Their lips broke away from each other, and Ben could not help the laugh that escaped. He looked into her eyes one final time before he felt the last of his strength finally leaving him. The pain of his broken body was fleeing as well, which gave way to a lightness that made him feel as if he was floating. It was the most at peace he had felt in his entire life, no more Sith delving into his deepest thoughts..only the feeling of Rey's lips lingering. The back of his head finally touched the ground and the blackness invaded his eyes. Then there was nothing.

Until suddenly there was. Light flooded his senses, his lungs filled and he breathed deeply. An endless expanse of bright white surrounded him in all directions. He looked down and saw that he was whole again. His injuries were gone and he wore a simple brown tunic and pants…the clothes of a Jedi. He could see no ground beneath his bare feet, but he gathered his resolve and took a tentative step forwards. He did not fall.

"Where am I?" He spoke, and his voice echoed around him in all directions.

"You're everywhere."

Ben spun and looked into the amused eyes of his former Master. Luke looked much older than he had when the two had faced each other on Crait, but in truth that had not been Luke at all, only a Force projection of what Luke had wanted him to see. His master stepped closer, a genuine smile stretching his face. "Told you I would be seeing you around, kid. Though, I'm guessing a meeting with me probably wasn't your ideal of what the afterlife would bring."

"A day ago, it would have been my worst nightmare. Things change. So it would seem I'm dead?"

"In a sense," Luke answered. "Your physical body has died, but no one ever really goes away. The Force encompasses all things, even those who have died. And those of us who have a stronger connection to the Force are able to maintain a closer connection to the living."

"And you're here to welcome me to the other side?"

"Something like that," Luke responded, arms tucked into his robes. "The first thing I want to do is tell you how sorry I am, Ben, more than I could ever express. I failed you as your teacher. I should never have let my fear control me like it did. I should have helped you fight those voices drawing you to the darkness, leading you away from us. What makes it worse, you were not just my student, you were my family."

Ben stared at Luke, and a torrent of emotions swirled within him. He could still feel the hurt and anger that his master had lost faith in him, could still see him standing above him with weapon raised. Yet, now he knew that there had been so many other things going on beyond their comprehension. The Emperor had been manipulating him, playing a long game that had only just come to fruition. "I forgive you," Ben whispered, a tension that been coiled within his being for so long, finally released. All those years he had been filled with hate, but now…it was gone. It was freeing.

Luke stepped forward, placing a hand on Ben's shoulder, the weight a foreign, yet comforting presence. For so long the idea of affection had been lost to him, only the lust for power. "I'm proud of you, kid. Today, you showed the true courage and resolve of a Jedi."

Ben looked away, the memories of Kylo Ren streaming through his mind. "It doesn't erase a legacy of death…the things that I've done."

"No, it doesn't. You can't undo the things that have happened," Luke agreed. "But you can go forward and try to atone for them…to make a better world…to maintain the balance against others who would seek to undo it."

"It appears to be a little late for that," Ben frowned, looking at the nothingness around them.

"Maybe," Luke smirked, "maybe not."

"Must you always speak in riddles? What does it matter anyway?" Ben questioned, looking at Luke in confusion. "The war is over. The Emperor is dead and the Sith with him."

Luke looked at him sternly. "If I managed to teach you anything as your Master, it was that the Force always strives toward balance. As the Jedi rise again, so will the Sith to challenge their power. It is as it has always been through the history of the galaxy. Palpatine may be gone, but the Force remains and so does the lure of its power to those who wield it. It would be naive to believe that the Sith are gone from the galaxy."


"Is but one Jedi, no matter how powerful she may be," Luke interrupted. "The Jedi were the protectors of the entire Republic, of democracy, and if they are to be that again, then they will need to be powerful enough to defend the entire galaxy against the reach of the Sith."

"You keep speaking as if I have some role to play in this," Ben challenged. "I don't see how, as I'm standing here with you now. My time has passed."

"Not yet."

A chill ran down Ben's spine at the new voice, and he could feel moisture sting at the corners of his eyes. He turned slowly and looked into his Mother's eyes for the first time in what felt like forever. For as much as he had put her through, he could still feel her love for him radiating from her.

"Mother," Ben only managed to choke out.

Leia, looking serene and truly at peace, glided forward and placed her palms on his cheeks. "Oh, Ben. I've waited so long to have my son back."

"I'm back," he managed to grit out, his voice wavering. "I'm sorry for the pain I caused you. I'm sorry for disappointing you."

"You were alway my son. Even when you were lost," Leia stated. "The Force called you home, and you answered when you were needed the most."

"It's over now," Ben sighed.

"Your story isn't over yet, Ben," his Mother challenged. "Ben Solo hasn't had a chance to live his life yet."

"My life went to someone who deserved it more."

Leia smiled reverently at the mention of her student. "You gave your life to save Rey. Why?"

"Because she deserved to live," Ben answered without thought. "She was stronger than I was. She resisted what I couldn't."

"That wasn't the only reason. You did it because you love her."

Ben looked away, the truth of it clearly written on his face. There was no need for words to confirm it.

"You do," Leia repeated. "The Emperor tried to use your connection, but in the end it only brought you closer together and saved you both."

"A Jedi isn't supposed to love."

"Everyone loves, Ben, even Jedi," Leia countered. "There's no avoiding it, but we learn to not let it consume us. Don't be afraid to lose the things you love. Remember that those things remain with you, even if you cannot see them. I love my son, and Luke loves his nephew, but we have to let you go, just like you must let us go. Our time has passed now. You would be of much more use at Rey's side then we would be remaining as guides to her in the Force."

"What are you saying?" Ben questioned, only to suddenly feel Luke's presence behind him. His Master's hands were once again on Ben's shoulders and then he could feel a sudden rush of energy flowing into his body from where they connected. He quickly comprehended what was happening, looking down into his Mother's eyes. Their remaining connection to the Force was being siphoned into him, the same as he done for Rey. "Not for me."

"Yes, for you. A Mother's love for her son is everlasting," Leia smiled. "We are one with the Force, and the Force will be with you, always. Be what you were meant to be, Ben. Don't be afraid."

"You're a Jedi, Ben," Luke spoke again from behind him. "The Force is your ally, and a powerful ally it is. We will always be with you. Your Father will always be with you."

Other hooded figures began to appear around them, their hands reaching out towards Ben. One of the figures pulled back his hood, and Ben looked into the whole, youthful face of his grandfather. Anakin Skywalker's hand extended and landed on Luke's atop Ben's shoulder. "You did finish what I started, Ben…Anakin, not Vader. You helped bring down the Emperor. Now go restore the Jedi to what they were. Make them better. Undo the damage that I did."

"Go, Ben," Leia's voice ordered, her palms pressed against his chest, the Force streaming through her hands.

An overwhelming wave of energy filled him and he watched in an agonizing mix of heartbreak and comfort as his Mother's form dissipated into nothing. He closed his eyes and let himself fall into the arms of the Force.


He sprung up as the first breath of air filled his lungs, gasping as he was born anew. The smell of smoke and dust invaded his senses. He opened his eyes and realized he was laying precariously positioned on a jagged piece of stone. He had returned to where he had died, the cavernous throne room in Exegol. The room had been obliterated and was in the process of completely disintegrating. The ceiling was collapsing, large pieces falling around him, too close for comfort. The cavern floor had broken apart, leaving gaping crevices in all directions that led into a pits of never ending darkness.

Ben looked down at himself. His restored body was without injury. The broken bones, scrapes and gashes were gone, but he was also uncomfortably without a stitch of clothing…apparently something the Force had not sought fit to provide. He carefully stood on his tilting piece of earth and looked for some way out of the crumbling cavern. The entrance he had come through was now completely gone, covered in piles of rubble. However, the rows of pews that the Sith followers previously filled had collapsed and formed a makeshift ramp that he could try to climb. He jumped carefully from one section of floor to other, until he found the corpse of one of Palpatine's guards.

Ben managed to scavenge a shirt, pants, and boots from the lifeless fighter whom Rey had effectively dispatched. Now more comfortable, and feeling much less exposed to the elements, he used the Force to guide him as he leaped across the throne room and up the fallen stands. He moved higher and higher until he finally found sky peaking through the rocks. The opening was a good distance away, but he believed he could make it. He crouched down, both palms flat on the ground. Breathing deeply, focusing, he pushed down with the Force and launched his body straight into the air. The ledge grew closer and closer, but suddenly his upward momentum began to slow until it was almost completely stalled.

With a desperate lunge, Ben threw his right arm out until his fingers gripped the ledge. He hung by an arm, swinging back and forth dangerously above a pit of jagged death, the muscles in his arm burning as they were strained to absolute capacity. Consciously choosing not to look down, he willed all of his strength into his arm, pulling just enough that he could swing his left hand onto the ledge. Finally having a good hold, he hoisted his body up and onto the planet surface. His eyes scanned the horizon and what he saw was a landscape of carnage. The Final Order destroyers had been decimated and their remains plunged into a grave of burning, twisted metal. Fires illuminated the sky, and Ben searched for any means off this horrible world.

By some twist of fate, the Emperor's lightning attack on the rebel fleet had stalled many of the their ships and forced them onto the ground. Many were damaged beyond any use, but eventually he stumbled onto an A-wing that had suffered only cosmetic damage. Ben slid into the cockpit and closed the canopy over his head. He breathed a relieved sigh as the engines kicked on with any resistance. The A-wing ascended slowly until it was hovering in the planet's atmosphere. Ben was about to accelerate, when a question confronted him that he could not answer.

"Where am I going?" He laughed to himself at the absurdity of it. But then he quickly realized that he was asking the wrong question completely. "Where is she?" He had not tried to reach out to her since the Emperor had drained their life-force through their bond. Would it still work? There was only one way to find out. Remaining hovered in the planet's atmosphere, Ben settled back into his seat and closed his eyes. He focused on his last image of Rey, her face flushed after their kiss. He felt the Force pushing and pulling him, guiding his senses across the galaxy, looking for its missing half. His eyes opened suddenly and he was staring at an endless expanse of desert, twin suns gleaming in the horizon.