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Your mother dies in the spring.

Cardota mourns her death well into the summer.

Your coronation as Queen is celebrated under a cast of solemnity; you’re not the only one painfully aware of loss turning a new page in your planet’s history. Your father promises you will do well — she was already so proud of you. You rise into the ranks of the upper-caste and graduate from domestic policy to galactic politics.

This is when you begin to unravel the web your mother had begun to spin.

This is when you meet Ben Solo for a second time in your life, though he’s no longer the freckled, bright-eyed Jedi padawan who served as your knight the summer of your eighteenth birthday. He’s no longer a star-crossed friend, a boy who you’d told yourself that, maybe, one day, you’d marry. 

He’s changed.

It seems Senator Organa, his mother, didn’t have the heart to break yours — she’d kept the truth from you.

(You’d asked her about him two summers ago, asked how training was going. Was Master Luke well? Ben seemed excited to continue under his uncle’s teachings. She’d been guarded in her response, hand on your cheek as a flurry of a senators came and went around you: “He misses you, I’m sure”.)

And Ben? Well, he’d stopped writing years ago.

(You wished for nothing more than to get a penned letter again — his penmanship was an art itself. He liked focusing on writing, he told you once. It shut out the darker parts of him. It was the same darker parts that kept him awake well into the nights that summer he spent as your guard on Cardota.)

Tonight’s dinner was supposed to be purely diplomatic. And yet, you find yourself surrounded by the vulture-like officers of the First Order and their sympathizers. You’re wading in your dead mother’s territory, trying to grasp how she could have ever aligned herself with these men, with this authoritative power. It shows. Your usual poise is shaken, traded in for wide eyes and tamed fear.

Coruscant hums off in the distance, through the balcony doors.

“Supreme Leader Snoke,” the young Commander at the head of the table says, “is most glad that you interested in continuing a working partnership, your majesty.”

The comment feels double-edged. Perhaps it’s the polished Core World accent that does it, or the way the redhead looks down at you – his eyes are cold. You try to hide the evident discomfort in your tone.

But, when you open your mouth to speak, but are silenced by a shadow that enters the room.

He rolls in like a storm and the air turns electric. 

He’s tall, jet-black robes sweeping the ground as he strides through the private quarters of Senator Omni-Po, a First Order constituent. There’s a heaviness in his movements that anchor a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. Seemingly distracted, the man (or monster, you are not sure) moves to pry at the helmet along his jaw.

“Ah, Kylo Ren,” says Commander Hux, “A pleasure for you to finally join us.”

The hair that falls from the helmet is wild.

The second you see the curve of his chin, the sharpness of his nose — there are no words to describe the snap of your heartstrings and the violent burn of memories associated; he must feel the jarring stab of pain in the force.

(Ben Solo has always been hyper-sensitive to the rolling of emotions.)

But, it’s Kylo Ren who looks right at you.

He’s a ghost of the boy he once was — he’s older now, more of a man and handsome all the same. But he looks tired. Angry. Sad. His eyes are darker than you remember. His cheekbones are high and sharp and his face alone cuts you deep.

You feel, then, the icy pass of an intrusion in your thoughts.

You drop your knife.

Standing quickly, you don’t even excuse yourself from dinner. And when Kylo Ren Ben Solo follows you into the quiet hallway, you don’t look back.

He isn’t given the chance to apologize.

But you don’t want an apology anyways.

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He hasn’t stepped foot on Cardota since he was eighteen. 

It’s as beautiful as Ben Solo remembers it.

Tropical, but not suffocatingly so – the warm air of the late summer is thick with something familiar; it dredges up a feeling of nostalgia in his gut. It sticks to his ribs. The smell of the lake below the palace balcony, the smell of dinner being prepared in the kitchens, the smell of the winding flowers scaling the terracotta walls… He remembers it all.

Over the lake sit two moons. They settle nicely against the watery horizon. The sunset drenches him in pinks and blues.

Ben knows he is not at all welcome here.

The meeting had been arranged as a way to negotiate trade in a less official setting – you’d noted the animosity towards the First Order officials during last cycle’s Galactic Senate meeting. It comes as no surprise, even Mon Mothma had difficulty suppressing her evident annoyance with the military outfit operating de facto. 

The First Order, after all, runs amok, like wolves in sheep’s clothing.

You’re cornered by said wolves, bound by contract signed into place by your late-mother; you and your people are tied to the First Order – in trade for the natural resources of your planet (the plastoid composite mined in the Southern regions was a necessity for the troopers armor), they promised protection.

You just hope to be able to prevent them from choking off your resources and discarding you once they’re finished. 

Seeing you again is like being throttled in the mouth with a light-saber hilt. Like the roaring crash of a wave, he’s reminded of the things he’s given up for Snoke, for the First Order, for the Knights of Ren. He’s reminded of you, fingers intertwined with his own, and promises of friendship. Promises of forever. 

You’re just as beautiful as Ben Solo remembers.

Kylo Ren snuffs the thought out like a light.

Hux, that insufferable rabid cur, gestures to the Knight of Ren as if to introduce you both to one another. It’s a direct ploy, a calculated move to throw both of you off balance. 

At once, you both speak:

“We’ve met.”

Your tone is heavy with venom and spite, years of a rejection sharpening to a point that’s aimed for Ben’s throat. Behind his mask, the Knight’s brows quirk. You’d never been one for well-placed micro-aggressions. You were too good natured. His own tone had been, perhaps, too gentle. It earns him a look from Captain Peavey. 

He’s interest is gained, then, wanting nothing more than to go toe to toe with you. There’s something dark churning inside him, speaking intrusive words of malice: why would she still care? It’s been years. Why would you matter? You are nothing, Kylo, nothing. No one. He wants to prove the voice wrong. 

But, you don’t spare him a single glance throughout dinner, even when the mask is removed. 

Kylo Ren leaves Cardota that night frustrated – and thinking of nothing but you. 

Snoke relishes in the idea of a new pawn in the game.

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Ben dreams of you for days on end after – behind thick lashes, memories bathed in a summer sun dance so freely, so real, he forgets about all the heavy horror set in lifelines of his hands. He forgets he lives in the eternal winter of space, imprisoned on a glimmering war machine coasting through the stars.

He forgets he’s not that bright-eyed boy anymore. 

He’s not Ben Solo.

He’s Kylo Ren.

He feels like he’s being torn in half, seams of his heart’s sinews being lacerated with no delicate hand. It’s self punishment, sending him into a deep, deep, deep spiral of self-hatred that tastes just like you. 

(He kissed you once, when you were both running from your titles and being nothing more than teenagers – he can remember the way you’d smiled against his lips, he can remember the taste of your mouth on his. It was the closest he’s ever been to bliss, blindingly bright and perfect.)

Kylo feels he’s nothing but a piece in a bigger game, like he’s being paraded about like a weapon, like some feral Corellian hound on a choke chain. When he’s ordered to accompany Hux and Peavey and the other officers to the hangar to welcome the flurry of Cardotan senators, he looms, rooted in silence that swallows up the conversation around him – he is a sharp, dangerous shadow. He catches a flash of his dark eyes in the mirrored floor, resenting the hollowness there.

He’s not Ben Solo.

But you are royalty. 

You’ve bloomed into a force of nature, poised like you’ve been set in quartz. Cold but breathtaking. You’re swathed in handmaidens, weighed down by a glimmering headdress and a stiff gown and your new role as a young Queen – your strides are long as you exit the transport and cross the hangar floor. A handful of Senators follow at your beckoned gesture, allowing the politicians to shake hands with the present officers of the First Order.

You hang back.

Kylo does the same.

Between you, a sea of people swim in polite conversation and greeting. Between you, the cold crescendo of something like heartbreak laps at his soul. It wanes like a howl in his chest, settled right between his lungs, and when the Knight of Ren looks up, your eyes are set on him.

You’re staring.

For the briefest of moments, he can taste sunshine.

He feels like Ben Solo again. 

Chapter Text

He’s tethered to your orbit.

SHE DESPISES YOU,
YOU WRETCHED LEECH.
YOU ARE THE BIGGEST
DISAPPOINTMENT
OF AN ENTIRE
LINEAGE.

He wants nothing more than to break from it – to hurry away so that hopeful part of him can die, so he smother the burning beat of his heart every time you look at him. You’re like the sun, bringing an end to an eternal night. But, still, he runs from that horizon and hides in the shadows. 

He doesn’t like how the warmth of the light feels on his fragile soul.

He can’t get away from you.

Between you both lays years of things unsaid. 

You sit now, toe to toe, across from one another at a dinner table full of political vultures and dogs of war. He wears thick, black robes, stark in contrast to the time-less femininity of your lace gown. He’s more of a man now, filled out and broad and tall, but a shadow all the same – the circles under his eyes are remnants of sleepless nights spent tormenting himself over your love lost. 

WORTHLESS
AND HORRID,
LITTLE SOLO.
YOU ARE BUT
A DISGRACE
OF A NAME.

You’re stuck on the way he seems to be gone – it’s apparent now, in the light of the palace, that he’s been hollowed out by some twisted darkness. When you were younger, he’d sat across from you in that same spot. He’d been alive back then, a spitfire padawan with a lopsided grin and freckles. He was fun and bright and cherished. He was good and honest and maybe a bit reckless, but he was good

You wonder what changed.

(Guilt bites at you – was it the temptation of love? Something forbidden that you’d unknowingly stoked when you’d been young and naive? Did you do this to him? Did you crack open his soul for the dark to seep in?) 

He doesn’t eat, only swigs at the wine in his cup. It stains his mouth a dark crimson. You wonder when the First Order began requiring that their cherished hell-hound attend dinner parties. Perhaps it was his own will, though you saw no want to be sitting across from you.

(It was as per Snoke’s order. Keep an eye on you.)

SHE IS CUNNING,
DO NOT LET
HER BEAUTY
BLIND YOU,
WORM.

“Your majesty.”

Both of your gazes snap to the head of the table. It’s Hux, all brandished charm and wistful arrogance. His glass is raised.

“To the promise of cooperation,” he cheers, “And continued partnership with the First Order.”

You let the words ruin your appetite.

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wouldn’t it be nice
to kiss him again?
to love him and
laugh like you were
young and full of life —

You haven’t dreamed of him in a long time.

(Laughter shared in vanilla sunshine; the citrine sweetness of a smile and a kiss; hands in hands and hearts cradled close in reckless youth.)

When you gasp awake, you’re greeted by nothing but the quiet of space and hum of the Finalizer as it coasts through the aftermath of a dying nebula cluster. Waves of cosmic dust ripple among the stars, beating against the hull and glittering like crystals in the wind outside the massive windows that cast limited light across the room.

This glimmering war-machine, inhabitable and inhospitable, breeds the unsettled feeling in your anchoring heart in a pit of despair.

You gather yourself, swathed in a tuelled robe and delicate nightgown, and set out to clear your mind.

Kylo Ren, now forever knee-deep in momentary reprieves of fantasy, tries to ward off the cracks of light that singe his soul through the exhaustive act of war.

It only drives those broken pieces of himself farther apart, heart aching at the shadow of himself driving the madness. The violence that weaves itself into his psyche is poetic, almost. Suddenly, the world is just as chaotic and gore-filled  as his thoughts.

He is nothing more than rabid Corellian hound they’re trying to break.

YOU ARE ALREADY
BROKEN, YOUNG
JEDI-KILLER. YOU
HAVE BEEN BROKEN
FOR A LONG TIME,
WRETCHED WORM.

He arrives back aboard the Finalizer muddied and bloody and exhausted. His saber is still held tight in a locked grip. His boot taps, smeared with the mud of Circarpous V; his tunic and robes are soaked with rain and remnants of war. The buzz of a kill sits in his veins.

His ears ring in the silence of the ship’s lift.

Ben hopes that maybe, just maybe, he’ll finally be able to slip into the bliss of sleep for a few hours; if not, he’ll happily make use of the tincture he’d pocketed from the medbay. 

He’s not above it.

He’s not above anything anymore.

He’s two beats from putting himself on death’s doorstep.

The elevator, deafeningly quiet, rings when it reaches the called floor – twenty below his own. He jumps, dissociation shattering at the sound. The respirator to his mask hisses as he drops his head, moving over to make room for the next occupant –

And there you are.

The doors sweep open and like an angel on high, you stand before him.

The mere sight of you is like a punch to the chest. The air rushes out of his lungs and you recoil slightly in disgust.

Your composure, quartz-like and so cold it burns, is regained in a blink as you step over the threshold of the elevator floor. Your gilded slippers mingle with the rust colored run-off from his boots and overcoat. You, however, do not flinch. Instead, you cross your hands in front of the delicate fabric of your robe, lilac colors kissing your skin. Tumbling plaits of curls pool around your shoulders, mussed from a restless sleep, as you sweep the train of your nightgown up into long fingers.

He towers over you, looming like a shadow.

Your eyes are set ahead, ignoring him as if he doesn’t exist. All while he can’t bear to look away.

You’re the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen,

He’s lightheaded. He’s holding his breath.

(Or is that just you?)

SO SWEET, WASN’T
SHE, WORM? THE
LIGHT OF YOUR DAYS
AS A YOUNG BOY.
AND NOW, SHE CAN
NOT STAND THE SIGHT
OF YOU.

Five floors pass.

Your voice is low; veiled in anger.

“You’re staring.”

Ben swallows. His masked head snaps forward, then, grip tightens on his saber as his boot begins to tap once more.

“You should be in bed.”

“I am not being held hostage,” you snap quickly, words dripping in regal hostility, “I can come and go as I please.”

Another five floors tick past.

The silence is suffocating. You wish you could scream at him – curse him. Anything. For all the years of heartbreak and all the years of promise. Here you are, feeling like nothing but a broken, silly, little girl. You shift on your feet and wince at the stain of blood creeping up your slippers.

“… Couldn’t sleep?”

“What do you care?” you bite, more forcefully than you anticipate.

“I don’t.”

OH, BUT YOU DO,
DON’T YOU?
AFTER ALL THESE
YEARS, YOU STILL
HAVE A HOLE IN
YOUR DYING HEART
WHERE SHE ONCE
BELONGED.

Your anger laps at the shores of his mind like a knife passing over his skin. It grazes his composure. He’s always been sensitive to the force. Your hatred is making is stomach churn. It carves deep, cracking open his ribs and devouring his heart whole.

The doors open with a chime, the wing to his bedroom awaiting.

Ben swallows down a wave of nausea, straightens his shoulders, and steps out.

You watch, jaw tightened.

He turns on his boot’s heel, pausing as the doors begin to close.

One gloved hand reaches out, then, slamming to stop the doors from closing and sending you off to stalk about the bridge.

And still, you stand your ground.

“Do you hate me?”

Your eyes swim with confliction.

And that’s the only answer he needs.