Rey waits in the hall outside the throne room, trying not to pace. It’s only her second day at the castle and the first time she’ll be presented as the new court musician. When she finally hears her name called and the doors are opened, she’s composed and begins her walk down the long hall. The entire court is assembled along the sides of the room watching, waiting for her introduction. When she reaches the dais, she curtseys to Queen Leia and Prince Ben. The third throne is empty, still in the room from before King Han’s passing.
Queen Leia is the first to speak, “Welcome to Aldera, Miss Rey. I am pleased to introduce you as our new court musician. To celebrate your arrival, a ball will be hosted in a month. It has been too long since a proper celebration at court. It would please me to have you perform at it.”
“Of course, Your Majesty.” Rey answers. She looks over at Prince Ben who quickly glances away from her.
“Very good, thank you. My brother, Luke Skywalker, has offered to help you prepare for the ball.” Leia gestures towards Luke standing just off to the side of the dais who in turn gives a short bow. “I can only speak for myself, but I am sure the court agrees, I am thankful you accepted this position and am eager to hear your performance.”
Rey gives another curtsey before courtiers are rushing to her to greet. It’s the most people she’s ever met before and a little overwhelming, but everyone does seem genuinely interested in making her acquaintance. There are smiles all around and Rey feels excited to start her new life at court.
For her first lesson with Master Skywalker, he starts her off with scales and chords. Once he’s sure she knows the basics, he gives her a short, simple piece to play. When Rey plays it perfectly through the first time, she can tell Master Skywalker is impressed but he only gives her a nod.
“Do you have anything in mind to play at the ball?” He asks.
“We didn’t have many balls at the Academy, but I do know one traditional song.”
“Go ahead and play that now for me.”
Rey plays the uptempo song from start to finish, nailing it.
“I’ve only seen this talent once before. You have the makings of a great pianist, Rey.”
Not used to compliments, Rey is unsure what to say besides a small “thank you.”
After that, Master Skywalker rummages around his papers and books finding different pieces for Rey to try out. She settles on a few of them that tonally match her original piece. They go through them together once before Master Skywalker checks his watch.
“You must excuse me, but I have other things to attend to. You are more than welcome to continue practicing in here. From now on, you can treat this room like your own and use it any time you’d like. We will continue next week.” With a short nod, Master Skywalker leaves the music room. Rey takes him up on his offer and continues practicing.
Rey is so intent on practicing the music, that she only notices there’s someone else in the room when they clear their throat after she’s finished a song. She whips around, frowning and upset that someone would interrupt her on something so important. When she realizes it’s Prince Ben, she nearly tumbles off the piano bench in her haste to curtsey to him.
“Your Highness, I did not realize it was you.”
He just looks at her with a pained expression, “What were you playing there?”
“My first piece for the ball.”
“It sounded harsh. That piece is supposed to be more fluid.”
Rey raises an eyebrow at him. “My intent is for it to be lively--to motivate people to dance and have a good time. If it sounded harsh I can only assume that it is because you have always heard it as part of a concert, not a ball.”
“If you wanted a piece for a ball, you should not have chosen that one.” Instead of insulting her prince, Rey just stares at him. When she does not respond, he continues, “You need a teacher.”
“I have a teacher. I have been taking music lessons since I was six and now I’m training under your uncle. If you know so much, why don’t you just play?” Rey demands.
Ben angrily stares at her, working his jaw a minute before responding, “It is unseemly for a prince to play at such instruments.”
“Your uncle is the best pianist in the kingdom.”
“Do not talk to me about my uncle.” His eyes are hard. Rey stares back at him, unnerved. He bows his head before taking on a softer tone, “Excuse me, my lady.”
He quickly turns and exits the music room, leaving Rey too distracted to practice any more that day.
Besides meeting weekly with Master Skywalker and practicing, Rey doesn't have many responsibilities. It’s a nice change from being at the Academy where she and the other students were expected to clean, cook and otherwise take care of the manor when not practicing.
With her free time, Rey wanders about the castle, exploring. Her favorite so far is a gallery filled with portraits. Queen Leia is in a few and Prince Ben is in a couple, but she doesn’t recognize any of the other painted people. She assumes they must be their ancestors, those who have ruled Alderaan before them. They certainly look regal with their styled hair, ornate jewelry and heavy, textured clothes. Rey isn’t sure how long she spends in the long, narrow room, but it feels like hours, pouring over each painting.
After the gallery, Rey wanders into the ballroom. For now it’s empty, but she’s sure for the ball there will be more than enough people that the room will feel small. Across the hall is the grand music room, the one where she’ll be performing. It’s smaller than the ballroom, but still a respectable size. At least fifty people could fit comfortably, she thinks. It’s the most she’ll ever have performed in front of before. The thought’s a little worrisome, but Rey knows with enough practice she’ll do fine.
She wanders out of the grand music room and continues exploring the castle. She goes past numerous empty but gorgeous rooms.She isn’t paying too much attention, distracted by looking at the art on the walls or the pattern of the flooring, and so she wanders into an occupied room. She only notices when the voices stop and she feels eyes looking at her. When she looks at the speakers, she immediately drops into a curtsey for Prince Ben and his advisor, Lord Snoke.
“Excuse me, I was not paying attention and wandered into here.”
Before she can say much more, Snoke greets her, “Young Rey, I haven’t had a chance to welcome you to court. Come closer, child.”
Rey glances at Ben whose face is expressionless. She rises from her curtsey and goes closer to where the men are sitting. Snoke continues, “Have a seat, join us for a minute.”
Rey sits on the edge of the sofa Ben is on the other side of, across from Snoke. The older gentleman speaks first again, “How are you finding court so far, Rey?”
“I have only been here a week, but everyone is quite welcoming.”
“And how is your music coming long? The Prince tells me you are quite accomplished.”
Rey glances over at Ben who is still maintaining an expressionless face, staring somewhere behind Lord Snoke, his eye twitching slightly. “I have only just picked out my pieces for the ball, but I have been attending a music academy since I was six.”
“Ah, very good. It is nice to have new music in our halls. It has been been too long, wouldn’t you agree, Prince Ben?”
Ben starts a bit at his name before quickly recovering, “It has, yes.”
“He would have a great proficient, if his duties had allowed him. However, ruling a kingdom is more important than being a musician.”
Rey can feel her cheeks get a little warm and Ben’s eyes on her. While not exactly an insult, it isn’t like she was born into royalty like they were, but being a musician is her profession and never something she thought as an insult before. She merely nods her head and stares at her hands in her lap.
“But I suppose someone has to do it.” Snoke continues and Rey can now feel his eyes on her as well. “I hope you will fit in nicely at our court, Miss Rey. I wish you luck on your performance.”
She can tell that she is being dismissed from the conversation, so she stands up and gives a nod to Snoke and then turns, intending to give one to Prince Ben as well. But when she looks at Ben, his eyes seemed pained. It makes her pause a second to stare into them. Snoke clears his throat and Rey remembers herself. “Glad to have met you both. Good day.”
She exits the room, trying not to rush out too quickly. When she’s a few doors down from the room, she pauses and takes some deep breaths. Lord Snoke’s conversation and Ben’s eyes have rattled her a bit. Once she’s composed herself, she heads to her music room to practice. If some are already doubting her, she wants to be sure her performance is perfect. She’ll show them that she does deserve a place at court.
Rey’s curled up with a book in the library when she’s surprised by a messenger. He does nothing more than hand her the card and announce it’s from the queen before leaving.
Rey immediately puts her book down and opens the letter. She hasn’t heard from Queen Leia since her initial introduction when she first arrived at court. It’s an invitation to tea later that afternoon with in her private rooms. Rey spends the time until tea worrying about the motive behind the invitation, but she is immediately calmed when she’s greeted with a warm smile.
“Good afternoon, Miss Rey. Thank you for joining me today. I realized we haven’t had much time to get acquainted.” The queen pours the tea for herself and Rey as there are no servants but just the two of them.
“I understand you’re very busy ruling a country, Your Majesty, and that I am only a musician.” Rey hasn’t ever had one-on-one time with anyone as important as the queen.
The queen gently lays her hand on Rey’s arm, “Please, call me Leia. All those titles and nonsense are for others. We can just be ladies having tea together.”
Rey nods and sips her tea, unsure of what to say next. Thankfully Leia is much more rehearsed in conversation and easily guides it. “My brother tells me you are quite wonderful on the piano. Where did you learn?”
“I attended Mr. Plutt’s musical academy for thirteen years, since I was six, before I applied for a position here. We had daily lessons and practices there, but I’ve been told I was born with a talent for music.”
“I am looking forward to hearing you play at the ball. I know it will be wonderful.” Leia’s eyes are soft like her son’s and Rey wonders if she’s where he learned it from. “I don’t have much time to play these days, but long ago I used to regularly. I hope to be able to pick it up again as Ben is taking on more responsibilities for the kingdom. Have you had the chance to meet my son yet?”
Rey sips her tea, pondering her answer. She’s only met the Prince twice, neither of which were overly pleasant. “I have met him a couple times. He seems...”
Leia gives her a small smile, “I know my son can be difficult at times. I apologize if he’s been rude to you. He inherited his father’s sense of diplomacy rather than mine.”
Rey smiles back, thankful for the queen’s understanding. “He...I think he was trying to give advice, but he didn’t have much charisma to it. He was very quiet the second time I met him. I don’t feel like I have properly met him yet so I cannot make any judgements.”
“I’ve known him for his entire twenty-nine years and I sometimes feel like I still don’t know him. But I am his mother and he doesn’t tell me everything of course.” Talking with Leia is so easy and flows so simply that Rey forgets about time and enjoys herself. It’s only when the tea has gotten cold and there’s a knock at the door that Rey is conscious of the passed time.
“Come in,” Leia calls at the knock and King Han’s former steward, Sir Chewbacca, enters. The Queen places her cup down and turns to Rey, “Thank you for having tea with me. I had a lovely afternoon. However, someone must rule the country, so you must excuse me.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” Rey curtseys to Leia and then to Chewbacca before leaving the room. She feels the best and most comfortable she has since she’s arrived at court, thankful for her kind and generous queen.
Rey’s lessons continue with Master Skywalker, but he seems very apathetic about them and music in general. She’s heard rumors that he hasn’t taught or even played the piano in many years. He was once the greatest musician in the kingdom, but he doesn’t even touch the piano during their lessons. He just directs her and offers suggestions for her pieces.
“Master Skywalker, why don’t you play the piano anymore?” Rey asks after her third lesson with him.
Luke stares at her for a long while, quiet. “I used to train many. I had my own academy, even. I thought I could create the next generation of great musicians. But in my hubris, I neglected to see how hard I was on the children. At the end, I didn’t see them as children anymore, just musicians. I was horrible to them and it broke everyone involved.”
He looks sadly at the piano before continuing, “It’s hard enough to teach now, but to play, brings back bad memories. Prince Ben was a great pianist once, too.”
He looks near to tears when he looks back up at her. “I don’t play anymore because it’s painful. I’ve learned from my mistakes as a teacher, but I never want another academy. It’s not easy to teach you now, but I know it’s the right thing to do.”
Rey stares back at him, unsure what to say. She swallows hard before replying, “Thank you, Master Skywalker. The kingdom is better for it.”
Luke simply nods before sitting back down with Rey at the piano. “Let’s run through your pieces again.”
He nods again and Rey begins playing once more.
After her lesson, Rey decides to explore the grounds some, despite the fact that it’s raining. The Academy was in an arid climate so she loves the rain. She starts out in the Queen’s Rose Garden because it is the closest to the castle. Rey doesn’t pay attention to the rain soaking her but is completely focused on the flowers. She’s never seen this much green or this many beautiful colors of blooms.
“Miss Rey, would you like an umbrella?” She’s startled by Prince Ben shouting from the covered walkway around the rose garden. He’s holding out an umbrella to her.
Rey glances down at her now thoroughly soaked dress and then up at the sky. She scrunches her nose up while shouting back, “No, I don’t think it would do much good now!”
Ben smiles at her, before setting the umbrella down and joining her in the garden. “Do you enjoy flowers, Rey?”
“They’re enchanting. I’ve never seen so many before. It was hard to get much to grow at the Academy, over in the Jakku deserts, so we only ever grew plants for food, never beauty.”
Ben’s eyes are so incredibly soft. It’s very unlike the rumors Rey has heard about the Crown Prince throughout her life. He is known to have a temper and be rude, much like he was the first time they met in the music room. But ever since then, he’s been kind and listens to her.
“My mother planted and tends most of these. She has help, of course, but she likes to make this garden her own. She really started up when my father passed.” She’s heard rumors about that day, too. It’s been a year since King Han’s passing. The fact is that Han was gravely injured during a hunting expedition with Ben, Lord Snoke, his steward Chewbacca and a few knights. The injury left him in a coma for a few days before he passed away. Beyond that, there are only rumors of what happened. The most common one is that Ben had something to do with it.
Rey had idolized King Han since she can remember. Everyone knows his humble background as a commoner before joining Luke Skywalker in rescuing then Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader. Then the eventual romance and wedding to the Princess, to become royalty. It was Rey’s hope that the same could happen to her. She would do something brave and be able to leave her miserable life at the Academy. She could have a family someday, and maybe even her parents would hear about her bravery and come back to her.
Rey’s realized she’s been quiet for a while, stuck in her own thoughts, when Ben clears his throat before asking, “Are you alright, Miss Rey?”
“I...yes. I’m alright, thank you.” She’s thankful for the rain because she’s pretty sure she has shed a tear. It appears that Ben has noticed, though, as he’s looking at her very tenderly. She feels like she could get lost in his eyes. The way he’s looking at her like this. In order to get away from the moment, she says the first thing in her mind. “Did you kill your father?”
She immediately regrets it when his eyes turn hard and his lips become a tight line. “Is this what you think of me? Do you believe all the rumors that come out of the palace?”
“Please forgive me, Your Highness. I...I only--”
Ben’s look of absolute bitterness stills her. Whereas a second ago she’d been unable to talk because of the softness in his eyes, it’s the hardness that quiets her now. They stare at each other in the rain, before Ben abruptly turns and leaves the garden. Rey is left standing there thankful once again for the rain to hide her tears.
Finally, after a month of practice, the ball is only a couple days away. Rey hasn’t spoken to Prince Ben since their encounter in the rose garden a week ago, nor has she seen him around the castle.
Rey’s finished another lesson with Master Skywalker and is still practicing in the music room. Seeing as the ball is so soon, she wants her performance to be perfect. She has been spending the entirety of her time not sleeping or eating in the music room practicing.
Once again absorbed by the music, she fails to notice when Prince Ben comes into the room until he is standing at the piano next to her. She continues to play the piece because she doesn’t want to look away from the music and up at him. She’s afraid of the look in his eyes.
However, the piece does eventually come to its end and she’s left with her fingers on the now quiet keys and her eyes in the blank margin of the sheet music. Ben is still just standing there, his hands on the closed lid of the piano.
“I wanted to apologize for how rude I was in the garden last week.” Only then does Rey look up at him, to find softness in his eyes again.
“I should be the one apologizing, Your Highness. I overstepped with my question.” He simply nods at that and they’re left in silence again. It’s not uncomfortable, though, as Rey is measuring the look in his eyes and finds no anger left in them. She hopes her own look is apologetic and sincere.
Ben is the first to speak again, “That piece you were playing sounds lovely--just the right sort of mood for a ball.”
There’s a slight smile on his face now, which Rey returns. “Thank you. It’s my favorite.”
They’re left in comfortable silence again before Rey ventures to speak, “Would you like to hear another?”
“Please, I’d love to.” Ben warmly responds. One last smile is shared between them before Rey moves a couple sheets around and finds the next piece. She’s just about to start playing when the door creaks open.
“There you are, Your Highness. Did you forget about our finances meeting?” Lord Snoke’s voice grates on Rey. Ben’s hands immediately leave the piano and he stands up straighter. Rey glances between him and Snoke. Ben nods and quietly heads to the door. When he passes Snoke, the older man puts his hand on his shoulder and ushers him out, closing the door behind him.
On the morning of the ball, Rey is awoken by a knock on her door. She quickly throws on a robe and answers it. Outside is a short, excited looking woman. “Good morning, Miss Rey. I’m Lady Rose and I’m here to help you get ready for this evening.”
Rey just stares at the girl so the shorter one continues, “Her Highness, Queen Leia, sent me. She said you might need some help dressing up for the ball as she believed you haven’t attended one before. Her letter said she’d be sending down some dress options later.”
Rey, brain still groggy from sleep, continues just staring at the poor girl. “May I come in and help you get ready for the ball?”
Rey nods and opens the door wider for the woman to come through. Lady Rose had thankfully ordered up some tea and breakfast before arriving. She makes Rey bathe before styling her hair. Of the dresses Leia sends, Rey chooses the simplest one. A flowing, white gown that won’t constrict her movements for her performance.
As she gets ready, Rey learns a lot about the Lady Rose. She comes from Hays County to the north where she rules
Rey feels like a different person after she’s dressed and ready. She usually keeps her hair tied up tight into buns, but Rose has styled it more loosely and down. The dress is also unlike anything she’s ever worn. It’s flowy and dramatic whereas Rey usually wears simple dresses. She feels beautiful, but very unlike herself.
“Thank you for your assistance, Rose. I couldn’t have done this without you,” Rey is thankful for the other woman and her help.
“You look wonderful, Rey. I hope to see you downstairs at the ball. There will be so many people but I know to find you where the piano is.” Rose’s smile is infectious and soon Rey is smiling with her.
They say their goodbyes before Rose is on her way to get ready herself. Without anything else to prepare, Rey goes down to the music room to practice a bit more. Master Skywalker eventually finds her there, going over her pieces one last time.
“Breathe, Rey. Your performance will be fantastic.” Luke’s eyes are the warmest Rey has ever seen them. It seems impossible for anyone to be in a foul mood when there’s such festivities going on in the castle. The cooks have begun setting out the food so it smells divine and last minute things are going into place.
“Thank you, Master Skywalker. This is my first performance in front of court is all,” Rey can hear how nervous she is. She knows she can play the pieces and her performance will be good. She gives a small smile to her teacher before heading out of the room.
Already the castle is filling up with people, but there is still plenty of room to move around. Rey sees Lady Rose across the hall and waves to her. They meet at a table full of food and have some bites and small conversation together before Rey makes her way to the piano.
Once she’s seated, it’s like everyone else in the room doesn’t exist---it’s just her and the piano. She launches into the first piece and everything slides into place. The notes are ringing in the room and she can tell it sounds just right. She can’t help but smile.
After finishing her first set, Rey looks up from the piano right into Prince Ben’s eyes. “May I have the next dance, Miss Rey?”
Rey hesitates a second before replying, “I’m only halfway done with my performance, I--”
Suddenly, Queen Leia is also at the piano. “Oh, nonsense. Your prince asked you to dance and you deserve a break after that wonderful performance.”
Rey looks between the two royals, before nodding her head at Ben and replying “You may have the next dance.”
He nods in return before turning and heading out of the room. Rey stares after him before glancing at Leia once more who gives her a gentle smile before following the prince.
Lined up on her side of the floor, Rey glances nervously towards her partner and about the room. But before she can remove herself from the situation, the music starts up and she curtseys to Ben while he bows to her.
When they meet in the middle, Rey decides honesty is best, “I...I haven’t danced much before. I only learned the basic steps at the Academy. It was really more dedicated to learning how to play music, not how to dance to it.”
He has a small smile. “Fortunately, I have been taking dance lessons since I was able to walk. I won’t let you look ridiculous.”
They dance in silence for a minute before Rey smiles and says, “It’s your turn to start a conversation. I remarked upon my dancing, now you ought to say something about the other couples or insult how the music is being played.”
He glances down at her and says, “I’d be happy to. What would you most like to hear?”
Feeling emboldened by his tease, Rey says, “Tell me something about yourself.”
Ben’s eyebrows raise a little, as if in surprise at her forwardness, before his smile returns. “I’m afraid I don’t live that exciting of a life.”
Rey gives him a look. “The Crown Prince of Alderaan doesn’t live an exciting life? No ponies to tell me about or any princesses from far off lands throwing themselves at your feet? No details about your coronation ceremony to gossip about?”
“Are you...are you laughing at me?”
“I am teasing you, Your Highness. Haven’t you ever been teased before?”
“Ah. Growing up...” He’s working his jaw again, much like he did in the music room weeks ago. “I did not have the company of many children growing up. I am my mother’s only heir and with no cousins, it was rare that I spent time with children. Children don’t care about titles, but adults do, and they are afraid to tease a prince.”
“Well, I cannot tease you about that. What a shame, for I’d love to laugh.” Rey’s voice is soft as she looks up and smiles at Ben.
“I hope to afford you more laughter in the future.” Ben’s eyes are as soft as Rey’s voice, mirroring and in balance. Much like her time at the piano, everything besides her and Ben dancing to the music fades away.
Rey only notices the dance is over when the other couples have stopped moving beside them and begin clapping. Then she realizes the music has stopped and it’s not just her and Ben in the room. He’s still staring at her like she is the only person in the room, however.
“Would you like to take a walk, Miss Rey?”
Rey follows Ben out of the ballroom and down some hallways until they exit the castle into the rose garden. They walk quietly together along the covered walkway. Ben is the first to break the silence, “I don’t dance much either. Really only for balls and even then, only when required. Like with those princesses you mentioned.”
“I’m no princess.”
“No, you’re nobody.” Rey stops walking and blinks a couple times. Ben stops a step ahead before turning back to face her. “But not to me.”
Rey gives him a hard look, but she only sees that same softness and honestly in his eyes. “I am a court musician and I earned my way here by practicing for thirteen years.”
“Yes, completely. Your talent is astonishing. You’re the best pianist I’ve ever heard.” His eyes haven’t changed, still honest and caring.
Rey takes a step to be next to him again and when she responds her voice is light. “Calling someone nobody is not a good way to show you care about them.”
Ben hangs his head but she can tell the corners of his lips are turned up. “I mentioned I wasn’t good at teasing, I meant to say I’m not good at communicating with people in general.”
“Well, perhaps you should practice.”
He glances quickly at her with a small smile still on his face before they both begin walking again. Ben’s quiet for a second before quickly asking, “How are you liking court so far?”
Rey wonders if he knows he’s echoing what Lord Snoke had asked her when they first met. “It’s quite different from the Academy. The freedom is worth the stress of performing in front of so many.”
Ben is watching her, she can feel him wanting to question her. He softly asks, “What did you do at the Academy?”
Rey chews on her lip a second before deciding to go with complete honesty. “There were lots of lessons and practicing, but between that, we were expected to take care of the upkeep of the manor. The cleaning and cooking and everything.”
“You didn’t have servants to take care of those things?”
Rey stops herself from rolling her eyes at him. “No, any way Mr. Plutt could cut costs, he would. Not all of us grew up in a castle.”
“But you were just a child, Rey.”
Rey bites her lip again before replying. “That’s...that’s how it was.”
“But you do see that’s not right, don’t you? Children should be able to have fun and be creative and...be a child.”
“Yes, but that’s not how it always is, Ben. It’ll be your kingdom someday so maybe you can change it then, but for now, sometimes children are left at an academy when they’re young and they do what they can to be good so their parents will come back.”
They walk in silence for a couple minutes after that.
Ben draws a deep breath before speaking again, “Snoke says that too much money already goes into the education system. I don’t know what more I can do.”
“I’ve been advised that our country is spending over its budget and things need to be cut back. I have to make sacrifices.”
“Finances have only been an issue during the war with the Empire. We’re not in a war now, are we?”
“No! No, of course not. But our spending is out of control. I have to make sacrifices in the best interests of the country.”
“But that can’t be. Alderaan is so bountiful. Our artisans sell their wares all over the continent. How can we possibly be overspending?”
“Rey, I don’t expect you to understand--”
“No, Ben, you don’t understand. Your people are relying on you for their wellbeing. You have to provide for them. You can’t cut their education and welfare and expect them to be okay. Those are their lifelines and sometimes all that they have.”
“Rey, you’re a musician. This is politics. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”
“I know that you have a right to help the people of your nation when they need it.” Rey’s words feel hard coming out of her mouth. She knows what it’s like to have to depend on the state. Mr. Plutt’s academy was funded with a grant from the treasury and she wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. She wouldn’t be a court musician without that support.
Instead of arguing more, Rey turns around and heads back to the castle. She has already been gone from the piano too long and has her second set to complete still. She doesn’t hear Ben following behind her nor does she turn back to look at him.
Days after the ball and her heated confrontation with Prince Ben, Rey is still mulling it over in her mind. Her next performance isn’t for another two months at a delegation meeting with Delaya, so she doesn’t have much musical work to occupy her mind. Instead, she’s consumed by her last conversation with Ben and his priorities for the country. The thoughts roll around in her head, keeping her awake late into the night.
Deciding that sleep is not going to come anytime soon, Rey gets out of bed. She throws on her robe before making her way to the kitchen, hoping for a snack. As she passes by the music hall, the door is open a bit and someone is playing piano inside. Quietly, she peers into the darkened room. There is a single candlestick on top of the piano and by its light, she can see a very tall man and no sheet music on the piano. The man is so large he can only be Prince Ben, playing a beautiful song that Rey’s never heard before. When he finishes the piece, his fingers stay on the keys and his head is bent down.
“Could you not sleep either?” He asks.
Surprised he noticed her, Rey quietly opens the door, letting herself in before closing it behind it herself and leaning upon it. “No, I could not. I was just on my way to the kitchen and heard you playing.”
Ben lifts his hands from the keys and turns to her.
“Why don’t you play anymore?” She asks, still at the door. He’s working his jaw, a motion she has now realized he does when he’s thinking or doesn’t want to say the first thing that’s come to his mind. “You can tell me, it’s not like I have anyone else to tell.”
His eyes bore into hers from across the room. “You’re not alone.”
“Neither are you.”
They stare at each other for a long time, letting their words fill the space between them. Eventually, Rey pushes herself off the door and goes to sit next to him on the piano bench. “What were you playing?”
He glances back at the piano before answering her, “My mother taught it to me when I was young. It’s her favorite.”
“It’s beautiful. Would you teach me?” Rey extends her hand to Ben, who looks at it for a long time before looking up into her eyes. Looking back down at her hand, he slowly bringing his to hers, just barely touching fingertips at first. He slides his fingers to rest more steadily on hers while Rey brings her thumb to rest on the back of his hand. His hand is warm and comforting. It calms Rey, making her forget about everything besides him and her. For how long they hold hands, she’s unsure, but it feels like a lifetime.
Ben’s response is so quiet, she’s unsure if he actually said anything at first, but when it finally registers she realizes he’d said “I’d love to.”
He brings their hands to the keys while gently rolling his hand to be on top of hers. Rey slides closer to him on the bench.
“It starts with these here,” Ben says, pressing down on her fingers to show which keys to hit. Their lesson continues until Rey has a pretty good handle on the song. She cannot see the clock in the corner of the room because of how dark it is, but the candle on top of the piano has burned quite low, so she knows it must be quite early in the morning.
“Thank you for showing me, Ben.”
“It was my pleasure.” He’s working his jaw again. “I keep apologizing to you in this room, but you were right at the ball. The wellness and education of my people should be a priority for me as prince, and eventual king.”
Shocked at his words, Rey is quiet for a moment before speaking, “I appreciate your apology and that you see the good in helping others.”
Ben is quiet, staring at the piano before continuing, “I...I did kill my father. We were out hunting together, a large group of us. We had tracked a boar deep into the woods. A few, my father included, went ahead to scare it out and chase it back to the rest of us. We were all prepared and I heard rustling. Figuring it was the boar, I threw my spear.”
He’s still looking at the piano, his hands clenched in his lap. “My father was still making jokes about how good of a shot I was while on his deathbed. That was a year ago. Those in the hunting party and my mother know the truth, but my mother hushed it up quickly. My father and I...we did not have a strong relationship. He was often away during my childhood on military missions and we didn’t have much in common. My mother figured correctly that it would probably turn the people against me, killing their beloved king.”
“Ben, I’m so sorry. It was an accident, though.”
He finally looks over at Rey, his eyes filled with tears. “It was an accident, but I still did it. My father is dead because of me.”
Rey places her hand on his arm, in hopes of being comforting, to find him trembling. Ben turns his head away and by the way his shaking increases, Rey can tell he’s crying. She keeps her hand on his arm until he turns back to her, tears still on his face.
“Thank you for being here, Rey, and for listening to me.”
She gives a simple nod and with warmth in her heart and eyes, answers with a simple, “Of course.”
Ben gives a short nod in return. “I should head to bed now.”
He seems hesitant to stand up from the bench, but when he does he holds out his hand to help Rey up as well. She gladly takes it. He slowly brings her hand to his lips, giving her the option of removing it from his grasp. When she does not, he delicately places a kiss on it. When he speaks again, his breath is soft and warm against her skin, “Goodnight, Rey.”
He leaves the music room, leaving Rey standing still by the piano, thinking about their conversation and his confession.
The next afternoon Rey is curled up in the library with a book when Prince Ben finds her. He has a large notebook in one hand and a writing set in the other. He gives her a quick bow as she marks her place in the book.
“Thinking further about what you said, I thought it would be a good idea to go over the kingdom’s budget. To see where we can compensate in order to provide for our people. I would appreciate your help looking the numbers over.” Ben wiggles the notebook a bit and Rey figures it’s the budget ledger for the kingdom.
“We can do that.” Rey gets up from the couch and heads over to a table with Ben following behind her. They’re in a small alcove in the library where it would be hard for someone to overhear them or linger around unnoticed.
Slowly, Ben and Rey go over each line of expenses and compare it to the budget. It’s not fun work, but together, it feels manageable. It takes hours, but they get through it all just as the sun is setting.
“Ben, this doesn’t add up.”
He has ink smudged on his forehead from worrying it with hands. He sets the quill down while doing some final calculations.
“No, it doesn’t, you’re right.” He sums it all up again. “There’s some missing. There’s a lot missing actually...”
Rey is quiet while Ben is adds it up a third time. “There’s something wrong. Snoke is in charge of the treasury. He’s the only one besides myself who would have access to this book and these funds since my mother placed me in charge of the treasury a year ago...”
Rey places her hand on Ben’s arm before gently asking, “Ben? Is it possible Lord Snoke could have taken the money? You mentioned that he said spending was out of control and the country was over budget.”
Ben is quiet for a long time. He still seems to be trying to add up the numbers in order to make it work out evenly. He starts to speak several times, but ends up just making monosyllable noises.
Ben sags and finally says, “I believe Snoke has been lying to me about the kingdom’s finances. We should have plenty of money. Like you said at the ball, Alderaan is a prosperous country. However, according to the book, something is not right. He must be taking the money for himself. He’s told me to cut back spending and has lined his pockets with it. He is corrupt and has corrupted me and the country with him”
“You can fix it, Ben. I know it.” She squeezes his arm where her hand still rests, trying to reassure him. He looks up at her and smiles weakly before placing his hand over hers.
“You challenge me, Rey. You push me to be the best I can even when it’s hard. You want the best for the kingdom, even when it is a challenge to get there. I can think of no better qualities to have in a queen.”
It’s all Rey can do to blink at him. “Ben...you don’t...I...”
“Rey, you helped me see that our country was being robbed. You’ve helped me realize that our people are what make this country and that they are the most important things in it. You are regal and beautiful and so intelligent. You are my queen. Please let me make you the queen of this nation, as well.”
A tear has slipped out from Rey’s eye, and she can’t think of anything Ben’s words echoing in her mind. “Ben...”
Ben just stares at Rey, waiting for her to speak, his hand still on her arm. Rey continues, her voice thick, “I came to court in hopes that my parents would hear about my accomplishments and recognize me. That we would be reunited. I see now that that was a ridiculous idea. They’re never coming back.”
As soon as the words start coming out, she cannot help but say everything. By the end, she is crying.
“They didn’t deserve you. They were garbage. You come from nothing, but you’ve risen above it and now you’re so much more.” Ben is staring intensely at Rey and he’s placed his hand on her back.
“They’re never coming back. They didn’t want me. So it’s hard to accept that you want me. That I could have a home and be loved.”
“You can belong with me, Rey. We could build a home together. I won’t ever leave you.” Both Ben and Rey are crying as they lean their foreheads together. She cups his cheek while his hand moves to caress the back of her neck.
They talk late into the night about everything. About their insecurities over ruling but how they feel motivated by each other to strive for the best for their kingdom. About how to deal with Lord Snoke. About their future and the future of the kingdom. About music and their love of it.
When the candle has almost burned out, Ben has a serious look on his face.
“I want my kingdom back, Rey, and for that to happen, I need your trust.” He holds out his hand to Rey. She very willingly takes it and looks deep into his eyes.
“I trust you.” She brings his hand up to her mouth for a kiss.
It is late the next morning when Ben knocks on Queen Leia’s door with one hand while holding Rey’s hand with his other. She squeezes his hand and he turns to look at her with a smile while waiting for his mother to answer. She wills herself and Ben to be strong.
When Lord Snoke enters the throne room to a full court and Rey sitting next to Ben in a throne with a crown on her head, he loses his usual collected composure. He slows his walk down the long length of the hall. When he reaches the dais upon which Crown Prince Ben, Queen Leia and Rey sit, he gives a mocking bow.
“Duty and honor demand that I protect my nation from those that would harm us and from those who would betray us.” Ben’s voice is clear and solid, ringing across the hall. “You stand accused of treason.”
Ben’s eyes are bright as he glances at Rey before turning back to Snoke, “How do you answer, Lord Snoke?”
The entirety of the court turns to look at the man while his jaw slowly opens and closes, but no words come out.
Ben speaks again, “You have mislead me and my country for the past ten years. You put the lives of our people in harm’s way. You would rather have this country ruled the way you see fit, to line your own pockets and ruin the country than give the people what they deserve and what is right. This is unacceptable and despicable. How do you answer for your crimes?”
Lord Snoke’s jaw has thoroughly closed into a hard line and his eyes are pure rage.
When Snoke still does not speak, Rey speaks from her throne, “Your king asked you a question.”
Snoke turns his pale, dead eyes to glare at Rey. “Young Rey--”
Ben interrupts before he can get any further, his voice loud over the hall, “She is your queen and you will treat her with the respect she has earned.”
Snoke turns his gaze back to Ben. “Your Highness, I served you and only you these past ten years. My loyalty is to you.”
“Your loyalty and service only belong to yourself. You have betrayed all of us in this room and all the people of this country. You will be stripped of your title and lands. You will have a trial and your punishment will be just.”
Ben nods at the guards who haul Snoke up and out of the room, down to the dungeons. Rey reaches to Ben’s clenched fist on his throne’s arm and gives it a gentle squeeze. He stares down at their hands before glancing up at her and smiling, ready to begin their happily ever after.