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The first thing she feels is warmth starting at her abdomen, spreading through her body at an agonizingly slow pace. It grazes every inch of her skin, wakes each cell of her body until she can feel her legs again. Her feet follow, then her torso and arms. Everything aches again, burns, stings, but she’s never felt so relieved to feel pain. It passes like a breeze as the warmth progresses up her chest, then to her face, where her eyes finally wake up, too. Everything looks like a blur for a second, until she regains a semblance of consciousness. Somewhere between the last tingles biting her skin, she feels it- his hand, warmer than ever, pressing lightly against her abdomen.

He’s trembling; she can feel his fingers struggling to remain steady. His emotions start grazing her as she slowly regains access to their bond and this time, she’s the one trembling. He’s afraid. No, he’s terrified- more than he’s ever been. Even after he killed Snoke, even when he was inches from death at the Praetorian guard’s hand, his fear had never been so intense. His despair is palpable, loud; and just when she starts feeling her fingers again, Rey hears a single thought echo in her mind, clear and heavy in that deep voice of his.

Be with me.

Her body reacts before her mind does. He’s alone and afraid, something he’d once promised she wouldn’t be again. Many things have happened, since that night on Ahch-To: promises have been broken, blood has been shed, but nothing seems to matter right now. The only thing that matters is him, how painfully alone he feels and how much she wants him to stop trembling as she covers his hand with hers. Nothing happens for a second, then another, as her eyelids flutter open.

He’s the first thing she sees and, despite the desperate look he gives her, the only thing she wants to look at. His face is covered with bruises, blood and dirt mingling in a strange marriage that makes her wonder how he even found his way back to her in one piece. How she found herself alive and in his presence- in his arms- when all she felt minutes ago was emptiness. She wants to ask, but all she can do is sit straight and study his face to make sure it really is him and not another wicked trick she fell into. His other hand tightens at the back of her neck as she does so, and she knows from the look in his eyes this can’t be anything created by her own mind- because even in her wildest dreams, he never was like this.

His face is the same, and yet lightyears away from the one she knows. There’s something missing in his features, something that long hid the face she’s been wishing to look at since her very first vision. The demons are gone, Kylo Ren is no more: the eyes staring at her are the ones of Ben Solo, and Ben Solo only. He’s always been there, she’s always felt him, but to see him is something entirely new and powerful. It’s something she sometimes doubted she would ever experience, and revels into.

Ben.”

All traces of fear leave the bond, making way to utter satisfaction as his name crosses her lips. She can feel her smile growing wider at the imperceptible nod he gives her. It is him. He’s back and holding on to her with a care that warms her body a little more. He’s here, he’s ok and here, and she can’t help her hand from rising to his face as her heartbeats grow faster with each passing second. She remembers how badly she wanted to feel him, that night, and how wrong it felt; but this time, nothing feels wrong as her finger carefully lands on his cheek. He isn’t lightyears away. He isn’t a dream. He’s radiant, luminous, but there’s something wrong in the way his eyes are slowly closing. The light is fading away from him, pushing him to the ground and taking Rey with him.

She manages to stop him before his back hits the ground. He’s never looked younger, never looked more like himself, but it’s all wrong. This isn’t how it was supposed to happen. This isn’t the vision she had on Ahch-To.

“Ben?”

His name leaves her with a strangled sob as she feels something leaving the Force. She’s about to shake him when the feeling intensifies, until she feels it coming back. Something left to come back- to make him come back. His chest heaves just as she places a hand over it, and suddenly, she recognizes her old vision. She lets out a rushed breath and squeezes his hand harder. With a little help from her and a heavy grunt, Ben Solo rises.

Her first instinct is to cup his cheek and hold him, like she’s afraid he’s going to fall again; and somewhere deep inside, she is. “Stay with me,” she murmurs as her fingers trail over his temple.

His eyes- they’ve never been so attentive, so full of joy. She could lose herself in them if the tiny smile beginning to bloom on his lips wasn’t so tempting. She could spend hours looking at him, getting to learn these new expressions, but her body isn’t as patient as she is. Before she can find it in herself to let him speak or even breath, Rey throws herself against him in what feels like the most desperate and more right, more written in the stars than the feeling of completion seizing her as Ben returns her kiss with just as much impatience. This is how it always should’ve been, and how it always will be from now on: he and her against the galaxy, holding on to each other no matter what.

I’m here, he murmurs into her mind. I’m here.

His head dips a little closer to hers, chasing her mouth like she’s made of oxygen. She can feel him smiling through the kiss as his arms wrap around her, as she loses herself in the feeling of him, him and only him.  She’s been waiting for this for so long, pulling away feels insanely painful- until she sees his face. He’s in such peace, smiling and chuckling; this has to be the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen, and she can’t help tracing the dimples his smile is forming with the tip of her fingers. An incredulous chuckle leaves her too as she realizes what they just did. Everything feels a little too surreal right now.

“We should go,” she says finally.

She doesn’t really want to move, but nothing about this place is ideal: it’s cold and reminiscent of everything she wants to forget right now, and they both deserve to move on from what they just experienced. Probably hearing her thoughts, Ben gives her a frantic nod and lets go of her body as she starts getting up. The reluctance is strong in her as she pulls away from him, but she feels whole again a second later as she helps him back on his feet and gets to see him standing in front of her.

The walk back to the Falcon is a mess: they’re both limping and holding on to each other, chuckling one moment then groaning the next. For the first time in forever, Rey is grateful for the years spent carrying heavy weight around the Jakku desert: despite the illusion he’s trying to give her, Ben is in a worst state than she is, but she knows he won’t admit it. He gives her a radiant grin instead, one that is enough to enlighten the sullen place they’re leaving behind.

They’re just reaching the Falcon’s access ramp when she notices his hand gripping at her side. Any physical contact still feels as new as it feels right, but there’s something about the way his palm spreads over her ribcage, almost covering her left breast. She realizes what he’s doing the moment the door closes behind them: he’s checking on her heartbeat. It’s nothing too obvious, but the realization twists Rey’s stomach as she guides him through the ship in silence.

“Haven’t been here in years,” he mumbles when they reach the cockpit.

A small smile curls Rey’s lips as she settles him in the co-pilot seat. She can tell he’s trying to be casual about it, but their bond never lies: he’s a mass of excitement, looking around him with barely repressed curiosity as he takes in the few changes she’s made through the last year. “You’re lucky I know the captain.”

The knowing smile they exchange is just as painful as it is comforting as what she just said lingers on them both. She’s been so used to Ben’s shame and regrets when it came to his father that his nod is almost surprising. He finally looks at peace; and for the first time, Rey realizes how much he looks like his father.

 

- - -

 

The first days with the Resistance are surprisingly calm, given the guest Rey brought back. Most people are reluctant about Ben’s presence at first, but Maz is a great help: she shushes them one by one, appeasing the tensions to allow them some alone time as they both heal from their wounds. Through a fortunate chain of circumstances, Poe and Finn are too busy walking around the base hand in hand to think about being angry, which leaves them with Rose for their only company the few times she comes to check on them.

Her kindness shouldn’t be a surprise; Rey spent the last year getting to know her, witnessing her countless acts of bravery, but she can’t help the small smile curling her mouth at the sight of that small woman considering the six-foot mess of a man in front of her before shaking his hand with an approving nod. Making her Commander was one of Poe’s best decisions.

Their bruises disappear within a week, but the invisible scars are still very much present. They’re easy to hide during the day, but hard to ignore come the night. It sometimes feels like those nights on Jakku all over again; except this time, Rey isn’t facing them alone. With each shudder, all she has to do is tighten her grip around Ben’s neck- and every time, he squeezes her a little tighter in his arms.

They’ve been falling asleep like this since the day they came back, with his head lying on her chest and following each of her breaths. His massive form makes it a little hard to move in the morning, but Rey wouldn’t trade the feeling of safety this brings her for anything in the galaxy. She knows he’s still checking on her breathing, and she can’t help doing it too whenever her hand finds its way on his cheek.

“I heard them,” he says one night. “I heard my family.”

They haven’t spoken a lot in the last few days- mostly held on to each other, soothed each other back to sleep whenever nightmares occurred and murmured each other’s name for reassurance. The perks of having a force bond.

“I heard them, too.”

Her fingers tighten around the waves of his hair she’s been brushing for the last hour. She still can’t explain how, but she knew who they were the moment they encouraged her to rise. Breaches of the past, of his past, giving her the strength she needed to go on when she thought all was lost. When she thought Ben was lost. The sheer memory of it is enough to tighten the lump that hasn’t left her throat since.

“It’s the first time. I think...” He marks a pause to look at her. “I think they forgave me.”

His chin is digging into her abdomen as his eyes bore into hers. The familiar buzzing that always comes with their bond envelops them for a second as a dozen voices come to life in her mind, their murmur grazing her like a warm caress.

‘Get up, kid’, Luke’s voice echoes, followed by Han’s.

‘Get up, son.’

‘We’re here’, Leia murmurs, ‘we’re with you.’

‘Always.’

Rey doesn’t recognize the fourth voice, but she can’t help noticing the smile it paints on Ben’s lips as he closes his eyes peacefully and lets his memory open up to her. It’s undeniably the voice of a woman, tender and so full of love she can feel herself smiling at its next words. ‘You were never alone, Ben.’

‘Never.’

The last word lingers for a moment as she recognizes –or maybe learns- the voices of his grandparents. Their voices slowly fade away as Ben opens his eyes again, looking at her expectantly. He radiates hope and relief, but a small part of him seems unsure about something, reaching out to seek an answer from her. She understands what as she remembers what he last said.

“Of course they forgave you.”

“Do you?”

“Ben...” She straightens up just enough to cup his cheeks with both of her hands. Some things never changed- even in her arms, seemingly appeased, he still had that flicker of doubt in his eyes. “Come here.”

He obeys immediately, crawling up to her with those big eyes of his. It’s impossible not to shudder at the sensation of his arms framing her waist as he settles above her, his face inches from hers. His body is heavy against hers, but Rey couldn’t care less; it’s warm and grounding, and insanely satisfying.

“I forgave you a long time ago,” she articulates in a whisper. “It’s time you forgive yourself, too.”

His eyes close in agreement as she traces the lines of his cheeks with the tip of her thumbs. Getting rid of the remorse was never going to happen in a night, but seeing him haunted like this still hurts. They remain silent for a moment, reveling in each other’s soothing presence until an impulse seizes Rey. They haven’t let go of each other for days, but he’s so close- she’s just now realizing she hasn’t kissed him again since the first time, and what a shame it is. Fast and messy, she tilts her head and pulls him closer until their lips meet again in a searing kiss.

The bond is singing around them, whistling enthusiastically as the kiss deepens. It lasts longer than their first, grows more intense as the seconds pass. It’s the second kiss of her life, and Rey has no idea what she’s doing, but her body seems to know: timidly, her hands move to Ben’s shoulders as his move to her sides, digging into the mattress for support. She should pull away, take a breath, pause whatever is starting, but she can’t; not when everything has never been so perfect. It’s dark enough outside that she knows the Resistance must be asleep, no one will interrupt them. The Falcon has always been a place for her to escape when the world outside was too loud; but right now, it feels just like the home she’s always longed for. Everything is so perfect, she needs a second to look at this moment and save it somewhere in the back of her mind.

Ben’s mouth chases hers hungrily as she breaks away from the kiss. His eyes are hooded, framed with small wrinkles as he lets out a small chuckle and kriff, she loves him. She loves him so ardently she can feel her heart beaming at the simple idea of his existence, her stomach twisting at the sound of his shuddered breathing. His chuckle stops as soon as their eyes meet again, making way to that incredulous look of his, again. He must’ve heard her thoughts –but truth be told, she’s not even trying to hide them anymore- and the realization seems to shake something in him. She can’t see why, because of course she loves him, and he has to know already- still, his face lightens as she thinks it again, and again, her own smile defying his in the darkness of the room.

“Be-”

His name isn’t even off her tongue when he’s kissing her again, his nose crushed against her cheeks. His mouth moves against hers in a new way that sends a wave of shivers down her spine. More, more, more- she isn’t sure which of them is sending the idea through the bond, but she’s absolutely reveling in it, replying to Ben with as much energy as she kisses him back and slowly parts her lips to grant him the access she can feel him begging for. His tongue is grazing hers within seconds; and before she realizes, she’s letting herself sink back in the mattress, dragging him along with her.

His hands, his hips, his legs- every inch of him is hot against her, touching carefully like he’s afraid to break her, which sounds almost ironic given the fierceness of his kisses.

“Closer,” she murmurs against his lips. “I want to feel you.”

Once again, his response is immediate: a strangled moan leaves his mouth as his kisses drift to the corner of her mouth then to the side of her jaw. Rey almost lets out a giggle when the tip of his nose brushes her neck as he buries his face there. His breath is hot against her skin, drawing goosebumps along the curve of her neck as he kisses his way down to her shoulder with an open mouth. It’s nothing like their first kiss; these are heated, driven by something new and mysterious that Rey only yearns to understand as she revels in the sensations of his lips exploring her body.

A deep sigh leaves her as his mouth approaches her collarbone and her entire body arches into his, begging for more. The movement seems to amuse Ben, and Rey would probably join his laugh if the sight of his lips hovering above her wasn’t so frustrating. With his eyes planted in hers, he slowly goes back down to her stomach, his mouth inches from her skin as his chin grazes the soft fabric of her clothes.

“Can I kiss you?” he asks when he reaches her abdomen.

“I thought that’s what we were doing,” Rey replies in a breath.

“Can I kiss you there?”

His eyes are darker than ever at his question, boring into hers impatiently. If it wasn’t for the weight of his body grounding hers, Rey would probably be shuddering at his words- truth be told, she’s not even sure how she’s still functioning with his hands coming at her hips. “Where?” she hears herself asking in a whisper.

His face dips just a few inches, his mouth hovering above her navel with an inquiring look.

Yes. The answer doesn’t even have to leave her mouth for him to hear it. Careful as ever, Ben leaves a small kiss on top of her covered stomach without breaking eye contact and shifts a little lower. “Here?”

She nods her agreement again, a wave of shivers seizing her as he drops another peck at her hips. Step by step, he approaches the lower part of her body, trailing kisses down her clothed thighs at an agonizingly slow pace interrupted with the same question over and over again. She doesn’t even know by which kind of miracle Ben hasn’t fallen from the bed yet: he’s completely hunched above her, bent over the mattress with her legs at either side of his shoulders. She slowly understands where he's heading when his kisses stop right by her knees, and a shuddered breath leaves her.

“Ben?”

“Hm?”

She bites her lips for a second, then glances at her clothes. “I could take that off.”

His eyes meet hers with the same darkness, eager with a hint of that tiny panic that never seems to leave him. “You could,” he agrees with that deep voice of his. “Or… I could…”

His fingers curl around the fabric timidly as she watches her, waiting for a sign to stop. She doesn’t give him any, though, nodding frantically. The gesture paints a smile on his lips and he pulls her pants down, encouraged by her incessant nods. Inch by inch, the fabric rolls off her legs, exposing her skin to the cold air of the ship. She’s never been naked in front of anyone before, but what she feels right now isn’t exactly fear; if anything, it’s anticipation mingled with excitement. After a brief struggle to pass it through her feet, she hears Ben throw the piece of clothing to the floor where it lands with a thud, drawing a silent laugh out of her.

“I don’t know if it’ll be… good.”

His face is so close to Rey she can feel his words hitting the skin of her knees as he speaks. “It’s you,” she breathes out impatiently, “of course it’ll be good.”

The chuckle that leaves him grazes her skin in the most delightful way. His breath ghosts over her inner thighs right before he plants a kiss there, and she has to fight the impulse to just sit up and kiss him again. Her skin shivers under his touch, his lips trailing kisses higher up her thighs until his face is buried between her legs.

Oh-”

His first kiss there is warm and cold at the same time, surprisingly soft. Besides the goosebumps emerging on every inch of her skin, it builds something in her she’d never felt before- a tingle that starts under her skin and spreads over her limbs like a tidal wave, brushing everything on its way.

“Not good?”

His question tickles her folds, makes her want to squeeze her thighs together and spread them wider at the same time. She takes a deep breath instead, gathering her strength to look down at Ben from where she’s laying. “Very good,” she hastens to say. “It’s- don’t stop-”

Her next words die on her lips as he kisses her again, this time longer. A series of slow, open-mouthed kisses follow as he wraps his hands around her hips, drawing his face closer until his nose bumps her in a way that feels surprisingly good. He must’ve sensed it; because next thing she knows, his nose is grazing that particular spot insistently until she lets out an involuntary moan. For a brief second, she’s pretty sure she can feel Ben smiling against her- but before she can say anything, his tongue joins in, adding a little something to his kisses as he keeps exploring that part of her. Where his touch was hesitant at first, it’s now curious and eager, driving her a little closer to the edge with each passing second.

“Ben-”

Her hands close around his dark waves as his tongue grazes dangerously close to her entrance. Each of his gestures is charged with a fervent love, a need to make her feel what she already knows, that it takes him a split second to look up and meet her eyes again.

Come back. She doesn’t even need to say it out loud- he pulls away immediately and is back above her within seconds, his arms planted at either side of her face. “Everything ok?”

She nods with a grin as her thighs come up to frame his hips. “I just want to kiss you,” she whispers, and his lips are on hers immediately, obliging her request with an eagerness that tightens the bond around them. He tastes differently than he did earlier, and Rey feels herself shiver at the realization that he tastes like her. Her heartbeats quicken as she wraps her arms around his neck, and she knows from the way his hips twitch that he’s feeling it, too. Her legs tighten around him as she tries to communicate her plan wordlessly, with very little success. “Help me up.”

His grin tickles her lips as he nods through their kiss, his hands coming behind her thighs as he sits back. The fact that it takes him so little effort to hoist her up only adds to that tingling sensation in Rey’s abdomen as she settles in his lap, her thighs falling around his waist. She immediately feels him, hard against her despite the fabric still separating them, and the giggle that leaves her is somewhere between nervousness and curiosity.

“Sorr-”

She doesn’t let him apologize; even though they have all the time in the world, wasting it with futile excuses feels like a shame when they could be kissing again, so she does just that, her lips brushing his as softly as she can.

“Stop being sorry and take this thing off,” she mutters with a smile. Her fingers tangle around the hem of his shirt as she speaks, tugging at it impatiently. With an amused look, Ben joins her and finishes pulling the fabric up to his head until his chest is bare and the tunic is on the floor, right next to her abandoned pants.

The contrast between his skin and his dark clothes is impressive. Where her skin is covered with old sunburns and freckles, his is a pale expanse of muscles and scars. There are some she recognizes from the last time she saw him like that, and a few that look painfully new. Silently, Rey starts tracing each of them with the tip of her fingers.

“Does it hurt?” she asks when she reaches the one above his navel.

He shakes his head despite his frown. “Not anymore.”

She repeats the motion a few times, resisting the urge to heal the scars as she goes. It’s a dangerous power, and they’ve both used it way too much already- she can’t bring herself to risk losing any precious minute of her time with him. His eyes are almost closed when she checks on him, a small smile tugging his lips as she lets her hands trail down his abdomen to the hem of his pants. He doesn’t open them until she starts toying with the button keeping the fabric together, timid but determined.

“Need some help?”

“Yes please.”

His hands come to join hers, fumbling between them until a faint click echoes. Before he can start rolling the pants down his hips, Rey takes suit, stumbling above him to get him out of the thick fabric. She almost kicks him in the chin in the process, her gestures a little too hurried as she climbs back onto his lap.

She feels him again as she lets her knees sink into the mattress; but this time, she feels him without any restriction. He’s warmer than any other part of his body, throbbing against her stomach and so much bigger than she ever dared to imagine. A shiver that isn’t hers rolls through her body as she considers him curiously, her eyes growing wider at the realization that maybe this won’t fit.

“Arms?” Ben whispers in her ear.

She can hear the smile in his voice, can feel the excitement in his words as his hands come up to grip at her tunic. Smiling in return, she raises her arms in the air, biting her lip when the fabric grazes her skin on its way up and over her head. She can feel her nipples hardening at the cold air brushing them, and every inch of her body shuddering when Ben’s arms wrap around her back to pull her close to him until their chests meet.

The skin-to-skin contact is delicious, but it only leaves her wanting more. Careful not to hurt him this time, Rey lets her hands trail down the base of his neck as she claims his lips for another long, collected kiss. She can feel him getting harder the moment their lips touch; and before she realizes, her body responds with a brief roll of her hips that sends an electroshock both their ways.

“Rey-”

No other words follow; just her name on his tongue again, whispered between gritted teeth. It has to be a good sign, though; because the next second, his hands are on her backside, holding her tight and pulling her so close she can feel her hips begging to move again to feel the friction. She does so a moment later, the look on Ben’s face is incredibly rewarding before he buries his face in her cleavage with a groan, and she would be tempted to laugh if his erection wasn’t dangerously tickling her entrance with each of his movements.

The bond has never been so open, and yet so close. She can feel everything, hear his every thought; it’s like a bridge has been built between them as well as an immense wall preventing the world from interrupting them. A small kiss in the crook of her neck drags Rey back to reality, drawing a trail of shivers down her breasts. She hadn’t realized how disheveled she was until now: half her buns are undone, letting her hair brush her shoulders and mingle with the sweat starting to form at her temples. It blurs her sight a little, but she doesn’t mind; her movements are guided by something else as she hoists herself up a few inches, aligning herself with Ben, who keeps staring at her with what looks like amazement.

A soft gasp leaves him as she begins her descent upon him, followed by a strangled one when his tip meets her entrance. It’s a whole new range of sensations seizing them both as she progresses down his length, tilting her hips every now and then to adjust her position until she feels comfortable enough to rock her hips against his in careful waves.

Each movement feels even more satisfying than the one before; and after a few minutes of silent rocking, Rey pulls away just enough to catch a glimpse of Ben. His eyes are on her immediately, hooded and soft and so full of love she can feel herself smiling helplessly. She knows people usually associate this act with some wilder pleasures –she’s heard stories back in the days, on Jakku- but she can’t bring herself to pick up her pace. Slow sounds good, for now. They have all the time in the world to explore the many other ways they can pleasure each other. Right now, all she wants is to feel as close to Ben as she can and feel his heart beat against her skin.

“Never leave me again,” she whispers as her arms squeeze tighter around his neck.

With a small shake of his head, Ben closes his eyes and tightens his arms around her as well.

“I’ll always come back for you, sweetheart,” he murmurs into her skin as he kisses her forehead. “I promise.”

It’s enough of a promise for her to nod happily, her hands coming up to cup his cheeks as she kisses him again, reveling in his force signature and how radiant it feels tangled with hers.

He’s here. She’s here.

They’re home.