Rey’s fingers tighten around the lightsaber’s hilt, and her arm, shot out to him in desperation, begins to quiver.
“Master Skywalker,” she pleads. In her dreams she’d never even come this far. The island had always haunted her, but him — never had she seen him, only another.
Now Luke moves away from her without a word.
As she follows him, Rey strains for a view of his figure under the whip and whirl of his cloak. It’s taller than she had imagined, strapping and broad of shoulder: a hero’s form. Is it the Force, she wonders, that sustained him so long in his youthful strength?
A chuckle sounds from under his hood, and she stops.
“Are you reading my mind?” she gasps. “Are you laughing at me?”
But Luke stalks into his hut without another sound.
Rey, not to be deterred, slams the heel of her palm against the door. “Master Skywalker, please!” she shouts. “I won’t leave without you!”
From inside, only silence.
At last she shoves the door open with her shoulder, stumbles into the hut. It’s a small space, dark and cavelike, and flecks of dust swim in the narrow sliver of light that slants in from the window. Luke is still turned away from her, his broad shoulders hunched under the low ceiling.
Rey shoves out her arm again. “This lightsaber — it belonged to your father. You should have it.”
At last he turns. Time slows to an agonizing, uneasy crawl as he does; Rey feels at last and all at once the weight of destiny on her shoulders. But when he drops his hood, it’s not the benevolent face of Luke Skywalker that emerges from the dark and shifting shadows. To her horror, a horror so deep it chills her bones, she finds herself standing again before Kylo Ren. “You’re right,” he says, eerily cool, as he lifts the lightsaber from her suddenly limp hand. “I should.”
A thousand whispers roar in her mind. Monster murderer enemy RUN. In a flash of fear, she turns, makes for the door. But it slams shut, and slowly, quaking, she looks over her shoulder to see Kylo Ren with one arm outstretched, his fingers flexing through the Force. “Don’t,” he says lowly, almost pityingly. “There’s nowhere for you to run.”
“You—” she spits, turning again so that she’s facing him. Her fear has flickered out now, or maybe hardened into resolve. “What have you done with Luke?”
“I don’t see how that should concern you,” he answers. “You don’t know him at all. I know him. He’s my uncle.” A soft smile now; it makes Rey’s stomach twist. “I’ll take good care of him.”
“What, like you took care of your father, you sick bastard—”
“Ah,” he lilts softly, “someone’s picked up some rebel pilot talk.”
With a roar, she lunges for him, reaching for the lightsaber through the Force. But he anticipates her, catching her neck in the wide net of his hand and leveling the ignited blade against her throat. “Do not resist,” he hisses through clenched teeth. “Like I told you, there’s nowhere to run.”
She tenses the tendons in her neck against his palm. “What do you want?”
“You know what I want.”
But his eyes are suffused darkly with fire, and though she thinks, as perhaps she’s meant to, of the forest — You need a teacher! — she’s not sure she knows what he wants at all.
He steps back, clips Anakin’s saber onto his belt. “I’ll be frank with you,” he says. “You have no means of escaping this island. The only ship here is mine. If you try to swim, you will drown. The only weapon with which you could reasonably expect to fight me is a lightsaber. There are two on this island; I have them both. If you have any hope of leaving here, of seeing your friends again, you will do exactly as I say.”
Rey clenches her eyes shut. “I won’t.”
“Then you haven’t been listening.”
With a rude, sudden shove, he conveys to her through the Force an image of Finn’s body lying weak and crumpled in the snow. She gasps, raises her eyes to him in pleading. Don’t hurt him, she begs. Not again.
To her surprise, to her wonder, his face softens too, as if with an echo of distant pain.
“What do you want?” she snaps, biting down a flare of tender curiosity.
“Three lessons,” he answers. “To show you the ways of the Force. To show you what you could become at my side.” She almost scoffs at this, but the taunt dies in her throat at the roiling glow of purpose in his eyes. “If, after three lessons, you are still not convinced, I will bring you back to Jakku — and leave you there.”
Rey feels a twinge of hope. “That’s it?” she whispers. “Three lessons, and you’ll just — let me go? I don’t believe you.”
“It’s true,” he says lowly. “Either way, you don’t have much of a choice.”
She gulps. "Fine, then. Three lessons."
For the first lesson, Kylo Ren sits her on a slated rock overlooking the ocean and bids her sharply to close her eyes. She does, albeit warily, reaching through the Force to gauge his intent. His mind is dark but calm beneath her probe, and she settles more easily into a cross-legged position.
“When I say,” he begins slowly, his voice lilting dramatically, “that I draw from the dark side of the Force, what do I mean?”
“That you’re evil,” she mumbles.
His reply is sharp. “No.” The rhythm of his footsteps behind her stills. “The Force is not and never was a question of good and evil. It is a question of feeling and thinking.”
A long silence follows. The wind picks up, and Rey’s nostrils fill with the salt-laced air roaring in from the sea.
When Kylo continues, his voice is stronger. “The Jedi teach that the Force is a thing to be accessed with the mind, not the body. They think it is and should be a matter of intellect.” A low, mocking scoff. “But we are creatures of passion. We feel. We rage. We suffer.”
A black pit of dread opens in her stomach. Or maybe it isn’t dread, she reflects warily, but knowing, the kind of bone-deep knowing that no degree of high Jedi wisdom can beat out.
Kylo’s hands settle high on her shoulders, his thumbs and index fingers circling her throat. The leather of his gloves catches on her skin, drags it roughly back and forth across the taut tendons in her neck. “Don’t we?” he whispers, his mouth suddenly close to her ear.
“Don’t touch me,” she snaps, eyes flying open as she whirls around to face him.
“Good,” he murmurs in reply, his lips curling in a soft smile. “You’re angry.” He dips into her mind. “Go ahead. Give in to it.”
In a blur, she stands, planting her feet soundly on the sheet of rock and looming over him. “I know what you’re doing,” she hisses lowly. “But I won’t let my anger control me.”
“No,” he says, climbing up to meet her. The wind sets his hair to whipping wildly across his face. His proximity makes her blood roar. “Nothing should control you but your own will.” A glint of sorrow flickers in his eyes when he says it, and Rey feels in her chest a twinge of empathy. It’s lost when his eyes harden again, and he grips her wrists roughly in his gloved hands. “But there’s power in your anger. Don’t you feel it?”
She does. It courses like liquid fire through her veins, suffuses her very flesh with heat. She thinks of Unkar Plutt, the coarseness of his speech and demeanor, the greed with which he’d hoarded money and portions and sustenance. How he’d denied the poor wretches of Niima Outpost the very stuff of life until they’d died, alone and forgotten and shriveled into half-nothings, in the desert wasteland of Jakku. Worse, she thinks of a ship disappearing into the unforgiving glare of the sun. Plutt’s wrenching, calloused hand on her arm. Quiet, girl.
“Now reach out,” comes Kylo’s voice, as if from far away. “Feel the Force.”
The Force crackles around her now. Rey draws from it greedily, feels its raw course through her bones and blood, and with a sudden roar she channels it through her skin. Kylo’s hands snap away from her wrists, and the whole looming shape of him recoils as if burned.
But there’s more. It simmers deep within her, flares and spits and flames hotly against her ribs, and she summons it to warp the Force tightly around his neck, dragging him up off the rock until his feet dangle clumsily in the air.
A dark and familiar thrill runs through her at the sight of the mighty Kylo Ren reduced to such powerlessness.
But he shortly wrenches himself out of her grasp, landing on his feet with a resounding thud. Startled, she braces herself for his retaliation, raising her fists and gathering from the Force, but he is still and quiet before her.
“Good,” he whispers at last, his face open and wide with awe. Rey thinks of the forest, the cool press of his grandfather’s lightsaber in her hand, the gleam of wonder and incredulity and something else in his eyes. From the far-off horizon comes a low rumble of thunder, and Rey, suddenly flustered, turns to face the ocean just as rain begins to spit down from the sky.
On the second day, Rey wonders whether Kylo Ren had set a trap for her. Whether he’d always intended this island to be the site of her training in the dark side of the Force. The air is full of salt and darkness and whispers, so fraught and terrible that she can’t imagine Luke Skywalker, legend of the Jedi, living here in peace.
Kylo leads her down the step-like crags to a black, seething pit, where the chorus of dark whispers sounds in her ears like a siren’s song.
“The Jedi, for all they speak of the truth, will deny always you answers. Too much knowledge, they think, will cause you to stray from the path of the light.”
“If it were Skywalker”—at Luke’s name she hisses instinctively, and he grabs her wrists again, crossing them roughly behind her back—“training you, he’d tell you to run from this cave. Like he ran to this island. Away from his failure. Away from the truth.”
Rey squirms in his grip, gasps when she feels the Force tighten around her wrists.
“What do you need?” Kylo whispers, his breath warm against her ear now. “What is the one thing you need more than anything?”
“My parents,” she answers, almost without thinking. “I need to know who my parents are.”
“This cave can give you the answer you seek.”
Rey gulps. He’s right. Deep in her blood, in the hot pulsing threads of her being, she’s always been drawn to it, to this dark, gaping pit that holds her destiny.
“Go,” comes Kylo’s voice.
The cave swallows her whole, casts her rudely into a chill pool of water, soaks her skin through to her bones. When she clambers to her feet, her chest feels cold and terribly empty, and half in fear, half in desperation, she turns around to see if Kylo has followed her.
He hasn’t. She is alone.
But she doesn’t have to be. Not for much longer. This cave can give you the answer you seek.
When she blinks, a thousand mirror images of herself stretch out before and behind her, an eerie line of likenesses that sets her heart to a frightened quiver. If she reaches, strains through the Force, she can find its end. A wall waits there, its sheer face glinting between mirror and rock. Something calls her to touch it. Her fingers twitch with longing and settle against its surface.
“Let me see them,” she whispers into the echoing void. “My parents.”
The mirror fogs and shifts, blues and grays blooming and curling across its glass. And if she squints, she can see — yes, there — two figures moving closer. The two merge into one, and he comes closer, closer, so close she wants to tear through the glass and reach him. Her father.
Show me a Jedi, she thinks. Show me Luke Skywalker.
But the tendrils of mist curl away, and all she sees is her own face, glossy-eyed and knowing.
“No,” she gasps. “No. That’s not an answer!” Indignant, she steps forward, reaching, praying for something more. But the glass melts away, and the rain roars angrily down from the heavens, and she collapses into the waiting arms of Kylo Ren.
“You lied to me,” she breathes, as her head swims. “There were no answers there.”
“Yes, there were,” he answers. Her senses are suddenly dulled, and she can hardly see for the blur that’s set over her eyes, but she’s almost sure she feels the gentle ghost of his hand over the crown of her skull. It feels good. Right. And just before she loses herself in the black void of unconsciousness, she thinks, for a fleeting, curious moment, that the outline of Kylo Ren’s black-crowned face looks strikingly similar to the one she’d seen through the glass. His words, barely audible through the rain, are the last thing she hears before surrounding her mind to nothingness: “You just weren’t looking hard enough.”
“The Jedi,” Kylo says quietly, “are not allowed to marry.”
They are in his hut; outside the sun has begun its languid crawl beneath the horizon, and inside a small fire crackles in a puddle of stones, growing brighter by the minute, as if it anticipates the coming darkness. Rey studies warily the man seated opposite her. The sunlight and firelight are matched in a curious dance over the long, angular planes of his face. The effect is captivating.
“Do you know why?”
Rey’s head snaps up. “Why?”
“Why the Jedi are refused the ancient privilege of marriage.”
The dying sunlight slants more harshly now through the narrow window, washing his face in red. “I—feeling,” she stutters. “They’re scared of feeling.”
“Yes,” he answers slowly, tilting his head to the side, studying her. His eyes dip conspicuously, raking along the line of her neck, the gentle slope of her heaving chest. “And more than that. Attachment. Possession.”
There is something heavy in her chest.
“It’s dangerous, isn’t it,” he murmurs, eyes fixed hotly and unflinchingly on her face now, “to become attached to someone? To give them half of your soul? So that you’d burn whole worlds to ash rather than lose them?”
“Yes,” she whispers, standing and backing away. “Very dangerous.”
“Silly girl,” comes his answer, as he rises to follow her till her the jagged stones of the wall pinch into her back. The hut is small and dark and closes in upon them. “Haven’t you been listening? Haven’t you learned anything?” His hand moves to her neck, fingers fanned against the slope of her throat, thumb tilting her chin up to align her eyes with his. “There’s nothing to be feared in passion. We’re wired to feel like this. It’s in our blood.”
In a blur, his lips descend to her jaw, gently sucking at the skin there. Rey closes her eyes, turns her head away, wills to death the tender ache that pulses against her ribcage. But Kylo is insistent, his thumb tilting her chin still higher to allow his lips better access to pulsing artery that runs up her neck.
“Stop,” she scrapes out.
His lips only move lower, settling on the soft flesh at the slope of her shoulder and sucking, hard enough to leave a mark. There’s no tenderness in it, only aggression, a raw urge to possess.
She releases a soft whimper, tears budding in her eyes.
Kylo pulls his lips abruptly from her neck, though his fingers linger there like ghosts, and his thumb is still harsh and prodding under her chin. “Give in,” he whispers as his hand falls to her shoulder, nudging away her vest. In the space of a moment it’s fallen to the floor, and Rey whimpers again, afraid and ashamed all at once.
“Shh,” he murmurs, using one hand to pin hers above her head and dragging the other up the quivering line of her torso. His face is closer now, dangerously close, his lips pink and soft and just opposite hers. “Kiss me.”
As if to encourage her, he nuzzles her gently, the tip of his nose just grazing her cheek.
“I can’t,” she hisses back, in a voice that trembles with fear, restraint, and something else — something she can’t quite place.
“Don’t be afraid,” he says, sucking gently at the curve of her jaw again. “Not of this.”
Rey shudders. And at last, aching for relief, she yields him her mouth with a low, sobbing moan.
His response is immediate, and almost terrifying in its intensity. There’s a raw, savage edge to his movements as he pins her with his hips, licks into her mouth, kisses her so hungrily she can hardly breathe. A hot flood of feeling roars through her, fanning out from between her thighs, from where his hips roll desperately against hers.
He tears at her shirt, his hands quick and fierce, until the fabric is rent and falls away from her body. The bands frustrate him, and he growls into her mouth until they, too, fall to the wet earthen floor of the hut. When he cranes his neck to kiss her breasts, settling his plush lips onto the sensitive flesh, she moans in spite of herself, turns her face away, cheeks flooded hotly with shame.
She shouldn’t want this.
But she does.
He drags his tongue along the underside of her breast, dropping open-mouthed kisses along its slope. “Tell me to stop,” he murmurs, his breath puffing wetly on her skin, as he thumbs a nipple. She wonders dimly if he’d read her thoughts, finds she’s too delirious to care. “Tell me you don’t want this.”
“I—” But she can’t manage anything beyond a gasp as he sucks the puckered bud into his mouth. The rush of heat that shoots to the depths of her abdomen is almost obscene. “Oh,” she sighs, grasping at his neck as he sucks harder. The sighs turn into moans as he takes the other breast in his generous palm, kneading and rolling and pinching the nipple between his fingers.
At length he relieves her breasts, drags his lips lower still.
“What are you doing?” she breathes, watching in awe as he drops a line of kisses down her stomach. His tongue swirls in her belly button, and she gasps in surprise and pleasure at once. Soon he is kneeling before her, hands clutching at her hips, dragging her pants feverishly down her legs.
“Trust me,” is his only reply.
But she gasps, appalled, when he bares her utterly and drags his fingers back up her legs, as if he would touch her there, as intimately as she could ever be touched.
“N—no.” The last of her protest dies in her throat when he slips his index finger inside of her, probes the tender flesh, tests her. It flushes her whole being with heat, sparks every nerve to life.
“Oh, sweetheart,” he breathes reverently, as another finger slides into her, curling gently. “You’re soaking.”
She bites her fist, moans into the clenched cluster of bone and skin.
“I told you,” he hisses lowly, nipping at the soft skin of her thigh. “I told you not to hide.” Now he parts her slowly with his thumbs, draws his lips close to her glistening curls. When he speaks, his breath sings against her aching flesh. “You’re a brave girl,” he murmurs. “You wouldn’t run from the truth. They would. But not you.”
At last his tongue flicks against her and, shot through with something new and dangerous and powerful, Rey doesn’t know whether to scream or cry. Kylo lifts one of her legs over his shoulder, moves his hands again to her hips and pins them firmly against the wall as she squirms under his tongue. When he kisses the bud of nerves that crowns her sex, wraps his generous lips tightly around it and sucks, Rey chokes out a gasping curse and braids her fingers desperately into the black silk of his hair, as if she feels suddenly detached and needs an anchor.
A hand snakes up from her hip to palm her breast again, working the puckered nipple roughly between its fingers. Desperate and aching, Rey covers it with her own, flexes her palm over his fast-working knuckles. “Yes,” she sighs, unprompted, as she leans her head against the wall and arches her chest into the wide, warm expanse of his palm. “Yes, I want this. I want you.”
For a moment, as if in shock, he pauses. His head moves away from the heated juncture of her thighs, his eyes flickering up to hers in wonder. His lips are swollen and slick with her wetness, parted in a half-gasp. Rey feels her chest and neck flush.
“I don’t want you to stop,” she breathes.
When he returns to his work, he seems more eager to please, thrusting two fingers inside her now as his tongue flicks against the tight little nub where something is gathering, something rich and full and powerful and almost painful. She squirms again, panting soft little breaths into the darkening hut, and his elbow presses into her abdomen in a futile attempt to keep her still. But she can’t be still, not now, when his fingers are thrusting slickly inside her, and his tongue is laving her reverently, and her breast barely fits into the impossible width of his flexing hand.
When release comes, and the galaxy seems to shatter to pieces within and without at once, Rey sobs into the cooling twilight, her head rolling back and forth against the wall, breaths coming quickly. Her fingers, still threaded in Kylo’s hair, twist absentmindedly.
At last Rey looks down at him. His eyes are turned upward, twin gems of molten amber, reverent and wondering, and something shifts into place. It feels final and right and long-awaited.
Suddenly she’s collapsed on top of him, straddling his thighs, her fingers working desperately to undo the clasps of his vest. It’s quick work, and once she’s divested him of his wrapped sleeves she moves to his belt, wrenching it off his waist and hooking her thumbs into the band of his pants. “Help me,” she murmurs against his mouth, and she feels her heart flutter when in reply he almost laughs.
They work in tandem to remove his pants. The boots are a more difficult challenge, and Rey huffs in frustration as she yanks them off his feet. When at last his body is bared to her, as hers is to him, she’s overcome with a sudden shyness, but he pulls her into his lap and guides her hands to the juncture of his thighs, where she settles her fingers delicately against him. He’s warm and hard beneath her touch, and in the pulsing space between them she almost feels the ache herself.
He holds her chin as she sinks down onto him, forces her eyes to hold his, even as she whimpers softly in pain. “Look at me,” he murmurs, as tears bead in her eyes. Her lower lip quivers, and he takes it between his, worrying the tender flesh lightly with his teeth.
In time, with his hands at her hips, guiding her movements up and down, they fall into a rhythm. As he pushes deeper into her, Rey gasps, lowering her head to where his neck slopes into his shoulder, clutching desperately at the scarred skin of his back. But beneath the pain is something else. Something she knows for herself now, something that blossoms and burns at once.
Once he lifts her off of him, and the head of his cock catches on her, and she gasps, in some delirious haze between pain and pleasure, “Kylo!”
“No,” he groans, releasing a short, choked gasp to match hers when he brings her down again and she clenches around him. “Ben. I want you to call me Ben.”
“Ben,” she says, and the name is honey on her tongue.
His arm tightens around her waist, his face falling to her sweat-slick chest, lips murmuring fervent nothings into the heave of her breasts. Her fingers thread in his hair, holding him there as she rolls against him. There’s something startlingly intimate in the connection of their bodies, something that hints at a connection deeper and realer still. Even now, as she tilts his chin up to kiss his lips, to sigh her pleasure into his mouth, she feels his own deep in her bones. She feels him, all of him, body and soul. Maybe she’s always felt him — in dreams, in memories, in the Force.
They come together, their broken sobs mingling in the cooling air between them, fading into silence punctured only by the dying crackle of the fire. Outside the island is shrouded in darkness, but as Rey slumps against Ben’s chest, leans her head against his broad and steady shoulder, she finds she doesn’t fear it as she once did. In the morning the darkness will yield, and life will flourish anew under the sun.