The next morning, the bed was decidedly cold when Ben began to wake up. Still in a sleepy fog, he blindly grabbed at the blankets, searching for the warm body that usually snuggled his throughout the night.
He was already absurdly used to sleeping next to her.
“Rey?” he groaned into his pillow, the barely-there light filtering in from the window indicating that it was very early.
“You’re awake!” He heard the smile in her voice from across the room. She swiveled around to face him. “Look, I think I’m done with this. Finally.”
He slowly propped himself up on his elbows, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes before facing her. She was turned to him, legs crossed on the chair, holding her lightsaber like it was a precious jewel.
She’d worked herself to oblivion to put it together, utilizing his tips from his days at the academy and adding her own touches. She extended the saber out to him, pointing out her design quirks.
“I added these prongs here to keep my grip steady, and this,” she gestured at the wide base, with its two ends, “is modified to feel like my staff.” The saber ignited, flooding the room in a shining burst of golden light that illuminated her face to create the image of a halo around her. The room pulsated with its bright, clean energy, the two sides humming with power that was clear and strong in the air around them.
It was a powerful burst of light in the darkness and so quintessentially Rey that it was a wonder she’d ever wielded anything else.
“Do you like it?” she looked up at him through her lashes, that golden glow making her features look even softer than usual.
“Well, I know one way to break it in.” She leapt to her feet, extinguishing the saber and finding a clip to attach to her outfit. “Want to spar?”
“It’s barely dawn, wouldn’t you rather rest some more?” he patted the space next to him for good measure.
“Sparring. Now. Unless… you’re scared?”
He was up immediately, pulling on his trousers and boots before walking out of the room, calling his grandfather’s lightsaber to his hand as he walked out in front of her, gently grabbing her hand with his other one.
“Fine, let’s spar.”
It shouldn’t have surprised him, how easily the lightsaber that had been his grandfather’s felt right in his hands. And yet, he found himself marveling at the ease with which he was able to wield it, after it had called to Rey in the snowy forests of Ilum barely more than a year ago. Back then, he’d been torn between awe and fury, an odd combination intensified by his reaction to Rey.
He now felt that same awe, only much more intense, with the fury replaced by a deep appreciation. They reached a clearing on the outskirts of the base, their sabers at the ready.
“Ready?” he asked, getting into position.
She answered by igniting her saber once more, the energy palpable in the air around them.
Ben had done more than enough practice at the Jedi academy over the years of his training. He’d continued to practice with his Knights, and training routines were sometimes the only way he found himself able to release the pent up anger and aggression he carried day by day. He had faced many worthy opponents over the years.
None of them were like Rey.
As they met in the middle, sabers vibrating each time they touched, Ben realized every other battle he’d ever had paled in comparison to the ones they shared together. He could never hope to find such an equal, on the battlefield or otherwise, and not for the first time he thanked each and every star in the galaxy that their paths were intertwined.
Where he struck from the left, she was prepared to strike from the right, whipping her saberstaff around as though it were an extension of herself.
It felt like a sophisticated dance, some sort of language only the two of them knew how to speak. They were attuned to each other’s movements and thoughts through the bond, yes, but they found ways to surprise each other — he jumped to meet her from behind, she swung from under to catch him near the shoulder.
Sweat had gathered on Ben’s brow, yet he felt invigorated — an energy pulsating through him at the ability to get his body moving.
He wasn’t aware of how long they stood there sparring, but eventually they’d begun to draw a crowd, members of the Resistance that had only really seen the power of a lightsaber when it came from Rey, training with floating targets.
They cheered every time she landed an advantage over him and groaned collectively each time he did — but both happened in equal measure, and by the end, the excitement had reached a fever pitch.
They couldn’t hear any of it.
“Tired yet?” she smiled, all teeth, brilliant against her saber and the light of the morning sun behind her.
“I can go all day, sweetheart,” he channeled some of his father’s swagger, feeling more and more comfortable every day in parts of himself he’d shoved down for years. The endearment slipped out in the heat of the moment, but it felt right as he said it.
It must have caught her off guard, because she faltered, slipping enough that he was able to gain a total advantage of her. He swung under her ankle so that she fell under him, caging her with his arms against her sides.
For a few silent moments they didn’t move, panting from exhaustion as they started at each other, the sparring session clearly over. Disappointed shouts rang from the crowd that watched them before they turned to leave, the excitement gone with the end of the fight and the defeat of their Jedi.
She seemed terrified, like a doe-eyed animal he’d startled in a field, and suddenly he wondered if he’d spoken out of turn, his ears hot with embarrassment.
“Sorry, I…” He was pinning her down, he realized, so he moved to let her go, looking anywhere but her face. He sat up next to her, his hands digging into the dirt beneath them.
He coughed awkwardly. He wished the world would swallow him whole. “Sorry, it slipped. I won’t call you that if you don’t want me to…”
She shook her head, absently tracing nondescript shapes in the ground with a finger. “I’ve always imagined that word, when I thought of my family. The people who must have loved me once.” She was lost in her memories, a deep anguish and longing stinging her side of the bond so strongly he felt it in his chest.
“Well, I do,” he grabbed her hand to stop it from moving. “Love you, I mean.” He was definitely red all over now, but she needed to hear it.
The word hung between them. Love. Had he truly just admitted that? It was nothing more than a verbal confirmation of everything he’d felt for far longer than the week since Exegol. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d told someone he loved them. Had long believed that he wasn’t capable of such an emotion — surely no one could love him, and therefore, how could he love in return?
And yet, yes. He did love her. She’d consumed his thoughts to the point of obsession when they’d been enemies on a battlefield, but it took a different shape the more they understood each other. Now, he’d fight the entire galaxy single-handed for her. Somehow, he knew she’d do the same for him. Wasn’t that love?
She needed to know that this was it for him. He’d known it for a long time, but as they slowly prepared to get started on whatever came after this, he needed her to hear it directly.
“You do?” she caught his gaze, moving closer to him, the dirt under them staining their clothes. Neither of them cared.
“Of course. Isn’t it obvious by now?” He dropped the saber in the ground behind them, leaning forwards to cup her cheek. “And... I’d like to be your family, Rey. If you’ll let me.”
She had tears in her eyes but her Force signature was glowing, warm and content, the longing all but vanished in the wake of his confession. She moved to cover her face with her hands, away from his stare, and he could hear the soft sniffles that indicated she was still crying.
He gently grabbed her wrists to move her hands away from her face, drifting upwards to catch them in both of his. “You don’t have to say it back if that was too soon, Rey. I don’t want to pressure you. But you do need to know that I love you.”
She nodded slowly, giving him the impetus he needed to wrap her up in his arms, enveloping her frame. She softened, dragging her arms around his shoulders before pulling away from his chest slightly to look up at him. “It’s not too soon. I… I love you too, Ben. I want all of those things with you. I guess I just…”
When she trailed off, he nudged her gently. “Just what, Rey? You can tell me.”
She avoided his gaze, looking down. “I never thought anyone would care about me this way,” she whispered.
He could tell she was embarrassed by the admission, the way it poked at her deepest insecurities and laid them bare for him to see. All he could do was thank her for trusting him with it. “I will never stop caring about you this way. I need you to know that. Okay?”
She seemed to melt under him as she nodded, tucking her head under his so that she was pressed against his chest. She grabbed his hand, locking their fingers together before pressing a kiss to it. “Okay. And please do call me that again. I liked it.”
She looked up, beaming as she closed the distance between them with a kiss. “Yes, that.”
She was blushing, and he pretended the thought that he made her feel that way didn’t make him want to preen.
“I can’t believe I won our first battle with your new saber because I flirted with you,” he murmured against her lips, smiling.
Suddenly she was serious, leaning back to look up at him, that same fire he’d fallen in love with sparking in her eyes. “Oh no. No, that did not count. We are going again, now.”
With that she separated herself from him and leapt up, calling her saberstaff and twirling it excessively before getting in position. “Ready? Or are you scared?”
He moved to follow, dusting the dirt off of his pants as he stood. He tried to pretend he wasn’t smiling. “Whatever you say, sweetheart.”
“She looks pretty good, doesn’t she?”
Rey’s hip was perched against the Millennium Falcon’s boarding ramp, arms crossed at her chest. “Power converters are brand new, greased up the engines and she’s got a shiny topcoat. You don’t have to thank me.”
It was true: even in the aftermath of the war, the Falcon looked the best it had in a long time. That didn’t do much to quell the gnawing in Ben’s chest, though.
Rey’s lips were quirked upwards in a half-hearted smirk, eyes sympathetic. Her attempt at comedy hid a larger truth: this ship held some of, if not the strongest ghosts of Ben’s past, and experiencing it all again would tear open wounds that hadn’t even begun scabbing yet.
The ring he’d found in Leia’s room still burned a hole in Ben’s pocket, and the rest of the items of hers that they’d kept were safely stowed away in the ship. It was time to leave.
He couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment he’d stopped thinking of himself as an individual and the two of them as a we, but it was as natural as breathing now, the way the two of them just worked. There wasn’t anything he did without thinking of her, making space in a heart that had been alone for far too long.
“So you two will meet us in Coruscant, right? No running off or deserting?” Poe, Finn and Rose were approaching the Falcon now, set against the backdrop of the rest of the camp as everyone prepared to leave Ajan Kloss.
“Oh, relax, Poe,” Rey met them in the middle, sneaking towards Rose to grab a garment she was holding suspiciously close. “We’ll be there.”
“Good. We’re going to need you there. And you,” he said, pointing at Ben, “You’re gonna wanna think of some speeches. You’ll be giving a lot of those.”
“Hey, ease up on the guy, he’s doing his best,” Finn chimed in, much to everyone else’s disbelief.
“Oh?” Rose looked up at him with bright eyes. Proud.
“Well, I’ve realized we understand each other in more ways than you think,” he turned to Poe, “and he’s going to help us out with the Stormtrooper liberation program. Right, Ben?”
Ben didn’t have to look at Rey to hear how happy this made her; he felt it as though it were his own.
“Is Chewie going with you guys?” Rose asked.
“With those two? On the Falcon, alone, for days on end?” Poe laughed, out loud. “Chewie is a lot of things, but he’s no masochist.”
Rey and Ben reddened, looking anywhere but at the friends that had come to see them off.
After a quick hug from Rey and a promise to stay in constant communication on the way to Coruscant, the three of them walked off, preparing other soldiers and ships. It was all finally happening — the end of the war had come and with it, a new beginning for all of them.
Rey ran into the Falcon to put away the dark fabric she’d taken from Rose. A few minutes later, she poked her head out of the boarding ramp.
“Well? Coming in?”
Before the academy, Leia, Han and Ben had moved around often. He’d been born and raised in Chandrila, where they stayed for a few years while Leia traveled often to handle Senate matters. After that, they lived for a time in Hosnian Prime, as the city was slowly being molded to become the new capital of the Galactic Senate. Within that time, they traveled fairly often — dignitary dinners, banquets, political events, and the like were all part of their life, and who better to grace the presence of these events than war heroes?
The Millenium Falcon, therefore, had in many ways felt like a home. It was the one true constant of his childhood, the routine hum of its engines and muted reds and blues of its control system a comforting background noise on many sleepless nights. It was mythologized, sure, but the reality was that it was just a ship. Not a fancy one, and truly a piece of junk in many ways, but the piece of junk where he first learned to look out at the stars and examine his place in them.
He’d hated it for what it represented — a broken, sad childhood that had been ripped from him and turned sour. Now, that anger had dissolved and given way to mourning over what could have been and would never be. He was glad it was in Rey’s hands now.
As he walked up the ramp, he took his time to examine it, until he led himself up.
He felt immediately as though he’d walked back in time. “It... looks exactly the same.”
Rey quirked an eyebrow from where she stood against the wall. “Well. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
He ran his hands over the walls, seeing himself as a boy doing the very same thing during long flights where he found he had nothing to do. A barrage of memories flooded him all at once, but he practiced his breathing to maintain his composure. Rey had taught him that. “A good thing, I think.”
Slowly walking the perimeter of the main hold, he found himself staring at the Dejarik board in front of him. He kicked it lightly with his foot, whirring it to life. “Wanna play?”
When she didn’t answer he looked up, only to find her with her arms crossed, a sad smile gracing her features. “Maybe later,” she said softly.
He roamed towards the kitchen his father had built for his mother, running his hands along the compartments that had once stored his cereals. He’d been such a picky eater, he’d refused to eat unless it was his favorite brand.
Then he reached the bunk where he’d spent endless, artificially created nights trying to sleep, monsters in his head keeping him awake.
Slowly, he drew nearer to the cockpit, until finally he could see out the window into the field on Ajan Kloss. The seats were in good condition, and everything appeared just as functional as it had all those years ago, and long before it. He pulled out his father’s dice from his pocket, his chest heavy as he secured it above the seats.
The gold of the dice glinted under the reflection of the sun, shiny as it swung to and fro, before stopping.
“How are you feeling, Ben?”
He couldn’t tell how long he’d been standing there, or when exactly Rey had managed to sneak up on him, but he took a deep breath before answering.
“I think I’ll be okay,” he said, turning to face her. He grabbed a hand to pull her close. “I have you with me, so…”
She smiled up at him for a moment, probing gently to make sure he was really okay, before slipping out of his arms. “Great. Time to set up some ground rules.”
“No offense, but this ship and I have gotten quite close over the past year. We should talk ownership.”
“Well, you see, I did get used to piloting over the past year or so. It’s only fair that—”
He pulled her closer again, leaning against the back of the pilot seat before drawing his arms around her.
“Rey,” he warned, gentle but firm. “I am happy to be your copilot everyday for the rest of my life, sweetheart.”
He felt the girlish thrill that went through her at the endearment as though it were his own, a feeling so pure and bright he wanted to bottle it. Since he couldn’t do that, he’d resolved to using it on her as much as possible.
She kissed him quickly, then turned. “Come, I have something I want to give you.” She led him towards the bunk that now housed their things, as sparse as they were. “Okay, close your eyes, please.”
He could feel that she was nervous, so he complied silently. She nudged him towards the bed to sit. He felt a light weight hit his thighs.
“You can look now.”
He opened his eyes to see his black sweater, now clean. He raised it up by the sleeves, noticing an embroidered patch where there had been a hole. It was in the shape of a yellow circle, with orange lines coming out of the sides.
“Rose taught me to embroider a little. I’m still no good, as you can see by how sloppy it is right here,” she pointed, self-conscious at her own creation, “but I tried my best. I thought you might like to keep it.” She was chewing on a nail, avoiding his eyes, as though staring at the sweater would make it disappear.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been given a gift, much less one that was made with as much love as this. “Rey, I…”
“If you hate it, I’d rather you not tell me. We can just pretend.”
He let it go, gently using his hands to cup each side of her face to get her attention. “Rey, I love it.”
She warmed as he kissed her, a silent thank you and another I love you shared through the bond as he did so. She tasted like the very sun she’d embroidered on that sweater, a physical manifestation of all the light he’d repressed for years.
She perked up, kissing him back in kind, slipping her tongue to deepen the kiss and gently pulling on his shirt to touch bare skin. They hadn’t gotten much farther than this since she’d brought him with her to the base, choosing to take things slowly, and both of them were getting impatient, each frenzied encounter growing more hurried and rushed than the last.
He pulled away, flushed and all-too aware of the fact that they needed to leave very soon, and wherever this was going could wait until they were far, far away from everyone else. That was what they had agreed upon.
Ben leaned down to kiss her quickly in an apology. “Not yet, sweetheart. Plus, I have something I want to give you, too.”
Since they’d looked through Leia’s room, he had practiced what he would say, or how he would convey the depth of his feelings to her. He’d played the moment over and over in his mind, imagining himself with entire soliloquies of praise and affection to bestow upon her. Now, though, as he looked in her expectant eyes, he couldn’t remember any of it.
Pulling into his pocket, he grabbed the ring, keeping his fist closed. “Rey,” he started, “I don’t have anything to offer except the promise that as long as you want me, I’m here. I want to be someone you can lean on. I spent too many years stuck in darkness, and it wasn’t until I found you that I realized I was capable of better than that. You showed me how to see that in myself.”
He cleared his throat, emotion choking him, but continued. “This doesn’t have to mean anything you don’t want it to mean. Consider it a promise, if you will.” He took hold of her hand and pressed his mother’s ring into it, closing her palm around it.
“I promise that I’m here. For the rest of my life. Or as long as you want me. Whichever comes first.”
“Oh, Ben…” she held it up between her forefinger and thumb, examining the crest of the Organa family.
The moment she held it in her hands he knew it belonged to her. As a symbol of his love for her, her place with him, their future together — as though all of it could be encompassed in that tiny ring of metal.
“When I think of home, Rey, really think about it, all I see is you.”
He offered to put the ring on her finger, to which she complied, but it was a little loose. She took a loose cord from her bag and slipped it through the ring, tying it around her neck, the resourcefulness that kept her alive for nineteen years in the desert present even in small moments like this.
The sight of the ring resting against her clavicle did strange things to his heart. She grabbed his shoulders, urging him to look up.
“You keep speaking as though I’ll wake up one day and decide to throw you to the wolves,” she said. “What you don’t realize is that when I think of home, all I see is you, too. You’re stuck with me. Okay? For the rest of my life.”
She stroked his cheek, focusing on the skin where his scar used to be. “The world could fade away and it wouldn’t matter as long as I have you with me, Ben.”
He should have been terrified of the deep attachment they’d formed with each other; the way it would define everything he did for the rest of his life. The way it already had from the moment they’d met, in the forests of Takodana what felt like lifetimes ago.
Instead, he felt freer than he ever had before. He kissed her, as he now had done many times, but it didn’t feel any less heartstopping. He’d never get used to her.
He held her in his arms, in their new bunk on the Falcon just big enough for two people — a family — and together they enjoyed the fact that at the end, when all was said and done, he truly had come home, and she had found hers. Finally.
Eventually, they realized it was time to go. Ships had already started leaving Ajan Kloss, and they needed to keep up if they were going to stay on schedule — they were looking at at least a week of uninterrupted time alone.
She buckled into the pilot seat, the ring glinting against her chest when the light hit it, listing out the pre-flight checks that were as routine to her as breathing. He followed her orders, making liberal use of mock-salutes for his pilot, feeling more comfortable than he had in a long time as he remembered what it was he loved about flying. The way the world felt limitless at his disposal.
They reached out into the atmosphere of the Ajan Kloss moon, slowly inching towards space where they would make the jump into hyperspace.
Rebuilding the galaxy from the ashes, in the wake of the First Order’s demise, wouldn’t happen quickly. It would take a long time, and the two of them would be at the forefront as they decided what they would do with the Jedi. None of it would be easy, and he would have a lot of explaining, and apologizing, and atoning to do in the coming months — but he wasn’t scared. Not anymore, at least.
Fear had once been his main coping mechanism, the only way he found himself able to deal with the world around him. That fear had opened the door to aggression, to lashing out, to hurting others because of the way he felt hurt in turn.
And then she changed everything. Not because she was special, or better than him, or some sort of superhuman, but because of kindness and compassion, and perhaps a little bit of help from fate. She was meant to be in his life, just as he was meant to be in hers. They were meant to protect each other, to support each other, and to keep each other in line.
They were now in space, the other ships with them zooming quietly into hyperspace on the outskirts of their vision. She’d prepared them for the jump and was looking at him expectantly, a thousand questions on the tip of her tongue. She only asked one, though.
He leaned over to kiss her, soft and slow, an assurance that no, he wasn’t but that yes, he was. He was because of her. “Let’s go.”
That was all the confirmation she needed. She looked at him expectantly, nodding towards the lever to his right.
He’d done this a million times, whether it was in the Falcon, or the Grimtaash, or any of the TIE Silencers he’d flown over the years — jumping into hyperspace always brought him that same addictive lurch in his gut that it did as a child. This time, though, things were irreversibly different.
He wasn’t scared anymore, for one. In fact, he had the oddest sense of hope about the future. As though he had a second chance to make things right.
He also felt calm, somehow. At peace. A lot had gone horribly wrong in the years that led to this moment, but so much of his life had felt out of his control. He had finally been given the chance to take ownership of his life and his destiny, and he didn’t intend to squander it.
He may not have been deserving of these things, but they’d been handed to him nonetheless. The chance to make things better — different, good somehow.
He pulled on the lever. The same way he’d done as a boy with his father, or as a scared young man running frightened from the demons that taunted him, or as an older man, born again, willing to risk it all to save the love of his life. He pulled the lever, glancing at Rey with a soft smile as the two of them sped into a brilliant burst of blue and white, towards a future, a home, they would build for themselves — together.