Chapter 33: It's Complicated
Two little heads, one dark and curly, the other light and sleek, bobbing in an endless sea of golden grass, the air full of their laughter. Anakin and Ashla were always so happy to see each other. The first hours of these reunions were always characterized by hyperactive joy, and this visit was no exception.
But it was the other exceptions that worried Rey. This was unusual. Kylo had sent Ani and the droids ahead, without him. Very unusual. Out of dozens of family visits, he had never done that before.
"Threepio, did he say when he was going to get here?"
"I'm afraid not, milady. His Majesty said only that he had some things to take care of, and that he was sending Ani ahead, as he knew how much this time means to you all." The protocol droid paused. "I am sure there is no need to worry, milady."
Rey frowned, turning to Leia. "Why does he keep calling me My Lady?"
Leia snorted. "He's addressing you as a royal concubine."
Rey's mouth dropped open. "A what?"
"I beg your pardon," Threepio interjected. "But I believe the term mistress is more appropriate."
Rey gave a little feminine grunt of indignation. "Leia, your droid called me -"
"Oh get over yourself Rey. If you don't want to be called his mistress, then you'll just have to marry him."
Rey's eyes widened, her lips pressing into a thin line. Leia chuckled, and walked over to check on the twins. In this area, the grass was at least waist-high on an adult, so the children weren't always visible.
"Threepio," Rey spoke at length. She couldn't quite help herself. "Does His Majesty have any other mistresses?"
"To my knowledge, no," Threepio replied cheerfully. "While I do admit that I am apparently no expert in human relationships, I have see no evidence of him having any other companion of that sort. I believe His Majesty seeks to project an image of being above such desires. As far as most people know, his heir is a genetic clone."
Rey nodded, oddly reassured. Her mind returned to more important matters.
He still wasn't here. What could that mean?
This was particularly nerve-wracking as this marked the first visit since he'd revealed that he knew where Luke's temple was, during the last meetup. However, without even being asked, Kylo had given his word that he would not touch it. As Rey and Ashla's home, it was sacred. Though he did certainly imply that Luke was fair game if he left.
Allowing him to visit them here on Dantooine was a huge leap of faith, even if they were several hundred klicks from Luke and the temple.
That was why his lateness was making her so nervous. There was a chance, however small, that he was betraying her. That he couldn't pass up this golden opportunity to attack the temple, knowing that Rey and Ashla weren't there. Rey was almost certain that he wouldn't do it. He knew that she'd never forgive him. And he would be risking the armistice with the New Republic. Then again, maybe that was the point. Perhaps he'd finally finished cleaning up Hutt Space, and was turning his forces back on the New Republic. The First Order had been infamous for breaking treaties, perhaps the New Empire was returning to its roots?
No. He wouldn't. Her feelings told her that he wouldn't... But she became slightly less sure of that with every passing minute that he wasn't here.
Artoo let out a sharp beep, and Rey felt her lips curl into a smile, even before Threepio translated. "Artoo says that Shuttle Buzzkill has just appeared on his scopes."
Within seconds, a dark, raptor-like silhouette appeared in the sky, and landed daintily in the field, next to Ani's modified TIE.
A dark figure descended the ramp at a brisk stride. Kylo looked much as he always had, clad in black from the neck down, unmasked in accordance with her preference. However, the quality of the garments had changed over the years, no doubt to reflect his promotion. His robes were now comprised of rich velvets and silks, his battle-worn cowl replaced with a full-length black cape that fluttered majestically behind him as he walked.
Much as Rey hated to admit it, the jerk looked downright regal.
"You're late!" Leia hollered.
"I was held up!" he called back, stepping off the ramp.
"Something like that!" Kylo returned, walking toward them. Rey noted that the bravado in his voice sounded a little strained.
"You know, a constitution might help with that, Ben!" his mother retorted.
"Don't call me that in public!"
Leia gestured to the open field, deserted except for immediate family. "What public?"
"Okay, then just don't call me that," he grumbled, even as he opened his arms for the hug he knew his mother wanted. The sight of that enormous man hugging his petite mother never failed to bring a smile to Rey's face.
The hug continued for a second or two more, and Leia leaned leaned away, looking at her son's face. "What is it?"
Kylo sighed. "It sounds like my family tree is likely to become public. Again."
Leia's face took on a look of concern. "They know that you're -"
"Yeah." Kylo paused. "With a little finesse, I can get people to focus on the Vader part, but -"
Leia finished for him. "If they fixate on the me part, you may lose the support of the hardliners. Possibly the central subsectors too."
Rey frowned. Gratifying as it was to see Kylo getting along with his mother, their conversations often veered out of Rey's political depth. "What does that mean?" she asked.
Kylo turned to her with a smile. "Just that my professional life is likely to get a little stressful for a while. Don't worry about it."
Rey didn't like the sound of that. "Will the you and Ani be in danger?!"
Kylo approached her, pulling her into an embrace of her own. "Have some faith in me, will you?" he said, a little grouchily. "Besides, I'm already determined to not think about that today. Today is for my family."
Somehow, being in his arms like this was enough to make her agree with that sentiment.
"I'll leave the two of you alone," Leia said knowingly, walking several meters away, and focusing her attention on the children.
Melting into his embrace, it took Rey a good minute or two to recall what she'd been angry about. "What the hell were you thinking, sending Ani here by himself?!"
Kylo flinched, releasing her. "I programmed the flight plan myself, and he wasn't alone. Artoo had the controls, and he's been flying longer than both of us put together. Besides, and Ani is already a great pilot. He's learned so fast, and his reflexes are so good, you'd never know that he's not Force sensitive."
"He is descended from some of the best pilots in the galaxy," Rey commented. "But -"
Kylo interrupted before she could finish. "He's already as good a pilot than any idiot flight officer I could have assigned him."
"He's eight!" Rey finally burst out.
Kylo's voice raised to match hers. "You know perfectly well that I couldn't send a sentient with him, and I didn't want him to miss any time with you two!" Kylo paused. "And maybe I wanted Ani to practice what to do and where to go, if something ever happens to me!"
"Rey! Ben!" Leia hollered at them from a distance, distracting Rey before she could catch the ominous subtext. "You've been together for less than five minutes, and you're already fighting! Ben comes by it honest, but what's your excuse, Rey?"
Kylo turned a triumphant grin on his baby mama. Needless to say, it was pretty unusual for his mother to take his side in an argument, these days.
With that, the twin's focus finally shifted away from their play, and they were running up to their parents.
"Father!" they shouted in unison. Ani held back slightly, considerately giving Ashla priority. She sprinted up to her father, was swept up into his arms, and Kylo swung her around adorably.
Despite having already hugged his mother several hours ago, Ani took the opportunity to get another hug from his own rarely-seen parent.
Getting a hug from Ani always felt a little risky. There was always the chance that she wouldn't be able to let him go.
"Father, I have a present for you," Ashla announced as she was placed back on the ground. She produced a string of iridescent purple seeds. A few days previously, she'd taken it into her head to make a necklace for her dad.
Kylo dutifully donned the home-made trinket, even if it looked rather absurd among his black velvets. "It's very pretty, sweetheart."
Then, to Rey's surprise, Ani reached into his own pocket. He then stepped up to her. "This is for you, Mother."
The boy produced a small bag, and placed it in his mother's hand. She accepted and opened it with appropriately exaggerated eagerness. It was a necklace - apparently, even with a galaxy between them, the twins had both had the same notion. It was gaudy gleaming metal, studded with faintly glowing jewels. It was without a doubt the ugliest piece of jewelry Rey had ever seen, but she supposed that meant her son had picked it out himself. Even his father's dubious taste wasn't that bad.
She donned the necklace, the ostentatious pendant looking rather out of place among the tans and creams of her robes. Rey pulled the boy into yet another hug.
"Did you have something to ask your mother?" Kylo prompted.
The boy apparently remembered. "Mother, father says I am old enough to construct my first training lightsaber."
Rey tensed. She'd argued with Kylo about that, last time - whether it was safe for a non-Force sensitive child to wield a lightsaber. After much debate, they'd settled on his only ever being given a training saber, able to give a slight stinging shock, not slice off limbs.
"Would you help me?" Ani continued. "Father says you are the best sabersmith in the galaxy. Much better than him."
Rey noted Kylo's slight blush of embarrassment. He clearly hadn't meant for the boy to say that much. She glanced down at Kylo's hip. Sure enough, there was the saber that she'd made for him, years ago. It had some grips and enamel added, but it was still the same weapon he'd been ineptly working on, just before... certain events leading to Anakin and Ashla.
Now, Rey had never really had any particular ego trip in regards to an emperor - the most powerful man in the known galaxy, no less - being in love with her, forsaking any number of desirable women who no doubt threw themselves at him. But the idea that, despite having access to the finest engineers in the galaxy, he still carried the sidearm that she had made for him - that made her swell with pride.
"That's true Ani. Everyone has things they do well, and things they need to learn more about. Your father needs more to learn more about constructing lightsabers," Rey looked up over her sons shoulder, and smirking at Kylo. "You both need a teacher."
Kylo rolled his eyes along with his snort of amusement.
"So you'll teach us, mother?" Ani asked excitedly.
With that, Ani and Ashla were rushing off to resume their play. And then suddenly, Ani was on the ground. Before Rey had a chance to figure that he must have tripped, Kylo was already crouching at his son's side, examining Ani's scraped knee.
No, not crouching. Kylo was kneeling. And his hands - he was healing the scrape, Rey realized. She was hard pressed to keep her jaw off the ground. That type of healing was a staunchly Light-Sided power.
Rey exchanged a glance with Leia, apparently also watching. Rey got the impression that Leia knew the significance of what she was seeing too. Leia may not have been a padawan, but she lived in a Jedi temple, and was not above sitting in on lessons.
It was coming true. That premonition Rey had, years ago. Slowly but surely, Kylo's love for his son was leading him back to the Light, or at least in its general direction.
Within seconds, Ani was off and running again, and Kylo was walking back over to her. "I never feel like more of a father than when I heal his boo-boos myself."
The twins were finally asleep, curled up in their little blanket fort on the floor of the Falcon. Leia sat reading at the gaming table. But she kept losing focus on her book, pondering the political implications of what Ben had told her, earlier. The knowledge that the emperor was the son of Leia Organa, former leader of the loathsome Resistance - that was likely to create a big enough scandal to threaten his rule.
But after considering this for the past few hours, Leia concluded that her son was safe, in the long run. After all, Ben had a political ace-in-the-hole, and didn't even know it. His long-time lover and baby-mama arguably had more right to his throne than he did. Oh, but Luke still hadn't told her about her great grandfather yet. Leia decided to prod him about that. She understood never finding the right moment to break some disturbing news about someone's ancestry, better than anyone. But she also understood the pain that could arise from that procrastination.
Palpatine still enjoyed a positive image in the New Empire, so if Ben were to show up with Palpatine's descendant on his arm, two little Palpatines in tow, it would be the PR move of the century. Leia had no doubt that Rey would swallow her pride and agree to a marriage alliance, if it became necessary for her family's safety. And Leia decided that she'd probably enjoy teaching Rey, how to behave like royalty. Wouldn't be easy though. Rey had only recently started using a fork consistently.
That was probably just a daydream though, born of Leia's lingering tendency to think like a politician. Realistically, if things were to go wrong in Ben's empire, the most obvious option would be for them to finally run away together. Perhaps Leia would go with them. Someone would have to keep them from fighting like rancors.
Leia smiled a little uneasily at the thought that one way or the other, things were likely to change for Rey and Ben in the very near future. Or perhaps Ben would succeed in keeping the uproar to a minimum, and things would go on as they were. Who knew...
Just then Rey emerged from her bunk. Leia tactfully pretended not to notice as Rey donned her cloak and slipped down the gangplank.
Leia wasn't one to judge them for these little rendezvous of theirs. Her son had always been reckless and temperamental, and in truth, Rey, with her iron will and occasionally sharp tongue, was not exactly what most would call easy going. That in mind, coming together only occasionally, and parting before the urge to kill each other took hold, seemed sensible. That wasn't that different from a good chunk of her own marriage.
And that's kind of what her son and de facto daughter-in-law had. This was no tryst, no friends-with-benefits. It was a marriage, albeit one that was only visible a few days per year.
"Some things never change," she said quietly to herself. "But this may not be one of those things."
Rey wanted to think that Leia didn't notice her as she slipped out, for fear that she'd report it to Master Skywalker. She knew he wouldn't quite approve of these midnight rendezvous, though she could always argue that technically she was not breaking her Jedi vows. There was no Jedi prohibition against hooking up, only attachment. At the same time, she could just imagine Master Skywalker's face, the look of incredulity and condescending amusement he would have, if she were to claim that her relationship with Kylo didn't involve attachment.
But Rey had no intention of stopping these interludes. The sex was just too excellent. Yes, that was the reason. The main reason. Definitely the main reason. After these few years, she'd managed to train him up a bit on bedroom matters, and because of their bond, he was a fast learner. And now that he was a fairly competent lover, the combination of physical and empathic pleasure seemed to roll and build into a sort of feedback loop of absolute ecstasy.
Rey crossed the open field, beige robes fluttering in the wind. Kylo was already waiting for her, leaning against the open ramp to his shuttle. She knew he was trying to look dashing, and damn it, he was succeeding.
She smirked, recalling that very first visit after the twins were born, the one where it had been an entire year since she and Kylo had been alone together. The one where they'd more or less tackled each other the first second no one was looking. How, after a frantic clash of lips and tongue, he'd scooped her up and carried her off to his shuttle, only this time, they left a trail of discarded clothing in their wake. They didn't even make it to his bed.
Or there was the most recent encounter. Instead of walking over to his shuttle like a good girl, she'd veered off into the forest. He'd understood instantly, sprinting after her. She led him on a delightful hunt through the woods, intending to bait him along a path, said to lead to a waterfall. There was no more exotically erotic location, as far as she was concerned, former desert creature that she was. Unfortunately, her unfamiliarity with waterfalls backfired. She had never imagined that they would be such damp, dirty places. Instead of making love in some moonlit mossy bower like the star-crossed lovers they were, they'd fucked right there in the mud, like a pair of rutting hapabores.
But she wasn't in the mood for such shenanigans. Tonight, they would talk and touch and kiss and make love on the shuttle.
Without a word, they walked up the ramp, arm in arm. Once they'd reached the main cabin, Rey noticed the small feast of snacks, carefully laid out on the lounge table. The lounge table that she was fairly sure he'd installed for her.
"A picnic on your shuttle!" she exclaimed happily. "Just like - I guess that was our first date."
Kylo grinned mischievously, sitting at the table. "I suppose it was. Unless kidnapping you counts."
Rey glared at him, even as she elected to sit in his lap instead of her own chair. "You are such a creep."
After so many years, it was now surprisingly easy to laugh about certain aspects of their first real encounter. But only certain aspects. There were some events from that time period that would never be anywhere near funny.
As usual, they always seemed to end up on the same subject. "How has Ashla been?" he asked, arms encircling her snugly.
"Well," Rey paused. "She definitely has your perception. Ashla reads people like an open book. Frankly, it's a bit problematic because -" she searched for the right words.
"Adults find her unsettling, and other children are afraid of her," Kylo cut in, voice tinged with bitterness.
Rey wasn't surprised by this statement. Over the past few years, she'd learned quite about about Ben's youth, if only because Leia always seemed to be muttering Just like Ben. Just like Ben. Just like Ben. Rey found this both interesting and somewhat disconcerting.
"People who don't know her, yes. But I've been working with her on keeping those little insights to herself." She paused again, just now realizing that she'd been running her fingers through Kylo's hair. It was still more beautiful than any man's hair had a right to be. "And then there's her prescience..."
"What about it?"
"It's almost impossible to surprise her. She just seems to know things - things that haven't happened yet, or things that there's no way she could have ever heard of. You know, first thing this morning, she told me that father is going to be late because he has to fix a sandal."
"She's eight, Kylo. She doesn't know what a scandal is." Rey paused. "She knows things from the past too. When she plays with her dolls, half the time, they're acting out some historical event that I know for a fact she's never been taught."
"Interesting," Kylo commented sincerely, even as he began nuzzling her neck.
The sensation of his mouth brushing against her skin seemed to spread throughout her entire body, in the form of a warm chill. It took her a moment to regain her train of thought. "How has Ani been doing?"
"He's fine," Kylo returned, just a little defensively. "He's growing and learning, just like kids are supposed to."
"You're not - punishing people in front of him, are you?"
"No. I always send him away first." He paused. "And I haven't needed to punish someone in a while."
"You're giving him opportunities to play with other children, right?"
"Yes, yes," he groaned, finally leaning away. "My advisors and officers fall all over themselves to get their kids into a playdates with Ani. I've even built a playground and a garden for him, in the Keep." Kylo smiled at her. It was that smile. The one that was all roguish charm, seamlessly mixed with his air of dangerous power. "Lots of fountains and flowers. You'd like it."
"I'm sure I would," Rey sighed, knowing what was coming.
"You should come back with me," he stated casually, as if offering her a drink.
Rey groaned. "I really wish you would stop asking."
He grinned at her. "You know, there is a fairly straight-forward way you could make me stop asking."
She wouldn't do it. She wouldn't sacrifice her beliefs and become his obedient consort. A woman with no destiny or ambition or purpose outside of standing behind him and looking pretty, dooming their relationship to an unavoidable power differential.
He didn't seem upset in the least by her refusal. He knew what her answer would be long before she said it, because he'd asked her so many times already. At this point, it was less a question than a tradition.
Even after knowing him for years, there was one way in which Rey was still slightly afraid of him. There was always the concern that he might just snap, and abduct her and Ashla. Between his questionable emotional stability, it didn't seem that unlikely, and with his infinite resources, she knew he could succeed. There was always a chance she would wake up to find herself and her daughter dragged from their beds, to spend the rest of their lives imprisoned in the gilded cage he'd built for himself and Anakin. But she supposed there were worse fates, even if it meant giving up her autonomy.
Rey realized that it was actually a good thing that he continued to ask her to return with him. Because asking implied that she still had a choice in the matter.
But there was one question, one never yet asked, that Rey lived in constant fear of, even more than the abduction scenario. She was terrified that he might someday offer to run away with her. For them to take the children, leave the New Jedi and New Empire far behind, and spend the rest of their days pretending to be normal. Because this was an offer she was not entirely sure she could turn down.
As usual, her companion seemed to sense the gist of her thoughts. "I wish I could," he said with unmistakable regret.
Rey wondered if he was referring to kidnapping or elopement. She wondered, but only briefly. There was no point in pondering such distinctions with this man.
She turned her most alluring smile on her companion, slowly running a finger down the brocade front of his surcoat, creeping toward his cock, millimeter by millimeter. "Of course, you could always move in with me. I'm sure Master Skywalker would be alright with it, if you can prove that you deserve a second chance. And I'm sure your mother could talk him into giving a dispensation for our relationship."
Kylo's vibes darkened slightly. "I am still going to kill him, you know." This was said with much less hostility than such words probably warranted. It sounded less like an ominous warning to her, than wishful reassurance to himself. "Someday. When I get around to it. And I have nothing better to do. I guess."
Rey rolled her eyes. "Shut up and take off your clothes, will you?"
Thank you so so so much to all of my reviewers/commentators. I will make a point of replying to any questions or comments posted for this last chapter. I adore you all, and I would never have finished this tale without your feedback and validation. A special thank you to PerryDowning, for being awesome and supportive through these last few chapters.
And thank you to my husband for having a look-see at my chapters.
Now, bonus content...
I don't have plans to write a sequel to this story, but I will give you some bullet points that have been kicking around in my head, just in case you require extra closure. The following are posted entirely as food-for-thought and/or amusement.
The foreshadowed political shitstorm ensues, apparently initiated by a resentful Hux. Kylo is deposed and thrown in carbonite, and his son flees to get help from the rest of the family.
It is determined that the only way to save Kylo is to rehabilitate his image. With the aforementioned arranged/political marriage. Conveniently enough, the last of the old imperial family has already borne him two children.
Rey will have to embrace her family's dark, regal past in order to save her family's future. Like most adults, she will have to realize that your destiny and your life-goals are rarely the same thing.
Leia teaches Rey how to behave like royalty. The Princess Diaries in Space follows.
Hux eventually interferes, and decides that marrying a Palpatine might further his own ambitions. His unsuccessful attempt to romance Rey is made particularly awkward by Rey's strong suspicion that Hux has zero sexual interest in women, and that their respective taste in men may be surprisingly similar *wink*.
Lil' Anakin's Force powers suddenly become apparent at the most dramatic possible moment.
Everything turns out right, largely thanks to Leia's political know-how, and Ashla's creepy foresight. Rey gets over herself, becomes empress, frees Kylo, and there's a big fancy wedding. Everyone lives relatively happily ever after, with Kylo as Rey's consort.
Kylo's engineers develop intergalactic travel.
Foreshadowed political shitstorm occurs.
Rey, Kylo and their twins run away to some primitive planet called Earth, where no one will ever find them. They settle down in suburbia. Leia goes with them.
Apparently the OT "a long time ago" was during WWII. The current ST "a long time ago" is the 1970s.
Shit tons of culture shock.
The first and second acts are something along the lines of That 70s Show With Space Wizards.
Rey becomes an engineer for NASA, and Kylo becomes a stay-at-home dad.
Rey and Kylo have to figure out that this is highly unusual. Haters hate. Haters get Force choked. Haters are mind tricked into forgetting said choking. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Kylo gets a seat on the local school board, and rules it with an iron fist.
The third act is A John Hughes Movie with Space Wizards.
After several years, Anakin becomes a Ferris Bueller-like figure, the scamp that people can't help but like. His Force powers manifest when he develops his first crush. Floating pears occur.
Ashla becomes something like Allison The Basketcase from Breakfast Club, but with freaky powers. She grapples whether to use these powers to punish bullies or help fellow outcasts.
Meanwhile, Leia becomes a legendary activist for gender and racial equality. She is eventually elected President of the United States.
Feel free to visit me on Tumblr, for updates on future stories, and occasional smartassed Reylo-centric comments. I'm Tuli-Azzameen.
Stay awesome, and don't forget to review/comment!