over Rey as he steps behind her, reaching around her shoulders to release the clasp at the neck of her cloak.   His gnarled hands slide the heavy velvet over her shoulders, lingering ever so slightly. The cloak drops to the floor. And just like that, his Sith Master has half undressed his wife.

“Come, milady.” Snoke leads Rey by the hand up the dais.   As his Master settles on his chair, Rey sinks down at his feet. She is kneeling very close in a puddle of scarlet silk with long brown tresses spilling over her shoulders.

Kylo watches with wary fascination as his wife lays her head on the old Sith’s knee. She’s facing Kylo, her eyes fixed on him, her mouth a round oh of surprise.   Rey looks dazed by the Darkness of the eternal Muun who strokes her hair absently. “Yes, let me look into you. Show yourself to me, Rey of the Desert.”

Rey’s eyes close once more and again a low, slow moan escapes from her parted lips. Kylo can’t remember seeing his Master look more pleased.

“How neglected you were. How wretched and lonely your life has been.“ The old Muun purrs out his sympathy as he pulls Rey’s past from her mind. “Fortunate are you that Kylo Ren takes you away from that life of suffering.   He keeps you and the boy in comfort and security now. Neither he nor I will let anyone harm you again. You are home safe with us, milady. Kylo Ren shall take care of you.”

Kylo watches as Rey is panting now. Her whole body heaves with the effort. And she crawls up his Master. No longer resting on his knees, Rey’s head is up high in his lap, her hands on his thighs. She supplicates herself.

Kylo can only think of the last time Rey had her head in his own lap, and he is horrified at watching this. But he won’t let his thoughts linger in that direction. This is Darth Plagueis the Wise, and he knows what is best for his Apprentice. And, as uncomfortable as this is to watch, it is far more comfortable for Rey than his Master’s usual technique.

Kylo keeps telling himself this.

“I wish to know of Luke Skywalker. You have met him now twice recently. Kylo Ren and I have not seen him in over a decade now.”     Rey’s head comes up and his Master cups her face in his hands. Kylo hears her gasp. Once, twice, a third time. “Yeeessssss,” his Master’s voice is low and slow. Drawing out his syllables. “Show me the prodigal prince. How his father tried in vain to redeem him. Once, we might have welcomed him home a Sith. But he is forever lost to the lies of the Jedi.”

Snoke is stroking Rey’s hair back from her forehead with both hands now.   Kylo tries not to observe how comfortable his Master is touching her. And how much Rey seems to enjoy it.  

“Skywalker wants your boy for the same fate. We will not let that happen. Trust in us, my dear. Trust in us.” These words are coated with the weight of the Force, Kylo recognizes.   A Dark suggestion that burrows snugly into the mind. Preying on fears, promising safety.

“There was another child?” His Master looks up, his attention on Kylo now. Snoke’s voice is reproof. “You did not tell me about the lost child, Kylo Ren.”   But then his Master returns to Rey and he wipes away her tears.   It’s a gentle motion, like a parent comforting a child. “How you must hate the Resistance, my dear. They kill your baby and try to steal your son. Soon you shall have vengeance. Very soon Kylo Ren shall kill them all for you. Only then will your son be safe. And we shall have peace.”   Rey nods slightly and the old Sith pats her cheek with approval.

“She is such a conduit for the Force. So responsive.” To demonstrate this, Snoke waves his hand with a flick of bony fingers.   Rey slinks from his Master’s lap to sit back on her heels. Kylo watches blinking fast as he sees his wife throw back her head and arch up. Both her knees and her lips are widely parted. It’s a frankly carnal pose of submission.

His Master catches his eye even through his mask. “I see that you are possessive, Kylo Ren.”

He makes no reply as he struggles to contain his dismay. And his jealous outrage.

Snoke shrugs. “It’s as a Sith should be.” He turns back to Rey. Again, his words are coated with the weight of the Force.   “There is only one man who merits your pleasure, milady. Tell us who.”

“My Sith.”

“And who is your Sith? Tell us who you belong to.”

“My Emperor, your apprentice, Kylo Ren.”

The old Sith snorts at this response. “She promotes you, my boy. How nice to have such a supportive spouse. Tell us, milady. Who does Kylo Ren belong to?”

“To you, Supreme Leader.”

“And so tell us again who you belong to.”

“To you, Supreme Leader, and to Kylo Ren.”

“Yes, Lady Ren.” Snoke smiles his approval. He looks wickedly pleased. “You, like your husband, are now mine. Welcome to our family, my dear.”

Kylo watches as his Master stands and offers Rey his hand to rise to her feet. Rey is still very much under Snoke’s power. She walks back down the dais as if in a trance, guided by the Muun at her elbow. It’s an almost courtly gesture. They stop and suddenly Rey flings herself into his Master’s arms. The old Muun is so tall that Rey barely reaches his chest.   Snoke chuckles at this. He clasps her to him and strokes her head a moment longer.

“Come back to us, child.” And then the seductive spell of Darkness is broken and the old Sith hands her back to Kylo.

By the time Rey has regained herself, his Master has climbed back to settle on his chair. “Thank you, Lady Ren, for sharing your memories with me.  That was necessary and illuminating.” This formal politeness shocks Kylo’s ears. He is used to a Master who commands. But none of the interaction between Snoke and Rey is what Kylo Ren is accustomed to.

Beside him, Rey seems to be unharmed. And, she’s back to being her regular self. “You’re better at that than Kylo is,” she observes tartly.

His Master snickers. “I have had much more practice. Several hundred years more practice. Now, leave us, my dear. My Apprentice and I have things to discuss.” Rey is dismissed and Kylo feels his pent up tension dissipate.

With Rey safely removed, his Master speaks freely.

“Your lady could be dangerous to us. She has too much latent power. Skywalker surely must see this.”

“She hates Skywalker.”

Snoke concurs. “Yes, it was foolish of the Resistance to torture her and to kill her child. It played right into our hands. Fortunate are we for this mistake.”

Fortunate is not exactly the word Kylo would use, but he agrees. “Yes, Master.”

“Skywalker knows that she enables you. He understands how you use her Light. The Jedi will try again to take her from you if only to weaken you.”

“Yes, Master.”

“You must control her power, Kylo Ren.   Keep her from Skywalker and keep her happy. Give her no reason to wish to separate from you.”

“Yes, Master.”  

Snoke continues his instructions. “Let her Force-heal to her heart’s content. It is a useful skill and it poses no threat.  Once she becomes truly proficient, you will send her to me.   These old bones of mine might benefit from her skill.”

“Yes, Master.” Actually, Kylo would prefer to keep his wife far, far away from Snoke, but that’s not an option. He must obey his master. “Thank you for being gentle with her, Master.” Kylo feels he ought to add this last part. As uncomfortable as it was for him to watch, Darth Plagueis had been exceedingly gentle with Rey.

“My boy, pain has its uses. But your lady is our ally, not our enemy. If ever she needs to be reminded of her place, I will do so.   But we shall keep those tactics in reserve for now. It is best to beguile a woman if you can. Especially the stubborn ones. It’s far more effective than conflict.” The Sith points a finger at him. “Learn from this, my Apprentice. You shall need these techniques to manage your empire soon. Conflict is not always the preferred course of action.”

“Am I not your ally too?” Ren can’t help himself from asking. He’s thinking of the head splitting his Master has inflicted upon him over the years whenever Snoke went searching for something in his mind.  

“Oh, my son, you are indeed. You are my chosen Apprentice. That makes you my greatest ally and potentially my greatest enemy. So, it is best to remind you of your place every now and then.”

“Yes, my Master.”

Snoke nods his encouragement. “You will do the same with your own boy one day.   All Sith need discipline, even your little Ren. The Apprentice always needs to appreciate the full power of his Master. A little fear can create much respect.”

His point made, his Master begins to muse. “Your lady is delightful. And so naturally responsive to the Force. Were I younger, and whole, I would take her from you, Kylo Ren.”

Kylo keeps a poker face at this comment. Having watched his Rey as putty in the Sith’s hands, he knows his Master could easily make good on this threat.

“I have always enjoyed the company of women. Five wives, Kylo Ren. Many a man would consider one wife penance enough, but I chose five ladies in my time. Women were for many years my indulgence.” The Muun settles back in his chair. He’s in a mood to talk again.

“My last wife was a Jedi. I found her lurking in a Sith temple of all places. In those days, the Jedi stupidly thought the Sith to be extinct. When in fact, we were exposed and out in the open.” Snoke’s ruined face grins at the memory. “The poor girl had no idea where she was and who she had stumbled upon. But she was a lovely Muun, so I kept her.   Stately and strong, like our Captain Phasma.   But headstrong, much like your lady. She was reluctant at first. But in time, she learned to enjoy my protection.”   His Master leans forward in a man-to-man leer. “So, you see, I knew firsthand how much you would enjoy a lady filled with the Light you pretend not to crave.” Snoke waves a finger over him.   “My boy, the Light has its place. Sideous never could be convinced of that. Do not make his mistake of trying to eradicate the Light. It cannot be done. Instead, seek to control it, to use it, as you do your wife.”

“Yes, my Master.”

“There is much that you can learn from women, Kylo Ren. They create life, sustain life, nurture life. And life creates the Force. So in many ways, the Force is like a woman.” His Sith Master is enjoying himself now.   His voice is a slow drawl as he imparts the wisdom of his centuries of Darkness.

“The Force can be as fickle. Like the pretty, popular girl, it bestows and withholds its favors where it pleases. It can be fiercely protective of its favorites and scornful of ingrates.   So beware the power of the Force. It is demanding. It will ask much of you if you ask much of it. And, just like a woman, the Force always keeps score.   From time to time, the Force will even the score.” Snoke chides him with a warning, “It will humble you one day, Kylo Ren. Be mindful of that.”

His Master warms to his theme. “Yes, and like a woman, the Force will control your actions, but obey your commands.   You’re a married man now, so you know that a good wife is always in charge of the day to day, even while you control her completely in the larger course of events. Take heed from this, my Apprentice. You may master the ways of the Force, but you will never control it completely.”

Snoke must sense his veiled skepticism behind the mask, for his Master settles back in his chair and crosses his arms.

“Oh, it’s true. All of it. But perhaps you know so little of women to recognize it.” The old Sith shoots him a disdainful glance. “You’ve had too many whores, Kylo Ren, and not enough lovers.   It pleases me that you have taken a wife. You shall be Emperor soon. It is high time you consorted with a better class of woman.”

“Rey is from Jakku,” Kylo reminds his Master dryly. He’s irked by having his Coruscant escapades thrown in his face. Fancy accent aside, Rey is as low caste as they come. Not that it matters, for she has the Force. And she is his Rey.

“Don’t be a blind fool,” comes his Master’s hissed rejoinder. “Your lady is one in a billion. Trust me, for I know women. Clearly, you do not.” Again, Snoke shoots him a disdainful look. “Your lady gives you the son that is your future. She safeguards your family from the Jedi. And she endures pain and loss on your behalf when given the option to be welcomed a Jedi heroine to the Resistance. Over the years, I have inflicted enough pain to know what it can do. So do not easily dismiss her loyalty to us.” Snokes face hardens. “You risk driving her back to the Jedi if you fail to appreciate her properly.”

Kylo is dutifully chastised. He knows without doubt that he doesn’t deserve Rey. He will never find another woman who accepts him for who he is. He will never find another woman who wants him for himself, and not for his position or his power. He will never find another woman who will devote herself to his family the way Rey has. Even without the Force, Rey is the perfect woman for him.

So, as usual, his Master is wise in all things. Rey truly is one in a billion.

“Do not give me reason to take her from you, Kylo Ren. For today was temptation enough for me to do so.” Snoke’s threat is as real as it is unexpected. Kylo swallows hard at this possibility. “She would be a most delightful companion.”

“Yes, Master,” Kylo is horrified and quick to agree.

“Treat her well and keep her under your control, and you may keep her. And always remember that a Sith may not love another more than he loves power.”

“Yes, Master.”

Satisfied, the old Muun settles back in his chair. As usual, he has a task for Kylo. “When the war is over, you will find this Unkar Plutt on Jakku and kill him for her.”

Unkar who?

“You will kill the man who for years beat and starved your wife. Do it yourself, Kylo Ren. This is personal. A Sith should always give his lady vengeance.” Snoke pauses to consider. “But call it justice to her face. She would prefer it that way.”

“As you wish, my Master.”

Chapter Text

“What . . . was that?” Rey is still a bit befuddled when Kylo emerges from his Master’s audience chamber. She screws up her face in confusion. “He was in my head for a bit, I know that. But the rest is kind of a blur.”

Kylo doesn’t answer. He reaches out his arm and sweeps her along with him as he heads back to the landing pad. Clearly, he is eager to leave. Rey has to race to catch up with his long strides. He’s still got his mask on, but Rey can tell that he is angry. He’s stomping with his fists clenched. It’s classic pissed off Kylo.

Great. She fucked it up.

“I messed up, didn’t I?” Rey states the obvious.  And, oh, she feels awful about it. Today had meant so much to Kylo and she let him down.

“No.” Kylo’s voice is clipped and short. He pauses for a moment before adding, “He likes you.”

“Oh.” Then why is Kylo so angry? “Wait—what did you talk about after I left?” Maybe this has nothing to do with her.

Kylo is silent. Fuming.

“Kylo, talk to me,” Rey wants to understand. “What did he say to you?”

“That he can take whatever he wants.”

Rey rolls her eyes. She’s heard that boast before from Kylo himself. It must be a Sith thing.

They are at the landing pad now. “Kylo—“ she begins.

But he squeezes her hand and Rey falls silent. Kylo leans into her. He lowers his voice, mindful as always of watchful eyes and ears. “You are mine, Rey. Never forget that. No one will ever take you from me.”

Kylo and his Master must have spoken about Skywalker. Of course, that’s why Kylo is so angry and acting possessive. He’s worried the Jedi will try again to separate them. His Master must have seen it in her memories from D’Qar.

Rey nods and Kylo says it again emphatically, “I promise you--no one will ever take you from me.”

And with those parting words, Kylo had deposited her on a waiting shuttle full of officers bound for the Finalizer. Rey had watched through the window as Kylo promptly disappeared into his own command shuttle for parts unknown.

That was ten days ago. Tonight Rey is back in her quarters with Sheev nestled in her lap ready for bed. Rey grabs the datapad for a bedtime story and she finds a message.

‘I land at 2100. Come to me tonight.’

She grins at this news, then writes back. ‘Is this a booty call?’

Kylo complains. ‘You’re spoiling the romance.’

Maybe, but she can’t help herself. ‘So it’s not a booty call?’

‘No, it’s an order.’ But then Kylo must think that sounds harsh because before she can reply, he has already sent another message. ‘Think of it as a booty order.’

Rey snorts. Her husband is such a dork sometimes. You’d think he was the anti-social one who grew up feral in an AT-AT and not a prince from a famous family of diplomats and leaders. Rey types back, ‘You don’t command me.’

‘I command everything and everyone on my flagship. That includes you.’ Rey can just imagine the smirk on Kylo’s face when he typed that response. He probably thinks he’s being smooth with these lines.

Rey decides it’s time for some insubordination. ‘Whatever.’

‘Careful. I have a reputation for punishment.’

Rey considers for a moment.

‘Careful. I might like that. If you are promising to tie me up, then perhaps I could be persuaded to drop by.’

‘It’s a deal.’

Rey smiles to herself. Then she types, ‘I have missed you, Kylo. Hurry back to me.’

‘Oh, so now you’re getting romantic?’

And that’s pretty much how things are between Rey and her First Knight lately. Kylo is gone for days, even a week at a time. Then he’s back in her arms for one night chanting his Sith code and begging for her Light in a frenzy of lust that goes on and on until morning comes and he’s off again. Leaving Rey behind in his wake exhausted, thoroughly fucked and stupidly happy.  

Rey has long known that the darker Kylo’s deeds, the stronger becomes his call to the Light.   So she knows that the bloody war reports she reads on the holonet don’t tell the whole story.   Things must be very brutal out there. Rey is happy to be the comfort Kylo needs.

Early one morning Rey is dashing back across the hallway to her quarters dressed in nothing but her sheer lace nightgown when the security panel freezes. Damn. Rebooting doesn’t help. Rey even slams her handprint on it a few times for good measure, but to no avail. Sheev is inside asleep with the nanny droid, so there’s no one to let her in. And Kylo headed out ten minutes ago so he’s not around to wave his hand and do his Force thing to unstick the door.

Hmmm.   Rey pauses to consider. Then she tries waving her hand at the door. Nothing. Fucking Force. Fucking door.

Well, time to try hotwiring it. Tucking her ever present blaster pistol under her arm, Rey tears off the security panel with a few good yanks. Next, she’s into the wiring. No alarms have gone off, so that’s a good sign. But then the giant blast door at the end of the hallway slams shut and uh oh that’s not good. Sure enough, not a minute later the blast door is part way cracked open and there’s a full squad of troopers pouring through. Their guns are raised and they’re not set to stun.

The squad finds Rey standing there red faced and mostly naked despite all the fabric. Her hands are tangled in the exposed wiring. “There seems to be some malfunction,” she begins while staring down ten blaster barrels.

Then, just when it can’t get more awkward, she hits the right connection and the door to her quarters whooshes open. Sheev runs out in his pajamas.

“Mommy, are you back?” he asks. “Where were you last night?” But then he peaks around her nightgown to see the hallway full of stormtroopers and that’s vastly more interesting. “Troopers!” he shouts gleefully, clapping his hands. “Look, Mommy, troopers! Did you sleep with the troopers?”

Kylo would be roaring with laughter at this innocent remark, she knows. And her husband would surely find an FN-2187 joke in there somewhere. But right now Rey is focused on the blasters pointed at her son.

“Lower your weapons!” Rey commands in her best ‘I’m-Kylo-Ren’s-wife-and-I-can-have-you-killed’ voice. It works and the troopers comply.

“Inside,” Rey propels Sheev through the door. Then she sweeps across the threshold herself with as much queenly dignity as she can muster. Safely inside, Rey slams the door shut and locks it.

Ten minutes later, Sheev is munching on sugar cereal and staring at a Thomas the Transport holovid under the vigilant electronic eye of the nanny droid. Good, now Rey can finally take a much needed shower. But when she catches sight of herself in the refresher mirror, she groans. It’s worse than she had imagined.

Rey knows that the lace nightdress is embarrassingly revealing. It is sheer and very décolleté. But she didn’t know that it was cut low enough to show the vivid purple bite mark Kylo had left on the top of her left breast. It’s unmistakably teeth. Yesterday’s curls are a wanton mess falling everywhere about her shoulders and in her eyes. Rey looks closer to find that her lips look a bit swollen still and damn if she doesn’t reek of sweat and sex. It’s the aftermath of another wild night with Kylo Ren and it had just been on display to a squad of troopers.   To a man they’re probably joking with their buddies right now about how the Commander and his missus got busy last night.  

It’s just one quick and unfortunate public interaction, but it’s part of the larger mosaic of impressions that informs the crew of the Finalizer about Lady Ren. First she was introduced as the rescued heroine with her dramatic and tragic arrival in the hangar bay. Then she was the dazed looking mother in a borrowed uniform whose traumatized child wouldn’t leave her side.   Now she’s the conspicuous and aloof queen of the First Order.    

Rey knows that she has set many tongues wagging.

The crew is curious about her, she’s learning. Wondering who Kylo Ren’s wife is and what she’s like. And sometimes, like this morning, they see more than she wants them to see.


 

Milo requests an appointment with Chief Healer Smath on her behalf. Ostensibly, the meeting is to thank Smath and his staff for her excellent care and to request permission to visit the sick in the medibay. The Chief Healer nods thoughtfully at her request to be unobtrusive.   So this is not for the Order’s PR videos? The veteran healer asks this as politely as possible but his disdain is evident. Absolutely not, Rey replies.   Satisfied, he agrees.

Smath is a big, barrel chested man with a head of thick white hair. He rises from behind his desk with effort. But once he’s standing, Smath moves nimbly as he conducts a brief tour of his facilities. And that’s how it begins.

Rey drops into the medibay for an hour each day while Sheev naps. And also during the evenings unless Kylo is home.   Rey chooses one patient to sit with privately.   First, she asks a medic to brief her for Rey knows nothing of actual medical care. Then, she discretely pulls the curtain around the patient’s bedside and begins to practice Force healing.

The concentration this requires is draining, and an hour is the maximum Rey can manage. But it gets easier and Rey becomes more proficient. Still, she has a long way to go before she will be able to work the miracles she’s heard described in the holochrons at Bast. Those must be the culmination of years of training for Jedi healers with actual teachers, she thinks. They are far beyond the efforts of an untrained Force user who is winging it based on techniques vaguely described using terminology long lost with the Jedi Order.

True to his word, Smath helps to ensure discretion. Her visits are by no means a secret, but they do not attract special notice. It helps that she arrives in her borrowed coveralls. At a casual glance, Rey could be anyone.

Smath himself is the person most interested in what she’s doing. At first, Rey chalks this up to his responsibility to manage the medibay. She has thrust herself into his turf, after all. But by the third week, it’s clear that Smath is on to her.

Rey is sitting at the beside of a sedated TIE pilot with severe burns. The pain is terrible, the nurse had explained to Rey, and standard opiates only take the edge off.   So Rey had focused immediately on the pilot’s pain. Just for an hour, she will take away his pain.

She’s been doing her best to help the pilot when the Chief Healer ducks under the curtain to stand behind her.   He stands there a moment observing. His nervous hesitation tells Rey all she needs to know: she’s been busted.

“I know what you are doing.” Smath announces this quietly.

Rey does not look up. She says nothing.

Smath is not deterred. “I have heard of this power, but I have never seen it. I had thought it to be lost many decades ago.”

Again, Rey says nothing.

Smath wanders over to the head of the bed to check the patient’s vital signs and data log. He peruses it a minute before nodding his approval and turning back to Rey.

“My mother was a healer,” Smath reveals to her. “She trained in Coruscant at the Republic’s medical academy. Back in those days, students would take rotations at the Temple so that those trained in traditional technical medicine could appreciate the alternative approaches only the Jedi could provide. My mother often spoke of the miracles she saw performed by the Force during the Clone Wars.   Cures far beyond what was then capable by science.”

Rey favors Smath with a fake smile and a confused look. She’s fooled many of Hux’s overly curious officers with this innocent confusion routine. “You mistake my visits, sir. I am but a—“

“I know what you are doing.” Smath overrides her. Apparently, this man is not so easily taken in. “And you are most welcome to do it.”

Rey opens her mouth to object again, but the old veteran raises a hand to forestall her. Like her husband, the Chief Healer is a man accustomed to command. He probably honed all the mannerisms of a boss decades before she was born, Rey realizes.

“Let us be frank with one another, Lady Ren. I know that you have the Force and I know that you use it to heal.” The Chief Healer chooses his words carefully now as he looks her straight in the eye. “I will not ask you how you learned this power.   I am concerned only that my patients receive the best care available. The politics behind that care are not relevant to me.”

Rey thinks a moment. Then nods. “We understand each other then.”

Smath turns his attention back to the patient. “Burns are awful injuries.  They are incredibly painful and usually scar horribly. Even bacta doesn’t help much.”

“Yes,” Rey agrees, thinking of the slashing wound she gave Kylo’s face. “My husband has burn scars.”

“I treated Ren after the Starkiller,” Smath reveals quietly. So, the Chief Healer is one of the few who has seen Kylo’s face. He’s seen the scars Rey gave him. “Those were not ordinary burns, Lady Ren.” The Chief Healer mistakes the testy tone of her comment for criticism of his work. “Burns from that heat temperature cauterize. They do not respond well to treatment.”

“Yes,” Rey sighs. “They were from a lightsaber.”

“Did he tell you?”

“I was there.”

Smath nods thoughtfully at this news. He eyes Rey a moment before asking, “Is it true that Ren fought the Jedi Skywalker on the Starkiller and lost?”

“Is that what everyone believes?” Rey thinks Kylo would not appreciate this rumor. He doesn’t need his men thinking he’s not up to the task of taking out Skywalker.

“It’s the prevailing theory,” Smath admits.

“Well, it’s wrong.” Rey states this firmly. “Kylo didn’t fight Skywalker on the Starkiller.” She meets the old healer’s eyes steadily and weighs how much to reveal. She has an impulse to trust this man, so she’s honest. “He fought me.”

Smath’s eyes widen. “Who are you? Are you Jedi?” the old man breathes out these words, almost in awe.

“I’m no one,” Rey corrects him sharply. “And I am not Jedi.”

From the disbelieving look Smath gives her, it’s clear he doubts her words. But he does not challenge her claim. “I am seventy-five standard years old, young lady.   That’s old enough to remember a time when the Jedi were heroes to some.”

“There are heroes on both sides of every war,” Rey observes. She knows this from personal experience, so her words come out bitter.

Smath is wise enough not to pursue the point. “This conversation is between us, Lady Ren, and us alone.”

Rey nods. “We understand each other,” she repeats.

After that, Rey comes and goes in the medibay without disruption. Smath takes to directing her to the patients he thinks would benefit most from her efforts. It is all done discretely. The crew of the Finalizer thinks Lady Ren’s medibay visits to be well intentioned morale boosting. Some speculate that she’s trying to make amends for her husband’s notorious cruelty. Others think Ren’s grand lady is a little bored with time on her hands.

Sitting still and quiet sequestered behind a curtain in the busy medibay, Rey learns a great deal about life aboard a star destroyer. And she overhears a surprising amount about herself.

She’s sitting with the burned TIE pilot again when two unsuspecting women bathing the adjacent patient give Rey an earful.

“—got that magic Force like Ren does. It’s true. We treated a trooper for a concussion after she threw him into a transport in the hangar bay. And when she woke up here, she threw poor Barta against the wall and knocked the wind out of her. She smashed that new droid into pieces too.”

Rey gets it—the Force is scary. She kind of agrees. But if they could see what she is doing now for this poor burned pilot, they might change their minds. Kylo’s Dark Side stuff—that’s scary. And the lightsabers—those are scary too. But these healing techniques are truly magical. More and more, Rey wonders whether healing is her true calling in the Force. Helping comfort people and easing their pain is much more appealing to Rey than ruling the galaxy ever could be. She would fail miserably at being a Sith. Rey has never had any ambitions beyond taking care of herself and Sheev.

“Oh, I don’t know. She seems nice enough when she comes in here but she’s really high maintenance behind the scenes. My friend was working second shift outside of her room when Ren came to visit and he said she ripped into him. He almost felt sorry for the Commander. Most people don’t know, but Ren was here constantly when she was out. Up all night for days on end holding her hand.  And then she woke up and he was gone. Came by once and she screamed at him and he never came back. I guess it serves Ren right if he has a bitch for a wife. They deserve each other.”

Rey grits her teeth. You’d be a bitch too if you were tortured by the Resistance and lost your baby because you were married to a Sith lord, she thinks. And if anyone is on the Finalizer is high maintenance, it’s Kylo Ren.  

“Yeah . . . she is tiny. Apparently, Ren told Smath not to worry because she never eats and to get her salt to snack on.  That’s so gross. Is salt some sort of new diet fad? She’s one of those Upper Level lady types who never eats so that she can fit into designer dresses. Barta found that white dress she wore last week on the holonet in a runway show. Thousands of credits for a single dress! Have you seen her red dress? I like that one better.”

Maybe Rey ought to be angry about this perception, but it’s too ridiculous not to laugh at. If the crew only knew who she really is beneath the veneer of Lady Ren.  Well, actually they wouldn’t believe it. It’s too preposterous to think that Kylo Ren would be married to an uneducated orphan scavenger from Jakku who’s a former Resistance fighter and First Order fugitive. Who nearly was the apprentice of the Jedi the Order wants to kill. And who helped to blow up the Starkiller.  You couldn’t make this stuff up if you wanted to, Rey thinks to herself.

“Oh, I agree. I don’t see it either. She’s really rather plain looking without all the makeup and hair. I just kind of assumed that if Ren had a wife, she’d be a knockout. I mean, he could choose any woman in the galaxy. I guess he likes them young—she can’t be more than twenty-five.”

It’s a good thing Jakku gave her a thick skin, Rey thinks.   As a scavenger, she received her share of scorn. Rey is starting to get the full picture of what it means to be married to Kylo. And, well, it’s a bit daunting. Along the way she had never focused on the fact that she was signing up to be First Lady of the galaxy. None of the public consequences of being Kylo’s wife had occurred to her at Bast Castle. She had only been concerned about what it would mean for herself and her son.

What had Kylo once told her about his family—that the personal is political? He had been talking about the Jedi and the Sith at the time, but really it applies here too. Rey had made a personal choice, thinking she was doing what was best for her family.   And maybe it was a quasi-political choice to reject the Resistance who had tried to steal her son. But marrying Kylo had never been about being an Empress. Still, like it or not, Rey realizes that she is well on her way to becoming a public face of the First Order.

The irony and the responsibility of this scare her.   Of all the future hopes and dreams Rey had nurtured through the years, her current life had never occurred to her.


 

Rey, Lady Ren is formally introduced to the galaxy at an execution.

The First Order is excellent at stagecraft, and today’s spectacle has all the hallmarks the holonet audience has come to expect: a massive assembly of officers and troops in the Finalizer hangar bay, a pale and stern-looking group of senior officers standing before the red and black standard of the Order, and a rousing speech by General Phelps.   The program is part eulogy for Hux and the Order officers lost at Bast, and part victory rally for the Battle of D’Qar, spiced up by live action bloodshed.

The main event is the demise of three Resistance fighters. One had overseen the prison bunker on D’Qar, one had led the raid on Bast Castle, and the last was senior enough at the Resistance headquarters that he must have known what was going on. There was some debate about the method of death, but ultimately Kylo Ren decrees that the men be executed the same as Hux had been. A reading of their sworn confessions followed by the firing squad. The Resistance holds no moral authority over the Order, and their prisoners will receive the same rough justice the Resistance themselves had given.

In other words, it is tit for tat.

It’s not the first time Rey has watched men die ceremoniously.   Last time, she had been shackled and tucked away off camera. Today, she will be the much scrutinized victim who looks on approvingly as her tormentors fall.   On her own behalf, and as representative for General Hux and his fallen comrades. Officially, Lady Ren is the sole survivor of the raid on Bast Castle. For the existence of Sheev Ren and Milo is kept from the press.

Rey allows her droid to spend an entire hour primping as she steels her mind for what is to come.   She dons the elaborate hooded cape embroidered black on black with the First Order insignia. Her blood red silk gown peaks from underneath as she moves.   It’s the outfit she wore to meet Kylo’s Sith Master, and her husband loves it. Telling Rey with pride that she has never looked more Lady Ren. Today, however, her hair is pulled back and piled up. The look is severe and somber.

Milo escorts her to the hangar bay. Rey is nervous and he steadies her.   Do not smile, do not fidget. Be composed, serious and aloof. Remember that cameras will be on you at all times from every angle. Rey nods her understanding. Then the keeper discretely tucks a white handkerchief into her palm ‘just in case.’

Kylo takes her hand and leads her up the dais. Where minutes before, the atmosphere had been one of a sporting event, now the assembly falls silent upon command. Many eyes watch as the First Knight and his lady take the stage. They are seen together publicly on the Finalizer for the first time and broadcast live to the galaxy at large. They take their places and Kylo nods to General Phelps. It begins.  

“Come and do your duty,” is how Kylo had phrased it. It is necessary that these men die to deter future attacks on our family.   And it is a rightful punishment, for there is no doubt of their guilt. Kylo knows this with certainty, for he has read their minds.   He adds that the senior officer who will die was on the committee that approved Rey’s interrogation. Kylo looks Rey in the eye as he tells her that the officer was directly responsible for her treatment. His execution is justice.

So Rey had agreed without hesitation. She owes this to her lost daughter. To the baby girl she won’t talk about but can’t stop thinking about at odd times during the day.

Rey looks on grimly as the condemned fall. She vaguely recognizes the prison bunker officer and the leader of the raid. But when the hood is pulled off the final prisoner, she knows him well. It is FN-2187. A traitor to the First Order. A Major in the Resistance. And before her twisting allegiances had torn them apart, he had once been very dear to Rey.  

Finn! Oh, Finn! Not Finn!

The cameras catch Lady Ren reaching for her husband’s gloved hand. She grips it tightly, crushing it in the moment. But there is no change in her outward expression. All the galaxy sees is the First Lady of the First Order, herself a victim of the condemned, in a subtle gesture of solidarity with her husband.

When it is over, Rey compliments General Phelps on his oratory. Phelps is no Hux, but his late mentor would have been proud to see his tradition of fervent orthodoxy continue. Then Rey pulls up her hood to shield her face from the cameras. She doesn’t wait for Kylo as she departs.   She has done her duty.

Now, it’s time to use Milo’s handkerchief.

Kylo catches up to her as she ducks into his quarters. No one will bother her there. In private now, he can yank off his mask and drop it on the table. She can fly fast into his arms to ugly cry. They never make it past that table.  

“I did this for you. To keep you safe.” Kylo pats her sobbing form in an attempt to console.   “No regrets, Rey. Only look forward, never look back.”

Those are words to live by for the wife of Kylo Ren. For what’s done is done, and cannot be undone.   From the Starkiller interrogation to Finn’s execution aboard the Finalizer, what’s done is done and Rey keeps accepting it.

She doesn’t have any better option.

In a moment of clarity, Rey realizes that Finn was right years ago on Takodano when he had tried to sign on with smugglers to disappear in the Outer Rim. Finn knew then what the galaxy at large has learned over the ensuing four years: the First Order is a fight you cannot win.   In the end, you only get to negotiate the terms of your surrender.

Rey had at first tried to hide. But Kylo Ren had cornered her and Sheev in the woods one afternoon. And then she had tried to run. But it turned out that the Resistance was no safe haven either. So ever since then, she’s been negotiating to survive.   Idealism is long gone and pragmatism rules the day and little by little Rey keeps surrendering bits and pieces of herself. She couldn’t beat Kylo Ren, so she has joined him. And as the consequences of that decision keep unfolding before her eyes, Rey struggles to make sense of it all.

What has become of the lonely girl who stupidly refused to sell a droid for sixty portions?   Rey stopped acting like that girl long ago. And she hasn’t looked like that girl for almost a year now. That girl would never recognize her present day self. Who am I, Rey wonders from time to time. I’m no one, she reflexively tells herself. But now, she’s no longer sure.

The chain of events leading to Rey standing hand in hand before the galaxy with Kylo Ren is too strange for fiction. And looking back on the sequence of decisions along the way, Rey can’t honestly say she would do any of them differently. She was always going to end up here in the end. Even before they slashed hands in the moonlight, Rey’s fate had been intrinsically linked to Kylo Ren.  

The vision with the lightsaber at Maz’s had foreshadowed their outcome before they had even met.

Ever the romantic, Kylo would call it destiny. But watching the lifeless body of her former friend sink to the floor, Rey thinks it’s more bad luck for the unfortunate Jakku orphan. She understands now that tragedy stalks all who come in close contact with the Skywalker clan. Marry a Skywalker or love a Skywalker and you’re doubly cursed, she thinks.

Was justice done? Rey isn’t sure.   The motivations seem suspect. Yes, Kylo Ren has executed a one-time traitor and a conflicted torturer.  But Finn was also his would-be romantic rival who once landed a blow or two on the First Knight in dark, snowy woods. Maybe, Rey thinks, Finn’s death was a convenient solution to resolve multiple problems. But whether it’s justice or vengeance, payback is a bitch.

Standing now in the comfort of Kylo’s arms, Rey’s tears fall for Finn. But they also fall for Padme Ren, for herself, for Hux and for the galaxy at large.

And bizarre as it seems, she is grateful for how today has played out. “Thank you for not telling me in advance,” Rey confides between sniffs. “I could never have made it through if I had known.” This small mercy has been the only mercy shown today.

She gives Kylo a glancing kiss of thanks and he brushes her cheek tenderly and suddenly they are all over each other.   His hot mouth covers her hot tears and the heat keeps building.

For Kylo, today the galaxy has seen his Empress. She has stood next to him, displayed before his armies, holding his hand and wearing his colors as he killed for her.   Pride and death and desire now roll into one for him, and Kylo is hot to have her.  

Rey thinks only of comfort. She needs closeness to reaffirm life after witnessing the First Order’s pageantry of death.

So her heavy cloak falls to the floor. The red dress unzips and it’s down to her waist fast.   Kylo catches up her skirt and finds her hidden pistol strapped to the inside of her thigh.   “Good girl,” he approves as he caresses up past the weapon and tears aside her delicate lace panties. Seeing Rey splayed on the table exposed with a blaster between her legs makes him so hard it hurts.

“Make me a baby, Kylo,” she moans as he drives into her. “Please . . . give me another child.” Rey wants new life to fill the aching void left in the wake of so much death and loss. She wants a new baby to be a new hope for the future.

She knows Kylo wants this too. That he would welcome another Sithling for his legacy of power, the next generation from the line of the Chosen One himself.   New life to mark the new beginning that will soon be his Second Empire.   For Kylo is close, so close, to winning it all.

Within hours she discovers that Rey, Lady Ren has her own First Order holonet entry as of today. It’s a few pictures and sparse details approved by the Order’s PR machine.   Rey reads that she is gracious and kindhearted and that she is a devoted wife and mother. A noncombatant kidnapped from her home by the Resistance, Lady Ren has only recently recovered from months of captivity and cruel torture. Rey raises an eyebrow as she reads that all details surrounding her family and her past are intentionally omitted for her own protection.   A prudent decision, yes. But also a convenient means to avoid an outright lie.

There are already over a thousand comments to her holonet entry. Rey skims the first few dozen. Then she puts down her datapad. Like the nurses in the medibay, it seems everyone has an opinion on Lady Ren.   Most of them are nasty.

Who am I? She’s Rey of Jakku who once had vowed to survive Kylo Ren. Well, things have changed and she has changed.   And now she’s Rey, Lady Ren. And this Rey wants more than just to survive. She wants to be happy. That’s what she had told Kylo the night he had confessed the Starkiller to her. That she had forgiven him because she wants to be happy. No, Rey thinks indignantly, she deserves to be happy.

So fuck the Resistance.   Fuck the Skywalker twins. Fuck the troopers laughing behind their helmets at her walk of shame across the hallway. Fuck the bitchy nurses in the medibay. Fuck the haters on the holonet. Fuck the whole damn galaxy.

She and Kylo and Sheev are going to live happily ever after. Rey will have the loving family she has always wanted, Kylo will have his precious Second Empire, and together they will be safe and happy. And that’s going to make everything that has happened along the way to get there worth it in the end.

Everything. Even Finn.

Chapter Text

It’s late when Rey finally leaves the bedside of the burned TIE pilot she has taken to dropping in on daily. The pilot is slowly improving and the medics hope to bring him out of sedation soon.   And, as far as Rey can tell, no one has come to visit him. So she’ll be back tomorrow. She doesn’t want him to feel alone after he wakes to so much bad news.

Maybe it’s the lateness of the hour or just all the time she’s spent healing the wounds of war, but Rey is reflective tonight. She gives the TIE pilot one last long look. He is about her age, maybe younger. He has his whole life ahead of him, and now that life will forever be scarred by war.

Kylo keeps talking about when the war is over. His soft zealotry has given way to a forced optimism when he speaks about how the end is in sight and soon things will be better. How together they will rule the galaxy. We will make things the way we want them to be, he promises. And then comes the lie she knows not to believe: we shall have peace. She’s been sleeping with a Sith long enough to know that peace is a lie.

Rey has experienced the war from both sides now, and she’s heard the call to arms from both perspectives.   And, well, they’re both right. Rey grew up on Jakku, so she didn’t need Hux’s speeches to be persuaded of the benefits of law and order, the evils of crime and corruption, and the need for opportunity for beings outside the Core Worlds.   But she cannot deny the desire for freedom and democracy, messy and inefficient though it may be.   If only it could all coexist and the lofty promises of both the First Order and the Resistance could come true. Then, maybe, there would be lasting peace. And there would be no more burned TIE pilots, no more children stolen to become stormtroopers and Jedi, and no more starving war orphans dumped on dead-end planets.

If she could, Rey would heal the wounds of this vast war torn galaxy.   But she can’t. So she tries to heal one person for one hour each day in the Finalizer medibay.    

It’s late and the lights of the medibay are dimmed. But Rey knows her way around by now and she heads for the exit. As she steps through the door she runs right into the starched uniform of General Phelps.

“Oh!” Rey jumps back in surprise. “Excuse me, General.” She’s embarrassed. That was clumsy of her. She steps aside to let him pass.

But the general doesn’t enter. “Lady Ren,” he nods to her. “I came looking for you.”

“For me?”   This is unexpected. Phelps looks uncomfortable and suddenly Rey has a bad feeling about this. Phelps is Kylo’s second in command, and he has come in person to find her late at night in the medibay. “Something’s wrong,” Rey blurts out. Oh, Gods, has something has happened to Kylo?

“Not er . . . wrong precisely. There is a matter for your attention, Lady Ren. If you would be so kind, perhaps you might accompany me to the detention block.”

Detention block? Uh oh. Now Rey definitely has a bad feeling about this. “What is this about, General?”

“Walk with me, Lady Ren.” Phelps gestures her into the hallway. It’s after third shift, so most on the Finalizer are off-duty or sleeping. Rey and the general have the privacy of the ship’s largely deserted corridors.  

“We have unexpectedly captured a very high value prisoner today.  Someone apparently known to you.” Phelps is speaking slowly and choosing his words carefully. Whatever this is, it’s not good. “In the absence of Kylo Ren, the prisoner is asking for you.”

“For me?” Rey stops abruptly in the hallway and her breathe catches in her throat. She’s uncomfortably aware that her Resistance past has just caught up to her.  “Who is asking for me?”

“It is a sensitive matter,” the general prevaricates. He seems kind of nervous.

Rey fixes him with a hard look. All this preamble and vagueness is frustrating. Phelps needs to spit it out. “Who, General?” she demands.

“She says that she is your mother.”

Rey’s heart sinks. “Mother?” she repeats slowly, closing her eyes.   More like mother-in-law. Shit. They must have General Organa.

This is more than her Resistance past catching up with her. This is the whole dysfunctional mess that is the Skywalker family about to be laid bare before the First Order.

“Leia Organa?” she whispers the words and General Phelps nods.

Rey turns away. She hugs her arms to her chest and raises a tired hand to her temple. Force healing is very draining plus it is late.   And now this. Just when she is mostly normal again and Sheev has settled back into routines and things had been going so well between her and Kylo, shit like this has to happen to fuck everything up. Rey sighs heavily. Maybe this was bound to occur eventually, but why tonight when her husband is away? Why is she the one always stuck dealing with his family on her own?

Rey half turns back to the general. “Does Kylo know that you have her?” she asks quietly.

“We have sent Ren a com with the details, yes. But he is six hours away in hyperspace. We would like to get her talking, if we can. And she wants to speak with you.”

“Oh, Kylo,” the words slip out and Rey has her face in her hands now. Poor Kylo. This is not going to end well.

At her side, General Phelps looks horrified. Rey can’t tell if that’s because he thinks he is asking Rey to help interrogate her own mother or whether the very idea that Rey knows someone in the Resistance is abhorrent to him. If it’s the latter, just wait until Phelps learns the whole truth. The general is likely to faint to the floor.

Phelps shifts his weight, clasps his hands before him and grimaces. He’s not liking this any more than she is. “I’m sorry, my lady. We did not know of your er . . . relationship with General Organa. I can appreciate that this is very difficult for you.”

“Do not hurt her!” Rey hisses this as she lunges toward Phelps. She raises hard eyes and waves an insistent finger under his nose. “Do not touch her before Kylo gets back!”

The general dismisses this out of hand. “This is a military matter.   It will be handled according to standard procedures—“

“No!” Rey is having none of his obfuscating military jargon. She listened to enough of Kylo’s conferences coms at Bast to know that the First Order has a myriad of euphemisms for pain. This is surely one of them.  

Yes, Leia Organa is the enemy. But she’s also a Princess and a statesman and a heroine and Kylo’s mother for Gods’ sake. But for the Jedi who killed Padme Skywalker and stole her children, the original Empire might still be standing with Leia Organa in its leadership. General Phelps thinks this is a Big Fucking Deal because the Order just nabbed the enemy general. But really, there’s much more going on here. And so Rey is going to take the high road and insist that the First Order show her mother-in-law the respect that Leia Organa had failed to show Rey during her captivity with the Resistance.

Leia Organa is a Skywalker, after all. And so this is both political and personal.   Only Kylo is qualified to make decisions here.

“You listen to me, General. Leia Organa is not my mother. She’s my mother-in-law. That’s Kylo Ren’s mother you have in a cell. So unless you want to feel his lightsaber, you will leave her alone and unharmed until he gets back in a few hours. My husband will handle this personally.”

“Ren?” General Phelps is standing there blinking at her. “She’s Kylo Ren’s mother??”

“Yes.” Rey nods to confirm. “Kylo will melt his hyperdrive to get back here, trust me. It won’t be a full six hours. In the meantime, do NOT hurt her.”  

Phelps is still gaping at her, processing what he has learned. “If she is Ren’s mother, that means that—“

“Darth Vader is Kylo’s grandfather.” Rey finishes the thought for him. She looks Phelps squarely in the eye. “And the Jedi Luke Skywalker is his uncle. All those conspiracy theories on the holonet are true, General.”

“All these years, Ren has been fighting his own family?” Phelps looks fascinated and appalled at the same time.

“Yes. After forty years, that family is still fighting over the galaxy.”

The general’s eyes narrow on Rey. She can almost see the suspicion forming in his mind. “Who are you in all of this? Why does she want to speak with you?”

Oh, General, Rey thinks. You have no idea. But you are going to get an earful tonight. Rey knows with certainty that if she speaks with Leia Organa, it’s all going to come out.   The whole ugly truth of her and Kylo Ren. And it will be bitter in the way only women can fight. There will be screaming and tears and maybe someone will die. Because they are Skywalkers and that’s how they do things.

The general is still looking at her expectantly, so Rey answers, “I’m stuck in the middle like everyone else. Trying to survive the Skywalker clan.” Again, Rey warns him sternly, “Do not hurt her! She is Darth Vader’s stolen daughter and she is above your pay grade, General. This is a matter for the Sith!” When Phelps doesn’t immediately agree, Rey falls back on her old habit of bargaining. “I will speak with General Organa on the condition that she will not be interrogated until Kylo returns to make the decisions.”

Phelps considers. She can tell he’s thinking six hours is a reasonable delay, all things considered. “Agreed,” he decides.

“I want your word on this, General.” Rey is wary. “You are personally guaranteeing to my family that Leia Organa will be well treated until my husband returns to deal with her.”

“Agreed.”

Wait--what did she just agree to do? Leia Organa is not exactly a friend to Rey. In fact, Rey kind of hates her . . . sort of. But she is also family . . . sort of. Kylo might not like his mother, Rey thinks, but that doesn’t mean he wants the Order to rough her up. And who beats up an old woman?

Well, there’s no turning back now. Time to start the damage control.

“General,” Rey’s voice is low and deadly serious. “You’re going to hear a lot about my family tonight. And you’re not going like some of it.” This is the understatement of the year, maybe of the decade. “My family conflicts are NOT for public consumption. I know that Kylo Ren and I can rely on your utmost discretion in this matter.” Rey fixes Phelps with a hard warning look. The I’m-Lady-Ren-and-I-can-tell-my-husband-to-kill-you look. “Please be certain that everyone in the detention center is similarly reliable. For their sake.”

Then Rey squares her shoulders and nods to Phelps. “I will speak with General Organa now. Show me to her.”


 

“Hello Rey.”

“That’s Lady Ren to you, prisoner,” snaps the First Order jailer at her side.

“It’s alright,” Rey says calmly as she takes a seat. “The General and I don’t stand on ceremony.” This conversation is likely to have plenty of conflict. Rey isn’t going to quibble over what Leia Organa calls her.

Rey takes a long look at the woman seated in shackles across the table from her. Leia Organa is a woman worn down by a lifetime of war. Ever the princess, she still wears her hair long in intricately wound plaits. But it has far more silver now than chestnut. These days, her dark brown eyes droop slightly at the corners. They seem to carry the weight of the galaxy in them. And she looks surprisingly frail. Petite though she is, Rey has always considered the Resistance leader to be formidable. The woman has presence. But today, she appears more tired grandmother than veteran statesman.

General Phelps nods to Rey. “We are right outside if she tries anything. The lieutenant here will stay with you.”

“Thank you, General. This won’t take long.”

“Is that Hux’s replacement?” Leia Organa eyes the First Order general as he exits.   Her tone suggests that she is less than impressed.   She leans forward conspiratorially. “They really don’t know who you are, do they Rey? To think that the First Order worries that the almost-Jedi girl needs protection from me. Do they know that you once defeated the great Kylo Ren with a lightsaber? That you slashed open the face of the man you now call husband?   He didn’t need the mask before, but he does now.”

Rey ignores her. But the nervous lieutenant beside Rey shifts in his seat.

“Why did you ask to speak with me?”  

“I want to know about my grandson. Can I see him? I’d like to see him again before I die.”

Seriously?? “No.” This woman has some gall asking to see Sheev after she once tried to steal him. And it’s the middle of the night and he is three years old. No. Hell no.

“Then tell me about him.”

This is about as safe a topic as she and Leia Organa will ever have to discuss, so Rey plays along. “He is well. Growing fast, learning fast. He’s much happier here than where we were living. He loves life on a star destroyer.”

“Yes, I remember how much he loved those toy ships when you brought him to D’Qar. Ben used to love toys like that.” A wistful smile tugs at the corners of Leia Organa’s lips. “I went back to find some old holosnaps of Ben after you left that day. Luke is right—Han looks a lot like Ben when he was young.” She sighs heavily and fixes Rey with a look of reproach. “Things would have been very different if you had stayed with the Resistance, Rey.”

Rey doesn’t want to rehash this. She keeps a poker face.   She can only imagine what General Phelps is making of this conversation next door.   And the young lieutenant beside her is really fidgeting now.

Leia Organa takes note of Rey’s non-reaction. “They are taping this, right? Is your general friend listening in now? Do they know who you are, Rey?”

“Oh, I’m sure this is taped and will be viewed and analyzed many times, General.” Rey gives her a tight smile. “But Kylo will just kill anyone he thinks will repeat anything indiscrete.” Rey shrugs. “Go ahead--spill all the family secrets. It won’t matter.”

“Will Ben kill them, or will he just erase their memory? Like the way he erased your memories of him attacking you on the Starkiller.” Leia Organa sits back in her chair and looks smug. “Finn told us everything when the First Order first reported you dead on Takodano. What’s that feel like, Rey? When he gets in your mind.”

“You’ll probably find out soon.”

“How many times has he done it to you, Rey? Do you even know afterwards? Do you know how many of your memories are really your own anymore?” Leia Organa shakes her head. “He has brainwashed you, hasn’t he? It’s the only way a nice girl like you could stay with Ben. I’ll bet you don’t even remember fighting for the Resistance. Look at you,” she waves a hand dismissively at Rey, “You’re a different person now.”

Rey says nothing.

“Ben is using you for your power, just like Snoke uses him. We have years of intel on Kylo Ren--we know what type of woman he favors. My son would never have given you a second look if you didn’t have the Force.”

“Why are you doing this?” Rey demands. “Why are you saying these hurtful things to me? This isn’t going to help your situation.”

“We both know that nothing is going to help my situation now. And you need to hear the truth. Ben has filled your head with lies.” The Rebellion’s princess sits forward and locks eyes with Rey. “I think you already know that you and your son are the endgame to this war. Snoke already played that game with my family and he won Ben. And now he and Ben are playing it with you and Han. Whatever side you choose will win in the end.”

Rey has heard this all before from Luke Skywalker. There’s no point in rearguing it. “Why do you do this? All this endless war over the Force. What is wrong with this family that every generation is a new fight?”

Leia Organa looks frustrated. “That general and his lackeys around here might not know what you are capable of, but Luke and I do. If you had only stayed with us, Luke would have trained you. And then you could have helped us destroy the Sith instead of joining them.”

“I don’t fight for the First Order. And I am not Sith.”

“You’re wearing their uniform,” Leia Organa observes tartly.

It’s true, Rey has come straight from the medibay and she is wearing her borrowed coveralls. And, oh how she wishes she were garbed as the haughty Lady Ren right now to give her some much needed confidence before the intimidating Princess Leia Organa. Rey is starting to better understand her husband’s posturing behind his mask and uniform. Rey wishes she were in her own uniform right now.

The prisoner sees that she has scored a hit. “Yes, our intel shows that you mostly just float around here looking pretty. Rey, you could still make a difference in this war. You could be so much more than his trophy wife.”   Alderaan’s famed survivor looks sideways at Rey. “Or do you like it when everyone bows and scrapes to the scavenger girl from Jakku? I know the princess treatment when I see it. Does that make you feel important? Is that why you stay with him? For the status of being his wife? Because Luke can give you all the status and glory you want as a Jedi.”

“I spend my time taking care of my son. That’s important. Maybe things would have turned out differently if you had done more of the same.”   It is a low blow, but Leia Organa is starting get to Rey.   And she doesn’t like being belittled for prioritizing motherhood over war and the Force.  

“I had a Republic to build,” the General snaps back.    

“And look how well that turned out,” Rey sneers her rejoinder. “You’ve never cared for anything more than your revolution, have you?” she grumbles. Oh Gods, she sounds snippy just like Kylo when he’s mad.   Rey can tell this is going to degenerate into a screaming match fast.

Leia Organa scowls back at her and for a moment Rey is strongly reminded of her Sith husband. But the Resistance general too must sense that things are heading downhill. She shifts gears and softens her tone. “You can’t save Ben.   No one can. I thought that there was good in Ben, but I was wrong. I sent my husband to his death because I was wrong.   So if you are thinking that when the war is over things will get better, they won’t.   Ben is a monster and he will never change unless he wants to change.”

This speech again? Skywalker had tried this one too. Rey rolls her eyes. She is no fool. She knows who her husband is. “I’m not looking to change Kylo. I accept him for what he is. And stop calling him Ben. He’s not your little boy anymore.”

Leia Organa shakes her head slowly. “He will never love you, Rey. Sith do not love. And you are a fool if you trust him.”

Rey stiffens at these words. She doesn’t want a lecture on love from a woman who has been at war with her own son for years. “My son loves me. That is enough! That is more than I have ever had before, and it is plenty.” Rey can’t help herself. She eyes the General coldly before adding, “It’s more than you can say for yourself.”

“Don’t you worry sometimes about what Ben will do to your son?” General Organa says this quietly, insidiously. “How one day he and Snoke will torture your boy to make him Sith? How they will hurt him until he is filled with rage and hate from Darkness? It starts young, Rey. Ben wasn’t ten years old before it was clear something was terribly wrong with him. And he was barely fifteen when he was slaughtering his classmates. Snoke and Ben will make Han into a ruthless murderer. Obsessive, impulsive and violent just like Ben. If you love your son, you will get him far, far away from his father.”

“Shut up, old woman! Stop blaming your failure as a mother on the Dark Side. Kylo loves our son and he has promised never to hurt him.”

Leia Organa has been a diplomat and a negotiator for decades, so she knows that Rey’s reaction means her warnings have hit a nerve. She presses on. “You are a fool if you trust Ben.   Get out now while you can. Take your boy, steal a ship and run to Luke. My brother will protect you.”

“No. Kylo and I are not going to end up like your parents. We will stay together and raise our boy.”

“Oh, Rey.” Leia Organa is looking at her like she’s a silly child who believes in fairytales. “If there is one thing you should learn from our family, it’s that there are no happy endings on the Dark Side.   It always ends in tragedy.”

Rey scoffs at this. “I will not break up my family. Unlike you and your brother, I am loyal to my family.”

“Sith only love power, Rey. And they will destroy anything and anyone who gets in their way. One day you’re going to end up like my mother. Dead at the hands of her Sith husband who professed to love her forever before he choked her.  You will end up dead and your son will be a monster.  Listen to me, Rey--it always ends in tragedy!”

Leia Organa has landed another hit and she has struck a raw nerve. Rey practically leaps from her chair. “Do not speak to me of tragedy!   Lately, it’s the Light Side that has been harming me, not the Dark Side. Tell me, mother,” Rey spits out this last word, “did you approve my interrogation?”

Leia Organa shifts in her seat. “I recused myself from that decision, Rey.”

“Recused? You recused yourself??” Rey is incredulous at this claim. “You dare to argue with me like you are some lawyer? As if you were not responsible? As though you had no influence? At least Kylo owns his deeds!”   Suddenly, the Resistance general won’t meet her eye. It infuriates Rey. “I was pregnant! All those drugs they gave me killed the baby. It was a girl. Your Skywalker granddaughter.”

Across from her, Leia Organa recoils. She looks genuinely shocked at this news. And perversely, Rey takes comfort from her distress. “Oh Rey, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. You should have said something.”

“Right!” Rey stands looming over the older woman now. “I should have told the jailers that I was the pregnant wife of Kylo Ren. How long do you think I would have had to wait before someone from the Resistance punched me in the stomach as payback to Kylo? And if I had managed to avoid that, you and Luke Skywalker would have been salivating over the chance to steal the child.   Another magical Force baby you could train to one day kill her father. Patricide is the family business, isn’t it?” Rey is yelling now. She’s never felt so angry. She whirls away to stalk across the small room. She needs to put physical distance between herself and Kylo’s mother.

Leia Organa’s voice is a quiet rasp. “You should know.” The General stares back at her equally frustrated. “You watched Ben kill his own father.   And then you married him. You married a man who tortured you, who raped you, who kidnapped you, who imprisoned you. Have you no self-respect? You foolish, desperate girl! You are his victim and he has so successfully manipulated you that you can’t stop defending him. You are throwing away your future and your son’s future. Ben isn’t worth it. Trust me.”

No, Leia Organa does not get to do this, Rey thinks. She does not get to trash Kylo to her any longer. Kylo the son she mostly ignored for her own pursuits. Kylo the son she forced into Jedi training. Kylo the monster that Leia Organa and Han Solo unwittingly helped to create. Rey is back at the table now, pounding it and hollering in Leia Organa’s face.

“You don’t know him! You only see the worst in him! There is more to Kylo than war and power and killing. But you’re a Skywalker so everything is black and white, good and bad, Dark and Light. Listen to me, Leia Organa, you are not all good. And Kylo is not all bad. He will make the future better for the galaxy--we will have order and peace. And together he and I will remake the Force--there will be no more warring between Jedi and Sith. My Kylo—he—he will surprise you. If you live long enough to see it.” Rey stops and steps back, collecting herself. Things have gotten way out of hand. Right now, Rey wants nothing more than to run away and cry.   And oh, why did Kylo’s bitch of a mother have to say the word rape out loud? That was just cruel.

Leia Organa is unimpressed by Rey’s outburst. “You are so lost in his lies and in his Darkness that you can’t see the truth any longer. You need to leave Ben and get out now while you can.”

And that’s when Rey really loses it. “I TRIED!” she hollers. “I ran to you for help and you refused! I was desperate because he—we--,” Rey falters, recalling her frantic confusion after that first wild night in Kylo’s arms. “I had one chance to get away. And when I needed help most, you refused me! I was willing to give you Kylo’s shuttle with half the secrets of the First Order on it. With everything you needed to plot a strategy to win this war. And that still wasn’t enough for you—you had to have my son too.” Rey stops, only now realizing that she’s just admitted to the Order that she plotted high treason with the enemy’s commander.

“You can still get out. Luke will help you.” Leia Organa keeps repeating herself. But she’s a broken record of self-interest as far as Rey is concerned.

“No! You had your chance and it is too late now,” Rey’s voice shakes with barely contained frustration. Everything about Leia Organa and her brother disappoints and angers Rey. Gods, how she hates Kylo’s fucking family. “I’ll never join you! I trusted you once and it ended with you trying to put my two-year-old in a prison cell.”

Consumed with resentment, Rey has forgotten now about the audience in the next room and the shocked lieutenant at her side.   She lays bare the hidden hurt that underlies it all. “You don’t get it, do you? All I have ever wanted was a family. I waited for years on Jakku for my family who threw me away.   But then Kylo found me and he wanted me. He valued me! Enough that he wouldn’t let me leave him. We have our own family now. And yeah it’s not perfect, but I am not letting you or anyone else ruin that for me! My family is all I care about—I don’t give a damn about the Jedi and the Sith or the Resistance and the Order. None of that matters to me!”

Rey slams her right hand down hard on the table and raises her left. Displaying the healed slash wound inches from her mother-in-law’s face. “See this?? This is forever! This matters! I am never leaving Kylo! I am his and he is mine, together forever in the Force. We are happy now! And if I have to drown in the Dark Side with him to stay that way, then so be it!”

Rey steps back. She trembling. “We’re done here, Lieutenant.” Rey nods to the nervous and wide-eyed young officer who looks like he is about to choke from all he’s heard.   “I’m done.”

“Wait—wait, Rey!”

“What?” Rey spits out the word. She won’t even look at Leia Organa any longer.

“Listen to me--leave Ben! Take your boy, steal a ship, run to Luke. Get out now while you can. It’s the only way to save your son.”

“Let’s go, lieutenant. Open the door NOW.”

Chapter Text

Kylo’s long strides pound the floor as he stalks out of the cell bay. The few nightshift crewmen who are about freeze and stare in terrified fascination at the still lit lightsaber blazing in his right hand.  Their small minds radiate a mix of fear and respect and damn it feels good as he sweeps by.

. . . need to leave him and get out now while you can . . .

He should not have watched that fucking tape before he went into the interrogation cell. That had been a mistake. Hell, there should not have even been a tape of Rey speaking with the prisoner. That fucker Phelps had no business pushing his wife anywhere near his viper mother.   But his clueless general had no way of knowing the trap he had fallen into. No one save he and his Master knows the importance of Rey and Sheev to the future. And so the First Order had unwittingly given his mother a last-ditch, hail-Mary opportunity to win the war by luring away his wife and son to Skywalker.  

Lucky for him his mother is such a bitch that Rey hadn’t even been tempted.

. . . using you for your power, just like Snoke uses him . . .

And then his incompetent officers had focused on the shocking reveal of it all and missed the whole damn point about the importance of Rey to the war’s outcome. So rather than recognizing that the First Order already had the two people the Resistance was desperate to get, he had watched troopers bust in to slap cuffs on Rey as an officer announced she was under arrest. His wife had been unfazed. Rey had agreed that was fine so long as she didn’t have to share a cell with his mother.

. . . wasn’t ten years old before it was clear something was terribly wrong with him . . .

Kylo hadn’t wasted any time listening to Phelps stutter out a feeble explanation. He had lit his saber and cleaved the man in two. It’s what his grandfather would have done. Darth Vader did not suffer fools gladly and neither will Kylo Ren. Only two people have authority over his Empress: his Master and himself.   Kylo Ren has made that abundantly clear tonight.

. . . if I have to drown in the Dark Side with him . . . so be it . . .

He had waved his hand at the cell door to open. Then waved his hand again and her restraints fell to the floor.   His Rey climbed stiffly to her feet and stood before him silently. Then he had offered out his gloved hand and she had grabbed hold tightly.

Kylo had led her quickly down the cellbay and past the smoking corpse of General Phelps. Standing close, he had brushed a stray lock of hair from her cheek. Go to bed, he had told her softly. She didn’t need to see what was coming next. Rey had nodded and was gone.

. . . . well, if it isn’t the galaxy’s greatest disappointment . . .

Walking into the cell, Kylo couldn’t decide if this moment was a dream come true or a nightmare. But fuck, this is really happening. It started like a conversation with Hux—all testy slights and sarcasm—only they both knew this wasn’t a verbal brawl that would end in a draw.

Look how old you’ve become. It was true. In the almost twenty years since he had seen his mother, she had aged at least thirty. But he had to admit that she was beautiful still.   And though he had schooled himself on the shuttle ride to refer to her as the prisoner, standing before her the word mother kept falling from his lips.

You’re not half the man your father was. She went right for it, as he knew she would. She is always so predictable in her anger.   How could you? Why did you?   How dare you?   His mother had almost four years to rehearse this confrontation and she was just warming up. Then it was on to more comparisons. I knew Darth Vader and you’re no Darth Vader. Take that ugly mask off. You look like a fool. And so he had taken it off. How he enjoyed watching her reaction.

. . . I had a Republic to build . . .

With Rey, his mother had been the same overbearing nag he remembered from his childhood. Attempting to micromanage him and everyone else.   So used to getting her way by wearing people down with the same arguments over and over. These are the tactics she had used for years unsuccessfully in the senate.  And at home, steadily they had driven his father away.

It’s a good thing his mother never trained as a Jedi, he thinks. Or that spiteful bitch would haunt him forever as a Force ghost. Leia Organa never did know when to quit.  

. . . throwing away your future and your son’s future . . .

Listening to her catalogue the evils of the First Order, all he can think is that she and Mothma had squandered everything. It was the height of hubris to have torn down his grandfather’s empire only to leave it all to decay in ruins for the next thirty years. All the Rebellion leadership knew was how to obstruct and to foster discontent and disorder. None of them had the vision or skills to build something new. His mother and the rest of her revolutionaries had been unprepared to lead.

Really, his mother’s most effective moments were as a terrorist. Leia Organa is at her best when destroying things: two Death Stars, an empire and the Starkiller. The rest of her career is an unremarkable list of task forces and committees that never actually resolve a damn thing.

. . . will end up like my mother. Dead at the hands of her Sith husband . . .

You will not take her from me. That’s the last thing the prisoner had heard before the saber came arcing down. Tonight had not been quiet and deliberate like with Han Solo. It had been an impulse of violent rage. He is a possessive Sith, and he will kill anyone who tries to take what is his.   Especially his Rey.

The kill had been quick, he soothes himself. And it had been clean. She was his mother, after all.

But she had deserved it. He refuses to regret this.

She had deserved it for mocking Rey’s commitment to Sheev. It pleases him that his wife spends her time mothering instead of legislating and warring like Leia Organa had done.

She had deserved it for planting seeds of doubt and fear to undermine Rey’s fragile confidence in him. It’s so hard for his wife to trust, he knows.

She had deserved it for righteously railing about rape and self-respect.   Shaming his sweetly forgiving wife before witnesses.

She had deserved it for warning of tragedy, all the while blithely ignoring her own role in the loss of their daughter. Fuck her recusal bullshit—it was a coward’s way out.

And, yeah, she is the fucking enemy general so she would have died in the end anyway.  So he doesn’t need to justify this to anyone. Not even himself.

. . . your grandfather couldn’t make me talk and you won’t either . . .

He might have waited to let them interrogate the prisoner. To get all the Resistance secrets before a showy public execution.   But Kylo would tolerate no such delay.   In one swift stroke, he had resolved a personal and political conflict that had festered painfully for years.

At long last, the heroine Resistance general is gone. But more importantly, the Light is dimmed by her loss. The First Order’s creeping onslaught across the galaxy is important. But it is far less important than the Force.

His hyper-focused, technical generals don’t understand this. They think his sad devotion to the ancient religion to be an eccentricity.   So they budget in line items for repairs for his rages and call it a day. They don’t know the power of the Dark Side.

. . . you and your son are the endgame to this war . . .

They are small-minded men who don’t suspect the truth and wouldn’t believe it if they were told.   Well tonight, they had been told. And, naturally, they did not believe. Which is why that fucker Phelps had thrown his longsuffering wife in a cell.

The secret is out that the Force is the crux of the conflict and the essence of the eternal war. And that is why the Skywalkers ever shall rule. It’s just a matter of which one, on which side. But with the Sith ascendant, tonight another Skywalker has become one with the Force. Add his mother to the list of Skywalkers killed by one of their own. A Skywalker is dead. Long live the fucking Skywalkers.

. . . you will never be as strong as Darth Vader . . .

That old bitch’s scorn had diminished him and he was fourteen again tonight. All anger without focus, raw ability without proper training, so much potential no one would acknowledge but mysterious Master Snoke. Kylo Ren has been a man for years now, but standing before the prisoner he had been reduced to a sullen teen.  

Tonight his mother had made him weak, like Han Solo made him weak. And, really, that’s why she had to die.  

. . . would never have given you a second look if you didn’t have the Force . . .

He heads down the corridors to his quarters. Kylo has one purpose now, and that is Rey. She is the woman who makes him stronger. The woman who accepts him as he is. The woman with no agenda except their son. The woman who had brandished her scarred hand in his mother’s face and shouted that she would never leave him.  

His Rey is everything Leia Organa is not. And Kylo Ren is desperate for his Rey and for her Light.

. . . she will snap out of it eventually. She will see you for who you really are . . .

He throws down his mask and his sword as he enters.   Drops his surcoat on the floor. Relief floods him as he unbuttons, unbuckles and unzips.

She is here. In a fitful, restless semi-sleep. Awaiting her Sith.

Because she knows that he needs her.

The siren’s call of her Force imprint never loses its appeal, and tonight it is hypnotic. For the darker his deeds, the stronger his call to her Light. Nothing stokes his desire for her like death.   He’s like the proverbial moth to her flame and tonight he will gladly scorch in her Light.  

“Give it to me!”

It’s a plea more than a demand as he shakes Rey awake roughly.   Then covers her body with his own.

“Kylo?   What are you—“   He silences her with his mouth. It’s not a lover’s kiss, it’s a misplaced assault.   Full of anger at someone else and desperation for himself.

Rey is taken by surprise and she lays passive beneath him.

His still gloved hands paw at her body, pulling up her nightgown. “Give me your Light. I need this . . . help me, Rey, help me.”

“Kylo, what have you done?”

The question pauses him for a moment, but then thinking of what has transpired he redoubles his efforts. Certain that this is the cure that he needs. Just a little fix of her Light and all will be well again.   He will be forgiven. Gods, how he needs to be forgiven.

Rey’s nightgown frustrates him so he grabs at the neckline and tears. It’s very satisfying to rend it in two.   Even small violence seems to help tonight. Then his lips are on her neck and his teeth are on her shoulder.   She winces at the first love bite.

“She was the past, Rey. I had to do it. I couldn’t build my future with her alive.”

His gloved hands dip lower. Working her the way he knows she likes it. He feels his Rey thawing. Yes, he knows she loves his touch right there.

“Kylo, what have you done?”

“She will not split up our family. I made sure of that. I did it for you, Rey.”

He slips his tongue in her mouth as he slips his fingers in down below. And she moans for him.   Writhes for him. Opens for him. And he can’t stop the words that tumble forth between kisses and pants. He needs to unburden his soul to the one person who can help.

“They are dead now—both of them. I have killed my parents, Rey.”

He hears his voice crack and something in him cracks too. And he’s losing control fast.

“Oh, Kylo.”

Rey reaches up to cup his face with her hands and he feels the first tear sneak its way out. It drips down to splash on her face. Reflexively, he squeezes his eyes shut. It’s a futile attempt to keep the tears in and to hold back the flow of emotion bottled up for almost two decades now.

He tries, but fails. For the enormity of what he has done is sinking in now.

“I-I-I’m all alone now.” He stumbles over these words. And, oh Gods, he starts to sob. He feels her pull him close, his head on her chest, her fingers stroking his hair. She’s soothing him now like she soothes their son. And really, that how he feels right now. Like a little boy who needs his mother.

“Kylo, you are not alone. You have me and Sheev. We are your family. We will always be here for you.” The words sound so soft and good. This is the comfort he needs.  

It is the comfort he will always need, for the Dark Side takes its toll. So now the man who commands is reduced to begging. “You cannot leave me, Rey. Ever. No matter what happens. You are mine.” Mine, mine, mine.  

She placates him like the sobbing man-child he is. “I will never leave you.” It’s a promise he commits to memory, burns into his brain. For he needs to rely on her.

But he’s anxious and uncertain, so unlike himself. Brought low tonight by his actions. So he rushes to demand reassurance. “I can’t do this without you, Rey. There will be so much work to do once the war is over. I can’t do it alone.”

He wants no future without Rey by his side.   For he needs her and her Light. That’s impossible for him to deny after tonight.

“I will help. I will never leave you. I will always be with you.”

He believes her, he trusts her. Because his Rey is the only person who ever left him and then came back.  

“Once they loved me.   And now they’re gone. No one will ever love me again.”

“Oh, Kylo!” She sniffs, and when he raises himself up he sees that Rey is crying now too. Her eyes brim with tears in sympathy for her Sith. Insight flashes up to him and he knows with certainty that she aches to see him like this. She doesn’t approve of what he’s done, but she understands. And that is good enough for him.

She is the aggressor now, the roles are reversed. For his Rey knows what he needs. Her lips find his as she pulls him down, wrapping her legs around him. Hands reaching to push down his trousers. It’s the encouragement that he needs.

Soon she is spreading her legs to invite him in. So warm and welcoming. So slick. Her arms that wrap around him are motherly but her body envelopes him tight like a lover.   Oh, yes, he is home and Rey and her Light will make it all better.

This is not their usual romp, the fast sprint to climax. Tonight he moves slowly, stroking deeply, repeatedly.   This is old-married sex, an intimacy that knows no hurry. It is savored and paced.   Rey is smiling as her tear-stained eyes stare back at his.   And he is moved to ask, “Will you lie to me, Rey? Lie to me and tell me you love me.” He needs this now, just for tonight.   “Please.”

“I do love you, Kylo. I do.”

“Keep lying to me, Rey. I need your love. I don’t deserve it, but I need it.”

She is clenching down and he can tell she is close. And he is almost there too. He can’t prolong this much longer. He is so, so close to her Light.

His emotions have been building for hours. First the excitement and dread on the flight back to the Finalizer, next his seething anger at the tape of Rey’s interview, later his rage at seeing her arrest, then the adrenaline rush of the confrontation and death. And now, after the flood of tears there is his hot lust for sex.

He is a Sith who for decades has practiced channeling his emotions into pure power. So tonight as his body finds his release, the Force too is unleashed. Instinctively, his hands shoot up and out just in time to protect her. Then the sudden crack of Force lightning flares out from his fingertips to streak in both directions around the room.

This is the raw elemental power of the Dark Side that only a Sith can wield.

He is steeped in Darkness now as power and pleasure combine as one. The Dark Force ignites from his hands as his seed spews deep into her body, and all the while her Light shimmers while her body spasms around him. Light and Dark mate together as one tonight. The legacy of balance long prophesized is theirs.

Somewhere out there Luke Skywalker senses this. And snug in his stronghold his old Master feels it too. Tonight the Light has dimmed then flickered while the Darkness reigned supreme.

Afterwards, they are side by side, gazing on one another. Breathless in the aftermath. Each awestruck by the display of power. Each humbled by the talk of love.

Rey reaches to brush back his hair and her eyes are soft on his. “Don’t look back.” She whispers this with certainty, for Rey herself has learned the wisdom of these words. “Never look back.”  

He nods. Then tells her what he has suspected for months but only known with confidence tonight. “I love you, Rey.”  

She looks solemn as she tells him, “Kylo, I know. I love you too.”


 

She waits for him to fall asleep. Then Rey creeps from their bed and drags back on her clothes. On her way out, she passes the table with his mask and saber.

Rey pauses to stare at the distinctive weapon. First it had killed Han Solo and now it has killed Leia Organa. And once it had been poised at her own neck long ago. Impulsively, Rey grabs the lightsaber and stuffs it into the back of her belt. She might need it for what she’s going to do next.

It’s not quite night but it’s not really morning yet. The halls of the Finalizer are empty as Rey quickly makes her way back to the detention center.   There’s been a shift change since she left here in a teary hurry only hours ago. So as Rey marches in, two guards move to block her way. It takes only the briefest second of concentration for Rey to fling them into the walls with the Force. No one is going to divert her from this task.

And, as usual, a Force-push gets everyone’s attention.

“Who’s in charge here?” Rey demands imperiously.

A young lieutenant at the datadesk looks at her warily. “Hey, you’re missus—“

“Yes. I am.” Rey doesn’t let him finish. “Who’s in charge here?” With General Phelps dead, Rey isn’t sure of the chain of command any longer.

The lieutenant speaks up. “I’ll page the major. He went for some caf.” But it turns out there’s no need because the major in question saunters through the door a moment later and blinks at the scene.

He clearly doesn’t recognize her. Which isn’t surprising given that Rey is wearing a rumpled tech’s coveralls and her hair is in a hasty ponytail. Whatever makeup she had on yesterday has long since worn off. Lady Ren out of uniform might as well be anyone on the Finalizer.

“Did you get lost, mechanic? You’re a little far from the hangar bay,” the major drawls good-naturedly then takes a sip of caf. “This is the maximum security detention block. Run along, please. We’ve had a busy night already.”

The lieutenant at the datadesk attempts to explain, “Sir, this is—“

“Orders are to keep all unnecessary personnel away, especially tonight. Now run along--”

“Major,” Rey begins. “I have some instructions for you.”

“I don’t take instructions from non-commissioned personnel, girl. Now run along.“   He turns to walk to the data desk.

“Sir, this is—“

The lieutenant never finishes his sentence. He falls silent at the dual snap-hiss of the lightsaber igniting. The major too reacts to the sound, raising his head from the monitor he is inspecting to find the glowing red tip of Kylo Ren’s crossguard lightsaber poised at his neck. Startled, he drops the cup of caf and it spills everywhere.

Rey stands as tall as she can. Her arm is extended holding the saber straight out and close enough to nearly nick the major’s chin. And Gods, she had no idea Kylo’s sword was so heavy and so darn long. She almost took this guy’s head off as she swung it up.

“Now do I have your attention, Major?” Her voice is deadly calm.

“That’s Ren’s—“

“Yes, it is. And I am Ren’s too.” Rey raises her chin and gives him her best aloof Lady Ren expression. She watches as understanding dawns on the major’s face.

“Lady Ren,” he breathes these words out more than says them. Eyes wide and shifting between Rey and the crackling lightsaber poised at his neck.

“Very good.” Rey nods her acknowledgement. “Now, I have some instructions for you. A prisoner was executed here tonight. The Resistance general.”

“That’s classified,” the major chokes out.

Rey steps closer with the humming blade and the officer scuttles back from its tip.

She repeats, “The Resistance General Leia Organa was executed here last night.”

“Yes,” the major hastily agrees this time.

“I want General Organa’s body sent to the hangar bay and ready for transport. That she is the enemy is irrelevant. You will show General Organa all the dignity, honor and respect due to Darth Vader’s daughter. Get me a shuttle ready with a full squad of troopers for escort.   You have one hour, Major. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“If I get to the hangar bay and my instructions are not carried out, then I am sending my husband directly to you. You will answer to Kylo Ren the same way General Phelps did last night. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Then Rey heads to find Milo.

An hour later she is Lady Ren in her black cloak and red dress with perfect hair and subtle makeup walking swiftly through the hangar bay. Kylo’s castle keeper, long the faithful manservant of the Sith, is at her side.

A shuttle awaits them primed for takeoff. A full squad of stormtroopers in dual lines flank the entry ramp. Alongside the shuttle is a coffin draped in the red and black standard of the Order.

Milo nods approvingly and Rey exhales. She is satisfied.

She takes Leia Organa to Naboo. There Kylo’s mother is simply and quietly laid to rest in the Naberrie family tomb alongside Padme Amidala Naberrie Skywalker. Mother and daughter who never knew each other alive are reunited at last in death.  

Rey cannot change the past.   The fractures in the Force and in her family are real conflicts, not to be discounted. None of them are Rey’s fault. But more and more, they seem to be Rey’s responsibility. She’s a Skywalker now, so maybe it’s fitting.

Afterwards Rey lingers for a few minutes, tracing her hand over the engraved nameplate for Kylo’s grandmother. She remembers the portrait of sad Lady Vader at Bast Castle. And she recalls the old holonet pictures of the smiling Senator Amidala in happier times.   And though Rey is a far cry from the glamorous, educated and accomplished Queen of Naboo, Rey likes to think that she and Padme Skywalker might have understood one another. In a way few other women could ever understand their lives and their choices. For she and Padme each loved a Sith.

Had Darth Vader been drawn to the Light, she wonders. Had Padme too seen glimmers of good in her Sith husband? There’s so much Rey would ask Lady Vader, if only she could.

Standing there in the quiet tomb with Milo at her side, Rey is at peace. Last night, screaming at Leia Organa, Rey had done what was necessary to keep her family together. For that’s what Lady Ren so desperately wants for herself.   And today, many years too late, she has given that to Lady Vader.

Kylo is waiting for her in the hangar bay when the shuttle returns to the Finalizer. He knows where Rey has gone. He knows what Rey has done.   He simply says thank you. Then he pulls her gently into his arms to hold her a moment, the metal of his mask brushing against her black velvet hood.

The embrace of the Sith lord and his lady is in full view of the Finalizer hangar bay. It lasts but a moment before they part. Then together they head for Rey’s quarters and for their little boy. It’s bedtime and there are stories to read.

Chapter Text

When Rey finds a message on Sheev’s datapad telling her a package will be arriving with something for her to wear, Rey grins. This must mean Kylo is on his way back to the Finalizer. And if he’s sending her something to wear, it must be another nightie. Will it be red lace like the last one? Who knew the man who wears only black would have such a thing for color?

But when the package arrives at her quarters, it’s not an elegant box from Corsucant. It’s her bar maid’s tunic and skirt from Takodano. Milo must have kept it all this time at Bast.

Well, okay. It’s the furthest thing from sexy and, honestly, it raises memories Rey would rather not revisit. But whatever makes the man happy. It’s not like she’s going to have it on for very long anyway.

The next message tells her to wear the outfit under her cloak and to meet Kylo in the hangar bay at his shuttle at 0700 tomorrow morning. Bring Sheev and plan to be gone the entire day.

Now Rey is intrigued.

The next morning, Rey dutifully reports with Sheev to Kylo’s command shuttle. As she walks up, Sheev is wiggling in her arms so she puts him down and he runs headlong up the shuttle ramp.

Rey is hot on his heels up and into the shuttle when the first thing she sees is Nestor Ren, Kylo’s second knight. He’s out of his uniform and wearing civilian clothes. Beside him is a very tall woman in a vivid blue tunic and slacks. She’s got short silver blonde hair and milky white skin and she’s striking. Before Rey can ask what’s going on, she hears her husband’s voice. She can tell he’s unmasked.

“Is Rey here yet?” Kylo appears around the corner and he too is in civilian clothes. Rey stares. He’s not wearing black. It’s a beige tunic and brown pants and boots. She’s never seen Kylo wear anything but black. Even the man’s bathrobe is black.

Apparently, Rey is not the only one who’s surprised by this.

“Look at you, Ren. You look like a fucking Jedi,” Nestor Ren points and laughs heartily.

“Jedi killer,” Kylo corrects him with a smirk. “And you look like some middle management desk jockey. Like an accountant on his day off.”

Nestor grins. “Then it’s best not to mess with me, Ren. They say the stylus is mightier than the sword, remember?”

“Not in my case,” Kylo shoots back. Sure enough, Kylo’s ever present lightsaber is strapped to his waist.

Rey figures it’s time for her own reveal, so she tosses back her hood and unclasps her voluminous cloak. Underneath she’s wearing her Takodano outfit complete with her sensible well-worn ankle boots. Her hair is pulled back tight in her signature trio of buns from her Jakku scavenger days years ago.

“Gods, Rey,” Kylo breathes out. It’s his turn to stare. She meets his eyes and Rey instinctively knows that he is remembering that fateful day in the woods a year ago. So much has changed since that afternoon when Kylo had almost abandoned his secret son to die.

“Yeah, no one would recognize you in that get up, Lady Ren,” Nestor chuckles. “All you need is an apron and you could be a waitress,” he observes more rightly than he knows.

Kylo is still staring and he doesn’t exactly look pleased. More like haunted.

“It’s alright, Kylo,” Rey reassures him softly, reaching up awkwardly to the back of her collar. There’s still a bloodstain there from when the First Order had put a slave collar on her, and Rey belatedly realizes that with her hair up it will show. The scar will probably show too. “It’s just an outfit,” she whispers.

“Yeah, it’s alright,” he agrees after a moment, still looking thoroughly rattled. “Where is Sheev?” he changes the subject.

“Probably in the cockpit pushing buttons and driving your pilot insane,” Rey answers easily, anxious to lighten the mood. Nestor Ren and the tall woman are watching them both closely.

“Nah, here he comes,” Nestor Ren crouches down as Sheev comes racing through the shuttle. “Give me five, little Ren!” Sheev dutifully smacks the knight’s upraised hand with glee.

“You must have kids,” Rey remarks, observing this interaction with a smile.

“Girls,” Nestor groans as he rises. “Three girls. I’m horribly outnumbered by women.”

Kylo smirks at this. “Quit complaining. We all know you like women.”

“Where are we going?” Sheev asks pertly. “Can we go to the castle? I miss the castle with the blue cubes.”

“Coruscant,” Kylo answers. “We’re going to Coruscant.”

“What’s in Coruscant?” Rey wants to know.

“You’ll see.” Kylo is looking smug and very proud of himself as he says this.

“Why are we all dressed like this?” Rey tries again to figure out what’s going on.

“Yes, Daddy—where’s your black dress?” Sheev pipes up.

Nestor Ren snorts at this remark and Kylo shoots him a glare. “You wear a black dress too, you know.” He turns back to Rey. “The goal is to blend in.”

Blend in, eh? Rey looks from her tall husband with his distinctive facial scar to the blonde glamazon in bright blue who has stood silently through this exchange.   They are not exactly generic looking people. And wherever they are headed, they are arriving in Kylo’s heavily armored, very recognizable all black Upsilon class command shuttle that just screams Very Important First Order Person Aboard.

“Okay,” Rey agrees weakly.

Kylo sees her skepticism and explains. “You and Sheev are the ones blending in, Rey. We’re not trying to attract attention. But if we do stick out, then all the better. People will look at us and miss you right beside us. The goal is to protect you when out in the open.”

“Are we going someplace dangerous?” Rey shoots him a sharp look. She’s not keen on bringing their three-year-old anyplace dangerous for a daytrip.

Kylo just laughs. “The only threat is to my dignity, I assure you.”

Now Rey is very intrigued.

Twenty minutes later they are in hyperspace. Kylo, Sheev and Nestor are lounging in the back watching podraces. Kylo and Nestor are trying to explain the rules to Sheev. The two knights can’t agree on how much tampering with an opponent’s ride constitutes cheating. Nestor thinks it’s only cheating if you get caught because cheating is part of the game. Kylo thinks this is an outrage, which seems a bit out of character for her ends-justify-the-means-win-at-all-costs Sith husband. But whatever. This must be a case where the law and order follow the rules First Order commander trumps the devious Sith. And Sheev looks happy as can be nestled between the two men cheering on some racer from Correllia. It’s actually very cute, Rey thinks.

She is sitting off to the side with the super tall blonde woman. Her name is Olena and that’s pretty much all Rey knows about her. She’s curious what Olena is doing on the Finalizer. She looks more like a retired fashion model than a fascist. And she, like General Hux and so many among the elite of the First Order, has a version of a Coruscant accent much like Rey’s.

“I guess all men love podracing,” Rey remarks, looking for something to say to the stranger across from her.

“Not my Balen,” Olena tells her. “My husband hates crowds and loud noise. He’s an artist on Coruscant,” she explains. “Balen can sit for hours quiet and still watching something. He would be completely out of his element at a podrace.”

“What do you do for the Order?” Rey asks, curiosity getting the better of her.

“I’m in charge of the stormtroopers.”

“Does that mean you work for Captain Phasma?” Rey asks. “Doesn’t he command the troopers?”

“I am Captain Phasma,” Olena reveals with a smile.

Rey colors. She’s just put her foot in her mouth. Big time. And it’s awkward. She rushes to apologize. “I beg your pardon. I just assumed—“

“You assumed Phasma was man because I’m so tall?”

“Yes,” Rey admits. Who knew that such a gorgeous woman was hidden beneath all that chromium armor? It seems a shame for this woman to wear a mask.

“You’re not the first.” Olena shrugs. She hasn’t taken offense, which relieves Rey. “Things are not always what they appear, are they, Lady Ren?”

Rey doesn’t like all the directions that remark might be headed, so she just nods.

Olena Phasma glances over at the men on the couch. “Nestor says you should be our security and not the reverse. He said you once beat him up.” The stormtrooper captain glances sideways at Rey. “He was impressed.”

“He was also half drunk,” Rey recalls dryly. “What else did he tell you?” she asks warily.

“Just that he deserved it.”

“It’s true.” Rey can laugh at the memory now. “He did.” But she doesn’t elaborate.

“Is your family still on Coruscant?” the blonde wants to know.

Huh? Oh, yes, her accent. “No,” Rey answers and she has no idea whether it’s the truth or not.

“My family were Imperial exiles too,” Olena reveals and Rey doesn’t correct her assumption. “We moved from Coruscant to the Unknown Regions after the Concordance was signed.”

So, Rey surmises, Captain Phasma’s parents must have been among the Imperial military elite. With the fall of the Empire, its leaders had left in droves for the outermost reaches of the Rim to avoid the New Republic’s wave of retaliatory war crimes prosecutions. There, they formed a brain trust of military and technical might that had ultimately coalesced into the First Order. It’s no wonder that Captain Phasma has achieved success few other women have in the Order, Rey thinks.  Her parents must have been among its founding members.

“I’ve never actually been to Coruscant,” Rey says softly.

Olena smiles broadly. “Well, you’ll love it. It’s amazing. And now it’s ours again after thirty-five long years.”

Half an hour later, Kylo’s shuttle lands on a private rooftop landing pad. The pilot is instructed to leave the ship idling and primed for immediate takeoff. Then their group departs into the building and down multiple elevators.

Sheev is riding high on his father’s shoulders as they exit to a plaza. As soon as the doors open, the little boy starts to clap his hands and shriek.

It’s a parade.

Rey catches Kylo’s eye and she grins.  Best. Surprise. Ever.


 

They call it the Eternal City. It’s an apt moniker, Kylo thinks as he looks out on Coruscant from the balcony of Captain Phasma’s Upper Level pied-a-terre. Fitting not only for the millennia old cityscape but also for the resilience of its populace.   The conquering hero Kylo Ren is one of many on a long list of notables to rule this city-world. For amid the changing fortunes of the galaxy, a myriad of leaders has come and gone. But Coruscant remains the same. The Jedi Temple becomes the Imperial Palace becomes a New Republic museum.  And Coruscant’s citizens just shrug and go about their business.

‘So goes Coruscant, so goes the galaxy’ is the best known idiom for this ancient seat of power.   The old saying is ironic, though, because however Coruscant goes, the Coruscanti never seem to care. So while things change, nothing changes. And that’s why it’s called the Eternal City.

Everywhere there are towers for business and residence, so tall that they nearly block out the sun on the lower levels. But here on the upper most reaches of the city, the sun shines gloriously clear and cool. It’s no wonder Phasma’s artist husband has an apartment up here, Kylo thinks. The painter must crave all this natural light. After months spent mostly in the artificial florescence of starships, the sun feels good. Kylo drinks it in and tries not to think of what is to come.

He senses Rey step up behind him. She’s caught him brooding again off by himself. It worries her, he knows. Rey’s thoughts are screaming her concern at him.

“How does it feel to be master of all you survey?” Rey teases as she takes a place beside him at the railing. But it sounds a little forced.

“Good,” Kylo answers honestly without turning. “It feels good.” Like he’s almost done. Like the work of a lifetime is nearly achieved after almost twenty years of plotting with his Master. Kylo had begun this quest as sullen, gangly teen and it ends now with him long grown and juggling a man’s responsibilities.

He has had Coruscant and the majority of the Inner Core Worlds subjugated for several months now.   The rest will soon follow. Governments fall like dominos to the First Order now that the Resistance is leaderless and dispersed. The death of Leia Organa has accelerated the end of the war, as he had hoped.

That leaves Kylo with only one task left. The hardest task. And, really, it’s the only task that matters.

He knows not to underestimate Luke Skywalker. Or he will suffer his grandfather’s fate.   And Darth Sideous’ fate.   His uncle is powerful. And, now with his mother dead and the Resistance armies and fleet decimated, Skywalker has nothing to lose.   That makes him especially dangerous.

At first, Kylo had worried that his old Jedi Master might slink away again into exile. But Luke Skywalker has never shied away from long odds. Kylo grimly reminds himself that his uncle is the hero pilot of the suicide mission against the first Death Star. He is the Jedi who singlehandedly destroyed an Empire. And before Kylo was even born, Luke Skywalker was killing Sith.

Kylo would admit this to no man, but his uncle intimidates the shit out of him. However this long awaited confrontation unfolds, it won’t end like last time with both of them alive.

“Sheev’s asleep.” Rey interrupts his thoughts, and it’s a welcome distraction. “All the excitement of the parade wore him out. Olena let me lay him down in the guest room.” Kylo can hear the happiness in Rey’s voice. “He loved it, Kylo. Just loved it.” She slips her hand over his. “Thank you for today. Sheev will never forget it.”

“Good,” Kylo smiles down at her. “I’m glad.” He had wanted to make sure to do this. For her and for Sheev. Just in case he won’t get the chance. There are no guarantees for the future so long as Luke Skywalker is out there. And if one day soon he falls to his uncle’s sword, then at least Sheev will have one good memory of his father. He’d like his son to remember him for more than just war propaganda on the holonet.

He and Rey stand there together in silence watching the bustle of the city. It’s her first visit to the galaxy’s historic capital and Rey is interested in everything. Her enthusiasm charms him. This morning, Kylo couldn’t decide who had enjoyed the parade more: his wife or his son.

If two hours at a parade is this fun, then showing Rey the galaxy will be amazing, Kylo thinks. He hopes he gets the chance to do it.

Peaking over at Rey now, he admires her profile. His wife is beautiful even in her silly trio of buns. It’s a little girl’s hairdo, somewhat ridiculous on a grown woman. Sort of charming too now that’s he’s seen it all day. But it had been jarring to behold this morning.

“You threw me a little this morning when I saw you dressed like that,” Kylo admits aloud to her.

“It reminded you of Takodano, didn’t it?” Rey nods her understanding. She’s only half right. Yes, the outfit had reminded him of the Takodano woods with Sheev. But the hairdo had instantly brought him back to the skinny scavenger girl in the Starkiller cell. Together, those are probably the two most uncomfortable memories Kylo Ren has.   So seeing Rey this morning had been deeply unsettling.   He would rather forget those parts of their past.

“A lot has changed between us since then,” he observes with an ironic smile.

It was before I loved you, he thinks to himself. And before you loved me.

“Oh, yes,” Rey agrees quickly. But after a moment, she too quietly admits to unease, “Your mother said that I am a different person now. Do you think that’s true?”

Rey looks troubled. Watching her, the man Kylo Ren who was once the boy Ben Solo understands completely why this matters. And how much it matters. But still, Kylo doesn’t know how to answer her question.   Things are so different now than they were a year ago. He can tell Rey wants him to say something, so he punts.

“We all change. That’s normal.” She looks horrified by where he is leading so instantly he backtracks. “But are you a different person? No, I don’t think so.” And, really, this is the truth. His Rey is just as fierce and as pragmatic and as devoted to Sheev as ever. Except now, she’s devoted to him too.

“Sometimes the more people seem to change, the more they stay the same,” he decides. “We are who we are at our core even if the circumstances around us change.” Rey looks reassured by this. “Don’t be bothered by anything my mother told you. She was a bitter, difficult woman for many years. She was just jealous of your happiness.” Kylo falls silent for a moment before grumbling, “I wish she had been more like you. She was always so stubborn. Unable to recognize the truth when she heard it.”

Rey doesn’t say anything, so he urges, “Talk to me of Coruscant.” He needs to change the subject. For both of their sakes. “Does this place feel familiar in any way?” He’s been wondering this since they arrived. “Does it bring up any memories for you?”

“No,” Rey shakes her head.

“Not at all? Are you sure? Someone close to you must have come from Coruscant,” he reasons. “There’s no way you accidentally pick up such a distinctive accent. Rey, social climbers here go to great lengths to fake the posh accent you have naturally.”

“I don’t sense anything, Kylo. I don’t feel any different here on Coruscant than I do on the Finalizer. Or on Takodano or Jakku, for that matter.” Beside him, Rey gives a slight shrug and looks resigned.

He can’t hide his disappointment. He had been hoping that the sights and sounds and smells of the city might uncover some deeply buried memories.   Maybe provide some clue. But that is not to be, apparently. “We may never discover your past, Rey.” Kylo says this gently.

She looks nonplussed at his words and he smiles at the irony. His Rey is ambivalent like a true Coruscanti ought to be. Even if she doesn’t know for certain that she’s a true Coruscanti.

“I’m not sure I want to know my past,” Rey says slowly, surprising him. “Maybe it’s better this way, Kylo. I’m sure it’s a sad story.   No one gives up a four-year-old unless they have to.” She falls silent for a moment and looks away. “Yes, maybe it’s better not to know. Sometimes I worry that the past can be a trap.   That it can ruin your future if you let it.”

Those are wise words. Spoken for him as well as for her. “I won’t let that won’t happen to us, Rey.”   He’s doing his best to break with the worst parts of his family’s past and to recover the best.   Kylo wants the glory of the Skywalker family without all the tragedy.

But one person still stands in his way.

Looking out on the cityscape, Kylo finally confesses to Rey what’s been on his mind since his mother’s death. “My uncle will be coming for me now.”

“I know,” Rey says this is in a small voice that tells him she’s scared for him.

He’s scared too. Mostly for her.

It’s the attachment trap that Luke Skywalker used to preach about to his padawans. About how fear of loss is the price of love. He can almost hear the Last Jedi’s sanctimony that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. It’s the path to the Dark Side, his finger wagging celibate uncle would warn him.

Only a fool would be a Jedi, Kylo thinks as he looks over at his beloved Rey. The Darkness has everything a man could ever want: power, passion and love, in that order. Sith do not love? Tell that to Darth Vader who spoke at length to a painting of his long dead wife.   It’s the Jedi who cannot love. And they are lesser for it.

It is in this moment that Kylo is finally decided. Sheev and Rey are too precious to him to risk. Kylo has been turning over his decision in his mind for days now, weighing the pros and cons. A never-ending loop of what ifs and what thens replaying the scenarios through his mind. Agonizing. But today’s stolen holiday with his family has clinched it for him. He knows now what to do.

Kylo will learn from the mistakes of the past.   This generation’s Skywalker Sith will not set off to fight a Jedi only to return to find his family lost forever. He will repeat his grandfather’s legacy in all things but this.  Because in the end, Kylo Ren intends to have it all: his empire and his family. He owes Rey her happy ending.

And part of him wants to give it to Rey just to spite his dead bitch of a mother.

Kylo is no fool. He knows that his best choice is in some respects his riskiest choice. But he will trust Darth Plagueis the Wise to give his wife and child sanctuary. The same way that years ago his Master took in a runaway teenage padawan with an angry Jedi hot on his heels. If nothing else, his Master has no love lost for Luke Skywalker. And never, in almost twenty years, has his Master ever let him down.

So Kylo Ren remains a loyal Sith apprentice.

Rey is not going to like this, he knows, but she will understand. Rey always comes around to understand.

Kylo takes a deep breath. “It would best if you and Sheev go away for a while. Just until I deal with Skywalker. The Finalizer is too obvious a place to look for you.   And if . . . well, if I’m not around to protect you, I don’t want Skywalker to get his hands on you and Sheev.”

Rey’s face hardens at these words. “I’ll die before I let him get his hands on our boy.”

“I know. That’s what worries me.” Kylo loves his wife’s determination. But determination won’t save her from the Jedi she has rejected three times already. Skywalker won’t bother trying to lure Rey again. He’ll just kill her and take Sheev. From the moment he and Rey slashed hands in the moonlight, Rey had pretty much declared herself a lost cause for Skywalker. Rey and her Light are forever tainted by the Sith.

Sensing her alarm, Kylo tries to reassure her. “Rey, the only person who is going to die is Skywalker. But we should take precautions all the same. I promised to keep you safe, remember?” Reluctantly, she nods her understanding. “Come,” he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Let’s go find the others. We can talk about this later.”

That’s enough serious stuff, he thinks. Kylo doesn’t want to the spoil this perfect day.

There might not be another.

Chapter Text

This is the right decision. Sometimes there are no good alternatives and you still have to choose.

He and Rey have already said their goodbyes in private. Now they walk in silence together with Sheev to the Finalizer hangar bay.   Milo is still at Bast Castle, but he will be arriving later today at his Master’s stronghold to handle the necessary preparations.  His old keeper will make certain that all is in order for when Rey and Sheev arrive to his Master for safekeeping.

This is the right decision. His family will be protected and well cared for.

With each footstep, Kylo keeps reassuring himself. This will enable him to focus his concentration to prepare for Skywalker. This will keep his family safe no matter what the outcome. For years he has trusted his Master in all things, and this is no different. There is nothing to worry about. Truly, this is the right decision. It’s for the best.

But Kylo can’t shake the nagging bad feeling he has about it.   He chalks it up to nervousness about the upcoming fight. About the scenario in which his uncle walks away but Kylo does not. And that’s the risk which makes this the right choice.

Darth Plagueis won’t let his uncle get his hands on Sheev. The greedy old Muun will covet his boy’s power and steep him in Darkness from a tender age. There will be no conflicting and confusing Jedi teachings for Sheev to unlearn. No, his Master will train his boy to be a proper Sith from the outset. And one day, Sheev will take his father’s place at Darth Plagueis’ side as the next Skywalker Sith apprentice.  

And Rey . . . well, Kylo knows what it will happen. If he falls, Rey will belong to his Master. One day, the decrepit Muun will ask her to demonstrate her Force healing. Dutifully, his wife will place her hands on the clammy old Sith and he will feel her intoxicating Light. And Darth Plagueis will want more. Sith always want more. Then her eyes will fall closed, her head will fall back and Rey will again be seduced into his Master’s Dark pleasure. And whatever vile act the old lecher might desire will be his willing wife’s command.

It’s abhorrent for him to contemplate. But Rey will be alive and safe and together with Sheev.   And, under the circumstances, he thinks that’s what Rey would want. The randy old Sith won’t harm her. One in a billion, he had called Rey. She and her Light would be difficult for his Master to replace. And if this comes to pass, he knows that Rey will make the best of it. His wife bends, but she does not break. Rey of Jakku is the most resilient person he has ever met. And if she ends up wife number six to old Snoke, then ok. Life goes on and there are worse things than being Queen of Darkness to the legendary eternal Sith.

This is the right decision, even if it has drawbacks. Kylo clenches his fists.

Rey does not seem to know what might lie ahead for her, and for that Kylo is grateful.   His wife doesn’t need more to worry about. He bristles at the memory of his Master asserting his dominance over his apprentice by bewitching Rey. He had only belatedly understood that his Master’s vulgar treatment of his wife was as much for Kylo to witness as it was for his Master’s enjoyment. All excused as a merciful means to pry into his wife’s head, of course. His Master had seduced his helpless wife and made Kylo watch just to underscore who was the boss.

It was just the sort of twisted manipulation that old Darth Plagueis lives for. The Sith don’t need to control you, they just need to control someone you love. And then you are as good as controlled. In retrospect, Kylo would much rather the old Sith had ripped into Rey’s head to pry out her memories in his usual brutal fashion.

Again, Kylo clenches his fists. Sending Rey to his Master is not an optimal outcome, but it is . . . acceptable. And none of the other alternatives are. So yes, this is the right decision.  

But fuck, this is so damn hard.

Standing with Rey now, Kylo looks upon her knowing this might be the last time.   Years ago, a very young Darth Vader too had kissed his wife goodbye and set out to end a war and kill a Jedi. His grandfather had never seen his grandmother alive again.   Vader simultaneously had won everything but lost everything too. And that is a sobering lesson for Kylo Ren.

Rey speaks first as they stand together with Sheev hanging on her long cloak.   His wife had been composed but with watery eyes when they had spoken behind closed doors. But now, in the public space of the hangar bay with their parting imminent, Rey’s tears begin to fall. She is trembling as she sputters out words at him. “I love you, Kylo. Come back to me.”

“I will. I promise.” He reaches to brush his gloved hand at her cheek, wiping away a tear. Ignoring the pair of stormtroopers who flank the shuttle entry ramp not three meters away. “Together, you and I will rule the galaxy. You’ll see.”

“I don’t care about the galaxy. I don’t need an empire. I only need you.”

She says this emphatically, and he knows it’s true. And it’s part of why he loves Rey.   All his life, Kylo has been beset by agendas and expectations. For as long as he can recall, there have been legacies to live up to and destinies to fulfill. But not with Rey. His Rey cares only for him and for Sheev. She accepts him and she accepts what he does. Whatever he does. And for that, he will give her the galaxy.

“Only my Master can keep you and Sheev safe from Skywalker.   Whatever happens, my Master will take care of you both.”

Rey nods but then whispers, “Oh, Kylo, I’m scared.”

He almost says the words aloud. Me too, Rey. Me too.

For honestly, the closer Kylo gets to confronting his uncle, the more terrifying it seems. For many years, he has dreamed of this showdown. Of the rush of adrenaline and Dark power that will come from putting it all on the line. His future and the galaxy’s future will intertwine as the opposing sides of the Force do battle for supremacy in a do or die duel.   Yes, it had all seemed so gloriously climactic when this conflict had only been about Kylo and his Dark ambitions. But now that he has Rey and Sheev to protect, there’s so much more at stake.

Kylo Ren is not afraid to die. But he is afraid for his wife to die and for his son to be seduced by the Light Side and coerced into being Jedi. Sending his family to his Master is his best attempt at a fallback position. A scenario in which Kylo dies but his family lives on. And then perhaps one day Sheev will finish what his father and great-grandfather had started.

“Don’t be scared, Rey. The Force is with us.” Kylo’s voice conveys more confidence than he actually feels.   Like he is trying to convince himself as well as Rey.  He steels his mind against creeping self-doubt. When I left Skywalker, I was but the learner, he reminds himself. But now I have mastered the Darkness and mastered the galaxy.  

The last time he saw his uncle, Kylo had been barely fifteen years old. An angry, unfocused, half trained kid.   He had lived through that fight only because Luke Skywalker had promised his parents not to kill him.   Kylo had skimmed this thought from the Jedi’s mind in a moment of unguarded weakness.   And then and there, Kylo had realized that his path forward with his Sith Master was clear.

His uncle had pleaded with him, repeating all the old lies of the Jedi about the Dark Side. Skywalker had told yet again his revisionist version of Darth Vader repudiating the Sith in his final moments.   Always, his uncle had sought to diminish his grandfather’s legacy.   To pretend like the Darkness in himself and in Kylo did not exist. And to pretend like the awesome power that flows from that Darkness also did not exist.

One lesson from his Master had given him a taste of his Dark potential and teenage Kylo had been hooked. More, he wanted more. More of the easy power that felt so good. More of the secret truth of his family’s past. Wily Darth Plagueis had outright refused. Telling Kylo he didn’t want another apprentice. But Kylo had begged and the old Master had relented to dangle hope before him.   Impress me, boy, and perhaps I shall reconsider. So Kylo had been bold and returned with the blood of twenty-five Jedi padawans on his hands.   He had been rewarded that same day with the title Apprentice.

It’s been almost twenty years since then, and no one thinks Kylo Ren is a misguided teen hopped up on hormones and hate anymore. When he and Skywalker meet again, there will be no attempts to persuade and to redeem. This time, it will be a duel to the death.   For his uncle’s promise not to kill him surely has died with his parents.   No matter. He will control his fear and release his anger and show Luke Skywalker the Dark Side. And then he will strike his uncle down and become more powerful than his old nemesis could possibly imagine.

He can do this. He will do this. He must do this. So much depends on it.

Kylo looks down at his son. Sheev is unnaturally subdued, as always feeding off the prevailing emotion around him.   It makes Kylo smile proudly behind his mask. His boy was born to be Sith. Channeling emotion into Darkness will be second nature for a boy this innately perceptive.

“Take care of your mother,” Kylo tells his little Sith sternly. “That’s an order. If ever I am not around, you must protect her. Sheev, if I am gone, you must be her Sith.” The little boy nods solemnly. Almost as if he understands what this responsibility entails. “My Master is your master,” he admonishes the youngster. “He is wise. Learn all you can from him. And pass on what you have learned. You are a Skywalker. Never forget that.”

Kylo turns back to Rey and suddenly, he’s at a loss for words. They have spoken so much to one another already last night and this morning. There’s nothing left to say. But still, he’s not ready for them to part. So before he thinks, Kylo has ripped off his mask and he’s kissing Rey passionately in the middle of the Finalizer hangar bay. Heedless of the troopers next to them and the officer waiting at the top of the ramp.   Kylo Ren always been impulsive, and never more so than with Rey.

This is it, he thinks as he devours her mouth, kissing her breathless.   Claiming her before everyone as his own. Pouring all of his desperation and dread and possessiveness and fear into his effort.   And love. So much fervent, newly discovered and achingly vulnerable love. His wild dark hair falls over his face and hers to partly obscure their intimacy and his glaring scar.   Even now unmasked and exposed, Kylo Ren retains his intriguing mystery to onlookers.

Finally, he breaks away. Clasping her head to his, he whispers directly in her ear. “I love you, Rey. And I will always be with you. Even if it’s only through the Force. Whatever happens, never lose your Light.”

Then he jams back on his helmet and leads Rey and Sheev up the shuttle ramp to entrust them to Major Sohn who led the ground assault on Chandrila.   The man is ruthless and quick thinking. Kylo probably ought to be using him for today’s assault on what’s left of the Resistance rather than ferrying his family to the Leader’s stronghold. But the First Knight needs someone he trusts to look after Rey and Sheev. Today he will attempt to goad Skywalker into a confrontation. If all goes well, Kylo will have his hands full with the Jedi. He can’t afford to be distracted by concerns about his family.

So he’s assigned his best officer to the task. And for good measure, Kylo has stuffed the ship full of heavily armed troopers like it’s an invasion transport and not a command shuttle.   Yeah, it’s overkill but it’s helping him to feel better. And Kylo has been at war long enough to know that the risk you don’t prepare for is the inevitably the risk that occurs.

“Do not let my wife and son out of your sight until they are delivered safely to the Supreme Leader,” he commands. “If they are harmed, you will die.” He turns to the throng of assembled troopers to clarify the breadth of this threat. “All of you will die.”

Then he pats Sheev on the head, squeezes Rey’s hand and departs.

He doesn’t look back. Kylo Ren never looks back.


 

She and Sheev are in the back of the overcrowded shuttle. It’s not possible to be alone with this many people onboard, so there are at least six troopers nearby loitering. Rey is doing her best to ignore them, but Sheev keeps trying to engage them in conversation. Showing them his toy spaceships and asking them questions.

Maybe it’s cute that the son of Kylo Ren is so open and friendly to the rank and file, but Rey wishes Sheev would leave the men alone. And then the men would leave her and Sheev alone.  Rey is nervous and on edge and her head hurts from crying off and on since yesterday.  She’s not in the mood to put on her gracious public Lady Ren act right now.  Today Lady Ren is bitchy and sad and she just wants privacy. They are only fifteen minutes into their journey but it’s felt like four hours.

“Daddy is going to kill the Jedi,” Sheev announces to his audience.  “The one who tried to steal me. The one who stole my Mommy.” Her little boy glances over at her as if to gauge if she is listening before revealing in a loud whisper, “He also killed my little sister. But I’m not supposed to know about that. Daddy and Mommy don’t talk about that.”

Out of the mouths of babes, Rey thinks as she crosses the small space intending to drag Sheev back to her. It’s time to end this conversation before Sheev starts explaining more of their private family affairs to the First Order.

“Yes, the Jedi is evil and dangerous,” one of the troopers remarks solemnly and the others nod their agreement. Hating the Jedi is a moral imperative for the First Order stormtrooper recruits.

Sheev scoffs at the risk. “Daddy has killed Jedi before. He’s good at killing Jedi. I’m going to kill Jedi too someday.”

Not if Rey has anything to say about it. She’s hoping there won’t be any more Jedi to prolong this Force war another generation. Rey is grabbing for Sheev’s hand when suddenly the shuttle lurches hard right and she stumbles.

Only one thing makes a ship lurch like that—they must have been thrown out of hyperspace. The viewport next to where Rey had been sitting confirms this. It no longer shows the undulating blue swirls of hyperspace. Now, she looks out into the unending black of deep space.  

What the Hell? A sharp uneasiness fills her. It’s a prickling sense of danger that thrusts her into action. Whatever happened, it isn’t good. Forgetting Sheev’s childish big mouth, Rey pushes past the troopers and makes for the cockpit. Major Sohn has beat her there.

“What happened?” she demands of the pilot. “Were we interdicted?”

The pilot shakes his head no. “Hyperdrive malfunction.” The pilot turns to his commanding officer. “We are on radio silence for battle preparation, sir.”

“What?” Rey doesn’t understand the significance of this statement.

Major Sohn explains. “We cannot hail for assistance before that attack begins, Ma’am.”

“Even for emergency distress?” Rey thinks this surely cannot be the case. “Even for us?” She’s not above pulling rank as Lady Ren. Not when Sheev is aboard.

Major Sohn nods. “Yes, ma’am. Orders from Ren himself. To maintain the element of surprise, all Order ships throughout the galaxy are on radio silence. That way they won’t know where any of us are.”

“Can we get a message out some other way?” Rey wants to know, thinking of her datapad laying on the floor in the back with Sheev right now.

“Negative. All coms of any kind are ordered quiet, ma’am.”

This is stupid military bullshit, Rey thinks. And she has a bad feeling about all this. A very bad feeling. “I will explain to my husband. Now get on the com and call for help. NOW!”

The Major nods to the pilot and then . . . “Com is jammed.   That’s odd. There are no ships around here.”

Great, just great. She knew they should have stayed on the Finalizer. Well, help will not be on the way. But maybe they don’t need help. “Where is the hyperdrive maintenance access on this ship?” Rey wants to know.

The major looks at her with surprise and then skepticism, but the pilot pipes up. “Down the hall and across from the armory closet. I’ll show you.” She follows him to the access panel and then rudely steps in front to rip it open herself.   If there is anyone onboard who knows how to fix a hyperdrive, it is Rey. But none of these men know that. The major is sputtering objections at her shoulder. “Ma’am, we don’t have the tools onboard for repairs. And we don’t have a mechanic.”

Rey isn’t listening. She’s doing a visual inventory, checking for any obvious disconnections or fried wiring. That’s when she gets a good look at the hyperdrive motivator. This was no malfunction.

“Sabotage!” she breathes the word more than says it. Rey turns to the major. “This ship didn’t break. It was broken.” Her mind is racing.   “Look,” she gestures to the hyperdrive mechanism, “it was intentionally broken for us to be interdicted. And this isn’t fixable.” Rey starts connecting the dots. It would have been far simpler to rig the hyperdrive to catastrophically fail than merely to drop them into open space. If someone sabotaged the motivator this way, they intended to pick them up, not to kill them.   All of which means . . . “There must be a tracker on this ship somewhere.” The hyperdive is sabotaged and their com is mysteriously jammed and someone wants to pick them up. Rey meets the major’s eyes. He’s thinking the same thing and they say the words aloud together. “It’s an ambush!”

Fuck! Now Rey has a super bad feeling about this. It’s her, Sheev, a pilot, the Major and fifteen stormtroopers against whoever is coming to pick them up. And they can’t call for help.

Or can they?

“Get me our precise coordinates and follow me. NOW!” Rey calls over her shoulder as she races back into the cabin to grab Sheev.

“Sheev!” The little boy is running towards her wide eyed even as she races to him. Sheev too senses the danger. “Listen to Mommy. I need your help. I need you to get Daddy’s attention. Tell him it’s important. That we need his help right now.” The boy nods. Rey watches as he mouths the words ‘Daddy we need help.’ The boy’s face broadens into a sweet smile and Rey knows that he has made contact.

The pilot hands Rey a datapad with the long scroll of coordinate numbers.

“It’s an emergency!” Rey tells Sheev in a stern voice. “Tell Daddy to send help now to this location. We were interdicted and there will be an ambush coming.” The boy mouths the words emergency and ambush in slow syllables. Rey can tell her three-year-old doesn’t know their meaning, but he knows it’s bad. Then Rey starts slowly reading off the coordinates for Sheev to relay.

“Did he get them?” Sheev nods.   Then he starts talking in the stilted manner she recognizes as Kylo speaking through their son. “Daddy's coming.  Daddy says don’t fight. Let them take us, Mommy. Stay alive. Surrender.”

Stay alive.   That’s all Rey has been trying to do from the moment she met Kylo Ren.

They don’t have to wait long for a ship to pull alongside. Ostensibly, it’s a battered large-size freighter, not a warship. But Rey recognizes spots along the hull where it has been retrofitted with heavy shielding and recessed weaponry.   And the freighter has seen action--it’s covered in carbon scoring. The new ship doesn’t bother to hail the shuttle. It locks on with a military grade tractor beam and all controls are overridden.  

There’s nothing to do now but wait.

Inside, the shuttle is a mix of nerves and anticipation. The troopers form two lines before the exit door, preparing to storm down the ramp, if necessary.   The Major and the pilot are at the armory closet choosing blasters. “Pass me one,” Rey instructs. Major Sohn hesitates. She is less likely to be fired upon if she’s unarmed, he explains.   Ren’s orders are to make sure she stays safe.

Rey glares at him and rolls her eyes. She shrugs out of her long black hooded cloak. Then she hikes her long white gown up to her hip to check the blaster she keeps strapped to her inner thigh. The cramped shuttle entryway goes silent. Rey can’t tell if it’s because these First Order grunts have just seen more of Lady Ren than anyone other than Kylo Ren himself. Or whether these fighting men are impressed that she wears a snub blaster under her dress.

“Major, who normally travels in this shuttle?” This isn’t Kylo’s personal shuttle. This shuttle is a run of the mill Upsilon class. Heavily armed and state-of-the-art, but generic nonetheless among the Order’s fleet of shuttles. “Who are they expecting to be onboard?” Rey wants to know.

“Class I senior officers, ma’am. They must be looking for hostages or intel.”

The landing cycle is almost complete. But all viewports are blocked by the white armored men clustered in front of her. Rey can’t see what awaits them.

The front trooper calls to the ship. “It’s the Resistance alright. There are X-wings in the hangar bay. I count twenty or thirty personnel, guns drawn for us.”

“Is there an officer?” the major asks.

“Negative. Just some old guy in civilian clothes standing in front.”

“Describe him,” Rey commands as every hair on her neck begins to stand on end. And, oh, fuck! She knows the answer before the front trooper replies.

“Grey hair. Beard. I don’t see a weapon.”

“Let me see.” Rey muscles her way through the troopers to the front. She stares for a long moment as her heart sinks. Yes, it is as she had feared. “No, no, no!” Rey pounds her fist on the wall beside the viewport. It feels like the galaxy is crashing in on her. “It’s him!”

“Who?” the Major calls at her, increasingly alarmed. “Who?”

Rey turns to scan the crowd of white helmets. Her adrenaline is pumping now and her chest heaves.   Things just got worse.   A lot worse.

“It’s the Jedi. It’s Luke Skywalker.”

Chapter Text

PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND READ THE TAGS AGAIN!

 

Oh, Gods, no! It’s Luke Skywalker . . . Luke Skywalker . . . Luke fucking Skywalker . . .    

The name dominates Rey’s thoughts as the Jedi’s uncomfortably familiar Force imprint screams danger through her senses. This can’t be happening again. But it is. Right here. Right now.

“Fuck!” The curse comes out before she can stop it, and Rey inwardly cringes. That was not very Lady Ren of her. But if the men surrounding her are shocked, it’s mostly because the feared, near-mythical Rebellion hero awaits them.  They murmur their dismay to one another. The Last Jedi is the arch villain foe to the First Order. He’s the bogeyman used to scare stolen child soldiers into submission.   He’s the devil who destroyed the Empire and left the galaxy in ruins as he walked away.

“How did this happen?” she wails. And why, oh why, is Kylo never around when his damn family shows up?   Rey has had enough of dealing with her meddling Light Side in-laws on her own.

Kylo has an entire assault planned for later today designed to flush his uncle out into the open. Only the Jedi is nowhere near the location for the assault. He’s on a disguised heavily armed freighter in deep space near the Core. Waiting outside her captured shuttle to steal Sheev.

“Fuck!” Rey curses again for good measure. Kylo, where are you??

Major Sohn is at her shoulder.   “Go hide in the back. Let me handle th—“

“No!” Rey cuts him off, pushing down her rising panic to try and think straight.   Thrusting away scary memories of a prison cell and a droid that stuck needles in her arms. “Skywalker knows I’m here. He knows Sheev is here. We can’t hide from the Jedi!” Rey doesn’t bother to explain to Major Sohn how Force imprints work. But if Skywalker recognized her on D’Qar, then he surely has recognized her here. Just as she has recognized him. “We are caught, Major!”

Sohn is one of those die-hard middle-aged career officers like she met at Bast. The Major is not a tall man so he looks her right in the eye.  His expression is resolute. “Lady, we will die for—“

“Yes, we’re all going to die, Major!” She sounds a little hysterical now. But there will be needles and pain and oh fuck! “He will kill us all and steal my son. He wants my son, don’t you understand? This isn’t the first time he has tried to steal my son.”

“Did the kid er. . . talk to Ren?” Major Sohn wants to know. He has that nervous look laypeople get when they refer to the Force.

“Yes, he’s on his way. But who knows how long it will take Kylo to get here. And if the Resistance is smart, they’ll just jump us out of here and dump our shuttle so the First Order can’t use it to track us.”

The Major digests this information. “Then we should stall,” Sohn suggests calmly. He’s a man used to making decisions in the heat of battle.   His quiet focus is helping to calm her down.

Stall. It’s a good idea. “Yeah . . . we should stall,” Rey agrees as a plan forms in her mind. Rey seizes command. “Major, keep your troops in the shuttle. We’ll hide my son inside. I will speak with Skywalker. Alone.”

“Out of the question! My orders are—“

“Your orders are to keep me safe.” Rey overrides him. “Starting a firefight is only going to get us all killed. Who knows how many men they have onboard to throw at us. You are only seventeen men. I need you all onboard to protect my son.”

“I can’t let you just walk right up to Luke Sky—“

“I know him, Major. And it won’t be the first time he’s had me in custody.”   More like the third. “The plan is to stall until hopefully Kylo can arrive. To keep him talking.” Rey is blunt, “I can keep Skywalker talking. You can’t.”

Major Sohn isn’t going for it. “Why would he talk to you? He’s just going to kill you, Lady Ren.”

“Maybe, but I think not.” Not at first, she thinks . . . er hopes. And if Skywalker is going to kill her, then she’d like to get a few things off her chest first.   Starting with Padme Ren. “Skywalker and I have some history. He didn’t kill me the last two times.”

The Major is still unconvinced. He fixes her with a stern look. “Best case is you’re going to end up in a torture cell again, Lady.”

“Best case is Kylo gets here in time to save our son. That’s the goal here, Major,” Rey snaps back. “That’s what matters. That boy is the future!”

She feels a tug on her skirt and looks down to see Sheev staring up at her. Of course, he senses Skywalker. Sheev’s dark eyes so like his father’s are wide with unspoken fear. Ignoring the Major, Rey sinks down to her son’s level and starts giving instructions as gently as she can.

“Listen to Mommy. The Jedi is here. You need to hide in the shuttle. Stay in the ship and these men will protect you. If anyone takes you, talk to Daddy in your head. Tell Daddy where you are and who you are with. Keep talking to Daddy. He will save you.”

Sheev nods his understanding but his lower lip is trembling. “But last time the Jedi hurt you, Mommy,” he says in a small voice.

“It will all be fine. Daddy is coming to help.” Rey kisses Sheev and gives him a quick hug. “Now go hide, Sheev. Hide in the back and don’t come out until it’s safe.” The frightened little boy doesn’t have to be told twice. He’s off and running.

Rey watches his retreating form in silence as the Major demands more answers. “Why does the Jedi want your boy? As a hostage?”

“Not exactly.” Rey is struggling for how to explain this. “My son has the Force like his father. The Jedi wants my boy for his power. The Jedi steal children like Sheev to use them for their power.”  

Rey takes a deep breath and puts down her weapon. It’s no good against Skywalker anyhow. And maybe the Jedi will think twice about striking her down if she’s unarmed.  Aren’t the Jedi supposed to think they are the good guys?

“I’m going out to parley,” she announces.   “I will try to keep him talking as long as possible.   Keep the troopers on the shuttle for now. And don’t start shooting unless you absolutely have to.”

“I’m coming with you!” the Major says in no uncertain terms.

“Fine,” Rey agrees just to end the argument. She is done discussing matters. If they wait much longer, the Resistance will storm the shuttle and the shooting will start and they’ll all end up dead.   She fixes Sohn with a hard glare. “Keep quiet. No matter what you hear. My family is complicated, Major.”

Rey reaches to activate the shuttle ramp. The stormtrooper squad leader standing closest to the exit door tugs her sleeve as she steps onto the ramp. “My lady, you are very brave,” the anonymous trooper tells her. “Good luck. We’ve got your back.”

Rey nods to him and squares her shoulders. Then she strides down the ramp in her long, flowing white dress with her head held high.  

She is the fierce Rey of the Desert and the regal Lady Ren.   She has been abandoned, starved, raped and tortured and she has lived through it all. She’s fought for the Resistance and now she’s married to the First Order. She will survive this as she survives everything else. With grace and dignity and Light.

Major Sohn dogs her footsteps. He stands sentinel at her shoulder as she stops two meters from the Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

All thirty Resistance blasters are trained on them.

She watches a ripple of reaction flow through the assembled enemy fighters.   To a man they are surprised and some are outright gaping at Lady Ren with her fancy white dress and long trailing curls. This morning Rey had dressed for a formal audience with the Supreme Leader, not for war. She had put on her second best dress, the one she had worn that night in the moonlight with Kylo.  

“I’m not who you were expecting, am I?” Rey says this quietly as she stands tall and lifts her chin. It’s time for her best Lady Ren, Queen of the Galaxy act.

Skywalker crosses his arms and peers at her. The Jedi is as inscrutable as always. And his zen, super-chill self is as annoying as she remembers. It’s so tempting to start screaming at him. Rey has to remind herself not to make him angry or she will end up dead and he will take Sheev. So she stands there, forcing herself not to fidget under Skywalker’s gaze as he takes his time about replying.

“Hello, Rey. This is a surprise. This is the second time I have happened upon you unexpectedly. Here I was hoping to pick up a few lieutenants, but instead I find Mrs. Kylo Ren herself.” The Jedi looks past her to read the rank on Sohn’s uniform.   “With her loyal major at her side.”

Rey just eyes him silently.

“You’ve got your boy with you this time.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yes, I do.” Rey might as well admit this. Skywalker surely can sense Sheev through the Force. “He’s in the shuttle, so please don’t blow it up.”

Skywalker nods easily. “I have no wish to harm Han.”

“He’s called Sheev now,” Rey informs him. Trying to sound half-way polite.

“Sheev?” Skywalker blinks at her. “As in Sheev Palpatine?”

“Yes.”

The Jedi raises an eyebrow. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the name Han Solo didn’t stick. Ben must have big plans for little Sheev.”

“Yes, he does,” Rey allows. Then she can’t stop herself from warning, “If you take him, you’ll never keep him. Sheev’s bond with his father has only grown stronger. There’s nowhere that you can hide him from Kylo.”

“I know that, Rey.” The Jedi looks resigned but determined. “I am going to end this war, for the good of everyone. I will do what I must to stop the First Order. That means that I am going to make you a widow, Rey.”

“The First Order is larger than Kylo Ren. It survived the loss of General Hux, and it can survive the loss of my husband.”

“Hux might have been a first class war criminal, but he was no Sith, Rey.” The Jedi shrugs slightly. “I once took down an Empire. I can take down a bunch of Imperial wannabes.”

Rey bites her lip, searching for what to say next. She’s not ready for this conversation to end. “I’m sorry about your sister.” The words come out before she’s thought through them. And while it’s not exactly a happy topic, maybe it will get him talking. Rey needs to buy time for Kylo to get here. “She—she didn’t suffer,” is all Rey can manage. “I didn’t let them touch her before . . . “ Her voice trails off and she looks down. No, this is not a happy topic.

“Before Ben?” The Jedi catches her eye and for a moment it feels like he can see into her memories of that final screaming match with Leia Organa and later her distraught husband sobbing in her arms.

Rey cringes. “Yes.”

“Were you there?” he wants to know.

“No, but I spoke with her beforehand. She asked to speak with me.”

“What did she tell you?”

“To take my son and run to you. To leave Kylo.”

Luke Skywalker gives her a long, measuring look. “Are you ready to do that now?”

“No, I am not.” Rey says simply.

There is a moment of silence.   After long seconds tick by, Rey rushes to fill it.

“I buried your sister with your mother on Naboo.” She wants him to know this. He’s silent, so Rey keeps talking. “In the Naberrie family tomb. I thought that she might like that. To be with her mother. I admired your sister for a long time,” Rey admits. “Before Kylo and Sheev came between us, I admired her. I am . . . sorry . . . for the way things worked out between us. I understand that your sister was only doing what she thought was for the best. I don’t know if she ever understood that I am doing the same for myself and for my son.” Rey falls silent at this awkward summary of their bitter conflict.

Skywalker nods. “We’ve been over all the arguments before. I’m not going to repeat them.” The Jedi shifts his weight and puts his hands on his hips.   Then he strokes his beard a moment thoughtfully.   “Rey, I don’t want to hurt you. Come quietly and—“

“And what? You’ll throw me back in a cell? Strap me down and stick needles in my arms again?”   Rey can’t keep the resentment from her tone. How she hates this man for killing her daughter. Rey stares at the ground. She is biting her lip to keep from screaming at this man that he and his sister killed her unborn baby.   The longer she stands here before Skywalker, the angrier she gets. And anger is not a good strategy just now.

“Rey, you know I did not vote—“

“I don’t care how you voted! Or that your sister recused herself! My baby is dead!” And just like that, truth tumbles out of her mouth. The words keep coming. “All I care about is that you let the Resistance torture me and kill my baby! All because I refused to leave my husband and defect to your cause!”

“Baby?” To his credit, Skywalker looks horrified. If it’s an act, it’s a damn good one. “There was a baby?”

“Yes! I was twelve weeks pregnant, Jedi. With the daughter Kylo wanted to name after your mother. Padme . . . he wanted to name her Padme.” A solitary tear wiggles out of each eye and Rey is fighting to maintain her composure. She still can’t think about her unborn daughter without crying. So there’s no way she can speak of her before strangers without falling to pieces. Oh, fuck, this is not how Rey had wanted this conversation to go.   She’ll be damned if she’ll let the Jedi and the Resistance see her crying and defeated.

Skywalker rubs his mechanical hand through his hair. The gesture is unmistakably Kylo when he’s uncomfortable, and seeing the Jedi do this is unnervingly familiar.

“You should have said something—“

“You should have known, Jedi!   Kylo says you sense the Light halfway across the galaxy.” Rey’s words are bitter and resigned. “Don’t put the blame on me for this,” she mutters unhappily.

The Jedi sighs and looks away. “I’m sorry, Rey. I’m so sorry. I did not know.” Skywalker sounds sincere and it’s disarming.   His words instantly take the heat out of her anger. Skywalker looks and sounds almost as miserable about this as she is.

Rey wipes furiously at her eyes. “Yeah, well I’m sorry too. I’m so . . . so tired of death and war.” Han Solo, Maz, Hux, then her baby, Finn, Leia Organa . . . when will it all end? Will Kylo be next? Will she be next? Rey doesn’t think she can take much more death.   Now it’s her turn to sigh and look away. “I’m so tired of people I care about dying.”

“We all are, Rey.” It’s probably the only thing she and Luke Skywalker can agree upon.  The Jedi must know he’s got her at a weak moment, because he presses her. “There’s a way to stop this. Come back to the good side, Rey. Right now. Come home to the Resistance with your son and we will let everyone else on the shuttle go free. No one has to die today.”

Rey looks over at the Jedi. Really looks at the grizzled bearded veteran who long ago saved the galaxy only to disappear in disgrace into solitary exile.  Luke Skywalker still has the flowing hair of his youth, darkened now by age. Good hair must run in the family, she thinks. And his silver-blue eyes are keen and bright. But the rest of him is slightly stooped and timeworn. Sadness and loss seem to permeate this man, just like she remembers from Leia Organa. That the Skywalker twins lived long enough to be this old is nothing short of amazing, given their lifetimes spent at war.

Her silence fools the Jedi and he thinks she is tempted. “Come back, Rey.” This urge is coated with the weight of the Force. “Here. Now.”

Kylo had told her to surrender and to stay alive, but she’s pretty certain he hadn’t meant that instruction to include Skywalker. And Rey will be damned before she’ll go back to a Resistance cell.

“I can’t,” she says without heat or anger. As if they are discussing something mild like the weather and not the fate of the Skywalkers and the galaxy. “I am going to keep my family together. And you’re going to have to kill us all.”

Luke Skywalker sighs and looks away in frustration.

She too is frustrated. “Why does it have to be this way?” Rey wants to know. Someone—this Jedi or her husband—owes her a solid explanation for the crazy dysfunction that is the Skywalker clan. “Your sister is dead, my baby is dead, how many more Skywalkers are going to have to die before this is over?”

The Jedi says nothing.

Keep him talking, Rey reminds herself. She has to keep him talking. So, she prattles on. “Kylo says you might have ruled the Empire. That Darth Vader loved you and he spent years looking for you. That he wanted to teach you. That he wanted to combine the best of the Sith and the Jedi to find balance in the Force.”

“You have Ben’s romanticized view of the Sith.” Skywalker speaks of Kylo with dry dismissal, as always. “The first time I met my father, he cut my hand off, Rey. Darth Vader was never interested in finding balance in the Force and neither is Ben. Sith only want power.”

“That’s not true,” Rey corrects him quietly.

“Rey, being married to you is not the same thing as finding balance in the Force.” The Jedi says this gently but Rey colors to the roots of her hair all the same.

“Kylo has holochrons. Hundreds of Jedi holochrons.” she blurts out.

“What?” Now she has his attention. “How?”

“They were Vader’s. He collected them from dead Jedi,” she explains.

“You mean Jedi he killed.”

“Yes. The holochrons are full of knowledge of the Jedi. And we are going to teach it to our son.”

Skywalker blinks at this, then scoffs. “Ben can’t teach him the Light.”

“No, but I can.”

“How?” the old Jedi wants to know. “Who’s going to teach you?”

“I’m going to teach myself with the holochrons,” Rey answers stiffly. Skywalker is looking at her with that condescending look that makes her instantly defensive.

“Old Darth Plagueis is never going to let you truly practice the Light, Rey. It’s not a collection of skills and tricks with the Force. The Light is a set of ideals and a code of life.   A way to connect with people and with the Force. Don’t you see? Kylo isn’t talking about teaching your son balance. He’s only talking of teaching your son more ways to wield power. That’s all Sith care about—power.”

The Jedi takes a step closer. “If you want Sheev to learn the Light, then come back to the good side and I will teach him. Right now. Decide now. Come with your son and we will let everyone else on the shuttle go free.” Skywalker takes another step closer and holds out his hand.

“Back off, Jedi!” Major Sohn breaks his silence as he grabs Rey and whips her behind him.   Rey is taken by surprise--she had completely forgotten that Kylo’s best officer was even standing there. “You don’t get to take her!” It’s part brave, part foolhardy, but the Major reaches into the holster at his hip to grab a blaster and point it right at Luke Skywalker.

“Put that thing away,” Luke Skywalker’s voice is deadly calm.

Rey starts to back towards the disabled shuttle when the Jedi speaks again. His voice is quiet but he might just as well have screamed.

“Stop where you are, Rey.”

Rey freezes. Then watches as the Jedi’s eyes widen and he looks off to the left.   Her eyes follow his to the airlock to catch sight of a fast careening First Order shuttle slamming its way into the freighter’s cargo hold. It’s a very familiar, all-black customized command shuttle.

“Kylo!” Rey whispers aloud. And her heart leaps.

The troopers on her disabled shuttle have seen Kylo’s ship too, and suddenly they pour down the ramp and into the freighter. No one has fired a shot . . . yet.

The tension is palpable to everyone but especially to Rey as she feels the subtle charge in the air. The feeling of meaningful change about to happen. All around her, Rey can feel the eddies and flows of the Force.

Major Sohn still has a pistol drawn on Luke Skywalker. The Resistance fighters behind the Jedi all have their weapons drawn. And the stormtroopers who have exited her shuttle have their own weapons raised at the ready. Rey stands in the center of it all, the only one without a weapon.

The standoff is quiet. So the sounds of repulsolifts and ion engines fill the air as the shuttle lands hard and fast. The Sith prince doesn’t wait for the ramp to deploy. He leaps down into the freighter. Red sword blazing and black robes flying, Kylo Ren stalks forward.  

The man knows how to make an entrance.

With the Jedi’s attention focused on his Sith nemesis, Major Sohn decides to take the shot. It would have killed an ordinary man, but Luke Skywalker is no ordinary man. His lightning fast Jedi reflexes rip the blaster from Sohn’s hand and send the Major flying far across the hangar bay to land with a sickening thud. It is all done with the flick of a finger and the Force.

That’s just the aggression needed to blow the powder keg surrounding Rey. Both sides open fire and for a brief moment a cacophony of blaster fire sounds and red and green bolts streak into view.

And then they freeze in mid-air.   Everything freezes.

Fifty men and at least as many blaster bolts are wrapped in the Dark power emanating from the upraised left hand of Kylo Ren.

It’s impressive. Rey sees a muscle twitch in the otherwise blank face of Luke Skywalker and she knows that the Last Jedi too is impressed. And maybe a little intimidated.

“Your powers are weak, old man.” Kylo taunts his former master as he closes the distance between them. “You should not have come back.”

The Jedi doesn’t take the bait. He’s his usual chill self as he nods slightly. “Ben. It’s been awhile.”

Kylo inserts himself between her and Luke Skywalker. “Let her go.” The Sith speaks this as a command. “Your fight is with me, not her.”

Skywalker looks from her to Kylo and then back to her. Then he nods his agreement.

“Our hyperdrive was sabotaged,” Rey manages to croak out.

“Get on my shuttle and take off with Sheev,” Kylo grunts to her without turning his mask. “Head for the Finalizer.”

Rey nods and takes off at a run for the disabled shuttle she arrived on. In her wake, she hears the snap-hiss of Skywalker’s lightsaber igniting. At the first clash of their swords, Kylo releases his Force-hold and now it’s a full scale firefight in the freighter’s cargo bay.  

Rey scrambles for the safety of the disabled shuttle. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees more troopers pour out from Kylo’s shuttle. With these reinforcements, suddenly it’s an even fight. Like a microcosm of the larger war, Luke Skywalker and his small Resistance army square off against Kylo Ren and the combined three First Order trooper squads. Whatever is happening lightyears away at the battle the First Order meticulously plotted for weeks will never be as decisive as what is happening here and now.

Rey and Sheev are caught in the middle, as usual.  

“Sheev? Come out, it’s Mommy!” Where is he hiding? Sheev’s not in the cabin bay or in the galley or the refresher. Not in the storage closets. Not under a seat. But there are nooks and crannies all over the shuttle, and Rey keeps looking and calling Sheev’s name. She’s getting frustrated. And worried. Where is he? She’s wasting precious time while the battle outside rages.

Rey is searching the back of the shuttle when she catches sight of something small and familiar out of the viewport. Sheev! She presses her face up against the window and sees her little boy. Oh, Gods! He’s outside the shuttle!  Standing alone by the back wall near the airlock watching his father duel with his uncle. The littlest Skywalker looks on intently, oblivious to the danger.

Rey bounds down the ramp and she’s running fast under the disabled shuttle to the back wall. There is blaster fire streaking behind her but she’s running away from the main fight. Still, ricochet bolts are everywhere as they bounce off the activated shields of the two First Order shuttles.   Troops from both sides have taken cover behind crates and other starships, spreading the field of battle far and wide.  

She’s got to get Sheev to safety or he’s going to get killed.

Rey begins skirting the cargo bay perimeter towards Sheev. Luckily, Skywalker and Kylo are mostly left alone to their fight off to one side. So there is little blaster fire aimed in this direction. “Sheev!” she cries. He sees her and runs to her arms. Rey picks him up and heads straight for Kylo’s waiting shuttle. It’s fifteen meters away at the most. They are very close to safety.

Rey doesn’t risk a glance at the fierce contest between uncle and nephew, formerly master and student, now Jedi and Sith. This is a fight many years in the making, and Rey can’t bring herself to look. But she hears the crackle and hum of the green and red sabers connecting fast and hard.   And she feels deep within her the swirling ebb and flow of the Force as the Dark and the Light are hurled against one another in the ultimate contest of power.   Maybe it’s the extreme stress of the moment, or Rey’s crippling fear for Sheev and for Kylo, but it’s almost nauseating to be a witness to this aggrieved confrontation. Whatever happens in these next moments will change her life forever, Rey knows with certainty.

She’s almost to the shuttle ramp when she feels the great shudder in the Force. Like once long ago when she had fallen too far, too hard climbing a wreck and had the wind knocked out of her. Instantly, Rey knows there is a victor.  

Oh, Gods! Please, let Kylo be alive. Please!

Rey whips her head around in time to see Luke Skywalker fall.

Time stands still.   She stares from afar as the empty Jedi robes flutter to the ground. There is no body. Skywalker is gone. Vanished into the Force.  

Somewhere, she hears someone cheer.

Her awed reverie ends when a plasma bolt grazes her left arm. “Owwww!” It stings and she drops Sheev to the ground. “Get up the ramp!” she hollers at her boy, giving him a shove with her foot as she cradles her burned and bleeding arm. “Up the ramp!” But her Force-sensitive son too is distracted by what just happened. And he starts to stumble away from the ramp and towards the advancing figure of his father.  

Rey is reaching for Sheev when she catches sight of the blaster bolt eye level to her son.   It’s a reflex, and not conscious thought, as Rey dives in front of him, her good arm outstretched to push Sheev away to safety.


 

Skywalker’s fallen saber leaps into Kylo’s outstretched palm as he looks over and--why is his shuttle still here?   Something is wrong. Rey and Sheev should have been gone by now. The duel had consumed his complete focus and Kylo only now realizes that his family is still here. And still in danger.

Suddenly, Rey’s pain and panic are screaming at him through the Force.

Kylo catches sight of her standing by his shuttle ramp. His wife is clutching her left arm and yelling frantically at their boy. But the confused Sheev stumbles away from safety and meanders towards him. Adrenaline still pumping on overload, Kylo runs forward to intercept the boy. He’s yelling for Rey to get onboard and he will get Sheev. But Rey doesn’t seem to hear him. She’s distracted by a new volley of blasterfire streaking towards them.

His wife bolts forward and he has a perfect view to see Rey lunge hard to her right. Her outstretched hand shoves their boy out of the path of oncoming fire. And then he watches in horror as Rey is hit squarely in the chest.

Something in him feels that impact too.

NO!

Kylo is there immediately. Instinctively he blanks his boy’s consciousness to spare him the memory of this moment. Then scoops up the child to hand him to the shuttle pilot who has emerged from the top of the ramp. He shoves the boy into the pilot’s arms and orders him to leave. Then he kneels next to Rey.

Fuck. It’s bad. Very bad. Oh, Gods! It’s fucking mortal. NO! NO!

“Rey! Rey!” He’s calling her name as if that will help but he knows it won’t.

His troopers surround him to give cover as he gathers his wife into his lap. He cares nothing for this battle now. He will stay with her. Kylo will not let his Rey who spent so much of her life abandoned be alone now at the end.

“Oh, Gods no! Rey, hold on! Don’t leave me! You can’t leave me!”

He rips off his mask and his gloves. Drops the Jedi’s saber. With his right hand on her cheek and their slashed hands laced tightly, he enters her mind.  

There is pain, so much pain. It jolts through him, paralyzing him for a moment as he feels the phantom sensation of his own body bleeding out, his own lungs filling and the creeping blackness as his vision seems to dim. He knows that this is not real for him. But it is for Rey.

I am with you.   Kylo forces this thought through the pain. I won’t leave you. I love you.

And then he too is overwhelmed by the pain streaking through their shared consciousness.

What they say is true--your life does pass before your eyes in the final moments. Kylo catches the fleeting snatches of memory that rise up to Rey. Old weathered faces and timeworn places that must be her Jakku childhood.   Portions and salt tablets and sand. A speeder bike made entirely of scavenged parts that Rey is so proud of.   Then she’s traveling through hyperspace for the first time. Meeting Han Solo. Holding Sheev the day he is born. One day a random spacer at Maz’s bar blesses her with ‘May the Force be with You.’    

And there are memories of him. Pulling off his helmet in the Starkiller and surprising her with his youth.   In the moment, all she can think is that he has great hair. Sabers locked in the woods as he tells her that she needs a teacher.   It’s the first of many times he will offer to teach her the ways of the Force and she will refuse. And kisses, so many kisses and stolen moments of ecstasy behind closed doors in each other’s arms.   She should feel guilty, but she won’t. Because she has had so little pleasure in her life. Jedi or Sith, she doesn’t care. But she does care for him. Against her better judgement, she loves him.

Then he’s handing her a Jedi holochron and speaking of the Force. He’s carrying Sheev on his shoulders at the Coruscant parade.   And one night in the moonlight, he slashes her hand. Together forever he promises. As it turns out, that is his most deceptive lie.

He can feel her grip on his hand slack. Rey is fading fast. The Light within her becomes diffuse as the essence that is Rey dissolves back into the Force. This is the way of things, he knows, the way of the Force.  

But he rails against it, through the Force pumping as much of his own life energy into her in these last moments. Flooding her mind with happy memories of his own.   He wants her last thoughts to be of him.   Rey will be his until death do they part.

Kylo thinks of the first time he returned to Bast Castle. Rey is wearing this same white dress as she whirls to face him and he is mesmerized by her beauty.   Then Rey is laughing as she rolls in the grass with Sheev.   She sits up and there are leaves stuck to her hair. Laughing harder still one morning as she looks from Sheev’s black hair to his own wild mop.   Father and son have matching bedheads.   WAIT! WAIT! He has so many memories to show her but it is too late.

With a blink and one quick shudder, Rey is gone.

He is stunned.

For long moments he cannot breathe, he cannot think, all he can do is feel. And it is the worst pain imaginable. Kylo Ren has been killing people since he was fifteen years old, so many he long since lost count and doesn’t care. But this death . . . this woman . . . she had been everything. And now everything is lost.

He looks down to see his uncle’s lightsaber laying on the ground. Victory tastes bitter in her absence, for the future he has planned is empty. There will be no equal to stand at his side while he commands his empire. There will be no more children to inherit her amazing abilities.   There will be no more nights of rapture basking in her Light and in her body. No one to learn his holochrons and to remake the knowledge of Force.

He is alone again.   He will be alone forever now. He has finally finished what his grandfather started and now he will be his grandfather all over again. Forever bereft of his one true love. Forever alone. Cursed to be unhappy, like every Skywalker gone before him.

Tears are spilling down his cheeks and they are tears of blinding rage. Anger is the reflexive emotion for a Sith.

He will not accept this. He is Kylo Ren, Sith prince and Commander of the First Order, and the galaxy bends to his will. And, now, he will make the Force bend to his will as well.

No, he will not accept this. He has come so far, struggled so much, and he will not have his future snatched from him like this.

He will give Rey her happy ending.

Behind him, his shuttle is finally warmed up after the rough landing. He hears the mechanical whirr of the ramp retracting and instantly Kylo is set in motion. Gathering Rey roughly in his arms and calling his helmet and the lightsaber to him with the Force, Kylo bounds up the fast retreating ramp and into the shuttle.

He has one thought, and one thought only, as he cradles his beloved wife in his arms.

Help me, Darth Plagueis, you’re my only hope.

Chapter Text

This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of the Jedi, it will soon see the end of the Resistance.  

The reports flooding into the Supreme Leader’s stronghold show that the day is won decisively by the First Order. It only remains to capture the last stragglers who flee the field of battle. This time no quarter will be given, and the last remnants of the New Republic will be swept away. Today the war is over, and Kylo Ren’s victory is complete. For with multiple eye witnesses vouching for the defeat of the Last Jedi, the Resistance has run out of Skywalkers.

When the security codes transmit to reveal that the First Knight himself is enroute to his Master, the stronghold’s ground command leaps into action. With ten minutes notice, an honor guard is assembled on the landing platform. A legion of troopers await in perfect formation. Flanked on either side by the ranks of officers who populate Leader Snoke’s lair.

Few wish to remain at their post, for this is a moment they will tell their grandchildren about someday. How they were there at the birth of the Second Empire when Kylo Ren arrived to announce his triumph. When the lives lost were made worthwhile. When the sacrifices endured were not in vain.

Now at long last we shall have peace and a safe and secure society.  The promises of generations past will be fulfilled in the present. For Kylo Ren today has finished what Darth Vader started.

The Supreme Leader calls him his son and his boy. But there are those present who know whose son Kylo Ren truly is. And that makes the man all the more impressive. He might have led the Resistance as the scion of the Rebellion leadership, the heir of royalty, the next generation of a storied clan. But instead, the First Knight chose the harder path to pursue far nobler ideals. Cast out by his birth family in his tender years, he has become the Leader’s one true son. Loyal without fail and addressed as his Apprentice. Everyone knows that the Leader has long been grooming him for this day.

Kylo Ren is not quite thirty-five standard years when he rules the galaxy.

It is arranged that the assembly will cheer on the commandant’s signal. And so they wait with anticipation as the familiar command shuttle lands and the ramp descends. Heavy footsteps sound. Long black robes peak into view. Then the Sith himself stands before them.

He is unmasked.

Everyone stares.

The commandant does not give the signal. Instead, he removes his cap. The other officers follow suit.

Kylo Ren does not see the gesture. He sees nothing but the familiar path across the platform and then inside and through a maze of hallways to his Master.

Help me, Darth Plagueis, you’re my only hope.

This is his most desperate hour. But his Master has never failed him before. His Master will not fail him now. Not when his servant arrives victorious at long last.

As the First Knight sweeps past, he carries a woman in his arms. Her long white dress is stained with blood and the burn marks of plasma bolts. Her arms hang limp and her dusky curls trail long and flowing.

The onlookers are all military men and they have seen enough death to recognize it at a distance.   And from the compulsory viewing of the Resistance executions on the Finalizer, they all recognize the dead woman as Lady Ren.


 

He lays her gently before the throne at his Master’s feet. Stopping to brush a stray hair from her face and to arrange her torn dress for modesty. Then he reaches into his surcoat to produce Skywalker’s lightsaber. He hands it to his Master.

The ancient Sith accepts the sword eagerly. Then turns it over in his gnarled hands. Both reverence and pleasure evident in his movements. Finally, he speaks. “The Jedi’s weapon. He is dead, then?”

“He is dead. A blow through the neck. Skywalker is one with the Force.”

The fall of the final Jedi is too momentous an event to merit the informality of a smile, but Kylo can feel through the Force his Master’s immense satisfaction at the news. And his deep relief.

The wily old Sith merely nods as if this were but a routine report, but they both know this longed for goal has been many years in the making.  Since a rebellious and terrified teen first knelt in this very chamber. In a shaky voice, the young Ben Solo had pledged his soul to Darkness and his loyalty to his eternal Sith Master. At the time, the corruption of another Skywalker Jedi had unleashed a great disturbance in the Force.   All preface to foretell the events of today.

“You have done well, my Apprentice,” his Master commends with genuine pride.

This rare praise is a good sign, Kylo hopes. For he is about to request the ultimate favor of Darth Plagueis.

The old Muun leans forward in his chair to peer down at the body lying at his feet. His face softens slightly. It is a subtlety that only the First Knight would notice. Then the old Sith raises a bony hand to cup his chin thoughtfully.

“We have lost your scavenger Empress,” his Master observes slowly. “How did she die?”

Kylo Ren is grief, rage and anxiety beyond belief.   He knows that his face and the Force betray his every emotion. But his words are measured and calm. “Skywalker ambushed her shuttle. My wife took a blaster bolt meant for the boy. My son is unharmed.”

The Sith Master nods, still looking down at Rey. His voice holds a note of regret. “Such an exemplary bride you had. Loyal to the end to her Sith and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. You have my condolences, my boy. My deepest condolences.” Then the gargoyle Muun settles back on his throne and frowns.    

So . . . Darth Plagueis the Wise will make him beg. Kylo has anticipated this. His Master has not prevailed this long by sharing his deepest, Darkest secrets easily.

Kylo inhales to steady himself. To keep the churning, boiling emotions within covered by a veneer of calm. Then he plunges forward. “You know what I’ve come for.”

His Master’s features take on an almost kindly look now. The Muun’s ruined face revealing the closest the centuries hardened Sith can come to actual empathy. “Death is the way of the Force, my boy. It is the natural order of things.”

These are platitudes that belong to the Jedi, Kylo rages silently. And the sheer gall of unnaturally old Darth Plagueis telling him this does not sit well.   Sith do not accept the status quo. Sith dare anything. Sith bend the universe to submit to their will. And so Kylo Ren refuses to accept this fate for Rey.   With his Master’s help and the full power of the Dark Side, he will rage, rage against the dying of her Light.

Rey always said that she would survive him. She must survive this. There are holochrons to study, a child to raise and to teach, and his empire to rule. And Rey needs to learn to swim and take Sheev to a park. Her destiny lies with him, unfinished.

And Kylo owes her a happy ending.

“Do not deny me this.” Kylo struggles and fails to keep the edge from his tone. His emotions are ragged and his control is slipping. He wants this, he needs this, he will have this favor of his Master.  The sweat equity of almost twenty years of killing for the First Order surely has merited Kylo one life to be saved.

There is pity now in the old Sith’s voice. “In time, you will come to accept—“

“No!” Kylo does the unthinkable and interrupts. He hasn’t made that mistake since he was a runaway padawan of fifteen. And his tone and his words compound the disrespect. “I am victorious for you! Do this for me as the spoils of war.”

A long moment of silence follows. The ancient Sith’s displeasure is not expressed with words, but it is conveyed nonetheless.

Chastised, the First Knight dutifully bends a knee in deference, assuming the time honored pose of fealty. Never has he felt so desperate. Kylo is more than willing to humble himself for Rey.   He croaks out his words, his voice hoarse with a mix of frustration and contrition.

“Forgive me, my Master. I am your faithful Apprentice. It is not my place to make demands of you. But I humbly request your aid for my lady. She has been loyal to me and to our cause. She is deserving of your special mercy.”

The Muun is in a mood to be magnanimous, and Kylo’s submission earns himself quick forgiveness today.   His Master sits back on his throne. Then gives him a long measuring look and sighs deeply. “To cheat death is a power only I have achieved.” It is his Master’s single greatest accomplishment in the Force, and yet Kylo has never once seen it performed. “I do not use it lightly. It is unnatural. And it has a cost.”

“Many years ago, your grandfather sought this power for his own wife. The young fool went to Sideous instead of me. I might have helped him, had he come to me. And then, perhaps, a great many things would have turned out differently.” The old Muun pauses to reflect, then shrugs off these pointless musings. “But in the end, the Force denied Vader his desire. It took your grandmother nonetheless.”  

The Sith commands, “Look at me, Kylo Ren. The Force can be fickle. There are no guarantees of success for this power. The only guarantee is that you will pay the cost.”

“What cost?” He has to know, but really he doesn’t care. Kylo will pay whatever cost he must. Rey is worth anything and everything.

And then his Master says the unthinkable. “The cost is your boy.”

Kylo feels himself flinch at this news. Hears himself gasp. His heart sinks. And then it rages. He will lose, no matter how this plays out.

And he might lose not one, but both.

“Why?” he demands in dismay.

“To bring your wife back from the netherworld of the Force, the Force will demand another in her place.”

“But why Sheev?” Why? Why??

“Because he has the Force. If your wife were an ordinary woman, like your grandmother, we could use a stormtrooper to revive her. But not for your lady. She is special. One in a billion, Kylo Ren. The Force demands an exchange of equals. What is lost must balance what is regained. For always, the Force defaults to balance.” His Master pauses, then hastens to add, “And no, Kylo Ren, do not think to offer yourself in your son’s place. I will not allow you to sacrifice yourself.”

Kylo blinks. This solution has not occurred to him, so focused is he on the need to get his Rey back. He is a possessive Sith, he wants her for himself. Not instead of himself.

“Your lady died so that your son might live,” his Sith Master warns him sternly. “If you choose to do this, she will hate you forever for this betrayal, and rightfully so.”

Kylo knows this is true. This act would be unforgiveable. His Rey might make peace with him raping her, beating her, imprisoning her . . . but never could she forgive him this. Harm to herself is negotiable. Harm to Sheev is not.  So he would regain his wife only to lose her love.

“You are foolish to seek this.” Darth Plagueis states this plainly.

“You disapprove?”

“Yes.” There is no hesitation in his Master’s reply. “You are too blinded by sentiment to make a rational choice. You would squander your legacy for this woman. There are no assurances of future children with your wife, let alone that any child will be as strong in the Force as young Sheev. You can find another wife, Kylo Ren, but you might not find another worthy heir.”

All Kylo sees is sacrifice, not self-interest.   He will have none of this lecture. “There is no issue of sentiment!” He roars his frustration. “Twice, I have been willing to sacrifice her to pursue our goals. First, to the Resistance when I left her in a torture cell for our unborn child to die. And today I left her to escape on her own so that I could kill Skywalker. I have done my duty without fail! And she has died for it! And do not forget that there is power in her too, and not just in my son. I would do this for her, and to preserve her power for our uses.”

His words are hot and his Master’s response matches his tone. Disdain rolls off the old Muun’s tongue. “Do not fool yourself! You would not do this for her sake. You would do it for yourself! Selfish to the core, aren’t you? Sideous was a born sadist but you, my boy—such a narcissist you are! You love yourself far more than you love your wife and your child.” The Sith Master practically slurs his words as he sneers. “In this, you are the worst of your grandfather all over again, Kylo Ren. Rash and impetuous. And besotted by a woman. It is unbecoming to a Sith of your standing. To the Jedi Killer Kylo Ren.”

But his old Master knows to do more than just harangue his grieving Apprentice. He will persuade him as well, dangling before him the ultimate lure of power.   Darth Plagueis is a thinking, reasoning man.   Always, he favors both the carrot and the stick.

“My boy, I too have deeply mourned a wife. My last lady was very dear to me. I wanted to revive her, but at the time I was gravely injured and too weak to succeed. So you see, I have lived your pain.” The Sith crosses his arms and shifts in his chair. For the briefest of moments, he looks uncomfortable at the memory. “In time, I learned to harness my grief for my own betterment. My pain helped to focus my anger and to intensify my feelings. All to increase my ability to channel the Dark Side. Heed my words when I tell you that my own wife’s death ultimately served to increase my power.” He nods sagely. “Ultimately, her loss was my gain.”

The Apprentice at his feet is unmoved by this argument. Kylo simply stares back at his Master, he eyes beseeching and yet furious. The Force is practically boiling around them both.

The old Master is not yet done with his warnings. “Consider that if you sacrifice your son, you will remain my Apprentice for the rest of your days. Kylo Ren, you will never be strong enough on your own to kill me. I do not need your boy to survive, but you need that boy if you wish to one day be the ultimate power in the universe.”  

“I understand.” Kylo is willing to be an Apprentice forever if it means having Rey at his side.

The old Muun pounds his fist on his throne. He is furious. “I warned you not to love another more than you love power! But I can see that you have not heeded my advice.”

Kylo hangs his head and confesses unhappily. “No, Master, I have not.”

“Oh, you are a Skywalker through and through.” These words drip with contempt. “Love was the undoing of your grandfather as well.” The old Sith’s eyes narrow for a moment, but then he sits back as if resigned. “I admired your lady. Perhaps more than you know. She was worthy of your high esteem, I grant you that.” The eternal Sith fixes him with a hard look. “Because I love you as my own, Kylo Ren, and because today you have slain the Last Jedi, I will grant your request, if you wish. I have the power to save the one you love. You must choose. But choose wisely. Today’s gain may be tomorrow’s loss.”

All the ramifications hit home and suddenly Kylo is terrified to choose. Rey or Sheev. His wife or his son. Either way, he feels he betrays one for the other.   This is an exquisite Hell Kylo Ren could never have dreamt up.

If only there were another Force user to offer up in exchange. But he had been in a rush to execute his mother and Luke Skywalker was too dangerous to take prisoner. No, there is no one left to offer up in lieu of his little Sheev.

He gazes down at Rey’s body. At the gaping, bloody hole in her chest. At her face that is completely unmarked and oddly peaceful. How has it come down to this moment? Once, he had planned to stash her and his son in a prison camp, never to be seen again. She would do hard labor and perhaps the boy might become a stormtrooper. Their lives had meant nothing to him then. But a year later, they mean everything to him.  And so today might be his greatest military triumph, but it is a bitter personal defeat.

The sense of loss is overwhelming. And for long moments he wallows in it.

I will be alone again.   It’s all he can think over and over again. I will be alone again without Rey. And I will never again have the comfort of her Light.

But his sense of outrage continues to build. How dare his enemies do this!

She is mine. Mine and no one can take her from me. Not even death.

He knows he should be thinking of Sheev. How he will raise him and love him and teach him and train him. How his son will give him solace and purpose in her absence. How one day he and Sheev will rule the galaxy as father and son. Skywalker men at the helm of his glorious Second Empire, fulfilling the dream of Darth Vader.

The small voice who lurks in his mind will grow and learn. In a few years, will be old enough to shadow his father and to slowly absorb it all. Sheev will be taught from a tender age to command the Force and to command the galaxy. His boy will be raised for power, as a Sith should be.  

These thoughts should comfort him, but they do not. He cannot think of Sheev. In his grief, Kylo Ren can only think of himself.

This is wrong. Even an amoral, power hungry killer like himself can recognize it. This crosses a line in a way that murdering his parents did not. For this is innocence, trusting and pure and dependent upon him, utterly betrayed. Kylo had long feared that his enemies might kill his boy. And, as it turns out, he himself will do it.

Han Solo, that two-bit criminal and miserable excuse for a father, had never done anything approximating this.

But his Master is correct—Rey will hate him forever if Sheev dies so that she may live. But perhaps that too is fixable. There’s always a work around.

“Can you erase our boy from her memory?” Kylo asks hopefully, envisioning a neat solution. But to edit almost four years of memories? Is that even possible?

His Master considers for a moment before deciding, “Yes. I can erase him from her mind. I will cover your crime and shield her from pain. She has earned it.” Then he stares down his Apprentice. “But I will not erase him from yours. You shall live with this decision, Kylo Ren. And with all its consequences.”

Now, the temptation is too great.   He nods eagerly. “I understand.”

“Then choose.”

Kylo Ren takes a deep breath. Hesitates. Then decides.  

“I will do whatever it takes.” His voice is a rasp, thick with emotion. “I can’t live without her.”

“Then bring me the boy.”


 

Hail and farewell, littlest Caesar. Goodbye to the would-be Sith.

Another Skywalker prince has returned to the Force.

Milo is waiting for him on the landing platform at Bast Castle when he disembarks carrying the bundle wrapped in a blanket. The old keeper brushes back the blanket expecting to see Sheev sleeping. Then Milo’s hand freezes for a moment and tears form in the old keeper’s eyes. That day is the first and only time Kylo Ren sees Darth Vader’s manservant lose his composure.

Together they bury the boy on the green in the terrace where he had spent so many hours playing. Sheev is laid to rest nestled in the old cargo crate he had first slept in as a makeshift crib. It is far beneath the dignity of the Emperor’s son, but it is the best available. Kylo tells himself it would be familiar and comforting to his son. Milo makes sure a toy spaceship is tucked into each of his tiny cold hands. The Executor in one hand, the Finalizer in the other. Past and present are buried with the small boy who might have been the future.

Kylo thinks he should say something to mark the occasion. Milo is looking to him for comforting words. But he has none. So they stand together for a long time in silence and in tears.  

Kylo cries for his boy, who he has betrayed to his death. The child born of violence whose birth had brought him and Rey together, and whose death he hopes will keep them together.

Kylo cries for himself, for the terrible, tempting choice that he could not resist. He has long known that he is a monster. Never more so than now.

And Kylo cries for Rey, who will never remember their son. Not the pain of his loss, but also not the joy of his life. No one will remember the boy she had called Han Solo and he dubbed Sheev Ren. That boy is erased from history as of today.  

Sheev had been interested and alert when Kylo had brought him into the presence of his Master. “Who are you?” Sheev had chirped to the old Sith. “Darth Plagueis the Wise,” his Master had answered solemnly. His boy nodded and responded with equal gravity, “I am Sheev Ren. I’m three. How old are you?” “I am four hundred and thirty-three standard years.“   The child had giggled at this, then spoken up again. “This is my Daddy. I will be a Sith like him when I grow up.” The pride in his high pitched voice had made Kylo cringe. “Are you tired, little Sith?” His Master had asked lightly, the question laced with suggestion from the Force. “Yes,” Sheev had answered with a sudden yawn. “Then let me help you sleep, dear child.” And his Master had waved his fingers. The little boy’s eyes grew heavy. Then Kylo had lifted Sheev to nestle on his shoulder, stroking his back until his little son slowly drifted away into nothingness. “Night-night, Daddy.”

It had been gentle and painless. Not like Rey.

“Truly,” his Master tells him afterwards in a moment of devastating candor, “I am torn between admiration and horror at the ease by which you betrayed this child of your own blood. You, Kylo Ren, are a true Sith. Of that, there can be no doubt.”

It is a dubious distinction. Today he has done what even Darth Vader could not bring himself to do—Kylo has killed his own son.

“Never again shall we speak of this. Or of him,” he tells Milo once their tears run dry. “Sheev Ren did not exist.”

Beside him, Milo the faithful keeper nods his complete understanding. Long has he served the Sith. He knows their ways.

Chapter Text

Please let this have worked. Kylo thinks this over and over, like a mantra.

Kylo is more nervous about this than anything in his entire life. Because Rey is everything, and now she is all that he has left. There are no guarantees of success, his Master has warned repeatedly. And if this goes wrong, then Kylo will have thrown it all away for nothing.

So he is pensive, shifting his stance with gloved hands trembling, as he stands beside his Master behind the two-way glass window. Rey lays on the other side asleep on a table surrounded by Chief Healer Smath, a couple of medics and a droid.

Rey has been under heavy sedation in and out of a bacta tank for two weeks. It has been the longest two weeks of his life. Slowly, her body has healed and revived. Today finally they will wake her up. Today will reveal if the wife he remembers has truly been resurrected. And so Kylo watches with his heart in his throat.

Please let this have worked. He has sacrificed his only son for this woman.  

The healers have repaired not just her current injury but also erased the hurts of the past. Gone is the slave collar’s mark he foolishly put on her. Gone are the scars of Jakku from scavenging and from beatings by Unkar Plutt. Gone is the C-section scar from the birth of the boy that never was. All that remains of the Empress’ past is the slash on her left palm, boldly distinctive against the pristine canvas of her now flawless skin.   It’s the scar of love to represent his mark on her heart.

Kylo watches as the droid administers a stim shot. He’s holding his breath.

Please let this have worked. I can’t live without her.

Beside him, his Master also looks on in rapt attention. Kylo can sense the old Sith’s excitement.   He too is anxious to learn if his efforts have succeeded.   “Do not be alarmed if she is disoriented,” his Master cautions. “That is typical.”

Rey opens her eyes and stares a moment. Then she abruptly sits up. It’s a jerky motion and she nearly falls from the table. A split-second later, she throws out her right arm. The medic droid hits the wall with a loud crash as she hollers, “I’m not telling you anything!”

“Goooood . . . good.” His Master cackles with pleasure. “Our fierce scavenger is back.  And she still has the Force.”

Kylo is concerned that his wife is confused and thinking she’s back in a Resistance torture chamber. He doesn’t want her to relive those memories. So he makes for the door, but his Master stops him. “Wait.”

Kylo reluctantly complies. Together, they watch and listen as Chief Healer Smath speaks to his wife.

. . . sustained extensive blaster injuries and have been in a bacta tank for two weeks . . . not uncommon for there to be some temporary mild memory loss . . . would like to ask you some questions . . .

Rey is nodding at the Chief Healer. Kylo watches as she smooths her hands over the plain medical gown she is wearing. Rey sits perched on the edge of the table, her bare legs swinging slightly.

Beside him, Old Master Snoke smiles like a proud papa. “Now, we shall see what she remembers. I have made a few edits that I think you will appreciate.”

Edits? Kylo gulps, imagining the worst.

His Master slants him a sideways glance. “You asked me to selectively remove four years’ worth of her memories, Kylo Ren.   It was an enjoyable challenge, truly. But a few edits for continuity were in order.”

“Of course. Thank you, Master.” Kylo is so nervous he can’t stand still. His Rey is awake and talking. But is she still his Rey?

Who are you?

I’m no one.

Let me ask that differently. What is your name?

Rey.

Rey what?

Just Rey.

His Master begins to elaborate. “She does not remember Sheev. And since there is no child, I have omitted your clumsy transgression on the Starkiller. She remembers that she refused to train with Skywalker and left the Resistance to return to Jakku. And there you came for her, to take her away from the suffering you had previously glimpsed in her mind.   You took her to your grandfather’s castle and slowly wooed her.” Old Snoke smiles slightly. He’s enjoying telling this. “You were gentle but ruthless, much as I might have been.   Until one night she could no longer resist and she begged you to accept her surrender. So you slashed her hand in the moonlight, pledged as Sith and took your virgin bride to bed.” The Sith Master shoots his Apprentice a meaningful look. “Take a lesson here, Kylo Ren. The best predators always make their victim somewhat complicit.   If you can, let a woman corrupt herself. It’s so much more satisfying that way, I have found.”

You have a surname. Can you remember it?

I have no surname. Ask Kylo, he’ll tell you it’s true.

Good, good.   You remember Kylo. Who is Kylo?

Kylo is my husband. Can I see him? I want to see Kylo.

She remembers him. The relief makes him exhale. And Rey keeps glancing over at the glass. Does she know that he is here? If so, that’s an encouraging sign. Maybe she even feels him through the Force.

Yes, you will get to see him soon. You have your husband’s surname. What is Kylo’s last name?

Solo, I guess. Kylo is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa Solo.

Please relax and think again. Han Solo was a Rebellion general who died sabotaging the Starkiller base. And Leia Organa Solo was a Resistance general. They are both enemies of the First Order. I’m afraid they are not the parents of er . . . Kylo.

The tall Muun grins at this exchange between Rey and the Chief Healer. But he does not interrupt to explain. “I have softened your tempestuous history together,” he reveals. “Now your wife has never known the back of your hand. Never known the cutting edge of your tongue. Never known anything but the love and protection of her beloved Sith. She knows who you are, Kylo Ren. But she is safe and secure in the knowledge that you will protect her from the worst of yourself.” The old Muun catches his eye and winks slyly. It’s a bizarre gesture, and it tells him that his Master is well pleased with himself. And that alone is immensely encouraging. “For her alone, you shall be a conventionally moral man. Such is her privilege as your wife.”

Kylo’s last name might be Skywalker.

No, ma’am. That’s the Jedi’s name. Your husband is not a Jedi. We can skip on to something else now.

Kylo’s mother was Darth Vader’s daughter. I guess she should have been Leia Skywalker. Darth Vader was once a Jedi named Skywalker.

“Poor Smath,” his Master is enjoying how befuddled the Chief Healer is by Rey’s answers. Only Smath thinks Rey is the one who is befuddled. “Be sure to tell his staff to feed her.   Your wife is far too thin.” His Master leers at him man to man. “Now that she is recovered, we need to give you something to hold onto in the dark.”

Okay, let’s move on. Where are you from?

Jakku.

Jakku is the site of a famous battle, but the planet itself is barely inhabited. Are you sure you are not from a Core world? Coruscant, perhaps?

I’m a scavenger and a mechanic from Jakku.

“She truly is no one,” his Master comments after this exchange. “Her spice addict mother sold her to slavers on Jakku for a hit. If there was a father, he is nowhere in her memories.   The girl was sick when she was sold, so the slavers didn’t want her. So, they turned her over to that foul Unkar Plutt.”

“Really?” Kylo is surprised at this news. And disappointed somewhat. He had from time to time entertained fantastic theories of his incredibly Force-strong wife being descended from Jedi lineage, as the granddaughter of a long ago wayward romance.   Once, he had even wondered if she might have a connection to old Palpatine giving her patrician dialect. “But what of her accent?” Kylo wonders.

His Master grins and chuckles. “The accent is from old holonet tapes she listened to for hours to teach herself to read, write and speak perfect textbook Basic. Her accent is utterly fake and completely convincing.”

His Master muses for a moment. “Actually, I’m not surprised by her origins. For the Light mostly casts its spell amid the wretched refuse of our galaxy. It burns brightest in all those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.” The old Muun shrugs. “There is a certain nobility to their struggle. Yes, the Force has a marvelous sense of irony, my Apprentice. It gives us Core World princes who are idiots and a Tatooine slave who is the Chosen One. And now it has given us back our scavenger Empress.”

What is your last memory?

There was battle on a ship. I was hit with blaster bolt. First on my arm and then on my chest. Kylo was there. He was coming to save me.

Yes. You were in a firefight aboard a Resistance freighter. Do you remember what was happened before you were shot?

I remember talking to Luke Skywalker.

What did you talk about?

He wanted me to go back to the Resistance.

Go back?

I fought with the Resistance.

Think again now. You are married to Kylo Ren of the First Order.

I might still be in the First Order records as a fugitive. You’d have to ask my husband about that. Can I see Kylo? I want to see him.

“She’s all there, Kylo Ren. It is a success.” His Master is puffed up with pride for his accomplishment. “Whatever small gaps you uncover in her memory can be explained away by her injury and by the interrogation drugs the Resistance gave her.”

Relief must show plainly on his face, but Kylo doesn’t care.   For the last two weeks, he has been preparing himself for all manner of disappointments. Cautioning himself that whatever woman awaited him might not be the Rey he has known and loved.

“Kylo Ren,” his Master drags his attention back from his wife. “If ever you try to kill me, you had best succeed. For if you fail, I will kill you and then I will show her the truth. And she will know all that you have done to her and to her son and she will hate your memory forever.”

“Yes, Master.”

Then the door opens and a defeated looking Chief Healer Smath walks in.  “Supreme Leader, Your Excellency,” Smath bows slightly to the two men who stand before him. “It saddens me to report that the Empress is highly confused about certain things. But there is hope that in time, things will--”

“She’s fine,” Kylo cuts him off. “Just fine, Smath.”

The eternal Muun looks amused. “Indeed,” he agrees in his gravelly, slow tones. “Come, my Apprentice. Let us welcome your lady home.”

Kylo follows him into Rey’s room. The smile of recognition on her face warms his heart. Yes, his Rey is back. He’s starting to relax a little.

His Master steps forward to take up his wife’s left hand. “How pleased am I that you are recalled to life, my dear. Such a pleasure to have our Lady Rey recovered.”

“Thank you, Supreme Leader,” Rey answers formally with the slightest nod. Sitting in her medical gown and bare feet she still has all the dignity of Lady Ren at her most ceremoniously attired. Kylo can’t help but grin.   How he has missed his Rey.

The old Muun trails a bony finger down her cheek. It’s a small caress but possessive all the same and it raises alarms in Kylo. This close and in the bright lights of the medical chamber, the tall Muun is a nightmare to behold. With barely healed holes in his collapsed face and thin, almost transparent skin. But his wife shows no aversion or surprise. Rey is completely at ease with the old Muun’s touch, and suddenly Kylo is concerned that perhaps his Master has made edits to her memory for more than continuity. For his wife is smiling up at his old Master as if she truly likes him. As if she knows him.

Snoke cups her cheek now as he intones, “I am your resurrection and your life. For those few who merit the love of a Sith will live, even if they die.” The Sith Master turns to Kylo and reaches for his left hand, joining it now with Rey’s.   Her hand is warm and soft, like he remembers.   Not the cold, stiff corpse he had lain at his Master’s feet on that awful day.

“My lady, I give you back to my Apprentice now.  Second chances are rare. So treat her well, Kylo Ren. For if you disappoint her or disappoint me, I shall take her back.” Then his Master leans down and in towards Rey. Kylo watches in horrified fascination as the Muun plants a chaste kiss on his wife’s lips. “Now and forever shall you belong to the Sith,” his Master admonishes.

Rey just smiles serenely.

Kylo speaks, his voice hoarse with emotion. “Thank you, my Master. Thank you.”

Old Darth Plagueis nods and then departs, his long dark robes trailing in his wake.

And at long last, they are alone.

Kylo is still holding Rey’s hand. He stares at her, blinking almost in disbelief.  This is what he has been waiting for, hoping for, yearning for.   His Master had banished him from his stronghold for the duration of Rey’s recovery. The old Sith had been mindful as ever to safeguard his Darkest secrets in the Force. And so Kylo had been denied even the ability to sit with Rey in her convalescence.

His last memory of Rey is of her lifeless and broken body lying on the floor of his Master’s audience chamber. But the woman before him now is pink cheeked and healthy, with bright eyes and a soft smile just for him. She dazzles him now, like she once had dazzled him at Bast.

“Oh, Rey,” he steps forward to clasp her tightly in his arms. “My Rey.” He presses her cheek firmly against his heart as he closes his eyes to revel in the moment. “I love you, Rey.” He clings to her and she clings back.

“You are the Emperor now, aren’t you?” Rey’s voice is muffled into his chest.

“Yes.” Kylo strokes her hair.   His wife has awoken after a momentous two weeks of change in the galaxy. And there is more change to come. “I am the Emperor. But for you, Rey, I am a slave. There’s nothing I won’t do for you, Rey.” He pulls her tighter, holding on as if for dear life. “Nothing,” he repeats.

This is the happiest moment of his life, he thinks. His Rey is returned to his side. This makes his awful sacrifice worth it.

And he owes it all to old Darth Plagueis. His Sith Master never lets him down.

Kylo has everything now he thought he ever wanted. The goals he plotted and killed for have been achieved.  The holonet calls him His Excellency and his Master now addresses him as Lord Ren. Once more, the Sith rule the galaxy.

But there is more, and it’s something he never knew he wanted. Collected along the way by accident or perhaps by design. It’s hard to tell, for mysterious are the ways of the Force. She is in his arms now, the woman he calls wife and the galaxy knows as his Empress. Recalled to life and restored to his side where she belongs.  

Unnatural as it is, the Dark Side has given back the Light that was taken from him.

Time confirms that the memories of the boy who never was have been wiped clean from Rey’s mind.   Kylo takes measures to ensure that his wife will never know of their son’s existence. Will never feel the pain of his loss. Will never learn the secret of Kylo’s betrayal. It took only a few executions to ensure that no one dare speak of the little boy who once had the run of the Finalizer. The Emperor will tolerate no mention of his son who was brutally slaughtered when the Jedi ambushed his family.

The pain is too fresh and too deep, his officers whisper behind his back. The Jedi murdered his son and nearly killed his wife, they say to one another. And don’t forget, someone always points out, the Jedi killed another child as well. And then the rescue of the Empress from D’Qar is retold in lurid and sympathetic detail.  

In time, Kylo knows, the truth will fade into rumor and then into speculation and then into nothing. And one day, no one but he, his Master and Milo will remember the boy who never was.

And this is how it will continue, Kylo thinks, as he holds his precious Rey close.   He will take care of her. And all his Rey will ever know is comfort, happiness and him. No harm will ever touch her. No painful hurt can beleaguer her thoughts. He will not allow it.  

For this is what it means to be loved by a Sith.   This is the privilege of the Emperor’s Lady.

What she doesn’t know, can’t hurt her.


 

Rey has it all planned out. She will wait for Kylo on the landing platform, as usual. And as long as he’s alone, he will take off his mask and kiss her in full view of the troopers. He loves doing that—he knows it embarrasses her.   He also knows she kind of likes it. Then Rey will tell him right then and there. Before he can start squinting at her changed Force imprint and reading her thoughts and doing all those habitually obsessive Kylo quirks that ruin every surprise.

Rey knows just what to say. She’ll tell him that something wonderful has happened. That’s she’s pregnant. And then Kylo will smile and say that this is the happiest moment of his life.

And Kylo will mean it. Truly.  

Rey knows how hard her husband took the loss of their unborn child at the hands of the Resistance. After catching Kylo brooding one too many times, Rey finally asked why one night over dinner. He didn’t meet her eyes, and that spoke volumes. For Kylo shares everything with her.

“I wish our child had lived,” was all he had said. “I see him—I mean her--sometimes in the Force.” Rey had nodded and reached to cover Kylo’s hand with her own. She too had grieved their daughter lost to torture drugs. “Don’t look back, Kylo. Only look forward. We will have another baby one day.”

Her words had brought him no solace. So she watched in silence as Kylo pushed his plate away and stalked across the room to pour himself a generous glass of Corellian brandy.   Then he had wandered outside to the balcony to stare out at the darkened terrace. He’s always looking out at the terrace when they are at home here at Bast.

Rey had left him alone with his thoughts. They don’t talk about Padme Ren.

But this news will begin to make things right. And it is the final piece of Kylo’s glorious future to fall into place. His foes have all been vanquished, his Second Empire has been founded and the Force is no longer fractured. And now, the future of their family will be secure.

His Master will be pleased. Very pleased.

Rey smiles to herself, thinking how obnoxiously overbearing Kylo is about to become. He’ll be haranguing her to eat. Again, there will be an endless parade of healers to examine her like after she was shot.   And he will keep her under lock and key, fearful as always that the past will repeat itself. It will be annoying, but it will be worth it.

She’s leaning against the balcony railing, wondering whether the room that adjoins hers might make a good nursery when she hears her name.

“Rey!” Kylo says it emphatically, urgently. She whirls in surprise.

“What are you doing back? Your shuttle isn’t expected for at least another hour.”

He’s staring at her, black eyes sparking. “Rey?” Her name is a question now and he’s grinning ear to ear and damn the man he already knows her secret. The fucking Force spilled the beans. Kylo keeps walking towards her. “Rey???”

And then she forgets to tell him that something wonderful has happened. She just squeals and runs into his waiting arms. “I’m pregnant!” Her grin matches his. “I found out three days ago.”

“It’s hard to miss. What--are you giving birth to Yoda? Your Force imprint is huge!”

“It’s twins!” she shouts gleefully.

“Twins? Really?” Her husband looks shocked. “I guess that explains it.” He nods and whispers aloud with satisfaction, “Two more Skywalkers.”

“Twins run in the family,” she reminds him lightly.

“Yes, that’s very Padme of you.”   Kylo looks like he might burst with pride. “But don’t get any ideas—we’re not naming them Luke and Leia.”

She snorts. “Gods, I hope not. That would be bad luck. And besides, I’m not letting you name our son Leia.”

“What?”

“Twin boys, Kylo. It’s twin boys!”

Now Kylo definitely is going to burst with pride. Watching his reaction just now might be the best part of the surprise.

“Your Master is going to high five you over this, isn’t he?” Rey teases. “You’re going to strut in there and tell him you just sired him two more Sith.”

“Hell, yeah!” Kylo is beaming. He looks absurdly smug. “Just think--two more Skywalker princes to rule the galaxy.”

Rey rolls her eyes. Her husband never gets tired of plotting his legacy. “This twin thing could be tricky,” Rey thinks aloud, suddenly wondering how sibling rivalry will work for sons raised by her ultra-competitive, ambitious Dark Side husband.  Does one kid get the Core Worlds and the other the Rim? Hmmmm. . .   “I hope there’s not a good twin and a bad twin,” Rey muses. It would be just like the Force to fuck with them like that.

“Of course not,” Kylo assures her with a big smacking kiss. He’s gleeful now too. “There will be two bad twins. My boys will be born to be Sith.”

Rey groans. “I’m already feeling a bit outnumbered. I’ve just gone from one Sith to three.”

“Yes, good thing there’s no more Rule of Two.”

That makes her chuckle and he laughs a little too until he catches her frown.

“What? What is it?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Rey looks down for a moment, betraying her insecurity. She has wanted to get pregnant again for so long.   But now that it’s happened, it’s kind of intimidating. And twins! “I just . . . I just hope I’m up for this.   This is a huge responsibility. And you know I didn’t grow up with parents. I don’t know how to be a good mother.   I might mess this up, Kylo.”

Suddenly, he looks very serious. “Oh, Rey,” Kylo stares down at her. “You will be an excellent mother.”

Rey screws up her face, slightly skeptical. “Do really you think so?”

“I know so. And I’m counting on it. Boys need their mothers.”  

His confidence encourages her and brings back her smile.

“Rey,” Kylo is holding both of her hands now. He has that earnest, romantic look in his eyes that he gets when he talks about the Force, their future and their family. All his life, she knows, Kylo has looked away to the future.   First the future was his empire, and now the future is their family.   But always plotting, her Sith is. “Thank you, Rey. For this and for everything.”

Rey smiles up at him, but then is distracted by the sound of an ion engine winding down. She looks up to see Kylo’s command shuttle swooping down to descend onto the landing pad. “Wait—that’s your ship. How did you get here?” she wants to know.

“I flew.”

Rey raises an eyebrow. Kylo never flies his own ship. It would require her perpetually multi-tasking Emperor husband to put down his datapad.

“Come,” he grabs her hand, suddenly looking like a mischievous little boy. “I have a surprise for you too. It’s not nearly as good as yours, but I think you’ll like it. It’s on the landing pad.”

That piques her interest and Rey is off and half-running.

“Wait—slow down! Don’t rush. You might trip. And you’re probably not supposed to exert yourself, right?   Maybe I should just carry you.”

Exert herself? Carry her? She’s just walking fast down the hallway. Rey rolls her eyes. “Stop fussing, Kylo.” It going to be like this for the next nine months, isn’t it?   She told him she was pregnant all of five minutes ago and her husband is already acting insufferable. Just to tweak him, she laughs and speeds up and now he’s chasing her down the hallway and outside.

Sitting on the Bast landing pad is the prototype TIE she flew months ago on the Finalizer. It is painted the reverse of the Order’s usual black with red paint job. This TIE is completely red with black accents. It’s a gorgeous ship and a sweet state-of-the-art piece of tech.

“Wow!” is all she can manage.

“It’s yours, Rey.” Kylo hovers over her, anxious about her reaction. “I had them remove the ventral cannon. Knew you wouldn’t like that.”

“They went ahead and built it with the canon?” Rey frowns her disapproval.

Milo emerges from the far side of the TIE he’s been expecting. “Very nice,” the old keeper approves.   “Fast with lots of style.”

“Vader would approve?” Rey teases the old keeper.

“Oh, yes, Lord Vader would approve.” Milo smiles and nods. “And he would have loved the red.”

“Do you like it?” Kylo asks her anxiously.

Rey throws her arms around him. “I love it!” she grins before pulling his head down for a kiss.

 

THE END

Chapter Text

Hello and thanks for reading this very long, very challenging story.

I may have bit off more than I could chew with this story, and I am a very novice writer—this is only my second fan fic. But let me explain a bit about Fulcrum.

My first fic attempt You Need a Teacher ended in a way that seemed to shock some readers. That surprised me. I thought all the signposts were there to show where that fic was headed from the very beginning—it was even captioned as inspired by Wuthering Heights. But I received many PMs and comments about it, which got me wondering: 1) could I write a fic where Kylo and Rey end up together and Kylo stays dark? 2) is there a happily ever after on the Dark Side? If so, what would it look like? and 3) what’s it like to be in a relationship with an authentic Sith lord?

These challenges presented a few issues to consider—chiefly, why on earth would our heroine even want to end up with a First Order Kylo Ren? How would she ever hang around him enough to be open to seeing sides of the him that she might like? The easy answer was for them to live together. And this trope appears in a lot of fics—Kylo and Rey marooned somewhere together where they have to get past crossing swords and actually work together for a common goal.   I put my characters together in a castle. It’s a soft-ish prison for Rey. But she’s not motivated to escape because of her son and because she is treated well.

Their son is the key to this story. So . . . how to get a Reylo baby? In this story, the child comes from a vicious rape. It’s a completely awful scenario for Rey. It’s squeamish to write about and hard to read about. And it makes Kylo a super dark Sith—hardly romantic hero material. It also makes my story very AU, as some commenters have rightly pointed out.   From the get-go, my story is not canon.

But the child is the perfect plot device since mothers do pretty amazing stuff for their kids and if there ever was a reason to sacrifice your own hopes and dreams, it’s your kid.   I was also interested in writing about motherhood. I have little boys (oldest is 5). Most days it is hard and everyone ends up screaming at some point, including Mommy. I wanted to put some of that frustration and sacrifice into my story.

The rape backstory is very off-putting, but it establishes from the outset that Kylo is DARK.   When we first see Kylo Ren on screen, he’s beheading an old man. We see him murder his father and then thank him. We know he’s done bad stuff at Luke’s Jedi Academy. This is not good behavior and that’s fitting since the Dark Side is Dark. Kylo is a violent, power hungry man who has very few limitations on his behavior. What would that translate to in real life? I think it’s an obnoxious, entitled, violent narcissist. He does what he wants and consequences be damned.

So my story starts with Kylo contemplating consequences when he learns of his son. Kylo comes to grips with fatherhood much easier than he comes to grips with his rape. Fatherhood fits into the narrative of his family and also the future he is trying to build. Rey doesn’t fit in quite so easily.  It takes a long time for him to truly understand what he did to Rey. He has to care about her some before he can begin to understand what he did to her. And caring about people is not easy for Kylo because he mostly cares about himself and his own desires.

Of course, he doesn’t grow to care about Rey in the modern sense of a mutually loving relationship. He’s abusive, obsessive, possessive and controlling. Because he’s a Sith. Whether or not you have the Force, you’re not going to get an equal partnership-type marriage with a Sith lord. At best, you become the princess on a pedestal, which is where Rey pretty much ends up.

I confess that it was sort of amusing for me to see comments from readers who wanted Kylo to reform. Everyone wants to save this guy—to make him the good guy hero. But this isn’t a Ben Solo redemption story. That doesn’t interest me as a writer and others have written those stories much better than I ever could.

And that’s the twist to my story: the bad guy is set up to be reformed by the love of a good woman, but he never quite makes it. Yes, Kylo grows and changes a quite a bit, but at his core he’s still the same Sith from beginning to end. Did you get fooled into thinking he was changing along the way? Were you rooting for Kylo? Then as a writer I did my job. Did my ending shock and surprise you? Yeah, I know it’s frustrating to see the bad guys win. That’s not how SW is supposed to end, right? But along the way Kylo says it over and over again—he is who he is and he’s not going to change, that people don’t really change, etc. The ends always justify the means for Kylo Ren, and that’s how we get our tragic ending.

Watching the The Force Awakens dvd this spring, I was struck by the little bits of snippy sarcasm that come out of Kylo’s mouth. (“You’re so right”/ “perhaps Leader Snoke should use a clone army” etc). So I wrote my Kylo to have a sarcastic, gloating, provoking edge to him. It fit right in with my smug, entitled Sith prince. I also wrote Kylo at points to be gleefully bad (modeled after Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars Lego cartoons my sons like to watch). He enjoys being a Sith—he’s not a tortured soul who secretly yearns for reform. Kylo Ren is who he wants to be.

I also wanted him to be sexy. Not tortured soulmate kind of sexy, just outright cocky sexy. Honestly, his initial sexy, asshole characterization was inspired by the old school tune Candy Shop by 50 Cent. I had this whole scenario in my head of Kylo and his Ren Men ballin’ through Coruscant incognito for a furlough of sex and booze after their latest violent mission. Like Wall Street investment bankers on bonus day. But I also wanted Kylo to be sort of clueless about flirting and how to relate to women generally since I imagine him mostly cavorting with prostitutes and underlings when he isn’t killing people with his posse.   He doesn’t want a relationship with a woman and he’s never actually had one until Rey shows up. The man has never had to make an effort with any woman, and he doesn’t know how.

What about Rey? I think she’s the ultimate survivor. From what little we know of life on Jakku, Rey has dealt with a lot. If any heroine is going to make the best of a bad situation, it’s Rey. I know many people (and probably Disney) view her to be a cheerful good-through-and-through noble Jedi-in-the-making.   She’ll be an amazing character and a great role model for young girls. But in my AU world, I like to think that her experiences on Jakku—her loneliness, her abandonment, her lack of exposure to the outside world—have left their mark on her.

She’s also dealt with so much in life by herself that I’m not sure Rey knows what a healthy relationship is. And she might be willing to put up with a lot more than she should because of her neediness. My Rey is much more accepting of mistreatment than lots of readers would like. Honestly, some part of her doesn’t know any better. I see her as being very capable, but still having serious insecurities.  She’s this complicated mix of vulnerability and strength. That makes her ripe for manipulation and seduction by Kylo.

In my other fic, Rey ended up a bit too passive. This time around, I wanted her to be more feisty. To give her more chemistry with Kylo, too. This time around, my Rey is less committed to the Light and the Resistance. Instead, she’s committed to her son and herself. My Rey becomes largely agnostic about the conflicts that surround her—she’s more interested in surviving than she is in winning. This is also a key part of Kylo and Rey ending up together. You can’t have a lasting relationship between two people who wear their galactic politics on their sleeves (enough to fight and die for it) on opposing sides.  Then every scene is conflict and, well, that’s hard to move past in a story.  Let’s be honest, after a while the “I love you but I hate everything you stand for” gets old. Relationships come from commonalities—shared passions, shared goals, shared values—to counterbalance the differences we all have with our partners.

It was important to me that Kylo and Rey not have a Force bond. Don’t get me wrong—fever dreams over a Force bond are hot. But it’s been written before—and written very well—so I wanted to avoid this plot device. It seemed too much like a shortcut to romance (“only you understand me because you’re constantly in my head”) and you can’t really have the characters hurting one another if they instantly feel each other’s pain and inner thoughts. Real life doesn’t work that way—real relationships have all sorts of drama and miscommunication.

My first fic had a serious tone throughout. But this story was so much darker and less romantic that I wanted parts to be more flippant and conversational. I worried that really dark stuff in a very serious tone could just turn out to be plodding and heavy.   Who wants to read that? Instead, my goal was for the story to be darkly entertaining.   To use everyday language and present tense. I even introduced profanity, which seemed to fit for Kylo’s nastiness. Rey uses it sparingly only for super tense situations.   I tried to balance the intensity of the conflicts with plenty of slow (but hopefully character developing) fluff. Sith fluff, it’s called now in my mind, thanks to a charming reader’s comment.

There are several themes that pervade this story, the most important of which is consequences/responsibility.   The story opens with Kylo finding Rey and his son and being faced for the first time with real consequences from his actions. Kylo learning to deal with this is key to his development in the story. But Kylo is ever the arrogant Sith, and he never fully accepts responsibility. And, honestly, as a Sith Emperor-in-training he will never be asked to account for his actions the way a normal person would.   In the end, Kylo won’t accept Rey’s death and sacrifices his son to save her. It neatly gives him back his wife and also erases his crime on the Starkiller (which Rey has basically forgiven him anyway).   And life goes on for Kylo and Rey.

Of course, my favorite Star Wars theme/plot device is the dysfunctional Skywalker family and that is everywhere in this fic.   Kylo has the facts of his family history a bit mixed up (Snoke did the telling, in my mind) but really that family is stranger than fiction and marvelously fun to think and write about. Family is a huge motivator for both Kylo and Rey. He’s trying to live up to his family legacy and create a dynasty of his own. Rey is trying to establish and hold on to the family she has always wanted.   It’s a commonality that helps to bring and keep them together.

Throughout this story, characters have widely varied understandings of the truth concerning the past, the Jedi and the Sith. Differing perceptions of the truth and how hard it can be to recognize the truth when you hear it are themes that carry throughout this fic.  Luke and Leia consistently speak truth to Rey but it falls on deaf ears. Everything they tell her is true or comes true. Rey’s understanding of the past is completely Kylo’s, which Luke and Leia fail to recognize from the outset. And so their actions to try and save Sheev just play into the scary narrative Kylo has told her.  

Some readers have found my Luke and Leia to be very out of character from their canon versions, and I suppose that’s true in some ways. They are tired old veterans at this stage, losing a war they have fought for decades and once thought they had won. Maybe a bit hardened and blunt now (although Leia is very blunt in ANH and I can easily see her getting bitchier over time). But in my mind, Luke and, in particular, Leia would be very motivated to try to save Sheev, even if that means outright stealing him. The Skywalker twins have seen the Dark Side first with their father and now with Kylo and they know what’s coming. I never intended Luke and Leia to come off as the bad guys, but that’s certainly how Rey and Kylo see them and most of those scenes are written from Rey’s perspective.  

I spent a lot of time in this fic exploring what it means to change as a person and what it means to adapt to events surrounding you. Do people change? Both Rey and Kylo change in this story, but in the end I think they are still very true to their original versions. Rey changes far more than Kylo. These two characters don’t so much meet in the middle as Rey keeps compromising and making excuses for him.

Does Kylo love Rey? Certainly, he respects and admires her. And aspects of their relationship look like love. But it’s not what an objective viewer would consider to be a normal, healthy relationship. Kylo thinks it’s love, and in a way that’s very tragic for me. In my mind, Kylo gets as close as a Sith can get to true love. He is still selfish and self-involved at his core, which is how we get our ending. Kylo loves Rey, but he loves himself more.

Does Rey love Kylo? Yes, I think she does. In as much as she knows what love is. It is kind of devastating for me to contemplate a life as solitary and harsh as Rey’s. To never know the love of a parent (or a parent-figure) is so heartbreaking. I have observed that a lot of self-esteem and relationship issues later in life come from the examples we saw as children in our home environment. And Rey saw none of this except what she absorbed through media (my Rey loves the holonet). So when we meet her, she’s kind of clueless and childlike about what it means to love and to be a family.

What does it mean to be a Sith? ROTJ and the prequels seem to suggest that you must be all bad to be Sith. That if there’s some small spark of humanity or compassion in you (“There’s good/Light in him” that comes out of Luke’s mouth, Padme’s mouth and Leia’s mouth) then you are ripe for redemption and ready to turn from the Dark Side if given the right pitch at the right time by the right person. And there is the very strong suggestion that Darth Vader truly repents all his wrongdoing and ends up on the Light Side. Which is quite a feat given all the blood on that man’s hand.

Putting this all together, I feel as though some fans have taken that to mean that the Sith are completely and always evil and solitary 24-7. And that seems unrealistic. And also sort of uninteresting as an author. My Kylo is a bad guy and he enjoys being bad. But that doesn’t stop him from having relationships and even some fun along the way that doesn’t involve killing people.  He has father figures in Darth Plagueis and Milo. He has colleagues in Hux and Nestor and the rest of the Ren. He has a lover in Rey and, of course, he has his son.

In my mind, the Dark Side is seductive. And so we see Kylo seducing Rey in both mind and body. Rey never comes around to falling for the ideals of the First Order, but she gets to a place where she tolerates it and even understands it. And she stops opposing it.   And since the First Order is largely Kylo’s vision for their future, she ultimately becomes loyal to it in a fashion. And where the Jedi and Sith are concerned, Rey accepts Kylo’s worldview completely.

SW as we know it is a morality tale, and this fic diverges completely from that narrative. The bad guys win and evil deeds go unpunished. That will never be canon. But I think it’s interesting to turn the SW universe upside down and look at it from a completely different perspective. I think the best fan fics are not only enjoyable, but they help you understand and appreciate the canon story all the more because you think about the what ifs. I love the imaginative aspect of fan fics—putting familiar characters in different situations to see how that might cause them to react.   If you are a slave to canon, then this story is not for you.

I started banging out Fulcrum on my laptop almost as soon as my first fic was published online. Then, I got cold feet over the rape angle and put the story down for about a month. I’ll be honest—I searched over and over to find an angle for this story that would not include rape.   It simply bothered me to write about that topic. I even wondered if there was something wrong with me for even putting this story to paper, to be honest. Like, what kind of creep am I to be spending my time on this??

During this time, Mr. Blue Envelopes was traveling for business quite a bit, and I ended up seeing three performances of Wagner’s Seigfried on my own. I love opera (yeah, I know, opera is usually an older person’s thing, but I love it even though I can’t sing a note) and I have gotten into the Ring cycle of late. Well, when you watch 15 hours of Wagner in two weeks, it gets you thinking. Mostly, I was thinking about Wagner’s Walsungs—the operatic version of the Skywalker clan—who are the central family/bloodline of the Ring cycle. The Walsungs do everything Skywalkers do—they love, they kill, they betray, they fight with magic swords from their father, they topple regimes, they incestuously kiss their sister—you get the picture. And power is the underlying theme of the entire Ring cycle. Think my story ends darkly? In the Ring, everyone ends up dead and the world comes to an end. Now, that’s dark! So, thank you Richard Wagner. After three performances of Seigfried, I was inspired to pick the story back up again. The Ring cycle has some pretty nasty, distasteful stuff in it and people still seem to enjoy it.

The ending was inspired by my own experience a couple of years ago with an ectopic pregnancy. If anyone has ever lost a baby, you might relate to it being something you talk about with your husband obsessively for a couple of days and then there is nothing more to say. So you silently think about it obsessively for a few months.   My ectopic pregnancy loss was especially hard because I was forced to terminate a pregnancy that was very, very much wanted. It was the medically correct decision and the baby would not have lived anyway. But oh, the guilt.

One day, months later (I think I was already pregnant again) Mr. Blue Envelopes caught me crying and figured out why. In an effort to be comforting, Mr. Blue Envelopes told me that he would not hesitate to choose me over a baby in any circumstance.   It was one of those moments when someone is trying so hard to comfort you and they say the absolutely wrong thing. His statement sort of bothered me, and it stuck with me. And it became part of this story.

Kylo is a man who chooses his wife over his kid in an unsettling and spectacular betrayal.   But, from his twisted perspective, it’s the ultimate sacrifice and demonstration of love. But it’s a selfish decision because it’s motivated entirely by his own wants and needs, and contrary to what Rey would have wanted.  It’s another example of when Kylo’s version of what happened is not what the reader sees.

Killing children is horrible. But it’s Dark Side canon in SW. Anakin confesses to killing the Tuskan Raider kids in Episode 2 and he kills younglings onscreen pretty much in Episode 3.   I’m assuming that Kylo himself took out few younglings at Luke’s Jedi Academy (although we don’t know this for certain). And Darth Vader unknowingly came close to taking out Luke over Death Star 1. None of these examples completely square up with my ending, I realize, but I didn’t break any new ground here with the death of Han/Sheev.

I originally had a slightly different slant on the ending. Instead of Rey telling Kylo she is pregnant with Force strong twin boys, the story skipped to years later with Kylo telling Snoke about the arrival of his fourth son.   Kylo gets all the little Siths he wants except there is one problem—none of his kids have the Force. Because the Force is fickle that way and it isn’t going to give him another Force-strong son after what he did to poor little Han/Sheev.   Snoke just laughs and tells him they will have to create Skywalkers the old-fashioned way and then old Darth Plagueis manipulates midichlorians and creates a new Force strong child in the fashion of Anakin’s fatherless birth. It turns out the Snoke is Anakin’s father –in this manner of creating progeny through the Force—making him sort of Kylo’s great-grandfather. I actually wrote this out, but then I decided that Rey really needed to have Force-strong kids so that she could teach them the holochrons. I didn’t want to take that purpose and Light away from her. Plus, I wanted Kylo to literally get away with murder.  I wanted my anti-hero to end the story unredeemed, unrepentant and victorious.

Thanks for reading this fic. I never intended for it to become so long winded (so many chapters!), and I know that I lost readers along the way with the tedium and the scary Dark subject matter. I’m not a trained writer in any respect, but it was a fun project. I’ve been a SW fan since I was a little girl. There’s so much I have to say about SW—I can go on and on--and a lot of those ideas found their way into this fic.

If I ever write another fic, no one is going to read it now since they’ll assume someone will die at the end. But I guess that’s my own fault, eh?

Thanks again for reading.

Chapter Text

Epilogue to The Fifth Wife

 

This is the epilogue to my completed Snoke/Darth Plagueis backstory fic The Fifth Wife. I am also cross posting it to Fulcrum, since it is written as a conversation between Snoke and Rey speaking of the past. There’s something here for both stories, so I thought it might be a fun quick read.  

 

For readers of The Fifth Wife:

This epilogue tells a bit about what happens after our lovers reunite. It is not necessary to read this epilogue if you want to end your experience at the last chapter.

The epilogue is told through a conversation between Snoke and Rey five years after The Force Awakens and a few months after my Fulcrum fic ends.   This seemed to be the logical way to tell what happens without showing what happens. In the epilogue, Rey is now the Empress of the Second Empire married to Kylo Ren and pregnant with his twin boys. Hopefully, this epilogue won’t feel too jarring from the shift in time and characters.

I have thought long and hard about how to end The Fifth Wife, and the lovers’ reunion seems to me to be the most satisfying conclusion. But Snoke and Shan have years to go and, well, Shan is not around by the time we meet Snoke again in the sequel trilogy.   If you want to know more about Snoke’s thoughts on life with Shan, read Fulcrum Chapters 7, 28, and 35.

 

For readers of Fulcrum:

Why am I posting this and mixing stories? Is this merely click-bait for my other fic? No, and if you are worried about that, please don’t read any farther.

I’m posting this because the concept that the past directly impacts the present (and the future) is a persistent theme throughout Fulcrum. The weight of the Skywalker family history and the political history of the galactic civil war rest heavily on the shoulders of Kylo Ren. And Rey struggles with this too, for she even more than Kylo wants to move away from the past even as it keeps dragging her down into conflicts. Rey has the past staring down at her with Sith wife Padme’s portrait in her bedroom and literally even tries to bury the past conflicts when she ends up at Padme’s tomb. The Fifth Wife is Snoke’s past but, as it turns out, it is the Skywalker past as well. I thought readers might find that interesting.

Also, there is a lot of Sith/Force lore in The Fifth Wife that directly connects with Fulcrum.   Themes about destiny and about the relationship between the Dark and the Light that are relevant here. But this is wholly optional for Fulcrum readers. That story stands on its own.   This is just another peek into the world of Rey after Fulcrum ends.

 

Note that there are spoilers here for both stories.

 

 

 

40-ish years ABY, at the fortress hideaway of Supreme Leader Snoke

 

“I didn't know you could do such a thing,” Rey whispers in horror. “To strip someone of the Force.” She looks down at her hands as she says this. They are pulsing now with the restorative magic of the Light. Rey’s small hands are not to be judged by their size, for they are capable and powerful. And they are resting on the shoulders of the most powerful man who has ever lived. He is the eternal Muun, the architect of two empires and a Sith for all ages.   Darth Plagueis the Wise.

 

Rey shifts back to the chair at the side of Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne. She is so far gone in pregnancy now that she must change positions every so often. For no matter how comfortable it might feel to get off her feet, before long even sitting begins to hurt.

 

“It was a draconian punishment. Seldom used in modern times.” The Sith Master intones his words in that low, slow growl of his. This man is never in a rush, it seems. For unlike everyone else, Darth Plagueis has all the time in the world.  

 

“I tried in vain for many years to restore their Force. If a Sith had Force-severed them, I might have reversed it. But the Jedi had blinded them both behind a wall of Light, and I could not penetrate it. And none of the Jedi I captured could do so either.”

 

Captured? More like captured and tortured, Rey thinks. She can only imagine the Dark persuasive powers of this Sith. Leader Snoke is not a man who takes no for an answer. How it must have frustrated him to be unable to help his family.

 

Rey leans forward now to inspect the skin on his face. The movement brushes her heavy belly against Snoke’s arm resting on his throne. When a year ago Rey first had been summoned by Kylo’s Master for Force healing, she might have blushed and stammered an apology at this small intimacy. But she has grown accustomed to the personal touch required for healing him. It helps that Snoke never loses his formal, courtly demeanor through it all. The Sith does not consider it awkward for her body to touch his, and so Rey now treats it the same way.

 

He turns into her at the sensation and reaches up with his giant Muun hand to spread spindly fingers across her swollen belly. “Sssstrong. So ssstrong,” he relishes his words as he strokes the fabric of her dress. “Your twin Sith grow strong, my lady.” Rey smiles back her acknowledgement and he confides, “One day these boys will be as much mine as they are yours.”

 

Yes, she knows. Life with Kylo Ren has taught Rey what it means to be a Skywalker prince. To owe allegiance first and foremost to this Muun, then to power and then to all else. Her sons will be no different, and she has come to accept this.  

 

Rey returns to her inspection. Yes, his right cheek definitely looks better. But the left side—the ruined side of Snoke’s visage—still has a long way to go.

 

The Sith sits back and returns to his tale. He likes to talk while she heals. Most of the time, he speaks of the Force. For like Kylo, this Sith loves to speak of the Force. But more often of late, the old Muun speaks of himself. Slowly, little by little, revealing the mystery behind the man the galaxy only knows as the reclusive Supreme Leader.

 

“Shan still had all of her power but she could not access it. In time, the Force began to bleed back through to her somewhat. She began having visions again. And then I could feel her Light again too. But never again could my wife control the Force upon command.”

 

“She let me study her. And in doing so, I learned a great deal about the nature of the Force and about what it means to have an Awakening, like you experienced.” The Muun’s dark eyes slant over to Rey for a moment. She knows he loves to talk about the details of her Awakening. For every minute aspect of the Force interests him. “But all my knowledge of the Force and all my ability to prolong and to restore life has only ever accrued to my own benefit. Never was I able to restore or save the ones I loved most.”

 

She catches the plaintive cast that flashes across the Supreme Leader’s features. “You never got to rule the galaxy with her,” Rey says the words before she can stop herself and instantly regrets them. She has no wish to rub salt in this man’s wounds. And Rey herself knows what it means to feel loss.

 

He must feel the streak of her compassion in the Force, for he crooks a half smile at her. The old Muun rarely smiles and when he does it is a grotesque distortion of his ruined face. But oddly enough, it has the same effect as if he were young and handsome. This Sith was once a charismatic man, Rey thinks.   And the vestiges of it still remain.

 

As she has spent more time with Kylo’s fearsome Master, Rey has discovered that he is surprisingly likable. And, on occasion, even vulnerable.

 

“We did have good years together. Our lives became very intertwined with her work in my library and my work in the Force. I shared more with her than with any of the others before.” Snoke busies himself straightening his sleeve and for the briefest of moments she thinks he is uncomfortable. But when he looks up, he is the same inscrutable Sith as ever. “Never have I cared for a woman as much as my Shan. She was an exemplary wife to the end.” His expression softens and Rey can tell he is remembering long ago. “Yes. We Sith are hard on our women.”

 

And Rey can’t help but silently agree. For she knows that loving and being loved by a Sith has its costs.

 

“What happened to the child?” Rey is almost afraid to ask this question, but she has babies on the mind these days and it seems a fair question. She thinks of how much Kylo wants his Skywalker Sith dynasty and she wonders whether a younger Snoke had once felt the same way.

Snoke gives the answer she fears. “Sidious killed him.” The Muun speaks of it very matter of fact, but perhaps it was so long ago that the hurt is gone. “The boy would never have posed a threat to him, but Sidious killed him anyway out of spite. Sheev Palpatine was like that. But in the end, my son delivered my revenge.”

 

Rey doesn’t follow. “I don't understand.   I thought your son was dead?”

 

And this question makes Snoke flash another half smile. “I had another son. Created in the Force quite by accident and born to a slave woman.   It was years before I knew about him, and the Jedi found him first.” Snoke is watching her closely now. He’s enjoying revealing more of his past.  

 

“Ultimately my son did fulfill my wife's visions. He slaughtered the Jedi in the temple and then went on to hunt down the remaining Jedi over the years. He beheaded Dooku as well. And in the end, my son threw Sidious down a reactor shaft.   All who had wronged my family were made to pay in the end: the Jedi, Tyranus and Sidious all fell to my son’s sword.” Snoke’s satisfaction for this decades old vengeance flashes out to Rey in the Force.   It’s a bubble of Dark power. Pride and wrath combining.

 

Yet again, Rey does not follow. “But I thought Vader killed Sidious?” That’s what Kylo had told her.

 

“Vader did kill my Apprentice.” Snoke’s eyes dart to hers and for a moment the old Muun looks like a wicked boy caught in a prank. “Anakin Skywalker was my progeny in the Force. He was the Sith son I created but did not sire.”

 

“But that means—“ Rey stops as understanding dawns.

 

“Yesss,” the eternal Sith purrs out this word as he sees Rey connect the dots in her mind. “Kylo Ren is my great grandson in the Force.”

 

“And then Luke Skywalker was your grandson.” Rey’s eyes are wide now as she completes the thought. The Sith Master had trained his great-grandson to kill his grandson. How very Skywalker of him, Rey thinks to herself with a frown.

 

“Indeed.” Snoke never bothers to hide that he reads her thoughts. And Rey has never learned to shield them. “The Skywalkers have always killed their own.” The Muun looks at Rey long and hard. “My dear, I am no exception.”

 

Rey nods. She is under no illusions about this Sith. Or any other Sith. She knows what they are capable of. Or at least she thinks she knows.

 

And now Kylo’s Master is issuing her a stern warning. “Lady Rey, never let your command of the Force fool you to believe that you have complete control. Destiny is real. It is a dangerous thing to attempt to avoid fate. My wife paid dearly for it. Years later, Ren's grandfather made the same mistake.”

 

Wait—what? “What mistake did Vader make?” For all Kylo has spoken to Rey of his grandfather, never once has he been critical.

 

“Vader too tried to subvert the will of the Force. It is a fool’s errand. Vader wanted to save his wife from death in childbirth. But in the end, he lost her and more.   For he lost his children to the Jedi.”

 

“Which led to thirty years of war,” Rey says aloud. She is unhappily familiar with the fallout that came from the Jedi stealing Vader’s newborn children so many years ago. The patricide, the matricide and the suffering.   The endless war, the Death Stars and the Starkiller.

 

“Indeed,” Snoke agrees. And he is not done with his musings for today it seems. For he continues, “The Force is not fair, Rey. Do not expect it to be so.   At best, it gives rough justice. And then, only in the aggregate. Rarely for an individual.   The Force seeks balance, but it does not promise equality.”

 

Shan nods at his wisdom. The Sith Master is back to speaking of the Force. And ultimately, whatever he speaks about, it always comes back to the Force. At first Rey had wondered if the old Muun missed having an apprentice to teach.   And she worried that he might seek to lure her into Darkness. But she has come to understand that Snoke likes having someone to talk to about the Force. And sometimes, she wonders if he just likes having someone to talk to about anything.

 

“I will never endanger your Light,” he promises softly. Yes, he’s in her mind again. And it is so effortless and so subtle, and Snoke’s presence so familiar now, that Rey doesn’t even notice any longer. And, to be honest, she doesn’t mind. She has learned to accept things she cannot change.

 

“I need your Light.” The old Sith holds her gaze for a long moment. “I want your Light,” he breathes out these words quietly.

 

Yes, Rey knows that all Sith secretly crave the Light. Darth Plagueis is no exception. Her healing helps to slowly knit back together his decrepit, broken body. And it helps to balm the terrible void that is this man’s lost soul. For Darkness is all-consuming and over time it takes its toll.

 

From her very first visit, it was evident that the old Muun had been too long bereft of the Light. Rey couldn’t help but see his involuntary shiver when first she laid her hands upon him. Rey still feels his excitement at watching her draw upon the Light. For healing is first and foremost hope, and hope is in short supply on the Dark Side.

 

Snoke is in her head again and nodding his agreement with her assessment. “My dear, the darker the Sith, the stronger his call to the Light. When Kylo Ren first came to me with news of you I knew it for a sign of his maturity as a Sith. That I could expect great things from my Apprentice. For only a Sith grown very dark would crave the Light enough to . . . “   Snoke’s voice trails off and he does not finish the thought.

 

Rey stands now to walk around to his left side to take a close look. She is not squeamish. You can’t grow up on Jakku and be squeamish. And after looking upon a horribly burned TIE pilot on the Finalizer, Rey feels she can look upon any suffering calmly.

 

Even this suffering. Snoke has told her that some of his wounds came from a lightsaber and that some had come from a decapitator disc. For many long years, Snoke confided, he wore a respirator. But with sufficient Dark power, he managed to overcome that physical weakness. But while Darkness can strengthen, it does not heal. Only the Light can heal. And so decades later the eternal Muun has a barely closed hole in what remains of his left jaw. Paper thin grey skin covers the remainder of his sunken cheek. And he is still missing half of his left ear.

 

He cocks his head in her direction and Rey knows this for her cue. She reaches out to cradle his ruined face lovingly in her hands as she might a child. Then she closes her eyes to summon the Force with her most focused concentration.

 

Darth Plagueis too closes his eyes to submit to her Light.

 

“Tell me more about your wife,” she says. And Snoke needs no further prompting for he is in a mood to talk today.

 

“We are all a product of our times. Experience always leaves its mark. And the late Republic was a different era than now. There was still much prosperity even if it was concentrated in the hands of a few. And there was still idealism and faith in institutions and leaders. In the end all of that proved to be misplaced, but it was there all the same. The galaxy at large was more innocent, more trusting back then. And few were more innocent and trusting than my Shan.”  

 

Rey listens silently to his remembrances, observing how his jaw moves as he speaks. Whoever struck this blow surely had thought it to be mortal. She wonders whether the injury is why he speaks so slowly, or whether the Muun has always had this deliberate cadence that has you hanging on every word.

 

“My Shan had none of your grit, Empress. She would never have survived Jakku or Kylo Ren. She was a fragile thing.   Book smart, not street smart. Trusting and naive. Easily bullied and shy of conflict.   All the things that you are not.” Rey’s eyes are closed again, but she can hear the smile in his words. “I would never have been able to trap you into marriage in my temple.”

 

This covert praise makes Rey smile in response.

 

“Shan was a convent bred Jedi girl, sheltered from the pleasures and the pressures of the outside world.   Told what to think and what to do for all the days of her life until she met me.”

 

“She disarmed me so.  She was all Light, with no Darkness mixed in. My opposite in so many ways. And that is how she came to love me. She saw the best in me for that is the nature of the Light. To hope and to believe and to support.” He slants another approving glance at Rey. “That is why every Sith needs a Jedi wife. Because then their woman can be an equal without being a rival.”

 

“Did she ever teach at a university?” Rey wants to know.

 

“She did. The loss of the Force served to encourage my Shan to pursue other things. Ultimately, she took a professor post on Coruscant.   And she worked long hours to preserve the chronicles of the Sith. Much of what survives of my library is her work, and for that generations of Sith shall be grateful to Lady Plagueis.”

 

He opens his eyes again to regard her steadily. “Yes . . . there is always growth in adversity. Although few people know that as well as you do, my lady.”

 

Again, rare praise from the eternal Sith. Rey feels her cheeks bloom slightly. “Did all of your wife’s visions come true?” she asks.

 

“Indeed. As the decades unfolded I saw occur what she had seen. The clarity of her foresight was impressive. The very first vision I knew her to have was of your husband making his Sith lightsaber. So many decades later when the runaway Skywalker padawan showed up at my doorstep, I recognized him immediately.”

 

“The boy needed a sword.   So I gave him the kyber crystal from my wife's wedding ring to build it.  It was cracked by then.  Sidious had hacked my dear wife brutally when he killed her, and the crystal had been damaged. But I thought it fitting to give it to Ren.”

 

Rey thinks of Kylo’s ragged, unstable blade. She wonders whether he knows the story behind the cracked crystal. The jewel struck from the hand of a doomed Sith wife that would power a sword used to win back an empire.

 

“Why did you not make her immortal like yourself?” Rey wants to know.

 

And the question provokes a long sigh of true regret from the Sith. “She kept delaying me. My Shan always wanted another child and I could not guarantee to her that it would not harm her fertility.”

 

Rey understands. She might have made the same choice herself in that circumstance.

 

“Would she have liked me?” Rey asks on impulse. And then she blushes at the insecurity the question betrays. Vader’s queen probably would have turned her nose up at the new Empire’s scavenger Empress, Rey thinks. But what about Shan Damask?

 

The Muun ponders for a moment before he answers. “You would have intimidated her in some respects. And she might have done the same for you. But yes, she would have liked you. Shan liked everyone.” Snoke pauses to amend that statement. “Everyone except Sidious.”

 

“Sidious hated my wife from the start because she was Jedi.  He never accepted the truth that Dark and Light will always co-exist.  Not on equal terms, of course, but co-exist nonetheless.   Sidious wanted to eradicate the Light and he and Vader tried mightily. But the Force always strikes back when it is tipped too far out of balance.   And so the Light was resurgent in the end.”

 

The Sith purses his lips as he tells of the fateful comeuppance of the First Emperor. “The Light came out of Darkness, of all places.  Ren’s grandfather killed his Sith Master, which is the aim of every Apprentice. Only Vader didn't do it for power, he did it to save his son. In the end, Sidious and Vader destroyed one another and the Light survived.” From the cold tone of his voice, Rey can appreciate how much Snoke relishes this irony.  

 

“Sidious was jealous. I failed to comprehend the depths of his jealousy.   I am a Muun and we are an objective, abstract species. We compartmentalize our feelings in a way humans do not. Human nature was not as well known to me back then, and I failed to grasp how my Apprentice had grown to feel threatened and resentful.”  Snoke’s voice is very quiet now and Rey can feel the seething emotions underlying his words and threatening to flare. “Sidious struck her first. That is the only reason I lived that night.   Because my Apprentice wasted time butchering her.”

 

Rey says nothing. She is holding her breath now as she feels in the Force Snoke reliving the moment. It’s a flash of pure rage and despair and then it is gone. The private pain channeled down deep in this man’s Dark heart to become fuel for his power. For intense emotion is the stock and trade of a Sith.

“The pain of her loss still stings deeply.” Snoke’s tone is normal again now. His speech once more the usual slow declaration. “But the love remains. When lovers promise forever, this is what it means. That even the memory is cherished once the beloved is gone.   For it is true what they say, Empress. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” He’s looking down now, not meeting her eyes.

 

“Do you think that you will you ever marry again?” Rey asks this without thinking and then colors red at her forwardness. She’s about to apologize when she sees the old Sith smiling indulgently at her.

 

“Oh, I shall take another wife. When the time is right.” He leans forward in his chair and he’s still smiling. “You must heal me well, my dear. Make me whole and handsome again. So my sixth lady will not shrink from my touch.”

 

His light banter provokes her to tease him back. “Where are you going to find another Jedi?”

 

“Oh, it won't be a Jedi this time, but it will be a lady full of the Light. You know how much we Sith lust for the Light.” Snoke gives her a knowing look and she’s not sure if he’s talking about himself or about her husband. “But until then, you are here to give me the Light.”

 

He frowns as he reaches up his skeletal hand to brush at her cheek. Then to wipe at the perspiration beading on her forehead. “You overtax yourself,” he chides her. “I draw too much of your strength. You are in a delicate condition, my dear. We must not tire you.”

 

“But I'm getting better,” Rey protests, thinking this to be criticism of her work. Force healing is very draining, but over time she has built up stamina.

 

“And I am getting better too,” he responds. His eye holds a twinkle. And she can’t help but laugh. It lightens the mood. “That is enough for today,” he dismisses her gently.

 

Rey nods and withdraws her hands. As always, Snoke rises to walk her to the door. He is a formal man who stands when she enters a room and bows her out. And while her life as Kylo’s Empress holds a great deal of overdone pomp, this man’s courtly manners never feel forced. They just feel very . . . him. As grave and considered as everything this Sith says or does.  

 

They are at the exit to his audience chamber now, and she and Snoke replay their customary goodbye. She offers her hand, he raises it to his lips. “Now and forever,” he bids her, “You shall belong to the Sith.” Then he bows and she leaves.

 

It is four hours home to Bast Castle in hyperspace, and Rey busies herself on her datapad. It doesn't take much effort to find Hego Damask on the holonet, even almost ninety years later. In his heyday, the secret Sith had been a man of much public interest. Rey scrolls down past news articles and profile pieces and even a biography or two. She’s not interested in words, she wants pictures. And there are hundreds.

 

She slows down now, swiping through photograph after photograph. Rey sees candid news media shots of Snoke at his IGBC work. He’s testifying before various public committees, giving an address to the Senate, then disembarking from a transport with a trail of assistants in his wake. Always, surrounded by the trappings of great wealth and great power. It’s interesting and she’ll take another look, but it’s not what Rey wants to find. She keeps swiping until she gets to the party pictures. Yes, this is what she had been looking for—the social Sith. There are many, many photographs captioned as diplomatic receptions, state dinners, charity benefits and galas. Rey pauses on one that catches her eye because the camera had caught him laughing.

 

This, then, was he. The immortal, accidental patriarch of the dysfunctional Skywalker clan, the man whose line has been both Jedi and Sith. The mastermind of the grand plan to fell a Republic and raise an empire. He lived to see it all come to fruition but he never got to rule it. Not until generations later after years in exile spent biding his time waiting in the wings. For Snoke has what no one else does—the time to wait.

 

Rey looks closer, considering the younger, much more animated version of the Snoke she knows. Here was the secret Sith exposed in the open as he engineered his plots.  Here was the man before the wars, before the empires and before the heartache. If she squints, she can see the eternal Muun she visits to heal once a week. The man with a mighty scar running down his forehead as if his skull were once cleaved in two.  Rey has only seen a few Muuns in her life but even she can tell that the uninjured Snoke was handsome for his kind.   He is charismatic even in an old photograph, for she can’t help but smile just looking at his laughter.

 

At his side stands a Muun woman. Her face is sweetly pretty and open natured. She looks like the kind of woman who has no poker face and wouldn't want one. Wouldn't even know what to do with one. Her long dress is severe and elegant but her body beneath is lush and soft.  It's a memorable contradiction, for simultaneously Shan Damask looks approachable and sophisticated. Not the least bit aloof. Rey can see how this woman might have been the perfect First Lady--someone the masses might admire from afar but an individual might relate to.  A woman who could walk among viceroys and chancellors, but still have the common touch.

 

And she was a Sith's lady, like herself. Beloved of a man she died saving. Studying her Rey sees now that Shan Damask was feminine in a way that even eclipses the photographs she has memorized of Darth Vader’s Naboo queen. Snoke’s wife looks almost vulnerable as she stands with his arm encircled about her waist.  And the easy confidence of their public intimacy surprises Rey. For she and Kylo don’t so much as hold hands together in public.

 

Rey looks at the date of the photograph and mentally does the math. Yes, by this time Snoke's stolen bride had already lost her Force. And here she was, the disgraced Jedi looking gorgeous and smiling on the arm of the richest, most powerful man in the galaxy. The Sith might have given her Snoke's promised justice, but Rey thinks being happy was this woman's best revenge.

 

Shan Damask had been a fully trained Jedi Knight and a woman long grown when she had met her Sith. Not an orphan teenager newly awakened in the Force and accidentally caught up in a war. In her worst predicament, Shan Damask had slept in the relative comfort of an Ivy League library and not a downed Imperial walker. And while Snoke’s wife had scraped by for a time in the dubious Coruscant Underworld, she had never had to forage for food and water. She had never starved.   Still Lady Plagueis had her share of troubles, Rey thinks. And they had culminated in her Sith finding her one day collapsed on his doorstep, begging for his help. Help, it turned out, that he could not provide.

 

Maybe, Rey muses as she absently strokes her itchy belly, she and Shan Damask are not as different as Snoke believes. For Lady Plagueis had been a survivor in her own way. Rey is certain of that fact.

 

And perhaps that’s what it means to be a Sith’s lady—that if you are lucky, you will endure both the Sith and their enemies and in the end you will find a way to make peace with it all.   That’s what Shan Damask did all those years ago and that’s what Rey too has managed. Poor Lady Vader, Rey thinks, for she never got the chance even to try.  

 

And that spurs Rey’s curiosity. She starts searching the holonet for the Cresta Cole woman. She spells the name as many ways as she can think of. But Rey can find no record of her or any other woman linked to Senator Palpatine or the First Emperor.  There is no record of her businesses either.   Knowing the Sith like she does, Rey thinks this is no accident. Someone went to great lengths to make that woman anonymous.

 

The shuttle has landed back at Bast Castle now and Rey struggles to her feet. At seven months pregnant with twins, getting up and down takes an effort. As she stiffly plods her way down the ramp, Rey’s eyes find Old Milo waiting to greet her.

 

“Welcome home, Empress.” His bow is formal but his smile is friendly and genuine.

 

Rey’s eyes flit over her friend and mentor, the dignified castlekeeper trusted first by Vader and then by Kylo Ren. And before that, she now knows, by Darth Plagueis himself. Long has Milo served the Sith.  Here is a man who knows it all and who Rey trusts tell her the truth.  For there is nothing Milo loves so much as telling tales of the glory days of the Empire.

 

“Thank you, Milo.” She gladly accepts the old man’s offered arm. Her balance is not what it once was. Impulsively, she leans in to him to ask, “Will you tell me about Cresta Cole.”

 

“Cresta Cole,” he repeats slowly. The old retainer’s eyes widen and he stops to look at her anew. “Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. A long time.” The keeper looks thoughtful for a moment but he resumes walking. “My old master has been telling stories of the past, I see.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Cresta Cole.” He repeats the name again and now Rey’s curiosity is running rampant as Milo stalls.

 

“What was she like?”

 

He pauses a long time before answering. “My old master did not approve of Darth Sidious’ choice of companion,” the old man admits, and this Rey already knows. “Cresta Cole was what some might call a piece of work,” Milo begins, his eyes twinkling. “She was . . . complicated. Now come inside, my dear. Let’s get you off your feet.”

Chapter Text

Fulcrum is getting a Part Two.  I plan to post it as a new work under the title Fulcrum: Part Two just to make things easy.  Posting starts soon.

The story picks up from the Epilogue recently posted.  I wrote this continuation in response to a reader comment that got me thinking.  Then it got me writing.  And here we are.  Reylo, I just can't quit you!

You are hereby warned:  after the initial set-up chapter or two, the story quickly gets trashy.  Like twisted trashy.  It is not for everyone.  And it brings together the plot lines and characters of The Fifth Wife and Fulcrum.  If you are going to read Part Two, do yourself a favor and go read The Fifth Wife to understand a bit about Snoke and his dead Jedi wife.  (N.B. It’s a light read and NO ONE DIES!)  It will help to have some context on why Snoke is doing what he’s doing and what he is like in his heyday.  But Part Two is a Reylo tale and it will be told from the perspectives of Kylo and Rey.  This is Alternative Universe stuff, as usual.  I will do my best to get the warnings and tags right this time around.

So, I invite you to read more of my twisted Dark world of the Sith and the ladies who love them.   Things were supposed to get easier once the war was over, right?  Don't count on it, Emperor Ren.  Because Snoke aka Darth Plagueis has a hard time keeping his hands off Rey.   But the reason might surprise you.  And because women always figure out the truth.  Always.