At the age of eight, Rey Atianas kills a man.
At first, her silly worry is that her mother will be upset that she lagged behind and got herself into this situation in the first place. People are dark and cruel and you learn that in the city, and children aren't safe anywhere. The fear of her mother is what keeps her standing there over his dead body, and she twists her hand again like the way she did instinctively when he gripped her hand and tried to pull her away. Nothing happens. No necks snap. Of course. No one's here to hurt. Yet.
Her mother finds her there staring at the body. "Rey?" she says, shades of uncertainty in her tone.
"He was going to hurt me," Rey says, gaze intent on the ground. "Can we go home?"
Her mother says nothing, does nothing, for an unsteady pause, then takes her hand carefully and leads her away in a rush. "Stay close to me," she chides, but says nothing of the dead body or any suspicions.
That comes later, when Rey slips out of her room to hide and listen to her parents talking in the sitting room when they think she's reading.
"You don't know that she did it," her father argues.
"You didn't see her face," her mother says; Rey sees her pace into her line of sight, and ducks back a little. "Lorian, she wasn't frightened at all, she just stared at him, and she just said…"
When she trails off, her father clears his throat. "What are you suggesting?"
There's another pause, and Rey tenses at the uncertainty in the room. "We've talked about this before. She's different, the dreams, the way she... listens to us, we..."
"What are you suggesting," he presses her.
"We need to do something. Before she does something again." Her mother sounds upset, but more certain than before. "Before she does something to us."
There's a sensation in Rey's stomach, a drop, and she tries to reach for that sensation she had when she faced that man, that pure certainty and clarity, but she struggles, and misses part of the conversation, until she hears her father say, "I'll go get her."
Rey realizes all at once that this was a mistake, giving into the temptation to listen in, but there's nothing she can do; running back to her room will just alert her to where she had been anyway. She waits where she is and her father sees her, halting in an uncharacteristic way. "Rey," he says gently, "pack a bag. We're leaving."
"Where are we going?" Rey looks up at him and sees it in his face; somehow she knows something horrible is about to happen, and something deep inside her tightens, her chest, her throat.
"We're taking a trip." He offers his hand to her. He looks frightened, and she hates it. "Let me help you pack."
She accepts his hand, and looks back at her mother as they go. She's crying.
The trip is quiet, though Rey spends a lot of it in her father's lap being cradled in a way that she'll realize later is nostalgic and sad. When they turn away from her after their arrival on Jakku, it's not a surprise. She screams her throat raw, but they go just as quickly as the three had arrived.
She starves for three days before a scavenger picks her up and takes her to the bazaar. She doesn't resist being sold into slavery.
She knows this isn't the end. She knows someone will come for her. She can feel something there, hidden in the back of her mind, like someone is watching her unfold like a fan.
At the age of eight, Ben Solo does his first repair to the Millennium Falcon.
It's not a major repair, just some work on the coolant system, but for one thing, Han hadn't realized it was a problem before, and Ben did it matter-of-factly, without help. Han puts both of his hands on Ben's shoulders and says, "Look at you, kid."
"It's just coolant," Ben points out.
"Ben, the coolant isn't the point," Han returns, a little amused. "You've got a head for it. I thought you'd wind up a Senator or something like your mother."
"Why can't I do both?" he asks, not joking.
Han laughs, though. "You can if you want," he says. "But you're smart, in a couple of ways. That's good. Not a lot of smart people out there."
"And most of the others are in the Senate," Ben says, now joking.
"You're too young for that joke," Han says, but is smiling despite himself.
"Blame Mom," Ben says easily. "Can we play a match? We haven't in ages."
Han sighs. "Kid, I'm garbage at this game and you know it. Strategy ain't my thing."
"I know, but it's good practice for me. I want to beat Mom someday." Ben raises his eyebrows. "Please?"
"Only because you made sure my ship won't overheat its circuits," Han relents, and goes to sit by the chessboard, where it now sits predominantly for Ben's use.
About halfway through Ben utterly decimating Han despite his father's best efforts, there are footsteps on the dock of the ship and Han looks up. "Better be friendlies," he says.
"Dad, everything is fine," Ben says reasonably. "You're trying to distract me."
"There's no distracting you. You're relentless," Han says dryly, and relaxes as he sees Leia and Luke approaching. "Hey. Help me out here? I'm about to be beaten by an eight year old."
"I don't think so," Luke says, grinning. "Hi, Ben."
"Hi," Ben answers, with a grin in return. "Are you here for long or are you leaving? I want to finish this game and then we can talk, maybe."
Leia laughs. "You always try to steal your uncle away at every visit."
"I'm starting to think you like him more than us," Han mutters, clearly joking.
"Han, please." Leia shakes her head at him, slightly amused. " Of course you can talk to your uncle, we've finished catching up."
"Good. Don't leave," Ben adds directly to Luke. "This game should be finished soon."
"Ugh, no kidding," Han says, and finally makes his move.
Luke laughs and escorts Leia off of the ship with a touch to her elbow, and Ben goes on to handily beat his father with relative grace. He hops off the seat and says a quick "'Bye!" to his father, running off the ship to find his uncle sitting quietly in the small garden on their property, alone.
"You like being alone," Ben notes as he approaches.
"I'm never alone," Luke answers, with a wry smile. "But it's nice to have some quiet."
"What do you mean?" Ben asks, impatient for an answer.
Luke tilts his head as he considers. "I draw strength from the power and wisdom of your grandfather, your namesake, the ones that came before us, every day. They're with me wherever I go, Ben."
"Are they with me?" Ben keeps on. "Because I'm part Skywalker too?"
"It's not about being a Skywalker," Luke says, and laughs. "It's about the Force. It binds everything, everyone, together. It brought your father, your mother, and me, all together, to bring an end to the Empire, and bring peace to the galaxy. And you," he adds an joking afterthought. "It also led to you."
Ben frowns. "But you didn't answer my question. Are they with me?"
Luke smiles. "Ben, I guarantee your grandfather is looking on you with pride, and your namesake too. They know what I know."
"What?" Ben asks, wary.
"That you're going to be very special one day," Luke says, and nudges him. "You're already halfway there."
"I fixed the coolant compressors today," Ben adds, casually as he can manage. "Dad thought it was great."
Luke laughs openly. "That ship is always going to need something or another. One day it'll be yours, if it's still working by then."
"It will," Ben says, and lifts his head loftily. "I'll fix it."
"I'm sure you will," Luke says, now grinning. "Come on. Let's walk. I want to tell you about where I'm going next."
Ben's interest immediately peaks. "Let's go," he agrees, and grabs Luke's hand, smiling at his laugh.
At the age of twelve, Rey meets her Master.
It hasn't been an easy path. She scavenged and starved for at least four years on Jakku, troubled with dreams and thoughts that seemed foreign, until she felt something, clear in her head, tell her: Come home.
There was nothing she wanted more. In breaks from training to be able to defend herself, fingers weary from her grip on her staff, she had toyed with the way her mind bent things, then people, watching them stop in confusion in the bazaar as she touched them lightly.
The alien feeling grows impatient after enough of her experimentation, and begins to tempt her out. You deserve better than this. Come to me. Her fingers ache from scavenging, and she knows the voice is right. She seizes a man who's going into a ship and twists his will, makes him step out slowly and walk away. He stands in confusion as she climbs into his ship, shaking from the effort of it all, and takes off.
Where is she going? She doesn't know. She checks the star maps in the ship and heads for the planet with the biggest city she can find. She understands cities, and she isn't frightened of people in alleyways anymore.
No. The voice in her head is angry now, and she feels herself guided to a different star map, to an isolated planet. She hates the idea, reminded too much of Jakku and its desolate deserts, but she doesn't feel like she can argue with this thing in her head.
Rey doesn't know when it happened, but she's angry most of the time now. It crops up when she's hungry, which is often, or when it's quiet as she tries to go to sleep. It hits her when she thinks of her parents, and is matched by a detached sort of despair that feels like an endless pit in her gut. She finds that the anger only subsides when she feels that voice, that pull, in her head, or reaches out to twist people's wills; it's an overwhelming, satisfying sort of peace.
Once she lands on the planet, she knows where to go. She can feel it, a tug deep inside of her, and she shoulders her bag, going at a run to the building that has to be her home. Come home, the wordless voice presses, louder than ever, and she enters the building - the temple, she thinks, a word she vaguely remembers from back home.
A man sits on a chair - a throne, she thinks, by the way he sits with pure confidence - at the center of a long hall, and beckons for her to draw closer. She does without hesitation, and drops her bag and staff as she stands mere feet away, her heart pounding at the indescribable feeling of hope and desperation welling up in her.
"Kneel," he says crisply, and sits forward.
Rey obeys without hesitation, easily conditioned by Jakku to follow orders but never so happily as she does today. Tears escape her eyes before she can blink them away, and streak down her face.
"Today you are reborn, Rey Atianas." He rises from his throne and approaches her, circles her. "Now you are mine." He stops behind her. "Show me what you can do."
She draws her staff from her bag in an instant and snaps it at him, and he blocks it with a short metal device. "Again," he says. "Are you still a child?" She attacks, more fiercely this time - he blocks it again, then her next attack, and she grows weary as they fight to the front of the temple until he activates the device and she recognizes what it must be.
"Jedi?" she breathes, and steps back, staring at the lightsaber.
He smiles, not pleasantly. "No." He gestures downward impatiently, and she understands what he means; she drops to a knee. "I am a master of the Dark Side. You'll learn about that in time. I am called Snoke, but you will call me Master and nothing else. Today we begin your training."
"Yes, Master," Rey agrees immediately, her face flushed from the fight but also from the feeling of finally belonging after so long in the desert, alone.
"We'll destroy your belongings first," Snoke says, easy, but with an edge. "Leave the past behind. First your things, then Rey."
She says nothing, just keeps her gaze trained on him. "Yes, Master."
"Good." Snoke straightens, and draws her bag and then her staff to his hands with an easy motion of the Force. "Go to the back of the temple. There's a room prepared for you. You will have some time to rest before I take you for training."
Rey nods, her mind still focused on First your things, then Rey. "Master?"
He looks down at her, clearly not exactly happy about the question. "Yes."
"Why is this…" Her throat aches all at once. "I don't understand."
"All in good time," Snoke says, and gestures impatiently. "Go. Rest."
"Thank you, Master," she says, and rises quickly to go.
At the age of twelve, Ben spends a weekend pathfinding with his uncle.
"You learn a lot out here," Luke is saying conversationally as they walk through the wilderness. "Not just about plants or wildlife, but - for example, what silence really is."
"It's... penetrating," Ben answers, following Luke's lead down a hill. "The silence here, I mean. No ships, no technology, no electricity."
"It's not what you're used to." Luke wears a dry smile as Ben gets back to his side. "I know you're used to a busy city, but it's hard to find yourself there. Too many distractions. This, now." He gestures out. "This is good for thinking."
Ben likes his uncle, loves him, really, but they've been walking for what feels like a long time for what doesn't feel like pathfinding and he's never been the most patient person. "You brought me out here for a reason," he says, to the point. "This isn't just bonding time, is it?"
Luke hesitates only for a moment. "Your mother told me something."
Oh, he knows what this is about. "It's nothing," he excuses instantly.
"You influenced your teacher," Luke says, with enough decency not to be utterly amused at the situation. "In front of your mother."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ben says hastily. "He changed his mind, people do that."
Luke stops Ben, who resists a little. "It's not good to do that to people," he explains, gently enough. "I don't believe you did it on purpose, but you did do it. And that - plus a lot of other things your parents and I have noticed - have made us think it's time for you to get a handle on the abilities that you've inherited from my side of the family."
"You want to train me." Ben isn't sure what to think about this. "As a Jedi."
"Jedi…" Luke pauses. "I don't know about the Jedi. But I can teach you how to use your abilities, and how not to use them."
"I didn't do it on purpose," Ben mutters, scratching his ear.
"I know you didn't," Luke says, and he's clearly amused again. "We're not far from where I want to go, and we'll start... slowly, today." He pauses. "Does that sound all right?"
Ben doesn't know what to say, but he also doesn't want to lose control again; he has a feeling there's a dark path leading forward if he lets himself get away with one thing, and the next, and the next. "We might as well."
Luke smiles, a little sadly, and hurries faster down the hill. "Come on, don't be lazy," he says cheerfully.
Ben rolls his eyes, but smiles despite himself as he catches up.
At the age of sixteen, Atia intends to lead the Knights of Ren.
No one has called her Rey since her parents left her on Jakku. Snoke called her "girl" for one year until she shed the name her parents gave her and demanded a new one, fiercely but quivering in fear before her master.
"Pick," he'd said simply. "Name yourself."
She never wants to forget the sins committed against her. She wants to claim them as what made her what she was now. Atia, the root of the name of the father who had taken her hand to leave her behind.
She hasn't thought of Rey, what the name means, in three years. There are more important things. She trains daily with her master, and has watched the Knights of Ren, who live in a village outside the temple, grow from a handful of recruits to a deadly force. It seems natural to her that they not be left alone with simple weapons to defend themselves.
"Master," she says, deferential as always, but firm, dropped to a knee. "They need me."
"Why do you think that?" Snoke asks, gaze distant, as though considering some deeper problem.
"If you want to defeat our enemies," Atia persists, "you can't send them out alone."
"They are powerful soldiers, girl." He turns his face to her at last, too sharply. "And you're a mere apprentice."
"I am powerful, all due to your training." She doesn't intend to give this up. "I will grow more powerful, and I will lead the Knights of Ren, Master."
Snoke taps his finger on his throne. "Do you deign to tell me who should lead my people?"
"I ask your permission to do what needs to be done to spread our order across the galaxy," Atia says, eyes lowered. "Let me lead them." She pauses. "Please."
"Why does this matter so much to you, girl?" He's sneering; she can hear it in his tone, though she doesn't dare look him in the face. "Do you want to spread our bloody word to your home planet? To your parents?"
"My parents aren't important," she says instantly. "Our mission is the only thing that matters."
"You lie to me," Snoke says. He sounds disappointed. Her head drops, then she lifts it just slightly enough not to be embarrassed by the movement or the way her face flushes. "Tell the truth."
"My parents aren't important," she repeats firmly. Her throat feels raw. "Their child is dead."
"Prove it," he says, and gestures sharply for her to lift her face to him. "You will join the Knights of Ren. You will kill in the name of the First Order. Only then will I accept you as Atia Ren."
Atia Ren. The name tastes bitter, but not unwelcome, in her mouth, as she repeats it. "Atia Ren."
"Go." He's finished with her, it's clear in his tone. She will never make him happy, and it cannot break her heart; she can't afford to let it. "Train with them. I'll find you when I'm ready for you."
As she rises, she feels a weight upon her shoulders. But that's not always a bad thing.
She feels nothing as she quietly kills patriots of the Republic. Their deaths are swift, which is more than most can hope for.
At the age of sixteen, Ben dreams.
He doesn't remember ever being so comfortable as he is at the Jedi encampment on a tucked away world. Even home in the city felt wrong, like he didn't fit in with all the lights, crowds, and claustrophobia that clung to him every time he left the house. His uncle was annoyingly right as ever: sometimes you just need quiet to think.
The dreams start to come when he's fifteen. They're vivid to an insane degree; every touch, every clash of a lightsaber feels real, and the girl he sees across the battlefield with the eyes blazing amidst her silhouette in the dark feels like the most real thing he's seen in his life. He can't explain why, but he hopes to dream of her every time he falls asleep, exhausted, on his cot.
He doesn't dream every night, but he dreams tonight.
there's no one here, in the wilderness. he's alone, which isn't new, but he feels like he has a reason to be here, someone to meet, not Luke, not any of the other Padawans
a lightsaber activates from behind him, and he hears an impetuous huff. he turns, and everything shifts again
he's engulfed by bitter cold, snow in his eyelashes, and he shudders as a ship departs overhead, wondering if he'll ever get home
where is home?
the light is blinding
He wakes, shaking, and doesn't hesitate to dress and rush to Luke; his uncle barely sleeps, and Ben knows he can find him at the peak of the nearest hill, where the suns are just starting to rise. "Master," he manages.
Luke turns, then looks so concerned at what he sees in Ben's face that Ben nearly regrets having come all this way. "Ben, come here," he says, and gestures to the spot next to him.
Ben looks at his hands as he sits; they're starting to steady already. "I've been having dreams," he says. "They feel... too real." He pauses. "I'd like them to stop."
Luke sighs. "They might not."
"But they're." He presses the heels of his palms into his eyes. "Too much."
"You're special. Certain things can come with that sort of ability." Luke hesitates to say it, but he does. "You're powerful, Ben."
"I don't want to be powerful," Ben grinds out. "I want - " He wants to be a Jedi. This is too much, another burden he has to carry on top of his duty. "I want things to be simple," he finishes, and looks to Luke, whose eyebrows are raised. "What?" he demands.
"Nothing is ever simple for people like you and me," Luke says. "I hate to tell you."
"Are you laughing?" Ben demands.
Luke is smiling to restrain an absurd laugh. "No."
"I - " He finally gets out what he wanted to ask the whole time. "Are they real? They feel real."
"They may not be real yet. Or they may be real right now, but not here." Luke is serious again all at once. "You have to tell me what you saw."
Ben's first instinct is to resist. "I don't - "
"No," Luke says patiently. "You have to tell me what you saw."
He pulls in a breath. "Master," he says, a touch sarcastic, "I'll tell you everything."
Luke's smile is wry, but fades as he listens to Ben speak.
At the age of twenty, Atia Ren leads the Knights of Ren on their first true strike, not small-time assassinations: at the Jedi temple.
They've made efforts to hide themselves, but have been sloppy in making loyalties with people who will take money for information. She smiles, and draws the mask over her face as they land on the world that bears the fruit of the unfortunate philosophy of the Jedi Order. "No mercy," she says to the Knights. "This is a test, one that we cannot fail."
They defer to her with a nod, loyalty she has well-earned. She's the first to step off the ship and wander out into the open air, onto a world that reminds her uncomfortably of the world she's adopted as her home, but warmer, with more trees. She gestures sharply for them to follow her.
It's not far to go for them to find the encampment; nor does it take long for the young Jedi to realize that they're there. Atia activates her lightsaber and hears the Knights activate their weapons. If they're lucky, this will be a slaughter. She expects some Knights to fall, at Luke Skywalker's hand if nothing else.
The first two are unarmed, and fall bloodily to two of her Knights; something in her feels brittle and sweet at once at this real moment, where everything seems to be coming together, all of the visions of sharp order being carried out over worlds starting here, today. The others come out armed and she smiles an exhausted sort of smile before she goes on the attack.
Atia cuts through an apprentice and sees a man across the encampment whose lightsaber is lit, but he stares at her, pale face contrasted by his dark hair. She senses weakness, and can't stand it. She strides through the chaos towards the man, idly fending off an attack as she goes, and says through her mask, "This is the end."
"No," he says, and readies his lightsaber, as though he's just realized where he is, what it is he's meant to do. She knows he's never killed anyone, and he won't kill her. "This is the beginning."
"Jedi," she says, with a brittle sort of humor, and attacks. Something stirs in her during the fight; she's being matched at every blow, even fought backwards, something she's not used to. He fights as though righteousness is on his side, but he watches her as he goes, as if searching her face for something. There's nothing here for you, Jedi. I have nothing to offer besides death.
Their lightsabers lock. "You're Sith," he says. "Aren't you?"
"Does it matter?" she returns, and tries to influence him, though he bats back the effort as though it's a bothersome insect.
He doesn't give up. "Tell me."
She breaks the stalemate and draws back, searching the fight for Skywalker, who seems to be cutting his way through her Knights. "Do I look like I take orders from Padawans?" she retorts, and turns to find Skywalker, ready to face the Padawan if he attacks her again.
"This is not the end," the Padawan calls after her. "I've seen it, I've seen you."
Skywalker clearly senses her first, as he turns to face her. "You," he says. "Ben's been talking about you for a while."
"You're going to die," Atia says, and the words are sweet on her tongue. "All of your apprentices are going to die. This is the end of the Jedi."
"I don't think so," Skywalker says, and smiles a wry sort of smile before he brandishes his lightsaber.
The fight is fierce, but different than the last; the Padawan was all brute force, and Skywalker moves lightly on his feet, maddeningly evasive. She groans in irritation as he evades another of her attacks and gets close; she fights him back with harsh strokes until he's in her face again and he slams the hilt of his lightsaber against the side of her head, then cuts along her side.
She falls to the ground despite herself, her head ringing, and stares at the blazing red of her lightsaber as her consciousness fades. She hears footsteps, someone shouting her name, then she closes her eyes; when she opens them again, her lightsaber is deactivated and someone is pulling her up off of the ground.
She blinks, then, for the first time in twelve years, surrenders to exhaustion.
At the age of twenty, Ben meets Atia Ren.
Luke's plan is sort of half-formed, as far Ben can tell. She may be a Sith, certainly a Dark Side user, and a powerful one (Ben barely resisted her abilities, and she seemed surprised he withstood them), and now she's in what remains of the encampment with lightsabers around. Still, Luke stands firm.
"She'll know things," he says, as they carry her into one of the buildings to get her healed. "What's going on, who's in charge. We have to warn the Republic."
"You think this is about the Republic?" Ben asks, not entirely surprised.
"Ben, it's always about the Republic," Luke says dryly, and sets her down. "Your mother's going to love this."
Ben kneels by her, then draws the mask off; she's scarred, down her neck, and somehow she even looks troubled and angry in unconsciousness. He touches her, and Luke catches his wrist. "What?" he says, caught off-guard.
"Don't," Luke warns gently.
"Don't what?" Ben says, challenging.
"I think you know what I'm saying."
Ben looks back down at her. "She could kill us all if we keep her here."
"That's why we bind her hands," Luke says simply. "That's why the two of us stand guard." He hands Ben a length of rope, and he looks down at it before starting to tie her hands behind her back.
"If we had killed them all," Ben says softly, but trails off.
"Then whoever was behind this would come back again, and again, and again." Luke watches his fingers as he ties the knots. "You have to understand that fighting the Dark Side is not as simple as just killing its agents when you see them."
"Information." Ben sits back. "What if she won't give it?"
"We'll find a way," Luke says, and straightens. "You stay with her. I have to handle the aftermath out there."
"I know," Ben answers, and focuses his gaze on the Sith's delicate wrist in front of him. "I'll stay."
"Good." Luke touches his shoulder; he looks up. "Be careful."
"I will." Ben nods to seal the promise, and Luke goes.
It's a quiet few hours. He meditates to handle the grief of the fallen apprentices, barely allaying his own fears about what might come next, if the Sith gets loose, and then he's shocked out of his meditation by a sound, a groan. He looks down at her as she wakes.
"You," she says, and her gaze is fiery. "You'll let me go."
"I won't," Ben says simply.
"You will." She fixes a look at him and he can feel her trying to bend his will with the Force; now it's even stronger than before, and he strains to hold her off, sweat dripping from his forehead after what feels like at least a minute of her pressing to gain control. "Stop," he demands.
"I'll kill you all," she says harshly. "And the Republic too. Let me go."
He thinks for a moment he might give in, then the mere thought makes him shove back and she sinks back against the cot, struggling against her bonds. "Who are you?"
"My name is Ben Solo," he answers easily. "Who are you?"
"Atia Ren, leader of the Knights of Ren," she retorts, with a weary sort of pride. "Torture me if you want, I won't tell you anything. And when I kill Skywalker, I'll make it slow."
Ben raises his eyebrows. "Knights of Ren. I've never heard of them."
"You wouldn't," she says, and rolls her eyes. "In good time, Padawan."
"I don't consider that an insult," he says. "So you must have a master. Who is it?"
She falls silent, with a baleful look sent his way, and he watches her, ignoring his growing fascination with her to say, "We don't want to kill you. Or hurt you."
"You don't have a choice. If you want what you want, you'll have to do something you won't enjoy," Atia says, gaze intent on him. "Come on, Padawan. Do what you need to do."
"I am," Ben says, holding her gaze. "I'm talking to you."
"Hand me to a torturer." Atia's eyes are dark, her expression clouded with anger, and he feels a flood of empathy for her in that moment. "That would be better than this. Boring."
His breath hitches. "I won't torture you, Atia," he says. "There are better ways."
She laughs dryly. "Oh, is that what they teach here? Sympathy for those who would murder you in your sleep?"
"Yes," Ben answers without hesitation.
Atia closes her eyes, breaking that connection between them; he regrets the end of it. "I'm not going to tell you anything."
He shrugs. "I'm going to stay here until we come to an agreement."
"You're a fool," she mutters.
"I'm a Padawan, but you seem to think that's the same thing," he says, with a touch of amusement.
"Don't patronize me," she says flatly.
"This would all be a lot simpler if you'd just tell me who your master is," Ben says, serenely conversational.
Atia says nothing.
"Atia Ren," he says, and a realization creeps into his mind, as they sometimes do. "That's not your real name, is it?"
Her eyes snap open. "It is my real name," she insists.
"You were someone else once," Ben presses. "All of those on the Dark Side once were. Who were you?"
"No one. I was always meant to be - " She shakes her head as best she can. "My name is Atia Ren, I came here to kill the Jedi and I will not fail."
"Atia," he says, and focuses on her, his attention, the empathy for all things Luke has worked so hard to cultivate in him. "You're not going anywhere. You may as well talk."
"Don't look at me like that," she says acidly.
He tries not to smile. "Like what?"
She deflects the question with another. "Are you a true believer? You act like one."
Ben considers that. "Do I believe everything I'm told? Not always. Then I really would be a fool."
"Even though Skywalker is your uncle?" Oh, she's gleaned something from him now, too. "You don't trust him?"
"My father told me to not trust anyone completely," he answers dryly. "Well, besides him and my mother."
"You're a Skywalker," she says, pressing this detail. "It makes sense."
He can see it in her eyes; she knows she has to kill him. That blaze in her eyes from his dreams is directed at him, because she is so, so afraid.
"Why are you afraid?" he answers. "Of me, of everything?"
"I'm not afraid," she lashes out with. "I am a Knight of Ren - "
"Titles don't keep you from being afraid," Ben interrupts, holding to the question. "Are you afraid of your master?"
"Aren't you afraid of yours?" Atia asks, with a touch of scorn. "The one you don't trust, your own blood?"
"I trust him, I just know he lies sometimes," he says, a little tired of the deflection. "You're afraid of your master. You can't go back to him having failed."
She says nothing for a long pause, then: "I will not fail."
"I won't, either," Ben says, and the thought flashes through his mind that he wishes he could touch her again, her face, the line of her neck. He forces it down.
Atia rolls her eyes and sighs. "You may as well leave me. I'm not going to tell you anything, no matter what you do."
"I think we should talk." He drums his fingers on his leg. "What do you want to talk about? Besides killing Jedi."
"Why don't we talk about Skywalker?" she says, an edge to her tone.
"You'll talk to him soon, I'm sure," Ben says, intent on not letting her get to him; he can feel her gently pushing at him with the Force the whole time, trying to read him. "Do you really think you can take me?" he finally asks.
"I think it's a matter of time," Atia answers, in utter seriousness.
Ben relaxes back against the wall. "Then try."
She stares at him, surprised, then launches her assault on his mind, digging into crevices and trying to make a stronghold; he pushes back, his head straining as he holds her off, and he digs his fingers into the bed he sits on as he forces her mind back from his, anchoring himself in the calm and deep of the Force. Finally they rest in a space between struggle and peace, a no man's land, and she yanks back, making a clearly angry noise.
"If you can't take me, you won't take Luke," he says. "You're here. You may as well talk."
She says nothing. She says nothing for hours, and nothing to Luke besides a simple, "You might as well torture me."
They don't. They have more important things to do. It's time to move.
Two weeks later, Atia is still a prisoner.
Skywalker likes to come into her cell in the large, previously abandoned complex in the wilderness the Jedi have now adopted as their new home, and be bitingly cheerful. She hates him. Solo was right; she can't breach his mind at all. When he leaves and Solo arrives, she can't help but be relieved.
"You need to take the cuffs off," she says directly, and shifts uncomfortably.
It seems to surprise Solo. "Does it hurt?"
"I don't care about the pain," Atia says with a sigh. "It's cutting into my wrist."
There's a pause as he considers her, and draws closer. "You haven't complained before."
"It's been two days since I've been allowed to have them off, Padawan. Should we cuff you for days and see how you enjoy it?"
"We may not have to cuff you if you'd talk," Solo says casually.
"We both know that's not true." She shrugs at him. "It's a simple request."
He knows what she's doing, but he goes around her and unlocks the cuffs anyway. She rubs her wrists (they are rubbed raw, and there's a cut along her right wrist), but immediately turns and force chokes him; as though he was expecting this, he only submits to it for a few moments before he breaks her hold and shoves her back, down, onto the bed, physically pinning her down.
"Idiot," she spits at him, and shoves at him.
"You want a fight?" he taunts her. "Then let's fight."
"You think Skywalker would appreciate this?" Atia retorts, and stares at the way his hair falls.
"I think we've been treating you too lightly." Solo attacks her with the Force, and she slips under before she lashes back, focusing hard on her growing anger to get in touch with the Dark Side. She seizes on the tension between them, and shoves him back mentally. Then he snaps her connection with him in an instant and kisses her.
It's the last thing she expects, which is probably why he does it, and she doesn't know why she isn't resisting. He kisses her again after that, which feels smug of him, and she shoves him back, uncertain, not feeling right, normal, herself. "What are you doing?" she snaps.
Solo doesn't seem to know either, if his expression is any indicator. "Sorry. Got carried away."
"I'm going to kill you," she says sharply.
"Because I kissed you, or because I'm a Padawan?" he checks, all sarcasm.
"Because of all you've done and all you'll do," Atia retorts. "I've seen things. Haven't you?"
"I've seen us," he says, "and I think we're fighting on the same side."
She rolls her eyes and shoves back at him; he pushes her back down. "Don't be a fool," she says, having none of it.
"I think one day you'll wake up from this dream where you're Atia Ren," Solo says, "and you'll realize you can use all that power you have for something and someone so much better."
"For you? For Skywalker?" She laughs, unhappily. "Why would I want to do that?"
"Why do you serve your master?" he asks, conversational as anything.
"Because he saved me," Atia says before she can help herself, and licks her lips; she can still feel Solo's mouth on hers. "Now let me go. Put the cuffs back on if you have to."
"Obviously I have to," he says dryly. "What did he save you from?"
"Death." Maybe not immediate death, but Jakku would have killed her, her spirit, her potential. "Let me go."
He gets up and pins her down with the Force immediately before her hand can go up to choke him, fastening the cuffs onto her wrists again. "We'll heal your wrist today," he says. "I promise."
Atia stares at him, uncertain of what to make of him now; it feels like something's changed. "Fine," she says.
Solo shrugs at her, and leaves. She sits against the wall and attunes herself to the Force. It isn't long before the forcebond starts and Snoke is there across from her.
"I'm trying," she presses. "Master, I promise I'm trying."
"You're failing," Snoke says without hesitation, tone like the sharpening of a knife. "Why should I trust an angry little girl like you with anything more if she can't escape the grip of the Jedi?"
"They're too powerful," she insists. "You don't know."
"I know. I thought you would be a match. Apparently you're not as talented as I thought." He gestures idly. "Go on and stay, Rey, for as much good as you would do me."
Rey. It stings, and threatens tears in her eyes, angry and otherwise. "My name is not Rey."
"You've lost your right to your name," Snoke says, with an unpleasant smile. "I'll have them killed. If you're there, you'll go along with them."
She knows she might cry, now. "Master, please."
But he's gone, and his absence weighs on her.
A week later, Atia speaks to Ben.
It's not the usual deflection, this time. Today is different. She's seemed different for a few days now, her facade showing hairline cracks, and he's not about to give up on a chance to get the information they need (and help her along the way if he can).
"Solo," she says, measured, "we need to talk."
"I'm listening," Ben says, careful with his expression, his tone, after his mistake (his indulgence) before.
"My master intends to strike again. Once he finds you, and he will find you, they will kill us all." She shifts in her handcuffs.
All right, nothing surprising, but she seems to have more information than she's giving. "How do you know this?"
"He spoke to me." She rolls her eyes. "If you and Skywalker weren't joined at the hip I'm sure you'd have figured out how to do that much too."
"Fine." Ben dismisses that. "You said 'kill us all.'"
Atia is expressionless. "Yes."
If it's going to be that way. He presses. "Including you?"
She pauses. "Yes."
"He thinks you betrayed him," Ben supposes.
"I failed." A sort of awful despair rings in Atia's tone. "He's right to kill me. I'm weak."
"You're far from weak," he says, surprised.
"I can't overpower a Padawan," she points out. "I was sent on a mission to prove my worth and I'm lacking, Solo."
"I'm not just any Padawan," Ben says dryly. "And Luke is a master. Neither of us would be able to match him."
"Why are you trying to make me feel better?" she demands. "Do you keep forgetting that I'm your enemy?"
"Are you?" he returns.
"I don't - " She gestures impatiently with her wrists. "I'll kill you."
"Luke and I may be the only things saving your life when they come for us," he says, holding her gaze, watching her grow rebellious but not break the eye contact out of stubbornness. "Think about it."
"I'm not taking up arms with the Jedi," she says, with a weary this should be obvious tone.
"Then what are you going to do?" Ben answers without hesitation.
Atia looks as though she wants to look away from him, but doesn't, exhaling, and some of the constant tension in her shoulders relaxes. "Let me face you," she says. "You and Skywalker. If you kill me, I'm free. If I kill you, I'm free."
"No," he says, surprised that he's surprised at the suggestion.
"Why not?" she presses.
"Because there are ways to do this where nobody dies, Atia." The fact that she doesn't realize that troubles him.
"Bring it to Skywalker," she persists. "See what he says."
She has this way of looking at him that makes him want to help her, an inquiring look with a tinge of pessimism. He stands straight. "I'll bring it to him," he agrees. "But don't get your hopes up."
Luke is waiting on the balcony in the open air; Ben stands beside him. "Atia wants to face us in combat for her freedom," he says.
"Of course she does," Luke says dryly.
"She says she spoke to her master. That they're coming for us, for her." That was probably important context. "They'll find us again."
"I know." Luke considers it. "Do you think we can turn her, Ben?"
"It wouldn't be easy," Ben says, "but her master rejected her." He can only imagine how much that would devastate him. "She's alone, caged, and waiting to die. It can't take much."
"She'll fight us every step of the way," Luke agrees. "But she's powerful. A match for you, I think."
Ben nods slightly. "What do you suggest?" he asks. "What could bring her back to the Light?"
"Hope," Luke says simply.
It gives Ben an idea, and he's the lightest he's felt in days.
Sometimes, Atia doesn't only just remember Rey, but feels her around the edges, a conscience she hasn't let speak in years. Rey believed in a lot of things that Atia never has, and knew their value as well as she knew the constellations in the sky; she might not be able to see them all of the time, but she knew they were there. Hearing the name again from Snoke all those days ago has made the memories of her swell up when she's trying to sleep, remembering starving as she lay exhausted in a pack on the desert sand, face covered, breathing into the fabric, hoping for sleep or death.
When Solo comes in, she relaxes despite herself, and raises her wrists to him. "Please," she says, the rare concession.
He undoes the cuffs and watches her rub her wrists. "No sign of your master's forces," he says. "From what you said, it should be soon."
"You want an answer," Atia says neutrally.
"I want to talk to you," he says, and drops to a knee by her, a vulnerable position, she notes. She freezes at the trust he's displaying right now. You could kill him. Maybe. "Do you want to return to your master?"
"I have to," she retorts.
"But do you want to," he repeats, amused but annoyed at her deflection.
She doesn't have a good answer. I have to is all there is. "I have nowhere else to go," she decides on. "I can't be - "
"You could be," he cuts her off. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves."
"Why would you trust me?" she asks, a little incredulous. "Right now, this, this offer to join you."
"Because everyone deserves a second chance," Solo says, surprised. "I thought that was obvious."
"You're a fool," Atia says, but doesn't really mean it. She's so tired. "Can I trust you?"
"What do you mean?" He's clearly uncertain.
"If you trust me, and I can trust you," she says, and casts a look at the cuffs, "then we shouldn't need those."
He obviously doesn't know how to answer that, but eventually comes up with something. "If I can trust you," he says, "I'll leave them off."
She doesn't know what she's doing right now, acting on pure instinct, but Rey is shining through her right now, some stupid burst of hope through the despair that's engulfed her since her capture. She wishes it would go away, because it hurts to think of leaving her anger, her strength behind.
There's a pause between them, she realizes from her reverie, and he reaches out to touch her, his hand curling around her hand. She doesn't recoil, just looks at him as his fingers knit with hers.
"I'm not giving up on you," he says, eyes sharp with a fierce sort of... loyalty that she can't believe she's seeing.
"Ben Solo," she murmurs.
They meet in a kiss, nearly halfway, and she doesn't know what she's doing in the least but it feels right, different, not at all what a leader of the Knights of Ren would do. His mouth is soft but insistent on hers, and she aches for more. You're a fool, Atia. Or is it Rey?
He pins her to the bed and kisses her hard, and she feels her breaths quickening; the only thing that her pulse has cried out more towards is battle, and this feels like some kind of battle, one she's losing. She moves her fingers into his hair and yanks him close.
Solo makes a sound into the kiss and breaks away, a wild look in his eyes. "This is a bad idea."
"Maybe," she says dryly.
"You don't want this," he half-asks.
What a stupid question. "Does it seem like I don't want this?"
"But you're not just - " He clearly decides to stop overthinking and gets up; she hates his absence as she sits up. "I need to go. Please, don't…" He doesn't say it, and he doesn't need to.
"I said what I said," she answers, tone muted.
He nods to her, takes a breath, then steadies himself to leave the room.
She touches her lips. Even though he's gone, she doesn't feel alone.
Three days pass, and they're found. The ship arrives in the dead of night and Luke is the first one out; Ben goes to wake Atia, but she's already awake and tensed more tightly than he's ever seen her. "They're here," she says.
"I know," he says, and holds her lightsaber out to her. "Come with me."
She accepts the lightsaber, and their hands touch. He wonders if this act of faith in her is how he dies, for a long, guilty moment, then she withdraws and cradles her lightsaber in her hands.
"There's no time," Ben says urgently. "Let's go." He leads the way out, where Luke is already facing more forces than Ben would have ever expected, along with some of the other Padawans. He doesn't look Atia's way, though he wants to, and goes to defending his new home as fiercely as he can against the heavily-armored invaders.
He finds himself next to Luke after cutting down a few of them, and Luke says, maybe a little incredulous, "You brought the girl?"
"She hasn't killed us yet," Ben says, playing it off.
"Sometimes you're too much like your father," Luke says, but it's not exactly an insult, noted with a wry smile - the moment broken by a man running Luke's way, and another approaching Ben.
Right about when exhaustion threatens to set in, he pushes through, and sees her there, fighting two of them at once, her gaze snapping to his and shaking her head as though to say get back to work. He has no choice; there are at least a dozen more of them.
Ben realizes that there are more Padawans dead, and anger swells in him before he can help it; he tamps it down desperately, tries to focus in on the Force, on the easy swing of his lightsaber, and he can feel someone there alongside him. You're never alone.
He can't fail his legacy. He fights.
Luke grabs him by the shoulder as he backs off from the last dead soldier. "Hey," he says. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Ben says immediately, and he nearly is. He glances around quickly, and sees Atia executing the last of them and dropping him in a bloody heap. The Padawans are staring at her, and so is Luke. "Everyone," he starts.
"Don't," she warns, deactivates her lightsaber, and goes back inside of the building.
He looks to Luke, who raises his eyebrows. "Well?" Luke asks.
"No," Ben says immediately. "She needs her space."
"Give her time, then," Luke says, and shrugs. "We'll need your help cleaning up, then it's time to go. And find some people we can trust with our location, for once."
"Her master, he must know someone," Ben says, tone urgent. "Someone close to us." There'll be time enough to deal with that. "Let's deal with the dead."
He can't let her capture his mind, not now. Tonight is about the battle, the dead, and the implications of it all. He stays awake with Luke for hours talking about who they can trust, who they should question, who they should let his mother question (an angry Leia could be a fate worse than most interrogations, after all), until he finally deigns to go to sleep.
"Don't call me Atia," she says to Solo when he comes to get her for breakfast the next day, catching his eye and holding his gaze. This is important and he needs to know it.
"What do I call you?" he returns.
"I don't know yet." She hesitates, dropping her head. "Rey. Maybe."
"Rey," he says, trying it out. "You could be a Rey."
"Just Rey." She toys with her sheets between her fingers. "Ben."
"Yes," he says, a little taken aback at being named.
She doesn't allow herself to hesitate. "Do you trust me?"
"As much as I trust anyone," Ben says, a touch dry, but sobers. "You fought for us, with us. I don't take that lightly."
"I didn't have a choice." She looks back up at him, expressionless. "I have nowhere else to go."
"You're welcome with us. At our new new home." He smiles, just slightly. "Will you come with us?"
I have something I need to do. But maybe her fastest path to killing Snoke, and her past with him, is with the Jedi. "Yes," she says, surprised at how easily the word comes out of her mouth.
He smiles broadly, then. "Good," he says. "Welcome, then. Now you get to help us pack."
She rolls her eyes, but stands; he catches her arm as she tries to pass him, and she knows what's coming, but he hesitates. "Ben," she repeats.
Ben leans in, then, and kisses her forehead, lingering there. "I know," he says, and lets his hand drop from her arm. "Let's go."
Rey's face burns, just enough, but she follows.