Author's Note: (Warning: Sad dedication ahead, if you want butterflies and rainbows skip to the story)

I want to dedicate this story to my father who passed away on January 7th. I was deep into writing this at the time of his death and writing has been my only escape during this difficult time. My father struggled with addiction his entire life. I like to think of his experience as his own personal battle between dark and light. I hadn't spoken to him in months before I got the call he was in the hospital. I held his hand as he died.

Writing this story was what I needed to heal from that experience. To see that beyond pain there is always love and light waiting for us. Balance. This story helped me find that balance. So, I want to thank everyone who left a comment or gave me encouragement to continue. Because I think we can all relate to Ben Solo. The experience of finding ourselves in a dark place and wishing for some light to help us find our way is a universal human experience.

Now for the happy ending we all deserve…

Something beeped on the other side of the room, and Rey was jolted from her deep sleep. Ben shifted next to her, rolling over and taking most of the blankets with him.

After years of sleeping alone, sharing a bed with a fitful sleeper was proving to be… interesting. He tossed and turned, talked in his sleep, and stole the bedding regularly. It had been almost a month since they'd first moved in together and Rey still wasn't used to it.

She pulled on the edge of the blanket, and Ben stirred again. She eased some of the covers back over herself and after a moment, his breathing steadied.

Rey couldn't be too upset with the blanket snatching. There were definitely other perks of sharing a bed with Ben.

He'd shown her the best of those perks only hours ago. Thinking of the way he'd touched her last night caused warmth to bloom at the core of herself. Oh stars, she only had to think about him and she was ready for him to touch her all over again. She would never tire of finding new ways to explore his body, which was good because his desire for her had been pretty close to insatiable over this last month.

They'd both been starved for most of their lives, that much was obvious. Physically and emotionally starved and they'd spent the last month drinking their fill of each other, neither one really believing happiness like this could last. And when it did, disbelief was suspended just long enough to demonstrate their love in another new, breathtaking way.

Rey snuggled in close, pushing Ben's arm up to make a space against his side and she laid her head on his chest. He roused enough to wrap his arm around her and released a shallow little moan, before Rey was sure he had fallen asleep again.

This was one of her favorite parts of the day, on mornings when she was the first to wake and Ben was still fuzzy with sleep. She could study him, then, memorize every freckle, learn every bend and arch of every feature, and bask in the way their bodies fit perfectly together. There was something so intimate about moments like these. The fact that he trusted her completely – he was able to sleep just as soundly next her. It was a level of trust Rey never thought she could reach with another person. No worries, no fear, just the warmth and comfort of his body next to hers.

Another beep issued from the corner of the room.

Ben groaned. "Switch that thing off." His speech was thick with sleep and Rey laughed as she rubbed her face against his skin, inhaling the scent of him.

"Come on," she muttered against his chest, kissing the tender skin she found there. "He's cute."

The BB9-E unit had been an early wedding gift from Quinn. Rey knew Quinn was using the droid as a way to keep tabs on her, to deliver messages, and maybe to keep her company when Ben was away. But on mornings like this, she was pretty sure Quinn had ordered BB9 to get them out of bed.

Ben grumbled something she couldn't understand before he settled down again. The rise and fall of his chest was rhythmic underneath her head and listening to the steady thrum of his heartbeat against her ear was so peaceful, she didn't want to move.

He'd returned to the Finalizer late last night, but this was typical. He was always busy with meetings and planning diplomatic missions to the outer rim in search of new territories that might be willing to join the New Order. In return for New Order protection, many colonies had agreed to lend a portion of their raw materials or allow access to land for mining operations. The New Order was growing, without the use of military force.

Rey had missed him, but she had been busy herself with briefings and luncheons. Quinn had also been keeping her busy with wedding plans and now, the day had finally come. They were really going to be married today.

BB9 was growing insistent. His light chirps had intensified to a series of staccato bleeps.

Ben rolled over, burying his face in a pillow and Rey laughed, sitting up on her elbow. She pulled the pillow off of him and he growled.

"He's got to go," he mumbled.

Rey sat quietly, knowing just how to improve Ben's early morning mood without the need for words as she ran her fingers over his shoulders, his collarbone, his chest, letting her gentle touch show how much she loved every inch of him.

"Don't think you can change my mind with your sorcery," he said, capturing her hand in his grasp without opening his eyes. "That hunk of metal has it out for me."

"You're being dramatic," Rey said, unable to hide the smile on her face.

Then Ben pounced. He straddled her, eyes still heavy, and wearing a sleepy grin as he pinned her arms over her head.

"You tell Quinn to get you a necklace or a nice new sparring saber, instead," he said, leaning in to kiss her neck. "But that droid has to go." She felt the touch of his mind against hers with his last words.

"Try mind control all you want, but he's staying," she said.

"You will dump that droid in the trash compactor," he was really trying now, sending his Force barreling against her mind. But he knew as well as she did that he was no match for her mental walls.

BB9 made a rude sound in response to Ben's command.

"Or what?" Rey asked, arching an eyebrow.

Ben smiled wickedly as he pressed harder against her restrained hands and breathed his next words into her ear, warmth flooding her along with his voice. "Okay Rey, if you refuse to be influenced, maybe I will play dirty, no more fun until he's disposed of."

Then Ben climbed off of her, rolling away from her and onto his side. Rey moaned in protest at the loss of his contact before throwing a pillow at the back of his head.

"You couldn't even last a day," she teased.

He turned to slap her with the same pillow but she caught his wrist. They wrestled, tangled in each other's bodies, laughing until he finally gathered her in his arms. His hair hung in his face as they touched foreheads, looking into each other's eyes.

"Are you ready for today?" he asked, his playful smile melting away as his expression suddenly deepened into something more intense.

"I think I'm calmer about it than Quinn is. He's probably in a panic that we're still in bed."

"Quinn's little alarm clock." He turned his head to glare at the droid. "Don't think I can't see the real reason that blasted thing is in here so early."

"His name is BB9."

"You're not getting rid of it are you?"

Rey turned to look at the droid. He was the same shape as BB-8, but squarish on top and all black, complete with an attitude fitting for a droid designed to serve the First Order. If a droid could be haughty and self-absorbed, this one was. Rey thought he was hilarious, but Ben felt there was no room in his life for an arrogant piece of machinery. She knew he would let her win this battle, though.

She rose to dress and BB9 followed, turning to send Ben a teasing squawk when he thought Rey was too far ahead to hear him.

"Did you hear that?" Ben called after her.

"Hear what?" she lied. Maybe the droid did have it out for him, but Rey was far too amused with the struggle to intervene.

When she emerged into the dining room sure enough, Quinn was pacing impatiently with his arms folded across his chest.

"Rey, oh gracious what took you so long? And where is Ben?" His voice was strained and an octave higher than it normally was. "We only have a few hours to get you dressed and ready for the biggest day of your life. If I can't get your hair and your – "

Rey stepped forward, placing a hand on Quinn's shoulder. "It's going to be fine, Quinn. Everything is already set out and we have plenty of time."

He relaxed under her touch and looked at her with those wide grey eyes. "I only want this day to be perfect for you both."

"I know, Quinn. And so long as the people I care about are there, it will be."

Leia had already sent word that she, Finn, Chewie and Poe were on Coruscant. They'd had to alter their appearances, which had been quite a process for Chewie in particular, but Quinn had managed to meet them yesterday to work a little of his magic. They'd also have to sit separately to not draw attention, but Rey was happy they could be there at all. In a perfect galaxy, Leia would stand by her son on his wedding day, but the New Order and the Resistance were still not ready to be on such friendly terms. It would take time. Time that they didn't have because Rey needed to be an equal in the decision-making and for that, she needed the title of Empress.

As soon as Ben emerged from the bedroom, Quinn was already spouting orders. "Alright then. You two eat and then we'll head to Coruscant. There are separate dressing areas set aside and I will attend to you first, sir," he nodded to Ben. "Then I will be over to help you, my lady."

"Whatever you need, Quinn," Ben said. "I don't doubt your skill in planning things like this, but your taste in wedding gifts on the other hand…"

Ben glared at BB9 who responded with something resembling a raspberry. Ben gave Quinn an 'I told you so' look.

"BB9-E has been reprogrammed specifically for you two," Quinn said. "He is now the epitome of dignified grace. I don't know what you did to him to cause such a glitch in his programming."

"A glitch? The thing despises me."

Rey stifled a laugh, pretending to be neutral as she sat down to her latest breakfast obsession, Almakian apple tarts.

The Coruscant Menagerie had closed itself to the public for the occasion and the biosphere on the top floor would be theirs again for a few hours. When Ben had asked where she wanted to marry, she couldn't think of any place more special than where he'd proposed.

When they arrived, she parted ways with Ben and Quinn. BB9 came along with Rey for company and they turned down the hallway to wait for Quinn. The managers of the menagerie had transformed a staff break room into a makeshift dressing room for the occasion.

BB9 blipped a question and she frowned at the ornery droid.

"Yes I'm sure I want to do this. He's sweet, BB9. If you were nice to him, you'd see."

The droid issued a grudging apology, not wanting to risk falling from Rey's good graces.

"Even your droid has doubts, huh?" A familiar voice called from the doorway.

"Finn!" He was dressed in a fancy high-collared tunic and wore a smattering of patchy facial hair, which she'd never seen on him before. He'd had a little stubble after spending so much time in the prison block of the Finalizer, but this was much fuller. If she hadn't heard him speak, she would have doubted it was even him.

She ran to embrace him, pulling back to look at his face again.

Finn rubbed the stubble on his chin. "Quinn asked me to start growing it out for the wedding. What do you think?"

"You look so different," she said.

"You mean, so manly," he said, a teasing lilt to his voice. "Leia is in with Ben for a moment, but we don't have long." He pulled back from her, knitting his brows together as he studied her. "I just wanted to say that I am happy for you, Rey. It didn't sound like I was on Balmorra, but you've obviously got some kind of connection with him that I can't understand, but I'm happy. I really am."

Rey could sense nothing but sincerity in his voice and she offered him a bright smile in return. "That means so much, Finn. You being here, it…" she paused, collecting the words. "It means a lot. More than I can say."

"I've already heard whispers of the new Emperor's use of diplomacy. It seems you've already started to change things," he said.

"We've got a lot of work to do," she said before hugging him once more. "But it's a start."

Finn gave Rey messages from Leia, Chewie, and Poe – their well wishes for the day and for their marriage before he took his leave. Rey wished she could speak with all of them, but they'd had to arrive separately. It would risky as it was to even have them in attendance. Even with Hux and Jeel dead from the Corellian assault on the Finalizer, they never could be sure who had eyes on them. Rey reminded herself that in time, there was a chance they could all be together. But not yet.

Moments later, she felt a ripple of light and love through her bond.

Leia and Ben.

Their feelings of contentment and understanding were palpable through the Force and it warmed Rey from the inside out.

The gown Quinn had chosen was otherworldly, elegant but mysterious. Its shape was that of a typical ball gown with a full skirt and tight bodice, but that is where the typical ended. It was made in shades of ivory, darker with undertones of peach in the lower layers of the skirt and lighter on top, to give the impression that the inlaid flowers lining the cap sleeves and bodice were growing from the dress itself. It had a depth and a beauty that perfectly aligned with the atmosphere of the menagerie and when she moved, each ivory blossom seemed to come alive.

Quinn worked quickly and had her hair swept back in an intricate up-do in as much time as it had typically taken Rey to gather her hair into the three ties she'd worn for so long on Jakku. He was that fast. She wore a crown of delicate white blossoms that mimicked the pattern on her dress and a veil was nestled in the back of her hair that trailed down past her hips.

He added touches of make-up to highlight the shape of her eyes and to draw out the pink of her lips and when he was finished he took a step back to admire his work. His eyes glowed as he looked at her from head to toe.

"You look magnificent, my lady."

Quinn dashed off quickly to see that everyone else was settled and to give himself a once over because he "couldn't walk the most beautiful woman in the galaxy down the aisle if he looked a fright."

As she waited, a feeling of peace washed over her, followed by a strong flash of light. She became acutely aware of a presence in the room she hadn't felt since she'd last sensed him on Crait.

Luke Skywalker.

"You were right." Master Skywalker's voice rippled through the Force just as the outline of his body materialized, almost holographic in appearance as it undulated and eventually steadied.


He wore Jedi robes, and he looked younger somehow, his beard cleaner, his eyes sharper.

"You were right about Ben," he said. "I'd given up, but you were right."

"Luke," she said. There were so many things she wanted to say to him, but she could only think of one. "Did you make things right with Ben?"

"Yes, although…" he paused, looking past her at something or someone she couldn't see. "I didn't need to."

She studied the bluish outline of his transparent form.

"He'd already begun to forgive me."

Rey had suspected as much. She hadn't felt Ben's thoughts move to Luke's betrayal since that day on Balmorra, the day he'd bared every last hurt for his mother. She'd wondered if Ben had decided to let the hate for Luke die at that moment, too.

"I told him that I was sorry," Luke said, his voice heavy, but when he continued, his tone lightened under a twinge of hope, and the bright light of his signature warmth penetrated her own energy. "That I was proud of him."

Before Luke let his presence fade, he spoke a heartfelt wish that reverberated through the web of energy all around her. "The Force is strong between the two of you, and may it continue to be with you, always."

Rey fumbled for a response, but his figure had already dissipated. Only when he was gone could she think clearly.

He'd appeared to Ben. Apologized to him, then come to offer her what sounded like his blessing for their marriage. She hadn't realized how much such a thing would mean to her, but she found herself holding back tears, biting her lip to keep them from spilling over. Quinn would kill her if she smudged her make-up.

Rey reminded herself how to breathe. In and out, in and out, as she stood looking out over the dome of the menagerie. It was so different in the light of day. Sparkling verdant leaves and a rainbow of birds glittered in the midday sun.

As the processional music began, Rey's heart beat fiercely in time to the rhythm. The band played from the corner of the sphere as Quinn led her by the arm down the aisle. They crossed the grassy clearing, now set with rows of white chairs filled with aristocrats, New Order officers, and her friends. She searched for a glimpse of Leia, Finn, Poe, and Chewie but in a sea of people she couldn't make them out. But she knew they were there, she could feel them, as she made her way toward the front of the space. An arbor had been arranged with creeping vines and flowers to match the backdrop of the biosphere.

Butterflies danced like confetti thrown overhead and it truly seemed as though nature was celebrating along with them. Then there was the Force. Every life present in this space, every wedding guest, every tiny bird and butterfly, emanated a humming vitality through the Force. The brightest spot, of course was, Ben. She'd never felt his signature so light as she felt it in this moment. His energy glowed like a blazing sun amidst a thousand bright stars, guiding her steps toward him. Rey leaned heavily onto Quinn's arm and he offered a teary-eyed smile.

Holocams were set to capture the moment to be broadcast on the HoloNet and Rey felt her heart miss a few beats. This was really happening. With millions and millions of people spanning from the Core Worlds to the Outer Rim serving as their witnesses.

Quinn steadied her, continuing his purposeful walk down the aisle and when they neared the arbor, she lifted her head to gaze at Ben.

He stood with his hands in fists at his sides, as nervous as she was, but when his eyes fixed on her, she felt a sudden flare of warmth through their bond. He was a sight to behold in his signature black cloak, now lined with an ivory silk, bundled over his shoulder as he always wore it to indicate royalty. A single Ithorian rose was pinned to his tunic to match the blue, peach, and ivory blooms in the bouquet Rey held in her clammy hands.

Den stood at Ben's side, wearing his own Ithorian rose pin. He was shifting nervously under so many eyes, but he offered her a nervous smile.

General Veespa, the highest ranking New Order officer, had been chosen to officiate the wedding and she stood at the center of everything, underneath the flowered arch. It seemed even Veespa's harsh expression had been softened by the atmosphere within Coruscant's most beautiful indoor garden.

Quinn stopped and dipped his chin in acknowledgement of the General.

General Veespa's voice, loud and commanding, carried easily over the crowd. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the Union of these two people. However, before we do, our Emperor would like to make an announcement."

"Yes General," Ben said, catching Rey's eyes briefly before turning his attention back to Veespa. "The name Kylo Ren was a pseudonym given to me by the late Supreme Leader Snoke. It is my wish to return to my given name, Ben Solo, prior to our joining in marriage."

Rey sucked in a quick breath as her heart jumped in her chest. A symbolic change to his name, in front of all of these witnesses, and it took everything she had to keep from running to embrace him.

Oh Ben…

He answered with a light tug on that golden thread of their connection and she swallowed hard. No tears. Not yet.

"The change of name has been acknowledged and recorded," Veespa said. She cleared her throat and continued. "We are assembled here in the presence of colleagues and friends, officers and allies, to celebrate the joining of the Emperor with his beloved Lady Rey. In this sacred joining, through love, stitched together by the thread of Force binding them, I ask, who gives this bride to the groom in marriage?"

Quinn bowed low and responded. "I do, General."

Then Quinn escorted Rey to Ben's side, placing her right hand into Ben's left and retreated to stand by Den.

General Veespa nodded and opened a familiar ancient tome, flipping to a marked page, and she read out loud. "From the Journal of the Whills, Seven, Four-hundred seventy-seven:

"First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of grey
Through refined Jedi sight."

Then Veespa looked out over the crowd in attendance. "Once alone and in darkness, through each other, these two souls have aligned. Light to the dark. Day to the night. And with this joining, they are balance restored."

Rey and Ben had retrieved the sacred Jedi texts she'd stowed away in the Millenium Falcon and they'd found the poem together. After they read it, a single word had become engrained in their thoughts. Grey. A balance of both light and dark. They understood that in addition to their work on the New Order, they had a responsibility to teach balanced Force to the sensitives scattered throughout every system. The reading of this poem was their joint acknowledgment of their purpose together. To continue to bring balance to the Force.

Veespa lifted her head and split a glance between the two of them before she gave the wedding vows for Ben to repeat.

Ben turned to Rey then, those deep brown eyes reflecting the sun filtering through the dome overhead, and he spoke the words that would make him hers forever. "I, Ben Solo, take you Rey, to be my wife, my equal in the Force, my perfect balance, to love and to cherish from this day forward."

Rey's breath hitched in her throat as she returned the words. "I, Rey, take you, Ben Solo, to be my husband, my equal in the Force, my perfect balance, to love and to cherish from this day forward."

Then Veespa acknowledged BB9 at the side of the arbor. "The rings please."

BB9 seemed to straighten himself, rolling forward proudly, and presented two small boxes from a hidden compartment in his middle. Den bent to retrieve one and Quinn, the other. Den nodded, smiling at Ben as he handed him one ring and Quinn, tears now streaming unabashedly down his cheeks, handed Rey the other.

Then Veespa spoke again as they placed the rings on each other's fingers. "These rings, a perfect circle of balance and unity, were chosen as a symbol of your infinite love."

Rey let him feel the intensity of her feelings in that moment and Ben's eyes glistened with tears as he looked down at her, waves of his own white-hot Force crashing freely through their bond now, nearly bringing her to her knees. But his sturdy hands were there to keep her stable, giving her strength to withstand the Force of his love.

"For as much as your two souls have professed your love in matrimony before all of these witnesses and before the galaxy, I now, by the authority committed to me as both minister and chief officer of the New Order, pronounce you husband and wife. To those whom the Force has bound together, let no man put asunder."

Then they turned to face the audience in attendance as Veespa announced them to the crowd.

"Allow me now, to present to the galaxy, your leaders of the New Order, Emperor Ben Solo and Empress Rey Solo."

Then, Rey gazed up at Ben as the General spoke once more. "You may now seal your vows with a kiss."

Rey was still dizzy with the Force of Ben's love, laid bare down the bond, but he steadied her with strong hands on her waist as he leaned down to kiss her, a tender touch that flooded her world with blinding light.

Rey recognized this kiss as something more. It was a promise sealed before the entire galaxy. His taste – a promise of his body, his Force – a promise of his protection, his gentle touch – a promise of his devotion and with it, he was sworn to her and she to him.

And with that kiss she felt their vow reverberate across the precious, golden thread that tied them together, an infinite reminder of the balance of their love.

Thank you so much for reading! Follow me on Tumblr at Erickawrites

If you're up for it, take a new Reylo journey with me beginning where The Rise of Skywalker left off... Haunted by sweetestcondition (A Post-TROS heal-your-soul, happy-ending-guaranteed fix-it fic)

Summary: "The kriffing idiot had vanished. Not even a body to mourn.

And while Han Solo's entire stash of Corellian whiskey couldn't drown out the memories of that night on Exegol, perhaps it was the reason for the strange voices Rey was beginning to hear. Whispers of a promise she'd heard in a dream – or a nightmare – a long time ago.

"I'll come back for you, sweetheart."

Haunted by Sweetestcondition (in progress)