Where it Rains

by Flaignhan

Three jets of red light shoot past the cockpit of the Falcon in quick succession. Rey pulls the ship up, looping back on herself to get a better view of the battle. A TIE fighter explodes below her, debris rattling against the undercarriage.

Everyone's moving so fast, and she can hear the chair in the gun well clunking from side to side as Chewie takes out a couple of offending First Order fighters. One spins off into the darkness, with no chance of return.

From the corner of her eye, she sees his ship, with the pointed wing tips marking its difference from the other fighters. She veers off in the opposite direction, lining up TIE fighters for Chewie to blast to pieces. She darts between the ships, faster than she should, and over the comms she hears the exclamation of half a dozen of her own side. But it results in four fewer TIE fighters, so complaints are limited.

She can feel him nearby. It's a feeling she can't shake off.

An alarm sounds, and Rey slaps her hand on the console to silence it. A TIE fighter is locked onto them. She weaves through the mess of ships skittering across the blackness, lighting up the dark with their red and green bursts of energy. The pilot is hot on her heels, narrowly missing a collision with an X-Wing as he tries to keep up.

She tries to shake him by taking a wide loop around the Dreadnaught's cannon, taking advantage of the slender build of the Falcon by flipping them sideways and reducing his targeting options.

The Falcon shudders, and Chewie yells out in dismay.

"I'm sorting it!" Rey calls back, and she swears under her breath as she jerks them up to avoid another TIE fighter who hasn't checked his blindspot. He's rewarded with a blast of red from the Falcon's gun, his ship disintegrating around him.

"You have a tail." The voice is urgent, and instantly recognisable, but the sound of it makes her stomach lurch.

"I know," she says through gritted teeth. "I'm dealing with it."

"Hardly. Hold on."

And there he is, straight ahead, but she can't see him through his tinted cockpit. Maybe that's a good thing.

"When I say move…" he doesn't need to finish the sentence, and Rey keeps the Falcon on track, heading straight for him.

"Chewie hold fire!" Rey yells. Her hands grip the controls, her knuckles popping under her skin. Sweat trickles down the back of her neck as she races towards Ben's ship, faster and faster and faster until -


Rey yanks the controls and ups the power, the force of the movement straining her neck as they're hauled in another direction, g-force pressing her into her seat. A jet of green misses them by inches, and the TIE fighter behind is now a ball of fire.

She can't feel too pleased, but the connection is still open, and her heart plummets at his next words.

"No, no."

Rey rolls the Falcon, just in time to see Ben's ship spinning towards the bright white planet below, his right wing decimated by a simultaneous blow from the TIE fighter he has just destroyed.

The one he destroyed to save her.

She doesn't think. She just maxes out the speed and hurtles after him.

He can't think.

He tries to clear his mind, but the ship is spinning so fast, and it's so wildly out of control that he can't form a single coherent thought, let alone a useful one.

The wing is damaged beyond repair, and no matter how hard he tries to counterbalance with the other one, the speed of his spin only increases. The ship shudders as he descends through the atmosphere, ice and snow swirling around him, hailstones clattering against the canopy.

There's nothing here. It's a deserted hell hole. No one to help him, nowhere to find cover. It's just a thick blanket of powdery snow, and he's going to hit it at any moment.

He slams his fist against the eject button and braces himself, but nothing happens. The console is sparking, and he knows, deep in his chest he just knows that he's not getting out of here.

The imminence of a snowy grave focuses his mind, and pours every ounce of energy he has into slowing the ship. It takes a moment, but then it's as though the air has suddenly become thicker, and gravity is having to work harder to get him to crash, but it's not enough.

It's nowhere near enough.

"Chewie take over!" Rey's voice tears through her throat and Chewie lumbers in, dropping into the co-pilot's chair and taking control, picking a way through the snowstorm. The dark blur in the distance is Ben's ship, and Rey takes a breath that she knows she doesn't have time for.

It's harder than lifting rocks. Much harder. Her pounding heart is sounding in her ears, and she closes her eyes to block out the vision of white ahead of her.

She pulls with all her might, gritting her teeth as she tries to slow the ship down. Something jolts within her and she feels a connection, as though something has clicked into place. She opens her eyes, and sees that they're catching up to Ben, and she's so shocked that connection drops.

The ship resumes its free fall, faster and faster, and she reaches out again, but she can only clutch at it, like sweaty fingers trying to reach an oily engine part that's just beyond an arm's length away.

He smashes into the snow, and Rey hurls herself from her seat, dashing to the ramp as Chewie pulls up and lands on the snow. She's too impatient to wait for the ramp to lower properly and so she jumps down from it, collapsing onto her knees in the snow.

She's never felt anything this cold before.

The spark of an imminent electrical fire galvanises her, and Rey runs towards the TIE silencer, her boots skidding on the unsteady ground. It's almost like sand, and so she digs her heels in, opting for big strides over a slippery sprint.

The undercarriage sparks again, but this time it develops, a small fire bursting into life. Rey hauls herself up onto the body of the ship, clambering over it until she reaches the canopy. She can see a black gloved fist pummelling at the metal framework, and relief floods through her. In the back of her mind, she makes a mental note to explore it later. She can hardly help the Rebellion win the war if she forms a habit of scurrying after their most wanted man whenever he's in trouble.

But it's complicated. And he must know that, for his eyes widen when he sees her crouched over the cockpit.

He didn't think she'd come.

"It's stuck," he says, voice muffled by the thick tinted glass as he rams the heel of his palm into the canopy once more to demonstrate. "And the controls are jammed."

Rey nods, and inspects it from the outside, in case there's a piece of shrapnel lodged in the hinge, but there's nothing. She can hear the crackle of the fire, and she can't waste any more time. It's not like the ship can be salvaged, so she pulls her lightsaber from her belt and ignites it.

Ben regards her warily, then covers his head with his hands and curls down towards his knees, elbows resting against the console.

She goes as slowly as she dares, her lightsaber turning the black metal to a glowing orange and then bright white before shearing through it. Once she's through, Ben pushes against it once more and it falls away to the side clattering against the ship until it lands with a sizzle in the snow.

Rey offers him a hand to pull him out but he shakes his head. She looks down, and sees that the console has been crushed on impact, the missing wing meaning that the right side of the cockpit has borne the brunt of the crash. His leg is pinned between the console and the seat. His trouser leg is slick against his calf, and she puts two and two together quickly. She brandishes her lightsaber again, but Ben raises his hands, holding her off.

"What will you do?"

The question takes her by surprise. He wants a fully formed plan of action from her.

"I'm going to cut you out," she says with a shrug, and moves her lightsaber into position above the console.

"Maybe we should think about this," he says, hands still raised. There's a tremor in his voice. "Let's just take it slow."

"Your ship's on fire," Rey tells him. She'd withheld that nugget for fear of panicking him, but now she deploys it, like a boot up the backside.

"Okay," he says, nodding, though it's obvious that he feels very not okay about the situation. "Okay. Maybe let's not go slowly."

Part of her wants to smile. It's the closest he's ever come to making a joke after all. But she's already wasted enough time, and so she sinks her lightsaber into the console, dragging it slowly left, and then right, to loosen up the metal that's pinning him down.

Ben is sitting back in his seat, hands pressed into his face while Rey works. Between the fire and the console, she's not sure which is the biggest cause of his stress, but evidently it's too much for him to watch her progress.

Something shifts, and she disables her lightsaber immediately, before it can slip and relieve him of his foot. Ben opens his eyes and leans forward, gingerly lifting his leg. A wedge of the console comes with it, and Rey reaches for it to pull it away from him, but he blocks her with his forearm. It's only as his knee draws closer to his chest that she sees the thin metal rod spearing his leg, with a further half dozen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his flesh.

Rey swallows, and lowers to her knees, her hands outstretched, ready to take the weight of the console piece if he needs her to. His face is paler than usual, and she doesn't know if that's to be put down to the numbing cold around them, or if the shock is setting in. He's yet to show any real signs of pain, but she knows they'll come. Once his bones have stopped shaking from the juddering crash, or when the bitingly cold air stops piercing his lungs.

"Will you pull it out?" His lips struggle to form the words, and she knows that he's fully aware of what he's asking her to do. She's had enough junker injuries to know that pulling it out here isn't the best idea, but she'll never be able to get him out of the cockpit if she doesn't.

She nods, then helps him straighten his leg, his foot flat against the remainder of the console. She gently finds a grip on the thick wedge of metal and wire, her fingers slotting into the most comfortable dips and gaps they can find. She braces herself, and Ben grips his leg tightly, keeping his tremorous calf muscle at bay.

"On three," Rey says, and she makes the decision to pull the rod out fast, so it's over before he knows it's begun. There's a med droid on the Falcon somewhere, she can dig it out once he's stable.

Ben swallows hard, his eyes fixed on hers. She makes another decision.

"One, two - "

She doesn't reach 'three', but pulls on the console piece on 'two' instead. He's unprepared, and he yells with shock and pain as she extracts the entire piece from him, the metal rod dripping with fresh blood.

Rey drops the console into the snow, then gives Ben her hand. This time he takes it, his own hand shaking uncontrollably as she hauls him out of the cockpit. She slings his arm around her shoulders and they awkwardly clamber down the ship and into the snow drift.

The fire is bigger now, black smoke billowing from the underside of the ship, the flames getting closer and closer to the fuel tank.

"Come on," Rey says, and she pulls him away from the ship, his feet sliding in the snow. But then there's a clunk and a hiss, and an ear-splitting bang. Before Rey knows what's happening, she's on the floor, a burst of heat searing her skin as a heavy weight collapses on top of her.

It's Ben, his face screwed up in pain as he bites down hard on his lower lip. Rey wiggles out from under him, her clothes soaked from the slushy snow half melted by the explosion. The back of Ben's shirt is smouldering, melting against his skin. She scoops up a handful of snow and packs it onto the burn as quickly as she can, but she only earns a strangled yell of pain from Ben.

The snow around his leg is stained red.

A rumbling wail alerts her to Chewie's presence, and she tries to pull Ben up into a seating position. His head's bleeding now, though she can't see what's caused it - likely something going flying during the explosion.

She can't get him to the Falcon by herself.

"Help me," she pleads, and Chewie grumbles something far beyond her very basic translation skills. "Please," she says.

It's a few seconds before Chewie scoops Ben into his arms, and starts towards the Falcon.

The med kit is rather depleted, but Rey does her best. Chewie grudgingly helps her roll Ben over and remove his shirt so she can deal with the burn on his back. The skin is red and raw, blistered at the edges, but she smoothes some burn paste over it. It's better that he's lost consciousness truth be told. She doesn't have much in the way of anaesthetics, and he'd probably grind his teeth to dust trying not to make a sound. She covers the burn with a bacta bandage and rolls him back over.

"Can you find us some cover?" she asks Chewie. She doesn't need to go through all of this effort for them to be blown to smithereens by a follow up team of TIE fighters looking for their Supreme Leader.

Chewie makes a soft noise of assent and pads off towards the flight deck. A few minutes later they're off, skimming low along the surface of the snow. He's more careful than normal, and when he draws to the left, it's so smooth a turn that Rey can only notice it by the slight gradient of the deck.

She wonders, if after everything, Chewie still has a lingering grain of compassion for Ben.

Rey has to cut away Ben's trouser leg. Her hands stain red within moments of touching it, and she tosses the offcut into the trash, narrowing her eyes as she inspects the shrapnel damage.

It takes a long time to relieve him of all the shattered remnants of the console, and every time she thinks she's finished, she spies another piece. They get smaller and smaller each time, to the point where they're not much bigger than the tips of her tweezers.

She cleans the wounds, and the ancient med droid begins to work on sealing them. It creaks while it works, and probably needs a good oiling. It's something she'll look at later when they're far, far away from here.

Satisfied that he'll be okay, Rey goes to find him some clean clothes. There's still a duffle bag of Han's belongings in one of the storage lockers, but that would be a step too far for everyone. She takes a look in the other lockers, but can't see anything that would fit his broad frame. Chewie emerges from the cockpit, then bangs a fist against one of the higher lockers, above one of the single bunks. The door falls open, and Rey steps up onto the bunk so she can peer inside.

There's a cache of items that she knows without a shadow of a doubt belongs to Ben. She wonders how Unkar Plutt could have missed them, all those years hidden away above this bunk. He'd stripped out everything else of value in the ship, and he could have bartered these. Someone whose tatty and torn shirts left them vulnerable to the blazing sun would have traded at least five portions for some new clothes.

The fabric is soft, a charcoal grey that suggests that it was once black, but had been washed enough times to lose some of its pigment. She picks the shirt out of the neatly folded pile and tucks it under one arm while she rummages for a pair of trousers. She finds some, still black, with fold creases pressed into them from years of storage. There's a pair of boots too, well worn, but good enough to replace the bloodied and torn ones sitting in the med bay.

Rey reaches her hand forward, pressing into the base of the locker to haul herself up for a better view. There are a few trinkets in there, just souvenirs from far flung parts of the galaxy, and a couple of books. A paper bag contains some melted hard candies, and she leaves them where they are, though they linger on in her thoughts.

It's as though he never left.

He wakes with a start.

His head is hazy, and it takes a while for everything to come into focus, but when he recognises his surroundings, he breathes a sigh and lays back on the bed. He's on the Falcon, so he must be fine.

He feels sick - images from his dreams flash through his mind. Snoke, the First Order, his dad, and the girl, Rey.

He rolls over on his side and sees some clean clothes. He can't place what's happened to him, but the skin on his back is painfully tight, and his right leg feels as though it's been through a trash compactor.

As he pulls on his shirt - which is a little bit snug - he wonders how long he's been out for. It can't have been too long, or too serious, otherwise his dad would have taken him to one of the clinics on the outer rim - the speedy, no questions asked, cheap clinics that he's favoured in the past.

If it had been really serious, he would have taken him home.

His mind is still struggling to piece together the events leading up to his current state, and as he strips off his trousers and pulls on the clean pair that has been laid out for him, he wrinkles his nose at the sight of his battered leg. It does nothing to answer his questions, and so he shoves his feet into his boots, his toes settling into the well worn imprints of the insole.

Ben stands up, and the pain in his leg becomes very real, but he limps towards to door regardless, his desire for answers winning over. He slaps his palm on the door control, and it opens with a hiss.

"Dad?" he calls, leaning against the door frame. He doesn't want to go any further, knowing all too well what will happen. He'll hurt himself getting halfway down the corridor before his dad will appear from the cockpit, a disgruntled expression on his face as he demands to know what the hell kind of idiot gets out of bed with a mangled leg.

But that doesn't happen.

Instead, a slender girl with brown hair and bright eyes appears at the end of the corridor, regarding him warily.


It's the first piece to fall into place, but it only confuses him further.

"What did you just say?" Her voice is barely above a whisper, and she approaches him, a lightsaber hanging from her belt, knocking against her thigh as she walks.

"I…" He looks down at the floor, but then her feet step into view, and a warm hand gently takes him by the upper arm.

"You should probably get some rest," she says, and she guides him back to the bunk, easing the weight on his right leg by shouldering some of his burden.

"I can't think straight," he confesses. "And I can't…" He doesn't really know what he can't do, but his throat is tight and her evasive conversation is making his stomach churn.

"You crashed," she says, her voice soft and gentle. Soothing. "You hit your head, when the ship exploded."

Ben sinks onto the bunk and places his head in his hands. She sits next to him, her thigh brushing against his, and it's a moment before she places her hand on his forearm. He opens his eyes, looking down at her hand, her fingers stained pink around the nails. He blinks, and then sits up to look at her. Her arm is dusted with soot, from the explosion most likely, and things shift slightly more into focus.

She must have saved him.

He blinks, then stands up. He doesn't want to sit here, in pain, surrounded by familiarity when he knows that reality is just out of reach. He's missing huge chunks of his life, and he won't find them in the med bay of his dad's ship.

That thought makes something in his chest constrict, and he stumps out of the med bay, Rey following behind him.

"Ben you should - "

"I don't want to," he replies, before she can make her suggestion. He knows it will involve a 'down' - sitting down, laying down, calming down. He's not interested. He hobbles along the corridor to the flight deck and collapses into the co-pilot's seat. His seat by default, but sometimes, on rare occasions and relatively straightforward journeys, he had swapped with his dad and taken control.

He's sweaty from his short walk, and his leg is pulsating with sharp piercing stabs of pain. He pushes it out of his mind and leans forward, peering out at the snowy world in front of them. They're in some sort of narrow recess, icicles hanging above them, while the snow whirls outside.

A short way away he can see the burning wreck of a ship. His ship, it must be.

Rey joins him, perching sideways on the edge of the pilot's seat, her forearms resting on the tops of her thighs as she looks up at him. He wishes he could read her better, but there's something sorrowful and tender in every soft gaze of hers, and part of him just wants to stay ignorant in this snow storm forever.

"Ben." His name sounds nice in her mouth, as though she has uttered it a thousand times and he's not once tired of hearing it.

"I'm fine," he says, and he knows she doesn't buy the lie for a single second.

"Ben." She leans forward, one hand coming to rest on his knee while the other gently tilts his face towards hers so that she can see him properly. She lightly runs her thumb over his temple, and for a moment the pain lessens.

He can feel their connection, something unlike anything he has ever known. It's more than her saving his life, more than friendship, more even than...he doesn't know what. But it's not the head injury that's convincing him of this. It's one of the few constants he can grasp a hold of.

He leans forward, his lips grazing against hers before he commits. He moves one shaking hand to her jaw, fingers curling into the loose tendrils of her hair.

For a moment, it's bliss.

But then she pulls away.

There's a red tinge to her cheeks, embarrassment, probably, and he turns away, unable to look at her.

"Ben - "

"I thought we were like that," he mumbles, staring at the snow storm. "I'm sorry." He can feel the heat of shame creeping up him, and he tries to focus on the whirl of white, as if a raging storm will somehow calm his thudding heart.

"No," Rey replies quietly. "We're not like that. Not really."

Ben scowls. "What does not really mean?"

"I don't think it's fair to have this conversation when you can barely remember who you are," she says. "You can't make good choices with a concussion."

"I don't have a concussion." It's another lie, and another one that she sees straight through.

"D'you want to go back to the med bay or d'you want to stay here?"

Ben settles himself into his chair and lifts his leg onto the console. Rey disappears, then returns a few minutes later with a couple of blankets and some flasks of water.

"Make sure you're drinking enough," she says, handing a flask to him before she opens out one of the blankets and settles it over him. She returns to the captain's chair, both feet resting against the edge of the console, blanket tucked around her. They sit in silence, and it's a few minutes before Ben decides to open the flask and take a long drink. He feels a little better for it, and lets his head rest back against the chair, closing his eyes.

She looks over to him every few minutes, just to check he's okay. There's no reason he shouldn't be - the crash has knocked him out of shape, but it's nothing to be truly worried about.

Her brain replays the sound of him calling for Han, and she hugs her blanket a little tighter around herself. She doesn't want to be the one to break it to him - she's just hoping that some sleep and plenty of fluids will get his head in order. She doesn't want to mention it to Chewie, who has decided to spend his time on some much needed maintenance. She doesn't imagine he'd be all that sympathetic.

She also can't get over his assumption that they were...like that. There's only so much she can put down to confusion though, and she knows there must be something feeding it. Their connection, perhaps, which despite Snoke's claims, has continued to work long after his death.

But Ben had asked her, that night, on the Dreadnaught, after everything, he had asked her to join him. Him and her and to hell with the rest of the galaxy.

He wanted her to be with him.

Rey sighs and sinks deeper into her seat, her spine curving against the padding, knees drawn up to her chest. She had never imagined, in all of those long hot days on Jakku that she would end up here, in the heart of the war.

Funny how things change.

Rey closes her eyes, but opens them almost immediately. The scream of a TIE fighter sounds overhead, and one appears in the sky beyond the edge of the fissure, with another following closely behind.

Ben starts awake, and Rey reaches out an arm to keep him from toppling out of his chair, her hand finding his upper arm as she leans forward to see what the First Order has in store for them. Is it supposed to be a rescue mission? Will they look for their Supreme Leader in the snow drifts?

Ben looks across at her, and his disconnected gaze of before is no longer present. He's sharp, and Rey mentally crosses her fingers that his rest has helped him recover.

"You okay?" she asks, her eyes flicking back to follow the circling TIE fighters as they inspect the wreck of Ben's ship.

"Fine," he murmurs, and he pushes himself up, squinting through the viewport to try and see through the storm.

Two jets of green light collide with the remnants of the TIE silencer, but there's nothing left to cause an explosion. Debris flies through the air from the force of the blasts, but if it was fireball that the fighters were after then they're a few hours too late. They fire a few more shots, obliterating the last charred pieces of the silencer before they charge skywards again, the sound of their engines fading into the distance.

Ben's hand rests against framework of the canopy as he leans even closer to the glass, craning his neck to see which direction they've taken. They're long gone though, and Rey finds her eyes lingering on the shape of his shoulder blades, visible beneath the shirt she'd found for him.

"Hux," he murmurs.

Rey blinks. "Sorry?"

"Hux," he says again, turning away from the console and limping towards the door, as if he thinks he can take any sort of action while he's in this state, or in this ship. Rey gets up to follow him, mostly because if he injures himself any further, she's not sure she'll have the medical supplies to patch him up.

She can't really imagine taking him back to the rebel base and asking them to use their limited resources on him.

"What about Hux?" she asks, and Ben stops in the doorway, leaning against the frame as he looks down at her.

"He wanted to finish the job." He blinks - the only thing gives away the fact that he cares - and then clears his throat. "So as far as the First Order's concerned, I'm dead."

Rey's brain is racing at a thousand light years a second. This could be a turning point for them, for everyone. The First Order is now being led by a general who's barely out of jackboots himself. At least Ben had the force on his side, now all they've got is a bloodthirsty maniac with no discernible talent.

"What do you want to do?" Rey asks. She's closer to him than she'd realised, and she can smell him. He's always been covered by layers of starched black uniforms but now he's lost all that, and she can detect the smoke, lingering from the explosion, the sweat and the blood, but there's also something at odds with the rest of it, something around his clothes, the scent of him that hasn't changed since he'd last called this ship a home.

"Do we have to do anything?" he asks, but there's a shadow of a laugh in his tone as he says it, and she knows he's not serious.

"You know we do," she says, and she pulls out a loose thread from the bottom of his sleeve, rolling it into a ball between her thumb and forefinger while she thinks. She can't just rock up at the base with him, not after the battle, not after she abandoned everyone else to save him.

But he saved her.

Twice. She'd have been roasted by that explosion, had it not been for him.

She's not sure they'll understand.

"If we ended it," he says, catching her by the wrist, and stilling her fiddling fingers, "what would you want to do? Where would you go?"

She thinks she ought to think about the question, that it should be a difficult one, but her mouth opens automatically, spilling words before her brain has a chance to consider them.

"Somewhere green, near the ocean. Somewhere where it rains. But not too much."

He nods. He's seen her dreams after all. She has no desire to go back to Ahch-To - she doesn't know what she'll find there, and she'd rather leave it well alone. But she'd like to go somewhere where there's always enough to drink.

She doesn't want to go back to the desert.

"What about you?"

He's still holding her wrist, and she can't help but notice how soft his fingertips are, in comparison to her own, labour-worn hands.

"I'd want to go with you."

Rey's breath catches in her throat. They've had something akin to this conversation before, but things have shifted now. He's not who he was a few months ago, and nor is she. He's officially dead for a start.

"If you'd let me," he adds.

She can feel his eyes burning into her, desperately waiting for any sign of an answer, a preference, a sway. Her eyes find the veins running along the back of his hand and she focuses on them while she considers her answer.

She's been so alone, for so long.

"What about your ambitions to rule the universe?" She looks up at him. It's the obstacle they stumbled upon last time, the one that had torn her lightsaber in two. She can't deal with a disagreement of that scale today. She's had enough. That's why she asks the question so flippantly. She can't invest herself in this. Not now.

"It doesn't matter. None of it matters." The words come quickly, his eyes fixed on hers.

Rey lets out a breath and smiles wryly. "It mattered last time." She gets the impression he's just telling her what he thinks she wants to hear. It's not the sort of ambition which changes overnight after all.

"Not now." He looks down, and Rey doesn't have to ask her next question. "I never really...wanted it. I just thought it was something that I could have, that I should have…" His brow creases as he works through his thoughts, but she knows where these ideas came from. She's heard stories, of how Snoke had been hiding in the shadows, ever since the news of a new addition to the Skywalker line had been announced.

"Can I ask you something?" she asks. She curls her toes inside her boots, and swallows the lump in her throat. It's not a question she would normally ask, certainly not one she would have ever asked him directly, but she needs to know. She needs to understand.

"Yeah," he says with minute nod.

"You don't have to answer if you don't want to, but - "

"Just ask the question," he says impatiently. His eyes travel over her face, assessing her, anticipating the words that are about to sound from her mouth. The waiting is obviously too much for him.

"How old were you when Snoke...when he first…" She doesn't know how to describe it, she doesn't even know what 'it' is. How could Snoke have found him so easily, how could he have been left so vulnerable to this monster in the darkness?

"Six," Ben says with a shrug, and he leans more heavily against the door frame, taking some of the weight off of his good leg. "Maybe seven."

Rey's heart constricts, a numbness spreading over her. She removes her wrist from his soft grip and takes his hand in hers, pressing a kiss against his knuckles. Tears are stinging at her eyes, and she tries, and fails, to swallow them down.

"Don't do that," he says, reaching forward his other hand to brush an errant tear from her cheek. "Don't cry for me."

"It should never have happened," she says, her voice thick. She didn't know a family growing up, only the lack of one. If she'd had one, and someone had destroyed it for her, had led her to destroy it herself...she can't imagine the grief it would bring her.

Ben shrugs. "It's done," he says, matter-of-fact. "I can't change it." He looks down at his hand, clasped in both of hers. He opens his mouth, about to speak, but then reconsiders, closing it again, before he ploughs onwards. "You know, these past few months...it's been the first time I can remember him not being…here." he gestures with his spare hand to a spot over his shoulder, near the back of his head, as if Snoke's poison had come from the same point, each every time, like it wasn't just a mental infiltration but a physical one too.

"Well he's gone," Rey says, and she clears her throat, blinking away the last of her tears. She almost wants one to misbehave, to drop onto her cheek and trace a line, just so that he'd reach out again. She's still not used to people touching her, after all those years alone in the desert. But she wants nothing more than for him to brush his fingertips against her skin.

She can't stop thinking about earlier, the concussion-induced kiss that he can't have really wanted. The one that she'd forced herself to pull away from.

She's getting ahead of herself.

"We need to go back," she tells him, but she can't look him in the eye. She doesn't know what that means for him. All she knows is that she can't turn her back on the Rebellion. She won't let the First Order destroy them, and then what's left of the galaxy. "We can't leave them. We have to help, and when it's all over, we find somewhere green, near the ocean."

"Where it rains," he adds, his hand warm around hers, "but not too much."

She smiles. "Precisely."

"Okay," he says. "It's a deal."

The End