“You're finished, B-Kylo.” Blast. She'd almost slipped, and that, at this critical moment, would have brought the hard-earned wall crumbling down.
Kylo Ren sat on his throne, completely unperturbed by the situation. “Am I?” His voice was liquid smooth, reminding her of the black floors she'd hovered over in Snoke's chamber. The last time she'd seen him in person.
This...thing between them, this connection or understanding or—she wasn't sure what to call it, if the word existed—wasn't natural, and yet it had snapped into place as if it had always been there. It allowed her to see things in him that everyone else only guessed at.
Terrible things. Horrible, tragic things. A boundless something that would never be satisfied.
For a man that felt that deeply, he had a remarkable ability to keep his composure intact.
Her eyes narrowed. Too intact, especially given the rage she knew boiled in him. “The Resistance has boarded your ship and taken over your computers,” she pointed out. “It won't be long.”
He snorted. “The faith you have in these people surprises me.”
She frowned. “Why?”
“They've spent the last thirty years fighting a fight that's left their numbers devastated. People don't like long wars, Rey. It tends to wear away on morale.” His eyes drifted over her, outwardly cool, but she could sense the curiosity behind it. He was assessing her condition. It was important.
She looked away and forced herself to reach for that calm center she'd heard so much about. “If you come quietly, you'll be given a fair trial.”
“Could you please be a little more concerned?” She could hear the chatter behind her in the control room. The Resistance was closing in. They were minutes away from capture. “You'll be shot if you don't cooperate.”
“I don't sit around waiting for people to kill me, Rey.” His gaze sharpened. “Surely you know that by now.”
She knew a lot of things about him, but if one thing had been proven the last time they'd seen each other, it was that what she knew was meaningless in the face of his will. His decisions altered fate. That was the power—and the curse—of free choice.
“Did they send you to interrogate me, Rey?” Now his voice was silky, probing. “Did you tell them about the connection?”
Her breath hitched in a guilty little spike, and satisfaction bled into their connection.
“No,” he said, leaning back on his throne. Did he have one of those on every ship? “They have no idea. You're here because you want to be.”
“Want has nothing to do with it.”
“You're worried.” Something new—something that tasted suspiciously like hope—inched toward her. “Scavenger.”
How dare he make that name sound like an endearment. “I'm as worried for you as you were worried for me when you ordered the Falcon shot out of the sky,” she bit out, determined to gain the upper hand. She could remember that moment too. There wasn't a description for how badly he wanted that ship to burn.
And the fact that she was on it hadn't mattered in the slightest.
That was the sort of person Kylo Ren was. The man she'd seen in her visions was a complicated ghost, a past version of who she now saw before her.
His gloved fingers twitched on the armrest. “I...lost myself in the moment.”
It was not an apology. Nor did she expect one. And if he felt regret, she was absolutely capable of ignoring it.
The gunblasts were audible now, no longer the static over the channels, but real, just down the hall from his chambers. Rey shifted, trying to think. “This is ridiculous. Surrender. Get a trial.”
“Die anyway,” he finished flatly. “What a choice.” His head tilted to the side. It was still so odd to see him without his mask. He'd thrown away more than a piece of metal when he'd destroyed it.
Her gaze flicked to the crown of metal leaves he'd opted for instead. The black every time he moved, like stars that no longer cared to be separate from the inky shadows of space.
“Why didn't you tell them, Rey? Why not use it to your advantage?” His gaze was steady. “You know you have one.”
It was the closest he'd ever admitted to it, choosing instead to allow the connection between them to speak for itself.
She stifled her irritation. “Would you please just listen?” Why was that so difficult? “Do something.”
“Oh, I have every intention.” He rose from the throne, going to a panel at the far end of the room with only a few long strides. The way he took up a room was tangible even with hundreds of planets between them. “I just wonder if you'll follow your own advice.”
“What?” The door was being shot at. He had minutes to spare, if that. “B-Kylo--”
“Rey.” He turned and she almost stumbled back, forgetting that she wasn't physically in the same room as he. When had he gotten that close? No, had she followed him? Why?
Damn your own eyes, Rey.
I rather like your eyes.
She inhaled sharply. How dare he?
“I'm tired of wasting time.” When she looked up at him, startled by the vehemence buried there, he didn't look away. “I've been patient long enough. Years, Rey.” He stepped closer, sucking air up with his very presence as he went. His lips curled as he added, “Decades.”
She wouldn't ask. She refused to ask.
“The First Order can fall if that's what has to happen. There will always be something else to take its place.” The panel next to him slid open, revealing a passage. Of course. That bastard would have an escape route.
But she found it difficult to do more than glance at it. The troops were literally at his door, every blast a step closer to his death, and he was simply standing there, staring at her with all the—what? All the what? Why wasn't there a word for this, or had she simply never learned it?
His lashes lowered. Contempt rolled in. “That miserable little planet taught you how to survive, but not much else,” he remarked. Then he refocused. “Whether I live or die has nothing to do with the First Order, and the First Order has nothing to do with me. It's cyclical. But this isn't.”
This. He pulled on the string, the invisible thread that bound them.
“That's why you're afraid.” She stiffened. He smirked. “You're scared to lose the one thing that you can count on.”
Her throat went dry. “That's not true,” she said, but her voice was barely a whisper.
That warmth was back in his gaze, along with a hint of pity and, damn him, understanding. “Yes it is. Once I'm dead this won't be here anymore, and you'll be alone all over again.”
A louder blast this time, drawing his attention away for a second. It let her breathe again.
“I want the First Order gone,” she declared through her teeth. “I want peace.”
“Of course you do.” He faced her. “And there's a way for you to get it.”
“With you?” The man who'd killed his father. The man who was complicit in thousands, millions of deaths. The thought was ridiculous. And revolting. She couldn't even comprehend killing on that scale. It was impossible.
“You hoped for that before,” he reminded her almost gently.
“I was wrong.”
“Were you.” The next blast was the loudest, and he sighed impatiently. Suddenly a hand came up, and there was a scream of metal ripping from the floor. The throne, hundreds of pounds of it, flew at the door. The crash was so loud that Rey instinctively covered her ears.
This was going nowhere. He was determined to have his way. Frustration bit at her. “Do as you like,” she bit out with a glare. “I've gotten along without you before. I will again.” Besides, that stupid escape route was useless—they had his computer frozen.
“This one is on a separate system.” And then, with no warning at all, he was cupping her face.
There was a shock that came with touching through the Force, a sort of overwhelming addition to her being. It reminded her of the nights on Jakku. Blankets were rare and precious, but if you didn't have one, your chances of survival were as good as wandering the desert without water rations.
Kylo Ren's touch was the sting of cold and the encompassing warmth at the same time. And Rey hated it. She hated him.
He didn't even bother denying her claim out loud. He leaned down. “You can survive without me,” he murmured, eyes locked on hers. “But do you want to?”
She should knock him away, but she wasn't sure how. Instead she came out with another weapon. “Do you?” she challenged.
She felt his surprise and triumph filled her. Good. Let him be the one to wrestle with questions for once. She was tired of bearing the burden alone.
His lashes lowered. “No.”
“No, I don't want to.” The fingers stroked her cheek, and for a mad moment she wished he wasn't wearing his gloves. “I don't want to live without this. I don't want to lose it.” He traced her cheekbone as if he was trying to memorize it. “I might even be willing to make a trade in order to keep it.”
He wasn't serious. He couldn't be--
He stepped back, leaving her off balance. And wasn't that the most ironic joke of all. “Think about it,” he said. Then he smirked, a hint of cockiness taking over. “You know how to find me.”
“Ben--” she warned, but it was too late. The connection was gone. She was back in the control center, huddled in a corner while people ran about frantically. The chaos filtered into her hearing a bit at a time, the Force cushioning her senses just a little.
She let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, curling shaking hands into fists. She couldn't focus. Couldn't find her center.
He'd taken it, damn him.
Her eyes slid closed. I might even be willing to make a trade...
He was a cunning bastard, holding out something she might want.
The trouble was she didn't know if she wanted it. Or what she wanted at all. She used to—survival, the return of her family, a sense of belonging. To never feel lonely again.
She had that here with Finn and Poe and the Resistance. That sense of community, of working for a common goal.
But was it enough? Would it ever be enough?
Suddenly, Rey didn't know. And that...was dangerous.