A/N: This is my first time writing for Star Wars, so be gentle. Spoilers for The Last Jedi lie within.
The Tipping Point
The first time it happens, she is terrified.
She wakes in the middle of the night and there, beside her in her bunk is a dark mass, silhouetted against the glow of the control panel by the door. Her breath catches in her throat, and silence presses in upon her.
She clenches a fist, ready to fight her way to the door, to give her enough time to alert someone. Her lightsaber is still cleaved in two, and her blaster has been redistributed to the front line forces.
She doesn't even have her staff.
But then, as she comes up with a plan to rid herself of this problem, her brain begins to focus, and her eyes grow accustomed to the dark.
His hair is the first thing she recognises - soft and black, and the shape of his nose, intermittently highlighted by the pulsing LEDs on the far wall.
It's him. And he's not really here. Not really.
He certainly doesn't know he's here at any rate.
He's fast asleep, his broad shoulders moving slowly as his ribcage swells and deflates with every deep, steadying breath. Rey doesn't know what to do. If she wakes him, she'll have to talk to him. But she can't get out, and she can't go back to sleep, not when he's taking up so much space in her bunk.
It wasn't built for two.
She wonders how this has come to be. Snoke had goaded them both, had delighted in his input in their connection. But Snoke has been scattered across the galaxy, is nothing more than decaying flesh and brittle bone.
But here Ben is, all the same.
She toys with the idea of waking him, in the hope that he might be so scandalised, and so embarrassed that he has wound up here, in her bed, in the new (and also old) rebel base, without even intending to. Maybe that would be enough to break the connection and send him on his way.
But maybe it won't. Maybe he'll rage and yell, and cause a scene. Maybe the entire base will wake to discover their cruellest enemy in her bunk. But they won't understand it. How can they, when she doesn't understand it either?
Her stomach feels hot at the thought, acid churning as she weighs up her options.
Slowly, very slowly, she lays down again, her eyes fixed on his face, her heart slamming to a halt every time his eyelids flutter in the darkness.
She can hear his breath, can sense his heartbeat, and when she ventures forth a hand so she is just a few millimetres from his bare arm, can feel the faintest shred of warmth coming from him.
Rey withdraws her hand, and pulls her blanket up, over her shoulders. She watches him in silence, her eyelids growing heavier and heavier, until she is lost to the night.
When she wakes in the morning, he is gone, and the dent on the far side of her pillow is the only thing that convinces her it wasn't just a dream.
Sleep leaves him vulnerable, and so he avoids it.
It is exhausting, and he starts to see its effects in the weeks that follow. But waking up in the girl's bunk had been humiliating. Somehow, when they had both been unconscious in different parts of the galaxy, they had let their defences slip, and somehow, she had drawn him in.
Exhaustion is a small price to pay to avoid such a thing happening again.
But then he is sitting in his quarters. One moment he is eating, breaking off pieces of bread, chewing them halfheartedly, and the next he awakes in pitch black, slumped on his front, the pillow beneath him damp with drool.
He's still dressed in his robes, can feel his thick heavy belt cutting into him. He reaches an arm around to the buckles and clumsily unfastens it, pulling it out from under him before he settles back down, making himself comfortable.
He has tried to resist for too long, but he won't be vulnerable every time.
He can't be.
He breathes deeply, trying to rid himself of his anxiety. The more he thinks about it, the more likely it is to happen. He turns his head on the pillow, and watches the blips of the control panel, red and green and white.
He can sense someone. Someone familiar.
He rolls over, and there she is, sound asleep, her hair splayed around her like sun rays. Her lips are slightly parted, and he hears the air being drawn in, and out, and in, and out.
Kylo sits up and clenches his fist, gripping the blankets, furious with himself for being so stupid.
He shouldn't be alone. It's dangerous and stupid. Because this is where he'll inevitably end up.
It's quiet here though. His world has been shut out, no boots on metal grilles to be heard outside the door, no barked orders, nothing over the intercom from Hux.
He can't hear anything from her surroundings either. Just her, just her breathing, and the soft sound she occasionally makes when the air drags against her vocal cords. It's peaceful here, in the nowhere place that is her bunk. Slowly he lowers himself back down, manoeuvring one arm underneath his head so that he can look down at her.
She might be lying in wait, ready to strike.
Or she might be dreaming.
As the minutes tick past, she doesn't show any signs of waking, and there is nothing to suggest that this is a clever trap for him. Eventually, she rolls onto her side, letting out a sigh as she brings her arms to rest in front of her, fingers curving around the loose fabric of her pillowcase.
The tips of her hair are so close to him, and he reaches out his hand to gently press his fingers against the ends of one wayward strand.
His eyes move to her face, but she doesn't stir at the contact. He watches her for as long as he can bear, his teeth clenched, and then he lets out a slow breath, his muscles loosening just enough for him to settle into the thin mattress that the Rebellion has so generously provided to her.
They're in pieces, and she's still with them.
He doesn't want that. He doesn't want her to become just another body in a shallow grave on a war torn planet. It's not right.
He watches her, and before he realises, sleep rolls over him once more.
When he wakes, he is slumped at his table, his dinner half eaten and abandoned, his mouth wet at one corner.
Kylo grits his teeth and stands up.
He doesn't have time for this.
Sometimes, when she has slept through the night, she can tell that he's been. There's no evidence to speak of, no traces of him on her pillow, but she knows, deep down, if he has strayed between planes, traversing the galaxy in a heartbeat.
Tonight, however, she is woken by a tugging on her blanket. She opens her eyes and sees the mass of him in the dark, his face buried in the pillow, his hair messy. The pale skin of his shoulder blades is just visible, and Rey realises that he must have rolled over, trapping the edge of her blanket under him. She pulls it back slowly, her eyes on his motionless hand as she does. He remains still until the last moment, when the hem is finally freed from under him and her arm slips, elbow banging into the wall.
He stirs, and then his head rises from the pillow. He turns to look at her, and she feels as though she has been caught red handed, even though it is he who is in her bed.
Ben's face is slack, and Rey suspects he is dazed by his tiredness. His brown eyes blink at her, once, twice, three times before he groans softly and lays back down.
He's not surprised by his being here, and Rey can't help but suppose it's confirmation that it is him maintaining the connection between them. After all, it is he who comes to her. Not the other way around.
"Are you quite all right there?" she asks. She's tired, and irritated that this man, this enemy can just come into her world and take up her bunk whenever he chooses.
"Close the connection," he mumbles, his voice muffled by the pillow. "I didn't ask to be brought here."
"I didn't bring you here," Rey huffs. "You came here."
Ben turns his head, looking up at her from the pillow. "I was asleep," he says, his voice low.
"So was I," Rey argues. "You woke me up by taking my blanket."
Ben holds her gaze for a moment, processing the information before he sighs. Rey detects the hint of an eye roll, the whites of his eyes glinting in the gloom.
"Take this," comes the murmur, and Ben lifts one side of his blanket, large and soft and dark. Rey hesitates, but now her scratchy rag of a blanket seems so pathetic in this chilly base, and she takes it, allowing the fabric to pool over her.
"Go back to sleep," Ben says quietly, and she can tell by the way his words slow that he's already halfway there himself. "I'm too tired to fight."
Rey doesn't say anything, but soon the familiar barely there snores fall into an easy rhythm that lulls Rey back into the dark.
He is less concerned about going to sleep now. It is an uncomfortable truth that nearly every night, as he slips out of consciousness, he reappears on the other side of the galaxy, and shares his blanket with his enemy.
More and more he is coming to the conclusion that he cannot possibly see her again in the flesh. If he sees her on the battlefield he will be forced to fight her, and the idea makes him sick. He cannot stand the prospect of hurting her, and the possibility of his lightsaber searing into her flesh with one stolen piece of luck is too terrible to think about. He cannot run away from the fight, or he will be branded a traitor, will face a botched execution attempt from Hux.
At the very least he'd have to run away. But he has nowhere to run. Nowhere in the galaxy would ever want Kylo Ren.
The more his brain tortures him with these thoughts, the more he realises that Rey is his other half. The force bond is proof of that, but there is more to it. They should despise one another, should be at each other's throats. And yet, when he finds himself in her bunk, he ensures that she is well covered by his blanket, and she will murmur a soft and sleepy greeting.
They are trapped forever in their roles. If he ran, she would never run with him. She would detest him for being such a coward, for leaving her to face this all alone.
This time, he is lying awake in his own bed, staring at the ceiling. But then silence falls, and he tilts his head to see her face gazing at him.
"Hi,' she says, and without waiting for invitation, she makes herself comfortable, pulling his blanket over her. He doesn't mind, as such, but he finds himself lost for words when he is still so awake. It's easy when he's tired. Words fall from his lips in a haze, but now, when they're both lucid and alert, it's difficult to know what to say.
And so, he stares at the ceiling, waiting for her to make the next move.
But she doesn't say anything.
He waits, longer, and then glances across to her. She is watching him, waiting for him.
It's another stalemate.
He shifts onto his side so he can see her, so his brown eyes can meet hers and he can try and gauge what happens next. But nothing does. And so he reaches out, trying to sense her thoughts and feelings, but he is blocked.
"No," she says, in a quiet, firm voice.
He severs the ties, and her shoulders relax the instant he does. She's a long way from the girl in the forest now. It's not just beginner's luck anymore. She has practiced, and honed her skills, her power growing everyday. In another universe, another lifetime, and on another path, they would have been unstoppable.
"What's this?" she asks, and her thumb brushes gently around the raised edge of a scar on his arm.
"Blaster," he says, then before he can stop himself, "friendly fire."
Rey suppresses a laugh, and it stings for the briefest of seconds, but her hand is still on his arm, her skin warm against his. The last time anybody touched him with good intent was so long ago that it only serves to make him miserable. He closes his eyes, fighting away the thought, but by doing so, his attention is only focused more sharply on her rough junker's hands and her delicate touch.
"Dare I ask what happened to the offending shooter?"
Kylo opens his eyes. There is a mischievous expression on her face, laced with a hint of dread. He suspects part of her hates the thought of him killing someone, and yet, the other part of her considers it one less enemy for the resistance.
"I don't know," he says, and it's the truth. He hadn't had time to turn, for he had been too busy fighting himself. But he had heard the sound as it had hit him, had recognised the pitch and force.
It was unmistakably one of his own.
She removes her hand from his arm, and immediately he feels cold. Kylo watches as she rests it on the pillow, in the small space between them.
She's so far away.
Before he can argue with himself, he places his hand on top of hers. Her breath hitches in her throat, but she doesn't pull away. Her eyes bore into his, seeking an answer, but he doesn't have one to give her, only that he longs for the warmth that she radiates.
After a moment, she links their fingers, and Kylo's loneliness spirals. He will never experience this for real. He will never be able to give her what she wants, and so this is the best he will ever get - her touch across the lightyears, her small hand in his, bringing his non-existent future into sharp relief.
As long as the Resistance has her, they'll keep going. They'll keep fighting. He can no longer see a path for himself in all of this.
He's coming to the end of the road.
Kylo moves closer to her, and he feels Rey shift too, her face coming to rest against the side of his hand. He forces every bad thought and feeling out of his head, extracting himself from his reality for a few brief moments to enjoy the peace with her.
It won't last forever, but he can sleep easily with her. And that's something, at least.
He bursts into existence, his face smeared with blood, a singed hole in the shoulder of his tunic.
"Are you all right?" he demands, and he crosses the room in three strides, sinking to his haunches when he reaches her bed.
"Yeah," Rey says, but when she moves on the mattress, pain splits through her, echoing around her rib cage. She squeezes her eyes tightly shut and tries not to cry out, but she can't help it. At the sound, Ben tugs off his gloves, one hand moving to her face, soothing her tensed muscles. He is so careful when he touches her, and even when she is submerged in blinding pain, Rey can tell that he wants to make things better.
When the burning in her chest subsides, and her lungs can breathe, she is able to open her eyes again.
"Have you been treated properly?"
Rey doesn't stop him when he moves his hands to her shirt, peeling it up so he can see the bandage wrapped around the lower part of her rib cage.
"You should be in a bacta tank," he breathes, his hand resting on her waist. "You can't just sleep this off." There is a crack in his voice that nags at Rey, but she's not in the right frame of mind to try and make sense of it.
"It's a bacta bandage," she grunts. Speaking isn't easy. Nothing is today. "We're having to ration it, supplies are low."
His Adam's apple bobs in his throat as he swallows, his eyes flicking down to the ground before they return to her. That nagging is there again, but Rey slowly moves her hand to cover his, squeezing gently and relishing in the comfort it brings.
She couldn't stand being in the med bay, not with so many in such awful conditions. So she had retreated here, and hoped he would come.
Even after everything, after his side took so many lives today, she still longed for him to come to her.
She's so selfish.
"I'm sorry." He blurts the words out, and Rey wonders for a moment if they're accidental. But then she meets his eyes and that nagging in the back of her head dies down. "I saw it too late."
"Saw what?" she asks, and she closes her eyes. Her body is using all her energy for the healing process and she can barely stay awake.
Battle is exhausting, but recovering is worse.
"The blast. He shot at you, while you were fighting three stormtroopers. A coward's tactic." The last three words are filled with venom, and Rey's curiosity piques.
"You avoided me," she murmurs, realisation settling in. "On the battlefield. You wouldn't come near me."
She'd hardly noticed he was there. Just the whip of a black cloak out of the corner of her eye as she'd lay on the forest floor, bleeding into the mud.
"Of course I did," he whispers. "How can I fight you? What if I hurt you?"
Her body ripples with a smothered laugh, and pain shoots through her chest, causing her to wince.
"It's not funny."
"Ben," Rey sighs, brushing her thumb against the back of his hand. "You're Supreme Leader of the First Order. If you don't want to hurt me, you're in the wrong job." Her lips curve into a smile, and Rey opens her eyes a crack to see if her lousy attempt at a joke has had any impact, but Ben's face is pale, the smear of blood running down one side stark against his skin.
"I tried to divert it," he says, and his voice wobbles as he pushes the words out. "But you moved into it."
Rey's chest deflates as understanding hits her. She had heard someone scream her name as she fell. The stormtroopers she'd been fighting had collapsed to the ground, their fingers still curved around the blaster triggers.
From the other side of the battlefield, Ben had been watching out for her, and had nearly undone himself completely in his fury.
"Does Hux know?" she asks.
"Hux hasn't set foot in battle for years," Ben replies, with an edge of bitterness to his voice.
Rey knows what she must say, but she cannot say it. Not now, not with the pain pulsing in her chest as the bacta bandage slowly puts her back together.
"Stay with me," she whispers, feeling a tinge of shame at her selfish request. His only response is to take off his boots, and lay his belt on top of them, peeling away his outer layers before he slides into the bunk. He pulls his blanket on, and then it's over her too, a soft comfortable weight that eases her a little further along the path to sleep.
"Tell me how to make it stop hurting," Ben says, and Rey can feel his breath on her skin, a warm sigh against her battle scars. She shakes her head, because she knows she just has to get through the night, that she will be in better shape tomorrow.
Ben's hand moves to her face, his skin soft as his thumb brushes against her cheekbone. Rey cannot tear her eyes from him, and she can sense his conflict, stronger than ever, but different, somehow. It's not the same battle between light and dark that she can normally feel in him, but something much deeper, and much more complex.
But then he draws closer, and Rey drops any thoughts, her eyelids fluttering shut at the last moment before his lips meet hers in an uncertain but tender kiss.
It's over as soon as it begins, and Ben pulls away sharply.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I shouldn't - that was..."
Rey suspects he doesn't know what it was, but she says nothing, instead finding his hand under the blanket and taking it in her own. It is a move that she would have laughed off as impossible not so long ago, but now, it just feels inevitable. He is her most trusted confidant, and yet she can't even call him a friend. He is one of the few people who have ever given a damn about her, and yet he is two thousand lightyears from here, in a First Order ship. It's a ship that will be housing people who have killed members of the Resistance today. People who have killed her friends.
It's never going to work.
"We can't carry on like this," she says, diverting her eyes to the wall so she doesn't have to see his face change as the words strike him. She feels him tense next to her, but apart from that, his body doesn't betray his feelings.
"Let me stay tonight," he breathes. "To make sure you're okay."
Rey nods, shifting tentatively onto her side so that she can look at him properly. She owes him that at least.
Before she can resist the impulse, Rey's hand moves to his jaw, and she presses her lips to his forehead. She settles on the pillow, her eyes on his as her fingers slide into his hair, and he shuffles closer, resting his forehead against hers.
It's breaking her heart, a pain far worse than the one from the blaster.
She doesn't sleep, and nor does he.
In the morning, when the lights of her dorm flicker on, Ben disappears with one last look that Rey knows will be seared into her heart forever.
It's raining. As if he needed that, on top of everything else.
He has known the location of the rebel base for some time, but has never uttered a word of it to Hux. The bonus of being the Supreme Leader is that he is answerable to no one, and as such, can steer them away from the small green planet that has become home to the Resistance.
He hasn't picked a side, so much as he has chosen her. He had been haunted by nightmares, of waking in the middle of the night to see her being burnt to a crisp before their bond had severed for good.
Ben has kept this most precious of secrets deep inside of him. But he can't stop her from seeking out the fight.
They can't carry on like this.
He has shed his armour, and he feels light, almost free, as though a burden has been lifted. As the rain pounds into his skin, there is a vague sense of regret at his choice.
He had not anticipated waiting.
"I need to speak with Rey," he says, his nearly numb index finger trembling as it holds down the button on the intercom by the door. His hair is soaking, water dripping down his neck and inside his clothes which are saturated as well.
It's so cold out here.
"Hold on." The reply is brisk and impatient, but Ben knows he cannot call the shots here.
He's no one here.
Worse than that, he's their enemy.
He leans against the crates he has brought with him, folding his arms across his chest in a fruitless attempt at retaining some warmth. Shivers rock through him, destroying any hope of walking through those doors as anything other than a half drowned wreck of a man.
The intercom crackles, and then he hears her.
"Ben?" Her voice is croaky, streaked with tiredness and pain, and he launches himself towards the intercom, slipping on the mud in his haste and crashing into the door.
"It's me," he says. He doesn't know what else to tell, her, but then he hears the clanking of metal on metal and the doors slowly begin to grind open.
It feels like a lifetime as he waits for them to part, but then, eventually, he sees her, a blanket draped over her shoulders, her brown eyes barely daring to believe what is before her.
The pilot is standing there too, his hand on his blaster, ready to shoot, and FN-2187 has his jaw clenched with barely suppressed rage.
But Rey is there, and she crosses the gap between them, pulling him inside, out of the rain as the blanket falls from her shoulders.
"Get him a towel and some dry clothes." She shoots off the order to one of the Resistance guards who stares at her in horror for a second before realising that it would be a terrible idea to argue with her.
"Are you all right?" she asks, brushing his sopping wet hair from his face. He manages to nod, and he realises he can't feel his legs. His bag drops from his shoulder with a clunk, but Rey doesn't pay any attention to it.
"What's in the crates?" she asks, taking him by the shoulders and steadying him. Her eyes are searching his but he's struggling to concentrate when he is cold to the bone.
The word trembles on his numb lips before he is able to expel it. "Bacta," he tells her, letting out a shuddering breath as the cold pierces through his chest.
"For us?" she murmurs.
"Get it to the med bay," Rey orders, and Resistance troops run over, heaving the crates inside and loading them onto a transporter.
"It could be poison," the pilot says, stepping forward, his dark brow creased with distrust.
"It's not," Rey replies, and she rubs Ben's shoulders, in a generous, but pointless attempt at trying to return some heat to him. FN-2187 moves to the door control, jabbing his thumb at the red button to seal them in once more. Apparently Rey's word is good enough.
Maybe his risk will pay off.
The guard returns with a large towel, and a neat pile of standard issue Resistance clothes. Rey pulls at the sopping grey material of his tunic, peeling it away from his clammy skin and dropping it to the floor with a splat. She wastes no time in wrapping the towel around him, rubbing it across his skin to mop up the lingering rain before she moves it to his head, roughly tousling his hair.
He cannot remember the last time somebody looked after him, and even though he is scared, even though he feels like he has a million lightyears to go, he is more sure in his decision.
Only when he is mostly dry, his hair still damp and messy, does Rey help him on with the clean shirt, the once white fabric now a greying beigey tone.
He's starting to feel more human at least. But then she asks the question, the one he knew would come. And every answer that he has rehearsed in his head feels so, so inadequate.
"Why are you here?"
He clings to the towel, his knuckles popping under his skin, muscles tense and seized from the cold.
"Are you here to hide?" she asks, a flicker of doubt in her eyes. "Or are you here to fight?"
His jaw is quivering, and so he shunts his bag towards her with his foot.
"What's that?" she asks, looking down at the floor.
"Databanks," he replies. "Everything the First Order has."
Rey's head whips up, her eyes alight, gaze piercing him, and the faintest hint of a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
Nobody has ever looked at him like that.
It makes him feel whole.
"Do they know you've gone?" she asks, and she takes a small step forward, unable to hide her excitement. He's trying to give her everything he can, to prove to her that he's made his choice. A good choice, and she is so ready to accept him, to take him in with open arms after everything he's done.
"I told them I was going away," he says. "But I didn't say where, or for how long."
"So you can just slip back in, huh?" FN-2187 interrupts, his arms folded across his chest. There is a steely glint in his eye, and Ben knows that convincing Rey was never going to be the problem.
"I'm never going back there," Ben spits.
"Don't be stupid, of course you are," Rey says, her hands coming to rest on his arms. He looks down at her, her smile wide and bright now. "We'll go back together," she says, and she squeezes his arms on the last word. "And we'll destroy it all, Ben. We'll destroy the First Order and everything it stands for. You and me."
He nods, because he knows that this is the only way. If he chooses her, he chooses the Resistance. They are one and the same.
And he's okay with that.
Rey closes the gap between them, her hands sliding up his shoulders, arms looping around his neck, pulling him into an embrace.
Ben cannot remember the last time he was held, and he sinks into her, burying his face in her shoulder, clutching desperately at her.
"Why now?" she whispers.
He barely wants to admit it, but he cannot lie to her. She is far too important to be brushed off with lies.
"You said we couldn't carry on," he mumbles, his voice muffled by her hair. He breathes deeply, the scent of her an immediate comfort, something he has only had hints of before, across the force bond. But he's here, where she is, and they are both solid, and real, and in this together.
She pulls away from him, her eyes over bright, her palm coming to rest on his cheek. A tear trickles down her face, and Ben raises his still-shaking hand to brush it away.
"I'm so glad you're here," she breathes, and without a care for those around her, for the pilot's furious confusion, or FN-2187's gaping mouth, Rey rises onto her toes presses a kiss to the corner of Ben's lips. She holds him tighter, and Ben can feel the shape of her against him, warm and whole.
He looks across the hangar, and there she is. She's shorter than he remembers, her voice a little croakier, hair a little greyer. Her brown eyes - so much like his own, or so he has been told a hundred times - can sear through him even at a distance.
Ben breaks apart from Rey, and she turns around to see who has called his name. But they both know it could never have been anyone else.
Though he has not seen her in years, though he has been so far away from her, he has never felt a greater distance between them. He knows he has to be the one to go to her, though. He's done too much, and hurt too many people to ask her to come to him.
He takes the first step, and feels Rey's hand fall away from him, leaving him to make this journey on his own. His legs are unsteady, still numb and rain-soaked, but he puts one foot in front of the other and keeps going until he is standing before her.
Her expression is unreadable. She has lost her faith in him.
Her lower lip trembles, the faintest crack in her facade, but then without words she pulls him into his second hug in the last few minutes, and his second hug in over a decade.
"I'm sorry," he mumbles, his voice cracking. It's lousy and inadequate and pathetic but there's nothing else he can say.
"I know," his mother replies, hand on his face as she presses a kiss against his cheek. A small smile breaks onto her lips when she next speaks, her eyes alight with happiness. "But better late than never."
He can't stop the tears from falling now, and so he hides his face, resting his head against the soft fabric of her dress, his hair falling across him to shield him from the onlookers.
Leia rubs his back soothingly, and he cannot believe how lucky he is.
He should have been shot on sight. It's only his power and his parentage that have protected him.
"Take a hot bath," Leia says, pulling back from him at last. "We'll find you somewhere to sleep."
"I want to stay with Rey," Ben says quickly, mentally kicking himself when he realises he is incriminating her just by showing a preference for her. He cannot drag her down with him. He needs to put his all into rising up to be worthy of her.
Leia's eyes flick momentarily over Ben's shoulder, presumably to where Rey is standing, waiting for news. After a moment, Leia nods.
"if that's what Rey wants," she says with a shrug. "We'll find you some more clothes though, something warm, and something waterproof." There is a mischievous look in her eyes at her last words, and Ben feels a tug of something at his lips.
He feels like he is seven again, that he is being indulged by his mother against everyone else's better judgement.
"Once you've eaten and had some rest, then we can get to work, all right?"
He nods his agreement - it's a better offer than he was expecting. He had thought he might be thrown in the brig, questioned daily by disgusted guards, with intermittent connections with Rey. But no, he is accepted. He is given a home.
He supposes he's always had a home here, really. It was just waiting for him to come and get it. He had been so frightened of the consequences he would face that he had never had the courage to come, and he had stayed with the First Order, making things worse and worse and worse.
And now he is being given a chance to earn their forgiveness. To do what he should have done a long time ago and balance the scales.
"Thank you for the bacta," Leia says. "It'll save a lot of lives."
He nods. None of his words feel appropriate. He's forgotten how to talk to his own mother, but she treats him just the same. He can still detect the doting expression in her eyes.
"I have to go and speak to the rest of the leadership," Leia says. "But Rey can get you settled I'm sure."
"Yeah," he says, nodding again.
"I'll see you later today." Leia squeezes his hand, her smile even brighter now. Somehow she looks younger, as though the years have been wiped clean, her eyes glowing with triumph.
She thinks she's won the war, now he's home.
It's a lot to live up to.
Leia disappears down one of the many corridors leading off from the main hangar, and Ben senses Rey's presence before he hears her quiet footsteps behind him. She takes him by the hand, and he looks down, hardly daring to believe this is happening.
"Come on," she says, her free hand holding her blanket in place around her shoulders. "You must be tired."
She leads him by the hand, and he follows, ready and willing for whichever path she chooses for them.
It is later, much later, once he is clean and warm and well fed, that he returns to Rey's small sparse quarters. She has put some spare clothes for him on the shelf above hers, and his lightsaber is on the table near the door, next to her own. There are two chairs next to the table, one of which is so at odds with the other that Ben knows it has definitely been liberated from another room in the base.
Life in the Resistance will be decidedly less luxurious than in the First Order, but far more than he has ever deserved.
Rey is already in the bunk, her blanket draped over her, with another matching one neatly folded near her feet, waiting for him. Ben opens it out, then slips in next to her. Her eyes are closed, but he can tell she's still awake.
"How's your blaster wound?" he asks.
"Better," she replies sleepily. "Still sore, but better."
Ben fidgets, trying to make himself comfortable in the small space. It's not as easy for his bulky frame to find an adequate position, as it is for Rey's sleight figure. When he settles, Rey moves closer, her hand moving to his chest, her face resting against his shoulder.
"Did I tell you I'm glad you're here?" she mumbles.
"Yes," he replies.
"Well I'm telling you again," Rey says, and she kisses his shoulder. It's not long before she is asleep, with one leg hooked over his own. Ben allows his breathing to fall into rhythm with hers, allows their connection to open up, so that her peace can join with his.
As he looks up at the ceiling, he realises that he cannot remember the last time he felt this safe, and this content. He knows that the path ahead will be difficult, that he will most certainly get hurt, but he has made the hardest choice already. He has taken the first step, and he is here, with Rey, where he belongs.
He wonders how long it will be before Hux discovers the truth, and how he will scream when it is, inevitably, far too late to avoid disaster.
With a smile curving his mouth, Ben Solo slips into a dreamless sleep.