A Light, Extinguished
The problem with the Force, Rey concluded, was the absolute certainty that a loved one had passed that hit long before official news of their death arrived. Waiting to hear what you knew to be truth – while at the same time desperately hoping that you might be wrong – was a kind of agony that made even Supreme Leader Snoke's psychic assault pale in comparison.
Rey was in the Falcon's forward cargo hold, doing battle with a shield generator that had recently decided it liked nothing less than generating shields when a wave of loss struck her. Staggered, the powerful emotion drove her back into a crate of EL-16s that fell to the floor with a thud loud enough to wake-
Arms wrapped around her middle, Rey tried to choke back the scream of rage that tried to escape her as the closest thing she'd ever had to a mother was torn from existence, thousands of lightyears away. Tears burned her eyes and splashed heavily onto the steel floor at her feet.
Across even greater distance, Rey felt another surge of power. An echo of the first, it dragged across her heart so heavily that she was certain it left a permanent groove. The sorrow was so like her own that Rey might have thought it was her own, had it not come with an unmistakable howl of despair in a voice that she would recognize anywhere.
Their pain, so profound words could not convey its depth, drove Rey to her knees. Palms against the cool metal, she fought to sever the tie that connected them. It was a struggle because, although she loathed to admit it, Rey didn't want to mourn alone. She didn't want to face this awful, life-changing, mammoth thing all on her own. Didn't want to bottle it all up inside and pretend to know nothing about what would greet them when they joined back up with what was left of the Rebel fleet.
But she'd made herself a promise.
That day on Crait, as she watched the boarding ramp slide shut on Ben's stricken expression, Rey told herself that she would never again give into the connection between them. She'd done such a good job, too… Rey had sealed her mind up tight against Ben, even though it left a hollow feeling in her chest that nothing seemed to fill. When the tentative brush of his mind against hers came in the dead of night, she had learned to slam a mental door against him so hard that it left them both feeling bruised.
And, if she cried herself to sleep afterward? As long as no one saw, well, Rey could live with that.
What she couldn't live with was the look of betrayal on Ben's face when he had realized that Rey could never truly be with him. It had been like looking into the eyes of a child cruelly abandoned by the only companion they had ever known, and it broke her. If Rey had to look into that face, into those eyes, too long or too often…
She didn't want to think about the weakness curled deep in her soul, begging her to turn to the darkness – to do anything – if it meant standing by Ben's side once more.
Angry at herself; angry at Ben; angry at any universe that would snuff out the last ray of hope in the galaxy, Rey balled her hands into fists and slammed them down on the cargo bay floor. Pain, blissfully physical, burst to life in her knuckles and raced up her wrists, into her arms. The agony in her hands brought her back to the present. It gave Rey the focus she needed to finally severe the connection with Ben. Or, so she thought.
She could feel him calling her, desperately reaching out to her across space. Could feel his need – not just for comfort, but for her. The child-like fear in his voice nearly destroyed Rey's resolve. Nearly.
Rey brought her fists down against the floor again, giving her desperation voice in a strangled scream that brought Chewie to the cargo bay. The door wooshed open and the Wookiee stuck his head into the room with a rumble of concern.
"I'm okay, Chewie," Rey lied without looking up. "I- got a zap from a faulty coupling in the generator. We really should replace that useless old thing," she added fighting back the wave of sadness that struck her when she remembered Han saying the same thing, punctuating each word with a swing of a wrench at the cranky machine.
Was her whole life to be nothing but loss?
Grunting something about old not being the same as useless, Chewie disappeared back into the hallway. Rey didn't move until the door slid into place behind him. Then, twisting so that her back was against the fallen crate, Rey gathered her knees to her chest, buried her face in her hands and let herself cry. Just this once.
The taste of grief was sea and blood, tears mixing with the blood that ran freely from the shredded flesh at her knuckles. Rey let herself feel all the suffering there hadn't been time to feel when they lost Han because there had been a battle to fight; when they lost Luke because they had been running for their lives. She released the little girl who had learned to hide the pain of losing her parents because crying was weakness and, in a place like Jakku, weakness meant death.
And, buried beneath it all – running through it all – the pain she couldn't afford to feel for the man she could never let herself love.
When there was nothing left, Rey picked herself up, cold and empty, and returned to her work. What else could she do?