A/N: I love A Christmas Carol, so obviously needed to write a Star Wars version. I know I said I would solely be posting to AO3 going forward, which is true, but as this has a limited shelf life, I thought I'd whack it up here, too. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas.
A Life Made Right
Snoke was dead, to begin with.
The fleet was in disarray, the command ship torn asunder, and he, Kylo Ren, had been humiliated on Crait. Humiliated in front of his troops, in front of Hux, in front of Skywalker, and in front of his mother.
The last he had seen of her, through their connection, she had sealed the door of the Falcon on him. She had flown away with the Resistance, and he had let her.
Snoke's voice, at the back of his mind. Less real now, an echo of its former self. But still tormenting him, even from beyond the grave.
The connection had been a fallacy, clearly. Manufactured by Snoke to manipulate him, to try and draw Rey in. He had of course underestimated her stubbornness, but Ren could have told him of that, if only he'd bothered to ask.
He could have told him a lot of things. And maybe he wouldn't have had to waste his time with her. Maybe he wouldn't have had to spend all those hours talking to her, all those hours getting to know her.
He angrily pushes all thoughts of her to one side, but her image is engraved on the inside of his mind. That one last look she had given him, so mournful, so pitiful, before she had walked away from him forever.
Ren clenches his jaw. He had been so certain that she would join him - the vision had been so clear. The two of them, leading the galaxy, not under Snoke's rule, but their own. It could have been different, they could have stopped the bloodshed together.
But she had chosen to fight him.
Ridiculous, pig-headed girl.
"Supreme Leader, the guns are primed, do we have your permission to fire?"
"Yes." The word sounds hollow on his lips, and he hears the hum of the dreadnaught, feels the vibrations beneath his feet. He walks to the viewport, looking towards Crait in its last moments. He already knows that disintegrating the planet won't make him feel any better, but it's worth a shot. Perhaps it will silence the humiliation ringing in his ears.
See y'around, kid.
There is a moment, where the planet collapses in on itself, before it bursts outwards. Chunks of its crimson crust propel into the atmosphere, and then there is a blinding flash of light - one that he forces himself to witness - as the core finally explodes.
If nothing else, he has decreased the surplus of old rebel bases.
But there's little satisfaction in that.
He decides to retreat to his quarters - temporary ones, prepared in a hurry now that his former ones are a burning wreck, floating through the galaxy.
He had spoken to her so many times there. She had visited him, exchanged soft words with him in the dead of night while she had been training. And he had turned her against Skywalker. She had come to him, because she knew, because she understood.
So he thought.
It had just been her own agenda fueling her. Nothing more.
But now those rooms are destroyed, and he need not think about them - or her - ever again.
The day has taken far too much from him. He is exhausted. He takes two wrong turns trying to find his temporary quarters, and by the time he arrives, his shoulders are throbbing, the scars inflicted by the Praetorian guards seeping into his consciousness.
He can only block out the pain for so long.
The door panel requires a thumbprint to open for him - and him alone. Ren pulls off his glove, his hands sweaty and sore, and pushes his thumb against the panel.
It doesn't do anything.
He huffs, and presses his thumb against it again, this time more firmly. The screen flickers, and for an instant, he is certain he sees…
He's exhausted though. And so much has happened in the last few hours alone. His mind must be playing tricks on him.
Snoke's face glares up at him from the panel, and Ren withdraws his thumb as though he's been burned. He takes a step back, and another, and another, until his back collides with the opposite wall, the metal sending a jolt through his battle wounds.
He presses the heels of his palms against his eyes and focuses, clearing his mind of the jumble of events swirling around inside. When he lowers his hands, he looks at the panel again.
Ren releases a shaky sigh and steps towards it again. He picks up his glove - dropped in the panic - and presses his thumb against the control. The lights glow green, and the door hisses, allowing him entry.
Once inside, he deadlocks the door. He refuses to be disturbed tonight.
He unhooks his lightsaber from his belt and sets it down on the desk. Then he unclips his belt, casting that aside too. Off come the layers, the cloak, the tunic, the boots, until he can see the damage the day has done to him.
In the second drawer of the desk he finds a medical kit, and dabs some burn paste onto the raw red lines lashed across his shoulders. He discards the tin, and takes a seat at the table. Food has been left for him, and he picks at it tiredly, the red flashes of the Praetorian guards' weapons whirling through his mind.
His heart is still racing, just a little.
The food is tasteless in his mouth, dry and coarse. He takes a sip of water, but it does little to make the meal more palatable. He lets out a sigh, slumping back in his chair, the cold of the metal floor seeping through his socks and into the soles of his feet. He presses his hands to his face, closing his eyes, and tries to imagine that he's anywhere else.
His mind presents a fireplace to him, warmth emanating from it, and for a moment he feels content - cosy, almost - surrounded by an orange glow. But then a slight hand reaches across, fingers tentatively reaching towards his own.
Ren sits bolt upright. He will not think about her. She has betrayed him, after he saved her life. Surely, surely him risking everything would have warranted at least a moment's consideration from her? And to think, she thought he would actually move over to the light. Darkness was power, and Ren liked it. She would come round to his way of thinking. Eventually.
"Wallowing in self-pity, I see."
Ren's blood runs cold at the sound of his voice, and without his uniform, he feels naked, vulnerable. He can feel his lower lip trembling, and he clamps his jaw shut, arresting the quiver, before he turns to look at Snoke.
He's a vision. Or a hologram. Or a projection. Ren isn't sure, but either way, he's not welcome.
"I killed you," he breathes, his courage stifled by his fear. "I killed you, and all of your guards."
Snoke nods, his cold blue eyes staring out of his awful, misshapen face. He is translucent, and through his torso, Ren can see his lightsaber, on the desk behind Snoke. It wouldn't do him any good anyway. Snoke isn't really here. Ren's not sure if Snoke is even alive. This could be a force ghost. He could have found a way…
"You killed me for the girl who won't even look at you anymore," Snoke tells him, and he might as well be prodding an open wound with one of his gnarled fingers. "And now you sit here, on your own, in these sparse quarters, because the Resistance destroyed your command ship. What a sorry Supreme Leader you make."
"Nobody could have predicted what they would do," Ren begins. "It was a suicide mission, we could hardly - "
"All while you were distracted with the girl," Snoke snarls. "Pathetic."
"You're not even here!" Ren spits, getting to his feet, his fists clenched. "You're not even real. You're dead, and I'm the Supreme Leader now." He realises how childish the words sound even as he hisses them.
"You're not leading anything," Snoke growls. "You're losing, Ren. You're going to lose it all. Mark my words."
"I won't," Ren, argues, taking a step towards Snoke's image. "I don't have to listen to you anymore. You're just a voice inside my head, you don't mean anything to anybody."
Snoke chuckles - it's cold and humourless, and it makes Ren's skin crawl. "You will lose everything, my young apprentice. And it will hurt far worse than this, when you see it all decay before your eyes."
"Get out!" Ren yells, and before he knows what he's doing, his lightsaber is in his hand, the blade glowing and crackling. His knuckles are popping under the skin, making his skin burn even paler than usual.
But Snoke just laughs, and fades away, taking his mirth with him.
Ren's disarms his lightsaber, and sinks back into his chair. Cold sweat trickles down the nape of his neck, finding a path along his spine. His breath is coming in short ragged gasps, his mouth drier than ever.
He slams his lightsaber down on the table, and grabs his cup, draining the water from it.
It doesn't help him process things. He can't put things together, can't understand how Snoke could be here, in his quarters. It must be his mind playing tricks on him. It must be. Perhaps Snoke's appearance is a symptom of delusion, brought on by exhaustion. Or perhaps the meal has disagreed with him. The vision could just as easily be traced back to an undigested bit of bread. Or perhaps a reaction to the burn paste.
Whatever its cause, he's had enough. He cannot sit here and contemplate an eternity of being haunted by Snoke. If that's his fate, he might as well pitch himself off of the hangar door now, and find silence in the darkness.
His legs feel like jelly when he stands, and it's a tremorous hand that takes the lightsaber from the table. He breathes deeply - once, twice, three times - and then steps over to the bed, sliding under the blanket. He tries - and fails - to find a comfortable position on the solid mattress. The pillow is a little too flat, the blanket a little too thin.
He stares up at the ceiling, his lightsaber clutched against his chest. He feels wide awake, but somehow, at some point, he descends into a dreamless sleep.
But then the door panel bleeps once, announcing that one o'clock has arrived.
Ren wakes with a start.