They capture the scavenger alone on a tiny little moon of a forgotten planet. Stormtroopers catch her off guard and escort her into a cell. She struggles, but not as much as Kylo thought she would have. Maybe she's finally realized that it is useless to fight the First Order.
He stands in her cell, staring down at her through his mask as she sits against the cold metal wall. She isn't meditating. He isn't either. Neither of them are very good Jedi.
Sometimes, she feels her way around with the Force, but he always pushes her creeping tendrils of thought back into her head where they belong.
After an hour of silence, Kylo speaks. "I will ask you questions now," he says. "You will answer them or I will destroy you."
"No," the scavenger says. Her arms are wrapped around one knee, the other dangling carelessly off the hard bench. She hasn't so much as looked at him. He can't stop looking at her.
Snarling, Kylo pushes at her mind, forcing her thoughts to give way. They part easily as a silk curtain, showing a seething, roiling pit of emotion. Fear, he recognizes. Anger, love, desire. Hope. The scavenger is not as stoic as she first appears. He doesn't recognize everything.
"What is that?" the scavenger asks.
Kylo doesn't speak, but she hears the question in his mind.
"That emotion," she explains. "I don't know the word for it. The one where you want something someone else has."
Kylo thinks for a moment. "Jealousy," he finally says.
She nods. "Jealousy." Her head tilts to the side as she squints up at him, completely undaunted. A gentle push, almost too soft to feel, and he's locked out of her mind. "I think I'm jealousy at you," she says.
"Jealous of me," Kylo says. He's not sure if it's a correction or a request for clarification.
"Yeah, that," she says.
Kylo seizes the opportunity. "If you cooperate, I can give you anything you want," he offers.
Kylo is known for many things, but his even temper is not one of them. He picks her up by the throat, shoving her into the wall a good ten feet off the ground. He insisted on tall cells for exactly this reason. She stares down at him and he thinks that she really shouldn't be able to look down on him like that. But her eyes are hard as a statue and buzzing bright as a blue lightsaber. His grandfather's lightsaber.
"Cooperate or I will kill you," he threatens.
"No you won't," she says, even, like a statement of fact. She isn't begging. "You know you can't make me talk and you haven't killed me yet."
He pushes her harder and she goes limp, letting his power wash over her, breathing as shallow as he will allow her. He drops her before she goes unconscious. She crumples to the floor like a paper doll before rising in one fluid motion. She stands chest to chest with him, close enough they would touch if he timed their breaths right.
"How old were you," she asks, "the first time you saw someone die?"
Kylo blinks. "Fourteen," he says. "And I killed her myself."
The scavenger nods. "You were older than me," she says. "I was thirty days old and I think I was five when I started counting days."
He can feel the darkness within her, dark as the desert sky at night, dark as the void of space where even the stars flee. There is an abyss in the place near her heart and he wants nothing more than to plunge himself into it. But around the abyss, light blazes. She is the inverse of a black hole, light seeping out of her darkness.
"Do you count days?" the scavenger asks. He thinks maybe she's trying to make a connection, trying to find something she can use to drag him back to the light. He went blind in the light once. His eyes were meant for the dark.
"What do you mean?" he asks.
The scavenger narrows her eyes, sneering at him almost. "The days since Before," she says like that's any sort of answer.
She shrugs, still uncomfortably close. He can smell the sand scent on her and the crackle of the force like an imprint of lightning. He thought she was fragile as glass once, and maybe she is, but she is where lightning struck sand. Not as brittle as he thought once.
"That depends," she says. "Everyone's Before is different. Before everything changed. Do you count the days."
Before he found Snoke, maybe. Before he found his calling to the dark. Before he slaughtered his fellow padawans. Before he killed his father. Kylo has a lot of things that happened before. He doesn't know which one changed everything.
"No," he says at last. "I don't count the days."
He shakes his head, pushes her away. "We're getting off track," he says, drawing his lightsaber, pointing the empty hilt at her. "Answer my questions or I'll kill you."
She watches the lightsaber with an expression he can't even begin to decipher. "What do you want to know?" she asks.
"Where are the Resistance hiding?" he demands.
The scavenger makes a noncommittal noise. "They left when I did. I'll find them when I need them." She's telling the truth. She's never been the kind to lie.
Of course. The Resistance needs a base, a hub of operations, somewhere to put their fighters and communications. But Leia Organa is the last survivor of Alderaan. She knows how to leave. She knows how to stay hidden. He won't find her unless she comes to them.
"Then you'll be bait," Kylo declares. "The Resistance will come for you."
"They won't," the scavenger answers instantly. "No one comes back for me."
There is no bravado in her tone, no fear, no pain. She hasn't even resigned herself to being constantly abandoned. She will try to change it no more than he would try to change the turning of the galaxy.
She enters his space before he realizes she's moving, plucks the lightsaber from his hands. He tries to attack but she brandishes it, holding the crimson blade just under his throat.
"You know why I'm so jealous of you?" the scavenger asks. The abyss in her heart is open and yawning, screaming for something to feed it. She could fall so easily, join him in the dark.
"Tell me why," Kylo says because his life is on the line, because she might kill him, because she might be able to obey Snoke and bring glory to the First Order in a way he just can't.
"Your father came back for you," she declares. "You left him and he came back for you. My family never came back for me. They left me and they never came back for me. He came back for you." She's repeating it like a chant, like a prayer, like an oath. "He came back for you and he came back for me but he died for you because he came back for you."
Kylo takes a deep breath, wondering if his grandfather ever felt fear like this. "He did," he admits. His hands don't tremble because he is a master of himself and he won't do anything but what he wants to do and he tries to tell himself that but it doesn't work. He isn't convinced.
"He came back for me too," the scavenger says. The scavenger, the picker of bones, the one who feasts on the dead and he has felt the hunger in her heart. He wonders if she will let his bones rot or if she will burn them to ashes or maybe she has tasted anger and hunger deep enough that she will suck the marrow from him and feast on his flesh before it has time to rot.
Kylo nods, silent, expectant. Not accepting because he accepts nothing. But he hopes she will fall from this. She deserves to find solace in the dark.
"He won't come back again," she says. "He's dead and you killed him." She should be getting harsher, angrier, but he isn't. She isn't angry and he can't understand it.
"He was worthless," Kylo says. "Useless. His death wasn't any great loss."
The scavenger gestures at him with his own lightsaber. He kneels at her command, reveling in the unforgiving steel beneath him. He removes his helmet, staring up at her with his own eyes. She's above him now, looking down at him. Their eyes lock. Hers blaze. He can't imagine what his eyes look like.
"You're lying," she says. "You killed him because you needed that loss. You hadn't felt loss like that before. Not like I have."
He bristles at the insult and tries to lash out but she has him pinned in place. She is open and bleeding, emptiness oozing out of her body like a living thing, like the death of a thing.
"Why did he come back?" she asks.
"You can't make me talk," Kylo says. "One word from me and I'll have guards here to kill you."
"No, you won't," the scavenger says.
He couldn't bear to have guards find him like this, couldn't fight back against her. She probably already disabled the communications, or he wants to kill her himself. He stays quiet. He can't figure out exactly why.
"Why did he come back?" she repeats.
"He hoped I would too," Kylo says. "He was wrong. I won't come back to them. Not now, not ever. They aren't my family anymore."
"Your mother still hopes you'll come back," she says.
"I won't," Kylo insists. "I've killed thousands of Resistance troopers and I keep their ashes as trophies." He has a nice collection now. He likes it. He doesn't like many things.
"Why?" the scavenger asks. "We all turn to ash eventually."
"Then do it," Kylo says. "Kill me and burn my bones. I killed Han Solo, I know how badly you want revenge."
The scavenger stares at him, the red of the lightsaber tracing the screaming edges of the scar she carved into his face. "Your mother still hopes you'll come back."
"Do you have to repeat everything?" Kylo demands.
"I won't take that hope away from her."
The scavenger leaves, Kylo's lightsaber still wrapped in her hand. He has seen the abyss in her soul, the wide expanse of nothing. But in that nothing, Kylo sees the sand and the bright desert sky. He has seen her abyss of light and wonders how deep her well runs. Mercy can only extend so far.
He will meet her again, fight her again, blot out the bright, burning expanse of sky inside of her. Until then, he will count the days.