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Rey woke with a start the next morning to voices outside her room. She hadn’t slept nearly enough, but the reality of her situation splashed over her like cold water as soon as her eyes opened, and she flung her blankets off and touched the hilt of her lightsaber warily.

She crept to her door on bare feet, listening carefully, and recognized Ben’s low rumble. “Very good. Tell the crew to begin their move to the Dominance immediately. And warn the admiral that I’ll be bringing my betrothed aboard, and I expect him to have his best cabin ready for her.”

“Yes, Supreme Leader.” Footsteps retreated, and Rey opened her door in time to catch sight of an officer disappearing around the corner at the end of the hallway.

A stormtrooper turned when her door opened and went still. She couldn’t tell through the mask, but she thought he was staring.

Ben merely raised an eyebrow. His hair was rumpled and his clothes looked slept-in. A strange suspicion entered Rey, and she crossed her arms to frown at him. “Ben Solo, did you sleep out here?”

“Of course not,” he replied calmly, and took the data pad the stormtrooper held out to him, pausing to peruse it.

She narrowed her eyes. “Did you sleep at all?”

He didn’t reply, and she met his gaze as he handed the data pad back. The stormtrooper made himself scarce.

In a quiet but stern voice, she asked, “Ben, did you sit outside my room all night?”

He lifted that brow again, looking regal. “I didn’t trust anyone else to guard you.”

She blew out a breath. He’d sat on the damn floor all night to watch over her. She wanted to be mad, but she couldn’t quite find the energy. “You know I can take care of myself.”

He inclined his head. “You needed your sleep.”

“So do you.” She unfolded her arms to reach up and smooth his hair out of his face. He had dark circles under his eyes, which she hated, but he watched her closely, drinking in her every move. Something vulnerable flickered in his face when her fingers slipped and brushed against his skin, and she pulled her hand back.

Why did the corridor suddenly seem much smaller?

His voice had gone husky, and he was looking at her. God, he could burn a hole through her with that gaze. “We’ll be moving to the Dominance within the hour. Now that you’re awake, I’m going to get cleaned up. Do you need anything to eat before I do?”

Rey patted the lump in her belt guiltily. “I still have some of my rations left.”

He sighed. “Of course you do.”


By the time Ben knocked, Rey had had time to go over every way her presentation to the First Order could go horribly, violently wrong.

She touched her lightsaber to remind herself it was there, reassured by its comforting presence at her belt, straightened her shoulders, and opened the door.

Ben looked tidy now, clothes unrumpled and hair clean and brushed. The shadows under his eyes remained, but he seemed a little more alert.

“You’re not going into battle, you know,” he murmured as they began down the hallway together.

“Are you sure about that?”

He lifted a hand toward her, hesitated, and pulled it back. It clenched into a fist by his side, and then he quickly and very lightly placed his palm on her upper back.

Rey’s gait faltered for a moment at the touch, and then it was gone, his hands back at his sides, his gaze resolutely forward.

Rey didn’t say anything, but she couldn’t help the smile that played on her mouth. It slipped away as they reached the shuttle that would take them to the Dominance. Three officers and four stormtroopers awaited them, all standing at attention as if they had steel rods instead of spines.

Ben began giving orders, and Rey slipped into one of the seats in the back, by the wall, and strapped herself in. Everyone ignored her except for Ben, who paused to slide her a frown when he saw where she’d chosen to sit. Perhaps he’d expected her to sit up front, but Rey didn’t feel comfortable elbowing in among the First Order elite, and she knew they wouldn’t have appreciated it.

The preparation to take off took more time than the actual flight. Once they landed in the Dominance’s hangar, she released her safety harness as the others on the shuttle began moving around with purpose. Ben approached her as she stood, and she allowed him to tuck her hand into the crook of his arm and turn them to face the exit, his posture tall and formal as they waited for the shuttle ramp to lower.

“Breathe,” he murmured.

Rey dragged in a breath, too aware of the people behind her. Her neck prickled with the need to have them where she could see them, to adjust her position so that she could anticipate an attack.

She gripped Ben’s arm tighter, her other hand twitching to reach for the comforting smooth planes of her lightsaber as gears hummed, the shuttle’s seal popped, and light appeared around the edges of the ramp.

“Again,” he said, too low for anyone else to hear. “Slowly.”

She took another breath and let it shakily out as she steeled herself for what waited on the other side.


Ben’s black-clad arm was warm under Rey’s fingers as he escorted her down the shuttle ramp. It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the brighter lights of the Dominance, but the sight that greeted her had her body tensing with fear.

Rows of officers waited for them, backed by entire squadrons of stormtroopers. The entire hangar had been filled with tidy rows of uniformed soldiers, and her instincts clamored, setting her teeth on edge.

A man stepped forward, accompanied by the red-haired General Hux, and Rey’s adrenaline spiked in the instant before the man bowed.

“Supreme Leader,” he murmured. “Please allow me to welcome you and your betrothed to the Dominance. I am Admiral Sornman.”

“This is Rey,” Ben said, shifting his arm so that she had to take a step forward, putting her slightly ahead of him. All attention snapped to her, and Rey felt the back of her neck heat under the scrutiny. Immediately, self-consciousness filled her; in the room full of impeccable uniforms and polished helms, she looked distinctly shabby.

Then Ben stepped forward, his shoulder even with hers, his presence wrapping around her like a comforting shadow, and she felt relief swamp her as most of the attention swung back to him. He spoke to the admiral in a voice which carried. “No harm is to come to this woman, on pain of death.”

“I will put my most trusted people in charge of her safety.”

Ben inclined his head. “I’d like to evaluate your choices before assigning them.”

The admiral blinked but demurred, eyes darting to the side. “Of course, Supreme Leader.”

He’d been hoping to spy on her, Rey realized. His most trusted people would probably be loyal to him first, not to her or Ben. But if Ben vetted her guards, he’d be sure to pick people she could trust to protect her.

But would they be people she could trust with other things?

Rey glanced up at Ben’s face as other military leaders were presented to him. Despite his focus on the proceedings, the small movement drew his gaze.

Later, she decided. She didn’t want to draw any more attention in front of all of these people, and there would be time later to tell Ben that she wanted a choice in the people protecting her.

She turned back to the admiral’s introductions, and Ben shifted his gaze back as well.

The introductions took long enough that Ben started looking annoyed. The admiral hurried after that, finishing in record time and offering to lead them on a tour. He kept up a one-sided conversation as they followed him.

Rey felt the pressure of eyes leave them as they left the hangar and entered the relative privacy of the ship interior.

She squeezed Ben’s arm to get his attention. Once she had it, she murmured, “I want to pick my own guards.”

He examined her expression. Finally, he inclined his head. “You may have the final say.”

“Thank you.”

An inscrutable glance.

“–the finest rooms,” the admiral was saying. “And we have crews working around the clock on the addition you requested, Supreme Leader. It should be finished by the this evening.”

“Addition?” asked Rey.

“A door between your sitting rooms,” Admiral Sornman said, a sly smile blossoming on his face.

Rey stopped walking, mortified at the implication. “What?”

Ben stopped as well. “It’s a safety precaution,” he said softly. “I won’t invade your privacy.”

Any more than you usually do? she thought, but she didn’t say it because of all the eyes on them. The fewer people who knew about their bond, the better.

She faced forward with her head high and her face on fire. “I’ll kick your ass if you do.”

He smiled at her with his eyes, and they began walking again. “I know.”