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A Long Stop on a Short Trip

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Rey could handle the war between them, even the distance, but watching Kylo? Ben? fall into from the edge of the cliff was enough to steal her breath away. She wasn’t sure who screamed his name, but then again, it had to be her, didn’t it? There was no one else around in this corner of the back-water marsh of a planet, they’d both lost their tails, and when he’d lost his footing on the wet rock-

She scrambled her way to the edge of the cliff, the sound of blood rushing through her ears, and she all but threw herself over the edge. She resisted the urge to jump down, instead simply gripping the edge as she peered down into the dark abyss. Rey heaved a sigh of relief when she spotted him hanging onto the edge of the cliff at least fifty meters down, both of his gloved hands struggling to keep purchase as torrential rains beat down on the both of them.

They’d just escaped running through a dark wood full of strange, black trees with grey leaves, and the storm clouds overhead where an unsettling dark blue.

“Ben!” she felt herself scream again, quickly reaching out with her hand to use the Force, to lift him to safety.

“Rey!” his voice came out panicked, his gaze focused on something behind her. She whipped her head around just in time to feel the humanoid’s hand-crafted staff connect with her jaw. She was still crouched over the lip of the canyon, carefully balanced on the balls of her feet. Well, that was until pain blossomed in her jaw and her tensed body began to tip without permission.

She grunted as she was hit again, this time across her shoulder, and Rey found herself truly falling over the edge. The creatures, aliens, humanoids, whatever, of their current planet hadn’t been friendly to attempts at conversation, and once they spotted Rey’s saber, especially the Supreme Leader’s, they’d turned aggressive; she should’ve known better than to turn her back on them.

She could hear Ben yelling something at her, about holding on, about killing the creature, something about a cave.

“I’m trying not to die!” Rey screamed at him, blinking away the raindrops that landed on her eyes, blurring her vision.

She tried to channel the Force, using the chaos around her, tried to funnel it into something that she could use, something that she knew would be productive. Ben was still yelling at her and she blocked him out, blocked out his insistence that bled across their bond.  

Fingers desperately clinging to the black, rocky edge of the cliff and feet scrabbling to find purpose, Rey sustained more blows before she attempted to use the Force.

She found it difficult despite her experience and without the aid of using her hand to focus her actions, she simply shoved the creature and its weapon back ten meters. It groaned and spoke in its strange tongue, although Rey just sighed; the immediate danger was gone.

Ben was still yelling at her, albeit intermittently, and she was sure that he was checking to see if she was alright. Before she had the wherewithal to reply, she frowned as at least five more of the hostile humanoids bled out of the dark woods. His voice was odd, though, and she wasn’t sure if she could spare a moment to look back without risking her falling over to. She could feel him trying to project messages into her mind and she wasn’t nearly strong enough to fight off both him and the humanoids.

Just drop , he projected, and Rey sent a spike of annoyance in return. She wasn’t about to endanger herself to let him feel like the hero. Instead, she glared at the creatures that quickly closed in on her.

They, unlike the one which she had blasted backwards, were equipped with spears, the blades already stained with blood.

She grunted again and hurried to find footing, to climb down, to avoid falling, when one of their blades pierced her left hand.

Rey cursed and flinched although she only momentarily removed her hand; her time on Jakku had taught her the value of withstanding pain when climbing.

“Ben!” She screamed as she realized that she was about to subjected to far more piercing, that they weren’t strictly aimed at her hands. She scrambled along the sheer, wet rock face, rain running into her eyes. Trying to find purchase on a foothold when she flinched away from another stabbing and found her body trying to correct itself and she jerked away from the wall.

Rey fell backwards, rain in her face and hair flying upward as she hopelessly grasped at the sky. She tried to say something, call out for the man she loved, but all she saw was gloom. The sky lurked overhead and the creatures peeked over, and she was in the process of considering how much longer she had before she cracked her skull, when suddenly she felt the Force move around her.

I’ve got you , she heard in the back of her mind and she had no idea what he meant, so she just surrendered. Panic flooding her system, she knew that if he had attempted to catch her, somehow, that he had been too late, or confused, or just barely grabbed her, or-

Rey grunted as she felt her body connect against Ben’s, his shoulder? And her momentum slammed the both of them downwards. There was the sound of something cracking against rock, although she had no idea what was happening. She wasn’t sure where they were; she hadn’t fallen far enough to at the bottom, and how had Ben gotten her close to him if he had been hanging off the edge as well?

All thoughts and confusion were shoved out of her mind as they stopped moving and her feet, her hands, scrabbled against a rocky floor. She blinked and looked around in the rain. She and Ben were on a small outcrop that must’ve been just below where he’d grabbed on, he must’ve spotted it and-

Rey scrambled into a sitting position and despite the muscles in her back screaming from the collision, she turned and looked at the man she’d just collided with.

“Ben,” she whispered, as she realized that however Ben must’ve been standing, she had fallen onto him and the cracking thud she’d heard earlier had been his head. He was laid out, limbs sprawled out and eyes closed almost as if he was asleep. Once she was sure that he was still breathing, she cursed and looked quickly around, assessing the situation.

The overhang which they were on was actually a cave, that it had been what Ben had been talking about. Saber on her hip and pain in her back, Rey channeled the Force as she dragged the unconscious man into the cave. Propped up against on the oddly smooth cave walls, he still looked as if he had dozed off, like nothing was wrong.

“Ben,” she spoke his name sternly, crouching in front of him. “Come on, wake up.” She set her hand on his knee and attempted to shake him awake. Unsuccessful, she moved both of her hands to his shoulders and shook him again, shoving down panic that bubbled deep inside of her. “Don’t do this, wake up.”

Rey grimaced when he still failed to react, and hands in front of her, she remembered the injuries on her hands. She wiped off the blood the best she could on the legs of her outfit, the one she’d taken to wearing since right before The Supremacy . The cuts weren’t so deep as they kept actively pouring out blood, but they weren’t shallow enough that she could simply ignore them.

She improvised and took part of the wraps from her clothes and used her saber to cut them free, wrapping her hands in pseudo-bandages. Afterwards, she sat in front of Ben, legs crossed as she attempted to prod him through their bond. She lost track of time, the sound of rain falling outside of their cave, which she spotted had a tunnel leading somewhere , and continued to monitor the unconscious man.

Rey didn’t know very much about head injuries, just that one was supposed to stay awake after them, but in terms of what to do while waiting for them to wake up, she was at a loss. She hopelessly prodded his mind and intermittently shook his shoulders before she began to run over the possibilities of having to drag him with the Force throughout whatever cave system lay in front of them.

Instead of moving right away, she resolved to sit for an hour or two, to consider what she could get done. She’d dropped her pack with her communication device far in the woods and although she still had Leia’s beacon around her wrist, that did nothing until they realized she’d been missing for some time. Rey huffed at herself, the situation, and pressed up close to Ben, pulling one of his arms over her shoulder.

She sat with him for what felt like an hour, listening to the rain, feeling a faint chill set it, although the warm body pressed against hers stopped it from progressing. Luckily the air was fair and there was only a light breeze so there was no fear of freezing, simply of being uncomfortable. It was after she had seriously considered the logistics of dragging him through the tunnels that she felt him shift.

Rey’s heart jumped in her throat as concern flooded her system again; she shifted to give him a little space, although she pressed a hand to his cheek.

Ben frowned and shifted before blinking his eyes open, looking at the cave before his gaze snapped to her. He jerked backwards, hitting the back of his head against the wall.

“Ugh-” he grunted, hand raising to the back of his head. He looked like he had more to say, but his brows just furrowed and his gaze darted around their surroundings: from the sheer drop of the edge of the cave to their left to the dark tunnel to their right.

“Hey, hey, we’re okay.” Rey withdrew her hand from touching his face and grabbed his hand, although he pulled away from even that. She frowned and tried to hide her hurt, instead shifting to give him some more space. She tried to mitigate any anger he must’ve had, but she couldn’t think of any reason that he’d try and cut her off. “Yes, I know, I should’ve listened to you, heard you yelling, but I was busy trying not to fall.”

Ben just stared at her before he looked down and his hand went to his saber, the weapon still clipped to his side. His frown deepened even further, and another second later, a new panic lit in his eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked, voice hesitant.

Rey froze, the pieces clicking together.

She wanted to reject what was happening, pretend like it was alright, like he was joking, and for a second she convinced herself that he was, but the panic in his eyes was too genuine to be anything other than terror. When she spoke, she tried to keep her voice even, not to betray the worry that ran like ice through her veins.

“I-I’m Rey.”  

She had no idea what to ask next, how bad his memory loss was, if he knew who he was, what she was even supposed to do. His gaze fell to her hip and the instant he spotted her saber, the new one she’d constructed herself out of the remains of Luke’s, he relaxed a bit, although he still seemed on edge.

“Do you remember who you are?” she asked, voice a fraction from breaking.

“I’m Ben Solo,” he said slowly, still taking her in, trying to understand why they were together. When he spoke again he sounded more like the Ben she knew, tone curious but bordering on the edge of demanding as his nerves already seemed worn. “Why am I wearing this? Who altered my saber?”

Rey stared at him dumbly, her fingers digging into her crossed legs. “What’s the last date you remember? What year do you think it is?”

“26 ABY,” Ben stated, sitting up properly from his propped position against the stone. He stilled a hand against his head and winced again. “What happened to me?”

Eight standard years ago she had been on Jakku, and Ben Solo had been with Luke, he still hadn’t seen his uncle and mentor stand over his bed with a lit saber-

“We fell,” the words came out in a rush and she continued without pause, “you slipped over the edge first, got to safety, but I didn’t see, and I was trying to get you up, but then I fell, and I think you realized  that I was falling too late and I knocked into you, but you still saved me, but now-”

He blinked at her and she realized that he had no concept of any pretense of the fall in the first place.

“It’s 34 ABY,” Rey blurted out, looking away. Maybe if she stared at the rain long enough, it would all prove to be a dream. “There are a lot of things that have changed since whatever you remember last.”

“Rey,” when he spoke her name, she couldn’t help herself but look back at him and his sullen expression. “Where are we and what were we doing here? Do you know why I would’ve changed my saber?”

He still seemed shaken but attempting to get his footing in the new world that he was placed in, at least. Rey could see the basis for the man she’d grown to care about, sympathize with, love, even, and it was jarring to see him so… She didn’t know what.

Ben looked wary of the entire situation, but the fact that he was grounded enough to still care about his saber spoke volumes. His hand still rested on it as his gaze roved over her, the cave, and the abyss that they’d avoided falling into. The gears were still churning as he clearly was attempting to fix the mess that they found themselves in despite knowing nothing about it. Underneath it all, there was an undeniable softness to him, a sensitivity that she found so familiar and grounding.  

Rey realized that she’d been staring and ran a hand through her mussed and damp hair, motioning to his saber still currently clipped to his hip.

“I think you should light it, see for yourself.” She quickly reached out and touched his hand as he moved to do so. “But just know that it’s not all you are, it’s not whatever you think it’s going to mean, you’ve always been more than it and Snoke-”

Ben froze, fear flashing in his eyes before anger swiftly replaced it.

“I don’t know a Snoke.” He never had been a good liar, that much Rey could tell.

“Ben, that voice in your head, I know about it.” He tensed up even further, like a caged animal that didn’t know whether to fight or flee. “But where do you think it is now?”

The man sitting in front of her looked lost, broken, even, as he shifted and stood, scrambling away from her. Rey remained sitting; the entire situation seemed surreal.

Ben began pacing and although he said nothing aloud, she could feel as he seemed to prod the Force, and when he felt her presence, looked even more bewildered.

“How are you keeping a connection between us open?” he asked shortly, although panic overrid any attempt to sound gruff.

“I think it happened by accident, but it’s not something that either of us actively has to try and maintain. We can shut one another out, but never permanently.”

More frowning. Rey rubbed her hands together and then crossed her arms over her knees, watching him continue to pace.

She could feel the anxiety and confusion rippling off him through the Force, felt it flow past her no matter how much she tried to keep calm. She knew that he would have countless questions and that they were in no position to sit around for much longer, lest the First Order or the Resistance happened to come across them. She grimaced and tried to stop her own panic, the worry that the Ben she’d known was gone, that maybe he'd never come back-

“Who was I?” Ben’s voice cut through her line of thought and she met his gaze.

He looked at her as he always had, determined, and with just a touch of awe; she should’ve been flattered that before Kylo Ren ever came into existence, Ben Solo still would’ve been drawn to her. It gave her little solace in the midst of their situation, however, and so Rey huffed at herself and her ridiculous love for the man in front of her and stood.

The entire situation was a mess, with the Resistance and the First Order most likely on the lookout for the both of them if nothing else, and on the more extreme end, on an all-out search of the planet. Trying to catch Ben up on everything he’d missed, explaining the revelations that he’d experienced with his uncle and Snoke and her, it would be too much when they still needed to move and be free. She needed him to work with her and while she genuinely wanted to tell him everything, that could wait, the finer details of it, at least, until they were safe with the Resistance.

“We’re currently stranded on some back-water planet whose name I can’t remember, so I can’t tell you that, but we probably have two armies searching for us since we’ve gone missing, so we do need to get out of here.” She grabbed her saber from where it was clipped to her hip and ignited it.

When constructing her own saber, Rey had had to scavenge high and low for a free crystal between missions, but the results had been worth it. She’d found a orange-tinged Kyber crystal and the resulting saber, the one that flooded the room with color, was one that was a hue shy of orange, a deep golden color.

She had plans to make it a double-bladed saber staff, but until she found another one or made a trip to Ilum, she made do with the one blade. Ben, at least, seemed impressed, and when she twirled the weapon about, he looked down at his own. He pulled it free and she knew what he would do next.

“Ben,” Rey wanted to give some more pretense to whatever he might think of himself when the saber bled scarlet across the cave. “If you want to use mine, you can.”

There was a pause when his gaze flicked to her before he lit the weapon. Ben’s gaze was searching and concerned, although she could tell that he already knew, that the young man who had been jerked eight years into the future with no real idea of what was going on knew who he’d become. He had to, even from what little he knew, Rey doubted that Ben had ever believed that anything but he could kill his former master.

The hum of the cracked Kyber filled the air and once again Ben Solo was illuminated in a blood-red haze.

Chapter Text

Ben stared in horror at the saber in his hand and hesitantly turned it over, looking at the humming weapon with an odd sort of respect, one that bordered on worship. He still looked horrified at the implication of what he’d become, the fact that he’d killed Snoke, and Rey was doubtful that their situation was going to get any easier.

He remained tense as he turned off his saber, and their bond gave her a peek into the swaths of emotions that he was fielding. Both of them lit in her saber’s golden rays, she was unsure of how to explain it all without it taking a wrong turn.  

When she was connected to Ben, to Kylo, whatever he called himself, she had always felt the desperation of the need to remake himself. She knew that he had been unhappy with all the names and expectations placed on him, and while killing his master had freed him from a great many, he still had countless that were embedded in his psyche. He had a volatile need to be something that he wasn’t, to outdo the monster that people imagined him as, even if that meant becoming the Supreme Leader.

“Ben,” she tried, voice soft and reassuring, “you’re not alone.”

He was silent, still caught up in his thoughts. Rey reached out and placed a hand on his, finally catching his attention. When she tried again, she struggled to conjure a small smile. “You can use mine, for now, if you’d like.”

There was a pause before he pursed his lips and nodded.

Rey extinguished her blade and they traded sabers in silence, only the faint drumming of the rain outside keeping them company. Before she could move or suggest that they begin their trip, Ben spoke up, obviously trying very hard to mask the pain that he was drowning in.

“What happened?”

She wanted to protect him from the betrayal, from the insidious way that Snoke had used him, how he had killed that monster for her, but it was too much to divulge at once. Instead, she opted to give him something positive.

“Most recently you killed Snoke for me.” She glanced at the tunnel to their right, fully aware of his gaze burning into her. “We need to get going.”

“For you?” Ben asked in awe. When she looked back, she wanted to cry. The man in front of her might’ve lost eight years of his life but he still understood the significance of striking down that monster, still realized exactly what Rey had meant to him. It was too much.

“Yes,” Rey breathed, drawing closer. She wanted to kiss him, to hold him, to let him to know that it was going to be alright, that he wasn’t just what he’d become, he was so much more-

“What are we?”

She let out a small laugh and shook her head, trying to stop the tears that threatened to spill over.

“It’s complicated.”

“Are you a Jedi?” The implication that with his red saber he was automatically her enemy wasn’t incorrect, but she gave a simple shrug.

She was about to speak but she felt the realization hit the man in front of her. With the subject of Jedi brought up, Rey realized that he must’ve felt the Force, attempting to find his previous mentor-

“Luke?” Ben asked, looking at Rey with renewed desperation.

“Ben, too much has happened, we- we,” she was tearing up, she realized, and when she saw the confusion and grief flood across his features, she knew that he’d felt the absence of Han as well. “Please-”

“What happened? What is this?” He stepped away and stared at his saber in her hand, glaring at the weapon as if it was responsible for it all. “What have I become?” He shifted and is gaze met hers. “What did I do, Rey? What did I do?”

Rey felt herself crying and the whole situation seemed surreal, the way that she’d just lost the history that she had with him in the span of an hour. She wanted to yell at herself for attempting to chase him down on the horrid planet, at him for not realizing that he didn’t need to be Supreme Leader, and the entire universe for hunting him down just to make him what they wanted. Worry spoked through her and she shook her head at Ben’s questions, rubbing her face with her free hand.

She wanted the Ben she knew back, the man in front of her, as well intentioned and as curious as he was, seemed more and more like he was there to stay. If Ben didn’t come back, she knew that she would be alone again, that no one would know the pain she felt-

“I can’t- I can’t do it all now- I know you’re scared,” he looked like he was going to interject, his shaky panting punctuating the silence as Rey sucked in a terrified breath, “but I’m terrified as well, and I don’t want us to die. Please, let’s go.”

Ben moved closer and Rey wanted to believe that he’d hug her, make it okay, let them go back to being enemies who knew one another intimately, but he nodded instead. He seemed to be able to understand her pain, that it was enough for the time being.

“You’ll tell me everything later?” he asked.

“Everything,” she confirmed, nodding confidently.

She hoped that with the whole truth, that without the presence of Snoke in his head any longer, that when the time came, he’d stay with her. Taking that chance, she shifted away and then motioned to the cave.

“I have a ship relatively nearby,” Rey explained, sniffing away the last of the tears. “If we get out of here, we can get to safety; your mother will want to see you.”

The prospect of someone that he knew still being alive seemed to strike a chord, and she hoped that it was a good one.

They shared a long look, one of hope, wonder, and a bit of desperation. At the end of it, they set off into the cave system, Rey using the light of Ben’s saber while he followed, illuminating the walls gold. His sense of panic followed them, lurking on the edge of Rey’s mind as she pretended that that the situation they could walk into at any moment was actually fine.

Instead of thinking of the pain radiating from the man she shared a bond with, she found herself reveling slightly in the novelty of hefting the red, humming weapon and using it as a torch. Although everything around her seemed initially scarlet, the light from her own saber, in Ben’s hand, would follow. In short, she thought the light much like firelight, as if the darkness of the tunnels and caverns were the perfect place for camping.

A cool breeze followed them throughout the first set of tunnels, and after a few moments, Rey let out a sigh of relief when she spotted an exit. In their short few minutes walking through it, she had found the walls odd; they seemed far from natural, instead purposefully carved. Rey was glad that the creatures of the planet hadn’t found them in one of their caves.

Although the cave had seemed out of place when they’d quite literally fallen into it, as they exited its smooth interior, the two stood side by side, taking in the way that there was a path through the dark woods leading directly to it. It was Rey who spoke first, extinguishing the saber.

“We’re lucky that they didn’t find us already.”

“Have they been hunting us for long?”

“No, just a for a few minutes before we fell.”

She turned and faced him, reminded yet again at how vulnerable he always seemed to look. He looked odd with her golden saber in his hand, however, and Rey wondered if it was odd that she preferred seeing him wield his own saber. While it singled him out as someone reminiscent of the Sith, the opposite of the Jedi as far as she’d read, he still seemed at home with his cracked Kyber crystal.

The low hum of the gold saber was extinguished, and they were left in a light drizzle, dark grey clouds still rolling above them. There was enough light filtering through the clouds and scattering down from the atmosphere that they could see well enough, but with the dirt nearly pitch black and the foliage around them the color of coal, any hope that she had was sucked from Rey’s mind.

She wanted to get them to safety, get him back with his mother, try and avoid the fallout that she knew was bound to happen. Sensing Ben’s prodding into her mind, she did her best to hide her thoughts from him.

“You’re worried,” Ben muttered, gaze not unkind as he looked down at her.

They were close enough that Rey could reach up and pull him down for a kiss, but as much as she wanted to, she knew that wouldn’t help anything.

“I am,” she admitted, glancing down to the saber fit with a crossguard in her hands. “When we get back to your mother, it’s not going to be easy.”

He looked at her, a frown pulling at the corner of his expression. Ben looked lost, his thoughts a mess, and she felt a pang of sympathy spike through her. Rey realized that his realization about his father, about Luke, it made her heart ache with the memory of her revelations on The Supremacy, how she’d been made to face the fact that her parents were never returning to her.

“Do they want me dead?” he asked, glancing around their bleak surroundings. “If they shoot on sight, I might not make it, they-”

“As long I’m around, I won’t let them kill you.” She couldn’t promise to keep him completely safe, that it would go well, but she would be the first to step between him and death. If there was any chance that he’d be permanently taken away from her, then she’d be forced-

“How can you care about me?” he interrupted her train of thought and gave her a serious look, a hint of compassion keeping it from properly being a glare. “If what I think is true, if I’m really this, really a monster, how can you care whether I live or die? You’re a Jedi, and I’m-”

“You’re not what you think you are, Ben-”

“How am I supposed to know? If- If I really killed-” he couldn’t seem to get the words out and reflexively took a step away from Rey, hands turning into fists at his sides. “If I did the things-”

“You don’t know everything,” she interjected, reaching out and taking his hand. She was too used to how he reached for anger to cover his pain, to fuel his actions in the aftermath of a poor decision.

He flinched away at the initial contact but then she watched his expression slowly relax, and soon he allowed her to hold his hand. As small token of comfort as it was, she hoped that it conveyed her feelings for him

“But I know who you are, what you’ve done, and you have to trust me when I say that I still care about you.” Rey was looking into the eyes of a man who was lost, marooned on an island of pain and suffering that she could only imagine. “I’m not going to let The Resistance kill you; I’ll explain everything that’s happened, they’ll have to go easy on you after that.”

With the drabness of their grey surroundings, Ben looked as if he was about to fade into it all, the expression on his face that of utter disbelief. There was a long pause, the bond between them slipping open as he seemed to be trying to gauge her honesty. When he seemed satisfied with what he’d found, he straightened up a fraction.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

Rey blinked, rain still steadily drizzling on the two of them, and the fear of impending doom slowly creeping back into the back of her mind.

Instead of speaking, she simply nodded and squeezed his hand before releasing it. Rey turned and looked at the cave which they’d left, realizing that it cut into the side of the rising earth before her. She frowned as she attempted to figure out exactly which direction led back to her ship. They would need to cut through the woods and as she flexed her hands, she was reminded of the wounds that she’d been left with the last time she’d faced its residents. As she was no longer hanging off the side of a cliff and she had Ben at her side, Rey was prepared for whatever they faced in the wilderness.

“There might be stormtroopers,” she cautioned, looking at the forest.

“I don’t sense anyone else around us.”

Rey blinked and realized that he must’ve already used the Force. She wondered how instinctual a thing it was for him, how Kylo must’ve used it countless times before and she hadn’t noticed. She made a note to practice sensing the things around her more often, to try and draw on it more often.

“If we see any of the natives, just try and keep them alive,” she suggested, giving him a stern look, “we don’t need to kill any of them if we can just knock them out.”

Ben frowned and then pursed his lips, looking away. “Is that what I’ve become?”

“No, you’re not not just that,” was her initial reply.

She wanted to apologize, to ignore what she’d implied, but just gave him a sad look. She’d long ago accepted what he was, what had shaped his view of the world, and the way in which violence was normalized in his approach to the world. Rey knew where he came from, what he’d proved himself capable of, what he could become.

“Just freeze anyone who tries to attack us, I know you can do that.”

He glanced at her saber in his had and she looked his, more closely examining the crossguard design.

“Let’s get going,” Rey insisted after a moment’s contemplation, giving him a small smile before starting towards the woods.

She knew that it wouldn’t be simple, and if he remembered exactly who he had been, why he’d become Supreme Leader, then he might turn. Best case scenario, she hoped that the Ben she knew, that she loved, came back to her and with the new perspective of being with the Resistance, he would realize what he’d done didn’t damn him, that he could work towards a new life.

They slowly began to trudge their way through the jungle in front of them, large pieces of foliage obscuring anything other than the path they followed. The darkness was stifling, as the plants leaned closer with every step, the sky above was unforgivingly gloomy, and there was minimal light. The still steady drizzle added some noise to their hike, but otherwise they walked in silence.

To Rey, it was reminiscent of her time in the cave on Ach-To, the odd mirror-like place that she’d found herself in. She wanted desperately to tell him, to see if he had any experiences like that, to commiserate if nothing else.

A rather large leaf jutted into the walking path and she ducked to avoid it, glancing back at him in concerns as she helped push it to the side. She’d felt his mild despair, confusion, and general negativity and was unsure what to say as her own sadness gripped her heart.

“I don’t want your pity,” Ben stated, tone firm as he stepped past the leaf.

Rey’s gaze hardened at the statement. “I know what it’s like, to be alone-”

He stepped closer. “I’ve lost eight years of my life, you can’t understand that.”

“I lost the first twenty years of my life to a trash planet because my parents sold me.” Her response came fast and heavy, unafraid. He seemed to reconsider his words as she sucked in a breath. When she spoke again, her voice was strong and gentle. “I know that you’re more than capable, but I also know what it’s like to be lost and alone, so please, let me care for you.”

Ben stared at her squarely, looking for any signs of deceit, some sign that she didn’t really care, that it was all an act. Rey let him, opening the bond between them and finally letting her frustration, her pain, her fear pour out, everything from concern for his future and her own selfish desire that the Ben she knew would return.

“You love me,” he breathed, like if he said it too loudly then it would shatter the stars.

Rey’s tears were lost on the water slowly dripping down her cheeks, and instead of speaking and possibly sobbing all over him, she gave a small nod.

She’d not had the bravery to tell him, nor had there been a good situation in which to tell him, and despite the situation, she owed him the truth. She hadn’t really come to term with it herself, as she’d laid awake at night waiting for the bond to connect them, waiting for the perfect moment to confess the worst secret she’d ever held, but she’d never acted on the thought. Her love for him had remained hidden away, tucked behind the jokes and quiet moments they shared.

Ben still stood in front of her, brow furrowing in confusion as a light came into his eyes. Rey wasn’t sure how to reply, what to say, and with him at a loss for words as well, she looked up at the grim sky above.

Tears welled in her eyes, and when she looked back at him, he was blushing, even more so than after their first kiss. She sniffed and gave a sad look at the path ahead.

“We can talk more, when we’re safe?” she tried, managing to keep the flood of emotions back. From his end of the bond she could sense many of the emotions that she would’ve anticipated her Ben to feel, surprise, disbelief, wonder, but tucked between them all was a feeling of worry, of panic.

Rey looked into his eyes and smiled, still grasping his hand. He nodded, even if it was concerned, and so she released him and forged ahead.

The jungle seemed less threatening after her confession, with her love out in the open like it was. The creatures that had attacked her earlier were still out there, as were organizations which were hunting them each down respectively, and yet the gloom didn’t permeate the relief that flooded through the last Jedi. Ben’s saber was light in her hands and although she knew the situation ahead of them would be complicated, she found it difficult to concentrate on it.

The pair wound through the jungle for a few minutes before they were set upon by Stormtroopers.

Ben sensed them in the distance first, alerting her to the threat, after which they immediately crouched in the foliage. They attempted to hide themselves the best that they could, but with Ben’s size and there being two of them, Rey quickly realized that they would be discovered.

Peeking out from behind a broad, moss-covered tree, the Stormtrooper’s white contrasted sharply with the dark greys and blacks of the forest. In the year that had followed from her becoming the new beacon of hope, the bastion for salvation, she had come to terms with the necessity of war. On Jakku she had known violence, had known how to fight, defend her property, kill if needed, and in war it was much the same.

Gone was the relief of their prior conversation, instead, Rey and Ben echoed the same danger as they took the soldiers on.

Rey found fighting with the blood-red weapon a challenge due to the crossguards, but at the same time its insatiable hum kept her focus, moving from one target to the next. After sliding the saber through the torso of one soldier, she spared a glance at the man she’d been escorting and found that he’d done as she suggested, simply frozen three of the guards, and he was looking at her in an odd manner. She had no time to consider it and instead focused on the three Stormtroopers were still fully capable of moving and killing.

“Knock them out!” she shouted, jerking the saber to block an incoming blaster bolt. The sound of bodies collapsing behind her as she ducked to avoid another was confirmation enough.

The stormtroopers hesitated at the sight of their leader standing beside Rey, and although she couldn’t tell their expressions, she did use their hesitancy to her advantage. She managed to decapitate a second mass of white in her path and then run through a third with the humming weapon before they were finally out of immediate danger. She couldn’t recall hearing one of them call for backup, but still kicked the bodies as she ensured that the downed were indeed dead. When she came to three unconscious, she noticed that Ben had been watching her, staring, really, and a frown colored his features.

It wasn’t judgmental or horrified, but simply was watching her. His gaze roamed from her tired expression to the saber she held, and then he flicked it away to the unconscious men at their feet. Everything was wet, their clothes, their hair, and it just weighed the situation down.

Rey almost flushed as she realized what he was thinking, how it leaked across the bond, how exactly she looked.

“It’s war, Ben,” she attempted. She stood at the head of one of the soldiers while he stood at the feet. The other two were splayed on either side, white shapes in the dark undergrowth.

“You’re very… good. At killing.” His voice was soft although no less serious than a man who had watched her decimate those in her way.

She began to speak, an apology ready to spill from her lips, but he cut the thought off, spoke before she had any chance to defend herself further.

“I’ve seen people killed before, a mugging gone wrong in the distance on Coruscant. I was twelve.” Rey’s newly formed saber remained clipped at his side; he’d never even drawn it. “And ships getting destroyed, I’ve seen that countless times, but-” he looked up from the unconscious mess before them. “I can’t do this.”

“I won’t ask you to.” Rey shook her head gently, worry bleeding back in from the back of her mind. Whether it was hers of Ben’s, she couldn’t tell. “Just walk ahead and I’ll join you after I take care of them; I can’t let them go after seeing the both of us together.”

She could tell that he had questions, the look in his eye was critical, but he didn’t move.

“I’m not going to let you do the killing and then ‘spare’ me from seeing the blood.” Ben’s mouth was set in a defiant line and his tone grew harder. The pain, the hurt, the confusion from earlier seemed to be eating its way at what resolve he had. “This is what I’ve become, anyway, isn’t it? I should just embrace it.”

“You shouldn’t have to kill them,” she protested, grimacing at the very thought. She didn’t want the first life that he took to be one of an unconscious Stormtrooper, for that to weigh on his conscious later. If he wanted to be a soldier she wouldn’t stop him, but he didn’t deserve for his introduction to killing to be so cruel. “I’ll do it.”

Rey looked up from the bodies and saw his gaze soften. She felt tired, lost, and the situation was getting more convoluted by the second.

“I won’t leave you alone,” he assured her, less aggressive than he had been before.

She flicked the red saber on and held it at her side for a long moment, listening to it burn away the drizzling rain that fell onto it.

Rey wasn’t a fan on killing the defenseless, and although the people in the outfits in front of her weren’t innocent, they had been attempting to kill her and Ben, she felt wrong. She hadn’t killed Ben when he’d been stretched out on the Supremacy but leaving the Stormtroopers go would mean that they would be reported, that the First Order would have intel. If she could get to the Resistance before, then they could handle the fallout more appropriately, then-

“Rey,” Ben spoke her name and she realized that she’d been standing there, considering it all. “If you don’t want to-”

“I’ll do it,” she insisted.

Rey moved to the side of the Stormtrooper at her feet. She felt little dignity or respect, or honor, even, as she held the humming weapon with both hands, slowly raising it over her head. The movement was quick and fluid, and in one arc she had decapitated the first soldier. The head rolled to the side with little fanfare and Rey quickly moved on; she didn’t let herself think about it.

She listened as the jungle held its breath around her, and she stepped over to the next unconscious form. She raised the saber in the same manner and held her breath, exhaling as she swung the weapon down once more.

The third was the easiest, Rey told herself, and she soon found herself leading the way to the ship, the killing weapon at her hip.

 

Chapter Text

Rey didn’t speak to Ben until they were on her ship and they sat in the pilot and co-pilot’s seat respectively. The ship that she’d been lent by the Resistance was nearly as large as the Falcon, although a vastly different make. Equipped with only a few bunks for sleeping and a small recreational area, it would be enough to support them for a both for a week at most.

As he sat in the co-pilot’s seat, his instincts seemed to take over as he helped prep the ship to fly. She knew that he could fly, and although she wondered if she should've left him to sit calmly somewhere else, she couldn’t do anything but selfishly keep him close. Her heart hammered in her chest as the reality of the situation set in, as the difficulties ahead of them multiplied in her mind.

Instinctively, she went to plug in the coordinates of the Resistance’s newest base, but when she looked at the man sitting next to her, she hesitated.

“Where are we going?” Ben asked. He hadn’t spoken for the last half an hour, lost in his thoughts and following her in silence. He had appeared sullen and with good reason, and so she’d stopped herself from the obligatory platitudes and attempts to comfort him. When they’d come upon the ship, he’d said nothing, the two of them in silence even as they’d sat and started up the take-off sequence.

“I-” Rey sucked in a breath and tried to ignore the pleading look in his eyes, how it crept through his pain. “We can’t head back to the new base, not right away; I want to call the General first.” Her gaze flicked to the controls in front of her. “We have enough supplies on here for a week; we’ll head out and get a plan together then.”

Anxiety radiated of off him as well and so she began initiating take-off to try and mediate it as much as she could; he joined her despite his grimace. It wasn’t long before Rey input the first coordinates that came to mind and the ship jumped into hyperdrive. They had a two days until they’d arrive and that would give them time to contact the Resistance and negotiate his safety and the reality of what had happened on the Supremacy, with Snoke.

“The outer rim?” Ben asked, a deep crease forming between his brows as he spotted the coordinates.

She wanted to calm him, to run her thumb along the crease, along his scar, kiss away the anxiety that bloomed in her chest. She simply sighed.

“I couldn’t think of anywhere else to take us.”

He sat there almost impatiently, gaze turned to the windows. As he turned his head, he froze, and Rey realized that he must’ve caught sight of the scar she’d given him.

Despite his face being turned away from her, she could hear the frown in his voice.

“What happened to me?” Ben asked, voice hesitant with the weight of all that he had yet to learn.  

“I did.” She didn’t know how far to go, how much context to give him. She wanted to start off slow, to give him something easy, but despite it all, she found the truth spilling out of her before she could stop herself. “After you killed your father.”

He turned back to look at her, expression a mess of agony and oddly, relief. He blinked and sucked in a breath, and he folded in on himself, holding his head in his hands.

Rey wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with this version of Ben, with hers, she knew that she could reach forward and pull him against her, bury her face against the top of his head. With this man, she dug her fingers into the arms of the pilot’s chair.

From what she could gather from the bond between them, he was no better than when he’d woken up in the cave, thoughts tearing apart at the seams despite countless attempts to get secure grounding.

For a moment they sat in silence, and then Ben Solo began to cry. Sobs ripped through the man and he was incapable of fighting them back any longer.

She felt his despair bleed through the bond and knew that she was no better, that her main concern was growing larger by the minute, blooming into something she didn’t want to acknowledge, to think about. Rey found wet, warm tears streaming down her face as she commisserated with him, and with their seats turned to face one another, she wrapped her arms around herself as a poor substitute for his arms.

Ben shifted, instead of holding his head in his hands he was pressed his face against the crook of his right arm, his left arm crooked uncomfortably as his left hand seemed to press against the back of his neck. A memory bubbled up unbidden, and she remembered when she’d seen her Ben, Kylo Ren, almost a month ago, sobbing after several days of no sleep and emotional turmoil. When he’d first started folding in on himself, he’d held himself in much the same way, desperate to feel like someone was holding him even when there was no one. She’d taken him into her arms and they’d ended up sitting there in silence as the bond hummed between them.

Rey blinked away what tears she could and rubbed the back of her hand across her face before shifting until their knees touched.

He jumped in his seat, tensing up before he forced himself to breathe and look up from his arm. His eyes were bloodshot, and his features were stained red from his sobs. She gave him a small, kind smile.

“Luke?” he asked, voice raw.

“You didn’t kill him.” She reached forward slowly, pushing a lock of hair out of his eyes.

“But I was involved.”

“Yes,” Rey sighed, shifting back and wrapping her arms around herself. The situation was slipping out of control, the man in front of her was utterly lost, and she didn’t want to lose herself in the process. “But that’s a long story. We need to eat first.”

Ben’s dark eyes studied her as he remained hunched over, and in the silence he turned his face against his arm. The man sucked in a deep breath but refrained from crying again. Considering everything that must’ve been running through his mind, she couldn’t blame him for breaking down, from no longer having the will to pretend to be strong.

She took it upon herself to speak if he wasn’t capable. Her instinct was to ask him when the last time it was that he ate, but the question died on her lips. She instead stood and let her hair down, glancing down at Ben. She hoped that the horrible, well, disastrous, news of who he’d become would go down better when they had dry clothes and had eaten.

“I’m soaked, and I know you are too, so let’s go get something to change into.” Rey’s voice was still raw and she could still feel the salt of her tears staining her cheeks. “They have to have some extra clothes lying around.”

He sighed and sat up, arms hanging at his side as he looked up at her, gaze tired but no less determined than it had been in the woods. While he was cacophony of mixed messages, the Ben she’d grown to care for had his parents’ stubborn streak, latching onto whatever he could in times of crises.

When he stood and looked down at her, she felt the gravity of it all, although she hardly knew what the situation called for. She wondered if she should initiate physical contact, but after having hesitated to do so before, she didn’t know if it’d be odd, if he’d-

“I’m sorry that I’m not him,” Ben said. Rey realized that she’d been staring again.

“It was an accident, Ben.” He blinked and looked away; she’d inflected too much concern , too much love when she’d said his name. “And you’re still you.”

His gaze returned, and she tried to prevent the walls that she’d put up from falling, from letting herself fall into his arms and beg for him to bring Kylo Ren, in all his terrible form, back for her to love.

Rey turned away and made her way to the part of the ship where she’d seen clothing earlier. The truth would come out sooner or later, but they had time.

First, they changed. While she preferred the outfit which she’d crafted herself, it would be uncomfortable to sit in damp clothing while spilling universe-shattering secrets to the man she loved. She managed to find unisex grey shirts and dark brown trousers for the both of them, sturdy enough to wear if they had to land in a hurry and rush out, but comfortable enough that they could relax and sleep in. Amongst the small collection of clothing tucked away, she found a few pairs of proper working clothes, although it appeared the larger of the two shirts would be massive on even Ben Solo.

The lost man only shrugged when they both realized it, and so Rey let it be; if nothing else he could change back into black clothing once they’d dried.

They set their wet clothes to the side and then she managed to find some uninspiring rations for them to have. The ship had a designated place for people to sit and relax, but she found herself leading them back to the cockpit, sitting in their respective seats. It was more familiar to her and she’d already broken the seal on the secrets there.

They picked at their food, and although she had little appetite, if life on Jakku had taught her anything, it was to take food whenever possible. Ben seemed less concerned, morosely staring at the ration bar before looking at the ship’s floor. She said nothing, her gaze drifting to the shifting hues of blue as the ship hummed and they made their way at lightspeed.

Rations finished, Rey had no idea where to start with telling him everything that he’d done, although she worried that if she simply answered questions that he had, that he wouldn’t understand the whole picture. She elected, instead, to start at the beginning of what she knew.

Sitting opposite and with the chairs turned so that they faced one another, she tried to keep herself calm and relaxed to counteract the fact that her voice was wavering. She would have to list every major horror that he’d committed, but starting where he began would be no easier than Han’s death.

Ben sat on the edge of his seat, resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward.

Rey began with the oldest injury: Luke’s betrayal.

She didn’t know what she expected to happen when she told him, but frowned when Ben let out a low sigh and looked down. She fielded his questions when she recounted what she knew, about the academy of sorts, about where Luke had gone. From there, she launched into how Kylo had been created, had joined Snoke, and how ultimately, he’d become associated with the First Order.

“I don’t think you liked what Snoke had them doing, what Hux’s vision for galaxy-wide domination was,” Rey consoled him.

She introduced the narrative of her life into his story, about how Finn has escaped from the First Order with a map to Luke, and then made her way to Han’s death. Hands clenched into fists, she stressed how Ben had been indoctrinated, how he’d believed that Luke had really meant to kill him, how he had thought his parents were in on it when in reality they didn’t know the full story.

“I didn’t hear what happened on the bridge,” Rey murmured, glancing out the window of the cockpit to give Ben some semblance of privacy. It felt silly after having shared so much, but he’d slowly been grown tense and distraught. “But before he fell, Han touched your face.”

Ben looked up, frowning.

“Right there,” Rey whispered, a sad smile on her features as she raised her hand to hover over the scar. It was a gentle movement, as if he’d break if she was anything more as she gently skimmed her thumb down his face.

He held his breath before finally speaking.

“Why are you being so kind to me?” he asked shortly, hardened gaze trained on her. “If I’ve interrogated you? If I’ve done these things?”

“Because you knew me.” She sighed and retracted her hand, and clasping her hands in her lap.

She fidgeted as she recounted her experience in the aftermath of Han’s death, their fight, how they’d connected on Starkiller, how she’d managed to gain some of his combat experience and he’d looked into her memories, how it all had happened before she’d cut him down; it was almost too much.

She struggled to sound unbiased as she recounted her time on Ach To, their first connections, and when she finished recounting their time in the hut, the future that she’d seen. She shook her head.

“I have no idea what I really saw, what your vision looked like, but you were set on it, Ben.” He stared at her without restraint, shifting forward. His features colored with confusion and the look of someone who had just been saved.

“You fought Luke Skywalker for me?”

Her reply came without a second thought and she found herself nearly shouting.

“Of course!” Rey found her frustration with the situation mounting and she stood, stepping away from her chair but not so far that she couldn’t touch the back of his chair. “He lied! He was the one who made you believe that no one really cared for you, who let Snoke step in and tear you from the life you’d been living.” She turned to face him, unable to stop herself from balling her hands into fists and holding them at her sides yet again. “He chose to hide instead of reaching out to help, to fix what he’d started.”

Ben looked at her as if she’d hung the stars, his awe as clear as day. They remained in silence for a moment, Rey almost blushing despite herself, a gaze she knew too well, had felt countless times, and yet-

“How did he die?” he finally asked, voice dropping back into its familiar pessimism. She couldn’t blame him for changing his opinion on Luke so quickly, he had, after all, done it before, and learning that his uncle had ostensibly attempted to murder him wasn’t something so easily forgotten.

In response to his question, she sighed and remained standing as she told him the rest of what had happened, their experience on the Supremacy, the lightsaber, Crait, the ensuing months where they’d been connected by the Force time and time again. She found herself smiling as she recalled a quiet night they’d spent together wrapped in one another’s arms, describing planets that they’d seen.

“You’d never been to Ach To, except for the hut, and so-” Rey stopped herself, the weight of the situation landing on her once more. “Sorry, I shouldn’t be- I don’t think it’ll help.”

Dark circles colored the bags under Ben’s eyes, his gaze vacant, pointed at the floor.

“You need to sleep,” she decided, pretending as if she wasn’t just as exhausted.

He looked up and ran a hand slowly through his hair, letting out a low sigh. When he spoke, he sounded like a man fighting to stay afloat in a sea of loss.

“What if I forget more?” He sounded haggard and running on whatever emotion he could find at the moment.

“You won’t.” Rey stepped closer and instinctively rested a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. He leaned in her direction  hesitantly, and he seemed to think better of it, straightening up in the chair when she lifted her hand.

“So, what, you’re going to take me back to my mother hand have her new Resistance judge me for my crimes?” Ben stood and stepped away. They eyed one another, him seemingly unsure with the whole situation, although it never turned unkind.

She shook her head.

“I’m going to call her, tell her what happened with you and Luke all those years ago.” She had kept it a secret, afraid of the questions that it might raise, although for Rey there had been a deep satisfaction that had come with keeping her relationship with Ben a secret. Knowing what had happened had made her feel vindicated in her affection for him, it justified the hope tucked within her heart.

“After that, I’ll tell her that I’m still travelling, that I need more time,” she continued, relieved to see his features relax a fraction. “When we get to Jakku I’ll call her, tell her what’s happened, then we’ll see what she has to say.”

“She’ll want to talk to me,” Ben sighed, “to see if I’m lying.”

Rey gave him a hopeful look. “You’re a terrible liar.”

He lifted his shoulders in an imitation of a shrug. “She knows.”

An easy silence separated them, and she moved to sit in the pilot’s seat, to bring the communications up. She still was unsure of what their sleeping situation would be considering there were few bunks to sleep in, but knowing herself and who Ben had been in the past, Rey wasn’t sure that either of them would be able to let go of one another so easily.

“She won’t be able to see anything,” she sighed as she found the Resistance’s frequency, “and I’ll have to go through one of the comm people, but just-” she glanced back and noticed how Ben had drifted closer, how he’d moved until he was directly behind her. “Just listen, please.”

He nodded, and Rey felt his large hands gripping the back of the pilot’s seat, knuckles brushing her back. It was comforting, despite everything.

After several minutes of waiting to get through to the Resistance and then to the General, Rey found herself choking on the words that she needed to share. She gripped the arms of the chair as she confessed to the secrets that she’d been keeping, the real reason that Luke had gone into hiding, how he’d betrayed the nephew who’d been entrusted into his care, how Kylo Ren had come into existence. She relayed it in much the same manner she had told Ben, working to keep herself from getting too emotional, although by the end of it, anger at her former mentor bled through.

As silence crackled on Leia’s end, Rey turned and looked at Ben. He was staring at where his mother’s voice originated from, and when she spoke, voice cracking, he sucked in a breath and stepped away.

When the General probed for more information with anger in full affect, Rey was at a loss. She expressed her own frustration at the lack of answers, sadness at Ben Solo’s fall, and in the end, she asked Leia if this changed anything. The General was silent for a long moment. All the while Ben stood, tensing despite the fact that he looked like he was about to drop from exhaustion.

“He’s still my son,” Leia sighed, and for the first time that Rey had been around the woman, she sounded her age. “But he’s still the Supreme Leader. I hope that one day he’ll see what he’s done, that he’s not alone,” it sounded like she let out a breath that had been held for decades, “I  want him to come home.”

Rey ignored the way her heart hammered in her chest and made an excuse about needing more time to find the holocrons she’d been searching for, schematics for a saber staff, and quickly ended the call.

“I’m sorry,” Rey murmured, feeling the entire day pulling at her being, the weight of what lay in front of them.

She turned the pilot’s chair and Ben seemed lost in thought, frowning faintly. She was glad that he saw the possibility of change, the hope that she’d held for him in the past.

Standing, she approached him and gingerly took his hand, as if anything else more might do harm. His side of the bond had been opened for the entirety of the time on the ship and he was still a turbulent sea of disbelief and self-loathing, both of which she had long ago come to expect from Ben Solo.

“Let’s go to sleep, you need it.”

“I’m fine.” He straightened up and set his jaw, although he couldn’t hide the spark of interest flaring in his eyes.

“Sure you are,” Rey shrugged his weak protest off and pulled him towards the ship’s sleeping area.

It was a series of uncomfortable bunks with thin mattresses which prevented it from being completely inhospitable. On each bunk there were at least half-decent blankets as well; she’d slept in worse.

As they entered the room, she spotted a faint blush color Ben’s cheeks as he realized that she was still holding his hand. She’d thought nothing of sharing a bed with him, even if he wasn’t the same Ben that she’d done so with before. She knew that he almost always was craving contact when she’d known him, that despite what he might’ve said about being independent, he was utterly incapable of letting her go once he’d gotten her in his arms.

“If you don’t want-”

“It’s fine.”

His hand tightened around hers and she was reminded of the few times he’d fallen asleep around her – actually, it’d been more akin to passing out – and he’d jerked himself awake in the middle of the night, clinging to her in a panic across the galaxies.

Rey blinked away the memory and the pang of hurt that surged through her, focusing on finding an extra blanket. She’d shared a bed with him before, although never like this, not properly. No, she’d only ever had him materialize in her bed when she was half asleep and he’d huff and cling to her despite her grumblings. He was always gone before the morning, but when he’d been there, he’d always been warm and solid, comfortable, as she’d complimented him one night.

She grabbed the blanket from the bunk above the one she’d chosen and handed it to Ben without a second thought. His expression was nervous and matched the intensity with which he gripped her hand. She was reminded that she’d been his first proper kiss, first proper romance, love, whatever, that before her, he’d been just as lost as she had been with intimacy.

“Ben,” saying his name, Rey was rewarded with his attention focused back on her. She wondered how long he’d been awake before they’d run into one another, before the fall. “I know you, yeah? It’s alright, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want. I just thought-”

“I want to,” he interjected, looking almost sheepish before clearing his throat. “What did we do before?” He closed his eyes and his jaw tensed as he realized what he said. He quickly spoke up again, sighing. “How did we share the bed?”

“Usually you just grabbed onto me and pulled me close.” She squeezed his hand before letting go, trying to stop the memory before it flit through her mind. She sat on the edge of the bed, trying to figure out exactly how they’d both fit. “But if you’d feel more comfortable with something else, I don’t mind; just don’t smother me.”

Ben stared at her awkwardly and Rey found herself almost amused despite the weight of reality threatening to crush the both of them. She lifted the blankets and moved to the side of the bed closest to the wall; if they were going to make it work, then he was going to be the one to be half hanging off.

“Come on, just lay down and we’ll figure it out.”

He glanced around and she watched as, with a flick of his finger, turned off the light of the cabin; he'd pressed the button near the entrance of the room. The beast of a man then proceeded to slide in beside Rey, his presence warm and comforting.

She instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck but stopped herself from running a hand through his hair.

Ben was tense for the first minute as they figured out where their limbs would go, how the blankets would fall, and exactly how they’d both manage to fit. In the end, Rey found herself with her arms around his neck while his were wound around her waist, hesitant at first and then tightening as he gained the resolve needed. His face was pressed against her neck and she found herself enjoying the position of the one doing the holding, of being the big spoon.

He was as warm as ever, and although he still was tense, she hoped that exhaustion would take him soon enough, that with Snoke out of his head, without having to worry about the obligations of the First Order, he could finally get a good night’s sleep.

“I’m sorry,” Ben murmured after a few minutes. His heartbeat had slowed from its awkward hammering and he seemed to have come to terms with the comfort that Rey offered.

“It’s not your fault,” she sighed against the top of his head. She had been having spiraling thoughts of her own; the comfort of his embrace hadn’t been enough to keep reality out. “It’s just... how it is.”  

He was silent and she felt his hand gingerly spread across the small of her back before he relaxed once more.

“You said that you wouldn’t let them kill me,” he ventured quietly, breath warm against her neck. “Did you mean that?”

“Yes.” She tightened her arms around him.

“What if my mother changes her mind?”

“She won’t.”

There was a heavy pause as their soft breaths punctuated the darkness.

Rey stared into the darkness, the pull of exhaustion, both physical and emotional, tempted her. She resisted for the moment, wanting to stay with him, whatever that meant.

“I know- I know that you’re still figuring this out,” she started, trying her best to suppress the anxiety in her voice, “but what’s it like without him in your head?”

The muscles in Ben’s back tensed. He said nothing, although she could feel his mind cycling through something, everything, through his side of the bond.

She knew that the situation was a mess, that nothing would ever come easily between the two of them, but she had hoped that the choice he’d made to save her had saved him, in some way. Rey had learned from Leia about the nature of Snoke’s influence, how omnipresent the monster had been in his mind, how from what she’d heard, Ben had never existed without him.

As he worked up the resolve to speak once more, she felt his back loosen and how he leaned into her even moreso. When he spoke, his voice was tired and small.

“I feel empty.”

She blinked and found herself wanting to cry, to sob, to fall apart; it was too much.

“I’m here,” she said instead.

“Thank you.” He didn’t sound any less unhappy or unsure.

“Tell me if you have any dreams, if anything comes back to you.”

He pressed his face closer against her neck and she felt him shift, as if he was trying to completely hide against her. Rey hid her face against the top of his head, evening out her breathing as she tried to focus on her exhaustion, to ignore the worry worming its way through her heart.

She spoke one last time, pressing a gentle kiss to the top of his head as she opened the bond between them. She let her worry bleed over and when she encountered his own, it was oddly comforting. Where there should have been panic, there was reassurance, that at least if they suffered, they’d suffer together, that he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was she.

“Goodnight,” Rey murmured, love coloring her voice.

He was there, he was still alive, there was still a chance, she wasn’t lost, she wasn’t alone, she wasn’t going to be alone again.

“Goodnight,” he replied, gripping her as if she'd slip away in the night. 

As Rey fell asleep, she found herself sinking into the endless darkness and found that she didn't mind. 

Chapter Text

When Rey woke up, she found herself flush against a warm and slightly sweaty Ben Solo. Her breath caught for a moment as she relished their proximity, how they were pressed flush against one another. Every time that they’d fallen asleep together before, the bond had faded as they’d slept and she’d always woken up alone. Now, however, she was greeted by the feeling of his face awkwardly pressed against her neck.

However much Rey knew that they had to figure out and plan before they arrived at Jakku and then headed back to the General, she couldn’t find the strength to move. In the time that she’d shared a bed with her Ben, with Kylo Ren, he’d never been a peaceful sleeper, not like the man in front of her now. Granted, he still didn’t seem completely at peace, twitching here and there, but it was somehow gentler than she’d seen before. She wondered if he was dreaming or recalling memories, or something between.

She gingerly shifted in the darkness, trying her best to avoid disturbing him. A slant of light from the ship’s hallway cut into their sleeping room and gave just enough light to seem him in. They were both still shrouded in shadows, but the outline of his features was just visible; Rey gave a small smile despite the situation.

She found that in her sleep she had thrown her leg over his side and while she’d done it countless times before, she worried about what this new Ben might think. As it was, he was drooling faintly against her chest, hair a mess and pressed flat on one side. He’d been using her half as a pillow to lay on; halfway through the night she’d moved to avoid being smothered and he’d tiredly adjusted so that they were comfortable once more.

Rey shifted her weight a bit and found that Ben’s breathing grew shallower until he finally blinked and pulled away.

“Hey,” Rey murmured, remaining relaxed against the thin mattress and sheets. “It’s okay, we can sleep some more; I just woke up.”

Ben stared at her like he was seeing double, like he was about to run, until his expression relaxed. Propped up by his left arm so that he wasn’t leaning on her as much, he groaned and brought a hand up. Dark circles still underneath his eyes, he rubbed his face before looking at her.

“Do you know how long we’ve slept?” he asked.

“No, but there’s a chronometer in my comlink.” Rey gave a long yawn, stretching out underneath him.

If it wasn’t awkward before, her action seemed to draw his attention to exactly how wound up they’d been with one another. Even in the dim black and white light, Rey she saw him blush.

It wasn’t like they hadn’t gotten into the same situation before, when they were falling asleep together; he’d huffed an apology but then they’d fallen asleep easily enough. Now, however, she was virtual stranger to him and he was several years younger.

“Here, lay down,” Rey decided. She wasn’t amused, exactly, but it was difficult to take the former Supreme Leader seriously when he was being so awkward about morning wood. “Let me check.”

“No, it’s fine.” There was a note of false confidence in his voice that gave her pause.

She shifted into settling back into their position of being wrapped up in one another, her half on her back and half clinging to him. She relaxed back into the bed and with an arm around his neck, brought him back against her.

Ben was tense for several moments, seemingly trying to process exactly what was going on. She felt his warm breath against her neck and collarbone, how his arms gently wound back around her.

“Did you have any dreams?” Rey asked.

“No.” The answer was swift, and his tone left no room for conversation. There was an even more awkward pause than there had been earlier, and after a minute, he sighed. “Sorry. I did.”

“If you’re uncomfortable-”

“No, it’s okay, just habit.”

Rey slowly let her hand run up from his upper back and move against the back of his neck, venturing to run her fingers through his hair. She felt him look up for a moment before settling down again, properly relaxing once again.

“They asked you that a lot?”

“Not exactly.” His breath was warm against her collarbone again. “They eventually stopped asking why I looked so tired.”

“Hm.” Opting to drop the topic, she carded her hand through his hair in earnest. She wanted to ask him if he’d remembered anything from the day before, if there was any hope for the man she’d known to return, if she should give up hope or keep it stored in a crevice in her head. Instead, she returned to her previous question. “What about last night?”

“It was just confusing.” He swallowed. “I’m not used to my head being this empty.”

Rey was glad more than ever that Snoke was dead, and by Ben’s hand.

“Nothing specific?”

“Just darkness and shadows. Did you?”

“Nothing that I can remember.”

They sat in silence for several more moments, listening to the sounds of one another’s breathing.

Rey thought it peaceful, despite the circumstances. Their bond hummed once more and she was almost content enough to let them lay that way for as long as possible, but the reality of impending catastrophe soon made itself known in her mind. Remembering their vague plan, she opened her eyes, peering into the dark room.

She could feel Ben’s worry spiking through their connection as reality seeped into the darkness. When his misery and sorrow began to spill through once more, she found the energy to speak.

“I wish it was easier, too,” she breathed, the room shifting in energy.

“Are you really going to call my mother and hope that she doesn’t order me to be brought back in handcuffs?”

“She won’t want to leave the base.” Rey turned the idea over in her mind. “Unless it was for you.”

She felt his jaw tense. “After everything that’s happened, I doubt that.”

“Not if it comes from me.”

“She cares about you that much?”

“She values my opinion and she-” Rey cut herself off, shaking her head. Admitting that Leia had trusted her, had believed that she was telling the truth the entire time, and yet Rey had been lying to her the whole time, it wasn’t something one just admitted. “I’ll tell her the truth about Snoke, tell her that I can’t return yet, that she has to meet me, alone-”

“You expect my mother to endanger herself for me?” His tone was acid. “At this point I doubt she’d believe even you.”

She pulled away, shifting so that her hands rested on either side of his face.

“Your mother cares for you, I know it.”

Ben’s brows furrowed until he reluctantly met her gaze.

“She’s never listened to me before, why should she listen to me now?”

Rey exhaled as she saw the distrust flash across his features. In the man she’d known, it’d been stronger, more hardened; he was so sure of what he knew. Ben, however, gave away his insecurity as his gaze flicked away once more. What had taken her months with Kylo was slowly melting away with Ben.

“First, she’ll listen to me, I’ll tell her that it’s about you, that I can’t do it at the base.” She ran her thumb across his right cheek. “Then, when I tell her what you’ve done to Snoke, about how we care about one another, I’ll apologize for not telling her. After all that, I’ll tell her about what happened to you.”

He pursed his lips and seemed to consider her proposal.

“And if she tries to imprison me?”

“It would depend on what she said, if-”

“If they wanted to toss me in a cell and throw away the key?”

“She wouldn’t do that, Ben.” Rey frowned. “She wouldn’t want to, and I wouldn’t let her. If there’s any chance that she’s given up on you, I won’t let her touch you, even though that’s not going to happen.”

Ben regarded her for a long moment, finally giving a serious nod.

“Alright.”

“Alright,” she echoed, letting herself relax into the blankets and against the warmth of his body. She almost felt guilty as using him to comfort herself, but considering how he leaned into her, she quickly dismissed the worry. “Can we rest for a little longer?”

“Please.” His response came as a single breath as he curled into her once more.

They lay together for another hour before they decided to get up and prepare for the day. Their clothes, which had been rested against one of the heating vents of the ship, were mostly dry. Relieved at the familiarity of her outfit, she gathered her things up without a single thought.

Looking at Ben, however, she realized that he was frowning at his dark articles of clothing. They might have been an outfit for a supreme leader, for Kylo Ren, but the other alternative was ill-fitting. When he looked at her for input, she shrugged.

“It’s your choice,” she offered before slipping away to change.

When she returned, she found him dressed in all black, sitting in the lounge area looking like he wished he’d never been born.

Rey found them rations once more and then they laid out the plan. Rey would first call the General on a private line, confess to having information about her son, and then arrange a private meeting on an Resistance-affiliated planet. It had been Ben who had suggested the last part, frowning when she had wanted to find a neutral planet to meet on.

“If anyone even thinks you’re around, they’ll try and kill you,” Rey pointed out.

“If you’ve just revealed that you’ve been lying to her for the last five months, the least you’ll want to do is give her peace of mind about where we’re meeting.” She blinked at him, wondering exactly where that sound strategizing had been when he was Supreme Leader. It must’ve been there, surely, but with Hux around she doubted that he’d been in the frame of mind to use it. When she kept staring at him, he supplied an explanation. “I know my mother.”

“Yeah,” she breathed, hardly believing that the situation was actually happening.

When she sat in front of the console, finger hovering over the last digit she needed to press to contact the Resistance’s leader, but her muscles froze and inexplicably, Rey wondered if she was doing the right thing. For whom she was concerned, she couldn’t be sure, whether it was for herself, for Ben, or for the balance of the Force. She wondered if she was doing some great wrong, betraying the man she claimed to love, turning him into the Resistance and forcing him to see his mother when he would’ve rather run.

Ben’s eyes were trained on her as she hesitated, although he said nothing. He looked concerned but sympathetic; he understood, of course he did.

Finally, Rey managed to press the final digit and they sat in silence as she was put in contact with the Resistance. She said that she had an urgent missive for the General, for her ears only. They waited ten minutes while they located her, and they were patched through.

When it became apparent that the General had been roused from her sleep to accept the missive, Rey grimaced. Her partner in crime seemed oblivious, staring at the place where his mother’s voice was emanating from.

“We need to meet,” Rey found herself saying almost as an apology. “I have information on your son.”

“Something that the Resistance wouldn’t know already?”

“It’s information that I can’t share over the comms.”

“Are we compromised?”

“No, it’s not that.” Rey looked to Ben, who glanced her way; he looked pained and was of little help. “There are some things that you don’t know, that I haven’t been totally honest about.”

There was a brief pause as the General seemed to weigh Rey’s words in her mind. “Is it about the safety of the Resistance?”

“I can’t say.” She honestly didn’t know if Ben Solo’s wellbeing and memory could be categorized under that. As much as she hated speaking in riddles, she was frankly intimidated by the General’s power. “I haven’t really been looking for plans for my saber, I’ve been- the information that I’ve found is… sensitive.”

“So sensitive that it requires you to tell me in-person?”

“Yes.”

“And you can’t do that here, back at the base?”

Rey gave a strained sigh. “No, I can’t.”

There was another stretch of silence, the comm crackling momentarily between them. Finally, the General spoke.

“Where do you propose we meet?” she asked carefully.

“Naboo,” Rey suggested.

Ben had been the one to first suggest it when she’d asked about places that his mother had liked. She’d then found that it was still considered Resistance-friendly and it was only a day’s travel away and so the choice seemed obvious.

“Are you sure, Rey?”

“I’ll tell you everything once we meet, try and explain it as best I can.”

“How urgent are these secrets?”

“They’re fairly time-sensitive.” Rey didn’t want to postpone the inevitable any more than they had to, and although it was far from a perfect plan, it was all they had. “I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have lied if I-”

“Are you there now?” The General interrupted, although not unkindly.

“No.”

“How soon can you be there?”

Rey glanced at Ben, the two of them sharing a look of hopeful desperation.

“One standard day,” Rey supplied.  

The General seemed to consider it for a few moments before replying, tone cautious. “Send me your coordinates when you’re on-planet and I’ll meet you with a private guard.”

Rey bit her lip, considering the danger of someone else from the Resistance seeing Ben and judging the situation without her input. She could stop them, and she knew that Ben could even freeze a blaster bolt if it came to that.

“Alright, I’ll contact you then and wait.”

“I’ll be ready to meet you once that I know it’s safe,” the General sighed. She sounded even more tired than when they began, and Rey wondered what time it had been planet-side when she’d called.

They soon ended the connection and it was just Ben and Rey once more.

Left in silence and the weight of what to come, Rey turned to the control panel, figuring out the coordinates of exactly where they were headed.

“She knows that something’s wrong,” Ben muttered flatly.

She glanced back at him. “I didn’t think that she’d consider this… normal.”

“No, she knows that something’s going on between us.”

“I wanted her to have some idea of what she’s walking into.”

Ben looked away, the high of hearing a familiar voice seemingly gone before it had even started. He moved on, helping her set up their next destination. Rey had her own reservations about the meeting, about who would accompany the General, about what they were walking into, but none were as personal as his.

The ship soon came out of hyperspace as she readjusted their course for Naboo; another day of travel and they would see how their cards played out.

For all the pain that Ben had gone through in relearning his past, she was unsure of how his mother would take to the sight of her son donned in the gear of the Supreme Leader as he cried at her feet. Rey was glad that he’d lost the cape, but the beast of a man was still massive and dangerous, memories or no.

It was a spike of annoyance through their bond which jerked her out of her thoughts; she’d been staring. He’d said nothing, although his lips were pressed in a lines.

“Sorry,” Rey breathed as she readied herself for the jump back to light speed.

He didn’t reply, instead opting to lean back into the co-pilot’s seat when he was done. It was an oddly familiar sight, Ben sulking and looking vaguely annoyed, although the circumstances could’ve been better.

She knew him well enough to know that trying to analyze how he was feeling, what was going on with him and what was wrong wouldn’t earn her any favors. She looked at him before she took the final step and shot them into lightspeed.

“Want to punch it?” Rey asked.

He looked over in mild surprise, giving her a brief nod before shifting and sending the ship into hyperdrive without a moment’s hesitation.

The twenty-six hours that it too to reach Naboo were unlike the previous time they had spent together on the ship. Ben, who had before been morose, grew agitated. He didn’t say anything, didn’t share what precisely he was concerned about, but Rey couldn’t imagine a situation in which he wouldn’t be concerned.

Even Kylo, as he had been before, had been constantly angry at his parents, the fury covering the hurt, the pain, and the anxiety that he was never good enough. She tried to comfort him with the knowledge that his mother had never truly given up on him, that she was still wanted reconciliation, still wanted to rectify what had gone down. She added that the General had no idea about Luke – Rey had been unsure as to how to share the information or if such a revelation would help their cause.

“We’ll have each other,” she finally settled on as the most effective reassuring phrase in her arsenal.

Her affirmations weren’t just for Ben, who sat silently in the corner of the ship, thinking over what was to come; Rey found her own anxieties cropping up unannounced. The phrase, simple enough, was enough to ground her, to give her confidence in the face of their uncertain future.

She wondered what would happen if the General, Leia, really, didn’t believe their story or if she thought it a ruse. Would she really fall into the same danger as Luke had, seeing only part of the truth but believing that was enough?

That night, after an uneventful day of cards and Ben reading various information holos on the state of the galaxy, they found themselves wrapped in one another’s arms once again. Ben still clung to her as she held his face against the crook of her neck, although it was less awkward than the night before. Rey tried not to think about how often she’d wished to be close to him like they were, and now that they finally could be together, it was broken.

He’d been quiet throughout the day, asking questions about various holos although she rarely knew anything extra; she’d had to catch up on various political histories after a life of ignorance and isolation on Jakku. In general, Ben had been closed off and although she couldn’t blame him after their day of truths and tears, she felt alone once more.

In his arms she closed her eyes and pressed her face against the top of his head, trying to steady her breathing. It didn’t help, and Rey found herself unsuccessfully dripping silent tears onto his head.

“It’s me, isn’t it?” Ben’s voice came from below. It hurt Rey in a way she didn’t expect.

“No.” She didn’t trust herself to say anything more. She was already snug against him in bed, they only had fifteen hours until they reached Naboo, and then-

“It’s okay to miss him,” he murmured, arms tightening around her.

After leaving Jakku, Rey had found the world more affectionate than she’d expected and had grown used to accepting hugs from friends and acquaintances. When Ben held her, it was something else, something far more grounding and reassuring than she wanted to admit.

“You’re still you,” she murmured amidst the tears. More than anything else she tried to force herself to accept it, that if she did, then maybe he would. It wasn’t working.

“I know that’s not enough.”

“It will be.”

“Rey,” he pulled away, looking up at her in the low light. His expression, exhausted, was that of a man who had gone through hell and back in the last two days. “I’ve never been enough, it’s okay.”

Rey let out a sob and shook her head. Who she was crying for, she couldn’t be sure. She thought maybe for herself, and it had been initially, but it’d grown into frustration at everything, again. She’d cried in the same way on Jakku, when the loneliness had gutted her over and over against in the darkness, when she’d thought about her parents, about her life, her future, how she was never going to escape.

Now, it was as if she was back on Jakku, alone, again, with anyone who she cared about far away and unreachable, with an uncertain future that she had no confidence in.

Ben shifted and sat up, pulling Rey into his arms, cautiously at first until she wrapped her arms around his neck and was crying against his collarbone. They lay down once more and she wondered if her pain was anywhere close to Ben’s, if maybe she was being weak-

“You’re not weak,” he interjected, hand spread across her lower back.

She held herself back from lashing out, from pushing him away and isolating herself on the other half of the ship, willing herself to remain in his arms. When they’d fought over the last several months, her instincts had always been to rush, to wallow in the fear, the pain, the loneliness that threatened to swallow her whole. Back home, back on Jakku, it had been her safest option; relying on others always meant that she’d get taken advantage of. In Ben’s arms, she was glad more than ever that she wasn’t alone.

Ultimately, Rey didn’t reply to his affirmation, his attempt to comfort despite his own feelings of inadequacy and instead nestled closer. Closing off their bond as best she could, she let herself pretend that she was safe, that their plan would go without a hitch. They lay that way for a half an hour as her tears came and went, until she finally exhausted herself.

“Do you want to hear a story?” Ben asked once her tears had dried and she was left to the occasional snivel.

“You don’t have to,” came her immediate reply, slightly croaky voice muffled against his neck.

“I know.” He paused and then shifted, getting more comfortable. When he spoke again, he sounded just as tired as her. “I can tell you about the night I was born, on Chandrila.”

Rey couldn’t help but look up, curiosity getting the better of her. The General had rarely spoken of personal details about her son’s life, and Ben had always been loathe to bring it up. Now, however, despite his willingness to talk about it, there was a tightness about his voice, a regret.

She nodded and settled back against him, finally surrendering to the sound of his voice and the thought of an innocent Ben Solo. Emotionally drained, she found herself falling asleep far easier than she had the night before, drifting off to the story of Han and Leia barely getting on-planet in time for someone to help them with the birth.

In the morning they parted silently, Rey’s mind on how she was going to approach the General while she guessed Ben’s was on the situation in general. She wondered how well he’d slept through the night – she’d jerked awake only once, worried that he’d suddenly been taken from her – but was reassured by how relatively well-rested he looked.

An hour away from Naboo and a pack of rations for each of them discarded, they sat in the pilot and co-pilot seats, gazes fixed on the passing interstellar spectacle.

“I dreamt last night,” Ben spoke after a few minutes of silence. He’d barely said a word since they’d woken, retracting himself when they’d woke and leaving to dress with a glance in her direction. Now, he sounded downright pensive.

Rey looked at him. “What about?”

“You.”

She blinked. “What exactly was it?

“You were fighting people, killing them.” He frowned; it was clear he’d already tried to decipher the dream. “It was all red, except for you. You were in blue.”

Snoke’s throne room on the Supremacy flashed into her mind and she did her best to hide the revelation.

“You must’ve drawn on a memory,” she breathed, hands on the arms of pilot’s seat. “That was about five months ago, almost six at this point; it’s been a while.”

He was looking at her. “What happened?”

“You killed Snoke, we killed his guards, then went our separate ways.” Rey hated the way her voice sounded, almost as if she was reading it out of a book.

Ben watched her before looking back to the blue light in front of them; he sounded reserved when he spoke.

“It’s a painful memory?”

“Yes.”

He sighed, and she watched him try his best not to clench his hands into fists. He failed, a grim look taking over his expression.

“I’d change it, if I could.”

“I know.” She sounded empty. “These things should have never happened to you.”

“I know,” he echoed, sounding equally hollow.

They spent the rest of the hour in one another’s company, occasionally making the odd comment or asking a quick question. When the ship jerked out of lightspeed just outside of Naboo’s orbit, they shared a look.

“She’s going to help,” Rey said, more for herself than for him.

He didn’t look convinced.

Circling the planet, she found a location in a fair patch of rolling hills, and although when they landed the sun was set, it was a far cry from the barren lands of Jakku.

With the ship’s landing gear engaged and the two stranded in the middle of nowhere, Rey sent their coordinates to a specified commlink as the General had instructed.

Ben stood as soon as they landed and peered out at the rolling hills, observing how the wind wound through everything around them. Rey followed his lead, their shoulders brushing as they took in their dark surroundings through the cockpit window.

“We should have a plan for how we’re going to escape if this doesn’t work,” he pointed out.

“We’ll use the Force.” She thought it clever, if not an efficient way to try and defuse the tension.

“And if that’s not enough?”

She glanced his way before returning to the hues of grey and black outside the window, reminiscent of the planet on which Ben had lost his memory. She wouldn’t let it go sideways again, this time they were prepared.

“We have each other.”

He hesitated, and from the corner of her eye she watched him purse his lips, tipping his head.

“Alright,” he resigned. For a moment, Rey thought that he almost sounded like Han.

“Alright.”

Chapter Text

They were on Naboo another hour before the General arrived, her ship sleek and relatively small compared to her status as the head of the Resistance. The organization had grown in the months since its near destruction and while Rey had helped gain allies for the group, a majority of the responsibility had rested on the General’s shoulders.

Once her ship touched the muted grass, Rey instructed Ben to wait out of sight, to avoid the cockpit, and to make sure that there was no way that he would be seen until she contacted him. She planned on reaching out through the Force, something accomplished easily enough with their bond.

Opening the ship’s exit, she let out a breath that she’d been holding since she’d contacted the General, since she’d slowly come to terms with Ben’s condition. With her golden saber clipped to her hip, Rey made her way to where the General, Leia, had landed about a hundred meters away.

With its exit ramp deployed and exit open, white light bathed the surrounding area, giving Leia’s shape a sharp shadow and the grass around her a ghostly coating.

The wind that whipped at Rey’s hair wasn’t cold nor warm, instead it was caught in between, almost lukewarm. It made the short journey relatively comfortable, and as Leia stood a good several meters from her ship, Rey spotted several Resistance soldiers watching from it’s exit ramp. While they would be given enough privacy to speak without being eavesdropped on, if anything remotely dangerous occurred they would be ready to spring. They didn’t look surprised to see her and she wondered exactly how much Leia had told them, if they were prepared to face the Supreme Leader as well.

As she approached the older woman, Rey attempted to keep the worry out of her face, to hide the anxiety that had been eating at her. The truth weighed heavy in her heart as she gave Leia a sad smile.

“Hello,” Rey began when she was close enough, evenly meeting the other woman’s gaze.

“Hello, Rey.” She sounded almost tired, although she looked concerned, a warm, grey cape around her shoulders. “Now what was it that you couldn’t tell me about my son over the comms, or back at the base?”

Rey stared and almost considered running. Instead, she shook her head.

“I should have told you before, when it first started. Ben, your son, I’ve been bonded with him since he first interrogated me.” Leia blinked, features almost curious, but Rey continued before she could interject. “But I’ve kept the Resistance information safe, I haven’t told him anything, I just- I just know how he is, things like that. We get connected and can’t control it; it just happens. There have been other things, too, things I couldn’t explain without telling you about him and I.”

The woman in front of her frowned, clearly trying to parse through the hidden meaning of Rey’s words, attempting to get to the real meaning for the meeting to take place on Naboo.

“You’ve been talking to my son for the last six months?” Leia asked, voice cool but no unkind.

“Yes.” Rey felt exposed, naked, stripped of the secret that she’d held close to her heart for almost the entirety of her time away from Jakku.

“And what have you learned?”

She felt like laughing, like she’d just been asked to list all the of the reasons that she loved Ben Solo. She just glanced away, watching the grass ripple in the moonlight as the wind rolled across the hills. She quickly glanced back and met Leia’s discerning gaze.

“Too many things to count,” Rey answered. “And I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you before, but I didn’t know how to explain it, how to tell you- no one else knows, it’s just him and I and sometimes-” she let out a low sigh, “when we’re connected, it’s physical, I’ve seen where he’s at, planets, and I should have reported it.”

Rey couldn’t tell if Leia disapproved or was happy and couldn’t determine how she should react in turn, so she continued.

“And the other day, when I was supposed to be scouting for plans, we crossed paths.”

“Is this the first time it’s happened?” Another probing question.

“No.” Another confession, another mark against her name. “We’ve met up before. But I’ve never shared our information, and anything he’s let slip I’ve reported back to the Resistance , I’ve tried to help.”

“And you never reported his location when you knew it?”

She swallowed. “No, not unless I knew he was with the rest of his forces.”

“Why not?” Leia’s gaze assessed Rey’s expression, her tone, and Rey wondered exactly how much the woman had already guessed.

“Your son,” she stated, voice tense, “I care about him.”

“And so you’ve kept this secret for him?”

“No, not just for him; he didn’t make me, I was- I didn’t know how to explain it.”

Leia stepped closer, causing the conversation to become far more intimate despite the small distance crossed. She placed a hand on Rey’s arm and gave her a kind, if not stern, look.

“What made you decide to finally tell me this, here of all places?” Leia glanced at Rey’s ship. “And with him onboard?”

Rey resisted the urge to glance backwards, to ask how she had known about the man she’d tried to hard to hide, but instead his her surprise - she should’ve known that she would know her son’s Force signature - and fixed the General with a sad look. She spoke with the most confidence that she could muster.

“Something’s happened, an accident,” she explained, “the last time that we met up, he hit his head, he- he doesn’t remember a large part of his life.”

Rey thought herself professional, distant, odd. Leia just frowned, gaze trained on the ship once more.

“He’s fine,” Rey stated before the General could question her, “physically, at least, and now- he knows the truth about who he became. He remembers everything before Luke-” Rey froze, realizing that she had forgotten to explain the truth surrounding the birth of Kylo Ren.

Leia had turned back to Rey, a serious, if not sad, frown on her features. “What about Luke?”

“When I was on Ach-To, I learned the truth about why your son turned to the dark side.”

“It wasn’t Snoke?”

“It was, but it was also Luke.” Rey finally felt her confidence return, the conviction that she’d felt when attacking Luke on Ach-To flooding her veins. “He told me what really happened at the academy, when he was training Ben and the others, how he ran away to hide his shame at his involvement.”

“What did Luke do?” Leia’s grip on Rey’s arm tightened and her eyes darkened.

“He saw the darkness in Ben and was worried that he’d turn on him, that he wouldn’t be able to fight it. One night, Luke went to him while he was sleeping and searched his mind, he thought it was too dark, and then he lit his saber.” Rey didn’t miss the flash of rage that crossed Leia’s eyes. “He realized that he was wrong, that of course Ben was fine, but then Ben woke up and saw-”

“His uncle ready to kill him.”

Rey looked down momentarily, feelings of regret permeating the air around them.

“Yes,” she stated. “And so Ben defended himself, drew his saber, and destroyed his sleeping quarters.” She drew the rest of the story from snippets she’d pulled from Ben during their talks. “The other students noticed and thought that he’d killed Luke, that he’d turned, and so they tried to kill him in return.”

“He was defending himself?” Leia was almost out of breath, gaze transfixed on the ship containing her son.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t Luke think to tell me?”

“He was ashamed.” Rey felt righteous, her conviction unshaken. “He thought that he could avoid the guilt and pain and run away, and left Ben to Snoke.”

“All this time?”

Rey nodded, some of the tension leaving her body as the truth was out there, finally, after so many years of being hidden away in the corners of the galaxy.

Leia looked defeated, and for the first time since seeing her, Rey thought that she showed her age.

“Does he know the truth now?” the General asked.

“I told him before he forgot and he was still angry, and now, now he’s just trying to get by.”

Leia straightened a fraction before giving Rey a nod.

“Let me see my son.”

“I- I need to you promise me that he’ll be safe, first.”

“I won’t have my men detain him.” The older woman gave her a measured look, slowly nodding. “I assume he agreed to come peacefully?”

“Like I said, he doesn’t remember the betrayal, all of this, but I told him of what he’s done; he knows that he’s the Supreme Leader and that everyone wants him dead.” Leia grimaced at the truth and the two of them looked back at the ship, its lights illuminating its own circle of white around the exit ramp. “I told him that I’d keep him safe and I will.”

“I believe you. My son is in no danger from me as long as he is no danger to us.”

“He’s confused, mostly upset about what he’s become and what happened to him.”

“Then he’s welcome to see us.”

There was a pause as Rey began to pull on the bond, although she hesitated as another thought entered her mind.

“He killed Snoke, too, to protect me.”

Leia nodded; the weight of said decision wasn’t lost on her. In lieu of saying anything, she gave Rey another nod and turned to face the ship Ben still resided in.

Rey turned and looking at the blinding light cast over the exit ramp, giving them a clear visual. Reaching out, she gave a clear tug on the bond and let the message slide between them. On his end there was a faint tug back of understanding; he was ready.

The wind whipped across the space between the two ships and Rey watched as Ben Solo stepped into the light. His posture differed from the man who had stalked after her on Takonda, who had fought by her side on the Supremacy , and who she had faced in countless other conflicts they’d found themselves bound up in. Now he looked slightly more reserved, although no less dangerous as he took his first step on the plush grass.

Watching him was nothing compared to feeling the emotions rolling underneath the surface, that flowed through their bond. When the man locked eyes with his mother, Rey let out a breath as she was given a glimpse into the mess that Ben Solo had become.

She was lost amongst his grief, his pain, and all she could tell was that he was coming to grips with something – his situation, maybe? – and then the bond slammed shut as he froze in place.

Backlit by the bright white light, his dark form stood tense and immobile as he stared at Leia. Rey hardly registered the sound of soldiers as they stepped closer behind her, she couldn’t look away as Ben sized up the situation, as he flicked his gaze to the soldiers. Then, frowning and looking more than a little pained, he stared at Rey.

She wanted him to be at her side and hold her hand, for them to all be safe once and for all, for neither of them to be afraid of anything ever again, for him to love her once more. Now, he stood at the precipice and when his gaze bore into hers, she wanted to cry out.

The wind whipped around them and Ben, frowning and distraught, staged the first steps across the dim void.

“Leave him be.” It was Leia’s voice that floated through across the silence, the command directed toward the soldiers who closed in on the waiting women. As he moved closer, she let out a sigh that turned into her son’s name.

Ben moved walked through the grass, staring at them as if the whole world had come crashing down on him again. Rey stepped forward, drawn to him; she wanted to help, wanted to see if he remembered anything, if there was anything she could do. She found that Leia’s gentle grip on her arm kept her in place, however, and had her stopped from advancing.

Halfway between the ships, Ben’s gaze snapped to his mother’s action, boring into her with the weight of a thousand deaths. He froze and in one fluid movement, grabbed his saber from his hip and lit it and it was at his side.

Rey’s broke free from Leia’s grasp and struggled forward, shaking her head in desperation as she stood the monstrous distance between her and her love. The bond was sealed tight and although it was clear from his frown that he was struggling, that something was happening, of what had no explanation.

They stood staring at one another. The guards and the future behind, Rey cautiously watched Ben Solo stand illuminated in a shattered red.

The wind was warm and it occurred to her how easy it would be to run to him, to run away, to pretend to be nobodies together. Then again, it was never that easy when everything in the galaxy was soaked in blood.

His saber crackled and in the relative quiet, reminding her of how familiar it’d become, how she’d chased that sound through the galaxy just to get a glimpse of him.

After an agonizing minute, he extinguished the saber and it was back at his hip. He let out a long breath, the kind that empties one of their sins, and he began to move again. His progress closer was steady and careful, and when he was in front of both of them he fell to his knees. He bowed his head and it took all of Rey’s will to not touch him, to not draw closer, to not collapse with him. Their futures were in front of them and it hardly felt like reality.

Rey felt disjointed, disconnected as she watched Leia comfort her estranged son. She stepped away from the pair and listened to the wind curl around her, hearing only their murmurs. After she was a few meters away, she turned and stared at the horizon, trying very hard not to feel like a part of her heart was missing, as if she was missing a piece.

Arms wrapped around herself, she watched the darkness cover the rolling hills, watched how the grass was like a dark ocean, ready to swallow her if she would only take the plunge.

It was a gentle tug at the bond that reminded her that she wasn’t alone, that she was needed, and Rey turned back to Leia and Ben. He looked like he’d been crying and stood close to his mother, towering over the shorter woman who looked equally shaken although she hadn’t shed a tear yet.

“Thank you, Rey,” Leia said.

Rey stared, at a loss for words. She didn’t feel pride at what she’d done, she’d done it out of necessity, out of love; there’d been no other choice but to save him. She nodded in lieu of a proper response.

It was easy enough to resolve how they would go back to base as Leia led the way. Rey and Ben would board the ship Leia had arrived on and a Resistance soldier would pilot Rey’s back for her and once they arrived in six standard hours, Ben would be escorted to an isolated part of the base where he would be guarded. It felt less real as it went on, as they boarded the ship and Rey and Ben sat apart from the others despite Leia’s kind, if not pained, gaze on them.

Rey didn’t want to explain, not at the moment, and so was relieved that she could find them a place to sit away from prying eyes. A guard, of course, stood some distance away, apparently there to monitor the Supreme Leader’s actions, but she couldn’t care less. They sat side-by-side in a small, cushioned lounge area. When Rey offered her hand, stretched it to rest palm-up on his knee, Ben quickly took it, lacing their fingers together.

He stared at her with something in mind, what she couldn’t tell, but when she leant against him, he supported her without hesitation. Rey wondered if it was wrong for her to use him for comfort in the aftermath of what had been a success, if they shouldn’t be happier, more upbeat. He said nothing as they leant back and drifted between sleep and anxiety on the ride back to the Resistance’s new base. Despite their relative silence, she was comforted by the re-opening of the bond, how she sought him out and let their worries comfort one another.

She knew that commiserating must’ve appeared odd to the guard who watched them, who ensured that Ben didn’t spring up and kill anyone on board. Rey wanted to ask Ben what he thought, if there was anything he remembered, if somehow he understood her fall into isolation, but it felt too intimate to be shared in anything less than the dark of night. She let mind brush against his, gathered what she should from what he showed her, and shared her own worry before she attempted to soothe them both.

She suspected that something had stirred within him but wasn’t sure why he’d shut her out in the journey over to his mother, why even as they sat, absorbed in one another, he wouldn’t fully open the bond completely. Resolving to get him alone and somewhere quiet as soon as possible, she affirmed the weak hope that it would turn out well.

From what Rey overheard of Leia’s various transmissions, the General had informed the Resistance that Kylo Ren had turned, that he was agreeing to work with them and that Rey vouched for him. Rey wasn’t sure how much of Leia’s willingness hinged on Ben’s amnesia, if he remembered who he really was, if he’d be thrown in a cell, but she pushed the thought away.

When they arrived at the base, a stronghold which Leia’s forces had found five days after the attack on Crait. It had been a lucky find, and now six months later, although it retained much of its old infrastructure, it was habitable, and the old base had new life breathed into it.

As the ship touched down in the hangar and Rey glanced at Ben, she was utterly unsure of what she was going to say to Finn, Rose, and Poe. Her friends would want to know why she lied; she knew that she’d have to let the truth pour out of her, again. After exposing her heart twice in the span of a few days, first with Ben and then with Leia, she hardly knew if she was up to it.

The ship settled, and Rey’s hand tightened in Ben’s, anxiety shot through the bond and she wasn’t sure who had supplied it.

When Leia appeared, it was who Rey stood first, her hand in Ben’s as they followed the General out of the ship.

In hindsight, she should’ve anticipated the small crowd around the vessel as they stepped out in the aging hangar. She knew that her friends were in the crowd and that they were staring; everyone was staring at them, at their linked hands, at the betrayal.

Rey kept her gaze on Leia, kept her breathing even, didn’t let herself get overwhelmed by the emotions all around them. Indomitable as ever, the general parted the sea of spectators all of whom muttered around them.

Out of the main hangar, the trio travelled down several of the main paths before taking a sharp right and delving into a clearly older part of the facility. Entering this new section of the base, and winding down the smaller passages, Rey felt Ben’s mind brushing against hers and she looked back. He gave her a frown before his gaze flicked to his mother.

“I may not have control of the Force the same way that you do,” Leia seemed to speak on cue. “But with you two, I should’ve guessed it earlier.”

“Did you sense something?” Rey asked as they delved deeper into the metal and duracreet complex.

“I thought it was your powers growing, and Ben’s... flexing.” She glanced back at the pair, her gaze flicking to where their hands were joined. “I’m not beyond a certain naivete, it seems.”

Ben’s grip on her hand tightened and Rey gave Leia a pained smile, unsure of what else to say.

“Again, I’m sorry, I should’ve-”

“We’re here.” Leia waved her apology off and motioned to a rusty-looking door, its decrepit status only enhanced by the worn nature of the hallway they’d just walked through. In short, it confirmed Rey’s suspicion that they were being kept as far away from people as possible. “A guard detail will be here soon.”

“Who are they protecting?”

Rey jerked to look at Ben, who spoke for the first time since arriving. Leia looked less surprised, replying before Rey had processed what had happened.

“Anyone who might be in danger.”

A muscle under Ben’s left eye twitched and his lips pressed into a line.

“Rey,” Leia seemed to appraise the Last Jedi, “once he’s settled I’d like to meet with you. Alone.”

She nodded, and when Leia motioned to the aging room, she took the lead, opening it and closing the door behind her and Ben without another word.

It was dark and almost humid in the bedroom, as a large crack took up its left wall while on its right stood a modest single bed, a desk at its foot. There was no window, only an aged light on a rickety bedside table. With a flick of Ben’s hand, they were illuminated in an yellow-orange light.

Despite everything, Rey felt wrong.

She turned to Ben, trying to discern his expression despite the stark shadows cast over his face. His frown had lessened and the seriousness that he’d adopted was almost gone, replaced with exhaustion and an eternal underlying tenseness.

“They didn’t imprison you, at least,” she tried, voice low. “Are you okay? Back on Naboo, I thought, I didn’t-” she shook her head and stepped closer, her hand firmly in his, “I won’t leave you.”

He shook his head, giving her an almost sad smile. “I remember.” She held her breath; she wanted to cry. “Not everything, there are still too many gaps to count, years unaccounted for, moments I can’t imagine.”

“Are you angry?” she asked, knowing that if he’d had his memories in the first place, he would have never willingly come to the Resistance base.

“I remember you, Rey.” His jaw tightened but he shook his head and the bond was flooded with snippets of memory, of emotion, of her, her her.  A tear made its way down her cheek and ran along her neck as it clung to her, unwilling to let go. A part of her thought it impossible, had attempted to reconcile with Kylo Ren being gone forever, accepting that she’d have to start again.

She stared and noticed that he was blinking away his own tears. She forced herself to speak, to seize what she could of the moment.

“How much?” she asked, voice breaking.

“Enough,” he murmured, releasing her hand. She nearly protested but fell silence when his hands - warm, they were always impossibly warm - were on either side of her face. “You’ve always been enough.”

Rey let out a soft laugh, of disbelief, relief, hope, she didn’t know what, and found herself being kissed by Ben Solo.

Chapter Text

The only thing that Rey could think as she kissed Ben Solo was that she wouldn’t sacrifice it for anything else. Her hands rested against his chest and clutched at the fabric of his tunic, pulling him closer so that if it was a dream, it wouldn’t end anytime soon.

The kiss itself was warm and desperate, his hands shifting so that he could kiss her easier, more aggressively. She found herself gasping for breath as she reciprocated it feverishly. She had no idea the extent of his memory recovery, of how much of him really cared for her, but she pushed the worries away and was content to kiss him back.

Rey pulled him down, closer, and he made a frustrated noise as he followed, one hand on her jaw as the other moved to her side.

“Rey,” he breathed when he broke the kiss. His breath was war against her lips and she found herself leaning upwards, stealing a chaste kiss out of desperation before she pulled back.

“Too much?” she asked, although an immediate shake of his head reassured her.

She paused and looked into his eyes and was immediately comforted by how steadily he held her gaze. There were countless things that she wanted to ask, but she acted instead. She raised her hand so that it rested against his cheek, her thumb ghosting over his lips as he held her close. She’d missed him more than she knew how to express, more than she had ever thought possible.

“I missed you,” she murmured. “I don’t know how much you remember, but we can try and get it all back.”

“I remember… moments.” His faint smile turned into a frown as he inclined his head. “When I saw my mother, I saw some of the things that have happened – Snoke’s death, some of the snow in the woods – but I don’t... it’s wrong.”

Rey frowned in turn, trying to piece together what he’d said. “What about us?”

“Everything I remember about you is a mess.” He let go of her hip and his tone seemed to only grow in confusion. “I know that I care, that I wanted you, that I just wanted to rip anyone apart that stood in between us.”

She soothed her thumb across his cheek as he grew agitated.

“You never told me,” Ben continued, confused amidst his initial frustration. There were plenty of secrets about the Resistance that she’d kept secret from him, aspects of war, but she’d never lied about how she felt, not with him.

“About what?”

“That you loved me.”

Rey froze, still held in his embrace. “No, I didn’t.” Neither of them spoke. She glanced away at the confession as she considered his revelation on the dark planet. “You knew, though.”

She struggled to sift through the questions she had: how she could probe for exactly what he remembered, what was he comfortable with, if he was a danger to anyone at the base. As she searched his frown, she wanted to kiss him again, to get let him know exactly how much she loved him. At the moment, however, she wasn’t sure how far to push her luck, to revel in the relief, and so she gingerly extracted herself from his hold.

Ben let her go and let out a low sigh, glancing at their dreary surroundings.

“At least it’s not a cell,” she supplied.

“Not in so many words, no.” He seemed to concede and gave a nod. “No cuffs.”

Rey stared at the splintered version of the man she loved, wary of how much to say or how much space to give him.

He met her gaze and she realized too late that her worry was echoing across their bond. Again.

“I’m fine.”

“I’ll give you some time to yourself, I need to talk to the General, and then I’ll be back.”

A sharp look came into his eyes at the mention of his mother, one which had glinted when he’d challenged her in the hall. Old resentments didn’t die that easily, it seemed.

“Do you want me to tell her anything from you?”                  

“No.” He had the same look in his eye as the last time she’d asked him if he’d ever forgive Luke and so she dropped it. “You’ve been around my mother more than I have,” he sounded stilted, piecing together memories that didn’t seem to be his own, “should we tell her that I remember?”

“She would be glad to hear it.” The implication in his words weighed Rey down and she too worried about their safety.

“She wouldn’t have taken me back if she thought I was anything but her beloved Ben.” The words that came out of him were far more acidic than she expected; she blinked.

“Your mother always believed-”

“I was the Supreme Leader, she should’ve had me killed on sight.”

“If you had come back on your own, she would’ve kept you safe.”

“In a cell, forever.”

“Ben,” she tensed and was rewarded by his energy re-focused on her. “You’re here now, you’ve trusted me this far and you have to trust me from here on out. You said that you remember me, but don’t forget what I told you on the ship.”

“Fine.” He pursed his lips, giving a single nod before huffing. “They should’ve taken my saber, though.”

Sure enough, his saber was still clipped to his side and she studied him.

“Just stay here, please.”

“I’ll stay.” He took in the room once more before turning back to her. “Could I kiss you again?”

Rey nodded before she could question it, the whiplash of the situation wearing her out; she couldn’t afford to deny him kisses when she was dying for them as well. She nodded, and they were drawn together once more, her raising up on her toes without a second thought.

Ben’s kisses were as warm as always, and desperation rolled off of the both of them in waves. She found herself clinging onto him as his kisses grew hungrier, and a thought struck her, something caught between a memory and a realization: he kissed her like he was ready to get her into bed. The thought must’ve slipped across the bond because he pulled away, flushed more than he had any right to be, and Rey let out a soft giggle. Apparently, he hadn’t realized that they had in fact slept together, or if he did, he certainly didn’t remember it. The way his hand gripped her ass, however, seemed to hint that some part of him hadn’t forgotten entirely.

Rey let out a soft laugh, brushing his hair from out of his face. “Making up for lost time I see.”

He flushed an even deeper shade of red and she had no idea how to react besides giggling even further and kissing him once more. She gave him a brief, chaste kiss and patted his cheek, his anxiety quieting momentarily. His interest, however, remained piqued. He seemed incapable of speech, however, and stared at her like he’d been caught stealing cookies out of the jar.

“Don’t worry about it,” she breathed, wondering if she was going mad, if suddenly the universe was bending in her favor. “We’ll see about that later.”

Several chaste kisses later and reassured that Ben would indeed stay in his designated room, Rey left.

Stepping out into the hallway was an unwelcome reminder of reality, of the questions that she would be faced with from all sides and the consequences for her lies. She ignored the looks from the guards down the hall, resisting the urge to fix her hair as she passed them.

She knew the base well after their time spent there, and while Leia’s Force signature didn’t pull at her the same way that Ben’s did, Rey always was confident of where the General was. Crossing one of the hallways, she paused as she saw Finn and Rose standing some way down, enraptured in their own conversation. She paused a half second, tempted to call out to her friends, to tell them of the pain she’d been through, but then reality jerked her back, reminded her of the lies she’d been keeping. She looked away before she could read their expressions and continued to the General.

Entering the General’s quarters, Rey found herself unable to focus on the woman in front of her. Her thoughts kept wandering back to Ben, and when she heard about the crimes that she technically committed, she didn’t feel as guilty as she should. She felt bad about lying, but not about the crime, and she wondered what that made her.

She was at least comforted by Ben’s periodical probing from his end of the bond.  

“Rey?” The General’s voice cut through her thoughts and Rey found herself jerking to attention.

“Sorry,” she blinked and tried to force a smile.  

They sat in silence before the General started again, and Rey found herself apologizing for the lies, promising to do better, and to keep an eye on Ben.

“He remembers, a little,” she murmured, the revelation rushing out of her. “He remembers me, some of it, some of his time with the First Order, I think, but not everything.”

“He’ll still work with us?”

“He will.” Rey wondered what she was doing anymore, where she was supposed to go now that she had Ben back in her life, what would happen once the First Order was taken care of. “Is there anything I should tell him?”

“I’ll talk with Poe and the other officials here, decide how to best use what information he does have. He’s also a force user and they’ll want to know that he’s not Sith any longer-”

“He never was part of the Sith, it was just the Jedi who failed him.” Silence settled between them and a flicker of anger crawled between Reys ribs. “He still cares about me, and although he’s fractured, I know he’ll want to see you later.” She began to stand from the chair she’d settled in but stopped herself. “He needs new clothes. Should I bring him to the dining hall?”

“I’ll have his clothes delivered as soon as I can, but hold off from parading him around until I consult the others.” The General eyed her before giving a small nod. Rey stood and thanked the general before turning and making for the door. When she gripped the handle and opened it, the older woman spoke again.

“Rey, are you alright?”

Rey froze, the door ajar. She struggled to find an adequate answer but came up short.

“I’m okay, a little shaken, but it’s fine.” She threw the General a small smile and when they shared a nod, she escaped.

Rey kept moving, ignoring the hallway where she had glimpsed Finn and Rose; they were already gone anyway. Returning to Ben’s section of the base – she tried not to think too hard about the implication – and gave the guards a cursory glance as she rounded the last hallway. They met her gaze briefly before turning back to the hallway.

Opening the door to, she found Ben sitting on the bed and he seemed to anticipate her entrance, looking at her like he was drowning.

“What did she say?”

Over the months that they had shared their bond, Rey had grown accustomed to sharing the same mental space as Ben, even if it was only in the reflection of his emotions. She would feel him simmering beneath her thoughts, and over time she had learnt how to block it off. She could silence him and vice versa, censor herself, or simply pretend for a short while that she was truly alone in her head. Looking at him on the bed, she let herself pull back the wall between them and his concern rushed forth.

He wasn’t anxious per se, but there was a look in his eye, the look of a wild animal trapped in a cage and he was on edge. She tried to let the outcome of the conversation with the General seep through and Ben gave a hesitant nod.

Rey sat beside him on the bed, her right leg pressed against his left, and she held his hand, locking gazes with the tired man. She didn’t know how to explain how much he meant to her, how glad she was that he had come, and instead she gave a soft smile.

“They’re going to bring you new clothes, hopefully figure out where you’ll be staying from here on out.”

“Just like that?”  

“You’ll have to work with them, give them what information you remember about the First Order.” She ran her thumb along the back of his hand, trying to enjoy what they had as it was; she didn’t need him ripped away from her again.

“What if that’s not enough?” His brow furrowed. “They’ll think I’m a plant, here to send information back to Sn- back to Hux.”

Rey blinked; she’d hardly thought about the changes that the First Order would have undergone since falling under the control of General Hux. Kylo had never been the most efficient of leaders, operating off of emotional impulses, later regretting them and attempting to rectify them before only achieving a paltry victory. The Resistance had been able to deal with Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, but Supreme Leader Hux would be something altogether new.

“Tell them what you do know, and I’ll vouch for you.” She pulled his hand onto her lap and held it with both hands.

He leaned into her slightly to accommodate the movement and Rey used the movement to place her chin on his shoulder. She had done something similar before when connected through the bond, when he’d been trying to read, and she’d shown up. She’d moved close and done it again another time when they’d been sitting close and unsure of what to say to one another. The last time she’d done it, he’d kissed her silly until they’d agreed to meet again.

She smiled when the tips of their noses brushed against one another. Rey found herself looking for a flash of recognition, something to prove that all those moments had happened before, but it never came.  

“I’ll protect you,” she reminded him.

“What if they turn on you as well?”

“Then I’m sure you’ll come to my rescue.”

“I don’t think you’d need it.”

Ben leant in and she smiled into the comforting kiss. She squeezed his hand when they parted, noting the look of almost curiosity in his eye. An emotion akin to wonder floated across the bond, although at what she couldn’t be sure. Her mind brushed against his in questioning.

When he spoke, there was a weight behind it, the weight of being jerked here and there with no breaks in-between. “I remember back on the ship, you explaining everything that happened, but it feels like it was years ago. Now, everything’s a mess, it’s hard to remember anything in order; even before Luke-” he sucked in a breath. “Before I forgot it all, now, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re the one thing that I do know.”

Her smile wavered, slowly turning softer. “It’s okay, Ben, you’ll get there, and if you don’t-”

“It’s you. You’re everywhere.”

Rey blinked and the dam that she’d built in her heart burst. She was crying again, for what reason she couldn’t pinpoint.

“Ben-”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever remember everything- I want to, but-” his hand tightened in hers. “I’m glad you’re here, that I met you, that you saw something in me.”

As warm, fat tears dripped down her face, it occurred to her that Ben was close to tears as well, that the what she felt went both ways through the bond. Rey released his hand and threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in his neck as she curled against him.

She hoped that everything would go alright with the Resistance, that he’d stay safe, but they were riding a knife’s edge and it was bound to cut them sooner rather than later. Ben’s arms wound around her, firm and secure in the knowledge that they had one another.

“I’m not leaving,” Ben murmured. Clearly she’d been thinking too loudly.

“I know, I know,” she thought her own voice tired beyond what she had any right to be. She let herself grip onto him harshly, desperately, letting go of any pretense of being put together - he certainly had. Locked in one another’s embrace, his breath against her neck, she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

The man she loved wasn’t back, maybe he never would be, but he wasn’t lost to the fading of her own memory; no one was ever really gone. She would love him for as long as she could, forever and always.