It is a summer morning on Chandrila, and Rey is cold.
“’Morning,” she says, with a faint smile.
“Hey, you,” Finn replies.
They sit on the grass, nearly mirror images opposite each other—legs crossed, hands resting on their knees.
“Close your eyes,” Rey says, following her own instruction. “Breathe.”
She waits for the sound of Finn’s inhale before regulating her own breathing, conforming her inhales and exhales to the slow, steady pattern conducive to meditation.
“Now,” she continues after a moment or two, “reach out.”
Finn’s Force signature is warm and almost earthy, like the sunlight that shone through the jungle canopy on Ajan Kloss. She senses him extending the Force in strong and steady pulses, the trepidation of his first few weeks of training all but gone now.
“What do you see?”
“The Senate complex. It’s like”—Finn pauses, clearly searching for an appropriate image—“looking inside a Hrelan beehive. Every sentient in the place, light striped with dark. Or dark striped with light. The light-to-dark ratio varies.”
There’s another short pause, and when he continues, he has the same awe in his voice that Rey remembers feeling the first time she’d opened herself to the Force in its entirety. “And if I look further, I see all of Hanna City. Just like the beehive, but now there’s thousands— no, millions of them. I can’t even spot individuals anymore.” Another pause—this one longer and heavier, somehow. “Except you.”
Rey’s eyes fly open, and she rushes on with the lesson. “Okay, good, now let’s see your shields. Try to tune everything else out—”
“—until I can’t sense anything outside the garden. Yeah, I’m on it.”
“Hey, practice makes perfect.”
Silence falls over them again. As his Force signature reforms in a thick, shielding layer around him, Finn opens his eyes. “Okay, done.”
They both stand, Rey scooping up the two staffs from the ground beside her as she does. She tosses one to Finn, which he catches easily, and keeps the other. They raise the staffs vertically in front of them for a heartbeat, in salute, and then begin to spar.
This, too, is routine. Whoever gets tapped thrice loses, and by now, they’re quite evenly matched. Wielding a staff is second nature to Rey, but Finn has the advantage of years of combat training, and he’s naturally quick to learn. They jab and block, thrust and parry for a while until Finn manages to tap Rey’s upper arm.
She shoves his staff away, spins on her heel, and leaps back. Once she’s safely out of range, she stretches the Force out across the ground. Pebbles rise into the air from their artistically placed spots around the plants’ roots and sail towards Finn.
He deflects about half of them by spinning his staff, the metal blurring with the speed of his movements. The rest, he catches with the Force, stopping them in midair a few inches away from his head and arms. Then he pitches them right back to Rey—
—and although she sweeps them aside, the Force surging with every wave of her hand, Finn sees the instant she’s just a little too slow to react. A handful of pebbles bounce off her upraised arm.
“That doesn’t count!” Rey cries across the garden when she notices him studying her.
“If you say so.” Grinning, Finn charges forward, pressing the attack once more.
Rey blocks his next few strikes—then twists smoothly around him and taps him lightly across the shoulders with her staff.
Another short exchange of blows ensues, the stalemate broken when Finn bears down on Rey’s staff and twists his weapon upward, tapping her on the forearm.
Rey growls in annoyance and swings at him so wildly that he’s forced to jump back out of range.
His grin falters and becomes a look of concentration as they circle each other. Rey doesn’t let him recover for long, lunging at him in a move straight out of the Jakku desert, but he defends quickly, and the second he spots an opening, he swoops in and taps his staff across Rey’s midsection.
She stumbles back with a startled gasp.
Finn immediately relaxes his stance, blinking in disbelief. “Three taps.”
Rey nods, leaning lightly on her staff. “Well done.”
Rey arranges her face into a smile. “Don’t sound so surprised. You’re doing really well.”
Finn puffs out his chest just the tiniest bit. “Thanks.” Then the levity drops away, and he fixes her with a look—kind, but unyielding. “I don’t think you are, though. Doing well.”
“What?” Rey shakes her head. Her lips tremble at the corners with the effort of holding her smile. “I’m fine, Finn. I think I’m just having an off day—”
“No, Rey. You’ve been off ever since the war ended. Since Exegol.”
She’s tried—oh, stars, she’s tried—not to remember that accursed place, has shied away from it in both thought and word ever since the Final Order’s fleet fell. But in an instant, the memories come rushing back: the void of death, colder and darker than space itself– Ben’s smile, rare and stunning as a comet flashing through the night— the anguish of watching that smile falter and fade, of watching him collapse onto the unforgiving stone and—
The pain is as fresh as if everything had happened yesterday, threatening to buckle her knees and swallow her whole. Rey bites her lip until she tastes blood. She knows that Finn can see, that he’ll worry even more, but it’s better than screaming, crying, howling in his face.
“You know I felt you die on Exegol? Rey, suddenly you were gone and there was this coldness, this awful nothing where you used to be.” Finn shakes his head, eyes gleaming. He takes a moment before he continues. “Then you came back, but it’s like you brought the nothing with you.”
“It’s still there, you know.” He dips his chin at her. “There’s a cold spot in your Force signature. When we were meditating earlier, I sensed you, and even just two seconds of it felt like touching ice through thin gloves.”
He’s right, even if she doesn’t want to say so—aloud, anyway. Unlike her memories, this isn’t something she can bury under whatever business needs doing next. That cold spot is all that remains of her bond with Ben—the space where, even at their most hostile, she felt him, with his jagged edges and his flickering, dogged light—
—the place that now, more days than not, makes her chest feel like one giant, gaping hole that nothing will ever be able to fill again.
A tear slides down her cheek.
“Hey. Rey, come on.” Finn gingerly puts a hand on her shoulder and, when she refuses to look up, bends down a bit to look her in the eye. “I’m your friend,” he says, punctuating it with a gentle squeeze. “Won’t you tell me what’s wrong? Maybe I can help—”
Rey shakes her head almost violently and turns away. “You can’t.”
She appreciates the gesture, she really does, but the fact is—
—she’s just not ready to talk about it.
There’s the bit about being half of a Force dyad—which even she doesn’t fully understand, and might never fully understand now. But quite apart from that, she’s not ready to talk about Ben. Rey doesn’t think she could take it if, after telling Finn who Ben was to her—after revealing the magnitude of what she has lost—he recoiled from her. She doesn’t want to risk seeing the shock and revulsion bloom on his face when he realizes the nature—and depth—of her feelings for the former Supreme Leader of the First Order.
She buries her face in her hands as she struggles to pull herself together. When she’s fairly sure she won’t burst into tears, she glances over her shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Finn,” she whispers. “I didn’t want to worry you. But—” But you can’t fix what’s wrong, I can’t fix it, no one can—
She swallows hard against the sob rising in her throat.
“Okay.” He holds up his hands placatingly. “Okay, I won’t push you. But you can’t go on like this either. I think you should take some time off, at least.”
Rey turns back to face him. “Is that an order, General?” she asks, slightly muffled as she wipes her face on the back of her hand.
Finn tilts his head. “Could be. Do I have to make it one to get you to listen?”
“But your training—”
He folds his arms and raises an eyebrow. “You just said I was doing really well.” Then, perhaps sensing how Rey’s Force signature wavers indecisively, he continues in a gentler tone. “Look, I’m not saying I don’t need a teacher anymore. Just that I’ll be fine on my own for a few days.” He perks up, as if struck by genius. “A week, even. Maybe two.”
Rey’s lips twitch, and she lets out a reluctant huff—her attempt at a laugh, if such a soft and tired sound can be called that. Then Finn’s words sink in, and her eyes widen.
She’s being given time off.
“So,” she says, all eager interest, “how long do I have?”
Finn blinks. “Uh, as long as you need. Don’t worry about it, all right? I’ll deal with Poe if he whines about it.”
Rey nods, gives him a small smile, and turns to go.
She looks back. Finn studies her for a long, silent moment, his brow and mouth puckered with concern. “I hope you find whatever it is you need.”
Rey nods. “Thanks.”
She hesitates a moment before speaking again, her voice as soft and sad and fragile as morning mist. “Me too.”
Hyperspace notwithstanding, it’s a long journey from Chandrila to Ahch-To.
Rey spends the first leg of the trip hip-deep in preparation. She sets up camp in the main hold, haphazardly scattering the Jedi texts and copious sheets of flimsiplast atop the dejarik table. Over and over, she flips through the ancient tomes, pausing over a passage here, scribbling notes and calculations onto a flimsi there. There’s also a datapad somewhere in the mess that she occasionally reaches for, glancing between it and her notes as if to compare them.
«Transmission incoming,» R2-D2 whistles from the cockpit.
“Thank you, R2,” Rey calls back distractedly. “I’ll answer it later.”
«You said that hours ago.»
That, she chooses not to answer, although she can’t help her tiny, amused smile when R2 makes a string of grumbling beeps, pitched just low enough that she can’t make out their exact meaning.
As cranky as the old astromech is, she’s glad she brought him with her. Unlike C-3PO, who’s—in his own way—helping the former Resistance command establish a new government, R2 has seemed at loose ends ever since the war ended. No, more than that—he’s been almost sad. And no wonder—at this point, he’s basically a Skywalker, by affinity and by long habit, and has outlived every single organic member of his family. Frankly, R2 is the last Skywalker far more than she is, for all her half-baked, grief-driven notions of taking the name as a tribute.
Soon, though, he won’t be, if all goes well—and it will.
Rey absolutely refuses to entertain any other possibilities.
Eventually, she reaches the point where, much as she’d like to keep poring over her notes, even she has to admit defeat. Her eyes are glazing over and starting to ache, and her stomach is grumbling too insistently to ignore.
She rustles up a quick meal in the galley and takes it into the cockpit to eat. She tries to focus on the spiciness of the stew, on the way the heat from the container seeps comfortingly into her hands—but her knee bounces impatiently, and she doesn’t even notice until R2 whistles at her.
When Rey finishes eating, she checks and rechecks the coordinates, their flight path, and any other specs she can before returning to the main hold. She comes back after about ten minutes to double- and triple-check everything, and the frenetic little routine goes on for another couple of hours until R2 tells her, in no uncertain terms, to «please stop fidgeting and CALM THE KRIFF DOWN before he tases her, last Jedi or no.»
She’d really rather not arrive on Ahch-To sore and twitchy, so Rey, sufficiently chastened, sits down in the pilot’s seat.
Sometimes, on Jakku, she’d be so tired that she couldn’t sleep, every muscle and nerve so stretched to breaking point that they simply didn’t get the memo to relax and let her rest. Those were the hardest nights—when it seemed like every fear she’d ever had made itself known in the sultry darkness of her AT-AT, whispering insidiously in the back of her mind.
Now, sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon with nothing left to distract her— now that she’s so close to the only thing, the only person, she so desperately hopes for— it’s happening again.
What if she’s wrong about the theorem she saw in the Jedi texts—the one about Exegol and Ahch-To being two points on the same hyperspace route? What if she’s misunderstood the diagrams, or the translations, or—
No, she won’t even think it. The Force can’t be so cruel as to grant her that scrap of hope and then prove her wrong, can it?
(Can’t it? murmurs a soft, smoky voice that sounds like her dark doppelganger from Kef Bir, and she thinks of all the Jedi, a thousand thousand ancient spirits who gave her the rush of strength needed to defeat Palpatine—and then, when that was done, passed away like fleeting shadows, taking her life in their stride.)
What if she does bring Ben back and he resents her for it—for disturbing his rest after a lifetime of war and sorrow, for tearing him away from his family when he’s with them again at long last? What if neither of those things is true, and he’s alone in the cold and dark, waiting for her as she herself had waited in vain all those years?
It’s the latter that strengthens her resolve.
She’d promised him, hadn’t she? He said she wasn’t alone, and she answered, “Neither are you.” She wasn’t strong enough to keep her promise then—she’d always put her duty as the Resistance’s Jedi first, both then and now. But—
—she’s sick and tired, so kriffing tired, of putting on a brave face, of pretending that nothing’s wrong when half of her never came back from the war.
I’m sorry, Ben.
I’m so sorry. For everything.
I’ll make it up to you, I swear it.
She doesn’t even remember closing her eyes, but suddenly R2 is whistling at her and the Falcon is dropping out of hyperspace. The blue globe of Ahch-To fills the viewport, and in a matter of moments, they’re breaking atmo, soaring over the rippling seas, and landing on Temple Island.
When Rey disembarks, she’s met by the Caretaker matron and an attendant, both of whom glower up at her. She gives a weak, awkward little wave. “Hi.”
Their disapproval intensifies, so she raises both hands placatingly. “Don’t worry, I’m not staying long. I’m just here to pick something up. Then I’ll be out of your hair forever, I promise.”
With one last, suspicious grumble, the Caretakers beckon her towards the winding stone stairs. The message is clear: <Very well. Come this way.>
“Wait, no, I need to go”—Rey gestures towards the sea—“down there. The cave under the island.”
The Caretakers crowd around her, chattering insistently as they push her back towards the stairs. Whatever they’re saying, it sounds urgent, so Rey tries to pick up on their meaning with the Force: <No! The tide is high. You cannot go there now.>
<Still hasty and willful,> the matron says sharply, and Rey bristles. <Be still now and hear us. You cannot go there now or you will drown.>
So Rey reluctantly follows them up the stairs and into a hut—Luke’s old hut, she realizes, recognizing the metal door.
<Wait here until the tide recedes. Then you may find what you seek.> They shut the door behind them with a parting grumble.
Rey stares at the closed door, fairly vibrating with nervous energy. Out of the corner of her eye, she spots the curious artifacts scattered around the hut, and under other circumstances, she would be fascinated by them all. Now, though, she’s far too keyed up to even sit down, much less pay attention to anything else. So she paces the hut, up and down and around, over and over, and reviews her plan again and again. By now, she’s gone over the Jedi texts and her notes so many times that she can close her eyes and call the pages up from memory.
The texts talked about something called the World Between Worlds, theorizing on what it was and how one could get there. One such theory had a diagram showing Exegol and Ahch-To as two points on the same hyperspace route—with the World Between Worlds right in the middle of them.
Ben had disappeared—yet never appeared to her as a Force ghost. If, somehow, he hadn’t died, and instead passed into the World Between Worlds from Exegol, then all she has to do is get there too—through the back door, as it were, on Ahch-To—and get him out.
This is going to work.
It has to.
She’s studied the texts. She’s planned for this.
She has not come here to fail.
Finally, there’s a knock on the door, and Rey darts over and wrenches it open.
The Caretaker matron stands there, looking distinctly unimpressed by her vehemence. <It is time,> she gurgles. <The tide has gone out.>
“I know the way!” Rey calls as she runs past.
This time, she dives straight into the cave entrance, and while she’s ready for it, the cold water still takes her breath away. She breaks the surface, paddles to the far side, and pulls herself up to stand before the mirror.
This is it—the moment of truth.
Her heart hammers wildly as she lifts a hand and touches the mirror. It’s as smooth and cold as ice against her fingertips.
“Let me see him.”
Rey waits, expecting something dramatic—the mirror melting away to let her pass through, or stretching until it snaps as she simply walks through, or even just showing her a vision of Ben.
This time, Rey presses her hand against the mirror more firmly. She wills the Force to flow through her hand and into the mirror, wills it into her voice as she speaks once more.
“Let me see Ben Solo. Please.”
Rey blinks hard against the salt-sting in her eyes, lest she miss a moment, a sign, a flicker—
Slowly, the mirror begins to clear, as if mist is being wiped away—
—and she sees a void, deeper and darker than space itself. Tiny, scattered pinpricks of light shine faintly in the gloom like stars.
The mirror burns with cold against her hand.
Blowing out a long breath through pursed lips, she tries to focus.
Where are you, Ben?
“I’m here, Ben,” she whispers, forcing the words out past the lump in her throat. “Answer me. Please.”
When she hears nothing, feels nothing, Rey curls her other hand into a fist and bangs it against the mirror, baring her teeth in a snarl.
“Give me Ben Solo!”
Grief, hurt, guilt, longing—everything she’s kept bottled up inside for the past year swirls together and spills out into the Force, whipping around her like the X’us’R’iia. A low, unearthly wail echoes through the cave, and she’s vaguely aware of her wraps fluttering, her wet, undone hair whirling in an unnatural wind.
She gathers the Force around her and hurls it at the mirror as if she could break through it, as if her emotions could propel her through that starry void and lead her to wherever Ben is.
The mirror stays intact.
The stars—if stars they are—continue to shine, and somehow, it feels like they’re mocking her.
“No!” she howls. “Give him back!”
The Force surges around her, charged by her frustration. She feels it churning the sea behind her as she reaches down, down into the black depths, heaving up great, jagged boulders that shoot past her and slam into the mirror.
The entire cave trembles with the force of the impact, dust and pebbles raining down onto her head and shoulders. The mirror shudders—but it doesn’t break, doesn’t even crack.
No matter what she does, the mirror remains implacable and whole. The golden blades of her saberstaff cannot slice or melt it, and with a desperate cry, she flings the useless hilt away. She uses rocks like hammers, raining down blows with all her might, but they only shatter against the polished stone and slice into her skin.
Time loses all meaning. There is only the endless, dull roar in her ears and the mirror—cold, dark, utterly unmarred—before her eyes.
Icy water laps at her ankles, jolting her from her daze.
“No,” she gasps, the sound so ragged that she barely recognizes her own voice.
I can’t give up now, I can’t leave without Ben—
—but the tide is rising and the currents around the island are too strong for her to risk swimming.
Rey pounds her fist against the mirror one last time and falls to her knees, barely aware of the sting in her knuckles, or of the seawater soaking her pants.
She gave everything she had, and still she failed.
Somehow, she manages to exit the cave and trudge back to the surface—though she has no memory of the walk, nor even of putting one foot in front of the other. She only feels frozen, as if that cold spot Finn mentioned has finally swallowed her, body and soul.
Her feet take her back to Luke’s hut—hers now, she thinks dimly, pausing over the threshold.
The memory of a similar night two years ago hits her like a punch in the gut.
Two years ago, she had gone to that same cave and come back to her hut, drenched and shivering and so lonely—and Ben had been there. He had come when she called— had been there to listen to her pain and her fears— had looked at her with those beautiful, sad eyes across a warm fire and told her she wasn’t alone.
Now, the hut is dark and empty, there is no warm fire, and Ben isn’t there—
—and he never will be again—no matter how much she wants him to be, no matter how much she pulls on the broken thread that once bound them across the stars, no matter how much she wails Come back! in the solitude of her own mind.
She doubles over with a gasp, one hand scrabbling at her chest, the other clutching the stones around the doorway for dear life.
One gasp turns into two, and she starts to cry—raw, anguished, tears streaming from her squeezed-shut eyes, her mouth gaping around guttural, wracking sobs.
It’s not fair.
The thought buzzes in circles through her mind, maddening as a gnat on a hot day, until it’s all she can hear, until she’s filled with a seething, bone-deep rage.
She staggers into the hut and begins to tear it apart.
She sweeps trinkets off the rough-hewn shelves and hurls earthenware jars and bowls onto the floor. She overturns boxes and chests and tears at the coarse robes and blankets that spill from them. The stones shake beneath her feet, a crack opening in the floor and snaking up the wall.
All the while, she screams—not with words, only a horrible, heartbroken keening.
It isn’t fair that the Force should be so cruel.
It isn’t fair that she’s still so naïve—so stupid—as to hope, despite all the times when nothing ever came of it.
It isn’t fair that Ben gave his life for hers, that he left her to pick up the pieces alone.
It isn’t fair that she wasn’t strong enough—to bring him back when he began to fade, or maybe just to not die, so that he wouldn’t have had to do it for her.
Her strength gives out with her voice, and at last, Rey collapses in the midst of the wreckage.
“Come back,” she sobs, although now it’s little more than a hoarse, near-soundless croak. “Please.”
Finally, a small eternity later, her eyes slip closed.
Ben grins at her, positively giddy with the warmth of their kiss. His smile carves deep furrows around the corners of his mouth, and Rey, mesmerized by the rare sight, traces them gently.
Let me have this, she begs. Let us stay like this forever, please, please—
Ben’s smile slips away as his eyes close. He falls back, and she watches through tear-dimmed eyes as he fades away. Even his clothes turn into a hazy black blur, and when her eyes clear—
—she stands before a vast, faceless crowd. Their cam flashes sear her eyes, and their jubilant shouts ring painfully in her ears.
“I’m not your hero!” she cries. “I’d be dead or worse if not for Ben Solo!”
“Who?” someone calls, the single word cutting through the wall of indeterminate sound.
Rey pictures Ben—the tenderness in his dark eyes, the gentle curve of his smile, the—
His voice. What did his voice sound like?
Why can’t she remember?
The words catch in her throat, a sob spilling from her still-open mouth instead.
Another cam goes off, and she flinches away, shielding her face with her hands.
When the glare fades, she’s facing a large class of Jedi trainees, of various species and ages. They sit in a semicircle, watching her with rapt attention.
“What was he like?” pipes a little Togruta girl. “Ben Solo?”
The familiar ache of the broken bond flares up, and Rey rubs at her chest. There are burgeoning wrinkles on her hands, tendons beginning to show themselves.
She tries to picture him—
—and a sudden deep panic rises in her throat as she realizes that she can’t remember the color of his eyes. Were they brown? Hazel? Black?
Did he have dimples or is she just imagining things?
No, no, nonono—
“Are you okay?”
Her vision blurs. She doesn’t want to cry in front of her students, but no amount of blinking or dabbing at her eyes seems to clear them. Her students fade into an amorphous mass of shapes and colors, their voices blending into a steady rushing, like—
—wind, blowing grains of sand and wisps of silver hair into her face. When she reaches up to brush them away, her hands are wrinkled and leathery, and her joints ache and creak.
Behind her, there is warm, weathered pourstone. Before her, the twin suns sink below the horizon.
“Not long now, Ben,” Rey murmurs. “I’ll see you soon.”
She tries to picture it—
—and finds that she can’t.
All she knows is that soon, she won’t hurt anymore. Soon, she’ll be home and safe. Soon she’ll never have to be alone again.
She pulls her frayed shawl tighter around herself and stares into the gathering dusk. The suns sink below the horizon, darkness falling over the small, lone figure huddled in the sand—
Rey bolts upright, her heart pounding and the smell of the desert in her nose. Her face tingles, and for a second, she swears she feels sand rasping against her cheeks.
She doesn’t want that dream to be real.
She doesn’t want to forget Ben, ever—
—but if she doesn’t do something, it may well happen.
The galaxy at large knows him only as Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader of the First Order and Han Solo’s murderer. History will paint him as a traitor to his family’s legacy of heroism, remembering his reign as a brief, ugly bump in the road to galactic peace. Any holovid footage of him that survives will be of that awful mask and its distorted, artificial voice.
Nearly everyone who remembers Ben Solo—the troubled boy he was, the conflicted man he became, the lingering, hesitant gentleness that even Kylo Ren’s mask and Snoke’s taint could not completely erase—is gone.
Scrambling to her feet, Rey lights a fire in the central hearth, hands shaking so hard that she nearly drops the flint and steel twice. Then she rummages through the debris for something—anything—of Ben’s— for some trace of who he’d been before he fell.
Luke must have brought something with him. Some trinket, some keepsake to remind himself of his failure—
An empty flask, a star compass, a battered pair of old boots—she tosses them all aside with an impatient growl.
Then her hand closes around a small wooden box, with— holes in the lid?
Her brow furrows, and she peers at it more closely. Not only are there holes in it, there’s Aurebesh lettering inked onto it too.
Property of Ben Solo, the little box proclaims proudly, and Rey’s breath rushes out in a shuddering gasp.
She touches the letters lightly, afraid to smudge the aged ink. The box has no lock, and inside it, she finds a little inkpot and a handful of pens.
“Ben,” she whispers, her heart squeezing fiercely in her chest.
She knows what she has to do.
First, she drags a crate over to the fire. Then she frantically searches for something to write on—flimsiplast, paper, parchment, anything.
After gathering everything she needs, she sits down by the crate and places the box and parchment atop it. She takes out the inkpot and pens, handling them as carefully as if they were sacred relics.
She stares into the flames for a long moment, gathering her thoughts.
Then, with a deep breath, she picks up a pen, dips it into the ink, and begins.
For Ben, she writes carefully at the top of the first sheet of parchment.
Ahch-To, 36 ABY
My name is Rey.
Until two years ago, I was a scavenger from Jakku. Now I’m the last Jedi. Or I’m supposed to be, anyway. But whatever I am, whatever I should be—I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for Ben Organa Solo, once known as Kylo Ren.
She goes back to their first meeting, not wanting to miss a single moment in their story. She writes about Takodana: her delight in seeing a forest and a lake for the very first time— Maz’s castle, and her vision after touching the Skywalker lightsaber for the first time— running into the forest in a blind panic, which had only increased when the First Order ships broke atmo.
The more she writes, the more she remembers, her pen scratching and jerking as her hand fights to keep pace with her mind.
She writes about him emerging from the trees like something out of a nightmare or a drunken spacer’s tale, masked and swathed all in black, his jagged red ‘saber held high— about how, even now, part of her remembers him when she smells moss and damp earth— about her panic and helplessness as he parried her shots and froze her, the pressure in her head as he probed for the map, her attempt to steel herself for whatever came next, because she was sure it would be painful.
Next is the interrogation chamber: her confusion when she woke to him kneeling at her feet, and the shock that eclipsed it the moment he took off his mask— the strange, almost frightening little thrill at the sight of his face, long lines and pale skin offset by his full red mouth and thick, curling dark hair— the low, almost intimate way he murmured, “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too.” She writes about his mind pushing, steady and insistent, against hers, and the pounding in her temples as she resisted— the moment she truly felt the Force for the first time, like touching a live wire and being bolstered by its energy— her confusion at the flood of unfamiliar images and foreign emotions, only to realize with a jolt that they were his.
The fire crackles, and Rey takes a few deep breaths as she shakes out her hand.
This next part is hard, for multiple reasons. But she swore to remember everything she can of Ben, and she’s not about to start being squeamish now.
Still, her heart sits heavily in her chest as she writes about Ben killing Han. She writes about Han’s voice rising from the pit, just loud enough to make out the words “my son”— her horror and revulsion and rage when the ‘saber pierced Han’s chest— and through it all, at the edge of her consciousness, the dizzying torrent of Ben’s emotions: crushing doubt, a deep-seated yearning, wild and fluttering as a caged bird, a brief flash of resolve followed immediately by overwhelming remorse.
Here she stops, her pen leaving a blotch of ink where it presses down on the parchment.
Yes, she felt his emotions—but she realizes now that she doesn’t know how to explain them. Ben clearly felt that Han had failed him—and yet, when she’d pressed him for answers, he said, “I didn’t hate him.”
In fact, Rey realizes with a sudden sinking feeling, as closely intertwined as they were during that final, intense year of the war, in a way— she doesn’t really know Ben at all.
She’d seen the extremes of his emotions, both the good and the bad—but she knows barely anything of what led him to that point, nor any of the thousand small, mundane things that make up a person’s life: what he did with his spare time, what songs he couldn’t forget despite his best efforts, whether he liked caf or tea with his breakfast.
Part of her knows those things don’t really matter, that they have no bearing on Ben’s fall to the dark and return to the light.
But— she is a scavenger at heart. She’s always seen the value in things no one else wants. Those little things do matter, because they’re what make him more than just Kylo Ren.
But she doesn’t know them.
However, she knows who does.
Rey carefully puts the pen to one side, closing her eyes and slowing her breathing.
“Be with me,” she murmurs, reaching out in the Force. “Be with me. Be with me.”
She’s not sure how long she sits there, chanting quietly—but when nothing happens, she throws her head back and screams into the silence, “You owe me!”
Rey looks up with a start.
There, across the fire, stands Luke Skywalker, in the translucent, blue-tinted flesh.
So to speak, of course.
“The Jedi Order owes you a great debt, Rey.” He tilts his head, looking at her almost kindly—and maybe death has mellowed him out, because he’d never been so sympathetic to her in life. “What do you need?”
“Tell me about Ben.”
One lone star glows in the void.
It brushes past, feels like—
A pull—faint, insistent—to the light.
He follows it.
END STAVE I.