A/N: This would be a 30+ Chapter story if I had the endurance to take on a big multi-chapter story at this time. However, I unfortunately just don't have it right now and leaving a fic unfinished is not something I like to do. So, with that being said, this story will focus on the key romantic build-up/moments I had planned between Ben and Rey. I just want to give that disclaimer to explain why sometimes it might seem like there are large "scene-skips" as I call them(time-skips might be more accurate), however I will do my upmost to keep all transitions flowing smooth with a purpose. Please enjoy!
9/19/2020 - Chapter Updated
Chapter 1: Atonement
Death should be peaceful. It was the final, eternal gift to the end of a cruel life. To be purged of the emotions that had once held a soul captive in life. The anger, the hatred, the unbearable loneliness that had haunted Ben Solo for a lifetime should have been severed the moment he collapsed in that dark cavern. A cavern of which its only light rested in the pair of eyes that watched him fade into nothing; a light that soon after had been washed away in a flood of tears.
Perhaps it was all deserved. Yes, of course it was deserved. Though his lifeless heart failed to beat, its agony was one element that refused to fade. And torture him it did. He felt himself falling, being dragged away into a pit of darkness. Every soul he had tortured, every man and woman who had fallen to his blade, every mind that had gone insane by his meddling; they all screeched relentlessly in his ear.
"My daughter starved without me." One voice accused. Seconds later, a wave of them were pounding against his skull.
"I was going to be married."
"You tortured me!"
"I was trying to surrender!"
"You killed me. You killed me. You killed me!" They all began to chant.
Ben sobbed at their shouts, at their pain. He could feel it all: the scorch of fire burning against flesh, the sharp agony of a blade driven into organs, and the indescribable torment of his mind being ripped to shreds. All of it's punishing agony threatened to rid him of his sanity, if such a thing was even possible to keep in the afterlife.
I'm sorry, he would whisper. Knowing that it was a fool's plea to end the torment that he deserved. I never wanted to hurt anyone! A claim true only in death. No, there had been a time in life too. He had fought that voice in his head for so long, a sinister voice that seemed to be the only thing that found worthy of attention. He would argue against its cruel motives and bench the seething rage that only continued to build within. He would've continued to fight it too, for that he was certain, but then one night changed everything. That dreaded night of his uncle's betrayal pushed him over the edge into the monster they all feared him to be.
It was strange how death stripped away the fury. In life, he would have never dreamed of forgiving his mentor, even after Rey cleansed his heart from the multitude of scars that had prevented light from reaching it fully. Yet now, in the agony of his eternal torment, it seemed that forgiveness was the only shred of peace that death would allow.
He forgave his dad. For the years of brash words that the inexperienced father would unknowingly slam into his tender heart. For the lack of presence in his son's early years as he spent countless days, even weeks at times, flying out with Chewie to provide for the new mouth to feed. For the lack of patience that his troubled son needed so dearly.
He forgave his mother. For all her faults in raising him in fear of what he would become. For her unwise advice to simply ignore that frightening voice inside his head. For the way she would flinch when his temper rose and her failure to mask the fright she felt even after he calmed a second later. For her failure to realize that her muffled arguments with his father regarding the monstrosity they had birthed, crept through the walls to reach their son's ears.
He forgave them all for giving up on him. And yet, even still, he could not find the strength to forgive himself. Ben brought his hands to cover his ears and prepared for the endless hell he had forced himself into; whispering a thousand apologies that could never erase the damage he had dealt.
And then, he heard a voice.
"Walk towards me, Ben." A woman's voice rose above the others. There was no anger in this one, nor contempt for whatever pain he had caused the woman. Instead, there was sorrow mixed with a sense of urgency. "Hurry!"
I can't see anything, he replied in thought only. And yet, it seemed that she could hear him clear as day.
"Follow my voice."
He should stay; the torture was what he deserved. To be endlessly lashed by whatever cruel means until his soul bled into nothing. But that voice, that loving voice, how could he deny her?
He had no understanding as to how he was able to move underneath the weight of so much sin. Ben staggered forward, following the beckon of his savior's voice. And then, as quickly as the torture had come, it all vanished.
He opened his eyes that should be filled with an endless stream of tears, but it seemed that death had stripped him of the ability to cry. The light surrounding her was almost too much to bear.
"Mom?" he croaked.
Leia stood, dressed head to toe in bright white. Staring at her son with just as much sorrow that plagued his own heart.
"Come on, Ben." Leia spoke softly with an outstretched hand. "You can't stay here forever."
"Stay? Where am I?" he asked before glancing at his surroundings. Ben squinted through the dark clouds, as if his eyes still worked the same as when he had yet lived. The voices that had been haunting him silenced, leaving only one remaining set of sobs. When he finally found the source, his chest was ravaged by a new round of torture.
Rey. The girl born into nothing, the girl brave enough to wield a lightsaber against the feared Kylo Ren, the girl with the power to cleanse the darkness from a lost soul, and that same girl who stood against the most powerful emperor without a second thought. Now, she who had carried so much light even with so many forces trying to tear it from her was reduced to a fit of sobs on the cold ground.
"Rey," the name fell from his lips in a whisper. Her knees were curled into her chest, with one hand clenched over her heart while the other twisted into the folds of his empty shirt.
"Ben," his mother called again. "We have to go."
Ben shook his head slowly before the girl's pain struck him to his knees.
I've never felt so alone. The memory taunted him, knowing that this time he couldn't offer any sort of comfort.
"We don't have forever, Ben," Leia's voice became more urgent. "Let me help you move on."
"I don't deserve to move on," he mused quietly. I've never felt so alone, the voice vibrated again through their unique bond. When Ben turned back towards his mother, his gaze was pleading. "It hurts."
Leia's own eyes filled with pity.
"I can help you."
"I can't," he interrupted with a shake of his head. His voice hitching through a dry sob. "I can't leave her."
"You can't stay here," Leia spoke softly but he merely continued to shake his head.
"Mom," he begged through another sob. "I can't."
Ben wasn't sure what he expected, knowing somehow that his mother could not stay. And yet, it still hurt to watch her fade away.
"I love you," her voice faded to whisper. And then, only a moment later she was gone, and he was alone. Trapped in an eternal purgatory, doomed to watch her suffer.
A Dyad. Two that are one. A bond connecting two through space and time.
Ben meditated upon these words that he had studied in life. His research had been brief given that it had been unseen for generations and the greatest source of knowledge came from his own experience. It had become so simple to bridge their minds and before his passing he had mastered the will to summon his dyad at the mere thought of her. Yet now in death he could do nothing but suffer her pain. Their minds refused to touch, no matter how desperately he tried to reach.
Days turned to weeks and weeks to months. He told himself over and over that she would heal, that she would move on from his memory. He tried convincing himself that it was nothing like when he had lost Rey, no matter how brief the moment had been. After all, she didn't love him like he did her. Didn't she? However, all attempts to find hope in a quick end to her mourning all seemed to end with the same reminder. Two that are one.
The dreaded knowledge taunted him, forcing him to recall the dyad's punishing blow when half his soul faded into nothing. She wouldn't heal, Ben finally realized, even if she still despised him just as deeply as she had when they'd first met. For how could half a soul live without the other?
Ben wanted to scream. The bond that had fascinated him from the very first moment their minds connected had turned to both of their own source of dread. Every memory, every blow to her heart could be felt just as deeply in his own. If it didn't drive Rey insane in life, he was certain it would for Ben in death.
I don't want this! She had told him once. The words hadn't stung then as they did now while he watched her drown in her own tears. Rey moved through each day with a smile on her face and not a single person seemed to see through the mask she'd crafted But at night, in the privacy of her own room, she surrendered to sorrow.
Rey's friends had abandoned her, though he knew she would disapprove of his choice of words. FN2187, or Finn as Rey called him, became engrossed in his own projects. At first, the man kept frequent contact to share his work in guiding former stormtroopers on their own path to redemption. However, as months passed his communications became less often until they were practically nothing. Rey understood that her friends were busy, but it was a sentiment that Ben refused to entertain. The general, Poe, was sent away on his own path not a month after their battle on Exegol. The pilot's only saving grace was his final gift to Rey: the orange BB unit. BB-8 was a small bit of light for the former scavenger, along with an old D unit that Ben would have deemed far too out of date for any valuable use. However, it was the two droids that stayed faithfully by her side as their master cried into the night.
It was the perfect punishment for him. To suffer the sight and emptiness that he could feel through their bond. His head fell into his hands as he sat by her side each night, enduring the cries he had wrought. He had done this. It had been Ben who had sought this connection as a tool to gain her favor in a foolish plight to seek a woman's hand that he never deserved. He realized now that he had been selfish, always so selfish.
"Where are you?" she would whisper in the late hours of the night. Begging over and over through devastating sobs. "Be with me. Please, Ben, be with me!"
I'm here, he tried so hard to tell her. I never left.
He wished he could cry, thinking it would feel better to have some sort of release. Instead, both of their emotions wrestled in the pit of his chest where his heart had once beat. After weeks he began to wonder if there would ever be relief. How long would this last? How long could he survive this horrible afterlife?
"You are not being punished, Ben."
Logically, Ben knew it was foolish to be frightened. He was already dead. Yet Ben shot to his feet at the voice and snapped his attention to the newcomer. The man was tall with sandy hair, but his smile was kind enough as he walked along the edge of the room. Ben shifted slightly, blocking Rey from a possible attack. The stranger seemed to notice but made no move to retreat and instead focused his attention on Ben.
"You don't have to endure this," the man continued with a frustratingly calm smile. The sudden return of Ben's temper surprised even himself as he glared right back. What did he know?
"You think I want this?" Ben growled; gesturing to the girl behind him. The tears had ceased at last, leaving her cheeks stained as she fell into an uneasy slumber. His throat tightened as he looked at her, heart clenching from knowing that he would never be able to wipe away those tears. Defeated, Ben sighed, "you know nothing about me."
The man merely smirked.
"I know that you're arrogant," he pointed before walking closer. Ben's fists clenched tightly, uncertain if it was even possible to defend himself in death as the stranger took a seat nearby. "But then again so was I."
Ben watched the man carefully, searching for any signs of hostility. Instead, he simply sat in silence, smiling at the terrible sight before them.
"She's pretty," he stated before smirking. "Feisty too. She reminds me of your grandmother."
Ben flinched. Waiting another moment before finally asking, "who are you?"
"Why ask a question that you already know the answer to?"
Ben stiffened again and furrowed his brow. Pouring every ounce of hatred into his glare. He couldn't hold the venom from his words even if he tried as he faced his grandfather.
"After all this time, after all my begging, you wait until it's already too late to speak to me?"
"Death has its limits," Anakin sighed. "Palpatine put a wall between us, a wall that I could not penetrate. It didn't help that my children thought it best to hide me from you. By the time I gained their blessing, Palpatine had you securely under his wing."
"I never imagined that Darth Vader would take orders from others," he scoffed in reply.
"Darth Vader wouldn't have," Anakin nodded in agreement. "Anakin Skywalker, respects the wishes of his children."
"You speak as if they were two different people," Ben grumbled.
Anakin lifted his chin in thought.
"In some ways. The dark has a way of splitting one's soul. Wringing out the light to create something knew, something different," the man explained. When Ben remained unmoved, his grandfather continued. "Tell me, would Kylo Ren have given his life to save another?"
His mouth opened for a moment before clamping shut once more. Silence lingered for a moment before Anakin sighed beside him.
"I will never deny the terrible things I have done in allowing Vader to rise. So much pain has been caused by my own hands." Anakin paused to glance at his open palms. It took another moment, before his grandfather could find the will to speak again. "I was much like you when I passed. I don't know how long I allowed their pain to overwhelm me. All those souls…"
He drifted once more. This time, when he broke from his thoughts, he met Ben's gaze sternly.
"However, I hurt only myself in my inability to move on." Anakin glanced to the woman on the bed; now fast asleep in the dark room. "Until you forgive yourself, neither of you can heal."
Ben recoiled, forgetting his distrust for just a moment.
"You're saying I'm doing this to her?"
"This isn't 'Chaos', kid. There are no sith here to torture you into oblivion, my daughter helped you escape that fate. The only one continuing to punish you two, is you."
Ben swallowed, his heart breaking with every word.
"So, the only way I can help her, is to leave her?"
Anakin merely smirked.
"I never said that."
Ben met his gaze once more, hopeful.
"The two of you have a unique gift. Use it," Anakin stated before rising to his feet. "You've come to master the bridge through space, however there another way to seek your connection."
"How?" Ben asked, but Anakin already began to fade. Before he disappeared completely, Ben could see the smile on his face.
"Continue your studies. You will find another way."
And with that, he vanished.
Hours later, the sun began to peak through the small windows to highlight Rey's beautiful face. She was smiling, gifted with whatever pleasant dream willing to offer a moment of relief. Ben breathed slowly as he watched over her, meditating on every aspect of the girl that had drawn him to her in life. Focusing on the calm was all he could do to fend them both from the agony fighting to break through. The night had moved slowly as he focused on sealing his wounds while also musing on his grandfather's advice. With a calm mind at last, the answer seemed so simple. There was only one obstacle remaining. Would Rey want it?
Ben glanced down to the little green droid, wanting to toss him from the room for threatening its master's only moment of peace. However, when he noticed that the droid was facing the very spot he sat, Ben's heart leapt into his throat. Behind cone-face, the BB unit rolled in closer to tilt its head in suspicion.
They could see him, Ben thought with excitement.
"I am Dee-Oh," the little one spoke again. Before Ben could raise a finger to call for silence, Rey already began to stir beneath the covers, groaning at the disturbance. Ben tensed at the movement, but relaxed when she returned to sleep. His throat felt dry again. If that was even truly possible. What would he say to her? Would she be appalled when he told her his plans? Would it even work?
His thoughts were broken when the BB unit rolled into his leg, but his heart sunk when the hunk of metal moved straight through him. The droid rolled back in surprise, before a tool emerged from its side. Ben couldn't help but smirk when he noticed the sharp end failing to pierce his flesh. Forgetting himself, he stated dryly.
"You can't threaten a ghost, droid."
Rey sat up in an instant, her mouth fallen open in uncertainty as her eyes raced to absorb the sight of him. Her terror ebbed through the bond, sizzling like water on a live wire. An array of emotions, amplified by their connection, raced through her pounding heart that beat for the two of them. It was almost too much to bear.
She was afraid to speak, Ben realized, but then again so was he. Seconds passed where they sat in silence, both too afraid to break the moment.
"Ben?" The name slipped between her lips in a prayer; a wish to make this moment real.
"Rey," he could only whisper.
She dared to smile. Her hand began to rise in hesitation and his heart lurched in understanding; knowing that the action would leave her disappointed. Regardless, his own fingers came up to await her test and as expected, the tears in her eyes were unbearable when her hand passed through his own.
Rey's breathing hitched.
"This isn't real?" she asked.
Ben tried to smile in reassurance, but his lips never managed to lift under the stress of her depression.
"As real as it can be," he answered quietly.
Rey's shoulders slumped forward, relaxing ever so slightly at his promise. But there was something else, a desire that surprised him. An image was forced into his mind as Rey envisioned herself wrapped in his embrace, warmed by the thought of having someone to hold. And then his heart flared as she relayed the memory of the kiss he had never deserved. Why had she clung to that memory? Why had she even kissed him in the first place?
"Rey, can you be happy here?"
His heart twisted in anger and it took another moment for him to realize that the feeling did not belong to him.
"If you came here to chastise my choices…" she started, stopping when more than one tear slipped unto her cheek as she bit back a swell of emotions.
"No," he quickly stated; waiting patiently for her to recover. Rey took a deep breath to slow the remaining flood, before blinking her eyes clear.
"Ben," she tested her will to speak again, but quickly fell silent. Her eyes clouded once more as she met his gaze. I feel broken. I feel empty.
His heart broke yet again at the silent admission, her eyes relaying the depth of pain she felt. For the first time since its discovery, Ben despised their special bond. She shouldn't hurt so much for someone like him. She should be reveling in the years ahead and dancing in celebration with her friends. Instead here she sat, alone with an endless sense of mourning that might never heal. All because of that damned bond.
"I want to try something," he swallowed nervously before adding, "but I won't do it without your blessing."
Rey's expression softened as she waited for him to continue.
"If I could change your past, would you want me to?" he asked.
Rey blinked as her mind reeled in confusion.
"What are you talking about?"
"I think," he began nervously. "I think I know how to change our futures."
Her eyes searched his own and he could feel her confusion and disbelief.
"What do you mean?"
In another world, the question would have infuriated him. Instead he swallowed patiently.
"I might have found a way to alter our pasts," he watched her carefully as he explained. "If I'm right, would you want me to?"
Rey's emotions flared in conflict. First there was excitement and hope, followed swiftly by worry. Flashes of moments entered Ben's mind and it took a moment to understand what she was showing. There was the pilot, the stormtrooper, and an array of faces that he didn't recognize. However, he was quick to understand the fears nagging at the back of her mind. His hand rose once again, slow but certain as he brought it to her cheek. He could feel her heart race through their bond, even though their skin refused to graze one another. He ran his thumb along the edge of her cheek, wishing that he could feel more.
"I have no right to ask you of anything," he shook his head knowingly. "But can you trust me to do this?"
Rey searched his careful stare. He could feel her hesitation; her fears of losing the friends that she held so dear. Even the two droids watching curiously at their feet held a special place in her heart. However, among the beloved memories was that overwhelming pain that refused mend. She swallowed as another round of tears slid along her skin.
"I can almost feel you," she whispered sadly; nudging her cheek through his translucent palm. Her chest rose and fell with a heavy breath as she sighed with conviction. Meeting his gaze once more. "Yes."
Ben finally smiled. As his body began to fade, he held her gaze. Hoping his devotion was evident in his eyes.
"I'll see you soon, sweetheart."
Chaos: Essentially the Sith version of Hell.
A/N – I always encourage constructive criticism and greatly appreciate notes pointing out spelling/grammar errors. I am slightly dyslexic so it is difficult for me to catch everything.