Chapter 1: Prologue: The Cruel Mistress of Fate
The fallout post-Crait, mined from the the thoughts of the new Supreme Leader.
At the last minute, I chose to break three lengthy chapters into a handful of shorter ones. The story itself remains divided into three distinctive parts, all of which are noted in the chapter headings. My hope is to allow for smoother reading. Enjoy, my friends! <3
Songspiration: Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Flaws
Fate was cruel.
He knew it like he knew the color of his own eyes. He couldn’t forget it, like the face of his mother or the sound of his father’s voice. It had been proven time and again, mapped in a lifetime of frustrated tears.
Kylo had long ago been forced to his knees before the mistress of fate, head bowed as he accepted her cruel nature as his defining reality.
It was this new discovery that set him reeling, understanding sinking in with all the comfort of a nightspider bite.
The Force, too, was a tyrant. Ruthless and single-minded.
At the lowest point of his defeat on Crait, the bond with her had opened even as his father’s lucky dice faded through his fingers. One heartache for another. He trembled as he returned her accusing stare, tongue-tied and utterly stunned by the magnitude of what her appearance signified. In the aftermath of all that followed their whirlwind alliance in the throne room, Kylo had not had time to speculate on whether Snoke’s death would also spell the end of the connection with Rey.
The bridging of their bond brought understanding, and how very bitter a draught it was.
In the chaotic days that followed, he had attempted to console himself with reassurances that he wasn’t alone, that she too wore the collar and leash of the Force bond that linked them. If he was to endure the misery of helplessness, then at least she would be made to suffer too.
But somehow, even after all she’d put him through, and for reasons he preferred not to analyze – regarding Rey with spite fell flat. He was left to contend with his frustration, stalking the halls of Deliverance in a mood as black as the raiment that trailed in his wake.
It didn’t matter that he was Supreme Leader, or that they’d parted in opposition. It didn’t matter that they were the strongest Force-sensitives in the whole galaxy. They were condemned as stray leaves in a tide, made to wash upon the shores of one another’s waking reality.
It was maddening.
All of his training, his access to ancient histories, his fervent hours of meditation and vehement denials – were all for naught. He was as able to stop it as she was. They were but children together in this, at the mercy of something much greater than either of them.
Chapter 2: A Priceless Commodity
A new beginning dawns with the first connection of the bond.
Songspiration: Robert Koch, John LaMonica, Nitesky
Several weeks had passed since their parting on Crait. At last, the Force delivered her, just as he’d known it would.
That first, initial connection caught him in the middle of his sleep cycle.
Again, it came, her voice calling his former self, the ephemeral echoes coalescing into something real. He could feel her there in his darkened quarters. Tangible, unignorable. He exhaled heavily, willing the ambient light up several clicks with a flick of his hand.
Turning over, he raised his eyes and reluctantly drank in the sight of her: sun-kissed skin beginning to pale in absence of steady exposure, her face more lovely than he remembered and somehow still innocent of the pain she had caused. She stood a few paces from the foot of his bed wearing a harrowed expression, whether by their reunion or his current state of undress, he couldn’t tell.
In a moment of pettiness, he wished her less beautiful, reasoning that perhaps then he might more easily disdain her. Such childishness was beneath him, and useless besides — for in truth, he had never beheld anything as perfect as she. From that very first meeting on Takodana and every time thereafter, the sight of her threatened his composure, returning to him a degree of adolescent insecurity.
Rey didn’t waste breath with questions or accusations. She merely watched him a moment, her topaz eyes catching the low light. He studied the fraught look on her face, and it occurred to him that she was still coming to understand the permanence of their bond.
Ah, yes, he murmured, his thoughts skimming along the current of their bond. So now you see. You are stuck with me, and I with you, and we are united by something neither of us can control. It’s defeating, isn’t it?
Her brows inched up, as if she might have chosen a slightly different word. “So it wasn’t Snoke all along, then,” she stated. “He lied about creating the bond.”
He’d anticipated that she’d lash out in frustration or vehemently deny it, and the lack of her animosity surprised him. “Yes,” he conceded, nodding in acknowledgment. “He lied.”
“Ben–” she said, halting abruptly as he shook his head.
“No. He will remain in the past.” Saying it aloud made him ache. Han, Leia, Luke, Snoke… and Rey. He shifted beneath the weight of it, so tired of feeling insufficient to those who had once mattered— and one who still did .
Now came that familiar frown of hers, the one he remembered, maybe even missed. Fate hadn’t allowed him the privilege of her smiles, after all…
“But you—you’ve forsworn your fight with the Resistance!” she sputtered, her voice at last animating. “I’ve seen the holonet broadcasts, I know you’ve restructured the might of your order, renamed it even! Why, you—you’ve targeted the spice cartels—the scourge of the galaxy! What you’re doing is inherently good; you aren’t Kylo Ren anymore—”
He held up a cautionary finger to silence her. “Maybe so,” he interjected, “not in the way I was, but I can never be Ben again. The past is done; Snoke is gone, and I have no ambition to rule over the whole of the Galaxy. Just because I’ve taken aim at dismantling the spice trade, a cause you consider noble—it doesn’t resurrect the person I used to be.”
“But there is good in you! I can feel it—”
“There is good in the person I’m choosing to become, but that person isn’t Ben,” he insisted, gripped by a sudden desperate need to make her understand.
She narrowed her eyes at him, clearly dissatisfied with his answers. “Why did you call off the hunt for the Resistance?” she demanded. “Tell me the truth!”
His lips quirked in annoyance. “To continue hunting your rebels is to let the past shape the future. It’s a waste of energy and a squandering of resources better used elsewhere.”
“And?” She arched a brow, her arms crossing sternly over her chest. “Why else? ”
He huffed in exasperation, aware she wasn’t going to let him off easily. The truth sat at the tip of his tongue, waiting. “Because of you, Rey. You were with them, and in spite of all that has happened, I care about you.” He stared at her from under his brows before looking away, rueing the fact that he just couldn’t lie to her. Even now. He gazed unseeingly at the rumpled sheet that covered him, feeling incredibly naked.
“I meant what I said in the throne room,” he mumbled, glancing back up to meet that glorious hazel stare.
...nothing...but not to me.
The seconds ticked by as she grappled with his assertions. Although he couldn’t read her thoughts without outright intrusion, the bond informed him of her feelings; a volatile mix of yearning and mistrust, hope and frustration. The muscles of his throat tightened as he was buffeted by wave after wave of her conflict.
He started when she spoke, all the movement in the cosmos coming to a stop.
“Kylo,” she managed, choking a little as she relinquished her fight for a boy dead and gone.
Again she named him true, making an earnest attempt to embrace his decision.
Her acceptance was powerful. It rolled through him like a landslide, releasing his tension and decimating all remaining barriers. His posture straightened, voice quavering as words poured forth. “Rey, I—I’m sorry I fired on you that day. I didn’t realize who it was piloting my father’s freighter, and I, I was—forgive me. Please …”
Her eyes were glassy and she exhaled in a shaky hiss before speaking. “You are such a karking moron,” she croaked, shaking her head. “But I forgive you.”
It was frankly shameful, the relief he felt. Kylo blinked at her, still in awe at the power this lithe, desert-hardened girl so unknowingly wielded over him. “Thank you,” he breathed, unable to keep the reverence from his tone.
Even with the astonishing, unhoped-for progress they’d made, his eyes widened a little when she took one tentative step towards him, then another. The look on her face was still guarded, but he could see the hope that lay beneath, like the promise of blue in an overcast sky.
She neared and drew level with his bed, sinking down to perch on the edge next to him. A hard lump had formed in his throat, the upwelling of years of repressed emotion. He swallowed, feeling vulnerable and strangely flattered by her approach.
She, a girl who’d known no training in the Force and still managed to overpower and nearly end him.
She, who resurrected a heart he’d thought long-dead, only to betray and ultimately reject him.
He shouldn’t feel so strongly for her— his enemy— and yet here he was, a befuddled mess, his throat constricting at this smallest show of her trust and acceptance.
Her eyes began to glisten in the low light of his room as they brimmed with tears. He frowned, at once removed from his own inner turmoil as he watched her throat work in silence. All at once, he realized… she was catching the drift of his emotions just as he could perceive hers. But far more incredibly, they moved her.
His astonishment grew and he froze as she slowly reached out, her fingers betraying the slightest tremble. A tear slipped down her cheek.
The moment had crystallized into something delicate and fragile, and he feared to ruin it. He didn’t dare to so much as breath as he leaned forward and reached out a hand, time seeming to shimmer and warp as the Force thrummed all around. They connected and his nerve endings sang to life, her light touch a conduit sending warmth and light and peace radiating through him. Though she was only a projection, he could feel her body heat, the subtle texture of her fingerprints, everything— as if she were there in the flesh. Like it was that first time.
He searched her features in silence, taking this priceless gift for what it was: a chance to memorize her— her loveliness, her strength, her lustrous, magnetic energy.
The moment felt like an eternity, like all of the pain and hardship that had come before had been but a bad dream. A soul-deep sense of regret flared through him when she began to fade and grow translucent, her presence born away from him on the whims of the Force. Eternity could never be enough. He blinked the blur of tears as reality began to return in the wake of their communion. What she said next inscribed upon his soul, gifting him wings.
“You’re not alone…”
The same words, the hope he’d once given. He felt his heart flare to life once again, frightening in its ferocity. His voice was clear as he answered her:
“Neither are you.”
Chapter 3: The Bloom Unfurls
The Force continues to connect them, allowing a whole new dynamic to form.
Songspiration: The Soul's Release, Catching Fireflies
From the ashes of their past, a tenuous friendship began to grow in fits and starts.
With each passing Force connection, their ease with one another unfurled another leaf. Rey still held no punches with him, quick as she’d ever been to point out anything that met with her discontent. But whether because of the non-negotiable bond that connected them or because he had called off the hunt for the Resistance, her acceptance of him was at an all-time high. There now existed a fragile neutrality, a springboard of sorts that had been created out of a mix of necessity and free will.
By unspoken rule, they avoided speaking of the past. Kylo never asked of her whereabouts, though he left his available for her to glean at will. In the quiet spaces of his mind, he yearned for her and hoped she would tire of the rebels and their limited, dogmatic views. Even so, he was wise enough to refrain from broaching the subject; she’d rejected a place at his side twice now, and if it was to be, she’d need to come to the conclusion without his trying to change her mind.
The frequency of the Force bond was unpredictable: days could pass without contact, and other times they’d be united twice in an eight-hour cycle. Much like an erratic ruler, it had no regard for their current engagements.
Their bond once convened them while he was midway through a high-level address to his officers. She manifested, halting him mid-sentence as he blinked stupidly at her for a moment before recovering himself. His subordinates had shifted uncomfortably at their leader’s odd behavior, eyes darting about the boardroom in search of whatever cue they were missing. Rey, meanwhile, looked decidedly impish, all too aware of his compromised position and inability to address her. He returned her smirk with a subtle frown before resolutely ignoring her, forced to continue his address while she watched with high interest.
It wasn’t long before his turn to gloat came.
Their minds joined and she came into view elbows deep in the console of an aged G9 freighter. She responded to his polite greeting with a Huttese expletive that would’ve made his father smile. He strolled nonchalantly around where she crouched, watching her nimble fingers move frantically through the wiring.
“That really is dated technology, you know,” he remarked, failing to hide his amusement.
“Thank you for that illuminating observation,” she snapped, flinching as a cascade of sparks singed her arm. “Not all of us have unlimited credits at our disposal, oh ruler of the galaxy.”
Something about her sarcasm roused a playfulness, a lightness in his chest that was wholly unfamiliar. “One of these days, you should come for a visit,” he replied silkily. “I’ll furnish you with any ship your little heart desires.”
She glared daggers at him and was instantly rewarded for her distraction with a small shock. “Kriff!” she shrieked, jolting as she frantically worked the heavily modified mess of wires that branded the freighter as a smugglers vessel.
“Better concentrate,” he admonished, smiling at her colorful selection of intergalactic curses as he sank into a crouch behind her.
He fixated on a small wrench, trying to lift it using first his hands and then the Force. It didn’t so much as twitch, proving what he’d come to suspect; through the bond, they could affect one another through direct contact only. The plasma bolt she’d fired at him on Ahch-To hadn’t hurt him, and in the same vein, he was unable to manipulate objects in her presence. Which, in this case, really was a shame.
He made himself somewhat useful during his time with her, squinting at her efforts, surprising her with decent mechanical advice gleaned from his childhood years of watching his dad’s tinkering.
When the bond finally severed their connection, Rey possessed a respect for him that was all new. She’d thrown him a wry, appreciative glance as his presence had faded, and he’d caught the trailing slip of her thoughts: “ ...knows what a Harris wrench is, unlike Finn…”
Kylo truly couldn’t tell what made him happier – her grudging respect, or the fact that she considered him better than her precious traitor – who he’d still love to chance upon in a dark cantina.
At times, it seemed that the Force was a cognizant entity in possession of a truly wicked sense of humor – that, or a very specific purpose.
As he was indulging in a hydroshower, she materialized.
His body froze as he became aware of her presence behind him. Lifting his head, he stared at the blurred reflection of her face in the metallic panel before him, his mind rattling off strings of curses. His options were near non-existent, but he raced through them anyway, trying to decide how to react.
Finally, he exhaled, shoulders relaxing as he forced himself to return to soaping his body, albeit a little slower in his distraction. There was nothing he could do to change her being there, and in the end, it was fitting; the level of intimacy they shared exceeded even what others with Force sensitivity would ever experience. And she’d already seen him half-clothed, after all...
With a supreme effort of will, he turned to face her, set on retaining some small vestige of his dignity.
The girl who’d once been flustered by the sight of his bare chest was gone. In her place was a woman, pale, but determined not to shy away.
She kept her chin up, her clear eyes glued unerringly to his as she fought her own battle. He could feel the curiosity wafting off of her and beneath it, the slow awakening of arousal. Still, she wouldn’t look down unless he okayed it, a small kindness that he did not fail to notice.
The air between them virtually shimmered with the height of curbed emotion, and the self-depreciating quip at the tip of his tongue sat abandoned and irrelevant. Instead, he addressed the urge he could so palpably feel from her.
“Rey,” he said softly, “it’s alright if you – you can look – if you want to.”
Her lips parted as she searched his eyes, lingering as if to make sure he’d meant it. Then she let her gaze wander, going so slowly, drinking him in with open admiration.
He could never have predicted the sumptuousness of it: her unshielded feelings and reactions reflecting down the bond as she traced his build. The path of her stare was a phantom caress that whispered over his skin, waking his nerve endings with a subtle tingle.
When her gaze reached the stirring length between his thighs, she blinked, lingering. Her wide eyes flashed to his for an instant before returning to examine his manhood.
Have you never seen a man?
At the sound of his words, she exhaled, revealing that she, too, had held her breath. Only in a holovid, she silently replied.
Kylo’s mind tripped over itself, trying to memorize the sight of her. The light blush that colored her cheeks was lovely, and her lips were flushed and parted. She was unashamed as her hand fluttered to settle over her heart, as if to measure the way it raced.
He’d felt the chemistry between them before; it wasn’t new. But in that moment, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the desire she felt for him. He could see how her eyes had darkened as her pupils expanded, knew the shallow draw of her breath and frantic flutter of her pulse. Her reaction was easily the most erotic experience of his life, all of it bared through their bond.
She was an open book, though not by choice.
Even as he relished the unschooled play of her feelings, he inexplicably found himself sympathizing. In a moment he’d later come to curse, he did something impulsive.
Holding her gaze, he spoke into her mind once more. Your openness is incredibly pleasing to me. But if you’d like, I will train you to veil your emotion, so that you have the choice of what to share with other Force-sensitives. Would you like that?
Her eyes wavered with uncertainty, the haze of desire clearing a little. He was sorry to see it go, but then she favored him with a little smile, melting him in completely different ways.
“You’d do that?” she asked. “But why?”
He touched a panel on the wall, halting the spray of water as he thought about how he wanted to answer. With her, honesty was ever the answer. “For two reasons,” he replied, turning back to face her. “With Luke gone, there are none in your company fit to teach you how to utilize your Force sensitivity, and I can think of no greater crime than for one of your ability to go untrained. As to the second reason, I want you to be deliberate…” he said, pausing to weigh his next words, “with me, specifically. I want you to share with me what you would, not what you can’t control. I seek for us to be equals in that.”
At last, he returned her smile, his eyes crinkling a little in a way that others never saw. “But first,” he said, amusement creeping into his tone, “you have to let me finish showering.”
Her eyes widened and she whirled around to give him privacy. “Kriff!” she swore. “Yes, of course, I— of course! ”
Chapter 4: The Sugared Taste of Borrowed Time
Let the teaching commence!
Songspiration: Yoste, Chihiro
So began their practice, broken haphazardly into the time they were granted.
It was slow going and largely contingent on what affairs they were involved with when they connected. Kylo came away from the first of their more successful sessions with an even greater insight and respect for the caliber of Rey’s Force ability. When she focused herself and was utterly calm, she was able to fully mesh with the currents of the Force. It was the first step.
“What remains is harnessing that energy,” he’d told her as she sat before him, her eyes closed, body relaxed. “It is ever-present. It belongs to you as much as you belong to it.”
His heart give an unsanctioned throb as he stared at her. She virtually glowed, a living conduit of energy that stole his breath away. He shook his head, silently chastising himself over his enamored reaction and refocusing. “Do you feel your spark in the energetic net of the Force?” he asked.
“Yes,” she breathed, her face impassive but for one corner of her mouth, which curled up. He’d always noticed how, no matter how serious she was, that left corner always threatened to break into a smile – the physical embodiment of her ever-present optimism.
“Good,” he murmured. “Now I want you to move your focus outward and search for me in the Force. Open your eyes when you find it, but keep aware of our energetic signatures, yours and mine.”
After several moments, her eyes opened. “You’re not hard to find,” she announced.
“As you remain focused on my energy, I want you to think of an object, anything at all. You’ll feel me infringe upon you, trying to glean the item from your mind. Block me out... if you can ,” he added. Her eyes narrowed in response to his smirk, and he could feel the determination that gathered around her like a heavy cloak.
For the first hour or so, he defeated her soundly, naming her secret words without much difficulty: Blaster, Teedo, Repulsorlift, R’iia, Porg, and when she grew frustrated with his success, Wookie, Millennium Falcon, and worst of all, Finn, (or as he’d ever remain in Kylo’s mind, FN2187 ). Her temper got the best of her and she shot to her feet, eyes glittering with a pent-up urge he’d recognize anywhere, even if they weren’t connected by a Force bond.
He met her aggressive stare unblinkingly, privy to his own rising ire and more provoked than he cared to admit. “You want to spar?”
She gave a stubborn nod, and thus her training grew to include the fighting disciplines.
It was a good balance for them both, a division of their focus between the corporeal and immaterial. Potential practically bled from Rey’s being, and her hunger to learn had the inverse effect of making her an excellent pupil.
“Go on then,” she said doggedly, “I’m ready for you this time.”
He focused, haunting the perimeter of the barriers she’d erected and finding no faults. “Very good,” he murmured, smiling darkly. “Brace yourself. I’m going to try and break through your defenses. Think of me as a foe…”
She closed her eyes, spine straightening. “Now that shouldn’t be hard…” she muttered, trailing off as she entered a state of high concentration.
He ignored the half-hearted jab and began his attack, employing a variety of approaches. Focusing his intent into a weapon, he assailed her, trying in earnest to penetrate her mind. It was like stabbing a dense gray fog, each attempt meeting with failure. He revised his approach, using the Force to influence her mood, trying to lure her into a more cooperative state where she might let her guard down.
The air shimmered and warped as molecules reacted to the pressure between them. The moments lengthened and Rey's face grew drawn, sweat beading at her temples. She resisted the lull he plied her with, utilizing the Force as armor, deflecting his subterfuge. With a groan of intense effort, she pushed her hand toward him in a repelling motion. He jolted as his projected will was forcefully ejected from her mindspace and driven back.
Utterly rebuked, he exhaled in a whoosh of held breath, realizing that he, too, was shaken by the effort.
“Rey,” he said quietly, “you’ve done it.” He opened the gate wide, letting her feel the full measure of his pride in her accomplishment.
Opening one eye cautiously, she peeked at him then broke into a jubilant smile, letting out a yip of joy before toppling backward to sprawl on the ground, slender arms outstretched in exhausted victory.
He let himself go, flopping down to stretch out his limbs, catching his breath alongside her as he gazed up at the ceiling of his private quarters.
At last, she turned to face him. “You’ve told me before that it’s not the point, but...I must say that finally beating you feels pretty amazing.”
The corner of his mouth twitched into a smirk. “Has anyone ever told you you’re a pain in the ass?” he rasped, rolling onto his side to fix her with a warning look.
“Oh, sure, all the time,” she replied, nonchalant until she narrowed her eyes and favored him with a devious smile. “But tell me, was that really your best? I mean, really -really? Because I must say…”
He pounced and she broke into giggles, his fingers tickling her until she pleaded for mercy. She made it hard to remain serious, but he found that he rather liked it.
Their practice progressed organically, and Kylo became convinced that Rey would find the most benefit from training infused with the teachings of both light and dark side principles.
“Why would you seek to teach me both?” she’d challenged. “Aren’t they inherently different in their aims?”
Having spent years of his life puzzling it through himself, he was more than ready to engage her on the differences. “It’s their approach that differs, but both operate by using the Force to achieve individual goals. Neither are entirely right or wrong, as fundamentalist practitioners would have you believe. The Jedi and Sith are both shortsighted; each dismisses the other's methodology as entirely false. Having participated in both disciplines, I’ve come to conclude that both are wrong. Temperance is necessary. Passion and peace, chaos and order: a balance.”
She studied him, measuring his energy before speaking. “You once said no Jedi, no Sith.”
He nodded in acknowledgment. “The Orders themselves were problematic – fractious and more of a hindrance than a help to the Galaxy. However, the tools they used remain as good as the hand that wields them. Balanced applications of power should follow reality, and reality isn’t black or white,” he said, pausing to smile at her. “So you learn both.”
She narrowed her eyes a little, giving him a glimpse of the hardened scavenger that had kept her alive all those years in the desert wastes. “Alright,” she conceded, still hesitant. “But if at any time I feel uncomfortable with a principle or technique you teach, I reserve the right to debate its merit and cease if I’m not satisfied.”
Looking upon her, his heart swelled. He agreed to her terms, careful to hide just how much he admired her grit.
In truth, much of his thought to train her with light and dark side teachings was motivated by Rey herself. He was intimately familiar with the duality of her nature. The murderous urge he’d seen when she’d scarred him on Starkiller exemplified her darkness, equal to the way she’d left him alive, fleeing with the look of a child terrified by the act of their own hand. With full immersion, she might be swayed in either direction, despite her instinctive bias toward the Jedi path. It was all the more reason to give her a moderated serving of both.
They remained at the mercy of their Force bond and its timing. It wasn’t long, however, before Kylo began to notice the emergence of a pattern: the bond seemed to respond in kind to their newfound harmony. The more they collaborated, the more malleable it became, accommodating their wishes in increments that lengthened. Fascinated, he began to meditate on it, merging with the Force as he attempted to initiate the connection between them.
One day, he appeared to Rey, stratosphere-high on triumph.
It was late in her planet’s rotation and he found her reading alone in her quarters. She sensed him, pausing the holo-reader before his presence had fully come into view. Her brow arched as she took in the smug smile he wore. “You look happier than the first steelpecker at a fresh wreck,” she observed.
The expectant look on her face was delightful, and he kept his silence, unable to resist dragging out the suspense a little longer.
She grew impatient when he didn’t divulge, placing her hands on her hips. “Well?” she demanded, “go on then, spill it!”
His smirk widened in a boyish grin and he relented. “Rey, I cracked it,” he declared proudly. “Just now, I came to you by manipulating our Force bond.”
“You did?! ” Her mouth fell open as the achievement registered. “Why, that means…”
“That we can reach each other at will, control when and where we meet,” he finished, mirroring her excitement in his own, more subdued way. He crossed the distance in two strides, settling next to her with a familiarity that still felt too good to be real. “We can decide on a formalized training regimen,” he continued, “one that allows for undivided concentration.”
She chuckled heartily, picking up on his thoughts of some of their more ill-timed meetings. “That’s good news!” she exclaimed, smiling widely at him. “Do you think I’ll be able to bridge the bond too?”
He couldn’t stop the flood of affection he felt for her. It was unconscious, natural as breathing. Gazing on the brightness of her face, he suppressed the urge to touch her. “You are the strongest Force-sensitive I’ve ever met. I have no doubt that you too will learn to connect us at will.”
Her laughter was addictive, and he’d shared in delight at their new-won autonomy.
They made a shared decision to meet every third day at a prearranged time, and the advantage of planned timing yielded quick results. Although Rey remained unable to bridge their connection as he did, her progress in combat was prodigal; she moved through the velocities of Shii-Cho, and within weeks was burning through the lightsaber dueling forms of Makashi.
As they sparred, it became apparent that she tended to burn much of her energy in quick bursts of offense, leaving nothing to sustain her between. It was an easily exploitable weakness that needed remedying.
He’d been pushing her hard for several hours, cycling through drills to improve her endurance. At the moment, she lingered in a crouch some 20 paces away from him, her body heaving for breath. “Up, Rey,” he urged, twirling his practice weapon in unconscious habit. “Your enemies won’t afford you time to recover.”
She stood and pushed the wet strands of hair from her forehead. “I just– I’m not used to such a protracted battle.” She managed a wry smile, still panting for air. “If this were a fight on Jakku, I would have either won or run by now.”
“That is precisely why we engage this way,” he replied, serious as he leveled his weapon at her. Her limbs trembled, but her face showed determination as she sank into her opening stance. He watched her eyes darken a shade, felt the movement of energy as the Force gathered around her. What was she about…? He had only a parsec to wonder before she launched herself in a Force leap several times her height, descending upon him with a fierce expression, her weapon poised to strike.
Her spontaneity was delightful, and the boy in him wanted badly to rise up and clash with her mid-air, but the lesson had to be taught. With a quick motion, he reached his hand out and summoned the Force to redirect her trajectory. She tumbled to the ground, entirely winded.
Immediately, he was at her side, scanning for any real injury. Finding none, he leveled the tip of his weapon at her. “Yield,” he commanded.
She appeared dazed, a small, crumpled heap of girl– the perfect foil. One sharp kick to the back of his knees and she seemed to flow over him like water. He found himself right where she was not seconds before: on the ground, staring up at her in confusion. Her face was fiercely triumphant as she gazed down the shaft of the staff pointed at his sternum. “Yield,” she said haughtily, her regal lilt lending the command authority.
There were a thousand retaliations he could hit her with, but Maker! –she’d just flawlessly employed two advanced techniques without any training, utilizing the Force to enhance both her leap and speed respectively. He broke into a lopsided grin, unable to help himself. “I don’t believe it,” he mumbled incredulously, “bested by some back alley street fighter move.”
She lowered her staff and smiled, still perched atop his prone form. “You wouldn’t believe how many fall for it,” she declared, waggling her brows. “Fall – get it?”
He groaned at her humor, rolling her giggling form off of him as he sat up. “Street fighting may be undisciplined, but it’s a bonus, especially when you’re up against a classically trained fighter,” he said, pausing to shoot her a pointed look, “one who assumes some modicum of decorum.”
“Yeah,” she murmured, beaming up at him. “That’s definitely not me.”
He chuckled, shaking his head a little. “Just remember – when you’re engaging another adept in physical combat, you must keep your sensitivity keen so you know when they’re conjuring the Force. They won’t hesitate to utilize their ability to block you, as I just did.”
She nodded, sitting up at last. “Got it.”
“Rey,” he said, sobering some as he got to his feet. “Were you aware that you just tapped the Force to enhance your physical ability? When you broke form and leapt high, and just now, when you used it to enhance your speed – those are techniques of Ataru, a form I haven’t yet taught you.”
She blinked, her brows furrowing. “All I know is I felt taxed, at the end of my physical ability to continue. You were pushing me hard, and I, I don't know...”
“I see,” he replied, his voice quiet. “Sometimes that is the way of things; when limits are tested, one’s Force ability manifests as an intuitive response. I’ve heard many tales of such happenings with gifted Force-sensitives, and you’re no exception. Remember the catastrophe of your interrogation?”
Her face grew wooden as she nodded.
“I had pushed you to your limit and you were having none of it,” he said, speaking softly to blunt the edge of a memory that was sensitive to both of them. “Without any training or understanding of your Force ability, you resisted my mind probe – and then reversed it back on me.” He shook his head in wonder. “You know you took me completely off guard?”
He watched the motion of her throat as she swallowed, her face looking slightly pained. At once, he realized...he’d broken the golden rule, resurrecting a specter from the minefield of their past. Though it was a prime example of her power manifesting itself, it still dredged up uncomfortable memories. His face softened in understanding. Forgive me, he thought.
Her lips quirked up at the corners as she registered his apology, the shadow passing from her face as quickly as it’d come.
He found himself thanking the Maker for the Force bond they shared. What a boon it was that they could communicate so openly, the sincerity and construct of their emotion conveyed along with actual words. A crooked smile formed on his face, as natural as breathing. “Listen, I love seeing your powers manifest – just don’t go getting the idea that the student decides when the lesson is over. When I push you, it’s for a good reason. Do you trust me?”
She gazed up at him unwaveringly. “Yes. I trust you.”
His heart seemed to rise within his breast, weightless as he offered his hand, unable to halt the thrill that ran through him as she took it. “I’d say that’s good for sparring,” he said, pulling her to her feet. “Let’s end with some defensive shielding.”
Her face lit up and she nodded. She’d become adept at guarding her thoughts from him and teetered on the verge of perfecting the art of Force camouflage. At the close of their practice that day, she was able to cloak her presence completely. For the first time, she foiled him at hide-and-seek, leaving him smiling, utterly stumped as to where she hid.
Sometimes they’d sit side by side after her training sessions, speaking of inconsequential things. She’d ask him about planets he’d visited and things he’d seen in his travels, listening with the interest of one unused to what she referred to as “the privilege” of space travel.
He’d ask about her mechanical inclinations and exploits, and they enjoyed many a debate about the various upgrades and modifications that were familiar to each of them thanks to his upbringing and her time spent deconstructing starships and rigging speeders.
She began to mention details that hinted at her location: exclaiming over unfamiliar climates, dealings with locals or sightings of fauna she found interesting. He knew without being told that she and the remaining rebels had jumped planets multiple times since Crait, and that their current location was populated almost exclusively by humans. This meant a high probability she was somewhere along the Inner Rim, whilst he and a small delegation were stationed just off the Nothoiin Corridor near Eriadu.
Their current endeavors, the people that surrounded them day-to-day, their locations in the physical; all of it seemed to dwindle in the scope of this immense thing they were building. Their nuanced, multi-faceted understanding of one another was incredibly rich, and Kylo was taken aback the day he realized it: The Force wasn’t the tyrant he’d surmised it to be, and even more incredibly, the bond it perpetuated flew in direct defiance of fate’s usual fare.
He had lived long enough to be skeptical of the longevity of any happiness. It simply hadn’t been his lot, and he’d accepted that. But Rey… Rey took everything he thought he knew and turned it on its head. In her friendship was the first unconditional acceptance of his adult life, and it felt like home.
Drawing courage from the Force that had seen fit to continue their bond, he opened his well-guarded heart to take in her glow, savoring her for whatever time was granted.
Chapter 5: Belonging I Seek
The barriers fall and the last hold-out of intimate knowledge is learned...
Here we go with that E rating.
Songspiration courtesy of Saga, who turned me on to this atmospheric dream of a song. Thank you for the inspiration and all the support. Mogwai, Donuts
A lambent river of attraction had been there all along, flowing and pulling between them, ever present. Now, it strengthened, nurtured by the growth of trust and friendship. She was a magnetic force that drew him, her energy irresistible. And though she’d learned to guard her thoughts and veil her emotions, she chose to wear them on the surface of her mind, availing herself to him. In this way, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she returned his interest.
This awareness did little for his objectivity as a teacher.
Body language didn’t lie, and neither did their bond. Sometimes, at the height of their sparring, she’d hit him with a lush wave of desire. A needless brush of sweat-soaked skin, her eyes trained overlong on his mouth, the pink tip of her tongue darting out to lick flushed lips...
He savored the delicious agony of her flirtations, his dreams playing out the passionate acts he repressed during waking reality. By the grace of some unknown deity, he managed to leash his urge, motivated by an ironclad conviction that she be the initiate.
Still, the tension continued to mount, a fire they could both sense in the other. It burned higher the longer it was ignored, fueled by their inaction.
They were training hard the day the barriers fell.
She had him locked in an impasse, his weapon quivering as she braced against it. Only a few inches of space separated them, and he could feel the heat rising off of her trembling muscles, see each enchanted freckle within her eyes…
All at once she relaxed her stance and dropped her staff, lips parted as she panted in an effort to regain her breath. He lowered his own weapon, taken completely off-guard as her eyes wandered over the planes of his face, his lips, and back up to lock in a meaningful stare. His muscles grew pliant, all tension dissolving as she wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and drew him down to press her forehead and chest lightly to his.
It shook him. Barring the way they’d joined hands, he hadn’t experienced intimate human touch since he was a young child. Through their bond, he perceived that she’d abandoned restraint, following an impulse to feel the energy under his skin, to lay her heartbeat against his and feel them sync. His eyes closed, shutting out his five senses in order to better use his sixth, testing the make of her emotions.
The red glow of desire cloaked her presence in the Force, but her motivation superseded physical need. Rey wanted more of him, she wanted all .
Overcome by a sense of the surreal, he opened his eyes and pulled back to stare at her. She shone fair as a centennial dawn, stealing his breath as she bathed him in the unmet glory of her need.
Her voice was husky when she spoke, breath warm against his face. “I think I understand now what Maz meant... this bond we share, the way it continues to connect us – how could it be anything other than fate?” Her fingers were light as she traced the scar she’d given, the one that marked him as hers. “You are my perfect counterweight. The belonging I seek is with you.”
Her words obliterated and then reformed him, breathing life into his fondest wish. He lifted a hand to gently cup her face, so radiant as the light wreathed her. “I’ve tried not to hope for it, but I’ve never, in all my life, wanted anything more than you…”
He trailed off, searching for a way to capture the magnitude of his feelings with something as fleeting as words. It was like trying to house a sun within a holocron.
“Rey,” he murmured, searching her eyes, “the darkness in you is more beautiful for the light you keep. I see you in all your forms, and I hold you above all others.”
“I hold you above all others,” she repeated breathily, a vow given as she drew him down, rising on tiptoes to meet his descent.
Their lips met and he felt himself immolate. That first, tender kiss wrought more devastation than a proton bomb, sending his mind spinning, lost in the honeyed warmth of her mouth.
He faltered, scrambling to assemble the scattered pieces of reality as she nibbled at him with little sounds of satisfaction. It was a slow return to self as his bones resolidified, limbs finally obeying as he threaded his fingers through her hair to pull her tight against him.
The tender crush of her lips was achingly luscious. He found himself purring, a deep bass rumble he’d never heard himself make before, unable to stay composed in the wake of tasting her at long last. With every drop of his self-control utilized, he focused, sliding his tongue into her mouth, licking slowly, sensually.
Her moan accompanied a wave of heated consent, and without breaking stride at her lips, he let his hands wander, cupping the slender column of her throat, enveloping her shoulders, sliding around to trace the curve of her spine. Her fingers threaded through his hair, closing into loose fists when he deepened the kiss, his hands straying low to knead at the pert globes of her buttocks.
Amidst a dizzying sprawl of moans and gentle bites, they unveiled one another, each article of clothing falling to the floor to join the pile of discarded inhibitions. The full body press of skin-on-skin was an epiphany, firing every nerve ending with an awareness that was new to his touch-starved brain. She murmured to him wordlessly, little sounds of delight as she rubbed herself against the planes of his body, and in that moment, he understood that he’d never really lived before her, before this .
Instinct took over when coherent thought failed, his mouth leading unfailingly, following the line of her throat down to trace the lush curves of her breasts. Falling to his knees before her, he reveled in her hitched gasps as his lips slid over each tender nipple. Her startled bliss rippled down the bond and he lingered there, suckling leisurely at those dusky peaks as she swayed precariously in his grasp.
Much to his delight, her knees gave out and she sank into his embrace, folding gracefully like an areca tree in a gale-force wind. He was gentle as he lay her down, staring deep into the liquid depths of her eyes. He’d always known she would be staggeringly perfect unclothed, but to see her lay before him – her skin flushed and eyes staring feverishly into his own – it was beyond his ability to process. She was honed yet delicate, a living work of art. He ran the tips of his fingers lightly over each limber muscle, trying to distill the adoration he felt into the lightness of his touch. Exquisite, Rey, you’re just…
“Kylo,” she implored, his name a plea as she blushed under his scrutiny. “Get down here already--” His eyes flashed as she tugged delightfully at him, trying to pull him closer. Suppressing a grin of utter joy, he lowered himself carefully over her smaller form, mapping every one of her freckles with slow, ponderous kisses. She learned him in turn, murmuring words of approval as she stroked the hard planes of his chest, his shoulders, his waist, her nails leaving little crescents when she needed an anchor.
Slipping kisses over the jut of her hip bones, he parted the flower at the junction of her thighs and kissed her there as well, lapping gently at the glossy wetness hidden within. She swore softly and tightened her grip, holding fistfulls of his hair as her breath hitched. He smiled at her reaction, savoring the quality of her shock through the bond, but he wanted more. Reaching out, he brushed tentatively at her mind and was instantly admitted.
Oh, the things she felt. He’d already been on fire, but now she positively engulfed him with lust. All tenderness fled before the sensations she shared with him – a salacious flow of warm, wet, slippery – and he pressed his mouth to her harder, feeling the phantom sensation of his own mouth and knowing that it was but a sliver of what she enjoyed. Caving to the urge, his hands tightened, pinning her hips down to better devour her. He tested her reactions in real time, experimenting until he found her sensitive peak and the pressure that caused her legs to writhe with ecstacy. He hummed, thinking that he’d like to live between her thighs forever, his only function to lick and suck and taste, to serve his goddess unspeakable pleasures whenever she desired.
Not pausing the work of his mouth, he obeyed the incoherent begging of her mind and gently pressed a fingertip to her tender entrance, dipping slowly, testing. Her soft pleas for more were all the permission he needed. He shuddered, his cock twitching with jealousy as his finger slid into the silken vise of her body. The bond was resplendent, showering sparks as he began to stroke.
She writhed, her wordless cries becoming full-throated, the sound of her pleasure like a drug. He could sense the rapid build of her climax and chased it, deepening the thrust of his fingers, coaxing her with a silent litany of praise. Oh, Rey, I can feel it, so close...that’s it, give yourself over. Let it take you…
The rapture overtook her and she arched, crying his name as her hips tried to rise from the floor. His cock thrummed like a live wire as he shared her white-out moment through the bond, groaning as her muscles contracted pleasurably with each stroke of his fingers. Her breath staggered and he continued to push into her, riding out her ecstasy until she became too sensitive, her hands flying down to lock around his wrist.
He would have liked to gloat over his prize but she gave him no time to be smug, hauling him somewhat roughly up to meet her lips in a breathless kiss. Now it was his turn to short-circuit as her fingers wrapped around his length, stroking him several times without preamble. Her voice was in his head, wild and more intoxicating than pure spice. Stars above, Kylo, how did you do that? Mmm, your lips... she paused, sucking on his bottom lip before biting him like an over-enamored cat – So good – I can taste myself on you …
She pressed him to her sex, bathing his length in the sea of slick arousal he’d coaxed from her body. Her eyes were sunlit amber as she pulled back, staring deep into his own. Please, Kylo. I’m ready.
He surged forward, unable to be articulate as he recaptured her lips. Yes .
She held him in place as he gave a steady push, sinking into her liquid heat, joining them in ways that eclipsed the merging of the physical. Tears formed in the corner of her eyes and he stilled, aware of her discomfort. Instantly, his own need faded into the background.
“Rey?” he asked quietly, reaching out. He inhaled, amazed by what he found – she hurt, but the sharpness was tempered by waves of intense gratitude.
She pressed her lips to his, her thoughts resonating through his mind with untenable conviction. It could only be you. My perfect balance.
His eyes began to brim in response as she held him tight, bravely embracing the unfamiliar feel of physical joining. With infinite tenderness, he cradled her in his arms, still as a stone. His wide eyes stared down at the dark-haired girl nestled within his embrace. “You are a wonder, my love,” he whispered huskily, brushing his mouth along her cheek. “So strong and still so delicate.”
My love , she echoed, her voice dulcet in his mind. I like it when you call me that . Her muscles clenched deliciously around his girth as she turned to meet his lips. He kissed her back, flooding her mind with his perception, giving her his own pleasure. Her surprise filtered through as she experienced what it was like for him: the hot, tight throb of her body hugging that most sensitive organ, the deep, primal gratification of being sheathed within her. Claiming her irrevocably, just as she’d left her mark on Starkiller.
After all the months of telepathic connection and the familiarity that came of their shared thoughts and emotions, how delicious it was to learn the physical intimacies. She moaned softly into his mouth, seduced by his take on their joining. As one, they began to move, flowing with the slow grace of water – caressing, surrounding each other, discovering the astonishing perfection of their fit.
He felt it when her initial discomfort began to ebb, replaced by a warm pleasure that strengthened as he moved within her. The sound of her gasps and moans were fuel to the blaze, joining the heady stream of her shared thoughts and sensations. Her delight rained down around him as their bodies slid into one over and over again. His entire awareness became trembling, sweat-slicked muscles. A luscious flexing. The generous give of her – so soft and wet – a stunning answer to his hardness.
The build of her ecstasy was irresistible, dancing him to the brink.
As he teetered at the edge of complete surrender, old specters flared to life, startling and unwelcome. To let himself go was to open himself up to the possibility of untold pain. He quailed instinctively at the perception of complete vulnerability. Bonded as they were, she knew his fear and stilled beneath him, searching his face.
My love, don’t be afraid. I am yours ; we are for each other. Together we can overcome all obstacles...
She gathered him closer and kissed his face, murmuring softly as she bid him to let go. Her lips moved over him, nibbling delicately as her hands stroked his skin. Words of hope echoed through his mind, spoken with a conviction strong as Mandalorian iron.
Surely, the galaxy had never known a more formidable offense.
With a sigh, he exhaled all deeply-held cautions and gave himself over. There at the altar of change, she met him, her energy a perfect blend of light and dark, like balm to his soul.
She moved with him in tandem, each thrust perfectly met as their need built itself into something truly exquisite. At its pinnacle he invoked her name, holding her tight as together they plunged over the edge into argent, mind-melting bliss.
All was pleasure: soft sighs, liquid kisses, lazy muscles.
An interminable length of time passed with them entwined, still soaking in the warmth of one another. Minutes, hours, time was meaningless where they were.
At last, she raised her head abruptly from his chest and looked off into the distance, listening. Staring at her, he could just make out the blurred details of her most immediate surroundings: dimmed light, shadowy bunk, rumpled sheets.
She turned back to him with an apologetic look, and he knew what she was going to say.
“No,” he growled. “You’re busy, and they can’t have you.” He backed his assertion by wrapping his arms around her in an ironclad vise.
She laughed, unused to being so coveted. “Two days,” she vowed, her voice delightfully hoarse. “The usual time.”
He sighed in resignation, unwilling to let her go. “Very well,” he said with a rueful smile. “I already can’t wait.” He relinquished her only after several methodical kisses: to the forehead and each cheek before tipping her chin up and lavishing her mouth with what he hoped was a very memorable kiss.
She arose and began dressing, her eyes flickering to him and growing warm when she saw how captivated he was. What? Have you never seen a girl before? He broke into a slow smile as she threw his words back at him, shaking his head in wonder. She laughed at his expression and dropped a final kiss on his lips. Then she was gone, leaving him staring up at the durasteel ceiling of his quarters, more complete than he’d ever been.
Chapter 6: The Amulet
All good things come to an end, and there is endless variety in how...
Songspiration courtesy of Lufthansa in-flight music. I didn't even know Moby was still producing, and this whole album is incredibly dark and excellent for jet-lagged daydreaming.
Moby, The Middle Is Gone
Never had the time dragged as slowly as it did, each minute holding him hostage.
He couldn’t wait to see her, to hold her again, and it took a real exercise of will to refrain from coming to her early. The moment arrived at last, and he had showered, swapping his formal uniform for more comfortable garb. His chest was alive with joyful expectation as he sank down upon the firm meditation pallet in the alcove of his quarters, folding his long limbs into a comfortable position.
Closing his eyes, he breathed in, filling his lungs and exhaling all thought as he connected with the Force. Time, space and coherent thought ceased as he moved through the web of energy, galaxy-like and strewn with points of light. In no more than the span of a single breath, he was with her, opening his eyes onto the dark.
A sense of wrongness assaulted him, and his heart stuttered in his chest. “Rey?”
In the dim light of his personal quarters, his corporeal body relaxed as her voice sounded in his mind, bringing relief.
She laughed, pleased by his appearance, and the bright sound blunted the cold shank of foreboding that had lodged in his chest – blunted but didn’t dislodge.
At last, she came into view and moved toward him, her face pale and hard to make out in whatever dreary place he’d found her in. His unease remained, lingering like a bad taste in his mouth.
He squinted, focusing his Force sensitivity to get a feel for where she might be, but the small details weren’t forthcoming. He could see nothing of her surroundings as he had before.
She beamed up at him, still cast in shadow as she slid her arms around his waist with a familiarity that made his heart turn over.
“Stars, but I’ve missed you!” she announced, tipping her head back to receive his kiss.
“I’ve missed you too, more than you know,” he replied, still distracted by the pervading disquiet. “But, Rey, where are you? This place you’re in – it, it’s dark . Something feels off–”
She interrupted him, unable to contain herself. “I wish you had come early, I’ve been waiting to tell you! Coming back from a supply run, I stumbled on this!” Pulling away from him, she turned and gestured expansively around her.
He frowned, trying to see through the vague palate of muted darkness, but it was like swimming through an underwater cave. That nagging sense of alarm remained as he shook his head. “I can’t see here, everything is too dark.”
She returned to him, her eager face swimming into focus. “It’s an abandoned bunker, and it must be ancient because the technology is completely foreign to me,” she said, pausing to gesture around her in wonder. “It’s huge! The corridors stretch on and on, like an underground city, and it’s full of fascinating things...”
She went on, describing what he couldn’t see, the excitement of discovery rolling from her in waves. Meanwhile, his unease continued to hone itself sharper.
His frown deepened as his anxiety became unbearable. “Wait, Rey, stop.” He placed his hands over her shoulders, enclosing them within his grip and holding her firm. “There’s something wrong, can’t you feel it? I want you to get out.”
She blinked, her smile slipping a tad as the full weight of his concern hit her. “I don’t notice anything like that – this place feels, I don’t know, powerful?”
He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off. “Oh, all right, all right, I’ll get out,” she groused, the disappointment clear in her tone, “but not before I show you something really incredible.” She pulled away from him and turned her back, bending low over something he couldn’t see. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, turning back to him with something small in her hands. It shone in the dark, an insidious flash of red that made his stomach lurch.
She shot him a playful look. “Come on – you’ve got to see it in the light!”
Not waiting for his reply, she spun on her heel and dashed away, calling back for him to follow. He did, his heart beginning to slam against his ribs. As he chased her through the darkness, his fear escalated. What is this place? The logical part of his brain reeled, desperately trying to work out the problem to no avail.
“Rey? Hold on!” he called, unable to keep his panic hidden.
Her voice floated back to him from up ahead. “Here we are!”
A shimmer of silvery light tempered the dark through which they ran, its outline growing clear as details of her surroundings finally revealed themselves. She ran before him through a long, downward-sloping corridor, the light ahead pouring in through an oval entrance covered with swaying vines. The light backlit her slender silhouette, some ten paces ahead of him.
Kylo saw it happen in slow motion: the toe of Rey's left boot tripped on a small stone, her hair suspending in a fan of chestnut as she tumbled to the floor. The unnamed dread that had plagued him froze into a solid block of ice in his chest, heavy and cold as he watched the item she held fly from her hand. It caught the light, winking like a malevolent eye in the gloom.
His throat plugged with the bitter taste of ash, petrifying his tongue and robbing his ability to yell out a warning. The sharp sound of shattering assaulted his ears as a fine, red rain of shards enveloped the girl he loved, tinkling as they bounced all around her.
Time restarted with her scream.
A single, piercing cry of violation that tore through him like cannon fire. He found his voice and choked out her name, flying toward her as she curled into a ball of agony, hands pawing frantically at her eye.
Her name wrenched from him a second time. His hands stretched out to her, so close as the bond began to sever against his will, carrying him away just as he stumbled to his knees– reaching, reaching –
His heart cracked at the pleading in her voice, rejecting the serpent-like hiss that aborted it midway through.
And there, at the very last – a blind, agonizing glimpse of her signature in the Force – Rey. Her light sundered, guttering low as the darkness poured in.
Chapter 7: You've Lost the Starlight In Your Eyes
We land in the present, where Kylo awaits the arrival of his nemesis.
Welcome to Part II of our tale, which will be told in a series of alternations between flashbacks and the present. From here on out, the seas get rough and there will be angst, violence, gore and the departure from empathy that so often comes with adherence to the dark side.
Songspiration for the flashback: The Postal Service, Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kylo stood at the edge of the treeline, his dark eyes trained on the cloudless sky. Little golden moths fluttered here and there, their dusty wings gilded with light as Tythos set on the horizon. He was utterly still but for the rise of his chest, breathing in the moisture-laden air, feeling the sentient energy of the planet hum beneath his feet like a great, sleeping beast.
His eyes slipped closed as he cast his awareness out from where his body stood rooted. Into the vast web of the Force he flew, probing amongst the energy signatures that dotted the ether like stars, searching...
She was coming.
From far down the corridor of light-years, he could sense her uncloaked fury, roiling and frothing as she sped toward him with murderous intent.
A muffled growl sounded to his left, joining the near-constant waves of animosity that buffeted his mind. He ignored both, sparing no attention to the bound and gagged Nightsister that was his only company. His focus was trained amongst the stars, and he may as well have been alone.
It had all come down to this.
To this moment of profound stillness at the edge of an ak forest. To these breaths of balmy air, their vitality at odds with the dead space in his chest. To awaiting Rey with his saber hand tingling as he scanned the sky with the chilly, unwavering resolve of an executioner.
This was the end.
Darkness coiled and snapped within him, searching for an outlet. Suddenly, the Dathomiri witches’ pathetic attempts to cow him grew intolerable. He savored the sharp sting of aggression, a welcome distraction from the drudgery of waiting. With a twitch of his thumb, he resolved to humor his baser side. His crimson blade roared into being with an unhinged sizzle that never failed to satisfy.
The flow of gruesome imagery stopped instantly as his captive stared wide-eyed at the volatile beam of his lightsaber. Raja Keze had been at it from the moment she’d been hauled unceremoniously from his ship, waging the only form of battle remaining—conjuring every grim outcome she could dream up and hurling them at him in the hopes of disrupting his focus.
He didn’t look at her or even turn. “If you think your sweet talk will distract me, please continue, by all means,” he murmured, disturbingly calm. “I’d enjoy illustrating the degree of my surgical precision.”
She choked on her gag as the image he sent registered: that of his plasma beam carving into her, one of her kidneys falling into his gloved hand like a darkened, overripe fruit.
Now he turned to face the Nightsister – Rey’s last living lieutenant – fixing her deathly pale face with a bottomless stare. “And you? I think you’d make an excellent canvas,” he said, idly hefting his saber, testing its weight with lazy slashes as he advanced.
His mild tone was very much at odds with his threat, and the juxtaposition had her thrashing uselessly at her bonds.
“Now, now,” he admonished, “you must remain still.” His free hand splayed, rendering her immobile with the Force. He frowned in concentration as he leveled the tip of his blade at her abdomen, opening a smoking hole in her light armor. The gag muffled her agonized shriek as the tip met her flesh with a sizzle. His dark eyes were dispassionate, unwavering as he seared a precise mark just so above her left hip.
The spot was marked with an X, his point made painfully clear.
With an impatient flick, the plasma blade sucked back into the emitter, swiftly followed by the crossguard vents.
He watched his captive with cold eyes, unmoved by her seething, tear-streaked face. She had slaughtered dozens of his personnel without so much as a pause, all of them dying in a choking, green miasma of the dark magick she wielded. Their disturbing final moments had been captured on security footage, along with her face, both of which were seared into his memory. Looking at her now, he felt nothing but a need to finish her and avenge his fallen. The worth of her life was, at present, solely contained in her ability to draw out her mistress. He turned away from the tree to which she was bound, leaving her to her fury and pain.
The pale pink moon of Ashla was rising in the south, partially superimposed over her blue neighbor, the much-larger moon known as Bogan. Kylo saw all of it and yet nothing at all, his mind far from the Force-responsive planet on which he stood.
This was the end. Facing it now, his mind couldn’t help but recall the beginning.
Not the first time he’d seen her on Takodana, or the day they’d destroyed both his Master and his Neo-Imperial rule. Not the weeks and months when they’d fashioned a friendship from the wreckage of their past, and certainly not the feverish moment they’d melded into one.
As he stood, a tall shadow beneath pale sentinel trees, the memory that floated to the forefront of his thoughts was born of strategy from a lifetime of adversity.
A memory that took his resolution and reinforced it.
The memory of the travesty he’d come upon when he finally found her.
The days following her disappearance were more excruciating than anything he’d previously experienced. Rey was not dead; their enduring bond reassured him of that. His love was alive somewhere, walking, breathing, thinking. Blocking him out.
His decision to teach her the art of Force concealment had backfired in spectacular fashion. For reasons unknown, she violently shut down every one of his attempts to reach her. He couldn’t conceive of what would drive her to withhold the state she was in, not after the level of trust and intimacy they’d achieved. It was colder, crueler than the worst of Snoke’s abuse. Without understanding the why of her actions, he wallowed in wretchedness, haunted by the specter of rejection.
There were days when the simple task of dressing felt insurmountable, let alone facing the responsibilities of leadership. He had chosen not to reforge his mask and endured the unspoken worry of all who saw his harrowed countenance, their glances lingering on the dark circles that ringed his eyes. In practice combat, he was unable to stay his hand, doling out unnecessary punishment on his knights, leaving them bruised and bloodied.
She rebuffed him in spite of the bond that still connected them, able to fight both it and his attempts to reach her.
Her powers had grown considerably since the break, and perhaps because of that, the balance in the Force had gone awry. His peripheral senses picked up on the disturbance in its previously-even energy, like the build of a storm just over the horizon. Instinctively, he knew she was a part of it, but without contact, he couldn’t be sure.
Time marched in a torturous cadence, days yawning into weeks, weeks slipping sideways into months. He was met with silence, day in, night out. It slowly wore him down, each rejection piling atop the last, like lifeless corpses on a vanquished battlefield.
Eventually, his attempts to reach her slowed to a trickle for the sake of his sanity. Self-preservation took over, automatically blocking anything that threatened the protective scab that finally formed over the wound of her loss.
It took far longer than he would have thought, but at last, he learned how to pretend to be okay – to walk amongst those with beating hearts as though he were one of them – living, breathing, functioning properly.
One night, after a full day of strategic meetings and his customary hours of physical training, Kylo retired to his quarters with mind and body utterly drained. He collapsed on his bed fully dressed, not bothering to remove so much as his boots. Staring up at the durasteel ceiling, he felt his body tingling with exhaustion, each part of him crying silently for rest. He let his eyes close as he soaked in the silence, allowing himself to merge with it. An image of her swam into focus before his mind’s eye, her stare brimming with unspeakable woe. Disobeying logic and his better judgment, he reached for her… and was instantly delivered. His eyes opened, and there she was.
He stared in complete shock, unable to speak or even form a coherent thought. She crouched in profile some ten feet in front of him, her body rigid with tension, hand extended out in front of her.
She was concentrating hard on something he couldn’t see, and he quickly realized that she was unaware of his presence. He had caught her at a vital moment when she had no reserves left to block him, and in the lull, he was awarded full moments to observe her undetected.
She was garbed in soft shades of black, her form trembling with exertion. He absorbed her appearance, noting that her body was leaner than before, as if she’d been training hard since the day of their separation. At a glance, she almost looked the same. It was her energy that begged the question.
What was once her signature blaze of incandescent light had turned in upon itself horrifically. She’d reversed, a star with an absence of light and color, darkness wafting from her being like smoke from the aftermath of utter destruction.
The warmth bled from him as understanding dawned, sharp enough to sunder his heart in his chest, wounding him more deeply than any physical blow.
She had turned…
Memories seared the inside of his skull: the mysterious, cursed thing flying from her hands, falling along with her. The sound of shattering. The tiny ruby shards that had glinted as they flew up from the floor of the tunnel.
All at once, it came to him: a memory he’d replayed nightly for months in the ringing silence of his darkened quarters. He recalled how she’d clawed at her face before curling into a protective ball. Horror arose, drowning him within the vessel of his mind–
She’d been pierced, breached by a corruptive element.
Kylo’s mind raced frantically as he summoned the dusty memories of history lessons at the Academy – the Tomb of Freedon Naad and its trove of Sith artifacts, the various relics scattered to join countless others that existed in the far reaches of the galaxy.
The ancient histories told of numerous dark side items, of a host of relics imbued with potent magics of unknown consequence. There were records of Sith scrolls and tomes, swords, amulets, and talismans. They were mysterious and known for their unique interaction with the dark side of the Force.
The crimson bauble she’d held glittered in his mind’s eye.
An amulet, then. Or a talisman.
He choked back a sob and her head whipped towards him, startled by the sound. Their eyes met, and he saw that it hadn’t been a trick of the light: the clear amber of her irises had deepened, becoming a telling red. She looked surprised, caught off-guard by his appearance. For a moment, her face reflected genuine fear before a mask of fury descended, twisting her beauty into something unrecognizable.
She remained locked in that predator-like crouch but turned the merest fraction, angling her body toward him as she actively worked to sever their connection. He was stunned at the newfound strength she’d achieved. Through the bond that joined them, he sensed the power that radiated from her. It was palpable, even at a remove.
The bond began to fray as her will gnawed through it at an alarming rate.
He saw a dark, blurred form as something solid hit her physical body, and instantly, he knew it was because of him – because of her momentary distraction.
Kylo caught a fading glimpse of long, pale claws raking her face.
Staggering back, his hands flew up instinctively, trying to ward off the visceral tearing sensation, but it was only a whisper of what she endured; the resonance of pain shared through the bond.
Her feral eyes closed in agony as blood began to pour from multiple gashes.
The echoes of her outraged cry chased him long after the connection severed, seeding his nightmares for many weeks to come.
Nothing like visual inspiration, almost as good as music :)
Chapter 8: The Darkness Lives In you Now
Kylo laments his weaknesses as he awaits Rey's arrival on Tython. We are introduced to Rey's modus operandi.
The stars had emerged and Tython’s twin moons now hovered overhead, their combined light painting the land violet. Kylo glanced down, scanning the length of his body with disinterest. A steady diet of bitterness and cultivated anger absolved the will to eat, and he too had grown a little leaner.
His nostrils flared as he took a steadying breath, deriding himself for the umpteenth time for possessing the ability to love.
Memories of Snoke’s similar observations echoed in his mind, taunting him. How many times had his former master used his conflicted feelings to stir his rage? How many times had the scars of his past been a liability?
Rey had proven that, after a lifetime living under the heel of fate, a heart still beat in his breast. Thankfully, she’d taken all necessary steps to eviscerate it.
Frustration won out, pressurizing like trapped steam. He ignited his saber with a sudden flourish, bathing the edge of the wood in a sanguine glow and birthing a host of shadows. The quick spike of his captive’s fear crackled in the air, a justified reaction to the sight of his weapon. Rey’s lieutenant had been nothing but quiet since he’d carved his threat into her skin, keeping her hatred contained to her silvery glare. It was well she did. He had enough to contend with without her mind hurtling every conceivable way he might die at him.
He rolled his shoulders. Balancing his blade, he sank into his opening stance, intent on retraining his mind.
With the power of his emotions harnessed, he began to move through the forms of Djem So, his saber leaving crimson tracers in the dark. His lips quirked bitterly as he thought of how impressed Snoke would have been with Rey’s methods. He twirled, rending the air in a wide, backhanded arc, followed by a quick downward cut that brought him back to center. He breathed.
Darkness rises and light to meet it.
The very girl he’d been warned against succeeded where Snoke himself had failed. His upper lip twitched bitterly. How very ironic. His focus intensified as he moved through a series of vicious slashes, each backed with a lightning-quick advance.
As he switched seamlessly into Juyo form, he drained the tortured emotion into a reserve, drawing from it to perform the exhaustive moves with mechanical precision. Never had he faced a foe as thirsty for his blood as she, and his objectivity would be critical in the fight to come.
Rey had ensured that there was no other way forward. Whatever nameless thing that amulet had contained had corrupted every part of her, leaving no trace of her former light. It had yielded a foe with singular imperative: destroy him and the Force bond that joined them and seat herself as the undisputed power in the galaxy.
From the moment he’d found her turned, time had been marked by a series of defeats.
She had chipped away at his strength; a slice of his heart here, a small contingent of troopers there, whittling away with uncanny focus. He knew it was her orchestrating the attacks long before he revealed it to his counsel, heartsick as he delayed the inevitable need for retaliation.
But that was before she began to record and transmit the killings.
Kylo strode into the high council chamber, joining several grim-faced generals as he took his place at the head of the massive, u-shaped table. He stood woodenly, unable to sit with the tension that electrified his body. With a nod, the transmission began. There on a raised dais appeared the live broadcast of his captured squad leader and the slender girl in glittering black. One of the dual blades of her new saber was ignited, its edge illuminating the fear in his officers' eyes.
His stare was grim as he took in the details mapped out in points of light, seething that this was yet another of his newly established outposts.
And this one on Farstine, a location vital to his infiltration of the spice runs.
He clenched his teeth, the twitch of a muscle in his jaw betraying his tension.
This was the third time in so many weeks that she had succeeded in ambushing his bases. Ships and supplies were taken during these raids, but her true aim was to undermine his authority and spread terror. Each of her most recent attacks had concluded with the recorded execution of the officer in charge.
Given the few inches of air separating the throat of his subordinate from the edge of her plasma blade, the man was keeping a truly admirable semblance of calm. Rey, on the other hand, looked unhinged, her beautiful smile at odds with the disturbing crimson of her eyes.
The injury she’d sustained to her face had healed into a scar eerily similar to his: three parallel lines gouged her face, running over the right side of her forehead and reappearing to trail down her left cheek and fade away. The scar was visible even in holographic form, as was the monstrous hssiss that waited to her left like a well-trained dog, very likely the same who’d supplied her scar.
Kylo kept his face devoid of emotion, glad to be free of the initial shock and horror at her sinister appearance and the presence of the sith lizards she kept for company. It was a small comfort, though. He knew exactly why she had contacted him, what he was summoned to bear witness to.
“Let him go, Rey,” he commanded evenly. “Release him and name the location. Face me in person.”
Her smile deepened. “You do miss me,” she said, her glittering red stare considering him as if he were a pest she’d like to crush. “So sad. You’re doomed, and you understand this, don’t you… all in good time, all in good time…”
His skin prickled and he repressed a premonitory shiver. How assured of victory she was, completely resolute in her trajectory.
This was the fourth time he’d had the chance to observe her since her metamorphosis, and this new Rey was all he could no longer afford to be: impulsive, hot-tempered, malicious. She wore her emotions on her sleeve – as if she had drained his former temperament and taken it for herself.
He’d known the moment her dispatch had come through that this latest hostage situation wouldn’t end well. He didn’t bother trying to petition her humanity. Early overtures had failed, as had diplomacy. His hopes of reasoning with her had been dashed one by one.
Even so, he was Supreme Leader and it was his imperative to try. “You don’t have to do this. This man has done nothing to you—”
“Oh, but he has,” she interrupted, her voice fanatical. “He willingly chose to enlist under your faulty, pathetic regime.” She turned to examine his subordinate’s profile, her eyes critical as she scanned the man’s face before turning back to Kylo with a scathing look. “He is, by extension, you,” she declared, releasing the officer and stepping back. “And as such, his life is forfeit.”
Ever attuned to its mistress, the hssiss came to life, turning to train its hungry, reptilian gaze on the officer. She kept her saber pointed at the unfortunate man’s back as she nodded simply to her dragon.
Kylo’s fists clenched and unclenched, watching helplessly as his squad leader finally trembled, beads of sweat running down his temples. The hssiss approached slowly, savoring the unfortunate man's suffering with flicks of its forked black tongue. As it nearing striking range, the creature emitted a warbling, high-pitched cry of anticipation, oily black saliva beginning to drip from its mouth.
Caught between a nightmarish set of jaws and the point of her plasma blade, his now-frantic inferior did what any self-respecting person would. With a choked cry, he threw himself against the burning point of her saber.
Rey’s eyes narrowed cruelly as she stared into the face of the dying man. She kept the beam ignited longer than she had to, disintegrating the poor man’s internal organs with a nauseating hiss. Only when the hole in her victim’s chest gaped did she allow him to slide to the floor, yet another corpse lining her path of destruction. She stared down at the remains without remorse, utterly impervious to death. Her morbid stare flicked up to meet his. On cue, emotion played on her features: malicious triumph at her latest success and the unmistakable arrogance that marked a direct challenge.
Horror bubbled up in his throat, threatening to disarm him. He'd never get used to seeing her this way, demented and utterly merciless, fallen so far to the dark as to be unrecognizable. His generals were all looking a little green as they faced the grisly scene on projection, the fallout of their revulsion buffeting him in hot drafts. He couldn’t let her, nor his inferiors see how deeply she disturbed him.
Using all of his willpower, he did his duty and kept his voice even. “You say you want to abolish the bond between us? What are you waiting for, Rey? You know you’ll lose in direct combat...”
The delicate skin above and beneath her eyes was black, setting off the lurid crimson of her irises. They snapped vividly at his taunt and she sneered at him. “I’d never pass up the opportunity to undermine your efforts,” she replied haughtily, deflecting his question like a seasoned politician. Her pet had crawled over the slain officer, its long, scaly tail leaving a macabre trail of blood in its wake. The dragon slunk affectionately about her legs, no doubt feeding off of the energy in the room. She scratched its chin before extracting herself, retraining her attention on her horrified audience. “I’m going to destroy everything you stand for before I rid myself of you and the pestilence of this kriffing bond.”
She prowled over to the consul as she spoke, moving with feline grace as she stared him down. “Until then, keep providing me with weaklings to slaughter.”
A mirthless smile lit her face as she powered off the holoprojector, leaving him to stew over a course of action.
Chapter 9: All Is Fair In Love and War
Kylo braces for the final confrontation as Rey's shuttle arrives on Tython. We learn of Kylo's retaliatory actions in the wake of Rey's attacks.
In the span of a blink, her ship dropped out of hyperspace and appeared, its sleek outline imposed against the star-studded night. Kylo straightened, deactivating his saber to return the place of their rendezvous to inky indigo darkness. She needed no beacon of light to find him, and he wanted a moment to take her in before they met in inevitable violence.
The unseen tether between them reacted immediately to her physical proximity, humming as a traitorous hope stirred in his chest. No matter what either of them did to stifle it, the bond continued, undeterred.
He absorbed details of the starfighter she piloted, unsurprised that she’d given up the Falcon. The ferocity and all-encompassing nature of the darkness that consumed her left no room for her previous life and its tenants— all that she now considered useless and weak.
As he tracked her descent through the atmosphere, an odd feeling came over him. The trace of a frown pulled at his features as he recognized the unfamiliar tug in his chest. Never would he have guessed the day would come, but… her discard of his father’s ship left him strangely conflicted. Back when her existence was just another one of Mitaka’s unfortunate reports, fate had seen fit to insert her into his family. She’d stolen and piloted the Falcon, allied herself with his mother’s cause AND his grandfather’s saber had literally bypassed him in favor of her. That she should scorn the physical trappings of his past hurt in an unexpected way.
The frown petrified on his face as he paused the build of emotion. Cool as a dead star. He set his mind on the task ahead, eyes flinty as he rolled his neck from left to right.
The landing gear deployed as she touched down upon the open plains some 200 feet away, the matte black of her ship blending with the gathering darkness. The craft she piloted was built more for stealth than battle, and its descent had barely stirred the ak canopy. At his back, Kylo felt Raja Keze respond to the arrival of her mistress, straining subtly at her bonds, continuing to test their ability to hold her.
The low purr of the engines hadn’t yet quieted when he felt another response, deep and elemental. Far beneath where he stood, separated by layers of pressurized rock and molten metal, a powerful axis began its tilt. Tython’s energetic core stirred, responding to her arrival with a dull rumble that could only be felt by those attuned to the Force.
Breathing deeply, he let the leaden wave of Rey’s fury wash over him in real-time. Without conscious thought, he opened up to it, unfurling like a coma-bloom to soak in the moonlight. His eyes closed as he consumed the essence of her anger, employing one of the first and most useful skills Snoke had impressed upon him.
The potency of her emotion was superb; it roiled white-hot, lending her strength even as it handicapped her. His nostrils flared as he breathed it in, a grim little smile playing at his lips. Her hot-headedness was pleasing, an incalculable asset and the reason she’d abandoned all reason and traced him here, allowing herself to be drawn by her need for revenge.
And why wouldn’t she be angry? His first offensive had been more successful than even he’d hoped. With several masterful strokes, he’d crippled the effectiveness of her reach, managing to sabotage not one, but both of the Dathomiri witches that enabled her strikes. He had repaid her in kind, an eye for an eye, impassive as he dispatched one of her two captured lieutenants.
Light-years across the galaxy, Rey had watched the execution play out. Her holographic image had distorted with her fury, and he hadn’t missed the tears of rage that poured from her blackened eyes.
Her reaction proved she’d formed a bond with the Nightsisters who had joined in her cause to eliminate him— a rare weakness to exploit in an otherwise untouchable nemesis.
Kylo wagered the success of his ambush on a sure bet— greed.
A high enough bounty could buy any information, and he’d begun by utilizing the shadow network to advertise an obscene reward for information leading to the capture of Rey or her subordinates. Underworld denizens liked to boast about their perceived code of conduct— that they would never betray one of their own by working with an institutionalized entity. But one of many dubious things he’d learned from Han Solo was that friends in low places were had for the right price.
Not three standard days later, his first legitimate lead came knocking.
A non-traceable signal was patched through, and Kylo received it in his strategy room. The erratic hologram of a grizzled Trandoshan apparated on the strategy room dais, blipping haphazardly on a scrambled code. The creature named himself Skorke Asch, declaring that he was the sole proprietor of a mobile trade hub that offered the underworld means to unload and purchase ill-gotten gains. Skorke stated he’d done business with a Dathomiri witch in possession of Kylo’s stolen commodities, and most importantly, claimed to have an open line of communication with her.
It was the break he needed. Armed with the Trandoshan’s intel, Kylo baited a trap in multiple quadrants, sticking with the winning theme of greed.
To each of the fledgling spaceports on Ryloth and Soccoro, he sent a Lancer-class frigate heavy with valuable commodities: weaponry, building materials and several of the coveted X-70B Phantom -class shuttles. Kylo and a delegation of several knights distributed amongst the cargo, their presence well-cloaked in the Force and unbeknownst to even their troopers and guards. Once the goods were unloaded in the docking bays, the armed escort departed and the ports were sealed with a shield deflector— a development made to look like additional security in the wake of Rey’s attacks.
Skorke was given advance word of the shipments, along with the story of a mole within Kylo’s ranks who was sourcing the intel. Kylo also bequeathed the Trandoshi several shield-disrupting power gems that he was to pass along to Rey’s emissary. The gems were real enough, but had been fabricated in-lab for the direct purpose of subterfuge; they were sequenced for single-use only, ensuring that the would-be ravagers could get in, but not out.
The sabotage played out with spectacular results.
From his hiding place in the hangar, Kylo detected the arrival of multiple life forms, one with the unmistakable signature of dark Force attunement. She was the only one who mattered, and he tracked her through the silent base, mirroring her movements while keeping his presence cloaked. He first spied the Nightsister as she crept from the cargo hold, accompanied by five other figures. Laying eyes on her in the flesh sent a grim exhilaration rushing through his veins, lighting up his synapses with the need for retribution. At last, after the series of losses, a win.
“Welcome to Ryloth,” he rumbled, gloating more than a little as he watched the invaders jump at the sound of his voice. Six pairs of eyes widened as he peeled from the greater shadows a specter come to life. Even without the mask, he was well aware of his intimidation factor, and he utilized it to his advantage, staring them down from the depths of his hood. “I’m so happy you came,” he added, reveling the instant surge of their fear.
The Dathomiri witch hurled a curse in reply and began to chant, attempting to conjure the greenish fog of her magick. His eyes narrowed in fury. “I’ve had enough from you,” he roared, his gloved hand shooting forward to unleash a surge of the Force. The Nightsister rocked on her heels as it hit her, mouth open mid-sentence, utterly paralyzed and unable to so much as blink.
Instantly, his other hand splayed toward a Mandalorian who had opened fire with an obscenely large blaster rifle, reversing the laser bolts that ripped through the air toward his left. The fire returned to its source, leaving a trio of gaping holes in the man’s torso. With a wet groan, his attacker crumpled to the ground, still smoking.
Kylo scanned the remaining mercenary delegate with visible contempt. “You have abysmal manners, coming here, to my compound–” He paused, ensnaring a masked creature with a Force grab and dragging it over to lift it by the throat. It twitched and gurgled in his grasp, kicking spastically. “Coming to my compound, to steal–” he continued, lighting his saber to deflect another volley of shots from a green-skinned Twi’lek, “–murder my people...and you think to attack me?”
He lost his cool, plummeting into wrathful fury as he bared his teeth at the remaining company. “Bad-kriffing-move,” he ground out, punctuating his statement with a sharp twist of his wrist. The snapping of bones was heard as his victim stilled. He flung the mercenaries’ limp body to the ground and leveled his volatile blade at the remaining three. They stood crouched with weapons ready, though the Rodian looked ready to bolt. “Don’t even think about running,” he snarled, sounding barely human as he stalked over the body of their fallen comrade to face them in hand-to-hand combat. “Do what you’ve come to do, or die trying …”
He engaged the last three with grim delight, biding his time with attacks that maimed but left his opponents to suffer just a bit longer. It was an unbalanced fight, but that didn’t matter. Those who had taken up arms against him would suffer the consequences, regardless of their skill in battle. Only when the neighboring stacks of cargo were painted a violent red did he mete out death, feeling but a small measure of the vengeance he craved.
Wiping the blood from his face dispassionately, he turned to the frozen Nightsister. “You are Rey’s lieutenant, are you not?” he thundered, strolling over to where she stood captive. Her silvery eyes were defiant, though he could detect the rich vein of fear beneath her anger. Without another word, he gripped her head in both hands, not bothering to mask his hostility as he plunged into her mind.
Rummaging through her surface thoughts, he gleaned that she was called Shuin Keze, the twin of Rey’s second-in-command. He hadn’t gotten far when the buzz of his comlink broke the strained quiet, interrupting him. Glancing down, he saw that it was the news he’d been anxiously awaiting— the outcome of the second ambush on Soccoro. Quickly, he severed contact with her mind and pulled a pair of Force disruptor manacles from his belt. “It would appear you’ve been awarded a few more moments of life,” he commented, binding her wrists.
With Rey’s lieutenant cut off from the Force, he relaxed his hold enough to make her muscles limber and let her speak. “These are your last words, witch. Make them count.”
She predictably launched into a litany of curses as he hauled her through the darkened compound and up the ramp of an X-70B Phantom shuttle— the very ship she was here to claim. His lip twitched at the irony of it as he deposited her on a durasteel gurney and strapped her down. Shuin Keze was midway-through hexing him and all his kin with unending suffering when he decided enough was enough. He fixed her with a flinty look and bent low, stuffing a gag in her mouth.
“I’m already there,” he deadpanned, staring down at her furious face. “And so are all my kin. ”
With that, he departed, leaving her to strain at her ties in the medical bay. Crossing the lounge, he entered the sleek, wood-paneled conference room and there received the holotransmission. The Soccoro operation had borne fruit as well, and his knights had trapped Shuin’s twin— but at grievous cost. Raja Keze had slain one of his knights and maimed another, taking serious injury in the process. The Nightsister was captive and en route to Deliverance with the remnant of his squadron.
A stone sank in his breast at the news, adding its weight to the already-crushing load he bore. He monotonously gave the orders to treat her injuries as top priority, second only to the wounds of his knight. The prisoner was not, under any circumstances, to expire before she could be questioned.
Kylo quietly returned to the medbay, his thoughts leaden with cold anger. Capturing not one, but both of Rey's underlings was a victory worth savoring, yet the taste was soured by the steep cost. Facing the Dathomiri witch, he wrapped a gloved hand about Shuin’s pale throat, barely able to restrain his murderous instinct. A snarl bubbled up as he pressed the fingertips of his other hand into her temple and invaded her mind.
He took his time, rifling through her memories unhurriedly, letting it hurt. The opportunity was rich for so many reasons, and he planned to take every advantage, gleaning locations, numbers, future plans. Of all the secrets he stood to gain, the one that beckoned the most was the chance to observe Rey’s elusive doings.
Kylo rummaged through the witches’ mind, rewinding back to the fateful day of Rey’s arrival on Dathomir. As he let Shuin’s memory play, he understood he viewed a thread of happenings that ran parallel with the dark days and weeks of Rey’s continued rejection. He watched, enrapt, as part of the puzzle was solved— the movements of his former love revealed at last.
Chapter 10: The Dathomiri Alliance
Utilizing a mind probe, Kylo observes the conscripting of Rey's lieutenants on Dathomir. Kylo retaliates with an incendiary stroke that ultimately draws Rey to face him.
*We do a loop-d-loop and begin with a flashback within a flashback.* Gotta keep you kids on your toes ;)
Tis' the season for witches and dragons--SW style. Happy Halloween to you all!
It was dusk when the stranger arrived, her presence heralded by the mechanical whine of ion engines. The nasal sound permeated their stronghold, reverberating through the soaring stone cathedrals like the cry of some great, flying beast.
The Nightsisters roused as one and hastily armed themselves, their initial sense of alarm quickly congealing into something decidedly more hostile. By the time Shuin and her coven emerged under the carmine skies, the air around them seethed with menace at the perceived threat. They linked minds and spread into a defensive formation as all eyes tracked the descending fighter.
The ship touched down on a rocky outcrop just beyond the perimeter of the wetlands, returning the blessed quiet. Shuin crouched amongst the nera reeds, fighting the urge to fidget. They hadn’t had contact with outsiders since they’d returned to repopulate their ancestral home, and this happening reeked of trouble. Raja exchanged a dark look with her, and Shuin knew that her Force-gifted twin had detected something unusual.
Their attention was drawn as a ramp deployed from the fighter. Shuin’s eyes widened when the veil of compressed steam parted, revealing a lone human female flanked by two reptilian creatures that were roughly half her height. The trio disembarked, moving purposefully in their direction.
It was a strange delegation. The girl herself appeared innocuous, or would have if not for the glow of her stare, red as the finest veeka feather. For a moment, Shuin’s animosity suspended as the ichor of their planet hummed, responding to the stranger's presence like a well-struck tuning fork. She shifted uneasily, sparing her twin another quick glance to gauge her reaction. Raja scowled at the invader, her puzzlement and suspicion palpable.
Returning her attention to the human girl, Shuin ground her teeth, annoyed and more than a little fearful that the Force energy of her homeworld should respond to a non-native, particularly one from an advanced star system. Though the newcomer was slight, something in the way she moved felt ominous— the unhurried stroll with which she advanced on them, each step hinting at the possibility of unseen power.
Shuin’s assessment shifted to the dragons that accompanied her. Their four-legged swagger was preceded by the dart of forked tongues, and their long, spiny tails swished lazily behind them. Compared to the rancors that roamed the wilderness, they appeared harmless, though she withheld judgment for the time being. If there was one thing she knew, it was that looks could be deceiving. Shuin noted how they moved in perfect sync with their mistress, as if the three shared the same mind.
The collective incredulity of her coven grew with each step the intruder took, her fearless demeanor either a sign of stupidity or very great power. Their coven leader apparently had enough, for Mother Daleeh presently brandished her spear and spoke, addressing the girl in basic.
“Halt, foreigner,” she commanded, setting the blade alight with a flame of magick.
The girl paused at a respectful distance, watching them with her baleful eyes. The flickering green light of Daleeh’s spear lit the stranger’s face, and Shuin noted the scars that bisected her countenance, adding to the sense of menace that cloaked her.
Mother Daleeh limped forward slowly, her hunched back making her look far frailer than she was.
“Are you star touched, child?” she asked the girl, her voice sweet with false concern.
The stranger merely watched, unfazed as the energy of the Dark sizzled around them.
“Your coming here is ill-advised,” Daleeh continued, pacing a step closer and unfolding a wizened hand with its long, tapering claws. “What have you of the Nightsisters of Dathomir?”
The stranger couldn’t have known, but it was a nod to her solitary approach and the dark energy about her that Mother Daleeh wasn’t flat out hostile.
The girl nodded in acknowledgment of Daleeh’s words and at last spoke, the timbre of her voice ringing confidently over the moors. “I am Rey of Jakku, and I am, as you say, ‘touched’... the Dark has taken me for its vessel, and I come seeking individuals of the same ilk. The former First Order is the resurrection of the Empire’s autocracy, the entire Hosnian system their most recent victim. It will leave no planet unmolested in its prodigious hunt for power, claiming the lives of any strong enough to resist.”
The stranger paused, scanning their ranks with a measured look before continuing. “As an untrained girl on the brink of discovering my powers, I defeated their Supreme Leader. I know his weaknesses well and now possess the strength to finish the job.”
A silence fell over the clearing as the girl allowed them a moment to digest her statements. Shuin was entirely sidelined, and she could feel the low current of collective shock running through the rest of the coven. None of them had known what to expect, but this explanation far exceeded the host of possible madnesses that might have brought about such a strange visitor.
Shuin scanned this “Rey” from head to toe. She held herself regally, exuding dark power and unwavering confidence, much like the Sith lords of old.
The girl stepped forward, opening a dark-gloved hand and extending it. “Join my cause,” she continued. “Your kind is strong, gifted in the magicks of the Dark. Your might is wasted here— unleash it. Fight by my side and right the atrocity that was committed— take revenge on the spawn of an Empire that betrayed and nearly ended you! The power of the Nightsisters will be legendary galaxy-wide, restored to glory and fully avenged.”
Mother Daleeh was quiet as she digested the girl’s statements. Shuin could feel the phantom caress of her coven master as she navigated the web of magick that connected their minds, visiting each of the sisters in turn. In the silence, she took the temperature of her coven, gauging the response to all that was said.
Retribution was a thing that burned bright in their hearts, the chance to smite those who’d so soundly betrayed them… but trust of outsiders was a thing hard-earned, and their numbers were still so few.
At length, Mother Daleeh addressed the stranger. “I sympathize with your aims, for we too have no love for the Empire or its offspring. However, I am skeptical of your power to successfully execute such a campaign.” She paused to scan Rey’s form, not bothering to hide her doubt. “You, a mere slip of a girl…”
Rather than attempt further convincing, the newcomer remained silent. She stood there, tendrils of ground mist slinking about her ankles as she regarded them with a lurid, unreadable stare.
Shuin’s skin prickled with alarm as she detected a shift in the Force, foreign fingertips grazing the edge of her subconsciousness. Several of the sisters leveled their weapons at the stranger, unnerved by her inquisition and unsure of what it meant. The girl was unmoved by their hostile display, training her red stare upon the sacred pools to their right. She cocked her head, as though considering...
Without another word, the would-be usurper turned and strode to the edge of the Sleeper’s pool, her hand shooting out to halt the dragons that followed. Shuin watched in growing astonishment as she unclipped a metal rod from her belt, tossed it upon the bank and dove into the dark water.
The clan was starstruck. Even Mother Daleeh seemed unsure of herself, all of them gaping at the circles that spread out into stillness. Only the strongest dark Force users survived an encounter with the Sleeper, and the outcome of such a brash move was anyone’s guess. All at once, everyone was talking, speculating with one another as to her fate, speaking freely of the girl’s proposals in her absence.
Raja and Mother Daleeh convened at her side, and her twin confirmed what they could all sense to a degree. “The girl doesn’t lie. The Dark thrives within her, stronger than I’ve ever felt in anyone... far stronger than flows in any of us.” Raja turned to Mother Daleeh, who continued to stare at the dissipating ripples on the Sleeper’s pool. “Should she return, I am in favor of joining her cause,” she declared.
Mother Daleeh said nothing but glanced at Shuin with her heavy-lidded eyes. “And you?” Shuin’s pragmatism was ever a reliable balance to her twin’s impulsiveness.
Their coven leader missed nothing, and Shuin didn’t bother trying to hide her awe as she answered. “We’ve guarded the source of our magick well, and there are no outside records of our Sleeper. That means this stranger was clever enough to glean the trial of power from our minds, and brash enough to attempt it. She paints a pretty picture, but let’s see how she contends with the Sleeper. Such a test has never been faced by an outsider. I say we let the outcome decide.”
The other Nightsisters gathered near, and together they watched the dark surface of the pools. Her dragons sat upon the banks, still as statues. Shuin observed them for signs of their mistress’ well-being, but their flat black eyes gave nothing away. Seconds became minutes, the dark mirror of the pool’s surface remaining unbroken.
At last, the girl’s companions dipped their angular, spade-shaped heads toward the water. Like mirror images of one another, their motion announced her return. Rey emerged with a single sharp gasp, bobbing for a moment as she panted and sputtered. Slowly, she turned in the water to behold their group with her uncanny red eyes, dark hair slicked back and fanning around her.
They watched, flabbergasted as she gained the bank and pulled herself from the sacred pools. She straightened and clicked her tongue at the dragons that rubbed against her with evident affection, scratching the underside of their scaly chins. Then she extracted herself and strode over to where Mother Daleeh waited, still as stone.
Not only was the stranger unfazed by her venture into the Other Domain, but Shuin and the others were shocked to see a curl of livid blue in her hand.
Saying nothing, Rey held out a piece of the Sleeper’s tentacle in offering. A moment of stunned silence ensued, after which Mother Daleeh stepped forward to accept the sacred gift. Their coven mother searched Rey’s face with a shrewd gaze, as if trying to divine how she’d accomplished such a feat. Then she was clasping Rey’s forearm, drawing her in to touch their foreheads in the embrace of sisterhood. The dam of suspicion broke, and Shuin and her sisters each stepped forward to welcome Rey in turn, sharing a bonding breath in the way of their kind.
With a twinge of reluctance, Kylo disengaged from the thread of memory and released Shuin from his mind probe. Watching the small gathering of dark warriors surround Rey was both masochistic and completely fascinating. She had discovered what was needed to bind the covenant, and in her bold, unhesitating way, delivered it.
Throughout the interrogation, Kylo had held his captive’s throat in a vise, squeezing just enough to make breathing a labored affair. Viewing the Nightsister’s recollections of Rey had affected a deadly sense of calm, and his hand relaxed naturally.
Shuin coughed and sputtered, glaring knives at him with her bloodshot silver eyes. He disregarded her entirely, striding over to read the transmission that had arrived from Deliverance. The report stated that Raja Keze was stable and continued to improve under the watchful care of his medics. Her bacta chamber was posted with a rotating guard of none other than his remaining knights, and Kylo could rest assured of her viability upon return.
Turning back to Shuin, he briefly considered telling her that he had her twin in custody, and that she would live a little longer yet. But the want of revenge had curdled on his tongue, replaced by the bland necessity of duty. Kylo was still, returning his captive’s watery fury with a far-away look, still lost in the images he’d gleaned from her memories.
He moved to the holorecorder and finally addressed her. “The conscripting of the Nightsisters was well and bravely done,” he mused, bringing the machine online and tapping in an order. A pale blue beam lit up, and he adjusted its trajectory until it engulfed his enemy. Exhaling, he numbly prepared to enact the next step in his plan. “I admire the strength and ability of your kind, and I find the events that lead to the Nightsisters’ genocide distasteful.”
His captive attempted to curse him, her wheeze devolving into a cough. He ignored it, punching in the coordinates he’d gleaned from Shuin’s mind as he steeled his emotions, readying himself to deal with her. Producing his saber, he turned back to the Nightsister. His eyes were hard, remorseless.
“Unfortunately, you allied yourselves with the wrong power— again— and I regret to say that decision will be costly.”
Chapter 11: Hymn for the lost (this will destroy you)
Kylo continues to struggle with his resolve as he faces off with Rey in the ultimate fight. The Force-heavy planet Tythion reacts to the dissonance as they clash in spectacular fashion, and fates are decided.
We enter Part III, where events have caught up to The Fight™. I know I said it in the tags, buuuut...warning for major character death. I don't write angst much, but when I do...
Fight Songspiration: Phil Collins, In The Air Tonight
"What Comes After" songspiration: Sigur Rós, 01 - Untitled Vaka
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A wind had picked up, blowing low over the ground to lift eddies of dust and dry leaves to spiral about Kylo’s legs. The energetic horizon shifted as Tythion reacted to the build of tension in the Force, skewing as the proximity between them narrowed. He could feel it as he watched the ramp of her ship lower: the buzz of unease beneath his feet, static electricity snapping, imbuing the night with the scent of ozone. There against the hiss of compressed air, a trim silhouette revealed.
She strode purposefully down the ramp and into his sights, moving unerringly to meet him. Two dark dragons followed on her heel, lazily tasting the air with their forked tongues.
This was the first time they’d been in each other’s physical presence since the throne room fight, when they’d allied themselves, only to part in discord. He observed her critically as she stalked toward him with unwavering confidence, absorbing each detail of her person. Kylo faced the delegation expressionlessly, refusing to be moved by the sight: his once-love dressed all in black, her light steps trailed by the Sith dragons of lore.
She wore light armor of sophisticated design: an exquisite herringbone cuirass and corset accentuated her lithe figure, cinching a tunic that flowed over the flare of her hips. Her arms were enclosed in dark wrap-style vambraces to the bicep, over which she wore a set of patterned greaves that ended at the elbow. Supple boots rose to mid-thigh over her leggings, far taller than the short boots that were her former habit. All of her raiment was jet-black except for the one-shouldered cape that trailed in her wake, a dark, blood red.
She was covered nearly entirely, only her face and a single sculpted shoulder left revealed. He recognized it was her right side, her dominant, and his gaze traveled to the low-slung belt that secured a holster at her hip. There gleamed the hilt of the saberstaff he’d seen her use to the detriment of his men, and up until now, only in holographic form. A row of daggers glittered about her left thigh, and she’d bound her hair in an intricate plait on one side of her head.
The scars that so eerily mirrored his own had healed but would always remain. They lent a hardened look to the fairness of her face, a glaring reminder that she was no one to toy with.
She looked like a mistress to cause men true fear, regal and deadly.
He felt his heart answer within his chest, a single, plaintive throb, like the hiccup that comes after a long cry. Clenching his jaw, he steeled himself against the emotional response her proximity wrought. His mind summoned the names and faces of the officers she’d slaughtered, using the memories of their deaths to remind himself of her mercilessness.
A clap of thunder split the tense silence, rolling through the dark like a great cosmic boulder. Kylo found the sound oddly comforting, a solidarity of sorts as the Force storm intensified, responding to the dynamic between them.
Rey paused her advance some six meters away, glaring at him with eyes that rivaled the color of his plasma beam. In person, they glowed so much brighter, an unnerving sight in such a fresh face.
Discarding his gut reaction, he spoke at last. “So. You’ve finally grown bold enough to face me in person.”
Her eyes narrowed as she gave him a scornful look. “Don’t flatter yourself. You know why I’ve come,” she stated, her fingers stroking the holster on her hip.
“I do,” he replied evenly, “and isn’t it interesting… the thing that drew you out is the very thing you claim to scorn.” He glanced pointedly at Rey’s lieutenant before retraining his stare on her. “Compassion,” he barked, flinging the accusation with all the weight of his pain and loss. It was akin to dropping flame on dry tinder.
“Bantha fodder!” she spat, furious at the perceived insult. “You murdered my sister—”
“As you’ve murdered scores of my people—” he interjected heatedly.
“—and DARE to hold another prisoner!” she continued, voice rising as her face transformed into a mask of hate. She leveled her saberstaff and ignited it, every muscle taut with the barely restrained urge to strike. Both ends hummed, the angry orange of her dual blades bathing her in heat. “It’s revenge that drew me!”
A bolt of lightning carved the heavens, revealing the churn of thunderheads in a bruised sky. The hssiss took a step forward, their mottled lips skinning back over several rows of translucent, needle-like teeth.
Kylo widened his stance, preparing for their charge. He let his heart freeze over, closing off in its protective layer of ice. “Let’s not do things in half-measures, then,” he said, lifting his hand toward the bound Nightsister, who now struggled furiously at her bonds. He kept his gaze locked on Rey as he constricted his hand into a claw and twitched his wrist. Raja's head jerked at an unnatural angle, a sharp motion punctuated by the crunch of breaking bones.
A gust of wind tore through the clearing, ripping at Rey’s half-cape as her wordless shriek of rage split the air. The Nightsister’s head hadn’t settled on her broken neck when the dragons released, obeying the scream of their mistress.
Kylo let the hssiss charge, marveling at the dark energy they exuded. He’d intended to halt them in stasis, but as they closed in, he followed a sudden impulse.
“I know you,” he intoned, the words cracking like a whip.
The dragons’ charge faltered in confusion as they registered the high Sith he spoke. Kylo knew a moment of revelatory triumph even as the hssiss continued their attack, their curved claws kicking up small clumps of earth as they ran. His saber roared to life, sparks snapping about the blade as it fried every dust mote in close proximity.
“Your darkness is my own.”
The split second of hesitation was all he needed. He struck, catching the dragon on the left with a broad swipe that opened its chest, pivoting instantly with his blade ready to block the second. It had lept out of range and was now circling off to his right in an attempt to box him in. The maimed hssiss flailed, its death cries mingling with Rey’s otherworldly shriek of fury.
Kylo heard something whistle past his ear. A nanosecond later, pain ripped into his bicep as one of her daggers embedded itself in him. Instantly, his hand flared in her direction, halting the oncoming barrage of daggers that sailed through the air. Kylo snarled at her, gnashing his teeth as he flung the frozen knives aside with a forceful push, hurtling them toward the second hssiss. They met its flank with a muffled thunk. The dragon shrieked its outrage, stumbling toward his legs with open jaws.
He caught Rey’s charge in his peripherals even as he allowed the rabid creature to get uncomfortably close. It snapped blindly at his hamstrings, black spittle spattering his leg.
When its teeth were mere centimeters from his skin, he channeled the Force and struck, his saber a crimson blur as it carved through the dragon’s thick neck. The weight of its severed head landed on his foot as he pivoted, arm reaching in Rey’s direction as he sent a Force push at her.
She anticipated him and leapt high, cursing viciously as she dodged the oncoming wall of energy. Still airborne, she extended her hand toward him, Force-manipulating the blade protruding from his bicep. His pain tripled as it began to twist in his flesh.
“Kriffing hell!” he shouted, yanking it out with a grunt, legs widening to absorb the impact of her furious downward strike. The clash of their sabers lit the night in a shower of fiery sparks.
As her feet touched the ground, the sky opened up, weeping for the ruined balance of the Force. Crisp arcs of lightning lit the clearing, silvering the falling rain as they began their last dance.
Her eyes were bloody slits as she delivered a rapid set of twirling blows that utilized the advantage of her double-hilted blade. He parried her strikes, testing her agility as his saber cleaved the air where she once stood. The wound in his arm throbbed and he ignored his urge to examine it, circling in turn as she stalked him, scanning for signs of weakness.
He’d had months to prepare himself for this confrontation, to harden his heart and accept the finality of her terms. Facing her now, he realized the truth: full lifetimes wouldn’t be enough to insulate him from the pain of facing off with her. He rejected the unwanted surge of sorrow, gritting his teeth as she lunged again in a spray of muddy water.
Drawing inspiration from his duel with Luke, he arched, ducking backward under the swing of her saber. Anticipating her reverse strike, he parried it and repelled her forcefully. As she stumbled, he angled his crossguard over her thigh, leaving a burning crescent in her flesh.
She gave a pained cry, stumbling as she aimed several vengeful jabs at him with her saberstaff. These he dodged, turning to see the steaming holes in the ground where he’d been moments ago.
“Hutt-spawn!” She glared hatefully through the rain at him, seething. “I live for your death!”
A magnificent bolt lit the sky, gilding the storm that continued to intensify around them.
Kylo breathed, dispelling the ache of pity he couldn’t help but feel. Having her stand before him in the physical realm fully revealed the extent of her possession. Pure, driven hate trailed in her wake, the entity within filling her to saturation, leaving no room for the return of her former self.
It twisted in him, sure as a knife, causing the words to tumble heedlessly from his lips. “This isn’t you, Rey. You‘ve been corrupted, overtaken by a dark power. I wish I knew how to fix you,” he said, the regret clear in his hoarse voice.
Her counter was sharp, cutting through the rising wind. “You try to stop the flow of your emotions but you can’t,” she spat derisively, twirling her weapon. “It makes you weak, an unworthy ruler.”
With startling speed, she charged him. Their blades met as she passed, twisting to reverse her staff in an underhand attack that caught him behind his shoulder blade. He groaned in agony as white-hot kiss of her saber branded his skin, adding to the count of scars she’d bequeathed him.
Her head whipped around to better savor his grimace, eyes glowing with fanatical delight as she lept away from his counter-strike.
“You above all should know what a liability sentiment is,” she said scathingly. “If you want to fix me, deliver your head and free me from the enduring plague of this bond.”
Kylo watched her prowl several meters from him, the caged aggression within her seeking an outlet. Rain sizzled and hissed, vaporizing about their plasma beams, wreathing them in hellish steam. A stone sank in his body, startlingly heavy as he faced reality anew. Her energy was feral, malevolent. It snapped at him, a wraithlike beast with an insatiable thirst for his blood. This thing she’s become – it deals only in absolutes. There is no other way.
Sorrow coursed within him, flowing through his heart, his lungs, the marrow of his bones. Shifting his feet in the mud, he grounded himself, raising his saber as he sank into the demanding opening stance of Juyo.
There is only the act that must be performed.
His eyes closed as he locked onto the target of her presence in the Force. Opening, he focused on his enemy, his love. They’d reversed positions during their battle, and she stood framed by bolts of lightning that carved the night sky, the Ak forest at her back tossing chaotically to the tune of the storm.
Staving off the crushing weight of regret, he attacked, launching through the air, his descent preceded by the wrath of his saber. Their blades connected, sending a fiery shower of sparks to the ground. Before she could recover, he sliced horizontally, her parry an instant too late to prevent the tip of his saber from burning into her sword arm.
She yelled with the pain of it but didn’t retreat.
Over and over they clashed, meeting in a bone-jarring succession of parries and blocks. With each blow, her saber shivered a bit harder as she struggled to counter his bruising strength and unpredictability.
His renewed violence only seemed to excite her, as if her fondest wish was to drive him to madness. “Yesss,” she hissed, her teeth bared as she held his plasma beam bare inches from her sternum. “Now that’s a little more like it – make it fun for me.”
They were close enough to kiss over the cross of their beams, and he felt his stomach clench as a demented smile lit her face, pulling at the scars that bisected it. It dawned that the minute he’d become the aggressor, she’d begun to absorb the build of his hostility, letting it fuel her. Still, it wasn’t enough to turn the fight in her favor.
She fell to her knees, arms trembling with the effort to hold him at bay. The air sparked and snapped with the tension of an electric storm as he saw his opening. With one swift strike, he could end this. A frisson of fear ran down his spine as his concentration wavered.
Her haunting red eyes stared deep into his, and all at once, the task became too great. He disengaged and focused the Force, condensing it into a push that sent her flying.
Strange, heaving sobs threatened with each heave of his chest as he struggled to regain his composure. His strength and training were more than equal to the power of this thing she’d become, but it didn’t matter. With each successful blow he’d struck, another layer of him was flayed away. She was slowly unmaking him, stripping him to the barest components of his being. Whittling him down until only a kernel remained, that impermeable part of him that would love her no matter how grievous the cost.
Panic supplanted aggression as he saw how she faltered, regaining her legs with great effort. She returned his fraught stare with pure malice, limping back to him doggedly.
He shook his head, opening his hands to her as rain streamed into his eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t make it in time to help you. Rey, I—I love you, please come back.”
She bared her teeth in a snarl. “Love is a weakness. Guilt is worthless. To feel either of those things is your downfall,” she hissed.
With a flex of her knees, she was airborne, launching herself at him. Her attack was tellingly off, and it handed him the opening he needed. He reached to catch her by the throat while parrying her strike, sliding his saber to the central hilt of her blade.
His plasma beam grazed her knuckles. Instinctively, she released her hold and pulled her hand away. As she did so, he followed suit, unhanding his own weapon. With a furious gesture aided by the Force, he flung both sabers hard. Their blades rescinded into their hilts as they flew through the air, coming to rest well beyond the reach of an easy summons.
Instantly, he slammed her down and pinned her under him, their bodies sending up a great splash of muddy water. A cry of agony ripped through her clenched jaws, her nails digging hard into his wrist.
The rain pummelled his back harder than ever as he held her down, one hand firm about her slender throat. “I’m going to make you see it,” he grit out, his free hand cupping her forehead, large enough to partially obscure her vision.
She cried out in violation as he impressed the memory, hellbent on showing her what they once were to each other.
Her face, so full of conviction as she stared up at him, her voice clear and resonant. “...this bond we share, the way it continues to connect us—how could it be anything other than fate? You are my perfect counterweight. The belonging I seek is with you...”
For a split second, he saw a hint of pensiveness in her, like a deadly creature that knew it was cornered.
He released her throat, forgetting himself as he cupped her face. “Rey,” he implored, shaking his head. His mouth worked silently as he tried to find the words. “I—I don’t live,” he said, his voice raw and despondent. “I go from place to place, but I’m just a shadow. Nothing beats in this chest without you, no part of me truly lives. Please, please come back.”
She wheezed in an attempt at laughter. “Rey? The girl you remember is gone...” Her lip curled into a sneer as she read the pain in his eyes. “She was weak and foolish just as you are. Those who are afraid of change aren’t fit to continue, and she is ashes in the wake of my becoming—” She broke into a cough, spittle flecking her lips with blood.
Kylo had come to Tythion knowing this meeting was bound to end one or both of them. He just wasn’t aware of how unprepared he was to pay the price of living without her. Until now.
He blinked the rain from his eyes, noticing that the wisps of baby hair he’d always loved were still present about her face. They remained, a vestige of youthful effervescence that had gone unchanged by the evil that had overwhelmed her.
His eyes lost focus as unspeakable grief flooded his chest, rising in his throat to silence him. Hands caked with blood and sweat fisted in her hair as the pain of losing her encompassed everything.
A strangled voice came from his mouth, the voice of a stranger. “Release her—RELEASE!” He trembled wildly, hands clenching and unclenching in blind misery. The warm topaz of her eyes swam in his mind's eye as his desperation became unbearable. “Don’t let this thing in you win!” he cried, shaking her. “It can’t win!”
He was close to her, so close that he saw the minute shift: the hateful mask slipped and her brows drew together in confusion as, for a split second, cognitive thought surfaced. A flash of her former light pierced the darkness that now defined her signature in the Force.
The breath in his lungs froze as the fevered red of her eyes flickered and dimmed, so close to revealing the woman underneath. Through a watery veil, he watched the internal battle she waged play over her features.
She searched his face, bewildered as the first of his tears fell upon her cheeks. Then the faint flicker of light snuffed out, and she made a strangled sound, her teeth flashing at him.
Sudden pain bloomed between his ribs, deep and visceral. The air staggered from his lungs. His eyes widened as she withdrew the dagger, its point stabbing in again before he could pry it from her now-slick fingers. He cast the blade aside, fearful of the vital warmth that now ebbed from him with each passing second.
Dimly, he was aware of lightning and the deep, lamenting groan of trees crashing to the ground all around them. The ground trembled as he smiled down at his killer, his tears a warm rain upon her upturned cheeks.
In the aftermath of her triumph, she was oddly quiet as she studied him. His hand returned shakily to touch her face, as determined to reach her as she’d been to end him.
He sent another memory: her voice, comforting him as he grappled with his past. “ Don’t be afraid. I am yours; we are for each other and ever will be. Together we will find a way...we will overcome…”
Rey’s body tensed as she tried to fight the sob that wracked through her. Those terrible eyes began to well up as he again felt the blanketed light stir, flashing like a distant star in the void. It lingered, fending off the darkness just enough to allow for her to feel something for him, something other than hate.
Liquid sorrow surrounded the tiny sliver that was the start of it all, isolating the malignancy that had claimed her. In a movement profound and unseen, the shard of amulet lifted from her eye, born on a river of tears. It flowed from her body, lifting its dark mantle from her vision, freeing her of the corruption that had taken root.
Tears flooded over her cheeks as the fevered red bled from her eyes, running in salty rivulets down into her hairline.
Kylo watched in captive awe as she gasped, arching in his arms as her former light was returned from its oppression. How brightly she shone. He’d almost forgotten amidst the visceral heartache and strife.
The rain was cold, so cold, yet the spreading gray chill in his body couldn’t touch his elation, for at last, she gazed up at him— her true self —golden and nuanced as the desert sands. There was only warmth as he basked in a light he’d given up hope of ever seeing again, a light resurrected from interminable darkness.
The blood poured from him, sapping his strength. All at once, he found himself weak, limbs feeling light and insubstantial. The worry on her face became alarm as he shifted his weight aside, laying his head on her shoulder.
She tried to scramble up but doubled over, gripping her ribcage with a groan. With effort, she took hold of his broad shoulders and eased him onto his back.
“Kylo—Kylo?!” Her wide eyes traveled to his blood-slicked side, widening as the severity of his condition dawned. Her face crumbled as a fresh wash of tears poured forth. “Oh no,” she sobbed, pressing her hands to her chest. “ No! ”
He reached clumsily for her, gathering her hand and pulling it to his mouth. “Don’t cry,” he murmured, pressing a weak kiss to her trembling palm. “There is peace—peace for me, knowing...” His eyes skirted her face, drinking in the sight of her light. “You’re restored. You’re safe.”
Her face was haunted as she stared down at him, and he could feel her reeling with the full awareness of everything that had transpired. She shook her head. “But I—” She broke off, her voice lowering with horror. “I did this to you, I murdered so many, in cold blood—”
“NO.” The gruff firmness in his voice commanded her, and she halted, hiccuping. “You would never have done any of it, had you possessed free will.” He reached up to cup her face, his thumb tracing the curve of her cheekbone. “Rey,” he soothed, his voice weakening quickly, “you were not yourself, but none of that matters now. It’s all in the past.”
He tugged lightly at her arm, needing her closer. “You’ll never know how I’ve missed you. Please. Come here, and kiss me.”
She allowed him to pull her down, tearful as her lips settled upon his. How incredibly they fit, melting into one another. Kylo felt her relax some and hummed, taken again with the wondrous softness of her, so tender for all of her fierceness. He reveled in the human element of their closeness, drinking it in as one starved his whole life.
A sharp pain made him wince, pausing the kiss to gasp against her lips. Only then did she pull back, blinking slowly at him, as submerged in the moment as he’d been.
Her brows drew together, gaze darting over him as determination took precedence over her emotions. He could hear her thinking that now was not the time for grief or kisses.
Maker, how he loved that practical side of her. He tilted his head and smiled woozily up at her, thinking her beautiful.
“Kylo, I need you to be strong—” She gave him a stern look, furiously tearing her cape off and pressing it to his chest wounds. “You don’t get to leave me here!” Her voice cracked a little and she glared at him fiercely. “Not after everything we’ve been through. Stay with me,” she implored, quickly taking stock of their surroundings for resources that might help. Her eyes alighted on the matte black ship, and when she turned back to him, he saw the flare of hope in them.
The rain had ceased, leaving a low-slung sky that simmered with unease. He saw none of it, absorbed with the sight of her. And when had it ever been different? He watched the girl who owned his whole world moving quickly over him, so brave as she attempted to salvage what she’d broken.
His vision had grown dim at the edges, framing her in gauzy color. He started, dimly realizing that the feeling in his limbs was gone. An urgency took hold of his mind, a need to tell her. He tried to speak her name, producing only a whistle of breath.
A light finger pressed to his lips, her brows drawn with worry. “Shh, don’t talk.” She gazed down at him, forlorn as she projected her words. Save your strength.
Then, as her face crumpled and the tears flowed anew: I am yours; we are for each other and ever will be. Together we will find a way...we will overcome...
He looked at her, memorizing her loveliness, the perfect dichotomy of tough and tender. Using the last form of communication available, he repeated the truth he’d once said: The darkness in you is more beautiful for the light you keep. I see you in all your forms, and I hold you above all others—
His mind quieted. He felt her presence curled protectively over him, but he couldn’t see. And as the breath left him, he ceased to think.
An echo came at the very last, leaving ripples that spread even as he faded. Her voice in the warm, soft dark, compelling him.
My love, my perfect balance. Wait for me...
Okay, confession time. I made myself cry writing this, and Sigur Ros didn't help. If any of you can listen to their music and not get choked up, regardless of the fact that you can't speak Icelandic, lmk so I can heap kudos at your feet, lol)
Yes, I'm pathetic and I know it. Because I'm so pathetic, I also wrote an optional epilogue that is one big band-aid for the pain (yeah, I am, in fact, talking about myself again). So just know that there is light at the end of this tunnel.
I love my readers like fam. xo
Chapter 12: If you let me soul out (it'll come right back to you)
Optional alternate ending/epilogue. The title says it all!
A hazy awareness grew, sharpening into clarity. He existed without feeling or body, a consciousness suspended in endless, profound darkness. The myriad scatter of stars opened before him, above him, beneath him, and he wanted for nothing in their company. Floating in the cold vacuum and unencumbered by memory, he beheld each star, dazzled by their differences.
He’d once known their names, the sounds by which they were told apart. That was before. Now, he appreciated them for what they were, separate from space and time as he soaked in the severe, ethereal beauty all around.
Distantly, a sound echoed through the star-studded void. It was familiar and he felt the warmth of a faint glow, beckoning him.
Again it came, clearer than before.
...love, my love…
Syllables resonated through the cosmos, lapping through him like liquid gold. Without thought, he projected his awareness toward the sound, gravitating naturally toward the magnetic, lyrical warmth.
As he traveled closer, he realized that he was moving at an ever-increasing speed. Caught in the grips of something he couldn’t control, his consciousness hurtled through space. He was calm, unafraid as the stars all around blurred into streaks that formed a tunnel. The alluring voice spoke through it, closer still.
I come, my love… you’re not alone…
Recognition dawned, and feeling came over him– boundless, transcendent joy as he raced to meet her.
She! The one who had rearranged fate. The one to whom he belonged –
Gah! I did it! I wrote something serious and (mostly) un-smutty! *weeps for the progress*
This story was a challenge and goes down in my eyes as one of my greater accomplishments, fic-wise. Mostly because of the angst, which really isn't my turf. I'm a HEA kinda girl, so sticking with my guns at the end of their battle was HARD.
As a child, The Snow Queen captured my imagination and anyone who hasn't read it should! It's an epic fairy tale of unparalleled bravery and sacrifice, shot through with a thread of sorrow that only makes it even more breathtakingly beautiful. It was my very great pleasure to reimagine it in canonverse.
If you've made it this far, congratulations and I love you, brave soul! May the force be with you, always.