Author's Note: Well, it's been a while since I posted anything in this AU. I'm not sure how much interest there is in ReySky speculation now, post-TLJ, but I still feel like writing it :) The Force Awakens is canon in this 'verse, but the events of The Last Jedi and all it's flashbacks are (obviously) not, and I do have an Episode 8 rewrite in the works set in this same AU.
This begins directly after my Rey Skywalker speculation one-shot Consanguinity. I'd recommend reading that one first, but if you haven't...
Consanguinity summary: Sixteen year old Kylo Ren and his Knights attacked Luke Skywalker's Jedi Temple on Snoke's orders and killed all the students inside. However, Ben could not bring himself to kill his six-year-old cousin Rey and spirited her away to Jakku, wiping her mind and suppressing her powers in the process. Luke, Leia, and Han were left in the shell of the temple, grieving the loss of their children.
Kylo Ren knelt in supplication beneath Supreme Leader's glare and tried not to show how he trembled. The immense hologram that ran from floor to nearly the ceiling of his ship made him feel dwarfed and judged. Inadequate and—
"I chased Skywalker's daughter into the mountains," Kylo Ren said from beneath his mask. "But I lost her in the dark. She escaped."
Supreme Leader pressed the tips of his fingers together. "This is an unfortunate turn of events…"
"She died somewhere in the trees, Supreme Leader," Kylo Ren said. "I can't feel her anymore."
He couldn't. That much was true. A deep gouge ran through the Force where Rey's presence had been. Kylo Ren felt it like a missing limb.
Supreme Leader nodded, placated. "And Skywalker?"
"He was absent when we attacked," Kylo Ren said. The guilt squirmed in his belly. A parasite.
"Kylo Ren," Supreme Leader said. "I am displeased."
"The Jedi are no more, Supreme Leader—"
"Skywalker still lives!"Supreme Leader shouted and stood.
Kylo Ren started, and cursed himself for it.
Supreme Leader settled back into his seat, anger vicious in his eyes. "You will take the Knights of Ren back to the temple, scour the planet, find Skywalker and destroy him."
"Yes, Supreme Leader," Kylo Ren said.
"I sense great conflict within you, Kylo Ren." Supreme Leader glared. "I am trusting you to snuff it out."
Luke was gone.
Leia had slept a restless night aboard the Falcon with Han, leaving Luke alone to grieve in peace.
She understood why he hadn't been able to bring himself to look into her eyes, their mother's eyes, Ben's eyes, the night before.
It was too much, too soon.
But they had always shared everything, even before they'd known about the blood they shared, too. They had been linked from the moment they'd met—No, even before that. Before we were born—and that bond was unbreakable.
Leia needed Luke, she had always needed Luke, even before she knew she had a brother to need.
Now more than ever.
That thought in mind, she had risen early to try to speak with him again, but all she had found was Artoo in low-power mode, sitting in the ashes of Rey's room.
Luke was nowhere to be found.
Leia stared at the empty patch of wet earth before her, Luke's starfighter gone from its usual place near the base of the mountains, when she heard a ship approaching to land.
"Luke,"she whispered, turning hopefully.
"Leia!" Han hissed and grabbed her shoulder, pulling her beneath the shelter of the trees as the Upsilon-class command shuttle landed before the ruin of the temple.
Leia's heart pounded as men marched out from within. They were covered in black from head to foot, their faces concealed, but there was no mistaking the tallest of them. He paused before stepping out of the ship. Leia could feel him in the Force, and her heart beat roughly in her chest.
"Find him!" Ben shouted from beneath that ridiculous mask, his voice distorted so that it was no longer his voice at all.
The men ran for the temple, their weapons ready, but Ben waited a moment, his hand hovering over the lightsaber at his belt.
Leia could not stop staring at him.
He'd grown taller since she'd seen him last, so tall now that he towered over those in his command—like…Anakin—but Ben was awkward with his height, coltish, as if he weren't yet used to his long limbs. Leia felt a pang of loss. She had missed his growth spurt. Even dressed as he was, even as he hid his face beneath that costume, even after all of the horrible things he had done, she had never seen anything more beautiful.
My son, she thought, the words forming in her mind as if from far away. They didn't quite feel like her own. Oh, my grown-up son…
Leia wanted him to take off his mask, to see if his hair was longer or shorter now, to see if he still had Han's smile. She wanted to hold him like she had when he was small—before all the trouble had begun—to comfort him and tell him that it would all be all right, and that there was no monster beneath his bed.
But this time, it was Ben who was the monster. Ben who had done such unspeakable things to the Jedi.
Leia's stomach roiled.
What had Ben done to Rey?
Ben's head snapped up toward the trees and Leia knew that he knew she was there. He still hadn't drawn his weapon. Her heart beat hopefully.
Ben, she thought.
He took a step toward her.
Leia inhaled sharply.
"Leia, no. Don't," Han whispered, holding her hand.
But she did. She stepped out from her hiding place into plain view of the shuttle. Ben stared. She could see him clearly now, and he her.
The word rippled through her mind, small and frightened, and Leia could have cried. She could feel Ben faltering, feel the conflict within him.
Then, as if he had broken a dam between them, it flooded her. Everything Ben was feeling, everything he was thinking, clashed together in her mind and her heart—The self-loathing and insecurity that had always plagued him like a disease, the fear, the anger, the hatred, and the pain—all of it. He was suffering.
The sudden urge to cry overwhelmed her. Worst of all, the guilt that hit her was suffocating. She could feel it crushing down on Ben like deep water. All he needed to do was swim to shore.
I'm sorry. Leia took a step. I'm so sorry. Oh, Ben…
Ben jerked back from her, enraged.
A thought that was not her own invaded her mind, screaming into her skull.
Ben Solo is dead.
Leia fell back against a tree, clutching her head as Ben's furious words echoed in her mind, and Han pulled her into the safety of the shadows.
"Leia? Hey," Han whispered, putting a hand to her cheek. He shook her slightly. "Leia?"
Leia moaned, her eyes unfocused. She breathed in through her nose and whispered, "I'm all right."
Han shook his head, the hand on her cheek stroking gently. "No, you're not."
No, Leia thought, her eyes welling. I'm not.
Han held her close, quiet as they listened.
"Master," one of the men said. "What is it? Do you see something?"
"No," Ben replied. "It was nothing. Nothing at all."
"Skywalker isn't in the temple," the man said. "We plan to search the trees."
"No need," Ben said. "He isn't here. I can't sense him any longer."
"Do you know where he might have gone, sir?"
"No…" Ben was quiet a moment and Leia could feel his realization. "Yes."
The temple, Leia thought, and she knew Ben was thinking the same. No.
Ben was going to tell Snoke about Luke's fondest dream.
Luke had talked of taking Ben, Rey, and the rest of his students to train as the ancient Jedi had before the establishment of a Republic-funded Temple on Coruscant. He'd longed to see the structures there, to read their ancient texts, to explore the planet rumored to be so strong in the Force and share it with his family.
But no one knew where the original temple was, it was near-legend…
Was that where Luke had gone in his grief? Was he finally searching for it? Leia's heart beat faster.
"We'll go to Supreme Leader and inform him of this development," Ben said.
"Afterwards, should we return here and continue our search?" the man asked.
"Do so, if Supreme Leader instructs you to," Ben said. His next words were cold and Leia knew they were meant for her. "I am never coming back."
"Leia, this is crazy," Han said. "You can't go after him."
Leia snapped her suitcase shut and went to her closet. She didn't keep much in their apartment on Hosnian Prime, and luckily she wouldn't need much to go after Ben, either. "I can and I will."
"You saw him out there," Han said. "He was…He was going to kill Luke. He killed Rey. He could kill you, too."
"But he hasn't killed Luke," Leia said, rifling through the items on the uppermost shelf. "Not yet. And he knew we were there. He could have killed us, but he didn't."
"How do you know?" Han asked.
Leia cocked an eyebrow at him and brought down a wooden box from the shelf.
"Oh, right. That," Han said and rubbed his forehead. He sat on their bed and let out a dark laugh. "I get jealous sometimes, you know. The way you two can…I wish I could see him the way you do."
Leia paused and remembered the crushing feeling in her chest, the way Ben's emotions had invaded her. "I don't think you do."
"Yeah," Han said, shaking his head, "you're probably right. But I can't help but wonder if it's better than not understanding him at all. Leia?"
She bit back tears, her hands trembling on the latch of the box. She hadn't touched the thing inside for so long.
"Let me go after him," Han said. "Let me bring him home. You don't have to do this alone."
Leia exhaled and opened the box, lifting the object inside. It still didn't look like a weapon to her, not even after so many years of knowing what it was. And what she could do with it. She hung it from her belt and the weight was familiar, comforting, and terrifying all at once. And Leia would not use it unless absolutely necessary.
"I'm going to find him, Han," Leia said. "I'm going to find Ben and learn exactly what happened to that little girl, and then I'm going to kill the thing that took our son from us. And when that's done? I'm finding that temple and I'm bringing Luke home."