What can I say, I enjoy writing romances between assholes and strong women who won't take their shit. This tale should fall somewhere in the middle of the Reylo spectrum (yes, I just made that up, as far as I know), not twisted/abusive/tragic but also not entirely sweet/fluffy/fairy-tale.
Rated M for language, violence, crude humor and eventual adult content.
Chapter 1: Someone is Taken Prisoner
Kylo Ren stirred in his restraints, head drooped forward, a thin line of drool running down his chin.
Rey stood up straighter, steeling her mind against the psychic assault that was likely coming. A conscious Kylo Ren was a dangerous Kylo Ren, and the sedatives were clearly wearing off.
Rey was standing at the center of the makeshift cell. That monster was right there in front of her, but not nearly as intimidating as in her nightmares. He was strapped to a restraint chair, not unlike the one that he had once subjected her to over a year ago. His wraith-like robes had apparently been removed, leaving him in comparatively ordinary black pants and tunic, and looking rather lanky and awkward.
Of course, the knowledge that she had bested him in a fight served to bolster her courage. It also helped that the evidence of her victory was literally stamped, or rather slashed across his face, in the form of a long, red scar.
The prisoner flinched, and let out a low groan. His eyes opened, slowly rolling in their sockets and then roaming around the room.
"This is a cell," he said groggily, apparently to himself. Kylo Ren proceeded to attempt yanking his arms out of the restraints, to no avail. "I've been taken prisoner," he continued, still reciting the obvious.
Rey found herself wondering exactly how they'd managed to take Kylo Ren alive. He struck her as the type that would rather go out in a blaze of violence, than be taken prisoner. She'd only heard bits and pieces of how it had gone down, something about him refueling his ship, apparently on his own, when an elite squad of commandos managed to catch him unawares. Even so, there were apparently heavy casualties, and a medal ceremony was already in the works for the survivors. Rey supposed said commandos had definitely earned that recognition. Getting the drop on Kylo Ren could not have been easy, and had probably involved the will of the Force and/or a shit ton of dumb luck.
Then finally, the prisoner's eyes locked on Rey. "You ag-gain," he said, his words slurred. To Rey's immense disquiet, Kylo Ren then proceeded to grin at her. Actually grin.
That was when Rey realized that that while he was conscious, the sedatives were still apparently present enough in his system to affect his behavior.
For all intents and purposes, Kylo Ren was drunk.
He looked her over from head to toe, eyes lingering on her chest rather blatantly. This was definitely not the way you look at your sister or cousin. Which of course, she wasn't. Or at least it was pretty damn unlikely. The Force worked in mysterious ways, but it had presumably learned its lesson about sloppy storytelling.
"Your clothes are different," he said with the distinct irregular rhythm of drunkenness. He was no doubt referring to her new outfit of a gray vest and cutoff pants. "Looks nice."
For the briefest of moments, she thought she saw a flicker of that distinctive Solo swagger in him. But then Ren ruined it by opening his mouth again. That flash of cocksure charm vanished just as suddenly as it had appeared, in favor of a haughtiness not unlike how the General occasionally acted, when she was in a bad mood. "You look much less like some filthy desert vagrant."
"Thanks," Rey replied flatly. Compassion, she reminded herself. She was never going to get anywhere if he knew how much she despised him. Master Skywalker's orders had been clear. She was to use compassion to bring Kylo Ren back to the Light. The problem was, that was pretty much all her master had told her. No instructions on how compassion was supposed redeem an emotionally unstable murderer.
"Remember Padawan, history is full of Dark Jedi who were brought back to the light," Master Skywalker had told her.
It then occurred to Rey that with the prisoner more or less intoxicated, his mental defenses must have been lowered. It was the perfect time to peer into his thoughts. In terms of official Resistance records, that was what she was supposed to be doing - interrogating him for enemy tactical information. Her assignment to lead him away from the Dark Side was strictly between herself, Master Skywalker and the General.
She peered into his eyes, feeling her skin crawl as she entered his mind. Kylo Ren just twitched casually, as if a bug had just landed on his face.
"You don't want to do that," he informed her.
Rey took a mental step back. "Why?" she asked calmly, as if simply curious.
"A full-on mind probe is a two-way street between Force users," he recited, as if reading from a textbook. "You only got into my head before because I was in yours. That won't happen again, now that I actually know what I'm dealing with." Ren paused, and grinned at her again. "I'll make you a deal: you stay out of my head, and I'll stay out of yours."
Rey decided that she should consult Master Skywalker about that. But for the time-being, it seemed like a reasonable request, if only in the interest of building good will.
"Alright then, agreed."
The prisoner attempted to yank his arms from the restraints again. "Take these things off, will you?" he ordered imperiously.
"I'm afraid I can't."
"Why not?" Ren asked, his tone now unmistakably whiny.
"Because if I did, you could just escape when I open the door to leave. This isn't a - conventional cell," Rey explained.
It was true, this was no cell. The station had originally belonged to a criminal gang, and the gang had a large, very heavily armored vault near the center of the structure. It was thought that this was the only place they had any chance of actually holding Kylo Ren securely, so the old vault had been hastily converted to a prison. Even so, a restraint device had been thought necessary.
It seemed silly, but the fact was that the vast majority of the Resistance had an almost superstitious terror of Kylo Ren. Just as they revered Luke Skywalker as a super-human living-legend, they feared Kylo Ren as a sort of diabolical boogieman.
"You can't just leave me bound up like this forever. I thought the Resistance treated its prisoners with dignity," he said, singing the last word nasally, to emphasize his contempt.
"Yeah, well," Rey countered, "It's not meant as cruelty. It's just that we know that if you were to get loose, you'd probably kill everyone on the station."
Kylo Ren shrugged nonchalantly, as if to admit, Yeah, I probably would.
His expression changed abruptly to one of suspicion. "I've been drugged."
"Again for safety, while they got this place set up, and you into those restraints."
And then the unsettling grin was back. "I could teach you how to do that without drugs."
"I'm sure you could," she said, still trying to be polite.
"That isn't all, you know. I could teach you things that Skywalker doesn't even know are possible," Ren said, that hint of swagger coming back into his behavior. He was clearly making a valiant effort at being charming. But his attempt at charm, combined with his own exceedingly awkward interpersonal style made him sound less like a dark and powerful seducer, and more like a used speeder dealer.
"Look," Rey began frankly, "Before we talk any more, let's get one thing straight - I am never going to become your apprentice."
"Why not?" he whined, voice still audibly intoxicated. "I could be nice to you."
Rey burst out laughing - she couldn't help it. The idea of this man being nice, was too darkly absurd. This mass murderer so steeped in darkness that he killed his own father in cold blood - Being nice...
Just then, she felt his emotions shift. Rey was now fairly competent at sensing people's feelings, not unlike a scent in the air, or the direction of the wind. And she could feel his sudden burst of hostility the moment she started laughing. She got the sense that this was a man who was often laughed at, presumably behind his back.
"Why is that so funny?" he demanded, voice raised, irritable and just generally sounding a lot more like the Kylo Ren she remembered. "I was nice to you!"
Rey's mouth dropped wide open. So that was his idea of being nice? And strangest of all, she sensed that he was being sincere. That he really believed what he was saying.
Kylo Ren apparently sensed the general direction of her thoughts. "You're still alive, aren't you?"
This was just too much. Rey's composure snapped abruptly. "Nice? You killed a dear friend of mine and you grievously wounded another!" She paused a moment, feigning deep thought. "Oh yes, and you kidnapped me, strapped me to a torture device, messed with my head against my will, and threatened to rape me!"
"I did not!" he spat back childishly. "I never threatened..."
Rey managed to cut off his feeble excuses without a single word, just crossed arms and a narrow, skeptical look. Whatever rationalization he'd been planning to give was belied by the redness blooming on his cheeks, made extremely obvious by his pallor. He knew exactly what he had been implying in that interrogation room, but was apparently at least somewhat embarrassed by the recollection.
And then suddenly, the blush evaporated in favor of that unsettling grin. His eyes flicked up under his eyelids in what struck her as a unnervingly Solo-ish gesture. He found his voice again, and that awkward swagger was back.
"It isn't my fault if you have a dirty mind that jumps to dirty conclusions."
Rey let out a high-pitched feminine grunt of indignation. "I think we're done for the day!" she sputtered, smacking the cell/vault door controls, and stomping out.
She stood in the middle of the vault anteroom, panting with agitation as the door shut behind her.
"What did he say?" came a voice, soft and coarse both at once.
Rey jumped slightly. She'd forgotten that General Organa and Master Skywalker were watching through cell/vault security monitor. Rey silently thanked the stars that there was no audio.
"Nothing useful," Rey replied nervously.
"Rey," the General began, voice all understanding and kindness. "I know what my son is like. To be honest, I think it's a good sign that he's trying to get under your skin. If I were to go in there, he'd just shut down, and I don't want to know what he'd do if Luke went in."
"He feels nothing but hatred for me," Master Skywalker added. "But I suspect that his feelings for you are much more mixed, Rey."
"I don't think I can do this," Rey sighed. "We need some sort of expert, someone who deprograms cultists, or something."
Master Skywalker shook his head. "Padawan, if we sent in someone with no sense of the Force, he would just get into their head and manipulate them into helping him escape. But you have a strong ability to resist such an attack. We can have a droid take care of his basic needs, but you can be the only sentient allowed in there, or allowed to communicate with him."
"Rey," the General began. "There's something you need to understand about my son."
Master Skywalker, raised a hand, cutting his sister off as politely as possible. "Leia, I don't think it's wise for us to discuss his past. It will be easier for Rey to build compassion for him if she doesn't know."
"I know that," the General returned, audibly irritated by her brother's interruption. Sometimes, they really did act like normal siblings. "This isn't really about the past. It's about strategy."
The General turned to Rey. "Ben has always been extremely sensitive - literally. He senses things - his ability to read people is uncanny. With effort, I've always been able to do that myself in some situations, but for him, I suspect that it's more like a passive sense that he doesn't know how tune out."
Rey's brows furrowed slightly in thought. "You mean, he can read people's minds without even trying?" Rey asked. But that didn't quite make sense. His attempts to read her own mind clearly took a good deal of concentration and effort, even when she wasn't fighting him.
"Not exactly," the General paused, apparently searching for the proper words. "Luke, maybe you can explain it better," she prompted reluctantly.
Master Skywalker quickly obliged. "He doesn't sense people's specific thoughts automatically. It's more like their - motivations - attitudes - intentions. I suspect that he cannot read other Force users as easily, but for the most part he usually knows someone's intentions and opinions instantly."
"I want you to succeed, Rey," the General chimed back in. "And I think that the only way you'll do that is by being completely open and honest with him. I'm fairly sure he will immediately sense if you're insincere or humoring him. And I am guessing that still drives him crazy."
Crazier, Rey thought privately.
"Don't try to hide your feelings," the General continued. "Because he will probably see through it."
"Be compassionate, but still be yourself," Master Skywalker added.
"And you must be honest with him, Rey. That's a lesson that his family learned much too late." The General's voice hitched slightly. "This is never going to work if he doesn't trust you. And it needs to work. His life depends on it." Another long, melancholy pause. "I know about - what he's done, and I'm not sure I can ever forgive him. But I am still his mother, and I still love him. Painful as his actions make that."
"Even independent of personal feelings," Master Skywalker chimed in again, "he could be a great asset, if he could be turned back to the Light. Many lives could be saved."
"I'm not quite sure what will happen, even if you do succeed," the General admitted. "Most of the brass is howling for his blood, and there are a lot of people who think he should have just been shot on site. He will be tried for war crimes, and he will be convicted if that happens. l'm going to do everything I can to delay the trial. In meantime, if you could convince him to fight for us, his life might be spared."
General Organa stepped forward, taking Rey's hands. "I know it's not fair for us to put this responsibility on you, but Rey, you are my only hope."
Master Skywalker chuckled at that, for some unknown reason.
Rey glanced at the security screen. "Do you want to talk with him?"
Leia gave what must have been the saddest smile Rey had ever seen. "More than anything," the General said quietly, and left the room.
Rey turned to Master Skywalker. "I still don't think I can do this."
Master Skywalker placed a hand on her shoulder, "If that's the case, you will fail. But I have faith in you Rey. My feelings tell me that he will find some form of salvation through you, and that the fate of billions could hang in the balance. But I also know that premonitions cannot be taken at face value. Only time will tell exactly how that will happen, but in my personal experience, unconditional compassion is the only way to turn someone away from the Dark Side."