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Thwarted

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He stands over Snoke’s dead body, toeing it with his boot.

 

“You never should have stood between us.”

 

---

 

He takes the blade and draws it slowly across his flesh, watching in detached fascination with his unmasked eyes as the blood beads, perfect red pearls that coalesce then lose their cohesion as they slide down his pale arm. This, the fresh rush of pain and control. He does this. It is his choice. He alone elects the pain, now. It quiets the noise in his head; it wipes Han Solo’s face from behind his eyelids. It leaves him open and able to feel her, so perfect, so clean. He is a blank canvas and she paints such vivid, beautiful things across him.

 

She still won’t have anything to do with him. It is infuriating, but he is dauntless in his pursuit. Someday she will see, she will understand.

 

So he closes his eyes and remembers her; remembers every single detail. Her hair, pulled back so tightly. He knows that her mane is meant to be wild and free, like her. He remembers her eyes, such an intoxicating blend of green and brown with flecks of gold. Like light glinting off the water in a stream. They are so very alive. Her skin … he knows it will be so soft under his fingers. How he wishes he had taken off his gloves and touched her flesh just once … just once.

 

Sometimes, when he is gentle, when he soothes along their Bond, she will speak to him. It’s always fruitless, always difficult. She wants to hold him to account. But it is worth it for that blissful feeling of her.

 

He is cleansed; the sting of the blade has opened him up and he’s feeling bold. He softly, almost kindly, whispers to her.

 

“Rey …”

 

He feels a pulse of interest.

 

“Rey … Let me in.”

 

Oh, he can feel her … she’s letting him feel her.

 

“Rey … Please, oh please. Do not deny me.”

 

“What do you want?” growls across the Bond.

 

“Simply to talk.”

 

“Talk. I heard about the massacre on Lenn. I do not want to talk with you.”

 

“That was necessary.” His voice is clipped.

 

“You always say that. I don’t believe that murdering people in cold blood is ever necessary.”

 

“I see. Then Starkiller was only filled with evil people?”

 

“I’m not getting into a discussion of ethics with you,” she says snidely.

 

“They were in league with the Resistance. As I said, necessary.”

 

“I’m leaving.”

 

“Oh, but you only just let me in. Please stay a little while.” He’s not ready for the distance again. He never is.

 

She gasps. “Your arm, what … I thought you didn’t do that any longer.”

 

“Do not concern yourself.” He has no wish to discuss that.

 

“But … you promised.”

 

“I did not. I said I would consider what you said. Why do you care, anyway? You’ve made it perfectly clear you wish me dead. What is a bit of blood when you’d have it all spill on the floor?”

 

She has nothing to say to that.

 

Finally she says, “You know how this will go. One of us will become enraged and retreat and I’ll block you again.”

 

“It doesn’t have to be like that,” he says gently, his tone coaxing.

 

“Oh yes it does. And you're delusional if you think anything else.”

 

“Perhaps I simply have a broader point of view.”

 

“We both know your focus is very narrow.”

 

He thinks he may have to concede that point. Now that Snoke is gone he has only one goal. Has had only one goal since he first heard the words ‘The Girl’.

 

“Tell me where you are,” he pleads.

 

“No, don’t even start with that. I’m leaving. This is a mistake. This is always a mistake.”

 

“I tend to think it is destiny, but you may deny it all you like,” he says with an almost airy tone.

 

“You … I just … Goodbye.”

 

“Just a little longer, it’s been such a long time.”

 

“No, I’m not … I don’t know why you talk as if we have something. That we’re … it doesn’t matter, I’m leaving.” And with that he feels her shut him out.

 

He sighs heavily. It never goes the way he envisions it. He closes his eyes in frustration. Then he opens them and picks up his blade.

 

---

 

He’s poring over the latest reports, hoping the analysts have missed something. The stars streak by behind him. Though he has ascended through death to the position of Supreme Leader, he maintains his position on the Finalizer. He prefers to be mobile, able to seek her. He knows she is out there. He’s tried to sway her, but he knows it is of no use. Now … now he will simply have to find her and take her. She’s made this choice, forced his hand.

 

He hears a throat clear at the entrance to his private office. Hux. It must be Hux. If he is frustrated and irritated, it is Hux. He doesn’t even look up, just says, “What is it, General?”

 

“A new dispatch that might … interest you. Your … special project.”

 

His head snaps up at that. His modulated voice asks, “Yes?”

 

“Sector 5 thinks they’ve found something. A remote planet, thought uninhabited. But it fulfills the specifications you provided. An ocean world, ancient signs of civilization but nothing modern. It’s called Ahch-To.”

 

He holds out his hand and pulls the datapad to him with the Force. It is a lazy display of power, something he often does now. Hux lingers. Ren is not sure why.

 

“Was there something else?”

 

“It is said you plan to lead this mission yourself. Do you think that is wise?”

 

“It is my intention, yes. As you know, this ... project is of great importance to me. I won’t leave it to anyone else.”

 

“You have new responsibilities now … Supreme Leader.” He hears how difficult it is for Hux to use his title. He finds he likes it; likes how it grates on Hux. Knows that the general had always thought that he himself would finally win their little contest of wills. But no, it has been nine months since Starkiller and Kylo Ren has become something more. The light still pulls at him from time to time but after the price he has paid, he has been relentless in his pursuit of the dark. And then when Snoke had dared stand in his way, tried to take Rey from him … new power had been born that day. Black and deep. The endless abyss that is Kylo Ren in love. He had not known what it was at first, this strange feeling she had planted within him. But he knows it for what it is, now.

 

“I am aware of my … responsibilities. And this is the single most important step the First Order could take.”

 

Hux looks incredulous as he says, “All this, for a girl?”

 

Ren’s head swivels to Hux at this, his attention focused on the general. He lifts his hand and gently squeezes, not so hard as to cut off Hux’s air, just enough to remind him. Remind him that to live and to serve are one and the same. There will be no more questioning of him, no more games of one-upmanship. Ren has won and Hux must remember that.

 

“My apologies, Supreme Leader.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

---

 

Three days to Ahch-To. He’s standing on the bridge, his gloved hands firmly behind him, watching the blue of hyperspace, lost in thought. He’s remembering how he came to be standing on the bridge of what is without a doubt his ship. They’re all his, now. He shouldn’t enjoy how much this vexes Hux, but he does. He’d always planned to arrive here; he’d known that he was of limited utility to Snoke. He simply had not expected it to come so quickly.

 

But Rey had changed everything. Everything. She’d reached into his life and altered its course, like a great river being redirected. One might think the act of killing Snoke was one of disloyalty, but that would be wrong. He has always had his own code, his own view of right and wrong. Snoke had simply moved to the other side of the ledger.

 

He’s remembering when he began to realize there was an … issue with Snoke.

 

After Starkiller and his absolutely humiliating performance, he’d been summoned. He’d found himself in front of his master, kneeling, fighting to hide the pain in his side and the burning ache that went along his face and straight into his heart.

 

“Kylo Ren.” Snoke had been quiet for a very long time. Kylo had kept himself in check, stemming the memories of previous … punishments.

 

“Clearly I have failed you, my Apprentice,” Snoke had said sadly.  Kylo had been wary, uncertain of what to think or say. He had expected chastisement, not this nearly paternal tone.

 

“Obviously there is a flaw in your training for you to come to me slashed open, beaten, your shame written across your face with such garish clarity,” Snoke said derisively.  Now that – that had made sense. Snoke would often mock him. He would tell himself that it didn’t matter even as it always did.

 

“No Master, no! The fault is mi-” he’d said on instinct.

 

Silence, boy.” He’d been filled with fear, then. That was the moment he’d understood how very angry Snoke was. “You will speak when I ask it of you and not before.” Snoke had radiated fury. Kylo had known no sound would come from his lips no matter what was done to him. Not until Snoke bid him speak.

 

“You let this girl, this lowly scavenger from Jakku, best you? What am I to do with you now, hmm? You have failed, oh so spectacularly. And yet, and yet, you did succeed in ridding the galaxy of the last of the Solos. Do you see my quandary?” Kylo had only nodded sharply.

 

“We should be celebrating you, Kylo Ren, for your triumph over your unfortunate origins was impressive. But somehow, instead of bringing her to me, as I instructed, you allowed yourself to be overtaken by a slip of a girl, just over half your age. It is a predicament.” Kylo had simply stayed on his knees, his head bowed. He’d closed off everything the name Solo stirred within him, knowing he needed to focus. His master had been even more intimidating in the flesh; he could feel the power when he was near Snoke. He had found he preferred the massive hologram.

 

Snoke had drawn very close then, his tall frame looming over Kylo. He’d reached out his long, skeletal hand and used one finger to tip Kylo’s face up to him, trapping Kylo in his cold, insect-like gaze. He’d felt the tendrils of Snoke seeking. Normally, he would only find what Kylo wished him to find – Kylo had learned long ago how to protect his softest places. But that day … that day he had been in pain and distracted, the embryonic Force Bond already weaving itself through his body and mind, soul and heart. His heart … oh he’d really had no idea what was coming.

 

And so he had faltered and felt as fleeting images and feelings from his battle with Rey were pulled from his mind. He’d felt Snoke linger on that moment in the snow-covered forest when their sabers had crossed.  He’d been mesmerized by her face, offering to teach her, to show her things. Anything to sway her, to keep her. He had felt as Snoke had pulled out one particularly damning thought, “Beautiful …”

 

Snoke had then lifted his head, as if he were a predator scenting the air for his prey. “You let her live! I told you bring her to me, and instead you allowed her to escape! She should be here or dead,” Snoke had thundered. “Explain, Apprentice. Now,” Snoke had said, menace wrapped around every syllable.

 

“She is so strong in the Force that I had hoped she would prove useful to us. It seemed wrong to simply strike her down. I know I should not have let her get the upper hand, but properly trained she could be formidable!”

 

“Ah, I see … while my Starkiller was being destroyed you allowed yourself to fail because you thought she might be useful.” Snoke’s voice had been full of scorn.

 

“I … I want to train her, show her there is a better way.”

 

“Train her.” Snoke had moved to the massive throne in the middle of the room and had regarded him for a very long time. “I think, Kylo Ren, that your feelings are much more base.”

 

“No! I was only thinking of the First Order,” he had rushed to answer.

 

“You know that I am aware that simply is not true,” Snoke had sneered.

 

“I admit, she is … tempting, but I would never put such things before your interests. I promise you, she is important.”

 

“It is moot, as you did not succeed in procuring her,” was all Snoke had said. He’d dismissed him then.

 

He’d removed himself, thinking quickly. He had revealed far more than he’d intended, far more than he’d really been aware of himself. Having the image of her delicate face brought so forcefully forward had … done something to him.

 

As he’d walked back to his quarters on Snoke’s ship he’d felt the first true whisper of the Bond. He’d felt her; felt her thinking about him. Wondering if he’d survived. He’d known then what this was and he’d been terrified.

 

Pulling himself back into the present, he continues to stand, watching the galaxy move past the viewscreen. It is time to call his knights together. Though he’d seen each of them within the last few months, his instincts are telling him to gather them near. It has been too long since they have all been together and there is still the issue of Skywalker. He hopes that when he finds Rey he will find the Jedi as well, but he will not split his focus. His knights, however … they could be quite helpful in handling that little detail.

 

Once he’d killed Snoke he’d moved quickly to solidify his position, ensuring his place as leader of the First Order. He’d toured all of the Resurgent-class Star Destroyers, making sure he was seen and that none doubted his power, checking on each of his knights in turn.

 

He currently has them stationed on Star Destroyers throughout the galaxy. While the dynamic has some … issues, he finds he likes the idea of his most loyal followers shadowing his generals. The knights had always had a slightly different agenda than that of the First Order. It was important to maintain that balance. And of course, it infuriated Hux to have the military subverted in this way. He knows it is petty to still delight in tormenting the supercilious ginger general, but he has so few amusements. Soon, he thinks. Soon he will bask in her and will have no need for any of this.

 

He’s certain that Ahch-To is it. That this is where she is training. He knows it is a water planet, with many islands. He’s seen flashes, glimpsed the blue and the green of the place. There have been other planets, but this is the one he’s sensed most frequently. Oh, my love … I am coming for you.

 

---

 

He’s back in his quarters on the Finalizer, knowing he should sleep, just as he knows he won’t find rest easily. He’s too excited; too ready for what he’s sure will happen next.

 

He will find her on Ahch-To, find her and bring her back here to her new home. She will fight him, of course, but he is prepared for that. He will show her, gently, that she has nothing to fear from him. She will learn to accept him. He remembers how he’d felt, with those first tentative touches through the Bond fluttering against him. It had been almost erotic. He’d felt her confusion at the constant thrum of him through the nascent Bond. Four days after Starkiller, he’d been the first to reach out. He remembers.

 

“Rey?” he’d called out across the vast distance between them.

 

“What? Who is this?”

 

“I think you know who this is,” he’d said softly.

 

“How are you doing this? Get out of my head!” She’d been panicked and had been desperately trying to hide this fact from him. But when the Bond had first been formed, she could never hide her feelings from him, not like she could now. She’d learned quickly. He wishes she hadn’t.

 

“I’m not doing this, we did this. Together.”

 

“I never did anything – you’re lying.” She had started to sound fearful, then.

 

“I have never lied to you. I will never lie to you.” He had been so careful, so cautious. He hadn’t known such gentleness lived within him. He knows now that she brings out so many things that he’s certain only she can.

 

“What … what is this?”

 

“I believe we have formed a Force Bond.”

 

“I … I don’t want it.”

 

“It is done. We are Bound, Rey.” He’d felt her terror. It had hurt him.

 

“Please get out of my head, please. I don’t want this.” He’d been conflicted, wanting to know more of her, wanting to delve into her mind and know everything. Wanting to comfort her. His … fascination was turning quickly, even then.

 

“This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; you could learn so much from me.”

 

“I’ve learned enough from you.”

 

“You did manage to gather quite a bit when you were in my mind, didn’t you? Wouldn’t you like to know more? More about this power that swirls inside you? Imagine mastering it, bending it to your will. You can do so many amazing things, Rey.” He’d felt her curiosity. About the Force … about him. That feeling--that sense that she wondered about him, wanted to know more despite herself – it has sustained him through these nine long months of hunting and constant disappointment.

 

He’d felt her trying to push against him then, not unlike how she’d managed to fight him off on Starkiller. He’d withdrawn quickly, not wanting to give her time to learn how to block him. He’d known it was only a matter of time and he wasn’t willing to help her with that.

 

He remembers sitting in his quarters after that first heady contact, reveling in the feelings she’d inspired. He’d never felt anything of the sort and he’d had no place to put them, no words to describe the excitement, the want, the high. He knows now what she had kindled in him, but at first he’d simply wanted to have her. He hadn’t been able to even fathom what he would do with her once he did, not like he can now.

 

Because now … now he knows exactly what he wants.

Chapter Text

"Ben!”

 

The echo of his nightmare rings out in his head as he sits up, fighting for air, the sheets tangled around him. He feels the shameful tears on his face and he wipes them away angrily. The nightmares are growing worse and he almost wonders if she’s behind it. He wouldn’t put it past her.

 

He checks the time. Early, but not enough time in the cycle to warrant bothering to try to sleep again. He’s coming apart at the seams, losing his perspective. He knows he is. He knows that he’s being driven mad by his pursuit but he does not care. Two more days to Ahch-To. To Rey.

 

He strides into the ‘fresher and steps into the punishingly cold water. He hopes the shock will clear his mind.

 

---

 

He’s walking the decks, his mind racing with all his hopes and dreams. He’s trapped in his own head and he can’t quite break out of this strange place of living in the past and the future. Now is simply waiting and he’s having trouble focusing on anything but her.

 

He decides to check on her quarters. He spends much of his time there, imagining, perfecting, longing. Sometimes he wants to change his plan, to simply expand his own rooms so that she cannot misunderstand. But he knows that Rey must be handled deftly. Still … it is a delicious thought, and he rolls it around in his head. Thinking of a time when she will always be with him, when she’s given him everything that he wants. Because that is what he wants. Everything.

 

He removes his glove from his hand and opens the door with his palm. He will allow her much, but he will always have access to her quarters. Once she is his, he will not be ignored.

 

He’s hit by the rich, green scent immediately. He’s had her rooms filled with living things, lush plants and decadent flowers. Lightly scented orchids and graceful ferns adorn nearly every surface. He knows his scavenger. He pulls the other glove from his fingers and gently glides them over the leaves and petals as he walks through her space. He feels close to her here, it’s so easy to see her bright, open face among the flora. He imagines her delight when he shows her what he’s done for her. His Rey will never suffer in the coldness of space.

 

He remembers those first days, when she hadn’t known how to block him. He’d been in his quarters, healing as demanded by the medical droids. The Bond was growing quickly; he could feel her presence constantly, like the sun on his face. He’d get flashes of feelings, too. She had been afraid of something and there were bursts of hopeful affection. He had been intensely curious about who had inspired those warm feelings. The need to possess her had grown so quickly that he’d already found himself fighting against a jealous rage, confusing him in its intensity.  He’d felt her concern for that errant stormtrooper, the quality of her feelings distinctly different than that disturbing affection. Apparently FN-2187 had lived. Very little had gone right on Starkiller.

 

He had decided not to block her, letting his own emotions bleed through. It had been a risk, but he’d found that he had wanted her to … know him. Lying on his bed, he’d quietly, tentatively reached out through the Bond.

 

“Rey …”

 

“Leave me alone.” Her response had been immediate.

 

“I know you can feel me, too.” He’d been so naive, thinking he could reach her.

 

“Well I don’t want to.”

 

“But you still can.”

 

She had been quiet for a very long time before she’d said, “Yes.”

 

“We don’t need to be enemies.”

 

“Oh really? So you’re just going to leave the First Order then? Bring Han Solo back to life?” She had been vicious, then.

 

“Don’t talk about him.” It hadn’t even been a week yet, and he had not yet … come to terms with Han Solo.

 

“Bothered that you killed your own father?”

 

“Rey, please … it’s complicated.” He’d wished then that he knew how to explain it to himself.

 

“Why do you even care what I think?”

 

“Because … because … didn’t you feel it? On Starkiller?” He hadn’t been able to imagine he’d been alone in his feelings. He still can’t.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she had said defiantly.

 

“I think you do,” he had said quietly.

 

“Don’t tell me what I feel. Just leave, or be quiet. Just stop talking to me!”

 

“Let me teach you; you need someone to show you how to wield the Force.”

 

“I’ll figure it out. The Resistance will help me.” He’d felt that sense of strong affection again.

 

“The Resistance. You’d throw your lot in with a group of radicals?” He’d hated that they already held such influence over her. He hates it still.

 

“Better radicals than murderers.” He had ignored the slight.

 

“You don’t owe them anything. You’re free to leave at any time.”

 

“Well I don’t owe you anything either, except maybe a lightsaber through the chest,” she had nearly growled.

 

“You still want to kill me?”

 

“Yes. No. I don’t know,” she had said uncertainly.

 

“Consider letting me teach you, please?”

 

“No! I’ll never let you anywhere near me.” Oh how that had stung.

 

“Rey …”

 

“Stop, please. Just … please just leave me alone. Please?” she had pleaded with him. She’d sounded so small, it had touched him.

 

“Alright Rey … I’ll go.” He’d withdrawn and had looked at his ceiling for a long time. He had started to understand what sort of trouble he was truly in, at that point. Leaving her, it had made him ache. He had grown frustrated then. Who had inspired such warm, tender feelings in her? While he had begun to comprehend why it had bothered him so, the powerlessness it had inspired in him had left him breathless.

 

What would she think if she knew it was she who had opened him up fully to the dark side? That his desire to have her by his side had brought him the focus he’d always sought? That this Bond between them helped him channel his power in ways he’d never even dreamt of? The pull to the light was dwarfed by his need. He would do anything, become anything in order to have her. He walks throughout her chambers, ensuring that everything is still perfect. He remembers the first time he had trained after the Bond had formed.

 

He’d been told by the medical droids to keep it light, not put too much strain on the wounds. But he hadn’t listened. He’d gone to the training room and had been practicing with a sparring droid when he had first noticed it. He wasn’t consciously focusing his power. To think it was to do it. The Force flowed through him with such ease he’d almost been afraid. It was as if it what had once been a stream had become a river. Now … now it was an ocean. He was able to do things he’d only ever read about, always having assumed they were nothing but myths and tales for children. But no, they were quite real.

 

He thinks it’s the Bond that has opened him up in this way. That somehow her light is balancing his dark and he’s no longer struggling and fighting himself. He is in tune with the Force, able to wield it to terrifying effect.

 

He remembers how he had hid his new … affinity from Snoke. He’d been called again, a week after his first audience since the loss of Starkiller. He’d been much more confident, he had been healing quickly and his burgeoning power had given him a sense of safety he hadn’t experienced … ever. But he had sensed that Snoke should not know. And so he’d gone to his knees in front of his master and waited patiently.

 

“I have decided that it is time to finish your training. We will begin to study Force lightning and body manipulation,” Snoke had said with no preamble.

 

“Thank you Master, I am very grateful.” He had kept his manner subservient, trying to remember how he usually conducted himself.

 

“But first, I do believe a demonstration is in order.”

 

“Master?” He’d known then that the punishment he’d anticipated was coming.

 

“You may have succeeded in the task I set you when you took your father’s life, but you showed such a lack of judgement in regards to the girl.” Snoke had sounded resigned.

 

“Of course, I deserve whatever you deem appropriate.” He’d known he deserved this; that he had failed. He’d known he was drifting from Snoke’s path, even then. He wonders if he could have overpowered Snoke that day; wonders if should have tried. He had attempted to make peace with pain, had learned to control it in his own ways, but the knowledge of what was coming had still filled him with dread.

 

“Stand, Apprentice.” Snoke had said the word ‘apprentice’ as if he found the subject lacking in all ways.

 

He had gracefully stood and waited for what he kept telling himself was as it should be. He had failed his master. This was right and proper. The first whispers of ‘fight’ had begun that day, however.

 

Snoke had approached him, then. He’d stood in front of Kylo and turned his head slightly, a cruel grimace taking shape. “You know this is your due for your failure.”

 

“Yes, Master.”

 

He’d felt the first bolt of Force lightning like a live current coursing through him. It had scrambled his senses, leaving him without breath. Every nerve in his body had been on fire and he had started shaking. He knew this agony, intimately. But he had not called out; he had not wanted to give Snoke the satisfaction.

 

The blue bolts of energy had engulfed him, and every point in his body had been dancing with pain. He’d felt it as the Force began to pull him apart, as if his molecules were being ripped in different directions. He’d felt the lightening race along his newest scars, grateful that they hadn’t opened. He had fallen to his knees, unable to keep himself upright. He’d been breathing hard, concentrating on not biting his tongue clean through.

 

“I know you like to show me how strong you are, but today you will scream, Kylo Ren,” Snoke had promised.

 

He’d wanted to raise his hands and throw Snoke across the room, to defend himself. But he’d controlled himself and made himself take it. Snoke was relentless, his gruesome face twisted in an expression of almost pleasure. He’d increased his attack, and Kylo had started to writhe on the floor. But still Kylo had refused to let out a sound. Something was shifting in the knight; he hadn’t wanted to submit to Snoke, not like he always had in the past.

 

“Don’t test me, Kylo Ren,” Snoke had hissed. The lightning stopped and the quality of the pain had changed. Instead of coming from without, it was building from within. Kylo had felt it as his blood became like acid and the Force had begun to scrape against his nerve endings. Snoke had never done this before, only explained the theory. Kylo had begun to scream, then. “Never defy me again, Apprentice.”

 

The exquisite agony had seemed to go on forever; he had thought Snoke might kill him. All thoughts of fighting and defense had left his mind, and he’d been reduced to instinct only, a reactive creature of pain. Then it had stopped and Snoke had chuckled softly and said, “Your control does you credit, but remember that when I say you will do something, you will do it.”

 

Snoke had retreated then, leaving him gasping on the floor, shuddering with the aftershocks of Snoke’s torture. As the pain faded, he’d felt her through the Bond. Her voice had flooded his mind as it cleared.

 

“Are you alright? What’s happening to you!?” She had sounded desperate. Her worry had meant so much to him.

 

“Yes, yes, I’m fine.”

 

“But … I felt … you were screaming.” He’d realized then that he’d projected his experience through the Bond. He would have to be more careful. He’d been seized then with the crippling fear that the physical sensations might have traveled, too. The particulars about Force Bonds were scarce; he hadn’t known what could happen.

 

“What did you feel?” he had demanded fiercely, terrified that she’d been hurt.

 

“N-nothing, I just heard you calling out.” He’d frightened her with his intensity.

 

“Good … good.” The relief had been overwhelming.

 

“But … what happened?” she had asked cautiously.

 

“I … displeased Snoke. I was being punished.” He had been feeling weak, drained. He’d not been thinking clearly. He never would have admitted it otherwise.

 

“Punished? Why?”

 

“For Starkiller.” For letting you live, he had almost told her.

 

“But … that wasn’t your fault …” His Rey had been so confused. The world was so black and white with her. Right, wrong, fair, unfair. He smiles at the memory of her concern.

 

“It doesn’t matter.” He’d found the strength to stand and had made his way out of Snoke’s audience chamber. He’d known he needed sleep, that he should withdraw from the Bond, but her presence had soothed him so.

 

She’d been silent then, lingering. Finally she had said, “But you’ll be … alright?” He had been so hopeful; her wish for him to be safe had filled him up.

 

Standing in her quarters, caught on the fringes of the memory still, he laughs bitterly. It had had nothing to do with him; it had simply been her kind nature. He’d been in such a state, the pain making him more open. He remembers how he’d misstepped then, revealing his need.

 

“Rey … please, this Bond between us, it means something. Come to me, please come to me.”

 

“What? No, no!”

 

“But … don’t you understand what’s happened?”

 

“I don’t care – you’re a monster!” He’d been so shocked by her change in tone and he had been in no shape to keep up with it.

 

“I know you feel it, too!” he had thrown back at her.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about – go away,” she’d said sharply.

 

“Rey, Rey, please don’t deny what’s happening.”

 

“I don’t even know what is happening. Leave me alone.”

 

“But you reached out to me ...” he’d entreated.

 

“Only because your screams were filling my head and I couldn’t think!” she had shot back furiously.

 

“I’m sorry for that, but you must see now that we have a connection. You can’t keep denying it.”

 

“I can and I will. I’ll figure out how to keep you out of my head, just like I did on Starkiller!”

 

That had been the moment he’d lost her, lost the ability to reach her unless she allowed it. He had felt as she remembered how she’d pushed him from her mind while she’d been in the chair. He had felt how the connections had burst in her mind and suddenly the Bond was silent.

 

He goes into her bedroom, then. He runs his hand along the bedspread, feeling the softness of the silk. It’s a light, airy room, as far from the darkness of the rest of the Finalizer as possible. He has ensured everything is as perfect as he is able to make it. He sees her here, sleeping. He imagines joining her, pulling her to him. He can almost feel the weight of her in his arms, the press of her soft body against him, and he sighs. She will not sleep alone for long, once he has her.

Chapter Text

His eyes spring open. Today … today they arrive at Ahch-To. He vaults from his bed, barely able to contain his anticipation. He readies himself quickly, eager to begin preparations. As he dresses he thinks on the chase; she has eluded him before, but not this time. He’s certain this time he will be successful. He will finally have her.

 

As he readies himself he thinks on everything that has led him to this day. Snoke had called for him shortly after his … punishment. He would begin to train him in Force lightning, as he had said he would.

 

Snoke had stood over him, his gaunt frame swallowed by long, dark robes. “Apprentice, put out your hand and attempt to gather your anger and hatred, feel it coalesce in your palm. You will not feel it as lightning at first, simply a slight tingle. Before you will be able to call the lightning you will first experience sparks; that is the first step. Focus, feel your rage, and give it form.”

 

Kylo had reached out then and thought of what he wished to do to whomever it was that caused Rey to feel those disturbing flashes of affection. Blue energy immediately arced between his fingers and Snoke’s brows had risen.

 

“Surprising, my apprentice. Perhaps I should have sent you to kill Han Solo years ago.” Kylo had bristled at that. He had known he now had access to far more power, just as he had known it had nothing to do with … what he had done. He had stayed silent.

 

“Let it build, feel your rage. Feel how they betrayed you, feel how they lied to you,” Snoke had said. His anger had spiked then, as it always did when he thought of his family. He had felt the Force moving through him, the feeling almost pleasurable as the energy traveled through his body, gaining strength. He had imagined what he would do to anyone who dared touch Rey. Soon the lighting was streaming from his fingertips, scorching the floor. He had never felt anything like that. The rush of sheer power had been exhilarating.

 

“Good, good! Feel your hatred, feel the power of the dark side.” Snoke had sounded genuinely pleased. Kylo was concerned that he had tipped his hand, shown how things were shifting within him. He’d lost focus then and the lightning had died.

 

“You impress me, Kylo Ren. True, you are powerful, but you’ve not shown such focus before. Perhaps my lessons are finally bearing fruit.” Kylo had known he needed to show the appropriate deference, though it had been growing harder to do so. He sees now that Snoke was already very suspicious of his burgeoning power.

 

His comm chirps, interrupting his reverie. “Supreme Leader, we have arrived at Ahch-To. We’re stationed on the far side of the moon as you requested.” He smiles. It would not do for her to know he’s coming.

 

---

 

He’s in his shuttle, traveling to Ahch-To with two transport ships filled with stormtroopers. He can barely contain his excitement. She is waiting for him and he will see her soon. He has not seen her for months. He is lost in his memories as the shuttle descends.

 

A month after Starkiller he had been called to Snoke again, his training progressing quickly. He had assumed it was to be another such session.

 

“Apprentice. You are fully healed and are … responding to my tutelage. It is time for you to lead a new mission.” He had been surprised; Snoke had always been slow to trust him again after failure.

 

“Yes, Master.”

 

“There are whispers of a new Resistance base on Rav-ul. Our forces were too late to capture them on D’Qar,” Snoke had said.

 

“I will leave immediately.” He had been filled with such hope. Rey!

 

“If you find her, you will either bring her to me or kill her. You will not let her escape you again.” Snoke had not bothered to clarify who he meant and Kylo had not seen it for the test that it was.

 

He had readied himself quickly, leaving Snoke’s ship within the day. He had rendezvoused with the Finalizer, finding preparations already underway.

 

He remembers how he’d felt, waiting in his shuttle, much as he is now. He remembers his disappointments from previous attempts to capture Rey, and is certain that today he will succeed. After so many failures he senses that this is very different. He knows she’s on Ahch-To.

 

As he hears the landing sequence begin on his shuttle, he remembers the first time she had escaped him after Starkiller.

 

They had arrived on Rav-ul to find the Resistance ready and Kylo had landed in the middle of a fierce battle. He had moved through the fighting, trying to feel for Rey. He’d battered against the Bond and sensed that she was near. Suddenly it had opened and her voice had filled his head.

 

“You!”

 

“Where are you?” he’d roared into their Bond.

 

“How did you find us?”

 

“That doesn’t matter, I’m coming for you. Where are you?” he’d demanded again.

 

“I won’t let you get me.”

 

“You’re outnumbered; surrender and I’ll let your friends live.”

 

“I will never surrender to you!” She had faltered then and he’d caught a glimpse of her near the Millennium Falcon. She was with the evacuation. He’d orientated himself and taken off towards the hangar. He’d crossed the field of battle, deflecting blaster bolts from both sides as he ran. He would not allow her to escape him a second time.

 

Then he had seen her – just a glimpse. She must have sensed him, because she had turned then. They had both stood, transfixed. She had seemed frozen, looking at him, and her eyes had been wide and unreadable. He had remembered himself then and had started moving towards her again. As he had advanced on her she had blinked and scrambled up the ramp, and he’d watched helplessly as the Falcon had begun to ascend, holding his … he hadn’t yet accepted it entirely.

 

He had still been telling himself this was duty; this was for the First Order. Oh, how he had lied to himself those first weeks. He no longer tells himself such foolish tales. He knows what he feels for her, what he has perhaps felt for her since that first moment.

 

Instinct had taken over then; he’d reached out with the Force and pulled. The Falcon had wavered, and he had been shocked to realize he was affecting the ship with his power. He had concentrated hard, trying to pull it back, to force it to land. He’d almost had her, but the Falcon had broken free from his hold and he could only watch as it had shot away into the sky.

 

He could easily hold the Falcon now, however; he has yet to find the true limit to his power.

 

It’s time. His shuttle lands; a great black bird, dwarfing everything. He has always liked his shuttle, and had no reason to change it once Snoke was gone.

 

Snoke. What a fool – what a blind fool. All that power and all he had managed was to conquer. Kylo is much more … focused.

 

He strides down the ramp from his shuttle. Stormtroopers have already swarmed the island. Surrounded by an endless sea, he thinks that she must gaze out on this ocean. That he’s spoken with her, here; that this is where she’s been hiding. The stormtroopers search as Kylo Ren stalks through the fallen temple. There are intricate carvings, faded with time. Stories of the ancient Force-users decorate the walls. He wonders if this is why he chose this place. Could this be the first Jedi Temple that had so fascinated Luke Skywalker? He scoffs. Such a weak, deluded man, full of lies. He cannot believe he had followed him for so long.  The Force is so much more than the Jedi had ever imagined.

 

He finds a dwelling and he’s overwhelmed with the feeling of Rey. He locates her room and gasps. Pieces of her are everywhere. He sees the signs of her collecting ways. He smiles – oh, his beautiful scavenger. There is a collection of oddly shaped stones and badly decayed relics. The clothing is gone and he stills.

 

Gone; her clothing is gone. She must be here, she simply must. He’s so close. He refuses to let in the possibility that she has already fled. He’s not sure he can keep his sanity much longer if she’s managed to evade him yet again. Doesn’t she understand what she’s doing to him?

 

There, on the table by her bed, is one of the pieces of leather she uses to hold back her hair. He slowly removes his glove and feels it between his fingers; feels the softness of the leather, knowing it’s touched her. He slips it into the folds of his robes, feeling it slide against his hand as he deposits it for safe-keeping. He will add it to his collection.

 

He remembers how he had combed the empty base on Rav-ul, desperate for any hint of Rey. He’d found her quarters, much as he has now. She had not had time then, to remove anything. He’d found a long scarf that smelled of her. It has long since lost her scent as he runs it through his fingers so often, imagining it against her skin.  He fantasizes about his latest acquisition, about pulling this scrap of leather from her hair, raking his fingers through her long chestnut waves. He’s paralyzed with the aching, constant need to feel her against him.

 

It’s never far, the desperate urge to reach for her, to batter against the Bond, demand her attention. But he has tried that and it only leaves him exhausted and unmanned. She knows what he wants and still she denies him.

 

He remembers the first time he genuinely tried to break through her defenses. It was that night after Rav-ul. He had been a live-wire of energy, pacing in his quarters, enraged that she had escaped him again. He had decided that she would submit to him. If he had to break down her walls and take her location from her, then so be it.

 

“Rey!” he had raged. He had gathered all of his considerable power and beat furiously against the wall she’d built. Again and again he’d thrown himself against the Bond. He would rest, then try again. Over and over and over he had tried. But all he’d felt was silence. He’d thought he had almost sensed contempt. But she would not relent, not even long enough to ridicule him. Her silence … it still hurts him far more than her anger or her scorn.

 

He takes his bare hand and skims it along her bed. The course fabric scrapes against the sensitive pads of his fingertips. The bed he has waiting for her is much softer, the bedding so fine. He can imagine her sleeping form, wrapped up in the comfort he has provided for her. He knows that she will spend every night in his arms, sated and warm. Does she dream of him the way he dreams of her?

 

---

 

“Sir?” the trooper enquires carefully.

 

“Yes?”

 

“The ruins appear to be empty,” the gleaming white figure says with trepidation.

 

No! She has to be here. She has to be. He closes his eyes behind his intimidating mask.

 

His voice is chilled when he says, “You’re certain?”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader, sh- no one is here.”

 

He feels his rage swirling. She had been here, recently. He feels her. Again she has thwarted him. She always finds a way to escape him. He feels the Force pulsing, alive, bubbling in his blood. It is dark and heady and oh so powerful. It eddies around him and the grass is flattened with his anger. He turns and stalks to the ruined temple, his fury growing with each step. She is his and she refuses him at every point, denies the truth of who she is, who they are.

 

He stretches his hands in front of him and with a wounded sound he begins to rip the building apart. His tremendous power coursing through him, from him. The ground is quaking under his feet as he howls.

 

She was here. Right here. He was so close. He pulls the stones apart, a whirling hurricane of destruction.

 

The stormtroopers pull back, fearful of his display of unbridled emotion.

 

“No,” he shouts. “No!” The sound of the stones crashing and his desperate screaming a cacophony of frenzied disappointment and wild want. He has to find her; she will be with him. He doesn’t care any longer about what she thinks she wants. She will see. He will make her see. Oh Rey ...

 

He’s panting with exertion, the temple nothing more than dust, a fitting tribute to his failure. It shifts in the wind as his Rey has done. Blown away from him. He falls to his knees and beats the ground with his fists.

 

Chapter Text

Back on the Finalizer, he fumes. He stalks the cold corridors, desperate to find some semblance of calm. He had been so sure that she would be with him now. He’s cracking; the violent need to possess her is pulsing through his blood. He considers going to his quarters, finding the peace that his knife always brings him, but he discards the notion. She doesn’t like it when he does that.

 

He finds himself outside of his personal training room. Perhaps physical activity will quiet his anguished heart and tortured mind? He enters and rips his helmet from his head and strips down to just his trousers.

 

He pulls six training droids to him and begins their program. Soon he is twisting and deflecting dozens of bolts of energy at once, using his saber and the Force. It’s so easy now; he’s barely broken a sweat. He howls in frustration and begins to attack the droids. One by one they’re reduced to hacked and molten bits of metal. He keeps striking the smoking pile of detritus, screaming and panting. Soon he’s scraping his lightsaber against the deck under the droids, vivid orange tracks appearing on the floor.

 

Breathing hard, he falls to his knees, his head hanging in defeat. “Rey …” he moans pitifully. He reaches out to her, knowing it is fruitless, knowing she will ignore him.

 

“Please …” he begs through the Bond.

 

He’s shocked when her side flares to life.

 

“Why won’t you just leave me alone?” she pleads.

 

“I can’t. You know I can’t. I thought I’d found you, I thought you were on Ahch-To”, he says wretchedly. He knows he sounds desperate and small. He can’t help it.

 

“No … I’m not on Ahch-To. You have to stop.”

 

“I won’t ever stop. If this drives me mad, I’ll still keep coming. Please, please save me from this, please come to me.” He doesn’t care that he’s literally on his knees; he has no pride left. Not when it comes to Rey.

 

“Oh Kylo …” She sounds so sad. He’s instantly unmoored. She said his name – she’s never said his name before. This scrap of acknowledgement is almost too much for him. She’s never given him anything before.

 

“Rey … what must I do?”

 

“There isn’t anything you can do. I don’t want this … I’ve never wanted this. Never wanted you.” His heart nearly stops at her honesty.

 

“No, please, I know there is a part of you that’s conflicted. I feel it.”

 

“I … I’m not sure what you’re feeling from me, but that’s not true. I’m not conflicted; I’m right where I need to be.” He feels strongly that she’s lying to him. He stands and begins to pace.

 

“When did you leave Ahch-To?” He must know how close he truly was.

 

She’s silent for a long time before she finally grants him his wish. “I haven’t been on Ahch-To for weeks.” He senses that she’s sad, that something about her leaving bothers her.

 

“What is it? What is it about that planet that upsets you?”

 

“That’s none of your business.” She’s shutting down again.

 

“Everything about you is my business,” he growls. He’s losing his sense of defeat, this contact giving him a renewed sense of purpose.

 

“Maker, you are relentless.”

 

“Yes, I am.”

 

“I don’t know why I give in to you; why I ever respond,” she says, almost to herself.

 

“Because you know that we must be together.”

 

“No! Just, no. I’m done.”

 

“Rey!” he yells into the Bond, grasping at her, attempting to keep her with him.

 

“It won’t work; you know it won’t work.”

 

“I’ll never stop trying.”

 

“I know.” And she’s gone again.

 

He stands in the middle of the training room. His failure at Ahch-To doesn’t matter. He’s just going to try again. He remembers that he’s the most powerful man in the galaxy and he’s certain it’s only a matter of time.

 

---

 

Demyan Ren is the first of his Knights to arrive. He had been stationed on the Aeron, and had always been one of Kylo’s favorite Knights. When he’d had another name they had been almost close at the Academy.

 

“Demyan Ren, how goes life on the Aeron?”

 

“Typically interminable, Master Kylo.” He allows the slip in how Demyan has addressed him.

 

“Ah yes, I remember. Generals can be so difficult, can’t they?”

 

“Indeed.”

 

Kylo bids Demyan sit and he sits across from him.

 

“You’ve called us together, for what purpose if I may?”

 

“You know of my … project?”

 

“The Jedi girl and Skywalker – you’re seeking them.” Kylo thinks that’s not precisely his goal, but he sees no reason to reveal his heart.

 

“Yes, and thus far … they have proven quite elusive.” Kylo reclines and crosses his long legs. It has been a long time since he has been alone with Demyan, the closest he has to a friend. He relaxes.

 

“May I ask why you are so intent on finding our old master?” Demyan asks.

 

“He is the last of the Jedi; so long as he lives, he’s a threat.” This is not exactly true, but it will suffice.

 

Demyan tilts his head, his own mask making him difficult to read. Kylo reaches out and senses his mood. Demyan is cautious, unsure of how to conduct himself. When he had seen his master shortly after the ascent he had seemed changed and Demyan is uncertain, wary. This will do nicely. Kylo does not wish to find complacency within his Knights.

 

“And the …. girl?” Kylo stiffens at the question. His obsession is an open secret but it is not one he’s willing to discuss, even with Demyan.

 

“She is training to be a Jedi, if this is allowed to continue the Jedi could be reborn. That is unacceptable,” Kylo says bitterly.

 

“It always was especially personal for you, wasn’t it, the destruction of the Academy?” Kylo bristles.

 

“You forget yourself, Demyan Ren.”

 

“Forgive me, Master. It was not my intention to overstep.” Demyan has always been a bit reckless, taking liberties, trespassing on their old relationship. Kylo had allowed it when he was simply Master of the Knights of Ren but things have changed and new lines must be maintained.

 

“I trust it will be the last time,” Kylo says with a chilled tone. He senses a ripple of not quite fear, but perhaps apprehension.

 

“Of course. I have always been a quick learner.” Kylo narrows his eyes behind his mask and thinks perhaps this … familiarity may become an issue. He stands quickly.

 

“I have duties to attend to. I’m certain General Hux will have ensured your usual quarters are ready for you. I will call you when the rest of the Knights arrive.”

 

Demyan sits a moment too long, clearly surprised by Kylo’s abrupt manner, but he moves to his feet swiftly.

 

“I’ll take my leave then … Supreme Leader.”

 

“Hmm, yes.” Kylo has already moved his attention to a report on his desk. He is uncomfortable and wants distance.

 

Demyan Ren leaves quickly.

 

Kylo sits back, thinking on his Knights. He remembers those first few weeks after he had killed Snoke. Touring the ships, meeting with his Knights.

 

His first stop had been the Dauntless, checking on Natan Ren. He had always been wary of Natan. He was quiet, thoughtful. He had been very surprised when Natan had decided to join the Knights of Ren. He had always seemed the most diligent of Jedis. When he had pressed him, Natan had said, “I go where I am needed.” He had never known what to make of that and he still doesn’t trust him. And so, the Dauntless had been his first stop.

 

He remembers arriving, still flush with his victory over Snoke. He had known he needed to be seen by as many of the First Order as possible, ensure that his leadership was accepted. Snoke had always kept to the shadows and Kylo had known if he was to succeed in taking power in this way he still needed to earn the loyalty of the generals and confirm the fealty of his Knights. Though he was master, Snoke had always been the true source of his power.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Natan Ren had said, neutrally, no hint of what he might have been thinking about this change.

 

“Natan,” Kylo had said, inclining his head. He had reached out with the Force and sensed nothing out of the ordinary.

 

“Allow me to give you my congratulations on your recent … promotion.”

 

“Indeed, thank you.” Kylo had noted the pause.

 

“And now, let me to show you the Dauntless, Supreme Leader.” Natan had been appropriately deferential.

 

As they had toured the ship, Kylo had made sure to use the Force at every opportunity. A squad of stormtroopers had mistakenly stepped in their path and he had swept them aside with a wave of his hand. The entire squad had been lifted off their feet and pushed into the wall. Kylo had continued walking while Natan had stood very still. Kylo had turned his head, tilting it to the side in inquiry.

 

“Supreme Leader, word of your impressive new skills did not do them justice,” Natan had said smoothly.

 

“No, I wouldn’t think so.” They had continued to walk.

 

He had found everything in order on the Dauntless, Natan seeming as loyal and controlled as ever. Natan was a very economical man. Each movement necessary, each word chosen precisely. Kylo had found nothing wrong with his conduct, and yet he had still been unsettled.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader.”

 

“General Hux.”

 

“We’ve located another possible Resistance base. It’s on Quol.”

 

Quol. Another forest planet. If she is there, he knows she’s enraptured by all of the life. How his beloved adores the lush beauty of growing things. He thinks of the quarters he has created for her. He’ll give her everything.

 

“Set course to Quol and ready my shuttle.”

 

“Supreme Leader … you cannot continue to lead each mission. You have duties here.”

 

“I believe we have discussed, at length, how wise it is for you to question me.”

 

“It is my duty, Supreme Leader. You are being reckless; surely you must se-”

 

Kylo slams his fist on the desk and rises to his full height. The general is tall, but he is taller.

 

“I suggest you stop that line of thought right there, Hux. I allow you a certain … latitude owing to our prior working relationship, but you will not question me on this. It is necessary and you will not bring it up again.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

---

 

He has learned from his last failure. He is cautiously hopeful, but he will not believe that he will have her, not until she is in his arms. He remembers the feel of her, when he had her on Takodana. He’d not understood himself then, why he’d carried her like that. All he had known was that she was right there and that he had to touch her. He had to feel her under his hands, keep her close. Now he knows. He knows that the Force was speaking to him. Guiding him.

 

If he’d known what would happen he never would have let her out of his sight. He would have stayed, faced those impossible feelings that had run through him when she’d seen into him. Seen his deepest fears.

 

Now she has no weapons. He is stronger than Vader. She won’t catch him so vulnerable ever again.

 

Everything will be different, once he has her.

 

“Supreme Leader, the advance team has just landed.”

 

“Take us down. It’s time.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

---

 

He’s stalking the Resistance base. Seeking. He easily deflects a blaster bolt, directing it back toward the shooter. He has no interest in the fight. He only wishes to find out if she’s here.

 

The battle rages around him and he sees a Resistance officer. He pulls the man to him with the Force and holds him by the neck.

 

“Where is Rey?”

 

“Who?”

 

“The Jedi, Rey. Where is she?”

 

The man looks at Ren defiantly. He won’t speak.

 

“This will be much easier for you if you simply tell me. I will find out what you know.”

 

“I’m not bowing to the First Order. I’ll die first.”

 

“No, you will give me what I want, and then you will die.”

 

He holds a slender, gloved hand up, hovering over the officer’s face. He does not bother to be gentle, ripping through his virgin mind. It’s so easy now. He pulls what he wants to the surface. Ah. The man knows of her, but has never seen her. She isn’t here, has never been here. He snaps his neck in frustration.

 

He stalks back to his ship, totally disinterested in the outcome. The Resistance is fighting hard, but they are overwhelmed. He notes idly that at least another Resistance base has fallen to the First Order. For once his personal interests and that of the First Order are aligned. He will root out every single last bolt-hole of this infection – she cannot hide forever.

 

As his shuttle returns to the Finalizer, he remembers the last time he had seen her, three months ago – six months since Starkiller. He had been once again stationed on the Finalizer, Snoke having pronounced his training complete. It had been a fluke really. They had received word of Resistance activity on Cathne and he had done something quite unlike him. He had taken a TIE fighter and gone to investigate on his own. He had not received permission from Snoke. He had lied to Hux and told him it was required and that he shouldn’t question orders from the Supreme Leader. They were only a brief jump away from Cathne and he had been so consumed with thoughts of Rey that he had acted without thought of the repercussions.

 

Knowing what that act of disobedience had wrought, he would do it all over again without question. Though he hadn’t been thinking very clearly, it was that choice which had put the events into motion that had brought him to this place where no one can stand in his way. Well, no one but Rey.

 

He had landed in the main city, following the intelligence reports. The Resistance was said to be attempting to purchase arms from the black market. As he had approached the indicated sector, he had felt it. Leia Organa. Rey might block him at all times now, giving him only the general impression of her, but General Organa had been another matter entirely. The Princess was bright and oh so easy to follow. Nothing would have moved him to face her again; nothing but Rey. And if anyone would know where Rey was, he was certain that it was her. He had carefully cloaked his Force signature and begun to hunt.

 

As he had followed the trail, he had felt that Rey was somewhere near. He hadn’t been able to get any sense of where, precisely, but he had hoped she was with … the Princess. He’d found Leia Organa in a seedy little bar and there, right beside her, was Rey.

 

He had stayed in the shadows, watching for a very long time. Rey had looked different, diminished somehow. He had been concerned. He had worried that she had been treated poorly by the rival he tried not to think about. He had almost growled at the reminder of her pining for another. But he had controlled himself, wanting to gaze upon her for as long as he could. He had been strong then, very strong, but the bar was full of all manner of life-forms and he hadn’t been sure he could take them all. Now, of course, it would not be an issue. But three months ago, it had been a consideration.

 

He had watched as Rey toyed with her drink, a faraway expression on her face while General Organa conducted their business. He had wondered why she wasn’t with Skywalker. He had watched and waited, hungrily taking in Rey’s lovely face and lithe body. It had not been until later that evening, after having seen her, that he had finally admitted to himself the depth of his feelings. He wishes he had accepted them earlier; he would have liked to have looked on his beloved with that knowledge in his heart.

 

He had waited until they were leaving and then quietly followed them. As soon as the women had turned a corner into a sparsely populated alley, he had revealed himself.

 

“Rey,” he had called out softly. She had whipped around quickly, her eyes wild with fear.

 

“You!” she had screamed. She had pulled out a blaster and started firing; her aim had improved dramatically, he’d noted. But it was of no consequence – he had easily frozen each bolt as they came. Soon there was a wall of blue energy between them, so he had then lazily deflected them all into a wall.

 

“Ben?” his mother had called to him. He’d frozen Rey with the Force then, holding her. He had been unwilling to take any chances; not this time, he’d thought.

 

Kylo had shifted his attention to Leia Organa, then. He had said, “You know that isn’t my name any longer.”

 

“You will always be Ben to me.”

 

“Sentiment,” he had spat.

 

“Let Rey go,” she had ordered, quietly but firmly.

 

He had been filled with the strangest feeling, then. Leia Organa … his mother … she cared for Rey. She had been so obvious in her concern for his scavenger. The Bond had been bleeding through, Rey concentrating all of her energy into escaping his hold. He had felt that flare of affection and had known then that the source of all of those warm, loving feelings he had felt had been his mother.

 

It had almost been too much, the conflicted feelings coursing through him. His nearly bottomless anger at his mother, his elation at having Rey in his grasp once again, the knowledge that in some other time, some other place, his mother might have been happy for him; would have approved of his choice of mate. He’d found himself shaking his head in confusion.

 

“Please, Son, let her go.” That had pulled him from his odd state. He was no longer her son.

 

“Do not call me by that title. You lost the right to call me son when you lied to me for my entire life,” he had said viciously.

 

“I was only trying to protect you. You have to believe me,” she had pleaded.

 

“I will never believe anything that you have to say ever again, Leia Organa,” he had said icily.

 

He had felt Rey pushing and struggling to escape his hold and his attention had diverted to her again.

 

“Rey, you don’t need to struggle; you don’t need to fight me. Just come with me and I will give you everything it is within my power to give you.”

 

“I will never submit to you.”

 

“It wouldn’t be like that. We will be equals, partners.”

 

“Don’t you want to teach me, to be my master?” she had said incredulously.

 

“Yes, I wanted that, want that. But I will accept whatever terms you dictate so long as you come with me.”

 

“You say that like you’ll actually give me a choice. What if I don’t want to come with you?”

 

“Please, you have to come with me.”

 

“You’ll have to take me. I will never come willingly.

 

“The hard way it is, then,” he had said. He had lost his patience.

 

“Please, Ben, you don’t have to do this,” his mother entreated again.

 

“You know nothing of me and what I do and do not have to do. Do not speak to me,” he had ground out.

 

“I know you’re hurt, I know you’re angry, but please, let her go and come with us – come home.”

 

He’d grown very angry then. “Home, home?! You speak as if I ever had a home with you. You never knew me, never even tried.”

 

“No, Son, that’s not tru-”

 

Silence! I will not be swayed by you ever again.” He had been losing focus, so infuriated by Leia Organa. That was the moment that all hell had broken loose. Suddenly, they had been surrounded by Resistance soldiers and dozens of stormtroopers. He’d been startled and had lost his hold on Rey, who had twisted and run as fast as she could. Then the Resistance had engaged the First Order, and in the chaos Rey had been getting swiftly away from him. He had reached out, tried to Force pull her to him … but she had been too far away.

 

Oddly, a squad of troopers had peeled off and gone in pursuit of Rey, firing wildly. He had screamed, “No!” and had taken off after her, deflecting as many bolts as he could. He had reached out with all of his power and simultaneously Force choked the dozens of pursuing stormtroopers. By the time he’d looked up, Rey had been nowhere to be found. He hadn’t realized he’d just tipped his hand, showed how much more powerful he was becoming.

 

The Resistance had laid down fire to cover their retreat and, inexplicably, the stormtroopers were not giving chase. Leia Organa had slipped away in the fighting.

 

“Kylo Ren,” he’d heard then. He had been so torn, wanting to run after Rey, but he’d known he had no explanation for his strange behavior.

 

He had turned to find Captain Phasma looking down on him. “What is it, Captain?” he had asked, as if nothing out of the ordinary had transpired.

 

“Supreme Leader Snoke wishes to have a word with you. You will come with me.”

 

“I see. Am I to be your prisoner, then?”

 

“Only if you force the issue.”

 

He had been almost frantic at that point – she was getting away; gone. But had known he couldn’t disobey a summons from Snoke. He had made himself follow Captain Phasma to the waiting craft.

 

His shuttle has just docked on the Finalizer and he’s pulled from his memories. Another failure on Quol. He stalks down the ramp, an odd sort of calm filling him. He knows it’s only a matter of time. He will simply wait until the next opportunity arises. The First Order is spreading, winning. The Resistance will fall soon and then she will have nowhere to hide; no one to help her. He reminds himself of all that has happened to bring him to this point and he is certain he is closing in on her.

Chapter Text

He’s back in his office, reviewing the latest findings, considering his other project. It is for her of course, but it does not help him in his quest to find her. He’s frustrated that his this pursuit seems to be meeting with the same lack of success. The lead is slim, but he puts through the order to head for Coruscant.

 

He notes that Jashad Ren and Palek Ren have arrived while he was busy with Quol. He knows that he should summon them, greet them properly, but he has no wish to deal with his knights this evening. Tomorrow is soon enough. Jashad is lazy because he is powerful. Jashad and Wylan Ren used to nearly match him in power. Wylan has always been difficult and disliked, but Kylo had once been threatened by Jashad, afraid that he would lose his place as Master of the Knights of Ren to the affable Jashad Ren.

 

And Palek Ren … the weakest of the knights in terms of Force sensitivity, but he is a brutal warrior all the same. Jashad and Palek had been very close at the Academy. He had almost stationed them together when he’d ascended, had thought a bit of kindness might have helped seal his power. But then he had remembered how they had whispered together, always planning and plotting and he had thought better of it.

 

He’s about to retire for the evening when her voice bellows in his head through the Bond.

 

“Kylo Ren!” He’s very surprised to hear from her but recovers quickly.

 

“Ah, Rey. Always a … pleasure.” He draws out the final word, making it sound suggestive.

 

“You’re disgusting.”

 

“You say the nicest things, my dear.”

 

“Quol – I know about Quol.”

 

“What would you imagine I would do if you would not reveal yourself to me? I thought you understood that I am deadly serious about this.”

 

“Why won’t you just leave me be?” she pleads.

 

“Because we are Bound. It is the will of the Force and it is not for us to question the Force. Even the Jedi know that.”

 

“The Force doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t think, it doesn’t … do anything,” she says confidently.

 

“Oh really? Tell that to my grandfather.”

 

“What do you mean?” He hears her confusion.

 

“A tale for another time. You wished to berate me?”

 

“Ugh. I don’t know why I bother.”

 

“I have a few ideas.” He’s feeling bold tonight.

 

“Stop, just stop. You didn’t have to kill everyone.”

 

“They are the enemy, Rey. I’m afraid that yes, I did need to kill everyone. This is war; that’s how war is done.”

 

“That’s not how we do it.”

 

“And that is why you lose.”

 

“We aren’t losing,” she says petulantly.

 

“Hmmm.”

 

“Please, please let me go.”

 

“Never.”

 

She’s silent. He feels her frustration and how she tries so hard to hide her … fascination. He knows she likes that he’s relentless. Knows it speaks to his beloved, that he will do anything to have her. Deep inside she enjoys his attention, he knows she does.

 

“Rey … simply submit and this will all be over.”

 

He feels her derision over the Bond. “So you’d just stop hunting the Resistance, disband the First Order?”

 

“I will give you anything but that,” he says softly.

 

“The only thing I truly want.”

 

“Oh, you want many, many things.”

 

“In your dreams,” she scoffs.

 

“How you know me.”

 

“Stop – Maker, will you ever stop?”

 

“I do not believe so, no.” He’s enjoying teasing her. He’s tired of begging.

 

“I know that there is light in you. I know it.” His mood changes instantly.

 

“Do not go down that path tonight,” he says with warning in his tone.

 

“So another night you’d be willing to discuss it?” She sounds almost hopeful.

 

It’s his turn to go silent. No, he will talk of most things with her; he’s ferocious in his need to hear every thought that goes through her head, but not this.

 

“Your mother misses you.”

 

“Stop.”

 

“No.” Rey has that tone she gets when she thinks she has the upper hand. “Come home; leave this behind. You have the power now; Snoke doesn’t control you any longer. You could stop this all with a wave of your hand. You could make peace, imagine what you could do for the gala-“

 

“I said stop!”

 

“I’ll never listen to you – I’ll never do what you say! You aren’t seeing clearly. I’ve spoken with Leia, she’s told me-“

 

He blocks her.

 

He stands and roars, his saber ignited before he even knows what’s happening. He’s slashing his office walls and uses the Force to send furniture splintering. He screams his fury and his frustration. He does not like to think about Leia Organa.

 

Once the rage has passed, he decides that he will meet with Jashad Ren and Palek Ren, now. He does not want to be alone with his thoughts. Besides, it would be good to catch them unaware.

 

---

 

“Master Kylo!” Jashad exclaims. He’s standing in the door without his mask, Kylo notes with disapproval.  Palek comes up from behind him, a broad man, with his face also bare.

 

“I think you mean Supreme Leader, Jashad,” Palek corrects.

 

“Yes, right, of course, Supreme Leader.” Jashad looks nervous, his slight frame seeming even smaller as a result.

 

Kylo looks past the two knights, into Jashad’s quarters. He notes the disarray of their clothing and the askew pillows on the settee. Several suspicions are confirmed, their closeness suddenly making so much more sense.

 

“Jashad Ren, Palek Ren. I’m pleased to find you so … comfortable.”

 

Belatedly realizing they have displeased their master, both men scramble for their masks, granting them all the formality of distance.

 

“Supreme Leader, forgive us for our state. We had been told you would meet with us in the morning,” Jashad says, standing almost protectively in front of Palek.

 

“Hmmm, yes,” Kylo says with skepticism.

 

There is a long silence and Kylo notes that Jashad has continued to stand before the much larger man. Kylo is feeling angry and frustrated after his infuriating conversation with Rey and he almost wishes to give Jashad reason to protect Palek from him, but he knows it is pointless. Though Jashad is quite powerful, he could take Jashad easily now and he has no real wish to harm his knights. They are not his friends, but they are his allies. He relaxes his stance and the tension begins to leave the room.

 

“Perhaps if you invite me in we might have a civilized conversation?” Kylo asks.

 

Jashad hesitates for only a moment before standing aside, holding his hand in welcome, beckoning him in.

 

“Please, come in,” Palek supplies. Jashad leads them to the seating area and all three men take their places.

 

“Tell me of life aboard the Terminus?” Kylo directs toward Palek.

 

“It was in one piece when I left her. Who knows what General Jehan has done with her while I’ve been traveling,” Palek says.

 

“Does she typically give you concern for the safety of the ship?” Kylo inquires with light humor in his tone.

 

“No, but she does take her orders to extremes. She is very loyal to the First Order, sometimes to a fault,” Palek answers.

 

“Meaning?”

 

“Meaning that she will occasionally win the battle and lose the war.”

 

“Ah, I see. It is good that you are stationed there, then.” Kylo is satisfied that his knights are keeping an eye on his generals.

 

“I do what I can.”

 

“And you, Jashad, you are finding the Ascent an acceptable posting?”

 

“Of course, Supreme Leader. You were most wise in your assignments.” Kylo nearly snorts at this. The Ascent’s General Tychen is a notorious skeptic. He had stationed his strongest Force user with him to make a point.

 

“And I trust General Tychen is … learning?” Kylo says.

 

“It’s as if he’s another man, Mast - Supreme Leader,” Jashad says wryly.

 

“Good. I had hoped a practical demonstration might help him see the error in his thinking.” Kylo is gratified that at least something is going as he had hoped.

 

There is a long pause and Kylo knows they wish that he would leave. He takes a perverse pleasure in staying. Now that he knows the true nature of their relationship he finds it pleases him to steal away their time with each other. He is kept from his love; why should they be granted what he is not? He relaxes into his seat.

 

----

 

He’s in his quarters, pacing. The time with his knights has done nothing to calm him. He’s wishing he hadn’t lost his temper when she’d contacted him earlier. He has the scrap of leather from her hair in his hand, twining it around his bare fingers. He’s wondering if … if he engaged her in the conversation she wishes to have … would she listen to what he has to say? Or would it just degenerate as it always does? He must find a way to talk with her. He knows it’s too soon to try, but he’s feeling unsettled, reckless. He’s flush with need.

 

He tries to calm himself as he reaches across the Bond.

 

“Please, Rey, please.” He’s long since stopped caring how weak she makes him. His bravado is gone and he’s just a man desperate for his love.

 

Nothing.

 

“I’m sorry, please talk to me.”

 

The Bond is cold and it makes him ache.

 

“Please …”

 

“What are you sorry for, exactly?” she finally responds.

 

“For losing my temper; for blocking you earlier.”

 

“You always lose your temper. Actually, I’m pretty sure you’ve never had your temper in check since I’ve known you.”

 

“Rey …” He’s trying to stay gentle.

 

“Fine. What is it?” she says impatiently.

 

“Does it always need to be like this? Couldn’t we simply … talk?”

 

He feels her snort over the Bond. It almost tickles. “What would we talk about? How you’re a murdering madman hell-bent on capturing me?”

 

“I don’t wish to capture you,” he entreats. He wants her to want to come to him. She is the one who has insisted he chase her.

 

“Well you have a funny way of leaving me alone.”

 

“I want you with me – is that so wrong? I know you feel it, too. This pull … this need … I know I’m not alone.”

 

“Keep telling yourself that,” she says incredulously.

 

“Please, could we not fight, just this once … I can’t take it.” He’s feeling almost fragile.

 

“I … are you okay?” She sounds genuinely concerned. It confuses him.

 

“I’m fine,” he says shortly.

 

“But … you don’t usually … this isn’t like you.” She sounds cautious, nearly afraid.

 

“I’m just tired, Rey. I’ve tried everything I can think of to reach you and now it’s so out of hand. Why won’t you come to me, or tell me where you are? Why?” he pleads.

 

“You know why.”

 

“I don’t, I swear I don’t.”

 

“We are on opposite sides of a war. You’ve killed my friends. You’re working your way through the galaxy in an attempt to find me, how long should I go on?”

 

“But I never would have had to do those things if you’d just acknowledge what has happened between us. You cannot run from it – not forever.” Why doesn’t she see?

 

“Watch me.”

 

“Oh Rey …”

 

There’s a long silence, but neither are blocking. He’s feeling her presence through the Bond and it’s so soothing; so right. He’s feeling almost calm for the first time in what must be months. How can she function with the need he knows she must be feeling? It’s nearly pulled him apart. He can’t imagine that she doesn’t feel it. She has to. She has to.

 

“Won’t you come to me, please?” he asks.

 

“Kylo … I can’t.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because … the things you’ve done. I don’t even know you.”

 

“You know me better than anyone,” he says softly.

 

“Well that’s just sad.” He hates it when she mocks him.

 

“Don’t be cruel.”

 

“You asking me not to be cruel is almost funny.”

 

“I promise I’ll do things differently if you’ll just tell me where you are?” Perhaps that will entice her?

 

“No, no! Stop – just let me go.”

 

“I can’t. Even if I wanted to, that’s not how a Force Bond works. Hasn’t Skywalker taught you anything?”

 

“I’m not talking with you about Luke.” She’s pulling back but he’s sensing … something.

 

“You haven’t told him, have you?” he realizes.

 

“That’s none of your business.” He has no wish to fight with her, but perhaps she truly does not understand what’s between them.

 

“This Bond, Rey, it’s never going away. Not until one of us dies. You have to stop fighting it.”

 

“Forever?” Her voice is small and afraid.

 

“Yes. There’s nothing you can do to break it. Don’t you see why you must come to me?”

 

“I can go on like this for the rest of my life if I have to.” She’s full of confidence but he detects the fear in her tone.

 

“Well, I can’t!” he snarls in frustration.

 

“You’ll just have to learn to live with it then, won’t you?” It’s spinning out of control again and he almost starts to beg.

 

“Think about it at least? Now that you know it’s never going to stop?”

 

“Will you think about letting me go?” The thought is ludicrous.

 

“No, never. You are mine.” He’s slipped his leash and he’s filled with possession.

 

“I will never be yours.”

 

“Oh yes you will. I will rip this galaxy to shreds to find you,” he says savagely.

 

“You’ll have to.”

 

“You’re already mine; you know you are.” Why must she always deny the truth of their connection?

 

“You’re insane.”

 

“Only because you make me so.” Oh, my love, you’re driving me mad.

 

She’s quiet again. He feels her sigh and it makes him tremble.

 

“I can’t – I can’t do this,” she finally says.

 

“Wait, Rey, I’m sorry!” But it’s too late – she’s gone.

 

He stands in his quarters, utterly defeated. His saber stays cold. He’s let it happen again; he’s laid himself at her feet and she just turns away. Oh, how it hurts.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo wakes feeling empty. Baring himself to Rey last night, having her reject him yet again … it has left him without purpose; without direction. He knows he’ll never give up, but he’s beginning to lose hope. He’s beginning to wonder if this is what his life will always be. Is he consigned to always need her, love her, and never have her? He’s quite certain she will destroy him if he doesn’t succeed in his hunt.

 

He draws his arm over his eyes and sighs heavily. He misses her, though he’s never truly had her. Somehow he simply knows how she will complete him and he’s consumed with longing. He remembers the last time he had felt so defeated.

 

It had been right after his unsanctioned trip to Cathne, three months ago, and six months since he had first seen her on Takodana. He had been on the Finalizer, en route to Snoke’s ship, and had been in his quarters. His movements had not been restricted once he had shown he had no intention of disobeying Snoke’s order. Kylo had known he should have been preparing for his audience with Snoke; that he had made a rather significant mistake. He never should have gone to Cathne like he did, seeking Rey. He had known he was facing serious reprisal. And yet, he had not been able to bring himself to care.

 

He had been in a state of almost despair. Seeing her, being so close … and of course meeting Leia Organa for the first time in years ... It had all coalesced into a tangle of confusion and aching sadness. It was the first time he’d entertained the thought that he might never have Rey. He’d let the anguish take him down, down, down.

 

Kylo had sat, slowly pulling his sleeve up. Almost ritualistically he had drawn his knife along the soft flesh of his arm. He had been trying to give form to the pain inside of him. Again and again, new lines forming, he had sought the peace of his blade. But it had not brought the calm it usually did. So he had kept at it and he had been feeling slightly faint from the loss of blood. Kylo had almost started to weep in his frustration, he had needed her so.

 

He’d been extremely surprised when he’d felt a hesitant touch along the Bond. He hadn’t even thought; he’d just reached out and sent desperately into the void, “Rey, oh Rey …”

 

“I … what are you doing?” she had asked tentatively.

 

“Nothing,” he had responded tersely. He hadn’t wanted her to know about his … coping mechanism.

 

“But … something’s wrong, I can …” She had learned quickly, delving into him before he had even realized she knew how, seeing with his eyes.

 

“You’re bleeding! Oh, Maker, there’s so much blood! What happened?!” She had sounded so afraid for him.

 

“It’s nothing. You needn’t worry.”

 

“Nothing? It’s not nothing! You have to go get those cuts seen to! Did something happen on Cathne?” Her words had been rushed; her very real worry for him broadcasting wildly.

 

“No, Rey … it truly is nothing, please.”

 

“How can you say that?  You’re bleeding all over the place and I can feel that you’re light-headed!”

 

“Fine. I’ll tend to it myself.” He had risen and gone to the ‘fresher, then. He hadn’t pushed her from him, letting Rey settle in his mind. He had enjoyed the feeling of her, so grateful she was with him. She had stayed silent, watching. As he had inspected the wounds, he had realized he had cut deeper than intended. He would need to go to medical after all. But he hadn’t wanted to let her go, so he had simply bandaged his arm, thinking it would hold well enough.

 

“There, nothing to concern yourself with.” He had moved back into his quarters, looking out at the stars moving by.

 

“How did you get hurt like that? Why were you just sitting there, letting yourself bleed?”

 

“I … I don’t wish to tell you.”

 

“But …”

 

“Rey, no.”

 

She must have sensed something from him because she had said, “Did you … did you do that to yourself?”

 

“I don’t want to talk about it!”

 

“You did – oh Force … why would you do such a thing?”

 

“It helps.” The words had escaped him before he could think better of it.

 

“But … how?”

 

“I don’t know! It just does,” he had said angrily. Kylo hadn’t wanted to have this conversation.

 

“Do you … do you do it often?” she had asked hesitantly.

 

“No … it depends.”

 

“On what?”

 

“Please, I don’t want to talk about this.” She had been seeing far more of him than he had wanted.

 

“But …”

 

“Please, Rey. Please,” he had pleaded.

 

“Just tell me why you did that?”

 

“Because you aren’t here!” he had finally snarled in frustration. “Because I had you and this was all going to be over. You were finally going to be with me, but instead I’m alone in my quarters, bleeding, and it didn’t even help!”

 

He had shocked her into silence. He had sat heavily, fighting tears, his heart breaking. He hadn’t even been able to take comfort in her presence over the Bond. It was in that moment that he had realized that he loved her. That only love could do this to him. He had shielded the thought immediately.

 

“I’m sorry,” Rey had whispered over the Bond.

 

“What?” he had said in disbelief.

 

“I’m sorry … sorry that … that you’re in pain.”

 

“Just come to me. Oh Rey, please come to me.”

 

“You know I won’t.”

 

“I know …” He had been so conflicted. He hadn’t wanted her to go, but Kylo had had no control and he had known he should withdraw.

 

“Will you stop doing that; hurting yourself?” she had asked gently.

 

“I don’t know – maybe.”

 

“Please stop. I don’t … I don’t want you hurt … anymore.” She had sounded surprised at herself.

 

“Odd, then, that you shot at me earlier today.” Kylo had needed to change the subject so he had fallen back on his usual distant contempt.

 

“You were going to take me!”

 

“Yes – yes, I was. It’s been months, Rey. You’ve given me no choice.”

 

“Why won’t you let me go?”

 

“I’ve told you so many times, Rey. We are Bound. We need to be together.”

 

“But why? Why can’t we just block each other and leave it alone?”

 

“You … you’d really want that?” It had gutted him to think she might truly want that.

 

“Of course I would! I didn’t choose this.” She had sounded haughty, something she often used to deflect him.

 

“But … we’re Bound,” he had repeated in disbelief. He still does not understand why this doesn’t move her, even now.

 

“I don’t care. I should never have reached out. I just felt you and … oh, never mind.” She had been quiet again before saying, “Promise me you won’t hurt yourself anymore?”

 

“I’ll ... consider it.”

 

“Good. I’m … I’m leaving now.”

 

He had let her go without protest. He hadn’t been willing to plead anymore that night and he had needed to think.

 

He had sat for a long time, feeling the silence of the Bond and thinking.

 

He loved her.

 

Oh Force, he loved her. She had brought him so low. He had promised himself that he would never fall the way that Leia Organa had; that he would never find himself so thoroughly possessed by another.

 

The Princess and the Scoundrel. Kylo had once very nearly worshipped Leia Organa. She had seemed so impressive to the boy he had been. He had been proud to be her son. She had been so fierce, so committed to the people of the galaxy.

 

Han Solo had been another matter entirely. As he had grown he had been bitterly disappointed to realize what sort of man his father truly was.

 

Love had captured Leia Organa; had diminished her. He had seen how destructive it could be, trapping two disparate souls in a battle that they both lost. As an adolescent he had decided that Luke Skywalker was right to eschew attachments and he had emulated the Jedi Master to the best of his ability. He had avoided the clumsy advances of the other apprentices at the Academy. He had decided that he would never allow himself to be compromised in such a way.

 

He had sat there in his quarters that night, awash in the knowledge that he was indeed very much in love with Rey. He had been afraid; afraid of the power Rey held over him.  Kylo had taken such steps to guard himself. But he had found himself there, anyway. Helpless, powerless, owned. In love.

 

Pulling himself from his memories and his bed, Kylo Ren decides he must not dwell on his defeat. He has accepted that he is hers; that he had walked willingly into that trap. Besides, now it is a source of strength. He reminds himself of how much power he now has; that he would still be bowing and scraping to Snoke if he hadn’t fallen so completely in love with her. She may have him utterly, but she has made him more than he had ever imagined. He will simply have to try harder. His knights are gathering and the Resistance is faltering. He only needs to be patient.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader.”

 

“What is it, Hux?” Kylo rarely calls him General any longer. It grates on the ginger nuisance, which pleases him, so he’s unlikely to use his title any time soon.

 

“Wylan Ren has been delayed. His transport is experiencing technical difficulties. They’ve had to land on Shenden.” Wylan Ren. Kylo hates Wylan, he always has. But he has an almost preternatural understanding of technology and has always had an amazingly intricate control of the Force. He wonders if Wylan Ren disabled his ship on purpose. The hatred is entirely mutual and he’s certain Wylan would prefer to delay their meeting for as long as he can.

 

He remembers when he had arrived on Wylan’s Star Destroyer, the Dominion. He had visited him after Natan Ren, just over two months ago. His shuttle had docked with no issues and he had stalked down the ramp, expecting to find Wylan Ren standing in attendance. Instead he had found General Lotrakk.

 

“Supreme Leader,” the relentlessly average man had greeted him, his tone timid.

 

“General Lotrakk, while I thank you for meeting me, where is Wylan Ren?”

 

“He … he has been unavoidably detained.” Kylo had been impatient and had not felt like playing games of social grace. He’d simply dipped into the general’s mind and found what he was looking for: -That bastard Wylan better not get me killed. I don’t know what he was thinking, snubbing the Supreme Leader like this. I’ve heard stories from the other generals about what our new Supreme Leader is capable of, Wylan is insane for baiting him.-

 

Kylo had withdrawn. He had thought it was incredibly foolish for Wylan Ren to test him like this, but Kylo had found he was very much looking forward to showing his errant knight just how foolish it truly was.

 

“Take me to him, General Lotrakk,” Kylo had ordered.

 

“Well sir, I … I am afraid I am not entirely certain exactly where Wylan Ren is. At this precise moment. Supreme Leader, sir.” Kylo had almost laughed at the general’s nervousness.

 

“That is not an issue.” He had closed his eyes behind his dark mask and opened himself up to the Force, sensing for Wylan Ren’s Force signature. It hadn’t taken more than a few seconds to locate him.

 

“He’s on C deck, the training room.” General Lotrakk had stood there, unmoving until Kylo growled, “After you, General.”

 

“Of course, right this way Supreme Leader, sir.”

 

As they made their way to Wylan Ren, Kylo had taken the opportunity to monitor the minds of the crew.

 

A group of four stormtroopers passed them, keeping their distance. Kylo had delved into their minds, slowing his stride in order to do so.

 

-I’ve heard he can pull TIE fighters out of the sky- While he had not done so, he had been certain that the trooper was correct.

 

-I hope he’s better than Snoke. At least Kylo Ren deigns to walk amongst us- Kylo had been satisfied with that; it had been his hope that being seen would work in his favor.

 

-What is Kylo Ren doing here? Oh Maker, I hope the ship survives. They say he has a temper and that he killed Snoke with just a thought- He had raised his eyebrow at that, and had wondered how many knew the true story of the day he had killed Snoke.

 

-If half the stories I’ve heard about the new Supreme Leader are true then the war is almost over. He’s supposed to be unstoppable- Oh, now that had pleased him greatly. This was what he had hoped for; that news of his impressive abilities would spread, ensuring the acceptance of his leadership. Snoke had relied on mystery … Kylo would rely on skill and brute force if he had to.

 

They had turned a corner and had been passing a young male officer. Kylo had skimmed his consciousness.

 

-They say he’s gone insane, chasing some Jedi cunt- Instantly enraged, Kylo had whirled around and grabbed the terrified officer by the throat, not bothering to use the Force. He had pushed the man against the wall of the corridor, felt his pulse under his fingers, holding him by the neck. He had wanted to hurt this underling who had dared to think of Rey in such disrespectful terms.

 

“I should kill you where you stand,” Kylo had hissed through his helmet. The officer’s eyes were bulging and Kylo hadn't needed to use the Force to sense the cloying fear coming from the unfortunate man.

 

“Supreme Leader!” General Lotrakk had gasped. “How has Lieutenant Elnat displeased you?”

 

“That is between myself and the lieutenant. Leave us; I will join you shortly.” Kylo had continued to look only at his cowering prey, never even glancing at the general. He had felt the general pause then retreat.

 

“I’m sorry Supreme Leader, whatever I did, I’m sorry!” Lieutenant Elnat gasped out, barely enough breath in him to form words.

 

Kylo had held him there a long time, his head cocked to the side, inspecting the frightened officer. He had wanted to kill him, but he had known that he could not add to his reputation as being … volatile. Not if he wanted to maintain his new position, and he needed the First Order to find Rey. And so Kylo had let the man go, stepping back quickly as the lieutenant fell in a heap at his feet, trying to pull air back into his lungs.

 

“You are less than the ground beneath her feet. Never think of her like that again,” he had spat as he strode away.

 

He had found Wylan Ren and General Lotrakk in the training room. Wylan’s bearing had been arrogant as ever and the general had looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there.

 

Kylo had stalked up to Wylan Ren, looming over the shorter man. “What, Wylan Ren, was so very important that I should be kept waiting.”

 

“Come off it, Kylo, we both know you don’t belong at the top,” Wylan had sneered.

 

Kylo had lifted his hand and Wylan had flown across the long training room, hitting the wall before landing gracelessly on a mat.

 

“You may wish to reconsider your words, Wylan Ren.” He had watched as the arrogant knight scrambled to his feet, Wylan’s mask hiding his expression. Kylo had reached out and sensed his surprise and confusion.

 

“You were always Snoke’s favorite, but that was just because of your illustrious lineage. Why should I follow you after you betrayed your master?” Wylan had challenged.

 

“Because you follow or you die.” Kylo had decided to put it in the plainest terms possible.

 

“Fine – let’s do this. I’ve always wanted to really fight you,” Wylan had said. Kylo had grinned wickedly under his mask. Wylan had had no idea of the trap he’d just walked into.

 

General Lotrakk had been at the edge of the room, attempting to make himself as small and unnoticeable as possible. Kylo had been glad the general was there; the more people who saw what had been born the day he’d killed Snoke, the better.

 

The knights had circled each other and Wylan had ignited his saber first. Kylo had lazily twirled his saber, choosing to give Wylan a false sense of confidence. He could have ended it in seconds, but he had wanted to make a point.

 

Wylan had lunged then, and Kylo had blocked him. Wylan had stumbled back but then had advanced again quickly. Kylo had parried each thrust with his saber before shifting to the Force.

 

Wylan had swung hard and Kylo had used the Force to push his saber back, and then had watched as Wylan stiffened in confusion. Kylo had never used the Force in this way before and Wylan had been thrown. Again and again Wylan had tried to score a hit, and each attempt was blocked with the Force. It had been as if a shield had surrounded Kylo; nothing could touch him.

 

But Wylan had been unwilling to give up, continuing to hack at Kylo, finding no way past this strange new power. Wylan had been panting with exhaustion and Kylo had been deflecting him with casual grace, expending very little effort.

 

Bored with the fight, Kylo had reached out with one hand and pulled Wylan’s saber from his hand, flinging it into the wall where it crackled and spat, impaled into the bulkhead.

 

Wylan Ren had looked at his empty hand for what had seemed an age, and then looked up at Kylo. Kylo had taken that moment and had reached out and Force pulled Wylan to him, holding him suspended in front of him, Kylo’s saber inches from his throat. He had felt Wylan push back, but it had been nothing but a fluttering of wings, futile and useless.

 

Wylan had continued to struggle against his hold, focusing all of his power on escaping the clutches of his master. In the past, Kylo had had to dig deep when sparring with Wylan. Kylo had been the superior warrior, but it had always been a true fight with both men having to utilize all of their skills. But not that time. That time, Kylo had barely needed to exert a fraction of his new … gifts.

 

“You were never so strong … how …?” Wylan had whispered.

 

“Snoke asked the same thing.” Kylo had switched off his saber then, affixing it to his belt and keeping Wylan aloft with his other hand. “He did not learn in time.”

 

Kylo had dropped Wylan to the floor, then. The conquered knight had stumbled as he had found his feet. Wylan, though not much shorter than Kylo, had seemed small – almost fearful.

 

“I trust this is the last time you will require a demonstration?”

 

“Yes …. Supreme Leader.”

 

Kylo pulls himself from his memories, finding Hux still there, waiting impatiently.

 

“And what of the others?” Demyan, Jashad, and Palek are already here.

 

“Natan Ren is due to arrive before the end of the cycle, and Vitok Ren will rendezvous with the Finalizer the day after tomorrow. Barring any further changes in course.”

 

“Is there any reason to think that we might need to change our destination? Do you have news?” Kylo had failed to keep the eagerness from his voice. They are presently headed to Coruscant, following a lead on his other project.

 

“No, Supreme Leader. Nothing new since Quol. However, our spies believe they are close to finding the main base of the Resistance.”

 

Oh, this is welcome news indeed. If Rey is still with Leia Organa, he is certain he will find her at their command center. His despair is receding as he’s filled with renewed vigor.


The Resistance is losing ground daily as the First Order roots out and eliminates each pocket, each cell of their organization. Soon Rey will have nowhere left to hide.

Chapter Text

Kylo is perusing his collection. He’s in his quarters, his mask tossed casually aside. He pulls out the Rebellion doll and wonders, not for the first time, if she had made this. He’s remembering how he came to have it in his possession.

 

One of his first acts as Supreme Leader had been to send a battalion of stormtroopers to Jakku. He had desired to gather as much information about Rey as he could. He had wanted to go himself but, having only just ascended, he had understood that he needed to focus on his new position. He required the resources of the First Order if he was to find her.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Captain Phasma had addressed him upon her return.

 

“Captain Phasma, tell me of your findings on Jakku.”

 

“As you requested, we gathered everything we could find on the scavenger known as Rey.”

 

“And?”

 

“We located her dwelling, everything of a personal nature is here,” Phasma had said, gesturing to an underling. A non-descript stormtrooper had stood forward then with a crate full of tokens and placed it on his desk. “We took holos of everything as instructed, they should be uploaded and waiting for you.”

 

“Your report?”

 

“Rey, no surname, lived on Jakku for approximately 14 years. She was reported as having kept to herself for the most part. Unkar Plutt, a Crolute male, was the closest one could call to an employer. She traded her wares for sustenance.” He had hated that knowledge, that his Rey had had such a difficult life. Working for food. He had wanted to blow that tiny backwater out of the sky.

 

“And how did she come to be on Jakku if she was not born there?” he had asked.

 

Phasma had continued, “We were unable to find much; only that she was left with Unkar Plutt. He was given credits and agreed to add her to his scavengers. She was roughly 5 years in age.” That had taken the breath from his lungs, to find out she had been abandoned. Learning that she had been alone for so long still fills him with helpless rage.

 

“Who left her?” he had growled.

 

“Plutt said it was a human couple, roughly of the age her parents would have been.”

 

“Names?” he had nearly barked.

 

“Plutt only had one, the man. Sylten Qree. He said that Qree was a known con-man and Plutt hasn’t seen him since he left the girl.” It hadn’t been much, but it had been enough to begin with. He still isn’t sure if he’s hoping to find her parents as a gift or kill them in vengeance. Those people devastated his beloved.

 

“Known associates?” he had questioned.

 

“She does not appear to have any friends or allies apart from another human male.”

 

“Tell me more about this … ally,” Kylo had instructed with an edge to his voice.

 

“His name is Yoryn Glant, age 22 standard years.” He had been very frustrated by Phasma’s taciturn manner. He had wanted to know details.

 

“How does she know him?” He had not liked that little piece of news.

 

“He is a scavenger as well, also trading with Unkar Plutt. Their association seems to have been professional in nature.” That had quieted him, somewhat.

 

“Anything else?”

 

“.... I suggest you review the holos, Supreme Leader.” That had caught his attention; Phasma had always simply been straightforward in the past. He had decided to follow her advice.

 

He had dismissed them and called up the holos. He had watched as images had flickered before him, taking in the information. He had learned that she was not well known – everyone knew of her, but no one knew her. Interview after interview with the same answers. She kept to herself. Only worked with others when she had to. Kylo had eagerly watched every single recording.

 

Now he often watches them again. He sits and scrolls through the holos, skipping Yoryn Glant’s with contempt. He pulls up the holo he watches most frequently. This was what Captain Phasma had meant that day. He had already known how isolated she was from his time with her on Starkiller; had felt her bitter loneliness. It had reminded him strongly of himself. But nothing had prepared him for what he had seen on that holo.

 

The images come up and he’s watching the familiar scene, seeing as stormtroopers descend on an old AT-AT, fallen on its side. They pull apart her home, collecting anything remotely personal. He glances at the dried flower and thinks of her chambers. She will have no need of dead things, once she’s with him.

 

He returns his attention to the holo and sees as it pans to a large piece of the inner wall of the fallen beast. Thousands of little marks, each a day that she’d hurt. Counting her pain, scratching out her endless waiting. Marking time, like a prisoner, a slave. He hates this and yet cannot stop watching it. He’s not sure how many times he’s reviewed this holo, hoping, somehow, that he will find a way to fix this. That she ever felt this way … it eats at him, makes him want to go back in time and save her from this life. But that is beyond even his power. And so he watches and plans. He thinks again of how angry he is at Leia Organa for allowing a galaxy where Rey’s difficult life was even possible.

 

His comm chirps. “Supreme Leader?” Hux’s voice comes through the small device.

 

“Yes, Hux?”

 

“Natan Ren will be docking shortly; do you wish to greet him personally?” Kylo rolls his eyes and sighs. No, he does not wish to greet him personally but he has no good reason not to. He detests this aspect of his new life. He just wants to spend the evening thinking about Rey.

 

“I’ll be there shortly.”

 

---

 

Kylo stands watching Natan’s shuttle dock in the massive hangar. He thinks again that he would prefer to better understand Natan Ren. He’s never given Kylo reason to be concerned, but the man’s motivations have never made sense. When they had been younger, studying to be Jedi, Natan had always been keenly interested in the history and lore of the Jedi. He had seemed to almost worship the old ways and yet when given the … opportunity to join the Knights of Ren, Natan had immediately stepped forward.

 

Natan Ren walks down the ramp precisely, holding himself with self-possession. Nothing ever seems to affect the serene knight. Natan is tall and slender, his gloved hands elegant.

 

“Natan Ren,” Kylo greets him neutrally.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Natan responds in kind.

 

“I trust all is well with the Dauntless?”

 

“She is a fine ship; I have enjoyed the posting.”

 

“You do not intend on returning?” Kylo asks with curiosity.

 

“That is for you to determine.”

 

“We have much to accomplish, but I am certain you will return in time.”

 

“As you say.” Again Kylo finds himself frustrated with the economical man in front of him. Natan never speaks an unnecessary word, and never gives a hint as to what he is thinking. Kylo attempts to dip into his consciousness but finds only a strong sense of purpose and commitment. Kylo knows this should satisfy him, and yet it does not. Natan has never given him any reason to doubt or question him, and yet ...

 

“All but Wylan Ren and Vitok Ren have already arrived.” Kylo motions for the lieutenant who has been waiting quietly, watching idly as he scurries over.  

 

“Lieutenant Vriss will see you to your quarters. If you will excuse me, I have matters to attend to. Welcome to the Finalizer, Natan Ren.”

 

---

 

He’s in Rey’s quarters, walking throughout her rooms. Kylo is missing her; their last communication had left him so bereft. He’s checking on everything, confirming it is all as he’s specified. He goes to her bedroom and opens the armoire, finding it full of beautiful clothing. He has arranged that anything she might desire will be available to her. Every color is reflected, simple, elaborate, elegant – he’d requested a wide variety. He hadn’t known what she would like. There are numerous dresses he hopes she’ll enjoy; he wants very much to see her in the finery he has prepared for her. It’s so easy to imagine her draped in expensive fabrics and his hands twitch at the thought of running them along the sumptuous cloth, feeling his Rey beneath his fingers.

 

He goes to her bed and stretches out, imagining … so many things.

 

He wants to reach out again, but he knows she will not talk with him again so soon. He’s not sure why exactly, but he thinks it might be that she holds out as long as she’s able. It gives him hope; hope that she might need him, need him as he needs her. Kylo knows she does not love him – not yet. But he’s certain that she feels the pull, even as she denies it. He believes that the spark that he’s nurtured into a raging blaze burns within her, too. He shies away from remembering how difficult their last interaction was.

 

He’s removed his helmet and gloves, wanting to imagine the time he knows is coming. She doesn’t like his mask and he plans on keeping it off when he’s with her. It is a strange idea; he’d always kept it on with … others. When he had first joined Snoke six years ago he had found he was the subject of … curiosity to a certain kind of woman. Free of the constraints of the Jedi and wishing to distance himself from his life before, he had partaken of what was so wantonly offered. But he had been wary of sharing even a small part of himself so he had never showed himself – never even removed his gloves. He had not wanted to risk falling into the trap that had captured Leia Organa.

 

He had reveled in the baseness of it, enjoyed the power as he took them from behind. Of course the thought of touching another woman disgusts him now; he’s not had anything to do with that since his Rey first captured him.

 

He wants so much more from Rey, with Rey. He wants to look into her eyes as he fills her. He wants to touch every part of her with his bare hands. He wants her to touch him, to feel his naked body against hers. He’d never allowed it before; never wishing to be so vulnerable. But now … now he wants nothing between him and his love. He wants to spend every night tangled with her, to share it all. He will give himself entirely to her, hold nothing back.

 

He imagines her soft, sweet lips and he thinks of the time, very soon, when she will be here, when he will be able to kiss that sharp, perfect mouth. He’s never kissed anyone before – it was far too personal. But he wants that with Rey, he wants everything with Rey. He thinks of how he will cradle her face as he delves his tongue into her mouth, how he will finally be able to taste her.

 

He remembers how much he had wanted to kiss along her delicate neck when he’d had her in his chair. Kylo had been so confused by his impulses that day. He had never wanted to be so close to another person; had never desired anyone like that. He had felt lust of course, but it had never mattered to him with whom he slaked his thirst. And yet even then, before the Force Bond, he had wanted to touch her. He’d been seized by the impossible urge to strip his gloves from his hands and feel her soft skin beneath his fingers. Oh how he wishes he had given in and touched her.

 

Kylo thinks of how he will slide his hands along her body, slip his fingers beneath her clothes and gently undress her. Rey will feel amazing under his hands, her skin will be like silk, and he will kiss her everywhere. He will make such sweet love to her, she will shudder and quiver with need. For him. He will bring her so close and keep her there, making her beg for release. She will sob his name and he will fill her with his seed, claim her, mark her. Rey will be his in all ways. Perhaps, one day, he will even plant a child in her.

 

He’s imagining how she’ll feel beneath him and he’s so hard. He does not allow himself relief often as it leaves him especially needful. It only leaves him hollowed out, acutely aware that she is not here with him, where he knows she belongs. For days afterwards he is bombarded by his fevered dreams, his vivid fantasies. He will not give in tonight. But he allows himself to continue imagining her …

 

---

 

Back in his own quarters, Kylo is still missing Rey especially. Spending time in her space has had the opposite effect on him than he’d been hoping for. It has left him acutely aware that he does not have her. He’s surrounded himself with pieces of her and created her quarters for her, but it is a pale and poor substitute for his vibrant Rey. He knows she will not speak to him, but he soothes along her barricade, wanting to feel her the only way he can.

 

He’s taken to doing this more frequently; like a beggar in the streets, Kylo leans against her walls, curling himself beside the barrier. He can feel her energy this way. It is faint, but it is there and he takes what he can. He can sense nothing specific from her, but it is still unmistakably her.

 

He’s in his cold, lonely bed and he skims himself along her defenses, soaking up her dim energy, when suddenly the Bond is open and she’s there. She doesn’t say anything, but he senses her, bright and pure and everything he craves. He does not want to frighten her away so he stays silent.

 

His breath quickens as he luxuriates in her; she feels warm and liquid and she moves along him, suffusing his entire being. His skin is prickling and it feels so good. He can’t help himself – he sends into the Bond, “Rey …”

 

“Shhhhh,” she sends back.

 

Kylo knows that to engage her is to lose her so he controls himself and simply lets her continue moving through him. He doesn’t understand what she’s doing, why she’s doing it, but he’s pathetically grateful. Their last interaction had been so difficult, her rejection so painful. She settles in his mind and it’s as if she’s really with him. He feels almost drunk with the heady feeling of her.

 

He wants to talk with her, to ask her why she’s doing this, why she’s giving him this impossible gift. But he doesn’t dare question it so he lets her swirl within him and he loses himself to the pleasure.

 

When he wakes, he’s certain she stayed with him throughout the night. Oh Rey …

 

---

 

Vitok Ren has arrived and there is no word on when Wylan Ren will join them, so he has gathered the five knights that are already here.

 

They’re seated in a large room. It had once been used as the Supreme Leader’s holochamber, but Kylo dispensed with that immediately. He gives his orders through proper channels, finding the large projection that Snoke had used to be almost ridiculous now that he’s on the other side of things.

 

“Now that we are almost all together again, I thought it prudent for us to meet.”

 

The Knights of Ren all nod.

 

“As many of you know, I have been seeking Luke Skywalker and the Jedi girl, Rey. This is the primary goal of the First Order at this time. I believe the Resistance is hiding them and we are making excellent progress in finding and eliminating Resistance strongholds.”

 

“Supreme Leader,” Demyan Ren says. Demyan seems as if he’s steeling himself.

 

“Speak,” Kylo orders.

 

“Forgive me, but it is said that it is the girl that is the primary target. Is this true?” Demyan’s tone is cautious.

 

Kylo stiffens at this. He knows that the entire fleet is aware of his quest. He has needed to be quite open about it in order to mobilize resources. But he still has no wish to discuss it. However, he sees that now he’ll have to. He wishes Demyan had not asked about the particulars.

 

“Yes, that is true,” Kylo responds.

 

“And how is she a threat to the First Order?” Vitok Ren asks. Vitok is the oldest of the knights. She was a young officer with the Empire, hiding her Force-sensitivity until it was safe to reveal herself. She had come to the Academy as a full-grown woman and had become almost a mentor to Kylo when he had been a boy. He respects the always-practical Vitok Ren. Kylo has relied on her experience in the past and is not surprised that Vitok is the first to ask tactical questions.

 

“It is what she represents. She is the rebuilding of the Jedi. She is remarkably strong with the Force and, if we allow this to continue, she and Skywalker could become quite dangerous,” Kylo answers.

 

“Supreme Leader, I have been monitoring the intelligence reports quite closely. There has been no mention of Luke Skywalker with the girl – only a few near misses with the girl herself. How do we know that they’re together?” This comes from Natan, shrewd as ever.

 

“It is the only logical inference. I recently … visited where Luke Skywalker has been hiding, and there was evidence of Rey having been there. They had both fled. I am certain he is training her.”

 

“But we don’t know that for certain?” Vitok asks.

 

Kylo is rigid, furious that it has become a free-for-all, his knights more comfortable as a group, questioning him. He had only ever had a tenuous hold on the knights; he thought he had come further with them after touring the ships. “No. We don’t,” he says shortly.

 

“Then why is the girl Rey the primary target?” Vitok asks.

 

Kylo doesn’t know how to answer that. He knows he could simply refuse, perhaps use a display of power. But he wants them to help him in his quest and he knows if they are willing they will be much more effective. He thinks quickly.

 

“Because I have a score to settle with her. She left me scarred and humiliated on Starkiller and I wish to balance accounts.”

 

“Wait, so you have the entire First Order hunting this girl because she took you in a fight?” Jashad Ren blurts out. Kylo sees Palek put his hand on Jashad’s arm and shakes his head.

 

Kylo stands then, furious. “It is not your place to question me. Yes, it is personal for me, but I am absolutely certain that the key to Skywalker is Rey. None of you will challenge me on this. Is that clear?” He knows he is lying. He doesn’t care about Skywalker anymore, only Rey. Only ever Rey.

 

There is an uneasy energy in the room as the knights all murmur their agreement.

 

Kylo stalks from the chamber, needing to think, needing to find the peace that only thinking of Rey can give him. He needs to be alone with his thoughts. Perhaps, if he is very lucky, she will speak with him?

 

Chapter Text

He’s in his rooms, pacing. His meeting with his Knights had not gone as he had planned. He could sense their unease and confusion at his behavior. He just wants their loyalty – why must they ask so many questions? He’s aware that none but Wylan have really seen his new power and he realizes what he must do. He’s going to have to fight and best each one of them, reestablish his dominance. Luckily, that will not be an issue.

 

He thinks on how he came to have such capacity coursing through him, how he had found himself here. The day the dam broke and all his burgeoning power had welled up and crested over him like a great, black sea.

 

After Cathne and his mad dash after Rey, the Finalizer had rendezvoused with Snoke’s ship. The Supreme Leader had wished to see his apprentice personally.

 

Kylo had found himself on his knees in front of his master, awaiting his punishment. He had been both elated and broken by the realization of the night before, of accepting his love for Rey. He had been brimming with the need to hunt, to find, to have her. Once he had known the depth of his feelings it had been as if everything he’d ever sought, ever wanted, had been swept aside, his love burning it all to ashes. He hadn’t cared about pleasing Snoke, hadn’t cared about serving his master. He had simply wanted this to be over so that he could focus on finding Rey. The Force was swirling in him and he had been struggling to keep himself subservient.

 

“We have a problem, Kylo Ren.” Snoke had said. “You have been keeping things from me.”

 

Kylo had known this should have filled him with fear, but instead all he had felt was contempt.

 

“Master?” he had said, knowing as he said it that he had failed to infuse his tone with deference.

 

“Yes, my Apprentice, I have noticed your growing power. I wonder why you have chosen not to share this happy news with me.”

 

“Through the grace of your training, I have grown, it is true. It was not my intention to hide it from you,” Kylo had recklessly lied straight to Snoke’s face.

 

“You, I think, have become far too interested in the girl from Jakku. She has made you stray from your path – my path. She has made you defy your master.”

 

Kylo had stayed silent. Snoke had risen from his dais and had circled Kylo.

 

“I attempted to have this issue taken care of permanently by ordering her death, but the stormtroopers were not able to carry out my command. All forces have now been instructed that she be killed on sight.”

 

Kylo had been seized with scalding fury and soul-chilling fear. Snoke had tried to have his beloved killed? Killed!? It had been so easy to see what losing her would do to him and the thought that she had been in such danger without him even knowing about it … oh how he had despised Snoke in that moment. The stormtroopers’ strange behavior on Cathne now making sense, had he not acted alone, attempted to capture her … she would be dead. Dead … he had known he simply could not allow that to happen.

 

He had wanted to reach out and strangle the desiccated creature in front of him with his gloved hands, to feel the old, fine bones of Snoke’s neck grind and snap beneath his fingers. Kylo had stood, looking straight into Snoke’s mangled face, a murderous rage he had no wish to control coursing through him. But he had faltered; he hadn’t known what was brewing in him, hadn’t known that the threat to Rey would unleash such power in him. He had been afraid for Rey and had tried to reason with Snoke.

 

“Master, no, she is so powerful, it would be such a was-”

 

“Silence! I know that you do not care about her power, I know that you only wish to have her as your own. I have watched; I have monitored. You have allowed yourself to grow attached to her, and that cannot continue. You will see in time that I am right.”

 

“No! Please, no. Let me have this. I have been loyal to you; I have done everything that you have ever asked of me. Let me have her,” Kylo had pleaded.

 

“She makes you weak, Kylo Ren. You are of no use to me if you have two masters. You have been lying to me, Apprentice.”

 

“Never, Master.”

 

“Oh? So you have not been hiding your growing power? Lying to me about your feelings for this girl? You did not Force choke at least two dozen stormtroopers to save that sand rat?”

 

Kylo had been silent then, knowing he was caught. He had hated the way Snoke spoke of Rey.

 

“Yes, you see the issue. It is unfortunate that you did not feel that you could share your success with me. I understand why you would want to hide such shameful feelings, but that you have been growing in power and keeping that from me … It makes me doubt your loyalty,” Snoke had said.

 

In that moment Kylo had known that Snoke was right, that he had felt no fealty to this monster before him. His rage had been growing. Snoke had dared to try to take Rey from him? To kill her? The Dark was expanding in him, his strange new abilities sparking in his blood.

 

“You will not have her killed,” Kylo had said confidently.

 

“You do not give the orders here, Apprentice.”

 

“I have earned the right to have this; to have her. I have sacrificed everything for you.”

 

“Is that so? I thought that it was I who gave you everything you sought. Is it not you who came to me, begging that I teach you, to show you the ways of your grandfather? I think you have lost perspective, Kylo Ren.”

 

“I will not let you hurt her,” Kylo had said, his voice low and dangerous.

 

“And how will you stop me, I wonder? No, it is done. As we speak, my forces are en route to the Resistance base on Lytonn. I have excellent intelligence reports that she’s there. She’ll be dead by the end of the cycle.”

 

“What?” Kylo had growled.

 

“Oh yes, Kylo Ren, your little desert flower will be dead within hours. Perhaps she already is.”

 

Kylo had reached for the Bond then, calling out frantically, “Rey, Rey, you have to listen to me, please Rey, please.” But it had been of no use, she would not respond.

 

“You will thank me in time, Apprentice. You will see that I have done this for you. You will be freed from these inconvenient feelings.”

 

“Call off the attack,” Kylo had demanded.

 

“You forget yourself. I see that you must be reminded of your place,” Snoke had said with malicious glee in his cold eyes.

 

“No, I will not allow this, I will stop you.” Kylo had felt as the Force had welled within him, he had never felt such power. It was as if he was wrapped in pure Force and his eyes had gone black.

 

Snoke had only laughed. “Get on your knees, Apprentice. I will show you again who your Master is.”

 

But Kylo had defiantly remained standing, still calling out through the Bond, battering against her walls furiously. The Dark had been riding every cell in his body, growing and growing.

 

Snoke had been vibrating with fury when he had said, “I will have you on your knees one way or another – you will wish you had obeyed.”

 

Snoke had raised his wraith-like hands and Force Lighting had streamed from his fingers. With just one palm Kylo had deflected the Lighting easily. Snoke’s eyes had narrowed and he had stalked toward Kylo.

 

“You dare to fight me, Kylo Ren?” the enraged Snoke had bellowed.

 

“You will not hurt her,” Kylo had promised.

 

Kylo had advanced on Snoke and had felt the pressure the Force against his throat. Kylo had pushed back with the Force and Snoke had flown back, hitting the far wall, landing in a crumpled heap.

 

“I will show you what it means to defy me, Apprentice,” Snoke had hissed as he gained his feet. Kylo had heard a wrenching screech as Snoke pulled a section of the bulkhead from the behind him. Kylo had twisted quickly as the rented metal flew towards him and Kylo had used the Force to shove the twisted panel back as he moved toward Snoke. He had seen a flicker of confusion ripple across Snoke’s disfigured face.

 

Then Kylo had felt the pain of the Force move up his spine as Snoke attempted to reach into him, turn his own body against him. Kylo had been very aware of the pressure of time bearing down on him. Each second he spent on this battle was a moment too long, Rey was in danger right now and he had to end this.

 

Something had broken free within Kylo. The thought of Rey’s delicate face empty in death had filled him with such fear and horror that the Lightning was coursing from his fingers before he’d even given it thought. Tremendous power had moved through Kylo as the blue bolts of energy had increased. Kylo had never seen Lightning like this; it had blazed with such intensity that it had been almost blinding. It had wrapped around Snoke’s emaciated, corpse-like form, Snoke the one to scream. Some detached part of Kylo had taken a vicious pleasure at being the one in control.

 

Kylo had thought of his beloved, of what Snoke had tried to do to her. He had known he must kill his master if he was to have a chance to save Rey. He had to call off the attack! Snoke had continued to attempt to defend himself, Kylo had been able to feel Snoke trying to Force push him back, but it had been of no use – Kylo had been much stronger.

 

Kylo had felt as the Dark engulfed him, as all of the awesome power that had been growing finally danced along his body unchecked, unlike anything he had ever experienced. Again and again he had hit Snoke with arcs of Force Lightning. He had seen how much he hated this twisted creature. Hated him for forcing him to kill Han Solo. Hated him for all of the empty promises, for holding his training over his head, for torturing him time after time.

 

But he had known he hated Snoke most of all for threatening what was his. He had thought of Rey’s endless eyes as he’d gazed into them on Starkiller. He had remembered her fire and her compassion and the Lightning had grown so fierce that it had turned white and Snoke’s skeleton had glowed through his papery flesh. Snoke’s gaunt frame had been shaking and twisting; his screaming, a horrible, high sound. Soon, Snoke’s body had been smoking and his flesh charring.

 

Kylo had stopped his attack, standing over Snoke’s supine form. Snoke’s eyes had been wide and full of terror as he had gasped out, “How?”

 

“Rey,” Kylo had answered simply. He had known Snoke could never understand the lengths he would go to, the power Rey had unleashed. The galaxy had never known anything like Kylo Ren in love.

 

Kylo had looked down on Snoke’s trembling body, watched as Snoke struggled to gather any sort of defense. All of the broken promises had flooded Kylo, how Snoke had told him he would help him fulfill Grandfather’s dreams but had only used Kylo’s power for death and destruction. Kylo had wanted to create, to mend, and had believed Snoke when he had told him ‘all in good time’. Snoke had made token changes, and that had been enough for Kylo. But not now.

 

Looming over Snoke, filled with contempt, Kylo had ignited his lightsaber and swung it swiftly, removing Snoke’s head from his body in one sure stroke. He had taken great satisfaction from the final look in Snoke’s eyes as his master had realized he had lost. As Kylo had gazed down on Snoke’s broken form, Kylo had known that the time had come. He would become Supreme Leader, save Rey, find her, and he would finally finish what Grandfather had started. Rey had been the key to everything.

 

He had toed Snoke’s dead body with his boot and said, “You never should have stood between us.”

 

Then Kylo had been surrounded by stormtroopers, responding to the chaos in the Supreme Leader’s chamber. He had turned quickly and with one wave of his hand he had Force pulled all of their blasters from their hands. He had announced, “I have killed Snoke. You will now answer to me.”

 

The troopers had stood, stunned, some of them looking at their empty hands in confusion. He had reached out and Force choked them all until they were on their knees and had said, “I am now the Supreme Leader – you will do as I say.” Soon all of the stormtroopers had nodded their agreement.

 

Kylo had moved to the bridge of Snoke’s ship then, sweeping onto the deck with authority.

 

He had addressed the bridge crew. “After the failure of Starkiller it became clear to me that Snoke could not be trusted with leadership of the First Order. I have executed him and ascended to his position. I am the Supreme Leader and you will follow my will.” He had infused his words with compulsion from the Force and was relieved to see the shocked officers murmuring their agreement.

 

However, Captain Pell had moved forward and said, “You cannot simply take over like this.”

 

“I can, and I have.” Kylo had lifted Captain Pell off of his feet, holding him suspended in front of him, watching him keenly. He had sensed movement and blocked the blaster bolts without even looking at them. He had reached out with his other hand and pulled the shooters forward. Kylo had held the four officers suspended in front of him. He had been panicking, thinking he did not have time for this! Rey had been in danger and he had needed to move swiftly. He had stopped their hearts in their chests and dropped them, their dead bodies landing in a tangled heap. He had directed the blaster bolts into the deck, causing the crew to startle; Kylo had even heard a few screams.

 

Kylo had turned to the remaining bridge officers and had said, “Does anyone else wish to take issue with my command?”

 

He had been relieved when they all responded, “No, Supreme Leader.”

 

“Excellent. Now call off the attack on Lytonn,” he had commanded urgently.

 

A communications officer had quickly moved to her console and had given orders to abort the impending strike.

 

While he had been waiting for confirmation he had tried again to reach Rey. He had felt such relief when she finally responded to his desperate sending through the Bond.

 

“What do you want?” she had said with her usual disdain.

 

“You have to flee, there is about to be an attack on Lytonn. I’m having it called off but it might be too late. You have to leave,” he had sent hurriedly.

 

“Why would I believe anything you have to say?”

 

“Please, Rey, now is not the time to argue with me. I am sincere and I’m doing everything I can to keep you safe but you must leave,” Kylo had pleaded.

 

“Why aren’t you with them, trying to capture me?” she had asked skeptically.

 

“I’ll explain everything later, I promise, but you have to leave, you have to get away!” He had been growing quite panicked, thinking: why wouldn’t she listen to him?

 

“I’m not abandoning them.”

 

“Please, I’m begging you. I cannot lose you, you must get yourself to safety.” He had been nearly out of his mind with fear.

 

“If there’s going to be an attack then I’m staying to fight, I won’t run away.”

 

“Rey, you have to go – you have to!”

 

“No.”

 

“Listen to me, they have orders to kill you specifically. Battalions of stormtroopers will descend any minute with only one goal in mind: to find and kill you. Please, sweetheart, please you must leave.”

 

“Don’t call me that,” Rey had spat.

 

“We don’t have time for this!” he had snarled into the Bond.

 

Just then, he had been interrupted when the communications officer had said, “I’ve been able to reach the Tarkin. They’re pulling forces back as we speak, but the two transports already away are not responding to hails – there seems to be some kind of interference.”

 

He had nodded sharply and focused again on Rey, “I’ve successfully called off the bulk of the forces but there are still two transports of stormtroopers about to land. Please, get to the Falcon and leave.”

 

“No, I’m warning Leia and then I’m fighting,” she had said defiantly.

 

He had been filled with such helpless terror. He had known that the threat was minimized, that the Resistance could likely defend themselves successfully against only two transports, but he had been frantic.

 

He had tried one more time to reason with her. “Rey, you must know what you mean to me, you must know how hard I’m trying to save you, but you have to help me. Please help me keep you safe, please run, please.”

 

“If what you say is true then I have to help the Resistance. If I die then at least I died fighting in something I believe in. I have to go.” He had felt the Bond grow cold again and his heart had nearly stopped. He had had no idea what was happening with the Bond blocked and no communication with the First Order forces.

 

He had paced the bridge, waiting for any news. Kylo had sensed the fear of the bridge crew but had remained focused only on Rey. He had wondered what he would feel if something happened to her.

 

The waiting had been interminable when he’d felt it, a sharp sense of surprise and pain. He had not experienced this from the Bond before. He had understood then what it had been like when she'd felt him being injured. It had not been a physical sensation, but her distress had been palpable. She had been hurt and she couldn’t keep him out while she was struggling with her wound.

 

“Rey, what’s happened, please, oh please, tell me that you’re alright!” he had sent wildly into the Bond. The knowledge that she had been injured had made him nearly incapable of thought.

 

“Maker, I can’t have you in my head! I’m in the middle of a battle!”

 

“How badly are you hurt?” he had demanded.

 

“I don’t know; not badly I don’t think. But stars, it hurts.”

 

He had never felt so helpless in his life. He had wanted to kill Snoke again for causing this to happen.

 

“Will you run now?” he had pleaded.

 

“No, we’re winning, there aren’t many of them. They all seem to be trying to find something, they didn’t engage until they saw me.”

 

“I told you – you are their primary target. Tell me you’re well defended?”

 

“Mostly. I’m behind a bunch of crates; they can’t see me.”

 

He had pushed further into her, scanning her body. He had to know how grievously she had been injured. He had been relieved to find it was her shoulder and not something essential.

 

“Stop that,” she had ordered.

 

“I just needed to find out the extent of your injuries,” Kylo had placated.

 

“I don’t care, don’t go rooting around in me like that; don’t take advantage of my weakness.”

 

He had thought to himself that only Rey would manage to keep arguing with him while fighting for her life.

 

“Supreme Leader?” the communications officer had asked fearfully.

 

“What is it?” he had said shortly.

 

“We’ve made contact with the transports; they’re overwhelmed. Instructions?”

 

“Pull them out, now,” Kylo had commanded.

 

He had focused on Rey again, “They should be retreating now, please just stay where you are.”

 

“Yes, they’re pulling back. Why – why are you doing this?”

 

“Oh Rey, I’ve told you so many times. Don’t you know I would do anything for you?”

 

“Then why didn’t you warn me before it was too late?” Rey had asked.

 

“I didn’t know. Things have changed.”

 

“What do you mean, things have chan-” He had sensed then when she had been surrounded by Resistance soldiers, had heard them helping her, getting her medical attention. He had been so relieved.

 

He had stayed quiet; she hadn’t been focusing on him and had left the Bond open. He had felt as she had been transported to medical and had stealthily watched as they had patched up his love. The need to be with her, to see her face, to see with his own eyes that she would be alright ... it had been crippling.

 

“Are you still there?” she had sent some time later.

 

“Always.”

 

“I’m okay … thank you for stopping the attack.”

 

“I would never have allowed it had I but known.”

 

“We’re leaving, obviously. I’m … I’m closing the Bond now.” He hadn’t been ready; he had come so close to losing her and the thought of having her closed off from him was especially painful.

 

“Please, just leave it open. I’ll stay quiet, I just … I almost lost you.”

 

“I’m not yours to lose.” He had kept his council at that, not wishing to provoke her.

 

“Don’t go, don’t go …” he had begged.

 

“Even if I wanted to have you with me I can’t possibly take the chance of you finding out where we’re going. Goodbye.” Rey had gently closed the Bond then and he had been certain he had sensed regret as he had once again been parted from her.


In his quarters Kylo closes his eyes against the memories. He’s still filled with a savage rage whenever he thinks of that day; of what Snoke had almost cost him. He’s so very glad that Snoke is dead.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo is in his quarters, still remembering that terrifying day when he had killed Snoke and Rey had nearly been taken from him when he is alerted that someone is at his door.

 

Demyan Ren stands in the corridor.

 

“Supreme Leader.”

 

“Demyan Ren.”

 

“I have something I wish to speak with you about, Supreme Leader.”

 

“I will be calling the Knights of Ren together tomorrow—we will speak then.”

 

“It is of a … personal nature.”

 

Kylo hesitates; when Demyan had first arrived on the Finalizer, Kylo had not liked how he had felt the pull to speak with Demyan as he once did. However, Kylo supposes their history earns Demyan the right to a private audience. He beckons Demyan in.

 

Kylo does not invite him to sit. They’re standing in the entryway when Demyan surprises Kylo by reaching up and removing his mask. Kylo notes how his face has grown thinner, his tawny skin paler, and his bright blue eyes keener since he last saw Demyan without his helmet.

 

Demyan looks at Kylo with something like sadness in his eyes and says, “I have known you a long time, through many identities. I know you made it clear how things have changed, but I hope you will forgive an old friend his concern. The events that brought you here, they were unexpected. There are stories about the girl. Kylo … are you alright?”

 

Kylo is completely taken aback by the question. No one but Rey ever inquires as to his well-being, and he is certain that she only does so because of her generous nature. He knows he should put a stop to this, that these are precisely the sort of confidences that he must quash. But he finds that he wants to talk to Demyan like he once did as an adolescent; he wants to bare his heart and speak of the constant ache that drives him ever forward.

 

Demyan simply looks at him, and Kylo has the uncomfortable feeling that Demyan can somehow see him, even through his mask.

 

“Demyan …  I tried to tell you … it can’t be like it was before. Things are very different now and you shouldn’t ask me such questions.”

 

“Kylo … Supreme Leader, you cannot isolate yourself completely. It will drive you mad.”

 

Kylo is appalled to hear himself say, “Why not? I’ve been doing it for years.”

 

Demyan shakes his head sadly, “And I have heard what that has cost you; how unstable you have become.”

 

“No, stop. I have no wish to harm you, but you will stop this and you will observe proper lines. We are no longer boys, I have been your master for years now. I … I know that there was a time when we were … friends, but that time has passed.”

 

“I know, and I promise I will adhere to that, but this girl … you must know that you’re acting erratically. The entire First Order is buzzing with stories of how you are chasing after her. We both know it has nothing to do with her besting you on Starkiller. Whatever it is, it’s not … it’s not good for you. It’s not good for the First Order.”

 

“You know nothing about it and I will not explain it to you.”

 

“Kylo-”

 

“Supreme Leader. You will address me as Supreme Leader!” Kylo demands with a twinge of desperation.

 

Demyan purses his lips and tries once more, “Forgive me, but you’ve lost your way; you aren’t acting for the benefit of the galaxy and isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Isn’t that what you told us when this all began? That there would be the end to suffering; that the time for a new way had come? I followed you out of the Academy because you made me believe. I never followed Snoke. I followed you. But … you aren’t making sense.”

 

“Are you saying you are no longer loyal to the First Order?” Kylo growls dangerously.

 

“No … no, I still believe in what we are doing. I still believe that if we bring order to the galaxy the people will flourish; that the skilled and driven will rise instead of those with birth and connection. Is that why you did it? Did you think that Snoke was unfit? Was he taking us in the wrong direction?” Demyan sounds as if he hopes this is true.

 

“If I tell you yes will it suffice?”

 

“No, I don’t think it will. Because I think … I think you did it for that girl,” Demyan says quietly.

 

“And what if I did?”

 

“Then I’d like to know why.”

 

“It’s none of your concern. All that should matter to you is that I was your master before and I am your master now,” Kylo says icily.

 

“So it was for her.” Demyan sounds very disappointed and it flares Kylo’s already frayed temper.

 

“This conversation is over.”

 

“No, it’s no-”

 

“You will cease this line of inappropriate questioning!” Kylo snarls. He’s growing quite angry at Demyan’s presumption. His hands curl into fists.

 

“Kylo, plea-”

 

Demyan stops talking abruptly as Kylo lifts his hand and squeezes Demyan’s windpipe hard with the Force. Kylo is furious with his favorite knight.

 

“You should not have pressed me, Demyan Ren. I will give you one more chance. Tomorrow at the training room you will see how I became Supreme Leader and you will submit. There will be no more of these ‘private’ conversations. I will not explain myself to you or justify my actions. All you need to know is that it is necessary for the good of the galaxy.” He releases Demyan and feels a twinge of regret as Demyan falls to his knees, his fingers scrabbling at his throat as he gasps for air.

 

Once Demyan is able to breathe again he slowly gets to his feet and looks at Kylo for a long time, his eyes blank. Demyan pulls his helmet over his head and stands stiffly before Kylo.

 

“May I have your permission to leave, Supreme Leader?” Demyan says very formally, all hint of familiarity and friendship gone.

 

“You may, Demyan Ren.”

 

Demyan walks purposefully to the door and does not look back as he exits.

 

As soon as the door closes, Kylo begins to pace furiously. He is deeply unsettled. He is angry and almost afraid. He knows that he’s coming apart, he knows what she’s doing to him. But to have Demyan talk of it … he knows he’s been unraveling since far before he ever met Rey. He wonders … but he shakes himself, reminds himself of everything he’s done to get to this place, this place where he answers to no one. He has only ever wanted to make the galaxy a better place. He had once thought Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker to be wise and good leaders but that was before he’d seen the truth. Seen the disorder and chaos their ideals wrought.

 

Rey is essential to him and therefore to his goal. He will finish what Grandfather started. He is certain that she is meant to be with him—why else would such power have manifested in him once she had been threatened? He must have her to succeed; to fulfill his vision for the galaxy ... Darth Vader’s vision for the galaxy.

 

He decides that Demyan is wrong, that she is not pulling him from his path. Yes, he has been entirely focused on her, loves her, needs her. But this connection has already brought him so far. The Force is with him and he will succeed once he has her.

 

He thinks it is time to try and speak with Grandfather again. Vader has been silent for months.

 

He goes to his shrine and takes his customary place in front of Vader’s melted, twisted mask. It is a dark room, bare of any adornment save the remnant of his grandfather. Kylo opens himself to the Force.

 

“Grandfather …” he sends out into the ether.

 

Kylo waits. He is very patient.  It is often some time before his grandfather responds, if he does at all.

 

“Grandfather?” he calls again.

 

Still there is nothing.

 

Kylo sits in front of his relic for an age, his apprehension growing. Is it possible that Grandfather is displeased?

 

He has not told Grandfather of the Force Bond; he does not want to remind him of Grandmother. It seems cruel to speak of the beautiful gift the Force has given him. But when he had tried to tell him of his victory over Snoke, Grandfather had been silent. Kylo had thought he would be proud of him and had been confused and unmoored by Grandfather’s silence.

 

Now that Vader continues to ignore Kylo, he is afraid. His throat is tight and he’s breathing quickly. Has he been abandoned? What will he do without Grandfather’s guidance?

 

----

 

Kylo has spent a restless night twisted in his sheets, tormented by memories and confusion. Demyan had ripped open all of his well-hidden doubts. Kylo had soothed along the Bond repeatedly, hoping she would join him again as she had the night before. But all there had been was her slight energy. After the bliss of feeling her infuse him with her Light, it was small comfort. He had even called out to her several times, hoping she would relent. But there had been nothing and he’s feeling hollow.

 

He knows that he’s doing the correct thing. Rey will be his and she will see that he is right, that his hope for the galaxy is attainable. She will be by his side and she will believe in him and what he is doing. Everything will be worth his sacrifices and the difficult choices he has had to make. She will understand and he will finally be at peace.

 

Convinced once again of his path, he rises to ready himself to meet his knights. The fight will be good for him; he needs this.

 

---

 

Kylo turns to his knights, Wylan still not having arrived. “Today I wish to provide you a demonstration of what your Supreme Leader is capable of. I will not have another display like yesterday. I won’t stand for it and you all need to understand precisely why.”

 

He senses that Vitok is taken aback by his words but Jashad, Palek, and Natan seem unsurprised. Demyan is simply resigned.

 

“I wish for this to be a fair exercise, and so you will all attempt to take me. No holds barred. I will not kill you, but I encourage you to try to kill me.”

 

“Supreme Leader, you can’t be serious,” Jashad says.

 

“Oh, I am deadly serious. It was clear to me that my knights do not yet understand who it is you now follow and it’s time you see exactly why you will not push me. Snoke would never have stood for your disrespect and it’s important that you comprehend that I will be no more forgiving.”

 

Kylo walks to the center of the room and methodically removes his saber from his belt, sending it to the corner with a flourish of his wrist.

 

“Unarmed?” Palek asks in disbelief.

 

“Only for me. You will all need your weapons.”

 

Only Natan and Jashad have lightsabers, the components so difficult to come by. Vitok is most comfortable with a blaster because of her time with the Empire, and Demyan is quite adept with his vibroblade. Palek has always been fierce with his electrostaff, wielding it expertly in combat.

 

At first his knights are cautious, they circle him but none take the first hit. He grows impatient and Force pushes Demyan to the ground. Kylo will not soon forgive Demyan’s intrusive words.

 

“Fight me, cowards,” Kylo spits.

 

That does it and soon they are all descending on him. He pushes them back easily and revels in their confusion as they can’t score a hit. Jashad and Demyan try to work together, ignoring their weapons, focusing their power at his legs, attempting to unbalance him while Vitok is firing. Kylo deflects the blaster bolts into the ceiling and feels as Natan attempts to Force pull him. Kylo is twisting, graceful and fluid, using the Force to fend off each attack. Kylo moves quickly and efficiently, anticipating everything and easily deflecting each fruitless assault.

 

He feels when the knights begin to fight with death in mind—this is no longer a training session. They are alight with the struggle and Kylo grins.

 

Vitok is growing frustrated, attempting not to hit the other knights when Kylo deflects a bolt into her leg and Vitok is down.

 

Jashad and Natan come at him from either side, each swinging their sabers hard, but Kylo blocks each blow with the Force, pushing back firmly. He senses Demyan’s vibroblade descending towards his head and he quickly spins around, avoiding the weapon as it scrapes along the metal flooring. This brings him face-to-face with Palek’s staff, the broad man wielding it with great strength. Kylo ducks and rolls, standing swiftly. He’s now facing all four remaining knights.

 

They all charge for their master when Kylo decides that he has allowed enough time to pass as to give them at least a bit of their pride. He reaches out with one gloved hand and forces them all to their knees. With his other hand, Kylo pulls Vitok to join them, her leg wound trailing blood behind her.

 

He stands over his knights, watching them struggle against his hold as he keeps them in supplication before him. Kylo wishes he could see their eyes so he could watch the knowledge of his dominance bloom. He knows his actions are correct and they will submit.

 

“I trust that you all understand?” Kylo asks as he gives them back the ability to move. To his great satisfaction they all stay on their knees, Vitok striving to hold the position with her damaged leg.

 

He is very pleased with their hushed and awed exclamations of, “Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

---

 

He’s in his quarters, mask and gloves already removed, pulling Rey’s scarf gently through his fingers. He loves to do this, knowing that it has touched her, imagining what it will feel like to pull her clothing from her body. He’s feeling powerful after his victory over his knights, certain that he will no longer have issues with their loyalty. Kylo’s doubt from earlier has been consumed by the satisfaction of besting the Knights of Ren.

 

They'll be arriving at Coruscant tomorrow and he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to make progress towards finding Rey’s parents. Perhaps she will come to him then, should he find them?

 

Kylo still doesn’t know why she came to him two nights ago and he wants to reach out. He knows he should simply accept what happened, that to talk to her about it will likely ensure she never does it again, but he’s hungry for her. He closes his eyes and remembers how it felt to have Rey in him like that, moving throughout his body. Kylo knows that he will give in tonight, that he will allow himself to imagine her soft folds as he takes himself in hand.

 

He returns her scarf to its place among his treasures and goes to his bedroom. Slowly, he removes all of his clothing, imagining her small hands undressing him. He’s readying himself to be open to her. He will allow her what he has never shared: all of him, naked. There will be nothing between them but heat and skin.

 

He lays down on his bed as he thinks of undoing each of her buns, tangling his hands in her hair as he frees her dark locks. He will run his fingers through her silken mane, allowing it to fall to her shoulders. He thinks about this frequently, how he wishes to press his face into the softness of her tresses, inhaling her scent. He wishes that her scarf had not lost the smell of her. He can still remember how he had caught the heady fragrance of his Rey on Starkiller. He remembers how he had held his face so close to hers, nearly overwhelmed by that now so familiar need. He aches to press hot kisses along her clavicle and up the elegant curve of her throat. He will take his time; he will make sure that she is gasping and desperate for him.

 

Kylo trails his hand down his body; his cock is already erect and aching for her, weeping with his desire. It doesn’t take much to make him thus when he thinks of her. He knows that once he’s had her he will keep her naked for days, he’s so thirsty for her. He grasps his shaft and begins to stroke himself, imagining how it will feel to finally thrust into her. She will feel incredible as her wetness engulfs him for the first time. He pulls the supple flesh over his rigid length, pumping as he fantasizes about pushing into his beloved over and over again. Kylo imagines how she will feel around him as he stretches her walls, feels her tight heat.

 

He’s panting now, envisioning how Rey’s eyes will open wide in wonder as he fills her again and again. He will hold her face in his large hands and drown in her. Her perfect pink mouth will part and she will whimper in pleasure as he makes her his. The feel of his hand will be but a memory soon. An ache, a tightness, is building in his abdomen as he thinks of how her succulent clit will feel beneath his fingers. He can imagine how he will stroke and roll that taut bundle of nerves, holding her ecstasy in his hands. He can almost feel her wetness as he strokes. Kylo knows she will be dripping for him.

 

He’s breathing hard, growing closer, but he wants it to last so he slows down, not ready to leave this place where he can almost taste her. He’s aware that when it’s over he will feel empty and bleak, so he takes his time.

 

Kylo slowly pulls his cock, feeling how hard he is for her. Nothing has ever made him so hard before. He imagines pressing his mouth to hers, capturing her gasps. He whimpers at the thought of her pliant lips against his. Something about the thought of kissing her makes the pleasure spike in his blood and the delicious feeling curls along his spine as his orgasm gathers. He thinks of thrusting his tongue into her mouth as he pounds into her. His hips are bucking now as he pushes into his fist.

 

His fantasies are so real, so total, that it is as if she’s with him; as if he can feel the slick sweat of their bodies moving in tandem. He is so close as he imagines her walls fluttering around him, her hands along his back. He knows he will never be able to get near enough to her. Kylo hopes she’ll let him into her mind as well as her body.

 

He’s cresting as he recalls the feeling of her languidly moving through him and soon he’s shouting out Rey’s name into his empty bedroom, ropes of his pleasure being pulled from him as he strokes himself firmly. Then it is over and he’s coming back into himself, his sticky release cooling along his chest. He’s panting and the bleakness has begun. She isn’t here. Kylo lays in his bed, naked, alone, and he almost wants to cry. He cleans the evidence of his desire and rolls himself into a ball, clinging to his knees as he needs to cling to her. His soul is keening for its mate. Rey ...

 

Chapter Text

The Finalizer has arrived at Coruscant. The situation here is complicated. The planet-wide city has only recently come under First Order control and it is still tense as the new government makes its presence known. Kylo has called Vitok and Demyan to him to brief them on their mission on the surface. He has selected Vitok because her time with the Empire makes her the most familiar with Coruscant. He is sending Demyan because, though he had seriously crossed a line, Kylo finds he still trusts him more than any of the other knights.

 

“You are seeking Sylten Qree, a human male. He is a con-man and occasional smuggler.” Kylo says the last word with particular venom.

 

“What do we know about him?” Vitok asks. Demyan stays near the door, his posture rigid. It is clear to Kylo that Demyan has not forgiven him for putting him in his place. It should be of no matter to Kylo, but he still wishes Demyan had not forced the issue, made him show his one-time friend why he must submit. Kylo regrets that Demyan had ensured that such a display was necessary.

 

“The information is scant. Sylten Qree kept to the Western Reaches until recently, he conned one too many unsuspecting victims and moved on to the Core. He may work with a human female of the same age.”

 

“Why are we seeking him?” Vitok queries. Demyan stays quiet.

 

“He has information that I require.” Kylo will not explain himself further.

 

“Well, if he’s there, we’ll find him, Supreme Leader,” Vitok promises.

 

“Good. Happy hunting.” Kylo looks down at his datapad as the knights leave to bring him Sylten Qree.

 

Once they are gone, Kylo sits back, thinking. He hopes that they are successful; he wants very much to find Rey’s family. He knows she wants to be with them more than anything, but he’s afraid she won’t like the answers he finds. He will protect her from anything painful. If he finds that they are as he suspects, he simply won’t tell her. But if he finds that somewhere there is a family waiting, wanting her, he will make sure that they are reunited.

 

That she was treated so poorly, it haunts him. He hopes that she will let his love heal her; that she will trust that she never has to be lonely again. He would never abandon her; never leave her to hurt like that. He thinks of all the pain he had felt when he was in her mind that day on Starkiller. He had nearly choked on all of that anguish. His beloved bears deep scars and he will do everything in his power to erase them.

 

He contemplates his vision for the galaxy and he’s filled with the familiar bitterness he feels towards his … family. Rey should never have had to live the way she did. He will make certain that no child will suffer like that. Once he has succeeded.

 

---

 

Kylo walks the decks, pleased at the way the stormtroopers part and the officers acknowledge him respectfully. Where there had once been fear, there is now awe. He’s remembering the aftermath of the day he killed Snoke.

 

He had been moving quickly, using Snoke’s ship to bring him to the Finalizer. Word had spread very quickly and there had been panic in the ranks. He had had to use his considerable power on numerous occasions to both build confidence and sow fear. Just as the panic had moved from ship to ship, so did the knowledge that the new Supreme Leader was even more powerful than Snoke.

 

Rey had not deigned to respond to him and he had been very worried about her injury. He had also wanted to inform her himself of what had transpired. But she hadn’t allowed it so he had been left to stew in his concern.

 

Kylo had also needed her in a way he’d not felt before. It had been a quiet sort of need, to speak of the monumental shift that had taken place within him. He hadn’t been afraid, exactly, but his entire life had turned in an afternoon. He had always had a master before, and suddenly he had none. He had planned for the day when he would helm the First Order, but to be there … it had left him rudderless and he had wanted so desperately to feel the centering presence of Rey.

 

A few days after Snoke’s death had found him thankfully alone when Rey had learned of the changes in the First Order.

 

“Supreme Leader?!” had come screaming into his head. He had had to brace himself against his desk as Rey’s fury had coursed through him.

 

“You are clearly recovered from your injury.”

 

You are the Supreme Leader?” He had been a bit offended by the incredulity in her tone.

 

“I told you that things had changed.”

 

“You killed Snoke?” she had sputtered in disbelief.

 

“He was threatening you,” he had said softly.

 

“The attack on Lytonn, that really was in order to kill me?” she had said.

 

“I do not make a habit of lying to you, Rey.”

 

She was quiet for quite some time before saying, “You actually killed your master because of me?”

 

“Yes. And I would do it again, happily.”

 

“Oh.” There had been a very long silence. He had almost wondered if she had gone, but he had still felt her blazing presence through the Bond.

 

“You are … you are well? I was unsure and you wouldn’t respond to me.” He had been reaching out every night since Snoke’s death, hoping she would speak to him.

 

“Yes, I’m fine,” she had said shortly.

 

“You have no idea how relieved I am to hear it.”

 

“Stop, don’t. Don’t talk like that.”

 

“Like what?” He had been confused.

 

“Like … like I matter to you, like we’re friends. Like you’re normal.”

 

“Rey … I have not hidden my wishes or my feelings from you.”

 

“Well I wish you would.”

 

“You are the one who contacted me, I might remind you.” Her rejection had hurt. He still hasn’t grown used to it.

 

“Only because you … you …”

 

“Yes?”

 

“You killed Snoke!”

 

“I did. It was the only way to save you.”

 

“That means … that means you lead the First Order—you really do.” She had said that as if she hadn’t believed it until just that moment.

 

“Yes, Rey.”

 

“You could stop the war …” Her tone had been full of possibility.

 

“No. That I will not do.” Kylo had realized that he would do anything for her—anything but that. He had come too far, done too much to turn back now. Once she understood, all would be well.

 

“Why not? You could change everything!” Rey had exclaimed hopefully.

 

“Rey, no. You don’t understand. You don’t know what sort of people you’re with.”

 

“Stop, no. I can’t believe you! You are a murderer and a torturer—you don’t get to say a word about what ‘sort of people’ I’m with.”

 

“If you’d only let me explain-”

 

“Uh uh, I’m not letting you spout First Order propaganda at me.” He had tried to explain himself to her before, to explain what he wanted for the galaxy, but she never let him speak.

 

“Rey, no, just listen-”

 

“No, I’m leaving.”

 

“Please, please, I’ve needed you so much.” He had been hoping for this contact and had been unable to face her absence again.

 

“I don’t care. You have no claim to on me.”

 

“I beg to differ.”

 

“Well, keep on begging.” That had hurt his pride because they both had known that he did beg, frequently.

 

“You know that you will not be able to hide from me now.” He had seen it so clearly, how the path to Rey had been cleared by the end of Snoke.

 

“What do you mean?” she had said fearfully.

 

“I have the entire First Order at my disposal—I will find you.”

 

“You haven’t found me yet,” she had taunted.

 

“That was before I could focus entirely on seeking you.” That had frightened her. He hadn’t meant to frighten her but, as he had said, he did not make a habit of lying to her.

 

“Please don’t; please leave me be.” Her defiance had left her and she had been the one to plead.

 

“You know that I cannot do that. You know that I will not do that. I will never rest until I have you with me.”

 

“No! Just let me go.”

 

“I am coming for you, Rey,” he had promised.

 

“You really are a monster, aren’t you?” she had said sadly as he had felt her side of the Bond close.

 

He had sat heavily, his mind swirling with plans.

 

He had thought he would have her within weeks.

 

It has now been over three months. He hopes that Hux is right—that they’re close to finding the main Resistance base.

 

---

 

Wylan Ren has finally arrived and is now standing in Kylo’s office, stiff and uncomfortable.  Kylo does not invite him to sit.

 

“You have certainly taken your time in responding to my command,” Kylo says coolly.

 

“We were unavoidably detained. Shenden is not a very … metropolitan world. It took quite some time to fix the ship.” Wylan’s tone is cautious.

 

“And you did not have anything to do with that?”

 

“I admit I was not particularly motivated, but I took no action.” Kylo senses no deception from his knight. Perhaps it simply was an unfortunate coincidence.

 

“And now that you are here, I trust I will not need to assist you in finding the proper motivation?” Kylo warns.

 

“No Supreme Leader. I remember well your visit to the Dominion.”

 

“Good.” Kylo sits back in his chair and regards Wylan Ren. He finds his knight properly subdued. “I have gathered you all here because we will soon have the location of the main Resistance base and therefore Skywalker.”

 

Wylan Ren simply nods firmly once to show his understanding.

 

“We will end the Jedi threat once and for all,” Kylo says.

 

“As you say, Supreme Leader.” Wylan had joined the Knights of Ren because he had wanted power. It is a motivation that Kylo can understand. Kylo is not concerned that Wylan will shy from eradicating the last of the duplicitous Jedi.

 

“You are excused.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

Kylo watches as Wylan Ren takes his leave. He still doesn’t like him. Wylan has always been arrogant and jealous of Kylo’s birthright.

 

Wylan is an orphan and had been begging on the streets of some planet Kylo could not recall when Luke Skywalker had found him. Wylan had taunted Kylo when they were boys, always suggesting that Kylo did not deserve to be the primary apprentice of Luke Skywalker. Their rivalry had often caused bloodshed, and Kylo knows that Wylan, more than any of his knights, had followed Snoke and not him. He will always have to watch his back with Wylan. He is almost as powerful as Jashad, but his covetous nature always stands in his way.

 

---

 

Kylo is in his quarters when his comm goes off.

 

“Supreme Leader?”

 

“What is it, Hux?”

 

“We have a verified location of the main base of the Resistance.” Kylo feels the excitement race up his spine. He will have another chance at Rey!

 

“And you are certain?” Kylo asks eagerly.

 

“Completely, the base is on Ilaria.” Ilaria … a world known for its ferocious storms. Kylo thinks she likely enjoys the rain.

 

“Alert any ships within two days of Ilaria and have them on standby.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Have we any word from Demyan Ren and Vitok Ren?” They have been orbiting Coruscant for three days and he’s eager to get under way to Ilaria.

 

“No word yet, Supreme Leader.” Kylo is frustrated by this news.

 

“Contact them and put them through to me immediately.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

He pulls up Ilaria on his datapad and begins to research. It is a day from Coruscant, well populated on the main continent. It is a peaceful planet where slavery is illegal, so it has not been a primary target of the First Order.

 

His comm chirps again. “Supreme Leader.” He hears Vitok’s alto voice come through the device. Kylo is not surprised that Demyan is still avoiding speaking with him.

 

“Vitok Ren. Tell me of your progress?”

 

“We have a new lead on Sylten Qree. He has fled Coruscant but we have it on very good authority that he’s en route to Vren. Orders?”

 

Kylo is conflicted. He would like to send them straight to Vren but he wants all of his knights with him on Ilaria. Rey is far more important, so he says, “You and Demyan will return to the Finalizer at once, Vitok Ren.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

Kylo stands and looks out on Coruscant as they slowly orbit, watching the planet go by. If Rey is still with Leia Organa, he is certain that he will find her this time. He has his knights at his back and the entire First Order fleet at his disposal. He will not fail this time.

 

---

 

He goes to her quarters; he’s almost giddy with anticipation. It has been so long since he’s seen her. He notes that many of the plants have changed since his last visit. He has instructed that they continually bring in new blooms and green things. He wants her to always have a variety to enjoy.

 

He wanders into the small training room he has arranged for her. He does not want her to cease practicing her Force skills once she is with him. It is bright and airy, and it almost feels like one of the meditation rooms from his Academy days. He believes she’ll prefer the open space and light. He doesn’t think she would enjoy the cold starkness of his own training room. Besides, he knows she needs her own place; he will not force her to train with him until she is ready.

 

That is a thought he likes very much. He looks forward to sparring with her, finding how she has grown since Starkiller. He hopes that her powers have grown as his have. It had excited him to cross sabers with her, and he has thought of that day more than once when he gives in.

 

He imagines her practicing lightsaber forms while he stands watching her strong, athletic body twist and move. Oh, how glorious it will be when their blood is up and he takes her against the training room wall.

 

He scowls as he remembers how long she had made him wait before she spoke with him again after she had discovered he was Supreme Leader. She had ignored him for over a month and it had nearly killed him. He had recklessly led several missions during that time, needing to feel his saber cut into flesh to excise his desperate craving. Hux had been nearly apoplectic.

 

Kylo had thrown himself against her walls whenever he had been alone. He had been relentless in his need. Finally, finally she had responded.

 

“Please stop—I can’t take this any longer!” she had pled with him.

 

“Rey!” The relief had moved through his whole body; the sensation had been almost physical.

 

“You have to leave me alone.”

 

“I can’t, you know I can’t.”

 

“Yes, you can! You don’t have to batter against me like this, every single morning, day, and night. It’s exhausting.”

 

“No more exhausting than forcing me to do it,” he had said testily.

 

“I don’t force you to do anything!” she had spat.

 

“Oh, but you do. I won’t be denied Rey—not any longer.”

 

“What can I do to get you to just leave me alone!” Rey had begged.

 

“Nothing. I will never leave you alone. Even once you are with me, I will never leave you be. You won’t want me to.”

 

“You are deluded,” she had scoffed.

 

“No Rey, you are the one who lies to yourself. This Bond cannot be ignored.”

 

“I’ve been managing just fine, thank you.”

 

“Have you?” He had been fairly certain that she had given in because she had needed him, too.

 

Rey had been quiet then.

 

“You could leave the First Order and come to me?” she had asked in a small voice. Kylo had rejected the idea immediately. He would finish what Grandfather had started and he would do it with her by his side.

 

“No Rey, that’s not possible,” he had said as gently as he could.

 

“Why not?”

 

“The Resistance has filled your head with falsehoods. They are nothing but liars and thieves, devoted to a decadent and corrupt cause,” he had said with disdain.

 

“Well that’s not true.” He had almost been able to see her eyes rolling.

 

“And how would you know? What do you really know of the galaxy, Rey? I have been in your head, I know what your life was. Why do you think you can trust them?” he had pointed out.

 

“Because they’ve been kind and good to me!”

 

“I would be so good to you,” he had very nearly crooned.

 

“You aren’t capable of goodness,” she had replied coldly.

 

“For you I am. I will give you everything, Rey.”

 

“You say that, but if that was really true then you would leave the First Order behind.”

 

“You don’t understand; you aren’t seeing clearly.” He had been growing frustrated.

 

“You’re the one who isn’t seeing clearly! Can’t you see what you’ve become? How lost you are? I know who you used to be, Leia has told me-”

 

“Do not speak of her!” Kylo had demanded.

 

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Her tone had been full of warning. He had backed off, terrified she would go.

 

“Alright, Rey … alright. Just … please. It’s been so very long. Let’s talk of something else.”

 

“I don’t want to talk with you. I want you to leave me alone!”

 

“Everything will be right when you are with me,” he had said with conviction.

 

“I won’t ever be with you.”

 

“I will find you—you know I will.”

 

“Does it even matter to you that I don’t want to be found?”

 

“That’s only because they’ve twisted your thinking. If you would only let me explain why I have done the things I have-”

 

“Don’t even think about starting up with that again. There is no explanation for the murder of billions,” Rey had interrupted.

 

“I never did that.”

 

“Well, your precious First Order certainly did,” Rey had said with scorn.

 

“Snoke was wrong to do that.” Kylo had never thought that the destruction of the Hosnian system had been necessary.

 

“You … you really believe that?” she had said in confusion.

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

She had been quiet again before saying, “Well, I still watched as you butchered your own father. Nothing justifies that. There is nothing you could ever say that makes that anything other than reprehensible.”

 

“I had to.” He had spoken without thinking.

 

“That’s ridiculous. No one had a blaster pointed at your head,” Rey had said incredulously.

 

“I had to do something to make it stop!”

 

“Make what stop?”

 

“No, I’m not talking about this.” Kylo had known that he shouldn’t, couldn’t talk about that.

 

“Please tell me?”

 

“No, Rey. Perhaps one day, when you are with me, but not now,” he had said regretfully.

 

“I wish …” she had said softly.

 

“What, what do you wish? I will do all in my power to grant it.”

 

“You can’t,” she had said so sadly. To this day, he still wants to know what it is that she had wished.

 

“Won’t you let me try? I will always take care of you; I will always be true.”

 

“I don’t need to be taken care of. I take care of myself.”

 

“But wouldn’t you like to not have to? Let me stand between you and your pain; let me end your loneliness. Together we will be whole,” he had said passionately.

 

“You think you know me ...” she had nearly whispered.

 

“I do know you, I saw your whole life that day on Starkiller.”

 

“And yet you still have no idea who I am.” Rey had sounded wistful.

 

“That’s not true.” Kylo had been certain that no one knew his beloved like he did.

 

“I know you’ll just tell yourself whatever you need to in order to believe that. I know that there’s nothing I can say to make you understand. You’re so lost in the Dark you can’t see anything, can you?”

 

“I see perfectly—it is you that refuses to see.” He had been growing defensive at her pity.

 

“Circles, it’s always circles. I’m tired of this; tired of you. Please just leave me alone!”

 

“I’m tired, too, Rey. Tired of this constant pull; this constant aching. Once we are together it will stop.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she had said imperiously.

 

“Don’t lie to me!” he had bellowed into the Bond. He had needed her to acknowledge what was between them, needed to know that he wasn’t alone. He had needed her to acknowledge that he was there.

 

“Don’t yell at me!”

 

“Please, please Rey, you must end this torment—you don’t know what it’s doing to me!”

 

“I don’t care! I’m leaving.”

 

“No, Maker, no …  Just stay, stay with me,” he had resorted to begging. She always makes him beg.

 

“I’ve stayed far too long as it is. I never should have given in. I should have stayed strong.” She had pulled away so quickly it had left him gasping. He had been horrified to feel his eyes sting with tears.

 

He pulls himself from his memories, his elation of earlier gone. He knows he shouldn’t dwell on how she brings him to his knees, but somehow he can’t seem to stop.

 

Chapter Text

It’s time. They are nearly at Ilaria and Kylo has gathered his knights in the training room. “While the First Order forces focus on the Resistance, we will be seeking Luke Skywalker and the girl, Rey. Kill Skywalker and capture her. Under no circumstance are you to harm the girl,” he informs the Knights of Ren.

 

“Supreme Leader, wouldn’t it be better to kill them both?” Demyan Ren asks, his posture rigid.

 

Kylo advances on Demyan, only just keeping himself from pinning his former friend to the wall with the Force. “I have spoken with you about this before; you will not question me! We take the girl alive. If I find any of you have harmed her in any way, I will not hesitate to kill you,” Kylo says viciously.

 

Kylo is concerned that perhaps they do not understand. The knights are all standing at attention in front of him. He begins with Jashad who stands furthest to the left.

 

“Jashad Ren, do you understand that you will not hurt the girl?”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

Kylo nods sharply and moves on to Palek. “Palek Ren, the girl is to be apprehended whole and unharmed, is that clear?”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

“Natan Ren, you will capture the girl when you find her, are we understood?”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.”

 

He comes to Demyan and he can feel … something coming off of him. He dips into his head and finds strong devotion to the First Order and, oddly, to him. Kylo is confused; he had thought perhaps he had broken whatever had been between them. He is satisfied, however, that Demyan will do as he’s instructed.

 

“And Demyan Ren, I trust you understand?”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader. You wish the girl to be kept safe above all other considerations.”

 

“Precisely, Demyan Ren.”

 

Kylo stands in front of Wylan and says, “And you, Wylan Ren. So good of you to have finally joined us. What are the specifications for this mission?”

 

“Kill Skywalker, take the girl, no injuries.” Succinct but adequate. Kylo moves on.

 

“Vitok Ren, I’m sure you are now quite aware of what is expected of you.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader. But I do have a question?”

 

Kylo pauses; Vitok would not ask a question if it was not necessary. “Speak.”

 

“If we have to choose between capturing the girl or killing Skywalker, what is the mission priority?”

 

Kylo doesn’t even hesitate before saying, “The girl. Capture the girl at all costs.”

 

His knights all look at him for a long moment, but he is satisfied that they understand.

 

---

 

Kylo is in his shuttle with his knights as they descend on Ilaria. He is monitoring the battle closely. The Resistance is falling quickly and there are reports of a Force-sensitive girl. All forces have been informed that she is a vital target and to be left to the Knights of Ren.

 

He feels as the shuttle lands on hard ground. It’s always a different quality than landing on the cold deck of the Finalizer.

 

He strides down the ramp as it opens, so very eager to find her. He’s so close!

 

Kylo and his knights are met with a torrential downpour, great fat drops of rain clouding everyone’s vision. But it is a minor inconvenience and he gestures for his knights to follow him. They have landed away from the base as he wishes to move with stealth.

 

They walk up a small hill and find themselves with an excellent view of the battle. Kylo watches as stormtroopers engage the Resistance and is satisfied to see the line move ever backwards. He reaches out and feels just a tremor of her, but he has been wrong before. He had been certain she was on Ahch-To, and that had merely been her echo.

 

Through the blinding rain they move as Kylo takes them behind Resistance lines and they press into enemy territory. The weather is providing excellent cover. They’re moving among the barracks, the fighting thickest near the hangar. A soldier comes running around the corner and Kylo grabs her. As he had on Quol, Kylo questions the trembling Resistance fighter.

 

“Rey, I seek Rey.”

 

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” she says predictably.

 

“This really would go so much better for you if you would simply tell me what I wish to know.” He’s aware that Rey would prefer he be less brutal, even as he knows he will do whatever he has to find her.

 

“I know nothing that I would share with the First Order,” she spits angrily.

 

Kylo wonders if all Resistance soldiers have gone through the same training on resisting interrogation and grows impatient. He’s instantly in her mind and finds the officer is already thinking about Rey in her attempts not to. Rey is here! He flicks through the images in the unfortunate officer’s brain, finding that Rey is almost always with Leia Organa. Curiously, he finds no indication of Luke Skywalker. The Princess is in the command center, opposite to where Kylo and his knights are currently crouched.

 

He waves his hand over the Resistance officer and puts her into a deep Force sleep. Somehow, he does not wish to come to his beloved with unnecessary blood on his hands. She makes him … merciful. He’s not sure how he feels about that, but there is no time to ponder this strange impulse.

 

Kylo hisses, “Follow me,” as he moves across the courtyard that separates them from the command center. As they approach, they find it heavily guarded.

 

There are approximately 30 Resistance soldiers guarding the command center and Kylo is unconcerned. He’s about to reach out and Force choke the lot when his knights move forward in a flurry of death and carnage. Kylo had thought to minimize bloodshed, but his knights deserve this. Kylo stands back to observe.

 

Kylo watches as his six knights cut down the guards, littering the courtyard with their bodies. Jashad and Palek are working together, fighting back to back as they scythe through the Resistance soldiers easily. Natan is elegant in his form as his lightsaber swings true.

 

Demyan is about to be hit by a blaster bolt when Kylo reaches out and stops it. “Thanks Kylo!” Demyan calls out, sounding every bit the boy he once was. Kylo chooses to ignore the absence of his title.

 

The downpour continues to assault them and Kylo notes how the water runs red along the ground.

 

“Knights of Ren!” Kylo calls out.

 

They have already killed all of the Resistance personnel and so they turn to him, waiting for his next order.

 

“You have fought well. Remember that the girl is to be captured alive.” He is concerned that the bloodlust will overwhelm their thinking. He has not come this far only to lose Rey to one of his knights. He is relieved as he sees his knights bring themselves back under control.

 

He and his knights come to the command center and Kylo flicks on his saber before kicking in the door brutally, forcing himself through.

 

He finds a nearly empty room with Leia Organa and Rey regarding the projection of a map with only a handful of other Resistance fighters stationed in consoles scattered about the command center. It’s clear the evacuation order had been given long ago. Vitok and Wylan tumble in after him, followed by the remaining knights. They stand at Kylo’s back, waiting for instructions.

 

Time slows as both Rey and the Princess turn to look at him. Kylo ignores the familiar anger that wells within him at the sight of his mother. He focuses on Rey as he stands there with his red saber crackling, transfixed by the overwhelming sight of Rey. He wants to run to her, to pull her to him. She’s here, she’s really here! His heart is racing, his throat tight. Oh my beloved, we are finally together ...

 

Both women regard him in shock for a long time as he just stands there, frozen by the torrent of feelings coursing through him. Then Vitok Ren says, “Supreme Leader, what are your orders?”

 

He can barely think through the rush of seeing Rey standing right there.

 

“Round them all up; take them prisoner. Bring the girl to me.”

 

Suddenly Rey bolts, moving quickly out of a side door he had not seen before. He’s after her in an instant, calling for his knights to follow him. Soon they’re back in the courtyard, the rain only having grown more furious.

 

Rey is about to turn a corner and escape his field of vision when Kylo reaches out and pulls her back with the Force. Her feet scrabble along the ground and soon she is held in place in front of him, his knights at his back.

 

Her chest is heaving and the rain has drenched her from head to foot. Her gentle curls cling to her face and her cheeks are flushed from fear or exertion—he’s not sure which. Stars, he had forgotten how exquisitely beautiful she is.

 

He stands there simply drinking her in as the rain falls heavily around them, his saber hissing and spitting like an angry pet unaccustomed to the downpour.

 

“Rey …" he finally murmurs.

 

“Please don’t do this.”

 

“It is time, Rey.”

 

“No, please … please.” Her fathomless hazel eyes plead with him and he cannot tell if it is tears or the rain that courses down her cheeks.

 

“It is time,” Kylo repeats as he holds his hand out to her. He releases her from the Force hold so that she may take it. She shakes her head and starts to step back. As Rey moves backward, she trips over a dead Resistance soldier, landing hard in the mud. As Rey falls, Demyan Ren, Kylo’s one-time friend, rushes forward and swings his blade down hard towards his beloved.

 

No!

 

Moving faster than he even knew he could, Kylo thrusts his lightsaber through Demyan Ren’s back, lifting him slightly off of his feet as Kylo kills him without thought. He whips his head back and forth to assess the rest of his knights and is relieved to find nothing but shock and confusion. None of them are pressing forward to attack. Demyan acted alone. At least, that is what Kylo hopes.

 

Kylo pulls his saber from Demyan’s body, allowing it to fall gracelessly to the wet ground.  He knows he cannot allow the feelings that wish to be felt anywhere near him—not now, not yet. He shoves the anger and betrayal hovering near the surface, down, down, down. He stalks towards Rey who has scrambled to her feet. She’s breathing quickly and blinking against the rain.

 

Again Kylo reaches his hand to her. “It is time, Rey.”

 

She looks at him with what almost feels like hatred before she nods sharply and puts her hand in his.

 

---

 

“Are you alright?!” Kylo demands as they’re moving back to his shuttle, any thought of finding Luke Skywalker forgotten. Behind them, Jashad and Palek carry Demyan Ren’s corpse. Kylo is pulling Rey along by her arm, but she’s not fighting him.

 

“I’m fine,” she says shortly.

 

“He didn’t hurt you?” Kylo asks frantically.

 

“No, I told you, I’m fine.” Her face is blank and she walks listlessly.

 

Kylo is awash in elation and terror. He has her; he finally has her but again she was almost taken from him—by one of his own knights! Demyan … oh Demyan, how could you? Why did you? He’s filled with rage at Demyan’s betrayal, even as he’s aware he has lost someone dear to him.

 

He wants to interrogate every single one of his knights. Does he have a rebellion on his hands? Did Demyan just snap? He could almost understand an attempt on his own life, but why Rey? Was it that she is Jedi? He wonders if he shouldn’t have been more open with Demyan about his plans for the girl, about why she is not a threat. But it’s too late now. Demyan … He pushes all of that down and focuses on Rey.

 

Kylo has finally succeeded—he has her! He’ll leave the rest of the Resistance to the First Order forces. They’re still moving towards the shuttle when she stops walking and says, “Please, let everyone else go. You have me—you have what you want.”

 

“No Rey, this is a great victory for the First Order.” He turns to face her, keeping his hand firmly around her arm; he will not allow her to escape him.

 

“Please, please let them go. I’ll come quietly.” She’s not struggling against his hold and it makes him hopeful.

 

“I’ve told you; I’ll give you anything but mercy for the Resistance.” He’s trying not to be distracted by the feeling of touching her. He’s keenly aware of how observed they are. The knights have stopped their trek to watch. Kylo knows they are all very curious about his intentions toward the scavenger, and are no doubt quite interested to hear what they are saying. He senses their shock and sadness around the loss of Demyan—he feels it, too.

 

“Please, I’ll … I’ll give you whatever you want, just let them go.”

 

“I’ve already told you no,” he says firmly.

 

“I won’t resist, I’ll let you do … do whatever you want to me if you’ll please let everyone else live.” Rey’s eyes are full of resignation and he’s horrified by what she is suggesting.

 

He whips off his mask, not caring that his knights can see him, not caring about the blinding rain. He bores down on her intensely and hisses lowly, “You think I want you bought and paid for?”

 

“I didn’t think you much cared so long as you could have me,” she says with scorn, her lips curl in disgust and her eyes narrow in contempt.

 

“You are so very wrong, Rey.” He is exceptionally angry and hurt by her suggestion that he would want her unwilling. He may have crossed nearly every line there is to cross, but that—that is something he will never do. That she would think him capable of that … He’s breathing hard, his nostrils flaring as he looks into her eyes.

 

She looks back. Her face has softened and now her eyes are full of hope.

 

Rey lifts her chin slightly and says, “Then will you do it because I’ve asked you to? Will you let them go because it would make me happy?”

 

He’s very aware that his knights are privy to this conversation, that his face is exposed and that they can easily perceive just what sort of hold his beloved has on him. His eyes dart back and forth as he tries to decide what to do. The bulk of the Resistance forces have already fallen, perhaps he could give her this? However, he’s concerned with how the knights will react to such an obvious capitulation. Leia Organa is surely one of those captured, how could he justify simply letting her go?

 

Rey does something very unexpected then: she steps into him, closing the last few inches of space, her chest flush against his. She lifts her hand and cups his cheek and says, “Please?”

 

The feel of her soft hand on his face robs him of speech. His pulse spikes and his chest is tight. He’s never felt anything like the sensation of her hand against his cheek, there’s a hum of energy just beneath his skin that seems to meld with her touch. It’s like acceptance and home, desire and lust, understanding and friendship, all wrapped up in the tips of her fingers. He is drowning and he is helpless as he finds himself saying, “Alright, Rey.”

 

---

 

She is mute as they return to the Finalizer in his shuttle. He’s sitting with her in the aft section, his knights wisely clustered at the fore of the ship. She’s next to him, a few hand widths away. She’s almost curled in on herself.

 

He’s shocked by what it does to him to have her so close. He had thought this need would grow manageable so long as he had her near, but instead he’s coursing with desperate desire. He’s focused on his gloves and how much he wishes to touch her without anything between them. He’s only ever touched her through an act of force. Taking her on Takodana, pulling her to his shuttle on Ilaria ... He wants … he wants to touch her gently.

 

Rey says nothing, looking out the view port silently instead. He wants to talk with her but she’s so drawn into herself he doesn’t know what to say. Her face is like stone and the Bond is ice cold.

 

His knights have shown great reserve, none speaking a word as they huddle in the front of the ship. He hopes that they will not gossip, just as he knows he cannot stop it. He wonders how Grandfather would have dealt with such things had Grandmother lived? Once he has Rey situated, he’s going to have to gather the knights together to address the events of this night. He’s resentful that he must be parted from her again so soon after their reunion.

 

Once they have landed, Kylo replaces his helmet. He turns to Rey and offers her his hand again, hoping that she will allow him to escort her properly. Her eyes flit to his mask and her lips purse slightly. He knows she doesn’t like his helmet, but he cannot keep it off in front of the crew of the Finalizer.

 

“You’ve let them go?” she asks.

 

“You heard me give the order.”

 

“And they really do what you say?”

 

“Yes, Rey, your … friends are safe. Well, those who were not already dead.” She frowns at that and he wishes he hadn’t said it.

 

He reaches his hand out again and says, “Come, let me show you to your quarters.”

 

“My quarters? I’m … I’m not a prisoner?” Her eyes are wide and confused.

 

“No, Rey, you are not. Did you not listen to anything I’ve said for the last 10 months? Where would you get the idea that I would want that?”

 

She’s silent for a long time but she puts her hand in his and he tucks it at his elbow, preparing to make it clear to everyone that she is the Supreme Leader’s lady.

 

They walk down the ramp together, and he can’t quite believe that he’s here in this place. He feels her small hand curled around his arm and he holds his head high as he walks with his beloved. The hangar is crawling with returning forces and everyone stops and stares. Rey stays quiet, keeping her eyes on the floor. She is disheveled and covered in mud, but to him he’s never seen anything more regal.

 

---

 

He’s requested the corridors be kept empty as he walks her to her rooms, so he feels it is safe to again remove his mask. He tries to feel for her through the Bond, but she’s keeping him firmly on his side of their connection.

 

They’ve arrived at her quarters and he removes one of his gloves and places his palm on the scanner. He keys in the code to input her access and reaches for her hand with this now bare fingers. He almost gasps at the feeling of her hand in his. Maker, it’s intense.

 

She looks up and traps him in her gaze. Her eyes seem to plead with him, but he’s not sure what she’s feeling. He knows he’s trembling as he pushes her palm against the device. She’s standing right next to him and it would be so easy to pull her into his arms. He holds his hand over hers, keeping it trapped between his palm and the surface and he cannot seem to pull back, though the system has long since signaled its acceptance. He can’t move; she’s so close and the feel of her skin against his has stolen his ability to think. She continues to stare into his eyes. His fingers shift and he’s lacing them between hers, still holding her hand flat against the scanner. He can feel every inch where their fingers touch and the heat is building in him. Her eyes burn and her lips part. She’s breathing quickly, too.

 

But then she blinks, pulls her hand from beneath his, and says, “I think it will let me in now.”

 

“Yes, yes of course.” He’s trying to bring himself back under control. How is he going to function with the knowledge of what the simple act of their hands whispering together does to him?

 

She opens the door with her newly-accepted credentials and he is alight with anticipation. He has been waiting for this moment for months.

 

They enter the main sitting room and she stops suddenly and looks around quickly as if she can’t quite take it all in. He’s quite pleased to find that the current selection of flora is particularly lush, the blooms especially colorful.

 

“Kylo … what is this?”

 

“I know that you like growing things. I thought … I thought it would make you more comfortable.” He’s very nervous now. She’s not smiling and she seems almost afraid.

 

“But … how is this going to work? You trust me not to escape, just like that?”

 

“Well … no, not immediately. There should already be a dozen stormtroopers stationed outside your door. And they’re all immune to the Jedi mind trick, so don’t get any ideas. Once you show you can be trusted, they will escort you anywhere you’d like to go, but at first only I will accompany you. I’ve ensured that anything you could want is available to you here. You won’t need to leave. Come, let me show you your training room.” He reaches for her hand, his glove still off and he’s surprised when she snatches her hand away.

 

“No. I think … I think I’d prefer a cell.”

 

“What?!” he sputters in disbelief.

 

“This is a very pretty cage, but it’s still a cage. I’d prefer not to get confused about what’s really happening here.”

 

“What do you mean, what’s really happening here?”

 

“You took me and are holding me prisoner.”

 

“No! I … but you came almost willingly …”

 

“You pulled me to you with the Force from what had to be 30 feet away and held me frozen. I know when to fight and when to live to fight another day. There was no getting away from you—not today,” she says steadily.

 

“But … you took my hand, you let me escort you … you touched my face,” Kylo whispers. She’s going to do it again—she’s going to rip his heart in two, he just knows she is.

 

“I needed you to let my friends go, and you did. I was grateful.”

 

“So you let me think …”

 

“I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of your crew by making a scene. I let you escort me because by letting the Resistance go, you earned that.”

 

“I am not a dog, earning your scraps!”

 

“Would you prefer I’d screamed and kicked all the way from the shuttle?” she asks with contemptuous disbelief.

 

“Yes, yes!” he yells. “At least then I wouldn’t have hoped, wouldn’t have believed …” Kylo trails off miserably.

 

“You thought, just like that, that I would turn to you? I’ve been telling you for months that I never wanted this. You are a cold-blooded murderer, Kylo. Why would I ever allow myself to return your feelings?”

 

“You’ll see in time that I am right. We are meant to be together—it is the will of the Force,” he returns stubbornly. He wants to shut out her awful words.

 

“Not this again …” she mutters, her tone exasperated.

 

It’s all going horribly wrong and he must retreat; he cannot bear more of her rejection after being filled with such hope.

 

“My knights require my attention. I will return shortly and we will dine together. You will find clean clothing in the bedroom. Explore the quarters; I put quite a bit of effort into them,” he says, his tone formal and yet still full of hurt.


He turns on his heel and strides from her quarters, thrusting his helmet over his head as he practically runs from her.

 


Hannidae's Art!

Chapter Text

Kylo stalks down the corridor; nothing had gone as he had planned—nothing. Rey hadn’t been pleased with her quarters, she had even asked to be put in a cell! He had thought this need would quiet once she was near but it’s only growing worse. Now that he knows what her touch feels like … all he has to do is close his eyes and he feels her hand against his cheek ... their fingers laced together against the scanner. Oh Maker, how is he going to control himself?

 

He pulls his comm from his robes and barks, “Hux!”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader?”

 

“Have the knights meet me in my hall.” He shuts off the device, knowing Hux will do as he bids. He strides angrily to the old holochamber.

 

Kylo finds the Knights of Ren already assembled around the massive table. The room is thick with apprehension, the knights all sitting very straight in their chairs.

 

“Who knew,” he growls dangerously.

 

A cacophony of, “I had no idea, I knew nothing, I never thought Demyan would do that,” fills the room.

 

“Quiet!” he roars as he advances on Vitok. He looms over her and says menacingly, “You were with him for days on Coruscant, you mean to tell me that you knew nothing?”

 

“I swear Supreme Leader, it never occurred to me he would go against you like that.” She’s pulling back and shaking her head wildly.

 

“But you knew he was … displeased.”

 

“He told me … he told me of your … conversation.” Kylo has no wish to speak of that in front of the other knights.

 

“Vitok Ren, you will come with me.” Kylo sweeps from the room, knowing Vitok will follow him. He ducks into a small antechamber and turns to face Vitok.

 

“Tell me everything. Leave nothing out,” Kylo demands.

 

“Demyan said that he was concerned, that there was something about this girl that was wrong, bad for the First Order. I never once thought he would act against you, Supreme Leader. Demyan … he has always been fiercely loyal to you,” Vitok says hurriedly.

 

Grief moves through Kylo then. He’d killed Demyan … But he won’t think about that.

 

“What else?”

 

“He only pressed me on what I believed; what I thought of your recent behavior.”

 

“And what do you believe, Vitok Ren?” Kylo ask warningly.

 

“I believe that you have always acted for the good of the First Order, for the good of the galaxy, and you have given me no reason to question that belief.”

 

“There must have been something else; he must have given you some hint as to why he would disobey a direct order like that.”

 

“He only spoke of when you were … boys. He reminisced a great deal, speaking of the time at the Academy. How you would work on learning how to use the Force to freeze each other in secret because Master Skywalker forbade it. He told me many stories. Do you wish me to recount them?” Vitok’s tone is cautious and measured.

 

Pain lances through Kylo’s chest and he’s flooded with memories. Demyan … no. Orin—he had been Orin then. He cannot allow himself to be pulled into that place of warmth and memory. He shakes his head once, pushing away all that Orin had meant ... still means to him.

 

“No, I do not require that of you. You’re certain he said nothing of his intention to try to murder the girl?” Kylo is seized by the desperate urge to ensure that she is safe and in her quarters. He reaches through the Bond, gently asking if she’s alright. He feels a flicker of response. It’s not quite a reply, but it is enough.

 

“I’m sorry Supreme Leader, he said nothing that would raise suspicion. I would have come to you immediately had he done so.” Kylo realizes that Vitok is truly sincere; she is loyal to him and he believes her. But he must be sure. If the knights worked together they could potentially hurt Rey and he cannot have that.

 

“Show me,” he orders.

 

Vitok hesitates. “Show me!” Kylo demands fiercely.

 

Vitok reaches up and removes her helmet, revealing a pale, plain face with faint lines and kind, brown eyes. Kylo lifts his hand and enters her mind. He finds no defenses as he peruses her memories of the last few days. He sees them hunting for Qree on Coruscant, evenings spent in the lowest of places. He pauses when he finds Demyan, maskless, recounting the time he and Kylo had snuck into the archive at the Academy. Demyan’s clear blue eyes are full of humor as he tells Vitok of the excitement of their youthful indiscretion. Kylo remembers how they had stayed up all night buried in forbidden holocrons. He doesn’t want to see any more and he withdraws quickly.

 

“It is as you say. You are dismissed. Send in Jashad and Palek.” Kylo has taken to treating them like a matched set.

 

Vitok holds his eyes for a beat and then strides to the door. She’s about to replace her helmet when Kylo stops her.

 

“Wait,” Kylo instructs. Vitok turns back to him. “Why do you think he did it?” Kylo must make sense of this.

 

Vitok blinks and looks away. “I think … I think he did it to protect you. I think he thought that without the girl you would ..."

 

“Yes?” Kylo presses.

 

“Permission to speak freely, Supreme Leader?” Vitok asks warily.

 

“Granted.”

 

“You have not been yourself as of late, and I believe I know why. I hope that now that she is with you, you will be … calmer. Demyan cares ... cared about you a great deal. I think he thought that once you were free of the girl you would be as you were. As I said, I believe he did it for you, as misguided as that may have been.”

 

“I see.” Kylo is shaken by this revelation. If Vitok is correct, then Demyan had been loyal to him to the last, in his own strange way. Kylo doesn’t know how to feel about this. “Carry on, Vitok Ren.”

 

She puts on her helmet and withdraws; soon Jashad and Palek are standing before him.

 

“While you were waiting for Wylan to arrive, did Demyan say anything to you to indicate he planned to act against me?”

 

“No, Supreme Leader,” they say in unison.

 

“What did you speak of when I was not present?”

 

Jashad and Palek look at each other and it’s Jashad who speaks. “Well, we did talk about how … focused you were on capturing the girl.”

 

“And do you believe Demyan acted correctly?” Kylo hisses.

 

“No! No, in fact … uhm … we think it’s probably best that she’s here with you,” Jashad says.

 

“What do you mean?” Kylo asks, his eyes narrowing behind his mask.

 

Palek cuts in then and says, “We mean no disrespect, but it was … obvious that you at the very least wanted the girl, and after seeing you with her … I think we all understand what this was really about.”

 

Kylo knows that what they say is true, and now that he has her, he has no wish to hide what she is to him.

 

“She is important to me; she is to be my consort,” he admits softly.

 

“You could have told us; we would have understood,” Palek says, his tone gentle.

 

“It was none of your business!” Kylo says sharply, the moment of understanding having passed.

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader,” they again say in tandem.

 

---

 

He’s walking back to her quarters having questioned each of his knights. He had rifled through all of their minds and had found nothing of concern. Demyan, it would seem, had truly acted alone. Wylan had known nothing, as he’d only just arrived, and Natan had been his usual inscrutable self. Kylo had sworn the knights to silence about what they had witnessed on Ilaria. It wouldn’t do for the entire ship to find out that the Supreme Leader is only too happy to do his lady’s bidding. He still refuses to think about Demyan … Orin.

 

Arriving at her door, Kylo lets himself into her rooms and finds Rey sitting on the settee, she looks up quickly. She has bathed and is wearing a simple, pale shirt and dark leggings. He’s relieved that she’s explored enough to find her clothing. He had hoped she would have selected something finer, but he won’t push her. Not yet. Her hair is neat and clasped back in a single bun against the base of her head. He wishes she would leave it down; he wants to tangle his fingers in her free tresses. He removes his helmet and places it on the small table near the door. He pauses before removing his gloves as well.

 

“You didn’t knock,” she says with reproach.

 

“I’ve had quite enough of you deciding when you will grace me with your presence.”

 

“So you’re just going to come and go as you please?”

 

“That is the general idea, yes.” Rey purses her lips and looks at him coldly.

 

Kylo looks around the room and asks, “Have you found everything to your liking?” He hopes she has enjoyed what he has prepared for her.

 

“I would still rather you keep me in a cell,” Rey says spitefully.

 

“Why, Rey—why must you always fight me?” That she wants to be treated like a common prisoner makes his heart ache.

 

“Because I don’t want this!”

 

“But you’re here, now, why not simply enjoy what I’ve done for you?” he beseeches.

 

“You truly don’t understand, do you?” She tilts her head to the side and he sees a flash of sadness flit across her face.

 

“Understand what?”

 

“You can’t just kidnap me and expect me to ‘simply enjoy’ my prison!”

 

“It’s not a prison!”

 

“Oh, so I’m free to leave?” She gets up and walks to the door where she opens it and finds the promised wall of stormtroopers. She waves her hand at their backs and says, “See? It’s a lovely cage.” Rey closes the door and walks to the middle of the room, keeping her distance from him.

 

“I don’t want it to be but you’ve given me no choice!”

 

“You’ve always had a choice.”

 

He stalks to where she is standing and the need to reach for her pulls at him strongly. He keeps his hands firmly at his sides as he growls, “There is no choice between us—not now. Not after the Bond.”

 

He’s standing very close to her; he sees her lift her hands towards him before they drop and curl into fists. She leans forward slightly, as if drawn to him.

 

“I know you feel it just as I do,” he murmurs, watching as his breath stirs the escaped curls framing her face. He can’t help himself—he lifts one bare hand and trails his fingers along her jaw. It’s almost electric and they both gasp at the contact; her eyes go wide with fear. She steps back swiftly and grinds out, “Don’t touch me.”

 

“Oh, Rey, I know you feel it. I know that the Bond pulls you to me just as it pulls me to you.”

 

“I won’t be controlled by some stupid Bond I never even wanted!” Rey whirls away from him, holding herself tightly with her arms.

 

“So you do feel it.” Kylo is brimming with satisfaction—finally, finally she is crumbling. She does feel it; he knew it! He’s overwhelmed by the knowledge that he had been right all along; she needs him, too. Emboldened by this awareness, he comes up behind her and places his trembling hands on her shoulders. Slowly, gently, he pulls her to his chest as she instinctively leans back into him. The Bond hums with pleasure. He closes his eyes and lets her wash over him. It’s everything he had hoped it would be, feeling her pressed against him. Every point where they touch is alive with connection, pulsing energy flowing between them. All too soon she’s pulling away, rushing away from him to the other side of the room. Her sudden departure leaves him bereft and aching.

 

“Please don’t do that,” Rey says shakily.

 

“But …” He had felt her respond, felt as she had settled against him.

 

“If I admit it—if I tell you that yes, yes I feel it, will you promise not to touch me?” She’s looking at him like she’s terrified of him.

 

“What?” If she won’t let him touch her ...

 

“I don’t want this! If I’m to be trapped here, I can’t have you confusing me like this. You’re right, you’ve always been right: I do feel it. But I don’t want to,” she whispers the last brokenly. She has her arms wrapped around herself again and she’s shaking slightly.

 

“Please, please give this a chance. Give … give me a chance,” he pleads. He walks towards her slowly, lifting his hands. He doesn’t even mean to, not really, but the need to touch her again is overwhelming his reason.

 

“No!” She skitters away from him and now she’s against the wall. Her eyes are wild and frantic.

 

“But if you feel it … Maker, it’s pulling me apart. Please, just let me hold you.”

 

“No! I won’t give in—I won’t let this Bond dictate what I do!”

 

“Am I so reprehensible to you?” Kylo asks, feeling the very familiar sting of her rejection.

 

“What you’ve done is.”

 

“If you’d only just let me explain why, I know you would understand.” Kylo wants very much to go to her again but he controls himself, standing rigidly. She pulls her arms even more tightly around herself and looks at the floor for quite some time.

 

Finally she looks up and quietly asks, “If I let you explain, will you promise not to touch me?”

 

“Please, please don’t ask that of me,” Kylo pleads. Now that he has had the barest hint of what touching her feels like he’s not sure what it will do to him to not be able to feel her again.

 

“Well I am. You wanted, before, to have dinner with me. Those are my terms. I’ll do it—I’ll sit and listen to everything you have to tell me if you’ll promise not to touch me.” Kylo is so torn, she’s here—right here—and the thought that she won’t let him touch her … but perhaps if he explains himself she will relent.

 

Kylo decides that if he’s to give in to her demand he will not accept only dinner this evening. “I propose a different arrangement. You will dine with me every night and we will talk—simply talk. In return, I will … I will promise not to touch you—until you say otherwise.” He’s chosen his words very carefully. She will see; she will change her mind soon. She has to.

 

“Every night?”

 

“Every night. And we will talk—you won’t ignore me as is your tendency to do.” Months of hurt and resentment infuse his tone.

 

“And you won’t touch me; you won’t try to use the Bond against me?”

 

“I give you my word.”

 

Kylo stays where he is, watching her face. She’s quiet, looking down at the floor. He waits; it feels like everything will turn on this moment. His desire to know her, for her to know him, is as great as his need to feel her against him. He truly does want to give her all of himself—his thoughts and dreams as well as his body and heart.

 

Rey takes a deep breath and looks up at him with resolve in her spine.

 

“Alright … that is … acceptable. I’ll have dinner with you, every night, and I will talk with you. As long as you don’t touch me. If you touch me, I won’t talk to you ever again,” she says warningly.

 

“It is agreed then?”

 

“Yes.” Rey relaxes a bit but she stays standing against the wall.

 

Relief floods his body—he hadn’t realized just how much he had wanted her to agree. Though he knows he has lost ground, he feels that she’s given him something precious in return. He goes to the panel near the door and turns to her. “What would you like for our meal?”

 

“It doesn’t matter, you choose.” It seems that she was sincere, that she will allow for them to speak reasonably. His heart lifts at this change in her demeanor.

 

“Surely you must have some preference?” He wants to please her.

 

“I’ve never had the luxury. On Jakku it was portions. With the Resistance it was what was served, and that was beyond anything I had ever experienced.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he says softly.

 

“For taking me?” she asks hopefully.

 

“No … for the life you led on Jakku.”

 

“Don’t pity me. It was mine and at least I was free.”

 

“Free? You call crawling through those ships day after day for a pittance from Unkar Plutt freedom?”

 

“How do you know about Plutt?” Rey asks suspiciously.

 

“I … I sent stormtroopers to Jakku to find out about you. They interviewed everyone who knew you.”

 

“Of course you did. Is that all you’ve done since you became Supreme Leader, hunt me?”

 

“Yes,” Kylo admits softly.

 

She looks at him for a very long time and he wants so badly for her to open the Bond, to let him in, to let him know her. He turns and keys in an order for their meal then walks to the dining area in the corner of the room. He pulls a bottle of wine and two glasses from an elaborately carved cabinet. He feels her approach him but he keeps his focus on his task, opening the wine and pouring the ruby-red liquid into the delicate glasses.

 

He turns to find her sitting at the table, her chin in her hand. She’d been watching him. He walks slowly to her and hands her her glass. She looks up and he’s pinned by her gaze as she takes the glass from him. He’s very careful not to touch her fingers. Having her so near and not being able to reach for her is taxing all of his control, but he has promised and he will adhere to that.

 

Kylo doesn’t want the table between them so he takes the seat around the corner from hers. He may not be permitted to touch her, but he still wants to be as close as she will allow. He watches as she gingerly sips her wine.

 

“Oh!” she exclaims. He smiles; he had hoped she would like it. He’d spent days selecting various wines and liqueurs to fill her cabinet.

 

“You enjoy it?”

 

“I … I’ve never had anything like it before. There are so many flavors, it’s … it tastes like the sun.”

 

“It’s from Bethna; they only produce a few cases each season. No one knows what they do to create that flavor. It’s always been a favorite of mine.” He’s still smiling at her and he thinks this is the first time they have ever had a reasonable exchange. A memory comes for him then.  He’s remembering stealing wine from the kitchens at the Academy, Orin by his side. His expression falters and he looks away. She’s been focused on her drink and hadn’t noticed his struggle.

 

She snorts into her glass and he frowns.

 

“You find that amusing?” he asks.

 

“I do, actually. Kylo Ren, destroyer of worlds and wine connoisseur,” she says flippantly.

 

“There is much you do not know about me.”

 

“And I don’t particularly care to.”

 

“I don’t think that’s true.” She looks down. She stays silent and he’s at a loss for what to say. He doesn’t want to simply launch into his history.

 

“Tell me of your training,” Kylo inquires. Rey looks up sharply and he thinks he sees … anger flash in her eyes.

 

“That’s none of your business,” Rey says sharply.

 

“Rey …”

 

“It could compromise the Resistance.”

 

“Surely you could tell me what you’ve enjoyed, what you’ve excelled at, struggled with?” he entreats.

 

“No, I won’t talk about that.”

 

“You said you would speak with me. I won’t press for intelligence, but be reasonable.”

 

“No.”

 

“Would you perhaps show me, instead? Have you found your training room yet?” He’s confused by her reluctance to speak of her training.

 

He catches her eyes and he’s shocked to see them filling with tears. “What is it, Rey?”

 

“Please don’t.”

 

“But … I thought it would make you happy …”

 

“I’ve told you so many times, you know nothing about me!” she flares.

 

“I’m trying to. I want to.” His voice is full of longing.

 

“Well I don’t want you to!”

 

Just then they are alerted that the droid has arrived with their meal. Kylo stands and retrieves the tray from the silent droid. He moves to the table and lays the food down. He ignores the tension in the room as he sets the table. Rey looks down at her hands and he can feel waves of strong emotions coming off of her, but he has no idea what she’s actually feeling. There is something about training with Skywalker that deeply upsets her. He does not particularly wish to revisit his own training with the man so he opts not to press the issue. He realizes that conversation with her will always be a minefield. Kylo decides he won’t tell her of his vision for the galaxy tonight—he wants to build more of a foundation with her.

 

He retakes his seat, the food now laid out before them. He had selected a rich dish, fragrant with spices. It is full of succulent bits of meat and it has always comforted him. He silently prepares her plate and places it in front of her, then sees to his own. Neither of them speak as they begin to eat. Rey closes her eyes briefly in appreciation and a small smile tugs at his lips. Good, she likes it.

 

Finally she puts her fork down and says, very quietly, “Thank you.”

 

“I’m glad you enjoy the food.”

 

“I do, but that’s not what I meant. I meant thank you for saving my life on Ilaria.”

 

He had not expected her to speak of that and he’s frozen by the overwhelming torrent of conflicting feelings rushing through him. Of course he had saved her—he will always save her. Nothing will ever happen to her; no one will harm her so long as he draws breath. But he still has not been able to be alone with his emotions, to process what transpired on Ilaria.

 

“I …” Kylo doesn’t know what to say and he wishes she hadn’t brought it up. He wants to focus on Rey, she’s finally with him. He’s waited, yearned, dreamed of this for so long, yet his feelings about Demyan keep invading his mind. He’s not sure what’s showing on his face and he longs for his mask.

 

“Kylo, what is it?” she asks in concern.

 

“I … it was … I couldn’t let anything happen to you.” He hadn’t even thought, only acted, filled with the fierce instinct to protect Rey at all costs. It had been primal—a total, savage feeling.

 

“He was one of your own men, wasn’t he?”

 

“Yes,” Kylo murmurs, looking away. He suddenly wants to flee; he doesn’t want her to see how Demyan’s death is affecting him.

 

“Kylo … I … I can’t believe I’m asking you this, but please tell me what’s wrong?”

 

He’s panicking; he’s not used to speaking of what’s inside of him. He should get up, leave, go to his training room and scream, but instead he finds himself saying, “He was my friend.”

 

“And you killed him ... to protect me,” she says, understanding blooming in her lovely, kind eyes. Her hand moves towards his but then she pulls it back swiftly, placing it in her lap.

 

“Yes.” He wishes she had given in ... touched him.

 

“Do you … do you want to talk about it?” She moves her head in order to catch his eyes and the compassion he finds there nearly undoes him. He’s so close to falling apart.

 

“I don’t know,” he whispers, his voice shaking.

 

“Well … if you want to, I’m … I’m here.” Kylo is very confused by this open, willing Rey. His throat is tight and he wants so badly to cling to her but he cannot. She has forbidden it. This is all so strange; she’s finally here and she’s inviting intimacy just as he had hoped she would, yet he has no idea how to conduct himself. He’s suspicious of her motivations even as he’s fairly certain she would not be so cruel as to use his vulnerability against him. It is not in her nature.

 

“Thank you …” He’s very uncomfortable and he wants this moment to pass. He stands abruptly, going to retrieve the wine bottle. He refills their glasses and she looks up at him. Her eyes are encouraging and he looks away. Kylo takes a deep breath, attempting to master himself. He sits back down and sips at his wine.

 

“Tell me of Jakku,” he finally says, needing to change the subject. Rey’s brows draw together in confusion and she frowns a little.

 

“Uhm, okay. Didn’t your stormtroopers tell you everything?” she asks.

 

“I want to hear it from you. You were there for a very long time. It was your home.”

 

“Jakku was never my home.” He’s thinking that this was a mistake—clearly Jakku is a difficult subject—but he wants to know so he presses on.

 

“Still, you lived there for most of your life ... tell me something you enjoyed. Please?”

 

“Sliding down the sands,” she says after a moment.

 

He nods for her to continue.

 

“There are massive sand dunes on Jakku and ever since I was a little girl I loved to take my skiff to the crest of the largest ones and ride down as fast as I could. I would trudge all the way up over and over again just for the feeling of the wind in my face as I raced to the bottom. I didn’t get to do it often, but when I had a particularly good scavenge I could sometimes spare an afternoon.” Her face is open and she’s smiling broadly, lost in the memory of childhood glee.

 

“Who took care of you when you were younger?” He had never found a satisfactory answer to that question, even after reviewing all of the holos from Jakku countless times.

 

I did,” she replies in confusion.

 

“But … you were there since you were 5 years old?” He cannot imagine a child so young caring for herself.

 

She snorts and says, “It was Jakku. If you could walk, you could work.”

 

Rey is playing with her napkin and he wants so desperately to reach for her hand, to comfort her. She is his and he somehow feels responsible for not knowing, not coming for her, even though he was only 15 himself at the time.

 

“I wish I could fix it, change what happened to you. It isn’t right, I hate how you lived.”

 

“Well, you can’t,” she says bitterly.

 

“I know, but … but I still wish I could. Oh, Rey … I want so much for you to be happy.”

 

“You sure do have a strange way of showing that.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Seriously? I was happy—happy with your mother,” Rey says accusingly.

 

“Don’t speak of her,” Kylo demands.

 

“Don’t tell me what to do.” Rey’s eyes flash with warning.

 

“Do not bring up that woman … please.” Kylo tries to hide his contempt but fails, badly.

 

“'That woman'? Leia was amazing to me—don’t talk about her like that!” Rey leaps from her chair and looms over his still seated form.

 

“You don’t know anything about her; she’s nothing but a liar!” He slams his fist on the table and rises, now towering over her. Rey pulls back and her eyes grow wide.

 

“I was with her for almost a year and I obviously know her better than you do!” Rey stands as tall as she can and thrusts her chin out defiantly.

 

“You have no idea what sort of person she is, what she did to me, what she took from me,” he hisses as he advances on Rey. Kylo barely notices how she’s shrinking from him.

 

Rey takes a few steps back and spits, “And I don’t care! Maybe you deserved it; maybe you’ve always been rotten. Maybe she always knew you were despicable!”

 

“You know nothing about it,” he bites out.

 

“I know she was only trying to protect you and that you betrayed her—betrayed everyone.”

 

“Is that what she told you?” Kylo rumbles dangerously.

 

“I can think for myself, she didn’t need to. I know you, Kylo—I know just what sort of person you are. You’re a murderer, a torturer and now you’re a kidnapper!”

 

“No! You left me with no choice! I begged for you to come to me willingly, begged, on my knees!” Kylo roars.

 

“Get out.”

 

“No.”

 

Rey’s voice rises as she pronounces, “Dinner is over. I’m done talking with you. I’ve more than fulfilled my end of the bargain, given you so much more than you deserve. If these are my quarters, then I have the right to ask you to leave. Or were you lying?”

 

“I wasn’t lying.”

 

“Then prove it to me and get out!” she orders angrily.

 

Kylo growls, “We’re not done yet.”

 

“Oh yes we are—get out, get out, get out!” Rey screams.

 

Everything that’s happened this day wells up in him and he’s enraged. He’s vibrating with fury and he finds his saber in his hand.

 

“There—there you are. Yes, take up that hideous monstrosity you call a lightsaber and threaten me, hurt me, show me who you really are, Kylo Ren,” she hisses.

 

He’s seeing red and he knows he must get out of here; she’s suggesting such awful things and he can’t bring himself under control. He stalks to her door and thrusts his helmet on his head. He flees without saying another word.

 

---

 

Kylo slams from her room, heartsick and infuriated. It had been going so well! She had enjoyed the wine, the meal … she had even reached out to him and asked him to speak to her of Demyan. But then she just had to bring up his mother and he’d been unable to control himself.

 

He very nearly flies down the corridors. He wants to kill something. He wants someone, anyone, to just give him a reason. Kylo has his saber lit before he’s through his training room door and he’s hacking at the walls, not even bothering with the droids. He strikes and strikes and strikes, so hard and so fast that the metal has grown molten, dripping onto the deck. It glows red and orange, pooling at his feet. He tears his helmet from his head and throws it violently across the room. His anguished screams reverberate against the walls and he howls until he’s hoarse.

 

“Why?” he bellows to no one ... to Demyan … Orin. Nothing is working; no amount of destruction is calming him. He uses the Force to fling a training droid across the room and it splinters into hundreds of pieces as it smashes into the bulkhead. Then another, and another, until none remain and the floor is littered with a sea of droid parts.

 

He goes to his knees and begins to pound on the floor, harder and harder until he feels his knuckles split. He beats the deck savagely until he feels the fine bones in his hands break and he rolls onto his back, panting, sweat pouring down his face. He lies there, staring at the ceiling, his chest heaving.

 

Nothing has gone right—nothing. He’s lost his only friend and his beloved only speaks to him to keep him from touching her.

 

Chapter Text

After an age he drags himself from the floor, wincing at his ravaged hands. He clumsily replaces his helmet and makes his way out of his destroyed training room.

 

---

 

Kylo stalks into the medical bay and the staff gives him a wide berth. They know that when Kylo Ren arrives not to approach him. Soon his assigned droid appears in front of him and Kylo follows it stiffly to his usual room.

 

“What is the problem today, sir?” the medical droid inquires. Kylo says nothing, simply thrusts his hands in front of the synthetic doctor. It inspects the damage and efficiently applies bacta patches and splints to his fingers.

 

“Do not remove the bacta or the splints until the day after tomorrow.”

 

“That is unacceptable, I must have use of my hands by morning.” He won’t let Rey see what she’s reduced him to.

 

“Then you will be required to stay overnight, sir. We will need to suspend your hands in an intensive bacta solution.”

 

“Fine. Ensure I am unseen.”

 

“Of course sir, as per my programming. No patient will see you and my memory will be wiped on your orders.”

 

“Excellent.”

 

---

 

He lies in the strange bed, his hands floating in the healing solution, and he wishes they could so easily mend his aching heart. Kylo hadn’t really considered what he had been promising when he had agreed not to touch her. He’d simply been elated that she would agree to speak with him—finally speak with him.

 

After so many months of constant rejection, the chance at her attention every night had been too fine a prize to pass up. But now he sees how cruel it really is. She’d finally admitted to wanting to touch him, wanting to touch him so badly that she feared she could not control herself. The way she had responded to his fingers trailing along her face, how she had leaned into him … He sees now that she has him backed into a corner; a perverse cage where they both crave each other but he’s honor-bound to deny them both.

 

He wonders if he should have spoken with her about Demyan … if he had opened himself up to her, let her see his grief and confusion, perhaps the evening would have gone differently. Kylo regrets bitterly that he so completely lost control of himself. He remembers the fear in her eyes and he wants … he wants to apologize. He would never hurt her—surely she must know that? He reaches out, pressing lightly against the Bond, but finds it closed. He won’t push; he knows he’s behaved abominably.

 

He sighs heavily and tries to tell himself that it will only be a matter of time, that surely as she learns of him, as he unfurls her, surely she will give in. She has agreed that she will speak with him every single night and he will finally have his chance to know her, for her to know him. Soon she will unchain him and he will gorge himself on her light.

 

---

 

Kylo is flexing his hands; they are sore but it is more than manageable. The medical droid pokes and prods until it is satisfied and he gives the order for it to wipe its memory. He must see her. His desire to apologize has left him; he will simply continue on without remarking on last night. That is as it has always been between them: they rarely address what has transpired, they simply move forward. Soon he’s making his way to Rey’s quarters. It may only be morning, but he had said nothing about leaving her be outside of their promised dinners. She had not extracted so much from him.

 

---

 

The stormtroopers part and he pauses outside of her door, remembering her admonishment that he had not knocked. But his pride is still wounded from last night when he’d had to flee her quarters, his control in tatters. He opens the door without alerting her first.

 

Kylo is already pulling his helmet from his head as he strides through her door. His hands are still bruised so he leaves his gloves on. It’s not as if it matters—he’s not allowed to touch her anyway.

 

He looks around the sitting room and finds it empty. He hesitates; he will not go into her bedroom without her permission. Perhaps she is in her training room? But then he hears the sound of running water from the ‘fresher ... she must be bathing. A jolt of pure desire races through him as he realizes she is naked just on the other side of the wall. His eyes close and his breathing quickens as he feels himself respond to that knowledge. Kylo swallows thickly and he wills himself to calm.

 

He decides he will simply sit and wait for her. Kylo settles into a plush chair opposite the settee with a perfect view to her bedroom door and looks forward to seeing his beloved. He’s reminded of when he had sat crouched on Starkiller, content so long as he could gaze upon her face as he had anticipated her waking.

 

Rey comes out of her bedroom, reading a datapad. She’s not seen him. She is wearing a deep purple tunic and another set of dark leggings; he assumes it is the plainest clothing she could find. He supposes he should be grateful that she deigns to wear any of it at all. He’s irritated to see her wet hair tortured into those blasted buns again.

 

“Rey …” he murmurs.

 

She squeaks and drops the datapad as she jumps slightly. “What are you doing here?” she exclaims.

 

“Good morning, Rey. Did you sleep well?”

 

“It’s not time for dinner,” she growls.

 

“I never said that I would only see you in the evenings.”

 

“You can’t just show up whenever you feel like it!”

 

“Oh, but I can.” He stands and walks to her, but stops before he gets too close.

 

“No—let’s get one thing straight right now. You, you knock and then I let you in. I’m not having you come and go as you please.” She thrusts her finger at him as she speaks.

 

“I grew very weary of you shutting me out; I won’t allow you to do that to me again.”

 

“Can’t you see how … creepy it is for you to just show up in what are supposed to be my quarters?” Her hands are at her hips.

 

“I only wanted to see you,” Kylo says softly.

 

Her eyes dart to his and her face softens for the briefest of moments before she’s crossing her arms in front of her. Rey huffs out a little breath. “Look, Kylo … please try to see it from my perspective. You’ve kidnap-”

 

“I did no-”

 

“Please don’t interrupt. You’ve brought me here and I am not allowed to leave these rooms without your permission. You’ve taken away my freedom.” Kylo opens his mouth to speak but Rey hurries on, “Yes you have, let me finish. You know that you have; you cannot possibly believe otherwise if you actually look at what you’ve done.” She looks into his eyes steadily.

 

Kylo thinks about what she’s said. He supposes that, from a certain point of view, she is correct. He does have her door guarded, but only because he cannot trust her to stay.

 

“You know that this is not how I want it to be? I would much prefer for you to have run of the ship, but we both know that you would only leave me,” he says bitterly.

 

Rey blinks quickly and looks away. Kylo doesn’t know what to make of her reaction.

 

“Will you please remove your access to my quarters?” Rey asks.

 

“No. But … but I will knock in the future,” he concedes.

 

“Well, I’d really rather you not be able to open my door whenever you feel like it, but I guess it’s better than nothing,” she grumbles.

 

There is a strained silence and Kylo doesn’t know what to say. He had not intended to speak of last night but he realizes there is one thing he must correct and he decides that it is necessary.

 

“Last night …” Kylo begins. Rey looks up warily. “Last night, you thought that I would hurt you. I will never hurt you, you need to understand that.”

 

“Well you sure seemed like you would hurt me.” Rey has her arms wrapped around herself protectively.

 

“No, Rey. Never. I … I know that I lose my temper, but I will never harm you in any way,” he says fervently.

 

“But you’ll throw one hell of a temper tantrum and destroy your hands?” she asks with raised brows.

 

“How do you know about that?” Kylo asks sharply.

 

“The Bond. You rarely block me and you were so very angry that you didn’t notice I was there.” She draws closer to him, her hands falling to her sides.

 

“I see.” He hadn’t wanted her to know how out of control he could get.

 

“Your hands, are they alright?” She reaches for him, as if she’s about to take his hands in hers. He sees her jaw tighten and she pulls her arms back, but she’s still standing right in front of him.

 

“Yes, they’re fine.”  She’s so close.

 

“And you, are you alright?” Her eyes are soft, her face open, and he doesn’t know what to do with her concern.

 

“Why do you care?” he asks suspiciously.

 

“Fine, I don’t, never mind.” Her expression closes instantly. She steps back and turns away slightly.

 

He reaches a hand out for her then pulls it back in frustration. “No, wait, I’m sorry. I just … I never know where I stand with you. You push me away but then it’s almost as if I matter to you. It’s always been like that, from the very beginning. I never know what you’re really feeling.” He can’t quite believe that he’s speaking to her so openly.

 

Rey scoffs and looks to the ceiling. “Well that makes two of us.” Her body is still angled away from his but he can see her profile.

 

“What do you mean?” Kylo asks.

 

“Let it go; I didn't intend to say that,” she says tightly.

 

“But you did.”

 

Rey purses her lips but says nothing.

 

“Rey?”

 

She looks down at the floor, still staying silent.

 

“Please, Rey, what did you mean?” Could she possibly mean that those times of concern and almost closeness are truly for him and not simply her compassionate nature?

 

She turns fully away and opens the view screen, watching the blue of hyperspace. Clearly she doesn’t plan to say any more on this subject. He wants to demand that she explain herself, force her to admit how she genuinely feels about him, but he decides that he will be patient. For a long time she watches the stars streak by and he watches her.

 

“What do you think you will do with your day?” he finally asks.

 

Rey turns back to him and rolls her eyes as she says, “Oh, I don’t know, what does a lady of leisure do with herself all day? Probably try to keep from going insane.”

 

“You have access to the ship’s library—I restricted nothing.”

 

“Oh how very gracious of you.”

 

“Rey, I’m trying. I’ve done everything I could think of to make you happy.”

 

“Yes, lovely clothes, a ‘fresher full of creams and oils I’ve never even heard of, a training room I …” She stops herself before continuing, “The rooms are beautiful, I’ll give you that. But that does not change the fact that I do not want to be here.”

 

“I didn’t know what else to do! I need you with me and, what’s more, I think you need me, too.”

 

Rey glowers down at the floor but then her eyes lift up and he sees the anguish in their depths and he knows she’s every bit as trapped as he is. The only difference is that he revels in this Bond while she denies it with everything she is.

 

“Rey … what can I do for you? You have but to ask. You must know that.” They’re standing a few feet apart and the pull that never leaves him pulses under his skin.

 

“That’s just it, Kylo. I’ve told you what I want. I even asked you to come to me but you didn’t even consider it. All of this, it’s always been on your terms.”

 

“No. No! You’re the one who has always controlled everything. You decide if you’ll speak to me, what you will share with me, now if I may even touch you!” Kylo says in frustration. He takes a step toward her.

 

“You hunted me, I pleaded with you to let me go. How can you possibly believe that I’m the one in control?” she scoffs.

 

“Because you’ve had me at your mercy since Starkiller. You’ve given me crumbs and hints, whispers and shreds—just enough to keep me from going mad. You gave me no choice,” he says heatedly.

 

“You never for one minute ever considered a solution that did not include me, here, by your side. I’m supposed to give up everything I believe in just like that because we’re Bound? What about you? What did you give up?” Rey’s voice is brimming with accusation.

 

“Everything, everything! I killed my master for you, I became Supreme Leader for you. Everything I’ve done since the moment I saw you I have done for you!” Why doesn’t she see?

 

Rey sighs heavily and says, “You are extremely difficult to talk to.”

 

“Well so are you!” Kylo exclaims in exasperation.

 

Suddenly Rey starts to giggle and she puts her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. Kylo simply stands there, completely uncertain of how to react.

 

Rey gasps and says, “Maker, what a pair we are. You’re the Supreme Leader and you’re spending your time arguing with a nobody scavenger from Jakku. You've chased me clear across the galaxy and now I’m in this gorgeous room full of plants and we’re bickering over whose fault this all is. You have to admit that it’s ridiculous.”

 

“You may have a point,” Kylo says stiffly. He’s unsure if she’s laughing at him and he doesn’t like it.

 

“Stop; I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing at us. It’s that or cry and Force knows I’ve cried enough tears over all of this.”

 

“You have?” His chagrin leaves him in an instant at the thought of her in pain.

 

“Yes, Kylo, I have.” He looks into her eyes and they’re so full of sadness.

 

“I never wanted to hurt you.” He takes another step closer to her. It’s as if she’s the sun and he cannot help but orbit her.

 

“I know …” she says softly.

 

“I’ve never known what to do, how to do this. I just … I need you, Rey. I cannot face a life without you. Please, just let me care for you. Be here with me; help me find a way for this to work. You’re everything to me and you’ve been ripping me to pieces for months.” He draws nearer still.

 

“I … never wanted to hurt you, either.” Her eyes are full of something gentle and kind that he cannot define.

 

“Is that really true?” How he hopes it is true.

 

“Yes … I don’t know what the answer to all of this is, but I do know that I hate hurting you,” Rey says sincerely.

 

“Well, we have found one thing we have in common. We do not wish to hurt the other.” He’s gazing into her beautiful face. Stars, he could look on her forever.

 

“One thing in common …” She smiles wistfully.

 

“I’m sure we will find many more,” Kylo murmurs. They are only inches away from each other and they’re both trembling. Suddenly, Rey breathes in sharply and the panic is back in her eyes.

 

Kylo steps back—this is the closest he’s ever felt to her and he’s terrified to spoil it. It doesn’t matter how desperately he wishes to pull her to him, he will do as she has bidden.

 

He decides it’s time to leave while they aren’t at each other’s throats. “I have duties to attend to. I will return for dinner.”

 

Rey blinks rapidly at this. “Of course. Dinner.” Her eyes grow hard. He’s confused, he’d seen her soften.

 

“If you need something, the stormtroopers have been given instructions to bring you anything that you require.”

 

“Right. How could I forget my jailers,” she flippantly. He wishes they weren’t necessary.

 

“Rey, you know I don’t wa-“

 

“I will see you this evening,” she interrupts.

 

Kylo dislikes her abrupt dismissal but he does not want to fight with her. “This evening, then,” he says evenly.

 

From the doorway he turns back to look at her. She’s watching him go. Yes she has withdrawn, but for a moment they had made some progress. He feels that perhaps there is hope.

 

---

 

They’re en route to Vren. He hopes that they will find Sylten Qree and that he will have the key to Rey’s parents. He supposes it’s possible this man is her father, but he rather hopes not. He’s in his office contemplating his morning with Rey when Hux arrives. The general seems cautious.

 

“Supreme Leader?”

 

“Yes, Hux.”

 

“I feel it is my duty to address something with you,” the ever put-upon officer says.

 

“That does not generally go very well for you.”

 

“Even so, there is talk in the ranks and I believe you should be informed,” Hux presses on.

 

“Get on with it, Hux.”

 

“Your decision to let the Resistance go on Ilaria—it is not sitting well with the fleet.”

 

“Their casualties were heavy, the base a complete loss. It hardly matters,” Kylo dismisses.

 

“Be that as it may, it would be … prudent to explain your actions. At least allow me to inform the senior officers.” Kylo supposes he must give them something.

 

“Fine. The girl … Rey. She has valuable information on Skywalker and I thought she would be more amenable if I let her friends live.” It’s true enough. He has a score to settle with Skywalker; once Rey knows what the Jedi Master did, he may be able to persuade her to divulge his location.

 

“And this has nothing to do with allowing Leia Organa to escape?”

 

Does everyone have to bring up that woman? “Hux, I suggest you drop that line of thought right now. You know what transpired on Starkiller. I think I’ve proven myself on that score,” Kylo says warningly.

 

“Of course, Supreme Leader. And you believe that Skywalker is a greater threat to the First Order?” He doesn’t really, but he can’t very well tell Hux that he let them go to please Rey.

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

“Supreme Leader, there is one last item I feel must be discussed.”

 

 “Of course there is. Well?” Kylo asks impatiently.

 

“This girl, Rey. What is her status? She is not being held in a cell as a typical prisoner and yet she is guarded night and day. You went to great lengths to procure her and you escorted her personally to quarters that are on the same corridor as your own.” The general is very well informed. As much as he may find the man irritating, Kylo cannot deny that General Hux is very good at his job.

 

Kylo had known he would have to explain Rey eventually, but he has not yet formed a suitable response. He considers simply refusing to answer, but Demyan’s death is making him seriously reconsider his tactics. He decides to tell Hux the truth.

 

“In time it is my hope she will be Lady Ren.”

 

Hux’s eyes widen as he confirms, “As in your consort?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I was under the impression that the Knights of Ren do not marry.”

 

“It is good, then, that I am no longer a Knight of Ren.”

 

“Of course. Forgive me, Supreme Leader.”

 

“If there isn’t anything else, Hux, I am extremely busy.”

 

“No, sir.”

 

---

 

Kylo Ren is attempting to review the latest plans for the First Order’s expansion, but he is finding it very difficult to focus knowing that Rey is but a few decks away. Thoughts of Demyan continue to plague him and he’s considering going to her now, though it is far too early.

 

“Supreme Leader,” his comm chirps.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Vitok Ren is requesting an audience.”

 

Speaking with Vitok would actually be an excellent distraction. “Send her in,” Kylo orders.

 

Vitok Ren enters his office and stands in front of his desk, at attention.

 

“What do you require?”

 

“I hope I am not overstepping, sir.” She pauses.

 

“Continue, Vitok Ren.”

 

Vitok continues to hesitate before taking a deep breath. “I wish to know if you plan to make … arrangements for Demyan Ren.”

 

Her question feels like ice water in his veins. He had not thought of this and he knows that he must face it. That Demyan’s body is lying somewhere on the Finalizer in a cold coffin has been at the edge of his consciousness, but he has not allowed himself to become fully aware of it. Not until now.

 

 “Please … sit, Vitok,” Kylo offers wearily.

 

She takes the seat opposite his desk and Kylo considers what to do. Demyan had been a loyal and devoted Knight of Ren and it is only proper that the knights honor their fallen comrade, his last act notwithstanding.

 

“How are the other knights taking his … death?”

 

“We’ve not faced the loss of one of our own before now. The others are confused, conflicted. I believe we all understand that you only acted as you had to, but his loss ... it is felt. Perhaps most keenly by you?”

 

Anger rises in Kylo—he does not wish to speak of this, but he won’t make the same mistake with Vitok that he did with Demyan.

 

“I regret that Demyan forced my hand as he did,” Kylo says carefully. Vitok nods in understanding.

 

“Supreme Leader, I would like to offer to handle the arrangements. You don’t need to attend,” Vitok says, almost kindly.

 

“No—I will be there.”

 

“Good. We arrive on Vren tomorrow. His people, they burn their dead. I thought perhaps a pyre, in the evening?”

 

“That is acceptable. See that it is done, Vitok Ren.”

 

“As you say, Supreme Leader.” Vitok takes her leave.

 

Kylo sits back and remembers the boy who had been Orin. They’d met on Orin’s first day at the Academy, three months after that woman had sent him away. Both boys were awkward and lost. Kylo had been very uncomfortable with the attention he'd received because he was Luke Skywalker’s nephew and Leia Organa’s son. Everyone wanted to meet him but none wanted to know him. None but Orin. Orin had come from a small planet in the Outer Rim. He’d travelled farther than any of the other apprentices and had known he would not likely see his home again for many, many years.

 

Orin had known very little of the Force, his power raw and uncontrolled. Kylo had helped him, showed him how to channel the strange gift that had altered the course of Orin’s life. Kylo had always known of the Force. Leia Organa had begun simple training at the first signs of his Force sensitivity. Somehow, Orin was never intimidated or nervous around Kylo. Perhaps it had only been that Orin hadn’t grown up with stories of the great Luke Skywalker and the heroic leader of the Rebellion, Leia Organa. Regardless, their friendship had been sealed and they had been inseparable.

 

Kylo ensures that no one can enter his office, and then removes his helmet. He puts his head in his hands and allows memory after memory to wash over him.

Chapter Text

Kylo approaches her quarters and is oddly nervous. Will the tentative peace of this morning hold? The stormtroopers part for him and he feels a bit silly knocking at her door. She opens it swiftly and they stand there, looking at each other for a long moment.

 

“Hi,” Rey says awkwardly.

 

“Hello, Rey.”

 

“Uhm, come in.”

 

“Thank you.” She steps back from the door and he enters. He removes his helmet quickly, placing it on the table he’d requested just for that purpose. She knows of the state of his hands, so he removes his gloves as well. She’s standing next to him and gasps when she sees the mottled bruising along his fingers.

 

“Oh, Kylo …”

 

He turns to her and says, “It’s nothing, do not concern yourself.” He doesn’t want to talk about how completely he had lost control.

 

Her eyes show her conflict, but she only nods.

 

“How … how did you spend your day?” he asks hesitantly. He’s very aware of how near she is.

 

She almost looks guilty and he’s instantly suspicious.

 

“Rey?”

 

“What?” she asks petulantly, looking at the floor.

 

“What have you done?”

 

“Nothing! Nothing.” She looks up at him but doesn’t quite meet his eyes.

 

“I do not believe you.”

 

“Well I don’t care! I didn’t do anything. There’s nothing to do.” Rey stalks to the settee and sits in a huff.

 

He follows her to the seating area while saying, “There are numerous books, holos, your training room-”

 

“You don’t get it, do you?” she interrupts.

 

“Clearly not.”

 

“I’m trapped! I’ve never, in all of my life, had an entire day with literally nothing to do.” She throws her hands up in frustration.

 

“But you don’t need to do anything; you can do whatever you like.” After a life of drudgery he had thought she would enjoy the freedom.

 

“No, I can’t! I can do what you’ve prepared for me, and you certainly didn’t ask me what I want.”

 

“Fine, what do you want? Other than to go back to the Resistance.” He sits beside her, but not too close―never too close. He won’t risk losing her attention.

 

“I don’t want to be trapped in these rooms! After one day I’m already beginning to lose my mind.” She crosses her arms in front of her chest and looks away. “And I’m worried about my friends,” she admits quietly.

 

“As you know, I let them go.” Kylo does not like to think about her … friends; the people she chose to be with when she should have been with him.

 

She looks up sharply and says, “I don’t even know who’s alive! Leia, Poe … Finn.”

 

Each name on her list fills him with greater fury. That woman, the arrogant ‘best pilot in the Resistance’ and, of course, Finn, the traitor. But he’s determined not to lose his temper.

 

He controls himself as he offers, “I know that Leia Organa escaped with her life.” Rey visibly relaxes. “I do not know the fate of the others. I … I will endeavor to discover that for you.”

 

“How?” she asks as she narrows her eyes.

 

“We have an extensive spy network―how do you think I found you?” he says arrogantly. Her jaw clenches and he realizes he’s already managed to say the wrong thing.

 

She takes a calming breath and says, “And it won’t put them in danger, you looking into it?”

 

“No.” Though he would like very much to endanger the traitor, he wisely keeps that to himself. “I will do what I can to find out what happened to your … friends.” He cannot hide his distaste.

 

“Oh. Okay. Good.” She nods to herself.

 

“As to how you fill your time, why not study, train? The library is full of Jedi texts, I made sure of it.”

 

Her eyes fill with pain and she shakes her head furiously.

 

“What is it about your training that upsets you so? Please tell me. I cannot address it if I do not know what is wrong.”

 

“No! I won’t tell you anything that could harm the Resistance!”

 

“I trained with Skywalker for years; I already know all of his methods. You won’t be betraying anything.” Kylo hopes this will help her open up to him.

 

“I …” Rey’s eyes drop to her hands. They flail helplessly.

 

“Please, please tell me. I hate knowing that you’re so upset; I must know why,” he entreats.

 

“I haven’t,” she nearly whispers.

 

“Haven’t what?”

 

“I haven’t been training!” Rey bursts out.

 

“But, why not?” he asks in confusion.

 

“Luke refused! I begged and I pleaded and he wouldn’t show me anything. He would let me stay with him on Ahch-to, but nothing else. I would get so angry, eventually leave. Then I would go back every few months, try to get him to teach me something, anything, but all he would say was that he would never train anyone ever again. I assume that’s your fault.” Rey looks at him accusingly.

 

Kylo ignores the dig and focuses on Skywalker’s failure. It does not surprise him.

 

“All this time, you’ve been alone with your gifts?” Oh, my love … you must have been so adrift.

 

“No, not completely.” Her eyes flit to the side.

 

“What do you mean?” He sincerely hopes Leia Organa hasn’t managed to unearth yet another thought-dead Jedi Master.

 

“You won’t lose your temper; you won’t yell at me?” Rey suddenly seems quite small and he’s filled with regret for how he’d reacted to her the night before.

 

He decides he will apologize properly for his behavior. “I am sorry for that. I shouldn’t have behaved the way that I did.”

 

“No, you shouldn’t have.” She looks at him coldly. He wonders just how much damage he really did last night.

 

“Please, tell me what you meant. I won’t lose my temper, I … I promise.” Who is this man she pulls from deep within him?

 

She looks at him for a very long time, her eyes searching his. “Leia did what she could,” she finally says.

 

Anger, swift and pulsing swells in his chest, but he keeps himself in check. He’s not been here 10 minutes and she’s already mentioned the Princess twice.

 

“I see,” he says very carefully.

 

“No, you don’t. Not really. When Luke refused me she was incensed on my behalf. She travelled to Ahch-To and tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t be moved. She said,” Rey smiles as she remembers. “She said that if her idiot of a brother couldn’t see what was right in front of him she’d just have to do it herself. So she showed me what she knew. I can levitate small things and heal minor wounds. But that’s all.” Her smile fades and she seems almost ashamed.

 

A memory comes for him then, sharp and searing, of … his mother healing a cut finger when he’d been very small. He had thought it was simply magical and he’d been in awe of her. He pushes it away quickly, focusing on what Rey has just said. Rey is so strong with the Force, brimming with such possibility. That she has been left to founder with only Leia Organa to show her the way ... it is unacceptable. He did not think he could hate Luke Skywalker more, but to find that he’d rejected Rey, hurt her … For so many reasons, he thinks it would be his pleasure to lock sabers with his failure of an uncle.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks.

 

“Oh, because we’re such great friends? You would have just wanted to train me in the dark side.”

 

“No … I have no wish to change you, Rey.” This is one of her many assumptions he has been hoping to address.

 

“You don’t?” Her tone is bewildered.

 

“No, never,” Kylo says firmly.

 

“But … you … you follow the dark side.”

 

“I do, but … this Bond, it’s unlocked so much within me, and I believe that it is because we are balanced. I have always been drawn to the light―always. But now, now I am drawn to you. Without your light, I don’t know what I would do.”

 

“You don’t want to turn me to the dark side?” Rey’s face is deeply puzzled.

 

“Have I ever said that I wanted that?” Oh Rey, there is so much you do not know.

 

“No, but … you told me that you would show me the ways of the Force.”

 

“Precisely. The Force, not the dark side or the light side. How you access the Force makes no difference to me. I just … I just wanted you to stay. My … issues with Skywalker have never been about the light or the dark.”

 

“Why did you do it; why did you betray your family?” she asks suddenly.

 

“It is they who betrayed me, Rey.”

 

“I can’t believe that, Leia would never do anything to her only child,” Rey scoffs.

 

“And yet, she did.” He’s growing accustomed to that name falling so easily from his beloved’s lips.

 

“No, I don’t believe you.” She’s shaking her head.

 

“You did agree that you would listen to me, did you not?”

 

Rey glares at him. “Fine. Tell me your lies and I’ll listen quietly.”

 

“They aren’t lies!” He takes a steadying breath then tries again. “I would like for you to understand how I came to be where I am. Please try to keep an open mind.”

 

“... Okay.”

 

“This will take quite some time. Perhaps we should order dinner, have some wine?”

 

“We must be civilized as you tell me your justification for murder and tyranny, mustn't we,” she says sarcastically.

 

“Rey …”

 

Her face is mulish but she says, “Alright, I will ‘try to keep an open mind’.”

 

“What would you like for dinner?”

 

“I told you last night, I don’t know enough to say.”

 

“Is there anything at all that you’ve enjoyed since you left Jakku?” He just wants to give her something that will make her happy.

 

“I was simply grateful that they never let me starve. Trust me, I’m not picky,” Rey says ruefully.

 

He closes his eyes briefly in pain. Her difficult life has taken so much from her. To not even have a favorite meal?

 

“There was nothing, nothing at all that pleased you?” Surely she must have some preference.

 

“It all pleased me, Kylo. It was food that I received every day regardless of if I spent the day on my back in the hangar, or with Leia learning. I went to bed every single night with a full belly, which was good enough for me. That was miraculous.”

 

“Alright Rey … alright.” He goes to the console by her door and repeats his actions of the previous night, selecting a meal he hopes she will like. He’s saddened that she will not give him even this much, a simple hint of her tastes.

 

Again he walks to the cabinet and pulls out a bottle of wine, this one light with a touch of effervescence. She watches from her seated position as the pale lavender liquid fills her glass. He brings both glasses back to the settee and retakes his seat next to her, handing her her drink.

 

“This is from Gandran. They pick the fruit after the first frost. It’s what gives it … well, you’ll see.” He doesn’t want to spoil the surprise.

 

She holds his eyes as she takes her first sip and her brows shoot up. She smiles a bright, open, truly genuine smile. “It tickles!” she exclaims.

 

“Yes, it does a bit.” He’s smiling now, too.

 

“It feels like it’s bursting in my mouth!”

 

“I’m glad you like it. You do, don’t you? You like it?” he asks hopefully.

 

“Yes, I do … thank you.”

 

He’s not quite sure how to begin and he’s so enjoying this moment with her, but he doesn’t know how long he will have her patience.

 

“I know that you believe that the First Order is cruel, our methods extreme,” he says. She doesn’t respond, just purses her lips.

 

“What I would like for you to understand is that that is not how it will always be. Yes, we act swiftly, decisively. We do not allow for dissent.”

 

“Or freedom,” Rey says pointedly.

 

“Freedom is relative. Your life, you’ve described it as free, and yet from my point of view you were little better than a slave.”

 

“No one owned me.” Fire flashes in her eyes.

 

“Are you so sure? You never worked for wages, only food. Is that so different than being a slave? You had no ability to change professions, no opportunity to use that brilliant mind of yours.”

 

“I could have joined on with a ship at any time.”

 

“But what of those that do not have your talents? Or when you were a child? What made Unkar Plutt worthy of his place in power over all of you?” He turns his head slightly, watching for her reaction.

 

She blinks a bit then says, “But, if the First Order took over Jakku someone else would have just taken his place.”

 

“No … no, that simply isn’t true. Have you ever visited a First Order world?”

 

“No …”

 

“Once the fighting is done we move in and take over the industry, the economy, everything. We ensure that all are fed, clothed, and housed. Yes, those with much suffer greatly, but those with ability flourish and none are left to starve. If you had grown up on a First Order world you would have gone to school and you would have never known what it is to be hungry.”

 

“After you kill anyone who disagrees with you,” she says snidely.

 

“Yes. That is true. But to me it is a price worth paying.”  Surely she must see how her life would have been better?

 

“You’re telling me that all the blood you’ve spilled is because you are so worried about children?” Her face is filled with disbelief. Rey leans forward and places her now empty glass on the low table in front of them. She trails her hand along the dozens of graceful orchids scattered along the surface. He can’t help but imagine what those fingers would feel like running along his body, caressing him as they’ve caressed the delicate petals.

 

“It is part of it,” Kylo says quietly, trying to keep his focus on what he is telling her and not on how much he wishes she would touch him.

 

“What’s the rest?”

 

“Perhaps you know what happened when I was younger, when I was still Jedi?” His lip curls at the hated word.

 

“Yes. Leia told me,” she answers cautiously.

 

“And what did she tell you?” He finds he’s curious to know what it is that woman thinks of what she did to him.

 

“That she’d never revealed to you that she and Luke are Anakin Skywalker’s children.” He dislikes her use of his grandfather’s birth name but he says nothing.

 

“What else?” Kylo prods.

 

“She said that when you found out, you felt betrayed and joined Snoke. She thinks you were trying to punish her.”

 

Oh, that makes him angry. Punish her? What a petty, juvenile reason. “No. I was angry, yes. I did feel betrayed, not because she didn’t tell me, but because of how she kept my grandfather from me.”

 

“See, right there, how can you be proud to be Darth Vader’s grandson?” Her eyes fill with scorn.

 

“And what do you know of him?” Kylo challenges.

 

“He was a murderous, cruel monster. Perhaps I’m beginning to see why you admire him.”

 

“No! That is what the histories say, and as we know, history is written by the winners.” Kylo looks into her eyes steadily.

 

“Fine, tell me about how Darth Vader was just horribly misunderstood,” Rey says sarcastically as she sits back into the cushions.

 

“He was. He is.” He pauses then, not sure how to frame his relationship with his grandfather. “Did you know he was a slave?”

 

“What? No … no I didn’t know that.” She looks away.

 

“Do you know how prevalent slavery is in this galaxy? How it was and is tolerated, even encouraged by both the Old and New Republic?” He tries to catch her eyes but she keeps them focused elsewhere.

 

“They’re trying to fix that, Leia told me-”

 

“Oh yes, I’m sure she had many, many pretty explanations for why one sentient may own another and how it takes time. How you can’t push people to change overnight. Or my personal favorite: that the economy cannot handle change on that scale. Since I became Supreme Leader, every new world that has come under our control is completely free of slavery, and we are working to end it throughout all First Order territory.”

 

“Since you became Supreme Leader?” she asks curiously.

 

“Snoke … had other priorities.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“He believed that it was more important to have as many worlds under our control as possible, to concentrate our resources on military expansion. I believe we can do both.”

 

“You’re telling me that you are doing all of this to free people?” She raises her eyebrows.

 

“Yes.”

 

“But that’s what your mother wants, too!” Rey exclaims with such hope in her eyes.

 

“No, she doesn’t! She had her chance. She and that man she calls brother. What did they do with that chance? Nothing. I saw, I see what the galaxy really is.” He remembers how the scales had fallen from his eyes and he had perceived how useless democracy truly is.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

He doesn’t want to talk about his time with the Jedi, but perhaps it is necessary. “When I was younger, when I still called Skywalker ‘Master,’ I believed her lies, too. That the New Republic would change everything, that the rebirth of the Jedi heralded a grand new age of peace and prosperity. And it seemed like it had. From the bright, clean halls of the Senate, the quiet bounty of the New Jedi Academy. But then I began to travel with Skywalker and I saw. I saw the suffering. World after world with bloated aristocrats and seas of terrified, desperate people, enslaved in truth or by circumstance.”

 

“But the New Republic is changing that!” Rey leans forward eagerly.

 

“Not fast enough. Not when I have the power to force people to submit,” he says firmly.

 

“Submit.” She pulls back from him.

 

“Yes! I don’t care what they want; I will fulfill my grandfather’s vision! I will finish what he started!” Kylo is emphatic.

 

“You speak as if you … know him. He died before you were even born,” she says in confusion.

 

“I do know him.” Kylo smiles slightly. He enjoys speaking of his grandfather.

 

“How?” She furrows her brow.

 

“After Leia Organa’s duplicity was revealed to the galaxy, he began to speak to me.”

 

“Darth Vader ... talks to you?” Rey’s eyes seem almost worried.

 

“Yes. He told me so many things; what his life had been, how the Jedi had done nothing, nothing at all to free his mother from slavery! They took him from her and just left her behind! Did you know that Luke Skywalker murdered his own father?”

 

“Family trait?” she retorts cruelly. Rey’s eyes widen and her fingers fly to her lips.

 

Her words slice through him and for a moment he can’t breathe. Kylo blinks rapidly, trying to get his bearings as her quarters swim around him. He stands quickly, walking to the other side of the room, putting his back to her. His vision is bathed in red and he’s on that horrible bridge that haunts him; he feels his father’s hand on his face. “Ben!” echoes in his head.  He looks up at the ceiling and tries to collect himself, but he’s trapped in the past. His throat is so tight and his heartbeat is wild and erratic.

 

Just then they are alerted that the droid with their meal has arrived. He knows he should answer, gather their dinner, but he can’t move―his father’s face is all he can see; his voice, his words, ringing in his ears. Kylo still can’t quite seem to catch his breath and his chest hurts. He hears her go to the door.

 

“Thank you,” she quietly says to the droid. He senses her move to the dining table and hears the rustle of linens, the clink of cutlery. He should join her, continue as if nothing has happened, but he’s lost to memory.  

 

“Kylo,” she calls softly. He must pull himself from this place, but he’s frozen. His breathing is quick and shallow.

 

“Kylo,” she calls again. Kylo feels as if his boots are fused with the floor.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to will himself to move, to turn around, to do anything, when he’s startled to feel her hand against his arm. Kylo shudders at the sensation of her small fingers pressing into him, and he’s appalled to find himself desperate for her to just hold him. His eyes sting with the need for her comfort. When he opens his eyes he finds her looking up at him with wide, sad eyes.

 

“Come, eat with me. Tell me more about your grandfather.” She trails her hand down his arm and twines her fingers with his. Rey’s touch is light—obviously mindful of the bruising—as she pulls him gently to the table. Her soft touch is bringing him back from that terrible moment that he never, ever thinks about. The past is finally fading and all there is is the feeling of their hands clasped together. His focus shifts to the way the energy flows between their fingers and he’s letting her lead him to the table.

 

Suddenly he remembers his promise and he snatches his hand back in terror, backing away quickly.

 

Rey looks at him, startled, as he gasps, “I’m sorry! I’m not supposed to touch you!” His emotions are out of control and he’s feeling very raw. She’d said she’d never speak to him again ...

 

“No, Kylo, it’s alright. I touched you. You didn’t break your promise.” It takes a moment for him to hear her words, his mind is in such a confused and ragged state.

 

“Right, right. Of course.” Kylo blinks furiously. He’s still so unbalanced.

 

She approaches him slowly, soon standing in front of him. Close, so very close. She looks up into his face, and her eyes are pulling him in, something burning in their beautiful depths. Rey lifts her hand and cups his cheek; Kylo whimpers a small, wounded sound as he leans his face into her touch. Her fingers are so warm and it’s as if she’s bathing his tattered heart in her light. His eyes close and everything he feels for her wells up within him. It’s all he can do not to crush her to his chest, feed this aching hunger, curl up inside her and beg her to soothe away all of his anguish. Oh, Rey ...

 

She slowly pulls her hand from his face and he can’t help it, he leans forward, chasing the healing he’d found in her brief mercy. But all too soon it is over and he opens his eyes to find that she’s moved to stand behind her chair.

 

“Let’s sit, see what it is that you’ve ordered?” she asks him coaxingly as she settles into her chair.

 

He nods and takes his place adjacent to hers. This time she prepares their plates and he’s beginning to breathe properly again.

 

She cuts into her meat and takes a bite. Rey smiles and quickly takes another, eating with obvious enjoyment. He realizes he’s just watching her eat so he begins his meal, but he doesn’t really taste it.

 

They eat quietly; he can’t think of what to say, how to speak through everything that’s swirling within him.

 

Eventually, she wipes her mouth with her napkin and softly says, “That was delicious. I … liked last night’s dinner, too. Uhm. Thank you.” She seems almost contrite.

 

He clears his throat and finally finds his voice again. “I’m glad. You know that I only want to make you happy, don’t you Rey?”

 

She sighs and her expression is wistful. “Yes, I do know that.”

 

“Will you help me, help me find ways for you to be happy here?” With me.

 

“How? We’re at an impasse. I’m your pris― I’m trapped here. I’m not meant to be idle; I need to be productive, to work.”

 

“I could … I could train you in the Force?” Kylo asks, wanting so much for her to say yes.

 

She sits back, very warily. “No, Kylo … no.”

 

He wants to press her to train with him, promise her he won’t even touch on the dark side, but he’s still feeling fragile and he’s not sure he can handle fighting with her. Instead, he offers, “You could begin to train on your own? There are vast resources in the ship’s library and I have a small collection of Jedi holocrons.”

 

She looks down at her empty plate, blinking slowly. Her eyes lift to his and she nods slightly. “I … I could do that.”

 

“Thank you, Rey,” he murmurs. She glances at him, her eyes moving over his face. She nods again, her lips turning up in a faint smile, but her eyes are far away. If only she would open the Bond, let him know the eddies of her thoughts, the waves of her emotions. But she keeps him out as she always does.

 

Rey has one hand resting on the table and he wants so very much to tangle his fingers with hers, pull her into his arms, bury his face in her neck. The way she had held his face so tenderly ... he’d never experienced anything so intimate, so real. He’s craved, desired, wanted her from the very first moment, but that was so much deeper than lust and he knows he’ll do whatever he has to to feel it again. To feel her again.

 

She blinks and inhales sharply. “We never finished … talking. I said I would listen to whatever you had to say about your reasons for joining the First Order.”

 

He’d been very eager for this chance to explain himself, but things are so peaceful with her in this moment, he finds no fire in him for his cause. “Another night, Rey. It can wait.”

 

Pain―bright, searing pain―streaks across her face and he’s instantly alarmed. “Rey, what is it?”

 

“I don’t want to fight; it doesn’t matter,” she says resignedly.

 

“No, please don’t do that. Please don’t shut me out. I won’t argue with you, I won’t lose my temper. I’ll just listen. I promise I’ll just listen.”

 

She looks at him for a long time while he keeps his face open and wills her to soften, to let him in.

 

Rey looks up and takes a long breath before saying, “I … It was just when you said it could wait, like there’s all the time in the galaxy ... It made me realize that you’re never going to let me go.”

 

He tries not to be hurt by this, hurt that she wants to be away from him. He’d barely scratched the surface of his plans for the galaxy―she will understand soon and then she will wish to stay. “I hope that, in time, you will not want me to let you go.”

 

“But … it really doesn’t bother you that you have me here against my will?”

 

“Of course it bothers me!” he bursts out before he regains himself. “I mean, yes, yes it bothers me. I never wanted it like this, never. I wanted you to come to me, I wanted you to … I wanted you to choose me,” he admits, months of hurt flowing from him.

 

“Choice was never part of this Bond.”

 

“That’s not true. You’ve proven that time and again. You’ve chosen to fight it; I’ve chosen to embrace it. We could be so happy if you would only try, Rey.” He’s never been so certain of anything in his entire life. If she would just let him in, he knows they will fulfill each other like no one and nothing else possibly could.

 

“Please let me go,” she whispers brokenly. Her eyes are huge and pleading.

 

“Oh, Rey … you know I can’t do that.” Seeing her so very sad, it tears at him.

 

“Please …” This time her voice is so quiet he can barely hear her. He wants so much to comfort her.

 

“No, Rey … no.” His voice is low, soothing. Soon, she will be happy; he’ll make sure of it―he’ll find a way.

 

Her shoulders are hunched in and her head is bowed. “I think … I think I’d like you to go now.”

 

“But …” He’d listened, he hadn’t lost his temper ...

 

“I need to be alone.” She doesn’t look at him, speaking instead to the table.

 

“I …” He doesn’t want to leave her feeling like this.

 

“Please, let me have this. At least let me have this.”

 

Kylo remembers how he’d behaved the night before and he knows he must respect her wishes, however difficult it might be for him. “Alright … I’ll go.”

 

He’s halfway to the door when he remembers Demyan’s funeral. He won’t be able to come for dinner tomorrow. He had intended to ask her to have breakfast with him instead. He turns back to her to find that she’s almost curled in on herself and her shoulders are shaking slightly. He realizes that she’s crying. He doesn’t know what to do, but the need to do something, anything to ease her distress is intense, almost primal. But she has asked for his absence and he will give it to her.

 

Kylo decides he will ask her about breakfast in the morning. He silently replaces his helmet and gloves and lets himself out of her quarters.

 

His beloved is crying. Because of him.

Chapter Text

Kylo wakes, worried about Rey; she had been so lost and sad last night. He pulls himself from his bed and readies himself quickly. He needs to see her. Now.

 

---

 

He walks purposefully to her quarters. It is a short trip as her quarters are just down the hallway from his own. The stormtroopers immediately move aside and he knocks firmly on her door. Nothing. He waits a few moments and knocks again. Still there is nothing. He is very aware that a dozen stormtroopers are watching as he knocks once more, much more loudly and insistent this time.

 

Finally the door opens and Rey stands in the doorway wearing nothing but a graceful cream silk nightgown that goes nearly to the floor. The modest neckline is elaborately embroidered with swirls of pale pink flowers. It is by far the finest thing he’s ever seen her wear, and he knows there had been many other, simpler choices for sleepwear that she could have selected. He’d left most of her wardrobe to the seamstresses he’d contracted, but he’d decided on her more delicate items personally. He had spent weeks … imagining, as he had made his choices.

 

Her hair is down and tousled from sleep. Stars, she’s delectable and he wants so much to run his fingers through her long waves, finally free the way that they should be.

 

“I was sleeping,” she says shortly.

 

“I apologize for waking you.”

 

“As I’m here to fulfill your every whim I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me.”

 

He’s not sure what she means by that. He’s still standing in the doorway and he doesn’t particularly want the stormtroopers to overhear his beloved berate him.

 

“May I come in?”

 

“It’s not like I can stop you,” she says as she turns from the door and walks deeper into her quarters. She sits in one of the soft chairs and looks at him expectantly. Kylo stands for a moment, unsure of what to do. She hadn’t precisely invited him in, but he would like to shut the stormtroopers out as soon as possible so he enters her rooms and closes the door. He removes his helmet and gloves as is his custom.

 

After placing them on his table by the entryway he goes to where she sits. He doesn’t want to tower over her and the other chair is too far from Rey so he crouches in front of her. It would be so natural to take her hands in his, but he stops himself of course.

 

Kylo looks up into her wide hazel eyes and sees that they are rimmed red, and he’s stabbed through with the realization that she’d likely cried herself to sleep.

 

“Rey … are you feeling better this morning?”

 

“Like how I feel matters to you,” she scoffs.

 

“How can you think such a thing?” He’d barely slept, consumed by worry for her.

 

“Well, let’s see. You ignore everything I’ve ever said to you, you’ve caged me, and then you show up Maker only knows how early, waking me up after I’ve only managed to sleep for an hour or two.”

 

“You couldn’t sleep?” he asks in concern.

 

Rey rolls her eyes. “No, I couldn’t sleep. I was too busy coming to terms with the fact that I will likely lose my mind here and you won’t care because then you’d get what you want.”

 

“What do you mean, what I want?” Kylo has no real idea what she’s talking about.

 

“Me, a mindless body you can touch and take to your heart’s content.”

 

“Rey, how could you think for one moment I would ever want that?” He’s utterly horrified by the idea of his Rey gone from him in such a way.

 

“It’s not like you care about what I want.” Her eyes are sharp and her tone vicious.

 

“That’s not true―please, that’s not true. That’s all I care about!” It’s all he’s thought about, how to give her everything she could ever want.

 

“You really are delusional,” she mutters as she shakes her head and looks away from him.

 

Kylo is still very unsure so he tries to change the subject. “Last night you said ... you said you’d try training on your own, see if that was enjoyable to you.”

 

“Yes, well, I was feeling guilty.” She looks at her lap.

 

“Why?” he asks, truly perplexed.

 

“Seriously? You don’t remember how what I said made you nearly break down over ki- over what happened on Starkliller?” She’s looking at him again.

 

His eyes shut involuntarily but he manages to keep from being pulled under. He opens them again and says, “That’s not what happened.”

 

“Oh Kylo, are you totally incapable of being honest about anything? It’s like reality goes into your head and comes out the other side completely unrecognizable to the rest of the galaxy.”

 

“I have never lied to you,” he says, offended by her suggestion that he has not always been honest with her. He’s certain that he’s only ever told her the truth.

 

“No, you lie to yourself. You are frighteningly good at it,” she says pointedly.

 

Kylo stands and moves to the other chair, taking a seat. He suddenly needs a bit of distance.

 

Rey sighs and runs her hand through her hair. Kylo imagines what it must feel like and he’s grateful that he’s already removed himself from straying distance.

 

“Why are you here so early?” Rey asks.

 

“Two reasons, really. I was worried about you after last night. I needed to see that you were alright. Are you?”

 

“Relatively speaking, yes. I’m exhausted, though I suppose it doesn’t matter if I spend the whole day sleeping,” she says flippantly.

 

“I’m glad that you’re feeling better, even if only relatively.”

 

She sighs and asks, “What’s the second reason?”

 

“I cannot have dinner with you this evening. I must … I must attend Demyan Ren’s funeral.” Her face shifts from impatience to compassion.

 

“Was that his name? The man who …”

 

“Yes, that was his name.” He almost tells her about how he had once been a boy named Orin, but he keeps silent on the subject.

 

“Oh.” Rey absentmindedly strokes at the lustrous fabric of her nightgown. He’s transfixed by her nimble fingers gliding across her thigh, remembering how they had felt against his cheek. Her touch is beyond anything he had imagined; he doesn’t possess the words for what she does to him.

 

She says nothing else and he simply looks at her. He can’t help but notice how lovely she looks in the soft nightgown, how the sumptuous fabric flows along her perfect body, how it clings without being tawdry. He realizes that she’d chosen something elegant and fine when she thought he would not be seeing her. Kylo wonders if that means anything.

 

“You look beautiful with your hair down, Rey.”

 

She looks startled then looks away. “I’m not beautiful. It’s just the pretty nightgown,” she nearly mumbles.

 

“No, Rey, how can you think that?”

 

“I have eyes.”

 

“Then they aren’t seeing clearly. You are very beautiful.” Does she not understand how entrancing she is?

 

“I thought you said you’d never lie to me,” she says as her eyes narrow in suspicion.

 

“I did, and I’m not. While I take great offense at the idea you stated earlier, you seemed to think that I want you―and you’re right, I do. How can you think that I want you without me also thinking that you are beautiful?”

 

“I remember how the men of Niima were. They didn’t care what you looked like so long as they could get their cocks wet.”

 

“Rey!” He’s shocked at her coarse language.

 

“What? It’s true.”

 

He had been certain after reviewing the holos from Jakku that there had been no men―Yoryn Glant only an associate―but she speaks so casually of physical intimacy … He begins to seethe with jealous fury. He wants to pull his comm from his robes and order the Finalizer to Jakku immediately. He will kill every single man who has dared to touch her.

 

“And did the men of Niima use you in this way?” he growls dangerously as he stalks to where she’s sitting.

 

“What? N- I mean, that’s none of your business!” She draws back into the cushions.

 

“Oh yes, it is. Tell me!” he demands. He puts both of his hands on the armrests of her chair, holding his face inches from hers, careful not to touch. But she will tell him this.

 

“That’s private; it’s not yours. I’m not yours!”

 

“We both know that is a lie. You are mine, you have always been mine. You’ve been mine since the day you first drew breath.”

 

She’s staring back into his incensed eyes, matching his intensity.

 

“I do not belong to you, Kylo Ren,” she bites out.

 

They’re both breathing heavily and the Bond is snapping wildly, her anger causing her to lose control, allowing her emotions to bleed through. He lifts his hand and holds it nearly against her cheek. He’s not touching her, but energy is flowing between his palm and her face. He swears he can almost see it.

 

“Do you feel that?” His velvet voice caresses her. “Do you feel how it spikes and sparks, licks and pulses between us?” Her eyes widen and her lips part; the pink flesh glistens and taunts him. He moves his hand down along her form, never erring, never crossing the line into touch, and all the while the Bond crackles in the space between his hand and her body.

 

“Do you feel it?” His eyes bore into hers and his teeth are bared.

 

Now the Bond is coursing with their shared energy and heady want. He feels her heart beat as his hand hovers over her chest. He hears a slight moan escape her throat and his eyes burn.

 

Do you feel it!” he hisses. Her chest is rising and falling rapidly and she’s growing flushed.

 

“Yes―yes, I feel it,” she gasps out.

 

“Tell me again that you are not mine,” Kylo challenges. “Tell me again that we are not each other’s. Tell me that this means nothing. Keep denying it, keep denying me. But we both know that you would be a liar.” He looks at her triumphantly. Her eyes are huge and he can feel how much she wants him. He is hard and very ready. It would be so easy to slide her silken gown up her thighs, release his throbbing erection, and press into her. He can smell her arousal; he knows he would be welcome. But he has promised, and he will prove to her that he is a man of his word.

 

Their faces are so close and the Bond is almost keening with need. She may have brought him to his knees, unmanned him in every way possible, but he won’t let her have his honor. It takes every single scrap of control that Kylo Ren has ever possessed to step back from her, but he does. As he pulls away, her face follows his and then she slumps back into the chair, like a puppet whose strings have been cut. They’re both panting. Kylo moves to the other side of the room, his back to Rey. He breathes in deeply, calming himself, bringing his body back under control. Once he feels like he’s thinking somewhat clearly he turns to her.

 

“Now. Tell me who I need to kill,” he says conversationally.

 

“What?” Rey blinks rapidly.

 

“Tell me who has had you.”

 

“Listen to yourself! You’re right, there is … something between us now. But not when I was on Jakku.”

 

“Tell me, Rey!” He’s losing his patience.

 

“No one! No one has had me, you crude bastard.”

 

“But the way you spoke of the men of Niima, you made it sound as if you knew what they were like.” His eyes narrow. Anyone who has touched her cannot be allowed to live.

 

“Just because they never succeeded doesn’t mean they never tried.”

 

“Did any of them hurt you?” He’s drawing closer again. Kylo may not have been able to protect her before, but at least he can provide her with vengeance.

 

“Kylo, stop. Please stop. You are being utterly irrational. And frankly, I'm just too tired. You aren’t going to go on some rampage on Jakku because a few men got drunk and propositioned me a couple of times.”

 

“That's all that it was? No one attempted to hurt you in any way?” He finds that difficult to believe; he knows how desperate her life had been.

 

“No, no one hurt me. I had a staff―I defended myself.”

 

“Hmm.” He is not convinced.

 

“Please, Kylo, I’ve barely slept. Can we not … can we not do this right now?”

 

“I had hoped we would have breakfast together as I will be off the ship this evening.”

 

“Off the ship?”

 

“Yes, we reach Vren in the next few hours.”

 

“I’ve never heard of it―what’s on Vren?”

 

He doesn’t want to tell her of Qree, of his hopes of finding her family. “It is a small planet of very little consequence,” he evades.

 

“Then why does the First Order care about it?”

 

“I will perhaps discuss it at a later time.”

 

“Fine.” She stifles a yawn and blinks a bit.

 

“Will you have breakfast with me, Rey?”

 

“I … I’m sorry Kylo, I’m too tired. And besides, I only promised dinner.”

 

“Please?”

 

“Kylo, stop. Think. I’ve told you that you woke me up and that I’ve really not slept at all. I need to go back to bed and you need to go do whatever it is that Supreme Leaders do. We’ll have dinner tomorrow. As I’ve recently realized, you will have many more meals with me.”

 

He thinks it over and decides that he should let her sleep. It was rather selfish of him to push her like he had.

 

“Alright, Rey. I … I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He hates that he won’t see her again today. He’ll … he’ll miss her.

 

---

 

The Knights of Ren are gathered on the shore of one of the many beaches of Vren. The sky is indigo, the sun having just set.

 

Demyan is laid out on a simple pyre, a platform of rough logs beneath him. Dried moss is peeking out between the slabs of wood and Kylo finds himself wondering from where it had all been gathered. Kylo is seized by the image of dozens of stormtroopers methodically combing the surrounding forests for the lumber and he almost wants to laugh. He’s not sure why he’s having such strange thoughts.

 

He looks at Demyan in his full knight’s regalia and it’s wrong. It’s so wrong. This is Orin―bright, open, generous Orin. He shouldn’t be shrouded in black and chrome, but rough linen and green things. He misses Rey intensely, certain she would understand how he’s feeling.

 

Vitok Ren moves forward, about to light the pyre with a torch, the flame guttering in the breeze.

 

“Stop,” Kylo calls out. He hadn’t meant to speak, but he knows that this is not right.

 

Vitok pauses and looks at him, her mask hiding what she might be thinking.

 

Kylo strides to the pyre and pulls Orin’s mask from his face. He looks down on Orin’s tawny skin and wishes he could see his bright blue eyes. Orin’s dark curls cling to his face where the mask had crushed them. Kylo needs to see Orin with his own eyes and he’s ripping his helmet from his head, throwing it into the sand. He feels the air touch his skin and he can’t remember the last time he had felt the wind on his face.

 

He looks around, taking in the Knights of Ren. They’re looking at each other but they say nothing.

 

Kylo finds his voice. “We have been together for a long time. Orin deserves our faces.”

 

One by one they all reach up and remove their masks. Kylo has not seen Natan or Wylan without their helmets in years. Wylan’s lips are still curled in that expression of contempt that has never left him and Natan has become even more remote.

 

Wylan’s glossy straight black hair has grown far longer, his narrow eyes still full of bitterness. But tonight, tonight there is respect. Respect for Orin.

 

Natan’s deep brown eyes betray nothing and his sable hair is cropped short. It makes his slender dark face harsher, somehow.

 

Jashad and Palek, so different in build but twins in all else, both look simply sad. Their pale faces hold no edifice, no conflict. Just grief. For Orin, and oddly, Kylo senses, for himself. They bow their blond heads and wait.

 

Vitok’s short fine hair—once dark brown, now shot through with gray—ruffles in the breeze. Her eyes are sad and she waits, watching Kylo carefully.

 

Kylo looks at Orin’s so familiar face and he can feel the moment he plunged his saber into his friend’s back. Vitok’s torch is flickering, but all Kylo can see is his spitting saber thrusting through Orin … through his father. It’s happening again―he’s kaleidoscoping through memory. Demyan, Han Solo, Orin, Father, dead, stabbed through, dangling on the end of his blade. Over and over he feels the awful sensation of their flesh giving way to the power of his saber, how he’d lifted them both from their feet with his betrayal.

 

He’s calling out through the Bond. “Rey, Rey, help me, help me!” He feels her answer, flooding him with her beautiful light.

 

“I’m here, I’m here.” He gasps and feels as she pulls him back from the brink, keeping him from completely falling apart in front of his knights. Rey swirls within him, calming and centering him.

 

Kylo barely perceives what’s happening around him as Vitok lights the pyre, the only thing keeping him from descending into that nightmare place is Rey. She stays with him the entire time. He doesn’t hear the words that are spoken, the memories of Orin recounted. Somehow he manages to nod and acknowledge at the right times. Vitok’s kind brown eyes watch him closely and he’s certain she’s aware that he’s about to disintegrate utterly.

 

Somehow he makes it through the evening and is back on the Finalizer. He’s not even thinking, he’s just moving―moving as quickly as he can to Rey.

 

The stormtroopers part and her door is opening and he’s stumbling through. He only just manages to stop himself from pulling her into his arms when he feels her lift his mask from his face and her arms come around him. She’s so soft and so strong. They stand just inside the closed door of her quarters, wrapped around each other for an age, and then she’s pulling him into her rooms. She’s pushing him down to the settee and again she is holding him. He buries his face in her hair and he finally comes undone.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he weeps into her shoulder.

 

“I know, I know,” she soothes, one hand pressing against his back while the other cradles his head, holding him close. He is protected in the shelter of her arms. He shudders into the solace of his luminous Rey.

 

“I killed them, Rey―I killed them.” His voice is thick with tears. His father’s face takes over his vision, the way his mouth had opened in shock and his eyes had filled with forgiveness. The strong, calloused hand trailing against his cheek, full of childhood memories. Lifted on shoulders, surreptitious treats hidden from Mother, the one trip to Maz’s castle before it all became confused. He’s killed his own father. Father, father, father, beats into his brain―Orin, Demyan, friend, blasts into his heart. He’s killed them, he’s killed them.

 

“Yes. You did,” Rey acknowledges.

 

“I didn’t want to―I swear I didn’t want to.” Demanded by Grandfather, required to save her.

 

“Okay.” He feels her stiffen against him and he pulls back to see her face. It’s hard, in contrast to the way she’s running her hand through his hair.

 

“Rey?” he asks.

 

“No, it doesn’t matter, not right now.” Her face softens and she’s pulling his head back to her shoulder, and he loses himself in the healing power of Rey holding him, finally holding him.

 

She keeps him pressed tightly to her as he cries out his guilt and loss. Dimly he realizes she’s changed into a different nightgown, this one a soft cotton. He catches the fabric in his fingers as he drowns in her light. Rey croons comforting nonsense as his body is wracked with sobs.

 

Slowly, gently, she is bringing him back; he’s becoming aware again. Aware that he has cracked wide open, spilling himself at her feet. But she has caught him and is gathering together all of his shattered pieces. She has left the Bond open and he is finally able to discern some of her feelings through his own distraught state. There is blinding compassion, desperate and deep confusion, something he hopes is affection, but there is also … anger. He pulls back slightly to look into her face.

 

He looks up at her with wide, anguished eyes, and she moves her hand from his hair to hold his face. He thinks that it might be her touching him this way that he likes the most. He nuzzles into her hand and he whimpers. The tears have stopped and she’s wiping them from his cheeks.

 

“Oh, Kylo …” she breathes out. He feels as she closes the Bond.

 

“Please, please don’t.” Feeling her, sensing her ... its loss is cold and it hurts.

 

“It’s time. I’m sorry.”

 

“I …”

 

“Shhhh. You must know this doesn’t change anything. I will still hold you to your promise,” she says as she continues to stroke his face. His fingers clutch at her convulsively in fear. She’s going to make him let her go? After this? After feeling her arms around him, knowing the absolute bliss of her comfort, the thought of losing this is physically painful.

 

“Please, Rey. I need you―don’t shut me out again.”

 

“I know you need me, that’s why I’m here. I couldn’t let you hurt like that without doing what I could for you. But no, Kylo … this changes nothing.” She starts to pull away and he can’t help it, he pulls her back firmly into his arms.

 

“No, Kylo.”

 

“Just a little longer―please, just a little longer.”

 

She looks away then nods slightly. “Alright, just a little longer.”

 

He nestles back into her arms and tries to soak up every last bit of this incomparable feeling. He doesn’t know how long he must make it last.

 

---

Wonderful art by pissbabysithlord (tumblr)!

pissbabysithlord

Chapter Text

The Knights of Ren are assembled in his hall, seated around the large table.

 

“Your target is Sylten Qree. Vitok and … Demyan tracked him to Vren. Their lead is quite specific. He is likely in Janta, the largest city on the planet. His associates believe the he is here planning to infiltrate one of the more prominent families in an attempt to gain their trust and ultimately abscond with as many credits as he’s able. His target is the youngest daughter. That is apparently his way: he seduces women then leaves them once he has achieved his aim.” Kylo wonders if perhaps he truly is Rey’s father, her mother some poor girl caught in his trap.

 

This time he’s sending all of his knights. He wants this done quickly.

 

Kylo continues, “All salient details have been loaded on your datapads.”

 

Vitok Ren clears her throat and asks, “Supreme Leader, may I ask a question?”

 

“Certainly, Vitok.” Kylo is attempting to be more open with his knights. He won’t have a repeat of the events on Ilaria.

 

“It would be helpful to know why we are seeking him. Does he possess tactical knowledge? Is he a threat to the First Order?”

 

Kylo thinks. They already know of Rey, of who she is to him and who he hopes she will become.

 

“I would prefer this to be kept within the Knights of Ren,” he begins. He sweeps his gaze across the room and finds all of the knights nodding. “I am attempting to find the girl’s … Rey’s parents. She does not know where she comes from and I would like to provide that for her.”

 

None of them speak and he senses … surprise from most of them. He thinks he hears Wylan snort but he’s not certain.

 

“That is … admirable, Supreme Leader,” Vitok says. She almost sounds … proud of him.

 

“Move with haste. Bring me Sylten Qree,” Kylo orders.

 

The hall is filled with murmurs of assent and he dismisses them.

 

---

 

Kylo is in his office, reviewing reports of the latest Resistance activity. He has already put through the order that the fates of Poe Dameron and the traitor known as ‘Finn’ be a top priority to their spy network, but there’s no word yet. He hopes that something will come through soon, as he has failed so badly at pleasing Rey; he wants something to give her that he’s certain will make her happy.

 

He wonders if he should tell her of his attempts to find her parents. He had been planning on protecting her from the likes of Sylten Qree, but she keeps telling him that he’s not asking her what she wants. Perhaps she would wish to know, regardless? He wants to keep her safe from pain, but she doesn’t seem to like when he chooses for her. He decides that he will tell her at dinner.

 

Kylo sits back and sighs, remembering the feeling of her arms around him. He’s ashamed for having fallen apart so completely last night, but today he feels so much calmer. Better than he has for … years. Having her hold him, it almost felt like forgiveness, and the press of guilt he always ignores has lessened. He knows he had no choice in either death—Han Solo because both Snoke and his grandfather had ordered it, and Demyan because Rey was threatened. He breathes in deeply, knowing that he acted correctly.

 

It’s nearly time to go to her. He closes his eyes and loses himself in the memory of how it had felt to finally have her in his arms, to be in hers. After he had quieted and she’d given him just a little more time, he had been able to focus on how it had felt to be completely enveloped in Rey. It was as if everything had come into focus; he had felt complete. He had closed his eyes and let her gentleness flow through him, soothe him, heal him. The war within him had found peace for those few precious moments she had allowed him.

 

For months he has dreamt of their bodies moving together in passion and heat, but last night had opened him up in a way he cannot precisely define. The warmth of her, the compassion in her hands as she’d stroked his face … She’s found a new way to tempt him. He’s certain it will be that much harder not to touch her now, now that he knows how right her body feels like next to his.

 

---

 

Rey opens her door; he’s startled but pleased to find that her hair is down. She’s wearing a pale gray dress with a light pattern of leaves scattered across the fabric. She looks exquisite and he’s not quite sure what to think. What does it mean that she has selected such a delicate dress, chose not to bind her hair? She’s so lovely with her hair spilling over her shoulders. Kylo wants to tell her that she’s breathtaking but she had not reacted well to his earlier attempt to tell her what he sees when he gazes on her. Force, she’s beautiful. This is going to be a difficult night, full of longing.

 

“Good evening, Rey,” Kylo says as he walks through her door, already pulling his helmet from his face. His gloves follow.

 

“Hello,” she responds.

 

He remembers how he had finally untangled himself from her last night, aching to be leaving her. She had walked him to her door and had gifted him with one final ghosting of her fingertips along his cheek. Will she touch him again tonight?

 

Rey leads him to the settee, gestures for him to sit, and then joins him. He notices that there are already two glasses filled with golden liquid. She had … prepared for his arrival?

 

“I didn’t know what to pick, but I liked the bottle so … well, I hope it’s okay.” Rey seems … nervous.

 

He reaches for his glass and brings it to his lips, sipping the wine. It is dry, one he had selected to provide her with a wide variety. He has always liked it but he’s not sure if she will.

 

“It’s perfect,” he pronounces.

 

She takes a hesitant sip and frowns slightly.

 

“What is it?” he asks.

 

“It’s different; it reminds me of the sand fields. Maybe it’s just the color.”

 

“Would you like to try something else?”

 

“No … I think it will grow on me,” she says as she takes another sip. She lifts her eyes to his and he finds them full of worry.

 

“I … are you … alright, after last night?” she asks.

 

Kylo looks away. He had needed her so intensely, and the way she had gathered him up … He knows she won’t mock him for his weakness, but he doesn’t really want to talk about how he’d shattered.

 

“I’m fine,” he responds a touch shortly, not meeting her eyes.

 

“But, you were hurting so much. We never talked about it. I mean, I know … I felt what was inside you, but … I just … I guess I need to know that you’re … feeling better,” she finishes awkwardly.

 

Kylo takes a breath and looks at his wine for a moment. He’d successfully pulled himself together, locking it all away as he always does. He has no wish to wade into the morass again tonight. But that she seems so genuinely concerned, it warms his chest and he wishes to reassure her.

 

He catches her eyes, making sure that she’s listening. “Rey, yes, I’m feeling better. You don’t need to worry,” he says steadily.

 

Rey looks at him searchingly and he wonders for the thousandth time what she’s thinking. She takes another sip of her wine, breaking their eye contact.

 

The silence stretches and he wants to move on from the reminder of how he had unraveled so completely on this very settee. He wants to ask her what she’s done with her day, but that had gone rather badly before. He tries to think of something to say and finds every topic he can think of fraught with implication. She fidgets slightly, pulling at the fabric of her dress.

 

Finally, Rey breaks the silence. “So … I … I did what you said. I spent the day reading about the Jedi, the Force … the Sith.” Her nose wrinkles at the last.

 

“I’m glad.” He’s surprised but pleased. He relaxes, grateful that she does not intend to push him to speak further on the events of last night.

 

“I learned a new meditation; I hope I did it right.”

 

“I’m sure you did.”

 

“Well, anyway … I have some questions. About the Sith.”

 

He’s wary; he’s not sure what to think of this. “Yes?”

 

“You, your men …”

 

“The Knights of Ren, and actually one of them is a woman.”

 

“Oh. Well, anyway, how does that work with the Rule of Two?”

 

“Ah, well, the simple answer is that we are not Sith.” Kylo leans back into the cushions.

 

“You aren’t?” She looks genuinely surprised.

 

“No. Snoke never believed in the Rule of Two. He always believed in expansion, the more the better.”

 

“But you were his only apprentice?”

 

“Not exactly. At first we all were. I had a slightly elevated position, but I did not become Master of the Knights of Ren until we had been with Snoke for a year or so.” He remembers how viciously Wylan Ren had fought his ascension.

 

“After you joined Snoke. After the Academy … fell.”

 

“Yes … after the Academy fell.”

 

“After you destroyed it.” Her eyes grow hard.

 

He doesn’t want to talk about this. He knows it will all go horribly wrong and she’ll likely be screaming at him soon.

 

“Rey … must we talk about this?”

 

“If you want me to try, then yes, we’re talking about this. Eventually we’re going to be talking about all of it. What you did, your mother, your father—all of it.” The conflict within him is immense. She wants to try? The hope is warring with how much he does not want to revisit any of the topics she has listed. She already knows how he has struggled with the … death of Han Solo. The thought of her pulling apart what happened with Leia Organa leaves him cold. But if that is what she requires of him, he will do it. If he must speak of the Academy, he will.

 

“I’ve told you a bit about why I believe in the First Order.” She stiffens but she nods.

 

“After my grandfather was revealed to me and we first began to speak, I went back to the Academy. I started to realize how wrong all of it was, how myopic. Skywalker always told us that we were the arbiters of peace but we never did anything to truly help people. We didn’t interfere. Grand words with nothing behind them. Grandfather told me of how he had hoped to bring order, equality, freedom to the people through the power of the dark, but that he had never been able to finish what he’d begun. I started to talk with others, to tell them that there was a better, more active way. And they listened.”

 

“So you thought, you think that you should interfere with other planets?”

 

“Yes! Grandfather told me that he had waited, patiently, until the Empire had total control. His master promised him that once they had the galaxy under their command, then things would change. Snoke promised the same thing. Maybe it was all smoke and mirrors, but now, now I can make it real. I can change it all,” he says passionately.

 

“But the Academy …”

 

“I … I regret what was necessary. But if we had allowed it to remain, the Jedi would have always opposed us.”

 

“You really believe that it was alright to murder children in order to save other children?”

 

“What?” He’s baffled.

 

“Didn’t you kill everyone?”

 

“No! No, it wasn’t like that. Yes, it was brutal, it was difficult, people did die—but no children. There was fighting, the Jedi attempted to defend the Academy. Some fell. All the older Jedi that remained were given the opportunity to join us. If they did not see the beauty of what we offered, we still didn’t kill them.”

 

“But Han said you destroyed everything ...” Kylo flinches at that name.

 

Kylo looks to the ceiling for a moment before saying, “We did, but no, Rey … those that did not wish to join, as well as the children, were allowed to go free once we severed their connection to the Force.”

 

“You what?” she gasps. Her eyes are full of horror.

 

“It’s a simple matter. We couldn’t allow them to rebuild. It was painless, I promise.” He pushes aside the memory of their anguished faces as one-by-one Snoke had delved into their minds and sundered them from both the light and the dark, silencing the Force in their veins.

 

“But … you cut them off from …” She continues to look at him with revulsion.

 

“You lived your whole life with no knowledge of what’s inside of you. They went back to another time, when life was less … complex,” he says defensively. He blinks quickly, trying to dispel the images of accusing eyes. Though the eyes that forgave are what truly haunt him.

 

“So there are all of these people who once knew how the Force whispers in them and now … nothing?” The way she’s looking at him, it makes him feel … guilty.

 

“We couldn’t allow for them to rebuild,” he repeats.

 

“You don’t see how cruel that was? The way the Force … sings? To never know that again. Oh, Kylo … how could you do that to them?” Her brow is deeply furrowed and her eyes are brimming with pain.

 

“It was mercy!” he exclaims.

 

“No. No, it wasn’t. It was reprehensible.” She pulls herself into a small ball, her legs drawn up under her skirt. She won’t look at him.

 

“It was the only way!” She keeps her face firmly turned away from him.

 

“What would you have had us do?” Can’t she see that it was necessary? They couldn’t allow for dissent, they had to root it out at the source. The Jedi had to be stopped. But she’s still refusing to turn back to him. Please, Rey … please.

 

“What else should we have done? Killed them all?” he asks in frustration.

 

Her head moves sharply towards him though she keeps her body angled away. Her eyes narrow as she says, “You could have allowed for another point of view. Perhaps you don’t know everything. Perhaps your grandfather is wrong!”

 

“I have no patience for people who believe in suffering,” Kylo scoffs.

 

“But they don’t! Maker … how am I ever going to get through to you?” she says to herself, looking away again.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

She shifts in her seat, now facing him. “You see everything in such stark, total terms. Even your idea of freedom is so … warped. No dissent, no choice, no voice. That’s not freedom ...“ she trails off.

 

“Isn’t it better that children be fed?” he challenges.

 

“Of course it is! But at what cost? Isn’t it better to show people another way? I guarantee that most on Jakku would choose the life that you’ve suggested. Wouldn’t you rather that they chose it instead of have you demand it? How is that any different than Plutt?”

 

“You don’t understand,” he says as he shakes his head.

 

“Then explain it to me.”

 

“I don’t care about the slavers, the Hutts, the Jedi!” he bursts out.

 

“So you don’t care about anyone who doesn’t agree with you.”

 

“No, I don’t!”

 

She leans forward and looks into his eyes. “Well, I don’t agree with you.”

 

That stops him dead. She’s backed him into a nice little corner and he doesn’t know what to say. He thinks for a long time.

 

“Why do you care about the people who have hurt you, controlled you, taken from you?” he pivots.

 

“Because from what I’m hearing, you’ve decided that a great number of people aren’t worth listening to. You’ve … you’ve decided that you, only you, know what is best for trillions of beings.”

 

“I do!”

 

“How could you possibly?” she asks derisively.

 

“Grandfather says that once the fighting is done the people will flourish.”

 

“As long as they do not question the First Order.” She crosses her arms in front of her chest.

 

“Exactly.”

 

She gazes at the ceiling and sighs. “Well, I’m certainly not going to get anywhere with you on this tonight, am I?” she asks rhetorically.

 

He’s about to ask what she means when he hears a droid at the door. She’s already ordered dinner?

 

Rey unfolds her legs and goes to the entryway, taking their meal and thanking the droid. He can’t help but smile. Thanking a droid?

 

He stands and goes to her, taking the tray from her. “I have it,” she says in annoyance.

 

“I know, let me help,” he soothes.

 

She frowns but doesn’t argue. He takes their food to the table and pulls off the covering. For a moment he’s confused. It seems to all be ... fruit, but then he notes a small platter of fish. It is an … odd selection.

 

She must have seen his perplexed expression because her tone is defensive as she says, “I like fruit—I didn’t really know what the other choices were.”

 

“You did wonderfully, Rey,” he reassures. He wishes she would have told him that she enjoys fruit. He calculates all of the worlds nearby known for their produce. He already has a list in mind before she’s setting the table.

 

He’s filling their plates as she retrieves their glasses and refills them with the wine she had selected. It pairs quite well with the fish, he notes. The fruit … well, perhaps he will suggest something else for later.

 

They take their usual seats and he’s filled with satisfaction. He remembers how family dinners used to be, everyone taking their places … when peace had reigned. He and Rey will not fail as the Princess and the Scoundrel had.

 

“I wanted to tell you something,” Kylo says as they begin their meal.

 

Rey looks up, almost wary as she nods for him to continue.

 

“I … I’ve been looking for your parents, Rey.”

 

“What?” she exclaims as she drops her fork.

 

“Yes, I learned the name of one of the people who left you on Jakku.”

 

“You’ve been trying to find my parents?” she whispers, blinking rapidly.

 

“I have. I had planned on it being a surprise, but you seem to prefer to be … involved, so I thought it best to tell you.”

 

She keeps blinking and he’s not sure she’s heard him. He wishes he could take her hand.

 

“My parents …” she murmurs.

 

“Yes, we’re following the man who left you there. On Jakku. Well, there was a human woman, too, but I wasn’t able to discover her identity.”

 

“What’s his name,” she demands suddenly, fiercely.

 

He’s a bit startled but he answers, “Sylten Qree. I don’t believe he is your father but I could be wrong.”

 

“I was left on Jakku by a man named Sylten Qree?” Her eyes are wide and hopeful.

 

“Yes. He’s a con-man, a criminal. I’m … I’m sure he must have swindled someone. We’ll find your family. I’ll do everything that I can to bring them to you,” Kylo promises. He wonders if she understands the lengths he will go to for her.

 

“You’ve really been looking for my parents?”

 

“Yes Rey, as soon as I became Supreme Leader I began to search.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“I … did I do the wrong thing?” He needs to get something right.

 

“No! No …. Kylo, for once you’ve managed to do the right thing for the right reasons. Thank you,” she says firmly.

 

He almost sags in relief. “As we speak, my knights are searching Vren. My hope is that they will have him by tomorrow.”

 

Have him?”

 

“Yes, in First Order custody.”

 

“You won’t hurt him, will you?” Her eyes are full of panic.

 

“My intention was to interrogate him as I usually do.”

 

“Please, no, don’t hurt him! Don’t … don’t do to him what you did to me.”

 

He’s silent as he thinks of how he had tried to pull the map from her. He knows he only did what he had had to do, but he can still remember how her beautiful eyes had filled with tears and he feels … ashamed. He looks down at his plate, focusing on the strange collection of fruit and he wants to say something, apologize, make her understand that he would never do that now. Only, he knows that that was the moment they were sealed together and he cannot bring himself to regret it. Perhaps he can give her what she’s asked instead?

 

“Alright Rey, I won’t use more … advanced methods. Besides, he’s a common criminal; I’m certain credits will loosen his tongue.”

 

“But he could be … he could be my father,” she says with such hope it makes him ache.

 

“I suppose, but I can’t imagine your father actually leaving you on a place like Jakku. You are so bright, so beautiful, no father could ever leave behind such a treasure.”

 

“You really think that?”

 

“Of course I do. Oh Rey, don’t you know how special, how singular you are? To look at you is to worship you.”

 

“Now you’re just teasing me.” Her expression closes and her shoulders droop.

 

“No Rey, I’m not,” he says in a low, genuine voice. He catches her eyes and wills her to see how he loves her. She knows—she must know. How could she not? He watches as a delicate blush blooms along her cheeks and he wishes he could trail his fingers along her soft skin. She looks away but he notices how she suppresses a smile.

 

“You said he was with a woman?” she asks.

 

“Yes, human. She would now be roughly 40 standard years.”

 

“So she might have been my mother? Do you know what she looks like?” Rey asks eagerly.

 

“I’m afraid that’s all I know. And again, I cannot imagine your mother would have abandoned you like that. My best guess is that you were caught up in one of Sylten Qree’s schemes. He likely conned someone out of something and then he had to deal with the collateral damage. My hope is that there are two people out there who have been yearning for you as much as you have yearned for them.”

 

Rey swallows and he sees that tears have gathered under her lashes. He hadn’t meant to make her cry. Maker, he never gets it right. He throws his napkin down and looks away.

 

“I’m sorry Rey, it wasn’t my intention to upset you.”

 

“No! Kylo, no. You haven’t upset me. You’ve made me happy.”

 

“Really?” he asks in disbelief. She starts to reach for his hand but pulls back before their fingers touch. If she’d only just touch him, just for a moment ...

 

“Yes, really. I … that you’ve done this, that one of the first things you did once you were able was to try and find my parents … it’s … well it’s lovely and I’m grateful.” She smiles and he thinks it might be the first time she’s ever smiled just for him. Oh, the things he would do to see that smile every day.

 

“I … I’m glad Rey.” He softly smiles back at her.

 

They begin to eat again and he’s surprised by how nicely the fruit goes with the fish. Rey is quiet, she seems lost in thought. He wonders if she’s thinking about her parents.

 

“You said that you have a collection of Jedi holocrons. Would you really let me look at them?” Rey asks suddenly.

 

“Of course. I will have them brought to you tomorrow.”

 

“Thank you. Leia had two; it’s how I learned to heal with the Force.” He ignores the flare of temper that name incites.

 

“I’ve not actually looked at any of them. I don’t know what they contain.”

 

“You haven’t opened them? Then why do you have them?” she asks curiously.

 

“As a reminder of my past, of the history I share with my grandfather. We were both Jedi before we found a better way.”

 

“Your grandfather …” She seems to be struggling with something.

 

“Yes?”

 

“You say he … speaks to you. How does that … work?” she asks cautiously. He’s not sure why she seems so filled with trepidation.

 

“When a Force-user dies they do not truly die. They can still come back, talk to the living. Usually as a Force Ghost, but that is only for those who use the light side. Grandfather explained that because he was a product of the Force he is able to speak to me even though he died as a practitioner of the dark side.”

 

“What do you mean he died as a practitioner of the dark side? That’s not true, Kylo.” Rey is shaking her head.

 

“I see that the Skywalker twins have been busy filling your head with their lies.” He should have known. If only she had been with him from the beginning. Now he must untangle her mind from his family’s distorted view of reality.

 

“What? No! Leia would never lie to me. She told me everything she could about you and your family once I admitted about ... the Bond.” That Leia Organa knows of their connection is filed away for later; there are more important matters at hand.

 

“So I imagine she told you how Darth Vader found the light and was redeemed.” Kylo spits out the last word with venom.

 

“Yes, that his love for his son brought him back.”

 

“Well, I’m sure she found comfort in that pretty tale, but no, that’s not what happened. Grandfather told me himself what really happened that day,” Kylo says with confidence.

 

“And what did Darth Vader tell you?” she asks, her tone a bit mocking. He wishes she wouldn’t speak of Grandfather like that.

 

“Luke Skywalker murdered him—him and the Emperor. Grandfather told his son what he hopped for the galaxy but Skywalker was too afraid, too limited. He couldn’t see the power, the glory in the dark side. He refused to see all the possibilities.”

 

“You truly believe that Luke Skywalker overpowered the last Sith in the galaxy? Half-trained, barely a Jedi, he succeeded in killing two powerful Force-users?” Rey ask incredulously.

 

“Grandfather couldn’t do it, he couldn’t kill his own son. He faltered, Skywalker took the opening and cut off his head.” Luke Skywalker, bringer of the new age of Jedi, was every bit as stained as Kylo Ren.

 

“And what about the Emperor? How do you explain that?”

 

“I … I don’t know, Grandfather never spoke of what happened to his master.”

 

“And you didn’t wonder?” Rey asks keenly.

 

“Why would I question my grandfather?” Kylo doesn’t like where Rey is taking this.

 

“I … so this is what you’ve believed all this time.” She sits back in her chair and chews a bit on her bottom lip.

 

“It’s the truth. Why would my grandfather lie to me?” He’s unsettled by her reactions to Grandfather.

 

“Oh, Kylo … I don’t know what to say.” Rey glances away, shaking her head slightly.

 

“Can’t you see? If Skywalker had only joined Grandfather there would be peace now! Your life would have been so different. Even if it turns out you are an orphan, you would have been adopted, would have had parents to love you. You never would have had to scratch your loneliness into the carcass of an AT-AT.”

 

Her head snaps up and she asks sharply, “How do you know about that?”

 

“I … I had the stormtroopers take holos of everything they could find. I saw where you lived. I saw how you counted every single day, waiting, hoping, despairing.” Such anguish fills her lovely hazel eyes and how he wishes she would let him care for her, treasure her, heal her.

 

“You don’t know me,” Rey grinds out.

 

“Yes, Rey … I do.”

 

“Just because you have a collection of facts doesn’t mean you have any idea about who I am.”

 

“Then tell me. Maker knows that’s all I want. Do you know how desperately I want to know everything you think, everything that matters to you? I don’t care how small, how insignificant a detail, I want to hear it. Rey, sweetheart, you are everything to me.” Rey looks up swiftly, her eyes very wide, but he continues. “Please, you must know, you must know what you mean to me.” He wants to keep speaking of his heart but she seems almost afraid and he suddenly feels a bit foolish. Kylo looks away.

 

The heavy silence goes on and Kylo continues to look at the wall, castigating himself for his openness, when he hears her say, “I like sweet things.”

 

“What?” He turns back to her. Is she really going to open up to him, even just a bit?

 

“Growing up I tasted something sweet twice. Once when I was 7, a rich trader came through Niima and he gave all of the children little pieces of Lorian candy. It was purple and it fizzed on your tongue. The lavender wine with the bubbles ... it tasted a bit like that. I’ve always wanted to taste it again.” Rey looks down and smiles at the memory. Kylo wonders how long it will take to have it shipped from Loria.

 

She takes a breath and continues, “Then, when I was about 14, a boy named Yoryn gave me a glaze cake. I have no idea where he got it, but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. It was so soft and sticky. I ate the smallest bites I could to make it last; each crumb just melted in my mouth.” Kylo nearly growls at the mention of Yoryn Glant but she’s finally telling him about herself and he doesn’t dare take the chance of upsetting her.

'

“Then, when I was at Maz’s …” She trails off and her eyes grow sad.

 

“Please tell me.”

 

“It’s just … that was that day. The day you took me ... the first time.”

 

“I know it was.” Kylo takes a deep breath and decides that perhaps there are some things he should say.

 

“Rey, I’m sorry.” His tone is firm and sincere.

 

“What?” Rey blinks in confusion.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything that I did to you then. Frightening you in the forest, putting you in a Force sleep … pushing into your mind. Throwing you against that tree. All of it. I’m sorry, Rey. I hope you know that I will never hurt you again.” He looks into her eyes intensely.

 

She bites her bottom lip and nods slightly. She looks like she wants to say something but she keeps her own counsel.

 

“Do you know that I will never hurt you or allow harm to come to you? Do you know that, Rey?”

 

“Yes … I … I know.”

 

“Good. Now, please tell me what you were going to say.”

 

She pulls at her napkin and avoids his eyes.

 

“I would truly like to know, even though it brings up … that day.”

 

Rey catches his eyes for a moment before dropping her gaze to the table. “It was only that that was the first day I tasted fresh fruit. I’d never seen something so colorful, I’d never had anything so bright and tart ... there were so many textures,” she says in awe as she looks at him. “The way the juice just burst from the flesh … Everything changed when I left Jakku, and somehow fruit means that to me. It means discovery, hope, life.” Rey’s eyes are bright and enthusiastic.


Kylo wants so badly to pull her into his arms. She’s letting him in.

---

After finishing their meal Kylo goes to the cabinet and retrieves a deep, dark cordial. It’s made with several berries and it’s very sweet. He’s excited to share this with her now that he knows just a hint of what pleases her. He pours the thick liquid and admires how it streaks down the glasses.

 

Rey is sitting on the settee, waiting for him. He hands her her glass, taking his seat next to her. He sits just a little closer than he usually does. They’re turned, facing each other.

 

Kylo watches eagerly as she takes her first sip. She closes her eyes and sighs in pleasure. “It’s like everything I like about fruit and candy all at once!” she exclaims.

 

“I’m glad you like it. Thank you for telling me that you like sweet things. Tell me something else about you, please. I want to know everything.”

 

She smiles into her glass. “I like ghost stories.”

 

“You like to be frightened?” His tone is puzzled.

 

“No, not exactly. I like how they make me shiver. And they’re always so sad and tragic. The best ones start out with a terrifying apparition that’s really only hurting, pining for his lost love or roaming the world seeking her family. It’s never what it seems to be. I like that. I like how the stories surprise you. I was always excited when the storytellers would come.” She settles into the cushions, still facing him. Her cheek is resting against the back of the settee. Rey places her hand in the space between them. Does she want … does she want to hold his hand?

 

“When the storytellers would come?” he asks. He’s having difficulty focusing on their conversation. Perhaps he should not have chosen to sit so near her.

 

“Well, on Jakku … you know how it was.” Her time on Jakku is always only just beneath the surface.

 

“But I’d like to hear it from you.” Kylo shifts so that he mirrors her position, they’re both leaning their shoulders against the cushions, their faces close together. He pauses before putting his hand near hers. He feels the pull intensify and notices how her hand shifts just a little closer to his.

 

“Life was hard. There wasn’t much time for relaxing. But when the storytellers came through it didn’t matter how much you’d regret it in the morning, everyone would stay up well into the night. We’d always beg for just one more story.”

 

“I’m glad you have some good memories of your childhood, Rey.”

 

“Yes, it wasn’t all bad. Sometimes I forget that.” She’s looking steadily into his eyes and her expression is open, welcoming.

 

He simply looks back, entranced by her lovely eyes. There are flecks of gold and green; he would happily spend his days discovering all of the different colors reflected in those depths. He can’t think of anything to say and he finds he doesn’t care. He just wants to stay like this, close to her.

 

Rey shifts and holds his eyes as she slowly moves her hand over his. His eyes widen and he inhales raggedly the moment their skin touches. He shudders as he feels the warmth, the texture of her fingers against his. He hesitates before turning his palm upwards as her fingers curl around his. Yes. This is what he needs, what they both need. The Bond is flowing between them, like water lapping at the shore. It is a quiet bliss, not the snapping, wild energy of the other morning. It’s completion and how it soothes him.

 

She strokes her fingers along the inside of his wrist; he gasps and his lips part. Her eyes glow. All that there is in the entire galaxy is the feeling of her light touch as she runs her thumb along his sensitive flesh. Kylo traces his fingers along her palm and she sighs and her eyes flutter close.

 

He takes the opportunity to study her features, the light dusting of freckles across her cheeks. A lock of her dark hair has fallen across her face and he wants to reach up and smooth it back, feel her tresses between his fingers. But he’s very unsure about touching her and will not take any liberties. She has told him that this is alright as long as she is the one to touch him. He won’t do anything to endanger his time with Rey; if all she does is hold his hand he will accept it for as long as he must. There is more tenderness in her fingers entwined with his than he has felt in almost a lifetime; it is enough.

 

Rey’s eyes are still closed and her pert lips hold a contented smile. They continue to run their fingers over each other’s hands, the luscious energy between them growing thicker. Kylo never knew such gentle pleasure was possible.

 

Her eyes open slowly and her smile grows. Somehow they have moved even closer and their faces are only inches apart. Their fingers dance together and he falls into her eyes, lost to the euphoria of being with Rey.

 

They stay like that until it is time for Kylo to take his leave. Rey keeps his hand in hers all the way to her door.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo Ren is in his personal training room, moving through saber forms. He wishes that Rey would work with him, but she had said she would continue to study on her own. Perhaps soon she will relent and let him show her all that she can do. She had softened so much … Last night had confirmed that all of his hopes and dreams are possible. She had talked with him, truly talked with him. He’d made her happy with his attempt to find her parents. And then … the way she had touched him, skimming her fingers along his hand like that … it was beyond erotic. It was as if everything he loves about Rey had been concentrated in her fingertips.

 

After she had walked him to the door so sweetly, holding his hand until the very last moment, he had returned to his own rooms in an almost daze. Her touch had continued to ripple through him. He had fallen asleep still feeling the whisper of her fingers against his own. She’s letting him in ...

 

It had been difficult not to go to her this morning and he’s missing Rey, but he doesn’t want to push her. And so he trains, attempting to ready himself for a day of tedium. He has been a warrior of one kind or another for his entire adult life and the duties of Supreme Leader do not always come naturally to him. He dislikes sending others to do the work of war.

 

She had said that she wants to try. He lets that wash through him as he swings his saber, slashing through the air. His body is controlled, his muscles taut as he lunges and blocks. Rey wants to try …

 

---

 

Hux enters his office, looking as uncomfortable as he always does.

 

“Supreme Leader?”

 

“Yes, Hux.”

 

“We have received a communication from the Knights of Ren.”

 

Perhaps they have already found Sylten Qree? “And?”

 

“They believe they have located the subject and should have him in custody within the day.”

 

“Excellent. Inform me immediately when they arrive.”

 

Hux looks to the side before clearing his throat.

 

“What is it, Hux?” Kylo asks in irritation. He wishes Hux would simply speak instead of making his displeasure known, forcing Kylo to pull it from him.

 

“They expect to arrive in the evening when you are generally … occupied.”

 

The stormtroopers must be talking. There are very few of the rank and file who can withstand the Jedi mind trick—it had taken quite some time to find the guards for Rey’s door—so he is loath to discipline them too harshly. Regardless, Hux would likely ferret out his private business no matter what steps he were to take. Kylo has only seen Hux caught by surprise once: when he had become Supreme Leader. Now that had been exceptionally satisfying. Kylo recalls how the ginger general had gaped at him—most unattractively—for an entire minute. Hux’s mouth had opened and closed repeatedly before he’d shouted, “You cannot possibly be serious!” Oh, that had been a very good day indeed. Kylo brings his attention back to his one-time rival.

 

“If they arrive while I am … otherwise engaged, do not disturb me. Beyond that, I wish to be alerted as soon as possible.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.” Hux goes to leave.

 

“Oh, and Hux?” The general turns back to Kylo.

 

“See that the prisoner is unharmed.” Kylo did tell Rey that Sylten Qree would not be hurt.

 

“Sir?”

 

“Ensure that no extensive measures are taken.” He supposes the man could be her father, after all.

 

---

 

He’s brimming with excitement for this evening. Now that he knows she likes sweet things, he has prepared something special for tonight. Kylo walks briskly from the bridge to Rey’s quarters. He wants to shower her in gifts; he has an embarrassingly large collection of jewelry, perfumes, and other treasures hidden away in his rooms. But he is certain that too much, too soon would likely overwhelm her, so he will simply add to his trove as he thinks of something. This, however ... this he’s certain will please her.

 

---

 

“Good evening, Rey,” Kylo says as she gestures for him to enter. His helmet and gloves go to their usual perch.

 

“Hello, Kylo,” she responds.

 

Tonight she is wearing a soft green dress free of adornment, but its simple lines suit her. He thinks it makes her eyes especially vibrant. Her hair is back up, held with fine golden combs. They’re askew and he realizes she’s likely never had ornaments for her hair. He flashes to watching Leia Organa twine her long, dark tresses into elaborate styles when he was a boy. She could likely teach Rey everything about such things … he shakes his head and pushes that strange thought as far away as possible.

 

He stands in front of her, not quite sure what to do. He had felt wonderfully close to her last night. Will she touch him in greeting? Rey only looks up at him and then her eyes glance around the room furtively. He realizes he’s just been standing there, looking at her, and he feels unsure and awkward. He scans the room and sees that there is no wine waiting. He breaks the strange moment by walking to her wine cabinet, busying himself with preparing their drinks.

 

He notes that she’s rearranged some of the ferns and blooms and reminds himself to check when the next shipment of flora is due. The Lorian candy she had mentioned should be arriving within the week.

 

“Have you already ordered dinner?” he asks as he pulls out the glasses.

 

“I really wasn’t sure about what to order last night so I thought you could do it?” Rey is moving towards the settee.

 

“If that is your wish.” Kylo selects the wine and pours the burgundy liquid.

 

He goes to Rey and hands her her wine and then goes to the console to order their dinner. He may now know that she is fond of desserts, but he still has no idea what sort of savory foods she prefers. Kylo hesitates and makes his selection, hoping she will like it. He’s certain she’ll enjoy what he has planned for later.

 

Kylo takes his seat next to Rey, sensing the gentle flow of the Bond between them. He wants to pull the combs from her hair and watch as her mane tumbles into his hands. He knows he must be patient, but the way she had touched him last night had finally quieted the constant storm that rages for her. He longs for her to reach out and again twine her fingers with his, feel that bliss.

 

“How was your training today?” he asks, trying to pull himself from the heady memory.

 

Her eyes flit up and she suddenly seems nervous. “Oh, fine.”

 

“Rey?”

 

“What?”

 

“Did you do something?”

 

“No! Anyway, as I’ve told you before, there’s nothing to do.”

 

“But you said you would try to work on learning the ways of the Force on your own? They did bring you the holocrons, didn’t they?”

 

“Yes, they did …”

 

“But …?”

 

“I couldn’t focus! I’m trapped and frankly I’m going a little mad.” Rey tastes her wine but her face shows nothing.

 

“I’m sorry for that, Rey … I don’t know what else to do.”

 

“You could let me out of these rooms?”

 

“Do you really expect me to believe that you won’t try to escape?”

 

She places her glass on the low table and crosses her arms in front of her chest, her expression sullen.

 

Rey looks at him and asks, “What if I promise not to?”

 

“I would not believe you.” He’s fairly certain she would bolt at the first opportunity. He fiercely wishes he could trust her to stay with him.

 

“So that’s it? I’m going to be trapped in here for the rest of my life?”

 

“No, of course not. This is temporary.”

 

“Oh, I see. I’ll be in here until you deem that it’s time.”

 

“Yes.”

 

She suddenly stands and goes to the viewscreen, watching Vren below. Kylo puts his glass down and goes to stand near her. As he approaches her he sees her face and what he finds lances through his chest. Her eyes are … desolate.

 

“Rey …”

 

She continues to look out the viewscreen. “I don’t know what to do, Kylo. I am trying. When you came to me after Demyan … I saw a man who I could … But then you are so casual about keeping me prisoner.”

 

“You are not a prisoner.”

 

Her head turns to him swiftly. “Yes, I am. You need to accept that. You need to understand what you’re doing to me.”

 

“Do you think prisoners are treated like this?” He gestures to the spacious room and the bursting greenery.

 

“It doesn’t matter how lovely everything is, I still can’t leave.” She looks back down on the planet with such longing.

 

Perhaps … “What if I took you down to Vren tomorrow?”

 

“What?” she asks, startled. She turns to face him.

 

“I have reason to believe that the business with Sylten Qree will be concluded sometime tonight. Tomorrow I will take you to the planet’s surface if that is your desire.”

 

“Really?” Her eyes gleam with hope.

 

“Rey, I don’t want to keep you in here, I truly don’t. If it would make you happy to go planetside then of course I will take you.” Besides, if he takes her somewhere remote she would have nowhere to go; she won’t be able to run from him.

 

“It would be wonderful to feel real air on my skin. I … I don’t really like space. I always thought I would, but everything is …”

 

“Muted.”

 

“Yes, exactly!”

 

“It’s because of your Force connection. That’s part of why I made sure that there are many living things in your rooms. I remember. It was difficult to grow accustomed to how it changes the Force; I had hoped it would help. But perhaps I was wrong,” Kylo says regretfully.

 

“Are you ‘accustomed’ to it?”

 

“Yes. The Force is quieter, but it is still very present. You learn to feel its … subtlety.”

 

She nods slightly and looks down for a long time. Rey lifts her eyes to his and asks, “You’ll really take me?”

 

“Rey, I promise I will make sure that you are off of the ship as often as I am able, now that I know that is your wish.” He wonders if it would be possible to continue to head the First Order from somewhere stationary. He has found it extremely useful to be mobile, but perhaps he should consider making this change. If she finds space unpleasant … he’ll look into it after their trip to Vren.

 

“Thank you, Kylo.” She smiles up at him. Her face takes on a thoughtful expression and she says, “You said you think you’ll have that man, Sylten Qree, sometime tonight?”

 

He blinks at the change of subject. “Yes, he has been located and my knights will return with him shortly.”

 

“And you won’t hurt him?”

 

“I’ve already given orders that he remain unharmed.”

 

“Good … thank you. Do you think I could … meet him?”

 

“Oh, Rey … he’s a very low sort of person. I don’t want you exposed to that.”

 

Rey snorts and says, “Really? You do know where I grew up, don’t you? I was probably ‘exposed’ to more criminals in a day on Jakku than you have been in your whole life.”

 

“Don’t be so sure about that,” Kylo says bitterly, remembering the sort of people Han Solo preferred.

 

Rey looks at him inquisitively but doesn’t comment on his remark. “If he’s the one who left me, even if he isn’t my father … I’d like to … I’d like to be there when you talk to him.”

 

Kylo stiffens. The idea of her participating in the interrogation makes him very uncomfortable, but her eyes are open and pleading. He purses his lips and continues to think on it.

 

“Please?” she asks.

 

“Rey … I really don’t want you anywhere near a man like Sylten Qree.”

 

Rey rolls her eyes. “You are way too late to protect me from men like him, Kylo.”

 

Fury roils in his chest as he's once again reminded of all that she’s been through. He really might need to go to Jakku once he has found her parents. The more he learns, the more he needs to be her vengeance. “I don’t like this. What if I learn something difficult? What if he’s cruel to you? I don’t ... I don’t want that for you.”

 

“We’re talking about finding my parents. Mine, Kylo. I don’t want to be protected. I want to know. Please. He’s the man who left me … He might … he might be my father.” Her eyes are full of a lifetime of waiting, dreaming, hoping, and he just wants to hold her. Not because of how he needs her, but because he wants to wrap her in his arms and stand between her and all that has hurt her. Kylo wants, desperately, to comfort her. There is an edge of anguish to Rey that never really leaves her. That she has been ill-used and abandoned is gouged into her soul. Maker, he hopes her story has a happy ending.

 

“If that is what you truly want then yes … yes you may be there.” Kylo hopes he’s not making a horrible mistake.

 

“You really are very thoughtful in your own strange way.” Rey cocks her head to the side and her hand lifts slightly then drops. He had hoped for a moment … but no. Then she blinks and lifts her hand again, pushing a bit of his hair behind his ear. His body is instantly alight from the contact. Her hand lingers on his jaw and he just wants to close his eyes and give himself over to the feel of her soft touch.

 

She pulls her hand back slowly, trailing her fingers along his face as she withdraws. A small sound of protest escapes him before he can stop it. He breathes in deeply, trying to keep from begging her to please, please keep touching him. Kylo knows he must be patient, that if he pushes her he’ll lose these small moments she allows him. But the craving is only growing worse with each touch.

 

Rey blinks and returns her gaze to the planet below. “What’s Vren like?”

 

He takes in a quavering breath as he attempts to master himself. “It is a small planet with only a few population centers. There are many beautiful beaches and they are known for their lylanberries. They grow quite prolifically near the coasts. There is a small mountain range as well.” He’s had the local berries brought up from the surface for his surprise. Oh, he hopes she will like it …

 

“Can we go to one of the cities?” she asks.

 

He pauses. He had been thinking of taking her somewhere far from any ships she could use to escape him. However, if he were to bring the Knights of Ren … Yes, that is what he will do. Decision made, he answers, “Of course.”

 

“Thank you, Kylo. I miss the sounds of people. I never thought I would. I never really liked the marketplace at Niima, but I think I got used to all of the activity at the bases.” Her eyes grow wistful and her lips pull into a sorrowful little smile.

 

He hates that she had been with them for so long. If only he had known of her when he had descended on Jakku. He would have landed his shuttle on her doorstep and swept her away that very night. She never would have had the opportunity to become so confused. Rey would be in his bed and she would be happy. It infuriates him that had he found her but two days earlier … But it does not do to dwell on what might have been.

 

The droid has arrived and they both start for the door. He motions for her to stay as he says, “Please, let me.”

 

---

 

Dinner had been quiet and she had shared a few more memories of Jakku, telling him tales of how she would go on week-long journeys to reach remote crash sites. She is remarkably resourceful and he managed not to let his anger at her arduous existence show. Her face had glowed with pride as she had recounted her successes, and he had not wanted to undermine them with his simmering fury that she had needed to learn such skills in the first place.

 

Now they’re sitting together on the settee, but she has not taken his hand as she did last night. He’s so eager to see how she responds to what he’s planned that he ignores his disappointment.

 

He keeps imagining her reaction and smiling to himself. His surprise is due to arrive any minute and he can’t keep the anticipation from his face.

 

“What is it Kylo? You keep glancing at the time.”

 

“You’ll see,” he says with a wicked little smile.

 

Rey raises her brows but she smiles back tentatively.

 

“I think you will like it. At least I hope you will,” Kylo says just as he hears the droid announce its presence. He stands quickly and strides to the door.

 

He retrieves the tray and brings it to the low table in front of the settee. There’s barely room for it among the ferns and orchids. Kylo sits in front of the tray and removes its cover. He’s pleased to find everything in order. There is a large, ornate bowl filled with iced whilk cream, another smaller bowl with caramelized lylanberries, and a small carafe of Chadian rum.

 

Rey sits closer to him and leans forward, watching as he pours the golden rum over the deep purple berries. “What is it?” she asks curiously.

 

“You’ll see,” he says again in a teasing tone. She’s sitting very near; he can feel the warmth of her form.

 

Kylo is relieved to find that his hand is steady as he places it over the berry and rum concoction. He concentrates the Force for a moment and the alcohol bursts into blue and yellow flames. Rey yelps and sits back, her eyes wide. The flames dance and twist. He shifts his attention from his task to Rey, who has already moved forward again. Kylo watches as the flickering light plays across her face and makes the golden filigree of her hair combs glint. Stars, he will never tire of looking at her. Her eyes are full of pure delight as she watches the flames gutter and finally go out. He knew she would like this.

 

The air is filled with the rich aroma of the cooked fruit and Rey exclaims, “Oh, that smells so good!”

 

Kylo smiles, he is terribly excited to see her face when she tastes it. He carefully dishes out the iced cream and ladles the succulent fruit over the frozen dessert. He’s about to hand her her dish when he has an idea. Would she let him …

 

Before he considers it fully, he takes up one of the spoons and scoops up a perfect bite with just the right amount of cream and berries. He turns to Rey and hesitantly holds it up to her mouth. She pauses for a moment too long and he’s regretting his forwardness. But then she holds his eyes as she leans forward and opens her inviting mouth. Caught in her gaze, he delicately feeds her the flambéed delicacy.

 

He barely suppresses a shudder as he watches her supple pink lips close around the luscious cream. Her eyes slide close and, and ... oh Force, she moans. The sound of her pleasure goes straight to his center and he’s reacting. He pulls the spoon from her mouth and he wants to pull her to him and taste the berries on her lips. Her eyes flutter open and it’s as if he can still see the earlier flames burn in their depths. Her tongue flits out, capturing the last of the decadent dessert, and he can’t stop the strangled gasp that escapes him. Simply watching her enjoy his surprise has him so hard that he can barely think.

 

“What is that? Kylo, I’ve never tasted anything like it. It’s … it’s amazing. The cold and the heat, the fruit is so sweet and … and … you set it on fire with the Force!”

 

“I did.” He smiles a bit smugly. “To answer your question, it is flambéed lylanberries over iced whilk cream. I had the berries shipped from Vren this afternoon. They were picked this morning.” He hands her her dish and sets about making his own.

 

Rey quickly takes another bite and she makes that same sound. It tingles along his spine and Kylo has to shift in his seat in an attempt to adjust himself surreptitiously.

 

“I mean, I didn’t even know something could be this delicious!” she says between mouthfuls.

 

“I’m glad that you like it, Rey.”

 

“Oh, I more than like it. This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my whole life!”

 

“I had hoped you would enjoy it,” he says quietly.

 

She smiles that smile again, the one she grants him when he’s managed to get it right. She shifts closer, leaning her shoulder against his. His breath hitches but he manages to suppress any other outward signs of what she does to him.

 

“How did you do that, make flame with the Force?” she asks curiously.

 

He’s suddenly very quiet. He remembers how she had shown him while on a visit home from the Academy. The warm, joyful energy is sucked from the room as Kylo struggles with what to say.

 

“Kylo?” Rey asks, worry filling her lovely eyes.

 

“I … Leia Organa showed me,” he admits softly.

 

“Your mother taught you?”

 

He bristles at the reminder of who she used to be to him. “Yes, when I was an adolescent. She just used it as a parlor trick, she could only ever light candles,” he says dismissively.

 

“I wonder why she didn’t show me …” Rey sounds almost … hurt.

 

“She could never do anything useful with it; she likely forgot. I’m certain it wasn’t intentional.” Kylo isn’t sure why he’s defending Leia Organa.

 

“Still … I thought she showed me everything she knew …” Rey looks away.

 

Kylo doesn’t want to continue talking about that woman. He wants to coax back the jubilant mood of earlier, but he doesn’t know how. He supposes that at least his body is once again under control. He begins to eat his own dessert quietly. He focuses on the sensation of their shoulders pressed together.

 

Rey watches him for a long while before continuing to eat hers as well. Soon she’s making little hums of happiness and the tension is easing. She finishes her dish. She leans forward to place her empty dish on the table and he immediately misses the contact of her leaning into him. Rey turns to him and asks, “Will you show me?”

 

“What?”

 

“Will you show me how to make fire with the Force?”

 

Kylo is startled; he hadn’t really expected her to let him show her anything for quite some time. But he recovers quickly and says, “Of course, it would be my pleasure.”

 

“Maybe tomorrow, after Vren?”

 

“Or perhaps on Vren. Just don’t burn down the forest,” Kylo says ruefully. She’s remarkably good at bringing him back when the past has him caught in its gnashing teeth.

 

“I thought you said we could go to a city?”

 

“We will, Rey. I thought perhaps we could do both?”

 

“Yes, I’d like that.” She smiles at him.

 

They sit quietly and Kylo wishes she would press against him again. Rey tilts her head and asks, “When do you think they’ll have Sylten Qree?”

 

“My knights may already be back with him.”

 

“Wouldn’t they tell you?”

 

“I’ve asked not to be disturbed. My time with you is too important.”

 

She ducks her head and he sees that lovely blush stain her cheeks. Then her expression grows serious. “He might already be here?”

 

“Yes. My intention had been to int- to speak with him after leaving you. If the knights have returned, I suppose you will be coming with me instead.”

 

“Would you check and see if he’s here? I … I’ve waited such a long time for answers. The thought that he’s already here, that he’s been here while I was enjoying dinner with you …” she trails off.

 

At first Kylo is hurt, hurt that she would rather be speaking with this cretin than spending time with him, but then he realizes she had said that she was enjoying herself. The corner of his mouth lifts.

 

“Yes, Rey, I will check.” Kylo pulls out his comm.

 

“Hux,” he demands into the device.

 

“Supreme Leader?” Hux responds, sounding surprised.

 

“Who else would be using this channel?” Kylo asks in irritation. “Have the Knights of Ren returned?”

 

“Yes, sir. They arrived just after you left for your … engagement.”

 

“Is the prisoner comfortable? My instructions were followed?”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader. Sylten Qree is currently being held in Detention Level B.”

 

“Have him moved to an inter-” Kylo stops himself. He doesn’t want Rey to have to see an interrogation room. He doesn’t want her to see one of those chairs ever again. Kylo clears his throat and continues, “Have Jashad and Palek Ren bring him to my office and stand guard. We will be there shortly.”

 

“'We, Supreme Leader?” Curiosity bleeds through the comm.

 

“Yes … Rey will be accompanying me.”

 

“I see.” Yes, he likely does see. The general always sees far more than Kylo would like.

 

Kylo shuts off his comm and finds Rey watching him intently.

 

“What is it?” Kylo asks.

 

“It’s just … it’s strange watching you be ‘Supreme Leader’.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I … you’re very different with me.”

 

“I should hope so.”

 

“Anyway, it’s just strange. That was all.”

 

Kylo stands from the settee. He wants to offer her his hand to help her up, but he ignores the impulse. “If you’re sure this is what you really want, we should go.”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.” She stands as well.

 

He moves to the table by the door and pulls on his gloves.

 

As he’s reaching for his helmet, Rey asks, “Do you really have to wear that?”

 

He holds the helmet and thinks. It had never occurred to him to not wear his helmet once he had become Supreme Leader. While he was a Knight of Ren it would have been unthinkable to go anywhere without his mask. Snoke would have been seriously displeased. No one on the ship save Rey, Hux, and the Knights of Ren have ever seen his face. Kylo Ren is the mask. He decides that it is necessary.

 

“Yes Rey, I do.”

 

“I hate it.”

 

“I am aware,” he says as he settles his helmet over his head.


He is opening the door when Rey slips her hand around his arm. He’s startled and turns, looking into her face, searching for answers. Rey looks up at him and smiles ever so slightly. Kylo suddenly realizes that she’s trying to allow him to escort her properly. A gentle warmth spreads throughout his body, beginning in his chest. He bends his arm and tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow and finds himself standing that much taller.

Chapter Text

They’re entering the bridge and he feels Rey’s small fingers tighten on his arm. He looks down and finds her eyes wide and she’s looking around quickly. Kylo can’t determine what has her so agitated. He realizes that the entire bridge has stopped what they’re doing and are looking at him. No, no, they’re looking at Rey. Of course, the gossip has been flowing fast and furious and the officers must be curious about her. He shouldn’t have brought her here. He should have had Sylten Qree taken to empty quarters or simply conducted the … interview in his cell. What had he been thinking? Obviously, he hadn’t. He’d only been partially focused on the matter at hand, so transported by Rey.

 

He wants to talk with her, soothe her. But there is no way for him to do so as his office is already rather occupied. There’s nothing for it―he will simply have to move forward. Rey shifts closer to him and now she’s almost clinging as she looks around furtively. He leads her quickly to his office.

 

They enter to find Sylten Qree sitting in one of the chairs opposite Kylo’s desk. Both Palek and Jashad stand with their backs to the door and their eyes on Qree. The knights turn quickly at the sound of their arrival but the con-man keeps his seat, not bothering to turn his head to see who has entered. Rey draws nearer still and her other hand joins the first as she practically wraps herself around his arm. While normally he would be elated for this much contact between them, his worry for her drowns out all else. What’s wrong?

 

Rey’s eyes are trained intensely on the back of Qree’s head. His hair is the same shade as hers as well as mirroring her loose curls.

 

“Jashad Ren,” Kylo says, getting the knight’s attention.

 

“Supreme Leader?” Jashad queries as he looks between Kylo and Rey.

 

“Report,” Kylo orders.

 

“We apprehended the target approximately four hours ago. He was in the midst of …” Jashad trails off and looks towards the ceiling.

 

“Jashad Ren?”

 

“Forgive me Supreme Leader, but maybe it would be better for me to give you our report … privately,” Jashad says, angling his head towards Rey.

 

“No, I want to hear,” Rey proclaims as her focus moves from Qree to what the knight has been saying. Her hands fall from Kylo’s arm and she moves towards Jashad. Kylo feels the Bond snap wildly, as if it wants to lash Rey back to his side. Palek remains by the door, keeping an eye on the prisoner.

 

Kylo is torn. He really hadn’t thought this through. He beckons for Rey to follow him to the edge of the room in an attempt to gain some semblance of privacy.

 

“Rey, allow me to take you to Hux’s office while I hear Jashad’s report and speak with Qree. Then I will bring you back and you may speak with him.” He can’t believe he hadn’t thought of this earlier. He should have taken her there in the first place. He’s handling all of this quite badly.

 

“No. I want to know all of it. I don’t care how ugly, I want to know.”

 

“Rey, please.”

 

“No! All my life, all I’ve known about my parents is that they left me on Jakku and that they told me they would come back. That’s all I know, Kylo. My whole life that’s all I have ever known about who I am. I won’t let you keep one single detail from me!” She enunciates her words sharply, her eyes flashing.

 

“I just want to protect you,” he pleads.

 

“And I don’t want to be protected! You’ve taken enough from me―I won’t let you take this, too,” she says fiercely.

 

He wants to ask more, find out what she means, but Palek and Jashad are both doing an astonishingly poor job of hiding their curiosity.

 

Kylo sighs, his mask turning it into a harsh, modulated sound. “Alright, Rey,” he capitulates. He thinks that he may need to get used to saying that. Frequently.

 

He walks them back to Jashad, missing the feel of her small hand around his arm.

 

“Continue, Jashad Ren.”

 

“Yes Supreme Leader. We apprehended the target in the midst of … seducing a young woman. He had taken her to a room above the establishment. Things were … progressing.” Jashad looks quickly to Rey before continuing, “We were able to remove him from the premises with minimal complications. He has not spoken a word since. Palek took it upon himself to inform the young lady what Qree’s plans for her had been.”

 

“What plans?” Rey asks.

 

Jashad holds himself warily, looking at Kylo for direction.

 

“You may answer her, Jashad.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.” Jashad addresses Rey, “It was his intention to convince her that he was in love with her. Once he had access to her family’s wealth he intended to leave the system.”

 

Rey shrinks into Kylo and murmurs, “That’s awful …”

 

“Yes, Lady Rey, it is,” Jashad agrees.

 

The bottom falls out of Kylo’s stomach. Jashad does not understand how delicate the situation is with Rey. He never did have any subtlety.

 

Rey looks up at Kylo and asks, “Lady Rey?”

 

“Jashad Ren is simply showing you respect,” Kylo responds. It is true. Just not all of the truth.

 

“Oh.” Rey’s face is perplexed but soon it clears as she again focuses on Sylten Qree. She takes a deep breath and walks forward purposefully. Kylo follows quickly, not sure how this will unfold. It had never occurred to him that Rey would just … take over like this.

 

Rey stands in front of the captured criminal and looks down on the seated man. Kylo moves to stand next to her.

 

Sylten Qree has the exact same coloring as Rey, right down to the hazel eyes. Oh no …

 

“Are you my father?” Rey asks bluntly.

 

“I sure hope not, luv,” Qree leers suggestively.

 

Kylo growls, low in his throat. Rey puts a placating hand on his shoulder. He settles, but only barely.

 

“You left me on Jakku 15 years ago. You were with a woman, another human. Are you my father?” Rey asks again.

 

“Might be. What’s it worth to the First Order to find out?” Qree looks directly at Kylo.

 

“We do not need your cooperation. I’ll have you dragged to medical where they will be able to tell me in minutes if you are her father,” Kylo threatens.

 

“Ah, but if you don’t play nice then I’ll never tell the pretty girl about her mother. She was a tasty treat, too. Same tits.”

 

“My mother?” Rey whispers as Kylo advances on Qree.

 

“That is the last time you will speak of her like that. I am able to pull anything I want out of you. And I will make it hurt,” Kylo hisses as he looms over the con man.

 

“Kylo, no! You promised!”

 

Kylo is breathing hard, his nostrils flaring beneath his helmet.

 

“Yeah, that’s right. I knew your mother. We shacked up for a while, back in the day. Used to almost love her,” Qree says flippantly.

 

“What happened to her? Why did she leave me? Are you my father?” Rey’s words are a rushed jumble.

 

“One at a time. Anyway, I think me and loverboy here have some business to conduct first.” Qree again focuses on Kylo.

 

Kylo is still exceptionally angry at Qree for speaking of Rey in such a fashion but he manages to grind out, “What do you require to give her her answers?”

 

Qree leans back in his chair and inspects his fingernails. “You get me out of this system, buy me a clean ship, and … 10,000 credits.” He looks up at Kylo expectantly.

 

“Fine. Done.” Kyo doesn’t even bother to haggle; he wants this man off of his ship and away from Rey as soon as possible.

 

Rey gasps and Qree’s eyes open very wide. Kylo watches as he understands, far too late, that he could have asked for ten times that and it would have been granted. Kylo smiles cruelly under his mask.

 

“Now talk,” Kylo orders.

 

Qree looks at Rey. “No, I’m not your father. Never knew who he was.”

 

“But you do know who my mother is?” Rey’s voice trembles and her eyes are huge with hope.

 

“Yeah. Her name’s Lann, Lann Tren.”

 

“My mother’s name is Lann …” Rey says to herself, looking away. She swallows and blinks a few times before returning her gaze to Qree. “Why did she leave me?” she asks, sounding like a young child.

 

“Well, you see … Lanny always had a bit of a problem with the spice. When I met her she was working out of some brothel on Chalnek. There was something about her, though … so I took her with me when it was time to leave. Both of you.”

 

“But why did she abandon me?”

 

“I don’t stay anywhere long, and you were getting to be a liability. I told Lanny she could stay with me, I’d keep her in all the spice she could want, but that the kid—you—had to go.”

 

Kylo had always had a very bad feeling about all of this, but this is so much worse than he had ever imagined. He clenches his jaw in order to keep his silence, and continues to allow Rey to ask her questions. Though he wants, quite badly, to replace Qree’s smug confidence with mortal terror.

 

For a moment she says nothing as Kylo watches a lifetime of hope flicker and die. It feels like he’s watching his own heart shatter right in front of him. Oh, my beloved ...

 

Finally she asks in a broken voice, “What?”

 

“Sorry, luv, but you can’t have a brat tagging along in my line of work.”

 

“But …” Rey looks confused … lost. She’s losing control of the Bond and some of her anguish is bleeding through. Kylo is finding it difficult to breathe.

 

“Look, Lanny was never the … mothering kind. When I found her, the other girls at the brothel were the ones who took care of you. She should have just left you there in the first place,” Qree says casually, as if he’s not telling a young woman that her own mother didn’t want her.

 

Kylo is horrified. Had Rey been raised in a brothel, he knows exactly what would have become of her.

 

“So you made her leave me on Jakku?” Rey asks, a bit of her fire returning.

 

“It wasn’t that hard to convince her. I’d just had a pretty good score and Plutt owed me one. I paid him off and away we flew,” Qree says as he cuts through the air with his hand, mimicking a ship taking off.

 

“You’re lying! She said she’d be back. She said she’d come back …” Rey suddenly looks at Kylo, her eyes pleading desperately. But he hasn’t the power to change this. All he can do is pick up the pieces, if she will let him.

 

“Yeah, sorry kid. That was just to get you to stop wailin’. Didn’t even work; you had a set of lungs on you!”

 

“No. No. No! You’re lying―you have to be lying!” Rey begs. Kylo almost staggers at the cascade of memories that tumble through the Bond. He can barely make sense of them, but there is one constant: Rey holding on to this single belief through everything—that her family was coming for her. Sometimes it was the only thing that had kept her alive.

 

“Believe me, don’t. Doesn’t matter to me.” Qree shrugs.

 

Rey is drawing into herself and Kylo berates himself for ever allowing her to be hurt like this. He shouldn’t have told her he was looking for her parents. He sees tears gathering in her eyes and he’s cursing his promise not to touch her. He had thought keeping his desire in check would be the most difficult aspect of his pledge, but no, watching her break and not being able to wrap her in his arms is agony.

 

She has fallen silent so Kylo steps in. “You clearly parted ways. Do you know where this Lann Tren is currently?”

 

“Ran into her almost a year ago. She’d joined some convent, kicked the spice.”

 

“And where was that?” Kylo prods.

 

“Oh no, this isn’t my first pod race. I’ll tell you after I’ve got my ship and credits.”

 

Kylo glances at Rey. She’s holding herself tightly and her face is completely blank. The Bond is again silent. Her eyes are focused on nothing. He wants to conclude this quickly and get her back to her rooms.

 

“Jashad and Palek Ren,” Kylo says.

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader?” they say in unison.

 

“Take Qree wherever he wishes to go, buy him a ship. Hux will arrange payment. Once Qree gives you the location of Lann Tren, give him his credits. I want him off the Finalizer within the hour,” Kylo orders with disgust.

 

Jashad and Palek haul Qree up out of his seat and push him roughly to the door.

 

“Nice catching up, little Rey,” Qree taunts as they pull him from the room.

 

Rey has continued to stand completely still, her eyes unmoving. It’s almost as if she’s not even there. Kylo approaches her slowly.

 

“Rey?” he asks gently. He gets no response.

 

“Rey?” he tries again.

 

Kylo pulls his mask off and draws as close as he dares. He watches her for a long time. “Oh, sweetheart …” This gets her attention and she lifts her face to his. Her eyes are full of such pain it makes his heart shudder in his chest. He has failed her. Utterly.

 

“I’m so, so sorry.”

 

“She didn’t want me,” Rey says so quietly that he can barely hear her.

 

“I …” He has no idea what to say. Rey is right. He could not have dreamt up a more painful story had he tried.

 

“She … she threw me away.” Kylo is certain he has never heard such plaintive suffering in all of his life.

 

“Yes. She did. But that is because of who she is, not who you are.”

 

“I’m nobody. Nothing. Less than nothing,” she whispers.

 

“No, no, please no. You are brilliant, vibrant, beautiful … Rey, you are the most amazing person I have ever known.”

 

Rey is silent again. Kylo watches a tear roll down her cheek and not holding her is killing him.

 

“I’d like to go back to my rooms now.” Her voice is hollow.

 

“Whatever you need, Rey.”

 

He’s about to replace his helmet when she asks, “Please don’t put that back on. Please?”

 

“Rey, they’ve never seen my face.”

 

“I don’t care. I … I need you right now and you aren’t you when you wear it.”

 

“Oh, Rey …” What can he do? The thought of going without his mask … But then he looks into her delicate face and he knows he’ll give her anything. “Alright, Rey.”

 

He gestures for her to precede him when she again slips her hand around his arm. He walks her through the door and ignores the gaping officers as he takes her back to her quarters.

 

---

 

They approach her door and the stormtroopers stare for a long moment before rushing to stand aside. Kylo escorts her through the door. He places his helmet on its table and Rey continues to hold onto his arm. As they had walked through the corridors more tears had fallen, but she had said nothing.

 

He walks them to the settee and he encourages her to sit. He pulls off his gloves and leaves them on the low table. He takes his seat beside her, not knowing what to do. He wants to put his arm around her but he cannot touch her.

 

“What do you need?” Kylo asks. Let me help you.

 

“Would you … would you hold me?” Her lovely eyes are swimming with tears.

 

“Oh, Rey, that’s all I’ve wanted to do since … well, frankly that’s all I ever want to do.” He gathers her up in his arms and holds her as close as he can. She splays a hand on his chest and starts to knead at the fabric. He feels her start to shake and he realizes she’s crying in earnest now. He soothes his hands along her back.

 

“It’s alright, sweetheart, it’s alright,” Kylo croons.

 

“It won’t ever be alright again,” she sobs into his dark clothing.

 

“Shhh, don’t say that. Yes it will. Qree said that she’s changed her ways. Perhaps once she was free of the spice she did try to find you. Maybe she regrets it; maybe once her mind cleared she realized what a horrible mistake she had made. You’ve not been on Jakku for a year now, she could have gone back and you’d never have known.”

 

Rey continues to weep, her small body trembling in his arms. He’s filled with vicious thoughts of what he wishes would happen to this woman who had dared to treat his beloved in this way. That Rey was thrown away on a junkyard planet like a piece of worthless trash is nearly unbelievable to him. How could anyone have done anything but adore this perfect creature?

 

He keeps her wrapped tightly in his arms and eventually she quiets. He pulls back slightly in order to see her face. Her eyes are red and she’s blinking slowly.

 

“Rey?”

 

She nods slightly, not looking at anything.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

She just shakes her head and burrows deeper into his embrace. He’s surprised when he feels her open the Bond a fraction and he pushes all of his devotion towards her, hoping she can sense at least some of it. He’s never told her that he loves her. He can’t quite form the words, knowing that he would be handing her a fearsome weapon. One to which he has no defense.

 

Her despair bleeds through the Bond and he’s grateful that she’s allowing him to comfort her in this way; she's in such obvious need. He holds her firmly and brushes his lips across her hair, not quite kissing her. Time passes, her anguish becomes softer, and she again silences their connection. He feels the loss but focuses on the weight of her in his arms. She loosens her grip on his clothing but he says nothing. Until she pulls away, he will keep her as near as she will allow. He never wants to let her go. Her hand falls from his chest and he feels as she relaxes completely. He looks down and finds that she’s asleep. Oh, my love …

 

He stays like that for a long time. Kylo contemplates simply holding her throughout the night, but he doesn’t think she would react well to that. Gently, oh so gently, he lifts her in his arms and carries her to her bedroom. He shifts her weight slightly to free his hand enough to pull her blankets back with the Force and he settles her in her bed. She murmurs a bit but soon she is quiet again.

 

He carefully removes her shoes and smoothes her dress. Kylo does not want to leave her. He wants to crawl in beside her and wrap her in his arms again. Instead, he draws the covers over her.

 

Kylo crouches next to the bed, watching her perfect face, peaceful in sleep.

 

He whispers, “I love you.”

 

---

 

Kylo wakes filled with uncertainty. He had promised Rey he would take her to Vren today, but would she still want to go after the events of last night? If she does wish to visit the planet, he must make preparations. It’s early; he doesn’t want to wake her to ask. She needs her sleep after last night.

 

He decides he will carry on with his original intentions. He must inform Vitok, Natan, and Wylan that they need to make themselves ready to accompany them to Vren. Jashad and Palek will still be dealing with Qree. For one satisfying moment he considers ordering Jashad and Palek to kill the criminal once they have the location of Lann Tren, but he knows that if Rey were ever to discover that he had done that … well, it would not go well for him.

 

He begins to ready himself for the day. Rey had seemed so excited at the prospect of leaving the ship … but now he has no idea what she needs. All he knows is that he will do everything he possibly can to help put her back together.

 

---

 

Kylo knocks at her door and waits. He knocks again, softly, remembering how he had woken her the other morning. If she doesn’t answer, he will come back again in an hour. He’s about to do just that when the door opens half-way and he finds Rey looking … worried. Her hair is tied back and she’s again in a plain tunic and leggings.

 

“Good morning, Rey … you seem concerned.”

 

“Don’t be mad.”

 

“What?”

 

“Just, don’t be mad, okay?” she says as she opens her door wider. Kylo sees … a stormtrooper in her sitting room? He strides into her rooms and the door slides closed.

 

“Rey?” he asks warningly. Why is she entertaining a stormtrooper in her quarters?

 

“This is Kes, well KS-2153. She’s my … friend.”

 

This friend is standing rigidly at attention. Good.

 

“Your friend?” he asks in disbelief. Though the fact that the trooper is female calms him somewhat.

 

“Well, yeah … I mean, they’re out there all day. Who else was I supposed to talk to?”

 

Kylo suddenly realizes that he has no wish to have this conversation in front of a stormtrooper.

 

“KS-2153!” he barks. Rey looks at him sharply.

 

“Yes, sir!” the unfortunate soldier responds.

 

“You will return to your post. And you will be dealt with later,” Kylo growls.

 

Rey says, “Kes, don’t worry, I’ll talk to him.” Oh she will, will she?

 

The stormtrooper moves swiftly through the door and it shuts behind her.

 

“You cannot make friends with the stormtroopers.”

 

“First, I’m not talking to you while you have that stupid helmet on.”

 

Kylo huffs in frustration but he goes to his table and removes his helmet and gloves quickly. He turns to Rey and finds her with her hands on her hips. She’s ready to fight.

 

“Now Rey, it is completely inappropriate for you to be fraternizing with the troopers. You must cease this immediately,” he says. He feels his tone is quite reasonable, all things considered.

 

“What? No! I like Kes. They’re just people.”

 

“They are not people, they are stormtroopers.” He must put a stop to this.

 

“Oh that’s rich coming from Mr. Free-the-Galaxy. Of course they’re people. Finn is my best friend. Anyway, that’s why we started talking.”

 

Marvelous. The traitor. This just keeps getting better and better.

 

“What do you mean?” Kylo asks suspiciously.

 

“The second day I was here I opened the door and tried to talk with them. All they would say was ‘do you require anything, miss?’” She says the last in a mocking tone.

 

“Good, that’s the way they’re supposed to behave.” He’s certain he wouldn’t have had these problems with clones.

 

Rey rolls her eyes and continues, “Anyway, finally Kes actually talked to me. She asked me if I knew what had happened to FN-2187. It turns out she … likes him.”

 

Not only is she making friends with stormtroopers, but she’s gossiping with them? Oh Maker, what has she told them?

 

“This cannot be allowed to continue.”

 

“Well if you’re going to keep them posted outside my door, I’m going to keep talking to Kes. I told you, I like her. I do need other people to talk to, you know.”

 

That had never occurred to him. He doesn’t talk to anyone―well, anyone but Rey.

 

He reaches up and rubs the bridge of his nose. Since he woke up all he’s done is prepare for Vren and worry for her. He simply is not prepared for the absurdity of this situation. He had anticipated a despondent, broken Rey. Her defiance is actually almost a relief.

 

Kylo sighs heavily. “And what have you told her of our … relationship?”

 

“Nothing. She’s pretty scared of you, so she doesn’t pry. We talk about what life is like for a stormtrooper mostly. Well, and Finn. She talks a lot about Finn. Do you know yet if he’s okay?”

 

“No, I’m afraid nothing has come back yet. I’m sure I’ll know soon.”

 

“Oh. Alright.” Worry flashes across her face.

 

Kylo walks closer to her. “You really must continue this … friendship?”

 

“Yes, Kylo. I must.”

 

He supposes it’s not a genuine problem. It’s just … odd. Friends with a stormtrooper?

 

“While I do not particularly like it and find it highly irregular, you may continue to speak with … Kes.”

 

“Thank you so much for your permission. It’s always lovely to be reminded that I’m your prisoner.”

 

“Rey, I didn’t mean it that way.”

 

“Yes, you did! You were fully prepared to forbid it―I saw it in your eyes.” Rey practically glares at him.

 

He sighs and says, “No, Rey, I wasn’t. It just surprised me. I have no wish to control you.”

 

Rey snorts and rolls her eyes again. “Right.”

 

“I have explained on numerous occasions that I only keep your door guarded because I cannot trust you to stay. That is the only restriction I have placed on you.”

 

“You are like talking to a rock.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?”

 

“Listen to what you just said: ‘That is the only restriction I have placed on you’.” Rey steps closer to him and her voice raises. “You shouldn’t be able to place restrictions on me at all! I am not a child. Maker knows I raised myself. No one has ever put ‘restrictions’ on me!”

 

“That’s not how I meant it. I … I don’t … I don’t know what to do, Rey! If I thought you would stay with me, I would … I hate having to do that, I hate that you want to leave me,” he says bitterly.

 

“I don’t … I don’t want to leave you, Kylo. I just don’t want to be your prisoner.”

 

“Why must you insist on saying that?”

 

“Because it’s the truth!” she yells.

 

Kylo sighs heavily. “Please, let’s not fight. We’ve been doing so well these last two days.”

 

“Only because I choose not to point out everything you’ve done.” Rey’s tone is spiteful.

 

“Is that the only reason?” he asks fearfully. It can’t be … the way she had touched him, let him comfort her … It had been real.

 

She glowers for a long time before she grudgingly says, “No.”

 

Kylo lets out a shaky breath. For one horrible moment he had been terrified that she was going to, once again, cleave his heart in two. “Please, Rey. Last night was extremely difficult for you and I want very much to do whatever I can for you. If that is taking you to Vren, everything is ready. If that is standing here while you yell at me until you’re hoarse, do keep at it. If you would prefer something else, please tell me.”

 

Rey walks to the viewscreen. He’s noticing that when she needs time to think she always goes to look out into space. He decides to let her think, going to stand next to her. Finally she turns to him and says, “I don’t remember going to bed last night.”

 

“No, you fell asleep … I carried you to your bed and let myself out.”

 

“I was still in my clothes.”

 

“Of course you were,” he says in confusion.

 

“I just … you could have …”

 

Her hands flail and he suddenly understands what she means.

 

“Rey, you think I would …” Kylo swallows and blinks furiously, deeply hurt that she would think that of him.

 

“I only wondered.” She shrugs slightly.

 

He closes his eyes briefly and says in a low voice, “I promised you that I would not touch you unless you asked me to.”

 

“I never would have known.”

 

I would have known.” His tone is firm and intense.

 

“Oh. Alright.” Rey looks away. She’s quiet for a moment and then says, “I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s fine,” he says tightly.

 

“No … no, it’s not. I … I think I already knew you wouldn’t do that. I’m just … I’m not myself.” The desolation is returning to her eyes and his own wounded feelings are forgotten.

 

“Rey … last night … are you alright?” he asks, drawing nearer.

 

Rey laughs. It is a hard, broken sound. “No, not even a little bit. Yelling at you helped.” She smiles ruefully.

 

“Feel free to continue.” The corner of his mouth lifts.

 

Rey’s face grows serious. “No … I think I’d like to go to Vren. I need to move. I need to get out of my own head.”

 

“Then we will go to Vren. I have arranged to have three of my knights accompany us.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Security.” If he is exceptionally lucky she will not push for more information.

 

“You need security? You’re the most powerful Force user in the galaxy. But then I guess it wouldn’t do for the Supreme Leader to be his own guard.”

 

Kylo opts to not correct her assumption. Rey starts towards the door when he stops her.

 

“You’ll want to bring something warmer; the weather changes quickly on Vren.”

 

“Oh, alright. Just a moment.”

 

She returns quickly, now wearing a deep burgundy wrap lined with ivory silk. There’s something about how the rich color sets off her lips and the way the silk contrasts with her skin that makes Kylo’s breath hitch.

 

“What―did I pick the wrong thing?” she asks nervously.

 

“No … quite the contrary. You … you look beautiful, Rey.”

 

She looks away ... but she smiles.




Chapter Text

They enter the hangar and Rey has again allowed him to escort her. He thinks he might offer to take her to walk the ship in the evenings so that he can feel her small hand in the crook of his elbow. This seems to be something she intends to continue doing.

 

Vitok, Wylan, and Natan are all waiting in front of his shuttle, standing at attention. She draws nearer to him as they approach the others.

 

They walk up the ramp and the knights follow. Rey turns her head to look at them but she doesn’t say anything. She grows so quiet when out of her rooms, and he’s not sure why. He gets her situated in the aft of the ship.

 

“I must confer with my knights,” he tells her quietly.

 

“Are you ever going to introduce us?”

 

He pauses. He hadn’t considered doing so, but there’s no harm in it that he can see. “If you would like.”

 

“Well, they’re coming with us; I’d like to know who they are.”

 

“Alright, Rey. I will … introduce you once we land.”

 

He moves to the front of the shuttle where the knights have already taken their seats.

 

“You all remember your orders?” Kylo addresses the knights.

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader. We are to ensure the girl’s safety,” Vitok answers.

 

“And that she doesn’t wander off,” Wylan says under his breath. Kylo looks to Rey sharply, but she hasn’t heard, focusing on studying the shuttle.

 

“Wylan Ren, do recall the specifications of your orders.” He had been quite clear that the knights were not to mention that their job is to ensure she comes back with him. He won’t lie to her if she asks directly, but he sincerely hopes that it doesn’t come up.

 

Wylan takes a tad too long to answer and he does so grudgingly. “Yes … Supreme Leader.”

 

Kylo looks to Natan and finds him watching Rey. Kylo’s eyes narrow under his helmet but he doesn’t remark upon it.

 

---

 

The shuttle descends on Prent, a small city on one of the coasts. Kylo selected Prent for its open-air market and nearby beach. He hopes it will please her.

 

They disembark and Rey takes her usual place by his side. He is fast growing used to how wonderful it feels to have her next him, how right it is.

 

“Knights,” he says.

 

They assemble in front of Kylo and Rey. “Rey, this is Vitok Ren,” he says, gesturing to the shortest knight.

 

“And this,” he continues, indicating Natan, “Is Natan Ren.”

 

He does not need to gesture to the only knight left. “The last of my knights is Wylan Ren.” Rey looks up at him at that. He obviously didn’t hide his disdain.

 

“Uhm. Hello,” she offers shyly, returning her gaze briefly to the knights as she greets them. She then looks back at Kylo and asks, “Do you all have to wear your masks?”

 

“Yes, Rey,” he answers.

 

Rey frowns and worries her lower lip a bit. “Could I talk to you, just for a minute?” she asks, tugging his arm to pull him away.

 

He wonders what she wants. “Of course.” He guides them to the edge of the starport.

 

“What is it, Rey?”

 

She looks up into his mask and her lovely eyes are full of questioning. “Do you all really have to wear your helmets? Really?”

 

“Yes, I do. They do.”

 

“But … why?”

 

“Because … because that is our way.”

 

“You feel so far away when you wear it.  And the knights, not being able to see their faces ... I don’t … I don’t like it.” She looks away.

 

“Rey, I’m sorry, but no. It would be inappropriate.”

 

“We’re away from the ship, no one here will understand, and they’ll never see you again. I just … I like seeing your face.”

 

He’s not sure what to do. He doesn’t want to set the precedent of the knights going maskless while on a mission. But she’s said she likes seeing his face ...

 

She slides her hand down his arm and clasps his hand in hers. He’s instantly transported to the memory of being with her in her rooms, their bare fingers tangling together.

 

“Please?” Rey asks.

 

Kylo sighs heavily, but he pulls his hand from hers and reaches up to remove his mask. He looks down at her and finds her smiling beautifully. She draws very close and does something quite unexpected. She puts her arms around his neck and goes on her toes as she pulls him down to her. He’s not sure where to focus, on how good it feels to have her body flush with his or on what it is that she will do next. Then she completely derails his brain as she presses her perfect lips to his cheek.

 

He can’t think, he cannot possibly think. All that there is is sensation and his head is swimming with the overwhelming feeling of her lips on him. She’s kissing him. Her lips are warm and soft and he wants so badly to turn his head and capture her mouth with his; to finally taste her. But he keeps himself in check.

 

Her lips linger against the sensitive skin of his face as she ghosts her mouth along his cheek and she breathes into his ear, “Thank you.”

 

He can’t help it―his eyes close and he’s breathing raggedly. Her breath against his ear sends shivers up and down his spine and she’s standing there with her cheek pressed against his. The Bond almost purrs with pleasure. He clenches his helmet to his side and curls his other fist. It’s taking all of his control to keep from crushing her to him. He wants to drop his mask and hold her tight against him, plunge his tongue into her mouth, take her, take her, take her. She places another sweet kiss on his jaw as she withdraws and his heart is beating wildly.

 

Kylo swallows and blinks, concentrating on breathing in and out, trying to pull himself together. She’s invaded every one of his senses and he’s having great difficulty finding his balance. She …  she kissed him. Twice.

 

Rey again wraps her fingers around his arm and pulls him gently. He finally remembers himself enough to recall the knights waiting. Watching. He clears his throat and walks them back to where the knights are gathered.

 

“For the duration we will be leaving our masks in the shuttle,” he orders.

 

Wylan shakes his head and laughs.

 

“Is there an issue with my order, Wylan Ren?”

 

“Not at all, Supreme Leader. It’s quite gratifying to see you so happy and … compliant.”

 

Kylo immediately advances on Wylan, Rey’s hand slipping from his arm. “Mind your tone, Wylan Ren.”

 

Wylan reaches up and removes his own helmet and looks Kylo straight in the eyes. “I meant no disrespect, Supreme Leader.”

 

“Hmm.” Kylo returns to stand by Rey, who looks curiously between the two rivals. Once again, her small hand comes up around his arm. He hopes that she’ll do that all day.

 

Vitok and Natan both quietly remove their masks.

 

---

 

Kylo and Rey are walking amongst the stalls of the market, the knights keeping a respectful distance.

 

He’s acutely aware that everyone can see his face. The weather is cool, but pleasant, and the feel of the breeze continually startles him. Rey keeps looking around quickly, as if she’s trying to take everything in. There are dozens of different life-forms and all manner of wares on display.

 

Kylo watches keenly for what catches her eye. Thus far she has been drawn most frequently by bright colors. She had run her fingers along bolts of richly-hued silks and lingered over several necklaces. One had been nearly identical to a piece of jewelry he already has hidden away in his rooms. He thinks perhaps he will give it to her tonight if things continue to go so well.

 

“Oh!” Rey exclaims as she drops his arm and rushes forward. Kylo follows quickly, alarmed at how swiftly she’s disappearing into the crowd. She darts between the beings and he loses her for a moment. He’s panicking, but then he catches a flash of her burgundy wrap. He strides forward and finds her playing with a puzzle of some kind. He wants to demand that she stay by his side, but he’s trying to make her understand that she’s not his prisoner. He takes a deep breath, recovering from the spike of adrenaline.

 

“Look!” she says excitedly, holding up a collection of metal rings attached to each other. He watches as she makes short work of pulling the rings apart and soon she has a stack of them. She grins triumphantly. A young woman with ivory skin and a pattern of pale aqua swirls scattered across her face stands by the stall. She keeps an eye on the new customers but is focused on a small group of children.

 

“There was a woman on Jakku who used to make puzzles like these to sell at the pavilion in Niima. She used to let me help her when I was too small to scavenge much.” Rey is nearly vibrating with glee.

 

“You like puzzles?”

 

“Oh yes, the more complicated the better! Here, you try!” She thrusts a collection of triangles into his hands. “You’re supposed to untangle them from each other, like with the rings.”

 

Kylo has never really cared for puzzles, but he makes an honest attempt. He pulls it this way and that and soon he’s a bit frustrated. How did she do that so easily?

 

“Here, let me show you.” She twists and turns the odd shapes and soon she’s holding three triangles but he can’t figure out how she did it. Luckily she has already moved on to another puzzle, this one made out of wood. The knights have caught up with them.

 

Wylan approaches the table and picks up a wooden box. He starts to push and pull at small intricate boards and soon the box springs open.

 

“A puzzle box!” Rey is smiling at Wylan. Kylo does not like this development.

 

“Wylan Ren, I do believe that you are on duty,” Kylo only just manages not to growl.

 

“Kylo, don’t be silly. He can guard you just as well standing here as over there with Vitok and Natan.”

 

The superior look on Wylan’s face makes Kylo’s blood boil. Now Wylan is showing her how to make the strange box work. Rey is glowing and Kylo is growing very angry. She’s not supposed to look at another man like that. That’s supposed to only be for him. Maker knows he’s had to work quite hard for that smile.

 

“Wylan Ren,” Kylo barks.

 

Wylan turns to him slowly and doesn’t even bother to hide his contempt.

 

“You will return to the shuttle immediately,” Kylo orders.

 

“Why? He didn’t do anything wrong.” Rey tilts her head in confusion.

 

“That is between myself and Wylan.” Kylo holds Wylan’s dark eyes and oh how he wants to show Wylan Ren precisely why he should not have crossed him. But Rey is here and she wouldn’t like it. Later, however ...

 

“But I’ve never seen puzzle boxes like these and he knows how they work! Anyway, isn’t he here for your security?” she asks blithely.

 

Wylan turns back to her and remarks airily, “Oh, I’m not here for him. We’re here to make sure you don’t run off.” Wylan’s eyes dart up and catch Kylo’s. Wylan’s expression is infuriatingly smug.

 

“What?” Rey gasps, sounding hurt. She immediately looks to Kylo for confirmation but Kylo freezes.

 

This is all falling apart incredibly quickly and Kylo is certain his expression has told Rey everything. He never could hide his feelings.

 

Kylo finds his voice. “Rey, I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly.”

 

“So they’re just like the stormtroopers, then. I just have a longer leash here.”

 

Kylo closes his eyes tightly for a moment. “No, I simply wanted to be sure you stayed with me.”

 

She looks him straight in the eye and he sees … loathing. Then, before he knows what has happened, she’s off like a shot. She quickly turns a corner and he’s about to tear after her when he feels a hand grab him roughly.

 

“Kylo, no!” Vitok implores.

 

“Vitok Ren, you will unhand me. Now,” Kylo demands icily as he lifts his hand, about to Force choke her.

 

“Wylan, Natan, go after her, keep her in sight but let her wander," Vitok orders hurriedly, jerking her head in the direction Rey ran. Wylan and Natan look at each other for a moment and then begin to move quickly, soon out of sight.

 

Why is Vitok behaving like this? Rey is getting away! He keeps his hand up but does not squeeze, vividly remembering choking Demyan.

 

“Listen to me, please listen to me. If you go after her and drag her back she’s going to hate you,” Vitok’s intelligent eyes bore into his.

 

Hate him? If she hated him she could simply refuse to talk with him … the thought fills him with terror.

 

“Why do you think that?” Kylo asks warily as he drops his hand. He knows he’s allowing Vitok far too much lenience, but what if she’s right?

 

“I was there when you captured her. I know she isn’t here willingly and I also know what you hope to build with her. You can’t keep her in a cage.”

 

“She’s not in a cage!” he burst out angrily. Why does everyone think that he’s keeping her in a cage?

 

“Supreme Leader … Kylo, will you allow me to help you?”

 

He thinks for a moment then nods stiffly.

 

Vitok visibly relaxes. “From what the ship’s gossip tells me, you’ve got her trapped in her quarters, guarded by a dozen stormtroopers. That’s a cage. I imagine it certainly feels like one.”

 

“What else was I supposed to do? She will try to escape otherwise. It took me months, Vitok, months to find her. I can’t … I can’t bear to lose her. I just can’t.”

 

“You’ll lose her in all the ways that matter if you keep doing this to her.”

 

“Well what do you suggest? I won’t let her go. I won’t!” he says vehemently before taking a breath. “I … I can’t,” he says plaintively.

 

Vitok’s eyes are warm and compassionate. She’s about to speak when her comm chirps. “Yes?” she says into the small device.

 

“We have her in sight,” Natan’s voice says.

 

“Good. What’s she doing?” Vitok asks.

 

“She didn’t go far. She’s only sitting on some steps,” Natan answers.

 

“How does she seem?” Kylo asks worriedly, but he’s too far from the comm.

 

Vitok looks up, her brown eyes considering. “Natan, how does she seem?”

 

“I believe she is crying.”

 

“Where is she? I must go to her,” Kylo insists.

 

Vitok holds up a placating hand. Into her comm she says, “Keep your distance, don’t stop her, let her go wherever she wants. And for Maker’s sake, don’t let her see you.” Vitok clicks off her comm.

 

“You are going to stay here and wait for her to come back,” Vitok says firmly.

 

“No, she’s hurting. I have to go to her.”

 

“Yes, she is hurting. You hurt her.”

 

“That was never my intention,” he says, his face stricken. She’s already so fragile after the devastating meeting with Qree … He’s sick with the thought that he’s caused her more pain.

 

“I know. But you need to make some changes for her and part of that is that you must allow her to come back on her own. If you want her to trust you, you need to start trusting her.”

 

“But she ran from me for months. I won’t take the chance of losing her.”

 

“Do you want to have to keep her guarded for the rest of her life?” Vitok asks keenly.

 

“No, of course not.” Vitok is making many of the same assumptions Rey made and it confuses him.

 

“Then you’re going to have to give her the opportunity to choose to stay.”

 

Kylo shakes his head. “She wouldn’t, not yet. My hope is that, in time, she will want to stay with me.”

 

Vitok’s face softens and she says, “From what I saw back at the starport, she obviously cares for you. Find a middle ground. Talk with her.”

 

His gaze shifts to the stalls as he contemplates Vitok’s advice. Hearing that Rey cares for him should reassure him, but having her away from him like this ... it’s bringing back the helpless feeling of his months of searching. The prospect of losing her makes him afraid in a way he’s never known. Finally he looks back to Vitok and asks, “You really think she will return?”

 

“I do.”

 

“And if she doesn’t?” He’s fairly certain that even if she stole a ship he would be able to apprehend her quickly.

 

“Then we’ll reassess.”

 

Kylo grows silent, thinking hard. The need to find her is intense. He hadn’t realized just how much it had calmed him to always know where she is. The fact that she was safe in her quarters, a quick walk from wherever he found himself … it had quieted much of the roiling fury of the Bond. Without that knowledge, he’s again plagued with that desperate feeling that had stalked him for nearly a year.

 

But if what Vitok says is true, that Rey needs him to trust her ... She had said she would promise not to escape. He wishes now that he had listened.

 

“Alright Vitok. We will wait.”

 

---

 

It’s been nearly an hour, and he and Vitok have simply stood near the stall of puzzles. The proprietor has occasionally looked over at them, but has not approached them. Any number of questions about what to do in regards to Rey have run through his mind, but he has remained silent. Vitok has left him to his thoughts.

 

Vitok’s comm comes alive.

 

“She’s heading back your way,” Natan’s smooth voice states.

 

“Good, keep your distance,” Vitok responds.

 

A few minutes later he sees Rey walking through the crowd. She stops in front of him, not too close. She seems almost … resigned.

 

“Rey …” Kylo says, his tone laced with his profound relief at seeing her again.

 

She doesn’t say anything, just looks up at him. Her expression is vacant.

 

“Rey … may I speak with you?” He will attempt to follow Vitok’s advice.

 

“I guess.” Rey shrugs.

 

“Will you walk with me?”

 

“Fine,” she says shortly.

 

Kylo hesitantly offers her his arm, hoping she will again place her hand in the crook of his elbow. She doesn’t take it. He looks down briefly but nods his acceptance. He gestures for her to come with him.

 

He leads her away from the market, taking her closer to the ocean. There is a long promenade that stretches along beach. He beckons for her to sit on the low wall that separates the sands from the walkway. She looks up at him for a moment before taking her seat. Kylo sits next to her, careful to leave an appropriate amount of space between them.

 

“I’m sorry,” Kylo says sincerely, waiting until he has caught her eyes.

 

“For what?” Her expression is hard.

 

“For not telling you about why I had my knights accompany us.”

 

“But not for bringing them in the first place?”

 

Kylo purses his lips. “I’m sorry for that, too.”

 

“Are you really?” she challenges.

 

He sighs and looks at his hands. He wants to find the right words to fix this. Last night had been such a blow to her and he had wanted this trip to be of help. But it’s all spiraled so out control. He looks into her cold face and says, “What I am truly sorry for is that I hurt you.”

 

Rey’s expression softens a fraction but it’s soon replaced with sorrow. “You’ve never even asked me if I would stay. You just assumed I would run away,” she says quietly.

 

“Won’t you?” He’s not soon to forget how she constantly rejected his entreaties.

 

“No. No, Kylo, I won’t.” Rey holds his eyes as she speaks.

 

She’ll stay? But why this change ...

 

“And why not?”

 

“Because of my parents. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

“Ah. And once we find your parents?” He should have known it had nothing to do with him.

 

“I ... I don’t know. But will you trust me to stay until then?”

 

Kylo looks away. He’s not surprised by how much it hurts that she only wishes to stay because of her parents. At least this is familiar; he’s used to her throwing away his devotion. But if it buys him time with her—time in which she will no longer accuse him of keeping her prisoner—he will take it. He will simply have to win her before they find them. Besides, he can always post the stormtroopers again if she seems likely to run from him.

 

“Yes, Rey. I will trust you. I will have the guards removed from your door.”

 

“Really?” She clearly had not expected him to agree.

 

“Yes, Rey … really.”

 

“Thank you, Kylo.” A soft, genuine smile spreads across her face. He thinks this smile might be one of his favorites.

 

She reaches for his hand and laces her fingers through his. He wishes he were not wearing his gloves, but after the harrowing hour of her being away from him, the solidity of her touch is a balm. She strokes her thumb along the back of his hand and the wonderful calmness is returning.

 

“You’re welcome, Rey,” he murmurs.

 

Rey looks out on the ocean, keeping her hand in his. He revels in the feel of their fingers entwined. She’s here, she came back, she will stay.

 

“Would the beach be a good place to learn how to make fire with the Force?” Rey asks suddenly.

 

He had forgotten entirely that she had said she would let him teach her. “Actually, yes. Not much for you to burn down.”

 

Rey rolls her eyes, but she stands, pulling him with her. “Come on, then.”

 

---

 

They’re on the beach. The ocean is a steel gray and the fog has rolled in. The thick scent of the salty air reminds him strongly of Demyan’s pyre and he pushes the recent memory away. He knows that soon there will be flame, but he will not allow himself to focus on anything other than Rey. She’s sitting in the sand with her hand over a small pile of dried grass he had collected from the low dunes. Kylo stands above her.

 

“It’s different than using the Force to levitate an object. You aren’t … pulling at the Force in the same way. You’re almost … exciting it. Focus on the grass and feel it burn,” Kylo instructs.

 

Rey’s brows knit together and she concentrates on the bits of sea grass. They vibrate slowly and begin to quiver.

 

“Not quite―you don’t want the grass to move, you need to go deeper,” he corrects.

 

“Deeper?”

 

“Yes … you’re manipulating the Force within the grass, not without.”

 

Rey frowns and tries again. This time the grass remains stationary and he sees a wisp of smoke curl up from the dried vegetation. Her expression intensifies but no more smoke is forthcoming.

 

“It’s not working,” she says, frustrated.

 

He remembers how it had taken him the entire visit home for Leia Organa to teach him to do this. But perhaps he and Rey have an easier way. “I have an idea … but I’m not sure you will like it.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“We could use the Bond,” he offers cautiously.

 

Rey looks up at him warily. “Use the Bond how?”

 

“Through the Bond I believe that I will be able to show you how it feels to call fire with the Force. If you open it, you should be able to sense what I’m doing then recreate the same effect on your own.”

 

“Oh.” She looks out at the ocean for a long time. Then she takes a deep breath and says, “Okay.”

 

He’s not sure what she’ll think about how precisely he hopes to use the Bond. “You will need to allow yourself to come into me the way you did that night … when you bade me stay quiet.” She’d also done it the night she’d discovered his … coping mechanism, but he’s not going to remind her of that. He’s managed to keep away from his blade for quite some time.

 

Rey looks up sharply and her eyes fill with ... shame? She’s ashamed of that glorious night she came to him? He blinks and looks away. That memory is precious to him, the way she had swirled within him had comforted him so. That she feels like that … Perhaps this was not a good idea.

 

“Never mind. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. We’ll continue to work on this―it will come in time,” he backtracks quickly.

 

“No … it’s alright. I just … I was weak that night.”

 

“Weak.” She thinks of that night as a failure of some kind? He hates being reminded of how far apart they are.

 

“Yes. It was always very difficult to keep the Bond closed. I’ve told you that you weren’t wrong, that I feel it, too,” she says softly. “That night … I felt … badly for how our last conversation had gone. I always felt badly for how it would go. I …. missed you.” She shakes her head. “I shouldn’t have done it.”

 

She’d missed him? “And now, is it difficult to keep it closed?” He crouches down next to her.

 

“Sometimes. But being near you, it’s almost as if the Bond is … satisfied in some way?”

 

“Yes … I feel something similar.”

 

“I would like to try this. Please.”

 

“Alright, Rey.” Still crouched next to her, he holds his hand over the dried grass. “Are you ready?”

 

“Yes.”

 

The Bond opens and he shudders as he feels her flow into him. It’s intense. Echoes of her feelings are swirling along the Bond; she’s still in such anguish. For a moment he thinks it’s because of him, but it has the same quality as what she had let through last night. Her mother … she’s obviously been putting on a brave face. He wonders if he should stop this now, talk with her. But she had said this morning that she wished to ‘get out of her own head’. He decides to leave it be … for now. He will provide her the distraction she has said she needs.

 

He focuses on the task at hand and gathers the Force, trying to broadcast precisely how he is manipulating the bits of grass. Quickly, the grass sparks and catches fire. He feels Rey withdraw and he already misses her. He wonders what it will be like when she trusts him enough to simply leave the Bond open. The thought of having her constantly present is heady. He carefully suppresses what this brief moment of having the Bond entirely open has done to him.

 

He looks at Rey―her eyes are wide and her chest is rising quickly. Could she be as affected as he is?

 

“Did you feel how the Force was moving within me?” Kylo asks.

 

“Y-yes,” she stutters.

 

“What is it?”

 

“I … I’ve never felt anything like that. You’re so … you’re so powerful.” She looks almost … afraid.

 

“I suspect that with training you will be as well.”

 

“Training …” Her eyes grow wistful.

 

“You know I will show you anything that you wish to know.”

 

“No,” she says firmly.

 

He catches her eyes and holds them for a long moment before nodding. He silently gathers together another pile of the dried sea grass.

 

“Are you ready to try again?”

 

“Yes.”

 

She holds her hand over the grass and her face grows focused. Her lovely fingers twitch slightly and he watches for any sign of success. At first there is nothing but then the grass is suddenly engulfed in a large ball of flame.

 

“You did it!” he exclaims. He looks over to find joy filling her face. He smiles.

 

“I did!” Her lively eyes sparkle. “I want to do it again!” she says excitedly.


He gathers together another mound so that she may continue to practice. Soon she will change her mind and let him train her; she’s too eager to learn. He can see, vividly, how she will blossom and bloom under his tutelage. He will show her everything and she will rule the galaxy by his side.

Chapter Text

They’re back aboard his shuttle, returning to the Finalizer. They had spent the afternoon practicing on increasingly difficult targets until she was able to light a large piece of driftwood on fire. She had not wanted to visit any of the remote areas of Vren, choosing instead to keep training. Of course Kylo can’t call it that, but he’s certain that she will continue to let him teach her.

 

They’re sitting side-by-side in the aft of his shuttle and his mask remains off. She’s spent most of the short trip looking out the viewscreen. He’s missing the feeling of her fingers pressed against his arm and he’s fantasizing about reaching over and taking her hand. He suppresses a shudder as he remembers her whispering her fingertips against the sensitive skin of his wrist.

 

The shuttle is docking when Rey looks at him and says, “I guess you’ll be taking me back to my rooms now.” Her eyes are wistful.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asks in concern.

 

“I just … I’m not … I guess I’m not ready to be ca- cooped up in there again.”

 

He doesn’t want to make her unhappy, but he’s not sure what alternatives he has. He’s certainly not going to take her to the Officer’s Mess. However …

 

“Would you like to dine in my quarters instead?”

 

Her eyes go wide and then she looks away. She’s quiet as she nibbles at her bottom lip nervously. Finally her eyes return to his and she asks, “Your quarters?”

 

“It was only a thought.” He’s wishing he hadn’t offered. He rarely allows anyone into his quarters and her timidity is making him feel foolish.

 

“No … it would be nice to be in another part of the ship … to see where you live.” She gives him a small smile that fills his chest with gentle warmth.

 

“Then that is what we shall do.” He smiles back at her.

 

He had planned on escorting her to her quarters and returning to her after he had had a … conversation with Wylan Ren. He’s not likely to soon forget what Wylan had nearly cost him. But he will always try and accommodate anything that she desires. Wylan can wait.

 

---

 

He’s again wearing his helmet and they’re at his door. He removes his gloves, about to place his hand on the scanner, when he hears her snort.

 

“Something amuses you?”

 

“You have access to my quarters; you can come and go as you please.”

 

“I have been knocking.”

 

“Sure, but it’s hardly fair, is it?”

 

The thought is … unsettling. No one has access to his quarters but himself. He’s even disabled the emergency override. But Vitok had said that the more he trusts her, the more that Rey will trust him and she had been right on Vren. He wonders … he keys in the code.

 

“Place your hand on the scanner.”

 

“What? I was kidding.”

 

“Even so, you are correct.”

 

“I … I don’t need you to do this.”

 

“And yet, I am offering.” He tilts his head as he looks into her hazel eyes, more brown than green in this light.

 

She looks up into his mask for a moment then lifts her hand hesitantly. How he wants to press her fingers against the screen, as he had that first night. He has grown better at handling the onslaught of sensation when their bare flesh touches, but he never stops craving it. He watches as she splays her hand against the scanner. Her fingers are slender, tapered at the tips. It’s impossible for him to watch them without remembering how they feel twined with his own or trailing along his cheek.

 

The device signals its acceptance and she pulls her hand away quickly, thrusting it behind her back. He considers asking her to open his door with her new credentials but she seems skittish. As he gains entry to his rooms he feels a ghost of warmth, a fleeting reminder of her palm against the scanner. He had thought being able to feel her hand tucked in the crook of his arm would have quieted the Bond, quenched his thirst, but it only taunts him further. The more she gives, the more he perceives how desperately he needs her.

 

He motions for her to precede him and she moves into his quarters. She stops in the entryway and looks around. His rooms have a similar layout to her own. His private sanctuary a mirror to her training room. He won’t be showing her that room, where he keeps his treasures. Treasures of her. Treasures for her. Grandfather’s mask. She wouldn’t understand.

 

Where her quarters are full of light and greenery, his are dark and sterile. There is nothing decorative to be found. He goes to the table by the door, twin to the one in her rooms. His helmet and gloves go to their customary home.

 

She wanders further into his sitting room, finding a low couch with two chairs opposite, not unlike her own seating area. But these are black and covered in leather. As in her quarters, there is a dining area in the corner and a large viewscreen.

 

“I hadn’t realized … I hadn’t realized how much you had changed in my rooms. Everything I’ve seen of the ship is so … dark,” she says as she looks around.

 

“I didn’t think you would like that. Was I wrong?”

 

“No … no. You weren’t wrong. I … I objected to being your prisoner, not to the rooms themselves.” She suddenly looks alarmed and her eyes go to his. “You did mean it, right? No more stormtroopers at my door?”

 

“Yes, Rey. I meant it. When I escort you back this evening, I will dismiss them.”

 

“They haven’t been standing there all day, have they?"

 

“No … they were to resume their post once we landed.”

 

“So they’re just standing there right now?”

 

“I suppose so.”

 

“Well go relieve them!” she insists.

 

“It hardly matters.”

 

“Of course it matters! They’re literally standing out there for no reason.” She’s getting that look again, the one he’s beginning to learn means that she’ll likely start yelling soon.

 

“Alright, Rey.” He doesn’t really want to leave her alone in his quarters but he can’t see any real danger.

 

He goes back to the entryway and replaces his helmet. He doesn’t bother with his gloves.

 

“I will return in a moment.”

 

He strides down the hall and finds the stormtroopers at her door, as they should be. They draw themselves up, standing at attention.

 

“You are all dismissed. Return to your battalion for new duties.”

 

Rey’s guards turn and are marching down the hall when he has a thought. He barks out, “KS-2153, you will stay.”

 

“Sir,” she says shakily.

 

“KS-2153,” Kylo addresses the terrified trooper.

 

“Forgive me, Supreme Leader. I never should have overstepped, never should have talked to her,” she rushes to say.

 

“That is not why I wish to speak with you.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“You and Rey have become … friends.”

 

“Yes, sir,” the trooper acknowledges.

 

“I do not wish her to be … lonely. Your duties will now include spending a portion of each day with her.” There, that’s not precisely having her guarded.

 

KS-2153’s shoulders sag in relief for just a moment before she is again standing straight. “Yes, sir.”

 

“Dismissed.”

 

The stormtrooper moves quickly away and Kylo hears the click of her boots as she makes her way down the corridor. He stands, thinking. He doesn’t like the idea of her rooms unguarded. She has said she will not attempt to escape and he believes her, tentatively. However, he had taken comfort knowing she was … looked after. Perhaps if he assigns a team to keep her under surveillance … she would never know. Yes, that is what he will do.

 

---

 

Kylo finds her sitting on the low couch. He again removes his helmet and returns it to its table. As he’s moving to the sitting area she looks up at him and smiles. He stands for a moment, simply looking at her in his private space. The contrast of her golden skin and her pale tunic against the dark leather makes her seem like a beacon. She is his light and he wants to find her always waiting for him like this.

 

He sits next to her and must tamp down the strong urge to pull her into his arms. Remembering himself is becoming more difficult now that she has begun to soften. Her cheeks have more color after spending the day outside, and a few tendrils of her hair have escaped their confinement. He wants to reach out and tuck them behind her ear, feel the silk between his fingers.

 

She leans towards him and purposefully catches his eyes. “Thank you.”

 

She’s holding his eyes and he’s having trouble focusing. It feels positively unnatural to have her so close and yet not feel her against him. “For what?” he asks, a slight quaver in his voice.

 

“For taking me to Vren. For dismissing the stormtroopers … for listening to me.” Her eyes are warm and open … she’s never looked at him like this before.

 

“You’re welcome. I know I should have listened to you earlier, when you tried to tell me you would stay.” Just being able to say that she will stay quiets something in him.

 

“Well, you did listen … eventually.” She smiles slightly and keeps looking at him with a new intensity. He feels himself lean closer, the pull of her wrapping around him. He can almost feel how she had pressed her soft lips against his cheek. Her simple tunic has the top two buttons open and his eyes flit to where he can just see the slight swell of her breasts. He forces himself to look back into her eyes. But it’s no use; months of fantasies are spinning through him. The endless hours spent imagining her beneath his fingers, beneath his body flood his mind. He swallows and he knows if he reached for her, his hands would be shaking.

 

She shifts, angling her body so that she’s facing him fully, holding his eyes as she moves. Stars, she’s so beautiful. He’s trembling with the need to touch her, to drown in her. Something about spending the day with her tucked next to him, having her choose to stay, it has made his promise not to touch her seem like a dim memory and he’s having to continually remind himself that he must not pull her to him. He must not cover her mouth with his. He must not slide his hands over her skin. No, what he must do is control himself. He breathes in sharply as he consciously sits back, putting distance between them. It’s almost painful. “Would you like something to drink?” His voice sounds strangled.

 

Rey blinks and takes in a shuddering breath. Oh Force, she’s feeling it, too. “Yes. I … I’ve been enjoying the wines you’ve been sharing with me.”

 

He knows he should get up, get their drinks, but he can’t bring himself to break her orbit. “I’m glad, Rey. You must know how much I wish to please you.”

 

“Yes … I … I don’t quite know what to do with it, honestly.” Her hands flutter in her lap.

 

“What do you mean?” He’s leaning forward again. How much longer will she demand this of him?

 

“You … you’re very intense. No one has ever put so much effort into me before. The closest I’ve ever experienced is …” She trails off. She looks away and he feels the loss of her eyes. She shifts away from him.

 

She’s closing herself off again and he panics slightly. “What? Please tell me.”

 

“No, you’ll just get angry.” She pulls herself back even further and he’s desperate to coax her back.

 

“I won’t, I promise I won’t.” Begging, begging, always begging.

 

She looks back at him, holding his eyes for a long time before saying, “Leia. Leia was very kind to me.” That name douses his ardor and now he’s the one to look away, his jaw tightening.

 

“I know that you have … issues with your mother, but she was the first person to ever show me what it might have been like to have a real family.”

 

He clenches his hands into fists but then he remembers Rey. He’s not surprised that Leia Organa was good to his beloved, not really. In a way he’s almost grateful that Rey has had someone to care for her. He keeps himself from tipping into memory.

 

“Kylo …”

 

He returns his gaze to her. “Yes?”

 

“I would like to ask you something.” She pulls at the hem of her tunic.

 

“What is it?” he asks warily.

 

Rey takes in a deep breath and tilts her head to the side. “Why are you so angry with your mother?”

 

“She is not my mother,” he snaps.

 

Rey purses her lips. “Yes, she is. You might hate her, but she’s still your mother. And frankly, you’re lucky to have her.”

 

“You’re welcome to her,” he says thoughtlessly.

 

Rey looks down at her lap and her shoulders fall as she begins to draw into herself. His eyes close tightly for a moment. Why must he always say the wrong thing?

 

“Rey, I didn’t think. That was … that was cruel of me.” He tries to catch her eyes but she turns further away.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” she dismisses.

 

“Yes it does. I’m sorry.” How easily those words tumble from his lips when he’s with her. He can’t recall apologizing to anyone but Rey.

 

Rey shrugs and she continues to look at her hands. He’s hurt her and he needs to fix this. He reaches for her before remembering and pulling his hand back. A spike of ire runs through him at this preposterous situation. She needs him, he knows she does. If she would just let him touch her he knows the hum of their skin together would soothe this hurt, bind these bleeding wounds Qree has left seeping from her. The silence grows and he’s angry at himself for being careless with his words. Again.

 

Not knowing what else to do, he stands and goes to his wine cabinet. He selects a deep emerald wine that tastes of citrus. He fills their glasses and returns to Rey. She’s still hunched over but she looks up briefly as she takes her wine. She holds it in her hands, not taking a sip, just staring vacantly into her glass.

 

He joins her again and takes a deep breath. Perhaps if he opens himself to her, she will open herself to him. “I’m angry with her because she lied to me for my whole life. I think you know how important my grandfather is to me, and because of her, I was never able to know of him until I was 23. They raised me to believe that they were fixing the galaxy, Rey. But once I began to travel with Skywalker, I saw that she was part of a corrupt system that only benefits the chosen few,” he says with disdain. “She never wanted to help anyone; she just wanted to undo everything Grandfather managed out of spite. She’s weak, selfish … a coward. I was kept from my true destiny, fed lies … I can never forgive her for that.”

 

“But … she loves you,” Rey whispers, her gaze still trained on the drink in her hands.

 

Somehow her quiet words push through all of his protection and pierces the wall of resentment he keeps around his heart. For one stark moment he remembers loving brown eyes and warm embraces before he’s fiercely cataloguing that woman’s sins, wrapping himself in his seething fury.

 

“She loves a foolish, blind boy who no longer exists.”

 

Rey finally looks up at him. He should be relieved, but he’s too focused on keeping himself from completely losing his temper. She says softly, “I don’t think that’s true. Ben Solo is still in there. I felt him.”

 

He clenches his teeth against the need to correct her. That was never his name. Instead he shakes his head and says, “No, Rey, he’s dead and buried. I had no need of him so I cast him off.” Kylo takes a long drink from his wine, barely tasting it.

 

“You didn’t, though. Not as completely as you think. You’re still him.”

 

“You have no real understanding of what you’re saying. I promise you, I am not.”

 

“I think I do. I might have believed that Kylo Ren is all that you are, once, but not after nearly a year of feeling you … and not after that night, after Demyan … No, I held Ben Solo as he cried in my arms.”

 

“I was never Ben Solo.”

 

“Yes, you were. You are Ben Solo.”

 

“Ben Organa!” he spits out.

 

“What?”

 

“If you must insist on speaking of a dead boy, at least use the correct name. My mo-” He stops himself and growls angrily. “Leia Organa gave m- gave him her name. Ben Organa.”

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Leia never told me.”

 

“Yes, well. It was tradition on Alderaan that boys follow the mother’s line and girls the father’s.”

 

“I see. Ben Organa then. That doesn’t change the fact that your mother loves you very, very much.”

 

“I suppose there is nothing I can do to stop her,” he says with derision.

 

Rey looks at him with something approaching disgust before asking, “Do you have any idea, the barest comprehension of what I would give to have had Leia as a mother?”

 

He doesn’t know what to say to that. As much as he despises that woman, he can’t avoid the truth that she never abandoned him, never left him to starve. Measuring with Rey’s scale pushes him somewhere uncomfortable.

 

“Last night I found out that my mother dumped me on Jakku because the spice was more important to her than me. That low-life told her to get rid of me and she did,” Rey says, holding his eyes with her fierce gaze. She breaks the contact as she leans forward to place her still untouched wine on the low table in front of his couch. She sits back and returns her attention to him.

 

“Do you know what it was like to grow up on Jakku? I know you think you do. You have your holos, stories from my life, bits and pieces of facts, but you have no idea what it’s like to be hungry.” She leans forward and her hazel eyes have him pinned.

 

“Every stars-be-damned day I was hungry. Not like missing a meal or two hungry, but a hunger that never leaves you. It doesn’t matter how much food I have now, I will always be hollow. It haunts me. It hunts me. Days and days I would go without food. It was hardest when I was a child.” She narrows her eyes at him and then he feels as she opens the Bond.

 

He gasps as her emptiness engulfs him. She floods him with a cascade of memories, flashes of her as a girl, clutching her belly, crying herself to sleep, so weak she could barely walk, but dragging herself through hulking metal carcasses.

 

Memory after memory sizzles through his brain, scouring his senses with the raw brutality of her life. He can’t even decipher most of them, but oh he can feel them. Rey’s howling history seems to have passed when one clear memory pulls him down. A vicious sandstorm had caught her far from her AT-AT and she’d been trapped in a mid-sized craft with only her canteen and half a portion. She appears to be just reaching adolescence. He watches helplessly as she eats her final bite, drinks her last swallow of water. He feels her fear as the sands pound against the hull relentlessly and the days stretch.

 

Her thirst rips at his own throat as she painstakingly traces the ship’s systems, finally making her way to the central water supply. He feels her triumph as she breaks into the holding tank and finds it full. He knows what it is to escape with his life, but not to feel death stalking him for days. He’s never felt relief like this. But the storm rages on, and he watches as the hunger makes her weaker with each day. Her eyes become dull and her glowing skin turns sallow.

 

At last the storm subsides and she has just enough strength to pull herself from her shelter. She stumbles out into the harsh Jakku sun and collapses into the hot sand. She drifts in and out of consciousness before he feels as gentle hands drag her onto a speeder of some kind. Then there’s nothing. The Bond closes and he’s breathing quickly—the harrowing memory has left him reeling.

 

He thought he’d known desperation. He thought he’d known betrayal. He knows nothing of suffering, nothing of what it is to be failed. He blinks quickly, attempting to orient himself. His rooms come back into focus and he finds Rey’s eyes boring into him.

 

“I would have died if someone hadn’t found me. And that’s just one of a litany of horrors that would have had you on your knees. My mother did that to me. She should have just killed me, but instead she left me to that. So forgive me, Ben Organa, if I find it a bit much to take that you’re angry that your mother lied to you.” Rey is breathing hard, her eyes flashing with such anguish and rage.

 

Kylo is frozen—he hadn’t known, dear Maker, he hadn’t known. He knew her life had been difficult, but this … He can’t speak. Everything he can think of to say sounds profane in the face of the purity of her torment. He looks at her, seeing her defiant mask, understanding just a bit of what she hides under her strength.

 

Finally he offers something wholly inadequate. “I should have come for you.”

 

“What?” she asks in confusion.

 

“I don’t care that I was a boy myself when she left you. I should have known, I should have come for you. Somehow, I should have known.” He’s struggled with this feeling since he first began to see the extent of her pain. He’s spent nights raging, pacing and powerless. He’d had to resort to his blade on more than one occasion to quiet the storm. What good is the Force if it didn’t help him rescue that which is most precious to him?

 

“How could you have?” she asks, her anger fading, replaced by bewilderment.

 

“I don’t know, Rey, but I will always feel that I failed you.” Images of a young Rey, far too thin, snag at his heart. He looks into her lovely eyes and he feels the fierce need to wrap her in his arms and never let her go. Seeing her memories, it’s as if time has ceased to have meaning. He doesn’t care that it’s illogical, he should have known!

 

He shakes his head in frustration. She’s been through too much, and the more he learns the clearer he sees the scars stretched taught along her soul. There’s nothing he can do about her past, but she’s his now and she will only know safety and comfort for the rest of her days.

 

He needs her to understand what he’s feeling, how he would do anything to change her life on Jakku. He goes to crouch in front of her. His sudden movement startles her and her eyes grow wary. Holding her gaze, he carefully places his hands on either side of her so as not to touch her.  

 

He says in a low voice, “Knowing that you were suffering like that … that the one person who matters most to me in the entire galaxy was desperate, alone, hurting, starving … I should have known, I should have sensed. I am so sorry, sweetheart.”

 

Rey has gone very still and her nearly primal fury has left her. Her eyes are enormous and she looks like she might start crying. He’s worried that he’s frightened her. He begins to pull back, about to stand when she grabs his hands in hers. “Do you mean it?”

 

“Do I mean what?”

 

“That I’m the most important person in the galaxy to you?” Her lip trembles and he doesn’t understand this reaction.

 

“Yes, Rey. Yes, I mean it.” Oh, if she only knew how much he means it.

 

An almost shy smile pulls at her mouth. She looks away and nods slightly but she’s still smiling. He’s confused; he doesn’t know how to interpret her behavior. She looks back to him and releases his hands. It’s all he can do to keep from snatching them back, pulling her to him, comforting her. Comforting him. He knows he should draw back from her as the fraught feelings have left him shaken and his already frayed control in tatters.

 

There is so much in her endless hazel eyes that he loses himself for a moment, caught in her gaze. He’s startled when his comm chirps. Hastily he moves to shut it off. He truly does not care what Hux wants. It can all wait until tomorrow.  

 

The invasion of the outside world has helped calm him.  Normalcy, they need normalcy. “I’ll order dinner, shall I?”

 

She blinks up at him. “Don’t you need to find out what they want?”

 

“I’m sure it’s nothing important.”

 

She looks at him skeptically before saying, “Alright.”

 

“Is there anything you would like?” he says as he’s moving away from her. He breathes in deeply on his way to the console.

 

“Uhm. Well, I liked what we had the first night I was here. I mean, if you don’t mind having it again,” he hears her say.

 

“That’s always been a favorite of mine,” he calls over his shoulder as he reaches the bay of screens by his door.

 

He keys in their order and he’s beginning to feel like himself again. They will do what they always do, move forward from difficult, tense moments. Finished with his task, he’s about to return to her, but he stops and stands, looking at her. Her back is to him and she’s gazing out at the stars. Her once neat bun could not stand up to the ocean winds and it looks like it’s about to come undone.

 

He watches her for a moment, appreciating the elegant curve of her neck. She’s so strong, yet delicate at the same time—such a study in contrast. Maker, he wants to give her everything. He remembers the necklace from the market on Vren … he had thought of giving it to her tonight. He’s still feeling the echo of his powerlessness. He knows it’s a small gesture, but it’s something concrete he can do.

 

“Rey, if you will excuse me, I need to get something from the other room.”

 

She turns her head to him and asks, “What is it?”

 

“A surprise. I’ll be right back.”

 

He slips into his sanctuary and goes to his cabinet of gifts. He pulls out the top drawer, where he keeps the jewelry, and finds the necklace that looks so like the one she had admired. He considers giving her one of the rich silk scarves as well—she had enjoyed the bolts of bright fabric—but he decides it might be too much.

 

When he returns to his sitting room, he finds Rey has moved to stand by the viewscreen. She shifts to look at him and graces him with another of her soft smiles before returning her attention to the slow turning of Vren. He’s suddenly quite nervous. Her rooms are full of dresses, ornaments for her hair, all manner of lovely things, but this is the first time he is giving her something personally. What if she doesn’t like it?

 

He goes to stand next to her. “Rey?”

 

“Hmm?” she says as she turns to face him.

 

“I … I have something for you.” He holds out the slim box hesitantly. It’s covered in a deep blue brocade.

 

She looks at the box and back to him before she gingerly takes it from him. She runs her fingers across the fabric. She doesn’t open it for a long time, just staring at it. Then she slowly opens the box.

 

His eyes are trained intently on her face, and he’s drawn very near. He knows he should step back, but he’s caught in her pull. Besides, he doesn’t really want to. He wants to be as close as she’ll allow.

 

As the necklace is revealed to her, Rey’s eyes go wide. She tentatively pulls the necklace from its confines and simply looks at it, blinking. She’s not saying anything and his stomach falls. Foolish, stupid, what had he been thinking? But then she bites her bottom lip and she smiles. A wide, excited smile and her eyes dart up to his. His heart starts beating again. She says, “It’s like the necklace on Vren!”

 

It’s silver with three delicate strands, each with deep purple, green, amber, and burgundy gems in a staggered pattern so that when it’s worn, the stones look like a solar system. He’d thought of her immediately when he’d found it on a mission nearly five months ago.

 

“You like it then?” he asks hopefully.

 

“Yes, Kylo. It’s beautiful. Thank you.” She’s moved even closer to him, their heads almost touching as they look down on the necklace.

 

“Would you … would you wear it for me?”

 

She looks up at him and nods slightly. Rey sets the box down on a table by the viewscreen. She looks at the clasp for a moment and brings the jewelry to her neck. Her face grows frustrated as she fumbles with it. She pulls it from her and studies the clasp again. She tries once more, but it’s clear she’s had no practice with anything like this. Her brows knit together and he’s alarmed as he sees her growing genuinely upset.

 

“Please, let me help you.”

 

“I can do it myself!”

 

“Rey, there’s no need. Let me help you.”

 

She looks up at him and purses her lips. Finally she hands it to him with bad grace.

 

She turns around and he’s transfixed anew by her slender neck. He wants to bend forward and press his lips to her shoulder, kiss his way up to just below her ear. Instead, he carefully reaches around her, making sure not to touch. His chest is inches from her back and he can feel the heat of her body. It would be so easy to close his arms around her, bring her form flush against his.

 

The Bond is flowing, the energy growing thick between them. She may be able to shut out her feelings and thoughts, but she can’t stop the pull. He looks down and sees her chest rising and falling rapidly. He lets the necklace settle along her collarbone and his hands are trembling as he tries to clasp the necklace without touching her. Finally, he has it, and he knows he should step back. But she’s so near and he closes his eyes and inhales, breathing in her heady scent. She smells of the sea and Rey.

 

He stands like that with his hands hovering over her shoulders, feeling the tendrils of the Bond lick at his palms. Force, he needs her, and he knows she needs him, too. She’s touched him so much today, she’d even kissed him ...

 

She shudders and turns. He only just manages to move his hands in time. She stays very close as she looks into his eyes. There isn’t more than an inch between them. Her frustration from her inability to put on the necklace is gone and all he sees is heat.

 

Her lips are parted and her breath is ragged. She holds his eyes as she places her hands on his chest and slowly slides them up his torso until she’s weaving her fingers in his hair. He’s begun to pant slightly and the feel of her hands against his scalp send delicious shivers along his spine. But she’s not given him leave to touch her. She must let him touch her—she must. He’s tired of playing this game, tired of being so tethered.

 

He looks deeply into her eyes and breathes out, “Release me, Rey.”

 

She doesn’t say anything, just continues to run her fingers through his hair and he can’t stop the low whimper that escapes him. Tremors move through his muscles at the effort he’s expending to keep his arms at his sides.

 

Her eyes have never left his. He can’t control himself much longer. Soon, he’ll have no choice but to push her from him, run from the room. His voice is rough with passion as he begs, “Rey, unchain me, unleash me. Please, let me touch you.”

 

She holds his gaze and he sees the moment she decides. He thinks he might fall into her eyes forever when she murmurs, “Yes.”

 

That single word opens the floodgates and instantly his arms crush her to him. He buries his face at her neck and he finally tastes her skin. After months of longing, obsession, devotion, he wants to slow down and treasure this, but he can't. He’s like an animal; he kisses and licks, bites and sucks. Oh how he’s wanted this, and he moans into her flesh. She gasps and her hands tighten in his hair, pulling him even closer.

 

There is no thought, only the glory of touching Rey. He kisses up her neck until he’s at that point below her ear, just as he’d fantasized. He drags his lips across her cheek and he’s about to kiss her properly when he stops. The feral, desperate desire quiets for just a moment as the enormity of this moment bears down on him.

 

He’s never kissed anyone before. He’s never wanted to. But kissing her, more than anything, is what he’s dreamed of. This is only for her.

 

He brings his hands to her face, cradling it between his long fingers as he looks into her eyes. Her pupils are wide and he finds only welcome there. He whispers, “Rey …”

 

She blinks slowly and then he closes the space between them. He gently presses his lips to hers and oh, Force he’s never felt anything like this. Her lips move against his and it’s as if there is a cord between their lips and his center. All of his fevered imaginings have never prepared him for this. The Bond sparks with pleasure and connection as he allows instinct to guide him. He’s always confident in everything he does and he kisses her as if it was what he was built to do.

 

Kylo knows he’s been hers from the moment he first saw her fierce face, but somehow he understands there is no going back from this. There can be only Rey and he would not survive without her. Loving her had been abstract, but now it has form. He needs more, more, more. He glides his tongue along her velvet lips and there is no hesitation as she opens to him. The gentleness has left him and he plunges his tongue into her mouth and takes her, claims her. He won’t let her turn back from this, either. She is his and he knows she can no longer deny it.

 

He’s achingly hard as he pulls her as close as he can, grinding himself against her writhing body. It’s not enough, it will never be enough. He keeps his mouth fused with hers as he lifts her in his arms. Her fingers are still tangled in his hair as he walks them to his couch. He must stop kissing her for a moment as he pushes her down. Once she’s settled, he immediately covers her body with his and again captures her mouth.

 

Finally, finally, finally. He’s touching her everywhere he can reach, his hands roaming along her dips and curves. He knew this would be bliss, but this … this is transcendent. All the small moments she’s allowed him had given him only the remotest idea of what it would be like to finally be with her in this way. She’s consuming him and he’s lost to sensation.

 

He wants to taste her skin again, but he doesn’t want to stop kissing her when abruptly she pulls away. Panic spikes in his heated blood but then she’s tearing at his clothing, attempting to reach his neck. He knows he shouldn’t, that this is too much, too fast but he just doesn’t care. Swiftly he pulls his belt off, then his surcoat.

 

He asks with his eyes if she wants him to continue and she nods frantically. He pulls his tunic from his body and he’s on her again, sucking against her pulse point. Her hands come up and her fingers dig into his bare back; he groans, deep in his throat. Her small hands against his skin are doing something to him and he’s falling deeper into this exquisite place.

 

Now she’s the one to leave hot, open mouthed kisses against his flesh and he can’t quite believe that he’s actually here after nearly a year of needing her like this. He arches his back and thrusts his hardness against her; she wraps her legs around him, pushing back. All of his dreams are coming true and he’s brimming with how much he loves her. He’s suddenly so grateful that he’s never given so much of himself to anyone but her. Only Rey, only ever Rey.

 

He’s a creature of pure desire and want, love and need. Her tongue laves against him and he wants to rip her clothes away, feel their skin moving together. Somehow he senses that he mustn’t, that she needs to be the one to take that step.

 

It’s been too long, he needs to kiss her again, and he’s about to do just that when they are alerted that the droid with their dinner has arrived. It startles him from this perfect place of instinctive need and sacred devotion and he looks into her face. She giggles and hides her eyes with her hands. He’s never heard that from her before and it catches in an odd little place in his chest. There is still a bit of the girl she should have been hiding within her.

 

He smiles down on her as she peeks through her fingers. He pulls her hands from her face and looks at her softly. Her face is open and the swell of love he feels for her nearly steals his breath. Perhaps it would be alright to tell her. Surely she must already know. Suddenly he needs her to know. “Rey … I lo-” The door alerts again.

 

He grumbles in frustration and she’s pushing him away, but she’s smiling. He stands, very reluctantly. He starts to move to the door when she stops him.

 

“Wait, Kylo, your tunic.”

 

“It’s just a droid, it doesn’t matter.”

 

He walks to the door. Just before he opens it, he looks back to Rey. She’s flushed, her bun having long since lost the battle with its tie. Her hair is falling around her shoulders and, oh stars, she’s glowing. For him.  

 

He’s still looking at her as he opens the door. He hears a quick intake of breath and turns to find an extremely shocked General Hux standing outside his quarters.

Chapter Text

Several things race through Kylo’s head at once as he takes in Hux’s disapproving expression. The most important realization is that the ginger irritant can see Rey’s ravished state and he swiftly moves to block Hux’s line of sight. Kylo is also quite aware that he’s half-dressed and still tremendously hard. His instinct is to cover himself, but he won’t let Hux perceive his embarrassment.

 

“Hux,” he growls.

 

“Supreme Leader, your attention is required at once.” The general’s eyes are intently trained on Kylo’s face.

 

“I am rather occupied at the moment, perhaps it could wait?”

 

“No, it really can’t. The Resistance is, at this moment, conducting a coordinated attack across the fleet and you are needed.” Hux’s usually unflappable exterior is cracking.

 

Kylo hears Rey gasp but he keeps his attention on Hux. He wants to scream. Of course that woman would manage—even now, even from light years away—to ruin everything. Briefly, he closes his eyes tightly and feels as his body comes once again under his control. This is unavoidable. It doesn’t matter that all he wants to do is slam the door and return to Rey, this must be dealt with.

 

“I require ten minutes and then I will join you on the bridge,” Kylo finally says grudgingly.

 

Hux purses his lips. “It would be better if you came now, sir.”

 

“Ten minutes, Hux!” he says as he shuts the door in the frustrated general’s face.

 

He turns to Rey and finds her face curiously blank. As he always does, he wishes she would open the Bond and allow him to sense her. She’s standing and smoothing her hair.

 

“Rey, I need to go. I wish I didn’t,” he says as he moves towards her.

 

“I know, I heard. I understand.” Her voice is bare of inflection. Perhaps she is angry that he’s been called away?

 

He collects his clothing from the ground and begins to redress. It’s growing awkward and he wishes he could think of something to say. When he’s once again presentable he stands in front of her. She’s looking at nothing and he’s not sure what to make of her body language.

 

“Come, I will escort you to your quarters,” he says.

 

“You don’t need to, I can find my way. Go.” She won’t meet his eyes.

 

“No, at the very least I will see you to your door.”

 

“Alright.” She does look up at him, then.

 

“Rey, what is it?” He hesitates before reaching out and grazing her cheek with his fingers. She has given him permission to touch her and he intends to at every opportunity. She swallows.

 

“Nothing, I’m fine. It’s been a long day, that’s all. Please just take me back to my quarters.”

 

“I … I don’t want to leave you, not after … I will return to you as soon as I’m able.”

 

“I … yes, alright,” she says as she ducks her head.

 

Gingerly, he reaches for her hand and she pauses but then she curls her fingers around his. The thought of being parted from her after what they’d just shared makes him ache. But he pulls her gently to the door.

 

---

 

Kylo storms through the corridors. The Resistance. He thought he’d beaten them back with his all-out assault in his attempts to find Rey. But apparently not; apparently Leia Organa simply won’t give up. He realizes they were likely hoping to catch the Finalizer. Perhaps this was even an attempted rescue. He won’t allow that. No one will ever take Rey from him. No one.  

 

He knows he must focus, that he has to gain perspective, but all he can think of is how she’d finally let him touch her. Kiss her. He’d been kissing her, holding her, giving himself to her, and it had all been snatched away. He adds this latest offense to the ever-growing list of that woman’s sins.

 

By the time he stalks onto the bridge he’s wishing he was in battle, able to exorcise some of this excruciating tension and fury. Of course it’s not as if he would be in the thick of things now―his position forces him to plan, order, delegate.

 

He takes in the scene that greets him, finally finding some semblance of calm. There are officers moving quickly, speaking with tense voices. It is barely-contained chaos and Hux is staring at a map of the current positions of the fleet.

 

“Hux!” he barks. “Report.”

 

Hux quickly turns to Kylo and says, “Approximately 30 minutes ago the Resistance attacked five ships. The Aeron, the Tarkin, and the Dominion were moving in a convoy near the Outer Rim. Our last communication indicated that all three ships are under heavy fire. The Ascent is scouting what was once the Hosnian System and is holding her own. The Dauntless was en route to the Hoth System and we’ve not heard anything since they first reported Resistance activity.”

 

“Why did we have no advance warning? An attack on this scale, there should have been signs.”

 

“We’re not sure, sir. There has been a catastrophic intelligence failure, obviously.”

 

“Are we in any position to be of aid?”

 

“No, Supreme Leader. Vren is quite remote and our latest … sojourn has taken us far from the fleet.” Kylo feels Hux’s censure and shunts it aside. Coming to Vren had been necessary.

 

Just then the comm crackles. “This is the Dauntless, come in Finalizer.”

 

An officer Kylo doesn’t recognize responds, “This is the Finalizer, report.”

 

“Our shields have fallen and we’re being boarded―repeat, we are being boarded.”

 

---

 

It’s early in the morning after a long and discouraging night. It had been an absolute rout. The Resistance had destroyed two Star Destroyers—the Aeron and the Dominion—and managed to capture the Dauntless. After he’s seen Rey and had some sleep, he’s going to have to meet with Wylan and Natan. The Dominion was Wylan’s post and the Dauntless, Natan’s. The Aeron had been Demyan’s. The reminder stings. On further consideration, he should call all of the knights together once Jashad and Palek return from dealing with Qree. All but Palek’s ship, the Terminus, had been involved.

 

Somehow, the Resistance had managed to find and attack only the largest and most important vessels. It’s a fraction of the fleet, but the Princess had still hit the strongest and most essential targets. He’s left it all to Hux to sort out, he needs to get back to Rey.

 

He’s not sure he’s ever had a more difficult time keeping himself on track as he had throughout the night. He’d been continually pulled into intense memories of Rey; flashes of heat and skin constantly clamoring for his attention.

 

He’s making his way back to her rooms; he’d told her he would return to her just as soon as he could. He’s furious at everyone―everyone but Rey. Clearly their spy network requires serious attention for them to have been so completely blindsided. This never should have happened. Someone, somewhere, must be feeding information to the Resistance. The First Order has superior numbers, ships, armaments, everything. And yet the persistent thorn in his side that is Leia Organa had managed, once again, to do the impossible.

 

Kylo’s resentment grows as he realizes he’s going to have to spend far more time on strategy and tactics, which means less time for Rey.

 

Rey. He can’t go to her like this. He stops walking and breathes in deeply. He focuses on the memory of how glorious it was to kiss her and he feels his anger quiet. He plays that first moment, when he’d touched his lips to hers, over and over again.

 

He thinks he could spend weeks just kissing her and be content. He’d never experienced anything so … intimate, so close. He hadn’t known it was possible to feel so much all at once. Suddenly all that matters is being with Rey and he’s again walking quickly to her rooms.

 

Finally he’s at her door and he knocks softly. He knows it’s early, but he hopes she’s awake. He’s exhausted, but he just wants to see her, if only for a little while before he goes to his quarters to sleep. He hears no movement from inside so he knocks again, a little louder this time. After waiting for longer than he probably should, he accepts that she’s asleep.

 

For one sublime moment he imagines letting himself in, slipping into bed with her, wrapping her in his arms and sleeping with her body pressed tight against him. But he knows that one evening of passion does not give him such freedom. It’s difficult to leave, but he pries himself from her doorway and goes to his rooms.

 

---

 

He’s back at her door, having slept a few hours. He’d had such luscious, vivid dreams. Now that he knows what she truly feels like beneath him, they’d taken on a sensory quality they’d not had before. He’s desperate to pull her to him, feel her sweet lips again. That’s all he wants to do, for as long as she’ll let him.

 

He knocks on her door firmly. He hears movement immediately. Good, she’s coming to him. He realizes that he’s nearly grinning in anticipation. He waits, impatient for Rey. Time stretches and she doesn’t answer. He knocks again, rather loudly. He senses her just on the other side. Why isn’t she answering?

 

“Rey?” he calls through the door. He’s met with silence. He hasn’t used the door alert as she had specified he knock, but now he jams the button.

 

“Rey?”

 

Is something wrong? Is she hurt? Wouldn’t he have felt it through the Bond, wouldn’t she have reached out to him? He hears her again and he’s growing frustrated. What is she playing at?

 

“Rey!” he yells.

 

“I don’t want to see you,” she finally answers.

 

Relief floods him at the sound of her voice but then he registers what she’s actually said. She … she doesn’t want to see him? “Rey, please, what is it? What’s wrong?”

 

“Just go away,” her muffled voice comes through the durasteel.

 

“What?” But … she … they’d shared so much. She can’t mean it.

 

“Please, just go away,” she repeats.

 

“No, not now. Not after last night.” She can’t be doing this―she can’t. His heart is hammering in his chest. Memories of every single time she’d shut him out of the Bond cascade through him. The powerlessness, the aching longing. Endless nights needing her, hours spent hurtling himself at her walls, it’s all welling up within him and his throat feels tight. How could she? Is it possible that what they’d shared meant nothing to her? The thought is sharp and cold and oh Maker, no ...

 

His helmet feels close and wrong and he rips it from his head, throwing it to the floor. He leans his forehead against her door. He holds his hand against the surface and he has the strangest sense that her palm is right on the other side. “Rey, please.”

 

“No, Kylo. Last night was a mistake. All of this has been a mistake … dinners, Vren …  touching you. I never should have given in,” she says firmly.

 

“Given in?” She thinks last night was … a weakness? He can’t tamp down the growing sense of dread.

 

“The Bond. It makes me lose myself, forget my true feelings, forget who I am, what I believe.”

 

“What? No. No! You can’t mean that―you can’t,” he pleads. He closes his eyes as he brings his other palm to her door.

 

“I do. I shouldn’t be here; I should be with Leia, with the Resistance, not letting you confuse me with gorgeous clothes and pretty jewelry … my family.” Her voice is forlorn.

 

“Stop, please. Just let me in. Let me talk with you. Oh Maker, Rey, you can’t do this to me. Last night, it meant everything to me. You mean everything to me. You have to let me in.” He opens his eyes and clutches at the surface.

 

“No. I don’t want to see you.”

 

Not this again. He can’t bear it. He won’t allow this, not now. “No, Rey. I told you before, I won’t let you do this to me. You can’t shut me out, not anymore.”

 

He purposefully pulls his gloves from his hands. Once he’s inside they will talk and she will see reason. He won’t be denied. He places his palm against the scanner. Nothing happens. He tries again, but the door won’t respond. Hurriedly he keys in his code but the device won’t accept it. What has she done?

 

“What did you do, Rey? What did you do!”

 

She doesn’t answer.

 

“Rey!” he bellows.

 

“I hacked the door; you can’t get in.”

 

His breath is coming quickly now, the frantic fury riding in his blood. He will not let her do this to him. “Rey,” he growls dangerously. “You will open this door right now.”

 

“No.”

 

“Yes, Rey. You can’t deny who we are to each other, not after last night. I felt you respond to me, I felt it.”

 

“It’s just the Bond. It doesn’t mean anything.”

 

“No. No! No!” This can’t be happening―he won’t let it. Suddenly, he realizes he doesn’t have to. She might be able to keep him out through the Bond, but all that there is between them is a panel of metal. His saber is in his hand and he starts to hack at her door.

 

“What are you doing?” she yells.

 

“If you won’t open this door then I will break it down,” he vows fiercely, his voice rising above the din of his methodical destruction.

 

“Don’t you dare!”

 

“Dare? Dare? There is nothing I won’t do to keep you with me.”

 

“Stop, please,” Rey begs.

 

“I will never stop―you are mine!” he screams as he strikes orange streaks into the metal.

 

“Haven’t you taken enough from me? You’ve already made me your whore!” she spits.

 

The word sears through him and his saber is off in an instant. The rage leaves him only to be replaced by horror. “What?” he gasps out.

 

“Isn’t it enough that you’ve made me into my mother, a kept woman for your pleasure?”

 

Oh Maker, she thinks … it’s too much, it hurts too much. He wants to give her everything, his whole soul, and she believes... He can’t think, there’s just anguish. He feels like a chasm has opened beneath his feet as he finally comprehends the vast distance between them. He loves her, she could never be his … he can’t even form the word in his mind.

 

He feels like he’s falling as the pain takes him down. He can’t find purchase and the corridor is beginning to spin. His blade―he needs his blade. His saber drops from his nerveless fingers and he stumbles to his quarters, tears clouding his vision.

 

Somehow he opens the door. He staggers into his rooms as the door shuts behind him. He blindly goes for his knife. He falls into a chair. Whore, whore, whore―the word tears at his heart. His beautiful, pure light thinks he’s made her into a whore …

 

He shoves up his sleeve and he shakily drags the sharp blade against the soft skin of his arm. He doesn’t even register the jagged wound as again he opens his flesh. Hot tears fall down his face as his memory of the warmth, the sharing, is ripped open, as bloody as his torn skin.

 

It meant nothing to her. Force, did she think she owed it to him because he’d given her that necklace? But the way she’d looked at him, like she wanted him. Wanted him. She was someone who could be his very own. Someone who wouldn’t leave. Someone who would always be there. No closed doors and late meetings. No months’ long trips just to get away from him. She was supposed to be his.

 

Memories crash into him, taunting with new understanding. Her delicate face as she’d looked up at him, her eyes open, shining. Their fingers sliding and sparking together. Her hands in his hair as she’d held him. Nothing―it had meant nothing to her. He means nothing to her. The sacred becomes profane and the precious, dirty.

 

A wounded, animal sound is torn from his throat as he just keeps cutting, but it’s not working. He can’t make it stop. She doesn’t want him. No one will ever want him. Maybe she’s right, maybe the Bond means nothing. Maybe this is just compulsion. He’d never found anything in the archives to indicate one way or the other. No, it can’t be … it can’t. He knows he loves her. He knows that even without the Bond he will always love her. Before the Bond, as soon as he saw her, he was hers.

 

He sobs in frustration―why isn’t this working? Again he pulls the blade along his skin. His arm is soaked in blood and it’s starting to come very fast now. He knows this is dangerous, he knows he’s taken it too far, but he doesn’t stop. It’s all he knows to do to try and quiet the unbearable agony that’s opened in his chest. She thinks she’s his whore …

 

He startles violently when he feels a small hand wrap around his wrist.

 

“Stop, Kylo, stop!” a voice says frantically.

 

He looks up, barely able to see through the tears, and she’s here.

 

“Rey?” He must be seeing things. He’s lost too much blood. She’s shut him out. She doesn’t want him. She can’t be here.

 

“Oh Force, Kylo, what have you done?” She sounds so frightened. Why is Rey frightened?

 

She’s pulling the blade from his fingers. “No, stop, I need it,” he begs.

 

“No, you don’t. Let it go, Kylo. Let it go. Now.” The Bond floods with her and her light winds around his shattered heart. She swirls and eddies within him and suddenly it doesn’t hurt so much.

 

“Alright, Rey.” He lets her take the knife.

 

A strange light envelops his arm and he watches in detached fascination as his skin knits back together. She’s kept the Bond open and he’s feeling almost drugged. He blinks slowly. Intense emotions course through him and he’s not sure whose they are. Potent fear. Something warm and soft that has no name. That desperate confusion he’d felt before. That must be her. Delicious relief. That could be him, since Rey is here. Rey, Rey, Rey.

 

Her hands grasp his face and her eyes are huge. They’re full of pain. Who has hurt Rey? He will find them; he will make them pay.

 

“Why did you do that, Kylo, why?” Her voice sounds so panicked. He must make his way back to her. Rey needs him. He shakes his head, trying to clear the fog.

 

“I was so scared,” she breathes out as she wraps her arms around him and pulls him close. Mmmm. She feels so good. Something was wrong, though. What was it? Something to do with Rey … slowly the room comes back into focus and he realizes that there’s blood everywhere. His blade. He’d needed his blade.

 

Memory rushes in and suddenly he’s back. She’d locked him out, rejected him utterly. She doesn’t want him. She’s only here because of her compassion. It’s nothing to do with him.

 

He places his hands on her shoulders and pushes her from him, and then he’s the one to close the Bond. He won’t take her pity. Her eyes cloud in confusion. He stands and turns from her.

 

“Kylo?”

 

“What, Rey?” Desolation takes root in the hole she’s left in his chest.

 

“We should probably get you to medical. I closed the wound but I’m not sure about the blood loss.”

 

We? It is abundantly clear that there is no ‘we’ as far as she’s concerned. “My head is clearing. Force healing typically goes deep enough to address blood loss,” he says clinically.

 

“But you were really … odd.”

 

“Yes, well. I’m improving.” He’s not going to medical.

 

He feels her hand on his arm and he goes rigid, wanting to shake her off and pretend none of this had happened in equal measure.

 

“Please look at me,” she requests softly. She pulls at his arm. He closes his eyes.

 

“Please, Kylo.” He looks to the ceiling.

 

“Please,” she repeats. Finally he allows her to turn him around but he doesn’t look at her, focusing instead on a spot above her head. He’s not ready to face just how badly she’s hurt him.

 

“I … I’m sorry,” she whispers.

 

“For what?” His tone is flat.

 

“I felt … I felt everything.” Of course she had. He waits for her to continue but she doesn’t say any more.

 

Eventually he stiffly asks, “Why are you here?” She’d made it quite plain how she truly feels about him.

 

“I … when you stopped trying to get into my quarters so suddenly, I worried. I opened the Bond and I saw what you were doing.”

 

The sound of her voice, shaky and afraid, finally makes him look at her. She’s still in yesterday’s clothes and her pale tunic is covered in his blood. She’s trembling. He sees tear tracks along her face, but they can’t possibly be for him.

 

“I was so worried.” Her voice quavers. “For a moment I thought I was too late; I thought I wouldn’t be able to stop the bleeding. I thought … I thought you were going to die.”

 

“That certainly would have solved all of your problems, wouldn’t it?”

 

She flinches. “No … I don’t want that.”

 

“I thought I’d made you my whore,” he accuses coldly.

 

She closes her eyes tightly. When she opens them the sea of anguish he sees cuts him to the core. The need to comfort her is intense, and he wonders at the perversity of his heart.

 

“I felt what hearing that did to you. I know that’s not really true. I just … I’m so confused, Kylo. The way you make me feel … the Bond … I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve never felt anything like this. Touching you … it’s like coming home … and I’ve never even had a home. But the things you’ve done, the things you will do… I don’t know how to be me and be with you at the same time.”

 

Touching him feels like home? Hope, tremulous hope blossoms in his chest and it feels like he might be able to breathe again. “But … you want to be? With me?”

 

“Yes … Maker help me, yes.”

 

Rey wants him. She didn’t mean those horrible words. After everything that’s happened, he desperately needs to hold her, but he’s afraid. If she were to reject him again, he’s not sure he would recover. She looks so small, her arms wrapped tightly around her torso. He feels broken and jagged, but he knows it will soothe them both to be in each other’s arms. He gathers his courage and reaches for her, waiting for her to close the distance.

 

She flows into his arms and he holds her as close as he can. He isn’t prepared for the rush of emotion that overwhelms him and he shudders. Solace, healing, connection thrums through his entire being and he hopes she feels it, too.

 

“We will find a way, Rey. I’ll do whatever I have to,” he promises.

 

They stand like that for a long time and he feels as Rey finally stops shaking. He cradles her head against his chest and she rubs her hands along his back. It’s so right to have her pressed against him again. The chaotic storm has passed and he nudges against the Bond. She opens it, just a fraction. He feels hints and echoes of her feelings. Her terror at the prospect of losing him. There’s a thick thread of shame and he frowns, but then he senses how safe she feels in his arms.

 

He becomes aware of the scent of the sharp tang of copper. Right, they’re both covered in his blood. “We need to get you cleaned up,” he murmurs against her hair.

 

She pulls back to look up at him. “We both do.”

 

“I’ll take you back to your rooms. We’ll get ourselves straightened and then we will talk.” He’d prefer not to, but he must find a way for this to work. He needs to understand what he’d done to make her feel so ashamed. He’s also aware that he’s still struggling with his own wounded feelings. This time they won’t simply move forward―they will discuss what has happened.

 

“Talk?”

 

“I think it’s long overdue, don’t you?”

 

She doesn’t say anything, only nods.

 

He steps away from her reluctantly and takes her hand in his, “Come.”

 

“Wait … there’s something you should know about my quarters.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“After you tried to get in, the door wouldn’t open.”

 

“Then how did you get here?” he asks in confusion.

 

She bites her lip then says, “I … well, I sort of used the Force to blow the door out. There’s not really a door to my rooms any longer.”

 

“You Force pushed through the door?” She’d said she only knew how to levitate small objects and heal minor wounds. A thought is forming in his head.

 

She looks up at him and her eyes are haunted. “I was frantic; I had to get to you. I don’t even know how I did it …” Her desperation to reach him, to heal him, had inspired such a significant leap in her powers? Realizing this helps push back the pulsing hurt that continues to run through him.

 

Still holding her hand, he cups her face with the other. “I never meant to frighten you,” he says gently.

 

“Kylo, I don’t think you understand. You more than frightened me. But … that can wait until we talk, like you said. Anyway, let’s go to my quarters.” She turns, pulling him by the hand as his fingers fall from her face. He stops her.

 

“No, I won’t have you bathing with no doors on your rooms. You will use my ‘fresher. I will have a droid bring you clean clothes and have a team begin working on your door immediately. If they aren’t able to complete the work by tonight, I’ll have temporary quarters prepared for you.”

 

“I guess that makes sense, but there’s no need to have a droid get me clothes. You don’t have to come, I can go myself.  I’ll be right back.” She lets go of his hand and starts to walk to the door.

 

“I will accompany you,” he says as he moves to join her.

 

“It’s just down the hall.”

 

“I know.” He’s nowhere near ready to have her away from him.

 

She turns to him and looks up into his face curiously. She tilts her head and says, “I am sorry. I know how much I hurt you. I couldn’t discern much of what you were thinking, but I felt you.”

 

He nods slightly, uncomfortable with the knowledge that she’d felt him fall apart so utterly.

 

He’s startled when she’s suddenly wrapped around him and it takes him a moment to return her embrace.

 

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she says into his chest.


She’s back in his arms. Everything is going to be alright―he’ll make sure of it.

Chapter Text

The water streams down Kylo’s body as he tries to recover from all that has happened. Rey has already bathed and changed and is waiting for him in his sitting room. His chest feels tight and his feelings are a jumble. She’d broken his heart then stitched it back together. It’s almost as if he can feel the seams where it had shattered.

 

He’s always known that loving her made him vulnerable, but now he understands that he’s truly at her mercy. She holds his entire being in her hands and he’s terrified of what she could do to him, what she’s already done to him. He tries to find comfort in how she had blown open her door to come to him, to save him, but he can’t shake the desolation of how she’d initially shut him out.

 

She’s always done that, thrown away his devotion. He thought he’d grown used to it. But that was before she was with him, before he’d had the opportunity to truly to talk with her, show her how he loves her. She’s said she wants to be with him, but he’s not sure he should believe her. He never thought he would be afraid of Rey.

 

That she’d pulled away so completely after sharing such intimacy has left him hollow and he’s having trouble holding on to his hopes and dreams. At the edge of his mind there has always been such biting fear that she will never accept him, but now he knows exactly what it would do to him. He has to find a way to make her see that there can be no other outcome than building a life together.

 

He shuts off the water and dries himself. He dresses in only his tunic and trousers, not even bothering with his boots.

 

Kylo comes out of his bedroom to find Rey sitting on his couch. She turns her head to look at him and her expression is wary. Her hair is down and still damp from her own ablutions. She’s in a long-sleeved rich burgundy silk gown with a row of neat buttons along her torso. Her dress covers her from clavicle to ankle, with her bare feet peeking out. He wonders if she’d selected it for just such a purpose, to cover her completely. The reminder of how she’d reacted to sharing what they had tears through him and he swallows. He wants to cherish that memory but he fears it will always be tainted.

 

He looks around his sitting room and finds that the cleaning droids have removed all trace of his weakness. He wants to shut away how he’d come undone and he wishes he and Rey were in her quarters. He doesn’t want to be here, but the work has only just begun on her door.

 

He approaches her slowly. The energy in the room is awkward and he’s still acutely feeling her rejection and cruel words. His head hurts slightly from his tears and he’s apprehensive about discussing all that’s transpired. He’s raw, exposed, and embarrassed by how much he needs her. How much he always needs her.

 

Kylo takes his customary seat next to her, not too close. She seems nervous but she shifts towards him. He wants to gather her to him, but he has no idea what the rules are, now.

 

“Rey, I don’t know if I’m allowed to touch you,” he says softly.

 

“Oh. I … yes. Yes, you’re allowed to touch me.” She gives him a small smile and it soothes a bit of the ache in his chest.

 

While he wants nothing more than to pull her into his arms, he’s nervous to push for too much. He hesitantly reaches for her hand and he laces his fingers with hers. He instantly feels better but conflict shadows Rey’s face.

 

“What is it?” he asks.

 

“It’s … it’s just … it’s hard to think when we’re touching.”

 

“In some ways, but in others it helps. Doesn’t it?” He grazes her palm with his thumb and watches as she shivers.

 

Rey looks up and says, “Sort of. It confuses me. But before we get into all of that, I need to know what happened with the Resistance.”

 

Ah. Yes. She would wish to know about her friends. “They destroyed two Star Destroyers with all hands and captured another,” he says tightly.

 

“What about their ships, were any of them lost?” Her eyes are worried.

 

“No. It was an exceedingly well planned attack. We won’t know until the analysts have finished their work, but the Resistance must have been given extremely sensitive information in order to be so effective.” His lip curls in distaste. He’s intently focused on not losing his temper. He has no wish to discuss this failure.

 

“I don’t know how to feel about this.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Her brow furrows. “After getting to know Kes, and Finn of course, it makes it so confusing. All of those stormtroopers, not to mention everyone else … I want the Resistance to succeed, but I’m tired of all the death.”

 

He ignores the spike of anger he feels at the mention of Finn. “Even after I told you what I want for the galaxy you still support the Resistance?” he asks in frustration.

 

“Of course I do! I’ve been very clear with you that I don’t agree with how you’re going about things. I may agree with some of your principles, but I do not agree with your methods.” Her voice is growing heated and she pulls her hand from his. He tries not to panic.

 

“So it was the mention of the Resistance that changed things last night.” He does not want to be sidetracked. This is about them, not politics.

 

She wraps her arms around her torso and looks at her knees. “It didn’t change anything; it made me wake up,” she says quietly.

 

“Wake up?” He’s thinking of the moment he realized she’d shut him out and he’s afraid of what’s going to tumble out of her mouth, of how whatever she says next will hurt him.

 

Her eyes flit to his and she says, “I feel like I’m in a dream when I’m with you. I can’t hold onto what I believe. Before you … brought me here, I promised myself that I’d never give in to the Bond. But I’ve only been with you for a week and we were … well, you know.” Her face flushes with shame.

 

It pulls and rends and guts him to see such a torment move through her eyes. He shifts to sit closer and slowly raises his hand to her face. Her eyes widen but she doesn’t pull away. He holds her cheek and looks deeply into her eyes. “No, Rey. Please don’t be ashamed. Please.” He draws his thumb across her skin and her eyes slowly close.

 

“I can’t help it,” she whispers.

 

He brings his other hand up and now he’s cradling her face. “Please look at me.”

 

Her eyes open but she won’t meet his gaze. “Please, Rey.”

 

Finally her lovely hazel eyes shift towards him. She looks like a lost little girl.

 

“There was nothing shameful in sharing what we did. It was beautiful.” It was the purest, most sacred thing he’s ever experienced. He must make her see. Rey mustn’t feel these things. She is so fine and good, she should never feel shame for anything.

 

A tear slips down her cheek. “Oh, Rey … you are so precious to me. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

 

“I did, though.”

 

“No, no,” he croons.

 

“You don’t understand,” she murmurs.

 

“Help me to, then.”

 

“I don’t know how ...” she says.

 

“Rey, lo- sweetheart, please help me see this. I don’t think you understand what last night means to me. Knowing that you feel like this about something so special, so singular, it … Rey, it hurts so much.” His voice cracks and he’s surprised he’s admitted just a bit of how she’s affected him. She places a hand over his and presses his fingers against her face. Her eyes fill with sadness but she doesn’t say anything.

 

“I’ve wanted to share that with you, to be with you for so long. That it … that I made you feel like this, I have to understand why,” he pleads.

 

She holds his eyes and he watches as numerous emotions ebb and flow within her. There is longing and tenderness—he tries not to hope too much when he sees that—but then there is regret and anguish and he’s not sure what to think.

 

“Maybe … maybe it’s better if I just show you,” she offers cautiously.

 

He’s quite surprised. But she has been more and more willing to access the Bond recently. “If that is what you prefer.”

 

“Yes, I think I would.” She pulls his hands from her face and wraps one of his arms around her as she leans into him. Now she’s settled against his chest and he can’t quite focus. He just wants to hold her close and lose himself to her touch. But this is too important. He needs to understand.

 

“Uhm, are you ready?” she asks, looking up for a moment.

 

“Yes, Rey.”

 

But he’s not, he’s not ready at all when the torrent of feelings slam into his chest. He’s not sure he’s ever felt so much conflict. The emotions come fast, and he cannot begin to untangle it all. There’s self-loathing and desire, affection and fear, and that warm softness he’s not sure how to interpret. It’s too much. Eventually he realizes that she’s sharing her memory of last night. He hears Hux say ‘Resistance’ and Rey looks down at herself, realizing her state.

 

He feels as wave after wave of memories of Leia and Finn beat against her and horror blooms in her chest. A chant of “What have I done? What have I done?” loops through her mind even as her heart is still bursting with warmth for him. He shunts away the reflexive feelings that fill him at the fleeting images of that woman and the traitor, instead focusing on what Rey alone is feeling.

 

She’s panicking and her shame courses through him. She’s thinking that she mustn’t let him see that she’s cracking until she knows herself what she’s feeling. He senses as she keeps herself from flinching as his fingers graze her cheek. The idea that his touch had made her feel like that scrapes against a hidden place, deep inside. He wants to pull back and promise her that he would never, ever want her to feel like this but she holds him fast in the memory.

 

They’re at her door and he senses how she struggles to return his gentle caress. His heart is coming undone again, cracking along the seams where she had so recently ripped it asunder. She’s back in her rooms and it’s as if she’s seeing them with new eyes. More luxury than she could have ever fathomed unfolds in front of her. She races to her bedroom and opens the armoire and just stares at the dozens and dozens of dresses that would likely each have fed her for a year. Her fingers fly to her throat and she’s touching the necklace.

 

She moves to the mirror and he watches as Rey looks at her reflection. Her hand is still at her throat and she inspects the lurid red marks he’d left on her flesh. She touches the signs of his passion and her eyes well with tears. He hears the first flicker of whore tickle her consciousness. He’s almost choking on how disgusted she is with herself. His kiss had made her feel like that ...

 

She tries to unclasp the necklace, but she cannot remove this confusing reminder. She struggles and pulls, and finally with a whimper of frustration, she rips it from her throat as the gems fly everywhere. Great gasping sobs heave from her chest and suddenly she runs to the ‘fresher and becomes violently ill. He can’t believe that he’s done that to her.

 

She remembers Qree telling her that her mother was a prostitute. Selling herself for spice. He feels as connection after connection is made in her mind. How he’s surrounded her in material wealth, making sure her days are full of only leisure. She remembers how he’d casually given Qree more credits than she could conceive of. Surely payment must be made? Again she is sick. He desperately wants to pull himself from her memory and make sure she sees that she is not her mother, she is not … she has not sold herself. But he forces himself to keep watching.

 

She moves to her knees and rocks back and forth. “I’m just like my mother. All it took was his attention and a pretty necklace.” She grasps her head and sobs out, “What have I done, what have I done?”

 

Rey looks up to the ceiling and begs, “Leia, help me. I’m so lost.”

 

Eventually she pulls herself to the corner, lying down on the cool tile. She’s weeping. “I let him do it. I didn’t even last a week,” she calls out into the room. She clutches at the floor and whispers, “I wanted him to do it.”

 

She staggers to her feet and returns to her bedroom. Then she sees a gleaming gem and she scrabbles for it. Now she’s on her hands and knees, finding them all, gathering them together. She realizes one is missing and she starts to search furiously, finally finding the amber stone meant to represent the sun. She shudders in relief and gains her feet, trembling.

 

She takes a bit of cloth and places the small collection of stones in the center. Then she carefully ties it with a ribbon meant for her hair and slips it around her neck, the bundle of jewels nestled against her heart. She caresses it between her fingers. He feels as she hates herself for needing this sign of his affection, yet she cannot let it go.

 

She thinks about running, but she doesn’t know to where. She doesn’t know where the Resistance is. And she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’d said she would stay. That she doesn’t want to go …

 

Then she decides that if she can’t leave, she won’t let him near her. The Bond makes her act like this. If she can’t control herself, then she just won’t let him see her.

 

He watches as she scours her rooms for anything she can use for tools. She stays up all night, pulling apart the door until finally she has it. Once she’s certain he can’t get to her, she nearly falls into bed. But then she stops, looking at the sumptuous bedding and she moves to the floor. She won’t even use a blanket. She gathers herself into a small ball and falls into a dreamless sleep.

 

He can’t take anymore. The way that she’d stabbed herself through with what should be treasured―he needs to explain, help her comprehend, anything to stop this onslaught of misunderstanding.

 

“Rey,” he pushes into the Bond.

 

“No! You will see. All of it.”

 

“No, please, I have to talk to you about this. You’re so wrong about everything, about what I want, how I feel,” he says into the Bond. He closes their connection and finds her pulling from him. She huddles herself at the edge of the couch. He goes to his knees in front of her.

 

He reaches out and lifts her face so that she’s looking at him. Her expression is closed.

 

“Rey …” he says gently. “What have I done to make you think that I expect … payment for the things that I have done for you?”

 

“Why else would you do them? No one on Jakku ever did anything for free. Especially not men.”

 

“So you think that I’m trying to find your family, made quarters I hoped would please you, gave you a necklace I thought you’d enjoy … you think I do these things because I expect … access to your body?” he asks with revulsion.

 

She shrugs and looks down. “Apparently it runs in the family.”

 

“No, sweetheart, no …” He’s still crouched in front of her and she’s hunched in on herself. He takes her hands and is relieved when she immediately curls her fingers around his. “Rey, I need you to hear me. I need you to understand what I’m about to tell you.”

 

Her eyes move to his and she nods.

 

He holds her eyes and wills her to feel how dear she is to him. “Before last night, I’d never kissed anyone. I hadn’t wanted to. I’d never wanted to share anything so intimate with anyone. When I touched you, when I was finally able to show you what you mean to me, it was … it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to anyone. Wait, that’s not right … it makes it sound like I have experienced closeness with someone else, that this was just deeper. But no. I’ve never felt close to anyone, I’ve never let anyone in. Not even a little bit. But I want to share everything with you. What I feel with you … Rey, I never knew such feelings were possible.”

 

Rey blinks quickly, clearly overwhelmed. “You … you’d never kissed anyone before?”

 

“No. Only you. Only ever you. I don’t think you understand what you mean to me.”

 

She looks down and quietly says, “I don’t understand, not really. No one does anything without expecting something in return.”

 

He moves one hand to her face and tilts her chin until she is again looking at him. “Oh Rey … what have they done to you? Can you truly not think of a reason why I would try and find your family, do things to make you happy? Do you really not know?” All this time, he’d been sure she’d at least had some idea of his true feelings.

 

“Know what?” she asks in confusion.

 

He grazes her lips with his fingers then holds her gaze. He feels as his chest fills with all that she is to him, all he knows that she will be. “Rey … I love you.”

 

Her eyes go very wide. “You what?” Her voice is so quiet he can barely hear her.

 

“I love you.”

 

She starts shaking her head and her eyes are filling with tears. “No. That’s not true, that’s not possible.” Suddenly she pulls from him and goes to stand at the viewscreen, her back to him.

 

Swiftly he follows her and stands in front of her. Tears are falling down her cheeks. “Why would you think that?” His tone is laced with concern.

 

“It’s just the Bond. You only think you love me. No one loves me. No one has ever loved me. I thought my family did, but that was just a lie I told myself.” He’s filled with the very familiar fury at everything that’s been done to her.

 

“You’re wrong. I felt it before we were Bound.”

 

She looks at him and he thinks he sees a flicker of hope before it’s replaced with disbelief.

 

“From the first moment I saw you, I felt the stirrings of this feeling. Please believe me, Rey. You have to believe me.” It had never occurred to him that she wouldn’t believe him, that she’s so damaged she thinks that she’s unlovable. He’ll spend his whole life proving to her how much he loves her. He’ll make sure that she knows no one has ever been more loved.

 

“No, it’s the Bond. It plays tricks.” Her voice quavers as her eyes move from his.

 

“Rey …” He wipes the tears from her face then lays his palm against her cheek. She leans into his touch and her eyes flutter closed.

 

“This feeling, when we touch, do you truly believe it’s only the Bond?” he asks.

 

Her eyes open and he finds such anguish in their depths. “I don’t know,” she says miserably.

 

He holds her gaze intensely. “Without the Bond … it would change nothing. I would still love you. This,” he trails his fingers along her face, “is real.”

 

“But that’s almost worse,” she says brokenly.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“If it’s real, if what I feel for you is real, that means I’ve betrayed everything I believe in. If it’s the Bond then … then it isn’t my fault.”

 

“Oh, my beloved. You’ve not betrayed anyone or anything. Have you shared any secrets of the Resistance? Have you helped the First Order in any way?”

 

“No. But … I’m here. With you. And … and I like being with you.” She looks away.

 

He takes both of her hands in his and waits until she returns her gaze to him. “Then be here with me. Let the rest go.”

 

“I can’t. I don’t want to.” Her eyes plead with him.

 

“Perhaps if you understood more about what I’m trying to do, you wouldn’t feel so conflicted?”

 

She frowns. “Are you still hunting the Resistance?”

 

“Not actively, no. Not once I found you.”

 

“Will you stop?”

 

It’s his turn to look away. “I … I don’t know if I can do that, not after the recent attack.”

 

“Could you … focus on figuring out what went wrong, not move immediately?” she asks tentatively.

 

He thinks for a moment. It’s not ideal, Hux and the other generals won’t like it, but he sees that Rey needs this. He returns his gaze to hers. “Yes, I can do that. Buy us some time where we aren’t on opposite ends of the war?”

 

“Yes, oh please, yes,” she says.

 

“I promise, I’ll delay any retaliation for as long as possible. You and I will keep talking, we’ll find a way.” He draws her to him and holds her close.

 

“Okay, Kylo. Okay,” she murmurs into his chest. They stand for a long time, arms wrapped around each other. Then he moves them back to the couch, sitting with her cradled in his arms.

 

He looks down and finds her looking up at him. “Rey, you understand that you could never, ever be … what you said this morning? You understand that I love you?”

 

Her eyes cloud with conflict. “I … I don’t know.”

 

“Please Rey, please believe me.”

 

“I … I’ll try.”

 

He purses his lips, but he nods. He won’t press her further. He’s just going to have to keep showing her how desperately he loves her. Whatever he has to do for her to know how special she is, he will do it.

 

“And you understand that I want nothing from you that you do not wish to give?” he asks.

 

“Yes, I think I do.”

 

She lays her head against his chest. He strokes her hair and lets himself believe that it’s going to be alright.

 

He startles when she stands and he wants to snatch her back, but then she’s turning and settling herself sideways in his lap. She puts her arms around his neck and starts to run her fingers through his hair. Oh Force, it feels so good. Each stroke soothes him. His eyes slide shut and he gives himself over to the pleasure of her touching him. Then his eyes fly open as he feels her lips press against his and he almost dumps her from his lap. He pulls away in panic.

 

“What! What is it?” Rey asks fearfully.

 

“I … I just … I need to know you won’t … you won’t feel ashamed like that again. I can’t bear it if being with me like this makes you feel like that. I need to know that you want this.”

 

“Yes, Kylo. I want this.”

 

He realizes that there’s one last thing he must ask, though he fears her answer will destroy him. “Last night … did you … did you force yourself to let me touch you?”

 

“No! No. What you said earlier, about feeling close, I felt it, too. When you kissed me, it was like you were inside me and I was inside you. I just wanted to get closer, as close as I could.” Relief courses through him as the glory of kissing her for the first time is returned to its hallowed place.

 

He looks at her intensely and says, “This is very real for me, Rey.”

 

“I know. I want to kiss you. Please let me kiss you.”

 

Her words race down his spine and he leans forward slightly. She catches his lips again and she’s kissing him so sweetly. It’s gentle and soft, not like the furious passion of last night. And somehow it means even more. Slow desire winds through him, but it’s not like a fire, threatening to consume him. It’s thick and deep and it mends his heart.

 

She flicks her tongue along his lower lip and he opens for her. Now she’s stroking her tongue against his and his arms come up around her. He holds her close, with one hand along her back and the other at her waist. He stirs against her thighs and she wiggles a bit, making him gasp into her mouth. She giggles and does it again. He’s elated that she seems at ease, but he knows he can’t let things spiral further.

 

“Don’t start something you don’t intend to finish. And I know for a fact neither of us is ready for that,” he warns.

 

She looks into his eyes. “No, you’re right. But I like kissing you.”

 

“Then do continue,” he says affectionately.

 

She grins and does just that. They kiss languidly and hold each other, time ceasing to have meaning. She lets the Bond open just a bit and he feels that warm and soft feeling again and the conflict and fear have lessened. There’s still doubt, and more sadness than he’d like, but he revels in being able to feel whatever she will give him.

 

Then he feels as sadness overtakes her and he pulls back, looking into her eyes. He finds such sorrow within them.

 

“What is it, Rey?”

 

“I am so sorry I hurt you. When I rejected you like that. When I said those things.” She strokes his face with her fingers.

 

“It doesn’t matter.” She’s in his arms; they’ve reached detente. He doesn’t care about his hurt feelings―not now.

 

“Yes, it does. I was so afraid and confused. I should have talked to you instead of shutting you out.”

 

“I do wish you had,” he says ruefully.

 

She again runs her fingers through his hair and they look into each other, saying nothing as they both simply enjoy being close. He moves his hand along her back then trails it along her arm. He catches her fingers in his and brings them to his lips, kissing them softly.

 

She frowns a little and says, “Kylo?”

 

“Yes?” he replies warily.

 

“Why do you do that? Hurt yourself?”

 

He stiffens and looks away, but he keeps holding her hand. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

 

“I think we need to. You almost … you almost died.”

 

“It was never as serious as that,” he dismisses.

 

She untangles her hand from his and holds his chin, forcing him to look at her. “Yes, it was. If I hadn’t gotten to you, I would have lost you. I said before that you more than frightened me. I’ve never felt terror like that. I could feel you dimming through the Bond. I don’t know what is or isn’t the Bond, but I do know that I never want to feel that again. Please tell me why you do that?”

 

He doesn’t want to explain. He doesn’t want to think about it, but he sees that he must tell her something. “I … I’ve done it for such a long time. It helps. When things hurt too much, it gives the pain form. It makes me feel in control.”

 

“You hadn’t for a while though, right?” she asks hopefully.

 

“I’ve tried not to. I know you don’t like it.” Sometimes knowing she wouldn’t want him to do it was the only thing that stayed his hand. He wants this conversation to end, to go back to drowning in her.

 

“Will you promise to stop?” She trails her fingers along his jaw.

 

The idea fills him with anxiety. “I’ll think about it.”

 

“Please, Kylo. Please promise me that you’ll stop?”

 

“I will think about it. Please let that be enough,” he says tightly. He clenches his jaw and pushes away the confusing storm her pleading has elicited.

 

Rey blinks quickly and her eyes are still full of worry and fear. But she nods. “I … alright.”

 

She strokes his face and then leans forward, pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek. He relaxes under her touch and tentatively moves his mouth to hers. He kisses her chastely then tightens his arms around her. She settles in his lap and puts her head against his. Her fingers toy with his hair as he runs his hands along her back. He hears her yawn.

 

“You’re tired,” he observes.

 

“Aren’t you?”

 

“I’m accustomed to little sleep.”

 

Rey looks at him skeptically as she stifles another yawn. “If you say so.”

 

“Come, you may take a nap in my room. I’m afraid your quarters aren’t ready yet. I’ll get some work done while you sleep.” He encourages her off of his lap and they both stand, but he keeps his hand at her back. He doesn’t want to be parted from her, but knowing she’d slept on her floor, he wants very much to see her safe and warm, able to sleep in comfort.

 

She turns towards him and places her hands on his shoulders. He wraps his arms around her waist and draws her close. She looks down for a moment before shyly catching his eyes. “You could … you could nap with me?”

 

He breathes in sharply and looks at Rey intently. “I’m not sure that’s a very good idea.”

 

“I … I’m not ready to be away from you. Feeling you fading from the Bond … I … I need to have you near,” she admits.

 

Knowing that she’s feeling the same way that he is, that finally there isn’t an ocean of misunderstanding and conflict between them fills him with peace. But he is still cautious. “Are you sure?”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.”

 

Dazedly, he lets her lead him to his bedroom. She pulls back the covers and pushes him in first. Then she wraps herself in his arms and he’s only just caught up when he realizes that she’s in his bed. Rey is in his bed. He’s holding her close, her back to his chest, and it’s so much more tender than he’d ever imagined. He feels every point where their bodies touch, how solid and real she feels in his arms. Countless nights he’d fallen asleep imagining her with him, and now she is here, pressed tightly against him.

 

The Bond winds lazily through them and he knows he will never get enough of holding her like this. Everything with Rey is so intense, so total. It’s as if she wipes away all of his past and fills him with only her light. He doesn’t have to beat back the guilt and the doubt. He can simply be when he’s with her. He glances down and sees that she’s already fallen asleep. He’s overwhelmed by how much he loves her. She’s trusting him with her sleeping form. He leans forward and kisses her temple, keeping his lips pressed against her skin. He breathes in her intoxicating scent and he decides he won’t sleep. He doesn’t want to miss even one moment of this bliss.

 

Chapter Text

Groggily he wakes and he’s confused. He’d not meant to fall asleep. He’d been watching Rey as she slept and he must have nodded off. Rey. Where is Rey! He sits up in a panic. She’s gone.

 

“Rey?” Silence.

 

“Rey!” he calls out frantically but gets no response.

 

He tears from his bedroom and looks around his sitting room wildly but she’s nowhere to be found. She’s run from him. She’d never wanted to be here with him―never. It was all just a ruse so that she could escape. A chill runs down his spine as he realizes he hasn’t had the opportunity to order the surveillance team to track her. She could be anywhere and he has no way to find her. She could be stealing a ship right now. He’s losing her, he’s losing her.

 

What a fool he’s been; she’d waited until she knew she could run from him. He’s breathing fast and he reaches for his comm to order Hux to lock the Finalizer down. He won’t let her go. Not now. Not ever. Dammit, he’s left it in his bedroom. He starts back to retrieve it when he notices the door to his sanctuary is open. He’s certain he’d closed it.

 

He rushes into the room of his treasures and finds Rey sitting in the middle of the floor angled away from him, her gown pooled around her. His knees nearly buckle in relief at seeing her, but then he notices his collection of Rey spread out in front of her unnaturally still form.

 

Everything he’d found of her, all that had been brought back from Jakku, even the images are all there. This is bad. This is very, very bad. She has his blade clutched in one hand and something else in her other fist. Her head is bent and her hair hides her face.

 

“Rey?” His tone is cautious.

 

“I wanted to believe that you meant it. I really did,” she says quietly.

 

“Rey, you shouldn’t be in here.”

 

She continues as if he hadn’t spoken. “I woke up and you were sleeping. Your sleeve had ridden up and I saw all the scars. I decided to get rid of your blade. I wanted to make sure there weren’t anymore, so I came in here. I thought it was your training room, like mine.” Her voice is flat, toneless.

 

“Come into the other room. You weren’t meant to see this.” He should never have brought her to his rooms. He should have hidden his collection, kept it in his office. Something. Anything but this.

 

She turns her head to look at him and her eyes are smoldering with rage. “Oh, so I wouldn’t find out how unhinged you really are?”

 

“It’s not … it’s not like that,” he offers helplessly.

 

She jumps to her feet and advances on him. “It’s not like what? Not like you’ve gathered together bits and pieces of me from all across the galaxy? Dozens of images from I don’t even know where? Some twisted, melted thing on an altar? A cabinet full of gifts I assume you keep to woo whatever woman has caught your fancy? Nice to know I’m special.” Her lips curl in wounded revulsion.

 

She thinks …? No, no, no. “Rey, no, you’ve misunderstood everythi-

 

“I really don’t think so. You’re obsessed Kylo,” she snarls. “I can’t believe I let myself forget how you chased me. Stalked me. Hunted me. Did you find new tokens every time you failed to capture me? A consolation prize when you couldn’t get the real thing?”

 

“No! Well, yes. I did keep things of you that I found, but only because I couldn’t have you!” Everything is crumbling so quickly and he’s having trouble keeping up.

 

“Have me.” She looks at him with contempt.

 

“I don’t mean it like that.” He scrubs his face with his hands. He has no idea how to salvage this.

 

She snorts and gestures to Vader’s helmet. “And what about that little piece of horror in the corner?”

 

“That’s Grandfather’s mask. It’s where I meditate when he speaks to me.”

 

“Right, how could I forget the dead grandfather who talks to you. You really are demented.”

 

“He does speak to me!” he protests.

 

“Here’s the thing. I happen to know that he died in the light. You know how I know that? Because your mother talks to him from time to time. He’s a Force ghost. And that doesn’t happen for users of the dark side.”

 

“No, you’re wrong.” Leia Organa always lies.

 

“I’m really not, Kylo.”

 

“He’s spoken to me for years―whatever that woman has told you, she’s lying. Did you ever see him?” he challenges.

 

Doubt flickers in her eyes. “No. I never saw him.” She looks down for a moment before saying confidently, “But Leia told me about him, and I trust her a hell of a lot more than I trust anything you tell me. She told me everything she could; she wanted me to be well armed against you.” Rey points at him with his blade as she speaks. His eyes widen and she realizes what she’s done. She drops the knife as shock fills her face. But she quickly recovers. “You’re insane, Kylo. I let myself think, I wanted to think, that I wasn’t Bound to a madman. But you-”

 

“Please, stop, liste-”

 

“No! You’re going to answer my questions and not confuse me with pretty, meaningless words. What about the holos?” she says as she points to the images fanned out along the floor. “There are pictures of me that make no sense, of me in places I’ve never even been.”

 

He closes his eyes tightly. “I … I had the analysts use the few I could find to create others.” He’d only done it because the security feeds from the Resistance bases had had such poor image quality. And then once they’d mapped her features it was such a simple matter to request more ...

 

“And what about the cabinet of perfumes, scarves, jewelry? That was a particularly convincing lie, by the way.” She puts her hands on her hips and scoffs. “Never kissed anyone, right. Powerful men always have women, and obviously you must have all sorts of women to have so many gifts. Lovely to know you just grabbed something at random to give me.”

 

She’s not entirely wrong, but he doesn’t dare try to explain how he used to conduct himself―not now. “I wasn’t lying Rey. You are the first woman I’ve kissed. You’re the only one I want to ever kiss. Everything in there is for you.”

 

“All that? You’ve known me less than a year and you expect me to believe that you amassed all of that for me?” she asks snidely.

 

“Of course I did! There’s just you. There could only ever be you.”

 

A little bit of her fire leaves her and she breathes out, “Maker, that’s almost worse.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s terrifying. Me, here, with you … it’s always been a foregone conclusion to you. You’ve never cared what I wanted. You have always ignored everything I say. Always. I almost let you make me believe that you see me, that you want me, but no, I’m just a possession for your collection. The final piece,” she says disgustedly.

 

“I love you!” He tries to reach for her, but she backs away and looks at him warningly. He lets his hands drop.

 

“You don’t know what love is. If you did you’d never have turned your back on your mother.”

 

“Do not bring that woman into this,” he spits.

 

“Why not? She’s at the center of all of everything. Something went wrong with you, Kylo. Really, really wrong.”

 

He won’t let himself be pulled into discussing the Princess. Tensions are so high that there’s no way he’ll be able to keep his temper if Rey keeps at him about her. “Please, Rey. Please. We were just … we were so close, not a few hours ago. Let’s go into the sitting room and talk. We said we’d talk,” he beseeches, again trying to move towards her.

 

She steps back and shakes her head emphatically. “Oh no, I’m not giving you the chance to confuse me with how you twist everything.”

 

“I don’t understand, I have never lied to you.” He’s made it a point to never lie to her. Lies cheat. Lies steal. Lies destroy.

 

“You had me believing that you’d never ask anything of me that I did not wish to give. I was so overwhelmed with the idea that maybe, just maybe, someone might truly want to keep me that I forgot that you took me.” Her eyes sear into his as she says, “You stole me from the only place I’ve ever belonged. I did not wish to give you my freedom but you never cared. So you might not be willing to force me into your bed, but you’ll certainly take whatever you want.”

 

He cringes at the echo of his arrogant words on Starkiller. “Rey, please. I … don’t know what to say. I just … I need you, I have to have you with me.”

 

She clenches her fist around whatever it is that she’s holding and she cocks her head. “Forever, I presume?”

 

“What?”

 

She walks closer to him and she opens her hand. There, in the center of her palm are the rings. Oh Force. His most treasured dream shudders in his heart.

 

“I suppose that’s why Jashad called me ‘Lady Rey’?” She looks into his eyes for confirmation. There’s no use denying it―he’s caught. He nods miserably. “Were you even going to let me decide, or were you just going to inform me on the way to the altar?”

 

“Of course I was going to let you decide! I truly never want anything from you that you don’t give me of your own accord.”

 

“Except my freedom.”

 

He doesn’t know what to say. He just looks at her, feeling like a condemned man.

 

“If I walked out your door—right now—would you let me go?”

 

He can’t speak. He knows he can’t let her leave. He knows he won’t, but he also knows if he were to admit that it would ruin everything and he’s not sure she would ever let him mend it.

 

“Kylo? Would you let me go?” She enunciates each word precisely and her eyes burn with fury.

 

He blinks and he has the insane thought of putting her in a Force sleep, altering her memories. Perhaps they could start again? But he can’t. He promised he’d never push into her mind again and besides, he doesn’t want to lose these past few precious days with her.

 

Her voice rises. “Answer me, Kylo! Tell me right now. If I went out that door, would you let me go?”

 

Oh, how he wishes he could lie to her in this moment, but Kylo knows precisely what happens when you lie.

 

He can’t look at her. He moves his gaze to the floor and finally whispers, “No.”

 

Eventually he glances up and she nods slightly. “That’s what I thought.” She’s radiating hostility and he’s beginning to truly panic.

 

She turns stiffly and goes to his cabinet of gifts, placing the rings back in their drawer. Then she methodically starts packing away all of her things, including the images, back into their chest.

 

“What are you doing, Rey?” His voice quavers.

 

“Taking back what’s mine,” she says coldly.

 

Once she’s finished gathering all of his tokens, she picks up his blade from the floor. She holds his eyes as she purposefully places it with her items. He wants to tell her that she can’t have it, she can’t take it, but he’s too terrified to push her on anything.

 

“Are there any other knives?” she asks.

 

“No.” He has only ever used that particular blade.

 

“Good.”

 

Rey lifts the chest and starts to walk to the sitting room. Kylo follows her, trying to keep the frantic fear at bay.

 

She places her things on the floor by the door and she comes to stand in front of him.

 

“Please take me back to my quarters,” she pronounces.

 

“Rey, no, please … we need to talk about this. Please, please sit and talk with me, let me explain,” he begs.

 

“No. I’m not ready to talk about this. I need some time.”

 

“Time.” He does not like the sound of that.

 

“Yes, I need time. I need to think. It’s like I can’t hold all of it in my head at once. You say that you love me, I feel things for you I can’t understand, I find out you’ve been hoarding pieces of me like some fairy tale creature … You have wedding rings, Kylo. You’ve planned out my whole life without once asking me what I want. You’ve ignored the countless times that I’ve told you what I wanted. Apparently your knights already think of me as Lady Rey, for Maker’s sake. I don’t know how to trust anything that comes out of your mouth. I need time.”

 

“How much time?” he asks warily.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

He clenches his jaw. “Unacceptable.”

 

“Too bad. I will tell you when I’m ready to see you. If you’re serious about this, prove to me that you can respect my wishes. You’ve never done so up until now. The closest you came was removing the stormtroopers from my door and you obviously never meant to give me my freedom. So you,” she points at his chest, “Kylo Ren, are going to prove that you can be patient and do this on my terms.”   

 

“And if I do this, you will be mine?”

 

Rey breathes out in exasperation. “You really do have a talent for putting things in absolutely the worst way possible. No, I won’t be yours, but I will keep trying. When I’m ready. When you’ve shown me I can trust you to do what I want, not what you’ve decided for me.”

 

“And dinners?” he asks hopefully. Perhaps this isn’t as horrible as it seems.

 

She shakes her head. “No―no dinners. I’m not going to see you until I’m ready.”

 

Dread settles in his stomach. “No, I won’t accept that. I won’t have you so close and not be able to see you.”

 

“Well you are going to have to find a way to manage it.”

 

“Please, please don’t ask this of me. Anything but this. Just let me see you, just for an hour a day. I won’t try to touch you, I promise,” he pleads. It will just go back to like it was before; he can control himself. He can’t lose her attention―he can’t.

 

Her eyes grow troubled. “Kylo … this … this isn’t about you touching me. I … I like touching you. I … I just … Maker, I need some time to think.” She looks to the ceiling and runs her hands through her hair.

 

He’s growing desperate. “Don’t shut me out, not like earlier. Don’t shut me out.” The blinding agony of this morning is clawing at his chest.

 

She looks at him and regret moves across her face. “I’m not shutting you out. This isn’t like that.”

 

“Yes it is!” he insists.

 

“It’s just too much to take in! Can’t you understand that? So much has happened, finding all of that, my mother… it’s too much! I don’t know what to think, how to feel, who I am … who you are. You kidnapped me, Kylo.” Her eyes plead with him and he doesn’t understand. She’d left him no choice!

 

“I didn’t know what else to do! Rey, please, just ... just a few minutes a day, that’s all I ask.”

 

Her jaw tightens and she looks away, obviously thinking hard. The silence stretches and it’s all he can do to keep from pleading. Finally she returns her gaze to his and says, “No. I’m sorry.”

 

“Rey … please.”

 

“No! When I’m with you everything gets confused! I have to have the time to untangle it all.”

 

They look at each other for a long time and finally Kylo’s shoulders fall in defeat. “At least give me some idea of how long this will be?”

 

“I don’t know! That’s the whole point. I need to know that I can take as much time as I need. And if that’s a week, a month, a year, you are going to give it to me.”

 

He feels as the color drains from his face and he gasps out, “A year?” He’d thought a few days, maybe, but this is … this is incomprehensible. The fear is nearly incapacitating.

 

“I don’t think I’ll need that much time … I just … I just need to know that I get to choose. I didn’t get to choose this Bond, I didn’t get to choose to be here with you. Please Kylo, let me choose when I’m ready to see you?”

 

“I … Rey …” He’s trying so hard to keep from coming undone, hold onto the idea that he’s not losing her, but he’s embarrassingly close to falling to his knees and begging.

 

“After everything, you owe me this.” Her eyes flash with anger.

 

His thoughts are racing. He could refuse her demand, keep guards posted in her rooms to ensure she doesn’t lock him out again, and then continue to talk to her, see her … but he’s fairly certain she would hate him if he did that. Yes, he would still be able to spend time with her, but he doesn’t want it to be like that. He doesn’t want to treat her like a prisoner. But he must know she won’t run from him. “If I agree to this, you won’t try to escape?”

 

Rey sighs. “There’s really no point in trying to leave. I know you’d just capture me again. And I do I have feelings for you. But that’s as much as you’re going to get from me right now.”

 

He tries to find some comfort in her acknowledgedment that she feels something for him as he accepts that he must do this.

 

“Alright, Rey … Alright.” Agreeing to this feels like shards of ice are digging into his heart. “But, at least … at least tell me that you know that I love you?”

 

Her eyes finally soften. She moves closer to him and she cups his cheek with her hand and he realizes he doesn’t know the next time he’s going to feel her touch. His throat grows very tight and his eyes sting.

 

Rey presses her fingers against his face and says, “I know that … I know that there is something between us that cannot be denied. I know that somewhere inside you is someone who used to know how to love. I’m counting on him.”

 

He holds her eyes for a long time, not wanting this moment to end. As soon as she withdraws from him he knows he’s going to have to take her back to her quarters. He can’t suppress the pained sound that escapes him as she pulls her hand away.

 

She goes to where she’d left the chest of her things and picks them up. “Please take me to my quarters.”

 

Suddenly he remembers state of her entryway and he hopes he has a brief reprieve. “Your door may not be fixed.”

 

“Then check.”

 

Kylo goes to his console and his heart sinks as he sees the message indicating that the work has been completed. He stares at the words for a long time. Finally he breathes in sharply and turns back to her.

 

“It’s ready,” he says resignedly. She looks at the door expectantly.

 

He stands in front of her and reaches for the chest. “Please … let me carry that for you?” he asks.

 

She thinks for a moment then nods. He takes it from her and tries to ignore the terror. But he can’t. He looks down briefly and murmurs, “Please don’t do this.”

 

“Kylo … I need this.” She sounds almost pitying but it doesn’t stop him from trying to think of anything to make her stay.

 

He catches her eyes. “But what if I must tell you something? What about when Jashad and Palek return with the location of your mother? They’re due back at any time.”

 

She goes rigid and blinks quickly. “If you need to tell me something, you may send me a message. Please don’t abuse that.”

 

“And what about the Resistance? I was going to delay … things so that we could talk.” He’s grasping; he must keep her here.

 

Her eyes grow hard. “Are you threatening me with retaliation against the Resistance, then?”

 

“No! I just … I meant … I don’t know what I meant. I just can’t bear this. Don’t make me do this.”

 

“Kylo, stop. I’ve explained. It’s time. Take me back to my quarters.” Her tone is firm … final.

 

He looks into her eyes and wills her to relent, but she just returns his gaze stonily. Eventually she huffs a little breath and moves to open the door. Prodded into action, he opens it and indicates she should precede him. As she walks past him he sees the ribbon holding the broken necklace still wrapped around her neck and he tries to believe that it means something, that this will be over soon.

 

They walk silently down the corridor. They’re halfway to her rooms when he realizes they’re both barefoot and he’s still in only his tunic and trousers. He hadn’t even noticed in his distraught state and he finds he can’t bring himself to care if he’s seen.

 

Her rooms draw closer and each step is growing harder. Then they reach her quarters and she opens her door. He follows her inside and places the chest of her things on the table meant for his helmet. He knows he needs to leave her, but he finds he can’t move. He just stands there, his knuckles white as he holds the chest’s handles tightly.

 

Eventually she calls out softly, “Kylo,” and he forces himself to release the chest and turn to her. His eyes roam over her greedily, trying to capture everything before he’s sent away. Her expression is sad and her eyes are conflicted. She starts towards him then stops herself. She looks away for a moment before coming to stand in front of him.

 

She reaches out and takes his hands in hers and draws him to the door. He doesn’t move for a moment, then she’s tugging and he makes himself walk forward. Now they’re standing before her door and she looks into his eyes.

 

It’s taking everything he has not to break down. He knows he can’t speak, it would only come out as a sob. She doesn’t move to open the door and he wonders if she means for him to do it. He’s not going to; he’s going to stand here, holding her hands for as long as she’ll let him.

 

Her lovely hazel eyes are full of pain and he’s so confused. She’s asked that he do this, give her time away from him, but she seems just as lost and unwilling to be parted as he is. He’s shocked when she shudders and wraps her arms around him. He blinks once, twice, then he’s returning her embrace, trying to infuse her with his devotion.

 

Oh Rey. She’s so warm, so soft, and he holds her as tightly as he can. He caresses the top of her head, then he shifts so that he can press a kiss against her temple, feel her perfect skin against his lips one more time. Then she begins to move in his arms and a desperate whimper escapes him. He’s not ready. He can’t do this.

 

But then she presses her lips against his, kissing him gently. He knows he shouldn’t, but he swiftly moves his hands to her face and holds her fast, deepening the kiss. She doesn’t stop him, instead matching his intensity.

 

He fills his kiss with how much he loves her, how he can’t live without her, how he’ll do anything for her. It’s desperate and fraught and it goes on and on, until finally, Rey pulls back—but only a bit. He rests his forehead against hers, still holding her face. They’re both breathing heavily and he realizes Rey is trembling. Maker, it hurts.

 

“Please …” he murmurs, grateful his voice doesn’t crack.

 

She draws back and pulls his hands from her face, but she laces her fingers through his. Rey looks away and he feels tension moving through her. She looks back into his eyes and she seems torn and broken. He has no idea how to interpret her expression. “Kylo … I … I’m sorry. No.”

 

Rey drops one of his hands and turns to open her door. She draws her thumb across the hand she’s still holding before letting go of it, as well. Every single part of him is screaming at him to pull her back and never let her go, but he holds himself still. Her gaze goes to the floor and she takes in a deep breath before she says, “It’s time.”

 

He stands, waiting for her to look back up, but she doesn’t. She wraps her arms around herself, continuing to keep her eyes down. He’s run out of ways to delay this. Finally he pulls together all of his will and manages to walk through her door. He feels like his chest is caving in and he’s having trouble breathing. He turns to see her just one more time and she finally looks up.

 

Her eyes are filled with anguish. She’s so beautiful and he tries to burn her face into his memory. Then her hand raises to the panel and she holds his gaze as her door slides shut, cleaving his heart in two. Kylo gasps as he feels like something vital, essential has snapped. She’s gone. He brushes against the Bond, hoping for one last moment of contact, but he finds her walls as strong as ever. He’s shut out. Rey is only footsteps away from him, yet he feels as if a vast distance has opened between them and he has no idea how to cross it.

 

---

 

He’s back in his quarters; he’s not sure how long he had stared at her door with unseeing eyes before stumbling back to his rooms.

 

He paces back and forth, his hands clenching and unclenching. He craves his blade, but she’s taken it. He considers going to his training room. There must be something he could use there … but he had told Rey that he would think about stopping. She wants him to prove to her that he can respect her wishes so that is what he will do, starting with this. But … perhaps it would quiet the clamoring in his brain? She would never know. All he needs to do is find another blade … He prefers his ritual, but surely this would bring him the peace that he needs? No. No! She’s asked him not to do that anymore so he won’t … well he’ll try not to, at any rate.

 

Temporary. This is temporary. He managed months without her. She said that once he’s given her this time she will continue to try. She will be back in his arms and everything will be alright. He can do this.

 

Pace, pace, pace. He will concentrate on the First Order, he’ll keep her from his mind. The time will pass quickly. He’s been ignoring his duties as of late, anyway. He never should have left the aftermath of the Resistance’s attack to Hux, but he simply hadn’t cared.

 

Yes, there are things he must attend to.

 

---

 

He stalks the corridors and he’s nearly to the bridge. He’s been cataloguing all that he must do. Everything he’s ignored. He’s not even glanced at the initial reports from the Resistance attack. Frankly, he hasn’t bothered with much of anything since Ilaria, since he found … he pushes the thought away.

 

He needs to gather the Knights of Ren, discuss how the recent losses affect their postings. He’d been close to sending them back to their ships, now that she … he shakes his head, trying to keep his mind free of anguished hazel eyes. Plans―he must make plans for how to best utilize his knights. There’s so much to do. It will be fine.

 

---

 

He’s back in his quarters and it’s very late … very early. He’d inhaled reports and kept Hux until well past midnight, making plans for expanding First Order territory. He’d refused to discuss the Resistance attack, much to the exasperated general’s dismay. Eventually he’d had no choice but to return to his quarters―he’d been falling asleep at his desk.

 

He goes to his bedroom and stops dead as he looks at the rumpled bedding. He can almost feel her in his arms as she’d slept and he staggers. He’s assaulted by the memories he’d spent hours shoving beneath duty. Her gasp as he’d sucked at her neck … her cold eyes as she’d sentenced him to this. Her delighted smile when she’d made fire with the Force … her face as the door slid shut. Over and over again he sees her eyes disappear behind the durasteel. He grabs his head and clenches his eyes shut against the images.

 

Once he manages to push them away, he undresses and slips beneath the covers. Immediately the scent of Rey washes over him, taking him down, down, down. He pounds at his forehead with his fists and growls in tortured frustration. For months his fantasies had sustained him, but knowing that she’d been in his bed torments and taunts.

 

If he can’t keep her from his mind, he’ll try to focus on how good she feels. How delicious it was to kiss her. He recalls the weight of her on his lap, the feeling of her stroking his face. He closes his eyes and tries to lose himself in the memory of how her skin tastes, of the heat of moving his lips against hers. Yes, that’s it.

 

The blissful memories cascade through him. He’s plunging his tongue into her mouth, her fingers are digging into his bare back, he’s thrusting against her. Yes, yes, yes. He can feel her hands in his hair, how she’d wrapped her legs around him. Oh Force, how she’d ground herself against his length. Now that he knows what she feels like, smells like, tastes like, he’s painfully hard. It’s been so long; perhaps he won’t feel so empty afterwards, now that she’s near? His hand is about to … but then he sees the warmth bleed from Rey’s bright open eyes and the door is again sliding shut, stealing her away from him. He’s lost her, he’s lost her …


He buries his face in the pillow infused with her essence and he screams.

Chapter Text

Kylo is standing in his office, staring at his desk. In the center is a package from Loria. It’s the candy Rey had said she liked. It was just a whim, something small to make her smile, but it has him caught in a place of profound indecision. She’d said that he could send her a message, but would having this delivered to her rooms be acceptable? Would she feel that he’d overstepped her very clear line?

 

So he stands, just looking at the non-descript box. He’s exhausted; he hasn’t slept in two days—not really. There had been no sleep last night and the attack on the fleet had ensured he’d not slept the night prior. He’d only slept a few hours yesterday morning, then an hour at most while holding Rey … He takes in a shuddering breath, trying to keep from being pulled under.

 

Somehow, Kylo had found himself lingering outside of her rooms this morning. He’d almost lain his hand against her door, but he’d been seized by the fear that she would sense him, so he’d hurried away.

 

He doesn’t know how to cope with this new reality. In the months between Starkiller and finding her, he’d had his collection, his fantasies … his blade. But now he has nothing but her mark along his face. He cannot comfort himself with images of his beloved, feel her scarf between his fingers. He cannot find the peace of drawing his knife along his arm. He cannot find distraction in his daydreams of their future together.

 

He’d quickly found that imagining her skin beneath his fingers hurts. He used to be able to drown in thoughts of her, spend hours dwelling in his meager trove of memories. All he’d had to do was recall how her delicate face had looked while he crouched at her feet, waiting for her to wake, and he’d been transported to that blissful place of Rey.

 

Now he has days of precious memories to pore over, the knowledge of how her eyes look filled with desire … for him, how her breath catches as he kisses along her neck, how she feels in his arms. But he finds he can’t fall into his heart and lose himself in her. Instead, each memory inevitably leads to her eyes disappearing behind her door.

 

To think of her is to be engulfed in terror. It’s been less than a day since he’s seen her and already the pain of missing her is threatening to destroy him. He tries to tell himself that it will be over soon, that she’s still here, that this will pass—but somehow hope eludes him. He lists for the tenth, hundredth time his reasons to believe it will be alright. She’d told him she has feelings for him. She’d said that she would try. She’d kissed him goodbye. Goodbye. Oh Force, his eyes are stinging again and he shakes his head angrily.

 

He takes a deep breath and tries again. She had been wearing the gems from his gift around her neck. She had taken his blade from him because she did not wish him to be hurt. It had been difficult for her to watch him leave. She hadn’t seemed as if she wanted to be parted. Parted. Shut out. End. No, no, no! Temporary; this is temporary. For months he’d subsisted on scraps and hints; she’s still here, he has her, it will be over soon. Soon, soon, soon.

 

“Supreme Leader?”

 

Startled, Kylo whirls to find Hux looking at him with … concern?

 

“What is it, Hux?” he growls through his mask.

 

The general pauses, his lips pursed and brow furrowed. Then Hux stands straighter and his face returns to its usual passive countenance. “Jashad and Palek Ren have returned from their mission.”

 

Qree. Rey’s beautiful face, tracked with tears, pulls at him. He remembers how he’d carried her to her bed after she’d fallen asleep protected in the shelter of his arms. How he’d whispered he loved her. He has to find a way to function. Everything reminds him of her and he thinks just a few more days of this might finally push him over the edge. What if she really does keep him away for a month—a year? He clenches his teeth and tries to focus.

 

He might as well meet with the Knights of Ren now, get that over with. He’ll deal with the package from Loria later. “Have all of the knights assemble in my hall.”

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader.” Hux turns to leave when Kylo stops him.

 

“And confirm that the stormtrooper detail has been removed from the girl’s door. Have her placed under surveillance. I want to be informed of her movements immediately.”

 

“Sir?”

 

“Was I unclear?” Kylo says with annoyance.

 

“Forgive me, Supreme Leader. I simply wish to ensure that I’ve understood correctly. You wish to remove her guards and replace them with more … circumspect means?

 

“That is what I said.” He doesn’t like discussing Rey.

 

“Does that mean she will be free to roam the ship?” the general asks with narrowed eyes.

 

“She can do what she likes.” She always does anyway.

 

“You are going to allow a known Resistance member free run of the ship?” Hux sputters.

 

“She can’t access anything particularly sensitive, and besides, what would she do with any information she might be able to glean?”

 

“Sir, she escaped you on Starkiller.”

 

“Hence the surveillance, Hux,” Kylo says dangerously as he strides forward, looming over the frustrating general. Kylo is barely holding on and does not even begin to have the ability to navigate Hux’s disapproval. “Are you finished questioning my orders?”

 

Hux’s eyes widen but he recovers himself. “I meant no disrespect, sir. She will be under surveillance within minutes. You will be kept apprised of her … activities.”

 

“I don’t simply want a report at the end of the day, I wish to know where she is at all times.” He may not be able to be in her presence, but he knows he wouldn’t be able to focus on anything if he didn’t know where she was.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Good.” Kylo steps back and returns to staring at the package on his desk. He remembers something he had attempted to do for her, before she’d sent him away. “Oh, and Hux?” he says, not bothering to look at the general.

 

“Yes, Supreme Leader?”

 

“KS-2153’s duty schedule now includes spending every afternoon with the girl.”

 

For a long moment Hux doesn’t say anything and Kylo turns his head to inspect the irritatingly necessary man. Finally Hux says, “Yes, Supreme Leader.” His tone is resigned.

 

---

 

He sweeps into the cavernous chamber. He still detests the reminder of Snoke, but certain trappings are unavoidable.

 

All are seated but Wylan, who is leaning casually against the wall. Wylan. He’s overwhelmed by hatred as he remembers what Wylan had done on Vren. Vren. Where she had kissed him. Where she had opened the Bond and let him teach her, finally teach her. Where she had run from him.

 

Fury is riding him hard. He recalls the satisfied smile on the other man’s smug face as he’d shown Rey how to unlock the puzzle box. Under his helmet, his lips curl in disgust as he remembers the way Wylan had stood so close to his Rey. He’d purposefully told her that the knights were there to guard her, disobeying a direct order, challenging him. Wylan Ren has always challenged him. But this time, he had done it in front of her.

 

The fear as Rey had disappeared from his sight courses through him. Wylan had done that. Wylan had gained Rey’s attention. Attention Kylo no longer has. She’d been bursting with excitement as she’d so easily shared her joy with his loathed rival. Potent jealousy races through him and before he even knows what he’s doing, he slams Wylan down on the table and pins him with the Force.

 

“Supreme Leader!” Vitok exclaims.

 

“Silence, Vitok. I’ve allowed you quite enough leniency,” he orders, never taking his eyes from his prey. “Wylan Ren,” Kylo growls. “Tell me, did you think it was wise to ignore my instructions?”

 

“Did I cause problems with the lovely Lady Rey?” Wylan taunts.

 

Pulsing rage riots through Kylo’s brain and he reaches out and chokes him with the Force. Wylan, who has always despised him, always known just where to land his hits—Wylan had made Rey smile that smile that should only be for him. He’d almost lost her. His vision is taken over by the image of Rey beaming happily up at Wylan and he squeezes harder. Wylan is gasping and his hands are scrabbling at his throat. Dimly he hears calls of “Supreme Leader,” then “Kylo,” but he ignores them.

 

Kylo is going to kill this man. He’d tried to get between him and Rey and not even Snoke had survived that. No one will ever stand between him and his beloved. Not even her. He won’t allow it. He doesn’t care who he has to kill, what he has to do, to protect what is his. Anyone who threatens that will suffer the consequences.

 

Wylan is starting to shake and Kylo grins as he senses the life leaving him. It feels good to hold such power over another. There, he feels as a bone in his neck snaps and it is exceptionally satisfying. Hands are pulling at him, but he keeps his focus. Then suddenly he’s knocked off his feet as Palek barrels into him and they land in a heap.

 

Kylo snarls and Force pushes Palek against the wall as he gains his feet. He stalks towards Wylan’s shuddering body.  

 

“Kylo!” Vitok yells as she tries to grab him by the shoulders. Kylo shakes her off and advances on Wylan. Vitok and Natan rush between Kylo and the injured knight and Jashad goes to Palek’s side, helping him to his feat.

 

“Kylo, stop!” Kylo hesitates. He doesn’t want to hurt Vitok, not really.

 

“Kylo, you have to get yourself under control,” she pleads.

 

“No! Wylan tried to take Rey from me—he must die,” Kylo says viciously.

 

Vitok and Natan stand firmly between Kylo and Wylan. “You can’t kill another of us; not after Demyan!”

 

Vitok’s words slice through him as Orin’s open face swims through his memories. Flashes of his saber plunging into Demyan’s back overtake him. He’s frozen and breathing hard as he’s lost in a loop of violence and loss. Vitok uses the opportunity to take charge.

 

“Jashad, Palek, get him out of here!” They hurry to obey and carry the half-dead man out swiftly.

 

Natan moves to the side, watching.

 

Kylo can’t break out of the cage of memory, now caught watching her face disappear behind the durasteel as the door closes between them. Vitok continues to stand in front of him and the sense of danger is dissipating.

 

“Supreme Leader?” Vitok says cautiously.

 

Kylo stands perfectly still.

 

“Supreme Leader?”

 

Vitok sighs. “Something happened with Rey, didn’t it.”

 

The sound of Rey’s name pulls him from his stupor. “That’s none of your concern,” he snaps, not meeting her gaze.

 

“You just tried to kill Wylan after you did kill Demyan. As a Knight of Ren I think that makes it my concern.”

 

Kylo doesn’t say anything, bowing his head.  

 

“You said you would let me help you.”

 

He nods slightly.

 

Vitok’s stance relaxes. “Natan, would you give us the room?”

 

Natan says nothing, simply gliding from the chamber.

 

“Tell me what happened,” Vitok requests once they’re alone.

 

Kylo’s shoulders fall in resignation. The adrenaline is leaving him and he wonders if perhaps he should talk with Vitok. Suddenly he doesn’t want to wear his helmet and he jerks it from his head. Vitok tilts her head but mirrors his actions. Her eyes are patient and warm and Kylo remembers how he used to talk with her when he was a boy. He can’t remember why he’d stopped.

 

“She’s refusing to see me.”

 

“What did you do?” she asks.

 

His head snaps up. “Do? Why must it be that I did something?”

 

Vitok crosses her arms and simply looks at him.

 

Kylo finally admits, “She saw … she saw some things she shouldn’t have.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“I … while I was trying to find her, sometimes I would come across things of hers. And I … I kept them.” Saying it out loud makes him uncomfortable and he’s not sure why. It was perfectly reasonable to want to have mementos of her.

 

“So she found her things.”

 

“Yes … and … there were images …” He’s confused by the shame running through him. She’s his, they are Bound, and there was nothing wrong with wanting to look on her face.

 

“And?” Vitok pushes.

 

“Why must there be more?” Kylo says testily.

 

“Because I’ve known you since you were 11 and I know what it means when you hunch your shoulders just so.”

 

He leans against the table, crossing his arms. He sighs before saying, “I also have a cabinet of gifts, jewelry and whatnot. She assumed that I had them to give to whatever woman happened to be warming my bed.”

 

“And do you?” Vitok asks keenly.

 

He looks up sharply. “No! No … I’ve not had relationships of that sort.” He’d never had them in his rooms and there’d certainly never been a bed involved.

 

Vitok nods. “Anything else?”

 

He’s surprised at how difficult it is to tell her the last part. “She found … she found the rings. The wedding rings.”

 

Vitok looks to the ceiling for a moment. “Oh, Kylo … she’s only been with you for a week.”

 

“I know!”

 

“What were you thinking?”

 

“I wasn’t! I haven’t been thinking since Takodana! I … I just … Vitok, she may have only been here for a week, but I’ve … I’ve loved her since I first saw her.” He looks into Vitok’s eyes, willing her to comprehend just a little bit of his torment. “It’s been nearly a year and I know there is no one for me but her. I saw the rings and I just … they made me think of her eyes, the way the metal swirled and glinted. I didn’t think about it. I just … hoped.”

 

Vitok’s eyes are concerned. “As far as I’ve been able to piece together, she was your prisoner, she escaped, and then you didn’t seen her until Ilaria. You’ve only spent a handful of days with her, yet you’re so sure about her. That … worries me.”

 

Kylo hasn’t told anyone about the Bond. He’s not sure if he should. It’s dear, precious … sacred. But he needs for someone else to understand. He’d been holding on to the idea that once Rey was here he would finally be able to share what’s inside of him, but it’s all grown so confused. He’s cracking and maybe, just maybe, he can trust Vitok. What if she knows something more about Force Bonds? He decides he will take this risk.

 

“I would prefer you not share this.”

 

“Of course I won’t. I never shared your confidences when you were a boy, did I?”

 

“No … no you didn’t.”

 

“Well then.”

 

“When we … met …” he begins cautiously. Vitok raises a brow. He huffs and says, “Alright, when I captured her-”

 

“The first time.”

 

“You are not making this easier.”

 

“You’re right, I apologize. It’s just been such a long time since you’ve really talked to me. It’s difficult not to tease you like I used to. I always thought you liked it that I did.”

 

“I did,” he says softly. It had always made him feel like Vitok knew him, saw him. When she was Shree. “But things have changed since then …” For a moment he remembers how she’d always known when he’d needed to talk, when he was about to burst with rage or frustration.

 

“Yes, they have. But you can still trust me. Please, tell me what you were going to say,” she entreats gently.

 

Kylo considers Vitok before finally continuing. “Something ... happened, on Starkiller. I … I was interrogating her …” He looks down. He doesn’t like what he did. He doesn’t like that he hurt Rey. It’s the most important thing that has ever happened to him and he would never change one moment of that day for fear of losing the Bond, but he’ll never be able to take back what he did to her before he’d comprehended who she was—who she is—to him.

 

He clears his throat and returns his gaze to Vitok. “I was trying to find the map to Skywalker and she pushed back. In that moment we were ... Bound.” He see’s Vitok’s confusion and he clarifies. “We share a Force Bond.”

 

Vitok blinks. “I see.”

 

“Do you?” he asks plaintively. He’s been so alone, needing, wanting.

 

“I think so. It certainly does explain things. Though … spontaneously like that … I honestly don’t recall much about them, but that is especially unusual, isn’t it?”

 

“As far as I’ve been able to find in the archives, yes. All I know for certain is that it’s permanent and it’s strong. Being away from her … it’s agony. It nearly tore me apart. I thought it would get better once she was here, but … in some ways it’s worse.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Kylo doesn’t know how to talk about this. It’s too personal. How can he possibly explain to Vitok the nearly incapacitating need to touch Rey? “Having her here … it’s difficult to focus on anything but her.”

 

Vitok smiles and says, “Forgive me, but I think that’s true of anyone in love.” Kylo looks at her skeptically.

 

She pauses, assimilating this new information. “Alright, now that I understand why you’ve been acting in such an extreme manner, let’s figure out how to fix this. So she’s refusing to see you.”

 

Kylo pushes away from the table and begins to pace. “Yes. She says she needs time.” He spits out the hated word.

 

Vitok continues to stand, watching as he moves back and forth across the room. “I imagine finding all of that was quite a lot for her to come to terms with all at once. The poor girl is likely terrified.”

 

Kylo stops his agitated movements and turns to Vitok. “I never meant to frighten her! I just … you don’t know what those months of searching did to me. I … sometimes having her things, being able to look at pictures of her … dream of a future … it was the only thing that kept me sane.” Kylo looks away.

 

“Do you understand why she might find that rather overwhelming?”

 

Kylo purses his lips, thinking. “I … maybe. Not really. She knows how I feel about her. Well … she doesn’t believe me, but I have told her. Is it so wrong that I needed her so much that I took what I could?”

 

“From a certain point of view it’s actually quite flattering. However, you can be a bit … intense. Try to think about it from her perspective. I understand about the Bond, how that changes things. But … there’s no good way to say this. Keeping her things like that, it’s somewhat … disturbing.”

 

“Why?” He shakes his head and looks at Vitok with confusion.

 

“Because it’s a violation of her privacy. You didn’t ask, you just took.”

 

“How was I meant to ask her? She kept running from me!” he exclaims in exasperation.

 

“That might be part of the issue as well. You took her, too.”

 

“She gave me no choice!” He’s growing angry now.

 

Vitok raises a placating hand. “Calm down. I understand that you didn’t perceive another way to handle things. There’s nothing you can do to change what’s already transpired.” Perceive? He almost asks her what she means by that but Vitok keeps speaking. “What you need to do now is be patient. Give her the time that she’s asked for.”

 

He’s not sure he can do that. “But she said it could be a year!”

 

Vitok’s head cocks and she taps a finger on her lower lip. “What did she actually say?”

 

“That if she needed a week, a month, a year, that I was to give it to her.”

 

Her shoulders relax. “Ah, I see.” She shakes her head and says, “No, it won’t be a year. She might make you wait a month to make a point, though.”

 

He glowers. “What sort of point?”

 

“That you aren’t in charge of her.”

 

“Of course I’m not in charge of her! Maker, she’s in control of everything.”

 

“Well, no … she’s not.”

 

“Yes she is!” he insists. Rey had also told him that he was the one making decisions when it’s perfectly plain that he’s at her mercy.

 

“She has as much or as little control as you give her.”

 

“No! It’s always been on her terms. Always. I begged her to come to me. I promise you, I’ve absolutely no pride when it comes to her.”

 

Vitok sighs heavily. “May I ask you a question?”

 

“Yes,” he answers warily.

 

“Did you hunt her throughout the galaxy? Chase her clear across the star systems?” Vitok asks bluntly.

 

There’s a sharp stab of something in his gut and he feels like he did when Vitok would catch him and Orin sneaking about in the middle of the night. He looks away before finally murmuring, “Yes.”

 

“Did you give her a choice to come with you?”

 

Suddenly he wants to leave. He doesn’t want to talk about this anymore.

 

“This is important. Please answer my question. Did you give her any choice?” Vitok’s tone is kind, but forceful.

 

His jaw works furiously but he still doesn’t say anything.

 

“Kylo …” she says with a hint of reproach.

 

“No! Alright? No, I didn’t give her a choice,” he bursts out. “But I knew that once she was here she would start to see, she would understand, she would forgive me!”

 

“But she never got to choose, did she?”

 

His head is filled with Rey’s voice.  I didn’t get to choose this Bond, I didn’t get to choose to be here with you. Please Kylo, let me choose when I’m ready to see you? He closes his eyes tightly and clenches his fists. When he finally looks back to Vitok he finds disappointment in their warm depths.

 

“Did she?” Vitok repeats.

 

“No … no, she didn’t,” he admits in defeat.

 

“So who’s really in control here?”

 

“I always do everything she asks of me,” he offers in defense.

 

“Did she ask you to let her go?”

 

He looks away again. He should put a stop to this. He should refuse to answer her questions. But … what if Vitok knows what to do? Eventually he says in a low voice, “Yes, she did.”

 

“And you didn’t let her go. So when you say you always do what she asks you to do, that’s not really true, is it?”

 

“No,” he acknowledges miserably.

 

Vitok approaches him and hesitates before laying her hand on his arm. At first he wants to shrink from her gesture. It fills him with conflicted feelings. No one has touched him with concern but Rey, not since … He returns his attention to his knight. “Right now Rey needs to feel like she has some control over her life. You need to show her that you will respect her choices, even if you don’t like them.”

 

“But what if she really does make me wait a year?” he asks fearfully.

 

She looks at him knowingly. “She won’t. It’s obvious that she cares for you. Even when we … found her on Ilaria, I could see it. Just be patient.”

 

“I don’t know how I’ll survive it,” he says bleakly.

 

“It won’t be long, I promise. On Vren she came back when you gave her the space to do so. She’ll agree to see you again soon enough.”

 

Kylo glances away, wanting very much to believe Vitok’s words.

 

---

 

It’s late in the afternoon and Jashad and Palek Ren are standing in front of his desk. The events of earlier ensured he’s not yet heard what had transpired with Sylten Qree.

 

“Report,” he orders.

 

Jashad steps forward and says, “We left Qree on Talnat with his ship and his credits.”

 

“Since you have returned I assume you have the location of Lann Tren?”

 

“Yes, as of a year ago she was on Deshrah. She joined the Order of the K’Ruhr.”

 

Kylo has never heard of them, his dealings with the Church of the Force quite enough for him on the subject of religion. Deshrah … it’s only a day from their current position. Excellent. The sooner he finds Lann Tren, the sooner Rey will have no choice but to see him, though after speaking with Vitok he sees that he will need to ask her first before taking any action. He must prove to her that he will no longer make decisions for her.

 

“Anything else?”

 

Jashad looks to the ceiling. “Well … Qree, he might have slipped on his way up the ramp.”

 

“I see,” Kylo says, pleased he did not need to order his knights to deal with Qree appropriately. “Did the fall kill him?” he asks hopefully.

 

“Unfortunately, no. However the damage was quite … extensive.”

 

Kylo nearly orders Jashad to offer up the memory to him.

 

---

 

He agonizes over what to write to her. She had said that he could send her a message when he had news of her mother. He wants to go to her, talk to her, but Vitok says he must be patient. Must give her this despised time.

 

He wants … he wants to apologize, to explain. Much as he does not like what Vitok had said, perhaps she is right. He supposes he didn’t give Rey a choice. He couldn’t take the chance. But he hadn’t meant to make her feel that she has no agency. He has no wish to control her. He just wants her to understand, to see that he’d only done the things he had because of how much he loves her. Surely that would make sense to her?

 

He shakes his head. None of these musings address the matter at hand.

 

Finally he types. He drafts it over and over again, desperate pleadings falling from his fingertips. Then he remembers her admonishment not to abuse this privilege. It is the only way he has of contacting her and he’s terrified of losing this as well. Eventually he is satisfied.

 

Jashad and Palek Ren have returned. Your mother is on Deshrah. With your permission, we will proceed there at once. I await your instructions.

 

He looks at his words for a long time and thinks of all he didn’t say. I’m sorry, I need you, forgive me, let me in. I love you, I love you, I love you …

 

He doesn’t want to send it. So long as he delays, he feels almost connected to her. But the sooner it is away, the sooner he will receive something in return. As minimal as it is likely to be, it will be precious because it will be from her.

 

He sends his message.

 

---

 

Hux strides into his office, responding to Kylo’s summons.

 

“Have KS-2153 report to me immediately,” Kylo orders. He may not be able to see his beloved, but she’d never said anything about talking to those who are allowed the right.

 

“Yes, sir.” Hux hesitates before saying, “There is another matter.”

 

He waits for Hux to continue and finally prods the exasperating man. “Yes?”

 

“Wylan Ren is recovering in medical. The doctors indicate he will be there for several days. Apparently someone crushed his neck.”

 

“Hmm. Thank you for informing me,” Kylo says coolly. He wouldn’t mind terribly if Wylan were to die on a mission, but he is somewhat relieved that he hadn’t killed him. He doesn’t want his knights to think he’s going to pick them off one at a time.

 

Hux lingers, clearly wishing to say something else. He really does hate this little quirk of the general’s.

 

“Out with it, Hux.”

 

“You are generally occupied at this hour,” he says carefully.

 

The reminder that he is not in her quarters sharing her company carves into his chest. He’s acutely aware that he should be gazing into her lovely eyes, perhaps even holding her close on her settee as they wait for dinner to arrive instead of dealing with Hux. Maker, he misses her. “Do not remark upon things that are none of your business,” Kylo says as he raises a threatening hand.

 

Hux steps back but his face remains free of expression. “I will have the stormtrooper in question here shortly.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

---

 

"KS-2153." Kylo regards the terrified stormtrooper standing stiffly before his desk. "You spent the afternoon with Rey."

 

"Yes, sir." Her voice quavers.

 

"How did she seem?" He sits forward in his chair.

 

"She is in good health, sir."

 

"I don't mean her health! What was her mood? How did she seem?" Does she miss him a fraction of how he’s missing her?

 

The trooper stays silent.

 

“Well?” he prods impatiently.

 

"I don't understand the question, sir."

 

Kylo stands from his desk and approaches his only link with Rey.

 

"I mean was she happy? Angry … sad?" Is she suffering as he is? Did she give any hint that she would relent?

 

"She never said, sir."

 

Kylo huffs in frustration. Rey had once said that conversing with him was like talking to a rock and he wonders if this is what she meant. "Fine. What did you speak of?"

 

"I …” KS-2153 is nearly vibrating with fear.

 

“Answer the question,” he says dangerously, his voice modulator adding menace to his tone.

 

He watches as the stormtrooper pulls herself to her full height. “She’s been so good to me, I don’t think I should.”

 

“I am the Supreme Leader; I am the First Order. Your entire life is in my hands,” Kylo reminds her lowly.

 

The trooper shrinks into herself. “Please don't make me, sir."

 

"Do you want to be sent for reconditioning?" He stands over her, using his considerable height to intimidate Rey’s friend.

 

"Please, sir, no," she pleads.

 

"Then tell me what you talked about."

 

Finally the stormtrooper hangs her head and whispers, "Finn. She's very worried about Finn. And someone named Poe."

 

He doesn’t care about Resistance scum. He wants to know what she said about him. "What else?"

 

"I ..."

 

"I do not wish to do this the hard way." Rey wouldn't like it. "But I will," he says in a low, threatening voice as he lifts his hand, about to enter her mind.

 

The stormtrooper pulls back, staring at his hovering hand. Eventually she nods in defeat.

 

He drops his arm. "Now, tell me everything. What she said, what clothing she selected, how she wore her hair. Everything."

 

KS-2153 looks at the floor, her shoulders stooped.

 

Eventually she looks back up and begins to tell him of his Rey.

 

---

 

Kylo is returning to his rooms and has the package from Loria tucked against his side, still utterly undecided as to what to do with it. Perhaps he will ask Vitok.

 

He contemplates what he’d learned from KS-2153. He'd taken in every detail with ferocious hunger and endless appetite. He'd tried to imagine how she had looked today, taking tea with the stormtrooper. But stormtroopers weren't trained with keen observational skills and all KS-2153 could tell him was that Rey had been wearing a tunic and leggings, with her hair pulled back.

 

Eventually he'd broken down and invaded her mind anyway, his need to know what he could of Rey overriding his desire to behave as Rey would prefer. He’d changed KS-2153's memory so that she would never know she had reported to him. And, of course, she would now feel compelled to ask many questions about the Supreme Leader.

 

As he'd ransacked the trooper's mind, scouring for every scrap of her, he'd been deeply concerned by Rey’s listless tone and flat expression as the oblivious Kes had asked increasingly inane questions about the traitor. Rey had answered her questions about Finn, but had never said a word about him. She’d often looked away and he was sure her eyes were rimmed with red.

 

He'd nearly lost the thread of memory in KS-2153’s mind when he'd seen the ribbon peeking out from under her simple lavender tunic. She is still wearing his gift. Her hair had been pulled tightly into her three buns and she didn’t smile, not even once.

 

His alarm had grown as he had watched her ignore the little cakes and biscuits, barely touching her meal. She’d frequently placed her hand at her chest, right where the bundle of stones rested. He doesn’t like that she’s not eating, but perhaps she simply hadn’t been hungry.

 

He slows his strides as he approaches their shared corridor. He doesn’t really think as he finds himself pulled to her door. He places his offering from Loria in front of her entryway and this time he does lay his hand on the durasteel. He wishes he wasn’t wearing his helmet, he’d like to press his cheek against the surface. She’s inside and this is as close as he can be to her.

 

He stands there for a long time, trying to imagine what she’s doing. It’s late—is she sleeping? Does she dream of him the way that he dreams of her? Perhaps she is wearing that sensuous silk nightgown that had clung so enticingly. Or maybe she’s awake. Would she be thinking of him? Working her way to forgiveness? Please, Rey … please.

 

Then he feels a warmth growing against his palm. The Bond. She’s standing right on the other side with her hand mirroring his. He starts to breathe quickly—he’s caught! He’s about to pull away, run, but then he feels just a tendril of her. It’s soothing, welcoming, yearning.

 

He places his other hand against the metal. He feels an answering pulse and he knows they would be pressed together were it not for the panel separating them. He wants to say something, but he doesn’t want to frighten her away, so he simply stands there as the energy flows between them.

 

Then a spike of panic runs through him and the connection is cold and empty. She’s gone.

 

For a long time he doesn’t move, hoping she will return, give him just a little more. Finally he accepts that she’s not coming back. He pulls his hands from her door and clenches his fists. His palms buzz with the aftereffects of the Bond. He looks at the package at his feet and decides to leave it. He wants proof that he was here, of what had transpired, that for just a moment she had given into the need.

 

As he makes his way to his quarters, he again lists all the reasons he has to believe this will be over soon. There will be no sleep tonight.

 

Rey ...







 

Chapter Text

Kylo knows he should go to bed, but instead he keeps obsessively checking to see if she’s responded to his message. He’d hoped that after their brief contact she would be moved to reach out to him. But it’s well past midnight and she’s not written anything. He’s staring out his viewscreen, remembering that this is the very spot where he’d first kissed her …

 

So much has happened since then that he can’t quite believe that it has only been two days since his lips first touched hers. He’d not known that it was possible to feel such aching desire and deep love at the same time. He flexes his hands, remembering how the Bond had licked against his palms. He swallows and checks again for a message.

 

---

 

He startles awake and realizes he must have slept for some portion of the night. When he’d gone to bed, she still hadn’t responded to his message. He lunges from the bed to check. There. She’s replied.

 

I’m not ready to see her. Thank you for the candy.

 

He reads it over and over again. It’s painfully short, but he hadn’t expected anything else, really. He’s surprised that she doesn’t want to find her mother immediately, but then he remembers how deeply Rey had been hurt by the knowledge that she’d been thrown away.

 

He reads her message again. She wasn’t angry that he’d left a package at her door. Perhaps he could have the kitchens send her another special dessert tonight? Or he could go down to Vren before they leave, find something for her … no, he shouldn’t press. But oh how he wants to. Selecting things for her had been one of his favorite ways to stave off his loneliness.

 

There is a meeting with the war council first thing this morning, so Kylo begins to ready himself for another day of missing Rey.

 

---

 

“We should move immediately, decisively!” General Jehan’s hologram says emphatically. Kylo wonders if he should have invited his knights to participate. Palek might be able to help keep the blood-thirsty general calm. He remembers the immense knight saying that Jehan is a bit zealous.

 

“Yes, I agree. We cannot allow such an action to go unaddressed. We are at a tipping point with the galaxy. After Starkiller, it was only our superior fleet that allowed us to subdue our territory. We’re in the midst of a number of tense negotiations and it would be impractical to pursue a military solution for each situation. We cannot be seen as weak.” This comes from General Prost. He tends to say what Hux is thinking. Kylo hopes that is not the case today, as he would prefer not to contradict Hux in front of the war council, but it is quite likely that he will need to.

 

“Speaking of these negotiations, it would be extremely helpful if we were to walk back our recent … adjustments to policy,” General Zallten’s hologram chimes in.

 

Kylo’s gaze snaps to Zallten’s image. “Meaning?”

 

“To put it bluntly, Supreme Leader, it is not always feasible to eradicate slavery at the outset.”

 

“That is non-negotiable,” Kylo states firmly.

 

“But if we took a more gradual approach, it would allow us to make more headway with certain systems,” Zallten argues.

 

It is non-negotiable,” Kylo says icily.

 

Zallten purses his lips but relents. “As you say, sir.”

 

The generals continue to debate and squabble and Kylo tunes them out. He knows he won’t order that they retaliate but he lets them have their say. Eventually he hears Hux begin to speak.

 

“Generals, after hearing all that you have to say, it is my suggestion that we pull back and discover how the Resistance gained such specific intelligence. The attack was nearly surgical in its precision and required extensive knowledge of ship systems and fleet movements. Additionally, given the depth of the leak, it is extremely odd that they did not attack the Finalizer. They must know this is the Supreme Leader’s ship. We need to find the spy or spies before we take any action.”

 

Kylo is surprised that Hux has suggested the same course of action he had been planning to order. He’d been certain that Hux would agree with the other generals, but he has surprised him. It is very strange that the Resistance didn’t attack the Finalizer. Time has distanced him from the event, and now he sees the bigger picture; he sees that they could have easily mounted a rescue, but they didn’t. Why? It isn’t like Leia Organa to leave someone behind, especially when he knows that Rey is dear to her.

 

“General Hux is correct. For now we do nothing,” Kylo declares.

 

“No! We must not be so cowardly!” General Jehan fumes. Her nostrils flare and there’s murder in her eyes.

 

Kylo is about to show the fanatical general why she will accept this when Hux again speaks. “General Jehan, your commitment to the First Order is commendable, but surely you must see what would happen if we moved now? The Resistance would, in all likelihood, be alerted, and we would be walking into a trap. We must clean our own house first, as it were.”

 

Jehan crosses her arms and glares at Hux.

 

“We will proceed as General Hux has suggested. Begin ship-wide investigations. Find me the traitor. We will continue to monitor Resistance movements and act if it becomes necessary. You are all dismissed,” Kylo orders.

 

There is an uneasy silence but, one by one, the projections disappear and he’s left in his hall with only Hux.

 

“Thank you, General,” Kylo offers.

 

The other man seems caught off guard and narrows his eyes. “For what, sir?”

 

“You handled the other generals well and your analysis of the situation matched my own.”

 

“Well, yes … as you say, sir.” Hux is obviously unbalanced, and Kylo thinks perhaps he’s found a new way to needle the annoying man.

 

“It’s time to rejoin the fleet,” Kylo changes the subject.

 

Hux tilts his head. “I thought we would be pursuing the latest lead on the girl’s parents,” he says with asperity.

 

“Not at this time.” Kylo would prefer to finish the task he set for himself and locate Rey’s family, but she has said she’s not ready so he will respect that.

 

“We will be underway immediately, sir.” Hux is obviously pleased with this development. At least someone is happy today.

 

---

 

He’s back in his office, wondering what she’s thinking about. Speaking with Vitok had helped considerably. He just needs to show Rey that he won’t control her and then she’ll let him back in. It will only be another day or so; he’s sure of it after their brief contact last night. He’d felt that she misses him. It won’t be a month. It won’t even be a week. Yes, soon he will again hold her to him and feel her sweet lips.

 

His comm chirps. “Sir, she’s leaving her rooms with KS-2153,” a voice he doesn’t know informs him.

 

“Route the feed to my datapad.”

 

“Immediately, sir.”

 

He snatches up the device greedily. He’s going to see her! The image comes up and he sees as she and KS-2153 make their way down the corridor. He watches, taking in everything. Her hair is braided down her back and she’s wearing a pale pink dress with a delicate overlay of lace. It’s the loveliest thing he’s ever seen her select and he frowns. Where is she going dressed like that?

 

Then he notices the ribbon around her neck and he relaxes. She’s chosen to continue to wear his gift. He will need to have the necklace repaired once she will see him. He smiles as she unconsciously rubs her fingers along her chest, where the gems must rest beneath her gown. The odd pair moves down the hallway and a few stormtroopers stare at Rey. His eyes narrow beneath his mask. He will need to issue a standing order that Rey is not to be stared at.

 

Panic tears through him as he realizes they’re nearing medical. Is Rey hurt? Is she ill? She appears to be fine, but why would they be going there?

 

They enter the med bay and Rey talks with the doctor on duty. Kylo wishes he could hear what she’s saying. He watches in confusion as they’re led to … Wylan Ren. She’s visiting Wylan. How does she even know he’s there? He jumps to his feet as fury takes him over. No, Rey will not spend time with that man. He won’t allow it. He doesn’t care that he’s shut out; this cannot continue, regardless of her need for time.

 

He’s striding to his office door when he realizes she would know he’s watching if he arrived in medical.  She would make him stop and he knows he cannot cope if he doesn’t know where she is at all times. The indecision is agonizing. He won’t let her spend time with Wylan, he won’t. But he can’t reveal that he has her under surveillance.

 

This is the only way that he may see her and the prospect of losing this access forces him to return to his desk. He clutches the datapad and continues to watch, his teeth clenched. Now Rey is sitting by Wylan’s unconscious form and her face is twisted in concern. He snorts in derision. Wylan does not deserve her concern. If she only knew what sort of person he was. Power hungry, never caring what anyone else thinks, doing what he pleases. Oh how he hates Wylan Ren. He should have begged Snoke to leave him behind at the Academy.

 

Rey is saying something to the still man, and Kylo has to remind himself that he will find out everything she is saying when KS-2153 reports to him this evening. He tries to focus on how beautiful Rey looks today when a cold thought whips through him. Had Rey dressed so nicely for Wylan? Small objects around the room begin to vibrate.

 

Then time slows as he watches Rey reach out and take Wylan’s hand. She’s touching him. At first he can’t quite comprehend what he’s seeing. Those perfect fingers that feel so good against his face, in his hair, they’re curling around Wylan’s. She’s touching him. This can’t be happening. He should have killed him, to hell with how it would have looked to the other knights. Wylan Ren deserves to die. He wants to take up his saber and destroy, but he doesn’t dare miss a moment of Rey so he makes himself watch.

 

She’s saying something to Wylan once again. She strokes her thumb across the back of his hand and Kylo feels as if those soft, gentle hands have reached into his chest and torn his heart in two. She’s touching him. Her hands, her sacred hands, are touching another. Those fingers that glide across his cheek and steal his breath are wrapped in Wylan Ren’s hand. She’s touching him. He can’t do this. He can’t handle this. She’s shut him out and she’s with another man. Oh Maker, please make it stop.

 

He can’t control himself any longer. The desperate jealousy bubbles from him and he howls in rage. She’s touching him. He flings the datapad across the room and it shatters. He hears someone trying to get in. He doesn’t care. He screams as he flips his desk then Force pushes it into the wall. His power wells from him in pulsing waves and, in a few seconds, every piece of furniture in his office has been turned to scrap.

 

She’s touching him. His saber is ignited and he plunges it into the wall, wishing it was Wylan’s chest. He pulls back and strikes again. Over and over, he hacks and stabs, imagining Wylan’s body torn into a million pieces. His blood, painting the walls.

 

But it still isn’t enough to calm him. She’s touching him. He hurls his saber and it is impaled into the bulkhead, hissing and spitting. He pulls his helmet from his face and throws it across the room as well. He roars, his powerless anguish pouring from him, causing the detritus to whirl dangerously around the room. She’s touching him. He’s panting and shaking and it’s all he can do to keep himself from battering against the Bond. She must not know he’s seen.

 

Hux breaks through the door and stumbles into the destroyed room. “Supreme Leader!”

 

Kylo doesn’t respond, only reaches out with the Force and calls his saber to him. She’s touching him. Again he swings his saber, this time into the decking.

 

“Stop that! Stop that right now, you infuriating infant!” Hux yells.

 

Stab, slash, hack. In the metal flooring, molten orange trenches widen with each frenzied attack.

 

“You’ll break through to the deck below! Dammit, man, get control of yourself!”

 

She’s touching him.

 

“Kylo Ren, I will not have you destroy my ship over a woman!” Hux bellows.

 

Kylo doesn’t care. She’s shut him out and chosen someone new. He was foolish to think she’d ever want him. The metal is beginning to pool and he stabs his saber deep into the deck. His weapon is stuck and he screams as he Force pushes against the durasteel of the opposite wall. He staggers as he feels the Finalizer lurch beneath his boots.

 

“That’s it, I’ve had it,” Hux growls, and everything goes black.

 

---

 

Kylo splutters awake, confused by the feeling of water on his face. He blinks and gasps and the room swims into view. He’s flat on his back; Hux is looming over him holding a water jug and looking very irritated indeed. Then he sees Vitok’s mask―she’s bent over him as well.

 

“Are you quite through?” Hux enquires with pinched disapproval.

 

Kylo struggles and eventually he sits up. He feels a bit groggy and he can’t quite remember what had happened. Then he sees Rey. He scrambles to his feet and moves to her swiftly. It’s such a relief to see her. He wants to sweep her into his arms and never let her go.

 

“Rey!” He reaches for her.

 

She shrinks back but says nothing and her expression is guarded. His mind is clearing and he realizes it’s very strange that she’s here. She had been with Wylan. He feels a rekindling of the rage but he reminds himself that Rey is here, not with him. He must control himself; he mustn’t frighten her away.

 

“Rey … I’m so glad to see you, but why are you here?”

 

She wraps her arms around herself and finally says, “When the ship moved like that, I reached out but you weren’t there. I was worried … more than worried. So I made Kes bring me here … I didn’t know where else to go. You wouldn’t respond; the Bond was just … empty.” Her eyes are haunted. He wonders why he had been unconscious and realizes she’s just revealed the Bond to Hux. Marvelous.

 

Kylo reluctantly turns to Hux and finds the general’s expression speculative.

 

“What happened?”

 

“I stunned you, of course,” Hux says matter-of-factly.

 

Kylo exclaims, “You stunned me?”

 

“You were about to find yourself on the deck below and you were rocking the entire ship. It was stun you or let you continue to tear the Finalizer to bits. Given the fact that your little tantrum was felt on all decks, it seemed prudent to act. Sir.”

 

He should be furious, but instead he’s … embarrassed. He looks around his office and sees the extent of his destruction. It appears that nothing survived his rage. And now Rey has seen it.

 

Kylo shifts his attention back to Rey. She seems … afraid. He wants to talk with her but Vitok and Hux are right here. He looks into her eyes and they’re wide with conflict and confusion. She fiddles with her dress and looks around quickly, seeming like a frightened animal.

 

Vitok steps forward. “Perhaps I should take Rey back to her quarters.”

 

“No!” Kylo nearly shouts, but then he remembers himself. “No … I will see her to her quarters. If that is acceptable to you, Rey.”

 

She worries her bottom lip before answering, “Uhm. Alright.”

 

Hux sighs with exasperation. “I will, of course, have this,” he gestures to the ruined office, “Taken care of during your absence.”

 

Kylo doesn’t respond, focused on Rey. Will she take his arm? Will she grant him such a gift? He walks to where his helmet had landed and is about to pick it up when he feels eyes on him. He looks to Rey and finds her watching him. If he didn’t put it on, perhaps that would please her? He leaves it as it is and returns to Rey’s side.

 

He indicates that she should precede him. She pauses but then she walks past him. She’s chosen not to touch him. He pushes down his disappointment and comforts himself with simply being able to be near her. They walk through the door and he ignores how the entire bridge stares at seeing him again unmasked.

 

---

 

They’re walking through the corridors and he's trying to stay focused. Rey is right next to him and his hands itch to reach for her. He remembers what it felt like to have her fingers wrapped around his arm and he tries to tell himself that she'll relent soon.

 

He's startled when she timidly asks, “Was it because of me?”

 

“Was what because of you?” He has no idea what she's talking about.

 

“What happened … in your office. Was it because of me?" she repeats.

 

It was far too much to hope that she wouldn’t ask why he had so completely lost control. He should have understood immediately that he would need to explain. This is not going to go well for him. He's alarmed by how fearful she seems. Had she seen any of it? When did she arrive? Is she afraid of him? The corridor is empty so he stops them walking and turns to her.

 

He looks into her exquisite eyes and tries not to lose himself in their depths. He wants to tell her how much he has missed her, how he loves her, but he knows he's on borrowed time. She'd asked if his behavior was because of her. He supposes some could say that it was.

 

Finally he answers her. “In a way. But perhaps … would you permit me to come in and talk with you when we reach your rooms? I would prefer not to have this conversation in the hallway.” It is likely to end with her screaming at him.

 

She tenses and looks around frantically. He almost wishes he hadn't asked; she seems truly terrified at the prospect of being alone with him. He pushes aside the ragged tear through his devotion.

 

Her eyes glimmer with green and gold as she stammers out, “I … don’t know. I wasn’t ready to see you yet. I just got so scared when you wouldn’t respond through the Bond." She steals her perfect eyes from him as she looks down "I don’t … I don’t think I should.”

 

They're standing very close and the pull is wrapping around him; his hands, his heart, his instincts are begging him to act. Her eyes are liquid with confused yearning. Hesitantly, he reaches up and cups her cheek with his gloved hand. He's so grateful when she doesn't pull away.

 

He strokes his fingers along her skin and she turns her head. She's almost nuzzling his hand and he's breathing shallowly. He fiercely wishes he wasn’t wearing his gloves; he needs to feel her skin. He’s not sure when he’ll next be able to touch her, and he wants to experience this moment to the fullest. But even through the leather, feeling her under his fingers is healing all of his tattered places and the howling terror is quieting. He brings his other hand to her face. “I promise, I’ll leave when you ask me to. I’ll give you all the time that you need.”

 

She looks at him with surprise. "You will? Truly?"

 

"Yes, I won't push you to see me again until you're ready."

 

She breathes in quickly and her fingers fly to his wrists. “You’ll go when I say?”

 

“I promise.” He strokes both cheeks, trying not to fall into her eyes.

 

She pulls his hands from her face, tangling her fingers with his. “Even if you’re not ready?”

 

“Even then,” he says gently as he squeezes her hands. 

 

She catches his eyes. “Okay.”

 

Rey keeps his hand in hers as they continue walking.

 

---

 

He’s back in her rooms, sitting next to her. He’d removed his gloves immediately upon entering. It’s so wonderful to be in her presence again, but if he’s forced to tell her he was watching her it really might be a year before he would again feel his luminous Rey. He’s exceptionally apprehensive.

 

Rey looks at him and she seems almost guilty. “Was it my fault?”

 

He’s confused by her question and her demeanor. “Why would you think that?”

 

“General Hux told me you were so upset that you made the ship rock. Was it me? Did I make you feel like that? Was it … because I asked for time?” she asks in a small voice.

 

Now he sees. She’s afraid that his behavior is her fault. She’s not afraid of him―no, in a way she thinks she’s hurt him again. And, in a way, she did. But he knows she didn’t intend to. “No … no, it wasn’t that you asked for time. You had every right to ask for that.”

 

“I did?” she asks, her eyes wide with shock.

 

“Yes … I … I shouldn’t have kept your things like that … the images. I know it was wrong of me and I understand now why you need time. I don’t like it, but I do understand. And I will honor your wishes. I will try to always honor your wishes from now on, Rey.”

 

“Oh." She blinks quickly and looks at her hands. She's quiet before raising her eyes to his. "Then … then what was it?”

 

He sighs. “You aren’t going to like this. I don’t think clearly when it comes to you.”

 

“So it was my fault.” Her shoulders fall.

 

“Not precisely.” Now that his temper has run its course he sees that she likely didn’t mean anything by holding Wylan’s hand. He hates that she'd done it, but there wasn't anything genuinely wrong with her conduct.

 

“I don’t understand. If it wasn't that I sent you away, why did you get so terribly upset?”

 

He looks away. He wishes he didn't have to tell her this. He wishes he'd never asked to know her movements. He should have simply ordered that she not be allowed to leave the ship. He remembers Vitok saying he'd violated Rey's privacy and he doesn't like the tight feeling in his chest. Finally he admits, “I was ... I was watching you. When you visited Wylan Ren.”

 

“What?” she gasps out.

 

“I know, I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have done it. I just miss you so much―I had to see you!”

 

“You were spying on me?” She pulls away, putting more space between them. His hands lift involuntarily, wanting to bring her back, but he consciously puts them back in his lap.

 

“I … yes. I was afraid. Afraid you would run from me."

 

“I told you I wouldn’t leave!” she blazes.

 

“I know, I know … I just … I’m so scared I’m going to lose you.” It took him so long to find her.

 

“I’m not yours to lose!” she spits furiously.  

 

“Yes, you are!” She’s even acknowledged that there’s something between them. He knows she’s his. He knows it.

 

“No, don’t you dare start with that again. I don’t belong to anyone!” She crosses her arms across her chest and her eyes flash with fire.

 

“I don’t mean that I own you! I mean … dammit.” He scrubs his face with his hands. ”Don’t you understand? I’m yours. I’m utterly yours, heart, body, mind, soul. Every bit of me is yours. From the moment I first saw you, I was yours. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was acting in ways I never would have. Honestly, Rey ... it's almost like madness, the need I feel for you. My reason left me on Takodana. Everything I've done since is because I love you beyond comprehension."

 

Her eyes have grown very wide and he silently pleads for her to see who she is to him, to understand his words. They’re each other’s. They have to be. She leans towards him slightly and he shifts. Now they’re sitting close again. She’s blinking slowly and her hand rises slowly. He thinks she’s about to touch him, but then her expression grows hard.

 

“Hunting, kidnapping, spying … that doesn’t sound like love to me,” she says.

 

He clenches his eyes shut briefly. How can he make her understand that he’s only done what he has because he cannot, will not, live without her?

 

He stands in frustration and begins to pace. She watches him move back and forth. Finally, he stops and says, "I chased you, kept your things, watched you because I can't survive without you. Every single day since Starkiller, you are all that I think about. Your things, the images … selecting gifts for you, it was the only way I could keep from falling apart. When you shut me out I had to be able to see you, know where you are. I was desperate; I didn’t know what else to do!”

 

While he’s been talking her expression has moved from anger to cold contemplation. It makes him very wary.

 

“You always say that.”

 

“Say what?”

 

“That you didn’t know what else to do. It’s like you think that excuses it. That because you couldn’t come up with a better solution than hunting, kidnapping, or spying, that justifies your actions.”

 

He blinks quickly. He’s not sure what to say to that. He doesn’t really comprehend what she’s saying.

 

When he doesn’t say anything, she continues, “From what you’ve just told me, the fact that you want something makes it alright for you to do whatever you need to do in order to get it. Did you ever consider not taking me the way that you did?”

 

“But then you wouldn’t be with me!”

 

Her face fills with sadness. “We’ll never know, will we?” she states wistfully. “You never really gave me the chance to do anything other than run from you.”

 

“I … I didn’t mean … I …” He hates that she’d always run from him. Is she saying that she might have come to him if he’d not chased her? He shakes his head, trying to clear the confusion.

 

She rises and comes to stand in front of him. “I should be angrier than I am about the spying. But I’m honestly not surprised. I’d like you to stop, but I won’t ask you to. You’ll just find some other way to get what you want. You always do.” She looks diminished and he’s filled with shame. He’d never meant to make her feel like this.

 

“No … I’ll stop. I won’t … I won’t watch any longer. I only did it the one time.” He thinks of KS-2153 … Kes, and for a moment he can’t meet Rey’s eyes.

 

“Well, I hope that’s true.” Her tone is resigned.

 

“It is! I promise.”

 

“Hmm.” She takes in a deep breath. “You still haven’t explained why you got so angry.”

 

His jaw clenches as he remembers her hand on Wylan’s. “You were touching him,” he nearly growls.

 

“What? No I … oh, I did hold his hand for a moment, but … wait, you destroyed your office and Force pushed an entire Star Destroyer because I held an injured man’s hand?” she asks with incredulity.

 

“It was Wylan,” he spits. The shame is leaving him, replaced by a very familiar resentment.

 

“So? He was nice to me on Vren. Kes told me he was in the med bay and I needed to get out of my quarters.” She gestures to her sitting room.

 

“You were touching him! You wore that beautiful dress for him!” he accuses.

 

She grabs at her skirt. “I’m wearing this dress because Kes picked it out for me.”

 

“Oh. I thought …”

 

“You thought that after a brief conversation with a man I’d only met once, I, what, got tarted up just in case the man with a crushed neck fancied a go?” Her hands are on her hips and her lip is curled in contempt.

 

“I didn’t know what to think! I don’t think when it concerns you.” He runs his hands through his hair.

 

“No, you really don’t. For the record, Kylo, I am Bound to you. I have no idea what is going to happen with us, but I certainly have no intention of throwing myself at random men, and I cannot believe you thought I would.” She’s breathing hard and she’s glaring at him.

 

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I … I see that it was innocent, I just … I can’t bear the thought of another man touching you.” He wants so badly to pull her to him, to wipe away all the hurt and confusion with the bliss of connection.

 

“He’s unconscious; he didn’t touch me. And if you try to tell me I literally can’t touch someone just because they happen to be male, then you can add that to the list of reasons I need time away from you.” She points a finger at his chest and he takes a step back.

 

“No … I don’t mean that … it’s just that it’s Wylan.” He would prefer she never touch another man regardless of the circumstance, but he knows that’s unreasonable.

 

Rey cocks her head to the side. “What is it with you two, anyway?”

 

How can he possibly explain years of acrimony? He purses his lips. “We’ve hated each other since we were boys. You may think he was nice to you, but I promise he is not someone you wish to know. He’s selfish. He only cares about what he wants, he never thinks about anyone but himself. He undermines me at every opportunity.”

 

Rey looks at him keenly. “How did Wylan get hurt?”

 

Kylo freezes. She won’t like this, either. “He disobeyed a direct order,” he says tightly.

 

Her jaw drops. “So you landed him in the med bay?”

 

“He … he provoked me. He knew what he’d done on Vren; he knew he’d made you run from me!” he exclaims defensively.

 

She rolls her eyes. “No, you made me run from you; he’s just the one who told me what you were up to.”

 

“It wasn’t his place!”

 

“So you’re going to torture your knights into compliance, just like Snoke?”

 

“No! I don’t agree with his methods. I just … I lost control.” His hands flail helplessly.

 

She looks into his eyes for a long time. He watches as her temper calms. Eventually her brow furrows in concern and she steps closer to him. “Kylo … it’s not even been two days and you tried to kill a man and completely destroyed your office. You were so unhinged that you put the whole ship in danger. I’m … I’m worried about you.”

 

“I don’t know how to do this,” he whispers. He hangs his head. He hates how he loses his temper; he’s never been able to handle strong feelings. And no one has ever made him feel things more intensely than Rey. He knows he has to find a way to keep his head, show Rey that he is capable of respecting her wishes. But he’s terrified that maybe he isn’t. That he truly isn’t capable. Maybe he can’t keep himself away from her.

 

Finally she takes pity on him and she reaches up to stroke his cheek. His eyes flutter shut and he presses his face against her hand. Oh how he needs this, needs her. “It’s not forever. But the things you’ve done … everything I have to give up to be with you ... For a moment I thought you might finally be listening to me, but then I find out you were spying on me. I need to think, but more than that I need to know that you will respect my wishes, that you won’t keep trying to control me. I need to know that you can give me space. And if I have to worry about you literally destroying the ship … that’s not space.”

 

He looks into her unfathomable eyes and she continues to trail her fingers along his face, now tracing his jaw. “I want to give you space. I do. I just … you said it might be a year.” He lets the anguish he’s been feeling seep into his tone.

 

She drops her hand from his face and his panic is only checked when she laces her fingers through his. “No, it won’t be a year. It’s all just moved so fast. I need to figure out what I’m feeling and I can’t do that when I’m with you. Even now, when I’m quite angry with you, I just want to kiss you. How am I supposed to untangle myself with you around?”

 

He draws his thumb across her palm. “You could just spend all of your time with me and not worry about it?” he offers hopefully.

 

“That is not a solution. I’m serious. I need this. But I need to know you’re going to be alright.”

 

“I honestly don’t know if I am … Having you near and not being able to see you, talk to you. I was sincere when I said I don’t know how to do this.”

 

“I need you to find a way.”

 

“I know you do.” He takes in a shuddering breath. “And I will. I have always said I would do anything for you, and if it is my absence you require of me, then you shall have it.”

 

“You won’t kill anyone or destroy the ship?”

 

“No … I will control myself.” He’s not entirely certain as to how, but he will find a way to endure this time away from her.

 

“Thank you,” she says, and gives him a genuine smile. He finds himself smiling back.

 

She looks away, and then she’s threading her arms around his waist. He’s impossibly grateful that she’s going to let him hold her. He returns her embrace and presses her close to him. He needs all that she will give him. She lays her head on his chest and he tries to store it all away. “You promise it won’t be a year?”

 

“I promise. We’ll see each other soon,” she says into his surcoat.

 

They keep holding each other, and he wants for this moment to never end. But then she’s pulling back and the panic is starting again. She doesn’t step away from him, though. Instead she looks up and holds his eyes. “I don’t really know what to think about how you say that you feel about me, but … I do care for you. Do you know that?”

 

He’s shocked by how his throat grows tight at her admission. He knows she doesn’t love him. There’s a part of him that thinks she never could. He’s not blind to who he has become. He was willing to simply spend his life making her as happy as he could. He can love enough for both of them. But hearing that she cares for him … it makes the coming days … or weeks, seem less bleak.

 

He swallows past the lump in his throat. “No … I didn’t know that.”

 

“I have for a long time,” she says softly.

 

He takes her face in his large hand. “And I have loved you my whole life, I simply didn’t know it yet.”

 

Her eyes widen and that lovely blush stains her cheeks.

 

“I hope you will believe me soon,” he murmurs.

 

Gently, he turns her face towards his. He holds her eyes then slowly lowers his lips to hers, so that she can stop him if she wishes. She doesn’t, and soon he’s kissing her. He feels as her arms tighten around him and he pulls her as close as he can. He draws his tongue along her lower lip and presses into her. She makes a little sound of contentment and he swirls his tongue against hers. He loves how hot her mouth is. Kissing her is infinitely more pleasurable than anything he’s ever experienced.

 

Her hands knead into his back and now he’s moaning into her mouth. He’s grown quite hard and it’s very difficult not to grind against her. He tears his lips from hers and kisses her neck, sucking at her delicious skin as she clings to him. Oh Maker, knowing this is what is waiting for him on the other side of this exile might just be enough to get him through.

 

It’s spiraling quickly now and he’s walking them back to her settee while he continues to feast on her mouth. She stops him, panting. “No, we have to stop.”

 

“Why?” he nearly whines.

 

“I’m still mad at you.” She backs away a bit but keeps her hand on his arm. “It’s time for you to go.”

 

“Just a little longer, please? We don’t have to … we can just sit and talk.”

 

“No … it’s time.”

 

He remembers that he promised he would leave when she said. He looks into her eyes and oh how he wants to kiss her again. But she takes him by the hand and pulls him to the door. He retrieves his gloves and tells himself that this is much better. She’s said it won’t be too long, she seems to understand a bit about why he’d kept her things. He’s not leaving in the midst of a storm of confusion and pain. He can do this. He will do this. For her.

 

Kylo forces himself to walk through her door. He turns to look at her and he only just keeps from flinching from the memory of the door closing on her face. This time, though, instead of her eyes being full of anguish, she gives him a small smile.

 

“I’ll see you soon,” she says.

 

“I … I will miss you very much.”

 

“I’ll miss you, too,” she says as she closes the door.

 

The last thing he sees are her eyes soft with affection. Yes, he can do this.

 

Chapter Text

Kylo strides through the corridors, making his way back to the bridge. He’s grateful for the long walk, as the last thing he wants is for Hux to see him in the state Rey has left him. He'd almost gone to his quarters, allowed himself to imagine her silken skin and soft lips while giving in, but he wants to save his pleasure for her.

 

It feels almost disloyal to engage in such things now that she's near. He may not be able to give all of himself to her, having indulged the basest of his urges years ago, but he will do what he can to not dishonor her further. Now that he knows what true intimacy feels like, he regrets having shared even the palest, most shallow imitation with others.

 

His boots click along the deck, his body calming. He wishes he’d remembered to ask her about her mother. He’s concerned that she didn’t want to find her. She’d dreamt of her family her entire life and he knows the truth of her origins has cut her deeply. She's not chosen to speak of her mother, but he's certain it weighs heavily on her. He would like for her to confide in him.

 

He decides he’ll send Jashad and Palek to Dashrah to confirm that Lann Tren is there, and to find out if she regrets what she did to her daughter. He wants her to have the option to see her mother when Rey decides it’s time. Perhaps his knights might be able to garner a lead on her father. Maybe he won’t be such a resounding disappointment.

 

Six stormtroopers halt abruptly when they see him. Right. He’s not wearing his helmet. He’d forgotten in the midst of everything.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader,” Hux greets him as he enters the bridge. The officers manage not to stare this time.

 

“Hux.”

 

“Your office will not be … ready for you until tomorrow afternoon.” Hux’s lip curls slightly in subdued disdain.

 

“I will be in my hall, then. However, first there is a matter I wish to discuss with you.”

 

“Yes, sir,” the general says cautiously.

 

They walk into Hux’s office and he turns to Kylo. He’s clearly anticipating some form of retribution.

 

“The surveillance on Rey … I no longer want to be informed of her movements.” He’d said he wouldn't watch her. Perhaps … perhaps he shouldn’t even have her tracked at all. “In fact, amend the order. She is only to be monitored if she goes to the hangar.”

 

“Sir, she is still a member of the Resistance.”

 

“I told her I would not … spy,” he says uncomfortably.

 

“Then you will not. It is a matter of ship security and as such, is at my discretion. I shall have your order rescinded,” Hux says pointedly.

 

Oh he likes this solution very much. He’s not watching her or having her watched, but she will be monitored. He decides to forgive Hux for stunning him.

 

He leaves Hux’s office and goes to retrieve his mask.

 

---

 

He’s perusing a summary on the status of Nephlak, a strange world with two distinct societies, one that is heavily entrenched in the slave trade and another that is petitioning for entry into the First Order. It’s a puzzling situation.

 

He’s been able to truly focus for the first time in days. Rey’s smile floats through his mind from time to time, but it makes him feel hopeful and warm, not panicked and alone. She just needs time. She said that she cares for him. Everything is going to be perfect.

 

His head snaps up when a stormtrooper enters his hall.

 

“Reporting as ordered, sir,” KS-2153 announces nervously.

 

He’d forgotten that he’d left a standing order for KS-2153 to report to him every evening. It’s exceptionally tempting to find out exactly what Rey had said to Wylan, but he must stop prying into her private business. She was just being kind when she’d gone to visit his despised rival. Now that he’s told her what sort of person he is, he’s certain that will be the end of it.

 

He should send the stormtrooper away. Right now. But … she is here. It wouldn’t hurt to ask a few questions. No. No. He must control himself. He’d said he wouldn’t watch and though this is not precisely the same, he knows Rey wouldn’t see it that way.

 

“KS-2153, I do not require you at this time. You are dismissed.”

 

The stormtrooper’s relief is palpable and she turns to leave.

 

“Wait.” He stops her.

 

He infuses his voice with the Force. “You will go back to your division and have no memory of reporting to me.”

 

“I will go back to my division and have no memory of reporting to you,” she says dazedly, then leaves the hall.

 

Kylo sits, looking out across the room. It wouldn’t do for Rey to discover his actions regarding her friend. She’d never understand. He will revoke his order that KS-2153 report to him daily. Rey will never know what he’s done.

 

---

 

He stands outside her door with his helmet and gloves in the crook of his arm. He places a palm on the surface and leans his forehead against the metal. He’s sure she’ll at least grant him this contact, a brief moment to say goodnight.

 

There. She’s letting him feel her. But it’s not the warm, gentle wave of her like it had been last night. It’s cold and sharp.

 

“Kylo,” blooms in his head. “You can’t keep doing this.”

 

“I thought … after last night …” he responds through their Bond.

 

“That … that was a mistake. See? See why I need you to leave me alone? I can’t think clearly when you’re near me.”

 

“But … I didn’t say anything; I didn’t even push against the Bond.”

 

“I can still feel you when you’re close, you know I can. You can’t do this either. You have to leave me alone. I will tell you when I'm ready,” she says firmly.

 

“Since we’re already talking, may I see you one last time? Just for a moment?”

 

“No! You know what will happen if I open this door.”

 

Well, no, he doesn’t, but he’d hoped … “Please?”

 

Go to bed Kylo. Don’t come back. I will tell you when I’m ready,” she repeats.

 

“Alright, Rey. I … I love you.”

 

She doesn’t say anything as she closes the Bond. He senses her moving from the door.

 

After speaking with her this afternoon he’d been left feeling strong, reassured. But her most recent rejection stings. He makes his way to his quarters, trying to ignore the emptiness forming in his chest.

 

---

 

The next morning he’s still working out of his hall. He dislikes the room and all of its reminders of bowing and scraping to Snoke. But he supposes it’s only fitting that he be uncomfortable after behaving as he did yesterday. Hux had been most displeased when he’d tallied up the expenses.

 

She’d not said, but he thinks it must have frightened Rey to see the aftermath of one of his explosions. He wishes he didn’t do that, but he’s never known how not to. He’s always had a temper. Always. But it had been dismissed with indulgent humor when he’d been a boy. “He’s just like his mother,” they would say. But he wasn’t. Her fiery anger was always controlled, useful. Not his. No, his anger takes him over and he has no choice but to ride the fearsome waves as they take him down.

 

Once he’d been able to at least keep it from becoming so physical. He would scream, sometimes cry, occasionally throw something. Then he’d gone to Snoke, who had encouraged him to give his temper free rein. He’d said that after a lifetime of attempting to suppress his emotions he must let them flow through him, that only through his rage could he properly channel the dark side. So he had.

 

For a time he’d been almost gleeful about his destruction. It had been so satisfying when Hux would complain to Snoke about his latest bout of mayhem, expecting chastisement for Lord Ren only to be told that Kylo’s actions were not to be questioned. After years of emulating Luke Skywalker’s bloodless existence, it had been heady to finally let go.

 

But now … knowing that Rey watched him through the Bond as he had disintegrated the first night she was here and then had seen the aftermath of his wrath with her own eyes …  he can no longer deny that it frightens him. What if he were to hurt her one day? He doesn’t think that he could, but he’s not sure. He had before when he’d thrown her against that tree, so many months ago. He still has nightmares about her scream and the sickening thud as she’d hit the ground.

 

He's never come undone as badly as he did yesterday. He'd put the ship in danger. Dread seeps into his veins as he realizes he put Rey in danger. What would have happened if Hux hadn't stopped him? He must find a way to keep from being pulled into that place of utter lunacy. What if next time is the time Rey gets caught in the storm with him? What if he can’t protect her from himself? What if he does something unforgivable?

 

For a moment he misses the safety of service. There was serenity in following. But neither of his masters would have known how to help him with how Rey affects him. They had no understanding of desire, devotion, need … love.

 

Luke Skywalker had been wrong about passion, wrong about attachment. But Snoke had been as well, encouraging his meaningless, anonymous trysts, never perceiving the deeper yearning in his apprentice’s heart. Kylo has been pining for Rey for far longer than a year.

 

Grandfather would understand. He had his Padmé; he knows the power of love. Kylo had not wanted to make his grandfather remember his lost beloved by speaking of Rey, but perhaps it is time. He will try to contact Grandfather again tonight.

 

---

 

“Jashad, Palek,” Kylo greets his knights. Thus far they have seemed invested in finding Rey’s family. That they’d been as revolted with Sylten Qree’s behavior as he had been makes him feel a certain kinship with them. He’s never been close with either man, but he’s fast growing to trust this pair.

 

“Supreme Leader,” they say in return.

 

“The girl … Rey,” he smiles beneath his mask, caressing her name. “She says that she is not yet prepared to see her mother. However, I would like to ensure that Lann Tren is indeed on Dashrah and perhaps find out who her father is. I am sending you both to learn what you can.”

 

“It would be our pleasure to continue to do what we can for her. She’s a lovely girl, special,” Jashad says.

 

Kylo grows suspicious. Jashad had only spoken with her briefly the night they found Qree and Palek had simply observed. “Yes, she is, but how do you know that?”

 

“We had the opportunity to speak with her earlier.”

 

“Where?” Kylo asks sharply, not liking the reminder that he has no idea where she is at this moment.

 

“In the med bay. She arrived while we were visiting Wyl-”

 

“She was visiting Wylan? Today?” he asks dangerously. He’d told her about Wylan. She knows that he hates him.

 

Jashad tenses and looks to Palek who sighs heavily.

 

“Yes, sir,” the smaller man states.

 

Kylo’s body goes rigid with rage. His fingers dig deeply into his palms, the leather keeping him from breaking skin as he tries to restrain himself from cleaving the table in two with his saber. He breathes in and out, his chest heaving. He’d told her that he would control himself. But she had visited Wylan after knowing how he feels about the hated knight … No, it doesn't matter. He must learn to keep from flying apart. Rey has asked it of him.

 

"Is she still there?" he bites out.

 

"She was when we left. Wylan had just woken up. But that was hours ago. I'm sure she's back in her quarters," Jashad offers in reassurance. It doesn't work. The knowledge that Wylan is conscious makes this exponentially worse. Now the other man can touch her.

 

He needs to know. He won't be able to function if he's imagining Wylan's hands on her. But he's promised he won't spy. He doesn't know what to do! Her accusations from yesterday pull at his conscience. Alone. He must be alone. He needs to remove himself.

 

"You'll have your mission specifications shortly," he says through gritted teeth as he stalks from the chamber.

 

---

 

His boots eat through the distance to his training room. How could she? After he had been so understanding? He had every right to demand she never touch any man but him but he hadn't. He'd been reasonable.

 

Has she no proper feelings at all? Yesterday she had said that she cares for him and today she's again at his rival's bedside. And now he's awake. He could be running his filthy hands all over her. Kylo is not allowed to see her, nor have the briefest of contact. He's not even permitted to wish her goodnight. But Wylan, he has her coveted attention. What if she visits him every day? What if they grow close? What if she prefers Wylan's company to his own? What if she lets him teach her?

 

He strides past a squad of stormtroopers and he wants one of them to cross into his path, look at him wrong, anything to give him a reason to act. He wishes they all would. But KS-2153 would tell her if something untoward were to happen to her comrades.

 

Finally he reaches his training room. He rips his helmet from his head and engages four training droids. He spins and deflects the bolts, his surcoat whipping around him. What he really wants to do is storm into medical and ensure she's not still with him. She could have spent the whole day with Wylan while he'd been blissfully unaware of her treachery.

 

Twist, lunge, parry. He's not even paying attention, muscle memory doing the work for him. He wishes he could crush the droids, pull the paneling from the walls. But she says that it's not space if she must worry for him and he has no idea what would get back to her on a ship of thousands. He knows he has to calm down but he doesn't know how. He feels like he's going to unravel completely. Perhaps he could talk to Vitok? No … he’s already told her too much.  

 

Why would Rey do this to him? Is she punishing him for taking her? Must he suffer a commensurate amount before he's allowed back in?

 

Wait. He's in his training room. Swiftly he shuts off his saber and goes to the wall of weaponry, waving his hand at the training droids to cease their program. There, a set of daggers. Desperately he lunges for the nearest blade and wrenches up his sleeve. He pauses. She'd asked him to stop, but he'd not promised. He's only said he would think about it. Well, he has, and right now it's necessary. He takes a deep breath and steadies his hand. It wouldn't do to have a repeat of last time. The relief is immediate as the blade pulls along his skin.

 

---

 

Kylo watches the stars go by from the viewscreen in his quarters. He'd bought himself an hour or two of peace, but now all he can see is her hands touching Wylan. His imagination is taunting him with lurid images of them together. Her delicate hands running along Wylan's face, his repellent fingers touching her. What if she'd shuddered and gasped the way she does when Kylo touches her? He can't get the pictures out of his head. Some small part of him knows he's being irrational, but it's drowned out by the toxic jealousy that eats everything in its path.

 

Had she sent him away last night knowing she would again visit Wylan? He's going to lose his mind if he doesn't know what happened. He could ask Hux for a report of her movements today; it’s not really spying. But that wouldn't tell him what had transpired in medical.

 

He could ... he could speak to KS-2153 ... No. That's worse than spying. He knows it is. But she would never know, and it would keep him from her rooms ... He's certain he will end up breaking down her door if he doesn't know what she's done. What if he's kind to the stormtrooper? He could explain a bit of why he wishes to know ...

 

Grandfather! Grandfather will know what to do. He had intended to speak with him tonight, anyway. He has been silent for longer than he ever has been before, but surely he will respond to Kylo's entreaties this time. He will sense his grandson's dire need. He hurries to his sanctuary.

 

He takes his customary position in front of Vader's helmet and brushes away the memory of Rey's desolate tone and unnatural stillness when he'd first found her here.

 

Calm. He must center himself to become open to Grandfather. He breathes in and out in deep, measured breaths. This will work. Grandfather always knows what to do. He concentrates on feeling the Force flowing through him.

 

"Grandfather?" he calls out into the Force.

 

He feels himself falling into this long-familiar trance. In out. In out.

 

"Grandfather, help me."

 

The once-intimidating mask stays silent.

 

"Please. I've found my Padmé and it's tearing me apart. I need your guidance."

 

Nothing. Months now it has been.

 

"Grandfather, please. I need your wisdom more than I ever have. Please." His voice cracks.

 

He goes to his knees and grasps his hands together, mimicking prayer.

 

"I need you.”

 

He begs into the ether for an eternity, but there is nothing. Finally he drags himself to his feet and leaves his room of treasures.

 

---

 

Reason is gone. Madness has won. It’s the middle of the night and he's outside KS-2153's barracks.

 

"Supreme Leader!" the stormtrooper on duty exclaims.

 

"KS-2153, bring her here immediately," he orders through his helmet.

 

"Yes sir, right away sir. It's her sleep shift; she'll be outfitted in five minutes."

 

"No, now."

 

"Sir?"

 

"Now!" Kylo barks.

 

The stormtrooper disappears to retrieve KS-2153. Soon, a slender woman with dusky skin, short black hair, and startling green eyes is presented to him. She's wearing standard issue sleeping attire, a short sleeved top and loose shorts. Her eyes are full of fear.

 

"Come with me," Kylo demands.

 

"Y-yes Supreme Leader."

 

He stalks to a nearby control room, knowing the soldier will follow. Once they're both inside, he closes the door.

 

KS-2153 is trembling and he shoves aside the knowledge that he's reprehensible.

 

"Today Rey visited Wylan Ren. Tell me all that transpired. Leave nothing out."

 

"Sir, please. She's my friend. I promised her she could trust me," she pleads.

 

He growls as he remembers that the quaking stormtrooper has no memory of the last time she’d resisted him. There’s no patience left within him so he raises his hand and pushes into her mind. She tries to fight him as tears spring to her eyes. Unbidden, he sees Rey’s stricken face on Starkiller, her skin blotchy from crying. He concentrates on his task. This had been … easier when she had been wearing her helmet.

 

"Do not struggle; I have no wish to hurt you." He rips through her meager defenses and he has it.

 

Rey and KS-2153 enter the room and find Jashad and Palek already with the still-comatose Wylan. Today Rey is wearing a deep blue dress, plain, but she's still exquisite. It has a high neck, so he cannot see the telltale ribbon that reveals if she’s still wearing his gift. Not knowing in the face of her choice to again visit Wylan makes his heart cold. Her hair is in its usual style. At least no one but him has been allowed to see her flowing hair.

 

The stormtrooper stands by the door and Rey and his knights look at each other for a moment.

 

"Uhm, hello," Rey offers shyly.

 

"Hello, Lady Rey," Jashad says as he steps away from Wylan’s bedside and comes to stand in front of her. Palek nods his head respectfully, staying as he had been when the women had arrived.

 

She purses her lips. "Please, don't call me that. Just Rey is fine."

 

"That would be inappropriate, my lady."

 

Rey grimaces and says, "Don't call me that either. I don't know what Kylo has told you, but I'm not a lady. I'm nobody." The way she dismisses her worth plucks at Kylo’s heart.

 

"You are far from nobody. You are the Supreme Leader's lady."

 

She twists the fabric of her skirt in her fingers. "I don’t know about that, but I do know I’d really rather you call me Rey. Only Rey."

 

Jashad tilts his head. "If that is truly your preference?"

 

Rey nods firmly. "It is."

 

"Then that is what we shall call you, Rey," Palek offers as he comes to stand next to Jashad, dwarfing the smaller man.

 

She smiles. "Thank you. And thank you, both of you, for everything you've done to help find my family."

 

Kylo grows impatient. He flips forward in the memory. Wylan wakes, the doctors come and go, and then the knights speak. Finally he finds the point where she and KS-2153 are alone with Wylan. Rey has taken the seat by his bed, Wylan is propped up against several pillows, and KS-2153 remains at the door.

 

"I don't know if you remember me, but I'm Rey. Just Rey, none of that 'Lady Rey' business," Rey says as she wrinkles her nose.

 

"Oh, I remember you. How could I forget such a beautiful face?" Wylan’s voice is scratchy and his eyes gleam with a predatory light that makes Kylo's blood boil.

 

Rey blinks quickly.

 

"Uhm, well, anyway, I visited you yester-"

 

"I know; I could hear you. It was very sweet of you." Kylo despises the slow smile that creeps along Wylan's infuriatingly handsome face.

 

Rey looks away for a moment before shrugging. "You were honest with me when no one else was. It was the least I could do."

 

Wylan scoffs. "Yeah, Kylo's never been so good at that."

 

Her brow furrows. "What do you mean?"

 

"He tells the truth when it suits him. He's had everything handed to him and he does what he pleases. He's not like us," Wylan says conspiratorially as he leans closer to Rey. Kylo snarls at his presumption. In the control room, KS-2153 whimpers as Kylo’s rage burns along her synapses. He needs to stay focused; he doesn't want the stormtrooper to suffer needlessly.

 

"Like us?" Rey asks in confusion.

 

"Orphans."

 

He sees as her eyes fill with pain. Wylan just had to remind her of her mother.

 

"I'm not an orphan," she says defensively.

 

"I can tell you grew up alone, though; just like me. Like calls to like. I spent my childhood on Hask, begging for food. Not like Kylo. He doesn't know what it is to struggle. But I do. I know what it's like to never be full."

 

Rey looks away uncomfortably. Can't Wylan see how proud Rey is?

 

"You're from Jakku, right?" Wylan asks with a lopsided smile that makes Kylo nearly lose his hold on the memory.

 

Rey's head snaps up. "How do you know that?" she asks warily.

 

Wylan rolls his eyes. "The whole ship knows that Kylo's been making a fool of himself over the girl from Jakku. Can't even keep you without holding you prisoner." Wylan snorts with scorn.

 

She frowns uneasily. Why did Wylan have to bring up his poor handling of Rey?

 

"I'm not ... I'm not his prisoner," she says as her eyes flit around the room.

 

Kylo's heart lifts to hear that she no longer believes he's holding her captive.

 

"Really?" Wylan raises his brows in disbelief. Yes, really, she is precious, dear. She was never his prisoner. Well, not since Starkiller.

 

"It's none of your business." Rey's posture is stiff and Kylo is elated that Wylan is missing all the signs that he's upsetting her. No one knows his Rey like he does.

 

"If you say so," he says doubtfully.

 

Rey takes in a deep breath. "Anyway. I'm glad you're awake. I'm sorry you were hurt."

 

"You do know it was your boyfriend who did this to me, don't you?"

 

"Yes, I know," she says steadily.

 

Kylo cringes at the use of such a juvenile term, but he notices that she accepted his claim to the title. It’s wholly inadequate, but it’s the first time she’s admitted she’s his anything.

 

"You shouldn't trust him. He only cares about himself," Wylan warns.

 

"I don't think that's true," she says carefully. Good, because it isn't true. Kylo cares far more about Rey than he's ever cared about himself.

 

"Oh yeah? I've known him for almost 20 years. He's a spoiled little princeling who’s never had to work for anything. He's always been like that. He has no idea what it is to suffer. Not like we do."

 

Rey’s eyes flash. "You don't know anything about my life and I don't think you know anything about Kylo. I ... I should go." She's defending him?

 

"Stay a little while. Yesterday you held my hand." There’s something suggestive in his tone that makes Kylo want to pull from KS-2153’s mind and drag Wylan from his bed, finish what he’d started. Then Wylan has the audacity to wink at his beloved. KS-2153 winces in pain and Kylo realizes his fury has caused him to hurt her again. He feels a flare of shame that he ignores as he keeps watching the memory.

 

Rey shakes her head and draws back from him. "I was just being nice."

 

"I could be nice to you. Much nicer than Kylo." Wylan positively leers at Rey and Kylo knows that one way or another, Wylan will answer for this.

 

He reaches for her hand and Kylo fiercely reminds himself that this is a memory. Whatever happens next has already happened. KS-2153 moans in agony as Kylo’s possessive jealousy continues to stab into her mind, but it's impossible for Kylo to stop now.

 

Rey leaps from her seat and backs away quickly. "Don't touch me! You shouldn't talk to me like that."

 

"You don't have to be afraid of him."

 

"I'm not afraid of him!"

 

"Really. I was there when he caught you. I remember how you ran."

 

"You don't know what you're talking about. We're leaving. Come on, Kes." Rey flounces to the door, about to leave.

 

Wylan looks at the stormtrooper by the door, clearly never having taken notice of her presence. "He makes you have a keeper?"

 

Rey turns back to Wylan, her eyes blazing. "She's my friend. She's with me because I want her here. Kylo lets her off her duties to spend the afternoons with me,” she says haughtily.

 

"He assigned you a friend?" Wylan asks with contempt.

 

"No, I just told you, he knows she's my friend so he made sure I could spend time with her! He was being thoughtful."

 

"Sure, because Kylo's such nice guy," he mocks.

 

"He's nice to me!" Rey’s hands are on her hips and Kylo is rather enjoying watching someone else run up against her temper.

 

"He just wants to bed you. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’d take much better care of you than Kylo." KS-2153’s face twists in pain and Kylo realizes he’s again made her suffer from his inability to keep his anger from bleeding into her mind. He should remove himself, but he must know how this ended.

 

"You're disgusting. Kylo was right about you," she says as she stomps out of the room.

 

KS-2153 hurries to keep up.

 

"Ugh! I never should have gone back!" Rey spits as they walk down the corridor.

 

"Are you alright?" the stormtrooper asks.

 

"No! I can't believe that man. He knows that I'm ... involved with Kylo, his boss, and, and, well, you saw." She flings her hands in the air. She’s gorgeous when she’s angry at someone other than him.

 

"But, I thought you aren't talking to the Supreme Leader?"

 

"Please, please call him Kylo. This whole thing is weird enough without having to be reminded he's the Supreme Leader."

 

"Okay. You aren't talking to ... him," KS-2153 says as they continue to rush down the corridor, Rey’s anger causing her to keep a brisk pace.

 

"That doesn't mean we aren't ... whatever the hell we are."

 

"And what is that?"

 

"I don't know! But I do know that if I told Kylo what Wylan just pulled he'd find himself Force pushed out of an airlock!" What a marvelous idea his beloved has had.

 

They reach Rey's quarters and Rey is still in a snit. She paces back and forth in her sitting room and KS-2153 removes her helmet.

 

“Maybe some tea would make you feel better?” KS-2153 offers cautiously.

 

“Tea is not going to fix this.”

 

“Why are you so upset?”

 

Rey stops her frantic pacing and sprawls in a chair. She clearly has not grown used to wearing dresses. "Kylo nearly destroyed the ship because I visited Wylan yesterday. “ Her eyes are haunted. He knew he had frightened her. She closes her eyes briefly and swallows. “I went back today because, well, I wanted to prove that I could, that he didn’t get to decide what I do. I completely ignored him when he told me what kind of person Wylan is because … well, honestly, it sounded like he was describing who I used to think Kylo was. His judgement isn’t the best sometimes. Most of the time. But I guess he was right about Wylan.”

 

“I’m sorry Rey, I still don’t understand.”

 

“I feel guilty.” She looks at her hands. “I guess … I guess I wanted to get back at Kylo for treating me the way that he has, trying to control me. I thought … I thought he was telling me who I could be friends with on top of everything else. But he was right. I mean, I know I didn’t do anything wrong by going to see Wylan, but now it just feels … petty.”

 

The women fall quiet while Rey looks at the floor.

 

KS-2153 takes a seat in the other chair. “Rey … may I ask you something?”

 

“I think I’ve told you everything I know about Finn.”

 

“No, it’s not about him. It’s about, uhm, him.”

 

“Kylo?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I may not answer, but yes, go ahead and ask.”

 

“Why aren’t you talking to him? These quarters, all those beautiful clothes, he spent months creating this for you. It’s all the ship would talk about, the Supreme Leader’s special project. He was meticulous, he oversaw everything himself. It had to be perfect. He had the best of absolutely everything brought in for you. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, exactly, but it was obvious that it was almost more important to him than even the First Order. But it seems like you don’t … care.”

 

Rey sighs and looks around her rooms. She reaches out and runs her hands along the fronds of a nearby fern. “I do care. I know he tried to imagine everything I could want. He ... he knows me better than I know myself and at the same time, knows nothing about me at all." Kylo wishes KS-2153 had asked what she meant, but she hadn't. Rey continues. "There’s so much more going on; things I can’t talk about. I’m not seeing him right now because of choices he’s made and that’s all I can really say.”

 

"But, he loves you ..."

 

Rey's head snaps up. "Why do you think that?"

 

"He would have to. I mean, wouldn't he? It's all so romantic,” she says dreamily. “It’s like a holofilm. He searched and searched for you! He rescued you from the Resistance! He put aside everything to find you. Some even say he killed Supreme Leader Snoke because he threatened you. Why would he do that if he didn't love you?" the confused stormtrooper asks.

 

Rey grimaces. "That's not really what happened. I didn't want to leave the Resistance, Kes." KS-2153 gasps.

 

"But they're terrorists!"

 

Rey looks to the ceiling before staring intently into KS-2153's eyes. "I didn't want to say anything before. I didn't want to get you in trouble. But ... can I trust you?"

 

"Of course you can!"

 

"I mean, you can't talk about what I tell you. Especially not to Kylo."

 

"I wouldn't! No one has ever treated me like you do. I would never betray your trust, Rey."

 

"Even to the Supreme Leader?"

 

"He wouldn't bother with me anyway. I'm just a stormtrooper."

 

Rey looks away. "You're more than just anything. I suppose he could take it from your mind, but I don't think he'd do that, not now." A sick, thick feeling coils in his belly. This is where he should end this. But she's talking about him, he has to know. For a moment he perceives KS-2153's pale green eyes, full of utter loathing, but he can't stop. He can't.

 

Rey sighs. "Besides, if I don't talk to someone about this I think I'm going to go mad."

 

"You can trust me," KS-2153 promises.

 

KS-2153 struggles mightily then, almost pushing him out, but she's no match for him and he slices back into her memory. She cries out in torment.

 

"Everything you've ever been told about the Resistance is a lie. I was with them when Kylo kidnapped me.” KS-2153’s eyes widen. “Yes, kidnapped me. He ... he wasn't rescuing me."

 

"I thought ... I thought you'd been with them so long that they'd confused you, that we were guarding you while he helped you, helped you remember."

 

"No. He wasn't helping me. I was his prisoner," Rey says softly.

 

"But you aren't now?"

 

"Not exactly. I know he'll never let me go, but if I don't try to leave, I think he'll let me pretend. I hope he will." Pretend? Pretend what?

 

"But if you're with the Resistance, the enemy ... why did he do this?"

 

"Because you weren't wrong before. I think ... I think he does love me in his own way. I didn't want to believe it at first, couldn't ... but he does. He certainly thinks he does.” Rey looks at her hands and takes in a shuddering breath. She returns her gaze to KS-2153. “As much as he's able to, he loves me."

 

She believes him? He wishes she hadn't qualified his feelings, but maybe she really is going to let him love her. He ignores the tears coursing down KS-2153's cheeks.

 

"And how do you feel about him?" the memory version of KS-2153 asks. He focuses intensely; this prize may almost be worth his deplorable behavior. She's said she cares for him, but whatever she revealed to her friend is bound to be her true feelings.

 

"I'm very angry with him. He stole me. But ... I also care about him, far more than I should. I've never felt anything close to how he makes me feel.” Rey reaches up and strokes the spot where his gift must rest. She’s wearing it. “The way he looks at me, it's like I'm everything to him. He's so intense; it's terrifying and wonderful at the same time. I didn't know I could feel so wanted … so precious. When he touches me …” Rey blushes and shakes her head.

 

“Go on,” KS-2153 prods.

 

Rey worries her bottom lip between her teeth then leans forward. “I … oh Kes, he’s overwhelming. I can't think when he kisses me. I never want him to stop, but then I remember how he mur-” Rey stops herself and looks down for a moment. “It's like he's two different people. I think maybe he really is. There's B-Kylo and then there's Ren. I know he's done horrible, monstrous things ... But I can't hold on to that when I'm with him. It all falls away and there's just his eyes …”

 

Rey looks at her lap, gathering her thoughts, before catching KS-2153’s gaze. “I think ... I think if things were different ... I think … I think I could love him," Rey whispers.

 

His heart stutters. Could she? Could she really? He'd never let himself hope.

 

KS-2153 nods.

 

“I don't know what to do!" Rey exclaims, then chokes out a laugh with no mirth.

 

"I don’t understand.”

 

Rey’s hands flail. "That's what he always says, I don’t know what to do. Then he does something stupid."

 

"The S-he has to do difficult things. We all do. But it will be over soon. You should be proud of him for being willing to do what needs to be done," the soldier says with a touch of disapproval.

 

Rey looks away. "I ... I don't really see it that way. I know that awful things have to be done in war. But ... there's more going on than I can share that with you. It's not my story to tell. It makes this all so much more complicated. I don't even know if what I'm feeling is real, anyway."

 

She still doubts this is real? This isn’t compulsion, he knows everything between them is true.

 

"Why not?" KS-2153 tilts her head in puzzlement.

 

"It's to do with the Force. If it wasn't involved … But I guess it doesn’t really matter, I would still have to choose between my heart and everything I believe about myself," Rey says with resignation.

 

 “But to have his attention like that … He’s the Supreme Leader!” she says, as if that clears up any conflict that Rey is feeling.

 

“That’s the problem. I don't agree with him on … well, anything.”

 

"The Supreme Leader is wise." There's something in the trooper's tone that snakes along Kylo’s spine.

 

"No … no ... The First Order isn't what you think. The Resistance, they aren't terrorists. They're led by the nicest, kindest woman I've ever met. They want to free the galaxy. They would never snatch children from their families and force them to kill for them. Not like the First Order did with you, Finn, and thousands of others."

 

"No! They saved us! We all would have starved without the First Order! They are mother and father."

 

"Kes, think about it. Do you really think there are that many babies with no parents? No ... they took you. They stole you, just like Kylo stole me," Rey says firmly.

 

"No, they are mother and father!" the bewildered stormtrooper repeats.

 

"I saw the files myself. The Resistance has been gathering what they can so that when this is all over they can find your families. Finn already found where he's from. He knows his father's name and that he was born on a farm. The First Order descended and stole all the children under five. He was two. Somewhere on one of these Star Destroyers he has a brother."

 

KS-2153's eyes are huge and her hands are trembling. She starts shaking her head. “No. They are mother and father,” she says desperately.

 

Rey looks at her friend for a long time. “Alright, Kes, alright.”

 

KS-2153 nods and they sit in silence, both lost girls in women's bodies, trying to understand themselves.

 

Eventually Rey takes in a deep breath and jumps up. Her smile is forced, but she says brightly, “Come on, let’s go see if we can figure out how to use all those colored creams and powders. Lei- uhm, a good friend used to wear that stuff and I’m sure we can find some pictures to help us. Plus, we still haven’t tried on all the dresses.”

 

They go into Rey’s bedroom and Kylo realizes they won’t be speaking of him any longer. He removes himself from KS-2153’s consciousness.

 

She blinks at him and then her face crumples and she starts to weep. Kylo looks at the crying stormtroooper … the crying woman, and he tries to push away the guilt but he can’t. What has he done? He should feel elated with this new knowledge, that Rey thinks she could love him, but it was bought at such cost.

 

This is Rey’s friend and he’s hurt her. Worse than that, he forced her to break Rey's trust. He’d broken her trust in both of them. She'd said she didn't think he'd invade the stormtrooper’s mind. But he did. And for what? Rey hadn’t done anything wrong; she’d rebuffed Wylan’s advances. He should have trusted her. She’d told him she wouldn’t seek another man―she’d told him. But he hadn’t listened. Again. She'd begged him to control himself and how has he behaved? He'd proven her doubt right. He's no better than Leia Organa. His word means nothing.

 

KS-2153, Kes, is shaking. He never should have done this. He’d told Rey he would control himself but instead he’d lost all perspective. He watches the broken woman before him and he’s disgusted with himself.

 

“Kes,” he says gently.

 

She looks at him with terrified eyes and holds her hands up, preparing to defend herself from whatever attack may be coming.

 

“No, you don’t need to be afraid of me. I won’t take your memories, not again.”

 

"She trusted me. You made me betray her!"

 

"I did."

 

Kes looks up at him. "I didn't believe her, but it's true, isn’t it?"

 

"About the stormtroopers, yes."

 

She sniffs and wipes her face. He sees the moment she remembers who she is, who he is and she leaps to stand at attention. “My apologies, Supreme Leader!” Her eyes are huge with fear.

 

“You have no reason to apologize.” He knows it is he who should apologize, but he can’t bring himself to debase himself in such a way. He shakes himself internally. "I'm going to put you to sleep now, change your memory, fix your mind ... undo the damage I did."

 

"This isn't the first time I've betrayed her, is it?" she asks with resignation.

 

"No," he says regretfully. "But it will be the last." He waves his hand across Kes's face and lowers her unconscious form into a chair. He will change Kes’s memory and he won’t do this again. He will trust Rey. He should have always trusted Rey.

 

---

 

Kylo is in his ‘fresher, staring at himself in the mirror. He traces Rey’s scar, remembering how she’d marked him. He’s hers. And he’s betrayed her. She’d said that he would find a way to get what he wanted and she was right. She won’t ever know, but he didn’t even manage a day before he’d lost control of himself. Technically he’d not gone back on his word―he’d said he wouldn’t spy. No, what he did was worse. Rey cares about Kes. He can’t think of her as KS-2153 any longer. She matters to Rey, and in his unhinged state he’d not even considered that.

 

Looking at his reflection, he thinks of all the things Rey has called him over the months. Despicable. Torturer. Rotten. Monster.

 

Suddenly he can’t bear the sight of his own face and he turns away. He goes to his bedroom and slips beneath the covers. Trying to push away the suffocating guilt, he stares at the ceiling.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispers to the empty room.

Chapter Text

Kylo sits in his newly refurbished office. Everything is exactly as it was. Hux has always been a perfectionist. Jashad and Palek Ren are on their way to Dashrah. The guilt is still at the edge of his mind, but he tells himself he's been able to push it away. He dearly wishes to visit Wylan and explain that if he so much as looks at Rey he’s a dead man, but he is trapped in a cage of his own making. He should not have the knowledge that he does, so he cannot act.

 

The shame has had an odd benefit. It had been much easier to stay away from her door this morning. He doesn’t deserve to see her, not after what he did.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Hux says as he strides into his office.

 

“Yes, General Hux?”

 

The general blinks at the use of his title. “We have word on the traitor FN-2187 and the Resistance pilot Poe Dameron.”

 

“And?” He hopes it’s good news. He wants desperately to atone for his actions, and being able to reassure Rey that her friends are alright would be a meager start.

 

“They both survived the attack on Ilaria, and given the rather one-sided nature of the last conflict, it is safe to assume that they’re in good health.”

 

“Excellent news, thank you.”

 

Hux sputters, “It’s excellent news that two leading Resistance members are alive?”

 

Kylo is slipping and he just doesn’t feel like coming up with a reasonable excuse. “They are Rey’s friends,” he says simply.

 

“I see,” Hux says coldly.

 

“Not today, Hux. It will make her happy. Is that really so awful? They’re just two men; they won’t change things for us either way.”

 

“You will do quite a bit to make her happy.” Hux arches a single brow.

 

Kylo sits back and regards the general. “Yes, I will. Is that a problem?”

 

“I don’t know sir, you tell me. You are the one Force Bonded to the enemy.”

 

It was far too much to hope that Hux wouldn’t have researched on his own after hearing Rey say that she had attempted to communicate with him through their Bond. And, of course, Kylo himself had ensured that all information he could gather was available in the archives so that Rey would have access.

 

“It won't be a problem,” Kylo grinds out.

 

“On Ilaria, when you let the Resistance go, you didn’t do it to make her amenable to sharing the location of Skywalker. You did it to make her happy, didn't you?”

 

Kylo's jaw clenches. “Yes.”

 

“And then they attacked us less than two weeks later, destroyed two of our strongest ships. Was that a problem?” The general’s eyes are steely.

 

“I did not anticipate that result.”

 

“Perhaps you should have.”

 

“As I did not, the point is moot. Was there anything else, General?” he asks testily.

 

“Not at this time. Sir.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

---

 

Your friends are alive.

 

He stares at the words and thinks of all he wants to say. He'd typed out, ‘I'm sorry,’ dozens of times before deleting them all. She would not know for what he'd be apologizing. He just wants this oppressive, twisting, consuming shame to go away.

 

He tries again.

 

Finn and Poe Dameron were unharmed on Ilaria. It is my wish that this news brings you comfort. I know that you asked I not abuse the privilege of sending you a message. I hope that I've not done so. If I've overstepped, please tell me, and I'll reserve any further communication to news of your family or in the event of an emergency.

 

He sends the message and lets out a slow breath. I'm sorry, Rey. I'm so sorry.

 

---

 

Kylo can't stop seeing the look of absolute betrayal on Kes’s face, watching her loyalty die. She no longer remembers his confirmation of the origins of the stormtroopers, but he'd not touched her memory of Rey revealing the truth. It is only a matter of time before Kes comes to believe Rey.

 

He thinks of how Kes had urged Rey to accept his attentions, how she'd found it all so romantic, and he’s revolted anew with himself. The naive stormtrooper had been an ally of sorts, and he'd repaid her with pain and invasion.

 

He's not been able to think much on what he'd learned, given how he had come by the knowledge. He's twisted something beautiful. Rey had said she could love him. Love him. He'd never really allowed himself to think in such terms. And now … now he knows he could never deserve such a precious gift.

 

Yesterday he'd been terrified of hurting Rey the next time he lost himself. He'd imagined her broken body, not this. He thought Rey could trust him. He’d been so careful to never lie to her and now he has, in spirit if not in fact. He knows he's never told her something that was untrue, but now he is hiding something from her. If Rey ever found out how he’d ripped into Kes’s mind, ignoring her anguished whimpers and valiant struggle, she'd never speak to him again. And she'd be right not to.

 

He's not sure how he’ll ever look her in the eyes again.

 

---

 

“Kylo!” bursts into his consciousness, immediately commanding his focus.

 

“Rey! What's wrong? Are you hurt?” He sits forward quickly in his chair, panic racing through his limbs.

 

“What? No. It's Kes! They’re threatening to take her to something called ‘reconditioning’. You have to stop them!” Rey begs into the Bond.

 

“Who? Who's saying that?” He won't let Kes be harmed, not after what he's done.

 

“A stormtrooper, FL-4359. He seems to be in charge.”

 

“Where are you?” he asks, already on his feet.

 

“C deck, near the mess hall. Kes was showing me the ship.”

 

“I'm on my way.”

 

“Please hurry. They've already taken Kes into custody! She's so scared.” Rey’s plaintive tone catches in his chest.

 

“I'm coming, sweetheart. Don't worry, everything will be alright.”

 

He tears from his office. “Hux!”

 

“Supreme Leader?” The general takes an involuntary step back as Kylo rushes towards him.

 

“There's a situation on C deck. Something to do with Ke- KS-2153 and FL-4359. Contact FL-4359 and tell him to stand down and that I will be there shortly. Under no circumstances is KS-2153 to be sent to reconditioning.”

 

“Sir, that's really Captain Phasma’s are-”

 

“Just do it!” Kylo yells through his mask as he leaves the bridge.

 

---

 

He rounds the corner on C deck to find a clutch of stormtroopers surrounding his beloved and a trembling Kes. Rey is resplendent in a long red gown that under any other circumstance would have all of his attention, and Kes is out of her armor, wearing a pale yellow dress that doesn’t fit quite right. The ensemble is vaguely familiar. It must be Rey's. He'd ordered so many that they'd all run together.

 

“Let her go!” Rey shouts furiously.

 

“Ma’am, we are following protocol.”

 

“I don’t care! She didn’t do anything; she’s just wearing a dress, for Maker’s sake. Take those things off of her right now!”

 

She moves to pull the binders from Kes’s wrists but two stormtroopers push her back and she stumbles. Kylo growls a feral sound and swiftly reaches out with the Force. Both soldiers are lifted from their feet and slammed into the bulkhead. They dared touch Rey? Oh, there will be some serious reconditioning in their future.

 

Rey turns quickly and sees him. Her enraged expression shifts to profound relief. “Kylo!”

 

The remaining troopers stand at attention, ignoring their two comrades lolling on the floor. He strides forward and Rey rushes to meet him.

 

“You have to stop them! It's not her fault!” Rey exclaims as she grabs his hands. He can't quite think straight. Rey is touching him. He shouldn't let her; he's betrayed her utterly. She's glad he's here. He’d like to choke the life out of the stormtroopers that had laid hands on his Rey, and he can't help but notice how Kes is shrinking from him. It's a mad circus of contradiction. He blinks quickly behind his helmet, reining in his fury and jumbled feelings.

 

He turns to the motley group and suppresses the pang he feels as he gently untangles his hands from Rey’s. She curls her fingers around his arm, standing next to him. She feels so right by his side. She’d been in trouble and she’d reached out to him, knowing he would protect her and her friend. Just a day ago he would have felt such joy to have her so openly claim him, but he fears he’s ruined everything with his selfish cruelty.

 

“FL-4359!” he barks.

 

“Supreme Leader, sir!” the tallest of the stormtroopers responds. Kylo is still taller and he looks down on his white-armor-clad foe.

 

“What, precisely, is the meaning of this?”

 

“KS-2153 has violated sections 43 and 89, and is being sent for reconditioning as per regulation Rho, sir!” the gleaming trooper informs him.

 

Rey tugs at him and he turns to her, ignoring FL-4359.

 

“I didn't know! I pushed Kes not to wear her armor or helmet. She told me, but I said it would be alright. I didn't know. Please, Kylo, please! I didn't know!” Rey says frantically.

 

He knows he's in front of the stormtroopers, but he just doesn't care. Rey is relying on him, asking him for his help, and for once he will be able to give her exactly what she wants.

 

“Shhh, it's alright. Nothing will happen to Kes,” he reassures her as he cups her anguished face with his gloved hand. The tension in Rey’s body lessens immediately and she pushes slightly into his palm. He strokes her cheek with his thumb before dropping his hand and returning his gaze to FL-4359.

 

“Release KS-2153,” Kylo orders. The stormtroopers holding Kes hurry to obey. Her pale green eyes are wary and she rubs her wrists. Then she looks directly at Kylo and visibly flinches. Damn. There must be an emotional echo. Changing memories is a tricky business and he'd clearly underestimated the impact on her subconscious. He remembers the horror in her eyes as she’d accused him. ‘She trusted me. You made me betray her!’ His stomach rolls with nausea.

 

“FL-4359, she will not be sent to reconditioning and has my explicit permission to appear out of uniform.”

 

Rey places her other hand on his arm and she opens the Bond ever so slightly. A delicious wave of her light caresses him with affection and gratitude. He wants to revel in it, but instead he must ensure she not sense how very unworthy of her kindness he has made himself.

 

The stormtrooper is silent for a beat too long. “Yes, sir. As you say, sir.” Kylo tilts his head at the mild impertinence in FL-4359’s tone but decides not to address it.

 

Quite a crowd has gathered and he frowns.

 

“You are all dismissed,” he says shortly to the onlookers. The two fallen stormtroopers are pulled to their feet and Kylo notes their designations. He will deal with them later. Reluctantly, the collection of officers and stormtroopers disperses.

 

Soon, only himself, Rey, and Kes remain.

 

Rey goes up to her friend and says something quietly. Kes’s eyes dart to him with distrust, but she removes herself to the end of the hall. Kylo will need to address his imperfect handling of Kes’s memory, or she will likely always fear him without knowing why. He doesn’t want Rey’s friend to feel that way about him.

 

Rey comes to stand in front of him. “Could you maybe take off your mask?”

 

“Right, of course. I'm sorry. I know how you hate it,” he says as he swiftly removes his helmet and holds it in the crook of his elbow. He should have thought of that on his own.

 

She looks at his mask and then she takes it from him, placing it on the floor.

 

“Rey, wha-” And then she's wrapping her arms around his waist and he instinctively captures her in his embrace. He’s breathing shallowly and finding it difficult to think. His beloved is in his arms. He doesn't deserve to touch her, but he still holds her as closely as he can. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

 

“Thank you for coming so quickly,” she says into his chest.

 

“I will always come for you.” She feels so good―so good. He can’t believe he’d allowed himself to threaten this.

 

She pulls back just enough to look up at him. Her beautiful hazel eyes pull him in. “Kes has been sad today, so I thought it might cheer her up to dress up and leave the rooms. I convinced her it would be okay. I should have known better after everything Finn told me. I didn't think anyone would care since she's off duty when she's with me.”

 

He could let this pass unaddressed but he’s loath to hide anything else from her now. “It doesn’t matter if she is or is not on duty, stormtroopers are not to be outside of the barracks without their armor and helmets. And …” He knows she'll hate this. “Technically she is on duty, she's assigned to spend the afternoons with you.”

 

“You assigned me a friend?” The reminder of her conversation with Wylan stings. He shouldn’t have this forbidden knowledge.

 

He shakes his head firmly. “I never, never meant it like that. You said you needed people to talk to. I was trying to give you what you asked for. I’ll change her orders, put her on a reduced schedule. Then it will be up to Kes if she wishes to spend that time with you. I truly had not considered it before now, though I see that I should have.”

 

She catches her lower lip between her teeth. “Oh. Alright then.” Rey shifts, now running her hands up his torso then threading her arms around his neck. He places his hands on her slim waist. She holds his eyes with hers then he sees a shadow cross her face.

 

She looks away furtively. “I … there's something I should tell you.”

 

“What is it?” Though he has a fairly good idea already.

 

“I went to see Wylan again yesterday,” she says guiltily, not looking at him.

 

Kylo doesn't know what to say. This is his opening; this is where he should tell her what he's done. Then her eyes lift and he looks into her nervous face and he can't. She’ll never let him back in if he tells her. He just keeps staring into her delicate face, trying to push away the roiling shame. She blinks up at him and her expression grows concerned.

 

“Kylo? Did you hear me?” she prods.

 

“Yes, I heard you,” he says tonelessly.

 

“Are you … mad?”

 

Oh, he had been. He’d been so furious and hurt that he’d crossed a line he didn’t even know he could, but he’s certainly not feeling that way now. “No, I’m not angry.” No, now he’s almost choking on his guilt.

 

“You don’t mind?” Her brows draw together.

 

His mind is racing―he has no idea how to navigate this conversation. For the first time since he met her, he wants to run from her.

 

“Is there a reason I should?” he says, pushing the focus back on her.

 

“No! You were right. He’s horrible.” She shivers in revulsion and her arms tighten around his neck, pulling him closer to her.

 

He knows it would be very strange for him not to ask more, but he feels like the worst sort of villain, pretending he doesn’t already know everything that had happened.

 

“Did he treat you badly?” He hopes his tone does not reveal his duplicity.

 

“He was very rude. I won’t be visiting him again,” she says with extreme distaste.

 

“It is your choice,” he offers evenly.

 

Rey’s eyes widen in shock. “Really?”

 

“I trust you,” he says openly. If only he had trusted her yesterday. Maker, he’s disgusting.

 

“Oh. But, the day before yesterday, you were so angry. You thought I would … you thought I would try to, you know, with another man.” Her eyes dart away uncomfortably. For the first time he perceives how it must have felt for him to think that of her. How could he have believed that? Rey doesn’t have it in her to be so faithless.

 

“I’ve had time to reflect.” And treat her and her friend oh so badly. How is he going to come back from what he’s done? “I know you wouldn’t do that. It was unfair of me to think that you would. As I said, I trust you.”

 

She looks up at him, then her eyes flit away. Eventually, she again catches his gaze, and he finds a cautious warmth in her eyes. “Between that, rescuing Kes, and giving me all of yesterday to think, maybe I should reward you and invite you to dinner soon,” she says shyly.

 

Force that hurts. He doesn’t manage to keep it from his face because her expression shifts immediately. “Unless you don’t want me to,” she says dejectedly.

 

“No! I mean, yes, yes I want you to. Of course I want to spend time with you. I just …” He just doesn’t deserve to be rewarded. He takes in a deep breath. He must reassure her, she’s radiating insecurity. “I do not need to be rewarded for coming to your aid and we both know that I have not handled myself well these past few days. You owe me nothing. Wait until you are truly ready to see me.” Perhaps by then he will have managed to come to terms with his beastly behavior.

 

While he’s been speaking her lips have parted in wonder. She pulls a hand from his neck and lightly presses the tips of her fingers against his cheek. Her eyes grow impossibly soft and warm. She’s never looked at him like this before. He hears her voice whisper in his memory: I think I could love him. Stars, he hates himself.

 

She holds his gaze intensely as she goes on her toes. Then she kisses his cheek, pressing her hand against his face so that she’s holding him fast against her lips. There’s such tenderness in her kiss, it reaches deep inside and he shudders. He’s never felt so cherished and he tries to push away what he’s done so that he may drown in this feeling.

 

For a fleeting moment, he manages to clutch her to him and simply feel her light and genuine affection before the guilt and regret again overtakes him. Her perfect lips linger against his cheek then she pulls back, threading her hand through his hair. He wants to let himself get lost in her touch, but he warrants none of this attention. She looks into his eyes while stroking her fingers along his scalp. “Thank you, Kylo.”

 

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry ...

 

Then she’s stepping back and walking towards Kes. When she reaches her friend she turns to look over her shoulder. She catches his eyes and she smiles the sweetest smile he’s ever seen. He watches as they disappear around the corner then he sags against the wall, his head hanging in defeat. He is wretched.

 

---

 

He haunts his office like a ghost. He constantly checks to see if she’s responded to his message about her friends. She must have received it by now; she’d left him in the hallway hours ago. Perhaps she is waiting for Kes to leave. He winces at the thought of Kes.

 

He has the most peculiar urge to take a TIE and just fly. He wonders if this was why Han Solo would run after particularly vicious fights with his m- with Leia Organa. Could he not look at himself in the mirror, either?

 

Maker, he’s losing his mind! Thinking about the Scoundrel and the Princess? He needs … he needs … he needs Rey. He needs to talk to her―with her. He needs her light. He needs her forgiveness.

 

He checks again and finds that she’s written back. He hesitates, his need for more of her, any little bit she’ll give, at war with his overwhelming remorse. Finally, he opens it.

 

Thank you for telling me about Finn and Poe. You may send me messages.

 

He has no idea how to respond. Does this mean that she wants him to communicate with her? Will she feel ignored if he doesn't, pressured if he does? He can’t face it just yet so he reads it again and closes her missive.

 

He’s not accustomed to facing his actions. He makes his choices, does what is necessary, then moves on, never looking back. Trying so hard to never look back.

 

But this … this had not been necessary. It was his madness embodied and he knows he has to do something. He doesn’t trust himself to make the right choice about anything right now. But … maybe he could trust Vitok.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader!” Vitok says in surprise as she answers her door. She waves him inside as she hastily moves to pick up her helmet.

 

“No, don’t bother,” he says as he removes his own mask.

 

Vitok tilts her head and studies him. He feels small under her scrutiny, as if she can tell what he’s done just by looking at him.

 

“Come, let’s sit down.” She smiles at him kindly and it just makes him feel worse.

 

As they walk to her seating area she grabs two glasses and a bottle of something wicked and brown. Vitok’s quarters are compact, but she still has a couch and two chairs. There is a partition, walling off her bed from the rest of the room.

 

She gestures for him to sit and he folds his long frame into the offered chair. She sits opposite him and pours two healthy glasses of the spirit. Vitok hands him his glass and clinks it with her own.

 

“What are we drinking to?” Vitok asks.

 

“Regret,” he says dully.

 

Vitok raises her brows. “Ah … perhaps hard-won wisdom, instead?”

 

Kylo snorts, but he nods as he knocks back his drink. Oh, that’s strong. Good.

 

Vitok refills their glasses. “Tell me.”

 

Kylo catches her warm brown eyes for a moment before looking down at his drink. “I did something spectacularly stupid.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

He shakes his head. “No … not like I usually do … This time I did something unforgivable.”

 

Vitok sits up and her eyes grow concerned. She nods for him to continue.

 

He takes a swallow of the sharp alcohol. “Rey has a friend, a stormtrooper.”

 

“The one that was with her during the, ah … incident?”

 

“Yes. KS-2153, but Rey calls her Kes.” The corner of his mouth lifts ever so slightly. He actually finds it quite charming that Rey wanted Kes to have a name.

 

Vitok smiles. “I do like that girl.”

 

“You barely know her.”

 

“Well, she has you chasing your tail, so it’s hard not to like her on principle,” Vitok says, raising her glass as if to toast the absent woman. He thinks perhaps she is here, after a fashion. She’s always with him.

 

“Well, anyway. Yesterday … I found out that Rey had visited Wylan again.”

 

“Is it safe to assume that her first visit triggered your unscheduled test of hull integrity?”

 

Kylo cringes at the reminder of his nearly catastrophic overreaction. “Yes.”

 

“And how did you handle it the second time?”

 

“Poorly.”

 

“I think I had gathered that. But what does this Kes have to do with Rey visiting Wylan?”

 

“I … Force, Vitok … I’m so ashamed.” He places his drink on the low table between them and puts his face in his hands, his elbows on his knees.

 

Vitok waits patiently, occasionally taking sips of her drink.

 

“When I took Rey back to her quarters that day, she asked why I became so upset, why I … endangered the ship. I had to tell her that it was because I couldn’t handle seeing her with Wylan.”

 

“Wait. You saw her? I thought you were on the bridge.”

 

He sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. “I had her under surveillance; I was watching her through the security feed.”

 

“Supreme Leader!” Vitok gasps.

 

“Kylo. Maker, Vitok, right now, call me Kylo.”

 

“Kylo, then. You were spying on her? After you had already violated her privacy by keeping her things?” Vitok scolds.

 

“I know,” he says miserably. “But I did tell her. And she said … she said she wouldn’t ask me to stop because I would just find another way to get whatever I want.”

 

Vitok looks at him pointedly but doesn’t say anything.

 

“Anyway, I promised that I wouldn’t spy any longer and I haven’t.”

 

“Alright. But you did something else.”

 

“Yes.” He takes in a deep breath. “Yesterday Jashad and Palek told me that they’d seen Rey visiting Wylan for a second time. I … I tried to control myself, I really did. But I had to know.” He runs both his hands through his hair.

 

“I did everything I could think of―I trained, meditated, other coping mechanisms, but nothing worked. I would close my eyes and see them touching, his hands all over her, her hands on hi-”

 

“Why would you think that? She doesn't even know him. When you lost control of yourself the other day she came running. I was there by the time she arrived. She was beside herself with worry. Rey was terrified that something had happened to you. You were out for quite a while, so we talked. Don’t worry; she didn’t betray any of your confidences.” Of course she didn’t. He’s the one who betrays, not his precious Rey. “She cares about you. She's given you no reason to doubt her like that. I told you, you must trust her.”

 

Kylo closes his eyes and grimaces in pain.

 

“What? What is it?”

 

When he again glances at his old confidante he finds her eyes deep with worry. “I trust her. I do. I’m the one who can’t be trusted.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Last night … well early this morning, I went to the stormtrooper barracks and had Kes presented to me.”

 

“You didn’t go behind her back and question her friend, did you?”

 

“No … it was worse. So much worse,” he says, keeping his gaze to the ceiling.

 

“You didn’t. Kylo, tell me you didn’t!”

 

“I … yes. I made her show me.”

 

“And as soon as you confirmed that nothing happened between them, you stopped, right? Right?”

 

“No. No … They were talking about me, she was telling Kes how she feels about me! I had to know! She never tells me how she's feeling.  I didn't think I'd ever get another chance to know!”

 

Vitok sits forward and her eyes flash. “That's up to her! They're her feelings! She isn't one of your knights. We signed up for this, she didn't.”

 

“But she never tells me anything. Well … she hasn't until very recently.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“That afternoon she told me she cares for me.”

 

“But that wasn't enough. She told you she cares for you a day after she found her things and you still weren't satisfied?”

 

“I … I didn't think of it like that.”

 

Vitok looks at him sharply. “I'm extraordinarily disappointed in you.”

 

“Well I'm extraordinarily disappointed in myself!” he exclaims. He still can’t quite believe he’d treated Rey’s friend with such carelessness, lost in his own frenzied need to know.

 

Vitok sighs. “And what were your ill-gotten gains?”

 

“She said … she said she thought she could love me.” He clenches his eyes shut. He’d taken such treasured knowledge, a sacred hope he’d never been able to truly imagine. He has no right to knowing this and he’s ensured that he could never be worthy of it.

 

Vitok is silent so Kylo chances a look at her face. He’s surprised to find pity.

 

“Was it worth it?” she asks with pursed lips.

 

“No, Maker, no! I’d give anything to take it back. The way Kes looked at me when she realized it wasn’t the first time I’d done it …”

 

“What? You did this twice?” Vitok exhales and shakes her head in disapproval.

 

“I … the first day she wouldn’t see me.” His voice is thick with regret.

 

“You did this after we talked about showing her you'd give her time? Prove she had some control in this impossible situation?” Her eyes are wide with reproach.

 

“Yes,” he whispers.

 

Vitok stands and walks to her viewscreen. She’s silent and her hands are at her hips. She turns to him and opens her mouth as if to speak, then her jaw snaps shut and she looks back at the stars. Finally she takes a deep breath and comes to sit back down. She picks up her drink and pounds it, then refills her glass. She looks at Kylo's near-empty glass and tops his off as well.

 

She looks at him for a long time before asking, “Why did you come to me tonight?”

 

“I obviously can't trust my own judgement. I had hoped you would know what I should do. I can't believe that I did that to her. I don't know how to control myself when it comes to Rey.”

 

“Why?” Her eyes pierce him and he’s confused.

 

“Why? I don't understand.”

 

“What is it about Rey that makes you behave like this?” she asks patiently.

 

“I … I don't know. I get so afraid, desperate. At first it was just because I needed her so badly, but then … then I realized I love her and … I can't think clearly. I lose all perspective; imagine things that would never happen. I know Rey wouldn't throw herself at Wylan, I know it. I just want to give her everything but she pushes me away so I try something else. But then that doesn't work. I’m so close to having everything I've ever wanted and it feels like I've ruined it. I always ruin it,” he says despairingly. He’s always failed, for as long as he can remember. Unbidden, another set of disappointed brown eyes streak through his memory.

 

Vitok nods to herself. “You're afraid she's going to break your heart so you keep trying to control things that you can't.”

 

Kylo scoffs. “I've lost track of the number of times she's broken my heart.”

 

Vitok looks at him sadly. “Have you considered letting her go?”

 

He sits forward quickly. “No! No, never. I won't. I can't.”

 

“But wouldn't you rather find someone who doesn't inspire this irrational behavior? Who you wouldn't have to chase?”

 

He shakes his head firmly. “There is no one for me but Rey.”

 

“It's a pretty big galaxy.”

 

“Not for me. Regardless, we are Bound. I'm hers. She's mine. It's the will of the Force.”

 

She tilts her head and eventually nods. “Well then. I guess we have to work from here.”

 

“What do I do? Tell me how to be free of this awful shame. I can't function!”

 

Vitok sighs heavily. “The simple answer is you just deal with it. You did something egregious, you know you did, you feel guilty for it, as you should. You could tell her―perhaps she would forgive you.”

 

Fear courses through him at the idea of telling Rey what he’s done. He can almost feel her heart close to him forever. “How could she possibly? I ripped into Kes's mind because I didn't trust her after I promised her I wouldn't spy, after she found my treasures, after I … found her. It's just a giant tower of me failing her, hurting her …” He breathes out slowly then hesitantly catches Vitok’s eyes. “I haven't even told you everything.”

 

“There's more?” Vitok’s expression sharpens and her lips thin.

 

“Kes … I made her betray Rey's trust. Rey doesn't trust easily. I don't think she would have talked to her if Kes wasn't her only friend here. But she's been through so much in such a short amount of time. Her mother … my behavior. She asked Kes if she could trust her and not twelve hours later I was pawing through her memories, forcing her to break those confidences. I was so upset, I hurt Kes. I had to spend nearly an hour repairing her mind. I was … I was brutal. So not only did I go back on my word, prove Rey right, I also hurt her friend. I made Kes betray her.” The words tumble out quickly, he doesn’t know how else to admit to how he’d traumatized the loyal stormtrooper.

 

The silence stretches as Vitok says nothing. She looks at her drink and Kylo knows he’s lost some of Vitok’s respect. He’s kept everyone at arms length for such a long time, it shouldn’t matter to him what Vitok thinks of him. But it does.

 

Finally, she says quietly, “I think who you truly wronged is Kes. Yes, you should have trusted Rey, you did break your promise, but it's Kes you hurt.”

 

He'd never thought of it that way. “How do I fix this?”

 

“You can't. All you can do is never do it again.”

 

“But … How do I get rid of these consuming feelings?”

 

“You don't. You have to live with them.”

 

“I …”

 

“Look, you really screwed up. You refuse to tell Rey. So you live with it and you do better.”

 

He does not like this solution. “I just … I just want to make it up to her.”

 

“Then learn how to calm down and be patient.”

 

“How?”

 

“Accept you can't control her and, for Maker’s sake, leave her the hell alone!”

 

---

 

Kylo is back in his quarters, reading her message again.

 

Thank you for telling me about Finn and Poe. You may send me messages.

 

He doesn’t want to leave it unanswered. He’s desperate to talk to her. But he still has no idea what to say.

 

Talking with Vitok had helped, even if he doesn't really have any better sense of what he should do. Confessing what he did made it all feel less oppressive. Someday he'll admit his actions to Rey. He doesn't want it between them forever. But for now he will focus on the First Order and know that giving her space is how he can quietly atone for what he did.

 

He thinks about the unexpected gift of her touch today. He knows he deserves none of what he'd received. She thinks he's been being honorable, respecting her wishes. She'd wanted to reward him. He frowns as he remembers her telling him he'd earned her allowing him to escort her to her quarters after the stormy night in Ilaria.

 

In fact, she often touches him after he's done something she wants. She'd touched his face when he'd offered to take her to Vren, kissed his cheek when he'd removed his helmet, held his hands after he'd agreed to remove the guards from her door … He's not sure what it means, but it unsettles him.

 

He despises the guilt seeing her has stoked. Time with Rey should be pure, but he's tainted it. She was supposed to fix it. Being with her was meant to quiet the endless whispering torment that bites and tears at the edges of his soul. But today, he'd only been able to find a fleeting moment of her bliss.

 

He supposes that at least she had told him about her second visit to Wylan, and that the knight had behaved badly. Now he is allowed to know. He could go to medical and have a little conversation with the contemptible man, but he's certain he would at the very least hurt him. If Wylan taunted him about Rey, he'd likely kill him. No, he needs to pretend that Wylan is systems away. Though Rey now strongly dislikes him, Kylo knows she would not wish him to handle Wylan as he dearly wants to.


She'd been glorious in her fury, certain that Kylo would defend her if he knew of Wylan’s behavior. She'd grown quite offended at the way Wylan spoke of him. She'd talked as if he mattered to her. He wishes, fiercely, that he had been patient, waited for her to speak of her feelings.

 

He sighs and remembers how lovely Rey had looked in that stunning red dress. Perhaps, when she agrees to start seeing him again, he might ask her to wear it for him?

 

Finally, he types out his message.


You're welcome. You looked beautiful today.

Chapter Text

Rey has been on the Finalizer for just over two weeks. It's been five days since he last saw her and, while he hasn't precisely grown accustomed to the ache in his chest or the pull in his limbs, he's managed to keep from doing anything too egregious. He avoids thinking of Wylan; he knows he would not be able to keep from beating the man bloody. This is too personal for the Force. The next time that excuse for a man steps one toe out of line, Kylo will use his fists. And he will enjoy it.

 

He’s been training every morning with Vitok and that has helped more than he thought it would. The first day he hadn’t said much, opting to deflect her gently probing questions. But by the fourth morning she’d coaxed him into opening up about Rey and, before he’d realized it, an hour had passed. Just being able to talk about her had eased the pain of missing her. He’d found himself smiling a few times when he told Vitok of Rey’s love of sweets and his hopes for their future.

 

He’s not been able to stop seeing Kes’s anguished green eyes, though. He won’t risk losing Rey by admitting what he did, but he finds himself wanting to do something for the stormtrooper. It puzzles and unsettles him, so he tries not to think on it.

 

Rey hasn’t invited him to see her, as she’d suggested she might. Clearly she has accepted his desire that she wait until she is truly ready to see him. The hope that she would invite him back in had taunted him, even as he’d known he wasn’t ready to handle lying to her face. Because that is the place he has found himself. His need to hide his actions has created a situation in which he will lie to her.

 

He never thought, for even one moment, that he would lie to Rey. So much of what he believes about himself has been falling away. He’s shocked by the lengths he will go to keep her, to have her, even as he pushes away the knowledge that he’s standing on shifting sands.

 

She writes him a short note every day, now. It is, without a doubt, the most important few minutes of his day. Rey writes him each morning and he savors it as he goes about his business, only allowing himself to respond in the evening. In that way, he feels that he is almost wishing her goodnight. This morning’s message had been a bit longer, and he’d re-read the last line so many times he’d lost count.

 

I’ve been studying the holocrons. I haven’t opened them all yet, I’m trying to absorb each one before moving on to the next. Kes has been helping me train. She doesn’t know anything about lightsaber forms of course, but she has been learning with me so that I have someone to spar with. Thank you again for changing her schedule. She has chosen to continue to spend that time with me.

 

I think about you.

 

He knows he will spend the day composing his response in the back of his mind. It is a small opening, but it’s there.

 

---

 

Now he is in his usual daily meeting with Hux.

 

“The spy. What have you found?” Kylo asks.

 

“We thought we had ferreted out a lead on the Tagge, but that turned out to be a low-level smuggling ring.”

 

Kylo hates smuggling. Han Solo had always smirked that his chosen profession wasn’t really criminal. He just moved goods. No one gets hurt, kid. But where did the goods come from? What was done with them? That was never his problem. Han Solo never took responsibility for anything or anyone.

 

“What were the details?”

 

“Just contraband being distributed to the stormtroopers―banned reading material, alcohol, things of that nature,” Hux says as he makes notes on his datapad.

 

“Resistance propaganda?”

 

“No, nothing like that. We would probe much more deeply if that was the case. The perpetrators have been sent to reconditioning, as well as those that partook.”

 

Kylo knows this should satisfy him but instead he thinks of Kes and finds himself uncomfortable.

 

“And what have you found on the Finalizer?”

 

“Nothing, as I would expect. However, the search continues.”

 

“Anything else to report?”

 

“There is troubling news coming out of Eshara. Word of a rebellion.”

 

Eshara. Another desert planet. He hates the desert, but perhaps Rey would enjoy seeing something familiar? He had said he would ensure she was off of the ship as frequently as possible.

 

“Perhaps a visit from the Supreme Leader might quiet things?” Kylo suggests.

 

Hux pauses, contemplating his solution. “Yes, that should do nicely, remind them of the might of the First Order. With your approval, we will head there immediately.” Hux looks at him expectantly.

 

Kylo nods his agreement. Maybe he might even have the opportunity to show her what he’s trying to accomplish. Eshara has been with the First Order for just over a year and has been thriving. He’ll need to delve more deeply into the reasons behind the simmering dissent.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader,” Jashad’s hologram greets him.

 

“Jashad Ren.”

 

“I’m afraid it’s not good news. Lann Tren had already left Dashrah when we arrived. Apparently she returned to the spice several months ago.”

 

Behind his mask Kylo swears under his breath. This will devastate Rey. “Were you able to find anything useful?”

 

“Yes, she had to provide her place of birth when she joined the Order of the K’Ruhr. Additionally, they believe that she went to Coruscant.” Rey’s mother had been on Coruscant when they’d been there seeking Sylten Qree? The Force mystifies him, sometimes.

 

“Where was Rey’s mother born?”

 

“Preslan. There is one other item; she also told them when Rey was born.”

 

Rey’s birthday? He’s certain she has no idea what her date of birth actually is. He believes she is 20, but he’s not sure.

 

“And?”

 

“She was born on the twelfth day of the fourth month. She'll be 21 on her next birthday.”

 

That’s soon. That’s very soon. Will she allow him to see her by then? Her birthday … he will be able to give her her very first birthday present. He smiles softly.

 

“Thank you, Jashad,” Kylo says sincerely.

 

“We only wish that Lann Tren was still on Dashrah. What are your orders, sir?”

 

Kylo sits back in his chair and thinks about it for a moment. “Head to Coruscant, try and locate her. Keep me informed of any progress.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

The hologram flickers off and Kylo contemplates the empty space. Preslan. It’s quite remote, nowhere near Eshara. But perhaps Rey has grandparents on Preslan. Hux would have kittens if he ordered the Finalizer away from their current mission to handle the brewing unrest. He smirks as he thinks that at least the general’s cat would have company. What’s that ridiculous beast’s name? Molly? Mildred?

 

He quickly keys in an order to the analysts to request any records from Preslan for the name Tren and children born on the twelfth day of the fourth month, 21 years ago. If he’s lucky, Rey was born on Preslan as well. If he finds relatives, then he will have them head to Lann Tren’s homeworld. Hux won't like it, but he'll deal with that as it comes.

 

He places his elbows on his desk and steeples his fingers. Kylo begins to plan. Her birthday …

 

---

 

Kylo is back in his quarters. He’d spent the afternoon planning a surprise for Rey, and then worked well into the evening, reviewing reports on First Order expansion. Spending so much time thinking of Rey has significantly buoyed his spirits. And now it is time to write to her. He changes into his sleeping attire and settles into his preferred chair with his datapad.

 

She’s been studying the holocrons, practicing with Kes. He finds he likes the idea of the young women poring over the ancient knowledge. True, Kes is not Force sensitive, but she does have a strong mind and has proven herself to be a loyal companion for his beloved.

 

I’m pleased that you are enjoying the holocrons. I’m certain that you and Kes are making good progress with lightsaber forms. I hope that you will show me one day. We are presently en route to Eshara. I do not wish to press you to see me; however, I know that you find life on a ship difficult. Would you consider allowing me to escort you to the surface once I have attended to official matters?

 

I think of you every moment of every day, Rey.

 

He sends his message and leans his head against the back of his chair. He closes his eyes and imagines Rey. Maker, he misses her. He’s only strayed to her door once and caught himself quickly. He hopes she hadn’t felt him, he truly does not wish to cross any more lines.

 

He’s still horrified by his actions and they prick at his conscience. He’d tried to tell himself that he didn’t do anything all that wrong by taking Kes’s memories; she is of the First Order after all. But he knows it’s a lie and he’s stopped even attempting to soothe himself in that way.

 

All he can do is channel his shame into comporting himself as Rey deserves, by letting her be and waiting. It hurts, oh it hurts, but the pain is welcome, in a way. He deserves to long for her, just as he knows he does not deserve to touch her. But he will. Once she allows it, he will touch every inch, claim every part of her with his lips and his hands.

 

The ambivalence he felt at learning that she thinks she could love him the way that he had is receding. In its place is a beautiful, fragile, tremulous hope. The idea that she might look at him with those perfect eyes full of love, for him … well, it’s intoxicating.

 

He conjures the image of her face, flush with desire, her lips red and plump from his kisses. Her eyes had been liquid with heat and he remembers how she had gasped as he sucked against the delicate skin of her throat. Her little moans and mewls of pleasure had inflamed him like no other sound could.

 

He feels himself respond to his fantasies, and how he wants to give in. But she's just down the hall. That thought both excites him and keeps him in check. She's so close. She might even already be in her nightgown. Has she found his favorite yet? It's sheer and a midnight blue. He can almost see her pert breasts straining against the material and now he's aching with need. He imagines her pink nipples showing through the thin fabric. How long before he will again run his hands along her supple skin? How long before she allows him to take those exquisite breasts into his hungry mouth?

 

He's stroking himself through his sleeping pants before he really thinks of it. He should stop―what if she peaked through the Bond, right now, and sees how he's pleasuring himself? The thought should shame him, but instead he quickens his movements. It's deliciously erotic to think of Rey sensing him, joining him.

 

It's been such a long time, and it’s growing more difficult to fight how he reacts to her nearness. He wants to wait, but it feels so good and Force, he needs her … Oh Rey … Then, out of the corner of his eye he sees the alert. She's already written back? The reality of her closeness crashes into his fantasy and he feels caught like an adolescent. He snatches his hand away from his erection and he senses heat rise in his cheeks.

 

He steadies his erratic breathing and opens her message.

 

I would like to feel the sun on my face and the sand under my feet. Would it be alright if Kes came with us? She told me she's never been outside without her helmet.

 

It will be nice to see you.

 

The reminder of Kes changes his mood rapidly, but Rey has agreed to see him! She even sounds like she truly wants to spend time with him. He wishes she had not asked to bring Kes. The stormtrooper will fear him, and he’ll have to face his guilt while he'd much prefer to focus on Rey.

 

However, it is a small way he may begin to address the profound wrong he has done this brave woman who cares for his love. Rey won't want the stormtrooper to wear her armor, so Kes will need suitable clothing, meant for her taller frame. He will make arrangements in the morning.  

 

He wonders … If he wrote back tonight, might she gift him with another message before she goes to sleep?

 

Then you shall walk through the desert with Kes at your side. And myself, if you will permit me. I will ensure she has appropriate attire. She should know what it is to feel the wind in her hair.

 

I will count every minute until I see you again. You must know how I've missed you. I love you so very much.

 

Before he can second guess himself, he sends his words. He hopes he's not been too bold. Suddenly he wants to call his message back, but it's too late. Now he's filled with anxiety. He's been so careful not to push, but she's going to let him see her, she'd asked him to do something for her, she's letting him back in. The words had just tumbled from his fingers.

 

He'd promised himself he wouldn't push. He's not precisely sure if he has. But he plans on accepting each invitation as it comes. He won't assume a single day in her company means her door is open to him. Rey will set the pace; he will allow her to come to him.

 

Kylo waits for her response. He tries to research Eshara, but he keeps checking what must be every few seconds, not able to concentrate. Finally, he accepts she won't write back tonight. He's frightened her away. He never should have told her how much he misses her, how much he loves her. Why can he never control himself?

 

He falls into a fitful sleep, angry and ashamed.

 

---

 

“Maker, Kylo, what the hell has gotten into you? I was never as strong as you, even before the Bond made you freakishly strong with the Force!” Vitok grumbles, rubbing her shoulder where Kylo had Force pushed her into the wall.

 

“Sorry. I'll pay more attention.”

 

“No, seriously, what's wrong? You've been angrier than a bantha with a knot in its tail all morning.”

 

Kylo sighs and runs his hand through his hair. “I pushed too far with Rey when I wrote her last night. For the last five mornings there has been a message from her. She wrote me twice yesterday. But there was nothing this morning.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“We were planning a trip to Eshara, I told her how much I miss her … that I love her. I guess that was too far. We arrive tomorrow and I'm terrified she no longer wishes to go.”

 

“Perhaps she's just nervous.”

 

“Maybe. I've arranged for Kes to accompany us, and clothes are being delivered to Rey’s quarters for her today, actually.”

 

“I'm sure that will prompt her to write. It’s not even midday yet. Don’t worry so much.”

 

“I can’t help it,” he says forlornly. He looks at the ceiling of the training room then shakes his head. “Let's keep training.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Kylo nods firmly. “Yes. It helps.”

 

“Alright. Just watch it this time,” Vitok says with a friendly glare.

 

---

 

There's been nothing while he and Vitok trained. He'd forgotten his gloves in his rooms, so he's on his way back to his quarters. He comes around the corner and freezes. Rey is coming the other direction. She's looking down, she's not seen him. He can't breathe; he hasn't seen her in days. She's wearing the gray dress with the leaves patterned across the material and her hair is gathered high on her crown.

 

He drinks in the sight of her before remembering himself. He should turn and walk the other direction. He doesn't want to pressure her. Too late, she's seen him.

 

Her eyes widen and he can't read her expression. He says nothing, wanting to give her the option to simply go into her quarters. So he stands, watching her. The ribbon is around her neck. As far as he knows, she never takes it off.

 

He doesn’t quite understand why it means so much to her―surely it must make her remember a night spent in conflict. He still doesn’t know how to feel about how she’d assumed he was trying to bribe her, buy her.

 

Rey blinks and neither of them move. He refuses to speak; this is up to her. So he stands, waiting. Finally she starts to walk towards him stiltedly. She seems almost reluctant and it hurts. He doesn't want her to come to him out of obligation, coincidence.  

 

When she’s a few feet away she stops and looks up at him. Belatedly he realizes he’s wearing his helmet and he swiftly pulls it from his face. The smallest of smiles hints at her lips.

 

“Hi,” she says softly.

 

“Hello, Rey.”

 

“I’m sorry I haven’t written back yet. I didn’t know what to say.”

 

He swallows. “Why not?”

 

“Because … nothing sounded right.” He's pulled into her orbit and his hands twitch with the need to reach for her. But he doesn't; he never wants to take anything else without her agreement.

 

“I didn’t … I didn’t overstep?” Perhaps she had been nervous, just as Vitok said.

 

Another slight smile pulls at her mouth. “No, but it’s awfully sweet that you worried about that. I have noticed that you’ve done everything I asked. I really am grateful.”

 

“Then it’s alright, us speaking like this?” he asks fearfully.

 

“Yes. It just happened. Why are you here right now, anyway? Aren’t you usually on the bridge at this hour?”

 

“I was training with Vitok, I forgot my gloves. What were you … ah, may I ask what brought you from your rooms? I didn’t realize you wandered without Kes.”

 

Rey tenses. “I don’t need a chaperone.”

 

“That’s not what I meant! I was … I was only curious,” he says, his shoulders sagging slightly. He never says the right thing―never.

 

“Oh. Sorry. I was just taking a walk. I’ve been doing that, picking a new deck and walking. You really didn’t know?” She tilts her head and peers up at him.

 

“No … I’ve not been following your movements. The last time I knew anything of where you’ve been was when you called for me six days ago.” Giving her time has become his only way to atone; it an act of contrition, devotion.

 

She looks away briefly. “I hope … I hope it wasn't confusing, that I reached out to you like that then kept to myself.”

 

It had actually been a relief to have the time to get himself in order, but he can't tell her that, not without explaining why. Somehow, controlling himself has allowed him to feel that in some small way he's apologizing, punishing himself with the pain of her absence.

 

“No. I asked you not to see me until you were ready. I meant that. I know that helping Kes entitled me to nothing.”

 

Again she smiles and Force, she's so lovely. “Thank you.”

 

“You already thanked me for my assistance, which was unnecessary. I will always do anything I can for you simply because I lo- … because,” he finishes awkwardly. She said he'd not overstepped, but he's feeling unmoored. He doesn't know the new rules. Somehow it all feels different.

 

“I wasn't just thanking you for that. I was thanking you for … well, everything. For giving me space, for using Kes’s name instead of that horrid string of letters and numbers, for agreeing to take her with us … All of it. I feel like … I feel like you're finally listening to me.”

 

There's a stab of sharp cold in his chest. She's giving him credit he does not deserve. He'd not listened to her―he'd felt so guilty that he'd stayed away as penance, out of fear. Not because he really understands her desire to be away from him. But perhaps he can try, now, to truly listen. He will ask Vitok to help him.

 

He clears his throat nervously. “What did you mean, before? That nothing sounded right when you tried to write back?”

 

“Oh. I meant that … I meant that you'd been so … candid, that everything I could think to say felt … inadequate. I guess … I … I've missed you, too.” She’s missed him? She seems vaguely embarrassed and he realizes her earlier demeanor had been because she was shy.

 

He finds his heart racing and somehow he's drawn quite close. He reaches out a trembling hand, wanting so badly to touch her.

 

“Oh, Rey,” he says as he remembers himself and his hand drops.

 

“No, it's alright.” She takes his hand in hers. She holds his eyes and he's lost in the myriad of greens and browns he finds. Her features are so delicate, her skin so fine. He's not sure how a life of hardship could have produced such a winsome creature, but she is absolute perfection.

 

“I've missed you so much,” he chokes out, his control falling away. He just wants to fall to his knees and beg her forgiveness, promise anything so long as she won't shut him out again.

 

“I know,” she murmurs. “I've wanted to see you, too.”

 

“You have?” he asks in surprise.

 

“Of course I have. I've told you, I … care for you. It was always hard to keep the Bond closed. It still is,” she says, glancing away.

 

“I …”

 

She steps closer, their hands clasped. “I've had an idea. Something that might make this easier on both of us.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I get overwhelmed by you. Just this, in the hallway, I can't think straight. I don't want to lose myself.”

 

Lose herself? He would never want that. She is Rey―fiery, passionate, perfect Rey. “The last thing I want is for you to be anything other than exactly who you are.”

 

“You mean that, don't you?”

 

“I do.”

 

She smiles, her head ducking. “After all, you do always tell me the truth.”

 

He's not sure anything has ever been more difficult than keeping his expression neutral, and not confessing his crimes is agony. But he manages.

 

“What was your idea?” he asks, wanting to move quickly from the subject of honesty.

 

“I know that it was the question of when you would see me that makes this so hard on you, but I'm not ready to see you every day. So I thought, after Eshara, we could have dinner once a week? I don't like being apart, but I also don't know how to be with you. Seeing you every night was too much. It was going too fast. What do you think?” she asks nervously.

 

At first he doesn't like it at all. A handful of hours to last him days? Perhaps she might consider two evenings a week? No, no, he won’t press. He will take what she gives. Besides, this way he will be able to see her, regularly. Now it will be possible for him to ask her to dine with him on her birthday. He’d been afraid that all he would be permitted to do was give her her gift. Or gifts. He hasn’t decided.

 

He squeezes her hand and makes sure that she’s looking at him before speaking. “I think that would be wonderful.”

 

“Really? You'll accept that?” she asks skeptically.

 

“I want to be with you however you will permit me to be.”

 

A slow smile spreads across her face. “I’m glad we ran into each other.”

 

“As am I.” He strokes his thumb across her wrist. The Bond hums happily and the bands around his heart start to lessen.

 

“You said that you would make sure Kes has clothes for Eshara?”

 

“Yes, they are being delivered today. There wasn’t time for anything other than standard issue officer’s attire. I could … I could arrange for a proper wardrobe for her. If you would like.”

 

Her eyes widen. “Really?”

 

“Would it please you?”

 

“It would please Kes.”

 

“Which would please you.”

 

“Yes … yes it would. She won’t get in trouble?”

 

“No, I’ve issued standing orders that Kes be allowed out of uniform whenever she wishes. I also took the liberty of informing the ship not to question you or hinder your movements.”

 

“You did?”

 

“I did not want a repeat of the events in the corridor.”

 

“That was … that was kind of you.”

 

“I only want to make you happy.”

 

“I know.” She shifts their hands and laces her fingers with his. There is an intimacy to the gesture that makes his breath hitch.

 

He realizes they’ve been simply standing in the hallway for quite some time, but he doesn’t want to let her go. “We will arrive at Eshara tomorrow. I have First Order matters I must attend to, but the following day we will go to the surface.” He'd much prefer to take her tomorrow, but he wants to ensure the situation is well in hand. The Supreme Leader’s companion would be all too tempting a target. He wishes she would let him train her, if only so that she could better defend herself.

 

The warmth that’s infused the energy around them dims. “What is it, Rey?”

 

“What sort of First Order matters?” Her eyes narrow.

 

“There is … unrest. It is an official visit, ensuring that the Supreme Leader is seen.”

 

“What kind of unrest?”

 

“Those loyal to the deposed ruling class are advocating their return. It’s quite tiresome.”

 

“But if that’s who they want to lead, then why not let them?”

 

“Because said rulers lived off the backs of the poor. The main industry on Eshara was the manufacturing of household items, and the majority of the population was forced to work grueling hours while a small minority lived in opulence. It was obscene. I intend to meet with the magistrate and tour the main city, make it clear that the First Order is always watching.”

 

Rey worries her lip between her teeth and her brow is furrowed. He hopes that his explanation has mollified her, but he can only see turbulence in her eyes. “You won’t hurt anyone, will you?”

 

“Not unless there is cause.” His hope is that a show of force will quiet the masses.

 

“Cause?” She pulls her hand from his grasp. He clenches his fist to keep from grabbing it back.

 

“If we find that a true rebellion is brewing, steps must be taken,” he says evenly.

 

“What sort of steps?”

 

“Rey …”

 

“What sort of steps?” she asks heatedly.

 

He sighs. She won't like this, nor will she understand. “Generally, the leaders would be located and executed, along with any of their close associates.”

 

Horror fills her face. “Why must you be so brutal?”

 

“It is necessary to maintain order.”

 

“No! There has to be another way!” she exclaims.

 

“I know you don't like it, but Eshara was rife with corruption. I won't allow a return to that sort of lawlessness. People were suffering.”

 

“Then why do they want to return to that?”

 

“The majority likely doesn't, but it is very difficult to subjugate those who once knew what it was to rule unquestioned,” he explains.

 

“Listen to yourself! Subjugate!”

 

He purses his lips. “That was a poor choice of words. I simply mean that when certain elements are entrenched, they don't give up easily. Sweetheart, please, this is necessary.”

 

“I know what sorts of things you think are necessary,” she spits. “Never mind. I don’t want to go any longer.”

 

“What? No! Please. You can’t … please.” He's been doing so well, but if she pushes him away again he's not sure what will happen. What he'll do.

 

She steps back but doesn't turn from him. She keeps her face down. He wants to growl in frustration. Instead he places his helmet on the floor and approaches her slowly. Gently he lifts her chin so that she is looking at him.

 

“Rey, please. I'm doing everything I can. Don't pull away from me again.”

 

Her lower lip quivers and her eyes plead with him. “I don’t want to visit a world where you’ve murdered people,” she whispers.

 

“There’s no reason to think that would happen,” he says gently. Maker, he hopes the unrest on Eshara is minor.

 

“You’d still do it.” Now she won't meet his eyes.

 

He traces her cheek with his fingertips. “Rey,” he murmurs. She stubbornly keeps her gaze from his.  

 

“Rey …” He brings his other hand to her face. Finally she grants him her eyes. They're wary and conflicted.

 

“What if I promise that no one will die, regardless of what we find?” He supposes exile will achieve the same ends, removing the problematic element.  

 

She places her hands over his. “Promise me that no one will be hurt and I’ll go.”

 

That will be quite difficult to manage if there is any sort of real conflict. The troops have not been trained to minimize injury. But if that is what it will take, he will ensure that none are harmed unless it is truly unavoidable. Captain Phasma always follows her orders to the letter.

 

“Alright. I promise that no one will be hurt, unless it is in self-defense.” If he is lucky, there is nothing too serious transpiring on Eshara.

 

Her fingers press against the back of his hands. He wants to focus on her touch, but convincing her to accept his concession is much more important.

 

“I promise. I promise,” he entreats. He wills her to understand she can trust him. He will never go back on his word again.

 

Somehow, she's heard just how deeply he means his words, because she's nodding slightly. “Okay.” She takes in a shuddering breath. “Okay.”

 

He doesn't want to take the chance that she changes her mind, so he decides to leave her to her thoughts. “Thank you. I will collect you the day after tomorrow, in the morning. Kes will be released from her duties for the day.” He reluctantly draws his hands from her soft skin and steps back. Is that disappointment lingering in her eyes?

 

“Will the knights be coming?” she asks, her tone strangely measured.

 

“No, I had not thought you would … appreciate that.”

 

“I don’t mind most of them, but I don’t particularly want to see Wylan.”

 

“No, he will most certainly not be accompanying us.” His contemptuous tone leaves no doubt as to his feelings about Wylan Ren. Wylan will never lay eyes on her again if he can help it.

 

“Good.” She nods her head once, firmly. It’s rather rewarding to see how much she dislikes Wylan.

 

“Then, if there is nothing else, I shall leave you to your day.” He is about to turn towards his rooms when she grasps his arm.

 

“Wait!” she says hurriedly.

 

“Yes?”

 

“I … you just … I want …” He’s surprised as he watches a deep blush flush across her skin.

 

“What is it?” he asks, growing concerned.

 

“I just … I haven't seen you in so long, I thought … don't you want …” She's very flustered and he's quite confused. He wants to soothe her, but he doesn't know what's wrong.

 

He's not sure if he should reach for her, comfort her, but her distress makes the decision for him and he's pulling her into his arms. She positively melts into him.

 

“I wasn't ready to be parted, at least not without … this.” Her words are muffled by his clothing.

 

He’s sure she can feel his heart hammer beneath his ribs. She's told him she feels the pull, too, but somehow he's never been able to believe she struggles as he does. Clearly she must be affected, as she's almost burrowing into his embrace and the Bond weaves around them.

 

“I did not want to presume.” His voice quavers. This is so much more than he'd dared wish for. She wants to be in his arms.

 

“I think, maybe you can presume. I … I've never felt anything like how it feels when we touch.”

 

“No, nor have I. Please know that the only thing that kept me from gathering you to me was the fear you would not welcome that," he says into her hair. He'd thought she would make him wait for days, maybe weeks, before she would again want to be close in this way. He certainly deserves his exile.

 

She draws even closer to him, and then she reaches up and pulls his face to hers. He’s not quite caught up when she’s kissing him and oh it is glorious. Her lips are soft and he gasps as she is the one to press her tongue into his mouth. She tastes of fruit, and he smiles through their kisses. He pulls her flush against him. She lets out a little squeak of surprise and he chuckles darkly.

 

Her hands are in his hair and he doesn’t even try to suppress the moan her touch evokes. Her fingers run along his scalp, gently pulling at his locks. Oh, stars, he wants to lift her in his arms and take her to her rooms, lay her down and finally feel their skin pressed together.

 

He could kiss her for hours, days. She fits so perfectly against him and his whole body is thrumming with heat. Oh, Rey. I love you, I love you, I love you.

 

He must slow down the tempest threatening to take them both. The tension between them is always so strong; reason leaves once they're caught in the tide. She's beginning to writhe against him and it would be so easy to take advantage. But she would never forgive him if he took her in the corridor. He would never forgive himself.

 

He gentles his kisses, slowing the fervent movement of his lips until he pulls back, giving her one last caress as he presses her head against his chest. He's breathing quickly and her quiet pants do nothing for his control.

 

“I don't know what came over me … I'm sorry,” she says shakily.

 

Swiftly he moves to catch her eyes. “Never apologize for that.”

 

“You must think …” She grimaces in shame.

 

“I think that this Bond is very powerful.”

 

Her eyes flit away. “Of course. It's just the Bond.”

 

He remembers that she still believes it's the Bond that influences her feelings and he pushes away the cut of her rejection that always stalks him.

 

He traces her cheek with his fingers and tightens his arm against her back. He holds her eyes intensely. “No … Bond or no, I would still want you like this. My feelings are real―nothing can change them.”

 

She blinks up at him slowly and he thinks he finds hope in her eyes. At least that's what he wishes she's feeling. He wants her to believe in the depth of his devotion. The Bond is only a manifestation of how connected he feels to her, has always felt.

 

“Rey … the Bond … it simply pulls us together. But I think I would have sought you just as avidly without it. You … you are what I have always needed. Being with you makes everything else meaningless. It's just you, always you.”

 

Her eyes are large and she looks a bit overwhelmed. “I just wish I knew how the Bond affects us. I hate feeling like I'm being controlled.”

 

“I know you do. But, is it so very wrong, what's between us? This,” he kisses her softly then draws back to again to seek her eyes, “is precious. You are precious.”

 

She takes a deep breath. “I'm still very confused, but I will keep trying. Keep trying to believe you, to make sense of this.”

 

“That is more than enough.” It is everything. As long as she lets him see her, hold her, kiss her, he can wait as long as he must.

 

Gently, they pull apart. Without discussing it, he walks her to her door.

 

“I guess I'll see you soon, then,” she says.

 

“Yes,” he says lowly. She's so beautiful and he knows he won't struggle so, now that he knows when he will see her.

 

She's about to close her door when he says, “Rey?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Will you still write to me until then?”

 

She smiles. “I will.”

 

“Good.” He nods. “Good.”

 

Chapter Text

Kylo wakes, Rey’s name on his lips. She'd written him yesterday while he'd been meeting with Captain Phasma, discussing alternate methods for subduing the populace of Eshara, should it come to that.

 

It was a short note, telling him that the clothing for Kes had arrived and that she's looking forward to the heat of the desert. He'd wondered if she gets cold on the ship.

 

He'd written back, asking if she wanted to see a city or one of the smaller provinces. After their meeting in the hall, he's certain there will be a message waiting for him. He's mildly concerned that she's not sleeping regularly. He wakes early each day, goes to bed late, but her missives are always waiting. He hopes she sleeps during the day.

 

Kylo removes himself from bed and stretches languidly. It’s been such a long time since he’s slept well, and had managed six uninterrupted hours of sleep. He's almost in a good mood, but he supposes it shouldn’t surprise him. He will see his beloved tomorrow.

 

Just as he'd believed, there is a message.

 

I would like to visit somewhere small. I would like to see vast deserts and talk to people who understand the sands.

 

Thank you for this. I miss you.

 

He smiles.

 

---

 

Kylo is in bed after a tedious day on Eshara. He'd been dragged all over the main city, shown many munitions plants, schools, and housing developments, and had met with more officials than he cares to remember.

He'd been assured that the unrest was minor, that it was all well in hand. His promise to Rey that none be hurt during his visit had been academic, as nothing untoward had occurred. He’d noticed some anti-First Order graffiti, but that was the extent to the evidence of unrest. When he’d enquired further, he was told that there had been some minor sabotage at a few of the factories. Apparently the prior owners had not accepted the transfer of their property gracefully, but incidents were dwindling. The local government insists they have control of the situation.

 

The desert climate of Eshara is ideal for mining saline minerals, necessary for explosives. Most of the factories had been converted to manufacturing weapons, and it is now the primary provider of munitions to the First Order. Though he had been told that the Supreme Leader needn’t concern himself with such trivial matters, he had asked Hux to leave a team of intelligence officers to continue the investigation. It wouldn’t do for a disruption in their supply chain at this point.

 

Kylo almost wishes he'd taken Rey with him today, as Eshara is a perfect example of what he's trying to accomplish. The planet had been difficult to subdue initially, many had died, but now there is order. The people work reasonable hours, and have housing and food. The children attend school and it’s peaceful.

 

The once thriving cultural centers had to be eliminated of course. They had resisted strongly. And the local religious sects had fought most vociferously. Though the First Order does not ban religion outright, the populace may not gather in large groups outside of officially sanctioned events. This severely limits the influence of spiritual leaders. Kylo finds religion perplexing, as it’s obvious that the Force is the guiding hand of the galaxy.

 

But now that those elements have been eliminated, things are going smoothly. It’s as he had come to believe once free of the cloying denial of his relatives. People need a firm hand. Once the undesirable factions are removed, society functions efficiently. There is no need for democracy if you ensure structure and a minimum standard of living.

 

He wonders what she did with her day. The only thing that had kept him from nodding off during his interminable day was daydreams of Rey. He’d played the memory of her passionate display in the hallway over and over again. She’d missed him so much that she couldn’t bear to let him go without kissing him, touching him.

 

His bed feels large and empty, but he’s certain that won’t be for much longer. Kylo falls asleep quickly, knowing that in just a few hours he will see Rey.

---

"Good morning," Kylo says, as he leans against her doorway. His helmet is already in the crook of his elbow with his gloves and a package tucked inside. He's somewhat nervous about his offerings. He'd wanted to give Rey something and had decided he should include Kes as well. But now he wonders if he should have asked Vitok first.


Rey is in a light tunic and loose trousers, her customary three buns having returned. He's come to prefer she wear her silken hair up, as he finds he likes being the only one to see how it spills around her shoulders. She almost looks like she had the first time he'd seen her, and his lips twitch into a small smile at the memory. Yes, they had been playing at being enemies then, but she had been incandescent in her ferocity.

 

Rey smiles warmly and her eyes sparkle. Her open energy is almost more than he'd ever thought she would give him. For months he had sought her, and yet he'd never truly allowed himself to imagine the gentle pleasure of the easy quirk of her lips.

 

"I'm glad you're here," she says sincerely.

 

He raises an eyebrow. "Are you now?" he teases lightly. He's not quite sure how, but their conversation in the hallway has changed things. He feels welcome, as if she’d anticipated his arrival.

 

"You know I am," she says as she opens the Bond slightly, letting him feel her excitement and affection. His eyes widen in surprise and, before he considers his actions, he pulls her to him, kissing her firmly. He feels a spike of her pleasure through their connection and he deepens the kiss. The aching, hollow feeling that plagues him when he’s away from her fades as he luxuriates in the waves of feelings she’s allowing him to feel. The sensation of their mouths moving together tingles along his spine, infusing his whole body. He wonders if he will ever get enough of the feeling of pressing his lips against hers. There's something profound in knowing this is only for Rey.

 

Then he hears a sharp intake of breath and he realizes Kes is already within Rey's rooms. He steps back quickly and his cheeks heat. He's not ashamed of showing Rey how he feels physically, not precisely, but he had thought they were alone.

 

Rey grins at his embarrassment and pulls him inside as she again closes the Bond. He keeps his disappointment from his face and wonders if she will ever allow it to simply stream between them as it was surely meant to.

 

Kes stands stiffly in plain black attire, standard officers' clothing without the insignia. Her short, dark hair is neat and her pale green eyes are afraid. His mood sinks as he remembers how she had cowered in front of him, radiating betrayal.

 

He had planned on going back into her mind to address her fear of him, but the more he had thought on it, the less he could justify invading her consciousness for a third time. He will need to gain her trust through action, instead.

 

"Kes." He nods his head towards her.

 

"Supreme Leader," she responds warily.

 

He frowns slightly. He really shouldn't encourage informality with a stormtrooper, but it feels strange for Rey's friend to use his title. But it would be beyond inappropriate for him to invite her to call him Kylo, so he doesn’t remark upon it.

 

"Rey tells me this will be your first trip to a world out of your armor.” Kylo’s tone is amiable.

 

"Yes, sir,” she answers obediently.

 

"You were never outside, even during your childhood?" The thought of never knowing the simple pleasures of nature ... upsets him.

 

"I was trained on ships. I have only been to planets on missions."

 

He hadn't ever considered the impact of the stormtrooper program on things such as being outside. He needs to think on this further.

 

Rey comes up beside him and slips her hand around his arm, as is her habit. He feels every single point where her fingers press into him, his entire focus reduced to her proximity. He turns his head to look at her, needing to see her face. The days apart have left him desperately hungry for everything, her touch, her voice, her. The knowledge that he's going to be able to feel her next to him all day fills him with happiness. She's letting him back in, she truly is trying. Everything will come together. She will accept her new life, accept him. He just knows it.

 

He doesn't wish to untangle himself from her. There's something about the solidity of her form, the acceptance in her touch, that soothes somewhere deep inside. It's as if she flows through him, dulling his sharp edges that cut and carve, grind and sunder. However, he needs both his hands to give them their gifts, so he must pull from her. Regretfully, he moves to his table, depositing his helmet and gloves. He withdraws the package and returns to the women.

 

Unwrapping the parcel, he pulls out two finely woven scarves. He holds one out to Kes. It is a dark oxblood, with a delicate pattern of filigree in a lighter red.

 

The stormtrooper stares at it in apprehension, gripped with confusion.

 

"We are traveling to a fairly remote area of Eshara, the winds can be quite fierce. I thought you would both need protection from the sands. It's alright, Kes," he reassures as he pushes her gift towards her.

 

Kes continues to stare, but she gingerly takes the scarf from him, simply holding the fabric. She makes no move to put it on.

 

He has much work to do with Kes.

 

Though he is nervous, Kylo turns to Rey and unfurls her scarf, securing the packaging into the folds of his clothing. It is a forest green, with ivory and gold scrollwork. He hopes the rich silk will both protect her and whisper against her face. He wants it to remind her of his fingers on her skin. He'd selected this particular scarf because it would bring out her lively eyes, the green and gold echoing the flecks in their hazel depths.

 

Consciously steadying his hands, he settles the scarf around her head, wrapping it gently about her shoulders. He tucks an escaped curl behind the cloth.

 

"There. Beautiful," he pronounces. He skims his hands along her arms, needing to touch her. She had told him that he could presume.

 

"It is, thank you." She reaches up and strokes the fabric, smiling at the texture. She's an oddly tactile thing, he's noticed how she's always running her fingertips along her surroundings.

 

"I was not referring to the scarf," he says meaningfully, looking into her enchanting eyes.

 

"Oh." She smiles shyly and briefly looks away. Kylo is exceptionally aware of Kes’s presence, keeping him from properly showing Rey how exquisite she is to him.

 

Forcing himself to calm, he steps back. He still wishes that he had Rey all to himself, but he won’t waste this opportunity to mend things with Kes. He looks at his companions for the day and asks, "Are you ready to leave, then?"

 

Kes blinks quickly and looks to Rey swiftly. She's awkward and skittish and Rey drops his arm, going to her friend.

 

"What is it?" Rey asks.

 

"N-nothing," Kes stutters out.

 

Rey tilts her head, then grabs Kes's hand and drags her to her bedroom.

 

Kylo stands in her sitting room, trying to understand what had just transpired. Is Kes so afraid that she cannot bear to be near him? The thought that he'd traumatized her so completely stabs him with his now very familiar guilt. He's able to keep it to the edges, Rey's open attitude allowing him to push it aside, but it's always there, a hairshirt that will not allow him to forget his trespasses.

 

He taps his fingers against his thigh, growing impatient. He just wants to be in her presence; he doesn't want to lose these precious moments.

 

Finally, they return. Kes is now wearing her scarf and she seems less frightened. She still looks at him with suspicion, but she is standing straighter.

 

"We're ready," Rey announces.

 

He goes to his table, about to gather his helmet, when he hears a huff of breath.

 

He turns his head to Rey and finds her with her hands on her hips.

 

"Really?" Her tone is incredulous.

 

"Rey ... I will remove it once we reach my shuttle."

 

"I hate it," she spits.

 

"I know, but I have conceded this point to you on numerous occasions. It’s only for the walk to the hangar." He does not like arguing with her in front of Kes. He doesn't like arguing with her at all.

 

"But they've already seen you!"

 

"A relatively small number have seen me. Please, sweetheart, I will remove it very soon."

 

She glowers. "Fine."

 

Kes looks back and forth between the pair and shifts uncomfortably.

 

He's frustrated and upset. He doesn't want the day to begin this way. Why must she insist that he go maskless when with her? Could seeing his face truly be so important to her?

 

"I don’t wish to anger you. If it matters so much to you, then I won’t wear it until we return."

 

"Really?" Her entire countenance changes in an instant and she embraces him swiftly, holding him tight.

 

He manages to choke back the groan the feel of her wrapped around him elicits. She just feels so damned good. While he’d like nothing more than to draw her even closer, he keeps himself from being pulled under. But he does want to know more about her issues with his mask.

 

"Why does it bother you so?" he whispers in her ear.

 

She pulls him down so that she may murmur, "Because it forces me to remember what you're capable of."

 

He blinks, surprised that her admission cuts into him. He knows he's had to do awful things in order to fulfill his legacy, and most of the time he finds a way to make peace with his actions. But he’d hoped that he’d made some headway with her by helping her to see why his actions are necessary.

 

He tightens his arms around her for a moment, dispelling the tension with the warm hum of the Bond. She makes a small sound of contentment and kneads her hands into his surcoat. He’d like to spend the day just like this, but that is not on the agenda.

 

They pull apart and Rey takes his arm.

 

---

 

A large village comes into view as his shuttle descends on Eshara. It is far from the population centers and the only real First Order influence is the school and small government center. They have eliminated the village elder structure, replacing it with a garrison of stormtroopers and two officers. The region is dedicated to mining.

 

The only real resistance they had found was in subverting the village elders. It had been difficult to shift allegiances. However, once the more advanced mining technology had been introduced, significantly increasing worker safety, tensions lessened. That, and the removal of the key leaders. Kylo had no idea of any of this until preparing for this trip, but it was all within First Order policy and the logic was sound. Once a few examples had been made, people did what they were told.

 

He’s mildly uncomfortable with the public executions, however, as he knows Rey won’t like it. He won’t hide the truth from her. If it comes up today, he will talk with her, help her to understand. He’s not going to volunteer it, however.

 

The shuttle lands smoothly and he confers with the pilots, indicating that they are to remain with the ship.

 

The ramp descends and Rey is at his side, Kes following a few paces behind.

 

As they walk into the sun, Rey pulls from him and runs out into the open air. She throws her arms wide and turns her face to the sky.

 

“I never thought I would miss Jakku!” she exclaims brightly. Then she crouches down and digs her hands into the sands. “It’s so warm!”

 

Oh, his beloved. His chest is bursting with affection for this burn bright thing that has utterly captured him. Her face is open with joy and he finds himself grinning. When has he ever grinned?

 

Then he notices Kes. She is standing to the side, her scarf pulled back. The wind is rifling through her hair and she seems almost frozen in place.

 

“Rey,” he says to get her attention.

 

Rey looks up. “Yes?”

 

He gestures over to Kes with his head and Rey scrambles to her feet, going to her friend. He keeps away, but he watches. Rey puts her hands on her friend’s shoulders and Kes’s eyes are unfocused. They speak, and then Rey is wrapping her arms around Kes. After a long moment, Rey steps back and says something else. Then she’s walking back to him.

 

“Is she alright?” Kylo asks.

 

Rey narrows her eyes. “I thought stormtroopers weren’t people.”

 

He purses his lips. They hadn’t been, but now … well … this is Kes. “Kes is … different,” he finally offers.

 

“No, she’s not. But I’ll take what I can get.”

 

“What’s wrong?” he tries again.

 

“It’s just too much. The wind, the sun, you giving her a gift. Which she likes very much, by the way. She’s never had something of her own before. She doesn’t know how to interpret any of it, and she doesn’t know how to handle it. She wanted to go back to the shuttle, but I’ve convinced her to stay.”

 

“What can I do?” he asks with concern.

 

Rey looks at him sharply. “Do you mean that?”

 

“Of course I do.” If it will please Rey, he will do anything.

 

“Well … she feels guilty.”

 

“Why?” As far as he can tell, Kes is an exemplary stormtrooper, speaking to Rey her only questionable action. And even that he can’t truly fault, as it’s brought only happiness to his love.

 

“Because the other stormtroopers don’t get this, you see? They don’t get to have a day on a planet with no orders, no duties.”

 

“Why do they care?” Stormtroopers shouldn’t be concerned with such things.

 

“She’s getting special treatment. She’s already been having some trouble with her reduced schedule. They don’t say anything of course, that’s not allowed. But she senses it. She says they’re colder to her, they won’t sit with her at meal times, that sort of thing. I’ve told her that she doesn’t need to keep spending time with me, but she says that she wants to. I don’t want to tell her what to do.”

 

He wonders … The officers receive shore leave. Would it be so bad if stormtroopers did, too? He’ll need to discuss it with Hux … perhaps even Vitok, but he doesn’t like that the simple act of being outside without her armor has affected Kes so.

 

“I have some ideas. I will need to look into the feasibility of it, but perhaps we can relax some of the regulations on the stormtroopers. After …” He takes in a deep breath before continuing, “Finn defected, we have been stringent with the troopers. Perhaps … perhaps we might try a different approach.”

 

“Would you? Would you really?” she asks, her eyes gleaming with hope.

 

“I will look into it. I admit … I was surprised to hear that Kes has not felt the sun on her face before today. You’ve … you’ve made me think on things in a different way. Let us leave it at that and enjoy our day?”

 

She positively beams up at him and he thinks maybe he’s finally figuring out how to speak with Rey.

 

---

 

They’re making their way to the village center, just the three of them. The streets are narrow, the buildings low and the faded color of sand. It reminds him a bit of Tatooine. Hux had fought him, loudly, on the subject of sending stormtroopers with them, but Kylo had, rather patiently, he thought, explained that he was perfectly capable of ensuring their safety. He had rocked an entire Star Destroyer, after all. Hux had then smugly noted that he himself had dropped him with a blaster. Kylo’s fingers had flexed to Force choke him, but he had controlled himself. He’d pointed out that he was not likely to be so distracted on Eshara. The frustrating man had finally relented.

 

Thus they are alone, and Kylo finds he likes the anonymity of it. Without his mask, he is simply a tall human male.

 

He sees the First Order school, standing out from the warn buildings. It gleams in the sun, its lines in sharp contrast to the wind-softened edges of the traditional Esharan architecture.

 

“Rey, I’d like to show you something.”

 

“What is it?”

 

He stops them, but Rey continues to stand by him, her fingers clutching his arm.“There, that building. It’s the school that we built. I’d like you to see that not all I am doing is … violent.”

 

Kes has remained a few paces away from the couple, as she has all day. She’s mostly just looked around, taking it all in. He’s noticed that she frequently touches her face, as if to affirm that the helmet isn’t there.

 

“A school? You actually meant that, when you told me the First Order builds schools?”

 

He frowns. “Of course I did … I …” He stops himself. He’d been about to tell her that he never lies to her, but that isn’t true any longer. “We have found that it is most effective to educate the population. We can ensure that First Order ideals are instilled from the outset.”

 

Her shoulders fall. “Oh. So it’s just propaganda.”

 

“No, it is the truth of their world. Besides, reading is reading. Math doesn’t care who’s in charge.” A thought occurs to him. “Who taught you to read?”

 

Her brow draws together in puzzlement. “I taught myself of course.”

 

This perplexes him. Without some form of instruction, how would she even get started? “Yes, but how?”

 

“I traded a month’s worth of portions for a set of holovids when I was 10.” Her eyes grow haunted for a moment before she blinks, dispelling her distress.

 

“Rey? What’s wrong?” He shifts them so that they’re facing each other, but she keeps her gaze downward. However, she doesn’t stop him when he tangles his fingers with hers. He’d not worn his gloves; he hopes the feel of their skin together comforts her as it does him.

 

“Nothing.” Her voice is quiet.

 

“I saw ... your expression… please, please don’t hide from me.”

 

She looks up at him. “You really do want to know, don’t you?”

 

“I want to know anything you wish to share. I’ve told you, I want to know all of you.” He draws his thumb across her palm. He’s growing used to her allowing him to casually touch her, but he knows he will never take it for granted.

 

She nods slightly. “It was difficult, that time. I thought I’d made a good choice; I’d been lucky. I thought it would be okay to trade the portions. But … there was a storm, like the one I showed you. I couldn’t scavenge for over a week. It was … bad.” She’s pulling into herself again and he just wants to coax her back.

 

“I hate what your life was. I want so much to heal what that time did to you,” he says with a low, intense voice.

 

She shrugs. “It was what it was. It made me who I am.”

 

“And who you are is incomparable.”

 

Rey rolls her eyes. “I’m nobody.”

 

Her insistence that she has so little value scrapes along his ribs. “Oh Rey … someday I will see the day where you understand how amazing you are. You … there is no one in the galaxy like you.”

 

She gets that expression that he thinks means she wants to believe him. Her eyes are wide and her lips parted slightly. He lifts the hand not holding hers and lightly traces the freckles along her cheek. Her soft pink lips call to him and he desperately wants to devour her, but they’re out in the open with Kes standing only a few paces away. His body doesn't care, however, betraying his attempts at control.

 

Her breathing is shallow and she’s blinking slowly. He’s beginning to drift, consumed by the pull to Rey. They’re drawing closer as he continues to glide his fingers across her face. There is a tantalizing energy building beneath his fingers but then she shakes herself and points to the school. “Is that what you wanted to show us?”

 

He drops his hand from her face, trying to find his composure again. Finally he says, “Yes. That's a First Order school. Come, let us explore.” He again tucks her small hand into the crook of his elbow. He gives it a little squeeze and smiles as she presses her fingers into his arm.

 

They go to the entryway and find a small human woman coming from a classroom. She stiffens when she sees them.

 

“I am the Su-” he begins, but Rey stops him.

 

“We’re here from the, uhm … the First Order. We'd like to see the school. But only if that's convenient for you,” Rey says.

 

The teacher’s eyes go wide. “You're from the First Order?” she asks with caution.

 

Rey's eyes flit to his. He nods to her. This will go as Rey wills; she doesn’t seem to want to reveal his position.

 

“Yes, but we're just visiting, nothing official.” Rey reassures the wary woman.

 

“It would be my honor to show our school to representatives of the First Order,” the teacher says formally.

 

Rey frowns. “What has it been like, since they … uh, we took over?”

 

“The First Order is generous. They have provided us with this school and we no longer have lean times. The people are fed. The mines are safer. The First Order cares for its people.” Her words are mechanical, clearly not her own.

 

Rey looks troubled. “Perhaps you would allow us a tour? We would like to see the school.”

 

The teacher’s posture is unyielding and her eyes guarded. “It's their mid-day meal break—the children are playing, so we won’t disrupt lessons. Come this way.”

 

They are led into the building. It's efficient, with three classrooms. The walls flicker with holos of the First Order, reminding the students that they are always watching, that the First Order provides for the people.

 

Rey watches the images, her brow furrowed, and he wonders what she's thinking. Kes lingers at the edges, not really engaging. She's only spoken to Rey since they arrived on Eshara.

 

They're brought to a sizable yard with a climbing structure. About three dozen children are laughing and playing. Rey immediately goes up to a group of girls playing chartok and Kylo and Kes follow. Rey watches as the children hop through the shifting pattern displayed on the duracrete. The largest of the three children has just picked up the stone and is jumping her way back.

 

Rey watches for a while, clearly trying to learn the rules. At first the children are shy, but Rey cheers them on as the patterns grow more complex and they start to smile at her. Kes continues her silent vigil and the teacher hovers protectively.

 

The smallest girl almost misses the last square, but catches herself just in time, winning the match. Rey jumps up and down in joy for the little one.

 

The small girl walks up to Rey. “Hi. I'm Freya.”

 

The teacher frowns and Kylo thinks he may need to have a conversation with her. Rey is enjoying this immensely and he won’t have that spoiled by a paranoid bureaucrat.

 

“Hello Freya. I'm Rey. You're very good at this game.”

 

“I'm the best in the whole school!” she says proudly.

 

“Well then, you're the one who should teach us the rules!” Rey says excitedly.

 

Play? Certainly not. There is nothing that could possibly entice him, Kylo Ren, to play chartok. Well, perhaps one thing, but he’s certain that won’t be on offer. Rey goes over to Kes, who is shaking her head emphatically.

 

“Come on, Kes. Neither of us got to do what kids do. It'll be fun, like when we played with the colored creams and watched holos all afternoon!”

 

“You do it,” Kes says, continuing to shake her head.

 

“But I want you to do it with me,” Rey pleads. Kylo keeps his distance.

 

“I … it's … I can't.” Kes is exuding terror and Kylo is growing alarmed. Is this because of what he did to her?

 

Then Kes turns and flees from the playground. Rey races after her. Kylo is about to as well when he sees the teacher begin to follow and he smoothly steps in front of her.

 

“You trust the new visitors,” he intones, weaving the Force in his words.

 

“I trust the new visitors,” she says with glassy eyes.

 

“You will go back to your classroom.”

 

“I will go back to my classroom,” she says as she heads in a different direction.

 

Kylo finds Kes and Rey in a corridor, but he stops, keeping his distance and sensing he should not intrude. Kes is shaking and Rey is holding her. Finally he sees Kes smile softly and the women are returning to the yard. Kylo follows shortly after them.  

 

“Come on, girls, teach us how to play!” Rey exclaims joyfully, already picking up the stone.

 

Rey does not invite him to join and he’s not sure how he feels about that.

 

He watches while the young women hop and stumble. Rey nearly falls, but Kes catches her and soon they're giggling as if they were school girls. This, this is what his love needs. Simple pleasures. He feels like he's watching her heal right in front of him.

 

He drifts to the edges of the playground, content to watch how happy Rey is. He's relieved that Kes is finally relaxing.

 

It occurs to him how much Rey and Kes have in common. Neither knew their parents or experienced a proper childhood. Memories of his own childhood intrude. He shakes his head to clear it of thoughts of what their younger years have done to them all.

 

---

 

They're sitting in a local cafe, enjoying a meal of flatbread and an array of dips and small pickled vegetables. Rey had needed to spend quite a bit of time convincing Kes to sit with them. He’d been conflicted, wanting to enjoy Rey alone, but not wanting to highlight Kes’s status as subordinate to him. She still won’t look him in the eyes and starts when he tries to speak with her.

 

“This is so good,” Rey says after taking a huge bite of the soft bread with a spicy bit of squash. “It reminds me of … “ she trails off, the light in her eyes dimming.  

 

“What is it Rey?” Kylo asks, disliking the swift change in her mood.

 

“Just memories. It doesn't matter, it's the past.” Rey blinks rapidly then is focused again on her food.

 

He frowns but he won't press her in front of Kes.

 

Kylo decides that he will, once again, attempt to reach out to Rey’s friend.

 

“Kes, what do you think of Eshara?”

 

She had been about to take a sip of her drink but she shakily puts the cup down. “I … I d-don’t know.”

 

“Do you like it?” Kylo tries again to engage her.

 

“Y-yes, sir?” she says as if she’s not sure she’s allowed to have an opinion.

 

Kylo sighs. This is going to be much harder than he thought. He’s about to turn to Rey when the ground beneath them heaves and they hear a horrible booming sound in the distance. He's instantly on his feet, pulling Rey to his side. The stormtrooper instinctively goes for her blaster, but she is unarmed. Kes moves swiftly in front of Rey, preparing to protect her with her body.

 

People begin screaming and it’s utter chaos as they’re pulled along with the crowd out into the streets.

 

His comm is in his hand and he's barking, “General Hux!”

 

“Sir, we just picked up a major explosion at the mine near your position.”

 

“I know, send reinforcements now.”

 

“Already preparing to depart. Get to your shuttle, sir.”

 

Rey pulls at him frantically, “We have to help!”

 

Help? Help how? He doesn't want her anywhere near this. Kes is standing firmly in front of Rey, scanning constantly for any threat. Oh, he absolutely has to find some way to make things right with Kes.

 

“That blast—people must be hurt!” Rey yells.

 

Rey is right, of course, but they are not his priority. However, he supposes he can do something. “Hux, send medical teams as well,” Kylo orders as he shuts off his comm.

 

“Time to get you out of here,” he says as he takes her by the arm and begins to drag her towards the shuttle. He knows Kes will keep close.

 

Rey digs her heels in and rips from his grasp. “No! Not until we know what's happened! It could be an accident! These are your people. You have to stay and do what you can, Supreme Leader!” Her eyes are smoldering with disappointment and contempt.

 

“Not until you're safe!” he bellows.

 

“It's the mine!” he hears a local man say. It ripples throughout the crowd and the panic increases.

 

Another villager points in the distance and he sees plumes of black smoke curling into the air. It could be an accident, but somehow he highly doubts it.

 

Rey pulls away from him, moving quickly. She’s heading straight towards the danger with Kes right on her heels, calling for her to stop. He could run after her, but he’s not willing to keep taking chances. Kylo does something he knows he will pay for later. He reaches out and freezes her with the Force. She is going to be livid, but he really didn’t have a choice.

 

If looks could kill he’s quite sure he’d drop dead from the rage in her eyes. He goes to her and gets a firm hand around her upper arm before he releases her. He truly doesn’t care that she’s angry; he refuses to allow anything to befall her.

 

“How dare you!” she spits, immediately struggling against his strong grasp.

 

“I will not have you racing headlong into danger like that!” he roars. Doesn’t she understand what it would do to him if he lost her?

 

“You do not get to choose for me!” she screeches, matching his volume.

 

“When we may very well be under attack, I absolutely get to choose for you!”

 

Her eyes narrow. “I can take care of myself!”

 

“If you’d only let me train you, I would agree with you!” She’s his equal in all things. He knows she would be able to handle herself, if she would just let him teach her.

 

“I won’t ever learn the dark side!”

 

The dark side? He’s told her he doesn’t want that. This is getting them nowhere.

 

“There is no time to discuss this as a committee!” Yes, he loves her with the intensity of a thousand suns, but she is the most infuriating woman he has ever met.

 

“I am not a committee!” She actually stamps her foot.

 

He sighs heavily and runs his hands through his hair. He decides to change tack. “Just let me get you to the shuttle,” he pleads.

 

She opens her mouth to retort but then he watches as the fire leaves her swiftly. She nods slowly then vigorously. “The shuttle … alright, yes, let’s go to the shuttle.”

 

Her quick acquiescence has him on alert, but she’s agreed and it’s time to go. Now.

 

---

 

The ramp has just closed when Rey rounds on him.

 

“Take us to the mine,” she demands.

 

“What?” She’d just agreed to … then he realizes. She’d agreed to go the shuttle, not the Finalizer.

 

“Take us to the mine. I can heal people with the Force. Take us there, now,” she growls.

 

“I’ve already called for reinforcements and medical teams—they will handle it.” He tries not to show his frustration. He’s given up caring that Kes is seeing all of this.

 

“You’re supposed to be their leader! So lead! Take us there right now or I won’t speak to you for a month,” she threatens.

 

A month? Would she really keep him out for an entire month? He clenches his jaw, deep in thought. She could get hurt … he won’t take the chance. If it’s a month, then it’s a month. Maker, don’t let it be a month.

 

“No, I won’t put you in danger. If that means I have to wait for a month to see you then that is what I will do. We. Are. Leaving.”

 

“Kylo, please! You can protect me, you know you can. Please. Those little girls from the school, their parents work there. Almost all of those children’s parents do. If I can save just one life, it’s worth it. Please. Please.” Her eyes, those blasted pleading eyes are doing something to him.

 

Her soft begging pulls at him and he shuts his eyes tightly. He feels her arms come up around his shoulders. “Please,” she whispers.

 

When he opens his eyes he finds such desperation in her face. Dammit. He pulls out his comm.

 

“Hux,” he says with defeat.

 

“Supreme Leader, are you en route?”

 

“What are the scans showing? Has there been any further activity?”

 

“No, but the mine is likely a complete loss. The medical teams are just leaving the hangar now. Reports are sketchy, but it does not sound good. However, scans are showing nothing else unusual.”

 

“We are going to the site.”

 

“Sir?”

 

He looks straight at Rey as he says, “The Supreme Leader should lead. We’re going to provide what aid we can.”

 

There is a beat of silence. “Very good, sir. I’m sending an extra division of stormtroopers.”

 

“That really isn’t necessary.”


“It is part of leading, sir.”

Chapter Text

The shuttle lands as close as they dare. Villagers on speeders are just arriving and the smoke stings his eyes as they walk down the ramp.

 

“Rey, you will stay close,” he orders firmly, trying to catch her eyes. This entire enterprise has his senses tingling and he wants to drag her back to the Finalizer. But she’d brought up her right to choose and the weight of those words will likely always turn the tide.

 

Rey rolls her eyes and huffs with exasperation. “Nothing is going to happen to me. Look, everyone is trying to get to the injured. No one is going to look at us twice.”

 

The fact that Kes is now armed, having pulled two blasters from the shuttle, mollifies him somewhat. The stormtrooper continues to shadow Rey as she had in the village, training taking over. All of her trepidation left her the moment they’d heard the explosion, and her eyes are alert.

 

Survivors are staggering from the rubble and Rey immediately ignores his request that she stay near as she darts to help a dazed worker, covered in blood and grime. He swiftly follows and helps Rey, putting the man’s arm over his shoulder. They guide him to an area relatively clear of debris where a few of the injured have already begun to gather. Kes takes up a guard position and Kylo stays close to Rey.

 

“Here, let me see,” Rey says to the man.

 

She checks him over and finds nothing beyond the gash over his eye. The strange blue light of Force healing pools from her fingertips and the bleeding stops. He remembers how she’d healed him when the threat to his life had triggered this increase in her abilities. Her potential is limitless. He feels a flair of frustration at her stubborn refusal to train with him. The rescuers and injured watch her work, some furtively and others with open astonishment.

 

“Stay here, don’t move. You’re likely in shock so you’ll need to wait for the medical teams. They’re going to be here soon, I promise,” Rey says gently.

 

A few of the injured who saw Rey healing the man begin to gather. She's inspecting the arm of another worker, bent at an unnatural angle.

 

Rey doesn't look up from her work as she says, “Kylo, go help them pull out survivors.”

 

He bristles at her easy dismissal. “I’m not leaving you.”

 

“Please, with your powers you can help so many.” Now she is looking at him. Those hazel eyes will be the death of him.

 

Just then there is a horrible screeching sound as a portion of the mining equipment loses its battle with gravity and comes crashing down. A wave of screaming fills the air.

 

Rey jumps to her feet, about to move to the sound. That is not going to happen. At least here she’s far from the unstable structures. It would be impossible for him to function if she insists on putting herself even closer to danger. He can tell by the set of her shoulders that she won't stay put unless he acts.

 

“Stay—I will go,” Kylo says resignedly.

 

“I can help!” she insists.

 

“Please, stay. Your healing will be more helpful here. I need you safe. Do not argue.”

 

She juts out her chin and is about to mount another argument when a woman with a horrific gash along her abdomen is laid in front of Rey. She’s moaning and bleeding profusely. Rey’s eyes widen and she’s on her knees in an instant.

 

Rey’s shoulders droop for a moment. “Go,” she tells him, already beginning to heal the mortally wounded worker.

 

Kylo won’t give her a chance to change her mind so he sets off swiftly towards the calls for help. As he moves, he says over his shoulder, “Kes, if she tries to follow, stun her.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

The last thing he hears before he’s out of earshot is Rey’s furious “I heard that!”

 

As he approaches the twisted pile of metal, he sees that a team of rescuers are pinned beneath the wreckage and a group of survivors is trying, and failing, to get to them. Where the hell are the stormtroopers?

 

“Everyone, back away,” he shouts. A few of the helpers look his direction, but most ignore him, continuing to try and pry the workers free.

 

“You will all back away,” he shouts again, this time with the press of compulsion. The crowd pulls back and he lifts his hands, gathering the Force. Soon, massive beams and destroyed machinery are hovering in the air. He levitates his huge burden away from the injured. The noise of their wails makes him flinch.

 

The crowd is frozen, slack-jawed in awe.

 

Kylo huffs in frustration. “Don’t just stand there, pull those people to safety!” he barks. The sound of his voice prompts them to act, and soon the injured are being moved away from the shattered equipment.

 

“Take them to the front of the mine, the medical teams will be arriving soon,” Kylo orders and soon the survivors are being carried back to where he left Rey and Kes. The bodies are laid out in rows, and he frowns, realizing there are far more dead than there are living.

 

He scans the whole mine. The smoke is beginning to clear and he sees the extent of the destruction. At the center there is a crater where he presumes the main building once stood. It's surrounded by several half-standing buildings engulfed in flames. He can feel the heat on his face and he’s certain most of the workers must have perished instantly. He turns to make his way back to Rey. Leaving her with only Kes for protection in the middle of all this has him on the edge of panic.

 

“Sir, sir!” Someone grabs his arm to get his attention.

 

Kylo whirls and snarls, “Do not touch me!” He regards the badly injured man. Blood is seeping through the clothing on his side and he can’t seem to use his left arm.

 

“I’m sorry! But sir, I saw what you did. My wife, she was in the mines, you must help me! Do what you did, pull away the rubble!” The man’s eyes are red and tears streak through the black dirt on his face.

 

Kylo needs to get back to Rey. He has no idea what had caused the explosion. Was it simply an accident? Though the First Order has significantly improved the safety of the mines, accidents aren’t unheard of. But what if this was the work of the dissidents? What if it’s just the beginning?

 

He can barely form the thought of Rey in the vulnerable state of Force healing with only Kes to guard her. Kes is certainly competent, and obviously motivated, but she’s still only one person. However, he can only imagine Rey’s reaction he arrived with a begging Esharan. He’s going to have to help this man rescue his wife. He reminds himself firmly that Rey is a survivor, that she isn’t helpless.  

 

“Rey,” he calls into the Bond, pushing firmly.

 

“Is everything alright?” she responds quickly.

 

“There is a new development, I need to help rescue more workers. Please stay where it's safe.”

 

He feels the terrified man pull at his arm and he angrily shakes him off, glaring down at him. The man shrinks back.

 

“Are you sure I can't help?” Rey asks.

 

“You need to keep back. I won't be able to concentrate if I don't know you're alright.”

 

She pauses before pushing through the Bond, “The medical teams and stormtroopers have just started arriving. I’ll stay here, I promise. You don't need to worry about me. Help them.” He catches a tendril of … pride? He can't remember the last time someone was proud of him.

 

Knowing that the stormtroopers have arrived helps calm the clamoring in his brain, demanding he return to her. He’s certain that the entire ship knows precisely who Rey is to their Supreme Leader and why it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure her safety. Nothing moves faster than gossip.

 

He turns to the frantic husband. “Which part of the mine?” he asks wearily.

 

The man breathes a deep sigh of relief. “There, the entrance to her section of the mine is under that building,” he points.

 

Kylo takes in one of the burning buildings at the edge of the epicenter of the explosion. He’s not sure how anyone could have survived that. However, there is one way to be sure. He closes his eyes and reaches out with the Force, feeling for any pockets of life. It’s as he had supposed, there are very few survivors. Wait … he senses something. He goes further and finds over a dozen beings deep in the earth, directly below the burning building.

 

“Please, sir, you must help me,” the man pleads.

 

“I am helping you!” Kylo snarls. Now, how to get to the trapped miners? He wonders … he knows how to make fire with the Force … could he put it out?

 

Holding both hands in front of him, he focuses on the waves of the Force, feeling how the flames consume and undulate. His brows draw together in fierce concentration as he quiets the wild feel of the energy. Slowly the fire shrinks and soon there is only the smoldering skeleton of the building.

 

Kylo blinks, a bit surprised that it actually worked. Now he needs to clear away the remnants of the structure. He’s never purposefully used his powers for something so significant. He knows that he has the ability, but he’s only been able to accomplish such feats when he has been deeply emotionally compromised.  He’d destroyed the Jedi Temple in a fit of rage and defeated Snoke while gripped in terror.

 

The stormtroopers start to arrive and he barks to the lead, “You there, there are miners trapped under that building. I'm about to clear it away. Be ready to move on my command—we must get to the survivors swiftly.”

 

The stormtrooper cocks his head, “And who are you to give the First Order commands?” The soldier’s tone is full of contempt and dominance.

 

At first Kylo has difficulty perceiving what has just been said. No stormtrooper has ever dared to speak to him like that. Then he recalls that he’s not wearing his mask. Additionally, he’s covered in dirt and blood from helping the injured man and the billowing dust. Kylo senses the life signs of a few of the miners begin to stutter and his limited patience is nearing its end.

 

He takes note of the stormtrooper’s designation. Ah, FL-4359, the stormtrooper who had apprehended Kes. This will be quite satisfying. “FL-4359, you are addressing the Supreme Leader of the First Order. I think you'll find that per section one, regulation Alpha, that I command everything about you.”

 

The stormtrooper looks him up and down then goes rigid when he finally recognizes the distinct surcoat under all the grime. He stands swiftly at attention.

 

“We will be ready to move on your order, Supreme Leader, sir!” he chokes out through his terror.

 

Kylo can't help his curiosity and dips into his mind. Reconditioning, reconditioning, reconditioning, loops endlessly through his consciousness. Suddenly showing this stormtrooper his place loses its usual enjoyment.

 

“Help me ensure these people are saved and there will be no reconditioning,” Kylo says before he considers it.

 

“Sir?” Then the stormtrooper shakes his head quickly. “Yes, sir! We’ll be ready to move on your order!”

 

Kylo focuses on the web of the Force that weaves around the duracrete and metal that once made up the destroyed building. He harnesses his power and begins to pull at the rubble. The broken building starts to groan and creak, then a massive chunk comes to his bidding. He sets it down, but it’s not enough. At this rate the miners will be long-dead before he can reach them.

 

He’s not entirely certain how to accomplish this; his most potent bursts of power have been brought on by fury or fear. But he’s not afraid, nor is he angry. He’s doing this because it’s what Rey would want. He’s doing this because he loves her.

 

He glances at the Esharan, whose eyes are bulging with panic but is letting Kylo work. The man’s desperation is palpable and Kylo is momentarily seized by a memory of when he’d destroyed Snoke. That excruciating helplessness he’d felt while pacing the bridge of Snoke’s ship, waiting for any scrap of news. He knows what the other man is feeling. He realizes then that he does not want this man’s wife to die. He doesn’t want any of the trapped miners to die. These are subjects of the First Order and doesn’t that entitle every citizen to his protection? Perhaps Rey is not the only reason he wants to help, but she is the source.

 

Kylo closes his eyes and thinks of Rey, of how much he wants to be worthy of that glimmer of pride he’d felt from her. He concentrates on Rey, how she completes him, balances him. He lets himself fall into that perfect place of peace he feels when she’s in his arms, looking into his eyes, letting the Bond flow, and suddenly the Force is gathering quickly. Yes, there it is. He’s flooded with energy and he grasps at the shuddering structure. He sends it cascading away with one mighty Force push. He opens his eyes and finds the area above the buried miners is cleared.

 

“FL-4359, follow me. I’ll lead you to where we need to start digging.”

 

The stormtrooper signals his division to follow.

 

---

 

Kylo stumbles back to the makeshift infirmary. There are stormtroopers and medical workers everywhere, tending to the wounded and laying out the dead. He’s exhausted. He’d used the Force when he could, but much of rescuing the miners had been pure physical labor, digging and pulling. His muscles are burning almost pleasantly and there is a glow of satisfaction he hasn’t felt since … well, he won’t think on that.

 

They’d made it to the workers in time, only losing one. Watching the husband who had begged for his help fold his wife against him had been surprisingly rewarding. He knows exactly how he would have felt if Rey had been trapped like that. He never wants to be in that terrible place ever again. He needs to find her, hold her, reassure himself that Rey is whole.

 

He’s looking for her everywhere, but he can’t see her in the midst of the controlled chaos. At this proximity he should be able to sense Rey, but something is shielding her.

 

“Rey?” he calls out into the Bond. He can sense the barrier between them, but it’s different. It’s not the wall he’s accustomed to. She’s not responding.

 

“Rey?” he pushes again. The Bond trembles but she still isn’t saying anything.

 

“Sir!” Kes’s voice yells.

 

He whips his head towards where the sound came from and finds Kes running up to him.

 

“You have to stop her!” Kes says, her eyes wild and panicked.

 

“What, where is she?”

 

“This way!”

 

Kes leads him to Rey, who is deep in a Force trance, blue healing light pouring from her. It’s almost engulfing her patient and Kylo’s mouth hangs open as he takes in the destroyed body lying in front of Rey. The worker is missing two limbs and is covered almost entirely with burns.  

 

Two medical officers are trying to reach Rey, but she’s surrounded in some sort of Force shield. “Ma’am, stop—you can’t save him!”

 

Rey doesn’t react and looks almost gray. Kylo knows what this is. Prolonged Force healing eventually results in the healer cannibalizing their own Force signature. He’d never thought she’d be so stubborn! The bubble of the Force that is keeping everyone from her, however, that he’s never seen before. It must be why he couldn’t sense her.

 

“Rey!” he bellows. She shows no sign of hearing him.

 

Kylo reaches for her, expecting to be stopped by the shield, but his hands slip through and he kneels behind her, wrapping her in his arms. Force healing continues to pour from her hands, but all it appears to be doing is keeping the man breathing sporadically.

 

“Rey,” he whispers in her ear.

 

“Kylo?” Her voice is far-away.

 

“You need to stop. You’re hurting yourself,” he says gently, tightening his arms around her.

 

“I have to save him!”

 

“Rey … love, you can’t.”

 

“I have to try!” She flexes her fingers and another burst of power cascades into the nearly-dead man.

 

“Please, let him go. You’re losing yourself.” He tries to pull her back, but it’s as if she’s tethered to her patient.

 

“Rey, please, if you keep doing this you might die. I can’t lose you. I can’t,” he pleads, his love and his fear lacing through his words. After revisiting the memories of when he did nearly lose her, it’s all too easy to envision. “Please.”

 

She shudders in his arms and sags back against him, the blue healing light finally stopping. He lets out a slow breath of relief. He buries his face at her neck, needing to touch her skin.

 

“Help me—help me heal him before it’s too late.” Her voice is weak but there is still steel in her tone.

 

He wishes he could; he can sense how desperately she needs to save this person. But it is not within his power. “I … I can’t.”

 

She turns to look in his eyes. “Can’t or won’t!” she accuses, a bit of her fire returning.

 

“Can’t. I’ve never had the affinity for Force healing,” he says regretfully, holding her gaze.

 

Her tired eyes spark with inspiration. “Then try! Like we did with the fire, you come into me, we’ll do it together through the Bond.”

 

“I ...” He doesn’t want her to expend any more energy; he wants to finally get her back to the safety of the Finalizer.

 

“Do it!” she demands as she fully opens the Bond.

 

Before he can get his bearings through the onslaught of feelings, she’s pulling him into her. He didn’t even know she could do that! She’s always come into him before and it’s extremely disorienting. He can feel her body as his own and her bone deep exhaustion and dangerous depletion terrify him.

 

He senses her blinding compassion, how much she must save this man. He’s never experienced the light so completely. He catches roiling conflict within her, that thick thread of shame he’d hoped had left her, and glints of hope and … devotion? But there’s no time to delve into the precious river of Rey.

 

“Put your hands over mine,” she requests as she again reaches her hands over the badly-burned man.

 

He does as she asks, his chest to her back and his arms stretching around her to place his large hands over hers, obscuring them completely from his sight. He senses how she’s manipulating the Force, how she’s intently focused on bringing this man back to his family, how she won’t allow another child to grow up without a parent. He lends her his power and the blue light becomes nearly blinding. He can’t see the man beyond the healing energy, but there is a flurry of activity as medical officers swarm around them. He hears the rhythm of the man breathing strongly.

 

“Rey, I think you did it. He’s breathing steadily. Let go.”

 

“I have to be sure!”

 

“Let go.” He gently pulls at her hands and eventually she lets him gather her back against him. He shifts her body so that her head is tucked under his chin. She sags in his arms and loses consciousness.

 

He stands quickly, holding her as he did on Takodana. A medical officer is already scanning her before he can call out for help.

 

“Is she alright?” he asks, his heart beating hard in his chest.

 

“Yes, yes sir. She’s fine. All her vitals are strong. She’s just exhausted.”

 

He’s not sure he’s ever felt such relief and he clutches her to his chest, comforting himself with the weight of her in his arms. He kisses her temple. “Oh, Rey …”

 

“Sir, let’s lay her down,” the officer suggests, attempting to pull him gently towards a field cot.

 

He won’t have her recover anywhere but her own bed. “No, I’m taking her back to the Finalizer.”

 

Kylo looks down on her beloved face. She’s pale and drawn, but her chest rises and falls regularly. Again he presses a kiss against her forehead, holding his lips on her skin, reassuring himself with her warmth. He closes his eyes and simply lets himself feel her. He wants to hide her away forever, snarling and growling at anyone who dares come near. Except Kes. He knows Rey would want Kes close.

 

The thought of Kes has him scanning for the stormtrooper. He sees her hovering and she’s tense and watchful.

 

He catches her eyes but she looks away. He sighs, too weary to feel much more than a slight stab of guilt. It’s time to get Rey home and he starts walking with her safe in his arms.

 

He walks past Kes and looks back at her over his shoulder. “Are you coming?” Kylo asks, a tad impatiently.

 

“Yes, sir!” Kes replies, hurrying to catch up with him.

 

As they make their way back to his shuttle, Kylo is gratified that Kes walks by his side. Perhaps he made some progress with the stormtrooper after all.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Returning to the Finalizer, the shuttle hums beneath his boots. Kes is seated across from him while he keeps Rey in his arms, unwilling to let her go. Her head is resting against his shoulder and her legs are draped over his lap. Now that he doesn’t need his arm to support her legs, he moves the hair that has escaped from her buns away from her face. Needing that intensity of connection he always feels when he touches her skin, he rests his hand along her cheek. It quiets some of the residual terror howling in his chest.

 

They’re both filthy. Her skin and clothing are streaked with grime and blood and digging through the earth to rescue the workers has left him equally bedraggled. Kylo doesn’t care; he’s mesmerized by her features. Her eyes are moving beneath her lids and he wonders if she’s dreaming. His eyes roam over her face, tracing the delicate lines of her cheekbones and the softness of her lips.

 

He could have lost her …

 

Kylo senses movement and looks up to find Kes shifting uncomfortably in her seat. He should say something to her.

 

“Thank you. Thank you for staying with her, for keeping her safe,” he says sincerely. If Kes hadn’t found him when she had, he might not have reached her before it was too late.

 

“Yes, sir.” Kes keeps her eyes averted.

 

He sighs heavily. “Kes, you don't need to be afraid of me. You are Rey’s friend and an excellent soldier. You did well today.”

 

Kes finally looks up, actually holding his eyes for a moment. “You … you aren't angry with me? For not stopping her?”

 

He shakes his head. “No. Rey does what she pleases. I'm rapidly learning to not even try to control her. If I'm angry with anyone, it's Rey.”

 

“Sir?”

 

“Obviously you know that she’s Force sensitive.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“If she had let me begin training her, she would have had more control of her powers and this might not have happened,” he says, nodding towards Rey's unconscious form.

 

“I see, sir.” She again catches his eyes briefly.

 

They lapse into silence but Kes finally relaxes.

 

They’re almost to the Finalizer when Kes hesitantly enquires, “Sir?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Will she … will she be okay?”

 

“Yes, she just needs to rest. She pushed herself dangerously far today, but will be herself by tomorrow.”

 

The stormtrooper nods faintly and he senses she wants to ask something else.

 

“What is it? You truly don’t need to fear me. Please, ask what you wish to know.”

 

Kes looks away for a moment, clutching at her knees. “Would … would it be possible for someone to tell me when she wakes up?” Her clear green eyes flicker with hope.

 

Kylo smiles. Kes’s obvious care for his beloved touches something in him. “I will send the message myself.”

 

Kes’s face brightens immediately. “Thank you, sir.”

 

---

 

They walk out into the hangar of the Finalizer to find Hux, a medical team waiting with a gurney and, oddly, Vitok. Kes has grown furtive again.

 

“Supreme Leader, we were told that the girl had been injured,” the general says. Hux’s eyes widen slightly when his gaze reaches Kes.

 

The medics attempt to take Rey from Kylo and he instinctively steps back.

 

“She is simply depleted; she just needs rest,” Kylo explains, holding her more firmly against him.

 

One of the medics looks briefly at General Hux then hesitantly says, “Sir, we would like to confirm her condition.” His voice is timid.

 

Kylo doesn't want to let her go, irrationally afraid he won’t get her back.

 

“She exhausted herself from using the Force to excess. There's nothing wrong with her medically,” Kylo grinds out. He sounds petulant even to his own ears.

 

“Sir,” Hux says with surprising gentleness, “let them do their job.”

 

Kylo shakes his head. “She’s fine.”

 

Vitok steps forward. “I'm sure she is, but it wouldn't hurt to make certain?” She lifts her hand as if to touch his arm but then drops it. “Sir.”

 

He knows his actions don’t make sense, but as long as he’s holding her, he’s certain she’s safe. She had been harrowingly close to sacrificing herself to save that Esharan. But he supposes he should have her looked over, a brief scan in the field isn’t truly sufficient.

 

He looks at Vitok, knowing her kind eyes are pleading with him through her helmet.

 

Reluctantly, he places Rey on the waiting gurney but swiftly takes her hand.

 

He looks over at Kes, who has been standing awkwardly to the side. He realizes she's waiting to be dismissed. “You may go, Kes. I will contact you when she wakes up.”

 

The stormtrooper looks at Rey one last time before leaving.

 

---

 

Kylo pulls back the covers with the Force and carefully lays her on her bed. Rey is, as he’d said, simply drained. He’d refused to leave her in the med bay, wanting―no, needing―to tend to her himself. She’s still covered in the evidence of the blast. He'd like to bathe her, but he would never take such liberties. It's a delicious thought, though. He can imagine how her skin would pink from the warm water. He would join her in the bath; hold her against his chest and wash every inch of her. The thought of kissing droplets of water from her skin has his body responding. Apparently not all of him is exhausted.

 

He pushes away that train of thought as he pulls her boots from her feet. He retrieves a basin and cloths from the ‘fresher. Her lovely complexion is revealed as he gently wipes away the grime from her face. He moves aside the ribbon that holds the gems from the necklace as he cleans her neck. Perhaps he could take it now, have it repaired? No, there's not enough time. He washes all of her exposed skin. The rest will have to wait until she's awake.

 

He'd agreed to contact Hux once he had her settled. The events on Eshara must be dealt with.

 

“Hux,” he says quietly into his comm as he sits heavily in a chair to begin his bedside vigil. A droid with his clean clothing will arrive soon.

 

“Sir. Is she alright?” Hux responds with genuine concern.

 

“Yes, she'll likely wake in a few hours. Send me everything you have on the incident on Eshara.”

 

“Perhaps you might have Vitok Ren or KS-2153 stay with her while you come to the bridge?” Hux suggests.

 

“No.”

 

“They would inform you as soon as she regains consciousness,” Hux presses.

 

“I said no!”

 

He hears Hux sigh. “Yes sir, I’m sending you the preliminary reports now. We don’t know much, but we do know it was intentional.”

 

Kylo looks at his sleeping love and fury races through his veins. His fingers clench around his comm and his other hand curls into a rigid fist. Someone is responsible for her current state. Rey nearly killed herself to heal the victims. They will pay―dearly.

 

“I’ll review the material and then we will discuss retaliation,” Kylo growls, turning off his comm. Every single being involved in bombing the mine will die―he will see to it personally. Rey may be making him rethink certain things, but he will never be merciful to those who threaten her. She will need to accept that.

 

---

 

The door alert sounds and he retrieves a fresh change of clothes from the service droid. He has a moment of indecision, as he doesn’t want to leave her long enough to clean himself up. Ultimately, he decides to leave the door between her bedroom and the ‘fresher open, foregoing a shower and quickly changing. Just as he’d washed her, he wipes his face and hands. Then he rinses his hair in the sink. It’s not perfect, but he’s in much better shape.

 

---

 

Kylo studies everything Hux sent him and digs further into the history of Eshara. He looks at her frequently and often moves from his chair to draw his fingers along her face or hold her hand. In the quiet of her room he’s remembered that once this day is done he will not see her for a week and the dwindling hours are beginning to mock him. The thought of not being with her for so many days after everything … it leaves him feeling desperate and helpless.

 

---

 

He hears a light moan and goes to her quickly, sitting on the edge of her bed. Her eyes are fluttering, but she’s not truly awake. She flinches and twitches and he takes her hand in his, smoothing her hair back with the other.

 

“Shhhh, love, shhhh,” he soothes.

 

Rey starts to whimper.

 

“Rey? Wake up. It’s time to wake up,” he says as he kneels next to the bed so that he may be closer to her.

 

He cradles her head and presses his lips against her temple. She sighs and begins to settle. He pulls back in order to watch her face. Then her eyes open slowly and he’s so happy to see the familiar swirls of brown and green.

 

“Rey …” he breathes out, stroking her cheek.

 

“Kylo?” she asks confusedly, her eyes flitting around.

 

“You depleted yourself; you healed too many people. We’re back on the Finalizer. You’ve been out for about four hours.”

 

She starts to try to sit up and he urges her to lie back down. “No, please don’t get up.”

 

She closes her eyes for a moment, ceasing her movements. “I feel like I’m under water.”

 

“Yes, you will likely feel a bit strange for a while yet. You … you put yourself in great danger,” he says softly.

 

“I had to save him. When they brought him to me he was raving about his children. That he was all they had. I couldn’t … I couldn’t let them be orphans.”

 

He runs his fingers through her hair. She’s perfection. He didn’t know someone could be so good. “Well, you did save him. He will require extensive rehabilitation, but he will live for many years.”

 

She grasps the hand not stroking her. “We saved him.”

 

“I … yes, I suppose we did.” He'd never thought he'd be part of Force healing. It’s been such a long time since he’d tapped into the light, even vicariously. That he used his power to heal … He’ll think on it later.

 

A long moment passes while they just look at each other, into each other. Now that she’s awake and truly safe he’s very aware of how afraid he had been.

 

Finally Rey breaks the silence. “Tell me what happened while I was healing people.”

 

“We pulled all the survivors to safety.”

 

“We?” she asks with an arched brow.

 

“The stormtroopers and the other villagers. There were workers trapped in a pocket of the mine that survived the explosion and a few others throughout the structures. I used the Force to find anyone still alive and clear the rubble.”

 

Her smile has grown so wide that he finds himself ducking his head in embarrassment. He’s used to her tentative, fleeting acceptance, quickly followed by rejection. Pushing him away, always pushing him away. But now she looks so happy with him. He doesn’t know how to handle it.

 

“What is it?” she asks, tilting her head.

 

“I … you don’t usually look at me like that.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Like … like you’re happy with me.”

 

Her brows draw together and her lips twist into a wounded expression. Force, now he’s hurt her.

 

“I’m sorry,” she whispers.

 

“Sorry? For what?”

 

“I know … I know that I hurt you, that you don’t understand why I won’t just accept what’s between us. Right now I can’t quite remember why. I just know that when I’m alone it all comes rushing back and I feel like I’m caught in quicksand. Today, though … the way you helped your people … today I am happy with you.”

 

“Truly?”

 

“Truly.”

 

Her confirmation floods him with a sense of satisfaction he’s not felt for a very long time, and certainly not to this extent. Snoke would occasionally give him an empty sort of praise, but there was always that lingering doubt, the knowledge that it wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t good enough. Never good enough. But the way that Rey is looking at him, like he’s genuinely pleased her … he must do whatever he can to keep filling her eyes with that bright acceptance.

 

He’s still crouched by her bed and their hands are trailing along each other. Her fingers explore his face, then move through his hair while he strokes her cheek. He’s looking deeply into her eyes and there’s a new intimacy in the air. Her fingers leave streaks of tingling warmth and he’s beginning to tremble. What would he do if he lost her?

 

She leans forward slightly, then she’s pulling him towards her and soon their lips touch. He sighs into her soft mouth, kissing her, a slight hum of energy building between them. Her mouth, her glorious mouth. He delves his tongue between her perfect lips and revels in the taste of her. Now she’s tugging at him and he’s joining her in her bed.

 

Lying next to her, he gathers her in his arms as he kisses along her throat. Oh Rey. He sucks at the sensitive skin where her neck meets her shoulder and she arches against him. Beautiful tremors move through her body and he clutches her to him, feeling the length of her smaller form pressed against him. Will he ever grow used to the rush of pleasure that infuses him when he’s touching her?

 

He’s already achingly hard, too long denied. She rubs herself against him with a hungry moan and he answers her call, thrusting back. Closer―he needs to be closer. He just wants to dive into her and never surface. He kisses lower, pulling aside the fabric of her tunic. He sees her dirty clothes and he stills. What is he doing? She's recovering, fragile. He shouldn't be craving her like this, rutting against her like a mindless animal.

 

“What is it?” she breathes into his ear, her voice husky with passion. Her hands are pulling at him and she tries to kiss him but he shifts away, putting some distance between them. He focuses on what Rey needs, not what they both obviously want, but his traitorous body refuses to cooperate. It doesn't matter; she must have rest, not his attentions. He’ll just ignore it. Her eyes are confused, almost hurt, and he knows he must explain his sudden shift in mood.

 

“I'm sorry, you're still weak. I … I’m sorry. And I’m sure you'd like to bathe. I cleaned what I could, but I didn't want to …” His hand flails.

 

She looks down and sees her blood-streaked clothes. “Oh! Well, I'm not that weak.” She gives him a knowing smile that does not help his predicament. “But you're right, I should change.”

 

Rey leans forward and kisses him sweetly. She gets out of her bed, leaving him still lying on his side. He feels how the closeness is dwindling and he’s hit with a wave of desolation, sweeping aside his lust. He hasn't thought clearly since he first saw her infusing her very self into the burned man. He's travelled between paralyzing fear, soul-deep relief, dizzying desire, and is now battling the creeping emptiness of her absence. It's too much.

 

He sits, his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees. Nearly losing her has his emotions all over the place. Of course she needs to see to her clothes, to bathe. He was the one to suggest she do just that, but he's not ready to be away from her, even just in the other room.

 

He can't get control of his feelings. He breathes in a steadying breath but it sounds more like a sob. It's growing late in the day and he won't see her for such a long time. Soon she will have thrown up the wall between them and he'll have to again subsist on her scraps.

 

But she doesn't withdraw to her ‘fresher. Instead, she's standing in front of him.

 

“Kylo, what is it?” There is genuine concern in her tone as she lifts his face to look at her.

 

“Nothing. Go change.” He looks away, feeling the strangest combination of emotions. He wants to hold her tight yet hide from her until this storm of fear and longing has passed.

 

“No, please …” She cups his face with both hands and moves to catch his gaze. Her eyes are brimming with worry.

 

“It's just …” He pulls back, taking her hands from his face and holding them loosely. He looks down at their entwined fingers. Her hands are so small. “I know you'll pull away again, and today … you almost died. I … I'm trying, truly I am. But … do you know what it does to me to be apart from you?” He chances a glance at her face and finds her expression stricken.

 

She stands closer and pulls his arms around her waist. Then she holds his face so he has no choice but to look up at her.

 

“I don't know how to do this. It's so easy to forget all that you've done when you're like this. Vulnerable, open. But … I feel like I'm betraying everything by being with you.” He doesn't know what to say to that. He wants to reassure her that he'll never ask her to join the First Order or do anything she’s uncomfortable with, but then she’s running her fingers through his hair. He wonders if she knows how much he likes it when she does that. It makes him feel so comforted. He's not allowed anyone to tangle their fingers through his hair since … well, he won't think about that woman.

 

She looks into his eyes with aching tenderness. “We don't agree on anything.” She smiles, continuing to stroke his head. “Yet … today you showed me a man … a man I could love.”

 

He can't breathe. Yes, he's heard similar words from her lips, but not when she'd meant him to hear them. Having her in front of him, touching him while she says them, makes him even more aware of how he's wronged her. He can't explain, she would never forgive him. But she's said it, to him, and that overwhelms his guilt with a joy he never thought he’d feel. She's admitted to a depth of caring he'd not allowed himself to dream of, except late at night in his most private places.

 

Swiftly, he pulls her close and buries his face in her filthy clothes.

 

“Kylo! I'm covered in I don't even know what!” she exclaims, placing her hands on his shoulders and pushes against him slightly. He only tightens his hold.

 

“I don't care. You just said you could love me.” His voice is muffled and his eyes are stinging.

 

“I already halfway do,” she murmurs.

 

He pulls back, certain he's misheard her. He looks into her eyes and finds only warmth there, no hint of trickery.

 

“You do?” he asks in stunned disbelief.

 

“I do. I still need us to go slow, but I'm not going to come back from cleaning myself up and show you the door.”

 

He smiles slightly, feeling a bit foolish for being so needy. He pulls her back to him and she’s again stroking his hair. He hums in pleasure and he allows himself to let some of the fear go. Rey is falling in love with him. He’s so close to having everything he’s ever wanted.

 

Much as he’d like to simply keep her in his arms, he’s certain she can’t be comfortable in her stained clothing. Kylo stands, gently extricating himself.

 

“Alright, off with you,” he says lightly, recovering from the whirlwind of contradictory feelings. He's slightly dazed by her admission.

 

She looks him up and down and frowns. He realizes his clothing is again streaked with dust.

 

“I think you have to change again.” Then she looks at her bed, sullied with dirt. “In fact, I'll need to change these sheets, too.”

 

“I'll have the droids come.”

 

“Don't you ever do anything yourself?”

 

“Why would I?”

 

Rey puts a hand on her hip and rolls her eyes. “I … I don't even know how to begin to explain that. Leave it, I'll handle it. Meet me back here in half an hour?”

 

“Alright.”

 

She goes to her ‘fresher and disappears behind the door with a gentle smile.

 

He looks at the bed and decides he doesn't want her to exert herself. Now … how does one go about changing sheets?

 

---

 

They're on her settee after a quiet meal. While in his own quarters he'd informed Kes that Rey is awake. He'd also taken the opportunity to bathe and he's feeling more himself. She's in his arms and running her fingers along his chest. While he’d prefer she was still resting in her bed, she had been emphatic that she was feeling better. He hasn’t yet addressed what transpired on Eshara. He doesn't want to dispel the calm beauty of the moment, but he's certain she doesn't have any comprehension of how close she'd come to irreparably harming herself, perhaps to the point of death.

 

“Rey?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“You must let me train you.”

 

She pulls back and looks at him sternly. “I've told you no.”

 

“But today, you don't understand what you nearly did.”

 

“I'm only tired.” She shrugs.

 

Only tired? Her casual dismissal of how close he'd come to losing her makes him angry. “No, you could have permanently damaged your connection with the Force. Rey … you could have killed yourself!”

 

She pales and her fingers clutch at him. “I thought you were exaggerating,” she says with a shaky voice.

 

“I was entirely sincere. Pouring that kind of power into others for long periods of time, especially by an untrained Force user, eventually results in the very Force burning out within you. The danger was exceptionally real. I could have lost you. Do you have the remotest idea what that would do to me? Can you even conceive of it?” he asks fiercely and the Force swirls around him. She must understand, she has to.

 

While talking he'd pulled back and is now holding her firmly by the shoulders, his eyes searing into hers.

 

Rey's eyes are wide and he's afraid that he's scaring her. He relaxes his hold and moves a hand to her face.

 

“You could have died,” he whispers.

 

She blinks and then her eyes grow wide. “I didn't know. I'm sorry.”

 

“I don't care that you're sorry! You have to let me teach you so this never happens again! I would never recover if I could no longer feel you, even with the Bond closed, you're always here.” He holds his hand over his heart. Please, please understand.

 

Her expression shifts from contrite fear to something edging on contempt. “Right. The Bond,” she scoffs. “The archives said when one half of a Force Bonded pair dies the other usually descends into insanity. That would make it difficult to take over the galaxy.”

 

What? She thinks this is about the First Order? “To hell with the Bond! This isn't about the Bond. It would devastate me because I would lose you. You! Not the Bond, you! What must I say for you to understand what you mean to me? I love you. I've never loved anyone but you. I will only ever love you. Not because of the Bond!” He's breathing hard and his heart pounds in his chest. He wants to launch himself at her and kiss her until she believes him or scream explanations until he's hoarse. Anything, as long as Rey stops finding ways to cast off his devotion.

 

Her face is frozen with her lips opened slightly. She stares at him and finally lets out a defeated breath.

 

“But there's no way to know,” she says quietly.

 

“Why does it even matter? It's done, it's permanent. I … we feel what we feel. To struggle against it is futile, madness.” He wants to hide his frustration, but Force, he's tired.

 

“You say that you think you would feel this way regardless,” she says thoughtfully.

 

“Yes,” he answers cautiously.

 

She catches his eyes. “I don't think I would.”

 

He has to close his eyes against how deeply he’s hurt by her words. She truly believes that it's only the Bond. She thinks she could love him, but only because of a perverse twist of fate. He should have known, she never would have wanted him without outside interference. Why does he continue to fall in this trap?

 

His eyes startle open when he feels her hands on his face. He'd not felt her shift.

 

But, you're right. It doesn't matter why I feel the way I do. It feels real, so in a way it is real. I didn't mean to hurt you. I hate hurting you.”

 

He nods faintly, still recovering from her latest cut.

 

“The Bond … it may be responsible for me coming to care for you …” Her eyes soften with undeniable affection. “But I do know that … before it was forged, I did feel something.”

 

“Terror? Disgust?” Creature in a mask ...

 

“No! Well … yes, but that's not what I meant.” Her lips make a thin line and she breathes out quickly. “I'm trying to apologize!”

 

“It doesn't matter. I will take what you will give me.”

 

“I … of course it matters. I don't want … “ Her fingers are back in his hair. Rey holds his eyes intensely. “You once accused me of treating you like a dog. Giving you scraps. I don't want that. I want to understand you. I think … I think I want you to understand me.”

 

That's what he wants, too. More than touching her, more than anything, he wants to give himself to her and have her give herself to him in return. This constant misunderstanding rips him to pieces. He doesn’t know how to find the words to express himself, so he stays silent.

 

She doesn't say anything else, but her eyes are pleading with him. He's not sure what she needs so he lifts his hand to her face and draws his thumb along her cheek. She closes her eyes and presses against his hand. He wraps his other arm around her shoulders, pulling her near.

 

Her eyes flutter open and he's caught in her gaze. He's not sure who closes the distance, but soon they're kissing. It begins gently, but it's rapidly spiraling. It appears that's inevitable. But she'd been trying to tell him something, so he pulls back.

 

“What did you want to say? About how you felt when we … met?” he asks.

 

His arm is still around her, his hand cradling her face. She catches his gaze and he finds a deeply endearing shyness lurking in her eyes.

 

She tangles her fingers in his tunic. “That I thought you were handsome. That I wanted to touch you. I was terrified, but … when you took off your mask, I felt like I knew you. So … I guess I was just trying to tell you that my feelings about you, for you, have always been complicated. I know I told you I felt nothing, that you were wrong about our connection. But that's not really true. I always felt it.” She looks at him with bashful eyes.

 

He takes in a shuddering breath, afraid to believe she means what she’s said. He'd always hoped he'd been right, that he wasn't alone. He'd even told her. I feel it, too. But to have her acknowledge it … it is the rarest of gifts.

 

“Will you let me teach you to wield the Force so that nothing like today happens again? It's not safe for you to have such power with no way to channel it.” He leans his forehead against hers, closing his eyes. “Don't make me face this again. Please, Rey. Please.”

 

He hears her steady breathing and he waits for her answer. At least she's not rejecting it out of hand.

 

“Vitok. I will train with Vitok.”

 

He draws back and looks at her face. It's not what he'd hoped for, but at least she would have some training. He wants so much to be the one to watch her unlock the exquisite power within her, but he can think of no one he would trust more than Vitok.

 

“I will make arrangements in the morning.”

 

She nods, but there's a dimming in her eyes that he doesn't know how to interpret. He decides not to press. She has agreed to be trained. It is enough.

 

He wraps her in his arms, encouraging her to settle against his chest. His eyes close and he allows himself to simply feel the comfort of holding her. He won’t think about how long it will be until he next sees her, only that he will see her. She will train with Vitok. They will write to each other. She is finally admitting how deeply they’re connected.

 

Her warm body feels so right against him. Hoping she’ll let him feel some of her, he softly brushes against the Bond. Her fingers grip his chest then relax. The Bond opens and he gasps as waves of pure warmth wash over him. He lets himself drift in her light and everything else melts away. Rey ...

Chapter Text

Warmth. He’s cocooned in warmth. Safety. Security. His senses are overwhelmed by the scent of Rey and contentment suffuses his entire being. He feels her fingers stroking his face. This is a good dream. Then there are little sparks of kisses along his jaw and he sighs.

 

“Kylo …” her voice breathes into his ear and it sends glittering shocks along his spine. He shivers deliciously.

 

“Kylo, wake up …”

 

A soft kiss is pressed against his lips and he begins to realize Rey is actually here. She’s in his arms and he slowly opens his eyes. He freezes as he comprehends that he’s still in her sitting room. What time is it? He takes in her beautiful face, her sleepy eyes, and he relaxes back into the delicious comfort of holding his beloved.

 

He smiles at her gently and runs his fingers through her hair. “Hello, sweetheart.”

 

She smiles back and he wants to kiss her dimples. Why not? He’s allowed to, now. He leans forward and leaves a lingering kiss on her cheek.

 

“We fell asleep,” she explains.

 

“I see that.”

 

“It’s morning. I wouldn’t have woke you, but I didn’t know when you’re expected at … uhm … work.”

 

They’d slept all night on her settee? He shouldn’t have allowed that. She needed a proper night’s rest. He frowns, disappointed at his carelessness.

 

“What is it?” she asks.

 

“You needed rest, not to have an uncomfortable night sleeping out here.”

 

“I was quite comfortable, actually.” She smiles at him coyly then her expression becomes pensive. “I think it helped, sleeping with the Bond open like that. I feel fine, good even.”

 

The Bond, however, is empty now; she’s already withdrawn. He wishes he’d waded into the rivers of Rey while he’d had the chance, but he’d needed to simply float along her last night. He finds he can’t truly regret his choice.

 

He looks into her expressive eyes, hoping she truly is feeling better. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

 

She rolls her eyes. “You worry too much.”

 

“Well I wouldn’t have to if you hadn’t put yourself in danger like that,” he says testily. He’s pulled into the memory of her pallid skin after she’d given too much to the Esharan.

 

He grasps her to him but she pulls back and regards him, her eyes flashing with annoyance.

 

“About that,” she says slowly.

 

His stomach sinks. Oh no. She’s changed her mind about training. “About what?” he asks cautiously.

 

Her face grows hard and all the heady warmth between them is dispelled by her frosty eyes.

 

“Do not ever Force freeze me again. Ever. In fact, don’t use your powers on me, period.”

 

He sits up but keeps an arm around her. “It was necessary,” he says with a clipped tone.

 

You thought it was necessary. Promise me that was the last time.”

 

“I can’t do that. If you are in danger I will always do what I have to in order to keep you safe.”

 

Rey purses her lips and pulls from him, sitting on the edge of the settee. After having her so close for hours, the distance between them makes him feel as if she’s been carved from his side and he’s left raw and ragged. He manages to keep himself from reaching for her but he still leans towards her. Her arms wrap around her waist and she glares at him.

 

“You have a horrible history of forcing me to do things against my will when you think it’s necessary. You froze me on Takodana, pushed into my mind on Starkiller, then froze me again on Cathne, pulled and froze me on Ilaria, and you froze me yet again on Eshara. I won’t have it.”

 

His teeth grind together and he feels a nerve in his cheek jump. He'd only used the Force on her like that because he'd had no other choice. Why can’t she understand that? If he'd let her keep going on Takodana she would have escaped with the map. He won’t think about the events on Starkiller. On Cathne, she would have run off with General Organa. Ilaria … well, he supposes he understands her anger for that, but she wouldn't be with him had he not acted. Eshara, however … she may have a point there. Ultimately they'd ended up at the mine and he sees that they might have come to a compromise if they’d simply discussed it.

 

He breathes out slowly, calming his frustration. “I won’t use my powers unless you are actively in danger,” he concedes.

 

Rey shakes her head. “I don't want to leave it to your questionable judgment.”

 

“As we're discussing your safety, you will have to trust me.”

 

She snorts. “Trust you?”

 

“Yes,” he says, realizing how much he needs her to trust him. The deeper he falls, the more he comprehends what wanting everything from her truly means. He wants her trust, her love, her body, her soul. When he’d first set this course, he’d been focused on finding her, having her. But now that she’s here, what that actually entails has grown exponentially.

 

Rey looks away, her hands falling to her lap. “It’s not even about trust; I don't want you to control me like that.”

 

He hates the few feet of space between them. He needs her close. Doesn’t she feel it? Having her near but not touching her is wrong.

 

“I wasn't trying to control you, I just didn't know what else to do! I know, I know I say that, that you think it’s an excuse, but it was instinctual. I just needed you safe. I didn’t think about it, not really. I knew you’d be angry once it was done, but facing your fury was a price I was willing to pay. I can’t lose you.” His voice grows quiet and lost and he looks down at his hands, his shoulders sagging helplessly.

 

She doesn’t respond so he looks up after a few too many seconds have passed, finding that her eyes have softened. “I know. I remember how I felt the morning I nearly lost you.” She shifts closer, not yet touching, but near enough that the Bond swirls between them hopefully. “But can you understand how much I hate that you are able to overpower me so easily?”

 

His fingers clench at his knees and his eyes close tightly for a moment. He remembers how it felt for Snoke to invade him, remove his ability to defend himself and he does understand. Yet … he can’t give in to her wishes, too afraid of the implications. Never again will he make her a promise he knows he can’t keep. “Yes, I do. I know what it feels like to have no control. But you just ran off ...” he finishes plaintively.

 

Rey cocks her head and he takes the opportunity to watch her. Her simple tunic is wrinkled from a night of sleep held close to his side. Her complexion is back to normal, her cheeks glowing with vitality. He’s so tired of struggling with her, but being able to gaze on her winsome face gives him something to cling to.

 

Finally, she takes in a deep breath. “Both of us are used to relying on ourselves. On Jakku, there was just me. I never had to take another person’s wishes into account. Your reasons may be different, but you don’t have much experience with thinking about someone else, either.” She looks at him keenly.

 

“No, I suppose not.”

 

“So I will do better at being aware of how my actions affect you. If we’re ever in a similar situation, I won’t run off like that,” she offers, looking at him expectantly.

 

She’s clearly looking for him to offer something in return. He thinks about it. It was rather high-handed of him to freeze her like that. He chooses his words carefully. “I will try to consider your wishes before acting. I won't use the Force on you unless your life is threatened or you give me your permission.”

 

He doesn’t like the vulnerable feeling that runs through him. However, Rey isn’t wrong, he has very little experience with including another’s perspective in his decision making. He’s not sure he even knows how to go about it.

 

“Thank you,” she says softly. They’re still sitting side-by-side and she tentatively reaches her hand out, inviting him to curl his fingers with hers. But he wants her much closer than that so he opens his arms. Swiftly she returns to his side; she fits so perfectly there. He closes his eyes as he presses her head against his chest and her hand goes to his heart.

 

Will they ever reach a place where she no longer pulls away from him at the slightest provocation? It’s so hard to keep up with the rules of engagement. At least she’s never again forced him to promise not to touch her. Those days of being near but not being allowed to hold her, trail his fingers along her face, kiss her—they had been agony.

 

Kylo puts the most recent conflict from his mind and concentrates on the delectable feeling of his beloved’s small form tucked under his chin. He went years with as little contact with another person as possible. Now there's a physical sensation of pain when he’s not able to touch her. When he’s away from her, it hurts. His skin aches for her, as if it’s pulled too tight across his frame.

 

Rey kneads at his chest with her fingers. He's noticed that she tends to touch him actively. He does it too, not content with just holding her; he must stroke and grasp. It’s as if their fingers need to constantly reaffirm that the other is there, pulsing and alive under their hands.

 

“I liked waking up in your arms,” she says as she rubs her cheek against him.

 

She's like the cat he had as a boy, insistent for affection. He will never deny her. He savors the texture of her hair as he cards his hand through her waves. He's probably spent a week’s worth of hours imagining what her chestnut locks would feel like. So many fantasies coming true. He hums at the thought of her hair trailing along his bare chest as she works her way down his body … But now is not the time for that.

 

He pulls her closer, murmuring, “I liked waking up to your kisses.”

 

Her delicate face tilts up and her eyes are open, free of the conflict he often finds brewing there. “I meant it, you know, what I said last night.”

 

“That you will train with Vitok?” he asks, holding her gaze.

 

“Well, yes, but I was talking about how I feel about you. That I … I'm … about how much I …” Her perfect face scrunches in frustration. “I don't know how to talk about it … I keep hurting you when I try … I don’t want that. Whenever I try to explain what’s inside of me I feel like it all comes out wrong, that up becomes down and I make you feel like I’m pushing you away, that I don’t want you ...” She looks down, drawing the cloth of his tunic between her fingers.

 

“Yesterday you talked about how hard it is to be away from me, what it does to you. It's hard for me, too. I don't ask for space because I don't want to be with you, but because I do want to. So much. But you never seem to understand what that does to me. Because of that, I still need time before I see you again, but not because I don't feel it. I’m not shutting you out, I’m trying to find my way to you without losing myself.” Her hazel eyes blink up at him.

 

He wants to understand what she’s saying, she’s obviously trying to tell him that he does matter to her, but all he can hear is that he will need to leave soon. That she needs that cursed time. His breath comes quickly and the familiar hollowness sweeps through his chest.

 

“Stop, please,” she says as her hands move swiftly to his face.

 

“Stop what?” His voice is artificially calm. She’s said she’s not shutting him out, but somehow it always feels that she is.

 

“I can see the panic beginning. I'm not going anywhere. It's just a few days. Then we’ll see each other. We’ll write. Having time to think, adjust … it helps. We were having a nice time before everything went to hell. I mean … weren't we?”

 

“Yes! Yes. Very much so.” How could she think he doesn’t enjoy every moment he has with her?

 

“See? It was good for us. I’m coming to terms with what’s happened. At first it was too much, I couldn’t keep up with … everything. But I’m learning to make a sort of peace with it. I don’t think you know how much it means to me that you are giving me space just because I’m asking you too. That’s all I ever wanted, really, for you to listen to me. Please don’t be so sad when it’s time to go.”

 

She’s still looking up at him and her eyes are full of entreaty. As difficult as her way of navigating their relationship is for him, she is right. Allowing her to set the pace has resulted in her opening up to him, sharing her memories and thoughts, her affection and desire.

 

He whispers a caress along her forehead before again catching her eyes. “I'm still going to miss you.” Like air, water, food, and sleep.

 

“I'll miss you, too. I think that's good.”

 

“It's good to feel empty and wanting, overwhelmed with longing?” He cringes. He shouldn't have said that, the words just tumbled out.

 

Her eyes grow sad. “Kylo …”

 

“Never mind. You're right, having you miss me is a decided improvement over you wishing me dead.” He tries to say it lightly, as if he's teasing, but the essential truth of his words are too heavy.

 

Rey grimaces in pain. “I never wanted you dead. Not really. And … I did miss you. Now and every day since the Bond was forged. I miss you any time we aren't touching. Even when we are touching, it’s never enough.”

 

“I-” Then she cuts him off by capturing his lips, kissing him fiercely. It takes him a moment to catch up, but he's right there with her by the time her soft tongue slides into his mouth.

 

Their lips fused, she shifts until she's straddling him. Her hands run through his hair and he groans. He smoothes his hands along her back, imagining the expanse of her skin hidden under her tunic.

 

Maker, he wants to spend the day just like this. The wild lust is building in them both, but she wants to move slowly. And, honestly, so does he. While it would be bliss to give in to the exquisite tension, he will only have this time with Rey once and he wants to savor each new discovery. She should be unwrapped with care, each of her treasures enjoyed thoroughly before moving on to the next.

 

So he ignores what it does to him to feel the heat of her center pressed against his urgent hardness, focusing instead on her tender mouth and the sparks of pleasure that always accompany her hands in his hair.

 

Then her fingers dance along one of his arms and she’s grasping his hand. She guides it away from her back and at first he’s confused. Oh ... Oh Force, her firm breast beneath his palm is utter perfection. He’s trying, desperately, to control himself, but then he feels her nipple tighten as he strokes the sensitive tissue with his thumb. She’s not wearing anything beneath her tunic and a strangled whimper falls from his lips. He rolls the taught bud between his fingers and she gasps into his mouth. He’s trying to remember why he must hold himself in check.

 

He’s never explored a woman’s body with his bare hands before, and there’s something about how her breast feels under his fingers that speaks to a primal part of him. It’s all he can do to keep from tearing the cloth from her body and pulling her breast into his mouth. He continues to circle her nipple with his thumb and she’s mewling and panting against him. Their foreheads are touching, eyes closed. His breathing has grown harsh.

 

They open their eyes and Rey sits back a bit further on his lap so that she can look hold his gaze. Deliberately, she takes his hand, pulling it from her chest while grasping his other wrist. His fingers twitch to feel her again, but then she’s moving his hands, pushing them up under her tunic. She wants him to …? Her eyes are searing into his as she places his hands over her breasts. He can’t see them, not yet, but Maker, their slight weight in his palms has him in awe.

 

He squeezes them slightly and she arches into his touch. How can slight swells of flesh feel so good? He suddenly feels like an innocent, flush with discovery. He glides his fingers over the silken softness of her skin, fascinated by how the texture changes as he reaches the pebbled skin of her areola. He watches her face, enraptured by how the pleasure moves across her face. Her eyes are closed now, her cheeks flushed. Her swollen lips are parted and she lets out little pants. Just as he had over her tunic, he swirls his thumbs around each needy peak and Rey is crying out. He’s never heard such sounds before. She’s almost sobbing. His cock throbs painfully.

 

Before he’s really accepted that he’s being allowed this experience, her eyes are again on his and she’s pulling her tunic from her body. He breaks their eye contact, needing to see what she’s revealed. He blinks, not truly believing that he’s seeing her lovely breasts bared to him. She’s magnificent. The sight of all that creamy skin, smattered with freckles, pulls a guttural moan from his throat. But then he notices that she’s stilled.

 

He looks up at her face and finds nervousness—she won’t meet his eyes. Much as he wants to continue to limn her body with his fingers, instead he cups her cheek with his hand, placing the other at the dip of her waist. He tries to get her to look at him but she keeps her gaze averted.

 

He’s not sure what’s wrong. Is she insecure? He knows she doesn’t believe that she’s beautiful. “You’re exquisite,” he reassures in a low voice.

 

Her eyes flit to his for just a moment but then she’s again looking away. She covers herself with one arm.

 

“Rey?” She still won’t meet his gaze, and her other arm joins the first.

 

“Love, what is it?”

 

She shakes her head and pulls her arms tighter across her chest. He tries to soothe her by stroking his hand along the small of her back and drawing his fingers lightly across her cheek. Slowly she moves her eyes to his and she looks impossibly young. He wraps his arms around her and pulls her down until she’s nestled against his chest. She’s trembling.

 

“Rey … it’s alright.”

 

“I thought … I wanted … but then …”

 

“I understand, I do,” he croons.

 

“I don’t know what to do with everything inside me,” she whispers brokenly.

 

“You don’t need to rush yourself.”

 

“I wasn’t … I didn’t think I was, at least. I just needed to be closer, needed to do something to make this ache go away. But then … I ...”

 

“Shhhh … you don’t need to explain. We’ll take as long as you need, sweetheart. Just let me hold you.”

 

She nods against his chest. He holds her close, stroking her hair, covering her nakedness with his embrace. Her trembling subsides.  

 

“I like it when you call me that,” she murmurs against his chest.

 

“I like that I want to,” he admits softly.

 

---

 

Kylo walks to the bridge. He’d helped her re-dress and sensed she needed time to herself. He hadn’t wanted to leave, but he can’t deny that giving Rey space yields much better results than when his frantic, possessive need to be with her takes away his reason. He’ll see her again in a handful of days. Until then, she will train with Vitok in the mornings and spend her afternoons with Kes. She’s reaffirmed that she will write to him. She’d kissed him goodbye with such tenderness that he’d been able to keep the panic at leaving her from overtaking him.

 

---

 

He finds Vitok in the training room set aside for the Knights of Ren. She’s practicing forms with her helmet off. He removes his own, as has become his habit when alone with Vitok.

 

“You weren’t in your quarters earlier this morning when I came for our regular training. Hux didn’t know where you were. Clearly things are going quite well,” Vitok teases with an arched brow, coming to stand in front of him. When Kylo doesn’t say anything she smirks.

 

He frowns. He doesn’t want Vitok to think that he’d taken advantage of Rey’s weakened state. “We fell asleep in her sitting room. It’s not what you’re thinking. I wouldn’t … not after yesterd-”

 

“I know that. I only meant that things are … progressing.”

 

“Ah, well. Yes. Things are progressing,” he says uncomfortably.

 

Vitok is about to return to her forms but he stops her. “I was actually hoping to talk to you about something instead of train. We’re nearly out of time as it is.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Rey has agreed to study the Force, but only with you. I would like you to teach her.”

 

Vitok stands up straighter and blinks quickly. “You want me to teach Rey?” she asks slowly.

 

“Please. Yesterday … she needs to know what she’s capable of. She’s so powerful yet she wields the Force with abandon. She has no control, just runs forward. I need her to be able to defend herself, to know her limits. She will be a joy to train,” he says wistfully.

 

A fond smile pulls at Vitok’s lips. “I have no doubt about that. Of course I will.” She tilts her head to the side and muses, “I’ve never had an apprentice before.”

 

Kylo flinches. He hadn’t thought of something so formal. He doesn’t like the idea of anyone but him being her master. This is temporary, he’s sure of it. As they grow closer, of course she will want him to be the one to unleash her staggering potential.

 

“I had thought perhaps you would simply guide her,” Kylo says carefully.

 

“Ah. You are hoping she will be your apprentice.”

 

“In time, yes.” He wants her to be his in all ways. As angry as he is with Skywalker for leaving her to founder, he’s also pleased that she’s never pledged her loyalty in such a way.

 

Vitok gets a troubled expression. “Kylo … I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

 

“Why not? I may be the only one able to teach her as she grows more advanced. You’ve seen how the Bond opened me to the Force. It would allow me to show her what she can do in a way no one else can.”

 

“That’s true, and I’m certain you would take her far. But there are already too many issues of power between you two.”

 

“What do you mean?” he asks, not particularly liking the worry in Vitok’s eyes.

 

“Well, she’s not allowed to leave and she didn’t choose to be here,” she says as if it’s blindingly obvious.

 

Stiffly, he says, “That’s in the past. She has said she will stay.”

 

“But if she tried to leave you would stop her,” Vitok says frankly.

 

Kylo stays silent and Vitok purposefully catches his eyes, looking at him meaningfully. Finally he lets out a frustrated breath. “Yes, I would stop her.”

 

“If you were her master she would need to be obedient to you, do as you say.”

 

“Only when training.”

 

“I’m sure you think that’s true, but it would bleed into other areas. You can’t take her as your apprentice and as your consort. By all means, teach her if she asks you, but you can’t be her master.”

 

He detests Vitok’s logic. Not ready to accept the death of this dream, he says through clenched teeth, “I will think on it. For now I would like for you to work with her in the mornings.”

 

“Kylo, surely you can see why the two relationships are fundamentally incompatible.”

 

“I said I would think on it! You will train her starting tomorrow. Do not question me, Vitok Ren,” he snarls, taking a threatening step towards her.

 

Vitok draws back and he instantly regrets his bearing but he doesn’t apologize—he is still the Supreme Leader and Master of the Knights of Ren. He watches as disappointment moves through her eyes.

 

This fantasy runs deep, he’s wanted this from the moment he realized Rey was Force sensitive. It had taken him quite some time to realize he wanted everything from her, and having her as his apprentice is woven thickly through his plans. He has no wish to untangle this desire from his visions of their future.

 

Vitok looks at him for a long moment. “It would be my honor to teach her,” she says with a formality that makes him feel cold.

 

She returns to moving her way through forms and Kylo leaves silently.

 

---

 

Kylo strides onto the bridge, feeling unsettled from how he’d left Vitok. He shouldn’t have treated her like that.

 

“General Hux, meet me in my office,” he commands.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Once the door closes, Hux stands expectantly in front of his desk as he takes his seat.

 

“What news from Eshara?” Kylo asks gruffly.

 

“We have identified the group responsible. They call themselves the Shar Faen. Apparently it is the name of a deity from one of their religious traditions. The goddess of prosperity. Unfortunately, they’ve gone to ground and we’ve not been able to find out much more than that. No leader has identified themselves though the group did claim responsibility. Analysts have confirmed it, they matched materials used to destroy the mine to components from an earlier event. Shar Faen destroyed an apparel shop of all places.”

 

Kylo is tempted to go back down to the surface himself and start ripping through minds, but he knows that’s not practical. He yearns to once again be on the ground, acting instead of waiting. A day spent exerting his will on others would surely excise the frustration thrumming through his body.

 

“Send a team down; I won’t leave the investigation to local authorities.”

 

“Already done, sir. They were on the ground approximately 30 minutes after the explosion.”

 

“Fine. I want every single member of this Shar Faen found. I won’t have the First Order undermined in this way.” Not to mention that Rey was hurt. That alone would ensure his wrath.

 

“Yes, sir.” Hux hovers in that way that makes Kylo grind his teeth.

 

“What, Hux?” he growls.

 

The general leans forward slightly. “May I ask … may I ask how she is this morning?”

 

Kylo regards him through his mask. The reminder of her ordeal stings. He should be with her, ensuring she truly is recovered. “She is well.”

 

“That is excellent news, Supreme Leader.”

 

He snorts derisively. “I’m surprised that you care. I thought you didn’t approve of my little project.”

 

Hux looks down for a moment. “I am beginning to understand that she’s … necessary.”

 

And if that isn’t the crux of the matter. She is essential. “Indeed she is,” Kylo murmurs, turning to look out on the stars.

 

---

 

In his office, Kylo is distracted; he has been all day. He cycles through regret for losing his temper with Vitok, worry that Rey will have some sort of relapse, then choking on need. He can’t stop thinking about the feel of her firm breasts in his hands. He’s really going to have to do something about this soon. Everything makes him think of her. Yesterday has left him an emotional wreck. He’d almost lost her; then she told him that she’s halfway in love with him.

 

All he wants to do is be back in her rooms, but he knows she needs time. Though he’s come to detest that word, he’s beginning to understand why she needs it. She’s not like him in matters like these, tearing forward, consequences be damned. She’s cautious, thoughtful. She leads with her head, not with her heart. She’s quick to act when someone is in danger, but when it comes to her own feelings she moves like the dunes on Jakku.

 

When he lets her reach her own conclusions, she seems to come ever closer. It might be a trial in self-control, not one of his strengths at the best of times, but he can’t deny that it seems to be working.

 

He sighs and sits back in his chair, looking at nothing. He can almost feel her lips against his. Who knew a kiss could be so many different things? A whisper of devotion, a branding of lust … a moment of pure love. The way her little pink tongue feels when she darts it into his mouth … Maker, he has to stop thinking about her. Not even his voluminous clothing can hide how hard she makes him, and eventually someone is going to notice.

 

It’s late, perhaps she’s written to him. He checks and finds a short missive.

 

Thank you for taking care of me. Where did you learn to change sheets? You need a teacher …

 

He grins at her reference. It lightens something within him that she’s willing to tease him about that. Perhaps she is beginning to forgive him. How can he miss her so much when he only left her this morning?

 

---

 

Kylo wakes, already feeling restless. This morning Rey begins training with Vitok. It’s a bittersweet feeling. He’s grateful she will be honing her skills with his trusted knight, but he had always assumed he would be the one to show her the beauty of the Force. But Vitok will teach her well. He should say something, acknowledge that she hadn’t deserved to bear the brunt of his frustration.

 

His skin is prickling with pent up want. He can tell the madness is beginning again. Being apart from her is devouring his reason once more.

 

---

 

Rey is working with Vitok right now. He wonders if they’ve decided to train in her quarters or in the knight’s training room. He could go see … catch a glimpse of her if they’ve chosen the larger space set aside for the Knights of Ren. That would be acceptable, wouldn’t it? They’re his knights, after all. It would be perfectly reasonable for him to be there.

 

He’s standing up from behind his desk when Hux walks in.

 

“Supreme Leader, there’s something you should see.”

 

He doesn’t have time for this! He wants to see Rey. “Fine, what is it?” He doesn’t bother to hide his irritation.

 

“I’ve just sent it to your datapad. Apparently the events on Eshara were recorded.”

 

Kylo sits back down and picks up the device. He finds what appears to be a holo clip waiting for him.

 

He begins the holo and he’s greeted with his own image, moving away the remains of the burning building. Then it cuts to him and the stormtroopers digging out the survivors, followed by a lingering shot of the frantic Esharan holding his wife as they both sob into each other. It’s overly sentimental, but he can’t help smiling slightly behind his mask. He hopes they’re both healing well.

 

The scene shifts and now he’s kneeling behind Rey, holding her, whispering in her ear. The expression on his face is tender and pleading; his eyes are hollow with fear. He flinches at the reminder of how she’d nearly destroyed herself. He watches as he sees the holo of himself and Rey heal that man. He’d not noticed the way the Force had swirled around her, making her glow with an ethereal beauty, but the holo captures both the Force and her glow exquisitely.

 

She truly was meant to hold life and death in those delicate hands. There has never been her equal and he’s entranced by the image they make. Light and dark, her small form dwarfed by his frame. They are balance embodied and he’s reminded again that he was going to try to see her.

 

The burned man opens his eyes and Kylo’s breath catches as he sees Rey collapse into his arms. He’s about to shut it off, impatient to see Rey, when Hux says, “Wait, there’s more.”

 

Kylo returns his attention to the holo and it’s a long shot of him holding Rey, looking down on her with absolute adoration. He didn’t know his face could look like that. It’s all there, for anyone to see, how completely he loves her. His eyes are brimming with it. He’s torn between rage that this private moment was captured and an odd sort of pride in how no one could ever deny his feelings.

 

“Fine, it was recorded. What of it?” He taps his gloved fingers on his desk.

 

“I don’t think you understand, sir. It’s everywhere. I mean absolutely everywhere. It was released to the news networks and it’s all that’s playing on the holonet across the galaxy.”

 

“You mean to tell me that my face is being broadcast throughout the systems!” he bellows, turning over his chair as he swiftly stands. Panic quickly overtakes him, with no regard for his current audience.

 

“That is exactly what I’m telling you.”

 

He’s never felt so exposed in his life. He’s hidden his face for nearly seven years now. Maker, it’s only a matter of time before someone makes the connection. Within a day every being will know that Kylo Ren and Ben Organa are one and the same. He’s gone to such lengths to destroy that weak, foolish child. The thought of the galaxy knowing that Kylo Ren is the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, heroes of the Galactic Civil War, leaves him utterly cold. It will all come back, just like when his relationship to Darth Vader was revealed. The constant dissection, the ignorant suppositions. His face … his face …

 

Move. He needs to move. He begins to pace back and forth, eating the length of his office in frantic strides. His helmet feels oppressive and he rips it from his head, throwing it across the room. It makes a satisfying thunk as it bounces off the wall. Back and forth he continues, his fists opening and closing. He’d done everything he could to wipe that boy out of existence—unspeakable, unnatural things—but apparently he will always haunt him.

 

Dimly, he becomes aware that Hux is trying to get his attention.

 

“... good thing!” he hears the last of Hux’s sentence.

 

He stops his manic pacing and looks incredulously at the ginger irritant. “What did you just say?”

 

Hux’s lips purse but he repeats himself. “This only helps the First Order. This is an exceptional opportunity; this is a good thing.”

 

“How can this possibly be a good thing! My face, Hux! They know my face!” he rages.

 

“Exactly!” the general says with more excitement than Kylo has ever seen him exhibit. “I couldn’t have organized this better had I tried. And believe me, I have been trying. It’s not been easy to use your ascension to Supreme Leader to our advantage. But this, sir, don’t you see?” Hux’s eyes gleam with an anticipation that makes Kylo wary.

 

“See what?” He can’t quite stop the maelstrom of panic and helplessness from continuing to well up within him. That woman--surely she’s seen this by now. And dammit, why is he wondering if she would be proud of him?

 

“The entire galaxy has now seen that the Supreme Leader of the First Order cared more about saving his people than hiding his face. We’ve always had difficulty with our image. We’re seen as brutal, cruel. But the first time you’re seen you saved First Order citizens, victims of a cowardly terrorist attack. Then you helped heal a doomed man. And, to provide just the right touch of humanity, you looked at the girl like she hung every star in the known universe. The net has exploded with support. This is the best thing to happen for the First Order since we took our first system.” Kylo has grown distinctly unnerved by Hux’s gleeful tone. The general seems almost happy.

 

He knows he should share some of Hux’s enthusiasm, that the general’s analysis is correct. Objectively he can see that this does play very well to the masses. But he can’t shake how being so exposed fills him with dread.

 

“But … my face …” he whispers, sounding as lost as he feels. He is Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren is the mask. Without it …

 

Hux’s eyes light even further. “The time for intimidation is over. That girl has changed everything. You should see what they’re saying about her.”

 

“What are they saying about Rey?” he asks dangerously.

 

The unholy light in Hux’s eyes dims for a moment, but he rallies. “Nothing you would take issue with. Frankly, they love her. She’s the Jedi princess who tamed the beast.”

 

He doesn’t like the idea of billions of people watching, thinking, gossiping about his Rey. They don’t get to have opinions about her. Though he supposes he rather likes that his citizens see how special she is.

 

Rey. He was going to try to see Rey today. Now he needs to see Rey. He strides over to his fallen helmet and thrusts it over his face.

 

“Where are you going? We need to discuss how to leverage this to its fullest advantage,” Hux says, his mood still disturbingly good.

 

“Do whatever you think is best. The entire galaxy knows what I look like now and I don’t really care how we respond. I’m going to check in with Vitok Ren. Rey began her training with her this morning.”

 

Hux’s demeanor changes instantly at the mention of Vitok. “Very good, sir. I’m sure Vitok will do well by the girl.” Hux’s lips form a soft smile. Kylo has s seen more emotional range from his obnoxious second in the last fifteen minutes than he has in all of the previous years they’ve worked together. It is … disturbing. He has to get out of here.

 

It’s not until he’s stalking down the corridors that he realizes Hux called her Vitok instead of Vitok Ren.

 

---

 

Kylo strides into the knights’ training room and finds Natan and Wylan sparring. He stops short, the waves of furious jealousy taking his breath away. He’s not seen Wylan since he nearly crushed the life from him. Well, not with his own eyes. He remembers well the way his rival had behaved when alone with his beloved. A growl forms, low in his throat.

 

“You,” he spits as he rushes Wylan.

 

Wylan is on his back, once again pinned by Kylo’s superior power. He holds the hated man to the training mat but does not squeeze. He just watches him, breathing hard.

 

“Supreme Leader,” Natan says quietly. “Wylan Ren has only recently been released from the med bay. Do you truly wish to take this course of action?” His voice is gentle, but there is strength running through his tone.

 

Kylo says nothing as he claws his way out of his pit of rage. He reminds himself that all Rey had told him was that she didn’t like Wylan. She’d never revealed to him how vulgar Wylan had been. A week in the med bay was sufficient punishment for Wylan’s actions on Vren and he wouldn’t be able to explain a return trip to Rey. He relaxes his hold on Wylan and steps back, eyeing the man with a calculating gaze through his mask. No, he wouldn’t be able to explain that at all.

 

Natan helps Wylan to his feet. Kylo wishes they weren’t wearing their helmets. He wants to know if Wylan looks afraid. He could dip into his mind, but Wylan was always rather good at deflecting invasions of that sort and would know in an instant if he attempted it.

 

Once Wylan is standing in front of him, straight and proud, Kylo orders, “You will not speak to Rey in the future.”

 

“So she told you about our conversation? How she was at my side during my recovery?” Kylo is absolutely certain that this miserable excuse for a Knight of Ren is leering under his mask. His tone of voice is certainly smug enough to indicate it. Kylo’s blood boils at the memory of Rey’s small hand curled around Wylan’s. He knows it was innocent, but he can’t fully rid himself of the fury that she touched him.

 

Kylo grinds his teeth so hard he’s surprised one of them doesn’t crack. But he’s certain neither Rey nor Vitok would forgive him if he kills this man, and he’s already behaved poorly with Vitok. “She told me that you were rude and that she did not wish to see you again. As I said. You will not speak to her. In fact, you will not be in the same room with her.”

 

“We couldn’t have her wondering if she’d made the right choice, now could we, Supreme Leader.”

 

His whole body tenses with the need to crash his fists into Wylan Ren’s face and not stop punching until nothing remained but blood and bone. The distance between them disappears in two swift strides and Kylo holds his face inches from Wylan’s.

 

Kylo’s voice drops to a threatening hiss. “There is no choice to make, Wylan Ren. Do not test me or I will kill you, Knight of Ren or no.”

 

Natan glides over to Wylan, his tone beseeching. “Come, let us spar another time.”

 

Wylan holds his body rigidly, refusing to back down. Natan lays a thin hand on his shoulder. Finally, Wylan nods curtly and the two knights exit the room, leaving Kylo alone in the empty training space.

 

Without his anger to fuel him, all he’s left with is the knowledge that she’s not here. He needs her after having been so shaken by the knowledge that the entire galaxy has seen his face. Whispers of Ben Organa beg for his attention but he pushes them away. He won’t think about that.

 

He feels empty. Defeated. Will it always be like this? Being so close but never close enough?

 

He leaves the training room’s floor littered with the remains of six sparring droids. If Rey doesn’t like it, she can tell him herself.

 

---

 

The walk back to the bridge has calmed him. Well, that and the destroyed droids. Kylo stands by the large view screen, watching Eshara as they orbit slowly. Behind him, the usual hum of activity gives him a sense of normalcy. Hux will soon be pressuring him to order their return to the fleet, but he’s not willing to leave until the terrorists on Eshara are caught. They may have their best people investigating, but that's not good enough for him. He wants to ensure that those responsible will suffer. Kylo intends to cut a swath through their organization that will be felt throughout the galaxy. He will make it clear to all sentient life that no one is safe from his vengeance. If you hurt Rey or cause her to be hurt, you die. Rey will be the safest person in all known space.

 

He misses her intensely. Waking with her yesterday had been sublime. He wants to hold her to him every night. He's trying to be patient, but she's so close. He thought he'd found a sort of aching peace after he'd hurt Kes. Keeping away from Rey, in a way, it was not unlike how he uses … used his blade. Instead of drawing the knife along his arm, he’d punished himself by not seeing her. But now that she's shared with him everything he learned from violating Kes’s mind and he’s begun to make amends directly to the stormtrooper herself, he's having difficulty again. Giving Rey her time feels less like penance and more like torture. He’s having to rely on his own flawed self-control and he’s not sure how much longer he can keep himself from her door.

 

If he could only have a few minutes with her, see her face … but no, he must wait five more days. When has time ever moved more slowly?

 

He wishes he still had the images of her. He knows he could request duplicates from the analysts, but he's certain that would anger Rey and he's managed to keep from inciting her temper recently. He'd like to keep it that way. Maker knows how long she'd shut him out for that offense.

 

It's not as if he needs any help to imagine her features. Then he remembers … the holo from Eshara that is presently blaring across the holonet. He turns sharply from the view screen and strides to his office.

 

He brings up the holo and skips to the moment where he slips his arms around her. It is then that he pauses the recording, his eyes attempting to take in the entirety of Rey. Her eyes are drained, but her expression is tranquil. She's leaning into him and he can almost feel the weight of her small body against his chest. He’s shaken by the realization that she trusts him. There had been no hesitation when he’d wrapped her in his arms―just … connection. He’s wanted her trust so badly, and there it is, writ along her peaceful face. The image ripples slowly and time ceases to have meaning as he gazes on her perfect features.

 

---

 

Watching the clip of Rey has centered him again. He takes his time walking back to his rooms, thinking about recent events. He really shouldn’t have snarled at Vitok yesterday. It’s growing a bit late, well past the dinner hour, but he finds himself heading to Vitok’s quarters. He would like to speak with her, perhaps even apologize. He’s eager to find out how Rey’s first day went, anyway, and he walks faster.

 

---

 

“Supreme Leader!” Vitok exclaims, her eyes wide. She keeps the door halfway closed and her brow furrows and she looks to the side.

 

His lips twist into a frown beneath his mask. “You know I prefer you call me Kylo, Vitok. Is this because of how I behaved yesterday?” He is genuinely concerned that he’s pushed her too far.

 

“What? No, uh, no sir. I know you were just worried about Rey.” She comes a bit more into view. No wonder it had taken her so long to come to the door―she had obviously dressed quickly. Perhaps that’s why she seems so furtive?

 

Kylo pulls off his mask. “About Rey … may I come in? I’d like to know how her first day of training went.”

 

Vitok looks back into her rooms and she tenses. Kylo is growing very suspicious. Is Rey here? Is that why Vitok is behaving like this? Is she hiding her from him?

 

“This isn’t really the best time.”

 

“Is she in there?” he accuses sharply.

 

“What? No!” She says it much too quickly and he’s certain Vitok is keeping something from him.

 

“You’re hiding someone. It’s Rey, isn’t it? She doesn’t want to see me.” Even he can tell that his tone of voice has become petulant.

 

“For Maker’s sake, man, have some self-respect.” Hux’s unmistakable voice carries through the partially open door.

 

“Hux?” Kylo asks in bewilderment. What the hell is Hux doing in Vitok’s quarters?

 

Vitok sighs and opens the door completely. “Well, you might as well come inside now.”

 

As he walks into her rooms, he’s greeted with a decidedly mussed general. He’s smoothing his uniform and his usually impeccable hair is sticking out all over the place. Kylo’s eyes dart to Vitok and his brain comes to a stuttering halt as he realizes what her state of dress―of undress―actually means. Vitok and Hux? But …. she’s … and he’s … Force! Maybe Vitok will let him have that bottle of vicious brown liquor that is resting on the table before the couch.

 

Kylo looks at his general, and the man returns his stare with challenge in his eyes. Finally, Hux breaks the silence. “I suppose this makes us even.”

 

Remembering the disastrous results of when Hux interrupted what had been turning into the best night of his life, Kylo grumbles, “Only if I forced you to come to the bridge.”

 

“What did you need?” Vitok asks quietly, in an obvious attempt to redirect the conversation.

 

He shifts his attention from Hux―of all the people to be in Vitok’s rooms―and focuses on his knight.

 

“I … I wanted to know how Rey’s first day went,” Kylo says hesitantly. He wants to focus on Rey, needing to stop the unwanted questions currently filling his brain.

 

“She did very well. Anything beyond that and you’ll have to ask her. I won’t be your go-between,” she says sternly. “I won’t help you spy.”

 

Kylo huffs out a quick breath. “I’m not spying.” He supposes he should care that Hux is witnessing him being dressed down by his subordinate, but he’s barely keeping up as it is.

 

“I know, because I won’t let you.”

 

“Fine.” His eyes move to settle on Hux, who has taken a seat and is reading a datapad. He’s disturbingly comfortable in Vitok’s quarters. How long has this been going on?

 

He looks back and forth between the confusing pair. He can’t quite reconcile this new information and he stands there, dumbfounded, unable to make a decision on what to say, or even do, next.

 

“Was there anything else, sir?” Vitok inquires dryly.

 

“No, no―that was all,” he says, coming back to himself. “Enjoy your evening, Vitok … Hux.”

 

He doesn’t flee. He doesn’t.

Chapter Text

Kylo’s mind is a whirl of unpleasant images as he walks briskly to his rooms. He could have gone his whole life knowing absolutely nothing about Hux’s personal life. That he even has one is a shock. He refuses to contemplate Vitok. How did it even happen? Why didn’t Vitok tell him? Is it serious? He shivers as he remembers what he likely interrupted. No, not going to think about it.

 

Rey, instead he’s going to think about Rey. She’d written him last night and he’s hopeful that there will be another message waiting for him. Perhaps she will tell him about her training? He imagines how graceful she must have been, learning her first saber form. Surely she’ll let him watch soon?

 

He’s about to open his door when he hears a soft “Kylo.” He turns quickly to find Rey coming down the hallway. His helmet is off in an instant.

 

She’s wearing that ivory silk nightgown with the embroidered flowers. The one that clings. Since he first saw her wearing it, he’s thought quite a bit about how it flows down her body.

 

He rips his gloves from his hands, stuffs them in his helmet and places the lot on the floor. He will not give up the opportunity to know how she feels through that silk; he’s wanted this too much. By the time he’s standing again, she’s almost to him.

 

He doesn't hesitate as he sweeps her into his arms. She responds eagerly as he kisses her forcefully, possessively. His hands roam along her back and the feel of her warm skin beneath the silk is so much better than he’d imagined. The material is thin and sumptuous, the scant barrier between his hands and her naked body driving him mad.

 

She kisses him as if she’s been denied her due; her lips moving against his make him feel like he’s being claimed. Her hand comes up around the back of his neck and her fingers tangle in his hair. Then she’s pulling it, tugging him down, encouraging him to kiss her neck. He happily obliges, kissing and nipping down the column of her throat until he reaches the juncture of her shoulder. He bites her gently, scraping her soft skin with his teeth. She moans, loudly, and the sound goes straight to his cock.

 

He’s not quite sure how it happened, but now she’s pressed back against his door. Oh Force, she’s shifted so that his leg is between her thighs and she’s grinding against him. Her nightgown is riding up and he can feel how hot she is through what must be just a scrap of fabric. He’s hazy with lust, all that there is is Rey’s lips and hands and his name chanted over and over.

 

As she had yesterday morning, she places his hand over her breast and he stills, looking into her eyes. “You’re sure?”

 

“Yes, please yes. Touch me.” Her voice is breathy and he’s never been so turned-on in his life.

 

Her begging is all that he needs, he’s palming her breast then rolling her nipple between his long fingers. He thrusts his tongue in her mouth, mimicking what he desperately wants to do with his cock. With each pass of his fingers across her needy breast, she bucks against him. She’s so wet that he can feel her soaking through his trousers. It’s all he can do to keep from dropping to his knees and burying his face between her thighs and drinking her in.

 

With one hand busy bringing Rey higher—he had no idea breasts could be so sensitive—he pushes up the hem of her nightgown with the other. He strokes his fingers along her smooth thigh until his hand grazes the delicate lace of her under things. He lifts her, settling her heat against his aching hardness. Her legs wrap around him and now they’re moving together, building a rhythm with only one goal in mind: this hunger must be sated. He knows he’s been driven to near insanity from wanting her. The way she’s panting and grinding against him makes him think she has, too.

 

He can’t think, he can only move, feel, thrust, lick, kiss. His perfect love, he’s never wanted anyone or anything the way he wants her. No, he needs her. And she feels so damned good. He’s kissing her deeply, moaning into her mouth when he hears it. Boots clanging along the corridor. The night patrol. He wants to scream out every obscenity he’s ever known. He’s so hard it hurts.

 

She hears it too and pulls back, her eyes frantic. She rips from his arms and dashes down the corridor, disappearing into her quarters before he even knows what’s happening.

 

Kylo starts to follow, but the stormtroopers are getting closer. Hux seeing him like this was quite enough for him, so he quickly slips into his rooms. He leans back against his door, still breathing fast. He can’t take it anymore. She was just in his arms, he can feel her lips on his, taste her skin.

 

He groans as he notices the wet patch on his thigh. He doesn’t stop to consider his actions, he’s too far gone. He just rips open his trousers, pulls out his weeping cock, and starts stroking furiously. Oh yes, oh Maker yes. He closes his eyes and remembers how her trim body feels against his, how small she is when he holds her. The heat of her as she’d wantonly ground down on his leg, seeking her pleasure.

 

Wondering how it would feel to have her slender fingers replace his, he thrusts up into his fist. He should slow down, make it last, but he needs this. Higher and higher he climbs, the tension building. Release, sweet release, he’s so close.

 

“Kylo?” bursts into his head just as he peaks, thick ropes of his seed arcing onto the floor. He whimpers in embarrassment and long-denied relief.

 

“Oh!” she squeaks through the Bond.

 

He’s panting, still leaning back against the door and he has no idea what to say. His cheeks burn and he just wants to crawl under a rock somewhere.

 

“Kylo?” she asks hesitantly.

 

He can’t answer her. What must she think of him? Taking himself in hand like an adolescent with no control.

 

“Kylo?” she tries again.

 

There’s nothing he can fathom to say so he remains silent.

 

“Kylo, it’s alright. Uhm … I do it too.”

 

That pulls him from his spiral of self-castigation. “You … you do?”