Plink. Plink. Plink.
Ben tossed in bed and buried his head under his pillow. The gentle rain falling outside on Yavin 4 normally didn’t bother him. But tonight, the rain was hitting something, a pipe, a ship, he didn’t care and it grated on him. Loud and insistent.
Just like Rey.
He flopped over again, jamming his eyes shut, reliving training today. His uncle Luke had teamed up Rey and Ben to practice defense forms with the lightsaber. Ben had seen Rey work with trainees before, had seen her dancing with swords with Finn, the Resistance commander. She had excellent footwork, her weight resting lightly on the balls of her feet, her elbows tucked in, her wrists loose and supple. But as he watched, he had the feeling that he had seen her before.
And as he practiced with her this afternoon, the feeling clung to him, tarlike and suffocating. He knew, without any reason, that she would slide under his upward slash, that she would bend backward at the waist. That she would stab forward, crouched down, toward his chest and that he could easily swing and block it.
But seeing her, that line of determination between her brows, struck him and he took the hit, a slight jolt of electricity jarring him.
It felt like an echo, that move, and he couldn’t understand why.
So here he was, late at night, listening to water dripping off the eaves, frustration mounting, and clinging to his skin.
He sat up and flung his covers back, clambering out of bed. He groaned as an old injury in his hip protested. He rubbed it absentmindedly as he padded over to the simple closet in the small space and pulled out leggings and boots. He didn’t look in the mirror. He was tired of seeing the scar that slashed his face, white and raised, or the knot of scarred tissue on his temple. Instead, Ben dressed quickly and left his room, wandering down the halls of the repurposed temple.
It had once been a Rebellion base and Luke had restricted them to one part of it as part of his new Jedi training academy. Ben strode down the halls, forcing himself to breathe through his nose and out his mouth, forced himself to find calm. He turned left and paused by a door.
He knew it was Rey’s room. He had seen her go into it once. He sniffed and swore he could smell the scent of flowers that clung to her skin.
It annoyed him, that smell, sticking to everything, a ghost even when she wasn’t in the room.
And he kept walking past, even as his irritation rose.
She had apologized for hitting him and he had glared at her, felt her embarrassment and sadness grow. Felt a wave of longing roll off of her that made him suck his breath and stumble out of the training room.
Ben rolled his shoulders and pushed the memory away.
He stood inside the cavern where ships used to be parked. Occasionally, when meditating, he caught a sense of movement in the room. A blue eyed brown haired woman being escorted in handcuffs. His mother, so bright and young, running in a snow white gown. The Falcon with Chewie on the roof, making repairs.
Ghosts that called to him.
Other ghosts too, but he was loathed to admit those. Not even with his uncle Luke in the twice weekly counseling sessions he was required to take. He wasn’t sure why but they told him he had done something dark.
Maybe the dark side took his memory. He wasn’t sure.
Plink. Plink. Plink.
Ben growled. Even here, he could hear the rain hitting something. He cocked his head and listened, to see if he could follow the sound home. He closed his eyes and felt the Force all around him, a living breathing web, connecting him to the rocks, to the trees breathing in the moist air, to the frogs crawling along the mud, the worms churning in the dirt, the birds huddled beneath leaves.
And to her.
Walking down the corridor to him, arms across her chest, wrapping a thin beige robe around herself, her bare feet making no noise. Ben gritted his teeth. She came to stand next to him but said nothing.
It made him angrier than it should. He wanted words from her. Something outside of the careful niceties she uttered, the bland things she said. He saw the way she lit up around Finn, around his uncle, and the other students. He saw the regret on her face as she worked with the younglings.
The first time he had seen that, he had crushed the holocron in his hands, glass falling to the ground.
Plink. Plink. Plink.
And Luke had looked at him, concern in his blue eyes. Ben couldn’t explain what had grabbed him by the throat in that moment. Only something had. And Luke had nodded and looked over at Rey, his lips compressed, his lids half shuttered.
He had called Rey into his office later that day, Ben had observed, as he talked with Aran Miu and Nuuti Jalba. He wasn’t sure why he tracked her progress to Luke’s office or why he loitered, waiting anxiously to exit. He wasn’t sure why the relief on her face was like a balm to him.
He hated that he seemed to care so much about her. That his eyes were always following her. How he knew where she was even without thinking. How, even now, he knew she was forcing herself to be calm as she stood beside him.
“Your feet are gonna get cold,” he said abruptly, not sure why he cared. She snorted.
“It’s a jungle planet,” she said dryly. “We don’t do cold here.”
“Hmph,” he hemmed and moved forward, standing just under the eaves, watching the rain fall like a sheet in front of him. She stayed behind.
“We won’t be able to take the younglings out to the fields tomorrow,” he offered.
“No, we’ll have to improvise something here,” she agreed. “I’m sure Luke has some ideas.”
“I’m surprised he gave you the younglings. You’re so untested,” Ben almost snarled.
“I trained with Luke for several years,” Rey gently responded after a moment. He held back another growl. No matter how hard he pushed her, she always responded kindly. “Besides, they couldn’t train with you.”
“Too worried I’ll drag them to the dark side,” he half heartedly replied. She said nothing and he sighed. He couldn’t remember his time there but his mother had told him, holding his hand in the med ward. So many gaps.
Worst of all was his father. Dead. Gone. Died in the war, his mother said, averting her eyes. A real hero. Ben clung to that idea. Of course his father was a war hero. He would sacrifice himself to save another. Ben had grown up with the wild tales of General Solo and this seemed like another one. He just couldn’t figure out why Leia never looked him in the eye while talking about Han.
“Can’t you sleep?” Rey quietly prodded.
“The rain,” he answered. “It’s hitting something and it bothers me.”
“Can’t you hear that noise? It’s so loud,” Ben complained, looking over his shoulder at her. Ok, he had grudgingly agreed with Aran that she wasn’t ugly (although those weren’t the words Aran had used). Those clear hazel eyes watching him carefully. The curve of her nose, the dip in her lips.
Ben realized he was staring and jerked his gaze away. And he felt her falter. He snorted. Little nothing girl with a nothing name. She probably just wanted something from him. To brag that she snared the only son of Han Solo. A claim to the Skywalker family. He saw how close she and Luke were.
Ben growled and stormed off into the jungle, the rain immediately soaking his skin. He needed to get away from her. He was almost embarrassed by how poorly he thought of her. He flounced under the trees, the rain dripping onto him, pattering loudly on the leaves, the fog thick and curling around his ankles.
Ben leaned against a tree and watched a lizard scramble up a branch, pausing to taste the air. Here he felt calm, the oppressive gaze of Rey no longer on him.
He couldn’t stand her, he grimaced. Unconsciously, he began to rub his left hand. He had a divot on his fourth finger, a wound his mother had told him. A scar from the battle that had brought him back from the dark side. The battle that had marked up his back with a strange tattoo of scars, that gave the knot on the forehead and the slash across his features.
But it was all an empty echo in his mind.
He let his head fall back against the trunk and for the millionth time, wondered what was hidden away from him.
The cafeteria was rowdy in the morning with the whoops of the younglings as they fought over breakfast. Ben settled into a chair and took a grateful gulp of caf. Aran and Nuuti joined him, Nuuti sliding over until her hip bumped his. Ben snaked his hand across her waist and carefully pressed his lips to her temple.
“You look tired,” she fussed, pushing back his dark locks from his face.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he confessed and she offered a mischievous smile.
“You could have come by….”
“I heard Rey leave,” Aran said thoughtfully around a mouthful of sausage. His room was near hers and he cast his gaze over to her table where she sat with Finn and Luke and Ysanne, another student. He heard her laugh and felt an odd pang. Ben turned away and nuzzled Nuuti, startling her. She gazed at him with her wide dark eyes, their cat like tilt at the edges.
“Bad night,” he offered and she laid her cheek on his shoulder. It should have comforted him.
“I wonder if she’s dating Finn,” Aran mused.
“No, I don’t think she is,” Ben mumbled. He pushed his eggs around on his plate with his fork.
“Well, with the old Jedi restrictions lifted, Aran, you can ask her out and stop bugging us,” Nuuti said pointedly, aiming her fork at him. Aran blushed and looked down at his plate. He didn’t respond, just shoveled food in his mouth. The Corellian reminded Ben of his father--the same brown hair and sly grin. Aran had been conscripted by the First Order and had been rescued by Finn’s unit.
Or so Aran said. Ben had no memory of the years the First Order ravaged the galaxy. His experience was with the remnants that the Jedi were occasionally called to battle.
Although never him. He hung back and organized from headquarters. Mother’s orders.
“I get to make my lightsaber soon,” Nuuti was saying. Ben shook his head and looked down at her, at her glossy black hair, her milk white skin. She was stunning, he told himself sternly, and an expert with the staff. He was helping her make a saberstaff. It would be better for her.
“Once we get our lightsabers, Luke will assign us somewhere. I hope I get to go to a core world,” Nuuti confided. Aran nodded.
“Wild Space is terrifying.”
“With the First Order and the reconstruction, we probably will all be in Outer Rim,” Ben jumped in. Aran made a face.
“Well, not all of us,” Nuuti remarked carefully and neither she nor Aran looked Ben in the face. He looked away, back toward Luke’s table. He would not be allowed in battle, Leia had proclaimed. He would advise and assist. But until she could be sure that the dark side was no longer a temptation, he would stay put. He would teach.
He often found it ironic that they would let him mold minds, just not kill them. As if the latter were more dangerous.
The bell rang, ending the morning meal, and Ben stood up, following Aran into the kitchen. It was their morning for dish duty. He and a few other students spent a good hour joking, splashing each other, their laughter pouring out of the kitchen and into the hallways.
Ben Solo was a well liked man. He was strong, both physically and with the Force. He was a patient teacher and always had a quick smile for someone. The other Jedi trainees were always eager to work with him. He was an excellent swordsman, top of his class. And a damn good pilot.
Yavin 4 could be perfect, he thought wistfully as he entered the exercise room, rotating his shoulders. But he felt her eyes on him as soon he walked in and he bit his lip. She was the sand in the wound, irritating, grinding against him every day.
Ben growled and grabbed a training sword. He saw Rey with Nuuti, both holding training saber staffs, both standing loose and comfortable. He shook his head and took several deep breaths, readying his blade.
“Soresu is useful against opponents with less elegant attacks,” Luke began. “It evolved during a time when blasters began to come into play and the Jedi needed to cope with different kinds of weapons. Ben. Could you please demonstrate Soresu?” Ben held back his surprise. Soresu was not his best form; he preferred to attack whenever possible. But he offered a small smile as he strode to the front of the room.
“Soresu requires keeping the blade close to your body,” Ben instructed. “With Soresu, you are the eye of the storm. Attacks will be coming from all sides. You must protect your body. But you also must not be wholly passive. Soresu works best when combined with other forms.” He planted his feet and began the round of short sweeping movements, keeping the blade close to his body, walking around in a tight circle as if fending off several blades at once. His moves were short and jerky.
“Now begin. One of you must be the attacker, the other using Soresu. Then switch. I will be walking around and offering guidance,” Luke commanded. The students shuffled across from one another and Ben heard clashes of the training sabers. Luke wandered over to Ben, keeping an eye on his students.
“I’m going to throw a few training probes in the air, blast some students,” Luke said softly. Ben chuckled darkly.
“That’s not very nice, Uncle Luke.”
Luke shrugged. “These students are on the last leg of training. If they want to go into battle, they need to understand it’s not one on one or nice and neat. It’s messy. It’s chaotic.” He shot a look up at Ben. “Do you remember any of it?” Ben shook his head.
“Not a thing.” Luke made a humming noise and raised his hand. Several training probes rose into the air and hovered above the students.
“Go assist Nuuti. She’s struggling with her staff today.” Ben accepted his orders, his body automatically moving across the training room to where Rey was attacking Nuuti. Nuuti scrambled back, her blade barely sweeping down in time to block Rey. Rey pivoted and shot the other end of her staff toward her face. Nuuti stumbled and hastily blocked it. A bolt shot down from the ceiling, stinging Nuuti in the shoulder. She winced and rolled her shoulder before reaching up to wipe the sweat off her brow.
“This is tough,” Nuuti admitted and Rey smiled.
“It just takes practice. The staff makes an ideal choice because it can protect so much body area,” Rey explained kindly. “It’s just harder sometimes to bring it up when blasters are coming from up above and in front of you. It doesn’t always have that ease of movement the way a saber itself does.”
“You sound like you’ve fought in situations like that before in the War,” Nuuti said. Ben moved to stand beside her, placing his hand on her back. He felt rather than saw Rey stiffen and the lines around her eyes tighten.
“The War offered...a lot of situations where you learned on your feet.”
“You’re a good attacker, Rey,” Ben growled, upset at seeing the exhaustion on Nuuti’s face. “But how are you at defense?” He thumbed on his lightsaber, the green training blade echoing eerily in his eyes. Rey watched him uneasily, moving her feet underneath her, one pointed toward him, one planted flat behind her.
“Do you want to be the attacker?,” she politely inquired, holding her unlit saber staff in front of her.
“En garde,” Ben bared his teeth as he moved, swinging his blade down at her. At the same time, a bolt came from the hovering droid. Rey waved her hand, misdirecting the bolt, and fired on her staff, blocking Ben’s blade. He battered her, a rain of blows on her staff, Rey repelling each one. Pleasure ran up his spine at the determination in her face, how deftly she moved, how she slid under his blow and came up behind him, quickly catching his blade as he pivoted.
“Ben!” she shouted, her breathing heavy. The other students had stopped, moved to the sides where they watched the two warriors hack at one another. At some point, Rey stopped defending and began to move into more aggressive stance.
“You need to stop!” she called again as he swung toward her head. Her staff swung up, caught the edge of it and swirled around the blade, sliding toward his hilt. Ben thumbed the sword off, catching her by surprise, before he knocked his elbow under her jaw. She staggered back, her eyes wide in surprise. Ben switched the blade on and began to advance on her, long diagonal slashes in front of him, forcing her to keep her staff moving at all times.
She suddenly growled and shoved her blade forward, forcing him to cover his torso. She ducked her under arcing blade and swung around him. Her foot connected with his back, ramming him forward. He snarled and she raised her staff, hammering him with short, jerky slices toward his feet and head. He was forced to be on the move, his blade a blur as he counteracted each strike.
Rey sliced his ankle, Ben howling as a sharp electric pain jolted his leg. He fell to one knee and she grabbed his wrist, pointing his blade away from her. He snapped, his blood thick with fury, as he snagged her wrist and pushed her arm from him. Rey’s chest was heaving and her eyes were wild.
“Ben, please,” she said raggedly.
“Afraid, scavenger?” he demanded, wondering why he called her that. Her eyes widened and then narrowed, nails digging into his wrist. She slammed her head forward, hitting him in the nose. He gasped and fell back. Rey grabbed his lightsaber and flung it across the room, yanking hers back and slicing up toward his face. Almost tracing the scar already there. Panic surged through Ben.
Snow falling and ground shaking beneath him. She was incandescent, a warrior full of righteous rage, and he longed for her to yield to him, to come with him.
“You can make planets kneel before you!,” he shouted. But she forced him to his knees, lightsaber extinguished in the ground, before thrusting up and searing his face. He collapsed into the snow.
Ben gasped and scrambled crablike back from Rey. She glowered at him, the light from her purple training saber flickering on her skin. His face burned from her near hit and his ankle throbbed. She looked startled, shutting off her saber, and walked stiffly from the room. The rest of the students looked around in awe.
Luke clapped his hands. “That’s enough for today. Please meet me in an hour in the meditation chamber.” The half dozen students filed out, most casting glances over their shoulder at Ben Solo lying on the ground, defeated by a scavenger.
Ben leaned against the shower stall, letting the water sluice over him, over his sore shoulders and back. After he lost to the scavenger--why was he calling her that?--he had gone into the jungle and had hiked for several miles, climbing over ruins, and up trees, punishing his body for the failure. How could he lose to her? She wasn’t a Skywalker ( She wasn’t a descendant of Darth Vader , a sinister voice whispered to him. Ben waved it aside and frowned). She shouldn’t be so powerful. That was his role to fulfill.
He spent an hour meditating at the top of a ruined temple, finding his center again. And realizing how closely intertwined his fury toward Rey and desire were intertwined. His body had responded to hers. When she had walked out of the training room, he had been flooded with need. To bring her down onto the mat, to roll her under him, panting and squirming. To kiss that mouth that drove him wild.
To say he was bothered by this recognition was an understatement. Relief and shame warred within him. He was unusually subdued when he arrived back at the temple, taking his dinner in his room. Nuuti had tried to talk to him but he had ignored her, lost in his mind. He longed for some sort of order.
Ben stepped out of the shower and examined himself in the small mirror. At the scar that bisected his face, running from the right cheek to just over his left eyebrow. At the explosion of knotted scar tissue at his left temple that sent webbed lines under his hairline. His hair had grown over the scar tissue over time but a year ago, the left side of his head was shaven, exposing the scars that wrapped around his head to end at the base of his skull. He stared at it, wondered if it held the mysteries about the nine years of his life he was missing.
He remembered being twenty three. He remembered traveling with his uncle, the distressing message from his mother that Darth Vader was his grandfather. Running to ask Luke, the stricken look on his uncle’s face. Racing out of the room to the plains surrounding the small hut they were staying in. Collapsing on the ground, howling his betrayal at the sky.
And then nothing until he opened his eyes to see his mother’s concerned face. Her hair now grey, her face heavy with pain, lined with wrinkles. He was thirty two. And almost a decade was missing from his mind. Marked only on his body with the scars on his face, his arms, his back, his thighs.
Ben lay naked on the bed on top of the sheets. It was raining again and he had pressed the button to keep the mag window in place. But he could hear the rain drumming on the stone, could still hear the steady plink plink plink. He forced himself to close his eyes and to focus on his breathing. To not think about the way Rey had moved across the room, the fire in her eyes. The certainty that he had seen her like that before.
“You’re a fool, you know that,” she chided, her lips tickling his ears. He chuckled and rolled onto his shoulder to face her, hand tracing her hip.
“Who’s more the fool?” he mocked. “The fool or the woman who keeps bedding him?” She blushed and he brushed his lips across her forehead and down her cheek, pecking the tip of her nose, before kissing her lips. He could never tire of kissing her. She snuggled closer to him, hands in his hair.
Kylo rolled over and pulled her on top of him, pushing her down until her hips rested on his. She was wet and he gently rolled against her. She giggled.
“Again?” She was slightly out of breath, her lips swollen. Kylo cupped her face in his hands.
“And again and again,” he promised. “Maker, you are so beautiful Rey.” Her cheeks flushed a pleasing pink and he pulled her down to him, one hand skating down her chest, his thumb rolling her nipple between his fingers. She moaned into his mouth and his movements became more insistent. He slid into her and she arched back, hands sliding down to rest on his chest. She looked up to meet his gaze before beginning to move back onto him, his hips jerking up to meet hers.
“Slower,” she commanded as she sat up, taking him into her fully. He let his eyes rove over her lithe form, her pert breasts, the little mark he had left under her right one earlier in the morning. Today was rare. They had both stolen away to have a full day together and he wanted every moment of it to matter. He grabbed her hips and watched her move, her eyes half lidded in ecstasy. He slid his hand between them to swirl around her clit, her mouth falling open as a small gasp escaped.
He adored the way the sunlight played on the side of her face, her head thrown back, her breaths ragged and loud in the small room, challenging his own desperate gasps for air. He wanted to kiss every freckle, explore every line. He could spend the rest of his life licking the valley between her breasts or live forever with the sweet flavor of her on his lips. He was gone, sunk, his mind always drifting back to her.
“Kylo!” she cried out, her body clenching him tightly as she came. He followed a moment later, savoring the sound of his name on her lips. She steadied herself on his chest, her eyes dazed and blinking. Kylo tried to hold back the triumphant smile but couldn’t. Rey huffed.
“You’re not that good,” she countered and he laughed, pulling her down to him and rolling over, taking her under him.
“Good enough that you come back from more,” he taunted lightly. She smacked him lightly in the arm and he darted down to lick the hollow in her throat, Rey giggling and locking her arms around him before she tickled his ribs. Kylo squealed and shot backward as she pounced on him, her fingers seeking out every spot that elicited a sharp laugh from him.
“I got you now!” she cried gleefully. Kylo grabbed her wrist and kissed her palm.
“Always,” he agreed.
Ben sat up, chest heaving, hair stuck to his face. He shoved the sweat slicked strands aside and rolled out of bed onto all fours, all too aware that his body was trying to race away from him, that he was uncomfortably turned on, and that he could almost see a red thread wrapped around him and heading out the door.
A hard pounding sounded. He lifted his head, sliding on a pair of sleep pants, and staggered to the door, wondering if his shouting woke the neighbor. He leaned on the doorway and slammed the button, the door sliding away to reveal a shivering Rey, teeth clenched in anger.
“You have to stop having these dreams,” she spat. He blinked rapidly, noting that she was as sweat soaked as he. And that the red strand connected him to her. Ben wiped the sweat from his eyes, rubbing his heel into them, and shook his head. The strand was gone, only visible from the corner of his eyes.
He was worried that he was beginning to hallucinate, panic gripping him by the throat.
“Stop what?” Ben demanded hoarsely.
“Luke wants to help you recover your memories,” Rey glared at him. “But you won’t let him. Instead I have to bear these dreams with you.”
“No one is asking that you do,” Ben shot out angrily. He looked down at her, seeing the image of her naked body rising above a body that looked so much like his own. He frowned. “Do I have a twin?” Rey snorted.
“When you’re ready, Luke is too,” she countered and backed away. Ben’s hand shot out and hooked around her wrist. She tugged impatiently and Ben growled.
“Rey, what is going on?” She stared warily at him, still trying to pry his hand off.
“Do you really want to know?”
“Yes,” he practically shouted, his eyes wild with panic, with need to stop whatever was trying to claw out of him.
Rey stopped struggling. He gazed at her and felt the sorrow emanating off her in waves. She was in mourning, he realized, and wondered for whom. He thought about the boy in the bed.
“Were you with my brother or something?” he asked quietly. She laughed dryly.
“You have no brother, Ky--Ben,” she said harshly. Ben shuddered and let go of her wrist. He grabbed onto the doorway to steady himself.
“I’m not suggesting anything,” she replied. “I was your wife when you were Kylo Ren. But when you fought Snoke, you lost everything. It was as if your mind went back to the moment before you gave into the dark side.”
“I never gave into the dark side! It can’t be true!” Ben snarled. The words he longed to say finally burst out of him. Rey took a step back, her eyes half hooded. She twisted a ring off her hand and shoved it at him. Ben flinched.
“You’re a liar, Ben Solo. You promised me forever. You said you would always love me and always be there for me. I’ve been waiting for you to come back. Everyday, I look at you and hope to see you return. But this shell…” Rey paused to lick her lips. “I often wondered if I would like Ben Solo more than Kylo Ren. If you’re what he would have become, then I can see we never would have gotten married.” Rey’s voice wavered at the end, her breathing growing more ragged but she clung to her dignity, head held high, ring captured between her thumb and forefinger, thrusted at Ben.
“Please take it. Let me get on with my life,”she whispered. Ben turned his head and heard her sigh. She opened her hand and let the ring fall to the ground.
Plink. Plink. Plink.
The ring hit the ground and rolled to the ground in front of him.
And Ben’s eyes widened.
“Rey?” he gasped before sliding to the ground, lost, almost seizuring, as a decade came rushing back to him.
The slick greyness of Snoke’s dry hand covering his and patting his head, soothing him. Proclaiming the end of Ben Solo and the rise of Kylo Ren.
Ben slashing his way through soldiers, his body burnt and bleeding, until he earned the title master.
Hearing the mockery in a ginger man’s voice every time Kylo spoke. And finding the helmet to hide his face, to hide that delicate sensitivity, as Snoke called it.
The tenderness in his father’s touch before he fell--and here Ben began sobbing, his chest tight and caught in a vise, Rey by his side, gripping him tightly as he rocked back and forth.
The ferocity in Rey’s eyes as she kicked him down and swung her blade. He was so caught up in her grace that he barely felt the burn as she sliced his face.
The way her lips shoved against his, the anger, the need. How he crushed her to him, let himself drown in her glory.
The bond hummed and burst into light and Ben bellowed as her panic crashed into him. Rey threw up walls and Ben fell further.
It was night, the sky a velvety blue that he had heard about but never seen in his tours around the galaxy. A nebula bright in the sky, pink and purples and blues. He had waited for her for two hours on this beach and she was late. His fingers twitched, dug into the sand, but he felt nothing unusual on her end of the bond. Kylo rolled to his feet and began pacing at the water’s edge, watching the bioluminescent sea crest onto shore and fade away.
He reached into his pouch and pulled out the small ring. A rose gold band, simple, and unadorned. He figured she wouldn’t want anything ostentatious although he had a few of kyber crystal shards embedded into the band.
Kylo sighed and strode back to the small hut that he had rented on the water’s edge. For the lack of knowing what to do, he began to make himself a small protein scramble. As he scraped it from the pan to the plate, he heard the hum of the Falcon’s engines and smiled. He smiled as she ran across the beach and leapt into his arms. He smiled into her hair, running his hand over each bun. He smiled into her neck, aching to kiss her long limbs, the graceful arch of her throat as she leaned back.
But instead he got onto one knee and opened the pouch, fumbling, the ring falling to the stone floor.
Plink, plink, plink.
His cheeks red and anger mounting as he couldn’t even get this right and the tears misting in her eyes as she shoved it onto her finger without him saying a word and wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Yes, always,” she breathed.
Ben gasped, nails clawing at his throat, his mind in disarray. He flipped over to his side and vomited, shaking violently. He slowly became aware of a hand rubbing circles on his back, a gentle presence next to him. A presence he had craved his whole life.
“Clear out, all of you,” he heard his uncle order. He glanced up to see Luke vibrating with concern, a glass of water in his hand. He looked over at Rey.
“He remembered,” Luke stated, knowing without asking as he knelt down to help prop Ben against the wall. She gave a short nod and almost seemed to curl against herself.Ben lay a hand on her knee.
“Don’t go,” he requested, his voice chaotic. She nodded and threaded her fingers through his. He looked up to see Nuuti watching with wide eyes before averting his gaze.
He wasn’t ready to deal with the fall out.
Luke cleared everyone out and shut the door. He turned to face his nephew, lines thick on his face.
“How much?” he asked, his voice a dry whisper in the room, the thundering rain nearly drowning it out.
“Everything,” Rey responded. Ben nodded and choked back water. He tried not to look as Luke called for a droid to clean up the sick. He tried not to meet Luke’s gaze, his eyes instead wandering over to look at Rey. Sweet, steady Rey. Fierce Rey. An image beat over and over in his head, his lips on her forehead, a promise to return as he strolled into his ship one last time.
“What happened?” he finally got out. Luke and Rey exchanged a look.
“You defected,” Rey finally said. “You came over to our side and helped us take down Snoke. It was you and me in the end. Snoke hit you with something before he died and you didn’t wake up. When we got you into the med ward, it was weeks before you came back. And it was as if….as if….” she stopped and lifted her chin, her bottom lip trembling. Instinctively, Ben knew how to read it and squeezed her hand. Sweetheart, another adoration, clung to his tongue. He clicked his teeth together and refused to let it out.
“I just figured out a few weeks earlier that you and Rey were married,” Luke added. “We wondered why you had come home.” Ben sobered as he remembered his father falling away.
“Snoke,” Rey jumped in, sensing his anguish. Ben shook his head.
“No, it was me, it was me,” he repeated tonelessly. “I made the decision.”
“And it tore you apart, Ben,” Rey insisted. “I was there with you.” Ben met her gaze and marveled at the strength.
“How have you done it?” he whispered, his breath brushing her cheek. She sighed as he lifted a hand to cup her cheek. “I’ve been so cruel to you.”
“You weren’t yourself. You were the Ben everyone wanted you to be.” He could hear the desperation, her need to console him and console herself. Ben struggled to his feet and lurched away from her. Luke grabbed his elbows and propped him up.
“Where are you running to Ben that you haven’t already been?” his uncle demanded.
“I need...I need air,” Ben gasped. Too many years pressed into him now. He understood why he tossed and turned at night, why he struggled to sleep. Guilt weighed on him heavily. He didn’t know how to breathe in that moment, wondering why his mother forgave him, how he had even won the love of Rey. He immediately grasped how he felt about her as his memories crashed around him. She was the light in his life, the way he allowed himself to see. But more than that. She was grace, she was joy, she was brave and wicked clever, her lips coaxed fire and passion and she chose him . Over any other. He clung to that thought as he staggered out of the room, past clusters of whispering students, and into the night.
Ben Solo did not return that night. Nor the next day. Rey and Luke hastily conferred in his office.
“He needs to find himself,” Rey assured Luke.
“The dark side is present here, Rey,” Luke insisted. “He could find himself falling prey to it again. It’s seductive.” Rey shook her head.
“I was with him the months leading up to the confrontation with Snoke. He may not have been perfect. He wasn’t a Jedi. But he wasn’t a dark side user, Luke.” Her eyes pleaded with him and Luke softened.
That night, a cargo ship was stolen and Rey raced to Ben’s room, knowing she would find it empty. She took solace in act, she told herself, even as she gazed at the empty bed, still a mess from the previous night. She opened the force bond and ground her teeth. Ben was shut down and locked away. She couldn’t even locate him in the galaxy. He only existed as a wall to her, nothing else. Fear seized her and she rocked back on her heels.
Nuuti was also gone, they discovered the next morning. Rey placed her wedding band on her bed side table.
“Ben Solo is gone,” she whispered to herself, her tattered heart weakly beating. She had dared hope again when his memories came back.
Weeks passed. Luke and Rey waited nervously for news of a dark sider to return to them. Leia scoured the galaxy, sending out a report under Poe to discover any news of Ben. But nothing. Radio silence.
Rey continued on, as always. As she learned on Jakku, she thought harshly. She took joy in teaching the younglings, in working with others in the training room. She felt the sadness and pity on their faces and shoved it away.
The wartime bride of Kylo Ren. Abandoned when he returned to himself, she heard someone mutter and felt her rage rise. She pushed it down and continued out into the jungle where she pushed herself for miles until all she could feel was exhaustion.
The jungle continued to push at the temples and Rey watched the sun rise and fall. She made marks on her wall again, more for comfort than to mark the days. She watched one class graduate and then lead the ceremony to move the younglings to the knights in training. Over 300 scratches marred her wall.
She smiled encouragingly at the New Republic’s senators and pilots. She dutifully went out for drinks with the men Finn pushed her toward. Or the men who Poe had set her up with. Try, she told herself, as she pulled her hair back into buns, the ring glinting under the lamp light.
A year passed.
Rey gave her congratulations to the graduating class, Finn by her side. They stood inside the main hangar, the shade protecting them somewhat from the jungle heat pressing into their skin, sticking their hair to their flesh. Finn had returned from his honeymoon with Poe a few weeks ago. His cheeks were still pink with happiness. Rey felt hollow next to him and growled inwardly at herself. She knew how to be happy on her own. It was the force bond, she sternly thought.
A roar filled the air and she looked up to see a ship break through the cloud cover and land near them. Finn raised a brow.
“Are we expecting company?”
“No. The ships for the new Jedi are coming tomorrow,” Rey mused as the cargo hatch door opened. Finn’s hand went to his blaster and Rey felt him tense beside her.
“Well, I’ll be,” Finn muttered as Ben Solo strode down the plank. He was dressed differently, Rey thought. Casually in dark trousers and a cream colored tunic, open at his throat. A vest and a blaster and it hit her. He was emulating his father. She and Finn exchanged a look.
“You ever hear anything about him?,” she asked. Finn shook his head.
“Nothing. Didn’t hear a single thing.” Rey examined the modified ship, the additional guns, the ion cannon. Finn was looking too, thumbing open the lock on his holster.
Ben walked toward him, hands in the air.
“I mean no harm,” he began. “I come bearing information.”
“What kind of information?” Finn called out. Rey felt a dull roar in her head and shook it. Luke came to stand beside her, hand on her arm.
“About the First Order. I’ve been out in Wild Space. They aren’t quite done,” Ben replied. Finn’s brow shot up.
“You’re the one who has been sending us information,” he breathed. Ben nodded, his lips twisting into a smile.
“I’m glad you found it useful.”
“Some of it, anyways,” Finn retorted.
“Is that what you did? Out to spy?,” Rey asked. Ben turned to look at her and dropped his hands.
“I need to find my way back to myself, Rey. I had to see if I could trust myself again.”
“Did you?,” she asked. At the same time, Finn demanded: “Where’s Nuuti?”
“She took me as far as Bespin after I left and then went on to the Core Worlds. She didn’t really want to be a Jedi,” Ben explained. “I joined a cargo ship on Bespin and worked my way around until I got out to Wild Space.” Finn stilled at the softness of his words. He looked questioningly at Rey.
“Finn, go check on the trainees,” Rey requested. Finn clapped her shoulder and walked away, shooting suspicious glances at Ben.
“Well, I’m glad you found happiness,” she got out. “I have the divorce papers drawn up.” Ben’s brow furrowed.
“Uncle Luke, can you give us a moment?”
“If you are planning on staying here, I need to know,” Luke shot back. “And you owe your mother a call.” Ben had the grace to look embarrassed.
“I’ll call her when I’m finished here,” he answered. Rey swallowed hard, pushing back at the twisting of her guts. After he officially abandoned her, she thought bitterly. After all these years, she still had clung to hope. Hope that she could be loved. And here she was again, another one dropping her on a planet and fleeing.
She bit the inside of her cheek to keep back the tears.
“I’ll get the datapad,” she said hollowly. Ben shook his head.
“No, Rey, don’t. I...I don’t want a divorce.” She paused in her turn from him. She squared her shoulder.
“Then why?” She couldn’t stop the anger leaching out of her.
Ben blushed. “I needed time away. I couldn’t tell what was me and what was you or Luke. Or anyone else. Who was Ben Solo? Who was Kylo Ren? I didn’t know how to go on anymore. So I left to clear my head. Figure things out. See what the galaxy offered.”
“Why Nuuti?” The jealousy and hurt were evident in her wounded voice. Ben winced.
“She never demanded much of me. Besides I knew she just wanted to get off Yavin 4. It was the fastest way out of here,” he shrugged. “We are only friends. She doesn’t care about the Skywalker or Solo or Vader thing. Or the First Order thing. Nuuti just wants to bring justice to the galaxy. She’s a judge on Harloff Minor and can use the Force to see past the lies. Besides, I would never cheat on my wife.” Rey blinked at the vehemence in his voice. “At least, once I remembered I had a wife.” Crimson crept along his cheeks, the tips of ears flushed red. Ben took the last few steps to her, looking down at her. She inhaled deeply and almost sighed at the familiar cedar scent she associated with him. It comforted her.
“Rey, I know I’ve done wrong. I know I’ve hurt you. All I’m asking is that you let me make it up to you. Let me show you the man that I am,” he hoarsely pleaded. She gulped in air and blinked rapidly, the tears slipping out. Ben let out a small whimper and reached up to thumb away a tear. “I don’t want to see you cry anymore because of me.”
“They’re happy tears,” she insisted and he gave a little laugh.
“I can tell when you lie, you know.”
“And I, you,” she sniffed. She saw the wedding band gleaming on his hand. “A new start?”
“For the both of us. Give me a chance to show you, Rey. Let me win you again.” Rey offered a watery smile.
“Again? Confident aren’t you?”
Ben gave a cocky smile. “Come on, sweetheart. At least it will be fun.” Rey laughed as he bent and kissed her hand.
“Give me a real kiss, Ben,” she urged. And he gathered her to him and pressed his lips to hers.
Ben stared forlornly at the med ward at Yavin 4, memories flooding him until his fingers trembled. The utter disarray when he had been brought here, shambling around the suites, Luke always by his side, hands folded meekly. The confusion when Ben explored his own body in the ‘fresher--a new assortment of scars, his hair shaved at that time, a mess of scars along his scalp. The pink line that bisected his face that he had traced in the mirror, sure that it held the secrets to his lost ten years.
The few months after his arrival had been unsteady drips of days among the students, learning how to navigate a frame that he was unsure of (how did he become so bulky), and glaring at the lithe brunette often by Luke’s side. An insistent push toward her that he hadn’t understood and had turned into a loathing, a need to be away from her.
Ben looked down at the pale gold band on his finger and twisted it. He blew out his air. He had so much work to do.
Rey scratched the top of her head and frowned at the tangle of wires. Chewie had gotten it in his head that the hyperdrive in the Falcon needed to be rewrite and now wires vomited out along the ship and trailed down the sides. Chewie shrugged and muttered something under his breath.
“It’s okay, I’m sure we’ll make sense of it,” Rey told him and huffed, kneeling to pick at a particularly nasty snarl. A loud bark of laugh had her peering over the side to see Luke shaking with laughter. She stuck her tongue out at him.
“Again with the hyperdrive, Chewie,” Luke chortled and Chewie ruffed something crude at the Jedi Master. Rey bit back a giggle as Luke used the Force to leap up to the top of the Falcon, sitting next to Rey and poking at a bundle of wires.
“This is not the first time he’s done this,” he confided to her and Rey smiled gamely.
“Oh I’m aware. And I had just completed an upgrade to the hyperdrive.” Chewie shot something vulgar at her and what she growled back in Shiiwook had Chewie guffawing.
“So, Rey,” Luke began amiably and Rey sighed. She knew what was coming. “Ben is back. I’ve been meeting with him.”
“I’m aware,” she said shortly, following a knot to its origination.
“His focus is...better.”
“He was focused before.”
“But it was strained. He was pushing through something, possibly a recognition of what you were to him.”
Rey huffed. “The bond is still there. He didn’t use it when he left, Luke. It’s like he sealed it off.”
“Has he told you why?”
“No,” she said glumly. “I feel like I have to go back to him, to be his wife again, and I want to. I still love him. But I don’t know how. He’s a stranger to me too.” She blinked and furiously swiped at the tears misting in her eyes. “Stupid huh?”
Luke patted her knee. “At some point ,both Han and Leia stopped trying. I think you and Ben need to figure out what marriage means to one another.” Rey was quiet for a few minutes, picking away at a knot, until she had the wires untangled.
“He wants to meet tonight,” she said in a low voice. Luke nodded.
“Don’t bring the anger or resentment, Rey. Just listen. To the Force.”
“I don’t want to live my life beholden to a bond that was forged with a man who no longer exists,” she replied quietly. Luke stilled beside her. Despite her joyful reunion with Ben when he returned, she had existed uneasily with him. Still slept alone in her room. Still had meals with everyone else, mediated with everyone else. The few times he got her alone, they were awkward and uncertain, eyes skating over one another, half stuttered statements.
Her lips still burned with his kisses and her body still hummed with echoes of his touch. She longed for his hands to caress her again, to tenderly love her, to hold her. But when he had the first night he had returned, when she had demanded a kiss, it had felt as if a stranger had kissed her. Even as the bond hummed in delight, she didn’t recognize the lips against her own.
Rey had to admit to herself--painfully, haltingly, awkwardly--that what she wanted was gone and she couldn’t will it back again.
“Listen to the Force,” Luke encouraged again and rose creakily to his feet, shuffling off the Falcon to leap off and gracefully land, much to the awe of the students clustered around the hanger. Rey shook her head and brushed back a tendril of hair.
“Show off,” she muttered and Chewie agreed.
Rey was running late and she knew it, hastily freshening up, before exchanging her coveralls for a simple beige tunic and sand colored leggings, foregoing shoes as she ran up the stairs. Ben had asked her to meet him at twenty one hundred hours at the top of the main temple. She jogged up the stairs, throwing her hair into a bun, and swatting at hair that the stubbornly clung to her damp cheek. She pushed open the door that led to the roof and hustled up the final steps.
Surprise flooded her and she stood at the opening of the roof, head barely peeking over the top of the zigzarut, eyes wide open in astonishment. The brilliant red of Yavin 4 softened the indigo sky of late dusk. And around the pyramid, floating in the air, were bright little orbs of light. They bobbed in the air, seemingly supported on their own, giving the space a fanciful air.
“How did you…”Rey gasped as she took the final four steps to stand on the pyramid’s roof. Ben was hurriedly doing something by a table and stopped to grab her hand and help her up.
“Are you keeping them in the air with the Force?” she asked quietly, watching their little weaving dance. Ben blushed.
“No, that would be too much effort. I, uh, I built them. They’re just little repulsors, that’s all,” he muttered, pink staining his cheeks. Rey gave him a skeptical look, hazel eyes still brimming with wonder, and her lips tipped up slyly.
“I didn’t realize you were a genius with mechanics too,” she teased lightly, almost tentatively. Ben blushed again and dropped her hand, stepping back to wipe his palms on his pants.
“Uh, yeah. Dad wanted me to have something to fall back on in case the whole chosen thing didn’t turn out. He didn’t really, uh, well, you know.” He flapped his hand and looked around helplessly.
“I don’t know,” Rey piped up. “We never really talked about your childhood.”
“Really?” Rey frowned at the consternation on Ben’s face.
“Our time together was too brief.”
“Well, I hope to make up for that. For now and eternity,” Ben stated solemnly and Rey smiled softly, the serious lines on his face drawing her back to their wedding day. The way his hands shook, the gravity of Kylo’s features, the careful and deliberate way he spoke.
“What do we have here?” Rey prodded gently, walking around him to look at a feast spread out on a small table.
“I thought maybe dinner? And talking? It’s pretty remote here so we can have a chance to talk uninterrupted. I know it’s been crazy since my arrival…”he trailed off again and blew out his air, rubbing the back of his neck. Rey couldn’t help the grin spreading across her face. He was so nervous. She had never seen him like this.
It was almost endearing.
“Dinner sounds lovely,” she said huskily and Ben perked up. He pulled out a chair and guided her to the table before taking the seat across from her. He poured her a glass of deep burgundy before raising his glass.
“To new beginnings?” Rey suggested.
“To your resilience, Rey. You were a light in the darkness. You always have been.” Rey’s mouth fell open at the compliment. In their few short years together, she had always known what he felt about her, a raging passion that threatened to set fire to oceans, to rival the very stars in the skies. He had been starving, his very skin soaking up kisses, lips ravishing hers, her embrace an oasis from the turmoil in which he lived. So much had vibrated along the bond, impressions at the edge of her consciousness, a tingling along her limbs when he thought about her, wave after wave of sensations, that they rarely bothered to speak the words.
To hear them now was almost so dizzying that they sent her reeling.
She had no response and she could see the panic bleeding into his eyes. She licked her lips and offered him a smile, lifting the glass to clink against his, the sound swallowed by the heavy humidity laying on their skin.
He swallowed and she watched his adam’s apple bob, the uncertainty in the way his fingers danced together, tips brushing, a soft rasping sound that stilled her own reticence. She reached across the table and lay her hand across his own.
“Just tell me why,” she said quietly. Ben blinked.
“Why what?” he stammered and she sighed, impatience leaking out with her breath.
“You know why.” Ben extracted his hand and crossed his arms across his chest. The web of scars across his scalp peaked out from under his air and she longed to touch them, to feel the hard skin, to give him the comfort they both craved.
“I didn’t know what to say, what to trust,” he admitted. “Why wasn’t Luke helping me recover my memories more? Why didn’t you? Mom should have said something but she didn’t!” He balled his fists together and jammed them into his eyes. Rey resisted the urge to leap out of her seat and comfort him. The hard anger of being abandoned still rubbed raw, like grains of sand caught in her shoes.
“You knew I always stood beside you.”
“But I didn’t do the same for you, Rey!” Ben shouted, anguish thick in his voice. He looked at her, eyes red rimmed, lips raw, and her heart lurched forward. The part of her that she had sealed away, that she wanted to forget, began to unfurl and for the first time in years, she opened the bond between them. His agony and confusion crashed into her and she took a deep breath, steeling herself against the waves rolling through the bond.
She had forgotten how turbulent he was.
“I should have remembered you,” he was saying bitterly and she shook her head, remembered how to re-direct his emotions, muscle memory creaking slowly to life. Rey turned her head, looked down at the green sea of the tree tops below waving in the breeze and let herself drift in the stream of his emotions. She knew he was sensing hers.
“What if you forget again?” she asked softly. Ben tensed.
“Maybe it’s better if we didn’t try at all,” he said. Rey swallowed hard and the hard weeks of life with a stranger hit her again with an acidic taste. She remembered how hard she cried into her pillow the night they discovered he had no memory. How numb she had become as he abused her when she was helping him with physical therapy. The barbed comments, the snide remarks, the occasional bright smile, the loathing that simply filled the air whenever they were in the room together.
“What would trying look like?” Rey prompted. Ben blinked slowly, unsure, before he rose unsteadily to his feet and shuffled toward her, holding out a hand. She stared at it, at the callouses on the ridges of his fingers, before sliding her hand on top of his palm and letting him tug her up. He rested one hand at the small of her back, the other cupping her hand. And began to sway slowly, a small smile hovering on her lips.
She had always been an unsteady dancer and the bond shimmered between them, a palpable thing, as memories of the weeks he surreptitiously taught her how to dance in preparation for her secret mission to crash a party on Chandrila. She had struggled through Leia’s lessons, Finn or Rose her patient partners, never complaining about trodden toes, and then he had slipped through the bond, guided her, ghosting over flesh to show her how to stand, how to move, to let him glide with her. To let him lead.
And to her pleasure, he had arrived on Chandrila with a temporary dye job and facial surgery to help her succeed. To whirl with her for a few quiet moments on the dance floor, gazes languorously traveling over jawlines, dips in lips, collarbones, and sculpted arms. She had told him: you should come with a warming. His reply: I’m just as beholden to you.
Never with words. Always with something palpable and twisting between them, magnetic, sighing as their long lean bodies brushed, grazed, and leaned into one another.
Ben smiled as if he caught the taste of her memories and he guided her into a whirl before dipping her down. She shrieked and wrapped her arms around his neck, a laugh tumbling between once gritted teeth.
“I wasn’t ready!” she protested and he chuckled before righting her and beginning a slow waltz across the pyramid’s roof.
“Is it because you’re a bad follower or I’m a bad leader?” he asked, a mischievous gleam in his caf colored eyes. She felt her cheeks warming.
“Maybe we’re both not very good at it.”
“Oh, I disagree. Look at us now, Rey,” he breathed. She quirked a brow at him and turned around, her bright laugh ringing out. The lights were following them, surrounding them, bobbing as they twirled across the roof.
“We’re like a comet,” she giggled.
“You’ve always been luminescent,” he agreed.
“How could you not love me?” she tossed back teasingly and he leaned forward, a quick peck on the lips, that caused her to startle, stumble, tripping over his toes. He had the good graces to hide most of his grimace, holding her upright as she regained her footing.
“Are you going to draw back every time I try to get near?” Rey snarled and pressed up on her toes, a sloppy kiss between them, that had him reeling, gripping her tightly, one hand snaking up to cradle her to him.
Somehow, she remembered his lips, his touch, and the kiss slipped into something deeper, the passion locked within her pouring out in a wave. He inhaled sharply, finger grazing the nape of her neck, and deepened the kiss until they were both alight with a fire that threatened to drown them both.
She pulled apart first, cheeks flushed, lips aching for more.
“That was…” Ben licked his lips and tried again: “I forgot how amazing of a kisser you are.”
“Just like my dad taught me,” he said with a crooked smile. She grinned, dimples deepening in her cheek, and let him lead her back into the dance.
She knew how the rest of the night would go: dinner, some more dancing, maybe a few more kisses, conversation. Tomorrow night, he would take her somewhere else, steal her away in a spaceship, to a wonder of the galaxy. He would leave her fresh flowers each morning until her room was practically a jungle. He would learn her language of love and she would let the hardness melt from around her heart and her hand would always seek his out and she would ask him to wake up next to her every morning.
And that ring on her finger would have meaning again.
And whatever came for them, they would face.