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Clear Skies

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On a morning like any other, Kira Ren found herself dancing a familiar dance. One quick step here, a dodge there. Up, down, duck, quick...look, an opening. Take it! She swept her staff under the legs of her opponent, sending them backward onto the cold training floor, and eliciting a whimpered cry.

 

“Agh!” Kusi howled, her face scrunched in pain. Kira panted over her, pacing around her fallen competitor.

 

“You have to try harder, Kusi, in a real battle you won’t have a second chance. Now come on, let’s try again.” She reached down to her Knight, and the aqua-skinned Twi’lek accepted her hand. As they were getting into position again, Akayoe burst into the training room, the frills of her dark gown trailing behind her, her long, black hair flowing in tandem.

 

“It’s the Supreme Leader. He’s summoned us to his throne room,” she said breathily.

 

Strange, Kira thought. He only summons all of us when something of interest is happening.

 

She sighed, and looked around to the rest of her Knights. Justinia and Eren looked up from their sweaty wrestling, before Eren kicked Justinia off of her. “Hah!” she laughed in victory.

 

Midhia and Mariryan, who were lounging on the training floor, paused the holovid they were watching on their shared tablet and looked up expectantly.

 

Kira sighed again. “Alright, well, come along then. We have to get presentable.”

 

They showered and dressed for the summon; Kira fixing her hair in her classic three buns, and slipping into a tightly-fitted black bodysuit. She helped Mariryan braid her wet hair into a tight bun, but when she reached for her helmet, Akayoe stopped her. “The message says no helmets.”

 


 

 

Soon the seven of them were standing proudly at Supreme Leader Snoke’s right side, their pristine figures mirrored on the obsidian floors together like a deadly choir, weapons tucked inconspicuously in case a threat was made against their Supreme Leader.

 

Snoke nodded at Kira, acknowledging their presence and lack of disguise, a sly smile creeping on his harrowed face. She nodded back, confirming their prepared status.

 

A thin man with hair the color of wildfire and skin of snow, marched into the throne room, followed closely behind by several Stormtroopers, clad in ivory shell-like armor. Kira recognized this man immediately as General Hux, who was by far the most infuriating and gullible man in the First Order. The only thing that kept her from snapping his neck most days was Snoke, who for some elusive reason allowed the squabbling cur to become General of his armies.

 

Hux lead the troopers with a scowl pressed on his face, which softened in the slightest as he took his place to Snoke’s left side. His beady eyes found Kira, and narrowed in disgust. Offended yet cool, Kira snapped her fingers and Hux lost his balance momentarily, that coy smile of his thoroughly washed off his face.

 

Two of the troopers appeared to be dragging a man by his shoulders, while the rest fell in line mechanically.

 

“This scum was found by Captain Phasma in the forests on Starkiller Base, trying to steal three-thousand chips of radium core,” Hux spat.

 

Kira looked at the aforementioned scum, and noticed that he was not what she thought most smugglers would look like. No, he was very handsome, with strong features that some would call unappealing, but on him it all fit together so well . His raven hair was voluminous and soft looking, and the warmth in his brown eyes reminded her of summer’s rain. Most of all though, she liked his sly smile, which bloomed beautifully as he felt her eyes on him.

 

It turned out that she wasn’t the only one who noticed his beauty.

 

She heard a low whistle from behind her, as the rest of her Knights quietly snickered. “Would you look at that hair,” Justinia said in a hushed tone. “Now that’s the kind of hair you’d like to pull on all night…” More snickering. “From between your legs!” They all erupted into giggles, including a quick smile from Kira. Snoke whipped around tightly, spearing them with a sharp glare and muffling their uncontrolled laughter.

 

Kira cleared her throat loudly, taking the blame for the interruption and extending her hand behind her to find Justinia’s. Once she found it, she gave it a tight, reassuring squeeze.

 

Dragged by Stormtroopers on either side, the smuggler’s face looked torn in wonder and fear. “You guys really like the red and black thing, huh?” he mumbled under his breath. When the troopers dropped him at the Supreme Leader’s feet, he stood to his full height (an impressive one, at that) before being knocked down to his knees.

 

“What is your name, boy?” Snoke asked, though it felt more like a command than a question.

 

“Ben Solo, sir.”

 

Snoke then paused, a sign that Kira knew meant his mind was calculating. “So, tell me, Mr. Solo, what were you doing on Starkiller Base?”

 

“I’m a smuggler, sir, the best in the galaxy. I was hired to collect parts from your base.”

 

Snoke chuckled, bringing a withered hand to his mouth. “Not very loyal, are you Mr. Solo?"

 

“Loyalty is something that is bought in my business.”

 

The Supreme Leader erupted into booming laughter, filling the still halls with his delight. The captive just smiled awkwardly, as if he was unsure if making the Supreme Leader of the First Order laugh was a good thing or a death wish.

 

Once he composed himself, Snoke continued. “You see boy, the First Order is in preparations of revealing something very great on Starkiller Base.” He waved to Kira’s irritating associate standing to his left. “General Hux’s project is almost complete. So, you sneaking onto this planet is very concerning for us, since you could have been smuggling more than parts, isn’t that right?”

 

The smuggler gulped visibly. “Yes, that is correct.”

 

Why is he toying with him? Why not just get it over with and kill the poor guy?   Kira thought. What is he doing?

 

“So, what are we to do? Certainly we cannot trust a man whose loyalty is bought, and yet, it just doesn’t seem right to kill you, does it? Do you want to die today, young Solo?”

 

“No, not at all sir, I’d like to postpone that as much as possible.”

 

Snoke’s laughter boomed again. “Very well. Perhaps we can strike a deal.”

 

Kira’s brows furrowed. What is he doing ?

 

You say you are the best smuggler in the galaxy, which is quite the statement. If that is true, well then, I have a deal for you.” The Supreme Leader then looked to Kira. “My most trained disciple, Master of the Knights of Ren, has been assigned to find the secret Resistance base of Leia Organa and destroy it. You will bring her there safely, and in exchange, we will not kill you.”

 

What the fuck?! Kira was fuming now, her heart galloping in her chest, and just as she was about to open her mouth in protest, she felt Mariryan’s small hand rest on her shoulder, followed by five other hands, as if a reminder of the last time that Kira talked back to the Supreme Leader.

 

Flashes of pain and electricity raced through her mind, and Kira calmed, knowing that Snoke’s desires, however confusing and unfitting, were ultimately unavoidable.

 


 

It didn’t take long for Kira to pack her things, as she kept all of what was important on her person at all times. Staff, commlink, lightsaber. All of which were tucked in her utility belt or slung over her shoulder, along with secretly stashed knives, poisons, and other weapons. She couldn’t be too careful, because even though she wouldn’t be physically alone on this journey, she was still alone , since this man was barely a stranger let alone an ally.

 

Once her bag was satisfyingly packed with a variance of weapons and dark fabric, she took a last look at her quarters, and began heading for the door.

 

When she opened it, she met the sullen faces of six distressed women. Her heart sank in her chest, sharing and understanding the emotion projected in all of their Force signatures. She would miss them too.

 

“I won’t be gone for long,” was her weak attempt at reassurance. Each of them, though varied in their ability to suppress their feelings, seemed to calm a bit from her words.

 

Kira said goodbye to Eren and Justinia first. “You two are the strongest. You have to look after the others,” she commanded softly, finding the eyes of the two Knights until they gave confirming nods. “And please, if only for me, refrain from sending dozens of our men to the medbay.” Eren opened her mouth in protest but Kira continued before she could say anything. “Even if they annoy you or call you names!” A quick smile escaped Justinia’s stoic complexion, and soon the three were laughing.

 

Mariryan and Midhia were next, whose freely flowing tears almost brought wetness to Kira’s eyes, but she blinked the water away to give them firm embraces. “I need you to actually train with the others. I know your powers are strong, but you need to learn how to control them.” Both girls nodded affirmatively. After leaning in, Kira softly added, “And include Kusi, okay? She’s been lonely.”

 

Kusi was next, the young Twi’lek fidgeting with the bitten ends of her nails, clearly upset with the current circumstance. “Keep practicing,” Kira instructed. “I need you to be strong for me on this one, can you do that?” Kusi nodded, as a fat drop of water rolled down her blue-toned cheek.  “I have my commlink as always. You can call me whenever you need to,” Kira added. Kusi smiled weakly, and Kira kissed the spot between her eyes.

 

Finally, Akayoe stood at the end of them, the dark curtains of her dress flowing as if of their own accord. The eldest of the group and her closest friend, Kira knew that if anything happened to her, Akayoe could take her place as Master, and she would do it beautifully. Her smile was bright and proud, but the shine in her dark eyes couldn’t hide what she was really feeling. Kira held her firmly, projecting all of her love into the embrace.

 

“Clear skies, Kira,” Akayoe whispered into her hair, and Kira finally let a tear slip from her eyes.

 


 

 

Kira made her way to the Naval port as white-plated troopers carried the smuggler by his elbows behind her. Tie-fighters whizzed above them at lightning speed, and the clicks of marching troops filled the port with an authoritative energy. As they reached the loading dock, she turned to face the smuggler.

 

“Release him,” she commanded. The troopers dropped him immediately, and he fell to the ground with a dull thump .

 

He scrambled to his feet and dusted off his shoulders. “Hey, ever heard of going easy on the jacket?!” he called to the troopers, who were marching back to their scheduled duties. Finally, his attention landed on Kira.

 

“Name’s Ben, nice to meet you.” He held out a hand for her to shake, but she narrowed her eyes at him instead. He used his rejected hand to palm his hair. “So, uh, who were those girls in there?”

 

“Those would be my Knights of Ren. I am their Master, Kira. You may call me as such.”

 

“Huh. Are uh, any of them… uh…”

 

Kira rolled her eyes. “None of them will screw you, if that’s what you’re trying to spit out. Except maybe Justinia.” She looked over him again. “But you’d never be able to handle her.”

 

He scoffed, shocked by her boldness. “I’ll have you know that I can handle quite a lot!”

 

“Whatever you say, nerfherder.” Kira turned her head around expectantly. “So where is this glorious ship of yours?”

 

Ben stretched his arms and flexed his wrists, making a dramatic point about the comfortability of the handcuffs. “The Falcon is right over there.” His large hand pointed over her shoulder, and when Kira’s gaze landed on what he meant, her face fell.

 

The ship, if you could even call it that, was practically rubble at this point.

 

Kira stalked towards the ship, as if closing the distance would somehow ebb its rusted edges. “You’ve got to be kidding me. What a load of junk!”

 

“Hey, watch it!” Ben called from behind her. “She is timeless… and sensitive!”

 

“Seriously?” Kira smacked the side of the ships metal hull, creating a low, hollow sound, followed by a series of clangs and snaps, all of which brought a grimace to Ben’s face. She raised her brow, begging him to challenge her.

 

“Okay, fine, but this ship is one of the swiftest in the galaxy. Plus, we have to blend in. Can’t just show up to a secret Resistance base in the ominous- I mean, beautiful - red and black of the First Order.”

 

Realizing he was right, she acquiesced. “Fine.” This is going to be a longer trip than I’d hoped, she thought. And with this dumbass at my side, it’s going to be a grueling one too.

 


 

 

The cockpit was outdated and terribly cramped, but Kira found that the ripped seats of the Millennium Falcon were surprisingly comfortable. She adjusted herself to her utmost comfort and looked around while Ben engaged the Falcon’s starting sequence. His long fingers pranced around the dashboard, flipping switches and pushing buttons in a trained pattern. His fingers trailed in her direction and then stopped suddenly to tap on her boots, which were crossed and resting on the dash.

 

“Can you please?” he asked, a twinge of annoyance in his voice.

 

“Really?” she challenged.

 

“Yes really! Your fat boot is crushing the shield booster!”

 

“Ugh, fine!” She unwrapped her legs and rested her boots on the floor, while he pressed the green button and a deep warping sound filled the air.

 

“Okay,” he said as his hands found the hyperdrive lever. “Here we go!”

 

The Naval port around them disintegrated, replaced by a flurry of ice and azure, officially marking the beginning of their venture together.


Chapter Text

The first few hours they spend in silence, and even the dull hum of the Falcon hanging in the air couldn’t muffle the sound of Ben’s continuous sighing and coughing. Kira noticed that he did it in regular intervals, like an annoying, arrogant alarm. It kindled a fire in her, one that demanded that he be thrown into the vacuum of space through the Falcon’s airlock. In order to distract herself from that delicious fantasy and his irritating habits, she dragged a nail file along her long nails, shaping them with each pull of the thin blade. This worked for some time, but eventually, the obnoxious clearing of his throat worked up to some sort of speech.

 

“So, uh, what do you like to do in your spare time?” he spoke boyishly, almost as if he were shy.

 

“This is bullshit,” she spat, not giving his question any attention.

 

“What is?”

 

“I could be doing this myself , you know. In a much better ship.”

 

His boyish tone disappeared, blanketed by pure snark. “Well damp down your power core sweetheart , because we’re in this together now.”

 

Excuse me ?!” She was definitely ready now to throw him out of the airlock.

 

“Like I said before, this is about blending in. Can’t just show up in a fancy First Order ship, you won’t get any information! Besides, you need me. I’m the hotshot that will get people talking, that will get you around these parts safely.”

 

She grabbed his collar, pulled his shit-eating grin within inches of her face and pressed the nail file to his neck. “Maybe I’ll just kill you now,” she threatened as she pushed the blade into the puffy skin under his chin. “And when I’m done with you, I’ll take this shit scrap of a ship, and find the Resistance base myself!”

 

His warm eyes were blackened with fear and… something else. “Maybe you will,” he whispered, and Kira swore that she saw him lick his lips. For reasons unbeknownst to her, she felt herself drawn to them, compellingly and inexplicably curious as to if they felt how they looked, and if they tasted like how he smelled…

 

Suddenly, a shrill, arrogant beeping sound flooded the cockpit. Freshly aware of herself and her surroundings, she pushed him back into his seat violently, while he blinked at her.

 

“Ah, shit,” he said as he finally recognized the beeping.

 

“What?”

 

“I’m…not sure. But I don’t have a good feeling about this.” Ben scanned the dash in front of her, fingers dancing, searching for the source of the beeping while she watched languidly.

 

“Electrical overload!” they said at the same time, though one voice was rapt with conviction, the other with boredom.

 

Ben began to fumble with the buttons in front of them, flipping switches and pulling levers. Kira watched him with hidden amusement as his confidence slowly turned into full-blown panic.

 

“Shit, shit, shit. Shit, fuck. Fucking shit!”

 

Kira began dragging the file across her nails again. “So, what are you gonna do about this, hotshot?

 

“I don’t know, but if I don’t fix it soon, a whole lot of us is gonna be in a whole lot of different places at the same time, if you know what I mean.”

 

I hate that he’s right, she thought. With a drawn out sigh, Kira tossed her nail file on the dash and unfolded herself from her lazy position. She closed her eyes, focusing her reach with the Force on the aggravating warning sound, and narrowing on the source in her mind with increasing precision. The sound became smaller and denser as she searched. When she detected the source, she opened her eyes and found herself standing in front of a cabinet behind the cockpit.

 

“What are you doing?” Ben’s voice yelled frantically from behind her.

 

“Saving us, since you obviously don’t know what you’re doing.”

 

“I know what I’m- ah, fuck!” Whatever he did, the beeping became even more aggressive.

 

Rolling her eyes, Kira flipped open a compartment at eye level. To her delight, she saw that a chocolate bar, probably decades old, was stuffed in the mess of wires. Not the best snack, but she was never one to be picky about food, and certainly never dessert. Quickly, she unleashed the bar from its package and popped it in her mouth, letting it hang out like an actor’s cigar she saw once in a holovid. Moving her attention south, she popped open another compartment, revealing a nest of tangled wires and a flickering compressor. “Gotcha,” she mumbled over her chocolate prize.

 

Suddenly, the beeping ceased completely, and a relaxed hum fell over the old ship’s cockpit. Kira slumped back to her half-horizontal position in the co-pilots chair, and tossed into Ben’s shaking hands a sizzling wire kit.

 

“What did you do?” he inquired softly, examining the frayed wires and metal husk.

 

“I bypassed the compressor,” Kira droned as she took another large bite of chocolate.

 

Ben tossed the scrap over his shoulder, interested in her now more than ever. He leaned in.

 

“You know about ships?”

 

Usually she wouldn’t give up such information so quickly. But the way that his curious eyes bore into her own, and how they twinkled with something other than just curiosity, she found herself speaking before she could stop herself.

 

“I was a scavenger on Jakku for years. I ripped apart hundreds of ships, memorized thousands of modules, and played numerous simulators. I guarantee that I can fly this ship better than you.” She took another bite.

 

Ben scoffed, “not a chance.”

 

She felt the fire in her bubble up again. “You want me to prove it? Alright.”

 

Kira sat up, closed her eyes, and after a moment, revealed her diagnosis. “This piece of junk you call timeless is a YT-1300f model light freighter, fitted with Girodyne SRB42 sunlight engines and a Quadex power core, allowing for zero-point five hyperdrive rating. She is covered in Duralloy plating which is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint and,” she took a deep inhale to prove her point, “she is five months overdue for an oil change.”

 

Ben blinked at her breathlessly, opening his mouth every so often just to close it again, before finally saying,“so lemme get this straight, you knew exactly how to fix the ship, and you just let me struggle for that long, for what, just to see me freak out?”

 

“Maybe I was dampening my power core .”

 

He chuckled, rubbing his long fingers over his mouth as if he was rubbing his jaw, or trying to hide his smile from her. Either way, it still brought a flash of heat over her skin.

 

When he was done doing…whatever he was doing, he got up from the pilot seat and walked out of the cockpit.

 

“Where are you going?” Kira demanded.

 

His voice began to trail as he increased the distance between them. “You want dinner? I make killer Ronto wraps. I think I have enough foodstuff to make some for us.”

 

Kira’s eyebrows furrowed in disbelief. “You’re not worried that I’m going to take over here?”

 

“We both know that if you wanted to, you would have already!” His voice called from the hallway.

 

She sat back in her seat, shaking her head while an absent-minded smile crept over her lips. This guy really is something. Something risky. Something…stupid. But he’s also making me dinner only moments after I threatened his life. How bad could his company really be?

 


 

 

Not much later, Ben reappeared with two plates, each stacked with U-shaped bread that was filled with shredded greens and dark meat. It smelled rich and exotic, and Kira was never one to turn down food, but when he handed over her plate and sat himself down next to her, she hesitated.

 

“How do I know you didn’t poison this?” she inquired.

 

Ben mumbled through a half-chewed wrap. “Trust me, if the decade-old chocolate bar you ate earlier doesn’t kill you, nothing will.”

 

She burst out laughing, which startled him at first, but eventually soothed into a relaxed laughter of his own. Even with his cheeks full of food, his casual smile made her blush.

 

Feeling reassured that she wasn’t going to die on behalf of a Ronto wrap, Kira took a large bite of the pillowy bread, her eyes fluttering a bit as the smokey flavors of the Ronto meat intertwined with the sharp freshness of the greens.

 

“Oh, Force,” she moaned through a mouth full of food.

 

“What can I say? I’m gifted in the kitchen,” he added with a confident shrug.

 

“I’ll give you that, nerfherder,” she said as she wiped her finger across her plate before sticking it in her mouth. When she moaned again at the flavor, she noticed that this time it was him who blushed.

 

Suddenly, the lights of the Falcon dimmed around them, and the ambient hum of its inner workings fell to a silence. The icy blaze of hyperspace faded from their front view, revealing a dark sea of empty space and fragmented stars around them.

 

“Seriously? Again?” Ben huffed in frustration.

 

“Wait, no,” Kira said as she put her hand out to stop him. “Listen. The gravity shields are off. They’re a default setting in hyperspace, and can’t be turned off unless the signal is intercepted with.” She looked at him, the scowl on his face showing that he already understood what she meant. “Which only can mean one thing…”

 

“Pirates.”



Chapter Text

Ben’s heart galloped with adrenaline as he and Kira leapt from their seats and sprinted out of the Falcon’s cockpit, preparing for the inevitability of meeting whoever took a hold of the ship.

 

“Do you know how to use a blaster?” he called to Kira, who began ravaging through the couch in the lounge area.

 

“Yeah, you pull the trigger.” She flipped the mustard-colored seat cushions and burrowed her hands underneath.

 

Ben ripped through the equipment storage like a storm, pocketing as much ammunition as he could carry. When he emptied those reserves, he headed for the storage lockers in the repair bay.

 

“It’s a little more than that!” he hollered in her direction. He was nervous, because the energy cells that he was stuffing into his jacket pocket fell through his shaking hands, and he cursed when he picked them up and forced them into his blaster. He had been in many fights before, as any smuggler would, but the energy that pumped through his body beforehand always made his stomach feel uneasy and the skin of his fingertips tingle. This time was no exception.

 

Finally, after practically bashing the door off of a storage locker, he found an extra blaster. It was small, she wouldn’t like it , he thought, but they didn’t have enough time for preferences.

 

When he returned to her, she was dissecting the hologram board.

 

“Oh, for Force sakes…” he choked as he watched her yank out sharp pieces of metal, electrical fizzes sparking with each pull and tear.

 

Her hazel eyes flickered up to him, the raw and ravenous determination in them hitching his breath. He shakily offered her the extra blaster.

 

“Keep it,” she replied as she lifted her fresh hoard of sharps. “I’ve got weapons of my own.”

 

“That,” he sighed, “I can believe.”

 

Suddenly, a jolt rocked through the entire ship, almost forcing Ben onto the ground. It felt like landing, although much sharper and rougher, even for the Falcon. Ben cringed as he wondered how much damage she could manage in one day.

 

Then he heard footsteps, many footsteps rattle up the entry ramps. Kira crept to his side, and for a brief moment, Ben thought that it felt nice to have her close and not wanting to kill him.

 

Several men dressed in torn scraps and worn boots approached them from both sides, and almost naturally, Kira and Ben faced them with their backs to one another.

 

A tiny man with bug-like eyes and a clear accent spoke first.

 

“You Han Solo?” he queried with an upwards flick of his chin.

 

“Uh, no.”

 

“Well, is this the Millennium Falcon?”

 

“Mhmm,” Ben replied, his pointer and middle fingers hovering over the fabric of his blaster holder.

 

“That’s Han Solo’s ship! But it looks like Bantha shit to me…can’t be that great of a steal, can it?” The men at his sides mumbled in agreement.

 

“I told you,” Kira chuckled at Ben’s back.

 

“Watch it,” Ben warned under his breath.

 

“What about the babe?” One of the pirates facing Kira commented.

 

“Yes, what about her indeed.” He stepped aside to look at her, and Ben felt heat slither up his back as the pirate’s eyes traveled up and down her form. “Those are First Order colors, are they not? I bet we could make something from her!”

 

Ben heard Kira’s spit land on the floor. “Over my dead body, and yours,” she challenged.

Dozens of blasters clicked around them in preparation.

 

“Very well then,” the pirate sneered. “Get her!”

 

Ben’s hands jumped to life as he reached for his blaster and began firing at the onslaught sprinting in his direction. He heard a deep growl from his back as he assumed Kira raced towards her half of the pirates, and by the guttural sounds that followed, he also assumed that she had found new homes for her hidden sharps.

 

He dove behind what was left of the hologram board and tried to pick off the bombardment coming for him. When his blaster overheated, he ran out from cover and reverted to old tactics that his father taught him.

 

Thrust your elbow in his nose, then grab his collar and throw him into the others. Punch them in the ear, stun ‘em, and shoot ‘em while they’re down. And while you’re at it, use the dead one as a shield. And don’t be the idiot who waits to shoot! You won’t get another chance to try.

 

He could practically hear his father’s voice in his head as he did exactly that.

 

As they squabbled around the room, fighting and punching and shivving each other, Ben got a few glances at Kira and her fighting form. She struck cleanly, and she wasn’t afraid of getting bloody. She moved with the grace of a dancer, but with the power of an animal, and Ben couldn’t help but watch her as she thrusted her knives into the necks of those who mistakenly underestimated her.

 

She was enticing, incendiary… beautiful , even.

 

When she ran out of her gathered sharps and knives, she pulled a weapon from her belt, one that filled the ship with a bright scarlet when she ignited it.

 

His blaster had cooled down, but his attention to her left him distracted, so when a random shot knocked the blaster from his hand, he was left totally unarmed while two fully-loaded pirates approached.

 

“Alright, we can talk this out, right guys?” he countered, while taking careful steps backwards.

 

Their pained scowls were their only answer, and as they raised their blasters towards his gaze, he prepared for the worst.

 

“Hey, Solo! Catch!” Kira shouted as she threw him her lightsaber.

 

He caught the saber so easily it was almost as if it was drawn to his hand, and in a flash of instinct, he swung the sword around him, killing the last of the pirates as he did so.

 

Ben heaved, sucking in uneven breath as he studied the lightsaber in his grip. The metal felt heavy and cold in his hand, and the pricking in his fingertips now raced up his arms and across his shoulders. It carried flashes of sight and waves of words through his mind, fragment-like memories that ripped through him and terrified him in the process.

 


 

The Force lives within you, Ben…

 

A mentor.

 

I saw…darkness…

 

A family member.

 

Heir apparent to Lord Vader…

 

The sound of a jagged red flame slicing through unadjusted air.

 

Please Ben, it isn’t what you think, please listen to us!

 

The sound of a stuffed bag plopping in the Falcon’s co-pilot’s seat, just before burning the night sky until he saw lines.

 

Fulfill your destiny!

 

An unfamiliar voice, aged with both wisdom and malevolence.

 

And, finally,

 

The sound of his mother, or, someone crying out.

 

No!

 


 

Ben let the lightsaber fall from his fingers, the heavy metal hitting the ground with a loud clank. He stomped out of the room, searching for something to drown the visions, the whispers, the memories, if that’s what they really were. And to drown out Kira, who was hot on his tail.

 

“What was that? How did you learn how to do that?”

 

“Do what?” he stammered as he fumbled over dead pirates, searching their bodies for flasks.

 

“Wield a lightsaber!”

 

“Your glowstick? It’s not that difficult.” Frustratingly, all of their pockets were turning up empty.

 

“Except it is. I’ve trained six knights, I would know.”

 

“I guess I’m just lucky. Ugh!” he huffed in frustration. “Why the fuck do these guys not have any liquor!?”

 

“Why aren’t you telling me the truth!?”

 

He whipped his head around, his sweat-soaked locks whipping his cheeks. “Look, kid, that’s my fucking business.” She crossed her arms and narrowed her hazel gaze at him.

 

She won’t let this go, he thought.

 

“Look, I don’t know about you, but I could really use a drink.”

 


 

Though she had gone through a great deal of damage that day, the Falcon landed gracefully among the plant-rich lands of Takodana. Kira was surprised and almost impressed by the ship’s ability to withstand the worst. In a way, it reminded her of herself.

 

Takodana was probably the greenest planet she had ever seen. Of course, she had visited many planets in her travels as Master of the Knights of Ren, but most of her days were spent alongside the Supreme Leader, where variants of red and black ruled over every decoration and destination. So when she stepped off of the Falcon’s entry ramp and her boots settled into the thick grass, she couldn’t help but feel a little bit giddy.

 

Solo, however, was more keen on getting that drink. Ever since she threw him her lightsaber, he had acted strangely. His usual casualness was completely erased, replaced by a rigidity that didn’t seem natural to him. He didn’t even clear his throat in that really annoying way that he did before, he just spent the flight to Takodana in complete silence. And the way he looked at her when she asked about the truth, she recognized the emotion that twisted his face. He was afraid.

 

Soon her boots were carrying her through the dense greens and up the steps of a castle-like tavern that was strewn with flags of all different colors and sizes, representing hundreds of various cultures. At the center stood a giant sculpture of a woman with large, circular glasses, carrying her arms out above her in a welcoming motion.

 

“That’s Maz Kanata. She owns this place,” Ben told her even though she never asked.

 

“Do you know her?”

 

“Yeah,” he said in a way that was neither eager nor full of dread.

 

“And you’re sure she can tell us where to find the Resistance Base?”

 

“She can tell us where to start.”



Chapter Text

Ben and Kira passed underneath the jungle of flags outside Maz Kanata’s cantina until they reached a mountainous set of berry-colored doors.

 

“She may not even be here, so let’s try to keep it undercover, alright?” Ben urged. Kira rolled her eyes while Ben gently pushed open the large doors, eliciting a thunderous moan from their hinges, and they slipped into the cantina.

 

At first, they sneaked in pretty inconspicuously, and Kira felt quite confident in their pursuit, when suddenly…

 

“BEN SOLO!!!” A proud, clear voice rang throughout the cantina, and dozens of eyes fell upon them.

 

“Hey, Maz…” Ben said uneasily.

 

Covered in judgmental stares, they awkwardly walked to the bar and slid into the barstools in front of where the little orange woman stood, surprise and curiosity dancing along her aged features.

 

“You’re a wanted man, you know,” she said with a tone that was both meant to tease and to warn.

 

“I know.”

 

“Who’s the girl?”

 

“My…friend, Kira,” Ben introduced.

 

“Pleasure,” Kira offered, along with an outstretched hand. Maz studied her, her magnified eyes traveling over Kira’s clothing. It was clear that she could recognize the colors, and by her sudden shift in posture, Kira could also tell that she was not best pleased.

 

And so could Ben.

 

“Look, Maz, we’re trying to find something that no one knows about.” He fixed his eyes on hers, pleading her silently. “Leia Organa’s Resistance Base.”

 

Maz blinked at him and opened her mouth, before glancing at Kira once more and shutting it again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She began to turn away when Ben caught her hands in his.

 

“Come on, Maz, I really need your help on this one. I promise we’ll stay for a drink.”

 

She tried to tug her hands away, but he kept them caged in his grasp. “And I promise to visit more often.”

 

“How often?!” she quipped.

 

“Once every month?” he offered.

 

“Standard calendar, not Tapani,” she countered.

 

He sighed. “ Fine .”

 

She grinned widely, proud in her victory. “I’ve got something special in the back. Corellian,” she said with a wink. “I’ll go grab the bottle!”

 

Not more than a minute later, Maz was back with holding a bottle as large as her head, full of amber liquid. She side-eyed Kira again before she popped open the large bottle labeled as Corellian’s Finest- and the scribbled letters below that - PROPERTY OF HAN SOLO.

 

She poured the whiskey into two semi-warped rounded glasses, her large brown eyes flickering to Ben the whole time. “I’ve heard talk about a base somewhere on Naboo. That’s where the General’s mother is from.” Her eyes flickered to Ben again. “But that’s all that I’ve heard.”

 

Kira eyebrows pulled together. Wait, wasn’t Organa’s family from Alderaan?

 

“Thank you, Maz. Really, I mean it.”

 

“Sure thing, kiddo. But remember, it’s just talk.”

 

“Thank you,” Kira added, trying to convey as much gratitude as possible through her words.

 

Maz smiled weakly in response before turning to Ben. “You know where you come from. Don’t forget that.”

 

He swallowed visibly. “I won’t.”

 

Her smile returned, along with a devilish twinkle in her eye. “Well then, enjoy your drink. I’ve also got some Bachani Nectar if you wanna really loosen-“

 

“NO!” he practically choked. “Uh, thanks Maz but we’re okay.”

 

Maz shrugged and turned to walk away.

 

“What’s Bachani Nectar?” Kira asked in a hushed tone as the small orange woman disappeared behind the bar.

 

“Nothing. It’s nothing.” It was apparently not nothing, because Ben’s cheeks began to glow almost the color of her saber.

 

“Solo…”

 

“To avoiding death!” he all but shouted as he raised his glass high. “And to avoiding it again!”

 

“To avoiding it again…” Kira repeated, and they clinked their glasses before knocking back the amber liquid. It felt delightfully warm and spicy in Kira’s throat, the heat of the liquor soothing instead of scorching. Ben, on the other hand, began coughing as soon as he swallowed.

 

She rolled her eyes, yet felt the beginnings of a smirk tug at the corners of her mouth. “Alright Solo , why smuggling?”

 

“My father was a smuggler,” he said in between coughs.

 

“Han?” She remembered the pirate from before, who claimed that it was Han Solo’s ship they were on, moments before she sliced up his torso with her blades.

 

His swallowed slowly, probably trying to soothe his throat from the whiskey. “Yes.”

 

“You never wanted to do anything else?”

 

“I wasn’t…excited about the other family business. Besides, this is what I’m good at, what I’m meant to be.”

 

She tightened her gaze at him, the visual of him swinging her lightsaber like a trained fighter dancing in front of her eyes. “Is that so?”

 

He held out the silence for too long, avoiding her question by asking one of his own. “How does a scavenger from Jakku become the Master of the Knights of Ren?”

 

Kira’s eyes lingered on the empty glass in front of her, and the more she interpreted his question, the more she felt herself slip away from the cantina and into her past.

 

“I found darkness.”

 


 

 

-10 YEARS EARLIER-

 

A girl in sand-colored scraps sifts through the dunes of Jakku, her fingers covered in blisters and burns, yet a hopeful look resides in her hazel eyes. She hopes for many things, enough food to stop her empty belly from rumbling, the opportunity to know the delight of piloting a real ship, and of course, the long-awaited return of her parents. If she could wait just a little bit more, hold out for a little longer until they came back, then all of the suffering would be worth it.

 

She searches an old Imperial freighter, gathering electronic parts and precious metals until she can carry no more, and hops on her self-built speeder to make her way to Niima Outpost, where she can bargain for- hopefully- a half portion of food in exchange.

 

About five miles from her destination, she notices an imperfection in the endless sands. It looks dark, and it moves in the slight wind, so she investigates. Pulling at it, she finds that the material resembles fabric, and when she unearths it, she finds that it is connected to something else. No, someone else.

 

Bones, two full sets laid side by side, are revealed by Jakku’s windstorms. The girl suddenly feels ashamed, and turns to return to her speeder, when a glimmer of light catches her eye. It comes from a necklace, loosely hanging around the spine of one of the skeletons, and it almost means nothing to her until suddenly it means everything to her, because in that moment she recognizes it as her mother’s.

 

Her fantasy disintegrates around her, slips through her fingers like the sands that surround her and the control she once possessed slips with it.

 

A power so great ripples through the desert planet, and when the girl regains herself, she is surrounded by countless bodies and unprecedented wreckage. She sits alone in the ash and rubble of what used to be Niima Outpost.

 

She mourns for both her parents and herself.

 

Shortly afterward, a man whose voice sounds like wisdom and whose eyes sparkle like oceans joins her in the rubble. He extends a hand and offers her a home.

 


 

 

“And the rest, well…” She rolled her wrists as she gestured to herself. Ben’s stare looked glassy, but he blinked it away before she could really tell.

 

“And the others, your Knights?” he asked softly.

 

“Other girls with similar stories, found along the way.”

 

“Huh.”

 

They shared a deep silence for a while.

 

“Should we…do you…?” Kira offered.

 

He sprang to action, eager to move on to something a little lighter, even if it tasted like fuel. “Yes! Maz?”

 


 

Several empty glasses later, Kira found that even for a man of his size, Ben Solo was quite the lightweight. She was pretty buzzed too, because as it turned out, Corellian liquor was nothing to joke about. So when his glazed stare lingered for a little too long and muffled laughter spilled from his bitten lips, she couldn’t help but laugh with him.

 

“The way you moved back there, that was insane!” he boasted too loudly, raising his glass to messily clink with hers. “You're an absolute monster!”

 

“Thank you, thank you,” she said as she pretended to bow in gratitude.

 

“I’m serious, you’re terrifying!” he laughed before tipping back his glass again.

 

“You weren’t so bad yourself, actually I was quite surprised at your marksmanship. I really thought you were just bluffing when we first met.”

 

Slamming the now empty glass on the bar, he coughed. “I resent that.”

 

Kira chuckled, and finished her own drink smoothly. After so many, the Corellian burn felt more like a light simmer.

 

Ben’s coughing quieted, then his brown gaze stared her down unapologetically. It made her uncomfortable, for reasons she couldn’t pinpoint in her own whiskey-fueled daze.

 

“What?” she questioned.

 

“Nothing.” He shook his head slightly, his grin growing wider as one raven lock draped over his forehead. “It’s just your smile, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile before. It’s…cute.”

 

Suddenly Kira couldn’t breathe. Panic, fast and hot, spread across her bones and up the spread of her back, and by the looks of it, panic spread through Ben as well, because the look on his face resembled one of someone who had just revealed something they weren’t supposed to.

 

She still couldn’t find her breath.

 

And then, curiously, his widened eyes traveled lower, past her cheeks, her nose, to linger at her lips.

 

Finally, she found herself able to think again, and instinctively she straightened herself and flicked her wrist in his direction. The sounds of snapping wood followed, and then Ben dropped from her view as he fell from his crumpling barstool and slammed on the cantina’s floor.

 

“How cute is it from down there?” she teased.

 

“Damnit, Kira!” he cursed.

 

She smiled, thoroughly pleased with herself.

 

His brows furrowed in anger, until he tried to lift his head, and he immediately lowered it again. A dejected moan followed. “I think…I’m drunk,” he said finally.

 

“I know,” she replied as she hopped off of her barstool joyfully, and realized that she was also a little drunk. Okay, maybe a little more than a little drunk.

 

Bending down, she offered him her hand. “Come on, let’s go.”

 


 

 

They stumbled together through the grass that led to the Falcon, and Kira cursed how absurdly heavy Ben was.

 

“You’re…not even trying!” she heaved.

 

“You’re so…small. And…angry,” he mumbled as he pat her hair. “Like an Ewok…” He hiccuped. “With a lightsaber…”

 

She rolled her eyes and kept pushing them forward.

 


 

 

When the finally made it, Kira practically shoved Ben up the Falcon’s entry ramp. “Come on you big, stupid, scruffy looking lump!”

 

“Scuffy ooking?”

 

“Move!”

 

They stumbled into the lounge area, and she dropped him on the yellow cushions, his large figure flopping over the now-too-small-seats. His eyes were closed blissfully, so Kira naturally assumed that he was already asleep. Bastard. She huffed, and turned to get some water for herself, when she felt a harsh pull on her left wrist, and suddenly she was spinning and flopping as well, but instead of mustard-colored seats, she was laying on top of Ben.

 

“Stay,” he mumbled with alcohol-heavy breath as he dragged an arm over her back.

 

“Solo! Let me go!” she urged as she pushed herself off of him, but his other arm wrapped around her too and further locked her in place.

 

“Let me go or I swear by the Force I will hurt you in ways that you’ve never even thought of!” She pounded her fist on his chest to articulate her warning.

 

Ben only murmured something she couldn’t hear and pulled her closer.

 

“Solo!!” she demanded. But it was too late, the bastard had fallen asleep.

 

“For Force sakes,” she sighed. He smelled like aged whiskey and lush earth, and his chest was broad enough to support her well, it actually soothed her. She hated it, and yet, she was so tired from dragging him all the way, and tired from fighting most of the pirates earlier, and just…so… tired.

 

So she went against all of her inner voices and closed her eyes, allowing herself to fall asleep on his large frame.