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44 ABY

Six years later

 

It hadn't taken very long at all for Her Ladyship Lairelosse Yliri, the Ducha of Talcharaim, to arrive at the unfortunate yet indisputable conclusion that she was not cut out for babysitting. It was the source of greatest bewilderment to her that a routine visit to the imperial family's estate on Lovola— to discuss opening trade relations with select Outer Rim worlds— could have led to this.

 

She'd had no choice. There was a virulent flu epidemic sweeping through the staff of the Shadowgreen; the nanny, several of the maids, and all the remaining ladies-in-waiting— the three who had not yet married or ascended to their house's titles— were in quarantine. Prince Isolder was on a diplomatic mission in Bothan Space. The Emperor was on Coruscant. The Empress had been called away in the middle of her and Lairelosse's meeting to deal with a resurgence of pirates in the nearby Algnadesh system.

 

There'd simply been no one else available on such short notice.

 

It wasn't that the little Chume'da was a particularly bad child. On the contrary, she was exceptionally behaved for her age. She'd been the easiest of infants that first-time parents could have asked for— although, admittedly, the imperial couple had a lot of help in that regard, including the Chief Political Advisor to the Empire canceling a month's worth of engagements and jetting off to the Hapes Cluster once her granddaughter was born— and now, at three years old, Allana Djo was well-mannered, not at all prone to tantrums, and quite reserved around almost everyone who wasn't family, which suited Lairelosse just fine.

 

The only problem lay in the fact that the child could use the Force as effortlessly as she could breathe. Therefore, Lairelosse was currently being orbited by rings of porcelain teacups and delicate glass figurines and antique vases floating slowly through the air. Perched on a chaise lounge in the salon, the Ducha watched apprehensively, recognizing more than a few priceless heirlooms that were one lapse in concentration away from meeting an ignoble end on the lush Wrodian carpets.

 

"Yes, that's very good, Your Grace," she finally said, her tone pleasant if a bit strained at the edges. "Perhaps you can set them down now. Gently."

 

The toddler sitting on the floor beside a heap of long-forgotten building blocks heaved a patented sigh. With the uncaring flick of a wrist plump with baby fat, the various myriad objects floated back to their original positions— some less gently than others. Lairelosse suppressed a wince at the more audible thumps. None of them broke, at least.

 

Allana scrambled to her feet, summoning a wooden sword overlooked by the cleaners from its corner of the room into her palm. Her chubby fingers closed around the hilt and she gingerly stumbled over to the chaise lounge, pointing her weapon at Lairelosse with an expression of half-hearted optimism. As if she could already tell what the outcome would be but she figured she might as well give it a shot.

 

"Oh— no, thank you," Lairelosse demurred. "I don't know how to spar."

 

Even if she did, she wouldn't have accepted the challenge. The heir to the Consortium throne had yet to master the art of staying on her feet. Rey tolerated the scrapes and bruises her child sustained while playing well enough, but Kylo Ren was a different story, and he would be making planetfall today. The Ducha Yliri had no desire to try to explain even the most minor injury to the man. He would probably attempt to have her thrown into the dungeons before Rey talked him out of it.

 

Or, well... Lairelosse supposed that she wasn't being fair. The Emperor's temper had been much improved over the past six years. His wife and his daughter kept him happy— he'd even been noted to smile at them on several occasions. He would never be a master politician, but he'd threatened to wage war on uncooperative systems only twice in the course of over half a decade, so there really was no cause for complaint.

 

Allana plopped back down on the floor at Lairelosse's feet. The child was allergic to furniture, it seemed. In terms of looks, she favored her father, with thick, wavy black hair, a face that promised to be long and narrow in adulthood, large ears, and full, sullen lips. Her huge hazel eyes were Rey's, though, as were the freckles that dotted her pale complexion.

 

"When will Mother come back?" she asked in perfect Hapan. Her Galactic Basic was rudimentary but she'd started speaking in complete sentences in her native tongue a few months after her second birthday. It was somewhat unnerving.

 

"It shouldn't be long now," Lairelosse reassured her. "Her Majesty is just wrapping up some... aggressive negotiations."

 

Allana refused to be impressed by verbal gymnastics. "Kicking pirate ass," she carefully enunciated in halting, accented Basic.

 

This time, the Ducha could not suppress her wince. "It's a bit disturbing that I have no idea which parent you learned that from. It could go either way, really." Sometimes she still couldn't believe that the galaxy was being ruled by the likes of the imperial couple, both of whom were far more comfortable on the battlefield than at court. And she found it even more difficult to believe that it all seemed to be working out thus far.

 

Allana switched back to her first language. "I'm bored," she said mournfully.

 

"I know, Your Grace," Lairelosse replied, just as mournfully. She racked her brain for whatever it was children did. "Would you like to take a nap?"

 

"No, thank you."

 

"Would you... like to hear a story?"

 

The hazel eyes that were so much like Rey's brightened visibly, a dimple peeking out at the corner of a mouth that was like Kylo Ren's. "Yes."

 

"Oh, good." Lairelosse was relieved, and more than a little proud of herself. She was Babysitting. "Shall I recount the tale of the ice moon? Or the legend of the first Queen Mother? Or is there something else tickling your fancy? I am at your service."

 

Allana barely paused to consider her options. "How did Mother meet Father?"

 

"On second thought," Lairelosse said without missing a beat, "let's see about that nap, shall we? I have a sudden migraine that I need to sleep off, myself."

 

*

 

The opalescent Miy'til- class starfighter Kalessin glided into its silvery docking bay as gracefully as some huge, pale moth soaring into a beam of moonlight. All over the hangar, mechanics and military personnel paused in their tasks to either bow or snap off sharp salutes as a slender figure in white scaled armor emerged from the cockpit, her chestnut hair pulled back into a simple bun and her tawny eyes gleaming with the calm triumph of a successful mission.

 

"At ease." Kira Ka Djo's confident tones rang throughout the vast chamber and her subjects returned to their various duties. An aide came forward with a datapad, falling into step beside her as he took her through the messages that had piled up in her absence.

 

There weren't a lot of them— she'd only been gone for half a day, after all. Luke had RSVP'ed to her birthday celebration next week, the couturier wanted to set up a final dress fitting for said celebration, Zan the Reef Fortress steward was entreating Their Majesties to return to Hapes Prime so that his most cherished Allana wouldn't catch the Shadowgreen flu, and Finn had sent over a draft of his quarterly report on the Stormtrooper Reintegration Program.

 

"No word from my husband?" Rey asked with a hint of a frown. Kylo's destroyer had been nowhere in sight when she made the jump back to the Lovola system; it wasn't like him to fail to comm if he was running late.

 

"There was a message, Ereneda. The Emperor will depart from the Citadel a couple of hours later than planned. I did not think it wise to play the recording out here in public because—" The aide cleared his throat. "His Majesty was most vexed to learn that you were personally handling the pirate situation. His response when I informed him was..."

 

"Colorful?" Rey guessed.

 

"To not put too fine a point on it," the aide sniffed.

 

"I'll deal with him, Valenquiss, and I'll make sure he apologizes to you," Rey promised.

 

The aide blanched, as if the prospect of Kylo being forced to apologize to him was even worse than the reality of having been chewed out by the very same. "Kira Ka Chume, there is no need— I understand that Emperor Ren is under a lot of stress—"

 

"He's so much better at apologizing these days," Rey said firmly. "It'll be fine, I promise. Now, if that's all, I need to go and rescue Lady Yliri from my daughter."

 

Valenquiss bowed and took his leave, shaking his head as he went, and a few minutes later Rey was striding into the residential wing of the Shadowgreen, its wide, open hallway overflowing with copious amounts of artfully untamed flowers and sunlight. She resisted the temptation to check the bond— Kylo's meetings were probably not going well, given his delayed departure, and it was common courtesy to not disturb him in the same way that he had refrained from making contact while she was on a mission.

 

She found Lairelosse and Allana in the latter's bedroom; the child was asleep, although she stirred slightly when Rey sat on the bed beside her and instinctively slung a stout, tiny arm over her mother's thigh, hugging it like a pillow.

 

"I hope she wasn't too much trouble," Rey said to Lairelosse.

 

The Ducha gave an elegant, one-shouldered shrug. As a very tidy person, she'd obviously been unable to bear the mess of toys scattered all over the room and was putting them back into their crates. "She was fine. I assume that the pirates, on the other hand, are not."

 

"We rounded them up with gravity wells and dropped them off at Eremandu." Rey carded her fingers through the slumbering Allana's dark curls. "They'll be taught a trade and then we will assist them in assimilating back into society at the end of their sentence."

 

"I still have my doubts on whether this new policy of yours will be successful," said Lairelosse. "But I suppose we shall see what happens over the next few years. If anyone can do it, it's you."

 

Rey smiled. Even though Lairelosse wasn't shy about expressing her misgivings in private, she'd been Rey's most stalwart ally when the death penalty was abolished and prison terms were totally restructured. "Thank you, Ducha."

 

"You are most welcome, Kira Ka Chume." The other woman dropped a purple Tooka doll into the nearest available crate. "Now, shall we resume our discussion on trade with the Outer Rim? I suggest removing Karazak from the equation as they are still enthusiastically finding ways around the Empire's anti-slavery code and of course you will want to support your husband..."

 

*

 

Kylo's TIE silencer and its starfighter escorts made planetfall on Lovola in the late afternoon, shortly after Lairelosse's ship embarked on the journey back to Talcharaim so the Ducha could throw herself back into the frenzy of planning for her wedding to Aleson Gray. The daylight was sleepy and golden on those sleek, black wings, and Allana— freshly bathed and dressed for dinner like her mother— lost all trace of her usual composure when she spotted them from the balcony.

 

She was quiet as always but squirming and restless, too excited to be carried. Rey set her down and she stumbled ahead, impatiently tugging her mother forward by the skirts as they made their way to the entrance hall to receive the Emperor. The last time they'd seen him had been a standard week ago at the Fountain Palace, when he kissed them both goodbye before departing for Coruscant to oversee prep for the upcoming Senate elections and they in turn had gone to Lovola to inaugurate a string of new hospitals set up in the remote farming towns. It was Allana's longest separation from her father to date; Kylo had lasted all of three days before vowing to Rey over the bond that he was going to make sure this never happened again, they were going to coordinate their schedules better next time, damn it.

 

After the fourth instance of having to use the Force to stop her earnestly scurrying daughter from falling flat on her face, Rey gave in to the urge to burst out laughing. She hadn't expected there would be so much comedy in being a parent. It felt like a gift every single time. The guards stationed in the hallway they were currently traversing fought to hide their smiles as well.

 

A few more turns down gilded marble corridors, and then Kylo and his entourage were coming towards them, and Allana raised her voice for the first time in ages.

 

"Atta!" she shrieked, running as fast as her short legs could carry her.

 

Kylo's usually stern features collapsed in something like relief at the sight of his daughter. He bent down to scoop the round little child up into his arms, forgetting himself enough to actually grin as she hugged his neck and babbled away at him in Hapan, recounting every single detail of her life this past week. He listened intently, alternating between nodding in the appropriate places and dropping kisses on her forehead and her freckled cheeks.

 

It was so much like the vision that Rey had seen during her pilgrimage on the Singing Mountain that she had to stop short. This was the future she'd fought for. Her heart felt like it would burst from all the joy that was too immense for it to contain. Kylo's hair was still more black than salt-and-pepper, though, and it still curled lushly just above his shoulders— in that regard, the Force had been inaccurate.

 

Perhaps it had just gotten its time lines mixed up, blending together this present and a not so far-off future.

 

The thought made Rey even happier, so much so that she was already beaming by the time Kylo's dark eyes met hers over their daughter's head. He switched to supporting Allana's weight on one arm, his free hand stretching out, and Rey was lifted off her feet and gently sent sailing towards him on invisible currents.

 

"I can walk, you know," she playfully admonished as he relinquished his Force hold once she was close enough for him to cup the back of her neck in his large hand as she wrapped her arms around his waist, tucking herself snugly into his side.

 

"I got impatient," he countered, leaning down to slant his mouth over hers. "I missed you," he murmured against her lips.

 

"I missed you, too." Rey kissed her husband as he held their daughter, relishing the warmth of their little circle. Her family.

 

It wasn't long, though, before Kylo had to pull away from Rey with a laughter-tinged groan, because Allana had started tugging at his ear. "I'm hungry," she complained.

 

"Yeah, me, too," Kylo grunted, staring at his wife.

 

Rey blushed, swatting his arm. He smirked in response as he slipped his fingers through the gaps between hers and off they went to the dining room, holding hands while their child snuggled contentedly into his chest.

 

Another thing Rey hadn't been prepared for was how easily Kylo had taken to being a parent. He'd been so anxious and unsure during her pregnancy, although he'd tried to hide it, presenting a strong and supportive front for her sake as she struggled with morning sickness, a belly the size of a house, and food cravings at ungodly hours that were strange even by her standards. But they couldn't keep things from each other in the bond— she'd sensed all of his doubts in the same way that he'd sensed hers, and many long nights had been spent just laying in bed and talking it all out, his hand on her stomach, possessive and protective even though he'd been so afraid.

 

And then Allana had been born, and it was like a switch had been turned on. Rey would never forget the look on her husband's face when he held the gurgling infant for the first time— all awe and so much love, the encompassing kind that fear could not even hope to hold a candle to. Right from the start, he'd had a knack for getting her to calm down on the rare occasions when she was being fussy, and he would immediately cease and desist with all royal duties when she wanted to play. The little Chume'da absolutely doted on her father.

 

She had Isolder wrapped around her finger, too. The prince strode into the dining room halfway through the main course and immediately went over to Allana, kissing the top of her head while she did her best to wriggle out of her booster seat so she could cuddle with him.

 

"Let your grandfather eat first, darling," Rey said, because someone had to be the disciplinarian in this family and both Kylo and Isolder would probably have a heart attack if they had to refuse Allana anything. "He just got in from the Mid Rim, he must be famished."

 

Allana wrinkled her nose at her mother but obediently went back to using her carrot sticks as a spoon for her mashed potatoes. Isolder chuckled as he sat down. "She's getting so big," he fondly remarked. "It seems like only yesterday when His Majesty was wearing a hole into the floor from all his pacing outside the delivery room."

 

Kylo raised an eyebrow at his father-in-law. "His Highness was pacing right along with me, as I recall."

 

"Ah, but I—" Isolder wagged a finger— "did not get kicked out of the room for calling the attending physician a quack."

 

"No, indeed. We only had to summon another physician because your blood pressure was through the roof—"

 

Rey rolled her eyes. "Honestly, you were both so absurd on that day. It wasn't that bad."

 

The men turned to her with similarly incredulous expressions.

 

"You threatened to have me thrown into the dungeon if I ever touched you again," Kylo reminded her.

 

"I'm sure I did no such thing," she said primly.

 

His dark eyes crinkled at the corners as he reached for her hand under the table, sweeping his bare thumb over her knuckles in an affectionate caress. "You did."

 

On Rey's other side, her daughter tugged at her sleeve, staining the fabric with applesauce-coated fingers. " Amilye, what's a dungeon? Can I have one?"

 

*

 

Since the nanny was out of commission, Isolder gladly volunteered to keep Allana entertained until she was ready for bed. Rey didn't have the heart to refuse, knowing that her father was making up for lost years. And it was probably for the best, given that she and Kylo were finding it more and more difficult to keep their hands off of each other as the evening wore on.

 

It had been a week, after all. Five whole days.

 

They'd retired to the sitting room after dinner, to partake in steaming mugs of sweet hot chocolate. With merry golden flames crackling in the hearth, it was quite cozy, Kylo and Rey ensconced on the couch, his arm draped over her shoulders while Allana sat in her mother's lap and marveled over the various animal shapes that her father coaxed out from the surface of her drink with every wiggle of his fingers. Isolder had claimed the chair by the fire and he watched the scene with an air of amused contentment as he and Rey discussed his visit to Bothan Space.

 

When Allana had drained her mug, Isolder took her back to the residential wing, leaving Kylo and Rey alone. Not a moment too soon, Rey thought, because her husband had already been unable to help himself from stealing a kiss to the line of her jaw. Isolder was more relaxed about that sort of thing these days— ever since he'd realized that this big lunk of an Emperor pawing at his daughter could lead to grandchildren— but he'd still very expediently ushered Allana out of the sitting room.

 

However, once the doors clicked shut, it became clear that sex was not the first thing on Kylo's mind. "My love," he said crisply, turning to face Rey on the couch, "did it somehow escape your notice that you have an entire fleet at your disposal? The point of that is so you would be able to abstain from racing off to every minor skirmish within your borders."

 

Right. The pirates. The old Rey would have bristled at the insinuation that she couldn't hold her own in battle, but the worried frown on Kylo's face was heart-wrenching, as was the fact that he'd waited until their daughter was out of earshot to court the possibility of an argument. That was one of the things they'd agreed on, to not fight when Allana was around.

 

Stars, but it was sexy. It was sexy that he tried so hard to be a good father.

 

"I've spent the past week at inauguration ceremonies and in meetings," Rey explained as she slipped Kylo's black cloak off of his shoulders and began undoing the buttons on the front of his tunic. "As well as building little towns out of blocks for our child to demolish because lately she's taken to pretending that she's a rancor."

 

"Ah." His breath hitched in his throat as her palm slid down his exposed chest. "That'll be because of last month's sojourn to Dathomir, I imagine."

 

"Most undoubtedly." Rey pushed Kylo back to lean against the armrest, straddling one thick thigh as she slowly kissed her way down his neck. The silver embroidery threaded through the silken panels of her skirts glittered in the firelight. "So I hope you can forgive me, my lord, for needing some action— especially since you weren't here to govern my baser urges."

 

A muscle worked along his jaw even as his arms curved around her, hands deftly unfastening the clasps and unlacing the ribbons that held the back of her gown together. "Just be careful, all right?" he mumbled.

 

"Always." She sucked a bruise along his pectoral, and then another and another, relishing in each hiss of breath that her teeth and tongue were able to elicit from him. "But," she finally added, "you have to be careful, too."

 

"Of course." He sat up to peel the sleeves of her loosened bodice down her arms and then she was the one being kissed, his lips tracing a familiar, well-loved path from her throat to the hollow between her collarbones to the round of her shoulder. "I'll always return home to you and Allana."

 

He'd been the one to tentatively, hopefully suggest that name. It meant beautiful in the old language of Corellia, his father's homeworld. Rey had gotten marginally better at not outright tearing up whenever he said their daughter's name in quiet moments like this, but she still couldn't resist pulling him in for a tender kiss. "I love you." She whispered the words against his lips. We'll do right by her. We'll make Han proud.

 

"I love you more," Kylo shot back, like the complete and utter sap that he'd proven himself quite capable of being on occasion, right before he deepened the kiss. He tugged down the cup of her bra and almost absentmindedly played with her nipple as he slipped his tongue into her mouth, the light and teasing touches of his fingers coaxing it into a pebbled peak. Rey whimpered, a hoarse, needy little scrape of sound, her knees digging into the brocade upholstery as she rubbed her damp, silk-clad center on her husband's muscular thigh, chasing the nearest available source of friction.

 

She could sense the moment the wicked idea occurred to Kylo— his energy signature rippled with the undercurrent of some dark mischief as he unhooked her bra and dipped his head to lave at the valley between her breasts. "Do you think you can come on my thigh, Empress?" he asked in a low, deep growl that was muffled into her skin.

 

Rey could certainly give it a shot. She allowed instinct to guide her movements, her hands braced on Kylo's wide shoulders for balance. There was a certain illicit decadence to it, with his tunic opened in front to reveal a sculpted chest all marked up with her lovebites, with her crumpled bodice pooled above her waist, with fabric rustling between them as the glow of the fire shifted over their forms in golden veils. Soon she was flushed and panting, dripping all over his trousers, and he was slack-jawed and staring at her as if she were every star that ever was.

 

"If the Empire and the Consortium only knew the things we did to each other," he rasped as he tweaked her nipples almost harshly, causing her to cry out as the fire inside her blazed higher. "If they could only see you now, squirming all over me, soaking wet and desperate to come."

 

She loved this side of him, this darker streak that fed her own. It was only during these moments that Kira Ka Djo could let herself be drunk on power and dominion, secure in the knowledge that Ben Solo would be waiting for her at the end of it. "Cyare," she choked out, "please, I'm almost there, I need your mouth—"

 

She didn't have to ask twice. He leaned forward, wrapping his lips around one nipple while his fingers caressed the other, and he sucked and bit and licked at her until she broke on a sob, her spine arching with the exquisite release.

 

Rey was given scant opportunity to recover. Kylo undid the fastenings of his trousers and pulled her onto his lap, facing her away from him as he sat on the edge of the couch. His hands disappeared beneath her rucked up skirts and tore at her underwear, and she stiffened at the telltale sound of delicate silk ripping in half.

 

"Ben!" she snapped. "That's the third time this month— oh..." Her admonishment dissolved into a moan as he sheathed himself inside her, the thick, hot length of him stretching her inner walls.

 

"Such a good wife," he teased as he dotted kisses on the back of her neck and her shoulder blades, his large fingers digging into her hips as he bounced her on his lap. "Coming on my thigh when I ask her to— letting me fuck her in the sitting room after dinner— getting so wet for me—" He faltered as she clamped down on him in response to his filthy words. "Force, Rey, how are you so tight—"

 

She craned her neck to press a sloppy kiss to his lips, reaching back to tangle her fingers in his soft hair. "You're a good husband, too, you know," she breathed out. Kriff, maybe she was the sappy one in this marriage, after all— but she couldn't regret saying it, not when he twitched inside her upon hearing it and his Force signature flooded with a fresh wave of arousal. "So gentle and loving— and so protective of our daughter—"

 

"Rey," Kylo groaned, exasperated, abashed, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She could feel him blushing against her skin. "Now I need to look at you—"

 

She whined in protest when he pulled her off of him, but it wasn't long before he was spreading her out flat on her back on the couch and sliding inside her again, his hips nestled between her spread thighs. "So much for spicing things up in bed," he grumbled, nuzzling at the tip of her nose as he set a slower, more languorous pace.

 

"We're not on a bed, so that probably counts for something," Rey pointed out with a grin.

 

"Probably."

 

He kissed her again and again and again, tasting like hot chocolate and lemon water and everything she ever wanted, and she closed her eyes and let it all unfold, his left hand pinning hers to the cushion while the right slicked clever fingers over her clit and brought her to her second orgasm of the night, the bond winding around them in jubilant coils. His rhythm stuttered as he, too, neared the brink, his lips grazing her brow in one last, hurried kiss before he hid his face in her neck once more. She locked her thighs around him and murmured encouragement in his ear, spurring him on as her blunt nails raked down the expanse of his back, and then her name was rolling off of his tongue as he spent inside her, pressing her deeper into the couch as he collapsed, and she was holding him in her arms and stroking his sweat-damp hair, and it was all lazy smiles and starry night and firelight, it was all afterglow.

 

*

 

Kylo awoke the next morning in the royal suite of the Shadowgreen, its balcony doors thrown open and the air heavy with the mingled fragrances of arrack vines and gingerbells. He blinked up at the sprays of Queen's Heart decorating the silken canopy over the bed, reflecting that it was a miracle that he and Rey had managed to stumble back to the residential wing last night. Isolder had already successfully tucked Allana in with the help of one of the staff, but Kylo had a vague memory of his and Rey's door creaking open in the middle of the night and...

 

The waking world slowly dawned upon his senses. He glanced down. Yes, there she was, his three-year-old, curled up on top of him like a round loaf of bread, fast asleep and unleashing rivers of drool all over his bare chest. He tried to lift his arm so he could hug her— only to realize that said arm was currently being used as a pillow by Rey, who was facing away from him but definitely also drooling.

 

The line of Kylo's mouth softened, his eyelids drifting shut once more. He didn't mind staying here forever with his two girls.

 

The comlink on the nightstand emitted a shrill beep; already falling back into the realm of slumber, Kylo ignored it, turning his head to blindly, drowsily nuzzle into Rey's hair. He felt Allana stir but didn't realize what she was doing until he heard her wary yet inquisitive voice.

 

"Sallan?"

 

The Hapan equivalent of hello. His eyes shot open. Allana was sitting up on his chest— making breathing a bit difficult, to tell the truth— and the comlink was floating in the air a few inches away from her nose. A holo crackled to life, showing in blue-tinted light a dour-faced woman sporting a wiry mass of hair pulled back into a ponytail.

 

The woman blinked at the sight of the child. "Oh, it's you, kid—"

 

"Boe," Allana said happily, all traces of wariness gone as she geared up to launch into a recitation of everything that had happened in her life since she and Boethiah last saw each other six months ago.

 

The former Knight of Ren cut her off. "Look, I don't speak Hapan and I haven't figured out this new ship's translation protocols yet— why am I even bothering to explain, you can't understand me— can you put me through to your father— your atta? Tall guy, kind of a di—"

 

In one swift motion, Kylo slipped his arm out from under Rey— thankfully not rousing her— and grabbed the comlink as he bolted to a sitting position, jostling Allana into his lap. "It is seven in the morning," he informed Boethiah curtly.

 

"I'm very grateful to you for telling me what time it is on the other side of the galaxy," she replied in caustic tones. "Anyway, I'm just comming to say I'm not sure if I can make it to your wife's birthday shindig. I have a new lead on my mom, so I need to follow through with that."

 

"What's the lead?"

 

"She's apparently deep undercover in what's left of Hutt Space." Boethiah sounded annoyed. "Ridding the Outer Rim of the remaining Cartel members one by one."

 

"Kicking pirate ass," Allana chirped in Basic, much to Kylo's shock and dismay.

 

Boethiah smirked. "Very good, Chume'da. Lord Ren, please stop gaping like a fish that's been plucked out of the water."

 

Kylo shook his head to clear it. He needed to have a talk with Rey about swearing in front of their precious, innocent daughter. For now, there was a more urgent issue at hand. "If you need assistance, I can go—"

 

"I do not wish for the Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium to kick my ass," Boethiah interrupted, and Kylo had to resist the urge to cover Allana's ears. "It's fine, I can handle it."

 

"I'll send Hircine and Jyggalag to you, then."

 

"This is something I need to do on my own." Her tone brooked no argument. "Anyway. Yeah. That's all. If I can't make it next week, tell Rey..." She trailed off, looking distinctly uncomfortable, and her next words came out in a mumbled rush. "You know, happy birthday and thanks for the invite."

 

Boethiah signed off before Kylo could get another word in edgewise. He was about to flop back onto the mattress when the comlink beeped again.

 

"Allana!" The features of Rose Tico's holo positively beamed with delight and she spent a good minute or two ignoring the Emperor entirely in favor of cooing at his offspring, who cooed right back. Kylo could count on both hands the number of people Allana lost her reserve around, so he didn't mind overly much.

 

Rose did eventually turn to him, though.

 

"To what do I owe the pleasure, Miss Tico? Is there another policy of mine that you wish to tear to pieces?" Despite Kylo's droll tone, he was more open to it than he let on. Rose always had good ideas, and he'd come to respect her frightening intellect ever since she and Rey had managed to bring the lost First Order ships out of sub-hyperspace a few months after the war. The stormtroopers had been immediately ushered into Finn's program along with the rest of their peers while the officers had been appropriately tried and sentenced.

 

"Actually, I do need to talk to you about the lack of accessibility in the elections. You must set up more polling stations, not everyone can afford to waste an entire day traveling just to vote for their senator," Rose declared. "But we can arrange a meeting for that. Rey's comlink is switched off and I have to ask her something."

 

Kylo glanced over his shoulder. Allana had crawled out of his lap and was now snuggling under the covers with her mother, who was still blissfully snoring away. "She's not up yet," he said. "It is seven in the morning," he repeated, a tad reproachfully.

 

"Oh. Well, I'll just ask you, then." Rose was unfazed. "It's about Rey's birthday next week— Finn, Poe, Paige, and I can make it, but we're pitching in with the rebuilding effort in the Colonies, so we'll be late. Is that okay?"

 

"It shouldn't be a problem. There is no formal event. It's a citywide celebration and everyone is welcome to drop in at the Fountain Palace any time throughout the day." How the Hapan nobles had balked at that, considering it would be the first time their Queen Mother was celebrating her birthday publicly.

 

"Great. See you then, Your Worshipness!"

 

"Don't call me that—"

 

"Also, if you're taking more communiques after this, maybe consider putting on a shirt."

 

Rose's holo vanished as she ended the transmission. Kylo shook his head for the second time within thirty minutes of waking up— a record, even in this strange new life he'd somehow found himself in— and he decisively switched off the comlink and tossed it aside.

 

Then he lay down and gathered his wife and his daughter into his arms, curling protectively around them both, and he went back to sleep.

 


 

They returned to the capital city on Hapes Prime the next day, making planetfall at almost the same time as the Millennium Falcon, which was now under Chewbacca's command. Between Leia and Chewie, Allana's feet never touched the ground for most of the afternoon. Her advent into everyone's lives had gone a long way towards healing old wounds, and, when Rey quietly slipped away to see her physician who had been summoned for a home visit, she couldn't help but steal one last glance at the scene around the coffee table set out on the balcony. Allana was doing her very best to scramble up to perch on a remarkably unperturbed Chewie's furry head. Leia and Kylo weren't discussing affairs of state for once; she was regaling him and Isolder with tales of Luke's latest misadventures as he explored the galaxy with an old friend by the name of Lando Calrissian. Every once in a while her gesticulating hand came to rest on her son's arm and Kylo didn't shy away, the faintest of smiles curving his lips.

 

It was a cozy atmosphere that warmed the cold marble halls of the Per'Agthra, and Rey couldn't wait to get back to it.

 

First things first, though. She had to make sure about something.

 

At the end of her appointment a while later, she made her way out of her private salon fully intending to immediately rejoin the others. However, not even halfway to her destination, she ran into Kylo in the Hall of the Wind Crystals— an ornate corridor of alabas pillars and gold-flecked tapestries, over which hung a chandelier the size of an A-wing, fashioned from ethereally thin, glass-like fragments that hummed pleasantly with each slight breeze.

 

Rey stopped walking, every inch of her practically buzzing with the news. Kylo went over to her, his pale brow knitted in concern. She'd been purposefully vague, telling everyone that it was a routine checkup, although Leia had probably already guessed judging by the way her eyes had misted over as she watched Rey leave the balcony.

 

"You were gone for a while, cyar'ika. What did you need to see the physician about?" Kylo studied Rey with a pensive frown. "Are you all right?"

 

"I'm fine." She laced her fingers through the gaps between his and placed their joined hands on her flat stomach as she gazed up at him. "Actually— we both are."

 

It was mesmerizing, the play of emotions that flickered over his handsome features in a matter of seconds. Confusion at first, followed by gradually dawning realization, his dark eyes growing wide, and then stunned disbelief that never quite faded even as it was eclipsed by a dazed sort of bliss that made the years vanish from his face.

 

"Another one—" Kylo dropped to his knees right then and there in the middle of the gilded hall, littering Rey's silk-clad stomach with soft, reverent kisses as she stroked his hair.

 

"Are you happy, Ben?" Rey found herself asking. Found herself needing to put all of it into words.

 

He looked up at her and there it was, the crooked grin that always took her breath away, the dimples that she loved to kiss, the tiny creases at the corners of his eyes that made her heart do somersaults. "The only way I could be happier is if you stopped hogging the covers in winter," he replied, "and even then I'd miss having an excuse to cop a feel as I try to steal them back. Which is a very roundabout way of saying that you hold my heart forever and I want for nothing."

 

"First of all, I wouldn't call waking me up in the middle of the night to have sex just 'copping a feel,' and, secondly, you don't need an excuse," she huffed. "Also, I'm not sure if your big mouth made this moment better or ruined it entirely."

 

He laughed, quiet and deep and joyous, and then he got to his feet and lifted her off of hers, spinning her around. The sunbeams that filtered in through the stained-glass windows caught on the wind-crystal chandelier overhead, scattering shards of gold all over the hall. Her mind was a whirl of bright present and brighter futures and, as she threw her arms around her husband and captured his smiling mouth in a kiss, all Rey saw was love and daylight.

 

The End