“King of the Night.” Kylo knew Rey would not lower herself to kneel before anyone but him, but she stopped in the doorway of the throne room, inclining her head respectfully to her King before stepping forward into their shared chamber. A strip of white stone bisected the gleaming, black floor, leading to their thrones, and she walked along that path of light, the path that he, too, now walked.
She always seemed… radiant, as though the sun itself willingly let her borrow its warmth. The strands of gold woven into her gossamer cape caught the glow, making it look as though his Queen walked as a Valkyrie – as a Goddess – upon a river of light. The halo-like crown Rey wore contrasted with her dark hair; the ivory of her gown with her golden, freckled skin as the material moved like water around her body. Her intricate gown left her sides and her back bare under her sheer cape, and Kylo ached to run the tips of his fingers along her soft skin, to encircle her slim waist in his large hands, to trace the sun emblems at her belt and at her throat.
Strangely to him, Rey had started out refusing the beautiful gowns and robes of leadership. She had come from nothing. She had never worn shimmersilk or crushed velvet or delicate embroidery or polished jewels. Kylo – the son of nobility, the lineage of Knight and Queen and Princess and General, who had always had nice things – had been dumbfounded to hear Rey confess that she did not believe she was worthy of such finery. Did she not know she had it around the wrong way? It was he who did not deserve it. He had had so much and had destroyed it all. Rey was the embodiment of light: warm and bright and so, so alive. She was so pure and strong, and she had suffered so much; she was the one that deserved now to know peace and plenty.
As Rey approached, Kylo surreptitiously straightened his simple diadem – the four, silver bands across his forehead were the only thing left of his mask after he had left it shattered so many years ago – smoothed his hands over the silver stars embroidered along the sleeves of his floor-length overtunic, adjusted the crescent moon clasps that held his black cape in place. Even now, there was part of him that didn’t entirely believe he deserved to be in the presence of such glory.
Kylo Ren could easily lose himself in his Queen’s beauty. She had always had this… juxtaposition to her, this balance of things that he had never thought could be balanced. She ruled beside him with both softness and strength.
Fire was light, but by the stars, could it burn.
Rey had brought out the balance in him. She made him whole.
“Queen of the Day,” he greeted her.
Rey took her place beside him on a throne of marble carved more delicately than he thought stone could be carved. Even when creating them did Kylo realize the importance of balance. Within the marble of his Queen’s throne, black dappled the white like shadows. Within the marble of his own throne, white shone through the cracks in the black. That balance made them exquisite.
He had once wished to destroy her, to rip her like a red rose from her bed of thorns – the murderers, traitors, and thieves she had called friends – and pluck her petals away one by one by one. After Kylo had become the new High Priest of the Brotherhood of Darkness following the death of Snoke, he had waged war. And, he had succeeded in destroying his enemies, in that final battle between darkness and light. His only sacrifice was part of his face, which had been lost to a raw scar.
However, his victory had been a double-edged sabre. In destroying the light, he had destroyed the darkness. In destroying the day, he had destroyed the night.
He had learned that one could not exist without the other.
Nothing grew in darkness. Plants had withered without the sun. The winds had died. Weather systems had ceased. The planet had turned cold and frozen. The womb of their world had become barren. He had thought that the world would be reborn in darkness, but nothing could be born in a place where there was no life.
That barren world had changed him. Why hunger for power when there was nothing left to rule over? Kylo Ren had longed to become King, King of the World, King of the Brotherhood of Darkness. Instead, he had become King of Dying Men. King of No-One. King of Nothing.
Searching for Rey had been a last resort, but he had found her, and bowed before her in humble submission. He had begged for her forgiveness, begged for her light, begged for his life, begged for the lives of his brothers.
He had offered her darkness; he had offered her power. Finally, desperate and alone, Kylo had offered her the only thing he had left to offer: himself.
Kylo thought Rey would forsake him. He knew that, before, she had wished to destroy him as he wished to destroy her. He had come to her prepared to die at her hand. He had always known, somewhere deep inside himself, that he would die a monster.
However, she had accepted him.
He had looked into her eyes, and – for once – he had not seen the reflection of a monster. Neither had he seen a reflection distorted with pity.
Kylo had seen himself through her eyes, clearly and openly. He had been taken aback by how sickly he had been. His skin had always been pale, but in the reflection of Rey’s eyes, it had looked translucent, ghostly, under her light. His eyes were sunken into cadaverous, dark hollows. The scar that ripped his face in two was scabbed and livid. His black cloak had hung off his skeletal shoulders. He had looked like a moonbeam smothered in shadow. He had looked like the personification of everlasting night. He had looked like Death.
When he had held a hand out to her – a hand with webs of dark veins under sickly skin, with long, thin fingers like dead twigs – she had taken his hand and pulled him to his feet. Rey had smiled at him, a smile that lit up her eyes, a smile as bright as the sun that had turned its back on him. He had smiled back, feeling warm and alive for the first time since he was a child.
Hand in hand, they had brought light to the darkness.
Rey’s cool, slim fingers sliding through his brought Kylo back to the present, and he looked over at his Queen as he squeezed her hand. Her hands looked so small and delicate in his.
“Are you okay?” she asked him, “You seemed… distant for a moment.”
Kylo leaned over the arm of his throne and kissed Rey’s cheek, letting his head drop and his forehead rest upon her freckled shoulder. The sun clasp that held her cape in place dug into his temple between the bands of his silver diadem, but he didn’t want to move. Could he tell her? Was he strong enough? Could he look her in the eye and speak aloud of his failings?
“I was thinking about how many mistakes I’ve made, and how grateful I am that you are by my side despite everything I’ve done.”
Rey’s smile still warmed him as much as it had that day he had found her. She had always been his light in the darkness, even before he had the words to admit it.
She cupped his face in her palm and pressed a kiss to his plush lips, the tip of his aquiline nose, his forehead hidden under a dark curtain of hair.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Kylo sighed, looking down at his hands. They were shaking. It had taken him a long time to learn how to be open with her – with anyone – and it still scared him, but she had impressed on him the importance of learning to trust again. “But, sometimes, I remember everything I’ve done, all the blood on my hands, and I cannot think of myself as anything but a monster. It makes it hard to believe someone like you can truly love someone like me.”
“Darling, listen to me.” Rey tilted his head up, making him meet her gaze. “You forget that ‘someone like me’ was as drawn to the dark side as strongly you were, and if I had had some… some… evil…” Rey floundered for the right words to describe Snoke – the old High Priest of the Brotherhood of Darkness – and Kylo almost chuckled at her unqueenly, overprotective, tongue-tied righteousness, “some evil, abusive, kriffing… nightmare influencing me from childhood, I would have gone down the same path. We’re more similar than we ever would have thought then. But, now, I’m not sure I would have been as brave as you were… as brave as you are. Yours has been a life that not many would have survived.
‘Remember that that you beat him, Kylo, my love. You. Beat. Snoke. In doing so, you saved my life when I was at my most vulnerable, even though we were enemies then.
‘I felt, even then, the light in you. I felt how much the conflict was tearing you apart. We had always been taught that darkness and light could not exist inside the same person. We know differently now. Together, we have found the balance. We have started an Order better than either Jedi or Sith, because we have learned, through everything that we have been through, that light and dark both have a place in a person’s soul. Your grandfather… Vader… Anakin turned for the same reason you did; because he thought he had to choose, instead of embracing both light and dark.”
Rey’s beautiful, intense face blurred in Kylo’s vision like he was looking into the sun, and he tore his gaze away from hers so that she didn’t see the tears that glistened in the corners of his eyes.
Silently, he slid out of his carved throne, landing in an ungainly heap at his Queen’s feet.
She was the only one he would ever kneel before. She, with her gentleness and her forgiveness and her light, was the only one who could bring him to tears. How could she say such kind things about him, and with such certainty? Her belief in him overwhelmed him, dazed him, like stepping out into bright sunlight after years in the dark.
Kylo rested his head in Rey’s lap, squeezing his eyes shut, trying to stop his shoulders shaking. There was still a part of him that hated this – that part that had been trained by Snoke to hate feeling weak and pathetic and childish, that hated showing anything but anger, that hated the lump-in-his-throat helplessness of losing himself to tears, that hated other people seeing the depth of the void inside him – but it was slowly releasing its grip on him. Rey was teaching him that it was permissible to feel joy and sorrow, fear and courage, pain and euphoria, surprise and disgust. He didn’t have to always be strong for her, because she was strong for him when he needed her to be.
Even guilty and grieving, Kylo felt calm in her presence. Gone were his days of destructive rages; gone were his days of feeling anger just to prove he could still feel something other than what he thought was weakness. He was learning to accept sadness now.
Kylo felt cool, slender fingers running through his thick hair. Giving himself up to the wave of – he didn’t even have a name for what he felt. Relief? Grief? Something in between? – he wept in shuddering, shaking gulps, gripping handfuls of Rey’s dress like a frightened child as she stroked his hair and made soft “sshhh” noises.
“I thought… I thought… that I had burned all my bridges… that… even when I… I realized what… Snoke had done… that my family… wouldn’t forgive me… that they abandoned me…. I thought they abandoned me.” Kylo sobbed, pressing his face into her knees like a child, “I thought I was too far gone to ever prove I was worth anything to them… to you. The only thing I had left was the path I had started. I’m so sorry, Rey.”
Rey kissed his forehead. Kylo looked up at his Queen, the only one he would show this… weakness to. Through his blurry, tear-swollen eyes, her halo-like crown made her look like an angel. His guardian angel.
“One day soon, the last, lingering marks of Snoke’s presence in your life will fade,” Rey promised, “I know they will.”
Like she had not so long before, Rey took Kylo’s hand and pulled him to his feet. She stood to wrap her arms around him tightly, resting her head on his shoulder and rocking back and forth.
Kylo clung to her. He breathed her in, her scent of warm sand and linen and sunlight. Her heartbeat was steady and sure against his chest, and it calmed him. Tears soaked into the gossamer material of her gown. How did he ever come to deserve such a person as her?
“I know that your heart was in the right place, darling,” Rey started, “and you were doing what you thought was right, even though I didn’t agree with your methods. You realized that what Snoke was doing was wrong, and that he and everything he stood for needed to end. You realized that everything we knew under the Brotherhood of Darkness had been built by a fallen Jedi, on the back of a Sith plot, on hatred and conflict and inequity and lust for power, and that… that… anything built on top of foundations that unstable wouldn’t work, no matter how hard we tried, and so we needed to start from nothing again.” Rey released a breath; she was still coming to terms with that. “The SunLand Sisters’ Rebellion also had their hearts in the right place, trying to save the core of goodness within the galaxy.”
In the end, it had taken utter loss to see everything they had, to see the ground on which to make new foundations for the galaxy they wanted.
Luke had been right; the Jedi had needed to end. Even though they had strived for balance, they had gone about it in the wrong way for generations. Emotional detachment did not make one strong. Only light did not make one balanced.
Rose had been right; while their hate for those who had held them down was justified, holding close the people they loved was what made them strong enough to make things better. Even in barren darkness, Rey had been surrounded by people who she considered her family. That was how she had survived.
That was what the old Kylo Ren had gotten wrong. He had not given the people of the SunLands the credit that they could learn and change.
Rebuilding from the ground up had been difficult, but she and Kylo had done it together. They had been honest with the people they now ruled over, releasing a holovid explaining everything from the very beginning: the long war between Jedi and Sith that had splintered into the Brotherhood of Darkness and the SunLand Sisters generations ago; the final battle that had led to seemingly unending darkness; Kylo’s revelation; the joining of forces so that dark and light found balance; the form of government that the people would elect; the brave, new world that would grow from the ashes.
People who had grown up fighting did not easily release old prejudices. That change would be many generations of education and compromise in coming, but it would change.
Slowly, Kylo took a deep breath, and then another, and then another. He went to rub at his eyes impatiently, but Rey stayed his wrist.
“Don’t be ashamed, love,” she murmured. “There is no shame in tears.”
Rey wiped away his tears with gentle strokes of her thumbs and eased him back into his throne. He sat down heavily.
Standing before him, Rey held his face in her hands and kissed his forehead, before taking her own seat beside him. She took his hand and turned her sunlight face to him, and he felt her presence within his mind. He felt the bond between them become tangible, weaving them together like strands of silver and gold. Kylo looked into her eyes, and he did not see the reflection of a monster. He did not see a reflection distorted with pity.
Kylo saw himself through her eyes, clearly and openly. He was taken aback by how healthy he looked now. His scar was almost healed, nothing more than a faint, white line on fair, flushed skin. Life burned through in his dark eyes. He had filled out, too, the musculature of his arms and chest toned and powerful under his black tunic.
Even greater, under it all, Kylo saw strength, true strength. It was something more than just physical prowess or big muscles, but a sureness that had not been there before. He saw through Rey’s eyes a protector, an equal, a friend. He saw love within himself. He saw creation. He saw destruction. He saw change. He saw an ability for both good and evil.
He saw balance.
Rey smiled at him, a smile as bright as the sun, and he felt such love radiating from that smile. Rey, his Queen, his guardian angel, his light in the darkness. She, who had not saved him, but had given him a safe place to heal and trust again. He loved Rey more deeply than he had thought he could love. He smiled back at her and squeezed her hand, feeling warm and alive for the first time since he found her. He felt sure for the first time since he was a child. He felt loved.
Slowly, like a tide swilling away within him, Kylo felt the last waves of guilt and pain wash away. He saw his past fade into sea mist, tragic and grand and destined as it had been. Cleansed of Snoke’s touch, Kylo was at peace at last.
Life and death, warmth and cold, order and chaos. Light and darkness. Sun and moon. Energy. The force of all living things. The galaxy was in balance.