Broken, torn, insincere
Can I watch
As you disappear
Hybrid, "Disappear Here"
The great arrowhead of the Star Destroyer cleaves a steady path through the stars. Here, adrift beyond the reaches of suns’ rise, light is the stinging, artificial fluorescence of corridors and gangways, hangars flooded in sickly neon.
Kylo Ren had made his retreat with a hand held up to shield his eyes, and it burned too bright, too oppressive even for the customary trail of carnage. The sublimated agony of defeat, like a migraine aura. He had fled, and he had sealed the doors behind him, killed the overhead lamps. Now he lies in the still, red-blinking dark. He senses the passage of hours, and his own exhaustion, but does not sleep. The weak glow of the consoles is the only light he can stomach.
Instead he ruminates, thinks on the nature of blinding rage and the peculiar accuracy to that turn of phrase. It had been Luke’s fault, first and foremost, but it is less the murderous old man himself than Ren’s own folly, in succumbing to the lure of the bile rising in his throat, and the seductive finality of putting an end to the Jedi once and for all.
He curls a fist in the sheet, squeezes, releases. It will not happen again – he does not repeat his mistakes – but it was enough to let the Resistance scatter like rats, back into the shadows on that infernal trash heap of a ship. The rage that remains is just the blinking-red, the mild, intermittent cast of humiliation. It illuminates the cowl he has tossed to the floor, crumpled and jagged, the only sign of disorder in new and sterile quarters. The Supremacy is gone, and there was no love lost with Snoke’s smoking carcass aboard, but for a moment he misses the familiar curve of his helmet upon the stand on the mantel, the only thing he considers quite so ugly as himself.
And then he ruminates on the girl. Rey. He finds he must call her by her name now, and it should frustrate him, that compulsion, but it doesn’t. There is the problem of Rey, and her stubbornness, all that wrongheaded, wasteful fury. He could teach her to channel that fury, appropriately, if she wanted. But she doesn’t want it. Not yet. And there is the deeper problem, which is that Rey does not stoke the embers of his rage, not even as she had spurned him, but something else, a fire set lower than his belly, which he should have expected but does not like feeling so helpless against.
She is the last Jedi, after all.
It’s a thought that brings a powerful ache, and he rolls to his side, drawing an arm across his chest. Aches like the way she spat his name while calling him Monster, as though she dared him to object. Aches like the way she looked at him after throwing herself into the monster’s den.
Ren grimaces. He can admit that he had relished fighting by her side, had longed for it, in fact. Lusted for it. He had thrilled in the crackling sparks, her grunts and snarls as she swung the saber, awash in red, blazing red, crimson red. That brutality, that passion, like an electrical current. He can still feel it traveling through him, through her hand on his thigh, and the warmth of her back against his.
The warmth of her back against his. Ren’s breath stutters and stalls. It is there again, now, with the dull, deafening ringing of the Force, closing in on him like a lucid dream, shimmering and warping at the edges of his senses.
This is happening. He is aware of it, acutely, for several tense seconds before she is. He feels time stretching, dragging, and does not move. He lies still as he can muster, in the red-blinking dark, waiting for her to scream, to strike, or to run. She is somewhere far away, safe from him aboard the Falcon, and she is also here, breathing slow and measured, coiled against him in his room.
Back in the monster’s den.
Rey’s realization is sudden, almost theatrical. He hears the heaving gasp, feels a rush of chilled air, and for a moment is deeply confused by the enveloping darkness. It occurs to him that she has thrown the blanket over his head.
Exasperated, almost amused, he sits upright and pulls it down. He sees her then, on the mattress, pressed against the adjacent wall, one hand flat against it and the other pulling her knees to her chest. She stares at him like a frightened animal, the dim red light coruscating in her eyes.
He catches his gaze flickering up and down. Her hair is loose around her collarbone, disheveled. There is a dark stain at the center of a bandage on her shoulder.
He wets his lips with his tongue before he speaks, cautiously, matter-of-factly. “You’re in my bed.”
It is all he can think to say. They have done this before, at other, similarly inopportune moments, but the shock of it has yet to fade. The shock of this, in particular.
“No,” she insists, “you’re in my bed,” and scrambles for a fistful of sheets to pull over her waist. From the way she is glaring at him, he suspects he has failed at suppressing a smirk.
“Don’t look so surprised. We should be getting used to this by now.”
“I’ve been wondering why we’re still doing this. Snoke is dead. It should have severed the connection, the—”
“It’s not me, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“I’m not implying that it’s deliberate.”
Ren is conscious of the way he is looking at her, a kind of predatory fixation and fascinated terror. He is terrified of her, and he can admit that, too, because it exhilarates him.
Rey yanks the folds of black silk tighter around her knees. The flickering red casts her in light, then shadow, like a half-rendered hologram. He is certain she is blushing, even though it is impossible to tell.
“You could have killed me, before you left,” he continues, conversational. “You should have.”
“I’m not like you,” she nearly snarls, pitching forward, just slightly. It’s the first time she comes toward him, at him.
“You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you.”
“I know it.”
“I know how you fight,” he says, shifting finally, inching tentatively forward. He expects her to startle, but she doesn’t move. “I’ve seen you. Vengeful. Brutal.” He enunciates every syllable, almost lovingly. “Merciless.”
“I was trying to protect you!” It falters there, the anger, the indignation. Her voice flutters even as she spits back at him. She is holding back tears. “You saved me, and I— I thought you had turned, I thought you would stand by my side—”
She stops herself there, drops her head to her knees. Ren feels the ache again, fiercely, and that incomprehensible, protective rage. The blinding rage, like the rage he felt when Snoke had dared to touch her, when he had decided, right then, that Snoke had to die. He hates her pain, and himself for causing it. Hates her infuriating, relentless denial of her potential, hates what she foolishly assumes is his potential, somewhere in the depths a light to be cultivated, nurtured.
A light he extinguished, so they could no longer control him. Abuse him. That light, that sick justification. They’d do it to her, too, eventually. See her power and chain her to a destiny she never chose, cage her in their hopes, their dreams. Never her own.
But he could free her. He could protect her.
Rey lifts her head, her face shining damp. “You broke my heart—"
“You broke mine!” he snaps, and is instantly ashamed for it.
She is silent, and briefly he worries he’s frightened her, but he’s learning, slowly, the extent of her resolve. She holds his gaze, and they are two bristling wolves with bared teeth again, circling each other as they did in the woods at Starkiller Base. The expanse of uncharted wilderness, now the mere width of a bed. Would she cut him down, as she did then? He thinks she could find a way.
Rey’s face suddenly softens. Inexplicably, she begins to creep toward him, on her hands and knees, limbs long and elegant. Slow and careful, like a wolf. He is distracted by the sight, the pooling of the sheets behind her, the gleam of a bare leg.
Her face is too close. Ren’s heart hammers in his chest. And then she pauses, cants her head to the side, looking past him, over his shoulder. Toward the nightstand. He jerks his head to follow the direction of her eyes.
His father’s dice. Rey rocks back on her heels, and he feels the cold as her face pulls away.
“Ben,” she calls him, again. Again, he does not protest.
“You say that name like you know the man it once belonged to.”
“I want to know him,” she says, with devastating earnest, and Ren sucks in a bolt of air at that, can’t disguise the shudder in his voice.
“Then tell me how it is that he keeps his father’s talisman at his bedside.”
It is another thing, another blinding thing, on which to ruminate. He thinks Rey might have him cornered. She could do it, if she wanted – finish this. Finish him. It scares him, realizing he might let her.
Instead she sits on her heels, patient, statuesque. Hands flat on her thighs, chin straight and proud, the blinking-red highlighting the angle of her neck and jawline. Noble, like a Jedi. It should turn his stomach, but he’s at her mercy, in thrall.
And she’s unguarded. It’s his chance to turn the tide of the battle.
“Can I touch you?” he says. There it is, in the way that she trembles, just slightly. But Ren sees it. A weak spot, an exposed joint in the armor.
“Is that a theoretical question,” she breathes, “or are you asking me permission?”
“Let’s say both.”
“I told you, I’m not the one doing this.”
“Neither am I. And yet, here we are.”
“How am I supposed to know if you’re able—”
“You haven’t answered me.” Staring her down with the same ferocity that he’d use to strike terror in his enemies, but he knows she won’t flee, will only match him for it. He’s daring her, banking on her need to rise to a challenge. She’s more like him than she’ll ever admit, and he can tell, can see it in how she looks right back at him, like she intends to burn him up from the inside.
“Yes,” she says, low and clear. “You can touch me.” There’s a tint to her voice, husky, that he hasn’t heard before, that excites him.
She gasps as he reaches for her, but it’s not fear. He knows her fear. This is something else, something that stirs a white heat in his groin.
It startles the both of them when his hand closes around her arm. Somehow, he thought he might pass through her, or that when they touched the dream would shatter, and he would be alone to seethe in his hapless desire. It would be too much, this kind of contact. Surely it violates some unbeknownst natural law. It is very nearly too much for him.
But he is touching her, and not just the skimming of fingertips from her refuge on Ahch-To. He can feel her warm and alive, the movement of her blood, thrumming under his palm. His eyes glinting in the red-dark, sparking with the knowledge that her pulse races as quickly as his. Her eyes, alight with something he does not recognize.
He brushes his thumb across her arm, and she allows the barest hint of a wince. Glancing down, he sees his grip just beneath the bandage and the dark stain at its center, some of that stain leeching down, inking the cradle of his hand.
Unthinking, he bends to her shoulder, placing a rough kiss to the patch of unbroken skin above the wound. Then he turns to her, to search her face. Perhaps waiting for her to recoil in disgust. She could slap him. Shove him away and call him Monster again, instead of Ben. It will kill him, but he will have won.
Her breath is coming heavier, quicker. Ren struggles to parse the sound and thinks his frantic heart will break his ribs. Finally he feels her wrench her arm away, and for a single moment of undiluted agony, awaits the strike that will end this tortured fever-dream, cut the cord and spirit her back, away from him, maybe forever.
It doesn’t come. He feels her hands at his face, small and rough, a scavenger’s hands, and the weight of her upon him, crushing them together, her body against his, her mouth against his. He grunts in surprise, wide-eyed and stunned, but then she comes over him like a drug, the smell of her sweat and skin and blood, and there is nothing he can do. He kisses her savagely, pinning her legs around his waist with one red-stained hand at the small of her back, threading a fist in her hair with the other. She mouths a small, desperate noise into him, and it drives him insane, makes him wild.
She’s going to consume him. She’s going to consume him. It’s a fear more thought than felt or heeded, mostly a distant acknowledgment, strangled out against the ladder of her ribs pressed to his chest. He is painfully hard in his trousers, and losing what scant control he possesses with each roll of her hips, each of her ragged, gasping breaths, if he ever truly had any control to begin with. He’s beginning to doubt that.
“Rey,” he growls, his best attempt at a warning, her name long and heavy on his lips. In a minute, he’s going to start tearing at something, either his belt or what remains of her clothes. He’s telling her where this is heading.
“Be-e-e-n,” she taunts back, into his mouth. She knows. Her hands are up his shirt now, skating over ridges of scar tissue.
That’s it. He bucks his hips to throw her off balance, and she lets out a surprised, laughing cry, grabbing at him as she falls backwards. He doesn’t let her hit the bed hard, but she uses the opportunity to feign a struggle, grinning while she paws at him, pushing uselessly against his weight. She could hurt him, if she really wanted to.
He snarls, frustrated, until he can get at her wrists to pin them at her sides. She’s not grinning anymore, but arching toward him with that same, unrecognizable glint in her eyes, the one from when he first touched her, half-hidden under heavy lids. He thinks he knows what it is, now. He thinks to himself, almost idly, and admiring the sight beneath him, that fighting and fucking aren’t all that different. In a sense, they have done this before. They are going to do this now. He may have wrested some control from her, too.
As if she hears him, and not to be outdone, she hooks a leg around his hips and pulls, forcing him roughly against the swell of her inner thigh. He sucks in a sharp, hissing breath.
He rumbles through gritted teeth, “Don’t the Jedi have rules against this?”
She tries to lunge for him, to kiss him. He hovers backward just out of her reach, smirking, and it’s her turn to squirm, to snarl and twist in indignation.
“You would know,” she drawls, evidently delighting in the look on his face, all cracked grin and pink tongue running along her bottom lip, throat conveniently bared. He leans down to it, scraping with his teeth, sucking at the pulse beneath the skin. He’s going to make her stop talking, start making other noises, instead. She seems happy to oblige.
“I’ll grant you the privilege,” he says, between her whimpering and his own gasping breaths, “of having to explain these marks to your traitorous compatriots.”
“Do you enjoy explaining how I gave you yours?”
Ren lifts his head suddenly. “Yes,” he says, honestly. “I do.”
Rey stills. She is fixed on his face, her gaze a rapid flicker, looking for something. He feels her trying to move, real intent behind it this time, and so he releases her wrists, leans back so she can prop herself up on her elbows. She extends a hand and traces it gently down the contours of the scar on his face.
“At this point,” he sighs, “I’m almost inclined to consider it an honor.”
She offers a sad smile and brushes her fingers across his lips. He finds he almost prefers the wisecracking. This time, when she leans up to kiss him, he lets her.
The kiss is the dull ache, the blinding ache; and then it is the dull, deafening ringing again; the Force crackling and buzzing between matter and energy and time. Lashing out, threatening to rescind what it has given. A surge of panic overtakes him. He wraps his arms around her, as though his embrace might hold her there, and he begs despite himself, begs it not to end, not yet, not yet.
The Force speaks in images and intrusions. The Jedi and the Sith alike might remark on its strange violence, how opening yourself up to its currents would leave you more vulnerable than powerful, how it showed you things whether or not you asked, or ever wanted to see.
The Force speaks to him, and Kylo Ren sees only fragments, but crystalline.
Rey, lightsaber swung high above her head, backlit in fire and ash / Jagged shards of the First Order’s fleet, burning and gleaming as they careen through an unknown atmosphere / His mother, crying secretly / Himself, bloodied, kneeling / Himself in robes he does not recognize / Rey’s face distorted in a war cry, the look in her eyes from the forest / Rey, her face soft, smiling, smiling at… / Rey’s bare skin / Rey beneath him again, Rey in bed, gasping, writhing—
It ends with blazing white light, brighter than any star he’s seen. Ren pulls away like he’s been scalded, falls backward with a hand up to shield his eyes, and as quickly as it sears him, it is gone. He blinks to adjust his eyes to the dark, exhaling a heaving breath when he sees that Rey is still here, the relief coursing through him like a wave. In the dim red light, he sees that she is watching him, piercing through him. But her face is soft. Her face is soft, like…
He leans forward, reaches for her. Brushes a hand across her shoulder, making sure she’s real.
She looks down, then back at him. He thinks he sees her eyes shimmering. “You can still touch me, Ben Solo. Just remember it told me everything I needed to know.”
A chasm opens in his chest, a battlefield trench, tearing him in two. She has struck him down, after all, and he is lying in the sheets as he lay in the snow, bleeding, broken. He has lost. He’s ready to kneel before her, concede defeat, plead for mercy.
“You tricked me,” he murmurs, adoringly.
“I didn’t trick you,” she sighs, an admonishment. “The Force showed you the same future it showed me. Showed us— showed us…”
“Why are you crying? Stop crying.”
“Ben,” she chokes through a sob.
He rallies despite the hole in his chest, just to seize her by the shoulders, to make her stop doing this, stop hurting him. She yelps, and with a deep and profound horror he sees his hand wrapped around her wound, stained deeper, darker with her blood. He lets go, instantly. It’s enough to make him want to turn a lightsaber on himself.
“I’m sorry,” he says, voice thick with self-loathing, with pointed, inward disgust.
“No, it isn’t. None of this is okay.”
“I saw your future. And this time, even clearer. I was right about you. You will turn. You will stand with me, when the time is right.”
“You’ll come back to me. To this bed. You’ll sleep with me.”
“Not this bed,” she corrects. Ren clenches his jaw. “A different one.”
“When?” He scrambles forward again, too eager, uncoordinated. Fraying at the edges. He can see the red-rimmed glow of her silhouette beginning to fade.
“I don’t know.”
“Please don’t go,” he says. “Please.”
“We’ll see each other again, Ben.”
She holds out her hand, palm up, open. He reaches to take it, but their fingers pass through each other's, like air.
Soon he will be alone again, lying still, in the red-blinking dark.