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Off The Fucking Rails

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When I opened my eyes for the first time on board the Supremacy, I genuinely thought I was just back in the hospital again. I was staring up at a sterile white ceiling, could not remember for the life of me how I got there, and it smelled like a hospital. There was even something close to my head that was beeping like a heart monitor.

The first thing that was off, though, was that I wasn’t wearing a patient ID bracelet. The second thing was my clothing, which was definitely not a shitty hospital gown, or the shabby sweats that my mom usually brought me. No socks with grips on the bottom that are always two sizes too big, either. Just a plain set of black pants and a black shirt with long sleeves. Way too chic for psych ward duds.

Before I could deduce further, it became even more possible that I was not in the hospital because a robot sauntered up to me and started talking.

“Oh, you are awake. That is good. How do you feel?” it asked, in a tinny little voice that, to its credit, only sounded slightly programmed. 

“What?” was all I said at first. I’ve hallucinated before, and sometimes I even know what I’m seeing isn’t real. But the weird feeling in my gut that I get when that happens, the strange uncanny quality of those things like they’re superimposed over my reality, was missing. The more I looked around, the more I realized that everything was way too shiny, too white, too smooth to be the hospital in Lancaster. It looked like a fucking Mac store.

“I said, how do you feel?” the robot repeated obligingly.

“Um, fine, I think,” I muttered as I sat up and tried to look at everything around me all at once. “Where the fuck am I? Is this the Los Angeles hospital? This is totally not in-network for my insurance.” I was hanging onto that whole reality thread real hard, which is also not typical of an episode.

“You are in the medical bay aboard the First Order flagship Supremacy. I am a medical droid, designation M-47777.”

Yeah, I wasn’t buying it, either.

“Oh, that’s pretty funny. This is a new one. Star Wars, huh?” This is how I generally talk to myself about my hallucinations while they’re happening. I try not to talk to the hallucinations. That only encourages them.

“The Supremacy is a mega-class star dreadnaught, actually,” the robot- well, the droid- corrected me.

“This isn’t the kind of Star Wars hallucination I’d prefer to have, though, if I’m honest. There’s nothing glamorous going on, I don’t have a light saber,” I rambled to myself. “No sexy outfit, no super hot makeout session with Kylo Ren-”

“Supreme Leader Ren will want to speak with you soon,” the droid interjected. I couldn’t ignore that one.

“Wait, really? Why?” I asked. This might get exciting, after all!

“Because of your medical evaluation. While you were unconscious, we performed a full physical examination. The results indicate that you have a condition that the Supreme Leader feels means that you…” Here, it seemed almost like it was reluctant to say the words. “...are a very powerful Force-sensitive.” 

“Now that’s more like it!” I grinned. Hell yeah, this is what being crazy is all about! Immediately, I started thinking of all the shit I’d totally do if the Force worked. Even if it was a hallucination, it wasn’t going away, so might as well have fun, right? 

“There is no medical evaluation that conclusively indicates these abilities,” the droid added. “This is the belief of the Supreme Leader.”

“What, you don’t think the Force is real, nurse robot?” I asked it.

“I have no opinion,” it replied flatly. 

“Do I have a whole bunch of midichlorians? Is my power level over 9000?” I was making myself laugh, at least.

“Midichlorians are a myth.” 

“Sure, sure,” I replied, but to be honest I was staring at the droid and trying to make it float. I didn’t like the prequels, anyway. 

“I need to perform a full mental evaluation before I can report to the Supreme Leader,” said the droid. “May I have your name?” My very first impulse was to just make something up, to lie about my name, because that’s always my first impulse at hospitals. Don't ask. I decided to go with it, given the circumstances.

“Aeon Flux,” is what I chose. I thought it was pretty funny.

Then the droid launched into a lot of questions, but they weren’t the usual ones about how many days out of the past thirty you’d felt hopeless, or something. I told it I was born in Greenville, South Carolina but had moved with my parents to Lancaster, California when I was 7 years old. When it asked me what planet that was on, I said Earth. Even the poor droid couldn’t hide that it was totally confused about those answers, but recorded them anyway. I decided I was hallucinating a self-insert fanfiction at that point, so I’d already started thinking about what parts of the plot I was going to try to fuck with. While I rattled off the familiar list of schools I’d dropped out of and jobs I’d lost to the befuddled droid, I wondered if I looked hotter now, or something. That was how fanfics worked, right? Or maybe it didn’t matter and Kylo Ren would be hella into me anyway. The droid and I did basic cognitive exercises that I breezed through, and a handful of logic puzzles, memory drills, a bunch of shit I haven’t been tested for since I was in grade school. Just when I thought the test was finally over, it started asking me weirder stuff- about responding to interpersonal situations, authority, shit like that. I thought it would never fucking end. My stomach started to growl.

“Thank you, Aeon Flux,” it said finally. “Would you like to hear your results?” 

“Sure.” I waited to hear a litany of amazing, fanfic-like qualities about myself.

“Aeon Flux. Height 160.02 centimeters, bodyweight 58.9--” 

“I don’t need the basics,” I cut him off as soon as he started saying my weight. Let’s just say I don’t look at the scale at the doctor’s office for a reason. I was grateful not to know the conversion rate between kilograms and pounds.

“Of course. You have scored above average in abstract reasoning, oral and written communication in Basic, pattern recognition, emotional intelligence, and adaptive learning. You have an average score in critical analysis, logical reasoning, creative problem-solving, metacognition, and short-term visual memory. You have below average scores in numerical reasoning, organization, all remaining areas of memory, cognitive focus, and compliance.” I frowned. All of that seemed disappointingly accurate.

“Any good news?” I joked.

“I do not underst-”

“It’s okay, nevermind. You can go get Kylo Ren now,” I told the droid. I was tired of the boring part of this hallucination.

“I will inform the Supreme Leader of your status.” It seemed a little annoyed as it lumbered away.

“Wait, can I have something to eat?” I called after it. “Please?” The droid stopped in its tracks, and didn’t turn around.

“I can bring a ration in just a few moments.”

“Thank you, Nurse Robot.”

“Please do not call me that.”

“Okay, Lucky Sevens.” I swear to God I heard it sigh in frustration before it started walking away again. I tried not to giggle.

It wasn’t actually all that much later that Kylo Ren showed up. I was eating the ration- which was a rectangular block of chewy stuff that honestly might have been worse than hospital food, if that’s even possible- and the droid reappeared very suddenly.

“Aeon Flux, the Supreme Leader is on his way,” it said. “I advise you do your best not to upset him. He is not a patient man.” The way the droid appeared to be genuinely warning me kind of put me on edge, despite my general conviction that we were most likely going to fall in love immediately and rush off to his quarters to make sweet, sweet love to each other.

“So I’ve heard,” I replied. I was gonna play it cool, though. “Thank you, Lucky Sevens.”

I think I heard the stomping before he even entered the medical bay. I definitely heard it once he entered, and then I heard the shuffling of a bunch of other feet, too. My heart was in my throat, I won’t lie. Was he really gonna be as hot as Adam Driver?

When he rounded the corner into my little alcove with literally like six other people in uniforms behind him, I froze completely. He walked right up to my bed, standing not five feet away. He was really, really freaking tall, and absolutely as hot as Adam Driver. But his entire aura was fucking terrifying. It was like I was being stared at by a wolf who was just waiting for the right moment to rip out my throat. He wasn’t wearing the cape or the mask or anything, and somewhere in the back of my head I realized that I was in the part of plot that came after he’d busted the mask and murdered Snoke. Which immediately triggered another realization. Holy fucking shit. The next movie hasn’t even come out yet! I don’t know what happens next! What the fuck!! Worst self-insert ever!! But at that point my brain froze too, because I was staring into his eyes. They were so intense that it might have been really hot, if he hadn’t also been giving the strong impression that he’d kill me at the drop of a hat. 

The medical droid was beside me, and gave a weird little mechanical cough. I realized how long me and Kylo had been silently staring each other down. I also realized I was probably supposed to talk first, but no words came except Poe’s response to the same problem in Episode VII, and I wasn’t about to go there.

“Aeon Flux, this is Supreme Leader Kylo Ren,” the droid offered, like an awkward introduction at a dinner party. Its head gave a tiny little nod in his direction.

“Uh,” I replied. I know, I’m charming. “Hi. I’m… Aeon.”

“Why were you on board the command shuttle when we found you?” Kylo asked, blunt as I probably should have expected.

“I honest to God do not remember,” I told him, which was completely true. I had no idea what he was talking about. “Like, the last thing I remember is passing out on my bed in my own damn house, holding my guitar.”

“Your what?” He narrowed his eyes, which made him scarier.

“Guitar,” I repeated. “It’s an instrument,” I added quickly.

“An instrument of what?”

“Um, music. It makes music.” The part of my brain that still firmly believed this was a fanfic hallucination suddenly wished I had my guitar. That would melt his angry exterior and make him fall in love with me, right? Or at least it would make me feel better.

“I see.” He was looking at me very curiously. I didn’t look away from his eyes. Always gotta show them you’re not scared, at the hospital.

“The results of the testing indicate an inconsistent memory, Supreme Leader. She is not lying,” piped up the droid. I felt intense gratitude at that moment for its assistance, despite the ‘she’ pronoun. Fuck. Being non-binary in space was not a struggle I had anticipated. I would have to address that later. “The neural scanning combined with test results indicate that there is a severe state of electrical fluctuation in her brain, and wave-particle activity is extremely heightened. This can and often does result in memory loss, as well as delusional beliefs and impaired cognitive function.” Finally, words I was used to hearing in medical settings.

“Who trained you?” Kylo asked me.

“I don’t remember,” I said again. I was playing along with the meta-plot thing. If they thought I had Force powers, I might need to not totally make it obvious that I actually didn’t right off the bat. “If I got trained I don’t remember. Not Luke Skywalker, that’s for sure.” Now, he seemed angry.

“You must be trained!” he growled, and he held up a hand. I flinched, fully expecting him to hit me, but he just held it there in midair and I realized that he was trying to use the Force on me. But nothing was happening. The air was incredibly tense, all the officers behind him were staring at me as if they expected me to rise up off the ground and start choking. Kylo himself looked increasingly pissed off that I wasn’t doing exactly that. “How else could you resist?” he muttered.

I looked at the medical droid, who gave the tiniest shrug, then at the officers, then smugly back at Kylo Ren. It took me until after the fact, of course, to realize that this wasn’t working because I was not actually part of the universe. I was self-inserted from somewhere else, where the Force didn’t exist. At the time I just thought I was hot shit.

“Maybe you’re just going about it the wrong way. Maybe I got trained to resist attack, and some other more subtle method might work better. Sir.” I added the last part because I wasn’t actually trying to piss him off. I wondered if my implication that he should try being… nice… to me was too heavy-handed.  “I don’t remember, so it’s just an idea.” He growled at me and lowered his hand. 

“So it seems,” he said.

“Am I a prisoner?” I asked him bluntly.

“Should you be?” was his reply. Touche, hottie.

“I don’t think so. I’m mostly harmless.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Does everyone know how bad you wanted to make out with Rey in that elevator, before she made her grand exit all by herself?” I asked him tartly, raising an eyebrow at the last bit. I should probably have kept that one to myself, but I was getting annoyed at the lack of making out going on. Kylo got real stiff, and glared at me. Okay, making him think I could look into his mind and was just keeping his secret out of the kindness of my heart was a good flex. There was another long, quiet moment. “Listen. I just want to, um, relearn all this Force stuff that I probably forgot. I keep, uh, seeing things... knowing things, you know, the whole nine yards. Can you help me?” Why had the apprentice angle not occurred to me before?

“No,” Kylo replied. Wait, what?

“Why the hell not?” Like, fuck you, buddy! This is MY fanfiction!

“I am the Supreme Leader. I don’t have time.”

“You also don’t have an apprentice, since Rey blew you off. Twice,” I pointed out. The officers behind him were whispering to one another, but a glare from him shut them up real fast. “If I can’t get it together, then you can kick me out of the program. That seems fair. But I think I got this.” For a minute, he just looked at me.

“Fine, but your compliance scores leave something to be desired. You might want to work on that.” And just like that, the motherfucker turned around and walked out of the medical bay, his gaggle of subordinates trailing behind him. I put my hands on my hips.

“What the fuck was that?” I asked nobody in particular.

“You are very lucky you are not dead,” the droid pointed out. “I think the only reason that you are not, is because Supreme Leader thinks you might be stronger with the Force than he is.”

“This is starting to feel more like a hallucination than a fanfic,” I complained.

“What is supposed to be the difference?” It looked at me and I could almost see the exasperation on its metal face. 

“Hallucinations are out of my control, usually.” I folded my arms and looked down at my lap, the full weight of that sentence only hitting me after I said it. I looked at the remains of my ration, far from hungry. The droid was silent for a moment. 

“I will see about getting you your own quarters and some clothes. The ones you were wearing when they found you were not very presentable.” I guess I had been wearing my pajamas. Which are a pair of underwear and a t-shirt with holes in it, but it was a little late to be embarrassed about that. The droid rumbled away to its station, full of blinking lights and screens. “Oh yes,” it said suddenly, as though remembering something. “I think you can have this back.” 

When I looked up, the droid was handing me my guitar. I took it, completely puzzled but comforted nonetheless.

Chapter Text

My quarters was nothing to write home about. Just a little room with a little couch and a low table, a little bed, a little closet built into the wall, and a tiny bathroom. You may notice a theme, here. There was even a little sliver of a window looking out into the crushing void of space. It turned out the clothes I was wearing were storm trooper regulation underclothes, and they provided me with more of those “until something more suitable could be procured.” They did give me some really good boots, though, black leather and sturdy with a steel toe. 

What they didn’t provide was jack diddly shit for me to do, except to return to the medical bay for daily monitoring. Even my meals were brought to me in my room, and though I was technically free to roam around the ship, I frankly was hesitant to do that. How elaborate could one hallucination actually be? So for the entire second day, I played my guitar and sang until my fingers hurt, and tried to figure out how to use the standard datapad that was in my room. 

By the third day, though, I was so profoundly bored that I was ready to get in trouble. Normally in the hospital, they make you talk to a therapist and go to group like every day. They at least have a lounge with a TV, for fuck’s sake. My brain was running itself in circles, and I was starting to get really uncomfortable with how long this whole thing was going on. In my agitation, I wandered to the medical bay way before my scheduled appointment.

“Really Lucky Sevens, I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do around here,” I started saying immediately upon entering the alcove where the droid was standing dutifully at its station doing god-knows-what. “I mean how am I supposed to master the Force with Kylo not even around and also not making out with me, really lowers the incentive yanno, I just, I can’t figure out the little tablet in my room like I dunno if there’s something to read on there or what, but anyway the window is so small and I think if I try to play every song I know on my guitar one more time my fingers are gonna fall off--”

“Aeon Flux, please calm down,” the droid interrupted.

“Literally how? How though, Sevens, I mean this whole hallucination has been fun except it hasn’t, but I am stuck right now and it’s driving me nuts, I don’t even eat in the cafeteria or know where the gym is or if there’s a pool-”

“I can provide you with this information, provided you sit down for a moment and let me run your routine tests.” The droid emerged from his station and started poking buttons on the wall by the little bed. I promptly plopped down and awaited the sound of the scanner beeping behind me.

“It’s either that or a tranquilizer, buddy, because I can’t sleep for shit, and it’s dark outside all the time ‘cuz we’re in fucking space, so, I mean, there’s that, what are you gonna do? Is there a sunlight simulator? Humans need vitamin D, yanno, and me I have a chronic deficiency so that’s not great. Do y’all even scan for vitamins? Do you like plug all the vitamins into the food? ‘Cuz you can’t absorb some of them through the intestinal lining, yanno, it’s not always like that--”

“Aeon Flux. You are in a very unusual state.” The droid was observing whatever its scanner was saying as red and blue lines and dots flickered all around my head.

“Really? You don’t say, I mean I’ve only been hallucinating that I’m in a Star Wars fanfiction for three days, normally the lithium would have kicked in by now--”

“You have highly elevated stress hormones, dopamine levels have been profoundly unstable since you arrived, wave-particle phasing is nearly constant, and electrical activity is synchronizing in bursts.” It looked at me. “You are talking quite a lot, and very fast.” 

“All that shit is happening right now?” I asked it, fascinated. “Can you fix it? Wait, what is wave-particle phasing? THAT sounds crazy. They don’t know about that back on Earth, at least not in brains. Damn I should take some notes, wouldn’t it be wild if I got home and changed the world because of a hallucination? What’s the Nobel Peace Prize but for neuroscience? Fucking cured everybody’s depression and shit with wave-particle phasing, like I’m a goddamn physicist, that’s hilarious. Ask me how I learned and tell ‘em I used the Force. Make their fucking award float, where’s my award for THAT? You know I always wanted--”

“Aeon Flux. How much have you been sleeping since you woke up two days ago?” the droid asked.

“I don’t have any idea, Lucky Sevens, it’s fucking space outside,” I laughed. “Like, maybe a couple hours?”

“Since you awoke 48 hours ago?”

“Something like that, I guess.”

“How do you feel right now?”

“I just need something to do, man. Feel like I got fucking bugs inside my brain, like I wanna chew off my own foot, and I might have thrown the tablet in my room once. Twice. It was getting on my nerves, okay? It kept shutting itself off, or something, I don’t know. I thought about throwing it at the window to find out if it really is space out there--”

“Even if you could breach the window material, why would you want to do that?” It seemed baffled. “You are an organic life form. If you breach the hull of the ship, you will die.”

“I was just curious!”

“Do you always struggle with this casual lack of self-preservation?” 

“Only when I’m manic!” I laughed- and then I realized what I’d said. “Oh. Fuck. Fucking shit fuck balls holy fucking shit. Fuck. Oh my God.” About a million distinct thoughts all ran through my brain at once, which is something that’s difficult to fathom if you’ve never actually experienced it before. But the one that kept repeating itself was, Holy shit what if you really are on the Supremacy what if this isn’t a hallucination what if this is really fucking happening and you were stable when you got here and now you haven’t been taking your meds for three days???????

“Aeon Flux, you have been silent for thirty seconds. Are you alright?” the droid inquired, seeming more legitimately concerned than it had since I arrived. 

“No,” I replied, staring at the wall for a moment.

“What is the matter?”

“Am I really here? Is this real?” I looked at the droid’s vaguely human face, desperate to hear that I was in LA Hospital, that I was the same kind of batshit crazy as always, and everything would be fine once the lithium kicked in.

“Are you asking if you are really in the medical bay of the First Order flagship Supremacy, in the year 35 ABY?” It stared blankly at me. How do you know if a droid is trolling you?

“Yes, I am asking that.”

“You are really here, in the medical bay of--”

“Okay, Lucky. I get it. Thank you.” I looked down at my boots. I could feel the impending cliff of the drop, the perilous fall from one state to another. I knew that feeling so well, had written so much shitty poetry about it, but hadn’t felt it like this in years. What if you are stuck here? What if you are trapped here? What if you can’t go home? This is not fun anymore. I heard the droid pressing buttons behind me.

“You do not seem well, Aeon Flux. Your stress hormone levels are dropping very quickly. Wave-particle fluctuation is now unstable. I recommend that you stay here tonight, so that I can monitor you.”

“Yeah.” My brain still felt like it was buzzing, but now the thoughts were all clumping together and turning into mush. Terrified mush. I didn’t move.

“Let me go and find bed dressing for you,” the droid suggested. “And perhaps something to read?” 

“Read?” I perked up, just a little. “Yeah, thanks.” I like to think the droid would have offered me a little smile then, if its face could move.

 

-----

 

Thirty-six hours after that, I was in full blown depression. Without getting into the details, my bipolar is the rapid-cycling type. Sometimes it’s REALLY rapid. Stress triggers those cycles, and changes within the cycles sometimes too.

This had gone from kind of funny and weird to extremely fucking stressful in short order. 

I was lying on the hospital bed under a gray blanket, with the godawful white light of the medical bay having been mercifully dimmed in my alcove. Lucky Sevens had brought me a little tablet that had a bunch of history books on it, totally unaware that I was a huge nerd from a non-Star-Wars dimension who already knew mostly everything in the damn book already. It was laying on the little bedside table the droid had pulled out of the wall for me. Every time I looked at it, I felt guilty for not reading it. I felt guilty for everything, to be honest. For being crazy in the first place, for lying about what I knew, for random shitty things I’d done a long time ago. Depression is like that. I was guilty, and terrified, and trapped, and totally fucking screwed, in turns. Kylo Ren hadn’t even talked to me since the first day, and he was acting exactly like he did in the movies- like an asshole. Fuck that guy, I thought for the tenth time that day. 

Then, things took an unexpected turn.

So they have clocks in Star Wars, turns out, but time feels like a sham in space when the ship is active at all times and the personnel have to regulate their own schedules. The clock on my wall said 2200. I was just staring at it, lost in sludgy awfulness, when the little beep that signaled that someone was requesting to enter my alcove rang. I looked over at the corner where the wall ended, and there was a figure who was kind of backlit by the light in the rest of the medical bay.

“Hello?” I asked impassively.

“Aeon?” came a voice, and it sounded just like Kylo Ren. Except it also sounded a little timid, which was not very Kylo-Ren-like. “Can I come in?” 

“Yes?” I replied, confused. Why would the Supreme Asshole ask before entering my not-even-a-room at the hospital? The figure moved towards me, not stomping at all, and pulled a little stool on wheels out from under the foot of my bed. When he sat down on it, and more light fell on his face from around the corner, my mouth fell open.

Is that… Matt the Radar Technician?

“I heard you weren’t doing so well,” he said. “I thought I might come by to check in.” His hair wasn’t the goofy blonde wig from the SNL skit, it was just Kylo Ren’s hair but blonde. He did have some big glasses on. More than that, though, his mannerisms were totally different from Kylo Ren’s. He was quiet, slouched a little as though he was embarrassed about how tall he was, his eyes were softer, and he was dressed in a gray jumpsuit. The orange utility vest was missing, of course. 

“Oh. Uh, thank you,” I stuttered. “Is… is your name Matt?” For a moment, he looked surprised.

“Wow. You really are strong with the Force. I mean, my full name is Mattau Anto, but my friends call me Matt. At least they would, if I had any friends.” He gave a little half-smile.

I was totally, completely, utterly confused. He wasn’t acting like he was just a blonde Kylo, even though he looked just like a blonde Kylo. If it was just Kylo, wouldn’t he whisper something about how he just acted like an asshole to keep the subordinates in-line, and this blossoming friendship/romance was our little secret? He also wasn’t acting like the ridiculous SNL skit Matt, of course. I started to wonder why I was still thinking anything around me was going to play out like a fanfiction would. Or even like the canon, apparently.

“How… how did you find out about me?” I tested the waters.

“Everyone knows about you, silly. You’re the most interesting news that’s happened since old man Snoke bit the big one,” he giggled. I swear he had an almost feminine energy, like he was just a lonely girl in the psych ward who had elected to befriend me. It was extremely endearing.

“Oh. Well, don’t feel bad, Matt. I don’t have any friends either.”

“Nobody expects you to, hun. You don’t even know how you got here,” he reassured me, patting the edge of the bed. 

“What do you do on the ship, Matt?” I asked. Something to do with radar, perhaps? 

“I’m an Energy Field And Detection Systems Specialist,” he answered with a smile. So basically... “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing. I just… it’s nothing. Do you like that job?”

“Well enough,” he replied with a shrug. “It’s quiet, down in the technical levels. I like that about it. Don’t have to think too hard. What about you?”

“I… it’s a long story. I’ve had a lot of jobs. Never kept them for long.” 

“Why not?”

“Um…” I wondered if this really was Kylo, playing me for more information. I wondered if it was even real. It’s not easy to tell what’s paranoid and what’s a hallucination when you’re in a fucking fictional universe. “My mind is… different from most people’s. It makes doing shit like working or going to school really hard for me.”

“Believe it or not, even if it’s not the same problem, I know exactly how you feel,” Matt told me, smiling softly. He was fucking adorable. 

“Yeah?” I said, fidgeting with the edge of the blanket I was curled under. “I’ve been trying to decide if this place is even real for five days, now.”

“Any luck?” he asked. Was he joking with me about being crazy?

“Um… no, actually. None at all. I feel…” My eyes started to water, which was embarrassing, but there was no stopping it. Nevermind that I was actually filled with crushing despair, and had every reason to be upset. “I feel trapped. Like I don’t know if I’m just in my own brain, or if I’m physically somewhere I wasn’t trying to be. I don’t know what’s real anymore, and I just want to go home.” I curled up into a tighter ball, looking away from Matt in my shame, shutting my eyes. After a moment, though, I heard him shift and felt his big hand swipe a thumb across my cheek, gently wiping away a tear trail. It was so nice for someone- even a non-canon character- to be kind to me, that I couldn’t even question it anymore. I looked back up at him as he leaned over me, one elbow on his knee. He was enormous.

“So what if it’s real or not, you know?” he asked. “I mean, it’s not going away, is it?” I shook my head. It most certainly wasn’t. “So, here you are. Maybe one day you’ll wake up back home, just like you woke up here. Who knows. But while you’re here, might as well, you know. Be here.” I blinked at him for a moment. He made it sound so simple. My depressive mind was railing against the idea of acceptance- literally every other phase of grief was roaring, active, stuffing miserable thoughts into my brain. But at the same time, with him there treating me like a person, I felt… better. Funny how that works.

“I don’t know how to be here,” I confessed. “I’ve never been here before. In this place. Mentally, and physically for all I know.”

“Yeah, they said you couldn’t remember much, and everything you talked about in your evaluation was… well. It’s okay. Just start over fresh, fuck it.” He leaned back into a proper sitting position on the stool, spinning from side to side a little. 

“I’m supposed to be getting trained to use the Force,” I told him, very quietly. I still wasn’t sure if I could trust him, but there was only one way to find out.

“Ooooh, by the Supreme Leader?” He jokingly batted his eyelashes. “Very fancy. You’re much more important than I am. I just scrub the floors. You sure you wanna hang out with me?” I looked at him, trying to put the puzzle together. Was he just a separate person from Kylo? Triplet-fic style?

“You’re the only person on this ship who’s been nice to me, or even talked to me, so. Yes. I would love to hang out with you,” I replied. Fuck it, right?

There’s a little smile,” he cooed, grinning, pointing at my face. “I saw it. You can’t take it back now.” I blushed, but his teasing just made me smile more. I pulled the edge of my blanket up around my face. What the fuck! Why is Matt so cute and nice????

“Can you show me around?” I asked him shyly. 

“Sure thing, hun. But not until tomorrow, after-hours. I gotta head out, now.”

“When’s that?”

“1900 hours! You wanna meet me down on T3 aft?” I stared at him like he’d just spoken French. No, scratch that, I remembered at least a little French from high school. More like Russian. 

“What?” I asked hopelessly. He laughed.

“I”m sorry. You really don’t know your way around the ship at all, do you?”

“Absolutely not even a little bit,” I admitted, shaking my head. “And this is a fucking enormous ship.” 

“Okay. I’ll come get you from here. Bring your datapad, we’ll get the map up and running on it.”

“Um… will you show me how to work the datapad tomorrow, too? Mine keeps turning itself off.” His smile was full of affectionate exasperation.

“I have my work cut out for me, don’t I?” 

Chapter Text

When Matt came to get me in my alcove, I had been waiting for that moment basically all day. When he pressed the chime my face lit up. 

“Hi!” I said, springing out of bed and rounding the corner. In the vivid light of the rest of the medical bay, Matt really did look just like a slouchy blonde Kylo with glasses in a gray jumpsuit. His pale skin was dotted with moles and I think the blonde hair actually made his complexion look more flushed and rosy, which really just compounded his cuteness. 

“Oh wow! You’re really smiling today!” he commented with a sweet, slightly goofy grin.

“Well, I had something to look forward to,” I said with a shrug. He laughed shyly and flushed a little, and I thought I was gonna loose my goddamn mind.

“I’m sorry I didn’t plan something more exciting, now,” he lamented as we turned to walk out of the medical bay. I scanned around to make sure Lucky Sevens wasn’t there to get mad at me for leaving this late.

“The only thing on my schedule has been brain scans. Anything would be exciting at this point.” 

“Are you feeling better today?”

“Yeah, kind of. It’s hard to tell. Sometimes I feel great but my brain actually isn’t doing so hot. Don’t think I’m there yet, today, since I slept most of the day, but still.”

“That… sounds like a nightmare. How do you know when you’re just feeling better or when you’re actually better?”

“I don’t,” I replied honestly. “Not until I do something… I dunno. Crazy, or stupid, or both.”

“Oh no. Can I do anything to help?” He sounded like me if I was talking to someone who was in a bad way. I’m a caretaker type, and I was starting to think that Matt was, too.

“Just… let me know if I start talking a lot, and really fast.”

“Okay, I can do that,” he agreed cheerfully. We walked through pretty empty hallways that all looked exactly the same to me, while Matt did mysterious things to my datapad.

“Oh, it wasn’t calibrated! That’s why it was shutting down. Wow, I was overthinking it. Makes sense, in retrospect. I can set it up for you,” he informed me, tapping away at the screen. I watched him, fascinated, as he showed me the most basic of basic things about how to use it. It reminded me of an iPad a lot more than I expected, but the screen was mostly black with red or white text and conspicuously lacking in annoying advertisements. By the time we arrived at a part of the ship that didn’t look exactly like every other part, I was entirely lost. Matt was loading up the map.

“So, we are currently at the entrance to the technical levels, where I work. I thought we would start here, because it’s really quiet, and they span the entire bottom quarter of the ship. So, anywhere we go, we will be directly under other parts of the ship you’ll want to know about. If you can remember the layout down here, you can find your way pretty much anywhere else in the ship, except for a couple one-off places like the command level.” He pointed to the map on the datapad, which was now showing a layout that resembled the foyer we were in, including the doors directly in front of us and a dot which obviously represented the datapad.

“Oh, like a GPS!” I replied. Matt’s smile was still on his face, but he was clearly confused as to what I meant. “It’s, don’t worry, it’s another... thing. Back home stuff.”

“Ah. Okay, so you need an ID badge with clearance to get in here,” he told me, pulling a card out of his pocket that did not resemble the silly one from the skit at all. “I… may or may not have made you a copy of one.” Suddenly his hand moved, and pulled a second ID card out from behind the first one with a huge grin. My eyes flew wide open.

“Can you do that? Are you gonna get in trouble?”

“Only if you do something really, really stupid. But this ship isn’t delicate. Even if you somehow accidentally damaged one of the accessible parts, it would be contained and repaired before anything terrible happened. That said, please don’t do something stupid if you can help it,” he implored me.

“What if I can’t help it?” I asked nervously. Mania does crazy things, literally.

“Just beep me from the datapad. I’ll do whatever I can to help, I promise.”

“Thank you. I promise I will try not to do anything stupid, too.” He held the card out to me, and gestured towards the door. I took it and approached the door, holding the card up to a blinking red light on the console. It slid open with that iconic sound, and I looked back at Matt and grinned like a five-year-old before we walked in.

They were darker than the upstairs halls, with lights that ran along the tunnel wall at waist level pointing down over seams in the metal. I assumed that beneath the seams were access points to the innards of the ship where the ‘specialists’ could get in to do maintenance and repairs. It was quiet, and I could see why he liked it down here.

“It’s off-hours, so there might be next to nobody down here. There’s a guard station every five kilometers, but we’re very far away from the only places where anyone can enter or exit the ship, so it’s not easy to get down here before a lot more security shows up.” 

“Five kilometers? Jesus,” I exclaimed. I knew that this was a big ship, like the size of a city, but damn. Being inside it was overwhelming.

“There’s a reason it’s the headquarters, hun,” he replied, chuckling. “Here, come with me. I can show you the waystation I eat lunch at. Riveting, I know.”

“I’m fascinated,” I assured him, watching the dot move along on the datapad as we walked. The whole venture was pretty much exactly the right combination of excitement and calm that I needed. Plus, I would have listened to Matt talk about the exact size of every screw in the hull of the ship, to be honest. For hours.

“There are, at most, 495 floors above us. Less in most places, much less in some places like under the engines.”

“That is a large number,” I noted, only slightly horrified. 

“Don’t let it get to ya, it’s not so bad. A lot of them are barracks, and places you’ll probably never need to go, and places you’re probably not even allowed to go. Most of the floors are smaller than these anyway. Right now, though, we’re under the pool,” he said, wagging an eyebrow.

“There is a pool!” I exclaimed. “I fucking knew it.”

“I should say the pools, plural. They’re training pools, not recreational. For the troopers and anyone else who wants to do cardio that’s easy on the joints. Joints don’t love artificial gravity. Though, I heard sometimes the troops take the lanes off and play water grav-ball after hours,” he whispered conspiratorially. God everything he did made me want to explode, he was so precious.

“Seems reasonable.” I said. 

“There are also soaking tubs, for salt baths. It’s hard to get all the minerals into molecular reprocessor food.”

“Wow. This is way nicer than I expected. The storm troopers seem pretty well taken care of.”

“Did you think the First Order treated everyone like slaves?” he asked, and I couldn’t tell how serious he was being.

“I think that’s just your reputation, is all. The First Order treats a lot of people like slaves,” I replied, and I didn’t voice as much vitriol as I felt, suddenly. But if this was real, that meant that the suffering depicted in the movies and shows was also real. Matt looked away, seeming more disquieted than upset or angry.

“There are a lot of people who run this place. Not all of them see eye-to-eye, but all of them control enough firepower to make certain... choices,” he said carefully.

“Do you think the new Supreme Leader will put a stop to that?” I asked him, sincerely. I really was juggling the risk that he was Kylo incognito, so I tried to do so subtly.

“I don’t know. It’s complicated, I imagine. But I sort of doubt it,” he replied, frowning. Well damn, that was interesting. But by then we had arrived at another set of doors. Matt waved his card, and they opened. Inside, there were rows of tables with chairs and along the back wall was a series of cubby-like openings.

“They look like replicators,” I muttered, unable to keep Star Trek from filtering into my mind. Yeah yeah, wrong Star-thing, I know. But I wasn’t one of those nerds who chose a side.

“They’re just dispensers for the reprocessed food. Sometimes there’s real food, when we get a shipment of something in. The senior officers get first pick of the spoils, obviously. But there’s always something for us peons, even if it’s just a Jogan fruit.” Matt was heading to the left wall, where a larger opening with a stack of clear plastic cups was sunk into the wall. “You want something to drink?”

“What are my options?” I asked, sitting down at the end of one of the tables.

“Um, water, Aitha protien, fizzpop, we have Jogan juice right now … I guess it’s a little late for stim tea.” He shrugged.

“I’ve never had Jogan juice,” I said. I’d never had anything he’d just said except water, of course, but there was no need for anyone to know that!

“Jogan juice it is.” He grabbed two glasses and I watched them fill with a lavender-colored liquid from the dispenser. I couldn’t decide if the color was beautiful, or slightly off-putting for a fruit juice. Then he shuffled over and handed me one, sitting on the opposite side of the table and watching me intently. I sniffed it curiously. It smelled kind of like a pear and a blueberry had a genetically modified baby. I sipped it, and it tasted pretty much exactly like it smelled, with an odd floral finish. 

“What’s the verdict?” Matt asked with puppy-like enthusiasm.

“It’s delicious!” I replied, smiling, because honestly it was. He looked pleased.

“So, have I overwhelmed you with information about how to get around the ship yet?” he asked, taking a sip of his own lavender juice.

“Kind of, honestly,” I admitted, glancing down at the datapad. “But, I feel like I can study the map, and, you know. Baby steps.” I looked back up at him, and he was smiling at me the way you smile at someone who remembers something you said. You know what I mean? I was totally turning pink. Dammit .

“Baby steps, yeah. Though, you might have a lot of steps soon, if you’re being trained to use the Force.” 

“I haven’t heard from the Supreme Asshole since I got here,” I grumbled, rolling my eyes. Then I remembered who I was talking to. “I’m sorry. That was unnecessary. I just… He lives up to his reputation, so far.” 

“I suppose he has to, given his circumstances,” Matt replied, seeming less bothered than I thought he would be. Thank fucking God. “I think he just came back from planetside, though, so maybe you’ll hear from him soon.” 

“That should be interesting.” I wasn’t sure what else to say, so I took a long drink of my juice. Note to self: no more talking shit about Kylo to Matt until I’m sure they’re not the same person. There was an awkward moment of silence, which I hate, and compulsively fill up.

“You know, I went on a first date with a guy to a juice bar, once,” I said, which I immediately regretted. But given that I was hanging out with a cute boy and drinking juice, it was the only thing that I could think of.

“Oh really?” Matt asked, blushing. Fuck. “That’s… what’s a juice bar? Do they just serve a bunch of different kinds of juice?”

“Well, yes, fresh pressed juice. They also serve smoothies, which are just like juice and whole fruit and a bunch of other stuff blended up together. You freeze the fruit before you blend it, so it’s almost like ice cream. But you can drink it with a straw.” Matt looked fascinated. 

“Wow. That’s amazing. They serve that on your planet?”

“Um, yes, in some places.”

“Do people normally go on first dates to juice bars?”

“Well, no, not really,” I laughed. “That made it very memorable, though.”

“Did you two go on another date?” he asked, almost nervously, his mouth working like he was chewing the inside of his lip. His very plush, beautiful lip. Stop it, brain.

“Yeah, actually. We dated for two years.” Suddenly I felt slightly sorry I’d brought it up. “Then… we broke up. That was a long time go. A lot of things were going on for me at that point. Not-great things.”

“I’m sorry, hun. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” he assured me, waving a hand. 

“It’s okay. It wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t handle everything, but to be fair I couldn’t handle it either. It was for the best. But, proof that a weird first date isn’t always a bad one.” I heard my therapist in my head, commenting on my ability to be optimistic. She said that it was a good thing, but I also used it to avoid shitty feelings, sometimes. Oof. “I used the same tactic on a girl I asked out a couple of years ago. The date went well, but she found out what was going on with my brain and never called me back.” Wow, why was I talking about all this sad shit again? To a perfect and possibly fictional stranger? Who may or may not have also been a bad guy in disguise, and who I had an amazingly inadvisable crush on????

“That doesn’t seem fair,” Matt said, frowning. “I’m sorry that happened.” 

“It is what it is,” I replied. “The point is, dating failures are unrelated to juice.” He laughed, which made me laugh. We glanced at each other, then I glanced away. Oh God, just kill me already. 

“You keep asking me about me,” I said finally. “What about you?”

“I don’t talk about myself that much, to be honest. You are much more upfront than I am. I’m working on that, but. It’s just hard when you’ve been through certain things.” He seemed almost apologetic. 

“That’s okay. I understand, really. I just have no filter,” I reassured him quickly. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.”

“I don’t get close to a lot of people, to be honest, Aeon. I… well, I came to find you in the medical bay because I thought you might be as lonely as I am, and because you didn’t know me already like everyone else does. I didn’t know if you’d even want to talk to me, but I thought maybe we could become friends so I took a leap of faith,” he confessed, spinning the half-empty glass of Jogan juice around in his big hands nervously. I looked at him for a moment, kind of shocked. I wanted to jump across the table and hug him.

“You’re already getting better at opening up, Matt,” I pointed out, grinning. He looked up, a self-conscious little smile on his face, and chuckled. “Baby steps!”

“Yeah, baby steps,” he repeated. He finished the rest of his juice in one go. “We can go whenever you want. I can walk you back to the medical bay. But no rush, either.”

“Thank you. We should probably head that way.” I finished my own juice, and went to stand up, but then the room started to spin and my knees became gelatinous. The sound of my cup clattering on the floor happened faintly. I was vaguely aware that I hadn’t hit the ground yet when I heard Matt’s voice, both far away and very close at the same time.

“Aeon! What’s wrong?”

“Shit,” I murmured. Someone was holding me, someone really large and very strong, one arm wrapped around my back and the other on my shoulder, steadying me. I realized through the haze that it was probably Matt. Oh, wow.  

“Hang on, you’d better sit,” he said, and he eased me back down into the chair. I made a groan of protest as the warmth of his body disappeared, leaning back into my chair. His hand was still on my shoulder, and he crouched in front of me as he slowly began coming back into focus.

“Withdrawal,” I managed, squeezing my eyes tightly shut for a moment. I felt his other hand on my face, the backs of his fingers on my forehead looking for a fever. They slid down to my cheek, then to the other. I figured there was no reason to tell him that I didn’t get a fever from withdrawal.

“You sure it’s not the Jogan fruit?” he asked, trying to make me laugh. I managed a wan smile.

“Not fruit. Happened before. No meds,” I replied, trying to explain. But words were hard, forming in my brain and struggling to make their way to my mouth. Gotta admit, it felt affirming, if also slightly horrifying, to realize that my hypothesis that I was fine when I got here and had been without medication for five days now was correct.

“They’re not giving you anything?” he asked, abandoning his fever-hunt in favor of rubbing my temple gently. Oh my God. Please marry me, I thought. You are so sweet. You are the nicest person ever. I was grateful that I was struggling to blurt out everything that entered my brain, for once.

“No. Was on meds before. None here. Withdrawal.” I felt my head sagging into his big, warm hand. I wanted to sag into his whole big, warm body, curl up with him, get jacked up on the oxytocin. Did I mention it’s been three years since I got laid? “It’ll pass, just a bit.”

“This is the First Order flagship, hun, they have every medication in the galaxy, I’m pretty sure. You should get back on yours, if this is what’s gonna happen.” His voice had taken on a slightly stern, concerned tone that I recognized. The voice of a mom-friend, basically. I couldn’t help but smile, my eyes still shut, just feeling how nice his hand was.

“Doubt you have here. I’ll ask Lucky,” I told him. The spin that was happening even behind my eyelids started to slow, finally. “Sooo woozy.”

“Let’s get you back to the medical bay, wobbles,” he teased me, and before I could reply I felt hands around my back and under my knees. Then I was lifted up into the air, up against a broad, warm chest, and I gasped, opening my eyes in time to watch the room spin and then the side of Matt’s face swim into view. I instinctively locked my arms around his neck, of course.

“Oh,” I exhaled, staring out at the room from this new vantage, but still unable to focus on any one object. “Wow.”

“Not gonna lie, I’m glad we didn’t get too deep into the technical levels. You’re not that heavy, but it’s the walking at the same time that’s the fun part,” he said to me, beginning to take measured steps toward the exit. I had no idea exactly how heavy I was, as I’ve mentioned before, but I knew I wasn’t tiny. And I’m not always into feeling small and helpless. Actually I’m almost never into it. But with someone as gentle as Matt, it was kind of exhilarating.

“Anyone ever tell you, you’re the nicest human being in the galaxy?” I asked him. I couldn’t help but tell him that, at least, even if I knew better than to propose on the spot. 

“Absolutely nobody,” he laughed. We moved at an easy pace out into the hall and started back the way we’d come from.

“Dunno why not, but you are,” I confirmed. “Sorry though, ‘bout falling out on you.” 

“Don’t you dare apologize. It’s not like you meant to. Plus, this is a good excuse for me to focus,” he said, and I could tell that even as he bantered with me a bit, he was paying a lot of attention to his steps, to the muscles that were carrying my weight, and even to where his arms were holding me, trying not to make me uncomfortable. They say that those of us with certain brain troubles are also very sensitive to the energies of other people. Whether or not that’s because of the troubles themselves, or because of how other people react to them, I have my own thoughts. But I was reading him loud and clear, I felt sure, and everything about him was compassion and tenderness and worry. A gentle giant, pretty much. Like, more than a foot taller than me. Undeniably huge. I found the combination stunningly attractive. I sighed, resting my head on his shoulder, simultaneously savoring being in his arms and lamenting the fact that I was still fairly certain that falling in love with him was a bad idea. This wasn’t a fanfiction, after all. 

“How are you feeling?” he asked, as we exited the technical levels and entered a lift back to the medical bay floor. I could feel the reverberations of his soothing, deep voice through his collar bone beneath the gray fabric of his jumpsuit.

“Less woozy. Very cozy, though,” I replied.

“Well, that’s good,” he chuckled. I waited for him to ask me if I could walk yet, to want to put me down, but he didn’t. 

“Thank you for fixing my datapad, and showing me around. And giving me juice. And carrying me around like a sack of grain.” We were both chuckling.

“Thank you for your time, and your honesty,” he replied. That struck me, for some reason. Just when I thought my heart couldn’t possibly melt any further. I am not supposed to fall in love with you, dammit. We were quiet for the rest of the walk down the more brightly lit hallways, but it was late enough now that they were mostly empty.

“Ding ding ding,” he said as we approached the glass medical bay doors. “This is your stop.” Once again I expected him to put me down, but he just continued carrying me along the rows of alcoves until we reached the end of the one where my dark little nook was. He walked right up to the bed, and finally stopped. “Easy does it,” he cautioned, and slowly began to lower me onto the cot. I was so incredibly loathe to leave his arms, but it had to happen eventually. I pushed thoughts out of my mind about how getting excited about Matt, sans medication, could shoot me right into mania very easily. As long as we didn’t have sex, I probably stood a chance of not getting too crazy. Yes, sex can make me manic. Being bipolar is super fun.

“Oops,” I said as I got unsteady again, once I was sitting on the bed. His hand remained behind my back, supportively. I put my hands on either side of me, propping myself up. “Still woozy. Time to lie down.” I felt his giant palm guide me back into a horizontal position. Once my head hit the pillow, I immediately felt less dizzy. “This is better.”

“You promise me you’ll ask about those medicines you need?” he asked me pointedly.

“Okay, okay, I promise. I will.” I batted at his arm with my hand drowsily. He caught my hand in his, and squeezed it. Ohmigod.

“Thank you.”

“When will I see you again?” I asked timidly.

“Not sure. I have a lot of work to do coming up. But I’ll find you soon.”

“Promise?”

“We’re making a lot of promises today, huh?” he asked, grinning. I just looked at him reproachfully. “Yes. I promise.” I smiled.

“Okay.”

“Goodnight, Aeon,” he said softly, releasing my hand.

“‘Night, Matt,” I replied, and he was gone. In the quiet of the medical bay, all I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears. Once again, an incredibly rapid river of thoughts was running through my brain.

Oh my GOD, he is SO CUTE. He is so strong and so nice. What am I gonna do? Fuck I’m actually in withdrawal, this could suck really badly. Like, really fucking badly. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it, hope the state-of-the-art Star Wars medical care can keep me from dying. I probably won’t die. Fuuuck I like Matt so much. SO MUCH. This sucks. This is horrible. Is he Kylo? Is he just putting me on? Fuck. What if he’s just Kylo trying to fuck with me? What if he’s manipulating the shit out of me to get me to fall for him so he can control me later? Okay, that might be the trauma talking. But still, how do I know? This is so not canon compliant. When the fuck is Kylo going to show back up???? When do I get to see Matt again??? Is he like Kylo’s twin brother? His clone? His light-side doppelganger? This is fucked up. This is so incredibly fucked up.

They carried on like that, bouncing between adoration and paranoia for I know not how long, until I finally passed out.

 

-----

 

When Lucky Sevens woke me up the next morning, it seemed a little grouchier than usual.

“It is morning, Aeon Flux. How did you sleep?” it asked.

“Not much,” I replied, slightly grouchy myself. Was it earlier than I usually got up? Didn’t matter, I wasn’t gonna be able to go back to sleep now. The endless stream of thoughts in my brain about Matt resumed almost as soon as I became conscious.

“Perhaps you should not stay out so late,” the droid chided me.

“Technically, I can do what I want, Lucky,” I reminded it, pouting. “How do you know what I do at night? Are you spying on me?” Great, more paranoid thoughts. Being spied on was a classic one, and in this place I had no reason to not think there were cameras everywhere. It was a fucking space ship.

“You have slept in your shoes, Aeon Flux. Or is that customary on your planet?” I looked down at my feet, and sure enough, the boots were sticking out from under the blanket. I frowned.

“For your information, I’m learning how to get around the ship. I got my datapad set up and everything,” I retorted.

“Well, that is very good for you,” it said, and I rolled my eyes but also held back a chuckle. If it had been my mom, I’d be feeling bad, but watching a medical droid act like a fussy parent was kind of cute. For now. “Your scans have mixed results again today. How are you feeling?”

“Better,” I replied. “Doing something was good for me. Much less depressed. Lots of thoughts, though.” About Matt. And Matt’s voice. And his big, strong arms. And how he blushed when I said nice things to him.

“I am glad you are feeling better.” Now it sounded like it might have forgiven me for my evening escapades. “I have news for you.”

“Really? What?” I sat up in the bed, looking at the droid expectantly, unable to think of anything I was waiting to hear about except the next time I’d get to hang out with Matt.

“The Supreme Leader would like to begin training with you today.”

Oh. That.

Chapter Text

Apparently, storm trooper regulation underclothes were not cool enough for me to wear to my first day at Sith-ergarten. Kylo had sent over a pair of black trousers with a cloth belt and a (admittedly rather smart-looking) black shirt with an asymmetrical wrap collar that zipped along the side like a biker jacket. He’d also sent a really nice black coat with long tails, and a little shrug with a hood. Lucky assured me the latter were just for my general wardrobe, in case I was going somewhere cold, and I didn’t need to wear them to meet with the Supreme Asshole. But I kinda wanted to, honestly. They looked really cool. I didn’t exactly have a full-length mirror, or anything, but maybe that was for the best.

He sent one of his underlings to come collect me, since I still didn’t really know my way around the ship at all. She was uncomfortably silent as she marched ahead of me through a maze of hallways, up two different lifts, and to the entrance to… somewhere. She didn’t actually tell me where we were going. I was too worried about the outcome of today’s events to talk incessantly, but the hampster wheel in my brain carried on ad nauseum.

She opened the door, and then stood to the side very stiffly. After Matt, it was kind of a blunt reminder of standard First Order hospitality. I walked past her and into the room before the door shut behind me. Inside it was dark, and there was a panel of what looked like rippling, almost opaque glass in front of me with an opening off to either side. I crept to the right hand side and peeked around the corner of it. 

The entire wall facing me was a window, and outside hung a beautiful red planet with enormous white polar ice caps. Whichever sun that lit it was out of view, but the stars behind it glittered. In front of the mirror, sitting in what looked like a pretty standard meditation pose to me, was Kylo Ren. His back was to me, silhouetted against the incredible view.

“Whoa,” I said softly, stepping past the glass barrier. I couldn’t take my eyes off the window. It was nothing like watching space documentaries. You think that shit might prepare you for seeing an actual planet outside your window, you are dead wrong.

“Sit,” said Kylo, not turning to look at me but gesturing to the little pillow on the floor beside him. I shuffled over to him, taking a seat, staring all the while. It made me feel less nervous. His energy was bristly, but less overtly hostile than the last time. “This is my meditation room.” 

“This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” I replied.

“Tattooine?” he asked, and I thought I heard incredulity in his voice.

“I’ve never been in space before,” I explained. 

“Oh,” was all he said at first. “Not that you remember, anyway?” I shook my head.

“No. If I have, it’s totally gone.” Fuck. I was supposed to be lying about my past.

“Curious.” He was silent again for a moment, but I could feel his eyes on me. You can’t not feel his eyes on you. Like I said, kind of hot, but a little too spooky. “You said you’ve been seeing things you couldn’t, knowing things you shouldn’t, when we last spoke.”

“I know you killed your master,” I replied, looking sharply over at him. “I saw that.” He didn’t need to know that I’d watched it on a movie theater screen, of course. He tensed visibly.

“Yes. I’d prefer if you didn’t use that against me, but I know I can’t stop you,” he growled. “Except by killing you, of course.” Well, that’s a pretty easy way to activate my fight-or-flight mode, jerk.

“Why don’t you kill me then?” I asked him suddenly, impulsively, glaring at him and feeling myself get angry. I crossed my arms. “Just get it over with. You don’t know me from a hill of beans, you think I’m dangerous, and I don’t want to be here. I don’t know how I got here. And I’m starting to doubt I will ever get back home.” He regarded me strangely. My cheeks were hot, and somewhere in my brain the part that could watch my symptoms was on high alert. I felt recklessly suicidal, but that felt good, at that moment. Like I just wanted to be angry and fucked up, damn!

“Do you want to go back?” he asked, surprisingly not furious.

“Yes,” I replied. “But I don’t know how. Or where to go from here.” I looked away from him as I felt my eyes start to water, back out the window. “Or what I’d be going back to.”

“The Force cannot show you?” he pried.

“It’s not showing, and I forgot how to ask. That’s why I offered to study with you. Maybe I will get home one day if you can teach worth a damn. If I still want to.”

“And if you don’t?”

“Who knows,” I replied, thinking about Matt. Just be here. Start over, fuck it. Kylo appeared to be turning this over in his mind for a minute.

“Our training will begin with finding where and how you access the Force within you, then. Can you feel it when you close your eyes?” I glanced at him, then shut my eyes. I felt like my skin was crawling, like my thoughts were tumbling around in a washing machine, and like my meager breakfast wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. There was nothing out of the ordinary, just heightened levels of agitation.

“I don’t think so. I can’t just… feel it. It happens to me.”

“We may try to induce it, then. What causes it to happen?”

“Um.” For the life of me, I couldn’t think of how to answer that question with a lie that would get me anywhere. Triggers? For the Force? Can I have ‘what triggers your psychosis’ for 500 instead, please? Fuck. Just go with it, I told myself.  “Sensory deprivation. Sensory overstimulation. Panic, I think.” 

“I see.” I did not much like the tone of his voice, when he said that. When I opened my eyes, though, it was already too late. 

His hand flew up around my neck, and squeezed my air passages with all his incredible strength. WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!!!! I started to claw at his hand, trying desperately to suck in a breath, to scream, my vision full of a beautiful red planet. It felt as though I was falling, pulled down into the gravity of Tattooine. For some reason, my first thought was that I was in a tiny space ship, flying down towards the surface, ready to pull up sharply before I slammed into the dusty ground. I felt the profound jerk of the imaginary ship, like I was at the wheel slamming whatever space-brakes I had.

Then I heard a distant shout, and I realized that both Kylo and I had gone flying through the air, for some reason. Cold oxygen filled my lungs, and I crumpled onto the floor of the meditation room. Kylo slammed into the glass barrier wall, tumbling to the floor in a heap. As I sat up, gasping, I saw him begin to get back on his feet. I felt a familiar and terrible unease, as his figure seemed to ripple.

When he raised his head and looked at me, all I saw was a demonic shadow, thousands of red eyes blazing at me. But hiding behind him I saw a little boy, crouched down and staring at me with the same terror I felt looking at whatever Kylo had become.

Then I screamed, and scrambled away from the horrible thing, throwing the pillow I had been sitting on at it. Which is fucking hilarious if you think about it, like throwing a pillow at Kylo Ren even if he hadn’t just morphed into a horrifying monster would accomplish literally anything, right? But I’m a fighter, and I’m not very good at fleeing, so even as I retreated into the corner and curled up into a ball against the cold window, I was trying. I hid my face in my hands, pressing into my closed eyelids until I saw stars. I couldn't seem to catch my breath. Stop stop stop stop go away go away go away GO AWAY!

When everything was silent for much longer than made sense, because I was neither freshly cauterized by a light saber nor being chewed on by a demon, I peeked warily out between my fingers. I thought I saw Kylo sitting on the floor, watching me intently from several feet away. Everything was a little blurry, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t a demon anymore, and the little boy wasn’t there. It dawned on me that I had been off medication for six days, and I might actually be psychotic. Fuck me.

“Aeon?” a voice asked as I slowly emerged from the fetal position. I thought it was Matt’s voice, for a split second, but I think that was wishful thinking. It was probably just Kylo, and I simply wanted it to be Matt’s sweet, concerned tone. I couldn’t reply, at that moment, so I just stared back at him until he came into focus, wondering if his face would spontaneously sprout more eyes again. I leaned back against the window, the cold of it acting as a grounding tool, finally starting to feel like I’d gotten enough oxygen for my brain to return to its normal semi-functioning state. When he moved, I flinched, and he went still again. 

“I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You tried to choke me,” I pointed out, starting to feel my anger rise again.

“I was trying to induce panic,” he explained, less than sympathetically.

“Well it fucking worked!” I shouted back. Fuck you, my guy! I wished he was Matt so bad. Then he might apologize, transform into a nice person, but he didn’t. I was starting to really see the stark differences in their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their movements. Maybe they were two different people.

“It did. You used the Force,” he replied coolly.

“You can’t just- wait, I did?” Full stop. Every single thought in my brain was arrested. Did he just say... That was me? I did that?

“You didn’t notice how we went flying in different directions?” He was being sarcastic. It was much less becoming on him than on Matt. I looked back at him, narrowing my eyes.

“What… what did you do after?” I asked him shakily. “Where did the little boy go?”

“What little boy?” Kylo asked. His face fell into a concerned, almost angry expression. 

“The- he was just here. And… you…” Yeah. I was starting to think that was all a hallucination. He was looking at me like so many other people had, in my life. Like I was batshit insane. “I saw him.”

But Kylo looked more disturbed than I expected. More like he believed that there was truth to what I was saying, even if he hadn’t seen it himself. That, I was not used to. His brow was knit into a scowl, and he looked me over.

“I think that’s all for today,” he said finally, and began to rise to his feet.

“What?” Are you fucking kidding me???

“We’ll resume in three days. You should rest.” And, just like last time, he turned and left without another word. The doors to the little chamber slid open and shut. I blinked at the place he had been standing. Like, seriously? You're just gonna leave? After CHOKING ME NON-CONSENSUALLY? I was so fucking pissed

“FUCK YOU!!” I screamed at nothing, and picked up a nearby pillow and slammed it into the window as tears rose in my eyes. Then, I saw the planet again. It was so massive and silent, so perfect and beautiful. There were so many stars behind it that I struggled to make them all out clearly. I took in a deep breath, and let it out as slowly as I could manage. My loneliness started to wash over me, and I realized suddenly that missed my parents. My house. My cat. The smell of grilled cheese, which my mom would make me in the middle of the night when neither of us could sleep. My internet friends, who were my only close friends at that point, staying up late and talking to me about everything. Making me feel so much less alone. 

For the first time since I’d arrived on the ship, I started to sob uncontrollably.

Chapter Text

Two days later, I finally heard from Matt. Okay, it wasn’t that much time, but it felt like fucking forever, especially after Kylo basically assaulting me to induce Force-chucking his ass into a glass wall and leaving without so much as an ‘I’m sorry.’ Someone needs to teach that fucker about aftercare.

My datapad beeped about an hour after dinner. It had never done that before, so I picked it up off the bedside table. There was a little blinking button, and when I pressed it, the screen opened up a new box, with a message.

Hey wobbles. How you holding up? I couldn't stop myself from smiling a mile wide. Apparently they have text messaging in Star Wars! Or something like it, anyway. I tapped the button that he’d shown me before to create a keyboard, and tapped out my reply.

Okay. Much less wobbly today. What are you doing? I wondered how long it would take him to respond. Turns out, at least at that moment, not very long.

Nothing, as of five minutes ago. You want to hang out? I don’t have a lot of time, is the only thing.

Yes. I’m in med. But I want to go back to my real room and get something. We could meet up there and just chat for a little. It’s room GB 270-07. I had been missing my guitar the past couple of days, so going to get it seemed like the perfect excuse to go talk to Matt without the possibility of Lucky Sevens buzzing around and making it weird.

You sure you know how to get there?

It’s the only path I have memorized on this whole ship.

Perfect! I can meet there in half an hour. 

See you then! It felt really strange not to have an emoji to put at the end. I slipped on my boots quietly, and took my newly acquired outerwear and the datapad with me as I ambled off to my quarters. It was exactly the same as I’d left it, untouched by any sort of housekeeping. The bedclothes were still a rumpled up mess and everything. Oh come the fuck on! I slid open the door to the closet and hung up my new coat and hood, and pulled two sets of trooper underclothes off of the floor and into the little laundry hamper that was built into the wall. I elected not to go into the bathroom, lest I end up looking at my own face and freaking out. You look fine. Don’t even worry about it, I told myself repeatedly as I smoothed out the sheet and blanket on the bed. The guitar was right where I’d left it, leaning against the wall beside the little sofa.

The door chirped before I even knew it. Only slightly frantic, I ran over to open it.

“Hey!” I said, beaming.

“You got new clothes!” Matt responded, quickly stepping into the room so the door would shut behind him. I smoothed the front of my shirt instinctively, worried that it was wrinkly since I hadn’t actually gotten it washed since I’d worn it to Choking Lessons. Note to self: learn where the fucking laundromat is.  

“Yeah, courtesy of the Supreme Leader.” I shrugged.

“You look great,” he said shyly, and I must have turned pink because he changed the subject immediately. “This your room?”

“It is. I haven’t been here in a few days, though. My brain is… whatever it’s doing, Lucky wants to watch it like a hawk.”

“Who’s Lucky?”

“Oh, Lucky is the medical droid that’s been taking care of me since I got here.”

“The droid is named Lucky?”

“No, I just call it Lucky Sevens because it has a bunch of sevens in its designation.”

“Oooooh, okay, I get it now. Sevens must be considered lucky on your planet. You get all that medicine stuff cleared up?” He looked at me expectantly. 

“There’s no medicine like what I was taking before here on the ship,” I assured him. “Lucky has me on something for the vertigo, though, and the headaches. Until I’m done detoxing.”

“Hm,” Matt replied, rubbing his finger on his clean-shaven chin pensively. “Alright. I suppose I can be satisfied with that. I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Thanks. Come on, sit down! I don’t have any Jogan fruit juice, I think it’s just a water dispenser over there in the wall, but you can have some if you want.” I felt a twinge of my childhood, steeped in Southern hospitality, filling me with guilt that I couldn’t offer much to my guest. But it was silly, seeing as I was also a guest here on the ship, basically.

“I brought you some contraband, actually,” Matt whispered as he took a seat on the sofa, and I followed suit.

“Contraband?” I didn’t even know what was considered contraband in the First Order, but I got really excited anyway. Mostly because Matt brought me something. Aaahh!

“We’re not supposed to bring food out of the mess hall or galley, technically,” he explained, and reached into his chest pocket. “But we got something kinda special from our last shipment I thought you might like. But, be careful!” He pulled out a little sphere wrapped in gold foil. I looked at it, confused. 

“Careful? You are really sending mixed signals tonight, Matt,” I chided him playfully, shaking my head. “What is it?”

“This is a Namana fruit candy, from Bakura. They’re amazing, but they can literally be addictive. They make you a little… you know. Euphoric.” He grinned mischievously and placed it in my palm. I tried not to melt. “Just the one shouldn’t get you craving too bad, though. And good luck finding more, anyway, they don’t bring many of these on board. For obvious reasons. You might wanna save it for a mandatory rest day.” I looked at the unassuming little ball, fascinated.

“Did you just give me drugs?” I asked, teasing him.

“Now, I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, hun. These are legal, and not very powerful. Hardly a deathstick.” I suppressed a cringe. So, midichlorians were considered a myth, but the deathsticks of the prequels were still a thing. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

“Alright. Thank you. I’ll hang onto this,” I assured him, and tucked it into my trouser pocket. “How have you been?”

“Me? Just the same, pretty much,” he replied with a shrug. “You?”

“I started lessons with you-know-who.” I couldn’t wait anymore to get that out. Partly because I desperately wanted to tell someone, and partly to watch his reaction. 

“Oh, really?” His surprise seemed genuine. “How did that go?”

“Awful, actually.”

“Why? What happened?” Now he looked concerned.

“He tried to choke me. He said it was to induce panic, to make me use the Force.”

“Holy shit.” He blinked at me, clearly shocked. “Did it work?”

“Yes,” I admitted, frowning. If he was just Kylo and great at acting, I couldn’t tell.

“Wow. That’s amazing. And pretty awful, yeah.”

“That’s not all that happened, though.” I felt anxious, bringing this up. Talking about my hallucinations isn’t something I regularly do. Matt canted his head, like an adorable golden retriever, and curled his knees up on the couch as he turned to look at me.

“You know you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” he reminded me.

“I… really want to tell someone. I didn’t even explain it all to Kylo.”

“You didn’t tell him?” I shook my head in reply, and he whistled. “Damn. The fact that you can keep secrets from him… that’s impressive. What was it?”

I shifted on my side of the couch, uncomfortable. I hadn’t even told Lucky Sevens about the hallucination. If it affected my brain scans, the droid had made no comment about it. I figured it might be temporary, the effect seeing things has on your wave-particle activity, or whatever the fuck.

“I… saw a vision.” Matt looked rapt, nodding slowly as if to encourage me. “I saw… I saw Kylo turn into a demon. Like a big, black shadow with a thousand red eyes.” His brow wrinkled with worry. “And… there was a little boy, I saw, crouching behind the demon. The boy was scared to death, but I think he was scared of me . It went away really quickly. This was after he’d choked me, and apparently I sent him flying across the room in response.” I looked expectantly at Matt, awaiting his response. He blinked.

“That sounds terrifying, Aeon,” he said finally, and reached out an arm to rest his hand on my shoulder. He seemed completely sincere, like always. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’ve seen demons before,” I admitted, shrugging. “The little boy was new.”

“You’ve seen that before? More than once?” His eyes got wide.

“Yeah, similar things to that.” I started to wonder if I was going to regret opening up about this.

“How do you not piss your pants every time, honestly! I totally would,” he laughed. Okay, maybe it was fine, actually. He didn’t seem upset. Just worried about me. I smiled.

“I know how it sounds, but you get used to it.”

“I’ll gratefully take your word for it,” he chuckled.

“We start again tomorrow,” I said. 

“How do you feel about that?”

“Unhappy. I might be terrified. I might just be angry. He didn’t handle it well, when I flipped my lid. He just told me he wasn’t gonna hurt me, which was hard to believe as you might imagine, and then said that was all for the day and I should rest. Then he just bounced, didn’t say he was sorry, didn’t really even ask if I was okay. I wish...” But I stopped myself from saying I wish you had been there instead, just barely. I shook my head and scowled. “Ugh. He makes me so fucking mad.”

“He might be terrified, too, hun. Not that you have to do anything to make him feel more comfortable, of course, but. I assume you have an idea of his strength?” That caught me very, very off-guard. 

“Yes, I have an inkling.”

“Yeah. You just showed him up. Think about it.” Matt smiled at me, just a little. I was completely baffled. It seemed like a Kylo-in-disguise thing to do, to summon sympathy for the devil like that. But he was so obviously invested in my well-being, too. UGH, REVEAL YOUR SECRETS, BEAUTIFUL CREATURE!!!! “You really are something,” he added. Now he was looking at me with open admiration in his sweet, dark eyes. I looked away from him as I blushed. Even though this was the moment thus far that most resembled the fanfic I had spent so many days trying to believe I had fallen into, it made me profoundly uncomfortable now that it was actually happening.

“I am much too much of something. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be a little less. A little smaller. Being whatever I am, it takes up a lot of space. It eats into other people’s lives. I just want to be small. Sometimes I want to be nothing, even just for a little while.” I looked down at my lap, tugging on the sleeves of my shirt. I knew I was in that rocky, weird place where mania and depression bump up against each other and fight for dominance, and I end up trying to provoke someone I know could hurt me, or getting in my car and driving three states away for no reason, or spending $5,000 in a single month on whatever I want, and still feeling like shit. During those phases, things that should feel good usually don’t, so I end up doing something that feels bad just so I can feel something aside from the deep depression I know is coming. And the lack of medication meant that now I was going to struggle to keep my mouth shut about it all, on top of that. 

Suddenly there was a hand on my chin, nudging it up just a little.

“You just threw the Supreme Leader of the First Order across a room, Aeon. I don’t know what you are, and maybe you don’t either. But whatever it is, it will never be small. And it never should be.” Our eyes locked as he said this unfathomably kind thing to me, and for a minute I think either time or my heart might have actually stopped. It was one of those Movie Moments™, right before the main characters go in for their first big kiss. Oh fuck. Oh fucking shit fuck holy FUCK. 

Then, he let his hand drop back down to his lap, and looked over at my guitar where it leaned against the wall. Yeah, I know. What a fucking bummer. “Now, can you tell me what that is?”

“It’s called a guitar. It makes music,” I explained, reaching back behind me to pluck it up from its nesting place. At least if we were gonna talk about my guitar, I could let go of my disappointment and just process it later. Probably by playing the guitar. Healthy coping mechanisms, am I right?

“Music, huh?” Matt’s face lit up. “You play it?” 

“Yes, a lot. I’ve been slacking the past few days, though.”

“Well, you’ve had a lot to deal with,” he pointed out.

“True.” I pulled the capo off of the neck and started to check to see if it was still in tune. The best thing about the climate control on a spaceship is that the air temperature and humidity are phenomenally consistent, so it didn’t need much tuning at all. Matt watched me with unfiltered delight. 

“Will you play something? Pleeeeease?” he implored me. I know we just didn’t kiss, but come on. Like, God, how could I possibly say no?

“Oh, alright. Lemme see.” I ran through the catalogue of songs I knew best in my head, trying to pick one. I settled on one of my favorite Laura Marling songs, because I love her and I know an embarrassing amount of her songs on guitar still. It also isn’t very complicated, and when I play in front of people I tend to get shaky hands. Stage fright, I guess. I usually stay away from fancy shit until my nerves settle.

As I played and sang, I could feel the tension leave my body a little. I didn’t look at Matt, because that would have ruined the whole performance no matter what expression was on his face. But singing and playing lets me feel my feelings in ways I struggle to do, otherwise. That was why I had wanted to come back here anyway, to grab the one thing that had come with me from home. The thing that helped me so much, no matter what.

When I was done, I hazarded a glance at Matt. He was looking at me with the most mortifyingly awe-struck smile, and it took him a moment after I stopped to snap back to reality a bit and clap his hands joyfully. I resigned myself to a bright red complexion for the rest of my life, probably. 

“You didn’t even warn me that you sing , too!” he accused me cheerfully. “That was so beautiful. Thank you so much! Wow. I’ve never heard anything like it!”

“Thanks,” I mumbled, trying hard to do what my therapist had asked me to try and just take the compliment like an adult. Just TAKE IT and say thank you, dingus!! You ever tried that? God, it’s so fucking hard to do. “It makes me feel better.”

“I bet it does. Makes me feel better just listening to it,” he replied happily. Oh my God. Stop being nice to me. Shouldn’t you be saying something toxic? That’s more what I’m used to, I guess. Aaargh!

“I’m glad someone feels that way,” was all I said out loud, and we both laughed. Once again it tapered off into one of those awkward silences that I hate. “What time do you have to go?” I asked quietly.

“Soon,” he replied, and his voice was a little sad. I looked at him, a little sad myself.

“Thanks for coming by.”

“Of course.”

“You’re my only friend here, Matt. I don’t even know what state I’d be in without your company. I appreciate it a lot,” I told him in another fit of honesty. “So does my brain,” I added, trying desperately to be humorous. He smiled.

“Thank you for being my friend, too,” he replied. He was sitting so close to me. The tension from before, you know, when we didn’t kiss? Was still there, and it was just getting worse.

“You gonna be busy again for a while?”

“Yeah. Possibly very busy. I might be hard to reach for a couple of days.” I felt my heart break a little. Suddenly, I got nervous that I was too attached. It’s not healthy to only have one friend, right? That you happen to also have a hideous crush on? How else was I supposed to make friends here? Go schmooze with the storm troopers?

“Oh. That’s okay. You gotta do what you gotta do,” was all I said.

“I’ll beep you on the datapad when I’m free again, though,” he reassured me. I smiled a little at that.

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Take care of yourself, Aeon. And don’t be afraid of the Supreme Leader, or the Force, or of being too much.” His mouth quirked into a little lopsided grin as he looked down at me through his glasses. He reached out and brushed the tip of my nose with his finger. I wanted to die a little, on the inside. Then he uncurled himself and stood up to his full, incredible height.

“You take care, too,” I told him, waving my fingers at him. He smiled at me before he walked out of the door, and it slid shut behind him. I stared at the spot where he’d been standing for at least a minute, totally silent.

“Fuck,” I said to nobody, laying my guitar down on the couch away from me so I could lay down face-first into the cushions and groan. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK,” I told the couch. “What am I doing? What SHOULD I be doing? Uuuuugh. I just wanna kiss Maaaattt.” I turned around onto my back and stared up at the drab gray ceiling of my quarters, distraught. Then, my communicator beeped in my pocket.

“Aeon Flux, it has been sixty minutes since you left the medical bay. Are you alright?” The droid’s voice sounded even more tinny from the little speaker.

“Yeah, Lucky, I’m sorry. I got distracted playing guitar. I’m coming back now,” I replied, pulling the little plastic tube out of my pocket for long enough to hit a button and tuck it away again. Sighing as melodramatically as humanly possible, I got up off the couch and grabbed my things to head back to the med bay.

Chapter Text

It turns out getting your laundry done on a ship the size of the Supremacy isn’t that hard, because there are a shit-zillion people on board who all have to get their laundry done regularly. So, my one (1) outfit that wasn’t storm trooper underclothes was clean for my second day of training, and that day I was taking as much positive as I could out of the little things. As you can imagine, I was really, really not looking forward to it.

This time, I requested no escort. One, because I had been trying to use my space-GPS and learn my way around the ship, and two, because everyone who worked directly under Kylo always acted like they were awaiting a swift death. Which I found very off-putting and anxiety inducing. In light of all that, I left the med bay at least an hour ahead of time in case I got really lost. 

The floor that his meditation room was on was one of the higher floors, not quite the command levels but close. I was trying to remember everything that Matt had taught me, and kept zooming in and out on the datapad to check where I was. Note to self: Find out if this thing has a ‘destination’ option that can show me the path there, like an actual GPS, or not.

Like a dingus, I was staring at the map and not where I was walking, and literally ran smack into General Hux, of all people. Shit.

“Hey! Watch where you’re- oh. If it isn’t our... guest. Pardon me, but you should consider looking ahead while you walk, madam,” he said to me, catching himself mid-shout. I hadn’t even seen him in person yet, much less spoken to him, and he was already talking to me like I was a child who he was required to speak respectfully to even though he obviously had no respect for me. I frowned.

“I’m not a ‘madam.’ Please just call me... Aeon,” was the first thing out of my mouth. Why do they even have genders in space? It occurred to me, too late, that Hux was fond of his title and of the formalities of his rank in general. “Sir.” He lifted a single red eyebrow at me. He’d be a lot more handsome if he didn’t always look like he smelled something dead, I thought.

“Indeed,” he replied. Nope, he definitely did not respect me. Kylo probably told him I was being trained, so Hux couldn’t be outright rude, but I’m guessing he didn’t advertise that I’d managed to accidentally chuck him into a wall during our first lesson. Hux looked down at my datapad. “Are you lost, then, Aeon?”

“Um,” I replied, glancing down at the screen. “Sort of. I’m sorry, sir. I’ll pay more attention to where I’m walking in the future.”

“Where is it you’re going?” he asked.

“The Supreme Leader’s meditation room.”

“Ah, for your… lessons.” He looked disdainful, but maybe that was just his face. Probably both.

“Yes.” I didn’t add the ‘sir’ this time. Because fuck that guy.

“Would you like me to escort you thither? Perhaps you can avoid walking into any more senior officers,” he offered. Sardonic little shit.

“Oh. Thank you, General. You’re very kind.” I was 100% sure nobody had ever accused him of being kind before. Two can play this game, buddy. He narrowed his eyes briefly, then gestured for me to walk in the direction he had been going, so I turned around and filed in beside him. He was just as fussy and immaculate in person as he was depicted in the movies. Voted ‘Most Likely To Be Canon Compliant’ at the Self-Insert Fanfiction Academy, I bet.

“How do you find the ship so far, Aeon?” he asked me as we walked. I found it highly sketchy that he was making small talk with me, but I decided to go along with it.

“Overwhelming,” I replied honestly. “It’s... large. But the facilities are top-notch, so far. The medical bay droid has been taking good care of me.”

“Oh? I’m afraid I’ve not been kept apprised of your condition. Are you unwell?” He seemed more curious than concerned.

“Yes,” I said flatly. “My scans are pretty all over the place, and I don’t remember anything between my falling asleep in my own home and waking up here. It’s stressing the droid right out, I’ll tell ya. But so far I’m hanging in there, sir.”

“Are you certain you’re in good condition to be training with the Supreme Leader, then?” Hux asked, brow knit. “Not that I would expect him to see reason, on that subject, but-”

“I think my training could help me in the long run, actually. I’d like to recover my memories. There’s stuff that I do remember from a long time ago, and a lot of things I know as if I remembered them, but they didn’t happen to me.” Ah, yes. Meta-knowledge of the plot must be maintained as a Force ability or else I am royally fucked, probably. Nevermind that the next movie hadn’t even fucking come out yet. “I need to relearn how to access the Force intentionally, and maybe then I’ll be able to use it to recover what happened to put me here.” 

“You remember events that did not happen to you?”

“Yes.”

“What sort of events?” He was blatantly interested now. I knew it was time to flex.

“I saw the Empire fall the first time, General. I watched Darth Vader throw The Emperor to his death, as if I were there. I saw the Hosnian system turned to ash by your superweapon, before the Resistance destroyed it. I heard the screams of their children, slaughtered for the sake of your victory.” I knew all my shitty poetry would pay off one day. I looked him in the eyes, and maybe it was the constant state of slightly-to-very manic symptoms, but I felt pretty fucking powerful in that moment. “As if billions of voices cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.” Hah! Nobody but Luke would be able to call me on plagiarizing that one, and he was dead.

Hux looked like I’d been very successful in putting him on his back heel. Perhaps a shade paler than usual, if that was even possible.

“It’s no wonder the Supreme Leader wishes to train you, then,” was his only reply. He stopped, and gestured behind me. Sure enough, we were in front of the doors to the meditation room, and just barely on time. “Do you disagree with the political ideology of the First Order, then, Aeon?” Almost intrusively, I heard Admiral Ackbar in my brain shouting It’s a trap!

“I can’t afford the luxury of political opinions, sir. Your Supreme Leader is teaching me the ways of the Force, without which I’m stuck here. I’ll be in debt to the First Order for that for a long time.” Whew. Sidestepped that one. I could tell that Hux’s opinion of me had gone from annoyed to very begrudgingly respectful and possibly somewhat suspicious. I decided to keep a low profile, if I possibly could. I almost forgot how slimy that fucker actually was.

“Indeed.” I was already starting to hate it when he said that.

“Thank you for your assistance, General.” I could get used to speaking overly formally and condescendingly to pasty fascists, I decided. It might be a bad call, but still.

“Of course,” he replied, nodding his head slightly. I turned around and entered the room, grateful to hear the doors shut behind me and to be out of his sight. I knew intellectually, of course, that Hux was not even remotely to be trusted. But now I felt it in my bones, too. Because I was pretty sure I was lowkey on his shit list. Letting out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding, I walked somewhat slowly around the glass wall. Ugh. Two of the most fun people in the First Order all in one day. Delightful.   

That day, the ship was in orbit above a blue planet with swaths of dark landmass all around it, orbiting a binary star system. I stopped to look at it just like last time, because honestly seeing a huge beautiful planet outside a giant window never gets old. Kylo was there, sitting looking out the window, also just like last time. I desperately did not want to walk towards him, but I did it anyway, and took a seat on a pillow. I left a bunch of fucking space between us, though.

“How’re you feeling?” he asked in a low voice. Much like almost everything Hux had just said, it felt like a formality more than a personal inquiry. 

“Depressed,” I replied bluntly. 

“Why?” I side-eyed him real hard.

“Let’s see, mostly everything I told you the last time I was here, before you surprise-choked me and didn’t even apologize for it, is why. Not a whole lot going on for me, other than that.”

“Your medical tests indicate that you enter this state with some frequency,” he replied.

“You keep tabs on my medical tests? Yanno, where I come from, that’s illegal unless you’re the doctor who’s treating me.” Ah yes, HIPAA compliance. It made perfect sense that nothing like that was in place under a totalitarian dictatorship, but I was still bitter about it. Paranoid thoughts ran under the rest of my thoughts like ticker-tape, exacerbating the familiar fear that I was being monitored and watched at all times. 

“You are my pupil, and your medical tests are somewhat involved in why I’m bothering to teach you in the first place.” Damn, okay, point.

“The droid told me that midichlorians are a myth.” 

“They’re considered legendary, yes. We have no way to detect them, so it doesn’t matter if they’re real or not. But, we know what happens on certain medical scans can be correlated with Force-sensitivity.” Is that even canon? I thought.

Let me explain, real quick. I’ve read enough of the Star Wars novels to know that in the old books, before a certain Mouse scrapped them and started producing the new extended universe, there was a thing called ‘Force psychosis’ which basically caused Capgrass syndrome- for those of y’all who don’t live in and out of psych wards, that’s a belief that everyone around you is actually an imposter. I’ve actually had bouts of it before. It also manifested in some wild and rare Force powers, of course. But Kylo Ren was not supposed to be part of that canon. Then again, neither was fucking Matt the Beautiful Perfect Angel Radar Technician.

“Okay. Yes. I get depressed regularly. Sometimes reactively.”

“When you’re in a more active, heightened state, that is when the Force-sensitivity most often manifests,” Kylo explained. I thought about it for a moment, and realized that this meant that in Star Wars, psychosis could actually result in Force powers. Oh man. If only my therapist could hear this, I thought.

“Sometimes I’m both at once. Sometimes I alternate very, very quickly.” Was I explaining my unique brand of bipolar to the Supreme Asshole now? 

“That may be why it’s so confusing for you to try to connect to the Force.”

“Damn. That… makes sense.”

“Almost like I know what I’m talking about,” Kylo said dryly. He looked at me with flat irritation. I scowled back, and stuck out my tongue.

“Okay, grand master, why don’t you tell me how you connect to the Force?” I countered, crossing my arms. Not that I didn’t have an idea, but let’s be honest, it’s never fully explained outside of ‘reach out with you feelings’ and ‘Kylo Ren has a lot of feelings.’ Like, okay, George. We get it. You didn’t think that hard. And neither did your successors, I guess.

Kylo’s expression got a little more serious, a little more thoughtful, and he looked back out the window at the planet below. My eyes followed his, and I saw another planet back behind the nearby one. It looked greenish-gray, from here. A sister planet. Just like their sister suns. Damn, that’s so cool.

“I’ve been connected to the Force since I was born,” he said, and for a second I almost told him that was a total cop-out, but then he kept talking. “I’ve always felt it, but it was connected to my anger more strongly than anything else. Darth Sideous taught my grandfather that his hatred made him powerful, and he was right. I know that firsthand, now.” I kept my eyes on the window, my heart racing. God I wish I hadn’t ended up here before I found out if you get redeemed or not, I thought.

“So, to connect to the Force you get angry? Or is that your secret- you’re always angry?” I knew he wouldn’t get the reference, but I couldn’t help myself. 

“I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m always angry,” he replied. Holy shit, dude, did Kylo Ren just express a modicum of self-awareness?

“It’s not. That’s fair. I guess I’m just saying, if you have to use your emotions to connect to the Force, it makes sense that you’d use the one you have the easiest access to.”

“Some are more potent than others.”

“Just like in real life,” I muttered. “I mean, like, in relationships. Outside of the Force, certain emotions have a stronger effect on us than others,” I added quickly. He raised an eyebrow at me, but he seemed pensive. Like this whole angle had never even occurred to him before. I was not shocked at all.

“So, what emotion do you have the easiest access to?” he asked. Now he kind of sounded like my therapist. That was way too weird. Luckily for him, I actually go to therapy now, and I knew the answer to that question.

“Loneliness,” I replied. Yeah, I know, this sounds like a big Angst fic now. But damn, it’s true. Being crazy as fuck will really alienate you from everyone around you. Remember that boyfriend I was talking to Matt about? Remember the girl who liked me until she found out I was bipolar? I haven’t even scratched the surface. But it’s fine, I’m dealing with it. Or I was before I got spirited away, I guess. I looked at Kylo, awaiting his response. What crazy Force powers was I gonna get from feeling lowkey like shit most of the time, huh? Riddle me that, Supreme Dickhead!

But he was just staring at me, as if my answer struck a chord with him that was totally unexpected. Damn, the power of being honest about your FEELINGS! I swear to God, his entire face changed. I don’t even know how to describe it. He stopped scowling, and the anger fell out of his eyes, and now they just looked sad. Like Matt’s, but even sadder. His shoulders sagged, and his mouth fell down into the saddest little frown I’ve ever seen, and his big beautiful lips ( oh God, stop it, brain ) just made it worse somehow. He looked like he was about to cry, and I almost felt like I’d kicked a puppy, or something. What the fuck…? I mean we all know he needs a fucking space therapist but DAMN.

For what felt like a reaaalllly long time, neither of us said anything.

“Probably not helpful, huh?” I murmured, and I couldn’t keep his gaze anymore without being overwhelmed with the desire to run over and hug him, which I found deeply confusing, so I looked out the window again. But I saw his reflection in the glass, and he looked at the floor for a moment before looking back outside, too.

“It never helped me much,” he said so, so quietly. Even his voice had changed, gotten... smaller somehow. Like I cannot tell you how much he seemed like almost a different person. I mean, in the movies sometimes Adam Driver’s face changes- you can see him go from pained to angry really clearly. Man, that guy can act his pants off. Or he could act my pants off… anyway. This was even more profound than that.

“Anger is a secondary emotion,” I said, compelled all of a sudden into the sagely wisdom I had learned from- you guessed it- my therapist. “It exists to protect us from pain. But it’s a temporary protection, that we should reserve for real threats. People just can’t tell the difference between a real threat and a perceived one. So we get angry to protect ourselves and end up hurting other people, and ourselves in the process.” I sighed. “When I was a kid, getting angry didn’t help me. Because I was a kid, and the adults were the ones in charge. I got so fucking angry all the time. It never mattered. I never won the arguments.”

I thought I saw his lip tremble in his reflection. Oh fuck, please don’t cry. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the whole damn galaxy was so emotionally repressed, considering the baby boomer who’d created it. But there was no stopping now, so I just kept rambling.

“So I don’t default to anger. I mean, I do get angry, I’ve gotten angrier on this fucking ship than I’ve gotten in years, to be honest. But I learned to be sneaky instead, and to be quiet, and to physically distance myself from what feels dangerous. And when I feel like I’m in danger, it’s almost like my emotions just… turn off. I can be mean, even cruel, but I don’t want to fight . I want to end the fight before it starts. I guess…” I chewed my bottom lip. “That might make it hard for me to intentionally use the Force, if my emotions are turned off.”

I kept glancing at Kylo’s reflection, silently begging the universe not to see tears on his face. I could not physically handle the urge to hug him, and if he cried I knew Caretaker Mode would be activated, and then what???? What if he snapped out of it and became Big Angry Kylo again??? Or worse, if he started using me as his therapist?????????

Then, I saw his shoulders straighten. I’m not sure I believe in auras, but the vibes I got from him started to steel up and get Angry again, sort of passively. His face changed- back to the Angry Mask. Like smashing his helmet had just caused him to create a mask out of his own face, now. 

“If that’s the case, you’re right. You may access it when you’re panicking, but we’ll have to focus on accessing it when you’re not. You said sensory overwhelm also causes it? We could create a highly stimulating environment, without threatening you, and create a focal point for you to channel that overwhelm into, maybe.” He looked at me, all business. I glanced at him from the side. I won’t lie, my dumb horny ass was immediately thinking, Oh, highly stimulating, huh? I can think of a few non-threatening ways to accomplish that… Three years, y’all. THREE. Then the reasonable part of my brain said Wow, literally stop. I will forgive your crush on Matt, but Kylo is a loose cannon. He seems like the type who might ignore your safeword. Do not engage.

“I think that might work,” I replied, bullying past my ridiculous brain long enough to consider the fact that this was a much better idea than surprise choking. I actually had no idea if it would work at all. It might just cause another hallucination. But, in this universe, there was a strong possibility that those were the same thing, so fuck it.

“Alright. We should move to a different environment, in that case.” Kylo rose from his seat.

“Wait,” I called as I stood up behind him. “Can… can we do this tomorrow? It’s late, now. I haven’t been sleeping well. I think I’ll do better if I’m rested.” To be honest, I was just slightly overwhelmed from almost-weeping Kylo and summarizing the contents of my therapy journal for the past however many years and generally just wanted to be far as fuck away from his chaotic fucking energy. And, it was actually dinner time. He regarded me for a moment. I waited for him to be angry, impatient, something like that.

“Agreed. I’ll make a few preparations. We should start early tomorrow. Rest.” He gave it like an order, and turned to leave the room. This time, I shuffled out behind him. He turned in the opposite direction from the one I needed to go, and didn’t offer any other goodbyes. Strangely, I felt like I kind of wished he had? Maybe seeing him act like a person for a single minute had made me wish he would do it more often. Just without the almost-crying. I turned on my datapad and opened the ship map, trying not to think too much about whatever it was that had just happened. 

“Welp. Tomorrow could get weird,” I murmured to myself, and shuffled off down the hallway.

Chapter Text

I am really not a morning person. When Sevens woke me up the next day, I had been asleep for all of four hours. So much for following orders.

The same awkwardly silent woman who had escorted me the first time showed up this time, but I almost didn’t wanna know where we were going anyway. I wanted desperately to bring my guitar, or something soothing, because despite the whole ‘trying not to make me panic’ angle, I didn’t have high hopes for today. I wasn’t quite nervous, though, because I felt a little too dissociated to be nervous. I call it ‘getting up into the Gundam.’ It feels like you’re a tiny person inside your own head, and you’re just piloting your body like you’re in a giant mech anime. I was way up in the Gundam already.

We entered a part of the ship I’d never seen before. Okay, there are a lot of parts of that ship I’d never seen before, but still. It just made me more uncomfortable, which caused me to dissociate more. Or to notice that I was dissociated more. I can’t always tell.

Finally we arrived at a network of hallways that lead to several individual rooms that looked eerily familiar. Please do not let this be where I think it is, I thought, as I realized that some of the rooms had what looked like metal chairs inside them. The woman stopped in front of the open entrance to one. I looked inside, and saw Kylo Ren standing next to one of the metal contraptions. I noticed the wrist and ankle cuffs on it, and remembered where I recognized it from.

“Oh hell no,” I exclaimed, stopping at the entrance. “Fuck that, there is no fucking way!” Did this motherfucker seriously just bring me to an interrogation room? For ‘sensory overstimulation’ ? Matt hadn’t already kissed me, so this was obviously not going to devolve into depraved BDSM fic (tragically.) To my mind that left about one (1) other option. The woman who escorted me was staring at me in shock for back-sassing the Supreme Asshole.

“I’m not going to torture you, Aeon. I just chose this room so there’d be no distractions at all,” Kylo explained, throwing his hands up in a gesture of pacification. I didn’t move, only glanced between him and the chair. 

“I literally cannot imagine why you think I would trust you about that,” I retorted.

“I know, I know. You have no reason to. I’m just…. Asking you to anyway.” His mouth bent into a resigned frown as he realized that he had no bargaining chip for that one. His bargaining chips were in the negative, actually. I narrowed my eyes at him. “Please.” Honestly, getting a ‘please’ from him was lowkey so satisfying that it won me over.

“Fine.” I walked into the room, approaching him. Fuck, he was so tall. “But I swear to God, if you’re lying…”

“I have no reason to lie,” he said. His energy was still armored and spiky, but he seemed almost more at ease around me now. I saw him give one extremely pointed look at his subordinate, and heard her scuttle away quickly. “I’m going to shut the door, though, to prevent interruptions. Just so you know.” He walked over and pressed a button on the console that did just that. I gotta say, I was surprised that he had the decency to warn me about it before he did it. Now, to just work on getting consent next time…

“Do you really expect me to hang out on this thing?” I asked, indicating the metal chair. It wasn’t much like a chair at all, now that I was close to it, more just a metal slab where I’d be lying prone or, if upright, standing on the weird little footrests at the bottom. Which seemed somehow more precarious without the restraints.

“You can just sit on a chair,” Kylo said, and I looked off to the side and saw that he’d brought in a couple of nondescript black chairs. Maybe coulda mentioned those first, jackass. “Unless you’d rather be on the board.” Wait, was that suggestive? I eyed him, decided it was wishful thinking for my own sake, and went to sit on a chair. He took his spot in the other chair, and held out a gloved hand to me. There was something in it. I eyed him again before reaching out my palm to accept whatever it was. He was getting a lot of looks from me, today. 

What he dropped into my hand looked for all the world like a piece of clear quartz. Quirking a brow, I looked at it a little more closely. There was a perfect opportunity here for a joke about being an Instagram witch, but I was too legitimately puzzled to come up with it. He wouldn’t have got it, anyway. But, he must have sensed my confusion.

“It’s a kyber crystal,” he explained. Wait, what?

“Oh.” Why would he give me a crystal that was supposed to power a light saber? Once again, it’s like he knew what I was thinking when he responded. Which made me slightly concerned because I’d never struggled with the delusion that other people were reading my thoughts, and so far he’d been unable to because I was non-canonical...

“I thought their attunement to the Force might be beneficial to you, given our purpose.” Oh. That makes a lot of sense, actually. I was a little bit impressed, to be honest. 

“Ah. So, this is my focal point?” 

“Yes.”

“Oh, okay. That’s doable. What about the sensory part?”

“There are a few different options. We can use some of the equipment in here on very, very low settings--”

“I thought you weren’t going to torture me?” He looked at me sternly.

“The lowest settings would only provide very mild electrical currents. So mild it’d be difficult for you to tell that you were experiencing them at all, unless you focused.”

“So like a TENS unit?” He just looked at me, which I realized was Kylo-speak for ‘I have no idea what that is but I’m not going to say anything because I’m the Supreme Dickhead, you figure it out.’ “Nevermind, it’s a low-electricity thing back home. They use it to lightly stimulate the nerves under your skin, to treat pain, mostly.”

“Pretty similar to that, yes. So, there are a few physical sensory tools here. Lights, sounds, things like that. But, I can also try to use the Force to affect you.”

“I thought you couldn’t use the Force on me?” He looked a little grouchy that I’d brought it up.

“I thought it was worth a try.”

“You can try, then, but I think you should do the other things, too. You know, in case you don’t get anywhere.” I smirked at him, and he glowered in response. But he stood up and started to pluck items off of the elaborate control panel in the room that I knew was normally used to torture people like, oh, I dunno, Han Solo? Poe Dameron? Rey? 

“Here,” he said, and handed me a few things that looked a lot like electrodes from a normal hospital, but without wires. “You can put these on your body to use the electric currents I was talking about.” I took them and looked them over, and then looked down at my body. It felt very far away and unfamiliar, still. I started to take off my boots, because the only TENS unit I had ever used had been applied to the bottoms of my feet. It was pretty relaxing, actually. I found myself hoping my feet didn’t smell terrible. 

By the time I’d managed to stick electrodes on my feet, wrists, shoulders, and the back of my neck, Kylo had rigged up a little droid that was now floating up behind where he would be sitting, and flashing multicolored lights at me. I squinted at it, frowning.

“This is already getting on my nerves,” I grumbled. He turned on something that sounded like a big, whirring fan, and the sound reverberated all around the metal room. Also very annoying. But, when he turned on the electrodes, that didn’t bother me. It was still weird, but I could tell it was on and that my nerves were responding to it, at least. Is being really dissociated going to throw a wrench in this exercise? I wondered. That could suck. A lot.

“Now, hold the crystal in your hands and focus on it,” he instructed as he sat back down across from me. Reluctantly, I sat back in the chair and cradled the little clear shard in my palms, looking down at it despite the irregularly strobing lights in my eyes. We were both silent, for a moment, and I felt almost like I was dissociating even more . Which was the opposite of helpful. I looked up at him.

“I’m… feeling strange today. Do you mind helping me? Guiding my meditation, or something teacherly like that?” Kylo looked at me thoughtfully.

“Try to breathe very evenly, and very deeply,” he said, and honestly his low voice was so soothing. I love deep voices in general. I looked back at the crystal, and took in a slow breath. It felt like my lungs were wrapped up in plastic, like the dissociation was causing me to struggle to relax enough to breathe deeply. “Imagine the light from the droid is flowing into your lungs with the air, and spreading out through your entire body one place at a time. From the top of your head, down your nose and cheeks, down your neck, across your shoulders, all the way down your body and limbs to your fingers and toes. Imagine it pooling around the kyber crystal,” he continued. The whirring of the fan was like a noise track playing beneath his words, which kind of got under my skin. In a less than pleasant way. I kept trying to breathe deeply, and the more I imagined the light moving through me, the easier it got. But the longer the fan went on, the more the electrical current continued, the more my skin felt like it was crackling, sparkling. It wasn’t really painful, it was just… well, overstimulating. It didn’t hurt but it wasn’t relaxing, either. 

“Imagine that the crystal is the nexus of all this light, all this breath, every sensation on and under your skin,” Kylo said, and I knew that he was leaning towards me with his elbows on his knees, watching me with that burning gaze you could feel from miles away. “Imagine that energy flowing through you, and out of you, and all around you to everything else. To the floor, to the ceiling, the halls, the other rooms, the people all over the ship. To me.”

As soon as he said ‘to me,’ I felt a prickling sensation all over my hands. I felt somehow both slightly overwhelmed and even more profoundly dissociated, staring into the crystal as it flashed with every color of the strobing light the droid continued to emit. I’ve never been hypnotized before, but I imagined this was what it must be like. I definitely have been on acid before, though. This was not really like that at all. Around me the world was falling away, like in the act of sensing all the energetic activity around me, I lost all the details and instead only felt the pulse of it moving through me in an endless loop. It was a little freaky.

“Aeon?” I heard a voice through my dulled senses, and I looked up to see Kylo staring at me with a look of shock growing on his face. And suddenly, behind him, I saw a figure in a black coat with red hair. Is that... Hux? As if in slow motion, I saw the redhead draw a blaster out of his coat pocket and point it directly at the back of Kylo’s head. His face began to turn black and shadowy, and a thousand red eyes opened all over it. FUCK!

“STOP!” I shouted, forgetting everything else and trying to lunge forward to protect Kylo from the shot somehow. I don’t know how I planned to do so, exactly, but that was my only idea.

The next thing I remember is falling to the floor, a shout, and darkness.

 

-----

 

I woke up dazed and blank in the medical bay for the second time since my arrival.

“Ow,” I groaned, reaching up to touch my head where it hurt like hell.

“Aeon Flux, please do not touch your head. You have a cut that is dressed and healing,” said a familiar robotic voice.

“Sevens… what happened?” I asked, turning my head to try and look at the droid. The lights were fully on, for once, which made that difficult. I was propped up on the hospital bed. Everything was still blurry, and slowly I started to remember what I’d seen. Suddenly I was filled with a rush of panic. “Where’s Kylo? What--”

“The Supreme Leader is right there,” Lucky replied, and I turned my head to the other side of my bed and blinked. Sure enough, there he sat on the same stool that Matt had been sitting on the first time we met, both of his black leather gloves lying on my bedside table as a tiny little droid was working on a ragged-looking wound on the first two fingers of one hand.

“Oh! You’re not dead!” I exclaimed, the panic draining into relief.

“Should I be?” he asked dryly. I was too scattered to even sass him.

“What happened to your fingers?”

“You bit them. But it’s okay, it wasn’t on purpose.” I swear to God, I thought I saw the ghost of a smile on his lips.

“I bit them?” I asked, even more confused than before.

“You had a seizure, Aeon Flux. The Supreme Leader was trying to prevent you from swallowing your tongue,” Lucky chimed in. “Unfortunately it is impossible for you to do that, though a common misconception, and though he prevented you from biting your tongue, it appears that you bit his fingers, instead.” What? This makes no sense. He stuck his fingers in my mouth? This really reads like there was kinky shit going on that I don’t remember. Like, this sounds fake. I looked back at Kylo, baffled. He was glaring at the droid a little, but then he shrugged.

“Learned something new, today,” he remarked, as the droid finished stitching him up. Wow, that was uncharacteristically chill. And did he really just almost smile at me? Is the galaxy ending? Did the writers just decide to scrap everything and embrace a surreal Force vision scene? About kinky sex gone awry? “You bit through my gloves and everything. I’m almost impressed.” But I was too busy trying to recall more of what had been happening before the seizure to give him a dirty look for that. I missed a lot of opportunities, that day.

“Wait, why did I have a seizure?” I asked, glancing between the man and the droid. “It’s the withdrawal, right?” I’d had a seizure only once before, when I’d forgotten one of my medications on a weeklong vacation with my friends. Oof.

“It happened while you were using the Force, again,” Kylo replied, sitting upright on the stool and waving the little droid away. HIs fingers looked almost like new. Space medical technology is pretty awesome.

“So... it worked?”

“Yes, very well, in fact. Before that, you were floating off of the chair, and, well. This is what your crystal looks like, now.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the kyber crystal. When I took it from him, I saw it pulsing gently with a weird, phosphorescent glow.

“Whoa,” I said. Holy shit, I thought. What does that even mean?

“You’ve channeled the Force through the crystal. It’s yours, now.” Boy oh boy, if that didn’t feel like a Chosen One Delusion moment. Am I gonna make a light saber next, coach?

“What about... “ I trailed off, looking at Kylo with uncertainty. Hadn’t I watched Hux appear and shoot him in the head? “Nevermind. I think I was just seeing things again.”

Again?” asked Lucky, sounding both shocked and annoyed. “You have been having hallucinations?” I glanced guiltily at the droid, frowning.

“Yes, Lucky. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. Talking about them has… put me in rough places, in the past.” Yeah, involuntary treatment ain’t exactly a vacation, buddy. “But it’s okay, they haven’t been happening a lot.” 

“We will speak more about this later, Aeon Flux,” threatened the droid, totally unconvinced that it was ‘okay’ at all, and stomped off to take care of some kind of medical droid business. I sighed. This was not ideal.

“How are you feeling?” Kylo asked. This time, it seemed like it was tinged with… actual concern?

“Exhausted,” I replied. My eyelids felt like they were made of lead, and all my limbs too. I almost wished I was still dissociated. “I wonder if getting fucked up every time I use the Force is a victory or not. If this can really be considered progress.” I felt my mood start to dip, my feelings veering towards hopelessness. I’d started to believe my own shtick that if I learned to use the Force, I could spirit myself right the fuck back home. I sagged back into the hospital bed, and tapped the controls to ease it back and make it a little more horizontal. Kylo was regarding me strangely again.

“Baby steps,” he said. My heart skipped a beat, and I looked up at him with wide eyes. His face was different, but not sad like last time. It was… tender? Concerned? Sweet? Holy shit. If he had been wearing a gray jumpsuit, and glasses, and if his hair was blonde....

He stood up, picking up his gloves. The tenderness was gone, as quickly as it had arrived. “Get some rest,” he said, his very favorite thing to order me to do, and turned to exit my alcove. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him. I was almost waiting on him to reach out and boop my nose. ARE you the same person????????????????

“When do we start again?” I asked before he’d left. He stopped, but didn’t turn around.

“I’ll contact you. I have things to attend to.” And then he was gone. I heard my heart pounding in my ears. For the briefest possible moment, he really had seemed just like Matt. You could just ask him upfront, said a little voice in the back of my mind. Fuck no, another thought said in reply. There is no way either of them would take that well. More importantly, maybe, why the fuck did I hallucinate Hux trying to murder him??? It wasn’t like any of my hallucinations had come true while I was here, or anything, but it still made me uneasy. I curled up under the gray blanket, and tried desperately to sleep.

Chapter Text

I won’t lie, I was having a pretty excellent dream about Matt when I was awakened rather suddenly- and rudely, I thought- by Lucky actually shaking my shoulder.

“Aeon Flux, the General is here to--”

“Go, droid,” came a familiar, snarly voice. Jesus Christ, I thought. I’ve been awake for far too few seconds to have to hear that. I rubbed my eyes vigorously and blinked, and looked over to see a certain Evil Space Ginger standing at the foot of my bed. He was alone. Lucky shuffled off unceremoniously.

“Hello,” I said, not bothering to disguise my irritation. 

“I hope you are recovering well from your little episode, Aeon,” Hux replied, as though he were trying to shame me by being more courteous than I was. I had some news for him about what actually caused me to feel shame. 

“I would recover better if my rest went uninterrupted, General,” I replied icily. Maybe it was the hallucination of him murdering Kylo, but I just wasn’t in the mood for his snobby fascist bullshit. “Is there something I can do for you, despite my current state?” 

“Indeed there is,” he replied, finally abandoning pretense to scowl at me. “I think you should discontinue these sessions with the Supreme Leader immediately.” Um, excuse you?

“Why’s that?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Apart from your current state?” He held out his hands, as if my condition spoke for itself and answered my own question a little too conveniently. Nice try, you little shit.

“Forgive me, General, but I find it hard to believe that you’re here asking me to go against the Supreme Leader just out of your desperate concern for my well-being.” His scowl deepened.

“I also have some concerns about the Supreme Leader’s focus on this task. It is detracting from his attention to judicial matters, and the tremendous concerns of his lately acquired post.”

“You’re worried about Kylo, now, too? You really must think I’m an idiot,” I said, crossing my arms. “I know enough about you, Hux.”

“Do you?” snarled the man, his lip curling and trembling. He was getting worked up, and it was honestly so amusing just how Shakespearean his melodrama was that I kind of got why Poe Dameron had enjoyed it so much.

“Yes. I do. I know about your ugly childhood, Armitage. I know about your father. I know about your mother,”-- here, his face contorted even more, because he was a bastard son of course-- “I know about how he beat you, I know Grand Admiral Sloan befriended you to protect herself from him, I know she protected you from him. I know how he died. Pity Parnassos beetle poison is so profoundly gruesome in its effects. But, I guess there’s no chance of an autopsy if there’s barely any of him left, right? And Phasma’s accusers are so unfortunately deceased.” I glared furiously at him, feeling more and more exhilarated. Who knew reading Star Wars books would ever pay out this hard? “Why are you here, General Hux? If I wanted to use this information against you, I already would have tried. But I have no intention of getting in your way. I’m not burdened with any sort of physical evidence of your crimes. I don’t care who leads this army. I’m not here to win anything, or take over the galaxy, or in any way make your life more difficult. I just wanna go home. You and Kylo Ren both can carry on murdering innocents across the galaxy in pursuit of your political ideology.” Damn, I really wish I’d had a mic to drop. For a long minute, Hux was silent as he glowered at me.

“I have no reason to trust you. No reason to believe that someone with as much power as you supposedly have has no designs on obtaining more,” he said finally. “Do you want to seduce our Supreme Leader, and establish yourself that way? Already, he makes rash decisions on your account.”

“Not everyone is just like you, General,” I retorted. “Not that I blame you for being suspicious. All three members of your little triumvirate have committed patricide, or worse. Why would you trust a motley of traitors? But that’s not my problem. And I don’t know what Kylo Ren does, but he needs no excuse to make rash decisions and we both know that.” But to be perfectly honest, I was absolutely dying to know what the entire fuck he was talking about. What rash decisions????? Was he buying a wedding ring???? This’ll turn into a fanfiction yet.  

“Fine. For now, I believe you. But you are a loose end, Aeon. Until you reveal your hand.” He put his hands in his pockets, resigned but absolutely not placated. He even spoke like a fucking movie villain. It was almost hilarious, except that he was also completely in earnest.

“Run along, General,” I said flatly. He curled his lip in disgust, and turned and trotted away, fuming. Once he had exited the medical bay, I huffed. “What the fuck was that about?”

“The General appears not to approve of you,” explained Lucky helpfully from around the other corner of my alcove, and his voice was so sudden that I almost jumped out of my bed.

“Jesus, Lucky. Please don’t do that. My stress hormones are fucked up as it is!” I scolded him, less than seriously. “Were you lurking that entire time?”

“I do not know what you mean, Aeon Flux,” replied the droid. I couldn’t not grin at it.

“Oh, right, you would never. A paragon of protocol, you are.”

“Indeed,” it agreed, very nonchalantly, as it pressed a bunch of buttons on its console. “I am sorry I had to wake you. Please continue to rest.”

“I’ll do my best, Lucky, I really will.”

 

-----

 

It was in the middle of the artificially induced night when I woke up next, to the sound of the chirping chime that meant someone was here to see me. I know, right? Like, I sure have a lot of visitors all of a sudden. But then, I heard a familiar, slightly timid voice.

“Aeon? You awake?” My angel has come! My sweet tender cinnamon roll!!!

“Barely,” I replied, chuckling. “What are you doing here?” Matt shuffled around the corner of my alcove and came right up to my bed, towering over me even with his slouchy posture.

“I came to see you. I had to. I heard what happened,” he said softly, tugging out the stool and sitting with his big, warm torso pressed up against the side of the bed. I rolled over onto my side, just to put fewer inches of air between us. I had it bad, y’all. I couldn’t really see him clearly, he was just softly lit by the med bay lights that shone in through the opening in the alcove. But I really could not have cared less.

“Does everyone know everything that happens to me?” I mumbled.

“Everyone hears rumors. But this time, everyone saw the Supreme Leader carrying you back here, passed out cold. Well, not everyone, but you know. A lot of people. What happened to your poor head? Did you bang it into something?” He reached a big arm out to softly pet my very short hair, not getting too close to the bandage on my head. I felt my whole body light up with sparkles.

“I dunno. I had a seizure while we were doing a lesson,” I explained to him, my voice falling all sleepy and quiet as he touched me. Sooooo sooooooothing…

“A seizure? Fuckin’ hell, hun. I’m so worried about you all the time. Feel like I never know what’ll happen to you next.” I beamed at him. To be honest, all I heard was ‘I think about you almost as much as you think about me’ and I was completely fine with it.

“I’m sorry. I’m a high-stress friend,” I laughed.

“No, no, that’s not what I meant,” Matt replied, flustered. I could tell he was turning red even in the low light. I just laughed more.

“I know, I’m just, I’m sorry. Thank you. For worrying about me.”

“Someone has to,” he murmured, continuing to pet my hair.

“I had another hallucination,” I told him. “Before I had the seizure.”

“Was it another demon?”

“Yes, but this time it was Hux. He was standing behind Kylo, and he pointed a blaster right at his head before he turned into a demon. I thought he was real, so I tried to jump up and do… something. Who knows. But then, I was out. Probably shocked the hell outta poor Kylo.” 

“It was Hux?” Now, he seemed legitimately surprised and concerned in equal measure.

“I don’t think Hux likes me. Actually, I know he doesn’t like me. I think he thinks I’m a bad influence on Kylo, or something. Even though I’m not even trying to be any influence on Kylo,” I grumbled. “To be fair, I don’t much like Hux, either.”

“Hux is… well.” Matt could never bring himself to say anything too mean about anyone, even though this time I could tell that he wanted to. He was entirely too good for this miserable fictional universe. Come back with me to my dimension, Matt. Let me take you away from all this, I thought dreamily.

“He’s like a rabid dog. A sadistic rabid dog. Oh, but the other part is, I have a kyber crystal now.” There were so many things to tell Matt, and I didn’t want to linger on the subject of a shitty redhead.

“A kyber-- seriously?” Matt’s jaw fell open. I reached into my pocket under the blanket and pulled it out, and its faint glow was brighter in the dimmed lighting. I held it up close to his face.

“I channeled the Force through it!” I proclaimed proudly. He looked at it, but didn’t touch it. 

“Wow. I didn’t know they were that beautiful,” he remarked. “What are you gonna do with it?”

“Probably just keep trying to channel the Force through it in my lessons. Fuck. I just got anxious about losing it. I should work on that. I lose things with truly astonishing regularity.” He laughed, and it was the only laugh I ever wanted to hear ever again.

“You should make a necklace out of it. That’s pretty easy to keep track of.”

“Oh. That’s a good idea,” I said, bringing it closer to my face to look at it.

“I think it just got brighter, when you started looking at it!” Matt said, like an excited kid. I had no idea if it had. I didn’t care. I smiled at him.

“Thank you for encouraging me the other day. I think it helped me a lot,” I told him, tucking the crystal away into my pocket again. He leaned onto the hospital bed with his elbows on the edge of it, brushing up against my arm. Wow wow wow wow wow why am I like this????

“You should embrace what you are, hun. It sucks not to. You deserve better than that.”

“Yeah. I think that’s what I was starting to work out in therapy, before I woke up here.”

“Therapy?”

“I… let me explain that one to you later, when I’m not this sleepy. In short, therapists help you take care of your emotions.”

“Like, emotion doctors?” he asked, brow knitting. “I didn’t know that was a thing.”

“Oh, it is most definitely a thing. But it’s complicated. I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

“Okay. I can’t wait to hear all about it,” he cooed. One of his hands lifted and he stroked my cheek ever so gently with the backs of his fingers. I noticed for the first time that his skin was covered in scars. Then I remembered my recent encounter with Kylo, and I grabbed his hand and started to feel along his fingers and palm in the half-light. 

“Have you always had these scars?” I asked him, brow knitting as I found scars that I could have sworn were in the same place as my bite marks on Kylo’s fingers. But there were a bunch of other scars, too, and I hadn’t gotten that close of a look. 

“I’ve had most of these scars for a pretty long time, hun. Technical work will wreck your hands,” he chuckled as my fingers ran all over his hands, finding a dozen raised lines and marks of slightly hardened scar tissue. I grabbed his other hand, just to be sure, but it also had an array of marks that told me nothing. Oh well, I’m touching his hands, there’s that. Oh God, they’re so big and lovely. Murder me.

“Oh,” I said rather anticlimactically, just grateful he wasn’t asking me to explain myself.

“What about you? Where’d this little scar on your forehead come from?” he asked me, reaching up to run his fingers along a little raised scar that disappeared into my hairline. 

“Oh, that? I uh, I hit my head on the corner of a table when I was like, two years old. I was hopping around pretending to be a frog,” I explained. “It’s not an exciting story.” 

“That’s so fucking cute,” Matt giggled, and I nearly perished on the spot. I let my much smaller hands linger on his, running my fingertips across his scars absently. When he started to pet my head again, I sighed with contentment.

“You are so nice to me,” I commented.

“That’s what friends are, right? Nice to each other?”

“Ideally, yes.”

“You’re very nice to me, too,” he said.

“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything special for you, though. In fact I feel mostly like I’ve needed you to take care of me. I feel bad about it.”

“Don’t feel bad about having your own struggles. You never put anything onto me. I helped you because I wanted to.” Wow. Secure attachment is hot.

“That’s fair. I hope you’ll tell me if you ever need help. If I can do anything for you, I always will.”

“I believe you.”

“I know I’m not very convincing, at the moment, given the circumstances.”

“Give it time. Baby steps,” he said. My heartbeat sped up again. Was it not weird that Kylo said that? Was it just me reading way too deep into things and being paranoid??

“Baby steps…” I trailed off, not wanting to think about it while I was getting to touch Matt’s hand for this long.

“You need to rest, hun. I need you to rest. For the sake of my worried self,” he laughed. “But mostly you need to rest, for your own sake.”

“I don’t want you to leave,” I admitted quietly, frowning.

“You want me to stay here with you till you fall asleep?” he asked. Um, what? Yes? Until I die, honestly. 

“Would you?” I looked up at him, saucer-eyed.

“Of course. You’re halfway there already,” he grinned.

“Oh, you’re an angel. A treasure. Thank you.” I curled up a little, still holding his hand in mine, pulling it up close to my face so I could press the back of it against my cheek. He leaned in a little closer, so he could comfortably leave it there, and carried on petting my head.

“I can’t sing as beautifully as you. But I can hum you a little something. Is that too patronizing? I’m not trying to make you feel like a baby or anything.” Am I dead? Is this heaven? Am I hallucinating again? What is going on?

“You can do whatever you want,” I murmured, already starting to nod off. That sweet, sweet oxytocin. 

“Alright,” he chuckled. And then, he started to hum very softly, his deep voice resonating through every molecule of my body. I didn’t know the little melody he was humming, had never heard it before. Not even in obscure Star Wars media. I can safely say I hadn’t been that peaceful in years. 

I was all but gone, when he finally began to slowly extricate his hand from my grip. In fact I might have just dreamed it, to be honest. Distantly, I thought I heard him say, “Goodnight, fierce one.” Then, he pressed his lips against the scar on my forehead, before he left.

Yeah. That was probably a dream. 

Chapter Text

A couple of days later when I had recuperated from the seizure, at least physically, I asked Lucky about my needing to possibly sleep in my own room more, get acclimated to the new environment, not just live in the hospital. I was starting to crave privacy, because (among other reasons) I felt uncomfortable playing guitar in my alcove. I also may or may not have wanted more privacy in the event that Matt and I continued to spend time together. I fully ignored the possibility that I was just accepting my fate as being stuck in the Star Wars universe, for now.

“I suppose that would be good for you in the long run,” mused the droid somewhat reluctantly. “To become more at home on the ship.”

“I can still come in for check-ins, Lucky. I know you wanna keep an eye on my brain,” I reassured him. 

“Hm. Would you be opposed to my configuring a monitor for you to wear? So that I may continue to record your electroencephalopathic activity as an ongoing component of your treatment?” I looked at him, uncertain. 

“You want to record my brain activity all the time, now?”

“Yes. That would be ideal, in case you continue to have episodes of hallucinations or other temporary anomalous occurrences.”

“I…”

“Aeon Flux, it is possible that with my assistance you may become able to stop the hallucinations. Do you desire this outcome?” It seemed sincere, and it’s honestly hard for me to explain just why this made me even more uncomfortable, exactly. Possibly because stopping the hallucinations might also affect my ability to use the Force? I was beginning to get attached to the idea that the two could be connected. I was also reminded a little too much of the single and apparently paramount goal of most of my psychiatrists, which was to completely stop my symptoms. No matter how fucked up the medication made me feel. That never actually happened, by the way. I still had the symptoms, they were just less intense and disruptive.

“No. I don’t think stopping them is the answer, Lucky.” It regarded me very blankly.

“Alright. If that is not the goal of your treatment, what should be the goal?” Well, that’s not something a psychiatrist is likely to ever say. I chewed on my lip. 

“I… don’t know. I think I just want to learn to handle this stuff on my own. I just might need your help if it becomes overwhelming.”

“That is inadvisable, however it is not impossible. I request that you continue to attend check-in appointments twice a week, or after any anomalous symptoms, or in the event of any emergencies. Do you agree?” It seemed pleased enough with this plan, and not actually angry that I was going against ‘advisable’ treatment.

“That sounds good,” I replied, impressed with space psychiatric treatment way more than I ever would have expected to be. 

“Excellent. I have updated your patient profile accordingly.” And that was that. Lucky went back to buzzing around the medical bay, tending its patients and machines. I gathered my things, and started walking back to my room. It felt like a weird rite of passage. Even though I very pointedly refused to engage in thinking about it, the feeling that I had shifted from something temporary to something more permanent was still there, lurking in my gut. Look on the bright side, you can masturbate again! You have a door! It’s the little things!

When I entered my room, I was surprised to see that it was very tidy and that there was a stack of clothes on the bed. Like, a large stack of clothes. Laying my guitar down on the couch, I went over to investigate.

Y’all. These clothes were wild. I mean, to me, at least. They were mostly all black and gray. But there were pants, socks, sleeveless shirts, two really badass jackets, a vest, a belt, a tunic, two pairs of leggings (with stirrups!!! Who knew they had those in Star Wars!!!!), taller socks. A couple of the pieces featured red trim, one of the jackets had a red lining. Like damn, the First Order really upped their game from ripping off Nazi uniforms. These looked really sleek. Then, at the bottom of the pile, was a single dress. That stopped me in my tracks.

Fuck. I had been too busy for the past few days thinking about how crazy I felt to even begin to reconcile the idea of confessing my gender issues. I mean, I didn’t exactly talk to a lot of people on board regularly. Mostly just Kylo, and Matt who may or may not have also been Kylo, and Lucky. So that was a maximum of three people. But still. I’d already gone through this shit so many times before. Being non-binary is a weird struggle, trying to figure out what that means and looks like is an adventure riddled with self-doubt, insecurities, confusion, and possibly dramatic consequences from people who not only fail to understand it, but deem it threatening enough to ruin your relationship with them over it. I realized I’d been ignoring my own struggle with gender self-expression in favor of trying to address issues that actually felt… solvable. Ouch.

I sighed mightily. Self-awareness is such a fucking bitch. The clothes were cool as hell, and mostly they felt remarkably androgynous. Almost utilitarian, but with an eye for design. That felt very comfortable to me. The dress, though, struck me as a massive departure from the rest. I lifted it up to look at it more closely.

“Oh, wow,” I muttered, holding it up in the light of my bedside lamp. It was red, but a dark, brick red rather than Jessica Rabbit red, thank God. It had a high neck, no sleeves, and was really soft, and fell almost to the floor but was slit up either side. Not too dramatically, though. It was form-fitting. For a dress, it was actually pretty simple and androgynous. I kinda liked it. It made me wish I had a matching suit, whatever the space version of a suit would look like, in the same color. Do they have formalwear jumpsuits in space? I started to hang the clothes up in my little closet.

“I wonder if I can ask whoever sent these to find me a matching suit,” I mused out loud to nobody. “Who did send me these? Not Kylo, surely. They’re so thoughtful.” I looked over at my datapad. Fuck. I mean the only other fucking option is Lucky Sevens, and that defies even the laws of fanfiction. What if it WAS Matt? Even if they were the same person, would Kylo really send me clothes this cool under the auspices of being himself, or his actually-nice alter ego? I had two equal and opposite reactions to that notion at the same time, outside of my concern that Kylo was Matt. One was exactly the butterfly-inducing heart palpitations you’d expect. The other was a weird unease, because letting people do nice things for me is not my strong suit and I get way too guilty about it. I went over and picked the datapad up off the bed, sitting back down with it to look at the text of our most recent conversation. 

Fuck it. I started tapping out a new message. 

There is a suspicious pile of really nice new clothes in my room. Who do I report this to? I hesitated before sending it, but I fucking sent it, dammit, and waited. 

This time, though, there was no quick reply.

“Welp. You goofed up, you dingus,” I scolded myself. Turns out that even in space, you run the risk of having to wait for a response to a text message when you really, really don’t want to. I decided to take a real shower, rather than just the antimicrobial hose-downs they did in the medical bay, to pass the time.

When I emerged from the steamy little bathroom feeling genuinely a bit better, I tried really hard not to go directly to my datapad and check for a reply. I really did try. Be nice to me, okay?

Hmm, seems suspicious. You’d better look for clues. I grinned a fucking mile wide.

There was no note, of course. That’d be too easy. But who would do something this kind and thoughtful?

Do you have any secret admirers among the housekeeping staff? I actually laughed out loud.

If I knew, then it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?

Fair enough. Perhaps one of the officers is an aspiring clothing designer and just wants to see if you’d wear their prototypes. Oh come on, that was a weak one, Matt. 

Next you’ll try and tell me that a magical Ewok that lives under the trash compactors flew in to grant me three wishes and I just forgot that I used one up on some new clothes. 

Was it that much of a stretch? Damn. I’m off my game. I was smiling so hard my cheeks started to hurt.

It was you, wasn’t it?

Alright, you caught me. Now the mixed feelings came back, the discomfort of accepting gifts. The not knowing his motivation. The not even knowing if he was a real person and not just a fun adventure for Kylo Ren to mess with my head.

You didn’t have to do that. 

I know. I just wanted to. Take the compliment, asshole. Interrogate him in person, if you can’t just get over it, I thought.

Thank you. Hell yeah. I did it! Where’s my goddamn award?

Do they all fit? 

I haven’t tried them all on yet! I just got back here. I’m going to start actually sleeping here, now. Like, not in the med bay. 

Oh wow. Baby steps, huh? That made me uncomfortable, for reasons previously stated. Time to deflect with a joke.

I guess so. I’m excited to have my very own door. 

Very stupendous. It’s almost like you’re training with the Supreme Leader himself, or something, to be granted such luxuries.

I know, right? Will you come visit me soon? I don’t know when Kylo will be back to resume training. It’s only been a couple of days, but he didn’t give me a date the last time we spoke. I am going to literally go insane if I have nothing to do. I managed to leave out the ‘I miss you’ part.

Will you try on all those clothes and tell me if everything fits first? What the fuck. Why was literally everything Matt did so unbelievably cute? It boggles the mind.

I think I can manage that!

Thank you. I’ll be back tomorrow. Right now I’m planetside, we’re getting a few replacement parts. Should I come to your room? I looked at the screen, my mind wandering deliciously with the possibilities, and yet hearing my Voice Of Reason, the fucking jerk, telling me that this whole thing was still a profoundly bad idea. Oh, come on. I won’t start anything! But if he starts it… I mean, who am I to say no?  

That sounds good. What time can you be here?

2100 hrs. That’s late, I know.

It’s fine, I’m a night owl anyway. I replied hastily. You know, whatever night means in the frigid void of space.

Alright, I’ll be there, then.

Travel safe.

I will. Take care of yourself.

I’ll do my best.

I looked outside the sliver of a window in my room. I could barely make out the planet we were orbiting, it was so dark below us, and dotted with a smattering of lights. Its sun wasn’t yet visible from our position. I looked at the clock, and it said 1900. 

“Twenty-six hours is so fucking long,” I whined to my room. But whatever. Matt was coming to see me at all, which was enough. I was starting not to care if he really was Kylo in disguise.

Chapter Text

At that point, to be perfectly honest, I was starting to get manic enough that certain things were slipping past me. The Voice of Reason in the back of my head was getting quieter, easier to ignore, sometimes it was silent altogether. I spent the day figuring out where to get nice smelling soap and some lotion for my dry knees and elbows, trying on all the clothes (they literally all fit perfectly except the socks, which was extremely astonishing), and discovering to my delight that there were multiple barber shops inside the ship. It was starting to feel more and more like a flying city. I wondered if there were restaurants and bars somewhere, or if they had space-billiards. I got my hair cut by a really cute, really butch woman who said she was a retired trooper. She gave me a buzz cut, like all the way around, and told me I had a good head-shape. I know I was starting to get a lil bit up there, if you know what I mean, because I was flirting real hard with her. Just ‘cuz.

Obviously, I was doing all this in preparation to look really cute to see Matt. That oxytocin was really motivating me, y’all. By the time he was supposed to be arriving, I was clean, my elbows and knees were soft, I was wearing my new clothes, and I smelled great. I was feelin’ myself big time. Oh, mania. You always make me so confident. Temporarily, but still. 

Then, it was ten minutes past. Then fifteen minutes past. Then twenty minutes past. I was eyeing my datapad hard, getting frustrated.

“I think I’d rather you fell off your pedestal by being Kylo in disguise than by standing me up, dammit,” I swore at my empty room, opening our message conversation on my datapad and staring at it like it would summon him. I started typing a message, stopped, deleted it, then started again. Fuck. Seriously? This is like a Tinder date, where it’s a 50/50 chance they’ll even show up. It is genuinely disturbing that this still happens even in fictional universes. I deleted about four unsent messages before the door finally chirped.

“Oh thank God,” I groaned to myself before heading over to the door to open it.

“Lemme in lemme in!” Matt whispered immediately as the door opened, and he darted in past me like he was hiding from someone, watching the doors shut behind him. Well, that’s not even remotely suspicious...

“Uh,” I said, which was not the first thing I’d envisioned saying to him that evening by a long shot. “What’s going on?”

“Sorry,” he said to me with a sigh, running his hand through his hair. It flopped back down into his face adorably. “I uh, I blew off my shift early, but I thought I saw one of the guys on my way here, and I didn’t want him to see me.” I looked at him, quirking a brow.

“You’re half an hour late...” I pointed out, but then I actually looked him over. He was wearing a pair of well-fitting black trousers and a gray collared shirt, but he’d rolled up the sleeves much as he usually did his gray jumpsuit sleeves. Apparently, he’d gotten dressed up too, which was probably why he was late. Oh my God. See? This is no longer wishful thinking. He totally likes me back!!!!!!! The Voice of Reason made no protest.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” he replied bashfully. I was staring at him so blatantly that he shrugged and held out his arms as if to offer me a better look. “You’re not the only one I got new clothes for.” 

“I… yeah!” I stammered poetically. “Wow, you look great!” He looked amazing.

“Speak for yourself!” he laughed, blushing, letting his eyes roam over me a little. I was feeling way too self-assured to blush. Instead, I gave him a little twirl. After much internal debate earlier that night, I was wearing the dress. Even though I didn’t have a full-length mirror to look at myself in, I felt pretty hot in it. Then again, at certain points in the manic part of the cycle, I would feel pretty hot in a burlap sack. I didn’t have any shoes other than the boots, though, so I’d just decided to go barefoot. It was my room, after all.

“They all fit so well, Matt. I don’t know how you managed.”

“My intuition must just that be good,” he said, a little grin appearing. “I… I wasn’t sure if you’d like the dress or not, to be honest.” This struck me as sort of odd.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I just… you seem like you’re just more into pants. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

“Well…” Damn. That was on the nose, for someone I’d never spoken to about clothing at all before, much less my own. “Um, normally, I don’t, you’re right.”

“Really?” He looked crestfallen. “You don’t?”

“No. But I like this one!” I told him quickly. To be fair, I wasn’t lying! Once in a while there were dresses I liked, and this was actually one of them. But I felt slightly guilty, because I’d also decided to wear the dress specifically because I thought Matt would think it was hot. 

“Oh!” His smile started to return. “That’s good!”

“Yeah, everything you picked out was… those clothes are lovely, Matt. I really hope you didn’t spend a ton of money on them.”

“Listen, I’ve had some credits saved up for a while now, and nothing to spend them on. So don’t worry about it.” I just gave him a look, you know, like oh my God I can’t believe you spent money on me but also you’re so nice and you’re right I should just not worry about it but also oh my GOD okay fine. I walked over towards the couch to sit, and he followed me, beaming. I crossed my legs, which may or may not have definitely been to show them off via one of the splits in the dress.

“I know there’s gotta be a lot of different styles of clothing all over the galaxy, but you really nailed my aesthetic,” I told him. “Nothing too fancy, nothing too feminine, everything’s even comfortable. And kind of makes me feel like royalty,” I added, with an almost-embarrassed little smile. “The tails on that jacket!”

“Yeah, don’t ask me why, but I got the feeling you’d like something that felt… powerful? Not too delicate. I guess, not too feminine, you’re right,” he mused.

“This might sound weird or silly, maybe, but that kinda means a lot to me. That you, um, understood that about me, I guess. Clothes help with self-expression.” I looked at him earnestly. “That can be hard for me, sometimes.” He canted his head in that puppy-like way that I completely adored.

“Why’s that, Aeon?”

“Well…” I paused, looking for the right words. Okay, this isn’t social justice Tumblr in 2013, thank fuck, but how the fuck do I explain the gender thing to someone like Matt? “I’m… I don’t really wanna be seen as a woman, or assumed to have ‘womanly’ behaviors or desires. Or ‘manly’ ones either. I just want to be me. Most cultures use clothes to strongly differentiate between men and women, which makes it hard to present myself without the, um… cultural assumptions, I guess, built in. I would rather be known for being who I am, than expected to be like one gender or the other.” I looked at him, hoping that my words had landed. He looked right back, clearly trying to digest everything I was saying. Fuck, please don’t be weird about this. 

“What does your culture say about men versus women?” he asked. I guess we were in space after all. There’s a lot of cultures out there, so it was a fair question.

“Um, we code gender behavior based on body parts. Which makes no sense. I’ve always had inclinations that were supposed to feminine- I like taking care of the people I love, for example. I’ve also always had masculine ones, so like I spent a lot of my life trying way too hard to be tough. To not show my emotions. None of that shit had anything to do with my body, or my genitals, or my clothes, or my haircut, or whatever. It was all learned behaviors from my parents and shit. And my mom was definitely the masculine one! You know?” I tried to explain. Matt appeared to be thinking very hard, his brow knit into a serious expression. It was almost comical, under those glasses.

“That’s… interesting. I mean, there are a lot of cultures, and a lot of genders, and a lot of weird behavior expectations depending on where you go in the galaxy. Though, there are an awful lot of men in charge, at least around here. What about people who are happy to, uh, fit in, I guess? Happy to fit with how they’re ‘supposed’ to act, or dress?”

“That’s fine with me. I don’t care what other people do, what their bodies are like, how they dress. I just care about how people treat each other.” I was starting to regret going into my personal values, as I was, in fact, on a ship that was the center of a fascist regime. With no way off, for the time being, either.

“So, if they act the opposite of how they’re supposed to, that’s also not something that bothers you?” He had a very strange expression on his face, when he asked me that. Like he was especially anxious about my reply.

“No, that doesn’t matter to me either. People should be able to be themselves.” I shrugged. “When you told me to embrace what I am, the other day, it was a reminder I really needed. I haven’t spoken up much about gender stuff since I got here.” He was smiling at me now.

“So-- wait.” Matt suddenly sat upright and placed his hands in his lap like he was an obedient student, intent on listening to whatever my response was. “You’re saying you’re neither a boy nor a girl. And that has nothing to do with your body parts. But, it affects how you feel comfortable dressing. Is there anything else it affects your comfort with? Is there anything I shouldn’t say or do, that would make you uncomfortable?” I blinked for a moment. Wow. He belongs on that pedestal. He really is a perfect angel. 

“Um, well, just use neutral pronouns for me. And I guess I told Hux not to call me ‘madam’ the other day. So yeah, please don’t call me ‘madam’ or ‘miss’ or ‘ma’am.’ Or ‘sir’... titles are weird, anyway.”

“You told Hux not to call you ‘madam’?” His eyebrows shot up, but he was also smirking. “Ballsy move. What should I say instead?”

“I dunno. I used to joke with my friends at home that they could call me ‘Your Radiance’ if they couldn’t figure it out,” I chuckled. “Some of them actually did it, which was pretty funny.”

“Very well, then, Your Radiance!” Matt replied, standing up suddenly so that he could offer me a very sweeping bow. “I’ll get creative!” Now, I was actually blushing.

“Oh good grief,” I murmured, feigning frustration. He sat back down, mischievously grinning, closer to me this time. Literally stop being so fucking cute for one minute so I can breathe?????? “Thanks. For listening to all that.”

“Thank you for telling me. I, um, I think that people on this ship still expect certain things because of gender. Most of us just wear the clothes we need for our jobs, and really your rank is most important, but when it comes to behaviors, sometimes...” He shook his blonde head.

“It’s more relevant to my culture than it is here, though, maybe.” Probably not, though. Unless the First Order are trying to be equal opportunity fascists, somehow. Then again, this is space! Anything could happen!

“Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important here, too,” he said, reaching out to put his big hand on my bare shoulder. I got goosebumps as soon as his skin touched mine. Shit. “By the way, this is unrelated, but. Your haircut looks incredible,” he added, his eyes full of that sparkling awe again. My heart pounded.

“Oh, thank you,” I smiled back. Uh oh. There was another one of those intensely loaded pauses, again. Before I could compulsively blurt out something stupid, though, Matt’s expression changed.

“Aeon? Can I ask you something?” Oh God. Oh fuck. Oh no. Oh yes? 

“Sure, Matt,” I replied, hearing my own voice fall soft, and lush, and terribly inviting.

“Well, I’ve been thinking. And given what we just talked about… would you maybe want to paint my nails?” He bit his lip nervously. I blinked, then beamed at him. Matt’s got a femmy side!!!!!! This is too wholesome!!!!!!!  

“Um, yes? Absolutely!! You have nail polish in space?” His face lit up more than I’d ever seen it before. 

“Yeah!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little vial of polish that looked very sheer and full of fine, multi-colored glitter that tended champagne-pinkish. I thought my brain was going to explode. This was starting to feel like the cutest crack-fic ever.

“Oh, that’s a really nice color,” I told him as I took it and looked at it in the lamplight. Not one I would wear in a million years if I even wore nail polish, but still. Before I even knew it, his enormous, beautiful hands were resting on my thigh, fingers splayed out expectantly. I almost blushed again, the goosebumps coming back with a vengeance. 

“You think so? I got it planetside. Because I didn’t want anyone to see me ordering it at the commissary,” he admitted, shrugging sheepishly. I figured out how to open the vial (it was a fucking space-vial, so of course it made no sense) and set about the task of painting his nails, which were of course short and unkempt. His hands were really warm.

“Do you think someone would laugh at you?” I asked, frowning.

“Maybe.” He was extra shy, now, and I wanted to scream something about protecting him at all costs, but managed not to. 

“I’ll pick some up for you, if you want,” I told him, smiling conspiratorially. “You gotta buy it, though. I don’t have any money.”

“You should really ask the Supreme Leader for an allowance.”

“For what? I get everything that I need, here, just by virtue of asking. Except the clothes, I guess. Those were a perk,” I teased him.

“A gift,” he corrected. “Which does not require repayment, so don’t even go there. The allowance is for what you want, not just what you need.” I only glanced up from his hand and smirked, then returned to finish the last two nails. He watched me, fascinated. “You have steady hands,” he commented. I froze, staring at my hands. 

Wait, I do? 

“Um, Aeon? You okay?” I heard Matt ask. I shook my head slightly, to rattle my brain back to the present.

“Yeah, sorry. I just… I had a tremor from my medication for a long time. Even though I’ve been in withdrawal, here, it’s sort of strange that it’s apparently gone? Normally it doesn’t go away that fast, even after stopping the meds.” Huh. That is really fucking weird. Does it mean something? Is it the Force? Or something else? Am I reading into this?? I decided to try to not focus on that detail. It felt like a rabbit-hole opening up in my brain that I didn’t want to fall down. 

“Huh. Weird. But a good thing, I guess,” he commented.

“A good thing for your nails,” I chuckled. “All done with this hand. Time for the sequel!” As I took his other hand in mine, the painted one landed softly right back on my thigh, sliding down gently to rest against the bend of my hip with his fingers carefully spread so that the wet polish wouldn’t get messed up. I felt my cheeks burning. Okay, this is not what I imagined, but it’s very nearly even better, I thought. As I started painting his other hand, he fell silent again, watching. He was so close, I could feel his gentle breath on my neck, could hear the soft sound of it. He smelled clean, and peppery, and oh God why am I like this. I took my time finishing this hand, of course. I didn’t ever want to stop touching him. Oxytocin is an amazing chemical, even better when it’s paired with someone as cute and beautiful and angelic as Matt. I’m just sayin’.

“Wow,” he murmured when I was done, resting that hand on my thigh next to his other one, canting his head to look at the glitter as it caught the lamplight. I could see the joy on his face, a very certain kind of joy that I knew all too well.

“You’re not worried about someone bullying you at work because of this, are you?” I asked, slightly worried. Even though he was huge, and could surely handle himself.

“I don’t care anymore,” he sighed. “It feels so pretty. I really like it.” He caught my look, which had morphed into a big, dumb, lowkey love-struck smile. “What?” 

“Oh, nothing. You’re just… so happy.” You just got to have your first gender euphoric moment, because of me, and if I got any happier about it I’d die of my fucking heart exploding. His cheeks turned red.

“Thanks,” he said softly. “I’ve been putting it in my pocket for days, trying to get up the courage to just put it on. I thought about giving it to you. After everything you said, I thought maybe you’d be cool with doing it for me instead.”

“Cool with it? I fucking adore it! You can wear whatever you want. If someone makes fun of you, just lemme know. I’ll Force-chuck ‘em into a wall, Kylo-style.” He snorted. 

“Please, don’t worry about it. I’m just happy,” he murmured.

“Thank you for letting me make you happy, then,” I said softly. He looked back at me, a strange look on his face. I didn’t quite realize just how close we’d gotten to each other during this process. I felt his hands on my leg go stiff, like he was suddenly nervous. He bit his lip, just a little, and I swallowed. I was about to mc-freakin’ lose it, y’all.

“Um, sure,” he stammered, blushing and very quickly pulling his hands off of my lap and even kinda scooting away from me a little. UUUUUUUUUUUUGGGHHHH. Normally I'm more proactive than this, but my promise to myself was not to start anything. I was starting to hate myself for being so committed.

I don’t think my disappointment had time to show on my face, though, before something much worse happened. Out of the blue, I noticed something behind Matt. Standing away from us near the other end of the couch was a figure. I blinked until it came into focus.

It was Kylo Ren, looking completely fucking furious. Standing next to him, holding his hand, was a little boy with dark hair and sad eyes, looking at me reproachfully. It was the same little boy from before, in the meditation room.

My eyes flew wide open in shock, and as if that weren’t enough, then Kylo went and sprouted a thousand extra red eyes, his face melting into a shadow around them. Suddenly, drawing his light saber, the demon flew right at me.

I screamed.

Chapter Text

“Aeon! Aeon! What’s wrong?” My hands were clamped over my eyes, palms pressing down on my lids to not even let a little light in. I was gasping for breath, my heart racing. I realized that I was being held very gently, and the brief moment where I’d forgotten about everything but being scared to death by a demon passed and I remembered what was going on. Oh yeah. Matt's here. Shit. I burrowed into his chest, hands still on my eyes, and felt his strong arms wrap around me. One large hand stroked my back.

“It’s alright, hun. I’m right here,” he cooed softly into my ear. “I’m not going anywhere. Unless you want me to, obviously.”

“Don’t go,” I whimpered pathetically. I hadn’t seen anything that vividly in years, and now I was gonna be a huge baby in front of Matt. There was a part of me that wanted to run, to beg him to leave, to retreat into darkness all alone and suffer the terror of my hallucinations and reckless poor decisions without burdening anyone else. That was the part of me I’d spent too much fucking time in therapy trying to deal with to let it boss me around now. “Is it gone?”

“It’s not here now. Or, I can’t see it, at least. That might not be helpful.” I pulled my hands off of my face and pressed them up against his chest instead, but kept my eyes shut. I felt and heard the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in and out, and felt his hand rubbing my back. I waited like that for what felt like a long time, before I finally began to open my eyes, and then to ease my gaze out of the dark, safe cavern of his arms and towards where demon-Kylo and the little boy had been standing. They were gone. I sucked in a long breath, slowly.

“Okay,” I said, closing my eyes again and turning my head back around to look into the crook of his neck and then lean into it wearily. Fuck. That’s getting really old.

“Was it another demon?” he asked softly. I nodded. Then I thought about the implications of seeing Kylo while I was here with Matt, struggling against doing the thing I had told myself ad nauseum not to do. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

“I’m sorry. It flew right at me,” I murmured. I felt Matt nod, and one of his hands came up to stroke the back of my buzzed head. Oh, that feels nice.

“It’s okay. Nothing to be sorry for.”

“Thank you.” Oh, please don’t be Kylo in disguise. Please don’t do that to me. To be totally honest with y’all, I started to cry a little bit, then. Nobody had ever been that understanding about watching me have a hallucination. Most people start freaking out almost as much as I am, and yelling at me that it’s not real, as though that's supposed to fix it??

“Oh, hun,” I heard him whisper as I suppressed my sobs as hard as I possibly could. “Is everything you see that frightening?”

“No,” I murmured in response. “Sometimes, I used to see things that were so beautiful, I couldn’t describe them. I thought maybe they were spirits, or angels.”

“Wow. That sounds incredible.”

“Sometimes I just see people, or objects. I thought this entire ship was a hallucination when I first got here.”

“Yeah, I remember you telling me you were trying to decide if it was real, or not.” I could hear the smile in his voice. 

“Right now, I’m trying to decide if you’re real or not,” I joked with him. The deep, low sound of his chuckle filled me with reassurance.

“I’m real, or I was the last time I checked.” He had no idea how many layers of irony were wrapped up in that statement, considering the fact that he wasn’t even canon.

“Good to know,” I laughed wanly, leaning into his arms, unwilling to leave them. But I had to. And after what I’d just seen, I was feeling kinda guilty about pushing any more. Was it my brain trying to scare me off of a bad idea? I sighed, and pulled away from Matt to sit up properly. “Thank you. I feel better, now.”

“You sure?” he asked, full of puppy-dog eyes. You're not making not being held by you any easier, my guy.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I think… I think I need to sleep.” God I hate being responsible!! Matt nodded, though I thought I caught a hint of disappointment in his face. Maybe that was wishful thinking.

“You oughta try and be well-rested for your lessons, and stuff,” he agreed. “I was gonna ask you to maybe play another song for me, but we can always do that some other time.” I felt my heart crack a little. I tried to smile anyway.

“Yeah, I’d love to do that next time,” I assured him. He smiled back at me.

“Okay. I’ll just ping you when I’m free next?”

“I’d like that.” His smile seemed to brighten a little, and he stood up from the couch.

“Great,” he said softly, and then put his hands in his pockets rather sheepishly and just stood there, smiling at me. I smiled back, and even though I was totally bummed, he was being so cute and awkward that it was making me feel a little better. For a moment we just awkwardly smiled at each other, until finally Matt broke and gave a little laugh. “Okay, I should go.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, and he kept looking back at me as he shuffled to the door.

“Goodnight, Aeon,” he said quietly.

“G’night, Matt,” I replied, just as quietly. The door slid open. He gave me one last little wave before he turned and shuffled out. The silence in my room rang in my ears. 

“You are such an idiot,” I scolded myself, rubbing the bridge of my nose to try and offset the headache that was definitely coming on. 

 

-----

 

The next day I spent a lot of time looking at the list of items I could order from the commissary without actually ordering them just yet, since I had no money. Then again, maybe I had the Kylo-Ren’s-Sorta-Apprentice-Pass, and they would give me free stuff. Out of respect, obviously. Or fear, possibly. I just wanted new things!! Anything to offset the massive sense of fuck-this I was feeling after my visit from Matt. I used to be a shopaholic, and at one point I fell back on shoplifting. Before that I did whatever drugs were at the party. I have a fuckin' cornucopia of bad coping mechanisms. I thought about looking for a bar on the ship, then remembered what a bad idea that was. I also thought about the euphoria-inducing candy Matt had given me, but since I knew I couldn’t get any more that seemed like a stupid idea too. I pointedly avoided thinking about the fact that I really just needed to ask once and for all if Matt and Kylo were the same person. I was too frazzled to sleep well, even though I tried. 

The day after that, I woke up much too early with my brain buzzing and started playing guitar to try and settle down. Mid-song, though, my communicator beeped. I stopped and looked at it over on the bedside table, and it crackled with static for a moment.

“Aeon Flux. The Supreme Leader has requested that you return to lessons today, at 1000 hours in his meditation room. Shall I inform him that you will comply?” came Lucky’s robotic voice. I’d kinda been hoping that maybe Kylo would just give up on me and stop our lessons, to be honest. But, it had to happen sooner or later, didn’t it? I picked up the little thing.

“Yeah, Lucky, I’ll be there. Thanks.”

“I am surprised you are awake at this hour, Aeon Flux. Normally I must call on you several times to hear a reply. Are you well today?”

“I’m fine. I was just playing guitar.” 

“That is good news. Please keep me apprised of your condition after your training today.”

“Will do.” I hit the button to close the channel, and puffed air out of my cheeks. “I guess I might find out today if they’re the same person or not. Or I won’t. I dunno. God, this is frustrating. But why would he act completely different when we’re alone ? I dunno, I’m starting to think they can’t be the same person. Everybody says the phrase ‘baby steps,’ don’t they? I mean it’s a common phrase. Apparently. Here. In Star Wars.” I frowned at myself, aware of all the inconsistencies in my logic and the limitations of my perception, and completely willing to discount them all in favor of the option that meant I got to maybe make out with Matt in the future. I got dressed, and headed to the meditation room. 

When I entered the meditation room, the window was facing out into a starfield. It was darker than it had been before without a planet or a sun outside, and apparently lacking in much artificial lighting of its own. But the stars were amazing, so closely clustered in places that they seemed like dense little clouds hanging in the void. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust as much as they could, and then I saw Kylo’s silhouette. He was standing up, and when I rounded the corner he turned to face me. 

“You have your crystal?” he asked me sharply. Wow, okay. No wellness check-ins from Darth Tantrum today, I guess. I fished it out of the pocket of my trousers. It was still glowing faintly, the gloom inside the meditation room making it even more visible.

“Yep,” I replied. “So, no overstimulation today?” Kylo only looked at me, his perma-scowl not shifting. Then, I saw him tug his light saber hilt off of his belt, and my skin started to crawl. The vision of the demon wielding that same weapon and lunging towards me wasn't exactly helping. But he didn’t activate it, only held it up as though to let me examine it. In the extremely low light. How was this helpful, again?

“The crystal--”

“Is the source of Force power for the light saber. I know.” He lifted an eyebrow.

“Do you also know how that power manifests in the crystal?” he quizzed me. Joke’s on you, buddy. I’m a huge nerd.

“It’s channeled by the person using it. By their wisdom, their protectiveness, their pain, and how they use those things. I understand what I knew before about the crystals and their colors better, now, after you taught me about accessing the Force with your emotions.” I wasn’t actually trying to butter him up, believe it or not. It was true. I’d been obsessed with the color of the light sabers and what they meant ever since I was a kid and Samuel L. Jackson got a purple one in the prequels. Y’all know I had to have me a purple one, when I was like ten or something. I got those toys banned from the playground, because I took combat with plastic Star Wars weapons waaaay too seriously. Kylo seemed a little surprised.

“Well. Yours is still faint, but now that it’s awake, I thought we would try using it to focus your efforts to connect to the Force. Perhaps you’ll find what feelings work best for you.” He lowered his hand and put the hilt of his saber back on his belt, which caused me to let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding in. I looked at him curiously. I couldn’t recall any Jedi in the history of the canon (or the old canon, for that matter) telling a student to use the feelings that worked best for them. It was more about ‘oh yeah, Luke, just be calm and trust the Force and keep a clear head and don’t do drugs, because they make you angry and you won’t like the way you use the Force when you’re angry’ or ‘you know, Anakin, everyone actually sucks and you SHOULD hate them because it will make your saber red which is way cooler and stronger than those blue and green babies who hurt your feelings all the time.’ Something like that.

I held the little stone in my palm, looking down at it. The faint glow from it was more white than anything, but when I looked closely, I saw the shifting, almost imperceptible colors within the white light. It was weird to think about it turning just one color eventually, like as though that one color and the emotions and intentions associated with it would define me forever. Eek.

“Should I try, um, summoning some different emotions, then?” I asked Kylo, feeling a little bit foolish. It was like some weird therapy session, like ‘pick an emotion from the emotion wheel!’ 

“What are you feeling right now?” Well, that seemed even more like therapy. My anxiety around his saber was gone, since he’d put it away, so not that. If ‘waiting to learn something useful’ wasn’t an emotion, and I just took a deep breath…

I thought about Matt. Not missing home, not wishing I could talk to my friends, not feeling hopeless and trapped. Yeah, I know. It sounds real stupid. 

I didn’t say anything, just looked at the crystal and thought about him telling me to be who I am. And not freaking out when ‘who I am’ turned out to be psychotic, sometimes. Curiously enough, then I thought about Lucky. I mean yeah, Lucky is a droid. Arguably droids don’t have normal human emotions. But I wasn’t so sure, 'cuz during my several days on this ship Lucky had been frustrated, concerned, curious, protective, and supportive of me. Even Kylo, standing in front of me with his bristly aura and lack of compassion, had carried me to the medical bay when withdrawal hit. Maybe I was just feeling… grateful?

The light inside the crystal had brightened, though its color hadn’t changed, and when I blinked at it, I realized it was floating in my hand. 

“Whoa,” I muttered. “Is this real? It’s really doing that?”

You’re really doing that,” Kylo affirmed. He wasn’t quite smiling, again. I looked up at him, then back at the crystal. Holy shit, this is weird. This looks cool in the movies but it’s way too weird in real life. Is this real life? Even if it’s ‘real,’ does it count as real life? I don’t even know anymore. Maybe I should try to make it move! Squinting at the stone a little, I thought about it flying in a circle around Kylo’s head. Then I realized I wasn’t just thinking about it, I was watching it fucking happen!!!

“Hah!” I laughed, and Kylo’s face grew annoyed.

“Okay. Alright. That’s enough,” he grumbled, and the crystal halted in the air between us. I was grinning like a maniac, literally. Then it was flying in lazy loops around the room, and I started giggling like a little kid.

“It's like blowing bubbles on crack,” I laughed.

“You need to take this seriously, Aeon,” Kylo said suddenly, in a harsh voice. I jumped a little, and the stone fell to the ground. “This isn’t a game. The Force is the greatest tool in the universe, you should wield it as such.” He was… angry at me? For this?? 

“Excuse me?” I retorted, putting my hands on my hips. “I’m learning something, here. Which is your doing! You should be happy about that!” Yeah, Supreme Asshole, fucking chill for a single minute of your life! “It’s called having fun. You should try it sometime.” He was still glaring at me, but he paused.

“I’ve got far too many responsibilities to waste my time being frivolous,” he growled.

“Oh, come on. Don’t give me that shit. Maybe you wouldn’t be so miserable all the time if you let yourself off the hook. Maybe teaching me doesn’t have to be yet another thing you’re always angry about, didja ever think about that? Because making me angry all the time isn’t gonna help me learn shit. I learned that much in therapy, damn. The pressure just makes me break down, which just makes me…” I paused. Which just makes me paranoid, delusional, and psychotic. Which makes me hopeless, and scared, and alone. Kylo looked at me while I failed to finish my sentence, his expression stony. I took a breath, and then I took a risk. “Which just makes me miserable. Just like you.” 

The silence that rang through the room was deafening. His face was opaque, but eventually he glanced down at the crystal where it was glowing softly on the floor. Oh God, please don’t kill me for calling you out right now. I didn’t sign up for this. First Order News: Supreme Asshole Sucks At Dealing With Feelings, Ironically Kills Therapist. Where’s Luke’s force-ghost when I need it?  

Then, the crystal slowly floated up from the floor, and hung at eye-level. But I wasn’t the one doing it. I glanced at it, then back at him. He looked completely uncertain.

“Go ahead. Try it out. I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” I said quietly to him. Might as well practice what I preach and not just get mad at him now, right? Fear of death was also motivating me, I won’t lie. He swallowed, took a breath, and then y’all know what happened? That fucking rock went zooming around the room, looping and twirling in tight pin curves and big swooping turns. I couldn’t even stop myself from smiling, and then laughing, watching it fly all over the place! It was so fast that it left a trail of its own light behind it, like a sparkler. Then it began to slow, and finally stopped right in front of me. I put out my palm, and it settled gently there, like a little dandelion fluff on a dying breeze. When I looked back up at Kylo, his face had changed. Actually he’d done that thing where his entire presence had changed. He was smiling, faintly and self-consciously, and his eyes had gone big and sad again but now they twinkled a little at me. It was so wild. Maybe Kylo Ren really did just need a hug. And a therapist. Several therapists.

This time, the silence that hung for a moment or two was softer around the edges. I looked at the crystal. I thought maybe it was faintly tinged with a lavender color, but it was still too white to really tell. Damn, if I get a real purple light saber, that would be so fucking lit.

“The next steps involve learning more discipline,” came his low voice, and I could tell that the Angry Kylo mask was back. “How to balance the multiple places from which the Force can flow into you, and out of you. How to use them all to accomplish your own purpose.”

“Am I gonna stand on my head and learn to stack rocks?” I asked, barely managing to not smirk at him. I was 100% sure I couldn’t carry him on my back Yoda-style, though. He frowned.

“No. You’re going to have to learn to defend yourself.” That wasn’t promising.

“From what?” 

“From attack. We’re at war. Eventually something is going to happen where you’ll need to. When it does, I might not be there to help you.” His face was stern, even grave. No looking into other people’s minds? The future, perhaps? Oh, wait. He already thinks I can do that. My plan had backfired a bit. I exhaled slowly.

“Okay. You’re right. But just so you know, I have literally no training in anything. I mean, I used to shoot clay pigeons when I was a kid, but I can’t fight, I don’t know karate, and once I got diagnosed with crazy-brain they wouldn’t let me on the fencing team.”

“You don’t have to do any of that,” he reassured me, though I knew he didn’t know what half the shit I’d just said even meant. “We’re going to focus on using the Force. It’s your strongest asset, right now, and you might need to know some of this sooner rather than later.” I nodded, feeling a twinge of concern at his ominous foreshadowing. Does he know something I don’t? Some plan he’s not telling me about? Oh my God I really, really, REALLY wish I hadn’t been brought here BEFORE THE LAST MOVIE CAME OUT, I thought for the millionth time. But part of me was pretty fucking stoked to learn how to defend myself using the Force, I won’t lie.

“Alright. How’s that gonna work?” I asked.

“We’ll begin meeting in the officer’s training hall, and we’ll start with learning to deflect objects. But, I need you to practice moving things with the Force on your own. I’m going off-ship for a couple of days, to attend to some business. In the meantime, you have the use of this room,” he said, and reached into his pocket to pull out a passcard and hand it to me. It was much like the one Matt had given me for the technical levels, but it was red. I eyed him.

“What sort of business?” He just looked at me and said nothing. Oh, so it’s like that, huh? I wonder how many innocent people he’s gonna go murder? Fuck. “Fine, okay. I’ll practice.”

“I want you to be able to lift five objects at once, when I get back.” Wow, what the fuck? FIVE? I just got here!

“Um, kay. I’ll work on that.” I did not sound convincing, I’m sure. But my manic brain kinda wanted to do it, just to prove to him that I could. Who’s better than Rey now, huh, motherfucker? I mostly likely was not going to be even remotely better than Rey, but. Well. Trying telling my brain that.

“I have faith in you,” he replied, and that threw me a little. “Apprentice.” That threw me a lot. Wow, am I doing it right, coach? I nodded, and held my crystal to my chest. It was extremely bizarre to be almost basically sorta complimented by Kylo Ren. While he was acting like Kylo Ren, too. No weird aura shifts. “I have to go, and make preparations. I’ll call for you when I return.”

“Okay, um. Be safe?” I wasn’t sure that made literally any sense for me to say to him, since most people involved in whatever scenario were more likely to need to be safe from him, but. I dunno, force of habit I guess. He eyed me, and nodded, and then he left. I looked down at my crystal.

“Are you gonna help me get home, little dude?” I asked it, absurdly. But I was finally feeling hopeful that, maybe, it actually would. 

Chapter Text

I spent a whole day trying to fucking lift rocks with my brain, and spent most of that time also questioning my sanity. You know, even more regularly than I had been already. And they weren’t all strictly rocks, of course, just my crystal. Everything else was random stuff, like my communicator, or a broken hunk of a scanner Lucky was going to throw away in the medical bay. But whatever. I only had two objects in the air at a time, by the end of that day.

Halfway through the second day, I brought my datapad with me to the meditation room. I’d made the mistake of messaging Matt again, off the cuff, and was now awaiting a reply. If nothing else, I can maybe make the damn thing float, I reasoned. I’d just said:

Hi. Miss you. Hope you’re well.

That was harmless, right? I sat on the floor of the meditation room, looking at the row of stuff I was trying to lift, glancing sullenly at my silent datapad at the end of the row. Maybe the Force would nudge Matt into messaging me back. It’s amazing, the dumb shit I make up to validate my own mildly neurotic behavior. That’s not even a symptom, it’s just a uniquely human talent.

“Okay, buddy. Let’s do this,” I pep talked my crystal as it sat glowing dimly in my hand. I gazed into it, longing only for red letters on a black screen. I focused on the emotion of desire, and the crystal began to brighten. Then, it rose into the air. Next, my communicator. Then, one of the meditation pillows. Then the other pillow. Almost there!!! Then, the hunk of scrap from the med bay. HELL YEAH WHO’S GONNA STOP ME NOW???? I was flooded with a dose of Absolute Conviction. Just as the datapad began to lift up, the sound of the door chime broke my concentration. Everything except my crystal clattered to the floor, and I scowled.

“Who is it?” I shouted. The com on the door’s control pad buzzed to life.

“General Hux here to speak with you,” came an unfamiliar voice. Hux? What the fuck was his problem? Reluctantly, I plucked the kyber crystal out of the air and put it in my pocket. Then, I rose and walked around the glass wall to the doors. I was 100% prepared to tell the ginger to fuck off as soon as it opened. 

“What the hell do--” 

I almost managed, but the shock of an electrical taser to my gut cut me off.

 

-----

 

I came to under extremely abrasive lighting, and when I tried to move my hand up to rub my eyes, I found it unresponsive. I immediately blew right past panic and into fight-or-flight. And y’all already know my preference, out of the two.

“What the fuck?” I swore, looking over to see my arm restrained by a metal cuff on the slab my back was pressed against. I checked the other wrist to see the same, and then glanced down at my ankles. “I didn’t do anything! You can’t IVC me! FUCK YOU!” I started to scream. IVC, for those who don’t know, means ‘involuntary commitment.’ For a moment, I’d forgotten where I was.

“Settle down, Aeon,” came a venomous voice from behind me. I tried to jerk my head around to see, but obviously this was ineffective.

“I’m not psychotic so you can’t fucking restrain me, you piece of SHIT! I know my rights!”

“You have no rights!” snapped the voice back at me. Then, the speaker rounded the corner. It was definitely General Hux, looking as disgusted as ever. “You are a traitor to the First Order!” I blinked at him, shocked back into the present. This wasn’t a hospitalization. It was so much worse.

“Wait, are you serious right now? I’m being detained for treason?”

“I will be the one asking questions, traitor.” I noticed that he was twirling something that had a point at the end of it, and would crackle every thirty seconds or so. Nope. Don’t like that. Where the hell is Kylo?????

“What do you want, Hux?”

“I want to know what you know, Aeon Flux. I want to know who’s helping you with your little scheme.” He smirked at me, and it was profoundly ominous.

“Scheme??” You have got to be fucking kidding me.

“You are clearly here to usurp the power of Supreme Leader Ren, to infiltrate his mind and learn of our plans to crush what’s left of the Resistance! You are a spy!” Probably inadvisably, I started to laugh. 

“Oh, man. That’s a good one. That’s fuckin’ hilarious!”

“Is it?” And then that motherfucker prodded me with his stick. That is not a euphemism. Being shocked for real was much, much less pleasant than the space-TENS unit from the last time I was in one of these rooms. “Is that also amusing to you? There’s more where that came from, traitor.”

“Ohohoho, we testing boundaries now? Should I pick a safeword?” I murmured, still chuckling to myself even after my yelp from being shocked. He immediately shocked me again, trying to make his point. It didn’t take long for something akin to hysteria to set in.  “Oooooooh! Don’t stop now, General, it’s just gettin’ gooooood!” 

“How did you get on board that shuttle, hm? Did you sneak in while it was on the planet? Are you working with that insufferable Jakku junkrat he can’t seem to bring himself to kill?”

“Why, you tryna bring in a third? Or maybe a fourth? Is Kylo in on this, too? You’re kinky, Armitage,” I replied, giggling and drooling just a little. There’s nothing elegant about being electrocuted, okay? He shocked me even harder for that. I screamed, and lolled in the restraints as my eyes began to lose focus.

It might have been ten minutes, or an hour, or four hours that went on. I have no idea. I was on the brink of unconsciousness for a lot of it. Hux was on the brink of fucking murdering me without hearing anything he wanted to hear for most of it. I know I accused him of necrophilia at one point, which he did not find humorous, lemme tell ya. I wish I could remember more, now. I bet it was pretty funny. Nothing like crisis to turn you into a comedian! Then, he took a little break. I’m pretty sure it was so my body would stop producing crisis chemicals and stress hormones, and I would finally crack.

“You tired, Huxy? I can do this all fuckin’ day,” I yelled at the empty room after he’d been gone for a few minutes. Luckily for me, he was just on his way back. 

“I know you think you can tool with me, traitor, but I promise I will break you. I know you’re here for a reason,” Hux said as he re-entered the chamber. I tried to look at him, so I could say something else inspired by all the incredibly dark Kylux fanfic I’d discovered in my spare time on the internet, but instead I looked behind him. I don’t know if it was delirium or psychosis or what, but I thought I saw that little boy that was always with demon-Kylo, standing there all alone against the wall, looking horrified.

Run,” I whispered to him, suddenly terrified that he might be real this time. “Run, run away!” Hux’s face crinkled in confusion, and he turned and looked behind him, then back at me. Ah yes. That look that I knew very well. 

“Your madness won’t save you. Don’t think I haven’t read your medical files. I know your mind is less than sound. Even our Supreme Leader couldn’t contest that. Perhaps, in light of an unfortunate break with reality, you lashed out and tried to murder someone? Or caused destruction to some part of the ship, and had to be locked away? Or even… put down…” I should have been horrified because this was clearly him stating his intent to kill me, in retrospect. But I knew his backstory, so I laughed. Nevermind that wielding his history against him was probably part of what landed me here in the first place. Cognitive reasoning wasn’t really happening for me, at that moment.

“Isn’t that same exact tactic you used against Captain Cardinal? When he dared to accuse your little dog Phasma of conspiring with you to murder your father? Which you actually told him about yourself, right? Like an asshole?” This time, he smacked me in the face before he jabbed me with the electrified object, and he held it there, and Christ alive it hurt like fucking hell. But at that point I don’t think I could’ve stopped. Babbling was the only way to fight back.  “At least this time you’re accusing someone who’s actually crazy! When you have no evidence ‘cuz you’re accusing the innocent, that usually helps your case.”

Innocent ?? You’re spinning lies even as we speak! Making it all the more clear that you intend to sow discord and corrupt the leaders of the Order. Did you think I wouldn’t catch on? I cannot be so easily blinded by your wiles as Ren!” He was almost spitting, he was so worked up. He was so, so, SO mad. Then I thought I heard a little shout from behind him. I gasped for breath, looking all around for the little boy. But he wasn’t there. I was beginning to lose track of what was real and what wasn’t, in a much more serious and sudden way than I had so far. For obvious reasons, I think. When I looked back at Hux, he was walking over to the hub full of buttons and instruments. That did not bode especially well, for me. My head sagged.

“Kylo is gonna cut your fuckin’ head off,” I muttered. I didn’t know if that was true or not, of course, but it seemed likely enough. He dealt with a lot of people that way.

“Don’t you worry your pretty head about him,” crowed Hux. “You know, I doubt he’ll let you leave once you’ve proven yourself useful to him. He’s letting you believe you can, but has he promised you anything? Do you think he’d waste his time training you just to let you go home?” That struck me hard, right in my paranoid gut. Oh fuck. Oh shit. Oh, no. Hux is a shitbird, but then again… so is Kylo Ren. I heard something zap behind me, and I winced and lifted my head back up, waiting to see what awful thing Hux was going to prod me with next.

There stood Matt, in his gray jumpsuit and huge glasses, looking at me. I stared at him wide-eyed.

“Don’t give up, Aeon. Don’t give up!” he said to me, clearly very upset.

“What are you doing here???” I asked him, completely horrified.

“I won’t leave you.”

“No! No, stay far away from here! He’ll kill you!” I shouted.

Whom are we talking to now, traitor? A vision of one of your co-conspirators, perhaps?” Hux hissed, and came back into my sight holding a much larger metal thing than before, and this one had a fucking laser running down one side of it, like a laser-edged knife. Somewhere, my brain registered that I should be panicking. But I couldn't feel anything but anger, and the idea of him torturing Matt as a co-conspirator really, really, REALLY pissed me off. 

“Fuck you,” I replied to the redhead, and I spat in his fucking face. Oh yeah, I could still feel pain, too. I found that out when he sliced me across the cheek with the laser blade in response. It felt like a white-hot razor, so hot that it might’ve cut a groove into my cheekbone, I wasn’t sure. It fucking hurt, much worse than the electricity had. I was too weak to even cry out, at that point. I felt a hand on my chin, lifting it up, and I fully expected to see a snarl on Hux’s face before he launched into another of his truly insufferable monologues, or cut my throat, preferably the latter.

Instead, it was Matt again. I wondered how Hux didn’t see him, or why Hux wasn’t torturing him too? Then I wondered if his sweet face was the last thing I was going to see before I died. He looked me in the eyes, but my vision was beginning to darken.

“Don’t give up. Use the Force!” What? Oh yeah, that. What’s an emotion, again? Can I pick one from the emotion wheel?  

“Force…” I stammered, but my lips had started to go numb.

“What do you feel, right now?” 

What do I feel right now?? Strapped to a torture device, hallucinating the first person I’d really liked in years who I hadn’t even gotten a chance to make out with yet, abandoned by my stupid hot chaotic evil instructor, and probably about to die at the hands of a space fascist before I could become a Force-wielding badass and get myself the hell back home and have the rest of my entire life?

Hate,” I growled, and glared past him at Hux, who was standing before me looking sadistically delighted. He was holding the laser blade, as though ready to cut me again. I wanted to jab him with every single electrically charged object in the room.

“What are you--” He screamed mid-sentence as a barrage of at least a dozen prods flew at him from out of their places in the hub, jabbing and electrocuting him all in unison. I pulled against my restraints hard, and they sprang open!!! I was like, REALLY using the Force this time y’all! Of course, when I tried to exit the restraining table to lunge out and grab the ginger by his pasty white neck, I crumpled to the ground in a heap. My Mary Sue moment was over pretty much as soon as it had started. All the instruments of torture clattered to the floor with me. Hux was letting out an awful howl, and when I tried to look up at him, he was staggering right towards me with his laser blade brandished. Welp, I’m toast, I thought. RIP.

Then, I saw a demon with a thousand red eyes descend onto Hux as if out of nowhere, and heard the unmistakable hum of a light saber. He screamed, there was an array of loud noises, and I smelled something burnt. As everything fell into darkness yet again, I almost heard a voice calling out to me. 

Chapter Text

I was starting to get tired of coming back to consciousness lying on a bed in the medical bay. It was really getting less and less fun every time, and did not feel particularly badass.

“Fuck,” I swore as soon as I was awake enough to make a word form in my head and then push it out through my mouth. I felt like I’d been hit by a train.

“Aeon Flux,” said a tinny voice. “Welcome back.”

“Gee thanks, Lucky,” I muttered. “Can I leave again, now? Everything hurts.”

“Allow me,” the droid replied, and it came over holding a little gadget of some kind, pressed it into my arm, and pushed a button. I didn't feel whatever happened, but warmth and painlessness began to blossom out from the spot, washing over me very quickly. 

“Oh. Oooh, that’s better,” I sighed. “Thank you.” I glanced around blearily, and when I looked over to the other side of my bed from where Lucky was standing, I saw Kylo Ren sitting propped up in a chair. His head lolled back and to one side, eyes shut, his breath coming slow and even.

“The Supreme Leader would not leave after I checked him for wounds,” Lucky informed me, sounding almost annoyed. “Not until you woke up, he said. Somewhat ironically, he is the one who is sleeping, now that you are awake. Shall I rouse him?” I looked at Kylo’s enormous, slouched figure. He looks like a little boy again, when he’s asleep. Like he’s never been so peaceful.

“Don’t wake him, Lucky. He needs a break. Did he tell you what happened?” I asked, looking back at the droid. 

“I know only that General Hux has been admitted to the starboard medical bay for severe wound treatment, and that the Supreme Leader brought you here claiming that you had been shocked and possibly extensively harmed in other ways.”

“Was I?” I asked it, almost nervous to hear the reply.

“The electrical shocks caused some damage to your skin, slight internal damage to your large intestine and the muscle wall around it, and some nerve damage. All are healing very well. There is going to be a scar on your face from the laser cut, though.” Oh, is that all? Organ damage and nerve damage??? Then again, this was space medicine. 

“Fuck,” I sighed.

“It appears that the shock had no lasting effect elsewhere. Your brain scans have shown no more or less consistency than they had been showing before,” it added. I think that droid was trying to be dry with me. 

“Ah, so same old shit with being crazy, huh?” Lucky didn’t laugh.

“You must rest, Aeon Flux,” it said.

“I get told that an awful lot,” I noted.

“Possibly because you don’t listen,” came a familiar deep voice, and I looked back over to see Kylo waking up and rubbing his neck. He was also chuckling.

“I do so. I practiced exactly like you told me to!” I replied, feigning indignance. Mostly feigning, at least.

“I know you did. Clearly it paid off. I think you gave Hux the shock of his life.”

“Wait-- did you rescue me?” I was starting to piece my memories back together, but I couldn’t recall seeing Kylo. Only Matt, the little boy, and a demon.

“You very nearly rescued yourself, but yes.”

“Goals for next time, I guess. What happened to Hux?” I asked, genuinely hoping he was dead. Fuck that guy.

“After abducting you, taking you to an interrogation room, torturing you, and threatening to kill you? I took off his hand. He’s exceptionally lucky that’s all I took.”

“He waited until you were off-ship to do it, too,” I murmured, realizing. “He thinks I’m a Resistance spy.”

“Are you?” he asked. I served him such a look, just then.

“No.” He lifted an eyebrow at me. “And don’t say ‘that’s exactly what a spy would say,’ dammit,” I added. He actually grinned. Will wonders never cease?

“I will be along to check in on you later, Aeon Flux,” Lucky said pointedly, and rumbled away. I watched the droid go, suppressing a laugh. When I looked back at Kylo, though, he’d moved the chair up very close to my bed, and he leaned over it, resting his forearms on the blanket. 

“How you feelin’, hun?” he asked. I stared at him. Everything about his demeanor had changed, and now… he was talking, and slouching, and looking at me like Matt did. I opened my mouth as if to reply, but nothing came out. Wait, what? What the entire fuck is going on??????

“Matt?” I asked, not wanting to believe it. Refusing to believe it. 

“Yeah, it’s me. I just had to see you. I was so worried.”

“So, you and Kylo are the same person?” He shifted uncomfortably, then.

“I’ll be honest, I thought you kinda knew what was going on with us. Because you never asked.”

“What? No! You act completely different…” Nevermind that I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d manifested in a triplet AU.

“You didn’t sense it with the Force?” he asked, puzzled. Fuck. Don’t blow your cover, idiot.

“Uh, well, y’all don’t exactly leave the same signature. In the Force. If you know what I mean.” He looked quizzically at me. Fuck fuck fuck. “Like I’m pretty sure the Force thinks you’re two different people.” Come on, come on, please buy into my bullshit. Pleeease. He was silent, and seemed almost to be pondering the idea as though he’d never considered it. Not knowing if he was about to call me out for being a fraud made me antsy, so I spoke again. “So why is that exactly? I mean, clearly you are the same person.” He shrugged.

“Yes, and no.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” I was confused, and scared. I admit it. I was scared. The paranoid thoughts I had been avoiding about him just playing me, getting close to me to manipulate me, compiled with Hux’s assertion that he wouldn’t let me leave once I became powerful enough, all felt like they were on speakerphone in my brain.

“I’m… I share a body with Kylo Ren. Does that make sense? He’s in here. We’re the same physical body, but we’re not the same person.” I eyed him, curious but uncertain.

“Why the blonde hair and glasses?” I asked. “Why the technician gimmick?”

“Because I’m not the Supreme Leader. Kylo is. I’m just a person with an aptitude for fixing things. And I wish I had blonde hair, so I just use a temporary thing to change it. Kylo hates it.” He giggled.

“Why are you both in the same body? And since when?” I pried. Is this some weird Force thing? Did I accidentally break the canon and splice him in with Kylo when I got here, or something?? He shrugged.

“I dunno. It’s been this way for such a long time.” I stared at him, utterly confounded. Then I remembered something from the olden days, when I used to peruse the DSM to learn about all the other types of brains out there.

“Do you… would you say that you both have different personalities?” 

“Yeah!” he replied, nodding as though I’d hit on something. “That’s right.”

“Which one of you is the original personality?”

“Neither.” Wait. Of course…

“Is the original one Ben Solo?” I asked, almost whispering. Matt’s face lit up.

“Wow. You really are incredible.” I looked at him, not quite able to sort out the implications of having romantic feelings for only one of someone’s three selves. But dammit, he was just being so cute.

“Ben is the little boy I’ve been seeing, isn’t he?”

“That’s what I was thinking, to be honest. That’s what’s so incredible. Nobody’s ever seen Ben like that. I mean, he doesn’t come out much in general and hasn’t for a long time. But you knew he was there even when he wasn’t coming out. You saw him with the Force.” My hallucinations are the Force. Well I guess it’s canon now, why not. I swallowed, feeling all kinds of unsure. “I’m sorry. We don’t… we don’t tell a lot of people. Almost anyone, actually,” he continued. Now he looked sad. “You don’t have to stay friends with me, if you don’t want to.”

“Oh, Matt,” I whispered, feeling a huge pang of sadness. If there was anything I could relate to, it was hiding your brain-stuff from other people because as soon as they heard, they would flip the fuck out. I reached out and took one of his big hands with both of mine. I pulled the glove off, and behold, there was the glitter nail polish. I brought it up to my face to lay my cheek against it. “I don’t know what to do. I’m… it’s complicated, now. How is it okay for me to be friends with you while I’m being trained by Kylo? How does that work?” 

“About the same as it already was,” he answered, stroking my cheek. “We are different people, Aeon. We will all have our own relationships with you.”

“Yeah but do you all know about what happens to each other? Like, can you all talk to one another? Do you share memories?” Seeing as I have a huge fucking crush on you, is Kylo Ren eventually going to know what I look like naked? And wouldn’t that possibly be weird for him if he was my teacher? But luckily I didn’t blurt that one out. Not the ideal way to admit you like someone.

“We don’t really share memories, though we can communicate with each other. Ben talks to both of us a lot, but sometimes Kylo won’t talk to me. To be fair, sometimes I don’t wanna talk to him either. He didn’t want us to be friends, but I...” He looked a little embarrassed now, and blushed. Even without the blonde hair and glasses, in full Big Bad Kylo regalia, it was fucking adorable. “Anyway. He doesn’t trust anyone.”

“He protects Ben, doesn't he?” I asked.

“We both protect Ben. In different ways.” 

“Ah, okay. That makes sense. But, Kylo did seem to warm up to teaching me, before y’all left the ship.”

“It’s because you were kind to Ben. I made my argument, obviously, but it was Ben who convinced him you were okay. He felt safe enough to peek out at you a couple of times.” Now, he was smiling at me so tenderly that it was my turn to blush.

“When we talked about loneliness, right? I knew he looked different. And it was him making the crystal fly, wasn’t it?”

“Exactly. He was so excited about that!” Damn. That all made so much sense now.

“I’m… I’m relieved you told me, honestly. I was terrified to bring up how much you look like him,” I laughed. “Except your whole demeanor is different.”

“Pretty sure our resting heartrates are different,” he chuckled. “You’re not mad at me?”

“No. I’m glad you’re here,” I assured him. He smiled that small, sweet little smile at me. “I… I actually saw you, when I was in there with Hux. I saw Ben, too. Ben looked afraid, but you told me not to give up, and that you wouldn’t leave me. And it was you who reminded me to use the Force to defend myself. How did y’all know where I was?”

“I felt it,” he replied softly. 

“You… through the Force?” I stared at him. Fuck. He can ‘feel’ me through the Force now? Please tell me he can’t read my thoughts. Is this a Force bond? Does that mean Kylo and Ben can ‘feel’ me too? We really gotta talk about this later, because mindreading is gonna require some bigass boundaries. 

“Yes. I’ve never been able to sense you before. But, we were out planetside, and I knew something was wrong. I knew you were in danger. Kylo was the one piloting, obviously, so I had to kind of push him to feel what I felt, because it was only me who could feel it, I’m pretty sure. But as soon as I did, Kylo put the damn shuttle right back in the air to come help you.” He stroked my face with his hand again. As I started to get the picture, I was in awe, I won’t lie. There was something so unbelievably sweet about Kylo and Matt taking care of little Ben. Even if one of them did it by murder, most of the time… Oh God. That has a lot of implications for the whole killing his father thing. You know what, lemme just not bring that up right now.

“I’ll have to thank him properly, then, the next time I see him. I genuinely think Hux would have killed me.” That thought made me much more than uncomfortable. It put my hackles right up. Was he going to be General, still? How the fuck was I gonna be safe?? More reasons to learn how to fuck shit up with the Force, I reckon.

“He wants to kill Hux, honestly. I talked him out of it.”

“If that’s true, you might be a better person than I am. Then again, you might be a better person than most people are,” I said. But also, could you maybe kill him before he kills me?

“Well, I don’t much want Hux around either to be honest, but there are political reasons not to kill him, mostly his allies and enemies,” he disclaimed, seeming annoyed. “He’s going to be on probation for a while, until Kylo decides what to do with him.” Suddenly, I thought about the hallucination I’d had days ago, just before the seizure. I looked nervously at Matt.

“Um, I just thought about my vision. You remember, the one with Hux?”

“... Yes. I remember.” His face had fallen very concerned. 

“I don’t know if it means anything, but after this…”

“Aeon, your visions have been important in one way or another so far. I know you didn’t tell Kylo about that one, or he would be much more concerned about it. You should share those things, and not just with me.”

“I’m not in the habit of talking about them,” I murmured, feeling guilty. But I mean, it’s fucking weird to go from being just another crazy person to someone who’s hallucinations count as ‘visions’ that are ‘important.’ I wasn’t convinced that was really the case, anyway.

“Please,” Matt implored me. I nodded.

“Okay.”

“Thank you.”

We were silent for a moment, and I looked down at his painted nails while a bunch of thoughts spun around like a tornado inside my head. Then, I looked back up at him.

“Can we… you know, hang out, soon? Or do you have to go back to the planet first?” His smile came back quickly.

“Kylo needs to go back and wrap things up, but I think we’ll be done with that tomorrow. In the meantime, you gotta take it easy. Kylo ordered it, I simply beg you. Ben also wants you to rest,” he said.

“Great, now all three of you are pressuring me to take care of myself!” I joked, reaching out to thumb his nose. He pretended to bite my finger, and I laughed. God, he was so cute. Did I mention he’s so fucking cute??????

“Please do that. You have a lot left to learn, that right now I really wish you could have already known,” he pressed.

“True, and I’m serious when I say I’d like to be able to rescue myself eventually. This whole y’all-saving-me-from-everything deal is starting to make me feel like a liability.” And was not very cool or tough, which are things I like to pretend to be.

“See, there you go. Motivation,” he replied. 

“Fair enough. I’ll hear from you tomorrow, then?”

“Soon as we’re back from planetside,” he assured me, beaming.

“Alright. What about lessons with Kylo?”

“That, I don’t know. He’ll have to tell you.”

“Fair enough,” I grinned. “Be safe down there.”

“Mm. And you rest , damn you,” he replied, and stood up as he pulled his glove back on. Throwing me a wink, he walked out of my alcove and made to exit the medical bay. I sighed again.

“Damn. Okay. That worked out a lot weirder, but also a lot better than I expected,” I muttered to myself, and then laid back down on the bed to follow orders. Electrocution is fucking hard on ya. 

Chapter Text

Tragically, Matt didn’t get back to me when he returned from the planet. Because Kylo did. He buzzed me over my communicator, and all but ordered me to stop whatever I was doing and meet with him in the officer’s training hall. Lucky was not entirely pleased, but also was not entirely interested in getting cloven in two by a red lightsaber, so he let me go.

Having almost gotten accustomed to navigating the ship with the help of the map, I managed to find the officer’s training hall a full half hour before I was supposed to be there. When I arrived, I saw that there were other people using the hall, drilling hand-to-hand combat. I walked inside and stood against the wall, watching quietly, totally fascinated. I’m a little bit of a nerd for fight choreography, but I’ve never gotten to actually do it. I wondered if there was a single person on this ship who wasn’t a ruthless asshole who could teach me to fight. That would be so hype, right??? Kylo wasn’t even trained like these guys were, I’m pretty sure. I’m not talking shit, because he didn’t have to be. He used the Force, but these people couldn’t. They all looked so fucking badass, drilling with little wooden knives or no weapons at all and slamming one another down onto the mats. 

Speaking of ruthless assholes, it didn’t take long for me to spot a phenomenally tall blonde woman with short hair. Oh yeah. That was Phasma, no doubt. Apparently she’d survived her tumble through The Last Jedi. That was not heartening at all. There is no fucking way she doesn't know about what happened with Hux. No fucking way.

Obviously, because I’m an extremely lucky person, she spotted me, too. Wrapping up her drills with whoever her partner was, she sauntered directly over to me, unwrapping her knuckles as she went. There were definitely blood stains on the wraps. She’s trying to flex on me right now. Lowkey it was working, but I was more pissed at Hux (and her by proxy) than I was brimming with self-preservation. 

When she stopped in front of me, she was looking me up and down with a smug expression. She was literally almost as tall as Kylo was. Yet again, it coulda been hot, but she was also a psychopath probably. I remained leaning against the wall, but didn’t break eye contact once she made it. I also didn’t talk first. Fuck you, you talk first. 

“So, you’re the Supreme Leader’s new little fucktoy, are you?” Wow. Strong start. I narrowed my eyes.

“Any reason you wanna put me on my back heel right off the bat like that, Phasma?” I asked her. Any sense of (probably very healthy) fear of her I shoulda had was fully replaced by fuck-off. Which I'm pretty sure counts as an emotion. She almost managed to hide her surprise that I knew her name, and lifted an eyebrow at me.

“You’re not very popular around here, did you know that?”

“Why’s that?”

“Because Ren’s already diverted precious resources to searching for your home planet, even though it evidently doesn’t exist.” Well, that was not what I expected. “And, he sent out a team to hunt down one of his precious Jedi rocks, when they should be out finding the last of the Resistance.” 

“I didn’t ask him to do that shit. He’s a very opaque man. ‘Cept when he isn’t, I guess.” I shrugged. I figured it was probably Matt who was looking for Earth, not Kylo. But nobody knew the difference. Which woulda been cute, except now this was happening.

“Men are never opaque. They want to fight, or they want to fuck, or they want to bullshit with other men about fighting or fucking,” she replied. Oho? Hostility I sense in this one, hm?

“With me, he wants neither,” I retorted. Gendered expectations, indeed. Then again, Phasma was from a planet that was in a post-apocalyptic state of ruin. Maybe her culture had gone back to some of the OG gender norms problems. 

“Are you disappointed?” she asked, smiling sardonically.

“Why are you tryna pick on me like we’re in fuckin middle school?” I asked, crossing my arms and planting my feet a little farther apart. (I unconsciously assume power stance when I’m starting to lose my temper, which the people at the psych ward do not love, honestly.) “You’re a grown ass woman. What the fuck do you want?” 

“To see what you’re made of,” she replied, and her face got stony.

“So you want to intimidate me?” I clarified. “Leave me alone, Phasma. Seriously. I’m tired of this shit. I asked for none of it.”

“Fine,” she said, holding up her hands. “But you’ll have to prove yourself eventually, Aeon. Loyalty is of great concern to the First Order.”

“That’s rich, coming from you.” 

“Is there a problem, Captain?” came a deep voice from behind me. The blonde woman looked like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar for a split second. I felt Kylo approach and stand behind my right shoulder, towering over me, but my eyes never left Phasma. You’re soooo tough ‘till this big boy shows up, huh?

“No, Supreme Leader,” she said coolly. “I haven’t been introduced to your new apprentice.” 

“Because I haven’t introduced you. Now, clear your troops out of this hall.” Damn. That was so icy, I couldn’t help but smirk a little. Phasma looked at him, her expression a better mask for her frustration than Hux ever managed to build, at least. Wordlessly she turned and whistled through her fingers at the other people in the room, and motioned them all out. She threw me one last unpleasant look before she walked away. 

“What was that?” Kylo asked me as the last few officers made their way out.

“What, Phasma? I dunno, she just came up and starting talking shit at me. I was just standing here watching everybody fight, minding my own damn business.” He eyed me, seeming uncertain.

“She has no reason to do that.”

“Um, you sure ‘bout that? ‘Cuz her and Hux go waaaaay back.”

“I’m aware of their history.”

“Are you aware of how they worked together to murder Brendol Hux? Who was Phasma’s benefactor, the reason she got off her godforsaken planet in the first place, and our favorite sniveling ginger’s father ?” I looked at him pointedly, and his brow knit. 

“I thought that was a discredited accusation. How do you know it’s true?”

“How do I know anything?” The Force, obviously. Not meta-knowledge because I’m from another universe. Nope. “All I’m sayin’ is, given recent events, she ain’t my number one fan.”

“Hm.” Kylo frowned deeply. He was clearly turning this over in his mind, but he turned towards the center of the room and beckoned for me to follow him. So I did. “Alright, Aeon. Today we begin with self-defense. I just want you to stand here, for right now. You have your crystal?” 

“Yeah,” I said, reaching into my shirt to pull out the necklace. I’d managed in my boredom to improvise and make a necklace out of a boot lace. “Should I hold it?”

“No, you can wear it. I want you to think back to what happened when you were with Hux.”

“You mean, when Hux kidnapped me and tortured me?”

“Specifically when you used the Force to electrocute him.” I rolled my eyes. Trying to get Kylo to behave or speak in a semi-compassionate manner was probably not a hill I needed to die on.

“Okay. What about it?” 

“Just think about it. Remember it. How it felt.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to think about that, thank you very much, but I tried. It was a pretty intense hatred, to be honest. So intense, it made me uncomfortable now. Rolling in fresh off my anger with Phasma made it seem easy to just run into that feeling, and start to get drunk on it, and I didn’t want that. Way too much time in therapy for that shit.

“Does that have to be what I think about?”

“It’s the most successful your Force use has been so far.” As if that explained everything. Oh, sorry coach, I forgot that getting really fucking pissed is one way to use the Force, as if you aren’t a constant fucking reminder. What if I wanted to try literally anything else? Because I have like, I dunno, personal values?

“I see what you’re doing, here, yanno. Trying to teach me that anger and hate is what makes me powerful. I get it. I got the Dark Side memo.” Now, Kylo started to look angry.

“Do you want to be safe? Do you want to get home? Do you want these lessons?”

“Yes!”

“Then shut up and do what I tell you to do. I want you to deflect the objects that are about to come towards you.” 

“What obj--” And then a fucking rock whacked me in the head. Hard. Where the fuck did that come from?? I looked all around the training hall for the source of such a thing, but then there was another one! I ducked just in time to avoid a second head-whack. "FUCK!" I shouted, barely dodging two more. Are they even real??

"Use the Force! Not your legs!" Kylo shouted, but I was in the middle of dodging the next one.

"You're just trying to piss me off!" I accused, and it was fucking working, of course. "Stop it!"

"I said use the Force!" he bellowed, angrily. Why was I surprised that Darth Tantrum was a terrible teacher, again??

"Fuck you!" A rock knocked into my shoulder, and I growled. That's gonna leave a bruise. This is so fucked! I tried to think of something other than sending a rock flying right back at Kylo's head that would consist of using the Force and maybe achieve my goal of not getting hit by any more rocks. But more of the goddamn things kept flying at me, making it incredibly hard to think.

"Go ahead! Throw one back!! What are you afraid of?" he shouted. Are you serious??? Is this the playground?? Why did the training hall bring out everyone's inner middle school bully? Unfortunately for them, I didn't get bullied in school. I was too fucking loud, and too fucking angry.

"GO TO HELL, ASSHOLE!!" I screamed, and another rock was flying at me so fast that my only instinct was to turn around and let it hit me in the back instead of the chest. When it landed, it landed hard. I yelped and feel to my knees, immediately curling up with my hands over my head like it was a tornado drill. All the middle school experiences were coming back, I guess. 

"GET UP!!" screamed Kylo. "GET UP AND FACE ME!!" But I was done. I curled in tighter, waiting to get pummeled with more rocks. My heart was racing, my whole body vibrating with adrenaline. "COME ON!!"

"I'm not here. I'm not here. I'm not here. I'm not here," I started to chant. I felt like my brain was vibrating, like I was going to explode. I have a tendency to chant the same thing over and over, when I reach a certain level of completely fucking overwhelmed. Not the same thing every time, but whatever’s handy in my brain at the moment.

"You can't just hide from the people who want to hurt you!" Kylo was saying loudly. "You have to fight back!" 

My head was full of emotions, full of insults, full of cutting remarks. But the only thing I could say was "I'm not here," over and over again like a broken record, like my brain couldn't remember any other words existed. I'm not here I'm not here I'm not here I'm not I'm not I'm not I'm not

Suddenly, there were dozens of voices all around me, whispering and laughing. You're trapped. You're alone. You're weak. Give up. I hate you. You were never strong enough. You can't get anything right. Why don't you just lash out? Why don't you just hurt him? Just hurt him like everyone else hurt you. Accept that you're a bad person. Who cares? You're never going home anyway. You won't--

"Aeon?" came a voice, strange and soft like a child's. Around me all the voices continued, and somewhere in the back of my head I knew they were a hallucination. The fucked up thing about hallucinations, though, is even when you know what they are, they're still horrifying. I was frozen, unable to respond.

“Aeon?” said the voice again, and I heard someone sit on the floor beside me, not touching me, not too close. Slowly, I managed to push myself to at least turn my head and look. What I saw was Kylo, sitting on the floor with his knees bent and his arms wrapped around them, looking at me with big, sad eyes and a worried expression. I stared at him, still unable to speak, still feeling like I was vibrating from my guts outward. He lowered his head, almost shyly, hiding most of his face except those eyes behind his knees. “I’m sorry he did that.”

Fuck. I was talking to Ben. Or rather, Ben was talking to me. I blinked, trying to find words.

“I’m… I’m not.... I’m not I’m not,” I said, and God I fucking hate it when this happens. Like, honestly it was kind of bizarre that I’d held out when Hux was fucking electrocuting me for so long. Yet right now, in front of Kylo (and Ben), the words part of my brain got stuck on repeat. 

“It’s okay,” he said softly. He’s trying to trick you, came a voice. I shook my head, like I was trying to shake the voices out of it.

“I can’t… I can’t… I’m not. I’m not I can’t. I can’t. T-t-t-talk.” Okay, that was three more words than I’d had before. Progress?

“You don’t gotta talk, do you want some fizzpop?” he offered, lifting his head. “I like fizzpop. Maybe they have some you can have.” What? Okay... I shook my head at him.

“I can’t… I’m not. Not… drink. I’m, I’m not thirsty,” I managed. “Th-thank you.”

“That’s okay. I don’t think they have any in here anyhow,” shrugged Ben, nestling his chin between his knees and letting one of his hands fall to the floor where he started to draw circles with his finger. “Do you hate Kylo now?” he asked, seeming sad.

“N-no…” I said. Yes you do, said a voice. Shut up, asshole, I thought at the voice. Hold the fucking dialectic. People can be more than one thing. Ben seemed to brighten at this a little.

“He doesn’t hate you. I promise,” he said. “He just… he’s afraid somebody will hurt you again. So’s Matt. They don’t want me to come out but I was sad because you’re sad.” Oh, wow. My heart felt like it was breaking a little, and I wanted to cry. For a lot of reasons.

“Th-thank you, Ben,” I said softly. Do not cry, dammit.

“Do you want me to make the crystal fly again?” he asked. “That’s fun.” Oh, he was trying so hard to make me feel better. I started to smile, just a little.

“Um, sure.” I pulled the bootstrap necklace up over my head, and held the crystal out in my hand. Its light was faint and tinged with a reddish cast. Instead of taking it, Ben just smiled and it flew out of my hand, soaring up towards the vaulted ceiling of the training hall and doing huge loops and whirls and corkscrews in the air. I watched it, the smile breaking out to new parts of my face, and I felt my eyes watering. Ugh. Fuuuuck. I’m gonna cry. But my heartbeat was slowing down, and the voices all around me started to get really quiet. Finally the crystal wound its way down back towards me, like a leaf curling towards the ground on an autumn wind. I held out my hand, and once again it set itself down gently.

“See that was fun!” he said, smiling. “Did you like it?” I looked back at the crystal, which had shifted to a slight purply hue, then back at him.

“Yeah,” I murmured, and reached up with my free hand to wipe my nose and my face where water had started to leak out. “Yeah. I liked it.” Slowly I hauled myself up to a sitting position, mirroring Ben’s with my knees up in front of me. 

“Kylo said he’s sorry,” he told me earnestly. Of course, he won’t fucking just say it himself, he has to push Ben to say it for him. Fuckin’ classic Kylo. But I pushed aside my irritation, and nodded. 

“Okay. Thank you.” I wasn’t sure what else to say, so I left it at that. He smiled back at me, and then he brought up his hand close to his face and he waved his fingers at me.

“Okay. I gotta go,” he said, seeming pleased. I waved back, and it’s impossible to describe how suddenly his entire facial expression fell, morphing back into the face of someone who frowned and scowled and got angry a lot, even though it wasn’t doing any of those things now. His hand fell to the ground to prop him up, and the arm that was wrapped around his knees slid up to simply rest on them. He was looking at the ground, away from me. For a long moment, I just sat there and breathed very slowly and very deeply, gripping the crystal in my hand. It took me a moment to realize that none of the rocks that had been hurdling at me before were lying around on the floor like they should’ve been. I swallowed, and looked up at Kylo.

“Did you make me see those rocks with the Force?” I asked him quietly. I wasn’t trying to start a fight. I was just curious, and exhausted.

“Yeah,” he replied, his voice returned to its low rumble. He still didn’t look at me. “Looks like you’re not immune to me anymore.” It was genuinely fucking with me that he wasn’t gloating about that. Like, hello? He’d been soooo mad that he couldn’t use the Force on me before. I took in a deep breath.

“Can we… can we talk boundaries, about that?” I asked, not exactly hopeful he’d find that agreeable. But he looked up at me, then, his brow wrinkled.

“Like what?” he asked. Wait. Is… what? Okay. Fuck.

“Um, no reading my thoughts. No peeking on my memories. No trying Jedi mind tricks, or whatever.” Now he raised his eyebrows, as though slightly surprised.

“You’re not gonna ask me to not throw rocks at you anymore?” he asked. It was almost like he was joking around...???

“Well, I might be ready for that one day,” I replied. It was almost like I was joking back, I guess. He nodded a tiny little nod of acknowledgement. I think that was him agreeing to my boundaries?? But I needed to make sure. “Okay?”

“Okay,” he repeated, looking back at me through his eyebrows. Being on the other end of that gaze was always a slightly rattling experience, but he was looking at me now almost like an equal. Or at least not like a subordinate. You know, it’s kinda fucked up how I’m really attracted to Matt being so cute and shy, but I’m also really attracted to Kylo for being… scary? Not scary. Intense. But he’s also kind of a terrible person. But also, fuck. His eye contact was getting under my skin a little, and I wasn’t sure I liked it. If getting involved with Matt was probably a bad idea, getting involved with Kylo was a much worse one. 

“Can we practice something else tomorrow? Something like… more chill? Like just moving objects around?” 

“Yes. We’ll practice in here again, though, the space is larger.”

“Alright. When should I be here?”

“0800 hours.” Ugh, fuck me. I nodded, sighing.

“Alright.”

“You can go back to the med bay, now. I think you’ve been through enough for today.” Every time he said that, it sounded an awful lot like he was the one who was ready to be done. Not that I would have disagreed with him, especially this time around, but still. Kylo was the fucking king of classic projection.

“Yeah,” I muttered, and pushed myself off the floor and back into a standing position. Everything ached. Lucky was gonna be so mad. I pulled the crystal necklace back over my head, and hid it under my shirt. I looked out the window into the hallway, and I swear I thought for a second that I saw Phasma standing there, staring at me like a fuckin weirdo. I glanced a little nervously back at Kylo. “Um…” I started, but when I looked back at where she’d been, she was gone.

“Hm?” he responded. Well, now I feel crazy. Not that that’s unusual…

“If I have any more, uh, encounters with Phasma, should I--”

“Let me know. Immediately,” he instructed. For once, his sharp tone did not seem at all directed at me. I nodded in enthusiastic agreement. Hell yeah, if there’s anybody I wanna have at my back against that motherfucker, it’s this motherfucker. 

“Yeah. I will.” He walked with me out to the hallway, and for just a few minutes our paths ran together. It was a little awkward, as I wasn’t sure what to say and my brain felt slightly fried, and I hadn’t quite forgiven him for being such a dick. But at the same time, I felt like maybe we should be walking together? Master and apprentice-style? Like, I dunno, pretend you like me just a little. Maybe not. Maybe that was just more wishful thinking. We came to a split in the halls, and he stopped and looked at me. His expression was much less overtly angry than usual.

“Tomorrow, then,” he said briefly.

“Yeah.” And he turned, and walked the opposite way from the medical bay. I caught myself wishing he’d said something else, like ‘have a good night’ or something, stupid as that sounds. I sighed, and turned to head back to my unofficial second home on the Supremacy.

Chapter Text

Damn, that day had gone much worse than expected, but at the same time Kylo wasn’t being an absolute dickhead with me. Just most of one. That alone felt real fuckin’ weird. Acknowledging my attraction to him to myself also felt weird. Weird and/or bad, all around. It was dark in my alcove when my datapad buzzed. I was awake, obviously, my brain a vortex of rumination. I looked at the message.

You up? Oh, thank God. Someone I wanted to talk to.

I can never sleep in this med bay. (Not that I slept especially well anywhere, but.)

Can I come see you? Um. Yes. Obviously.

Please do.

Okay. I’m on my way. See you soon. I slid the datapad back onto the bedside table, and sat upright on the cot. I wrapped myself in my blanket, and fidgeted with my crystal while I waited. When Matt arrived, he didn’t bother ringing the bell.

“Hey,” he said quietly, shuffling into my alcove. His slouch, his blonde hair, his goofy glasses were all such a welcome sight that I felt my shoulders start to sag, trying desperately to let go of even a tiny bit of tension. Never fear, an angel is here!

“Boy am I glad to see you,” I told him. I patted the end of the bed with my hand, because fuck that stool. He climbed onto the bed, his long calves dangling off the side.

“Me too, hun. How you holdin’ up?” he asked, and he turned his torso a little more towards me, which made me smile. Great, now I’m overanalyzing his body language to make sure he might have a crush on me. Cool.

“Not great, honestly.” That might’ve been the understatement of the year.

“Today’s lesson went that bad, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. It was a fucking nightmare.”

“What happened?” For a second, I wanted to say Shouldn’t you know? You were technically there. But then I remembered that’s not how it works.

“Um, well, short version is that Kylo was a huge asshole, I flipped my shit, then Ben came out to try to make me feel better.”

“I know Ben pushed to come out. I was trying to stop him, just because I wasn’t sure what was going on. But he’s always been stubborn.” He shook his head fondly. “He came out to help you?”

“Yeah,” I replied, smiling. “He tried to offer me fizzpop, and he made the crystal fly around again to make me laugh, which was really fuckin’ cute, and he wanted to be sure I didn’t hate Kylo. He also told me Kylo said he’s sorry, apparently.” I rolled my eyes. 

“Wow. I’m shocked you got an apology at all, even if it was through Ben.”

“Lowkey me too, but I’m still kinda mad about it.”

“That’s okay. I would be too. I assume Kylo came back and Ben didn’t just start wandering the halls?” he asked. I chuckled at the idea of Ben, but in grown ass Kylo body, wandering around the ship looking for fizzpop. That was kinda cute.

“Nah, Kylo came back. Apparently y’all can use the Force on me now. Which, that reminds me, I need to ask you the same shit I asked him about some boundaries for that.” Matt canted his head in that precious way of his. 

“Like what?” Wow. That was uncanny. Okay, sometimes they were similar, Matt and Kylo. But only in the most passing ways. 

“No reading my thoughts. No peeking around in my memories. No Jedi mind tricks.” I stuck out my hand. “Kylo said yes. Shake on it?” He stuck out a big hand and shook mine. It was warm, and I wanted to hold onto it, but I didn’t. I wasn’t sure how many times I could hold his hand before I made it weird. I’m proud of you, said the Voice Of Reason. Yeah, I wish you weren’t, though, I thought. 

“Of course, hun. You said Kylo agreed to those rules, too?” He seemed more surprised than he had about the apology.

“Yeah, I thought it was fuckin’ weird too. I think he might respect me. Well, respect might be a strong word,” I chuckled.

“Mm. I dunno. He’s not great at showing respect, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it.” Matt raised an eyebrow at me, with a little smile on his face. Whaaaaat. Kylo even partially respecting me was a little too weird to process. Especially since I hadn’t even remotely used the Force, that day. I just fell over on the floor.

“Well, he agreed to dial it back tomorrow for our lesson, anyway. What about you? What have you been doing?” I asked, changing the subject and smiling.

“I haven’t been out since I saw you in here last. So I haven’t been doing a damn thing, except hanging out with Ben and looking forward to seeing you.” He blushed, and smiled back at me. UUUUGH!!!

“Aww, well I’m sorry I don’t have anything more fun to report.” I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder, then let it fall back into my lap. “Wait. You weren’t out much before you met me, were you?” He shook his head.

“No, not much. Kylo fronts the most. He’s getting a little more rest, nowadays. I think it’s good for him,” he told me.

“I feel like you take care of Kylo, too.”

“I try to. He doesn’t much like it, though.” Matt laughed.

“I… well. I accept it better than he does, but I didn’t used to. I guess I relate to him that way. Always tryna be tough.”

“Maybe he’ll learn from your example.”

“Uh, doubt it, but you never know.” Miracles can fuckin’ happen I guess. Redemption might be in his arc, after all. Not that I would know.

“So, can you tell me about your home planet?” he asked suddenly, brightly. I eyed him. I felt like Ron Swanson in that episode of Parks and Recreation when somebody asked about his home address.

“Why?” 

“I’m just curious. You’ve only talked a little bit about it before.” I shifted uncomfortably. The cat was already out of the bag that he was looking for it, and pissing his subordinates off in the meantime. But he didn’t know I knew that, of course. Fuck

“Uh, it’s small. And blue, mostly, with some green. Some deserts. Huge variety of weather, wildlife, cultures.” Suddenly my brain played the original Star Wars credits in my head. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… “It’s… not super accessible.”

“Why not?”

“I, um, well, y’know, we just don’t really like other people. Not big on visitors.” Fuck. This was already a disaster. “It’s kind of a backwards place.”

“Huh,” he replied, surprised. “I wouldn’t expect you to come from a planet like that. You’re not very… backwards.” For you, darling, I could be, I thought. For the record, that was a sex joke. Shut up, brain.

“Um, thanks,” I mumbled awkwardly, kinda laughing. “I think. But, yanno, just had to, uh, get away. Still wish I knew how I’d ended up here , exactly.” That, at least, was true.

“You really don’t remember do you?” he asked. I side-eyed him.

“No. I really don’t.” 

“I don’t mean I didn’t believe you before. I just thought maybe your memories might’ve come back by now,” he disclaimed. “I thought maybe I could help you get home.” Aw, okay. Just go on being cute, I guess.

“That’s sweet, Matt, really. But I don’t know if you can,” I sighed. “I don’t know if it’s… findable. Maybe it’s in another galaxy, even?” That seemed like a viable option. There had been extra-galactic people in the old canon, after all. They were horrifying and tried to take over and were unable to be affected by the Force, actually. Oh, shit. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone with that cover-up. 

“Oh, wow. I never thought of that. How could you have possibly ended up all the way here from another galaxy?” His eyes got wide. 

“If I remembered, I could tell ya,” I joked wanly. He looked at me and sighed.

“Well. If I find out otherwise I’ll let you know.”

“You don’t have to do that.” 

“Yeah, but. I want to.” He said that a lot. For once I wished he wouldn’t, but there was nothing I could do without blowing more holes in my story. He was the only person on board, apart from Lucky Sevens, who didn’t think I was completely insane. To be honest, crush aside, I wasn’t willing to lose that. 

“Thanks.” I chewed my lip, uncertain what else I should even say. Changing the topic was hard when the only thing I wanted to say was ‘do you wanna make out?’ 

“Can I help you some other way? I mean, I figured the clothes were pretty much a basic necessity. But I mean, well. You know.” He blushed again. Holy shitting fuck godammit. “I just wanna be a good friend.” 

“You’re a great friend, Matt!” I assured him. “You’re wonderful. Please don’t worry about me. I don’t wanna depend on you for fuckin’ everything. That’s not fair. Plus, you kinda aren’t all that… available.”  I shrugged. Kylo sure had a lot of killing people and stalking Rey to do, after all. I knew he was still working on that, even though he never talked about it. 

“I mean, I know. And you can totally make other friends! But, I mean. I dunno. I feel like I have a lot of resources and I wanna use them to make you more… comfortable?” He had turned fully to face me while he was talking, pulling one leg up onto the bed while the other dangled down still. 

“I’m… I dunno how comfortable I’ll ever be on this ship, Matt. You already help me so much, just by spending time with me. I thought about making new friends before, but I don’t even know where I’d go to meet people!” Like, do storm troopers have dive bars? Do I really want to befriend some normie storm trooper, and if I do, do I really wanna meet one at a bar? I shouldn’t be drinking, anyway. Wouldn’t they just be needling me for info about Kylo? Would it make Kylo look bad if I went out schmoozing with the peasants? 

“You could go anywhere! You could, uh, have lunch in the officer’s mess. Maybe go to a lounge, or uh, the fitness center? Or go down to the pools and find out when they play water grav-ball, like I told you about,” he mused, and it was painfully clear that he didn’t actually know how to socialize on this ship. It’s not like he really could, anyway. It would be just about as effective as the actual SNL skit had been, prolly. But gosh, he was trying, bless his perfect heart. And technically I guess I could go all those places, but I had a feeling Kylo's fuckin' reputation might precede me, yanno? 

“I won’t lie to ya, eating lunch in the officer’s mess sounds like sitting all alone in the cafeteria when I was in second grade. The one boy who came up to me and wanted to be my friend turned out to be a self-identified incel, but like the scary kind, down the road.” I grimaced. He doesn’t know what an incel is, dingus. “And I dunno where Hux is these days, but I know for a fact that Phasma doesn’t fuck with me. I ran into her earlier, too. Before my lesson.”

“Shit,” Matt said, frowning. “I don’t actually know where Hux is. I mean, he might be in reconditioning, but you’d have to ask Kylo. He’s not acting General, I know that much. Phasma, though. She’s a beast. I’ve seen her. When I have to front as Kylo. That used to be a lot easier when he had the mask.” 

“Yeeeeah. She’s a fuckin’ traitor, too. Her and Hux both. Big time. I don’t trust them, and I’m not just saying that ‘cuz I saw that one vision, either.” It’s actually ‘cuz I read the damn book about her, but whatever. I shook my head.

“Don’t worry about that, then. I don’t know how often she actually uses any of the nicer accommodations for higher ranking officers, but uh, avoiding her isn’t a bad call. I’m sorry. I wish I knew what to do.” He seemed sad that he couldn’t help. He pouted, sticking out his bottom lip. It was so fucking cute, I wanted to squeeze him. 

“It’s okay, really. I’ll figure it out. I wish I could get out more. I don’t, uh, remember any planet ‘cept Earth.” This time I actually did remember that I was supposed to have forgotten everything! I was learning to lie. Hooray…?

“You mean, you’ve never gone out planetside?” Matt asked, and I saw this mischievous light come into his eyes as he grinned a mile wide.

“Uh, nope,” I said. Oh, my God. Is he really…

“I can fix that,” he whispered conspiratorially. My eyebrows flew up. Holy shit. Fuck!!!! I wanna go on a planetside date with Matt!!! Even if it’s not a real date…

“Really????” OHMIGOD!!!! Wait. Fuck. “Hang on, is that a good idea?” I asked, as I recalled suddenly that Matt and Kylo shared a body and this seemed like something Kylo would absolutely veto. Like, with his light saber. Cut the entire idea completely in half. 

“It’s totally fine! We can pretend I’m Kylo taking you out on some kinda mission or something!” He was getting excited, gesticulating with his hands. “We’re heading to Fondor next, but it’s mostly just a production planet, and that might be a risky trip anyway. I think after that, Kaller is on our trajectory, if you wanna go somewhere really fun!” I’ll be honest with y’all, most of me was internally SCREAMING at how fucking stoked he was, how he was clearly plotting all kinds of fun for me. But a small part of me was like…. Oh fuck. Now that it seemed possible I would get to leave the ship, did I really want to??

Who am I fuckin’ kidding. I totally wanted to. Even though it was absolutely gonna be the riskiest thing I’d done since accusing Hux of necrophilia. I like to live on the edge.

“Um, how much fun are we talkin’ here, Matt? Like, can we go small town? Just a lil, yanno, waystation type thing? Please no city-planets.” My brain was conjuring up images of Coruscant, which was like a five-dimensional New York or some shit, and I wasn’t a fan of cities half as large as NYC. Much less a whole goddamn planet.

“I was thinking Kaller because it’s got enough culture to be new and fun! But nothing too overwhelming,” he assured me, but somehow the profoundly impish smile on his face just wasn’t that convincing. But holy shit he was so. Fucking. Cute.

“Okay, so what’s Kaller like?” I asked, starting to get excited. I couldn’t seem to remember that one from the nooks and crannies of the canon.

“We’d be stopping in Plateau City, which is a beautiful place. Not huge, but still busy enough to be full of places to go, and food, and an amazing market! Kalleran jewelry, armor, and hidework are mostly what they’re known for. You wanna go?” He was looking at me like a golden retriever again, and like my ‘yes’ was the treat he’d been promised for doing his trick. At that point he could've told me he was gonna drag me through the lava on Mustafar and I would’ve consented enthusiastically.

“Alright. I’m in. Let’s do it.” Just when I didn’t think his face could light up any more than it already had... 

“Yes!! Maker, this is gonna be so fun!!” he squeaked, trying to hush himself in the late-night quiet of the medical bay by putting his hands over his mouth. I just smiled at him like a fucking idiot. 

“Okay, okay, you convinced me. But my life is in your hands, Matt!” 

“It’ll be fine, Your Dramatic-ness,” he teased me, rolling his eyes. “This place is lowkey, as you say all the time!” Something about him borrowing millennial slang from me made me lol (see what I did there? No I won’t apologize for that joke), and then I had to cover my mouth to keep quiet too.

“When is this whole expedition gonna go down, then?” I inquired. 

“It won’t be for a week or so. We have a couple stops between here and there.”

“Fine, I’ll await your signal, then. You’ll talk to Kylo about it, right?” I looked at him, feeling a pang of concern that he was gonna try and skip Darth Tantrum’s approval and just hijack the pilot’s seat for the day. I was not trying to make shit difficult for anybody, especially not me. And being Kylo Ren’s pupil was more than difficult enough without adding extra toppings.

“We’ll work it out. I’ll push him a little, if I have to.” He seemed confident enough. I gave him a look that hopefully said ‘If you piss him off you know I’m the one who has to deal with that, right?’ He gave me a look back that I think was trying to say ‘Trust me, you worry wort.’ I narrowed my eyes, and stuck out my hand with my pinky out.

“Pinky promise,” I instructed. He looked extremely, adorably confused, of course.

“What’s that?” 

“Just gimme your little finger!” He seemed dubious, but he raised one of his hands and pushed out his champagne-pink glitter pinky nail (now predictably chipped) out towards me, trying to copy my gesture. I grabbed his pinky with mine and shook it. “There. Pinky promise.” He took his hand back and looked at it curiously.

“Well, that’s new,” he commented, grinning.

“It’s an Earth thing.” I smiled smugly at him.

“That’s what I assume about every weird thing you say, hun. Which is a decent amount of things!” he chuckled. I stuck out my tongue at him, which only made him laugh more, which was exactly what I was going for. Fuuuuuck I adore him. I’m so tired. But I don’t wanna sleep. Then again, if he doesn’t sleep, Kylo is liable to be FUMING all day tomorrow, and I don't need that shit.

“Okay, I hate, like really fucking hate, to be the responsible one right now, but you should scoot off to bed, Matt. Your body has to wake up pretty early tomorrow, and so does mine,” I lamented. “I could talk all night. Literally. My brain is trending real fast, these past few days, and you’re my favorite person to talk to. But I gotta talk to Kylo tomorrow, and I’m tryna do the right thing, here.” In so many fucking ways, too, I thought. When I said ‘you’re my favorite person’ his face turned pink and he looked away from me, and bit his lip just a little. See me not making out with Matt? Where’s my award? Or my grave, honestly. Not making out with him was gonna kill me before Hux got the chance to try again.

“Well, I mean. Yeah. I would talk all night too. To you, I mean. But, um, you’re right.” Ohhh myyyy Goodddddddddd. As if that wasn’t bad enough, then he reached out to my face where Hux had cut me with the laser dagger. It was almost healed, still mostly new pink scar tissue and a few patches of dark webby healing material running from my temple down to my upper lip. He ran his thumb over it softly, sweetly. “You’re healing up pretty fast. The more you rest, the faster, though.”

My skin was sparkling under his rough hands that touched me so gently. I shivered just a little, and looked at him, trying to think of words to say out loud that didn’t include ‘will,’ ‘you,’ ‘kiss,’ or ‘me.’ It took me a second.

“Yeah, I mean. You’re right.” Okay, that was... good. He smiled a soft little smile, and then his hand fell away and he slid off the bed with a sigh. 

“Take care, hun. I’ll see you soon, mkay?”

“Yeah. I’d like that. Sleep well, Matt,” I replied, giving him a little hand-wave.

“You too, Aeon.” And he ambled out of the alcove, turning back just before he vanished around the corner to throw me a little smile that made me wanna die, in a good way. I curled up on the bed, still wrapped in the blanket like a burrito, and blushed and giggled at nobody. Sure, I was bummed we weren’t making out. But if nothing else we’d get to have a fun day together, just us, soon. I imagined us in some idyllic market in Morocco or Vietnam (since I had no fucking clue what Plateau City looked like), running around like a movie montage of the Perfect Cute Day Between Two People Who Were Definitely Not In Love, Nope, Absolutely Not. It bled into some sweet dream as I fell asleep.

Chapter Text

I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say I continued showing up to Force Lessons With Kylo. We met every day for the next five days, and I was starting to get the feeling that he was actually invested in teaching me. Mostly because he didn’t just throw shit at me again, or try to bully me into getting mad enough to body-slam him one more time. We like, sat down and started working on making shit float.

I know, it sounds so silly, right? But I was starting to actually get why Yoda had made Luke do it so much in that swamp. It took a fuckload of focus, and I wasn’t always abundant with that myself, but Kylo always told me to focus on him. And frankly… that wasn’t very difficult to do. Either because he was pissing me off, or…

Okay. Do not judge me. Kylo might be a shitbird, but he’s so fuckin’ hot. It’s uncomfortable just how hot he is. Like, lowkey I was starting to want him to choke me, a little. I wondered if it was mania, pushing me towards Extremely Bad Choices, or if I would’ve felt that way anyway and mania was just making it harder to ignore those impulses. Regardless, his behavior was actually improving overall. He still managed to get on my nerves regularly, but. Anyway. I was also getting back to thinking that I was a bad motherfucker, since my skills with making shit float appeared to be recovering from prolonged electrocution very, very quickly.

“Now, send them towards me,” Kylo was saying, as I stood on the opposite end of the training hall from him lifting six hunks of metal (mostly discarded droid parts). Just like I had the day before, I slid them all through the air between us, and they stopped about three feet away from him. “Now, back to you.” Back they came, all at once. “Now try to send them, but start each one at a different time. You have to control them all separately.”

“Fuck,” I grumbled, brow furrowed as I tried to look at all of the objects at once. This was where I’d fucked up before. Two of them started to waver.

“At me, Aeon! Not the stuff. Look at me,” he reminded me sharply, and as soon as I looked at him, the objects steadied themselves again. Even from across the goddamn training hall, his eyes were boring holes into me. For a second I just shivered a little from the eye contact, my heart rate picking up. But then I started to feel that feeling I’d had in the interrogation room, like I was sensing the energies of everything around me. The details weren’t there, but I could feel each of the scraps hanging in the air. 

One, two, three, four, five, six. I sent them all off one by one, and they all stopped in the same order, in the same place they’d been the last time. Nice.

“Now, back towards you.” In reverse order, they slid back to me. 

“Faster this time.” 

One two three four five six.  

“Faster.” 

Onetwothreefourfivesix. 

“Faster!” he urged. I felt my breath hitch, and back towards him they went, and then back towards me, until they were just frantically pinging back and forth like they were inside a pinball machine.

“Now stop!” Midair, they all froze. Our eyes were still locked, and my breath was coming a lot faster now. Did I see a drop of sweat on his forehead? Fuck, I thought. This is way more... intense than I expected. For a moment, we just stood there like that, staring at each other, slightly… winded. Yeah, winded. That’s the word I’ll use. Finally, Kylo broke the silence. “Your control is getting much better. Do you think you can deflect them?”

“Like, if you chuck them at me?” I asked. I really shoulda been more concerned that they were real objects, not just Force-rocks, this time. But I was filled with a probably-grandiose certainty that I could totally handle it. In answer, he sent one of them flying towards me. But it wasn’t all that fast, so I casually tossed it aside. One of those almost-smiles came over his face, except this was more like an almost-smirk. Jesus, don’t look at me like that. Or, do. Oof.

“Yes,” he confirmed, belatedly. Another one came flying at me, faster this time, and I sent it clattering off to the right. The rest started to move, slowly winding around under the vaulted ceiling of the training hall. I was still looking at him, and my heartbeat got even faster, because holy shit. It was starting to feel real, like real actual hunks of metal were about to come flying towards me at any moment. And I didn’t know which one, or from where. I felt the temptation to try and break eye contact with him and look at the metal bits as they drifted around, but I remembered this time. Or, possibly I might not have been capable of looking away. Not sure which, honestly.

“Alright,” I challenged him, feeling real cocky. I felt one of them break from its lazy path and come whizzing towards me, fast, but I bumped it away from me and into the ground. Motherfucker, try me, I thought, smirking. The pause was longer this time, which drove me a little nuts, but when that fucking hunk of droid came at me I bounced it up and away, hearing it land on the floor behind me with a satisfying clang. Then, I got an idea.

I kept looking at Kylo, but more than that, I had started to sense the line of energy flowing between him and the last piece of metal as it hovered. Then I realized I could feel the same line of energy flowing from the metal to me. It occurred to me that those lines were always there, but maybe only those who could perceive the Force could actually… manipulate them. Which meant that, even if Kylo was gonna fling a rock at me, I didn’t just have to defend myself. I could divert the flow of that energy, redirect it. Like playing football, a fuckin’ interception. They have those in football, right? 

So when it finally came at me, fast as hell, I sent it spinning upwards towards the ceiling-- and then right back towards him, just as fast. It was so unexpected that I saw his eyes go wide and his body freeze as it stopped barely half a foot from his face. I let it hover there for a second before it clattered to the floor. Our eyes were still locked, and now we were both obviously panting, tense, the energy now having nothing else to arc between but our bodies. 

Fuck. Was it good for you too? (But that joke implies that either of us was feeling satisfied, which was the exact opposite of what was going on, I’m pretty sure.)

“How was that?” I asked, and I felt like my limbs were vibrating. I swear under any other circumstances he would have been scowling, angry about being surprised like that. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t exactly clapping his hands with mentorly delight, either. Mostly he was just staring back at me, and I couldn’t honestly read his expression. I just knew it wasn’t Big Mad.

“Good,” he said, and finally blinked. “Impressive.” Wow. What the fuck? Hold everything. Did Kylo Ren just actually compliment me? Not almost-compliment. Not sarcasm. Like, actual compliment? I swallowed hard.

“Thanks.” I wondered if I’d ever had an easier time just accepting a compliment, the way I’m always trying to.

“Which feeling were you using to reach out to the Force?” he asked. I froze. Is that motherfucker trying to get me to confess how turned on I am right now?

“Um. Confidence,” I lied. Of course, the way I’d been feeling lately, desire and confidence were so very intertwined. Kylo narrowed his eyes at me.

“Curious.” That sounded like disbelief. 

“Why do you ask?” I pried.

“Normally I’d just look into someone’s mind to find out, but you asked me not to do that.” Oh. Okay. Respecting my Force boundaries. Cool. That’s cool. Stop making me think you’re cool. We both know you still like Rey, anyway. Not that I’m jealous, or anything. I might’ve been a tiny bit jealous. Which is stupid as hell, because I didn’t even ship those two. I don’t want Rey to have to put up with Kylo’s bullshit, she deserves better. So why would being jealous make sense?? In my defense, wanting to fuck someone isn’t the same as wanting to date them. In the game of Marry, Fuck, or Kill, Kylo was a strong Fuck. Matt was a hard Marry. I didn’t want to kill baby Ben, though, so at that point the analogy falls flat I guess. I managed to nod.

“I did. Thanks.” Kylo nodded back, then took a deep breath.

“Well.” Ah yes, he was just as good at dealing with Awkward Boners as I thought. Not that he had a boner, that I was aware of…

“Should we, uh, move on to another lesson?” I suggested. He cleared his throat.

“Yes, we should. Come sit.” He gestured towards the mats, and we both walked over and sat down cross-legged facing one another. I left some space, though, because I still had some sense of self-preservation, which I was clinging to. “There’s a very unique interaction between two Force-users," he began. Yeah, I'll fuckin' say, I thought. "If you’re responding to something that’s not being manipulated by someone else, the way you sense it might be different." 

“Isn’t the connection between the objects always there, though? Including the people involved?” I asked. I mean, wasn’t that the fucking idea of the Force? That it was ever present and connected everything?

“Yes,” confirmed Kylo. “But what do you think made that connection so easy for you to spot, just now?” I chewed on my lip, thinking about it. Boner jokes aside, I’d been aware that the object was coming towards me eventually. Because…

“Your intent?” I looked back at him, and he nodded. Aha!

“You could sense that I was planning to throw it at you, even before I confirmed it.”

“But couldn’t I technically sense anyone’s intent if I paid enough attention? Even if they weren’t using the Force themselves?”

“That’s exactly my point. Especially if you become very aware, you’ll feel the Force all around you, all the time. The energy flowing through you, entering and exiting, in and out, over and over again.” Um, is the Force your dick? Even though I was remembering how I’d felt just before my seizure and just now with the metal pieces, and I knew what he meant, that sentence was just too ripe with innuendo. God why is my brain trying so hard to fuck everything up, today?

“How do I do that?” I asked him. “Feeling it all the time like that sounds like it might drive me crazy, and I don’t need any more help with that.”

“You get used to it,” he assured me. I wanted to roll my eyes, but I mean, shit. That’s exactly what happened when I learned I had to be lucid of my symptoms all the time, scanning for them constantly just to take care of myself. I just fucking got used to it. I sighed.

“Okay. Is there some kinda exercise I could do to, um, get better at it?”

“Pay attention to how you feel. How it connects you to everything around you, even if the feeling is weak or you don’t act on it. Everything from a cup, to a droid, to a person, to a planet. Meditate often.” Yikes. I’d never stayed with the meditation habit. I’d do it for a few months, then either get too maniacally ambitious or too depressed to keep it up. At least here I have nothing better to do most of the time.

“Are you… does your anger connect you to everything?” I asked him quietly. “You don’t have to answer that,” I added quickly, because it was an innocent enough question but I was forgetting just how fast Kylo could fly into Big Mad. He regarded me curiously.

“All your emotions connect you to everything. The connections you’re most aware of, when it comes to using the power of the Force, are unique. It pays to choose what works best, though I can’t stop you from choosing something else.” He was starting to sound like a good teacher, which was almost too weird to fathom. I pondered this for a moment, running my finger over my bottom lip. Does anger work best for him because it simply works best in general, or is it just his belief that it works best that reinforces its efficacy for him? I was edging into looping, layered, philosophical territory with that one, like my brain was ready to start spiraling into the grand Patterns of the Universe which was a recurring trend in my manic-thoughts. That wasn’t always a bad thing, but I threw on the brakes. Now wasn’t the time for that shit. What’s practical right now??

Well, I really didn’t wanna be so fucking mad all the time. I just finally got to a point in therapy where I realized I was feeling better, in general, than I had in ages. Getting mad all over again felt like I wasn’t just stepping backwards, but slipping on a patch of ice and tumbling back down a hill to land smack into a neighbor kid’s snowman.

I looked up to say something to him, but what I saw made me freeze immediately. I’m not sure how I didn’t just scream and scramble away, because it was demon-Kylo again. He was sitting there, normal except for the growing shadow of his face full of a thousand red eyes. I held my breath and stared at him, terrified but for once able to tell, fully, that this was another hallucination. Oh my God. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s not gonna hurt you. 

“Aeon?” he asked, in what sounded like a thousand voices. “What’s wrong?”

“Y-you…” I stammered, trying to make words. “I… I see…”

“What do you see?” His voice(s) seemed calm enough, for a demon. I swallowed, forcing myself to release my frozen breath very slowly. 

“Are you angry at me?” I asked, very quietly.

“What? No,” he replied, seeming surprised. “Why do you ask?”

“I, um…” How do you tell someone they’ve morphed into a terrifying fucking demon?? This was NOT in the handbook.

“Take your time, Aeon.” Well, that’s awful nice of him. I took in another breath, slowly. The demonic face shifted and altered just a little all along, like it was made of living smoke.

“When you get angry,” I began carefully, “Sometimes I see a vision of you as a demon. I’ve… I’ve talked to Matt about it before.” A thousand eyes stared at me, and he was silent for a moment.

“Matt seems to think you see Ben with me, too,” he replied finally. “Is he here now?” 

“No,” I replied, which was weird now that I thought about it. But maybe Ben was resting hard, not even lurking around in the inner cockpit to try and push Kylo into something.

“Just me.”

“Yeah, just you. Are you always angry on Ben’s behalf?” I dunno why that question popped out, maybe because of how Matt talked about them both protecting Ben. It made sense, I thought, that Kylo would get the most pissed off when Ben felt scared.

“No. Just usually,” he replied. Well, that made sense, too. He probably had his own things he got pissed about.

“Oh. I was just, um, wondering.” I couldn’t rip my eyes off of the demon’s face. It was so horrific, but if I looked away I might get even more freaked out. “Do you really think you’re a monster, Kylo?” I was asking all the easy questions, today. He was silent again for a while.

“I have to be.” The eyes were all looking at me, almost like they were curious how I would respond.

“Do you?”

“Yes. I am Supreme Leader of the First Order. My rule cannot be questioned, or it is at risk.”

“Why do you wanna rule, though?” Another silence. I felt like maybe I might be dead by the end of this conversation if I kept pushing it, but somewhere in the back of my head I’d latched onto the idea that if I got to talk through whatever this anger I was seeing was, then the demon head might go away without me panicking and scrambling away like an idiot, or possibly hurting someone.

“Because it’s my destiny.”

“How do you… how did you find out it was your destiny?” I phrased delicately. Did he read the script?

“Snoke forsaw it. I believe my uncle did, too, and that’s what he was afraid of.”

“You think he was afraid of you becoming ruler of the galaxy?”

“Yes.” All the eyes were trained on me now, wide open, unblinking.

“Maybe he was just afraid of you becoming cruel,” I murmured. “But trying to protect us from what could hurt us makes it hit that much harder, in the end, when it happens anyhow.” The relentless stare of all the eyes was unnerving as hell. “I’m sorry, Kylo. I don’t mean to bring up all that shit. I guess I just keep hoping you don’t have to stay this angry all the time.”

The reason I always felt drawn to Kylo, like as a character, before I got plopped down into his fucking plot, was because he was so brutal. His pain was brutal, and he externalized all of it. He took it out on everyone else. My version of that pain was just as brutal, but it was all internal. I took all my pain out on myself. No matter how bad I wanted to fuck up someone else’s day, I never did. Just pointed that shit inside. I guess being around the guy was making it even clearer to me that we were both struggling with being angry, even though I hid my anger about a million times better than he did. That didn’t mean it was gone, or that I knew what the fuck I was supposed to do about it. I just knew I couldn’t let it be the only feeling that I used to connect to the Force, or by the time I got home I’d be a fucking wreck. Or a different person, which is even worse.

I tell y’all all this, because that was what was running through my mind at that moment. I got so lost in those thoughts, when I finally snapped back to reality, the demon was gone. It was just Kylo, sitting there looking at me with the strangest expression. Almost like his guard was down?? But not like Ben was there. Just him. I breathed in real deep.

“It’s gone, now. The demon.” Wow. That… that was. Different. He nodded. 

“How do you feel?” he asked. I looked down at myself, at the now-purply glow of the crystal around my neck, at my hands which were shaking just a little. For once in my life, I didn’t wanna tell him I just felt ‘crazy.’ Which is what I woulda told everybody else, to be honest.

“Better.” He was almost smiling at me, maybe. Or at least, he seemed to appreciate that I wasn’t on the edge of freaking the fuck out anymore.

“Do you want to stop for today?” I was a little too shaken to be totally preoccupied with how weird it was that he was actually being nice to me, asking my consent for fuck’s sake, but don’t think I missed it. 

“Yeah, I think so. We back tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow I have to go down to Fondor to settle something with the shipyards.” He got all stony again, not at me but just in general. I tried not to think about how pretty much any time he said something like that, I knew at least one person was gonna end up dead. “We can resume the day after. I won’t be gone long.”

“Is that your way of saying I can maybe see Matt tomorrow when you get back?” I asked him hesitantly. I didn’t ask Kylo about Matt a lot. Way more the other way around. For obvious reasons. He seemed a little stonier.

“Ask him.” Which is Kylo-speak for ‘yes, but I’m not gonna say it out loud.’ I hadn’t seen Matt since our training had picked up in intensity, only messaged him a few times, which is the only reason I even said anything. Like, I know you’re Supreme Dicklord and all, but I miss your alter who is a lot nicer than you. Even though you’re being nice today, for some weird reason.

“Alright, I will.” We stood up from the mats almost at the same time. “And I’ll practice noticing my feelings.” Fuckin’ therapy all over again, but with space magic this time!

“Good,” he replied, less stony now. “Walk with me a moment,” he added, beckoning with his gloved hand as he turned towards the exit. Um, okay? I raised an eyebrow and shuffled after him. We entered the hall and he strode along while I tried to keep up. He wasn’t even hurrying like usual, but God he was so fuckin tall. Long legs walk real fast.

“Yes, uh, sir?” I was trying to be respectful in case the officers and troopers who were also in the halls heard us. To be fair, I respected him a little more than I used to, now.

“Hux is being released from confinement in a few days. He’s been demoted to Lieutenant General,” he told me in a low voice. Oh, okay. Fuck that. “He’s also been ordered to keep a physical distance of at least a hundred meters from you at all times. If he breaches that, you will report it to me immediately. Even if he’s just passing by in the corridor.” 

“Yes, sir,” I agreed wholeheartedly.

“If he contacts you via communicator or datapad, or if he sends a message with one of his subordinates, you will report that to me immediately also.”

“Absolutely, sir.” No problemo with that my dude.

“If you feel unsafe in any capacity, you may report that to me at any time. This ship is your home, right now, and you are my apprentice, and there will be no contestation of my will in matters of your safety.” He was louder, now, as though he wanted all the bustling people in the hall to hear. I barely suppressed a smirk.

“Thank you, sir.” Damn, he was getting my enthusiastic consent, today. I’m not gonna call you Master, though. Not unless you ask me politely first.

“Finally, I plan to have your quarters moved to the officer’s suites this evening. I’ll send someone to assist you with moving your effects within the hour.” I blinked. Oh, wow, an upgrade! We stopped just before the doorway to a lift. “You are presently answerable to no one on board, or in the entire Order, but me, Aeon Flux. I’m sure you won’t abuse this privilege.” He looked at me, eyes burning in that way they did but somehow even moreso, and I felt my guts do a little flip. Oh shit. Big Dom energy happening right now. Right out here in front of God and everybody. But… I’m kinda into it. Oof.

“No, sir,” I breathed. “I certainly won’t.”

“Good. Now, you can return to your quarters and prepare to move.” The door to the lift slid open, and a couple officers quickly shuffled out of the way. He walked in, and turned around to look back at me with that godforsaken smolder.

“Yes, sir.” The door slid shut and he was gone, and I breathed in real slow. Jeez. That was a lot. But I wasn’t complaining, exactly. Not after today being a raging fuckin’ success. I turned to march back to my room, and wondered if there would be a tub in my new bathroom or not.

Chapter Text

The person who came to fetch me and my stuff from my little room was not who I’d expected.

“Oh, Lieutenant Mitaka,” I said when the door opened and I saw the mousey guy standing there. He looked a little pudgy, and a little fidgety, but he had a nice face. “Are you here to help me relocate?” 

“Yes, mada-- Aeon, yes, I am,” he said, and his voice was just as pudgy and nice as his face was. He seemed awfully docile, to be working for the First Order. He was surprised that I already knew who he was, but wasn’t everyone? Apparently my desire not to be called ‘madam’ was at least sorta common knowledge now, too. I really hoped that was because of Hux complaining about it at some point, because that would be hilarious. “May I provide you this trunk? For your clothes?” He pushed in a little rolling suitcase thing.

“Oh nice! Thanks, dude,” I replied, and immediately grabbed it and towed it over to the bed where I started to pack it as fast as I could. I was ready to see my new digs. 

“So, um, are you recovering tolerably well from your, um, ordeal?” he asked nervously.

“Oh, you mean when your former commanding officer abducted me and kidnapped me?” I asked cheerfully. He looked uncomfortable, of course, because that was the point. “Yeah, I’m doin’ fine these days. Y’all sure have some solid medical technology on this ship. Very impressive.” I threw my guitar over my shoulder on its little strap, and stood there with my new trunk and my datapad in hand.

“Oh, are these your only belongings?” he asked, surprised.

“Yeah, I didn’t bring much,” I told him. “You prolly heard my visit was… unexpected.”

“Ah. Well, less to carry then. I’ll take the trunk for you.”

“It’s okay, I got it.”

“Ma- Aeon, please, let me carry it. I… well I don’t want our Supreme Leader to think I was neglecting my duty.” Oh, I forgot. Everyone is scared shitless of Kylo Ren. Prolly why he’s been so timid around me already. Duh.

“Okay, buddy,” I said, throwing him a big wink. “I gotcha. Wouldn’t want ol’ Kylo to have a hissy fit, would we?” He took the handle and started wheeling the trunk out, his face looking a little pale as though he was uncertain about agreeing with me too much on that point. I turned and threw up a peace sign before I left. “Bye, tiny room. See ya never!”

“Your new suite is much larger, yes,” Mitaka confirmed. “But it’s the Supreme Leader’s old spot. So it may be a little… drab.” I laughed. Is he talking smack about Kylo’s decor?

“Oh, I bet I know how he likes his space. Real dark and broody, everything’s black, dramatic lighting? A very secret diary under the bed?” I think he laughed a little, but he tried not to. Yes, I was having fun at Kylo’s expense. But lowkey I was tryna get a read on the little Lieutenant, too. He was barely an inch taller than me, so when I say ‘little,’ I’m not kidding.

“I couldn’t say,” he said. “But I’m sure he’s not fond of pink tulle curtains, or anything.”

“Hah! That’s funny. I dunno, though, he could surprise us.” I was thinking about Matt when I said that, obviously. Beautiful, perfect, lil bit girly Matt. Though I liked to think that pink tulle would be too much for him, even.

“Indeed.” He was kinda laughing, I could totally tell. 

“So, Mitaka, did you get a promotion recently? After my whole debacle?” I pried. Of course there was another person I wanted to know how loyal Mitaka was to. His name rhymes with ‘sucks.’ 

“Oh, um, no. I wasn’t in line for that position, thank the Maker,” he replied as he led me into a lift. “I don’t know if it’s been settled yet who’ll finally get that position. Bureaucratic nonsense abounds.” He rolled his eyes. I was starting to like him.

“I assume you agree with his punishment? Not that you’d tell me if you didn’t, of course.” I winked at him again. I was ready to make that guy real uncomfortable if he thought I was to be fucked with. Just in case.

“I certainly disagree with his punishment. I think he ought to be in the brig quite a bit longer,” the man said, and I raised my eyebrows. Oh damn! Feisty Mitaka isn’t a fan of the pasty redhead! Fuck yeah!

“I gotta say, I appreciate that.”

“Well, if he was suspicious, he really should’ve known better than to just grab you while Supreme Leader was offship. And I thought his accusations were outlandish, given the fact that you’ve spent more time in the medical bay than anywhere else since you arrived here.” He shook his head. “I don’t imagine being under Ren’s tutelage is exactly a vacation, for you, either.”

“It… really isn’t. He’s not a patient guy. Though, I think he’s getting better? Maybe?” He looked at me, eyebrows shooting right up.

“Really? That’s difficult to fathom.”

“It might just be like a blip, yanno, like a little thing. Maybe he finally got laid, I dunno. Who knows how long it’ll last,” I chuckled. Yeah, right. You wish, muttered the Voice of Reason. You’re not helping, I thought in reply.

“Aeon, I must tell you. It’s a very prominent rumor on the ship that you are his… sexual companion,” Mitaka whispered to me. Just as he finished, the door of the lift slid open and we walked out. I snorted.

“Don’t worry. Phasma informed me of that the other day,” I told him, talking low just in case. “Pretty fuckin’ rudely.”

“Oh, dear,” he muttered. “I’m sorry about that. She’s not pleased with his, um, allocation of certain resources.”

“Yeah, she told me that, too. I was like, lady, leave me alone. I can’t tell that guy what to do. Nobody can.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m not even sleeping with him, anyway. But I didn’t really expect her to like me. Her ginger bestie didn’t, so.”

“Hm, yes.” He nibbled on a fingernail, then stuffed it back into his pants pocket like it was a bad habit he was trying to break. He was such a dork, it was kinda endearing. “Here we are.” He stopped in front of a door.

“Oh word ,” I murmured when it opened. This suite was way bigger than my room. There were two couches, a little tiny desk with a chair, and the bed was beneath a long, skinny window in the back wall. Outside was a planet that was covered in metal structures of some kind. I couldn’t see into the bathroom. There better be a FUCKING tub!! I need to fuckin’ CHILL!!

“We’re in orbit above Fondor, but we depart tomorrow,” Mitaka informed me. He brought my suitcase over to the closet (which was much larger than my old one, too) and started to hang up my clothes. He was very nitpicky and tidy, even refolding some of them before he hung them. What a goober. I laid my guitar down on one of the couches, and looked around. Everything was gray and black, but the lighting wasn’t as melodramatic as I’d expected. 

“This is pretty nice, man. We totally called it on the decor, though.” I heard him chuckle.

“Yes, about what we expected, I’m afraid. Would’ve been more fun if not.”

“Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.” I wandered over to the desk and opened a drawer, but there was nothing in it.

“There!” he pronounced, proudly stepping back to look at the immaculately tidy closet. I had a pitiful amount of clothing, for that space. “You’re all set up, then. Is there anything else you need presently?” 

“Oh, uh, no. Not really.” I was kinda sad that he was leaving, honestly. I had been enjoying talking a little shit with someone on the ship who I neither feared nor had a crush on. “But thank you very much, Lieutenant. For chatting.” He seemed confused that I’d thank him for something like that.

“Of course, um. Sorry, I never know what to call you, I’m so used to titles around here.”

“Your Radiance,” I told him, grinning and thinking of Matt again.

“What?” he asked, brow knit with both concern and confusion, like he probably heard what I’d said but wasn’t sure if he should take it seriously or how angry I’d get if he didn’t. Poor dude was used to working for homicidal assholes.

“I’m kidding. Just Aeon really is fine.”

“Oh. Alright, Aeon. Let me know if I can provide any further assistance.”

“Wait, what do you people do for fun around here?” I asked him before he could turn around and leave the room. Finally, someone who isn’t a jerk to ask about that!

“Um… well. I tend to go to the Cockpit, which is a little sort of bar, sometimes. On the same level as the commissary,” he replied awkwardly, like he wasn’t sure he should be telling me that. Damn, they really missed an opportunity to name a strip club or a gay bar, with a name like the Cockpit.

“That sounds interesting. I might check it out, later. Believe it or not, trying to lift rocks with the Force all the time gets boring real fast,” I laughed. He smiled timidly back at me.

“Certainly. I must return to my duties, now.” 

“Yeah, I know. Have a good one, Lieutenant.”

“Good day, ma- Aeon.” And he shuffled out like a nervous little beetle. A nervous little beetle with the face of a teddy bear. As soon as he was gone, I ran to the bathroom to see what the deal was.

It was a nice room, to be sure. But there was no fucking tub!!!! Just a larger shower, a fancy one with glass walls and a glass door and a very wide shower head. I groaned.

“Goddammit, Kylo,” I swore. “You fuckin’ spartan ass emo ass little shit bird. I want to take a BATH!!” I sighed, and sat down on the couch. Fuck. Nothing much to do, for the rest of the night. I miss Matt. That last thought usually happened about fifteen times a day. I decided to shoot him a quick Hey, nerd on the datapad, fully aware that he might not get back to me yet. “Do I want to go to that bar?” I asked nobody, rubbing my lip with my finger. I was kinda worn the fuck out, though, to be honest. Maybe tomorrow while the Supreme Dingus was off murdering people. I decided to play my guitar instead.

Well my babyyyy, she’s like a little black star,

She’s just like her daddy, way yonder far,

She’s just like her daddy, way yonder far… ” I stopped, suddenly realizing that I’d forgotten the next line. I hate when that shit happens! But I just started over, which usually jogs my memory. 

Well my babyyyy, she’s like a little black star… ” 

I couldn’t even remember the next chord. And that wasn’t a complicated song. Fuck. Okay. New song, I guess. I decided to go with an old one, that I’d heard since I was a little kid.

Hello cowgirl in the sand,

Is this place at your command?

Can I stay here for a while?

Can I see… ” My fingers made some awful noise on the strings as I landed on a blank space where my memory of the song used to be. What? What the fuck is the line?? It has to rhyme with ‘while,’ why the fuck can’t I remember it???? I was starting to panic a little. I tried to picture my dad singing it when I was younger, which is how I’d learned it to begin with.

My heart started to race. I couldn’t remember what my dad’s face looked like. I saw arms holding a guitar in my mind, but nothing where the details of his face used to be. And almost none of the song.

“Shit. Fuck. Shit. No. This can’t be happening!” I looked down at the fretboard, horrified. I could remember how to make chords, but I was forgetting all kinds of details. I tried to sing yet another song, without playing this time, and got halfway through before I couldn’t remember anything else. Fuck. No. No no no no nonononono!!!!! What the fuck!!!!!!

I almost threw the guitar off of me, running to the big bed that was now mine and curling up on it with my hands balled into fists. It was fucking awful, y’all. It was the worst I’d felt in such a long time. I started to sob into the soft black sheets. 

“No. Please. Please come back… I can’t. I can’t forget you. Please.”

Chapter Text

Cut to: me lying on my bed still, in the same position I’d collapsed into hours ago, lost in a fog. I don’t actually know if I slept at all, or how long I laid there. I felt like I was made of lead, but my guts were hollow and could collapse at any moment. It was the kind of nearly catatonic I hadn’t been since my last super fucked up depression. My thoughts had spun around in circles until I’d just dissociated from them entirely, overwhelmed with horror and disbelief. Every time I tried to figure out why I couldn’t remember something, I’d panic and start crying again. The fact that there was no fucking day or night, so no sunup or sundown, really didn’t help. 

The thing that brought me back to some kinda-awareness was the sound of my datapad pinging. I didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want to miss something I could get in big trouble for, either, so I crawled outta bed to go pick it up off the couch where I’d left it.

Hey, wobbles. You want to hang out tonight after Kylo gets back from planetside? I blinked at it. Oh fuck. It’s Matt. I meant to message him yesterday. Oh, I feel so awful. I miss him so much, he’s the only thing on this fucking ship that makes me feel better. But I don’t know if he can help with this. I don’t wanna bring him down...

What time? I replied.

Won’t be until late, maybe 1900 hrs. I can come to your new room! He’s so cute. I sniffled, and wiped yet another tear from my red eyes. He’s so sweet to me. I feel like a miserable potato. What the fuck am I gonna do?

Ok.

You okay? Wow. Even in space, people get nervous when you type differently than usual.

I’ve been better. Sad about home.

I’m sorry you’re sad. I’ll come cheer you up? Whaaaaaaa.

You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

I messaged you first, silly. Of course I want to.

Alright, I’ll see you then. I sighed.

Take it easy today, okay? 

I will.

Good. See you soon. I didn’t even reply, I just put the datapad on the desk and wandered over to my closet. I wanted to pick out a nice outfit to wear for Matt, at least. I didn’t want to bother showering or over-grooming like I had been, though. I didn’t even know if I wanted to see him-- well really, if I wanted him to see me . I was fucked up, y’all. Like I’d dropped right outta the sky, from New Rey Who Dis to Nothing Matters And Everything Hurts in less than eight hours. I pulled a pair of trousers down from where Mitaka had folded them so scrupulously the day before, and changed into them. Weirdly, there was something in one of the pockets I could feel. What the hell is that? I stuck my hand in, and was surprised to pull out the fucking candy Matt had given me a while back. You know, the one he said made you euphoric

One guess what I decided to do that day. 

 

-----

 

When my doorbell chimed, I was laying on the bed with my head dangling off the foot of it, giggling to myself.

“HelllooOOOOO,” I shouted at the door. “Come IIIINNN!” When the door opened, I thought Oh man it’s so magical how that door just opened right when I told it to! And then I laughed way more than I should have. Matt came in wearing a short sleeved black t-shirt and black pants and his goofy glasses, but I was too busy laughing at myself to pay attention to how hot he looked for a minute.

“Um, hey there, hun,” he said, sounding very surprised to see me in such a state. “How you feelin’? Better?”

“I feel terrible!” I laughed. His brow knit with concern.

“Then why are you laughing?” he asked, approaching the bed slowly like he was trying to size me up. 

“I took the thingy,” I told him in a harsh whisper, like it was some kind of terrible secret. “The candy thingy, I ate it!” 

“Oh, good grief,” he groaned as he realized what I meant and put his hand on his forehead. “Okay, I’m still concerned about you, but I admit I feel better now that I know why you’re laughing like a maniac when you just told me this morning that you’re sad.”

“I’m so sad. I don’t even know what to do! So I ate the thingy. I missed you so much!” I cried, lifting my head up and twirling myself around in a totally ridiculous and excessive way so I could sit and face him. I stuck my hands out towards him like a baby reaching for their mom. “I missed you all week. This week was crazy. Kylo was really nice to me!” He chuckled at me, and reached out and took both my hands in his as he stood by the foot of the bed. I let out a tiny squeak. Ohmigod!  

“Kylo was nice to you, huh?” he asked, and he kinda waved my hands around in the air a little.

“Um yeah, he was really nice to me. I saw him change into a demon but I didn’t even run away, and he talked to me and I didn’t mean to bring up Luke or anything but he didn’t get mad and then the demon went away! Isn’t that crazy!!!” I tried to pull him towards me, but he was heavy. Too heavy for my under-developed arm muscles. He stood there, smiling at me like he thought I was fucking adorable.

“Wow. That’s pretty impressive, Aeon. I’m really proud of you,” he said, and my face turned bright pink I’m pretty sure.

“Oh wowie,” I whispered. He just laughed, and sat down next to me on the bed, still holding my hands. “Why are you sooooo nice to me?”

“Why? What kinda silly question is that? Because you’re my friend,” he replied. I was liking how much he was chuckling at me a whole lot, so I resolved to make that keep happening.

“And you’re my friend. My best friend on the whole ship! I might be friends with Mitaka maybe,” I informed him. “He helped me move my stuff. He thinks Hux should still be in jail,” I added, once again in my fake whisper, giggling. Was that kind of a reach for the single interaction we’d had? Maybe, but euphoria likes to assume the best.

“Oh, Mitaka, huh? I didn’t know he wasn’t a fan of Hux,” Matt mused. “He seems nice.” I couldn’t tell if he was actually happy about this or not. He didn’t seem jealous, though. More like protective than anything.

“He’s nice! I think he’s nice. I dunno. I also think he’s gay, which is GREAT! Also I did a bunch of crazy shit with the Force this week!” I said, my brain hopping away from the intense sadness I’d been feeling in favor of making broad assumptions about Mitaka’s sexuality and then making Matt smile and laugh and say nice things. Drugs are bad, y’all.

“I actually might have pushed around in Kylo’s memories to find out what you’d been working on,” he admitted sheepishly. My eyes flew wide open and my mouth made a little ‘o’ shape. 

“Ohmigod! You bad boy!”

“I just wanted to see your progress! I didn’t snoop on your conversations. Kylo’s hard to snoop on, anyway, he’s very guarded. You’ve been moving a whole lotta stuff around in the air, is all I know.”

“Oooooh you’re bad. You naughty thing. I won’t tattle on you though. You’re my friend.” He was blushing real hard. I was talking to him like I was a five year old, and at no point did any Voice of Reason enter my brain. I shook his hands around excitedly when I remembered that I was still holding them. “I did make a bunch of stuff fly though yeah. I did real good. Almost like I’m getting the hang of this Force shit.” 

“You’re a marvel,” he told me, and his eyes were so sparkly. Being as high as I was, I just squeaked again.

“Oh gosh,” I murmured, and I swung my head over and then let the rest of my body follow it to land on the bed, still holding his hands. He laughed. Wow oh boy oh wow. Wow I like Matt. I like Matt so much. “Oh gosh, you’re really nice.” 

“I try,” he chuckled.

“Matt, I’m sad,” I remembered suddenly, frowning up at him.

“Why are you sad, fierce one?” he asked, face going all soft. Wow did he just call me that? My heart thudded in my chest.

“I can’t remember stuff. I forgot some songs I’ve known for like ever. I can’t remember my dad’s face. I don’t know what’s happening, but I can’t remember stuff about Earth.” I started to feel a strange emotion, the weirdest feeling you get when you’re sad but also on a drug that increases hella dopamine in your brain. I swallowed, wondering if I would cry or not. Matt’s face looked suddenly very worried.

“You’re forgetting more of your past?” he asked, brow knit behind his big glasses.

“I guess,” I replied, shrugging. Oh no. Was that a tear I felt going down my temple? Turns out it was, because Matt let go of one of my hands to reach over and wipe it with his thumb. 

“Oh, no. That’s awful,” he murmured. “Shit. I don’t know what to do about that.”

“You don’t gotta fix it, I don’t think you can anyhow,” I said, looking down at where his other hand was still holding mine, forlorn.

“Maybe it’s temporary?” he offered, starting to pet my head. Oh, wow. That’s… that’s reaaaallly nice. My eyes slid closed, and my whole body tingled. 

“Mmmm,” I shrugged, thoughts beginning to rustle and want to jump elsewhere. “Maaaaybe.” 

“We’ll figure it out,” he cooed. “Don’t worry. I’ll help if I can.”

“‘Cuz you’re the best ever,” I murmured, smiling without opening my eyes. “Matt, using the Force with Kylo feels funny. Can’t you use the force, too?” 

“Yes, though I often don’t.” His hand slid away from my head, and I pouted and opened my eyes. “What’s that for?” he asked about my stuck-out lower lip, giggling at me.

“I forgot already,” I told him, having seen his face and gotten totally distracted from whatever I was supposed to be pouting about. He laughed again, and then I laughed. “What did I just ask you?”

“You asked me if I can use the Force. Which I can. I just don’t do it a lot,” he recounted patiently. 

“Why not?” I asked, cocking my head to the side in a very exaggerated version of what he always did. He shrugged.

“I don’t really need to, much. Why do you ask?”

“Just learning from Kylo feels weird. He said the connection is unique. I dunno what that means though.” Meant I was uniquely horny after class, mostly. But I wasn’t even about to tell Matt that, despite being high as balls, because I didn’t even really wanna think about it myself.

“Oh really? Like weird how?”

“Just like, the connection, because we were both using the Force on the same rock or whatever. Like, look.” I glanced over to my datapad, and without even really trying it lifted up into the air. Matt gave a huge grin. “Now you move it!” I instructed him.

“Why?”

“Just trust me!” He looked at me, then back at the datapad. It didn’t move. “No, silly. You look at me , when you do it,” I scolded him, giggling like it was goofy that he didn’t already know.

“At you?” He looked at me, our eyes locking. Suddenly I felt the datapad starting to wind in a big, slow circle in the air. I smiled, not breaking eye contact, and pushed back on the datapad, spinning it the other direction. “Hey!” he laughed, and pushed it back the original way. I giggled, but the longer our eyes stayed connected, the more I felt like I was vibrating from the inside out. I could feel a torrent of energy, but this time it didn’t have to arc through the air between us-- it just sizzled through us in an endless loop, connected by where his hand still held mine. Away from us, the datapad was spinning itself and slowly getting faster. I tried to say something, but no words were happening. Nothing even came to mind. His face seemed a lot closer than it had before, though. I could count his eyelashes.

Then the datapad was sinking back to the desk, and Matt closed his eyes and sighed. He leaned back away from my face, but he didn’t let go of my hand. When he opened his eyes, I slowly started to realize what had just happened yet again. Fuck. Seriously? We’re just gonna keep doing this? We’re adults, dammit. We can make out if we want to! 

“You’re really high, did you know that?” he asked me, letting out a rueful chuckle.

“Oh,” I replied, recalling the entire English language in one fell swoop. “I’m not that high.”

“Your pupils are huge, hun.”

“I’m fiiiine,” I assured him. “I’m just, I wish I was wearing other clothes. This shirt is really nice but it’s so stiff right now!” Suddenly I bounced up off the bed, and he let go of my hand as I danced over to the closet to pluck out one of the long sleeved shirts that was for storm troopers. Apparently I’d grown tired of fancy clothes for the evening.

“Are you--” Before he could ask the question I’d already flung off the offending shirt, and Matt turned bright red and whipped his blonde head away from me. “Maker, Aeon, you gotta warn somebody before you just do that kinda thing,” he mumbled. I just laughed and pulled the much softer shirt on delightedly. “Are you done?”

“I’m changing pants. No peekin’!!” I giggled at him, and mid-turn he jerked his head back away from me again and towards the door. Then I totally just pantsed the nice trousers and pulled on a pair of the softer trooper regulation pants. I gave no fucks. “Ohmigod this is soooooo much better. I shoulda showered but it’s too late. Why the fuck don’t you have a bathtub in your old room????” 

“I dunno, there wasn’t one when we arrived. I tried to get one put in the whole time I was here. It just never happened,” he laughed, turning back to look at me again, his blush barely fading.

“Matt. I need-- nay, I deserve to relax a little. I’m not real good at it, I need a lotta help, okay? Tubs? They are a big help!” I bounded back to the bed, hopping on and sliding over to him. Boy, did he look gorgeous. As always.

“I’m terribly sorry, Your Radiance. If it were in my power I’d get you one immediately, but it isn’t, I hate to say. There’s a lot of plumbing involved, and our maintenance crew just isn’t prepared for that,” he said, but he was starting to chuckle through his words. 

“You’re bullshitting me, aren’t you?” I asked him, folding my arms in front of me. “You big meanie. I thought we were friends!” 

“We are totally friends, hun,” he laughed. “I just can’t use the Force to build you a bathtub. I didn’t study long enough for that.” He reached out to boop my nose, which made me blush. 

“Okay, fine. One day I’ll forgive you,” I mumbled, but I was smiling, too.

“I will waste away here, awaiting your mercy,” he replied melodramatically, throwing one hand on his chest and his head backwards. He is so FUCKING cute. I giggled, and blew air on him to see if he would fall over. Because he is a good and wonderful cinnamon roll, he totally went along with it and his torso collapsed the rest of the way backwards onto the bed. I laughed like a little kid. He laid there, hand still on his chest, eyes closed. One eye peeked out at me, though, and I pointed and laughed before it closed again. 

“You’re alive, goober,” I accused him. “You can look at me now. I know your seeeeecret.”

“Oh, okay,” he sighed, opening his eyes again and grinning at me. “You’ve found me out.”

“You’re not a very good liar.”

“No, you’re right, I’m really not.”

“That’s not a complaint, though. I think you’re the most wonderful human on board. I wouldn’t want you to lie to me.” He blushed again. 

“Maker,” he murmured. But before he could say anything else, I went full pre-K and spontaneously started to tickle him. In retrospect I wonder if this counts as healthy regression? “AAH!” he yelped, and started to giggle uncontrollably and wriggle. “No! Fuck! Anything but that!!”

“I gotya!!!!!!!” I crowed as I dug into his armpits. “Not so big now are ya, you bad boy?” He was laughing too hard to respond, and I started to laugh with him-- until he turned the fucking tables on me, the sly devil!!!

“Now who’s bad? Huh???” he asked, reaching up to tickle me right back mercilessly. I squealed and tried to wiggle away from him, but... not that hard, honestly. 

“NoooooooooooOOOO ahhhh!” It was getting full-blown sleepover cute in there, as I cackled and wheezed and slapped at his hands. “You can’t! You cheated! Stoooop!” 

“Not until you admit I won!” he laughed at me.

“What! Never!!!” Did he know who he was tickling right now???? I would NEVER surrender!!! His hands danced from my ribs to the insides of my elbows to the backs of my knees, and I yelped every time he changed tickling locale.

“Say it!!! Say I won!!!!”

“Noooo!!!”

“SAAAAY IT!!!!”

“OHMYGOD FINE YOU WON!!!” I yowled, and finally he stopped tickling me and I panted to catch my breath while he laughed at me, leaning over my face with his elbow on the bed propping him up. “Next time, you fucker. I’ll get ya.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will,” he said, smirking like he didn’t believe me at all. Nestled under his arm, though, I didn’t care I’d lost. I mostly felt like I’d won, actually. He was so close that we were touching all along the length of my body, and I looked up at him with a laugh still lingering on my face while he looked down at me. One of our signature pregnant pauses fell. God. There’s no way I can keep this up.  

“Matt,” I whispered, nervous as hell.

“Yeah?” he asked, sweet and unsuspecting.

“Matt… Matt, I like you.”

“I like you too!” he replied cheerfully. Clearly he did not get it.

“No, I mean like I like- like you.” His brow furrowed.

“I like-like you, too. Friends usually do that, don’t they?” 

“Noooooo ugh. Matt.” Wow, this was frustrating. No silly grade-school coding in space about the difference between one like and two likes. How else was my regressed mind supposed to communicate?? “Nevermind,” I huffed, looking away from him and putting a hand over one eye and cheek while I turned red from embarrassment. 

“Aeon,” he laughed. “It’s okay.” 

“Is it??” I asked him, waving my hand around. “Is it really okay because like, I know you’re not him or anything but Kylo is Supreme Leader and everyone is already spreading rumors and I thought maybe it was a really bad idea but you--”

“Hey, hey,” he said, cutting me off gently and taking my flailing hand with his. Oh. It’s so warm. “Whatever you’re talking about exactly, we should probably talk about it sometime when you’re not high on Namana candy, okay?” I huffed, then stuck out my lower lip to pout again. But I wanna make out NOW, I thought.

“Okay,” is all I said. Even in that state, I knew he was right. If I wasn’t able to bring this shit up when I was sober, then chances are I wasn’t going to be making good decisions about it, either. Obviously. Not to mention how respectful of him it was to not take any sort of advantage of my impaired judgement. He smiled at me so sweetly, though.

“Besides, you should go to bed. It’s back to your lessons tomorrow, isn’t it?” he asked. That was the LAST thing I wanted to hear. I pouted even harder.

“I’m not sleepy,” I declared. “I want a donut.” 

“A what?”

“A donut! Fried dough. With lots of sugar. You don’t have donuts in space, do you?” He chuckled at me.

“No. Though, by the sound of it, I wish we did. Are you hungry?” 

“Yeah.” I frowned. “I think I forgot to eat today.” His face fell very dramatically. 

“What?! Aeon, you make me crazy, did you know that?” He slid up off of the bed and immediately went over to my datapad to order food. Wow, okay, Mama Bear Matt. You’re the cutest ever.

“Wait! What are you getting?” I asked, sitting up to look after him.

“I dunno, but something,” he murmured. “And water. You’ll need water after eating that candy.”

“I’m fiiiine,” I assured him, flopping back over. He just clucked and shook his head at me.

“Food is en route. I’m gonna hide in the bathroom when it gets here, though, just to be safe.”

“Okay, stinky,” I giggled at him.

“Do I smell bad?” he asked, suddenly looking worried and sniffing his arm. I laughed.

“No! I’m just kidding. Playin’ around.” 

“Oh. Okay, wobbles,” he laughed at me. “What did you do all day?”

“Um,” I said, trying to remember. “I walked to the commissary. I got more soap, I think? A nice droid showed me how to get back to my new room. I looked at stuff on the datapad but I don’t know what it was, now. I talked to myself a lot. I dunno.”

“Maker,” he murmured, rubbing his forehead again. “Next time you decide to do drugs, please let me know so I can chaperone you? If word gets back to Kylo that you were wandering the halls high, that might not be great.”

“Kylo is a big stinky head,” I pronounced. “Who needs to have more fun.” Matt was barely hiding his laughter.

“I’m sure he does. You seem to be helping with that, though?”

“Pffffffffft. I try. S’not easy, though. He’s always Big Mad. Maybe he should take a candy thingy.” Now there was an idea! Give the big angry boy happy drugs! What could go wrong?

“If Kylo takes it, we all take it, remember? I think that might be more stressful and confusing for him than fun.” Matt shook his head. I honestly liked the idea of getting Matt this loosey goosey, though. Perhaps he could confess some feelings about me? I sighed.

“Okay. That’s fair.” Faster than I’d expected, the food arrived and I honestly forgot what it was, I ate it so fast. I drank the whole glass of water too, to appease my caretaker.

“I toldja you’d need to eat.”

“I did it. I maintained homeostasis.” I puffed up my chest. 

“Yes, you did. Great job. Now will you go to sleep, hun?” he asked as he took my tray and set it down on my desk for me. I let out a huge, unnecessary sigh. 

“Fiiiiiiiiiiiiine,” I groaned. “I guess I’m sleepy now. Certainly less high.”

“Good,” he murmured. “I’m banishing you to the covers. Or so help me, I’ll tickle you again.” 

“Noooooooo!” I squeaked, and shuffled underneath the covers. “This is your old bed,” I giggled, totally non-sequitur. Except everything made me think of Matt, sometimes, so it didn’t seem very non-sequitur to me. He came over and sat down on the bed beside me. “Sorry I acted like a dingus today. I was sad, and the candy was supposed to make me happy, so I ate it without thinking.”

“Mm,” he hummed, nodding sagely. “I don’t blame you, hun. You’re lucky you’re just as adorable when you’re high.” Just as? My cheeks burned.

“I just don’t--”

“Want me to take care of you? Too late, nerf herder,” he chuckled. I blew a raspberry at him. “You have to just accept it, okay? Kylo isn’t gonna be like this ever, no matter how nice he acts or how much he protects you. You have to put up with both of us in equal measure, at least. Maybe more of him.” I sighed.

“One day I will be the one taking care of you ,” I threatened.

“I look forward to it,” he assured me, smiling and ruffing my head. There was no hair there to muss up, but he did it anyway. I giggled.

“Since apparently I’m baby, will you hum to me again?” I asked him a little bashfully.

“Of course, hun,” he replied. I turned over onto my side, the way I like to sleep, and took his hand to hold. Fuck it. Being high and reduced to childlike behaviors was a good enough excuse, for tonight.

“Thanks,” I whispered, letting my eyes slide shut. He started to hum the little melody again, just like he had in the medical bay before. I felt myself smile almost involuntarily. We can talk about it when I’m sober, I thought blearily. I could get used to this…

Chapter Text

Tragically, though unsurprisingly, taking the Namana candy was fun for a minute but when I woke up the next day to the sound of my communicator angrily buzzing at me, I still felt depressed as hell. 

“Aeon, where are you?” came a voice through the static. Fumbling out of bed, I went over to my desk to answer.

“Here, I’m here,” I muttered. “What’s going on?”

“Come to the training hall immediately,” said the voice, and then I realized who it was. Shit.

“I just woke up!” I protested.

“NOW!”

“Fine, I’m coming,” I groaned, and turned the connection off. I scrambled over to at least put on clean plants and my boots before I scurried out of the suite with datapad in hand, praying to whatever was handy that I didn’t get horribly lost on the way from my new location. When I entered the training hall, Kylo was standing there with his arms crossed, fuming.

“Why didn’t you answer me the first ten times?” he growled. 

“You should really talk to Lucky 'bout that,” I told him, rubbing my temples. I was already getting a headache. “He's gotta do the same thing, it’s not personal.”

“A medical droid and your Supreme Leader are not the same thing! Your disrespect is intolerable sometimes, Aeon!” Excuse me, MY Supreme Leader? Pretty sure I didn't vote for you.

“Your acting like an asshole is intolerable all the time!” I spat back, immediately furious. Fuck you, dude! It’s not like I have a fucking alarm clock, or was told when I was supposed to be here today! “You’re not the only fuckin’ person around here with problems, yanno!” 

“Are your problems dictating the fate of the entire galaxy at the hands of an army? Have you ever spent the day listening to people who are beneath you squabble and fawn about production disputes and strategies half a galaxy away when you have a hundred more important things to do? Do you constantly get reminders of how the fate of everything hangs in the balance of your failure??” Now he was shouting, and something just… broke, inside me. The proverbial dam, I guess.

“Fuck you, Kylo Ren! You might not’ve put yourself here, but you could take yourself out! You have a choice! You have all the power in the goddamn universe! You have everything, but me? I woke up here all alone for no reason and I have nothing, I am nothing, except a tool to you. My brain is fucking falling apart, and you wanna use it to help you control the galaxy!” My hands were clenched into fists and shaking beside me. “Well, I guess it’s working, because I’m forgetting everything. Where I used to live, what I used to know, the songs that used to keep me alive all the nights I was this close to killing myself. I can’t even remember my own dad’s face but you don’t care, you were too busy MURDERING yours, and letting your mama down. You made that choice, Kylo. Not Snoke. Not Luke, or anyone who ever hurt you. You did it.” I glared at him, more furious than I could remember being in literal years. “You choose to stay here, you choose this destiny every day, and I don't get to choose jack shit. My only choice is to be abused by you, to do what you teach me to do, or die here away from everyone I ever loved. For no reason at all. Fuck you.”

Of all the silences that had fallen so far between me and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, this one was by far the worst. The necrotic fury of more than ten years in and out of psych wards, being shunned and not believed and confined and sedated and literally restrained on a fucking gurney like I was gonna kill somebody when, actually, I was terrified that everyone else was trying to kill me , fired from jobs and losing partners and friends and coming to terms with all the awful shit that happened to me before that, before I even remembered it starting… all of that, so pent up for so fucking long, had just exploded out of me and landed like a huge, awful missile on him. 

Nevermind that ultimately Kylo Ren was more of a victim of childhood neglect and the intense manipulation and abuse of Snoke from an early age than anything else. Nevermind that he’d certainly never been taught to regulate his own overpowering emotions, and instead they were his only weapon against a whole galaxy that threatened him. Nevermind all that shit I learned about trauma and resilience, about attachment and security, about being shown empathy and healing and patience, or about reconciling in your head that your parents could get a lot of things wrong about raising you, and still love you. Nevermind the whole reason I related to his character in the first place. Can you tell I’m feeling guilty about this??

He looked at me, still furious, but something else was there. Something shocked, maybe even... frightened? Almost? He glanced around me, and I realized that nearly every single object in the room that wasn’t his body was floating in midair. The benches, the scrap metal we’d been practicing with, the mats, the practice weapons that hung on the wall. And since he was a Force-user, he could surely tell that each one of them was poised to fly directly at him at any moment, like every line of energy from him to each object was pulled taut and waiting. His own light saber was suspended in front of him, pointed at his heart, not yet activated. 

Holy fucking shit. What did I just do?

I blinked, and shut my eyes. In my head, all the objects were lowering very slowly to the ground, especially the saber. My heart was beating everywhere in my body at once. Was this how he felt all the time? Like he was hideously powerful, so much so that his every gut-wrenching emotion could just wreck everything in sight, so he beat up on computer terminals and droids to redirect that terrifying energy? But really, it was always there. Always lurking, ready to strike as soon as he finally lost control. As soon as I finally lost control. I had awareness he’d never been given, values he lacked. To my mind, which ya’ll remember was extremely depressed at that moment, I had no excuse for letting myself get that fucking angry. It was highly likely that he could’ve taken care of himself if it came to a full-on Force fight between us, of course, but I was assuming the worst.

When I opened my eyes again, everything was on the ground, including his light saber, which was pointed away from him now too. He hadn’t picked it up, he just stood there and stared at me with that godawful mix of all the worst emotions on his face. 

I should apologize. Not that it’ll fix anything, but I should. Well, it might prevent him from murdering me. Maybe. I won’t hold it against him if he murders me, though. But my pride had my throat swollen shut for a minute. God, I wish he would talk first.

“You can leave, you know.” Okay, maybe I didn’t wish he would talk first. I knew this was gonna hurt. “I won’t stop you. You can take a shuttle and never come back. Just like she did,” he said. His voice wavered, but it wasn’t loud or angry anymore. “You can join the Resistance, or you can go on a wild goose chase for your imaginary home planet, or you can farm Bantha shit on a backwater moon, for all I care. You’re not a prisoner here, Aeon. If you hate me that much, you can leave whenever you want.” 

Oh, goddammit.

“I don’t hate you,” I murmured. I glanced down at the kyber crystal around my neck. It was glowing bright red.

“Are you sure? You sure you’re not just being nice to me because of Matt? Or that any of Hux’s accusations were true?” Now I glared at him.

“I said, I don’t hate you.” Don’t fucking tell me how I feel. He just stared at me, like he was expecting me to start fighting back again. My hands were shaking as I bit back the urge to do just that. “I… I didn’t realize until the other night that I’m forgetting my past. I’m… not handling it well.” Despite it all, I heard my therapist in my head chanting ‘don’t forget to use “I” statements.’ I wanted to laugh at how ironic that was, but tragically when shit hits the fan, irony isn’t really that funny anymore. 

“No, I’d say you aren’t,” he replied icily.

“I thought you might be able to relate to that,” I murmured. Without warning, I was too sad, too overcome with grief, to hang onto pride anymore. Pride just sucks, anyway. It only ever got me in trouble. “I’m… I’m sorry, Kylo. None of what I just said was okay.” I looked at the floor, feeling like a miserable and hateful creature, and I felt tears starting to rise. Oh fuck not this again! Fuck I hate crying!! Fuck you depression for always making me so weepy!! What am I gonna do if he tells me to leave? What am I gonna do if I can’t ever get back home?? I can’t stay here. This fictional universe sucks. I just wanna go home. I just wanna go home so fucking bad. For what felt like forever, Kylo was silent.

“Do you feel it now? The power of the darkness?” he finally asked in his low voice, and I realized he’d walked towards me and was standing closer now. His face was grave, heavy, full of what it actually meant to wield that power. Which I now understood waaaaaay better than I possibly could’ve before. How much it fuckin’ hurt . I looked into his eyes.

“Yes.” There were tears running down my cheeks already, so it was too late to worry about that. I knew Kylo was still uncertain, in that moment. Still not sure he wanted to become wholly consumed by that darkness, though sometimes he thought he already was. Other times, I was pretty sure he thought he had no choice but to be. 

“Do you wish to become its master?” Boy, have I got something for you, big guy. It’s called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and it’ll change your life. I glanced back down at the red light of the crystal around my neck.

“Is that possible?” I asked him. Trick question, of course. The answer is yes, and no. It was bizarre how much all the shit I’d been working on in therapy applied out here in space, where my brain was in full spin mode and I was hallucinating someone else’s inner demons for once. But I knew I couldn’t pretend to control my feelings, or just not have them. Already tried that shit, definitely a no-go. Pretty much the only thing I could control was how I responded to them. And when it came to people who had no fuckin’ clue how to do that, Kylo was public enemy numero uno.

Fuck. Am I trying to become Kylo’s therapist? No. No nono. Bad idea. Bad call. The only thing worse than wanting to fuck a fuckboy is wanting to fix one. 

“We’ll find out together,” he said. I looked back up at him, shocked. I absolutely did NOT expect him to actually admit he wasn’t sure. Now I was starting to feel like my getting out of here was gonna hinge on Kylo getting his feelings figured out. Which meant… lowkey being his therapist. Fuck me. I am so fucked. In none of the ways I would really like to be. Maybe I can just, uh, support him. Instead of trying to teach him. Wait, what? He’s supposed to be teaching ME! Doesn’t that constitute a dual relationship? Conflict of interest? Ethical code of conduct violation? Jesus Christ, please let me be having a nightmare right now. I swallowed hard. What choice did I really have? 

“Um. Okay. I’m in,” I said. Just like that, I sealed the deal. However many bad ideas had just been set into motion, it was done. I wasn’t gonna lean into the darkness, though. I was gonna show Kylo Ren how to make room for both that, and the light. Somehow. Maybe. If I could keep it together. Without all the medication that had been helping me back home. Oof.

On the bright side, making out with Matt was now looking like the least awful of my ideas, thus far.

Kylo was looking at me, and some amount of the dangerous intensity that I’d been so unfortunately attracted to before was there again. I wondered if sleeping with Kylo was also a bad idea, considering how much worse of one whatever had just happened was. Maybe you should deal with how you feel about Matt, before you start planning on fucking a guy who won’t cuddle with you afterward, you dumbass, said the Voice of Reason, who was clearly mad at me. I can’t blame it. 

“There’s an alarm clock on the hub in your room. I expect you to be timely in the future, apprentice. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and your progress has been promising so far,” he said as he turned and walked back to his saber to pick it up off the ground and reattach it to his belt.

“So you forgive me for being a giant asshole just now, then?” It was worth a shot, right? He looked back at me and narrowed his eyes. 

“Don’t push it, Aeon.” 

“You know, a very wise and powerful man once said, ‘Let the past die, kill it if you have to’...”

“Maker help me, I will kill you if I have to,” he huffed, exasperated. I grinned. “Now quit fucking around, and maybe use the Force to clean up this room, hm? For a warmup?”

“Is that a suggestion, or--”

“Have you ever known me to make suggestions?”

“Okay, okay, fair enough,” I murmured, and set about the task of hanging all the practice weapons back up, putting the benches back where they were supposed to be, and tidying up the mats on the floor. Kylo watched me, arms crossed, but I thought I saw that ghost of a smile on his face. Joke’s on him, the emotion I was utilizing to make things neat was totally regret, not anger. Not that that felt good, per say, but. It was less destructive at least. It was weak, too. I was grateful to only be making things float. I could see why Kylo got so addicted to being angry. Personally I was fucking terrified of feeling like that again. “Better now?” I asked when I was done. 

“Much,” he growled, but the almost-smile was still there, so the growl felt almost... inviting? The Voice of Reason did not like that very much. The rest of me was approaching ambivalent, to be honest. With a sprinkle of kinda into it, for flavor. I wondered if he was not-quite-smiling because he thought he was gonna totally get me to come to the dark side, or if it was because I’d actually offered an apology to him, or because against all better judgement he might actually think I was kinda cool, if also pathologically disobedient. Then again, I'm not the first spunky apprentice he’s tried to wrangle.

That thought left a bad taste in my mouth.

“Do you think it would’ve been like this with her?” I asked him suddenly, looking up at him from across the room as I idly stretched out my foot and ankle on a mat. His brow knit.

“With who?” 

“Rey.” I let the silence hang for a minute, because I knew that one had come out of the fucking blue. Much like most of my questions did, for him. But I had felt compelled to ask. He looked away, then back at me.

“Probably not.” That was an awfully safe answer.

“Don’t replace her with me, Kylo. I’m not like her.”

“You’re not?”

“No. She’s naive. She still has hope.”

“Do you have no hope?” he asked, seeming genuinely curious. Did I? Was it hope that kept me in this room with a sexy murderer who happened to be the leader of a fascist regime in a galaxy far, far away from the only place I wanted to be, which was back the fuck home? I met his gaze, looked straight into his piercing dark eyes.

“Hope is for people who see the end, who have a way out. I only have persistence.” It prolly sounds like some emo bullshit, but that answer describes how it feels to know that you’re never gonna really see an end to dramatic ups and downs for the rest of your life. I’m bipolar, and that shit’s always gonna be there. I can either throw up my hands and let it take me over, or I can persist, and learn, and take it as it comes. I can figure out how to live with it. Now, in the most cursed self-insert ever, where the memory of my dad’s face had once been there was only my unwillingness to let it stay gone forever. Fuck that noise. 

Kylo looked very soberly at me, then. I think, for the first time, I saw respect on his face. Like he actually looked like he respected me. It wasn’t really as satisfying as I’d imagined, but damn, after all that nasty shit I just said to him? I’d take it. 

But then I felt very, very strange-- like I wasn’t entirely sure what the hell had just happened since I’d walked into the training room. I had no idea how to contextualize any of Kylo’s behavior, even though I knew that certain things might be affecting it (Matt, Ben, his crush on/ disappointment with Rey, self-loathing, remembering what training with Snoke was like, the fact that I’d actually apologized maybe?). I guess I’d been looking at him through a pretty narrow lens since I got here. Like, despite relating to his pain and anger, I’d also totally written him off as Big Angry Asshole In Charge. Now that he was showing something else, and not like via Matt or Ben or anything but just… as himself … it was starting to hit me that I didn’t know him just because I knew his story. Fuck these bad writers, I thought. They made the whole sequel series about him, really, and still didn’t even flesh him out as a character. 

“So,” I continued, extremely ready to change the subject yet again. “What we doin’ today, coach?” 

“Something different,” he said, and he held out his hand. Before I knew it, two of the wooden practice blades, about sword length, had flown off the wall and into his waiting glove.

“Shit,” I breathed. Here we go.

“Today, we begin preparing you to fight with your own saber.”

Chapter Text

A couple days later, I was drilling in the training hall with the wooden sword-thing, which I honestly really only stuck with because I actually didn’t have anything better to do. Kylo had given me just one (1) routine to go through until I was sick of it, so that’s what I did. I was still depressed, but not quite catatonic. Even in space I was clinging to my hard-won healthy coping mechanisms, and I knew getting up and moving around was good for me. Meditation wasn’t going so great, because I just felt shitty most of the time and I was avoiding using the Force because of it. I’d been messaging Matt, though, so he knew at least that I’d blown up at Kylo and somehow managed to a) not get brutally murdered and b) even more strongly solidify my position as his apprentice. He usually got back to me at night, after the Supreme Dingus was done with his day job.

So I was kinda surprised when my datapad pinged on the bench in the training hall in the middle of the afternoon while I was moving (lazily) through my routine. 

Hey! You still wanna go on an adventure? Oh, yeah. We were supposed to be doing that, weren’t we?

Um, I think so… haha , I replied a little nervously.

Okay. Tomorrow is the day. We just need to be back by 1900. We can take a shuttle. Wow. Apparently Kylo was on board? He hadn’t talked to me about it, but. Well. I assumed I could trust Matt.

When do you wanna leave?

Need to leave at 0800, starboard shuttle bay. I know that’s early for you, but it’ll be worth it, I promise!! I smiled fondly at the two exclamation marks.

Okay, I trust you! Should I dress a certain way? Weather?

It’s breezy where we’re going, and cool but not cold. Whatever makes you comfy. Hm…

Alright, noted. So I’ll meet you at the starboard shuttle bay at 0800?

Yes!! I’m so excited!! I giggled. I could picture him waving his hands, putting them over his mouth, bobbing up and down a little with glee. Oh, Matt. You’re perfect. Never change.

Me too!! See you soon!

See you!! Have a good night!! The day he discovered three exclamation points, I was gonna faint from sheer wholesomeness.

You too!! I sat there on the bench with the wooden sword in my hand, scraping the tip across the floor absently while I smiled at the message history like a total loon for a minute. Matt being himself was a total mood-booster. Which made it extra annoying when Phasma walked up to me out of the blue and started running her damn mouth.

“Well, if it isn’t the Supreme Leader’s pet.” I looked up at her, and she was standing there with her arms crossed, sneering at me. What is this Draco Malfoy-ass bullshit?

“Captain Phasma,” I greeted, trying to sound as dismissive as humanly possible. I shut off the datapad screen and slid it into my pocket. 

“Are you going to hide behind your master again today?” As soon as she said that, I was extra aware of the kyber crystal where it was touching my chest underneath my shirt. Guess who can defend themself a lot better, these days...

“What are you, like, Hux’s little bitch? Are you here to bully me because he can’t get close to me without losing another hand, minimum?” I wasn’t feeling cocky, today. More like I had nothing to lose. Casual lack of self-preservation was also a depression thing.

“I answer to no one,” she growled. 

“Yeah, I’m aware of that, ya fuckin’ traitor.”

  “Do you think your lies about myself and General Hux will be believed by anyone? Everyone says you’re mad as a spice fiend.”

Lieutenant General Hux, you mean? Why do y’all have this fixation that I’m gonna do something about your sordid little pasts?” As much as I was trying to put her off, I was starting to actually wonder. Like no really, what is your problem? “I don’t get it. I have one goal and I thought I was pretty fuckin’ blunt about it from the get-go. It literally has nothing to do with you or Hux or anybody else, and I even wish it had less to do with Kylo Ren! Why y’all so obsessed with me?” 

“You are a threat to the stability of our leadership. I don’t trust you, because you slid into the graces of our Supreme Leader before anything else-- and maybe his bed, too. He’s the most powerful man in the galaxy, Aeon. You can’t tell me that wasn’t on purpose.” Jeez.  

Okay, I didn’t think of myself as the same as any of these people- I was watching them on TV and reading books about them all before I got here, and had finally accepted that this wasn’t a hallucination. The two most real people on board to me were Lucky Sevens, who was a literal droid , and Matt. Kylo was getting realer, but he still felt mostly like a caricature of a person because he was so fuckin’ opaque and so fuckin’ mad all the time. But they knew nothing at all about me. I guess it makes sense that they would see me as real, and therefore a possible threat. I stood up from the bench, tired of her making me feel small. Also trying to maybe edge towards the exit.

“Listen, dude. I dunno what to fuckin’ tell you. Even if Kylo was fucking me, he still wouldn’t listen to me. I might know the history around here, but I dunno shit about how to run things, and he reminds me of that pretty regularly. I do not want to be here, or to be constantly getting ordered around by him and yelled at. I’m in more danger of getting hurt by him than anybody else on board, right now. I know lots about the past. But his whole schtick is letting the past die, so I got nothin’.” I wondered if this was gonna shut her up even a little bit.

“And what of the future?” she replied, narrowing her eyes. Ah, shit.

“The future is fluid. Nothing about it is guaranteed. You know that, because you’ve spent your whole life trying to fix it in place. By whatever means necessary. Has it worked yet?” That seemed legit. She looked me over, like she was trying to decide what my response meant about me, rather than trying to answer me.

“Um, ma- er, Aeon?” came a little voice, and I turned around to see Mitaka of all fucking people shuffling over towards us. Okay, this ain’t exactly Kylo coming to scare her off, but I can’t say I’m not grateful that her lil interrogation check-ins keep getting interrupted.

“Yes, Lieutenant?” I replied curiously.

“Ah, Supreme Leader requires your presence, I’m afraid,” he said. He glanced at Phasma, who looked very irritated. “Presently.” I looked back at the tall Captain and shrugged. 

“Sorry, chrome-dome. Gotta jet.” And I turned unceremoniously towards Mitaka, who offered me a thin little smile and Phasma a hurried nod before he fell in beside me. I fully expected her to shout some parting quip at me, but she didn’t. Which was fine with me. “Gotta say, most of his interruptions aren’t so welcome,” I told the mousy man as we exited the training hall. 

“Ah, well. You see, you weren’t precisely summoned, actually,” he intoned to me. I raised an eyebrow at him.

“I wasn’t?”

“No, um, and do forgive me if I’m out of line, but I rather thought you might like a way out of the conversation you were having.” Wait. Was he just trying to help me ditch her? I felt a grin starting to break out on my face. 

“Oh yeah? Damn, Lieutenant. Smooth move!” Now he seemed to be smiling more confidently. 

“Yes, well, I’m glad you aren’t cross with me. But having met you, and having heard what one hears around the ship, well.” He shrugged a little. 

“She’s the worst. She’s like, tryna bully me or something. Or just scare me. I guess I should be scared of her, but mostly I’m just pissed,” I told him as we walked. “But yanno, it just seems like a bad idea to fuck with her. Yet I am so tempted every time.”

“She is ruthless, yes. And the rumors about her abound, and even if only one of them were true, it wouldn’t be good.” 

“Thanks, man. I owe you one.”

“No trouble,” he assured me with a chuckle. “Ah, did you mean to bring the waster with you?” He pointed to the wooden sword that was still in my hand, and I laughed. 

“No, not really, but I reckon it’s mine now ‘cuz I sure as hell ain’t taking it back there. Maybe I’ll practice someplace where I’m less likely to run into her.” I wondered if the meditation room was big enough to comfortably let me swing a sword around. Mitaka laughed. 

“Ah, well. Perhaps for self-defense,” he mused.

“Yeah, actually, this is laser-blocking wood? It’s the next big thing in melee weapons. Totally effective against fuckin’ blasters and light sabers and shit,” I joked. He laughed again.

“Alright. Point taken.”

“So, where are we going exactly?” I asked, realizing that I had no clue where on the ship we’d walked to. He looked surprised.

“Um, well, I suppose I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he confessed a little sheepishly. I snorted. 

“Well, you’re in charge of navigation, buddy. Where to?” He hummed thoughtfully.

“Oh, perhaps a drink? I’m actually off-duty, for the evening. You can buy me one, for the favor,” he suggested, winking conspiratorially at me.

“I totally would, but I’m broke. I should really ask Kylo for an allowance,” I told him. 

“It’s quite possible you’ll not be asked to pay for them, ducky. You technically outrank everyone but the Supreme Leader himself, and I think that scares most everybody.” Did he just call me ducky? God he is such a little gay British dork. We should totally be friends.

“I reckon there’s one way to find out,” I replied, grinning. “To the Cockpit, then?” 

“Righty-ho. Follow me.” 

 

-----

 

“You know, everyone’s wrong about you,” Mitaka said after taking a swallow of his drink. Yes, it was free, and yes, it was pink, and yes, there was a cherry in it. His jacket and gloves were on his lap, revealing a white tee and black suspenders holding up his gray uniform pants. We were sitting at the end of the bar inside the Cockpit, which was exactly as dingy and lowkey as its name suggested-- though, tragically, Mitaka was the gayest-looking person there so far. I’m not sure my brand of androgyny looks as obviously gay as short man with juuuuust a little cute pudge, wearing suspenders and drinking something bright pink. 

“Well, nobody even knows me, so yeah, I bet they are,” I replied, swirling ice and fizzpop around in my glass. No liquor for me, thank you very much. I needed a hangover on a strange planet the next day like I needed a hole in my head.

“Of course, but when you start off getting cozy with a man like Ren, people talk. Some of them have nothing better to do, it seems.” He rolled his eyes.

“People talk and asses fart, my granny always said. Besides, if they think it’s physically possible to ‘get cozy’ with the Supreme Dickhead, they’ve obviously never actually stood in front of the guy. His whole deal is like, Hi I’m Kylo And I Will Murder You Whenever I Feel Like It,” I giggled. 

“I cannot imagine,” the little man murmured, shaking his head. But he also seemed a little… I dunno, like maybe he did actually imagine a few things about Kylo. “Is that what it’s like, working with him? You must be terribly anxious.”

“Meh, I have something wrong with my brain, so I’m either excited about it or mad. Mostly mad.”

“Has he decided to leave off getting better, then?” Oh yeah, I’d already told him that Kylo was improving. Lately I felt kinda bad for leaning into the Supreme Asshole thing, since he really was getting better maybe, but I figured it might keep his reputation among the subordinates exactly how he liked it.

“On and off. Just depends on I know not what. He’s not really into sharing,” I sighed, sipping the fizzpop. It tasted like Coke. I wondered if that was because they’d used Coke on set, or something. Like, how do these details become canon anyhow?

“Well, that’s alright, ducky. You carry on tolerably. But enough about work! What else do you get up to on the ship?” he asked brightly, leaning his elbow on the bar and then his head into his hand and stirring his drink with a tiny straw. We were totally already friends.

“Honestly man, I don’t get up to all that much. I’m not like, all that popular, I guess. You’re my second friend who isn’t a droid.” Wait. Fuck. Matt was the first friend. Matt was not supposed to exist. Shit shit shit shit shit.

“You poor thing! You know, I think you could meet people easier than you think. You’re quite charming, if a bit abrasive, but then again, well. Plenty of people are,” he assured me pleasantly. “And some people like that about a person. Who’s the first friend?” I swallowed. He was so fucking close to just skipping that question! Aaargh! 

“Listen, I don’t wanna, I dunno, spread gossip, okay?” I stammered, my face starting to get warm. Mitaka’s eyes widened, and a very impish grin appeared on his face. I froze, terrified of whatever the fuck that face meant. What does that face mean????

“Does the Apprentice have a little crush? Hmm?” he cooed very quietly, but full of delight. “Don’t worry ducky, you don’t have to say who.” I looked away, turning redder. Okay, which was worse: being needled for information about Matt, or being spotted immediately for having a big dumb crush on him the first time I barely even opened my big dumb mouth? Mitaka squeaked. 

“Be nice to me,” I mumbled, looking into my glass, trying to repress a smile and failing. 

“Oooooo you dooo!!! I was about to advise you go out and let a brave soul buy you a drink, but it looks like somebody beat me to it!” He giggled. I rolled my eyes. “How did you two meet?”

“Um,” I said eloquently. Fuck. He just showed the fuck up in the medical bay because he was actually sharing a body with Kylo Ren and wanted to talk to someone else for the first time in ages? Can ya blame him? “It was just like, yanno, incidental. He’s a… technician. He, uh, he showed me how to use my datapad.”

He? My my,” the little man crooned. “I must say, Aeon, among the reasons I doubted the rumors about you and Lord Ren was that I hadn’t pegged you for a heterosexual.” HA! CALLED IT!! MITAKA IS TOTALLY GAY!!!!!!!! I smirked at him.

“I’m not. I’m an equal opportunist.” He looked delightfully scandalized, at this.

“Oooh, adventurous are we? If you ever get to bed a Zabrak, you simply have to tell me how it goes,” he intoned. I hadn’t reckoned on the implications of the phrase ‘equal opportunist’ in a multispecies galaxy. Welp, that sure escalated quickly. Wasn’t Darth Maul a Zabrak? I raised an eyebrow at him.

“You a fan of horns?” I asked, awkwardly.

“Not really, it’s more their… resilience. Physically, I mean.” He put a hand over his mouth as though he shouldn’t be saying something so suggestive, and looked off into the distance wistfully. 

“Aaaah.” Okay, gay culture was just as slutty in Star Wars as it was in real life. That was fine by me, honestly. It was familiar, even though I hadn’t been able to really get out much for a few years before I’d shown up here-- and before that I was prone to bouts of manic hypersexuality that were unhealthy, to say the least. “You know, I think I’d be more excited to sleep with a Chiss. The blue skin and red eyes and overwhelming intensity are kinda hot.” Maybe? I was bullshitting to seem normal, mostly. I’d never met a Chiss.

“Good luck finding one, unless you plan to move to the other side of the galaxy and become Admiral Thrawn’s apprentice instead,” the lieutenant clucked.

“Kylo wouldn’t appreciate that much, I don’t think,” I giggled.

“You’ve gotten me off topic! So, you met this crush of yours when he set up your datapad?” I returned to awkward blushing. Involuntarily, of course.

“Um, yes.”

“So what’s he like?” His eyes were all stars, like he just wanted to hear me gush about Matt. This… wow. I missed this. I missed having friends. Shocking, I know.

“Well, um, he’s very tall. He’s very handsome, but of course I would say that,” I giggled, and Mitaka’s face lit up even more. “He’s a total sweetheart, like he’s so nice to me it’s kinda fucked up. He’s always tryna make sure I’m eating and sleeping right, and wants to hear about my day ‘n stuff. He even showed me how to navigate the ship. He says the sweetest shit. I’m just like, stop being nice to me!!! Say something toxic!!!” I laughed, then tried desperately to stop gushing about Matt. God, it was like once the floodgates opened...

“Maker, don’t I know exactly what you mean,” he sighed, rolling his eyes. “Men are dogs, ducky. But he sounds like a keeper!” 

“Yeah,” I murmured, swirling my drink again. ‘ Cept the whole sharing-a-body-with-Kylo-Ren thing, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it does complicate things a whole fuckin’ lot.

“So, has he, you know?” He wagged his brows at me. “Put the moves on you, yet?”

“I don’t know if he likes me back or not,” I sighed. Mitaka snorted.

“Oh, that’s absurd. Clearly he does! You’re ravishing,” he said, waving a dismissive hand at me.

“I don’t feel too ravishing, to be honest, but thanks.” You half-accepted that compliment, so it only half counts.

“Well, we all feel shoddy, sometimes. But you ought not let that stop you!” 

“Ya think?” I asked sincerely, biting my lip.

“Of course! Why the hell not? You should ask him,” he confirmed, nodding sagely like he was a fuckin’ marriage guru. I sighed.

“It’s… complicated. Neither of us is in a real good position to deal with any, uh, fallout.”

“Well, ducky, just switch positions,” he muttered, grinning impishly and winking. “There’s lots of different ways to do it.” Wow, I think this gay boy just made a sex joke a me. I snorted.

“Yeah, yeah. I dunno.” I swirled my fizzpop some more, but all my swirling had knocked the fizz right out of it. “We’re supposed to be, um, going planetside together. Sometime soon.” Not tomorrow-soon, of course. Just, you know, soon.

“Ooh, see that’s very cute! Perhaps on your little date you might ask, hm? Away from all this hustle and bustle and protocol and nonsense?” he egged me on. I shrank into my shoulders nervously. 

“Maybe,” I mumbled.

“Wouldn’t have pegged you for a shy one, either,” the lieutenant confided, grinning.

“Normally I’m not! But yanno, this whole thing’s a very new experience for me. The being on this ship thing, and the Supreme Leader thing, not the dating thing.” He patted my shoulder.

“Fear not, ducky. You’ll get it sorted, I’m sure.”

“Thanks,” I groaned. I didn’t feel especially confident about that, but it was good to have some support, or at least a voice other than the Voice of Reason sounding off in my head. I looked at my datapad, thinking of Matt, and then I saw the time.

“Ah, shit, I’m sorry Lieutenant. I gotta run off and get some sleep. Early day tomorrow,” I said as I rose from my stool. “Like, really fuckin’ early.” 

“Alright, do take care, then. And you don’t have to use my title, ducky.”

“Isn’t your name Dopheld?” I asked, hoping to God I was pronouncing it right. What the fuck kinda name is that, anyway?

“Yes, but my friends all call me Duffy.”

“Wow. Duffy? That’s cute. Alright, g’night then, Duffy,” I grinned at him. He waved another hand at me, smiling.

“Off with you. Try to avoid certain Captains, ducky.” Duffy and ducky. Wholesome.

“I’ll do my damnedest,” I assured him, and I sauntered away with my wooden sword in hand, feeling a lot better than I had been for a minute there. A little fuckin’ friendship goes a long way, it turns out.

Chapter Text

Honestly, all my goofin’ about if Matt liked me back or not aside, I was so hype for this fucking trip I couldn’t sleep. I might’ve gotten two hours of actual REM cycle, I dunno, but being crazy means that when I don’t sleep, I just feel EXTRA bouncy the next day. Might’ve kicked off another manic episode, but fuck it!!! Who cares!!! I was going planetside with Matt!!!!

I dressed in one of the high-neck shirts with no sleeves, comfy pants tucked into my boots, and the hooded cowl, which was objectively the coolest piece in my wardrobe. I tucked the kyber crystal under the cowl, because I was starting to get uncomfortable without it. I was waiting in the starboard shuttle bay, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, about twenty minutes early. The bay was alive with activity, ships flying in and out constantly and unloading shit, or loading shit, or transporting battalions of troopers, or whatever they were doing. There were big ships and tiny ships, loud ships that were clearly old rust-buckets and quiet, sleek ships that were too shiny to not be First Order vessels. I watched everything I could stuff into my eyeballs, and scanned all the while for a certain very tall, very attractive person.

“Hello,” came a soft voice from my right, and I jerked around to see exactly the tall, attractive person I wanted to see. His hair wasn’t blonde, and he was in full Kylo regalia, but I could tell by the sound of his voice and his slumped shoulders who I was actually talking to. I beamed.

“Hii,” I whispered. “Should I pretend you’re Big Angry Boy right now?” A twinkle came into his eye. 

“Yes,” Matt whispered back. “I’ll also be doing that. By being as silent as possible, mostly.”

“Sounds about right.” I stood up. “Where exactly are we going, sir?” I said in a louder voice this time, and with a little extra brat thrown in. Matt barely contained a chuckle, then managed to summon half a scowl.

“You’ll see. Come with me.” Him trying to be half as grouchy as Kylo is so fuckin’ funny I can’t stand it. I clenched my jaw, trying not to laugh. He turned and waited for me to fall in beside him, and marched us over to a little shuttle with wings that were folded up like butterfly’s. I vaguely remembered-- was that an Upsilon-class shuttle? No, wait, that was Kylo’s fancy schmancy shuttle. I guess this was like the baby version. The door opened, and Matt stood as though he was going to let me in first.

“You go first,” I muttered to him under my breath. “Trust me.”

“Oh,” he mumbled, and turned and marched inside. I followed, and the door shut behind me. The interior of the shuttle was tiny, the first room was like a loading hangar with seats for six people. Matt was already in the pilot’s chair, so I shuffled through the tiny hall to the cockpit to join him. 

“Well, nobody stopped us, at least,” I said, breathing a sigh of relief as I collapsed into the copilot’s seat.

“Thank the Maker. I’m too excited to pretend to be Kylo!!” he squeaked, bouncing up and down in the seat while he hit a bunch of buttons and all sorts of low humming noises started to happen. Before I could even reply, the engine kicked up and we were fuckin’ airborne, y’all.

“Shit!” I watched the floor of the shuttle bay get smaller and farther away, and then we were careening forward out of the shielded entrance and into-- space

I know, I know. I’ve been in space this whole time. But have y’all ever been in space? Like, looking out a damn window watching space just do its thing all around you????

“Haha! Yes!” Matt was shouting gleefully. We swung out and then around, and a big planet that was full of trees and mountains came into view. Behind it were two suns.

“Holy fucking shit!” I was sitting glued to the copilot’s chair, gripping the arm rests until my knuckles turned white. It was completely exhilarating, and slightly fucking terrifying. “Holy fucking shit, I’m in space!”

“You’ve been in space!” he reminded me, grinning.

“I fuckin’ know that! I’ve just never been this in space!! Holy hell!” Now he was just laughing at me, all good-natured and clearly comfortable driving the damn thing which did make me less nervous. “How long does it take to get down there?”

“Not long, maybe thirty minutes?”

“Are we landing in town? Is there like, a parking lot or something? For spaceships?”

“There’s a landing plaza on the edge of Plateau City, and a field down off the plateau. We’re gonna land in the field and take a speeder, to draw less attention.”

“You’re driving the speeder, right?” He laughed. 

“I will drive the speeder, yes.”

“Great.” I stared out the window, unable to take my eyes off the approaching planet. Matt leaned back away from the button-littered dashboard, kicking his feet up and putting his hands behind his head.

“Damn, I miss this. I haven’t flown in forever.” He looked out the window for a moment, smiling wistfully, and then looked over at me. “Isn’t this great?”

“Um, it’s definitely interesting. I mean, it’s great, it’s just that I also just ate breakfast,” I replied, slowly releasing my grip on the arm rests as the overall sense of whooshing around started to fade. He chuckled. The details of the planet’s surface got clearer almost imperceptibly, like every minute or so I’d realize that I could see a little more. “What’s Plateau City like?”

“It’s not quite dingy, it’s just… rugged. It’s equal parts local and waystation. Kaller was colonized by the Separatists during the Clone Wars, and then the Old Republic and the Separatists fought over it, but it’s last affiliation was with the Empire. I think right now, it’s mostly trying to stay out of the way. But the First Order secured fealty, and is bringing in resources right now. That’s why we’re in orbit.”

“Huh.” Okay, I guess less than violently so, because Kylo himself hadn’t been down here cutting people in half to make a point. “Interesting. You said they’re famous for their jewelry and armor?” 

“Yeah, it’s a pretty lush place so there’s a lot of food exports too, but Kalleran leatherwork specifically is high quality. They haven’t gone as high-tech as other places here, yet. It’s kinda nice.” Matt glanced out at the planet, which I was still staring at. Being in a shuttle was way more disorienting than standing in the meditation room and looking out the window, so while it was beautiful, I was mostly just trying to reassure myself that I was safe. You are NOT going to crash land on the planet, OR go drifting out into the void! Matt’s here, it’ll be fine!

“You don’t think someone spotting Kylo here would be a problem, do you?” I asked, brow knitting.

“Oh, I’m not gonna keep all this on. And I’m gonna-- actually, lemme go do that now. Be right back!” And he jumped mischievously out of the pilot’s seat, and my heart skipped several beats. Wait! He’s flying! He can’t--

“Autopilot, dingus. Au. To. Pi. Lot,” I murmured to myself. I stayed glued to the spot while I heard Matt rustling around behind me, opening a door in the wall of the hallway, and humming to himself absently. God, he’s so cute. I decided to just sit there and breathe very deliberately until he returned.

“Ta-da!” came a voice, and I turned around from the window to see Matt standing in the entrance with his arms held up, presenting himself. He was blonde again, and bespectacled, and was wearing a white t-shirt tucked into black trousers which were held up by suspenders (I’m guessing suspenders are part of the uniform, or at least one of the uniforms) and over all of that, a weathered brown leather jacket. His boots were a lot like mine, trooper boots. He looked fantastic, of course.

“How did you get your hair blonde so fast???? I have to bleach mine for fuckin’ ever to get it like that.” These are the important questions.

“It’s a rinse, I just washed my hair in the refresher sink. It fades in 16 hours, and there’s another rinse that takes it out, too.” He seemed very pleased with himself. 

“Wow. Space hair-dye is nuts. Well, you don’t look very much like Kylo, now, at least not from any reasonable distance.” 

“Precisely,” he said, and touched the side of his nose with his hand. I giggled, and he resumed sitting in the pilot’s seat. “Hang on, we’re about to break atmo!”

I’ll spare y’all the details of how fucking anxiety-inducing it is to ‘break atmo’ and then careen towards the ground and then pull up at what feels like the last possible second to plonk down onto a field of dirt, surrounded by other spaceships of various shapes and sizes. By the time the engines were powered down, I was breathing pretty hard.

“Well, that was an experience,” I mumbled, rising for the first time since takeoff out of my seat. I wasn’t as queasy as I thought I might be, at least.

“There are soooo many more experiences that are gonna happen today!!!” Matt practically pulled me off the ship by the arm, the door closing behind us as he led me over to a little lot full of speeders. They were just like the ones Luke had been flying around on Tattooine in Episode IV. I was chuckling at how excited he was, and also relieved that I’d be sitting inside basically a convertible. That seemed safe. There was a tiny little shack at the edge of the lot, with a machine that looked for all the world like a parking meter. There was a sign on the window beside it in a language I didn’t recognize. I like to imagine it was something akin to ‘Gone Fishing.’ Matt slid something into the machine, and it dispensed a little key which he grabbed. “Off we go!” he told me, feral with joy, and I followed him into the clot of speeders. I got confused when he wasn’t stopping to get into one, though.

“Uh, Matt, which one are we…” Before I could finish my sentence, he stopped in front of the Star Wars equivalent of a motorcycle. A fuckin’ AIR motorcycle. A FLOATING MOTORCYCLE.

“They have swoop bikes!” he informed me, and immediately hopped on and looked at me expectantly. I was looking with just a liiiiiitle trepidation at it. 

“I dunno--”

“Aeon. I will not let you fall off. I know you said you trust me already, but trust me!” he pleaded, and held out his hand. “These are faster and less likely to break down than those old X-34’s, anyway. Just hold onto me!”

Well, when you put it that way…

I took his hand and climbed up onto the seat of the bike, pressing up against his back. Christ, he’s so big. I wrapped my arms around his waist and squeezed, laying my head between his shoulder blades. The engine roared to life.

“Hang on!” he cried, and immediately started to laugh and whoop as that goddamn thing took off like a racehorse. For a moment, I squeezed my eyes shut. But then I couldn’t help myself and I opened them again, watching the rocky field we were on zoom by. Out in the distance there were low shrubs and clumps of trees, and the temperature was cool and the bike of course made a breeze that felt so, so, SO nice after being on a starship and breathing recycled air for however fucking long. Despite myself, I started to laugh.

When I finally looked ahead, I saw the impressive silhouette of Plateau City, which was in fact a bunch of buildings up on top of-- you guessed it-- a plateau. Speeders and ships were landing and taking off into the sky every now and then, and the first of two suns was just rising above the lowest parts of the skyline. Oh wow. Oh shit. This is super fucking cool. Matt took our little speed bike up along a trail, which eventually became a real road, that wound up the side of the plateau until it leveled out at the top. We entered a giant shipyard, presumably the landing plaza, and he parked us in a little lot full of other land-faring crafts. When the engine died down, he was still laughing.

“Ahaha, that was great. Unexpected surprise,” he was saying as I looked all around the city at the people (and the aliens) moving through it. “You ready?” he prompted me gently, and I realized I was still clinging to his waist. I blushed.

“Oh, um, actually I was hoping you could just carry me around all day, strapped to your back, yanno? I thought that might be fun,” I joked with him, reluctantly turning loose and sliding off the seat of the bike. I just kept staring at everything I could, and he waved a hand in front of my face.

“Come on, wobbles. You ain’t seen nothing yet!” I beamed at him, and he held out his hand to me again. “Hang onto me, okay? It’s crowded. I don’t wanna lose you.” My heart thudded wildly in my ears. He wants to hold my hand! For totally practical reasons!!

“Mkay,” I said, suddenly shy, and took it. He smiled, and then we were moving through the streets of an alien planet.

I can’t even describe all the shit I saw. There were people and aliens of every kind I remembered from the Star Wars canon and several I didn’t, dressed in mostly blue-collar type clothes I think. There were Twi’leks and Rodians and Iktochi and humans of every stripe and I’m pretty sure I even saw a Wookie. And those were just the humanoid ones. But the farther we got from the landing plaza, the more I started to see Kallerians, too. They were green and black and kinda like fish-looking humanoids with three fingers and three toes, and they were by far the most colorfully dressed. I could tell why their jewelry was famous.

“We’re heading to the market first, since it’s early,” Matt told me as we walked hand in hand(!!!!) through the city.

“I don’t have any money,” I reminded him.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” he asked, impish grin returning to his face. “I’ll get you anything you want.”

“Really?” I was blushing again.

“Yeah, really, you nerf herder.” As if on cue, we rounded a corner and were facing a partially-covered network of stalls and shops, which was already bustling with people. My eyes blew wide open.

“Holy shit,” I whispered. I could see everything from brightly colored clothing to an array of blasters to fresh produce to tiny household droids to leather goods to speeder parts. It was like any good market, but with an extra dump of science fiction and aliens. I looked up at Matt, who was grinning at me with infectious enthusiasm.

“Where to first?” he asked. I had no idea, of course, so I just pointed vaguely. 

“Anywhere!”

We wandered the stalls for a while, my brain just barely starting to take in everything. Matt stopped excitedly to look at shuttle engine modifiers and turbo-boosters for a minute, which made me adore him even more. He also pointed out just about every single food item that was there and urged me to try them all. I tasted a lot of weird shit, that day. Most of it was pretty good, though. Kallerians like spicy food, too. I saw jewelry and beautiful hand-made items, at least half of which I had no clue what they were even for. Matt kept looking at dresses, trying to guess which ones were too girly for me and which ones might have been androgynous enough, like it was a game he was trying to get good at. He would also lead me over much more pointedly to look at clothes that were more my style, and he really did have an eye for what I liked. I insisted that we not buy anything until after lunch, but was totally overruled. That fucker insisted on fleshing out my wardrobe, and buying me a new pair of Kallerian leather boots, and feeding me every interesting and tasty-smelling dish we came across, so the whole breakfast-lunch-dinner routine got totally thrown off, anyway. He got me a leather satchel, which I admit was pretty practical and really nice, which I could fasten like a backpack but with a cross-body strap. It was even black leather, though I didn’t bother asking what animal it came from because who the fuck knows, in space.

Late that afternoon, after we’d taken a siesta to try a bunch of different fruits, we were sitting under a gauzy awning in this little picnic area by the market where all the shoppers would post up with snacks. I was eating some kind of white and pink melon, and spitting the little green seeds out with relish.

“This reminds me of bein’ a kid, spitting watermelon seeds in the summer,” I mused. “I still remember that, at least.” 

“So just certain things, you’ve forgotten?” Matt asked, curious but clearly worried about it still.

“Yeah. Sometimes the songs come back while I’m practicing, but then another song I’ll forget half of.” I had been trying to strum on my guitar at night, to keep tabs on what all was missing as much as I knew how. It would make me so happy to remember something I’d forgotten before, only to make me so fucking miserable when there was something new that was gone.

“You should keep playing. Maybe it’ll help you remember,” he suggested, taking a bite of his fruit. It looked like an orange and a pineapple had a purple baby, that’s the only way I know how to describe it. He was sitting on the same side of the table as me on the bench seat, one leg up on the wood and the other hanging off just like he’d sat on my bed in the medical bay that one time. I was sitting cross-legged facing away from the table, which made no sense, but I have a habit of sitting in fully goofy ways. I shrugged.

“Maybe.” It certainly couldn’t hurt, I guessed. “I think I’ve been forgetting less, since I stopped practicing with the Force so much.” 

“You stopped practicing with the Force?” he asked through a mouthful of purple fruit.

“Well, we shifted focus a bit. He’s teaching me swordplay, now.”

“Oh, wow. So like, to prep for using a lightsaber, right?” He seemed impressed.

“Yeah, but he’s got his fuckin’ work cut out for him because I’m a total noob,” I giggled. Matt tried not to chuckle with fruit in his mouth, and took a swig of the water that was in the bottle he’d brought with him before offering it to me. I took it, and had a mouthful myself. We’ve basically kissed now, right? Our mouths have touched the same water bottle. We might as well kiss, I’m just saying.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” he replied finally, smiling. “How d’ya feel about the Force stuff, though? I mean, I know you’re gettin’ good at it.” I grimaced.

“Maybe too good. Or maybe too powerful and not disciplined enough. Or maybe I was just that fuckin’ pissed,” I wondered out loud. “Whatever it was, it was scary. I don’t wanna just… explode at any moment.”

“You said you got mad at him, right? He didn’t get mad back?”

“Oh, he got mad back. He just… reacted different.” You can leave. I won’t stop you. You can take a shuttle and never come back. I could remember his face when he said that, like he was so angry, and so wounded, and so full of self-loathing. Just like she did.

“Different like how?” Matt asked, looking at me with his sweet, concerned expression.

“I think I really hurt his feelings. He hasn’t officially forgiven me, yet. But like, to be fair, I went for the jugular. I said things I regret, but I apologized. And I meant it.” I sighed.

“If you meant it, I promise he could tell. He’s used to bullshit, even without prying into someone’s mind he can tell if they’re apologizing for real or not. That means a lot, to us.” He smiled at me a little, and very sincerely. I nodded.

“Yeah. I know the feelin’. But the real thing of it was like, I understood in that moment what the whole ‘dark side’ thing actually means. I understand why he’s so fuckin’ angry. Because I mean, shit, if my anger had ever been that powerful, I woulda used it, too,” I tried to explain. That feeling, of how phenomenally powerful and risky the Force is in those moments, was not one I was liable to forget anytime soon.

“But it wasn’t?” he asked softly. He was looking at me like he understood much more the idea that anger wasn’t powerful than the other way around. I nodded again.

“Not for me, anyway. But I bottle it up, ‘cuz of that, and that’s not good either.” 

“No, it’s not.” He looked away, down at his half-eaten fruit. I got the overwhelming sensation that he was relating to me real hard, just then. I reached out a hand to touch his shoulder. He looked back at me, his expression a little raw, but very soft and kind.

“We’ll figure it out, all of us,” I assured him, even though I wasn’t exactly sure of that myself. Kylo could be such a fucking dick, sometimes. Matt smiled ever so softly again.

“Speaking of the Force,” he began. “I want to get you a real leather thong for your crystal. That boot lace just isn’t cutting it, hun.” Oh my God.

“Wow, okay, are you hatin’ on my DIY skills? My craftsmanship not up to par?” I teased him, and he laughed.

“It’s a boot lace. You gotta admit, it deserves better!”

“Alright then, you snob. Let’s go get me a real leather thong.” And I stood up, chucked away the rind of my melon, took a swig of water, and handed the bottle back to him. He was smirking at me as he stood up and took it. Yes, before you ask, my brain was full of underwear jokes. I still don’t know how I managed to hold off actually saying them. Probably because there was no underwear in space, and he wouldn’t get it. He offered me his hand again, and I blushed (again) and took it, and we ventured back out into the stalls.

The Kallerian shop keeper we chose had a beautiful array of jewelry and gear, from belts to boots. He was also pretty adorned himself, with wraps on the weird dangly things that fell from his fishlike head and lots of bangles on.

“Easy for you, no problem!” he chortled. “May I see the stone?”

“Er, sure,” I replied, not actually sure at all. I looked over to Matt, but he was eyeing the speeder saddles and pouches, so I pulled the bootstrap necklace out from under my clothes. The crystal was no longer bright red, having shifted instead to a wine-purple color and dimmed a little. The Kallerian’s eyes widened when he saw it.

“Oh, and how is this? Your crystal must be very rare!” he exclaimed, reaching out his three-fingered hand to take it. I felt reeeeaalllly fucking hesitant, all of a sudden.

“Please be careful with it,” I replied, looking at him sharply. “It, um, it was my mother’s.” Yeah, that seemed legit. Heirloom jewelry was a thing pretty much anywhere, right?

“Tipluk is always careful! Come come, let me get it set for you, and done up proper,” he reassured me, and I guess to be fair he took it from me very gingerly and looked at it closely. “Must remove the string, yes?” 

“Sure, go ahead.” I watched him like a hawk, anxious. He pulled the bootstrap off, and motioned me over to a little work table towards the back of the shop. 

“Your mother must be very special, to have such a special thing,” he commented as he sat down and started going about selecting his materials. “You like the gold, or the copper perhaps?” 

“The gold, I think.” Just get it done, I thought ruefully.

“Excellent, very beautiful. The wrap will not harm the stone, this I promise.” And then Tipluk was winding a little gold-colored wire all around the crystal in a netlike pattern, and it all looped together at the top to make a ring for the leather thong. “The old Kallerian style of beloved-necklaces, which are promised in life-bonding,” he explained. “For honoring your mother.”

“Oh, thank you. It’s very lovely,” I replied, and I wasn’t bluffing at least. It looked great. He grinned in a self-satisfied way and pulled a little stand full of strips of leather over from a nearby table.

“I think black, to match your clothes,” he murmured, and I just nodded. Mercifully quickly, the whole thing was done. He tied the thong off with a knot that he then reinforced it with something that looked like wax, or some sort of sealant that soaked into the leather and dried. He offered it to me very proudly, and I took it back with a huge sigh of relief.

“Wow. That’s beautiful,” came a deep voice, and Matt was standing behind me and looking at the necklace, then looking at me with a smile.

“Like it’s wearer, yes?” Tipluk said to Matt, wagging his eyebrow cheerfully. For a split second, I was annoyed that I was getting hit on by strange men even in a galaxy far, far away. But then Matt was taking the necklace out of my hand and gently, sweetly placing it over my head and around my neck.

“Yeah,” he agreed softly, smiling at me. My heart started pounding in my chest so loud I was afraid they could both hear it.

“Perhaps a life-bond promise for you, eh?” the shop keeper added, and then Matt was turning bright red.

“Oh no, that’s, um…”

“We’re just friends,” I reassured the Kallerian, even though I’m pretty sure I was turning bright red myself.

“Of course, sure, sure,” he clucked, chuckling to himself like he obviously knew better. “Come make payment, unless you need something else?” Matt shuffled over to the register, avoiding my gaze. He paid, and Tipluk gave a delighted chortle. “You have a beautiful day, and come back anytime!” I realized that Matt was already walking through the shop exit. He was going awfully fast, which made me a little nervous.

“Thank you,” I called back at the shop keeper before following out the door. “Hey, Matt, are you--”

In front of me there were four fucking storm troopers , all brandishing their weapons. Matt was standing still as a stone, hands held in front of him. Oh fuck. Oh fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

“Put your hands in the air!” one buzzed sharply as I slunk up behind Matt.

“What’s going on?” I asked in a harsh whisper, holding my hands up on either side of me.

“There must be a mistake,” he replied to the trooper, rather than to me. “I rented the speeder, from the lot out below.” Wait, is this seriously some kind of rental-bike misunderstanding, right now?

“We have to check your transaction history to confirm that. You’ll have to come with us.”

“Fellas, fellas!” Matt replied, waving his raised hands a little. “Listen, I’m just going to return the bike later today, you can put a tracker on it if you want.” But one of the troopers was already approaching with a set of cuffs, and another was preparing a second set. For me, obviously. My hackles rose, and I shot past panic in a way that only trauma can make me do.

“That’s not procedure, we’re gonna have to check--”

“Excuse me,” I said suddenly and sharply, stepping between Matt and the trooper. All around me, the air felt taut. I wanted nothing as much as I wanted to keep them away from me, and my precious cinnamon roll too. “There’s no call for this. We want no trouble. Has someone accused us of theft of the speeder?”

“No, but that speeder was reported missing ten days ago,” one of the bucketheads confirmed. 

“Then you’d better take it up with the management of the rental lot how it got there, because we just arrived today.” I felt like I was listening to myself speak, like I was giving orders all the sudden.

“The protocol--”

“Is a waste of valuable resources in this case, and a waste of all our time. You will take the speeder back to your impound lot or whatever the fuck it is, and leave us alone.” I glared at the facsimile of a face on the helmet in front of me. “Now.” For a moment, everything was a tense silence, and all the people who had been walking nearby were now backing off and giving the troopers a wide berth, so even the background noise had hushed. The kyber crystal around my neck was glowing brighter than it had been moments before.

“I will take the speeder back to my impound lot or whatever the fuck it is, and leave you alone. Now,” the scratchy voice of the trooper parroted, and they all turned around in the direction of the landing plaza and marched away. I took a deep breath.

“Wow,” said Matt, and I turned around to face him again. His hands were lowered, and he was looking at me with surprise. “That was, um, unexpected.”

“Well, I don’t take too kindly to restraints,” I explained, offering a thin smile. “Too many involuntary trips to the psych ward for that shit.” He nodded, and rubbed the back of his head. 

“Yeah. Thanks. Now we have an awful long walk back to the shuttle, though.”

“Oh.” Shit, that hadn’t occurred to me. Whatever was going on with a stolen speeder, I wanted to close the loophole and make sure we were well out of it, so letting them take the speeder seemed like the best option. “Well, damn. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, it’s not the walk that worries me,” Matt replied. “It’s just, well. We’ll be late getting back. Kylo’s gonna be pissed.” 

“Um, can you… talk to him? Is that a dumb question?”

“It’s not, but I can only sorta talk to him, if he gets active later. I can contact the Supremacy from the shuttle though, and give orders as him,” he mused.

“To cover our asses, and his? That sounds good to me. Don’t they think he and I are out on some kinda training mission anyway?”

“Yeah, so I guess I’ll just tell them we’re running over.” He looked uncomfortable.

“What’s wrong? It seems like we got our out,” I asked him.

“I just feel bad for fucking up Kylo’s plans. And I feel bad already for if he takes it out on you later,” he confessed, frowning. Wow, what a sweet baby angel. 

“It’s okay, Matt. I can handle Kylo rage. I’ve done it before and I’ll prolly have to do it again, for some reason or another. At least this time I can brag on my, uh, skills.” I grinned and winked at him, and he smiled a little.

“Okay. I still feel bad, but. Thank you.” Please don’t feel bad. You should never have to feel bad. You deserve only good and happy things. I held out my hand to him invitingly.

“Wanna get some dinner before we start hiking?” I asked. His smile got bigger, and he took my hand in his large one.

“Okay. Follow your nose, I guess!” he chuckled, and I couldn’t stop smiling as I tugged him with me through the streets in search of dinner. I couldn’t help but feel like we’d narrowly avoided a mess, and I’d managed to get us out of it. Maybe Kylo would be mad, but maybe he’d also be proud. Plus now I got to spend even more time with Matt, so what’s wrong with that???

Chapter Text

As Matt and I walked along the dusty and incredibly fucking long road back to the shipyard, the dual suns were sinking down and turning the Kallerian sky all kinds of colors. He was walking alongside me with the bag of our purchases slung over his shoulder, eating another one of the purple orange-pineapple fruits. He had a thing for purple fruits, I guess.

“I bet I can find something that’s basically a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or at least find something that’s basically peanut butter and something that’s basically jelly, then smush ‘em both onto something that’s basically bread,” I was saying while he chuckled around his bite. “I can be very single-minded, yanno.”

“Oh, I know,” he mumbled with his mouth full, smirking and holding his wrist up to cover the sight of half-chewed purple fruit from my virgin eyes.

“It’d be worth it,” I continued. “Totally worth it just to see your face when you eat it. It’s gonna change your life, dude.” 

“I really wanna know, now, what’s so special about this sandwich. So now you’ve basically built it up so much, it better not end up being gross.” He took the last bite of his fruit, and chucked the core of it out into the dust by the road.

“It won’t. It’s the best sandwich ever. And I like most sandwiches, so I’m not just saying that because it’s the only one I like or anything, either.” 

“Yeah, but how can you--” He froze mid-sentence, looking dead ahead through the dusky shadows to the shipyard which were were finally approaching. I stopped and looked, but saw nothing. 

“Um, Matt?” I asked quietly, and he held up a single finger as though asking me to wait. I followed his gaze again, trying to see what he’d noticed. My hand fell over the lump in my shirt where my crystal was hanging on its new necklace. What the fuck is he looking at????? Whatever this is, can it not be happening, right now??? I’m extremely over getting scared to death about this trip blowing up in our faces.

“Do you sense it?” he whispered to me finally. I stood, straining to either see or hear anything but the quickly fading light on the barren terrain between here and the shuttles. Then, I realized that he meant with the Force, because I did sense something. I had no idea what it was, but it was a pull on my attention. So, I followed the pull, which ended up being awfully specific in origin.

“Yeah,” I whispered back. “It’s coming from six ships to the left of ours.”

“I feel it too.”

“What do you think it is?”

“Not sure. I just hope Kylo doesn’t have to come out,” he murmured. I felt my throat tighten. I’d seen Matt take over when Kylo had been out front, but never the other way around. It seemed like the kinda thing he’d only do if we were in serious danger. And I didn’t wanna be stuck with Big Angry Kylo inside a tiny shuttle, to be honest. I continued to try and pay attention to whatever the fuck the Force was talking about.

Then, I saw a figure exiting the ship in question, followed by a little round droid…

“Oh fuck me, are you kidding?” I cursed in a whisper. It had to be a BB unit. Which, when paired with a Force tug like that…

“Who is that?” Matt was murmuring. “I’ve never sensed that before.” 

For a second, time stopped. Wait. If Matt doesn’t recognize that droid, or that feeling… That means Matt and Kylo really don’t have the same presence in the Force at all, and that shit I was making up before turns out to be true. Shit. Fuck. I wasn’t sure what to do. Surely Kylo was copiloting now, right? Matt said that they had their own reactions and feelings when in the copilot place. But not memories. Part of me thought, If you’re helping Kylo, you should say something. His mission right now is to find her, and you don’t know how involved she is in his possible redemption arc. The other part of me thought, If he knows she’s here, he will flip his fucking lid, and who knows what the fuck could happen???? Like, shit could hit the fan in a big way and I’m sooooo not ready for that, right now. Why is she here? Oh, who gives a shit. That’s not the part of the story I get to know about, I guess. If we leave, she might spot the shuttle and follow us to the ship? Or at least know First Order people were here on the ground. But if Matt isn’t connected to her, and we stay put, then she won’t know he’s here, at least.  

“I think maybe we oughta lay low. I dunno what this feeling means, but that person is taking a speeder to the city. I’m not sure we’re in any condition to wrangle a spy, or a bounty hunter, or someone who’s come to steal my crystal or something. If we just stay here until that ship leaves, we might not have to find out.” That was my pitch, and I was sticking with it. Matt watched the figure disappear behind the other ships, then looked at me.

“Yeah. That jeweler looked at your crystal like it was worth a hell of a lot more than we paid him to fix it up,” he replied, and I felt relief wash over me. Oh, thank God. I nodded.

“You wanna just post up in the shuttle for a bit?”

“Sounds good, let’s hurry though.” And we scurried over to the shuttle, making sure nobody was around before we got inside and locked the door behind us. Matt tapped on a switch in the hangar that gave a faint light, and gently put our bag of shopping on the floor. I immediately made for the cockpit, but didn’t try to turn on any lights. I managed to just barely catch sight of a speeder zooming away from the shipyard on the same road we’d taken that morning. I wondered faintly if all the speeders in that lot were stolen, and heard Matt come in behind me.

“Is he gone?” he asked me quietly.

“Yeah,” I confirmed. “Wonder how long he’ll be there.” I emphasized the pronoun just a little. That is definitely not a girl whose name rhymes with ‘bae,’ nope. Totally just some guy the Force wants us to stay away from. “What time is it?”

“2200 hours.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah,” Matt sighed. “I’m sorry, Aeon.”

“Sorry for what? For a perfect day?” I asked, smiling at him.

“But it didn’t go according to plan entirely, we almost got arrested, had to walk the whole way back to the shuttle, and now we might have to hang out here all night before it’s safe to leave. We might have to sleep here,” he insisted. Oh no, I might have to sleep in a tiny cramped little shuttle with Matt, whatever shall I do...

“Yeah, but we found out how good I am at Jedi mind tricks when threatened,” I laughed, “and we got to see a binary sunset, and I got to educate you about sandwiches, and... it was perfect, Matt. Things don’t have to go according to plan to be perfect.” Now I was beaming at him in the low light, watching his cheeks turn pink.

“Well, okay. I guess when you put it like that…” He rubbed the back of his head, and looked at the floor bashfully.

Then came another time-freezing moment, a moment where I felt like I spent a full hundred years thinking about how close he was, how dreamy the lighting was as the day faded outside, how very much alone we were. How so very easy it would be to kiss him, feel his hands touching me, run my fingers through his hair. My hands started shaking a little, but I had no idea if it was from nerves or just good old fashioned pining.

“Lemme contact the ship, and set up the hangar for us to sleep, or try to anyhow,” he said, and turned to exit the cockpit and fumble around with his datapad, sending a voice recording I didn't quite hear before he began opening storage I didn’t even know was there. While he was pulling down blankets and sleeping bags, I stood there and watched him.

You have to talk about it when you’re sober, said the Voice of Reason. So you’re good on that front. You should talk about it before it happens, ideally, but honestly at this point just make sure you exchange fuckin’ words about it at all and I’ll be happy. And please, for the love of God, don’t have sex. Not on the first date, or whatever this is. You know that’s a bad habit you’ve been trying to break. Just because you’re in a fictional universe doesn’t mean you should slack on that. Please. I felt like it was pep-talking me. I took in a deep, slow breath. Bold of you to assume I have the guts to do literally anything about this right now, I thought back.

“Aeon? You okay?” Matt was asking me, and I realized I’d been standing there just looking at him like a dingus while my brain spun around. He was standing, having taken his jacket off, with those gorgeous arms gettin’ shown off by his white tee. His glasses were hung on his shirt collar, blonde hair flopped down into his face. He was holding a sleeping bag that he’d half unrolled, and had the little bungee cable thing in his mouth while he looked at me. He was so goddamn motherfucking perfect, I wanted to die.

“Me? Yeah. I’m fine.” I replied dreamily, absently touching my kyber crystal again. “Just, yanno. Appreciating you.”

“Oh,” he murmured, face flushing. He looked around at where there was already another sleeping bag on the floor, along with a big blanket and another blanket that was rolled up. Tugging the bungee cable out of his mouth, he hastily added to the mess by flinging out the material in his hands like he hoped it would land flat and neat on the ground. It didn’t. I couldn’t help but laugh. 

“Let me help you, nerd,” I said, going over to kneel and start shuffling the pile of sleeping stuff around on the ground. When I was done, it took up most of the hangar floor, scrunched between the two rows of seats on either side of the space.

“Wow. Much better. Cozy, even,” he remarked with a little grin as I stood up beside him to survey my work. I’d left the rolled blanket the way it was, as a makeshift pillow that would be long enough for both of us. I looked up at him and smiled.

“Not cozy yet, not till I get these fuckin’ shoes off,” I informed him, and immediately started unlacing my boots. He laughed, and did the same. He pulled off his suspenders, and placed them and his glasses next to his boots. I unsnapped my cowl, but that was about it as far as getting comfy was concerned for me. I had new clothes in the shopping bag, but I didn’t wanna sleep in new clothes! Hell, I didn’t wanna sleep in any clothes, but…

“Well,” he said, still standing awkwardly like he wasn’t sure what to do next. “Do you, um, do you prefer a certain side?”

“Um, no, no, I’m good with whatever,” I stammered. SAY THE WORRRRDS!!

“Okay, well,” he said again, and then he stepped one of his enormous feet onto one side of the blankets gingerly, followed by the other, and sat down there cross-legged. He looked back up and me and smiled, and patted his hand onto the other side as if to signal that I could use that side, if I wanted to. I slid down to the floor, sitting next to him on ‘my side.’ There was so little room that our knees were touching the seats on the edges, and touching each other’s knees in the middle. OHHHH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO. YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOU GIANT FUCKING CLOWN, YOU ENTIRE IDIOT, SPEAK!!! I didn’t look at him, just sat next to him with our knees touching.

“Um, Matt?” I asked him, and I could barely hear my own voice.

“Hm? What?” he replied, his deep voice all low and quiet.

“Do you, um. Do you remember when I was high on that candy, the other day?” As though he’s forgotten, somehow???

“Oh, yeah. Yeah I remember that.”

“Do you remember when I tried to explain about how I, um, how…” WHY IS THIS SO HARD?????

“How you…?” he prompted.

“How I liked you?” I finished hurriedly. 

“Oh, yeah. And I said, um, that’s what friends do, right?”

“Yeah, and then, I, um… I said…” I felt like my throat was clamping down, clenching itself shut against the million fears and doubts that ran through my head at that moment.

“You said ‘no,’ like I wasn’t getting it?”

“Yes. That’s what I said.” Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

“And then you tried, well you tried to explain a bunch of stuff way too fast and I--”

“You told me we could talk about it when I was sober,” I said, as though that though had only just occurred to me, as opposed to ringing in my head constantly ever since.

“Yeah, I did. Did you, um, wanna talk about it now?” he asked, and his voice got even softer. I heard his head turn towards me, which only solidified my decision to continue staring at my feet.

“Well, kinda, yeah,” I mumbled, feeling like my guts were vibrating.

“Okay, we can talk about it now.” He sounded so level that I wasn’t sure how oblivious he actually was. Did he know what I meant, and was just playing dumb, or??

“Cool.” I took a breath. That would be your cue, dumbass, I thought to myself.

“So, um, what wasn’t I getting?” he asked.

“I, um, well. It’s not like, a big deal or anything, but…” Wow. I was failing miserably at this for the first time in years. I looked at my feet.

“Mkay,” he murmured reassuringly. I felt like time froze, my throat closed, and all the thoughts in my head that had been warring with each other this entire goddamn time all just… shut up. Total silence. Hello?? HELP ME????

“Um. Sorry, I went totally blank just there.” Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK.

“It’s okay, take your time,” he said sweetly. WHAAAAAAA STOP BEING PERFECT!

“I just, listen. I don’t know how I got here, or how I’m gonna get back home, but. Um. I…” Finally I looked back up at him, and from what I could see in the dim shuttle lighting he was just sitting there, waiting patiently, not looking directly at me but glancing back every now and then. He swallowed, though, which made me wonder if he was nervous, too. “I just wanted to say that I really like you and you mean a lot to me and uhhhh also if you wanted you could, um, come visit me at home I guess, when we find it, I mean there’s no pressure but um…”

Yeah. I know. I chickened out. Even the Voice of Reason was judging me a little.

“Oh,” he replied, seeming surprised. “I um, sure. I mean I would love to come see you sometime. Whenever you find your way back.” Was he disappointed? Relieved? I couldn’t fucking tell!!! I looked back at my feet.

“I’d like that,” I mumbled. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck you GIANT BABY YOU ARE NEVER GONNA GET ANOTHER CHANCE LIKE THIS!!! Wait, are you? I guess he’s technically Supreme Leader, or rather his alter is, but he COULD do whatever he wanted and you could have some other cute date thing… but still this is just a PERFECT DAY!!! COME ON!!!

“Well then I definitely will,” he replied, low voice all soft as he gave me a little smile. He swallowed again. Whyyyyyy!! “Should I cut the lights? There’s a little, um, like a little emergency light that never turns off in the hall, will that bother you?”

“No,” I assured him, deflated. “No, I’ll be fine.”

“Okay.” He leaned up and touched the control pad on the wall, and the hangar got even dimmer. The light in the hall was just a tiny little red light that barely illuminated anything anyway, and there was moonlight streaming into the window in the cockpit but it didn’t much reach where we were. I slid underneath the blanket, laying stiffly on my back because I felt like a total fucking idiot and I still couldn’t read Matt’s reaction for shit. I mean, other than his usual awkward sweetness. I was a little bit furious at myself, too, I won’t lie. 

Matt slid under the covers and also laid on his back, like he wasn’t sure what to do. We were so close that our elbows were touching anyway, which only added to how profoundly stiff I felt. I wanted to cue to him that it was okay if we were touching. I obviously wasn’t gonna do shit about it, anyway…

“Aeon?” he asked suddenly. My heart picked up.

“Yeah?” 

“You, uh, you don’t talk in your sleep or anything, do you?” he asked. “Or walk in your sleep? Or anything else like that I should know about?” I couldn’t help but chuckle just a little.

“God, I hope not,” I replied, and he started to chuckle, too. I immediately felt a little better. “You don’t snore, do you?”

“I have no idea,” he confessed, chuckling even more.

“If you do, I’ll tell you. And if I do, you can tell me. Deal?”

“Yeah, okay. That sounds fair.” He turned his head towards me, and in the gloom I thought he was smiling for real. “Is this comfy enough? You’re not cold or anything, are you?” Wow oh my God stop being the nicest human???

“I’m okay. I’m a little chilly because I didn’t wear sleeves, but. I’ll be alright.”

“You can lay close to me, if you’re cold. I’m always warm.” My heart picked up yet again. What??? Is this.. Is he…??

“You’re not gonna like, kick me in your sleep or anything are you?” I asked him, grinning. It was almost deflection, I guess? Well, it made him laugh. Which was the only goal.

“No, I think you’re good, there. Can’t promise with the snoring, but I won’t kick.”

“Okay, that’s good. Thanks. Do you, um sleep on your back, or?”

“Well, no, I usually don’t.” He turned over, towards me, onto his side. He gathered the blanket into his hands and bunched them up over his mouth. “I sleep like this.” I couldn’t help but smile even more.

“You’re cute. You’re adorable. And you’re so nice. Thank you, Matt,” I told him. Now that I had given up on trying to Tell Him How I Really Felt, apparently, this was easy to say. Ugh. Anyway. I turned away from him, and made the paradoxically bold decision to scoot back against him and assume little spoon status. Fuck it. I tried. Maybe I could try again in the morning.

“Oh,” I heard him just barely mumble in surprise, like so quiet I wasn’t sure I’d actually heard it. I had expected to be happy with just feeling how close we were, how our feet were touching, his hands against my back. But then he went and shifted his arms, and scooched a little closer, and his whole chest was against my whole back, and I stopped breathing.

“Um,” he said, and I realized belatedly that his arms were sort of awkwardly positioned, like he wasn’t sure what to do with them. “Do you wanna… maybe, lay your head on…?”

“Oh, sorry,” I mumbled, and I lifted my head and then his huge fucking arm was under it, with the rolled up blanket there, and I laid my head back on it, and oh my fuCKING GOD HIS BICEP FUCK PLEASE KILL ME. Then his other arm was draped extremely gingerly over my waist. There was something clearly awkward about it, but my brain was exploding all the same. For a moment, we were still, our breath coming so shallow I couldn’t even hear it.

“This okay?” he asked, a little nervously.

“Yeah, ‘s good,” I murmured. 

“Mk.” Again, silence. I don’t know how long I laid there, trying to think of something else to say. But then he became less stiff, and I wondered if he was finally getting comfortable. His arm curled a little tighter around me. Ohmigosh!

Then, I heard his breath. It was the faintest sound, like just shy of a little tiny snore. He was totally asleep. For a split second, I was disappointed. Not with him, with myself, obviously. I would never be disappointed with Matt, are you kidding? Anyway, then in his sleep he curled in even closer, which was completely exhilarating, and I just laid there and basked in how cozy and wonderful it was. Sure, I totally bitched out of my confession, but hell. He smelled good, too. 

I slowly drifted to sleep, one hand on my kyber crystal, full of the closest thing to joy I’d felt in a very long time. 

 

-----

 

When I woke up, my eyes slowly fluttering open as a streak of sunlight from down the hallway illuminated the hangar, I was delighted to remember that I’d fallen asleep cuddled up with Matt. His warm body was pressed around me, one arm still curled over my waist and the other still tucked beneath my head, like his only movement in the night had been to get closer and closer, wrapping me up like a human burrito. He was still asleep, his breath a gentle breeze on my neck. Okay, I’ll take this. Too baby to make out, but this is fine. 

Eventually he started to stir and wake up, I thought, but then he curled up even closer and pressed his nose into my neck to nuzzle it. I wanted to scream, just a little. Or a lot. If I die here, that’s okay. A few moments later he stirred again, like he was actually waking up this time, stretching out one foot and making cute little sleepy morning sounds. AaaaAHHH!

As he shifted, I turned a little, and stretched my limbs, and totally didn’t pretend I was still half-asleep so I could lean my head back against him, nope. 

“Mm. Morning,” I greeted him in scratchy morning-voice. He groaned a little, nose still pressed into my neck, and sighed. Then his head leaned back, so I decided to turn a little more and get a look at adorable sleepy morning-Matt while I still had a chance.

I was not expecting his hair to be black, and it almost spooked me for a second before I remembered that his blonde dye faded after a certain amount of time. His eyes were still shut, and the arm he’d kept around me turned loose so he could rub his eyelids.

“Hrgh, where am I?” he murmured, and his eyes fluttered open and struggled to focus. Well that’s weird. Did he forget or something? But then, his eyes opened fully, and I looked into them. And I knew immediately who was looking back. 

“Uh--”

“Maker!” he swore, and I swear we both jumped three feet in the air and in opposite directions. “What the--”

“Shit! Kylo!” What the fuck! Why did THAT happen??? Suddenly, I remembered why we’d slept on the ship in the first place. Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK! He was staring at me, his expression full shock and confusion, and then he glanced around.

“Is this the shuttle you took to Kaller? Yesterday ?” he asked, anger rising in his voice. 

“Yes, but it’s okay, we rang the Supremacy already and told them we’d be back today,” I told him hurriedly. Please don’t blow up please don’t blow up please don’t blow up! He glanced around, then down at the nest of blankets and sleeping bags, then down at his clothes.

“Did you--”

“No!” No I did NOT have sex with Matt! Tragically! He looked at me and narrowed his eyes.

“Why were you here overnight, Aeon?” he asked, voice growly but less loud and angry than I’d honestly been expecting. 

“We, um, we were forced to walk back here from the city due to a misunderstanding over the speeder we rented.” That was true, at least.

“And you chose to sleep after that?” He wasn’t buying it.

“Okay, I thought- I’m not sure, but Matt thought too, that there might’ve been someone here looking for my kyber crystal, or possibly it could have been a Resistance spy, I’m not sure which.” He was still eyeing me critically. I pulled on my necklace and held it up to show him. “The jeweler said it was very rare and special, which made me nervous, and I felt something in the Force last night--”

“You felt something?”

“Yeah, here. In the shipyard. I wanted to lie low in case whoever it was was looking for us.” It wasn’t your old would-be flame, either, definitely probably not.

“Who was it?” Uuugh.

“I don’t know,” I said, looking him full in the face. It wasn’t a lie- I didn’t know for sure that it was Rey. I just felt a strange, strong presence and saw a BB unit. But I kinda felt like an asshole, anyway. He continued to look at me strangely. I felt a sense of prodding suddenly, like my thoughts were getting jumbled around.

“Hey! None of that!” I shouted, and I felt like I was slamming a really heavy door in my brain. “You promised no mind-reading!” He frowned, and looked slightly guilty.

“Sorry,” he growled. “I just… I wish I’d been the one to sense it. I would’ve known what it was, and what to do.” Okay, well, he pushed a boundary but he withdrew as soon as I reinforced it, so. This is progress, technically. Oof.

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed, my hackles lowering. “It’s all fine, though, I’m sure. Knowing my brain, I might’ve just been getting paranoid.” I sighed. “We can go back now, though.” 

“We are going back now.” He turned and started rifling through Matt’s-- his?-- stuff for his usual clothes. “If you’ll clean this up, I’ll get us ready for takeoff.”

“Um, sure.” Had he just almost-asked me to do something, instead of ordering me to do it? That was odd. He found the clothes he wanted, and marched up to the cockpit to do his thing. I started pulling the blankets off the floor to fold them, finding the little storage crannies Matt had pulled them out of and stuffing everything at least mostly back where it belonged. The engines were humming loudly by the time I was done. I decided not to change into my new clothes or anything, and debated just sitting back in the hangar for the entire trip. This is sooooo fucking uncomfortable. I really, really, REALLY had not counted on waking up next to Kylo instead of Matt. What even caused that, anyway?

Then we were kicking off into the air, and I held onto the wall for a moment and shut my eyes. When our flight smoothed out, I glanced up at the back of Kylo’s head in the cockpit  through the hallway. Sighing, I decided I’d better not hide from him the whole damn way back.

When I sat in the co-pilot’s chair, he was silent at first. He’d donned his regular old Supreme Leader duds, and was looking with his signature half-scowl out the front window of the shuttle. At that moment, it finally occurred to me that he had been the one nuzzling my neck this morning. Not Matt. Fuck. Fuck that’s fucking weird. Oh God, it was weird enough before, now it’s ACTUALLY weird.

“Did you… have a good time?” he asked slowly, uncomfortably. I looked at him, surprised.

“Um, yeah, actually. It was great. Got a few things I really needed, ate a lot of weird fruits, saw two suns set, rode a speeder bike for the first time…” I felt guilty for carrying on while he sat there and didn’t look at me, though, so I stopped. 

“Good.” It was short, clipped even, and he looked uncertain. “I’m…”

“Nothing happened between me and Matt, I promise,” I blurted out. Shit. Now, he looked at me. Then he looked back out the window, then back at me again.

“Are you disappointed?” he asked. I had no idea if he was being a dick or not, which was disorienting as hell.

“Why would you ask me that?” It was too early for me to not be this blunt, honestly.

“I just…” He frowned, and sighed. “Do you… like Matt?” 

Why the FUCK does Kylo Ren understand that emphasis on the word ‘like’ and Matt fucking??? Doesn’t???

“Um,” I replied, totally terrified of the answer.

“You can tell me, you know.”

“Can I?” Why the entire FUCK would he want to know?? Is this just misdirection of how HE was so snuggly this morning??

“Yes, you can. You haven’t told him yet though, have you?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Are you making fun of me?” I asked, mildly horrified. “Is this even okay, Kylo? I mean, really?”

“Matt and I are different people, Aeon. He hasn’t been able to be himself, not openly anyway, for a long time. I’m not going to deny him a life.”

“Well, that’s very kind of you.” Was he granting permission, or something?

“It doesn’t mean that I will have a similar interest in you, if he reciprocates.” Oh. Alright, then.

“That’s… fine. You’re my teacher. It’s… probably better you didn’t, right?” I raised an eyebrow at him, now. Or have you not heard of ethical behavior, since you were already trying to wife the last person you offered to teach?

“Probably.” His face had gone fully opaque, and I had no idea what he was really thinking or feeling. 

“Okay, well. That’s good, then, I guess.” I murmured. I had no fucking idea what else to say. For a long moment, it was very quiet in the cockpit.

“Your necklace looks nice,” Kylo said out of the blue, very stiffly.

“Uh. Thanks,” I replied, flabbergasted. This dude has no fuckin’ idea how to be a person, does he? “Matt got you some new boots.”

“Oh, that was helpful of him.” Silence. This conversation was fucking arduous, y’all. I could not make heads or tails of it. Was he being weird because he was accidentally nuzzling me this morning? Or was I just thinking that because I was hating myself for being kinda into it? Was I not making a healthy separation between him and Matt, the way they both clearly wanted me to???? Or was I just that attracted to someone who was as unpredictable and violent as Matt was gentle and kind?????? I’d never known anyone with dissociative identities before, not this closely. And I was terrified I was going to do something wrong, somehow, with this whole dual-relationship thing. Especially when both elicited such fucking profound and contrasting emotional responses, and the ONLY overlap was how attractive they both were. AAAARGH.

Finally, the planet passed fully out of our view and the Supremacy started to become visible against the starfield. I sighed.

“I’m sorry if we fucked anything up with your schedule, by the way. Matt is too, obviously.” I was mostly apologizing so he wouldn’t be mad at Matt, because I adore Matt and I want to protect him.

“It’s alright,” he replied quietly. Thankfully, he didn’t offer anymore weird/forced niceties. I wasn’t sure if he meant them or not, anyway. I would take straightforward, pissed off Kylo over unreadable Kylo any day.

“When do you want to have our next lesson? I’ve been practicing the routine.” I was desperately trying to return to a remotely normal dynamic.

“We’ll meet again tomorrow, I have a few matters to check in on today.” He gave a little nod, and continued looking out the window. Ah, yes. Much better. 

“Sounds good.”

Chapter Text

“Aeon Flux, your scans have started to become more active again since your visit to Kaller. Did you experience any hallucinations while on the planet?” Lucky was asking. I was only half paying attention, because I was ruminating all to hell about the truly bizarre experiences of my Accidental Morning With Kylo.

“Hm? Nah.”

“Any seizures?”

“Mm.”

“I do not understand.”

“Hm.”

“Aeon Flux, are you aware you are pregnant?” My head whipped over.

“What the FUCK??”

“I see this has gotten your attention. You are very distracted this afternoon, Aeon Flux,” the droid noted dryly. I glared at it.

“A lot happened down there, Lucky. I’m just… processing.”

“Your scans were indicating a much more suppressed neurological response for several days. Now they appear to be picking up again. I am concerned about your risk of experiencing another seizure.” I sighed. 

“I don’t know--”

Without warning, in the middle of my goddamn sentence and everything, I was no longer on the Supremacy . I was now sitting on a hunk of metal in a torrential storm, or maybe it was just huge saltwater waves crashing all around me, I wasn’t sure. I was in the flotsam and jetsam of some enormous machine, being battered on all sides by an angry sea. The roar of it was deafening.

In front of me was a vast expanse of whatever technology I was sitting on, like a cliff that dropped into the water that was full of metal. Before I could even begin to panic or try and figure out what the hell was going on, I saw a figure running up towards the precipice. 

It was Rey.

What?? What is happening right now????? I feel like I teleported, but that’s not a thing in Star Wars???

Not long after she approached the cliff and turned back around to look behind her, I saw Kylo Ren walking out of the torrent making directly towards her. In the crash of the waves, it was hard to see what was going on-- until two light sabers lit up, of course.

“Wait!” I cried, and as per usual I leapt up to try and do something even though I had no idea what the fuck to do, exactly. Immediately my feet slipped on the extremely wet surface of rusted metal, of course, and I slammed forward onto my elbows and knees. Which hurt like hell, but more importantly I landed on a slick white floor.

“Aeon Flux! Are you alright?” came a tinny robotic voice through my slight daze, and then I looked up into the abrasive, sterile light of the medical bay.

“Ow,” I groaned, and pushed myself upright only to stagger back against the hospital bed I’d evidently just jumped off of. 

“Please sit,” Lucky instructed me. “You are unwell.” I scooted back onto the bed, clutching the edge with my hands.

“I assume I just had the seizure you were worried about?” I asked it, thoroughly disgruntled. My elbows and knees throbbed.

“I believe so, Aeon Flux. You were within scanning range, so it appears we have a medical record of this episode.” 

“I saw something,” I said to the droid. “A vision, or a hallucination, or maybe they’re the same thing, I dunno.” 

“Another of the multi-ocular entities you have described previously?” Couldn’t you just call it a demon, Lucky? Is this a droid thing? 

“No. I was in another place. There was an ocean, and wreckage of something, maybe a ship? And Kylo was there, and… the girl. The girl he’s been looking for.” My guts churned suddenly. After what just happened on Kaller...

“Curious,” murmured the droid as it pulled results from the machine up on one of the myriad screens in the wall. “It appears you did have a seizure, Aeon Flux. But it is a most unusual one. And… that cannot be right. There must be a malfunction with the scanner.” I whipped my head around to look at it, and immediately regretted moving that quickly.

“Ow. What? What’s wrong?” Lucky was staring at the screen. 

“According to the results, your brain’s wave-particle fluctuation stopped entirely. All quantum entities were in wave form for fifty-seven seconds, and there is a clear superposition in the chart. However, as you were observably here in the medical bay for the duration of your seizure, that is impossible.” Brow knit, I just stared at it for a moment.

“What does that mean, exactly?”

“To observe you requires a wave function collapse, which is an irreversible interaction of your quantum state with the classical environment as your two functions form an external superposition, which precludes any internal superposition in the--”

“Lucky. Please. Talk to me like I don’t have a fuckin’ degree in quantum physics. ‘Cuz I don’t. And even if I did, my fuckin’ head hurts.” I could almost see its face fall flat. 

“To grossly oversimplify, it would imply that you were in two places at once.” I blinked. Wait. Did Lucky just tell me that I’m Schrodinger’s self-insert? Also, how could I be seeing Kylo if I was in two places at once, when I’m pretty sure he’s upstairs either force-choking one of his officers or practicing his scowl? 

“Huh,” was all I said, totally unable to wrap my brain around the idea at that moment.

“How do you feel?” 

“Tired,” I replied immediately. 

“If you would like to take a rest here, I would like to observe you a little longer.” I nodded, and wriggled my way slowly onto the bed to lie down properly. Lucky was doing all sorts of things to the computers on the wall, and grumbling to itself about diagnostics and malfunctions. My brain, which had been so active before, now felt vaguely like soup. 

 

-----

 

Walking into the training hall the next day, I was feeling antsy and my thoughts had started to pick up speed again. Kylo was there waiting for me, twirling one of the wooden swords around experimentally and tossing it into the air. Almost like he was having fun , or something. He turned when I entered.

“Good afternoon, Aeon,” he greeted me, and despite his half-scowl and monotone it seemed almost cheerful. For him, anyhow. What is going on? Did he actually get laid or something?

“Well dang. Mornin’ sunshine. We workin’ on this routine today? I think I actually got it memorized,” I replied, sticking to my usual slightly bratty but generally sincere tone.

“We’ll review the first routine today, yes. If you’ll get a waster--” Before he’d finished his sentence, a wooden sword flew off of its wall mount behind him and into my outstretched hand. I was feeling pretty confident, I guess. Kylo looked at me, not quite smirking again. “Alright. Move through the sequence the way you’ve been practicing.” 

I took a deep breath and started in the basic stance he’d showed me, and swung through the series of movements. I tried to be less lazy than I’d been while actually practicing, but I could tell by his stare that I wasn’t impressing him. 

“What?” I asked when I was done and that expression was still on his face. “I learned it!”

“You learned the movements but not how to make them. You have no form, no strength in your thrusts or parries, and you move slowly.” I felt my face get hot, and felt myself get angry.

“I--” But I cut myself off, paused, clamped my mouth shut and let out a slow exhale. You’re going to keep your cool, remember? Do not throw fuel on the Big Angry Fire. I decided to start over. “Can you show me the proper form again?” He looked at me like he was trying very hard not to yell at me that I was wasting time. I guess we were both putting in some effort, that day.

“Alright,” he agreed tersely, and marched over closer to me. “Take the basic stance I showed you.”

We started to move through the sequence, only in slow motion, and he actually talked me through every single motion in the routine and what it was for, and when I needed to be using my strength versus my agility. I know, right? When did Darth Tantrum decide to try being a decent teacher? There was one part I kept getting stuck on, though.

“No, twirl from the shoulder ! You keep twirling from your wrist, but your wrist is weaker. This move can make to strike your opponent or block a blaster bolt, but either way the impact of the other blade or the shot will push back hard on you, so you need to use more of your entire body’s strength. And take the step before you thrust,” he was saying to me as I tried for the tenth time, modeling the movement in slow-motion beside me. I huffed with frustration, and tried to move through the sequence again. “No, Aeon, stop. Just stop, wait.”

“Ugh,” I groaned, dropping my arms. I was getting mad at myself, and his tone wasn’t helping. Suddenly he dropped his own waster to the floor and walked around behind me, putting one gloved hand on my right wrist where I held the wooden sword. He lifted it up in the air keeping my elbow bent, and his other hand fell on my right shoulder.

“This shoulder is tight. Loosen it up some, move it around a little. Breathe,” he instructed, and I shut my eyes against the feeling of his coming so close to me. It was a weird feeling. I had no idea if it was good or bad. I took a deep breath, though, and tried to let go of the tension in my shoulder muscles. His hands weren’t harsh on me, they were actually pretty gentle but firmly guiding. “See, that’s much better. Now, left foot slightly in front, there you go. Arm begins here.” Now his hand guided my arm again, and the other hand left my right shoulder to land on my left shoulder, and he was standing very close behind me with his powerful torso just barely pressed up against my back, and is hot in here, or?????

“Um, okay,” I muttered. I was definitely flushed, but also something about the intensity of his focus meant that instead of getting distracted, it was more like I aligned with his energy? 

“Now, keep your shoulder open. Pull back, but just a little, just enough, there. Exactly. Now step forward--” both of our right legs moved in unison, “and push forward from your shoulder. The twirl starts here, see?” And his enormous gloved hand moved from my wrist to wrap around my much smaller hand on the hilt of the waster, pushing it along and twirling through the entire thrust. My whole body felt warm, and everywhere he touched me felt like it was electrifying me slightly. Wow okay wow why?? But I wanted to get the damn thrust right so bad at the same time, dammit!

“One more time?” I asked, and he guided my hand back and we reset our feet and then we moved again through the whole thing, and I felt alive and focused and synchronized with him in the strangest way. Like, my jitteriness about being that close to him just melted away.

“You almost got it,” he urged, and then we reset one final time and now my muscles felt loose and ready, rather than tight and resistant, and he barely guided me at all as I moved through the twist. “Yes! Again!” he instructed, and in one fluid movement we reset and I moved through it again, feeling less and less like he was moving my limbs for me even though his hands stayed where they were and his body pressed closer to my back. “Again!” Set, step, whoosh! I was starting to feel strong, to feel sure of myself, to feel my heart thumping in my ears and heat rushing to my core. I paused there in the final extension of the pose, flushed in the power of my last thrust, of his hand on mine, of his body pressed against mine, and heard his heart beating in time with mine. Oh.

I paused just long enough to feel real weird about it. I dropped my arm unceremoniously, and as though he’d also become aware of whatever the fuck was happening he let go of my hand and took a step back from me. I turned my head to look at him, but I couldn’t tell if he was as flustered as I’d just been. But our breath was coming in and out in unison, so. What the fuck.

“Like that?” I asked, gripping my waster a little harder than necessary. He cleared his throat.

“Yeah, you really got it there at the end.” I nodded at him, feeling proud of myself, but a little too turned on-- yes, I admit it, I was totally turned on-- to do much about it.

“Thank you. You’re right, I was too tense.” Maybe a little pre-lesson tension relief is in order, I can think of a few ways… Oh God, shut UP, brain.

“You let go of it quickly, though. Run through the whole thing again,” he instructed, and I took a deep breath and tried to bully through how flustered I was by channeling it into the routine movements. “Yes, now faster this time,” he urged, and I did it again. “That’s it. You’ve got it. That’s how you need to practice it every single time. Do you want to run through it with me as your opponent?” I stopped, and blinked. 

“Fight you?” A smirk cracked over my face. What a perfect way to release this fucking tension! “Hell yes. Let’s do it.” 

“I’m not gonna actually fight you, Aeon. It’s just a routine, so I’ll be showing you the accompanying counter-attacks--”

“I know, I know, but let’s do it!” I cut him off, bouncing on my toes a little. I was sure this was gonna be fun, and now my blood was pumping. Without wasting a moment, Kylo scooped up his waster from the floor and turned and took his stance. I fell into basic stance and then started the routine without waiting for a cue. Bring it, Angry Boy!

One, two, three, underhand, step, parry, thrust, back, cut, parry, one motion after the other he met me with rhythmic and careful ‘attacks’, and I could tell he was definitely suppressing his strength. The tap-tap-tap of the blades against each other was satisfying, though, and I was starting to really enjoy myself. 

“Let’s go faster!” I urged, and I saw his ghost of a grin before we picked up the pace. Yes! This is awesome! Tap-tap-tap and step and twirl and parry and step and tap-tap-tap, like a dance, and I know he wasn’t trying to fight me or anything but it felt like we were two endless streams of energy, spiraling into each other only to bounce off gracefully and then come back together again. I was feeling strength and confidence like I hadn’t in a long time. Maybe it was a little manic, but I didn’t give a shit, obviously.

“Should we switch it up? Stop doing the sequence?” he challenged me as we continued to tap-tap-tap. 

“Surprise me,” I suggested, raising an eyebrow at him. He spun away and then stepped back towards me. All of a sudden, we were a flurry of taps and spins and twirls and parries, and that thing where I was sensing his intention before it was enacted started to happen, like I could almost tell a split-second before what he was going to do next. I had to react really fucking fast, though. When I started to finally try and push back, put him on defense, he responded instantly by flashing me a real, feral smirk. My face started to get hot, along with certain other parts of me, and I returned it in kind.

Tap-tap-step-twirl-back-twist-parry-tap-parry-tap and then it wasn’t the same kind of dance anymore, we were no longer in tandem. Now we were two wills, pushing and pulling one another, testing where we could push the limits. I didn’t know any fancy moves at all, and I knew he probably wasn’t busting any out and was going super easy on me, but I felt like our dual was for some kind of mental dominance rather than a test of skill. All my senses were alive, and full of him . He started to growl.

“C’mon, you surprise me! ” he goaded me. “I know you can!”

“Oh yeah?” I decided to try something I had been pondering for a minute, and switched blade hands. He didn’t know it, but I’m ambidextrous. I totally practiced the routine with both hands. Just ‘cuz.

“Hah!” He seemed truly impressed by that, enough to let out a short laugh (whoa) and start pushing me again, pushing because he wasn’t used to fighting someone left-handed. I grinned even more. Tap-parry-step-step-thrust-parry-tap-twirl-step-tap--

“How’s that for a surprise?” I crowed at him.

“You think you can keep it up?”

“Oh, I can keep it up.” He was not getting the double entendre there, but whatever.

“We’ll see,” he said. I huffed.

“You scared?” I teased him. I was definitely getting too cocky at that point, but that hadn’t even remotely occurred to me.

“You don’t scare me, little one.” Oh. Oh them’s fightin’ words, my dude. Kinda sexy fightin’ words but still.

“Not yet,” I growled, and got more aggressive. He matched my energy immediately, almost eagerly. Tap-stepstep-parry-thrust-taptaptap-twirl-parry-thrust-step-tap--

“Did I offend you?” he goaded me, smirking again.

“Shut up and fight me,” I suggested. He seemed pleasantly surprised at this, and his smirk got darker as he deflected an even more aggressive attack from me.

“This isn’t a fight.”

“‘Cuz you playin’.”

“I’m teaching ,” he corrected mid-parry.

“Don’t be shy, Kylo!” Taptap-thrust-parrybackstep-tap-twirlparrythrust--

“Easy now,” he warned me, but I was full of manic energy, and I just pushed back harder. “Back off.” Taptaptwirl-parry-thrust-swing-tapback-twirl-thrustparrytaptaptaptaptaptap “Rey, you don’t--”

As soon as he said her name, my concentration broke, and he knocked my waster to the ground and whacked the shit outta my hand in the process. I didn’t even hiss or cry out in pain, only clutched it up close against me as I staggered a few steps back from him. What the fuck???????? Did he just call me REY????? SERIOUSLY???? I stared at him, equal parts shocked and furious. His eyes were wide, like he’d surprised himself. My hand throbbed, but I almost didn’t feel it.

“Did you--”

“Aeon, I’m sorry.” He cut me off so quickly, and so earnestly. The fact that I’d already called him out on this was the elephant in the room that we both knew well and good was right there. You’re not getting off that easy, fuckboy.

“Seriously, Kylo? Seriously? We don’t even look alike!” I exclaimed, and I could feel myself escalating and whatever part of my brain there was left to regulate my behavior felt like it was watching the rest of me just take off down the runway, ready for liftoff at any moment.

“Aeon, I didn’t--”

“Stop it! Stop repeating my name like it’ll fix it.”

“Please,” he said, and it sounded so fucking sincere. So fucking sincere that I didn’t trust it at all. I shook my head.

“I told you not to do that, Kylo. I said I wasn’t her, and I’m not, and I don’t wanna be her and I especially don’t wanna be her to you .” I knew as soon as I said it that I’d said it the wrong way, but I was too pissed to even care.

“You don’t? You don’t want to be my equal, don’t want me to invest in training you?” he asked, starting to get angry. Maybe even a little hurt. Good, I thought. Get your feelings hurt.

“I don’t want to be your equal!” I defended. “I don’t want to rule the galaxy and oppress people with violence, not even a little bit!”

“You have wanted so desperately for me to respect you, for me to see you as my equal, from the moment we met,” he snarled. Oh, fuck YOU! “I don’t need to look into your mind to see that. You never have given a damn about rank, about order, about the system here by which you earn your keep! You didn’t want to earn anything!”

“Yeah, because I shouldn’t have to prove that I’m worthy of the fucking recycled air molecules I breathe, Kylo! Nobody should!”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not fucking fair! We didn’t ask to be born, and we weren’t born to contribute to your fucking war machine, and I certainly never asked to show up here and get thrown into it!” 

“Oh, it’s not fair .” His voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Sooo not fair for you, even though I did exactly what you wanted and gave you a chance to earn my respect without all the fucking rank and toil!” Excuse me, without TOIL?????  

“So why did you give me that, hm? Was it because you’re as afraid of me as you are of her? Is it because you saw your chance to get yourself a nice shiny new Rey--”

You’re the one who threw it in my face that she rejected me from the beginning!” he spat. Shit. I knew he was right, and that felt like a big nasty twist in my gut that actually got my attention. One half of me was full of sour pride, wanting to keep shouting and arguing and maybe blow something up, who knows. The other half had been to a lot of therapy. I was keenly aware of how I’d done my best to take advantage of Matt’s lack of knowledge about Rey, to avoid the possibility of running into her, to keep Kylo away from her. Because she was the biggest threat to what I had now, which was the only way I could think of to try and figure out how to get home. To keep Kylo from someone who was, whether I liked it or not, tied up with him. Because he was a fucking movie character, in a fictional universe, and their two Plots were woven together and yet here I was treating them like they were real people. 

But he was real to me, now. This whole world was so real, so vivid, so goddamn visceral and confusing and astonishing and terrible and oh my God. Oh my God. Am I getting absorbed into the canon? Is that why I’m forgetting home?  

It woulda been funny, if it hadn’t been so fucking real. I stood totally still, feeling sick to my stomach. What the fuck else am I supposed to do? Should I stop learning about the Force? What the fuck else am I gonna do to try and find a way out? Fly a spaceship into a fucking wormhole?? Nothing that involved releasing more control than the little I already had seemed even remotely acceptable. Yet I felt so guilty for these tiny manipulations, how much they’d built up already. I just don’t wanna be that shitty person. Not at home in my real life, and not here. Not ever again. I wish I could right now, though. Uuuugh.

“You’re right,” I said finally. “You’re right. I did.” I felt ashamed. I couldn’t help but see my own bullshit for what it really was in that moment, and I hated it sooooooo much. Old habits die very, very hard. “I shouldn’t have.” 

Kylo was looking at me with one of those strange expressions. Like he was still so mad, but he was also other things, and he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to deal with the other things because he was only good at being mad. He said nothing, but the gears were turning in there. I felt like a fucking idiot, and an asshole, and a loser to boot. I wanted him to reply so desperately that I just started talking again.

“I’m sorry I can’t be her. I’m not gonna live up to your expectations. I can’t--”

“Aeon,” he said, and his voice was as strange as the look on his face. “I don’t want you to be Rey. I don’t.” I looked into his eyes, and they were equal parts serious and sad. For a moment I was worried he’d let someone else in the pilot’s seat, but they weren’t Ben’s eyes. Or Matt’s. They were Kylo’s eyes. 

“No?” I asked quietly. He shook his head stiffly. It was almost like being this sincere actually pained him. I felt like I wanted to cry, which was a feeling that I fought with every fiber of my being. “I, um. You’ll find her.”

“What?” He knit his brow, puzzled.

“I had another seizure yesterday, but there was a vision too. You’ll find Rey. I don’t know what’ll happen, or how it’ll end. But I know you’ll have your reckoning.” I really hadn’t wanted to tell him about that vision. But it was becoming abundantly clear that I needed to be honest, and be who I was, just like Matt had said. Kylo was staring at me.

“Where?”

“I don’t know. I didn't recognize the place at all. There were remains of a ship I think, and a whole helluva lotta ocean waves, but that’s all I saw.” I felt sad, like I was losing something. Some dumb fuckin’ security blanket I’d made up around being the new Rey, getting so Big And Strong that I could nope myself outta this universe and back into my own. Maybe I could, but I just… didn’t wanna do it on false pretenses, I guess. Kylo drew a long, slow breath, looking into the distance for a second before he looked back at me. 

“I’ve seen that place, too. In my dreams. I wonder where it is,” he mused.

“You’ll find out soon enough, I reckon,” I sighed. Being myself was exhausting, and made me feel small. I missed Matt, but asking Kylo if he could switch out seemed like a dick move. 

“Yeah,” he agreed. It’s slightly astonishing, to be honest, how many of our arguments hadn’t ended in flames, broken equipment, or my untimely demise. Suddenly my waster was flying off the ground and over to its wall mount, and so was his. I guess we’re done for the day.

“Same time tomorrow?” I asked him, and my voice sounded hollow.

“Yes. I’ll see you then,” he said very briefly, and turned and walked out. Something about how clipped his exit was actually stung, for some reason. Why does he get to just march off and not deal with shit, ever? Why do I keep expecting him to make me feel better, again? Need to cut that shit out. I took a huge breath in, and let it out as slowly as possible. 

I was definitely messaging Matt as soon as I got back to my room.

Chapter Text

I shouldn’t have been surprised that Matt hadn’t gotten back to me by late evening. I was laying on my bed, flipping through reports and documents and the info library on my datapad like it was a fuckin’ Instagram feed, only way less satisfying. I just wanted to talk to a friend.

Wait a minute. I HAVE a friend. I think, anyhow. I started tapping out a message.

Hey, Duffy. You free to hang a little tonight? I’ve had a shitty day , I sent to Mitaka. He actually answered within moments.

Hi ducky. I’m free, do you want to come down for a drink? I smiled.

No, I’d rather hang in my room. Really don’t need people listening in.

Ah, I understand. Give me a few moments and I’ll head your way. 

Okay cool. I sighed. I had not counted on Mitaka of all people to be the closest thing I had to a new gay bestie, but I was extremely grateful in that moment. A little while later, my doorbell rang. 

“Hello, ducky,” he greeted me with his little smile when he came in. “Having a tough day, are we? You sure you don’t want a drink?”

“Nah, it’s okay. I make incredibly poor choices when I get shwasted,” I explained to him with a chuckle. 

“Clearly you are wise beyond your years.” He walked over to the couch with me and we sat down. He was wearing soft back pants similar to mine, and a white t-shirt. I missed the suspenders on him, they were kinda iconic. Maybe I just like suspenders, honestly. I decided I should totally try and get some of my own.

“Thanks, it’s the trauma,” I joked flatly. He gave a cynical little snort.

“Isn’t it always. You want to divulge what happened, ducky? Was it your technician?” he asked, lounging on the couch with his elbow up on the back of it.

“Kinda, but today specifically it was Kylo,” I confessed, rolling my eyes. “I can usually handle his brand of bullshit. But today I actually think it was my own brand of bullshit that got me.”

“Oh dear. Much worse, when it gets you like that, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. I was… I dunno what people say about me, but I just wanna go home. But I got no fuckin’ clue how I got here. Getting trained by him felt like my only choice. He’s still sooo caught up with Rey, though.”

“Who?” he looked confused. 

“The girl from Jakku, the one he’s been chasing?” 

“Who killed Snoke? Goodness. I suppose he wants revenge, though technically she did give him a promotion, of sorts.” Oh, if only you knew.

“Yeah, ‘cept I think he actually just wants to get her to join the dark side or some shit. I really think he has a huge crush on her.” Fuck it. Mitaka was officially privy to my meta-knowledge-informed thoughts. If he betrayed me later, so be it. He raised his eyebrows at me.

“You think so? Well… now that I think about it, it almost makes sense. When everyone else is afraid of you. But you’re a bit famous for giving him lip, too, you know,” he chuckled. Say what?

“Really?” I asked, brow furrowed.

“People walking by the training hall can hear you two shouting, you know. I think some of the troopers are hedging bets on when he finally murders you with that saber of his.” Something about that made me actually laugh.

“Can I place a bet against myself, then?” Now we were both laughing. “I just don’t deal with assholes well.” 

“Or you have a deathwish, ducky. But the fact that he hasn’t yet indicates something, I suppose.” He seemed to be pondering this for a moment. “So he’s hung up on the Jakku girl, eh?”

“One way or another, not that he’s gonna tell me which of course,” I murmured. “I feel like a substitute for her. In a bad way.”

“Has he got a crush on you too, then? Rumors aside, in all honestly that would terrify me, to be the subject of his… ardor.” He grimaced, like it made him nervous just thinking about it. Like he could fathom exactly the kind of obsessive, desperate, and terrible admirer Kylo was.

“I don’t fuckin’ know. I doubt it, is the thing. I think if he does, it’s just bleed-over from her. Which I do not like.” I grumbled. Totally not jealous, remember? Why be jealous of that shit, anyway? When I could just figure out how to talk to Matt? “He’s acting weird, sometimes, though. Like maybe in a good way but mostly in an uncomfortable-to-just-bad way.” Like that entire flight back from Kaller. I’ll be real with y’all, in retrospect, I was totally just in denial that I desperately wanted to know if he thought he was nuzzling me that morning, or if he thought he was nuzzling Rey. Not that I wanted to do anything about it, necessarily, because the idea of being nuzzled by him was anxiety-inducing. Getting aggressively fucked from behind would’ve been one thing, but actual affection from Kylo Ren? Noooooooo.

“They act strange when they don’t know how to deal with their feelings, don’t they?” he sighed heavily. 

“You know what I mean, doncha?” I asked him, smiling knowingly. He rolled his eyes.

“Do I ever. I’ve got one even as we speak, just towing me along like he’s got a bloody tractor beam. I should know better than to expect honesty from the men on this damn ship, but they’re my only option. Can’t very well live on planetside trysts alone.” He shrugged.

“I’m sorry, Duff. At least there’s a bajillion people on this boat.” 

“Long as I’ve been in this army, ducky, it’s starting to feel like there aren’t that many. But, it’s quite alright. I’ve survived worse.” He glanced out my window ruefully. “I’m sorry the Supreme Leader is such a mess, but it’s good you’re not pining, yourself.” I felt a pang of guilt-- or self-loathing, maybe-- when he said that. “What about the technician? Have you confessed your love yet?” His smile got playful again. I groaned.

“I tried, but I totally chickened out. I’m so nervous about this one, Duffy.”

“You poor thing. What happened?”

“Well…” I tried to sort out the shareable details from the super-top-secret ones. “I told him I like -liked him. You know, with the emphasis ‘n all that. But he didn’t seem to get it at all! And I just bullshitted my way out of explaining. But then he was weirdly snuggly after that. Platonically, of course. He’s an awkward one, so it was really cute, but I’m so fuckin’ confused. I’m not an alien, right? People here know what it means when someone says they like you, don’t they?” 

“I mean, usually,” Mitaka replied, brow knitting. “Emphasis is the key I suppose. Do you think he’s playing dumb for some reason?” I frowned.

“God I hope not. I don’t know! Wouldn’t that mean he didn’t like me back?” I really didn’t like that notion, even a little.

“Not necessarily, ducky. He might be just as nervous as you, I mean you did say he was an awkward one. Perhaps it’s just been awhile for him,” he suggested. “Or maybe he doesn’t think it’s a good idea because you’re the Supreme Leader’s apprentice?” Christ. He really could just be scared shitless that Kylo wouldn’t be into it. Even though Kylo literally just said he wouldn’t get in the way and was kinda rude about not feeling the same way, too. Which was extremely unnecessary.

“Well, alright, I guess that didn’t occur to me. I forget the effect Kylo has on people,” I replied, rubbing my forehead. “Man, that sucks. I hope that’s not true, ‘cuz then I’m getting fuckin’ cock-blocked by Kylo and I can’t even get mad at him for it.” The lieutenant laughed. 

“You could probably have a good roll in the bantha hay with someone low enough in the ranks, ducky, but I could see how a sustained relationship with Ren’s pupil might be anxiety-inducing,” he commented. 

“Yeah, I bet it’s like knowing someone has a scary dad at home with a shotgun he’s ready to point at his kid’s new boyfriend, if he decides he doesn’t like ‘em,” I mused. “‘Cept Kylo is like, the opposite of dad material. More like a creepy other boyfriend who I’m not even dating, which just makes it much weirder.” 

“Precisely. Or perhaps he believes the rumors about you, or something like that. Who knows, unless you get him talking.” He raised an eyebrow at me pointedly.

“I know, I know. I get it.” I rolled my eyes, then looked back at him curiously. “So what are all the rumors about me, anyhow? Other than my apparent sexual relationship with Kylo, or the looming potential of my death because I’m pathologically disobedient?”

“Oh, the rumors abound, ducky. Some of them are quite ridiculous,” he replied with his high little chuckle. “My favorite thus far has been that you’re from another dimension, and appeared here to alter the course of the future. For good or ill, depending on who you ask.” 

I stared just a little. Um, that’s a little… disturbingly… accurate??? Except for altering the future, I don’t know how the fuck I’m supposed to do that when I don’t know what the future is, even.

“Wow, and I thought I was crazy. Totally off the wall,” I murmured. “What else?”

“Let’s see, there’s the usual boring ones about you being a spy, of course. I’m sure we know where those came from,” he said, rolling his eyes. “One is that you’re a Jedi, possibly returned from the grave. Another, that you’re actually someone from Ren’s past, some old flame or another. Or someone from Hux’s past, since he tried to do away with you so hastily and in such ill-advised fashion. They all say you’re mad, of course, but then again they say something similar about Ren himself.” He shrugged. “I believe there are some legends where using the Force causes a madness, or perhaps the other way ‘round, who knows.”

“Huh,” I murmured. That was a lot of weird shit, but I was considering playing into some of it later if I needed to. Mostly to scare off nosy people. “How is Hux, by the way? He never calls, he never writes.” I smirked.

“Oh, he’s quite put out. Very ill-tempered, and rather reclusive, and a terrible subordinate. He’s so used to being in charge,” Mitaka said, and his half-grin was sardonic as hell and I felt deeply comforted by it. Because fuck that guy. “He’s been strange, though. A little too withdrawn, I feel like. I know shame can do that to a person, but he’s so very melodramatic.”

“Interesting.” And ominous , I thought. Maybe I just felt extra paranoid, given our history, but I didn’t like thinking about Hux skulking around being devious and weird. I didn’t like thinking about Hux at all, because every time I did I remembered what he said about Kylo not letting me go. To say nothing of the literal torture. But I was starting to wonder. “Duffy, can you do me a favor?”

“Depends on the favor, but what?”

“Can you maybe keep a lowkey eye on Hux for me? I don’t trust him, for reasons I won’t get into. More than just what he did to me, though.”

“Oh,” he replied, seeming surprised. “You want me to tell you if I notice anything untoward?” God he was so British-sounding, even though there was no Britain in Star Wars. Just inexplicable British accents.

“Yeah, you don’t have to go out of your way or get in trouble or anything. But I’d appreciate it.” 

“Sure, ducky. I’ll do my best.”

“Thanks.” It was a little bit of relief, I realized, to have someone other than Kylo/Matt looking out for me. Though, Lucky did snoop that one time when Hux barged into the medical bay to try and scare me off. Maybe the droid was lowkey looking out, too.

“I’ve got to run off, though. It’s nearly past my bedtime,” he said, and eased himself up off the couch. “You let me know if you need anything, and I’ll certainly let you know if I notice anything.” I smiled.

“Yeah, thanks for that. And for coming by to chat. I really needed to get that shit off my chest.” 

“I know the feeling. You have a good night, ducky.”

“You too, Duffy.” And he left, throwing me a little farewell wave before the door slid shut. I sat there for a moment, brain on tumble-dry with all the thoughts our conversation stirred up. Then I plucked my guitar up from its leaning-spot to strum a little, and remembered most of what I tried to play. Which made me feel a bit better, too.

Chapter Text

The following evening, since Matt still hadn’t gotten back to me, I decided to wander down the to technical levels for a walk. It was after-hours, and pretty quiet, and not my room. I was gettin’ real tired of my room, but still not sure I wanted to go wandering the social environments of the ship by myself. I took my datapad with me, of course. 

I really still hadn’t processed what the fuck was going on. I hadn’t been jumping straight into using the Force for a minute, because it either didn’t work or did something I didn’t want it to. My lesson with Kylo that day had been uneventful, though he was kinda grumpy so I told him right off the bat I wanted to keep it simple, because my brain hurt. So I learned a new routine to practice, and went through the old one several times before that, and he didn’t guide me this time. Which was great, because I didn’t want him to touch me. Well, most of me didn’t want him to. The part that did was in a serious time-out.

But walking down the halls in the technical levels was strangely soothing, now that I knew that no matter how lost I got I could use my map to get back out. I used to take a lot of long drives, back home. I was forgetting some of the places I’d go, but I remembered the road rolling by under my wheels, and how free it made me feel. Here wasn’t quite the same feeling, but I was in a pleasant haze of passive investigation, looking at all the terminals along the way and peeking into random rooms that were full of what I guessed were generators or something.

As I rounded a corner, though, I stopped dead in my tracks. Just down the hall, barely twenty feet away from me, someone in a gray technician’s jumpsuit was laying on the floor, head inside an open panel with some kind of tool in hand. Someone must be working late. I decided spontaneously to scurry past them as though I had somewhere to be.

Just as I was about to sigh a sigh of relief that they didn’t see me, of course, I heard a shuffle and a soft ‘ow’.

“Aeon?” Fuck. Is that--

“Matt?” I asked, turning around. Sure enough, a shaggy blonde head was now propped up, looking at me from behind big glasses. There was a smudge of some kind of engine grease on his cheek, which was so cute.

“Hey!” he replied, smiling. “What are you doing down here?” 

“Why didn’t you answer my message?” I asked, frowning. I was kinda offended that he was out in the pilot’s seat and not talking to me, which was stupid and unfair to him, but. 

“I’m sorry, hun. I was going to, but I’ve, uh, had a lot on my mind. I needed to focus on something simple, clear my head.” He sat up, rubbing his temple, and slid the tool in his hand back into his pocket. Well, I can’t be an asshole about that. He doesn’t get the chance to do much.  

“Oh,” I murmured, feeling guilty but still kinda bummed and also deeply, painfully curious about what was on his mind, exactly. “I know the feeling. That’s why I’m here, too. ‘Cept I’m not being useful, I’m just wandering.” He chuckled at me, and leaned over to pick up the panel he’d removed from the wall and stick it back in place. 

“That’s funny, that we came to the same place,” he said. “Do you wanna walk back together?”

“I didn’t mean to interrupt you,” I murmured.

“It’s okay, I just finished.” He stood up to his full, glorious height. “C’mon, we’ll head to your room or somethin’, if you want.”

“Um, okay,” I agreed, and fell in beside him. He was being his usual sweet self, which was one part incredibly soothing and one part frustrating. Like, were we gonna talk about what happened in the shuttle on Kaller? Or was he just gonna pretend nothing happened?

“You’re wearing that shirt from the market!” he remarked, smiling even wider. “That looks really nice on you.” I felt my face flush, and looked down to realize that I was, in fact, wearing one of my new things. I’d been way too deep in my head to pay attention to that earlier today.

“Aw, thanks.” Yes. Compliment accepted. Point one for me. “Did Kylo like the boots you got?” As soon as I mentioned Kylo, Matt’s face fell a little.

“Um, yeah. He did.” He looked away from me awkwardly for a moment. Oh, come on, I thought. Please can we just TALK about it? Please do NOT make me start it. I am so fuckin’ bad at that. 

“He complimented the necklace, too,” I told him. Then, I realized something. “You know, that morning on the shuttle?” I raised an eyebrow at him. Ha! There. I started it. Point two for me.

“Um, yeah, about that,” said Matt awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. “I didn’t expect that. He’s usually the one who wakes up, but I thought he wouldn’t since I didn’t, yanno. Switch out or anything. And he was so out, all day, when normally he at least lurks around. It’s hard to explain.” 

“It’s okay.” Honestly, I was just relieved as hell he was trying to explain. I might not ‘get’ how the switching works sometimes, but just knowing what was vaguely happening was great. “I mean, it was suuuper awkward,” I added, giggling. “But he tried not to be TOO weird, bless his heart.”

“Did he?” replied Matt nervously. 

“He did. He failed miserably, but he tried, and I appreciated it to be honest.” Now he was giggling a little, too. I smiled at him. “Thank you. For taking me out planetside. That was definitely the most fun I’ve had since I got here.”

“Sure, anytime,” he beamed back at me, blushing a little. Yeah I was never gonna be able to stay mad at Matt, ever. “I’m glad you had fun.”

“Maybe we can do it again, sometime?” Please?

“Maybe,” he murmured. “I’d like that.”

“Me too.” For a moment we did that cute awkward silence thing we were so good at, but then Matt suddenly stopped walking. I halted a couple of steps ahead of him, confused. “What’s wrong?”

“Someone’s coming down the hall,” he whispered. “I don’t think we should be seen, do you?” He looked very worried, so then I got worried too. 

“Shit,” I whispered back, retreating back to his side. “What do we do?”

“Back here, there’s a tool closet, c’mon.” He turned around and backtracked to an intersection of two hallways we’d just passed, and there was in fact a door in the wall. A small door. Which he opened, and revealed a really fuckin’ small closet with a mess of tools hung on all the walls. “Duck in here for a minute. Quick!” he hissed, waving his free hand anxiously. I shuffled in fast, spurred by a mounting slap of adrenaline, and tucked myself into the corner of the closet. 

I fully expected him to just shut the door and play it cool like he really did work down here, since clearly sometimes he did come fix things. So when he slid into the closet beside me and gently shut the door, my eyes flew open in surprise. It was so close in there that my nose was pressed into his chest, my arms suddenly stiff at my sides. It was totally dark, too. Shit, it’s like seven minutes in heaven, but way worse. I could hear us both breathing a little heavy from the excitement, could even feel his breath on my head. He smelled incredible, the same way he’d smelled in the shuttle. My eyes might’ve rolled back into my head a little bit, from that smell. 

He gave the softest little shh, and then I heard the boots of whoever it was coming closer. Actually, it sounded like two people, talking to each other through some kind of machine. Bucketheads, I thought. From the nearest guard station, probably. I waited to hear their boots pass by, my heart pounding, taking slow, deep breaths of that fucking amazing smell, more focused on listening to him breathe than anything else. I just barely nuzzled my nose into his chest. Just a little!!

Their voices were loud now. I waiting for them to start to taper off into the distance, but they fuckin’ didn’t. They stopped in the crossway, chatting. 

“Oh, they won’t change that thing. We already tried, the whole battalion. Fuckin’ asshole wants us ready for battle at any time, I guess,” one complained.

“Well, I can’t blame him. Those Resistance fighters been giving us the slip over and over. Doesn’t mean we should be waiting around about the home base changes though, I think. But you know how it goes,” the other replied. I was only half listening, but I knew they were probably talking shit about Kylo. Matt’s head turned, and I tried to look up at him but there was no reason to because I couldn’t see jack shit. His feet shifted almost inaudibly, his breath still coming in even.

“This new kid’s got him acting like a real moof-milker, though,” said the first trooper. “Just makes no sense, taking on an apprentice outta nowhere like that. They gotta be fuckin’.” I felt my face flush. Damn, here come those rumors Mitaka was talking about.

“Everybody says that,” groaned his companion. “You think he’s the one fuckin’, or the one gettin’ fucked?” They snickered. Holy shit, are they debating which one of us is the bottom??? 

“Kylo’s gettin’ it, hands down. Mebbe like nobody else ever gave it to ‘em. Gotta be a reason he hasn’t cut that kid in half yet.” Now I was bright red, and grateful for the total darkness. But I was kinda smirking, too. Because they thought Kylo was the bottom, and that was hilarious .

“Midge just tagged a bet that he would in the next month, though. Maybe we should start taking bets on who’s givin’ and who’s gettin’,” suggested one of the troopers. HAH. I barely suppressed a laugh. 

“I’m gonna bring it up after shift. How we gonna find out, though?”

“Gotta play the long game, buddy. It’ll become clear one day.” They laughed again.

“Alright, I’m headed to the lower level. See ya ‘round. 

“Have a good shift, man.”

“You too.” 

Finally, their footsteps parted in two different directions and slowly started to fade. I let out a slightly deeper breath where I’d trapped my laughter. Matt sighed.

“That was close,” he whispered.

“You think we can go now?” I asked.

“Probably,” he replied.

“Then why are we whispering?” He snorted.

“Fair enough,” he murmured, and his low voice was so close to my ear I almost jumped. I found myself trying to look around again, even though it was completely dark. 

“Where’s the door button?” I started feeling around beside me, only to slap my hand into something that felt like his arm. My heart fluttered when I touched it. His hand gripped my arm back, as if to stop us flailing into each other.

“Oops, not there,” he chuckled. He released my arm and went back to feeling around, or trying to. “Shit. Can I feel behind you on the wall for a sec?”

“Uh, sure,” I muttered, and he wrapped one arm around me and pressed me gently but firmly into his chest while one arm started to feel along the wall of tools for a button. Ohmigod. It’s like I’d never fuckin’ touched him before, or something. Or maybe just every time was so loaded with unresolved romantic tension that only got WORSE… Suddenly he slipped, and was leaning onto me with his hand on the wall as I heard a tool clatter to the floor. My face was scrunched into his neck as he slumped over me, and I let out a startled gasp, followed by a giggle.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” he said, almost into my ear, the sound of his low voice sending a thrill all the way from my head to my toes. Could he not hear my heart racing?? Could he maybe be suddenly emboldened by the pitch darkness, perhaps? Could I be emboldened by it??? 

“It’s okay,” I said. Then, at the same moment, he turned his head down and towards me and I lifted my head up and towards him, because we were still habitually trying to look around despite it being a totally futile effort. My cheek brushed against his chin as we did, and then I could tell by the soft breeze of his breath on my face that we actually would have been looking at each other, had there been even a little light. My heart almost pounded its way outside of my body and left me behind to figure my shit out, to be honest. I had no idea how close we were, but it had to be so fucking close. 

“We need a new plan,” he murmured. Oh fuck oh God he is SO close, I can almost feel his lips moving. This is your chance on a silver platter you fucking moron!! Literally could not be any easier!! What are you afraid of???

But we all know what I was afraid of. Rejection. For reasons not yet communicated, maybe the reasons Mitaka and I had wondered about. Maybe some other reason I had no way of guessing. Whatever it was that kept Matt from saying something, from doing something, from even talking about it… if it meant I’d have to get this close only to be rejected… Fuck. This sucks. I am such a fucking baby.

“Yeah,” I breathed, my lower lip trembling. Was this divine providence, trying to smash our two faces together? Or were the Star Wars gods gonna be just as cruel about this one as they were about everything else that had happened here? We were breathing in time with each other, for fuck’s sake. Heavily. I wanted to just go ahead and drop dead on the spot. This was officially way, way worse than any other situation so far.

He pushed himself off the wall, and even though our bodies were still pressed together his face was no longer that close. One of his hands started to reach out behind him, feeling along the wall there. I felt my heart start to sink. With a sudden, violent burst of light, the door flew open. Immediately I stumbled out of the tiny space, the air in the hall nice and cool and refreshing. I blinked, and rubbed my eyes. 

“Wow. It was right there the whole damn time,” Matt said as he stepped out of the closet and shut the door behind him. He also rubbed his eyes, and shook his head. “I’m such a bolt-head.” I almost laughed, but I wanted to cry a little too because of how much I hated myself for being so scared to be rejected. Time to divert with a joke!

“You know, I think we should move in. It’s got a great bedroom suite.” I raised my eyebrows at Matt, and he laughed. “Not an ideal location, but I mean. For the price.”

“You’re so silly,” he giggled, smiling at me. His face was very flushed, as I imagine mine also was. God I adored him so entirely. I vowed to myself at that moment that the next time I saw him, or I would message him on the goddamn datapad if I had to, I WAS gonna find out once and for all if we could make out or not. Just not, you know, right then. But next time!! “Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine,” I assured him, sighing. “Just hope we don’t have to do it again before we get outta this maze.” I offered a half-hearted chuckle. I was trying, dammit, but I felt like the biggest fool in the galaxy. We started walking again, Matt guiding me towards the exit. We managed to be quiet for a while and it wasn’t awkward, probably because I was lost in my own thoughts. When we finally arrived at the exit, I sighed. I didn’t know if I wanted him to come to my room or not, after all that. It was only gonna prolong my apparent inability to just use my fuckin’ words. Which was gonna prolong my feeling like an idiot. 

“You okay?” he asked me as we stepped through the doors. He seemed concerned.

“Yeah. I’m okay,” I said, though I doubt it was convincing. “I just got so tired all of a sudden. Lessons have been more physical lately, with the saber training and everything.” 

“Oh, I bet. You want me to walk you home? It’s pretty much on my way.”

“Yeah, thanks. I appreciate that.” And so we started walking again, still silent, still ruminating. Maybe I was gonna have to message him, after all. If that was the only way to say the words that needed to be said, then fuck it. Plus then, if I got rejected and ended up crying, I wouldn’t feel like an asshole for it. Nobody had to see.

“Aeon,” came his voice, and I stopped walking only to realize that I’d walked right past my own door. Matt stood there, looking at me with an increasingly worried expression. “Hun, you sure you’re alright? You seem kinda out of it.”

“I’m okay, I promise. I’m sorry for acting weird. I’m just worn totally out.” I opened the door to my room, and stepped through it. Turning around to put my hand on the control, I looked up at him. His face was sad. 

“I hope you get some rest, then,” he said, quietly. Oh my GOD WHAT IS WRONG??? Please don’t be sad, Matt! No. Stop. He’s allowed to be sad. You’re also sad. Just go chill and compose your message. This is gonna go belly-up if you try this right now. Trust me. I gave him a little smile, but it was sincere.

“Thank you, Matt. You too. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

“Okay. I’ll answer your ping next time, I promise,” he assured me. My smile got a smidge bigger.

“Okay. Goodnight,” I said softly to him, waving my hand as the door slid shut.

“G’night,” he replied, just before the door closed.

I stood there for a moment, frowning at my door. I hate this. I hate feeling like I don’t know what to do, or like it’ll hurt too much. I can’t even remember the last time I acted like this. I sighed and turned to sit on the couch, and picked up my guitar to strum again. In the middle of singing “Unchained Melody,” though, I finally started to think about what I should say. Putting the instrument aside, I pulled out my datapad and started a new blank document and began to write.

Chapter Text

I was so bummed out about my failure with Matt that I honestly forgot to be stressed about my next lesson with Kylo. I’d rewritten that message I’d started about four times, and I knew that once I got out of Sith-ergarten for the day I’d probably go right back for the fifth. All my confidence from earlier was gone-- I wasn’t thinking it at the time, but I know I was probably feeling kinda weird about the whole Rey problem, too. I fully expected more swinging a wooden sword around, grouchy comments from Kylo, maybe more of a special flavor of aloofness after his big fuckup. 

I did not expect him to call me to the meditation room and present me with a bunch of what looked an awful lot like lightsaber parts. Guess what happened?

“Wait, already?” I asked him as he held out the box to me. “My crystal hasn’t even picked a color yet!” 

“Don’t worry, it will take a little while to build. I want to be sure and train you properly, for whatever weapon you choose,” he replied, face very sober. He seemed sincere but very businesslike, not grouchy, which made no fucking sense to me. I wonder if he’s just avoiding combat because of what’s been happening? 

“Um. Okay.” I took the box from him, sifting through the parts casually like I knew what literally any of them were for. “I’m just making a regular one, right?”

“That’s up to you. Do you want a ‘regular one’?” He raised an eyebrow at me, as though he’d expected more, somehow. That just made me self-conscious. Wow, now that I’m your prodigy or whatever, I can’t just be like… scooching by on the bare minimum? Even though I’m suuuper fuckin’ emotionally compromised? I should’ve been feeling elated, even grandiose, about getting a light saber. Two days ago I would’ve been. But today, I felt like agitation was starting to bleed into all the places where recent bullshit had left holes in my confidence.

“I haven’t really been thinkin’ ‘bout it, to be honest. Didn’t you get your design from your crystal getting cracked? The whole cross-guard thing…” Caused a pretty big wave among the fans, I thought. I admit, I started out as a skeptic, but after watching the movie the cross-guard kinda made a lot of sense. Kylo’s face looked strained, like he hated it every time I knew something about his past he hadn’t already told me. Tough titty, Supreme Dickhead. I know what I know.

“Yes.” He looked at me for a moment. “But there are many varieties of Force weapons. You could build whatever you wanted.” 

“I… sorta wanna learn the basics first?” I was feeling limp as hell that day. No bright ideas, no manic sense of purpose or inspiration. Nothing as impressive as that one session ended up being. I glanced out the window at the planet we were in orbit over, which was full of yellow and orange clouds of unbreathable gasses. “Is the Force gonna let me know what kind I should build, or something?” 

“You make that choice yourself. The Force may guide your steps, but you have to take responsibility for the direction you choose.” I wondered if he spotted the deep level of irony in his statement. Probably not. I wasn’t feeling spunky enough to point it out to him. Not yet, anyway. “I can help you, though.” Now I looked back at him, ever so slightly suspicious. Nevermind that he was my teacher, and that was exactly what he was supposed to do. 

“Okay… how, exactly?” 

“Sit,” he instructed, so I took a seat on one of the pillows. He followed suit, facing me. I put the box of parts in between us on the floor, and looked back at him doubtfully. “You don’t have to know what every part of the saber does right now. What’s more important is how you fight, and how you plan to use it.” 

“So like, self-defense? Form 3?” I asked. I knew Form 3 was all about deflecting blaster shots, pretty much. I couldn’t think of any other reason for me to use a light saber, as the only two people I was aware of who also had them were him and Rey. And I didn’t want to actually end up dueling either of them. 

“Sure,” he agreed, although he seemed a little exasperated. He let out a huff. “The third form is a given, I’ll teach you that regardless. But beyond that, Aeon? What you do anticipate? What do you know about yourself, as a fighter?” 

Was he kidding?

“Nothing,” I said flatly. “I told you, I’m not trained in anything. I know jack shit about fighting, dude.”

“I don’t just mean combat. How do you approach disputes with other people? Or intervene with confrontation not directed at you?” I frowned.

“My therapist says I avoid confrontation. I don’t like it much but I reckon she’s right.” 

“Why don’t you like it?”

“Because... I hate running away. I hate feeling like I can’t defend myself.” Yet again, Lessons with Kylo was starting to feel like therapy. But with a therapist who probably wanted me to get really, really mad. 

“So what do you do when you have to defend yourself against someone?” He was looking at me intently, which was always a mixed bag. I stared back at him for a moment. 

You want to hurt them, came a voice in my ear. It wasn’t Kylo’s. I froze, horrified. Why were the voices back??? You want to stop the fight before it starts, just like you told him before. Did you tell him why? You know you’re a cruel person. That’s why you want so desperately to be good. I swallowed nervously. 

“Throw pillows at them, obviously,” I murmured, trying to joke even as the voices hissed at me. Kylo narrowed his eyes.

“Answer me, Aeon,” he said, his voice growing an edge. You want to defend yourself, but since you can’t, you want to make sure there’s nothing to defend against. Eliminate threats. By whatever means necessary, even if they’re terrible means. And you love feeling able to do that. You love being cruel. It feels strong. You are wicked, and you still feel weak when you can’t be that. Because you are weak. 

“On Earth, there’s a lot of different kinds of martial arts,” I started slowly, bullying past the voices as best I could. “There’s one called aikido, from Japan, that focuses on a kinda spiritual and physical harmony, I guess. It’s meant for self-defense, and it emphasizes protecting your attacker from injury as well.” Kylo’s eyebrow was raised again, but he was listening curiously. “There’s another one called hapkido, from Korea. It’s almost like aikido’s evil twin. It focuses on controlling your opponent, and finding the quickest possible way to take them down. To…” I gulped. I hate quoting the voices. But this time, they were right. “To end the fight before it starts, no matter how cruel you have to be. That’s my gut instinct. I’ve been spending a lotta time trying to get better at the aikido approach, though.” 

For a moment, he just eyed me. The edge of anger seemed to leave his face, at least. 

“Interesting,” was all he said. For real, dude? I just confessed some gnarly shit to you, and that’s all you have to say? That’s sooo helpful, thank you. “Do you want to know what I saw?” Now, I was paying attention.

“What did you see?” I wondered if I really wanted to know.

“Can I show you?” he asked, and he slipped his glove off one hand. Then he held it out to me, palm displayed. I was soooo not fucking sure about that. Did he see the truth about you? Will he? And will he exploit it? Will you let him?

“You’re not gonna read my thoughts are you?”

“No, I’m going to let you see mine.” Oh. Well, fuck. That almost made me MORE nervous. Everything about Kylo was making me nervous, today. Like, not only was I not even about to let go of the latent fear that he might cut me in half if I pissed him off enough, but now I was plagued by how simultaneously sexy and hot/cold he was. A combination that was at least one of my various brands of kryptonite, back in the day. But I reached out, my fingers shaky, and pressed my palm against his. I guess it’s time to find out what he really thinks of me, maybe.  

I was back in the training hall, only I was looking at... myself. Which was gonna make me feel very fucking dissociated later, I had a feeling. I hadn’t looked at myself much since arriving here. Then, I was sparring with myself, and I realized I was in a memory of our lesson from just the other day when things got… weird. But I was reacting as Kylo, seeing the whole thing through his eyes.

The dance of it was beautiful, at first. I felt such a profound presence of the Force, like it was flowing quick and powerfully through me. Something about it was almost a relief, like the movement was rare, a break from its usual overwhelming presence. I couldn’t hear the thoughts of Matt or Ben, or sense any kind of presence from them at all. I realized belatedly that the flow of power wasn’t just moving through me as Kylo-- it was running between Kylo-me and the me that I was watching. Like a loop, a circuit that we both fed and consumed hungrily.

Up the stakes, Kylo thought. Or, I thought. God it was weird being someone else in their own memory. See if the response is good. Then, our dance switched from harmony to contest. I thought I was remembering that feeling of my core growing warm from my own memory, the feeling of my cheeks flushing and my heartbeat picking up. Then, I realized it was Kylo’s memory of that same feeling. Yes! This is incredible. The Force seems to be the guide… Oh, you can do better than this. So much energy and power! You say you can’t fight, but the Force is with you. And then other-me was smirking, looking at me through their eyebrows, but I saw a familiar knit of concentration there too. Like I was watching myself get really fucking focused, really fucking intent. I was responding to other-me’s attacks the same way I remembered responding to Kylo’s, just barely quick enough, even though I was clearly holding back and just seeing what I would have to react to. That’s cute. You’re getting cocky… But I felt very strongly that I liked watching other-me get cocky. I liked the spark, the interplay, the struggle between us for power. It felt new, exhilarating, and something about how much other-me seemed to be enjoying it too… I wanted to impress other-me. I wanted to give a little, stoke the flames, then subdue other-me just enough to make them in awe, make them appreciate what I could teach, what I could offer them, make them want it...

Suddenly I was sitting back in the meditation room, and Kylo’s hand was curling away from mine. I blinked, and shook my head trying to re-absorb into my own perspective. He looked at me, his expression gone sober again. I glanced at my crystal, which was glowing purple. 

“You engage with your opponent, Aeon. Beyond just crossing blades with them. It’s not always like this, between those who use the Force. Usually it’s a battle to see who's walls can be broken down first. But you don’t want to invade others, you want them to show themselves,” he was saying. I was mostly listening, but part of me was realizing a few things about the memory I’d just seen. Experienced. Whatever.

“Um,” I replied, my brain going several directions at once. Did he really want to impress me, that day? I blinked some more. “What does that mean?”

“It means you would make a duelist unlike any other left alive,” he said. I side-eyed him hard. I was not feeling grandiose, today. This compliment seemed highly suspect. “You use the other person’s energy as much as your own. There used to be duelists like that, years ago, in the Old Republic and before it.” 

“There are only two people with lightsabers left alive,” I pointed out. 

“Yes, and while I could’ve overwhelmed you with my own skills, I sensed something different from you. You sought out the connection between us, our similarities. You weren’t reacting only out of self-defense, and you didn’t want to just end the fight until the very end. For a minute there I think you were enjoying it.” 

“So were you,” I rebutted, crossing my arms. 

“I haven’t in a long time,” he said, and there was another ghost of a grin on his face. This one was suuuper faint, but I could see it.

“How is this helpful, though, Kylo? I don’t plan on dueling anyone,” I reminded him. 

“This flow of the Force between you and your opponent can affect your use of the saber at any time,” he explained. “You could use it in blaster combat, any kind of prolonged confrontation. You already use it interpersonally.” 

“What?” I asked, defensive. I do not! It sounded way too much like he was accusing me of being manipulative. And I’d already gotten enough of that shit from him last time.  

“You do it to me all the time,” he pointed out flatly. Okay, that was true. 

“Yeah well, I have to fight with you. You’re… you.” 

“But that time you actually liked it. That changed everything about the combat. If you had the training I’ve had...” He shook his head. I silently thanked the universe that I didn’t have that training. “Mace Windu designed the Vapaad form for that exact thing!”

“What about when I didn’t like it?” I prodded. He’d pulled out of the little Vulcan mind-meld before we got to that part. The part where I got aggro. Where I wanted to win too much. He frowned.

“That’s just because you wanted to prove something to me--”

“Did I?” Of course I did, why else would I want to win? But fuck him, for pointing that out.

“Aeon, you’re enough like me. I know what you wanted.” 

What the fuck? Did he just say I’m LIKE him??? I felt myself getting angry, and flustered.

“Right before that you wanted to prove something to me !” I retorted, no longer squeamish about using his memory against him. You didn’t break the connection before I felt THAT, you fucker! “Do you just wanna make me into your little prodigy, Kylo? Are you sure you care about who I am at all, or is this about you?”

“Who you are has everything to do with what I’m teaching you!” he replied, his voice starting to get louder.

“Who I was ,” I spat back. “Not who I was trying to be. Not who I want to be. I want to be better than I was. How can you teach me that?”

“I can’t.” I looked at him, slightly shocked. He was surprising me more and more as time went by. The writers really hadn’t done him any justice at all, at least not in complex relationships. And this shitshow was getting pretty fucking complex. “I can’t teach you that. I can teach you how to use what you have. But you do have a darkness, Aeon, and it will make you powerful if you want it to.”

“And if it corrupts me?” I asked him, my voice going quiet, my heart turning sour with the fears I continually didn’t acknowledge because they were that terrifying. “What then? Who am I gonna be when I go back home?”

“I don’t know. But you have a home here, now, if you want it.” I blinked. A home here? I felt the deep, guttural pang of wishing I could remember my dad’s face. Or my childhood dog’s name. Or the other half of my mom’s favorite song. “You don’t have to be lost, if we never find out how to get you back.”

“I have to get back.” I was increasingly full of horror at what he was saying, and starting to panic. Was Hux right? Was he just planning to keep me here? Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. No. Fuck you! “I can’t…. I can’t stay here, Kylo, I can’t.”

“Okay, then we’ll keep looking,” Kylo replied immediately, tone businesslike. What?  

“You’re… you’ll let me go?” Why do I not believe you?

“Yes.” He was looking at me resolutely. Like he’d learned something, in the last movie, perhaps? About letting people go? Hah. Doubt it. “Trust me.” I did not trust him.

“We’ll see,” I murmured. I was so stressed out in that moment that I heard my tone slip into something angry, defensive. I ran my hand through the light saber parts, unable to keep eye contact for that moment. I couldn’t just trust Kylo Ren. That’s not how anything works. Right? I glanced back at him, frowning.

“Can you at least pretend to respect me, then?” he growled, like he was starting to get angry again, too. Like me not warming up to his enthusiasm about my potential, or trusting him at all, actually... upset him. That just made me mad. How dare he try to be a decent person at a time like this, anyway? 

“I guess I can do my fucking best,” I growled back, throwing some little metal thing I’d picked up back into the tray with unnecessary force. “But you have to earn my respect too, just like I have to earn yours.”

“I am the Supreme Leader of the First Order!” Then he actually stood up, looking down at me with his fists clenched. He was officially Pissed. “I don’t have to earn anything else.”

“I don’t give a shit about the First Order!” I stood up immediately, though that did very little to alleviate the sense that he was much, much taller than me. My cheeks were burning, I was soooo fucking tired of the rank system bullshit. So very tired of being put in my place, when I didn’t sign up to be there. “I just give a shit about you , Kylo. About how you treat me, and everyone else. So far you basically just bully people, and that’s not fuckin’ respectable!”

“I oughta make you clean my goddamn floors or something, you have no discipline at all. Which is the worst possible trait for an apprentice,” He was looming over me now, but I puffed up closer in response, my heart starting to pound in my chest and my ears. “Or I could put you in an escape pod, let you die on some outer-rim shithole, or try and crawl back to me if you think you can. How’s that for bullying?”

“You’re being childish now, it’s not a good look,” I spat. “I thought you might be growing past that bullshit. God, how did Matt end up being so sweet while you ended up being like this?”

“Matt didn’t keep us alive!” he shouted, and I knew I’d REALLY made him angry. I wasn’t paying attention at the time, but I had officially engaged in enjoying fighting with him. Otherwise why would I have gone for the jugular like that? Comparing Kylo to Matt when there obviously was no comparison? When clearly alters are each their own person, and there was no reason they should have been similar? “Matt couldn’t tolerate Snoke’s training, couldn’t face Luke betraying us, couldn’t protect us and that’s why I’m here. Because he was WEAK!”

“Don’t you get it? That’s exactly what I’m trying to fuckin’ say to you! Just being powerful isn't all that makes you strong, and kindness isn’t weak! Cruelty, defensiveness, that shit’s weak!” Oho, does he want to talk to ME about what weakness is? The guy who smashes holes in his own ship instead of going to therapy? Nevermind that I had started out this fight being defensive, and was now progressing into being cruel. He looked straight into my eyes and started walking towards me slowly, even though there were only two feet between us. I took a step backwards without realizing it. “You can’t just Force-choke everyone to get what you want and expect me to respect you!”

“But you love being cruel, don’t you, little one?” he said, and his tone had fallen much quieter, and MUCH more ominous, and I felt a pang of something rise up in my core. I should have been terrified. I’m not good at being scared when I really, really should be, I’m sure y’all noticed. It made me fucking furious when he called me that. And I was even more furious that it always… turned me on. I shivered. God I hate you.

“Not as much a you love being strong, breaking everything, fucking forcing everyone to submit,” I snarled. I had to take another step back because he was still coming towards me. “You can’t make me submit to you, Kylo. You’ll have to kill me first.” Another step back, and I bumped into the cold glass wall, the gas giant spinning behind me. Shit.

“I don’t have to make you,” he growled, his dark eyes absolutely predatory. Shit shit shit shit shit. “You want to. I know you do.” 

This caused two equal and opposite reactions in me: I wanted to slap him, because he deserved it for trying that you-know-you-want-it shit with me like I’d never heard it before. I also wanted him to stop being right. Fuck I wish you were an acceptable candidate for a nice sound fucking, I really do, but you are such a shithead. Uuuugh. I would give anything to be stuck in a closet with Matt right now. Instead I’m here getting riled up by THIS asshole. 

“What makes you think that?” I hissed up at him. “You inside my head now? Breaking our agreement?”

“Because that’s why you want me to earn your respect, isn’t it?” He bent his head down towards me a little. His smirk was completely insufferable. “If I earn your respect, I’ve earned your submission.” 

To be honest, I hated him more than fucking anything in that moment. For being exactly fucking right. I had no idea if he understood just how overtly sexual those feelings were, of course. I clenched my thighs together, trying to contain the desire that was blossoming there. 

“I think you’re just saying that to piss me off,” I said, and for the second time in two days I was inches away from that face. This time it was Kylo’s, though, and my heart was racing with how much I didn’t want to do the thing I was feeling so deeply, viscerally compelled to do.

“You think so, little one?” he purred. Oh, God. His voice was so deep and so close that it sent shivers down my spine. 

“Yes, and that’s not how you earn anyone’s respect.” I don't know how my voice stayed so steady.

“How do I earn your respect, then?” Hatefuck me right now against this window? SHUT UP BRAIN. STOP IT. Plus that’s bullshit anyway, you won’t respect either him or yourself after that. BUT GOD. THIS IS THE WORST. I felt like I was back in college, when certain unhealthy coping mechanisms were pretty much my way of life. Almost involuntarily, my head moved just a little closer to his, and I managed to tug it back before it was too late.

“Respect me first, asshole. Ask me, before you choke me.” At the time I thought that was a pretty funny little jab, but I’m starting to think it was more of an epic Freudian slip. For a moment, I swear to God I felt a hand wrapping around my neck, not squeezing but running its thumb over the front of my throat like it really, really wanted to. That did NOT help the situation with my lamentable state of scarousal AT ALL. Goosebumps formed all over my chest and arms. But Kylo’s hands were still balled into fists at his side?? His nostrils flared, like he wasn’t sure what to say. Or like he was about to explode. I wasn’t sure which. I kept eye contact with him belligerently, though. I was more than ready to chuck him at the glass wall again, if the temptation to kiss him got too strong. Come at me, bro.

But he was stepping away from me, backing off, standing up straight. Getting out of my face. Which was the respectful thing to do, tragically. Despite being pressed up against the cold window, my whole body was flushed and hot.

Then, in typical Kylo fashion, he turned without another word and marched out. 

“Jesus Christ,” I swore at the empty room. “Fuck you, Kylo Ren, fuck you and every single self-destructive instinct you pull right outta me like I’m fucking 18 years old all over again!” I turned and kicked the window behind me, to absolutely no avail. Putting my hands up on the glass, I breathed hard for a minute. Looking at the planets outside usually made me feel better. But at that moment, my relationships with Kylo and Matt felt like they were both on the edge of a precipice. My crystal was still glowing, purple light bouncing off the window back at me, but it was dim. I glanced back at the tray of parts behind me. I wanted to throw them everywhere, but instead I tried to just lift them with the Force. Just to see.

Nothing happened. The focal point of my anger was gone.

“God dammit !” I slammed my hands against the glass, furious and scared. When I felt agitated and depressed like this, the Force seemed to come only in those huge bursts of anger. One of which I had only narrowly avoided just now. Confusion and lust and intense frustration, no dice. Fuck this.  

I left the box of parts on the floor, and marched out of the room myself, rattled.

Chapter Text

I was definitely moping in my room, staring at the message I’d rewritten to send to Matt about ten times by then, basically throwing myself a little pity party (guest list: 1) when I got a surprise message from Mitaka.

I heard Ren stormed out of the meditation room earlier today. Are you alright, ducky? I know, right? What an incredibly nice thing to do. 

Yeah, I’m okay. I’m mad as hell at him, but that’s not new.

Of course. Would you like to join me for a nice refreshing beverage about it? I smiled. I wouldn't have assumed he was such a barfly, to be honest. Being as I desperately wanted to leave my room, though, I thought about it. As long as I don’t get drunk, I’m pretty sure I’m fine.

Okay. You down at the Cockpit?

Where else? I could almost picture the dry little grin on his face.

Let me get dressed and I’ll be down there in a bit. I jumped off my bed and started rifling through the clothes in my closet, trying to pick out something cute. Why brood about Darth Tantrum And His Upsettingly Shy Alter when I could just go out with my new gay best friend and look cute? And maybe meet someone else on the ship to mope about later, yanno? I went full butch and decided to wear the vest as a shirt. Always a good look. I went for my new boots too, because why not? 

Then I was scuttling off to the little bar, which was busier tonight than it had been the last time I was there. Mitaka was at the bar, drinking something that looked for all the world like a tequila sunrise. He glanced over his shoulder and spotted me, and gave a prissy little wave of his fingers and a smile as I approached.

“Hi ducky,” he said, patting the stool next to him. “Care for anything?”

“Oh, just a fizzpop is fine,” I assured him as I sat. He gave me a look.

“You know, part of Ren’s problem is, he doesn’t cut loose enough. He takes everything much too seriously. You wouldn’t want to fall into the same trap, now, would you?” I rolled my eyes at him. Yeah, but you’re not bipolar, and neither is Kylo, I thought. 

“If I cut too loose, the whole thing flies off without me.”

“Cut just a little loose, then,” the Lieutenant recommended. “Just take the edge off. No need to get rowdy, of course.” He waved the bartender over. The bartender that night, I have to add, was a beautiful redheaded woman.

“Somethin’ for your friend, Duffy?” she asked, throwing a disarming smile at me.

“What do you prefer?” he asked me. Shit, I have no idea, I thought. What the fuck do they drink in space??

“Uh, surprise me,” I said, smiling back at the redhead. I knew there was no way I was as charming as her, and I was a little too mopey still to jump into outright flirtation. But God, I wanted to. “Only, don’t make it too sweet.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t like it too sweet either,” she assured me with a wink, before turning around to select her ingredients. I blinked after her, smile still floating on my face.

“She has that effect on people,” Mitaka commented, clearly suppressing a giggle at my expense. 

“I bet,” I sighed. “What’s her name?”

“Ask her yourself! You’ve got to cut your teeth on something, ducky. You’re practically a hermit. What with all you deal with every day, you need more friends. No, you deserve more friends.” He nodded sagely at me, sipping his orange and red drink. “Did he lose his temper again today?”

“He always loses his temper,” I growled. “He wakes up, his temper’s already lost.”

“You sure you don’t always give him something to lose it over?” he replied, giving me a sly grin. I groaned.

“Please stop callin’ me out, right now, Duffy. I just got here.”

“I knew it. The way you spoke to Phasma? I knew you had to be giving Ren a hard time. To his face, no less. You’re the bravest person on board.”

“Or the most fuckin’ stupid person,” I posited. That felt more true, at the moment.

“Aren’t they mistaken for the same thing often enough?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders. “Anyway. You need an outlet for all your... frustration. It’s only natural.” I wasn’t sure if he was saying this because he meant it, or for the benefit of the bartender who was walking back over towards us with a drink in her hand. Her jumpsuit was unzipped enough from the top to give her just a suggestion of cleavage. Was it like that before?

“Here y’go, boss,” she said to me, sliding the glass over. It was full of a faintly glowing, translucent white liquid over a few cubes of ice and with some kind of fruit cut in a spiral over the top. It looked… well. Like a drink in space should look, to be honest. Way too fucking cool to make sense. I picked it up and sniffed it. It smelled like vanilla and sage, and the faint cut of ethanol. “Tell me what ya think?” she added, looking at me with an expression that was either a pout or a challenge and I didn’t know which. Her boldness was starting to activate the part of my brain that just loooooooves it some chemical mood boosters. I held the glass up and held my eye contact with her as I brought it to my mouth and took a sip.

“It’s delicious,” I told her, smirking a little. She gave a self-satisfied little smile, and leaned over onto the bar with her arms crossed. This afforded me a hell of a view, and I wondered distantly if she did this to all her patrons or if it was just me. Nice as the view was, I was more drawn to her eyes. They were pale green, and heavy-lidded, and not afraid to match my eye contact at all.

“There’s more waitin’ back here, soon as you want it,” she purred, and I couldn’t help but lift an eyebrow at her as she stood up again and walked over to greet another customer. 

“Ooh, ducky, I think she likes you,” Mitaka giggled.

“I think I like her, but it’s just a guess,” I replied. “I’ll know once she stops puttin’ me on, and we start talkin’ for real.” 

“You really do take things too seriously,” he chided me.

“I like it when people actually try a little for me, yanno?” Like how Kylo has to try and like, I dunno, treat me like a person instead of a machine he can bully into working? Matt doesn’t have to try, though. He’s already perfect. 

“Would that I were so choosy,” the man lamented, sighing. 

“You still lettin’ that one guy string you out?”

“Tragically, yes. But I may lose my patience sooner than he expects.”

“I’d cut ‘em off, if I were you. Greener pastures.”

“We’ll see,” he muttered. “Have you talked to your little technician crush yet?”

“No,” I said flatly. Duffy looked at me reproachfully. “I’m tryna write out what to say, though. I can’t just blurt it all out. Every time I try, my throat closes up.” I thought about that pitch-dark closet with Matt, and shivered just a little. I still felt like such a fuckin’ idiot about it.

“Well, that’s a good step, at least,” he encouraged me. “But you just told me to cut someone off who wouldn’t be forthright with me. How long are you going to let him do the same?” Now he raised an eyebrow at me. I frowned.

“It’s part my fault for not being upfront about it,” I pointed out. “And being so dead on my feet lately. I’m so tired, and worn out from Kylo’s bullshit.”

“Fair enough, but still. You are so bottled up you might explode,” he teased me, glancing back at the bartender. “I saw you just now, the way you looked at her. You almost gave me the shivers!”

“Are there any outlets you can recommend other than recklessly casual sex, Duffy?” I asked him, despite the fact that I was smirking. At the bartender. Who was eyeing me from the other end of the bar. 

“Well, it’s karaoke night,” he mused. My head whipped back over to him.

“Seriously?” Oh, you’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding me. They have karaoke in space????

“Oh yes, I’m afraid so!” He seemed delighted. “Do you sing, then?”

“I…” About a million thoughts ran through my head. Not the least of which was Do I even know any songs that someone would sing for karaoke in Star Wars??  

“Don’t be shy!” 

“I can sing, yes,” I muttered, reluctantly. I saw his eyes begin to sparkle with mischief. “But I doubt I know any of the songs, so I’m useless in this scenario.”

“Bollocks! Everyone’s bad at karaoke, no need to be like that!” 

“You don’t understand, man. I do not know y’alls music. I am from a speck of nowhere that’s far, far away.” Ohoho, my brain said. You did the thing, you said the line, from the movie. Yes, if you’re wondering, sometimes I do get really annoyed at my own brain.

“You can give lip to the Supreme Leader, but you can’t sing onstage at a bar?” Now he was looking at me very judgmentally. 

“I can, I just can’t sing along with songs I don’t fuckin’ know, Duff. I have an instrument and everything, okay?” I regretted saying this immediately. But I was officially talking before I was thinking, and I was only halfway into my drink.

“You do? Would you play it, then?” he asked me, too brightly.

“Is it as much fun for me to play something nobody knows, though?”

“Oh come on. Just the one song, ducky. People pick up funny little ditties from planetside all the time, you don’t have to sing something everybody knows.” He was looking at me very earnestly now. “Pleeease! I’ll do a karaoke song too. To show solidarity!” I groaned. 

“Dammit. Why you gonna make me do this?”

“Because it’s FUN, you shuttle bum!” 

“I gotta go all the way back to my room and get my guitar, though.”

“Nono, you’re not getting away that easy. I’m going with you,” he declared, and promptly sucked down what remained of his drink just like that. I looked at the ceiling.

“Lord, what a fuckin’ idiot I am,” I lamented, and swallowed the rest of my drink, too. And off we went.

When we arrived back at the Cockpit from my quarters, it was… packed. Not just troopers, but uniforms of all kinds and people in off-duty clothes. 

“Is it always this busy on karaoke night?” I asked the Lieutenant, starting to feel a little nervous. I hadn’t been on a stage playing for a crowd of even semi-reasonable size for years. 

“Better than usual, tonight!” he replied, seeming pleased. He dragged me back to the bar. Just then, of course, someone started to announce the ‘event’. If you can even call bar karaoke an ‘event’.

“Just two quickies, love!” Mitaka shouted over the noise to the redhead. She nodded and winked, and then she pulled out-- you guessed it-- two shot glasses, and poured them both full of clear blue stuff. 

Oh no, said an increasingly smaller part of my brain. Not that…

“Here ya go!” she hollered over the din, and pushed them towards us. Mitaka took them and handed one to me. I shrugged. Fuck it. One shot, one song. No harm done, right? We knocked back the liquor. 

“I’ll go put us on the list, ducky,” he told me, and as he scurried away the first song began. Whatever it was, the person singing it… let me not be rude. They lacked professional training, or even amateurish practice. Standard karaoke fare, really.

“You want another one, for the jitters?” the redhead asked me, grinning. She’d already poured it, of course, and was holding it out to me. God, her eyes are somethin’ else. And her lips. And her hair…

“Thanks, darlin’,” I smiled at her, and knocked back the second shot. It always starts like this. Every time. She smiled at me as I handed her back the little glass. 

“Whatcha gonna sing me?” she asked, very flirtatiously. 

“Oh, just a song nobody’s ever heard,” I replied, shrugging. “Duffy won’t let me get outta here if I don’t.” 

“Am I gonna like it?” Her eyes were locked with mine again. My face was flushing, but probably from the alcohol.

“I sure hope so.” I hoped I looked as much like a smirking cantina scoundrel as I felt in that moment. I had not expected to meet a hot girl who was at least ostensibly into me, tonight. My brain dove right into the distraction from my Supreme Troubles. Her smile quirked, like she wasn’t expecting that response but liked it anyway, then she looked up at the stage. My eyes followed hers, and there was Mitaka with the little microphone, already rosy-cheeked and beaming. I tossed a wink back at the bartender, who I think might actually have blushed, before I sidled along through the tables to get closer to the stage. 

I don’t know what song he started singing. No idea. But hot damn, y’all. Turns out Mitaka is a beautiful tenor. That little man had a voice like an angel. I was downright impressed. Also, I think he was a popular fixture at the bar karaoke night, because people were listening to him raptly and whooping and cheering through the whole song. I clapped, too, obviously. Then, at the end of his song, came the part I’d almost forgotten to dread.

“I’d like to introduce my friend Aeon, who’s agreed to play a little song for us tonight, before we carry on squawking like mynochs!” he said, and waved at me vigorously. A wave of noise rippled through the crowd, mostly cheers I think, but there was some ooooh-ing like people were surprised, or curious. I stepped up onto the little stage, and Mitaka put the mic back on its stand as I adjusted my instrument with its strap across my shoulder. When he was done, he scuttled over to the edge and waved encouragingly at me. I raised an eyebrow at him, and leaned towards the mic.

“Hi,” I said, experimentally but also awkwardly. It hit me, right at that moment, that I’d better pick a song I’d learned recently-- or else I might’ve forgotten half of it. Shit. There was a little murmur through the crowd, which actually did look like a crowd at that point. Like, there were people standing at the door who couldn’t comfortably squeeze into a seat yet. 

“Play somethin’, baby!” came a whoop from somewhere in the back. It was almost like being back in the band. Yes, I was in a band once. Briefly. For like a year. It’s not a big deal.

“Oh, I’m gonna,” I assured the source of the voice, and that got a couple laughs. I looked down at the fretboard, and tried to think of a song that wasn’t grossly plaintive. Something… yanno, upbeat. Oh yeah. I know one.

Maybe it was the double shot I’d just taken, but my fingers started in on the chords and the song just came flowing outta me like I’d played it a zillion times. Which, to be fair, I kinda had, but. No shaky hands or anything. No thoughts about whether I’d forget it or not. No sudden stops where it turned out I had forgotten. Just a shit-kickin’ jam, man.

I been down with a broken heart since the day I learned to speak,

The devil gave me a crooked start when he gave me crooked feet,

But Gabriel done came to me and kissed me in my sleep,

And I’ll be singin’ like an angel until I’m six feet deep ,” I started, and there was a startled, rapt silence. But I wasn’t bothered, which might have been the two (2) shots at work. I started stomping in time, just like you’re supposed to for that song (it’s Brandi Carlile, look her up), and did not once look up from my fretboard. Do NOT look at the audience. 

Then with the next verse, and the stomping, and my strumming getting way more aggressive, people started to whoop. Shouts of encouragement and enjoyment and even excitement, and was someone clapping in time with my beat? I belted out the chorus, because you really can’t half-ass that song, and then people were actually cheering. All the dopamine I’d been without the last couple days came flooding back into my brain. I finished out the song, and the whole bar was hollering and clapping and someone whistled. I finally hazarded a look, and there were lots of smiles and drunk faces laughing and enjoying themselves and honestly? It was a bigger success than most of the band’s shows had been, if you consider the size of the audience. I felt myself turn a little red, even beyond whatever the alcohol had done, and waved back at them.

“Another one!” came a shout from the back somewhere, and then Mitaka was shuffling onto the stage and almost jumping with excitement.

“Another?” he asked me, and I gave him a look, and shook my head. No way, dude. There was a chorus of awwwww, which made me laugh, so I leaned over to the mic. 

“Hey, I gotta keep y’all wantin’ more, right?” I asked coyly, and my question was answered with more cheering. “Next time, then…” And then I slunk off the stage with the Lieutenant, flushed and a little exhilarated but also relieved to not be up there anymore. 

“That was fantastic!” Mitaka squeaked as we arrived back at the bar. “You have such a lovely voice, ducky! I’d no idea!”

“Speak for yourself! Your voice is amazing!” I retorted. 

“Oh, that’s kind of you,” he replied, turning a little pink. “I’ve never done much with it.”

“Okay but I can tell you’re a regular here, and I think they like you.” I grinned at him, and he waved me off.

“Oh pish tush. I’m thirsty!” he deflected, and the redhead was already over on our side of the bar with two more shots in hand. 

“That was amazing!” she shouted over the sound of the next karaoke contestant who’d started in on some very bawdy space shanty, or something. She handed us the shots, this time of a red liquid. “You really got a voice on you,” she added to me. I felt reluctant to accept the shot, like the drowning Voice of Reason in my head started wailing plaintively Please stop taking shots you really should stop taking shots pleeeease… but it was too late. My hand was already out, the shot was already in it, she was already grinning at me.

“Thank you kindly,” I replied, grinning back, and Mitaka and I knocked back our shots almost in unison. “We should start a band, Duffy.”

“Oh my,” he murmured. “Wouldn’t that be a sight? I don’t know…”

“Who’s shy now?” I asked him, trying to tease. But he was turned away from me, and when his face turned back around it was pale.

“Don’t look now, but there’s a certain recently demoted General over by the door,” he hissed into my ear, and I felt my blood turn to ice despite the liquor. But my heartbeat remained steady as I slowly handed the shot glass back to the bartender, who looked confused. 

“Would you be so kind as to bring me a glass of water, darlin’?” I asked her, smiling sweetly. She took the shot glass out of my hand, letting her fingers wrap lightly around mine in the process. 

“Sure thing,” she nodded, smiling despite her confusion at Mitaka’s change in demeanor. 

“Now you can look,” he said quietly to me, leaning slightly in the other direction. I turned casually, eyes flitting up to the stage first, then around to the crowd which I could’ve sworn had thinned significantly since I’d been up there. Sure enough, there was Hux, leaning back against the wall by the door with the usual snarl on his face. He was slightly in the shadows, but I could tell it was him. Moments after I spotted him, he turned and exited the bar. I couldn’t tell if he knew I’d seen him or not. Goddammit.

“That’s not gonna go well for him,” I assured Mitaka. He nodded at me, and sighed. “Kylo ordered me to report pretty much any time he gets even remotely close to me or tries to contact me in any way to him. Directly.”

“Did he? How protective of him.” The bartender was walking back over, and sliding him another drink before she slid the water I’d asked for over to me. 

“Mm,” I replied, turning my attention to the redhead I’d much rather be talking to or about. My ears were getting warmer, the flush of alcohol was coming back since Hux had departed. “What’s your name?” I asked the bartender finally, leaning over the bar to get closer to her.

“EV-6941, but you can call me Evie,” she replied into my ear as she leaned over.

“That’s a lovely name,” I purred, our heads remaining in close proximity so we could hear each other over the din of yet another drunk karaoke singer. “I’m Aeon.”

“I know who you are,” she replied, turning her head enough to look me in the eyes with her green ones. Something about that was unsettling, her knowing who I was already. “Most people do. Why you think it got so crowded in here, just now?” Oof. Not better.

“Oh, I reckon they wanted to see the Supreme Leader’s monkey do a trick,” I frowned, pulling away from her. 

“It’s not like that,” she reassured me quickly. “People are just… curious.” I eyed her, because the way she said that word sounded awfully interested, to me. Mitaka leaned over to me.

“My sweetheart’s gonna come by in a bit, ducky, but I’ll be here,” he told me, and I saw that he was looking down at his datapad at a message history. Uh oh, I thought. I hope it’s not time for Mitaka to get white-girl wasted and cry about this shitty boy he’s been trying to see. I nodded to him, then looked back at Evie.

“Curious, huh? What do they wanna know?” I asked her, and I tried to make it sound like a dare. 

“Oh, just… what you’re like.” She was smiling mischievously.

“They wanna know if I’m fucking Kylo Ren, don’t they?” 

“They’d wanna know if you were fucking anybody,” she pointed out. “But especially the Supreme Leader.”

“Thanks for not bullshittin’ me ‘bout that. I know some of the rumors, anyhow.” I smirked at her, taking a drink of water. Ah yes, the responsible thing to do when you haven’t been drinking almost at all for four years and you just downed one drink and three shots in a forty-minute timeframe. Drink water. That’ll fix ya right up.

“You gonna clear any of them up?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye.

“I might.” My smirk got broader. “Though I will say, I am not sleeping with the Supreme Leader. Which is too bad for him. He could do with a nice sound fucking.” This made her giggle.

“I think a lotta people around here could.” The look on her face cleared up any doubt I might’ve had left about her interest in me. What it didn’t clear up, though, was if I was actually interested in her. I mean, obviously I was interested in her. But I was struggling to decide what to do about that, because I was trying not to be impulsive. Trying.

“I’ve noticed,” I replied, running a finger around the rim of my glass rather methodically as I looked her over. I was flushed, and very confident, and totally struggling with making the right choice again. It was starting to feel like the logical reasoning ship had sailed, though. Especially when she bit her lip a little at me. She has the cutest cupid’s bow…

“You wanna hang out till my shift’s over?” she asked, leaning forward onto the bar on her elbows again. 

“When’s that?” 

“Zero-hundred hours.” Oh, midnight. I glanced at the clock on the wall behind her, which said 2330. “Not long,” she added, as if to clarify.

“Sure,” I said, and leaned towards her on the bar. I put my mouth right by her ear. “I look forward to it.” I felt her shiver a little, and that surge of excitement you get when you know you’re gonna totally get laid washed over me. She giggled just a little.

“Me too,” she murmured into my ear. I grinned, and as she pulled back away from my face I tried to throw her a smoldering look of some kind. I might’ve done it, too, except for the expression on her face when it came back into view. She was staring behind me, and she looked surprised, even scared, as she opened her mouth to stammer something. “Sir—”

“Apprentice,” came a voice that instantly sent waves of bubbling irritation over me. Shit goddammit fuck. Are you kidding me? I took a huge swig of my water to almost finish it, then turned around on my stool. Mitaka was beside me still, but he’d gone stiff as though he’d only just heard the voice himself. Sure enough, there was fuckin’ Kylo towering behind me, his hands behind his back. He was glowering as much as he ever did.

“Yes, sir?” I asked him, my elbow on the bar still. I was way too buzzed to keep my cool, and somewhere in my head I knew that, and I also knew that it didn’t matter because here he fucking was, after all. 

“It is unwise for you to be drinking.” Oho, you think I don’t know that?

“Don’t I get off-duty hours?” I asked him, frowning.

“No. You are always my apprentice, and should conduct yourself as such.” I started to realize just how quiet the bar had gotten. As though everyone but me was staring at him with the same paralyzed fear that Evie had been. I glared back at him.

“So it’s not cool for me to have like, thiiiis much fun?” I asked him, holding up my hand to indicate a tiny little space between my thumb and forefinger. “All I did was sing for karaoke night—”

“Apprentice. You will accompany me out of this bar, right now ,” he cut me off, and his voice had a special edge to it. Not the usual angry one he saved for our lessons, though. I was still getting pissed at him, but that tone he’d used was so strange, so almost-desperate, that it kinda freaked me out.

“Fine,” I growled, and slid off my barstool. “But you don’t get to give Duffy shit for havin’ fun with me. He was tryna help.” 

Now ,” he repeated expressionlessly, and turned as though waiting for me to fall in beside him. So, I did. The silence inside the bar was unbelievably awkward. I felt like a kid whose teacher had come to punish them by making them sit alone in the classroom during lunch, or something. I filed out with him as he marched on his long legs, my eyes passing over the empty place where Hux had just been as we crossed the threshold. It was late, so the hallways weren’t overcrowded, but it took me all of five minutes of walking to accidentally careen into Kylo a little. 

“Shit—”

“You are drunk,” he growled at me.

“Geez, big guy, simmer down,” I advised him, holding up a hand and swerving back away from him. “I’m not drunk, I’m just tispy. Tip sy.” Goofing up your words is not exactly a reassuring way to convince someone you’re not drunk. 

“It makes you vulnerable, Aeon! You aren’t safe like this!” His voice was starting to get louder.

“I’m not safe like any whicha-way!” I retorted. “Even if—”

“If I have to lock you up in your room, so help me—”

“HELL no!” I shouted, totally unconcerned with who heard. Pretty sure all the people in the hallways just scurried away, though, if they did hear. “Fuck you, you can’t just—”

“I can do whatever I want! And what I want is to keep you out of danger!” He wasn’t quite shouting yet, but he’d stopped walking and his fists were balled up at his sides. 

“Stop treating me like I’m a fuckin’ child!” 

“How can I when you conduct yourself like this?” 

“Like what? Like a person who doesn’t wanna just meditate and swing a sword and feel like shit all day?” My face was extra flushed from the liquor as I started to get truly pissed off. “You can’t fuckin’ put me in a cage and expect me to learn anything! The sadder I get, the worse I do with the Force! Haven’t you noticed that? I totally noticed that!” 

“If you die, it’ll hardly matter!”

“I don’t plan on dying anytime soon!” 

“Nobody does,” he hissed. “Can you protect yourself, Aeon? Can you prove to me I can let you do whatever you want on this ship and it won’t blow up in my face?”

“Was THIS not enough LAST TIME?” I shouted furiously. I waved my hand at him very drunkenly, and he went flying backwards into the hard metal wall. I froze, shocked. I really hadn’t thought about that at all before I did it, and frankly I’m still surprised it actually worked. “Fuck! Shit!” I clamped a hand over my mouth. Kylo was on the floor, pushing himself up as he caught his breath. I guess Force bitch-slapping him into the wall had knocked the wind out of him. Instead of feeling proud of myself, though, I was just feeling slightly panicked. Did I hurt him? Is he about to hurt me? Did anyone see that? Holy shit holy shit holy shit. He groaned a little, hand reaching around to his lower back which had thudded into the wall pretty hard. “Kylo, I’m sorry—”

“Enough,” he rasped, and climbed back onto his feet. He wasn’t looking at me, and his hand was still over his back.

“I didn’t mean—”

“I said. Enough. ” Now he looked at me. I couldn’t even begin to decipher what expression was on his face, there was so much going on there. I was so surprised that I had no idea what I was feeling either, but whatever upset I felt about it was starting to fade back into just angry, confused, spooked. “Tomorrow we’ll go down to Dagoba and see what you’re really made of.” 

Wait, what?

“Um, what does that—”

“And if you have a hangover, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.” He stood up straighter, taking his hand off his back and throwing me a fresh glare. “Come. I’m taking you back to your quarters.” And he started stalking off again. Shit shit shit what the fuck? Dagoba? Swamp-planet? What does that MEAN? I was too buzzed to recall much in the way of details, except that Yoda had trained Luke there. I had to drunkenly scurry behind him to keep up, and sure enough he led me back to my room. The hallways in this part of the ship were barren, at least, because all the fanciest suites were isolated for the safety of the people who lived in them.

“Kylo, please,” I murmured as he stopped in front of my door and glared at me expectantly. I let out a huge breath. “Will you just fuckin’ tell me whats going on?”

“You’ll find out soon enough.” His face was opaque again. I felt my own face set into an angry scowl.

“Why’s it so hard for you to respect me, anyway?” I crossed my arms. I was still feeling the sting from earlier. “Why you gotta storm out, when I suggest something like that? Is that so fucking foreign to you? Do you just, like, hate the idea of having equals, or what?”

“Why’s it such a fucking sticking point for you, Aeon?” he asked, face breaking to become angry again. My heartbeat picked up, anticipating another sparring match. In that moment, the Voice of Reason was lost. It had fought valiantly all night, but it was tired.

“I dunno, Kylo, maybe I just don’t fuckin’ like you as much as you wish I did!” I had planned to leave him with that. I was completely, drunkenly over it. I was so tired of his rage games, like it wasn’t obvious how fucking bad he wanted me and everyone else to respect him. Like I hadn’t felt how much he wanted me to want what he had to give, when he showed me the memory of our lesson the other day. I slapped the control pad, and the door of my room slid open. Just as I made to enter it, though, his huge arm slammed out in front of me to block my path, palm on the doorframe. I stopped suddenly and clumsily, glassy eyes flashing at him.

“I don’t care how much you like me,” he growled, bending down into my face again. He stared at me, and I stared right back. Blood was rushing to my face, my ears, I could feel my pelvic floor muscles tightening. Oh, does he want to fight that bad? I was gonna bounce but if it’s a fight he wants…

“Then why you so fucked up about it?” I countered, raising an eyebrow and cocking my head to the side, mocking him. I could feel a sneer working the corner of my mouth. “It’s cuz I like Matt, isn’t it? Matt and not you?”

“Matt has nothing to do with this!” he snapped, face getting even closer to mine.

“Well then what is it, huh? Go on, say it! What are you feeling right now?” I goaded him, every single nerve ending in my body feeling like it was full of lightning, ready to snap. I wanted to just wrestle him onto the ground and pin him there until he gave up, even though there was literally no way in hell I could’ve done that. He was huge. I was remembering just how huge he was very suddenly, because his entire body was starting to curl in around me, his arm blocking my path, his massive chest keeping me close to the wall, turning ever more around me so I couldn’t escape. I didn’t want to escape, though. I was standing up straight, hands in fists by my sides, face daring him to come any closer. His mouth moved as though he wanted to say something, but all he did was snarl in frustration. I waited for him to punch the wall and stalk away, or finally snap and do something to hurt me, or something like that. I was fully ready to retaliate. Please give me a reason to fight you for real, fuckboy.

It might seem predictable to y’all, but at that point I was in fact surprised when his mouth landed on mine. Normally I was more aware of my bizarre and upsetting tendency to get both unbelievably furious and profoundly aroused when I argued with Kylo. But this time I guess I must’ve been too drunk to parse out the nuances. Until his lips were pressed harshly against mine, pushing my head back into the wall while he pried my mouth open with his tongue, of course. Then, there were no more nuances. It was so aggressive that if I’d ever wondered how soft his lips were (guilty) or how his mouth would taste (also guilty), I wasn’t actually registering either detail now. That kiss was as much a fight as anything else had been. 

When I pushed back into him, one of his gloved hands grabbed me around the back of my neck and the other grabbed my waist to hold me in place. I threaded my fingers through his hair and yanked on it, and he growled into my mouth. He pressed his groin into mine, and heat flared up inside me, and I felt my leg almost reflexively lift as though to wrap around his hips, opening myself up to make space for him to—

“No,” I murmured, yanking my mouth apart from his and going totally stiff. “No no no, nope.”

“Fuck,” he nearly gasped, almost like he hadn’t quite realized what was going on either. He stepped backwards and away from me, his hands falling away. He gave his head one fast, violent shake. “I wasn’t thinking—”

“Neither was I,” I said quickly. “We can’t do this.”

“Yeah,” he growled, scowling, fists clenched. “I know. You’re right.”

“I promise this isn’t because of Matt.” I don’t know where the urge to reassure him of this came from. Probably me simultaneously being actually into him, however inadvisably, and also being drunk. Possibly also to reassure myself. He looked at me, still scowling. “I fucked up,” I breathed, realizing that the more I thought about Matt, the more I felt like a huge asshole for what had just happened. 

“If you fucked up, I fucked up too,” he said in his low voice. 

“No,” I snapped, suddenly angry at him all over again. “You don’t get it. I fucked up. I got drunk when I knew I shouldn’t, I picked a fight with you and God I should’ve fucking known this would happen. Matt is never gonna wanna talk to me again.”

“Matt’s not like that,” he said, but his voice sounded a little bit pissed off, too. “You and I have nothing to do with you and Matt.”

“Yeah but I pretty highly doubt that Matt wants me to make out with his alter, Kylo.” I felt tears starting to sting behind my eyes. 

“How do you know that?” he challenged. My head whipped up to stare at him now. 

“Why would he be okay with that?” I asked, baffled. “Seriously?”

“Matt and I share a body. We have no choice. That can get complicated for all of our relationships.”

“You think I didn’t fucking notice that?” I asked him, snappy but also totally confused. That made no sense to me. I’d been asked to conceive of them as two different people, and I doubted that there were any handbooks on ethical polyamory in space.

“We’re different people. But he would have to have some thoughts and feelings about you, even if he never spoke to you. Because he’s my alter. With you, he gets to have his own relationship with someone for once, not just his reactions to my relationships,” Kylo explained, tone curt. I blinked. 

“Oh,” I said, trying to absorb the concept. “Wait. Was he… just now…?”

“No. He’s not active right now.”

“That’s good,” I murmured. He looked sidelong at me.

“You told him you like him, yet?” Wow. It was that obvious.

“No,” I scowled. I felt bad enough about that already. “I’ve been distracted and worried that something like this might fuck it up.”

“Don’t worry. He likes you,” he replied dryly.

“You can’t just rat him out like that!” I protested, despite turning bright pink. 

“He won’t make the move, Aeon. He’s terrified, and new at this.” Wait, is Kylo now helping me ask his alter on a date?? WHY IS EVERYTHING HE DOES SO CONFUSING??

“Okay.” I was uneasy to say the least. “You… you’re not mad that I like him?” 

“No,” he replied, but his face was sullen.

“You’re not jealous?”

“No, Aeon. I’m not. I’m not jealous. It doesn’t work like that. We both have a relationship with you. It’s…” He sighed, as though lost for words and annoyed that he had to find them in the first place. “It’s complicated. But jealousy isn’t a factor. Our feelings towards you are different in nature. Fundamentally.” I eyed him. Part of me wanted to keep arguing. What kind of fundamental difference? Basic respect? But I didn’t. 

“Okay. I just didn’t want to… yanno. Be a dick.” Now he raised an eyebrow at me, like he was biting back his own snide remark. “About y’all. I know you’re different people. But this just. It’s hard to figure out. Especially when you make me so angry all the time.”

“You don’t exactly make it difficult to get angry at you either,” he snapped. 

“I was trying ,” I pointed out, crossing my arms. “I really was trying to be a better student. I swear. Because I know you were trying to be a better teacher for a minute there, too.”

“Thanks for noticing.” He looked at me through his eyebrows. I stuck out my tongue at him, like an adult. We were silent for a moment, just glaring at one another. 

“Let’s never speak of this again,” I suggested finally.

“Agreed. You will come to the command shuttle at 0800 hours tomorrow morning.” Oh yeah, the fucking swamp. I’d almost forgotten. I sighed.

“Fine. See ya there.” I threw up a very sarcastic peace symbol and turned to finally enter my room, shutting the door behind me without even turning around to look at him or say anything else. When it was shut, I leaned back against it for a moment, looking up at the ceiling and letting out a long-suffering sigh.

The thing I’d suffered for so long was my own bullshit, of course. I made straight for the shower, to try and forget about whatever had just happened as quickly as possible. As we all know, pretending it never happened is a GREAT way to deal with your problems, sure to be very effective.

Chapter Text

I was silent in the shuttle down to the planet’s surface. Kylo was just as silent. It was that special kind of awkward, like when you see the Tinder date you ghosted on at a party later that week or something. My guts felt like they were tied in knots. I hadn’t talked to Matt, of course. I hadn’t even had the stones to message him after what happened the night before. I was feeling a lot less solid in my resolve to just own up to how I felt about him, regardless of Kylo’s semi-reassuring statement that he did, in fact, like me. I was looking at the message I wanted to send him, rewritten for the umpteenth time, on my datapad in the cargo hangar of the command shuttle when I felt the ship give its little lurch that meant the sub-light engines were dropping into first gear. We were about to land. Sighing, I turned the datapad’s screen off and checked my boots to be sure they were extra tight. I was not looking forward to slogging through a swamp. 

I didn’t stand until the shuttle was fully in park on whatever barely-solid slab of land we’d found. Kylo came down from the cockpit, his presence brooding and heavy.

“Don’t bring anything that will weigh you down. We won’t be here long,” he told me, expression unreadable. I just nodded. I had no idea what to say to him, to be honest. I was fresh out of snappy comebacks and everything. The memory of us snogging was blurry with alcohol, but boy oh boy was it still lingering in the front of my mind. Along with some pretty intense doubt. About pretty much everything. 

I followed him out of the shuttle, grateful that he apparently wasn’t interested in talking much either. Whatever fresh hell was down here for me, I was just gonna take it however it got served. Which was likely to be soggy and warm, apparently. As we walked, I tried to see if I could spot anything familiar from The Empire Strikes Back . But a swamp is a swamp is a swamp, turns out. There were lots of noises of wild critters, which I wasn’t crazy about. As we walked a little further, I started to feel strangely tense. Not oh-God-why-did-I-make-out-with-Kylo tense, though. Something different, that made my teeth clench. The crystal around my neck was glowing more brightly than usual, its color shifting unpredictably. Am I going to the same cave that Luke went to? God I hope not.

“The cave that was once here is gone now, but the power of the Force remains,” Kylo said suddenly as we drew into a patch of swamp that looked just like the rest of the damn swamp, to me. Well, shit. I raised an eyebrow at him.

“What happened to it?” I asked.

“I destroyed it, when my old master brought me here.” His expression was still unreadable, but I could feel the way Kylo’s energy shifted when he brought up Snoke. He so rarely used his name, for example. I looked out ahead of us, and sure enough there was an area that looked like it had been wrecked at some point. Overgrowth had started to reclaim it, and there was a canopy of vines forming where the roof of the cave had once been, but the uneven ground and displaced soil and rocks gave it away. The tense feeling in my jaw was worsening.

“That bad, huh?” I murmured, vaguely remembering something about this from a Star Wars comic book I hadn’t paid enough attention to. I bet he saw his parents, when Snoke brought him here. That’s fuckin’ rough. Kylo stopped and turned to me.

“The cave is gone, but the principle remains the same. You continue walking forward, and the Force will show you what you must see.” 

“What’s my goal, exactly?”

“To overcome.” Oh, look who decided to go all poetic and vague on me NOW, of all times!

“You sure I’m ready for this?” I asked him nervously. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not.

“Yes.” Never had I been less interested in Kylo’s positive evaluation. I took a deep breath.

“Whatever you say, boss. If I die, though, I’m gonna haunt your ass forever.” And I turned towards the non-cave to walk into the intense feeling of dread that was mounting. I was by no means ready for this. But I thought about when my therapist and I decided that what I needed to do with my life was just be ready to not be ready. But I wasn’t even ready for that, either! The deeper I walked under the pseudo-roof of vines and trailing moss, the worse I felt. I knew Kylo was still behind me, probably watching, but I wasn’t concerned about him anymore. Pretty sure Yoda said that the only thing inside this place is what I bring here with me. And I have a fuckload of baggage, so. This is like, the worst speed-dating with the Force ever.

“Aeon?” came a soft voice, and I turned to see— Matt. My eyes flew wide open. He was blonde, in his glasses and jumpsuit, and obviously not real since his body was currently behind me not looking like that at all.

“Mattau?” Something spurred me to say his whole name. He looked back at me sweetly.

“Be what you are,” he said, as though recycled from my memories. 

“Matt, I’m sorry.” Sorry I kissed Kylo, sorry I got drunk instead of texting you, sorry I’m so scared, sorry you’re so scared, sorry I’m not even a real person for you to be friends with because I’m not supposed to be in the story—

“You’re not sorry.” His expression was the same smile, but different somehow. Like something unwholesome had crept into his look. It was unnerving as hell. “You’re something much worse.” 

“What?” I asked, baffled and increasingly more freaked out. 

“You’re not supposed to be here.” 

Holy shit. I stared at him. “What are you talking about?”

“This isn’t your story. You’re not supposed to be here, but here you are.”

“Why am I here, then?” 

“Be what you are. Are you Aeon? Or are you someone else?” His uncanny face was serious now, and he nodded over towards my left, opposite from where he was standing. I turned and saw my parents, but their faces were unclear. They kept shifting and graying out, like my memories of them were.

“Aren’t you our child?” they asked in unison. “Don’t you want to come home?” Holy shit. No. Fuck this. This is fucking awful!

“Of course I do!” I replied, totally aghast. “I’m trying!!”

“Are you trying hard enough?” asked my not-father.

“What are you talking about??”

“Do you remember your name?” added my not-mother. My heart started to race.

“Of course I do! It’s—” But, to my horror, I couldn’t remember. Giving a fake name to Lucky had been funny (although, the more times he’d said ‘Aeon Flux’ the more I kinda felt like an asshole and wanted to at least take the ‘Flux’ part off) but now I had forgotten my real name. 

“You have to decide if you want to be here or there, Aeon,” interrupted not-Matt. I stared back at him with mounting panic.

“Why are you making me choose?” I demanded, even though my hands were shaking.

“You can’t belong to both stories.”

“Um, what? Nobody can tell me how to get home! I didn’t ASK to be here!” 

“Yet, here you are.” His face was almost more upsetting because it was so…. Neutral. Apathetic, even. It didn’t seem like Matt, or even like Kylo. It made no fucking sense at all and it was driving me crazy. “You can’t just have your cake and eat it too, you know,” he added.

That sentence jogged something in my brain. A memory of someone I had pushed away from the front or even the middle of my mind for a long time. He wasn’t as tall as Kylo, and his blonde hair was short, and he was nowhere near as muscled and strong. But his name had also been Matt.

“You’re not Mattau. You’re fucking with me. Stop it,” I hissed at him, and suddenly I was looking at the figure of an ex of mine. Long story short, this guy abused me a long time ago. It wasn’t the worst kind of abuse, I guess. Not the kind you see in the movies, exactly, with all the hitting and bruising. It went even deeper than that, was more psychological. I don’t wanna get into it. Suffice it to say that seeing him there, and hearing that phrase he used to say all the time, was the definition of triggering.

“You have to choose, Aeon,” he said. Him saying my fake name-- was it a FAKE name?-- was the mental equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Was I not safe from him even in a fictional goddamn universe?? I felt myself start to boil with rage.

“Get out. Get out of my story. Get out of my head, get out!!! GET OUT!!!” I shouted at him, and before I could even think about what I was doing I sprang at him and knocked him over. All I wanted was to put my hands around his neck, punish him for everything he’d ever done to me or anyone else... so I did. I don’t know why. I was well past reasoning at that point. He coughed and sputtered and clawed at my hands. “This isn’t your story anymore! This is MY story!! I’m the one who’s in charge of my life now, you piece of SHIT!!” I screamed at him.

“Aeon!” he croaked, and suddenly he was Mattau again, and his eyes got scared and shocked as he struggled to breathe. My eyes flew wide open and I gasped, leaping off him. 

“Fuck!” I screamed at nobody. “Stop fucking with me! What am I supposed to do??” I guess I was giving orders to the Force, now. Matt was rising to his feet, but by the time he stood up, he was Kylo. Dark hair, dark expression, dark clothes. 

“You’re supposed to help me, Aeon. You’re supposed to listen to me,” he said, and he seemed so much taller even than he already was. My whole body was shaking, trembling uncontrollably, fight-or-flight in full overdrive.

“How can I help you if you won’t help me , too?” I demanded. But behind him was a little boy, who looked at me with the saddest eyes. And behind that was the guy I went on a juice date with, that I’d told Matt about. Over to the side of him, my former best friend who’d stopped talking to me after my first involuntary commitment to the hospital. One by one, a whole entire army of endless people from my past started to pile in. One-night stands, friends I’d ignored or blown up at or accused of something outlandish and delusional. Exes, dates that went bust, teachers who had been disappointed in me and other students who have been scared of me. Employers who had fired me. Doctors who had not believed me. I didn’t know where I was, or if they were there in the swamp with me, or what. I was starting to feel like they were all really there, a hellish reminder of what I could leave behind— and what I couldn’t. 

You are cruel. You hurt people. You can’t live up to their expectations. You can’t help them. You can’t hear them. You’re too sick, too broken. I hate you. Nothing you do has amounted to anything. Why won’t you just get better? Why won’t you come home? Why can’t you ever take our advice? The patient is non-compliant. You can’t just run away from everything that tries to hurt you. This isn’t your story, why are you here? 

The voices were almost totally overwhelming. I was gasping for breath, my heart was racing, my face was sweating. Fuck fuck fuck this is too real now this is way too real way too much I can’t fucking do this!!!!! What the fuck is this supposed to teach me about the Force????

“Stop it,” I murmured. The voices got louder in response, and jeered at me too. Stop it? Stop what? Telling you the truth? How much you’ve failed? You’ll never become anything! Too busy fucking your teacher again, and pining after someone who’s too good for you, and drinking and begging to be validated by other people. I was on the verge of screaming, of coming apart, like every breakdown I’d ever had was happening all over again, all at once.

“Aeon?” I turned, and little Ben had stepped up in front of Kylo to stand right next to me, looking up at me. The other voices continued jabbering and saying terrible things to me, but I looked into Ben’s soft brown eyes. 

“Ben?”

“Aeon, I need your help.”

“I can’t fix it, Ben.” A lump formed in my throat along with a wave of guilt.

“It’s okay, you don’t gotta fix anything. Just help me, okay?” I stared at him, baffled.

“How can I help?” I asked.

“Be what you are.” He smiled at me. It was the opposite of not-Matt’s uncanny face, this time. His smile was genuine, sweet. I felt my eyes start to water. The voices continued to whisper and sneer all around me. I looked up from Ben’s smile, and sure enough, the thousand-eyed demon was there behind him where Kylo had once been standing. 

“I’m a lot like you, aren’t I?” I asked it in a hoarse whisper. “I can’t keep pretending I’m not. But this is my story. I’m not doomed to become a villain in my own damn story. I can choose my path.”

“You can even create one that’s all your own,” came a voice that was both wholly new and unbelievably familiar. I turned around. 

There stood old man Luke with his beard, wrapped in his brown cloak. He looked like a ghost, like he was only half-there. And he was smiling at me. I was shocked, and strangely… relieved? To see him?

“That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?” I asked him breathlessly.

“There is no destiny, Aeon. You’re not supposed to do anything. But what you can do… that’s something else entirely.” All the voices still gnawing into my ears began to rise into a terrifying crescendo, louder than ever. I looked at Luke, then back at Ben and the demon who was now towering above Kylo, finally not superimposed over the dark hair and intense eyes like it usually was. Mattau was standing behind him now, smiling his real, soft, sweet smile at me. Everyone else just stared. YOU ARE NOTHING! JUST GIVE UP! WHY DO YOU THINK YOU MEAN ANYTHING HERE? THIS ISN’T YOUR STORY! YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO, YOU KNOW!

“I choose my own destiny,” I declared quietly through the din of shouts. YOU ARE NOTHING! I HATE YOU!! 

“I CHOOSE MY OWN DESTINY!!” I shouted as loudly as I could, shutting my eyes and feeling the Force flowing through me like I never had before, like a dam had broken and was flooding me with the unstoppable eddies of light and darkness. My crystal was glowing, brilliant purple. “AND Y’ALL CAN SAY AND DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, BUT I AM STILL THE FUCKING PERSON WHO’S IN CHARGE OF MY STORY, DAMMIT!!” 

When all the voices fell silent, it was like the opposite of thunder. Instead of a sudden and terrible noise, there was a sudden and shocking silence. I opened my eyes to find myself standing back in the swamp in front of Kylo, and I knew this time it was the real him. 

Except as soon as I met his gaze and saw his face, I realized it wasn’t actually Kylo looking back at me despite the dark hair.

“Matt!” I exclaimed, a wave of relief hitting me.

“Hey hun,” he said simply, smiling a weary smile at me. “It felt like you were in trouble. So I kinda pushed my way up front. You okay?” 

“I, uh, I’m fine,” I assured him shakily. “You shouldn’t be out right now, should you?”

“It’s fine,” he replied vaguely. “I just wanted to check on you.”

“I’m okay. I’m… okay.” I wanted to run up to him and hug him, but I felt rooted to the spot. After all the awful shit that had just happened to me, it was truly weird how calm I suddenly felt. 

“Okay,” he replied, and he held out a hand to me. 

“Do you even know where we’re going?” I asked him, smiling despite myself. 

“No, but we’ll figure it out. Maybe I’ll used the Force for once. And there’s technology for this kinda thing if all else fails.” He grinned at me, that goofy grin of his. I reached out to take his hand.

“Fine,” I acquiesced. When I touched him, I felt an intense sense of warmth blossom inside me. Once again we headed hand in hand through a strange new world. 

“Where are we?” he asked as he picked his way through the bog just barely ahead of me.

“Dagoba.”

“Oh, I shoulda guessed. Fuckin’ swamp.” 

“Yeah, it’s not the hottest spot in the galaxy. I liked our planetside date much better,” I joked with him. 

“Me too,” he giggled a little, glancing away from me, pink coloring his cheeks. God I adore him. Who wouldn’t, though? Suddenly he stopped, and looked up and out ahead, his brow knitting.

“There’s a little gorge here. But there’s a vine up there that we can swing across on, can you see it?” He pointed upwards, and I mean, I guess I saw the vine. I saw a lot of vines. I grimaced, looking out over the terrain ahead. It was spooky, how easy it would have been to just keep walking through the bramble and take an unexpected tumble.

“We can’t go down into it?” I asked, uncertain.

“We could, but I think it’s a bad idea. There are pikobi down there, probably. It’s a good place for an ambush.” He started to climb up the gnarled roots of a huge tree towards whichever of the vines he felt was gonna become our rope swing, tugging me along with him. I couldn't remember what a pikobi was, but I figured it was a swamp critter and that was enough for me to want to avoid it. “Here’s the vine,” he said as we found ourselves on a big root-knob almost like a humped little platform. A large vine was indeed dangling there, running down into the tangle below. He pulled out Kylo’s lightsaber and in one quick motion cut the thick green rope down around his feet. As soon as I heard that iconic hum, it was gone again and he put it away. 

“You’re going first, right?” I asked, brow knit. 

“I thought maybe you should, just so I know you’re safely over. But I can go first and catch you.” He looked across the gulley, which was a little more obvious from this height. I could see a trickle of mud that was almost like a shallow creek down at the bottom of it, full of rotting vines and low fern-like plants. It didn’t look like a very long drop, but apparently it was big enough for something called a pikobi to take cover and wait for a snack to come by. “There’s a good spot to land over there, on another tree,” he pointed out.

“Um, sure.” There was more than one tree. I thought I could tell where he meant? Maybe?

“You can’t see it, can you?” he asked gently, smirking at me just a little. 

“I’m not exactly into swamp hiking,” I replied grouchily, pouting at him.

“It’s okay,” he chuckled, and tapped his finger on my nose. “I’ll go first.” Then he gripped the vine in his hands very purposefully, and I watched in awe as his powerful arms tested its strength. He tugged it, but the vine was sturdy. Before I could comment on what felt like a very last-minute check, though, he was swinging across the little gorge. He landed with surprising nimbleness on a patch of rough moss at the roots of another tree, and turned to smile at me.

“Nice,” I called out to him, one brow lifting.

“It’s easy!” he called back to reassure me. Then he gave the vine a mighty push, and it swung back towards me. I scrambled to grab it out of the air, and looked down. The gap was about a hundred feet across, which was feeling bigger and bigger the more I looked at it.

“For you, maybe!” Ugh. This does not look good. 

“C’mon, Aeon! I gotcha!” He beamed at me and opened his arms. “Just swing right here. I won’t let you fall.” I gazed at him for a moment, standing there on a tree, about as sweaty as I was, waving his fingers to encourage me with that smile on his face. He made me feel so safe. After what had just happened, it was such a fucking relief to see him. I took a deep breath and grabbed the vine. I stepped back from the edge of my lump of tree and took once more breath. Then, I launched myself across the gulley.

“AAAH!” I shrieked as I swung out over the mud, clinging to my mossy rope for dear life. I careened into the landing area and tried to put my feet on the ground, but started to slip. I let out a terrified yelp, feeling my body start to pitch backwards— but then strong arms were around me, gripping me tightly.

“Whoa there, wobbles!” Matt laughed, and helped me stand properly. “See, you did just fine!” 

“Uhh,” I replied, shaking my head as adrenaline pumped through me. “Shit.”

“Here,” he murmured, tugging the vine away from me and letting it fall back to its place. “You’re alright.” I felt like a weenie, for not even being good at swinging on a rope. But I also felt even more grateful that Matt was there, and holding me so tightly. “You didn’t even use the Force!”

“Me and the Force ain’t on speaking terms right now,” I snorted. Not after that stunt it pulled at the not-cave. See if I text the Force back for a while!

“I assume you’ll tell me what happened later?” he asked good-naturedly as he released me from his deeply comforting grip and turned to continue forging forward. “I’m guessing it has something to do with Ky—”

I don’t know what he stepped on, but suddenly Matt’s foot slipped out wildly from underneath him and he went fumbling off the roots of the tree and down the incline. 

“Oh fuck, MATT!” I yelled, panicking. It wasn’t even that far, but the way he fell it was like he was landing on all the important joints in his body as he squelched down into the mud. When he hit the bottom, he coughed and groaned on the ground for a moment. “Shit!!!” 

“I’m okay,” he croaked back at me, one hand on his ribcage as the other pushed his torso up off the ground to look out at me from the bramble he was in. His clothes and his hair were covered in grainy dampness and clumps of dirt and moss. “I’m okay!”

“I’m coming to get you,” I announced, taking a step off the tree into the mess of ferns. My boot hit very soft soil and sank in just a little bit. 

“No! Stay up there, I’ll climb back up. Just,” he heaved, sucking in air. “Lemme catch my breath.” I stopped, looking down at him and huffing. 

“Let me help you,” I demanded, putting my hands on my hips.

“There’s no need, Aeon,” he insisted. “I’m just clumsy in the body, sometimes.” But he was chuckling, which made me feel better. 

“Fine,” I relented, rolling my eyes. You stinky goober. You gorgeous, beautiful, perfect stinky goober. He glanced up at me in my bossy pose, and laughed again. Then he groaned, and drew in another deep breath. I watched him intently, waiting for an excuse to descend and become helpful anyway.

Unfortunately, I got just that. It happened so fast that I didn’t even see where the fucking thing came from, but this creature that looked like a bird and a velociraptor had an ugly baby sprang up out of the dense foliage and squawked— and pecked down on him with its huge, black beak. I saw that thing tear through his clothes like they weren’t there, cutting deep into the flesh of his shoulder, and heard him give a strangled cry, and my eyes flew wide open.

“MATT!” I screamed, horrified, as blood started to seep out of the fresh cut and he crumpled in groans of pain. The thing, whatever it was, darted back for a moment. It was about twice Matt’s height, and its tail made it much longer, and that beak was huge and terrible. My gut instinct took over, and I plunged down through the mess straight for it. When it pecked out at him a second time, ripping a fresh wound right by the first one, I let out a howl. Then it turned to look straight at me with one of its reptilian eyes. 

“NO! STAY AWAY!” Matt tried to shout at me as he struggled for breath and clenched his shoulder with his opposite hand. I screamed again, like I was trying to scare the awful creature away. It turned and jumped a little, but didn’t seem phased exactly. More like it was just gonna jab me next. 

When the Force shows up all of a sudden, time almost slows down. It’s like suddenly you’re aware of every single tiny thing around you, and the swamp down there is mad dense with life that’s all connected by the Force. As that monster turned and let out a godawful, primeval roar at me, I felt the connection between it and myself. It was ragged with instinct, totally reactive and violent, nothing like the connection between me and Kylo had been. But I was absolutely filling it with my rage. 

“GO!!!!!” I screamed at it, pushing with the Force like it was a battering ram. I was almost shocked to see it go flying backwards through the air, yelping as it crashed bodily into the trunk of a huge tree. “GET OUTTA HERE!!!” 

I honestly fully expected that sucker to just hop back up and come at me again, but instead it staggered back up and started whining before it… ran away. It just split, like I was the most terrifying thing it had ever seen. I stared after it, shaking and gasping for breath, fists clenched until my nails bit into my palms. 

“Aeon,” came a weak voice, and I turned to look at Matt. He was crumpled on the ground in the mud, blood soaking his clothes from the wound beneath his gloved hand which still clamped down over it. 

“Oh no, no, no no!” I rushed over to him, and knelt down on one knee, totally panicking. “Matt, oh no! What do I do??”

“Comlink,” he groaned, and tried unsuccessfully to push himself upright. Oh shit, call for help! Of course! I dug into his pocket and pulled out the little tube to press one of its buttons. 

“Supremacy, this is Aeon, the Supreme Leader’s badly wounded, send emergency medical immediately! We need help!” It crackled and buzzed.

“This is the Supremacy, we’re dispatching an emergency unit to your location,” said an unfamiliar voice.

“Send Lucky!” I replied frantically. Something in my gut told me I wanted that droid specifically. 

“Who?”

“Send medical droid M-47777!” I barked back. “Now!”

“Heard. They’re on their way,” the voice assured me, and I shoved the comlink back into my own pocket. Matt was propped up on his elbow still, chest heaving, grimacing against the pain.

“We have to get out of this ditch,” I told him. “Can you lean on me?” He looked at me, eyes dark and exhausted. He said nothing, but shoved himself up and reached out towards me with his muddy hand. I grabbed it and pulled, and he made a terrible pained sound as I crouched and tugged him up. He was not lightweight, of course. But somehow I managed to help him stagger to his feet, and he leaned onto me with his arm over my shoulders. We began the climb up the side of the gully, and it felt like it took forever but I have no idea how long it actually took. We took it slow, and Matt heaved and groaned the whole way but stepped slowly and deliberately with my weight supporting him. I kept urging him along, saying things like ‘you got it’ and ‘come on’ and ‘up we go.’ When we finally reached level ground, he stopped and gasped for air, leaning back against the tree roots we’d been standing on before. 

“You know… where… shuttle?” he panted, looking down at me. Drops of mud from his hair fell onto my face.

“No,” I admitted. “But we have to move. What if that thing comes back?” 

“After that?” he asked, almost chuckling before he grimaced again with pain. “Doubt it.” I marveled at him, trying to joke around while blood was streaming out of two ragged cuts in his shoulder. Some of it had seeped into my shirt. He leaned harder back against the tree, leaning less on me, his knees shaking. 

“Here, just sit,” I urged, starting to sink down with his arm still draped over my shoulders. He slid stiffly down the knobs and gnarls, and we both hit the mossy ground with a thud. His arm went limp around me as he leaned his head back towards the canopy and continued to suck in the damp air, not letting his chest heave too much. I scooted out to turn around and look at him more directly, finally feeling tears start to well behind my eyes. His hair was clinging to his head in some places, running across his face and forehead haphazardly. I stared at his wound for a moment, the urge to do something— anything— to help pumping through me with no outlet at all. There was no med kit, I had no idea where the shuttle was, and whatever Force-magic had sent a giant dinosaur-bird soaring through the air before had no suggestions for how I could use it now. Oh fuck, I’m so fucking useless. I have no idea what to do. Doesn’t that wound need something? Not a tourniquet. But pressure, maybe?

“Aeon,” Matt murmured softly, and I realized he was looking down at me. I felt his hand, the one that wasn’t covered in blood, weakly run the back of his gloved fingers across my cheek where hot tears were running. It fell down into my lap with the effort. “It’ll be alright.” 

I reached up to gently push his hair out of his face, and wipe some mud off his beautiful, prominent nose. His sweetness only caused more tears to leak out of my face, but for once I was totally unconcerned about my usual hatred of crying in front of people.

“Can I take off this coat? I want to take a closer look,” I asked him. He nodded faintly, and I unzipped the front of the article in question. His good arm he tugged out of it himself, the glove coming off with it, and I gingerly helped pull the other arm and glove off, careful of the wound. Beneath that he was wearing a black tank top, also ruined. The cuts looked angry and ragged, and they were already swelling and still leaking blood. “This is gonna need a real cleaning. And stitches. Or whatever you space-people have instead of stitches.” 

“I’ve heard about that,” he murmured. “They do that on planets where there’s not good medical equipment. Sewing up your skin sounds pretty awful.” He reached back up again to trace a clammy finger along the scar on my face that Hux had gifted me with. It wasn’t anywhere near as prominent as it would have been if I’d had stitches instead of the weird carbon webbing they had. Somewhere behind me there was a rustle in the bushes, and my head jerked around lightning-fast. I fully expected some other monster to come up and grab us while we were sitting ducks. But whatever had made the sound was gone in some other direction. I looked back at Matt, who was just looking at me tenderly beneath heavy lids, eyes a little bit glassy, face weary. 

“It ain’t so bad,” I told him, thinking of the several times I’d had stitches before. “They try to numb it some first, usually.” His eyebrows lifted just barely, as if he was impressed with me. “Can we get this off too? I wanna bind your shoulder. It’s still bleeding.”

“Right,” he groaned, and pushed himself off the tree. I helped him tug the shirt up and over his head, then pulled it ever so delicately over his shoulder and down his arm. I ripped one of the seams on it, and looked back at him. Even slumped over you could see how strong he was, how broad his shoulders and chest were, how sturdy and muscled his entire torso was. I started wrapping the tank top around under his arm, and he pressed the cloth into the angry wound with a hiss, and I got it as tight as I reasonably could before I tied it off. The whole time, I was aware of the long scar that curled down his pectoral muscle, the continuation of the one that ran down his face. He sagged back against the tree when I was done, closing his eyes. His breaths were shallower, now. I scooted closer to him and reached up to stroke his cheek, my ears pricked for the sound of our emergency help. Please get here soon, I thought miserably. 

“Don’t fall out on me, now, okay nerd?” I joked half-heartedly to him when he had been too still for just a moment too long. He cracked one eye at me and gave a faint grin. 

“Keep hoping Kylo’s gonna push me back in the copilot’s seat,” he murmured. “He’d deal with this better than me.”

“You’re takin’ it like a champ,” I reassured him as I pet his hair. “Just a little bit longer. Stay with me, Matt.”

“Not goin’ anywhere, hun,” he sighed. I took his hand and held it up against my chest like it was a precious keepsake, almost not noticing the tears that continued down my face. It started to rain, and I gave a rueful chuckle. 

“Good timing,” I groaned as water started to ping off my buzzed head and drip cold down the back of my neck.

“Feels nice.” Matt’s face was pointing up again as drops fell on it. His head started to loll dangerously, and I shook him.

“Hey now,” I said a little louder, starting to panic. “You promised!”

“Right here,” he said blearily, eyes rolling back down to me. They were very glassy now, which scared me even more. Surely he’s not dying, he’s just maybe gonna pass out from blood loss, but I don’t want that either!   “Glad you’re with me,” he added, the corner of his mouth quirking up at me. I smiled through my tears at him. 

“I’m staying right beside you,” I told him earnestly. “Until you’re well.”

“My fierce one,” he sighed. The hand that was in mine rose to run the end of his pointer finger down the center of my lips before it fell weak again. “Fearless.”

“Or just stupid,” I replied. 

“The latter, I think,” came a voice- metallic and crisp through a vocoder. I spun around to see none other than Captain Phasma standing behind me in full armor. She was carrying a giant silver weapon, which looked like a blaster rifle with a bayonet or something on the end. Shit. Shit shit shit fuck what the fuck?????? Wait, WHAT THE FUCK????? I stared at her, frozen in place. There was no one else with her, and Lucky was nowhere in sight. My heart started racing. 

“You here to kill me?” I asked her bluntly. 

“That’s a bit hostile, isn’t it?” she sneered. “But yes.”