It takes Rey all of two days before she’s going stir-crazy, nearly tearing The Sacred Jedi Texts(™) apart in her quest to find a way to the World Between Worlds. She’s looking for answers even harder than she was pre-final battle and now she has even fewer resources since Leia...well, she doesn’t want to think about that.
She travels the galaxy alone, chasing any lead she gets in her quest for answers. It’s not until she makes her way to a small uncharted planet in the Unknown Regions that she stumbles upon the key to bringing Ben home.
The price, she is told, is her life.
Rey debates this while pacing in her small, old, beat-up ship she built herself out of scavenged parts from defunct warships. On the one hand, she’ll do anything to bring Ben home. On the other, it’s going to destroy him if he finds out she died to bring him back, and nobody has time for that Romeo and Juliet shit. When she goes back to ask for more details, she’s told that she won’t die in the traditional sense and she’ll still exist, but it’ll be in a different manner than she’s used to.
She agrees to pay it without a second thought.
Ben doesn’t remember anything that happened in the World Between Worlds until Rey comes crashing through with a ship that’s even more garbage than the Millennium Falcon. “Get in,” she says, leaping out and grabbing his hands. (Up until that point, he hadn’t even realized he had hands. The afterlife is weird like that.)
It doesn’t actually hit him that anything has happened until they pop back into their normal universe. Rey puts the ship on autopilot, leaps out of the pilot’s chair, and hops in his lap, throwing her hands around his neck and squeezing so hard he thinks she might be trying to kill him until she says, “I missed you so much.”
“You’re colder than I remember,” are his first words to her as he gingerly runs his hands up and down her back, marveling at the fact that this is something he can actually do. “I mean, wait, I love you, how did you—” He’s about to say find me, but then she kisses him and he loses his ability to form sentences.
Saying they have “a lot to talk about” is an understatement, but Ben can’t find it in him to care. It’s only when he feels the pinprick of pain as his lip snags on Rey’s tooth that it occurs to him that something might be wrong. Granted, he’s only ever kissed one other person, but he doesn’t remember Tai’s teeth being so sharp. What really tips him off that it’s unusual is the way Rey scrambles off his lap, hands slapped over her face.
And her eyes. They’re red. Which is not Sith yellow, but it’s still...not good.
“Sorry, sorry!” she lisps. “I can explain, wait.”
And she does.
“You became a vampire just to save me?!”
Ben is, somewhat understandably, pissed that Rey allowed herself to be cursed with vampirism in exchange for a ride to the World Between Worlds and back. “I brought some blood with me,” she says, motioning towards the minifridge on her ship as he paces back and forth across what passes for a lounge on her little ship. “I did plan ahead, you know.”
His gait is a little unsteady; he told her that he didn’t think he had a physical form until she showed up, so he has to re-learn how to have a body. Rey has more than a few ideas about how she could help him learn his own body again, but she’s keeping her mouth shut. Accidentally pricking him with her fang while kissing didn’t go over well. She’d scrambled for a blood bag after the taste of Ben’s blood triggered a new kind of hunger in her, but she’s afraid it will happen again.
“But now you’re dead,” he says. “I know how vampires work. This means you’re dead, Rey! Have you tried setting foot in sunlight since you Turned?”
She rolls her eyes. “I was a little focused on finding you,” she reminds him.
“That’s a no, then.”
She sighs. “Look, what’s done is done. I didn’t do this just so that I could argue with you some more.” His expression softens when she adds, “I think we’ve done enough of that, don’t you?”
He nods and takes a still-shaky step towards her, then another. He doesn’t stop until he’s standing mere centimetres from her, reaching out for her hands. She gets the message instantly, closing the distance between them as she pulls him in close. “I missed you,” she murmurs. “More than words can say.”
He returns the embrace, holding her so tight she almost can’t breathe. No, wait, she doesn’t need to breathe, does she? It’s just muscle memory. Habit. Weird. She’s so busy puzzling over this that she nearly misses his murmured reply.
“Thank you for coming to save me. Again.”
They’re going back to Ajan Kloss, which is still being used as a military headquarters of a sort while the Resistance transitions into being a proper government again. They’re only an hour or two out when Rey is hit by another round of hunger so strong that Ben can feel it in the Force.
(Or is it thirst? Thunger? Ben isn’t sure how to describe it. Apparently, death has not been enough to break the link between them. He finds that reassuring.)
“Rey,” he says, watching as her eyes turn the same exact red as the lightsaber he threw away. “It’s okay. You can have my blood. I trust you not to kill me.”
She shakes her head, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. “I can’t do that to you,” she replies. She’s hiding her mouth behind her hand, but he knows she’s lisping. Her fangs are out.
They’re still arguing over it when the ship’s nav chimes, alerting them that they’re in Ajan Kloss airspace and have been cleared to land.
“I’m not sure if you really want to land right now,” whoever’s comming them about landing says. “There’s a bit of a situation.”
Rey is so thungry at this point that she’s barely able to copilot. “We’re having a bit of a situation ourselves,” Ben replies. “I think we’ll take our changes.” They’re two incredibly powerful Force-sensitives. There’s not a whole lot that can hurt them.
When the ramp to Rey’s ship lowers, Ben understand why there’s “a situation” happening. “What the kriff?” he says, watching the creatures run around, making a mess of the base.
“Food,” Rey gasps, moving with an inhumanly fast space and tackling the closest one. Ben has seen more than his fair share of violent things—hell, he sliced his own master in half with a lightsaber—but watching her sink her fangs into one of the animals to drink its blood is a whole new level of gross, and he turns away.
“These 30-50 feral hogs came out of nowhere,” a woman says as she runs towards the ship. She’s short—nearly a third of a metre shorter than Ben—with olive skin and black hair pulled back into a messy bun. “What the hell is Rey doing to them? And who the hell are you?”
Shit. “Did Rey not tell you what she was planning on doing?” he asks.
Ben sighs, glancing at Rey to see that she’s now draining another feral hog of its blood. “I’m Ben Solo. Rey became a vampire in exchange for bringing me back to life.”
In the end, Rey only had to drain three of the hogs before she was satisfied. She and Ben used the Force to round up the other 27-47 and herd them far, far away from the base. After that, it was a long, long night of explaining why Rey had felt the need to go to such lengths to bring someone back from the dead, particularly when that someone used to be Supreme Leader Kylo Ren.
At first, nobody is sure what to do with him. “He’s responsible for the death and suffering of millions!” someone points out.
“He wasn’t the one behind Starkiller Base,” Rey points out. “He had nothing to do with that.”
“He’s been responsible for plenty of other deaths, though!”
As if he needs reminding.
The worst part is what happens later that night, after he and Rey are alone back on her ship, when he logs on to check the HoloNet news for the first time in—how much time has passed since he died, anyway? Whatever, it’s been a while, so he’s not entirely certain what he’s seeing at first. “Rey?” he says slowly.
If he wasn’t bound so tightly to her in the Force, he wouldn’t even know she was approaching. “Yes, my love?”
Love. It’s not the first time she’s called him that. The spark of joy he feels at that is just as strong as the first time.
Focus, Ben, he reminds himself. “What the hell is ‘reylo,’ and why is it all over the HoloNet with our names on it?”
At this, she sighs and rolls her eyes. “Word got out that I’m the Jedi who took down Palpatine almost as quickly as rumors that Kylo Ren helped arose,” she explains. “And then some people on the HoloNet grabbed onto the implication that we were a thing and ran with it.”
He frowns at her. “We are a thing. Aren’t we?” Oh no, his brain cries, regardless of any logic indicating a problem. We presumed too much and we were wrong and—
Rey can feel his panic, and she doesn’t hesitate to plant herself on his lap and kiss him until he stops panicking. “We are a thing,” she says. “Force dyad, remember? But nobody else knows that, of course.”
Should he be embarrassed by how quickly that defuses his panic attack? “So what does that have to do with this ‘reylo’ thing?” he asks her.
“It’s a combination of our names. You know, ‘Rey’ plus ‘lo,’ which is fitting seeing as it could be ‘Kylo’ or ‘Solo,’ although I don’t think that was the intent,” she says, running her fingers through his hair and oh that feels nice. “People started writing stories. About us. Like, what we may have discussed when planning to take down Palpatine. And then it sort of spiraled into other things, like the things we might have done to each other while meeting in battle during the war.”
“Judging from your tone, I’m afraid to ask what ‘the things we might have done to each other’ means.”
“Some of it isn’t so bad,” she says, paying far too much attention to what her hands are doing in his hair. There’s a blush rising on her cheeks now. It’s adorable. “And then some of it gets very creative with the sort of things we could do mid-battle.”
He’s not sure what to make of that. “Meaning?”
“Well, I’m no expert,” she says, blushing harder, “but I can’t think of a single time we met in battle where you’d have the opportunity to fuck me against a wall.”
“If you want,” she continues, resting her hands on his cheeks so that she can tilt his face to meet hers, “we could try to get a little creative ourselves. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to read about the things we could have done. It would be nice to see how realistic those stories were.”
He kisses her, unable to stop the little moan that escapes when she deepens it. “I would love to help you out in any way I can.”
Rey never thought she’d get the chance to explain this to Ben, and she feels like her entire body is blushing when she confesses that she’d read some stories to pass the time on her trips around the galaxy. “There was a lot of time spent in hyperspace, and usually I couldn’t sleep,” she tells him. “I was too tense. It was painful, not being able to feel connected to you.”
They’re curled up in her bunk in a post-coital haze, holding each other so tightly she’s not sure where Ben ends and she begins. “Will you read your favorite to me?” he asks in a voice that’s so quiet, it’s barely above a whisper.
She nods. “Of course,” she replies.
Rey was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, Kylo came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began,
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
Rey’s astonishment was beyond expression. In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,
"I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly."
Kylo seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said,
"And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance."
"I might as well enquire," replied she, "why, with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character?"
As she pronounced these words, Kylo changed colour; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued.
"I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there."
Ben doesn’t know how to feel about Rey’s choice of favorites. “Really?” he asks, trying and failing to keep an even tone.
She blushes. “Well, it’s not too far off from the truth,” she reminds him.
“How in all the hells is that close to ‘the truth’?” he replies, no longer trying to hide his agitation.
“It’s like what you said in the throne room. Remember?” She deepens her voice in an obvious imitation of his. ‘You’re nothing, but not to me.’”
Now he’s the one who’s blushing. He’s replayed those words at least a thousand times, but when he hears them repeated back from Rey, it really hits him how poorly he’d phrased that thought. “Emotions were running high,” he mutters. “I’d just killed my master to save your life and then we slaughtered a bunch of guards together. Give me a break.”
She laughs, but it doesn’t sound mocking. “We worked it out in the end,” she tells him, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. “And that’s what matters to me.” Before she can pull away, he turns his head, pressing his lips to hers.
It takes some time, but eventually, they figure out what Ben’s place in the New New Republic is. (Nailing down Ben’s punishment goes faster than deciding a better name for the new government.) The fact that this ‘reylo’ stuff is all over the HoloNet only increases the demand for leniency; Ben’s been given a sentence of lifetime public service, which he’s glad to do. “That’s what I would have done anyway,” he confesses to Rey after the hearing is over.
The “fanfiction,” on the other hand, is a different matter entirely. Rey comes up with a plan one night. “Listen,” she says. “Who knows our story better than us?”
Ben frowns. She can tell he’s not following, even though he could use the Force to help speed this along. “And?”
“Why don’t we write fanfiction about ourselves?”
He doesn’t respond immediately. “Why would we tell anyone our story? It’s ours. I don’t want to share it.”
“Well, not the truth, obviously,” she says with an eye roll. “But we could tell stories. Silly ones. Sad ones. Sexy ones. Wouldn’t it be funny to see how people react, not knowing we’re the authors?”
There’s a smile on his face now. “Okay,” he says. “So where do we start?”
Three months later, the most-read story on Galactic HoloArchive of Our Own is a collaboration between two individuals new to the fandom, NotAlone34 and NotNobody15.