AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first Star Wars fic, and I hope you like it! I loved TLJ and just felt so inspired to write, I had a hard time working on the other things I have going on until this was out of my system. This story takes place directly after the events of TLJ, so don't read it if you haven't seen TLJ. Please let me know what you think!
EDIT: Updated 1/12/2018, fairly minor changes
Kylo Ren watched the strange distortions of light that accompanied hyperspace travel from the star destroyer bridge as it headed towards the Obec System. He hadn't needed to hitchhike like this—damaged as it was, Snoke's flagship Supremacy was by no means unsalvageable—but the Supreme Leader's ship would take a considerable amount of time to repair, and all Kylo Ren wanted to do in that moment was get as far away from Crait as possible.
That planet, hiding a violent red beneath a thin veneer of white, was the location of his greatest shame—his betrayal, his vulnerability, his failure. Yes, he had also become Supreme Leader, but everything else that had gone along with it he'd rather forget.
"Sir," a particularly brave officer approached him on the bridge, "We have been unable to track the Millennium Falcon's movements through hyperspeed. We have alerted all of our forces to report any sightings of the Resistance ship immediately, but that is all we can do for now."
"Very well," Kylo said with a forced calm he knew wouldn't fool anyone who knew him well. "It is of no consequence. The entire Resistance now fits on that insignificant piece of junk. Their forces are all but decimated," he said, as if two of the most important people in the galaxy weren't on that ship.
Kylo took a long look at the stars from the bridge, the stars that somehow, somewhere hid his mother and the girl, on his father's ship, then turned to the officer.
"I will be in my quarters. Inform me when we reach the Obec System."
Kylo turned and stalked from the bridge, cloak whirling behind him. The black of the thick-woven cloak was still dusted with white salt from his sham of a duel with his former master, giving it a burnt and ashen look. For the millionth time, Kylo wondered if his uncle was truly dead. He had felt the loss of Luke's presence through the Force, but disappearing acts were more or less the Jedi master's specialty, and for years he'd hidden his presence from the Force so thoroughly that even Supreme Leader Snoke had been unable to sense him. Still, this felt different, and somehow Kylo knew his uncle was truly gone. He didn't want to believe it—the idea that his uncle would deprive Kylo the satisfaction of killing him himself filled Kylo with unspeakable rage. If Kylo never had the chance to defeat his uncle, to make the Jedi master pay for the pain the he had caused him, would Kylo ever truly be able to find peace? Now that Luke Skywalker was gone, the Supreme Leader had nowhere for all of his anger to go. Without his uncle as a convenient target, Kylo found much of his rage rebounding and reaching himself instead.
Kylo reached his quarters and unceremoniously dropped his cloak to the floor. These quarters were relatively bare, without the writing desk, meditation space, and training remotes he had in his normal quarters, but it was the best he could expect after taking the ranking officer's room on a random star destroyer. He unbuckled his belt and started to remove his tunic as well, only hesitating briefly at the thought that he wouldn't want to be caught shirtless again if the Force bond decided to reassert itself. Kylo was not comfortable with closeness, either physical or emotional, and he had tolerated the growing intimacy he'd felt with Rey only because of the ridiculous, naive hope he'd harbored—the hope that he might have a friend, an equal, a companion somewhere out there in the universe. That he wasn't alone. Pure foolishness. He pulled the tunic off but quickly replaced it with a loose, dark shirt he sometimes wore to sleep.
The Jedi and the Sith fancied themselves so different, but for all their supposed conflict, they bore striking similarities. The Sith were meant to kill all those closest to them, while the Jedi simply didn't form any attachments in the first place. All he had wanted as a child was company, from his parents or a friend or… anyone really. Then his parents sent him away to learn about detachment and solitude from his uncle. He had thought he'd escaped it all when he left with Snoke, but the shriveled old man had only taught him an angrier, more resentful version of that same solitude.
Rey—Kylo forced himself to think her name—she had represented his hope for a different path, something separate from the Jedi or the Sith, something they could explore together. But she had rejected his offer. It seemed the Force bond had all been for nothing.
Kylo unhooked his saber from the belt he'd discarded on the floor and let his fingers tighten to a white-knuckled grip around the hilt before setting it down on the table by his bed. He was glad she'd shut the door on the Falcon that last time they'd connected. If she wasn't going to join him then he didn't have time for her and her games.
Kylo removed his boots and sat on his bed, letting himself fall backwards onto the plain gray, utilitarian covers. He just lay there breathing for an indefinite amount of time, determined not to think of anything in particular, the surest way to avoid painful memories. The non-technique was working out quite well for him and he was nearing blessed unconsciousness for the first time in too many hours, but then he felt it. That pressure, that lurching, the telltale signs that accompanied the onset of the Force bond. He didn't sit up at first, just sighed deeply and hoped it would go away. It didn't, of course, so he pushed himself up on his arms and steeled himself for whatever useless accusations were sure to be hurled his way by the ungrateful girl whose life he'd just saved.
The barbs never came. She was sitting down across the room from him, eyes closed, slumped over in a specific posture that Kylo's childhood memories told him meant she was asleep in the cockpit of his father's ship.
He wondered for a moment what he should do, if he should try and leave the bond (something he wasn't certain he could do), or try to wake her up, or just ignore her. Then it occurred to him that now would be an excellent opportunity to read her mind.
He hadn't read her thoughts since he'd first interrogated her after Takodana. He'd of course wanted desperately to know what she was thinking, but ever since she'd turned the tables on him and delved into his own secrets, the risk had been too great. Now, they were both so wary of mental attack he doubted either of them would be able to squeeze much information out of a psychic battle. But now… Now she was vulnerable, unguarded. Surely her mind would open to him like a book.
Kylo paced towards her, course decided, then hesitated as he stopped right by her side. Her skin looked so smooth and soft, lacking any of the wrinkles or tightness of tension or fear. Kylo noticed a small scar on her cheek that he'd never seen before. She looked so innocent and peaceful. It felt… wrong to invade her privacy like this, like he was betraying her trust. Kylo felt his features harden at the thought. Those were thoughts for a friend, and Rey was not his friend. They had been briefly. For the extent of that glorious battle against the Praetorian guards, she'd been his friend and ally, worthy of his trust and respect. It had been a sublime glimpse at what could be, the power, success, and companionship they could enjoy if only they would join forces. But no. She was his enemy. They were at war, and she was his enemy, and he could invade her mind if he damn well pleased.
He reached out his hand to Rey's temple and closed his eyes, focusing all of his energy on her. It was almost too easy, and he sunk into her thoughts like a stone dropped in water. He had thought her mind, unconscious as it was, would be empty of any directed thought, but he saw almost immediately that Rey was actually in the midst of a rather vivid dream. He considered moving past the dream, to shuffle through whatever memories or feelings might be of more immediate use to him, but his curiosity would not let him continue. What might Rey be dreaming about? Especially after the drama of their last encounter?
Once he chose to examine the dream more thoroughly, he began experiencing it through Rey's eyes, which were amusingly much closer to the ground than his own.
She was back in Snoke's throne room, although Snoke and his crimson guards were absent. The only other person in the throne room was Kylo Ren, or at least Rey's subconscious version of Kylo Ren. Kylo had always gone to great lengths to cultivate an aura of power and fear around him, molding himself after his grandfather, disguises his voice, and ruthlessly punishing those who displeased him in dramatic and public fashion. For many years now he had wanted to know how effectively the desired impression was felt by his audience, and so he was pleased at this chance to see himself from the girl's perspective, bizarre as it felt to watch himself from another person's mind. He focused himself on Rey's reactions to Kylo Ren, trying to glean as much information from her as possible.
The dream version of himself advanced slowly on Rey, lightsaber drawn, and he truly was an intimidating sight. Kylo had always known his height was imposing, and that his black clothing and red saber added to the overall sense of dread he was going for, but it was gratifying to actually feel Rey's fear as he stalked towards her, looking angry and dark and lethal.
His dream-self attacked, and Rey blocked the blow with the blue lightsaber, whole as it had been before their confrontation. They swung and parried, moving around each other in a dangerous but beautiful dance, and while Rey was doing a good job of avoiding injury, Kylo could see that his dream-self was winning. As he should be. It was good to know the girl's subconscious had no delusions of grandeur.
Soon, his dream self had Rey backed up against the wall, their blades crossed near the hilt, and he pushed his saber closer and closer to her face, the blade's fiery light spitting out hot, angry sparks.
"You need a teacher!" he said, and Kylo wondered why that phrase would be the one to reappear in her dreams.
With a mighty shove against his blade, Rey pushed him several feet away from her, but instead of re-engaging in battle, she turned off her lightsaber and dropped it to the floor.
"Teach me," she said.
The dream-Kylo Ren turned off his own lightsaber, and Kylo could feel a shift in Rey's emotions as she stared down the man in black. The fear was still there, but along with it came a thrill, some anger, and… hope. Dream Kylo stepped towards Rey, his features determined and focused, then he fell upon Rey, lifting her head to his and kissing her on the mouth.
It was a very strange sensation, to feel the experience of kissing yourself through someone else's mind. It didn't help that Rey's subconscious provided so much detail about the encounter. Kylo could feel how much Rey enjoyed his broad chest, could taste the confused desire the heat of his breath and the feel of his lips engendered in her. It had never before occurred to him how the generous size of his hands would feel powerful and masculine and magnetic against her body, how he would leave her desperate for more. Aside from being surprised and confused at the rush of physical reactions Rey was having towards the dream-induced version of himself, Kylo also had to recover from the shock of realizing that Rey desired him in this way at all.
He had never before considered himself as an object of romantic attention, and it was… disorienting. As a Padawan at Luke's school he had been taught to eschew all lustful thoughts, and Luke had warned that even the most innocent of romantic desires could lead down dark paths. Then, as Snoke's apprentice he had been even more careful to avoid sentimental attachments. Snoke had never forbidden his young apprentice, but everything about Kylo's training suggested that if his affection for anyone were to grow too strong, it would not end well. Kylo Ren had already been forced to kill many people who were important to him, and he wasn't so much a masochist as to wish yet another tragedy upon himself.
And so he'd gone about his life, everything about his dress and manner discouraging engagement. Who in the galaxy would take interest in a man dressed head to foot in black robes, face perpetually hidden by an unnecessary metal mask? And it wasn't as if Kylo ever thought that anyone would find what was underneath the costume appealing, either. His long face that didn't really look like either of his conventionally attractive parents. His dark hair that only made his pale skin even pastier in comparison. His nose and ears that took up far too much real estate on his face. And that anger, all that ill-concealed anger—who would be interested in that?
And yet, here Rey was—wanting him.
The dream continued on, heedless of Kylo's discomfort. His dream alter ego, exhibiting much more kissing prowess than he actually possessed, must have sensed Rey's growing frustration with their height difference and lifted Rey up to him, letting her legs wrap around his waist and pushing her small frame up against the wall. His torso pinned Rey against the metal wall, holding her in place and freeing up dream-Kylo's hands to continue their wandering. All Kylo could sense through Rey's subconscious was a powerful, thoughtless pleasure.
This was all getting to be too much. The vision currently before him forced him to recognize what he had never allowed himself to consider consciously before: that his offer to Rey, to join him, had been at least in part fueled by hopes of this kind of relationship. Hopes of trust, affection, and, ridiculous as it was, love. Being forced to acknowledge his feelings towards the girl like this after they had already been so soundly rejected—it was like a slap to the face.
And what was she doing, having lustful dreams about him right after betraying him, right after trying to attack him, right after shutting the door in his face? Did this girl even know what she wanted? Did she have any idea what she was doing? If she felt this way about him, why did she leave?
Kylo really did not like all of the questions this whole fiasco was bringing to his mind. He didn't want to know her feelings anymore, didn't want to see himself through her eyes. They were enemies now, and any additional compassion he had for her would be just another burden getting in his way.
He had finally decided to disengage from her dream, or fantasy, or whatever it was, when Rey's emotions surged, and he was sucked right back into whatever she was experiencing, losing himself completely in her thoughts until he could no longer distinguish himself from her.
His dream-self pushed her further into the wall, and she felt a thrill run through her body at how strong and confidently his arms held her. His mouth moved against hers in a languidly sensual manner, and she was intrigued by the strange sensation of his tongue against hers. He abruptly shifted his attention to her neck, and she gasped. He kissed along the soft skin of her neck, then gently bit down, sucking the captured skin between his teeth. Her hands, which had mostly stayed on his broad chest up until then, moved to his thick hair and she loved how the strands slid around and between her fingers. She dug into the black locks and gasped right into his ear.
Kylo jerked away from the girl, and found himself back in his quarters, hand still outstretched towards her sleeping figure. Something about his departure from her mind must have disturbed the girl, because she too opened her eyes moments later, eyes widening as she took in his form, frozen just a few feet away from her. Cruel understanding dawned on her face.
"You! What are you doing here? Get out of my head!"
Any shame he might have felt at being caught prying melted under her attack and reformed into comfortable, familiar anger.
"I told you," he sneered, "I take what I want."
"You had no right!" she said, rising to her feet in defiance.
"No right?" he asked, lowering his hand and beginning a slow circle around her, like a predator stalking its prey. "I think I had every right, considering how prominently I feature in your secret little thoughts."
She blushed a bright red, and her chest rose and fell rapidly rapidly from the force of her anger and embarrassment. Kylo found the sight startlingly alluring, and wondered how often his thoughts of Rey would take a more carnal turn, now that he knew she wanted him, and now that he had no master telling him his feelings were wrong.
"D-don't be so full of yourself! It's never going to happen again!" she said.
"As if you could control your dreams," he scoffed. "If I could control my dreams, I'd never have to see my father's face again. But I can't and neither can you."
Stupid. Why did he always end up admitting his vulnerabilities to her?
"I will! It was just a useless hope. Something that maybe could have… but not anymore! Now it's just useless feelings, feelings that I'll destroy."
"Careful, now, you're starting to sound like a Sith."
Her face tightened into a grimace, stung by his words. She attempted several retorts, all aborted before they even made it out of her mouth, then settled on a growl of discontentment. She shook her head, and all of the fight seemed to drain from her body. She slumped back into her chair, defiance giving way to a fatigue Kylo could feel in his bones.
"I don't know if I can be a good Jedi or not. I still don't really know what I need to do, still feel lost. All I want is to protect people, to bring some peace and freedom to this broken galaxy."
Kylo stopped his pacing and just stared at her. If she truly was so lost, so conflicted, why hadn't she come with him? He knew her place in the galaxy, had shown it to her.
"I have a friend who told me recently… It's not about fighting what you hate, but about protecting what you love. I don't want to fight you. Why couldn't you come with me?" Rey said.
For a moment, her pleading tone crippled Kylo's thoughts, and he really could not find an answer for her. What had been his reasoning for not going with her again? Had he made the wrong choice? Then he remembered.
"No, Rey, that's not all it's about for you. If you truly believed in protecting others, then you would have come with me. Together, we could have done exactly what you said. Together we would have enough power to bring peace to the galaxy. But instead, you chose the supposed moral superiority of the Jedi, the Jedi whose philosophy and codes you know nothing about! You chose the old fables of good and evil. You chose weak sentimentality and idealized legends over the truth."
He took another step towards her, fists shaking in anger and frustration. He swallowed and fought to control himself before continuing.
"For one… one second, I almost thought you would choose me. Snoke is the only person who's ever chosen me, and I killed him. For you. I sacrificed everything for you, and you still didn't choose me."
Rey was shaking too, covering the tears in her eyes with dirty hands.
"Ben, I wanted to choose you. I still do. But you weren't just asking me to choose you—you were asking me to reject everything else I know and love. That kind of choice… it's one I can't make."
Kylo winced at her usage of his name again, and by the time her little speech was over, he was done. He'd already asked her, she'd already rejected him, and that's all there was to it. He didn't want to hear any more of her reasoning or justifications, just like he'd never wanted to hear why his parents sent him away, or why his father never visited, or why his uncle had tried to kill him.
"I don't care what your excuses are, scavenger," he spat. "Just keep me out of your dirty dreams. Don't act like it's me you want."
Rey stood up again and a disgusting look of sympathy crossed her face. She stepped towards him slowly and carefully.
"Ben…" she said, voice gentle, "I am sorry I couldn't come with you."
She said no more, but continued moving towards him, soft and sweet and unstoppable. Her hand reached out and cupped his cheek. Thankfully, the Force did not see fit to punish him with another impossible vision of the future, but he could somehow feel her touch from lightyears away. She continued moved towards him, and he could do nothing but stare into her face. He knew his traitorous features likely betrayed all of his endlessly conflicted emotions, and he wished briefly for his mask back, before Rey gently pressed her lips to his.
It felt different from experiencing her kiss in the dream. Better. He wondered if, though they'd kissed now through several different metaphysical mediums, would they ever be able to kiss in a real, physical way? Like normal people did?
Kylo's thoughts soon faded away, and his constantly-churning mind slowed. In that brief moment, the anger and bitterness that crowded Kylo's chest faded away, and he felt peace.
When he opened his eyes, Rey was gone.