"I see it." Kylo says, a soft melody to his tone, as if he's a far superior elder soothing an upset child. "I see the island. At night, desperate to sleep... you'd imagine an ocean."
Rey feels the probing tendrils of Kylo's intent seep further into her head. She blinks awake in the middle of her subconscious, on the island, the tenderest and most private of her thoughts; Kylo is standing right next to her. Heavy raindrops soak his hair and run down the sides of his face.
"I could upend this land, you know," He says, leaning down to whisper this in her ear. "I could unroot it from the water and tear it to pieces in the air. I could dissipate your rainclouds, replace them with a sun. Two suns. As many as it takes to scorch the ocean dry. You hate dry things, don't you?" He straightens and squints up at the sky. Rey stays frozen on the spot, unable to move a finger.
"Or I could just leave. The map to Skywalker, you've seen it. It's in here. In your head. Give it to me and I'll leave your sanctuary alone."
Distantly a bird calls in a high, trilling note. Rey's eyes snap toward the source, a bright spot of feathers far away in the murky sky. She's never seen it before. Kylo is staring at it too, his face draining of color.
"Ren!" A sharp voice shouts from behind them. Rey slumps onto the ground as if all the chains have been ripped from her cuffs, suddenly free to move. Kylo seems to be the immobilized one this time. He stares straight ahead with wide eyes, mouth slack and fingers twitching by his sides. A cliff comes into focus before them, a dense, looming forest behind their backs. It's snowing now. Rey rises to her feet.
"Ren!" calls the voice again. It sounds annoyed and a little affectionate. Kylo shudders and shrinks in on himself.
Rey does a double take. Kylo is shrinking, in the literal sense. He turns his head and meets Rey's gaze, and he's younger than her, mid-teens at best. He's shivering all over. The hood and the robes are gone, leaving him in a brownish tunic and pants that hang loosely on his frame. He gropes frantically around his waist, searching for his lightsaber and finding it gone. Rey realizes belatedly that the panic she feels isn't her own, but Kylo's leaking over to her and overwhelming them both.
This is not her island.
Just like that the role is reversed, and Rey is now the invader, not the victim. Kylo's land- thing- whatever it is, it's much quieter than her own, except for the disembodied voice that continues to shout his name, increasing in frequency and proximity. Rey flinches when it speaks directly into her ear, like the place itself is murmuring the words and not a corporeal person.
"Careful, Ren, lest your personal interests..." She feels a light caress on her chin, tugging to bend her closer- "...interfere with orders..."- in a kiss. He's teasing Kylo again-
"Get out of my head!" Kylo snarls, shutting Rey away before she can see the face that follows his thoughts. All she catches is a glimpse of coppery red hair, a piercing, calculating stare- the one that makes Kylo feel like he's been laid bare. All the weak parts of him exposed, the unnecessary parts, the whiny, pathetic, unworthy-
"You're afraid." Rey says, bewildered. "That you'll never be strong enough, as strong as Darth Vader."
And then, she reads, the thought snapping into place so harshly that it may as well be a scream, he won't want me.
Kylo wraps his hand around Rey's throat and slams her head back against the metal backrest. For a moment she is certain Kylo will choke her to death, if only to silence her on what she's just witnessed, but the moment passes and his grip slackens, then he flinches away violently.
"Hux?" is what escapes Rey's mouth. An unfamiliar name. Kylo recoils like it holds the power to crush him like the husk of something fragile. He stands there staring at her, struggling for breath, then turns without a word and storms out of the room.
The vision hits her while she's climbing down the side of a narrow patrol pathway, almost dislodging her. She's shaken from what she saw when the interrogation went awry, and at first she thinks she's hallucinated the escape, that she's still strapped to a metal slab and being fed unwanted scraps of a madman's mind. But it occurs to her that Kylo's figure is showing no signs of acknowledging her. The vision is blurry and layered with Rey's perception of her surroundings; it's a memory, maybe one that followed her when Kylo ejected her from his thoughts. She reaches quickly for the nearest ledge and settles there, waiting for it to pass.
She closes her eyes and sees two figures before her. One is Kylo in his adult body and the other is mostly obscured beneath him. They're both naked, tangled in crumpled bedsheets and rutting unashamedly against each other. Kylo bows his head and buries his nose in the other man's neck, exposing his face.
"Missed me?" Hux says, the sarcasm muddled into something like fondness by the hitches in his breath. Kylo doesn't answer. Rey is worried there's something wrong. Maybe he was injured during the mission and is trying to hide the pain by not talking, is it the ribs again?
No, Rey is not the one that's worried. She's reading it off someone else, someone who's reading yet another person, in fact. Kylo continues to thrust on Hux's hips as he revels in Hux's concern.
It's a long few minutes before they both finish, but Ro is aware it's probably no more than a couple of seconds in reality. The intensity of Kylo's orgasm, combined with the experience of feeling Hux's by the force, momentarily throws down the thresholds surrounding Kylo's mind. Been too long, Rey hears, and How many days this time? Then: He's here. He's here. Over and over in a litany.
Kylo is careful not to let any of these come out of his mouth. Indulgence and irrationality are two things Hux hates the most, and if Kylo shows the slightest signs that his feelings for Hux have escalated enough to be both, Hux will walk away. Even if the same is happening to Hux, as Kylo can sometimes sense, and even if Hux is aware and turning a blind eye to it only so the thing between them can last a little longer, Hux will walk away if Kylo speaks of it.
He'll never say he loves me.
The memory leaves Rey abruptly. She gasps and looks around wildly, disoriented, and locks eyes with Finn and Han who are motioning frantically at her through a window across the hangar. Her friends. They've come for her.
She shakes her head, trying to clear it. This is not the time to be lost in the idea of two of her enemies fucking and thinking sorrowful thoughts. She grips the edge of her hiding place and swings herself downward, willing herself to focus.
The ground beneath them breaks apart before Rey can bring herself to deliver the final blow. Kylo lies sprawled on the other side, half-delirious and bleeding alarmingly from his side. The man killed Han and broke his own heart. It's a terrible deed, and Rey finds she doesn't hate him as much as she pities him for it. She's stood over the not-Sith, a slash away from ending his life, and stopped because she didn't want to repeat his actions. To kill him and break the heart of another man alive somewhere on this dying planet.
She considers telling him this. The collapsing forest is too loud for her to speak it, so she reaches out to him with her mind. As expected, Kylo's mind is a torrential mess of confusion and anguish. This was supposed to make him stronger, so why is he lying in pieces on the ground? His side burns. The planet is coming apart under him, and the melting snow is wet on his back. He's thinking of the island. He hates himself for resorting to that weakness after a deed that should have erased all his vulnerabilities.
"It doesn't work that way." Rey mutters, knowing Kylo can't hear. Even she can see that. If Kylo survives, he might one day, too. Rey hopes he does. She knows how it hurts to be alone, and knows it won't matter in the end whether you're the one being abandoned or doing the abandoning, it'll hurt the same. But she fears Kylo may not realize this until after he has torn himself from all the ones he used to love.
The general makes another mistake.
Technically, he has made none. The destruction of Starkiller Base wasn't due to the failings of any officer of the First Order, and this time, the loss of Slow Demolisher and two other star destroyers was blatantly intentional. A sloppy job for a meticulous man like Hux, even if he decided to defect. Which he never would, because he is just as stubbornly loyal as he is competent.
Rey listens to Kylo's musings and watches Hux walk up to Snoke through his eyes. Kylo is growing anxious; this can't possibly end well. Hux is composed as ever as he stands at attention before the towering holofigure.
"General." Snoke rasps. Hux inclines his head respectfully. "I hear you sent three of our destroyers to the Rognos system. Curious, since I remember explicitly ordering you to make them detour around it. Because of this the Resistance was near enough to recognize our signal, and they destroyed the ships. And not only that," Snoke rises from his seat. "But I've lost a priceless Sith artifact my apprentice was to fetch for me. It was on the small planet the Slow Demolisher destroyed when she collided into it."
Kylo looks sharply at Snoke. He knows the object in question. He was to leave for it within a few days and would have returned within a standard month- if he returned at all. The planet it was hidden on was known to be highly unstable, and the extraction of the artifact would in all probability have been the last straw. Kylo was only halfway sure he would be able to escape before the planet collapsed.
Snoke has never sent him on a suicide mission like it. He used to be too valuable to risk. But now, with the presence of the girl and her potential, Kylo feels he is perhaps replaceable. Preferable to the girl, but not absolutely unique.
Snoke speaks again, drawing Kylo out of his musings. "I'd like to hear your reasons, general. If you have them."
Hux's back straightens further. Kylo didn't think such a thing possible until now. "I have none, Supreme Leader."
"Kill him." Snoke says to Kylo.
The world dulls around Kylo for a split second. Rey barely stifles a spike of alarm herself, afraid it would alert Kylo of her presence, but Kylo seems momentarily blinded to anything other than the order just given him, and the way Hux is looking at him, calmly, like he's not thinking that this is the last time they'll ever look at each other. Kylo's lightsaber crackles to life beside his hip.
Hux smiles faintly with the left side of his face, the side obscured to Snoke. He thinks, clearly, knowing Kylo can hear: This is it, then, love.
Kylo turns toward Snoke's hologram.
Rey jerks awake in Luke's dingy residence. She sends the blanket flying off of her and crashes onto the ground in her haste to get off the makeshift mattress, waking Luke with the force and climbing the steps to his room two at a time.
"Kylo left Snoke." She says when Luke opens the door. "I have to tell Leia."
The next time Rey hears Kylo, it's in person, and she knows to expect him. Luke has vacated the planet for the day, knowing his nephew is coming and refusing to speak a single word with him. He doesn't tell Rey he knows Kylo won't harm her, but it's clear from his actions anyway.
"I want you to kill Snoke." Kylo says the moment he steps off the landing board, foregoing all greetings. "And you want you to kill Snoke." He adds like an afterthought. "I know it, I saw it through the force. Just as you saw me separate myself from him."
"Okay." She says, and takes him by the arm, drags him inside the house, and fixes him tea. Kylo stares at the sofa she points him to with an expression like she's attempting to assassinate him by means of hospitality and human decency.
"Sit down." He sits down. She sets down two cups of steaming peppermint-chocolate mix on the table. Kylo stares at it too.
"I can tell you how to defeat Snoke." He says, after making her stand again twice to refill his cup. "I already fought him off once- he came after us, when we escaped. But I can't do it again without risking him overpowering me by the force. He was my master for too long, and I'm vulnerable to his control."
Rey hums and sips her own drink. She can feel Kylo prodding at her mind, annoyed at the lack of reaction, and she puts to use her knowledge of mental wards that Luke has methodically, thoroughly, and maniacally drilled into her.
Kylo raises an impressed eyebrow. She looks into his eyes and remembers the snow, the cliff, the sea a thin line of blue near the horizon. "The island. It isn't yours, is it?" She says, out of the blue.
"No." Kylo admits easily. "It's his. On Arkanis. He lived there with his mother until his father took him to the academy."
They both know who Kylo is speaking of. Rey nods and doesn't say anything else. After a while Kylo slides his cup away from him and rises to his feet. "I came here to give you information about Snoke, his fighting style and such. But you can refuse." Kylo looks weary as he reaches for the door. Rey notices that one of his arms is synthetic. "Wiser for you not to trust a recent enemy."
Rey follows him out of the house.
"I need a teacher." She says.
"Young Rey." Snoke croons, "I was going to pay a visit soon. But you come to me, by your own free will."
She steps into the crumbling remains of what was once a Sith temple, Snoke standing at the far end in front of a row of tall stone torches. For all that he claims not to be a Sith, he doesn't look out of place in their place of tradition.
"Kylo beat you to it. Visiting me, I mean. He told me all sorts of interesting details about you."
Close enough, she can see the fresh scar on Snoke's mangled face. It begins on his temple and cuts vertically all the way down to his shoulder. An inch deeper and Rey imagines it would have killed him instantly.
Snoke looks displeased to hear Kylo's name. "Ah, yes. My former apprentice. I hear he and Hux has begun a small organization of their own."
An understatement. The rapidly growing New Empire has already eaten up half of the First Order's territory. Who knew the general had it in him to excel like that in autonomy.
"They're not nearly as bad as the First Order under your control." Rey says sullenly. Leia almost murdered Kylo with her bare hands the first time they met in a political gathering, but aside from that small 'misunderstanding' (as Hux called it; Leia thought very loudly there was nothing misunderstood about her son's idiocy) things are going more smoothly than anyone dared to hope.
"And Kylo is not nearly as bad as you." She admits.
Snoke turns on his weapon, a yellow saber that hums deceptively softly. "Why have you come?" he asks.
"To finish what he started." Rey says.