"You come from nothing. You're nothing." The words stung more than Rey cared to admit. Somehow, being sucked into this galactic conflict, befriending famed heroes of the rebellion, training under the tutelage of a legendary hero, she'd nursed the hope that her role in this conflict was set in the stars by her destiny. Specifically, by her parentage.

Even before leaving Jakku, far earlier, when she was nothing but a scavenger, she'd stoked these fantasies. Her rich and dignified parents would sweep her away to a life of luxury. Or her parents were rogueish spies, called away on a dangerous mission, forced to leave their beloved daughter behind. She'd lie in her bunk awake at night, thinking about what they might be up to at the moment. Wishing them safety in their journeys. Above all, hoping they'd return soon.

Each fantasy was more outlandish than the last. And yet, all that had happened with the Resistance and First Order lent a bit of legitimacy to these hopes. She had a huge role to play here, didn't she? Wasn't she important? The identity of her parents was just the final piece in the puzzle.

And when she found out their identity, she knew she'd find something…something missing in her life. A sense of belonging, a certain warmth. A feeling of being loved.

She should have known he would knock those dreams away, exposing her for the silly girl she was. Ben had an uncanny knack for stripping away her defenses to lay her inner self bare.

Now, in the throne room, surrounded by corpses, she couldn't help the tears that spilled down her face. He was right.

Her parents were nobody. She'd crafted these stories to soothe the pain of being a rejected orphan on a cruel, junkyard planet. How was that fair? How could anyone do that to a child? The pain felt like it would overwhelm her.

She stood, still, crying softly in front of Ben. Kylo. Ben. "You come from nothing. You're nothing," he said, and someone else might have mistaken it for cruelty. True, maybe he relished her pain, the way someone in pain longs for a companion to share in it. But it was something else, as well.

He wanted to break her misconceptions permanently. Violently, if that's what it took. He wanted her to see truth. And for that, Rey felt grateful. She didn't want to be someone who lived in a fantasy.

He also wanted to shed perspective on the situation they found themselves in. His perspective, to be precise, and a bit of a cruel one, but he found it to be more realistic.

From his perspective, he was currently the most central figure in the First Order, succeeding Snoke after his death. On top of this, he was the son of the fabled Princess-turned-Senator-turned-General Leia Organa and the legendary smuggler-rogue Han Solo.

Rey, on the other hand, was a dirty scavenger from a desert planet of no particular importance.

Couldn't she see that?

Again, his intention wasn't to be cruel with this information—only realistic. Because if she wouldn't join him for the sake of their personal relationship, which he valued more than he cared to admit to himself, she would have to see the logic in joining him for his objective importance in this conflict, and in the galaxy.

"You're nothing," he'd said, and now he took a step forward. The tears she shed sent a mournful stab through him, and he felt the impulse he felt back when she was in her hut on Ahch-To, shivering in both coldness and despair. The desire to comfort. The impulse scared him, but he obeyed it nonetheless.

"But not to me." Now her eyes flickered up at him, blinking away the tears. The vulnerability on her face squeezed his throat.

He couldn't deny that he found her beautiful, but that alone could not have swayed him. The rawness of her pain radiated toward him. Here was someone who could understand him, and who he could understand.

He had the power to hurt her, emotionally, and he somewhat relished that. She wasn't as guarded or dismissive as she'd been when they'd fought in the forest, or when they first connected through the Force. But, he slowly came to realize, he'd been opening himself up to her as well. That night in her hut on Ahch-to—with Rey wet, shivering, and feeling utterly abandoned—he'd felt a need for her flickering at his soul like a flame. It had progressed to the point that now, offering his hand to her, he felt as though his entire life was hanging on the thread of her answer.

And beyond that, the fact remained that the Force itself had connected them. Kept bringing them back to one another.

He thought back to that blissful moment when they turned in unison to fight the Praetorian Guard, fighting in beautiful symmetry as if their bodies knew something their minds were yet ignorant of.

No, he couldn't turn away from her. Not even if he'd wanted to.

"Join me," he said, with a confidence he did not feel, a confidence that could shatter at any second under her gaze. "Please," he found himself whispering, stepping even closer.

Through a haze of tears, Rey saw the Resistance cruiser turning to block the fire from the First Order ship, protecting the small transports until they could reach Crait. They would make it! She nearly collapsed with relief. Yes, they would make it—the Force was whispering to her. Of that she was now certain.

She turned to stare at Ben's hand…though she hated the thought of leaving the Resistance behind, and all the people she'd come to trust and care for, she wasn't stupid. She knew the significance of taking one of the most important leaders of the First Order out of the equation. The most important leader, now that Snoke was dead.

Snoke was dead. She was still breathless from the fight. She could hardly believe it had happened at all. She squeezed her eyes shut, the images flitting through her mind. Back to back, they'd fought with an instinctual trust in one another. She'd felt electrified, inspired, she'd felt…right. When she was beside him, things felt right.

For all she could rationalize about why going with him would be the best decision for the Resistance, a bone-deep pull towards him eclipsed all reasoning. She needed to go with him, she needed to. Could he see that, in her eyes?

She looked up to meet his mournful gaze, and was nearly lost.

"Ben," she whispered.

He momentarily tensed when he felt her reach for the Force, but her face remained open and vulnerable, not aggressive. He looked down to his hand, where he felt her phantom caress. Delicately, she was using the Force to tug his glove off. Remaining still as a statue, he watched the black material slide forward slowly, then drift over and tuck itself into one of his pockets. His heartbeat accelerated.

She was now staring at his bare hand, the same hand she'd touched on Ahch-to, sealing their fates.

She couldn't help herself. Stepping forward, she took his hand in both of her own, cradling it. Reverent, as if she was holding a holy object. He felt a warmth travel through that hand, up his arm to suffuse his body.

He was frozen in place. Breathless, he watched her touch him.

Her eyes looked upward, found his. He'd forgotten how much taller he was. This close, she had to tilt her head back to look at him.

"Okay," she said, her voice shaky. "I'll join you." Lifting his hand, she pressed her face against it, his hand cupping her cheek. His jaw nearly dropped open. Her eyes slid shut.

Instantly, a flood of emotions rushed into him from her—and he knew she was feeling his own now, too. A rush of pain, loneliness, hope, desire, exhilaration, and joy blasted through his body. He trembled with the intimacy of it, stretching deeper into her mind, wanting to know more. Similarly, she reached deeper inside him. More tears joined the rest that had fallen down her face this evening, but these were different. They were now standing so close their hips were almost touching.

Kylo would be shamelessly lying if he said he thought the evening would end this way. He always found himself expecting failure, expecting others to disappoint him, and deep down he thought that Rey would end up running back to the comfort of the Resistance.

Yet somehow here she was, pressing his palm ever so gently into the softness of her cheek.

His face was a mixture of confusion and deep affection. Distantly, he realized he was breathing almost as hard as when they'd finished off the guards. Overwhelmed, he closed his eyes as well, pure pleasure washing over him.

Had he ever felt something this profound? Not when he was knighted by Supreme Leader Snoke, not when he'd killed his father, not at any other point in his life.

And beneath it all, all of the emotion, a beautiful, shining connection., vibrating with the magnificent power of the Force. What it meant, he had no idea.

He only knew that right now, without doubt, it had become the most important thing in his life.

If possible, he wanted it to never end. He felt the same reciprocation from Rey, with deep satisfaction. But through their profound connection to the Force, he also felt distant stirrings in the ship, along with the jarring certainty that the throne room would soon be breached.

Gripping her wrist, his eyes flicked open. His urgent eyes met her panicked ones. What he'd seen, she'd felt through him. "We need to go," he said.