A/N – I bet that you were all thinking… you were never getting that epilogue. At long last, I got the inspiration to get this finished. Please enjoy what was originally supposed to be 2000 words that just kept growing!
I have also reuploaded chapters 1-4, mostly just reproofing and making it flow much nicer. I've added 3000 words, the most significant change would be Chapter 4 where I've flushed out the Snoke ending a bit more and added a cute little scene when Ben first brings Rey to his home. Please enjoy everyone!
The setting sun did very little to warm the pathways deep within the caverns of Illum. A huff of breath was all that could be heard as darkness began to settle over the snowy planet, but a young boy refused to give up as he jogged those cold paths. Desperate to complete his search, the boy's heart had long since begun to race as time began to taunt him. He looked back over his shoulder, terrified that the entrance would be frozen by the time he returned. He only prayed that he wouldn't leave empty handed. Or, he supposed, being locked in an ice cave overnight also wouldn't be very pleasant.
The boy tracked left, then right. Wasting precious moments sprinting into dead ends until his lungs had reached their limit. Young Zade fell to his knees in despair, groaning in aggravation as tears pricked at the edge of his eyes.
"I can't do it," he pouted to no one. Glaring at the endless number of crystals where only one was meant for him. "This is pointless, how am I ever going to find a stupid crystal in this place?"
Zade grabbed a handful of snow to throw against the wall in a failed attempt to squash his aggravation. His master had been far too cryptic when describing what was to be expected. You'll know when you see it, his master had stated simply. Well, there he was, stuck deep in a freezing cavern surrounded by kyber and Zade was no closer to finding his own crystal there then if he'd been off planet. Finally, accepting his failure, he turned towards the exit. Resigning to not spending the night stuck in a frozen cavern.
What would dad think of him when he returned home empty handed? He thought with pain. This had been his chance to prove to his father that he could, wanted to be a Jedi. Even though the words had never been spoken aloud, Zade knew that dad was desperate for him to choose another path, anything other than the ways of the Jedi. He had hoped that when the force helped him to find his crystal, when he returned home with his very own lightsaber forged and ready for battle, maybe things would be different. Maybe then, his father would see that this path was what he truly wanted and not just some childish dream. Maybe then, Zade would be allowed to join Grand Master Skywalker at his thriving academy. Maybe then, his father would be proud.
Zade stopped when a cold breeze slapped his cheek. He stiffened, glancing around the dark cave to see if someone had snuck inside to toy with him. He supposed it was the type of prank that his master would pull, but quickly dismissed the thought. This cave was far too sacred for such games. Zade forced himself to release a deep breath and opened his heart to call the force to him as his master had taught.
"Be with me," he whispered. Over and over.
A minute passed and then another. He nearly led to despair once more when finally, he felt a pull. When he opened his eyes there was a bright glow only a few feet away. Zade gasped, then scanned the area yet again for any signs of some sort of trick. When he ruled himself alone, he reached for the crystal. The moment the kyber fell into his palm an immense peace overcame his heart.
"I-I found it?" he gasped in disbelief. Seconds later, his arms were in the air with an excited victory. "Yes! I found it! I…"
The sound of crackling ice put a pin in his moment. Zade snapped his attention down the path that lead to the exit and the lack of light sent his heart racing into a panic.
"Time to go," he grunted before breaking into a sprint. He clutched the crystal in his hand as he leaped over a patch of ice, ignoring the sting of cold air filling his tired lungs.
Zade could see the entrance now, where a sheet of ice was forming the moment the sunlight vanished. His heart dropped upon noticing that the icy wall nearly reached the bottom where it would seal him inside the cavern all night; only to be released when the sun rose again in the morning. When the last few inches began to crystalize, Zade shouted. Digging his heals into the snowy path, he leapt with a roar into the cold wall.
He expected to bounce back, to feel embarrassed to even think he could try and leave the sealed entrance. To his amazement, he crashed right through and all around him was the sound of shattered crystals.
"Ow!" he screeched as he fell into the open. Scrambling to his knees Zade looked at the hole he had made and then spun around to face his master. "I thought the cave would be sealed all night?"
Rey stood only a few feet away, standing in the final strands of light.
"True, it won't melt until morning," the woman merely shrugged, "but ice is ice. It can be broken."
Zade narrowed his eyes.
"Mom! I was scared half to death!"'
Rey smiled, trying and failing to mask her amusement.
"I'm sorry, Zayden, your father told me that it had to be this way," she smirked before taking a step closer. Glancing down at her son's hand. "Did you find it?"
Zade flinched, remembering the item in his hand. He unraveled his fingers to gaze upon his crystal with a smile and then a gentle set of hands held his face as Rey kissed his forehead.
"I'm so proud of you," she smiled.
"Mom…" he groaned as she kissed him again. Feigning disgust when she tugged him into her arms. "Don't you think I'm getting too old for this?"
She only held him tighter.
"But dad rarely hugs grandma," he tried again to plead his case.
"He still hugs me."
"That's different and you know it," Zade rolled his eyes and his mother finally pulled away.
"You're never too old to be loved by a mother," she reminded a bit firmly and her sad smile melted his heart. Zade quickly chastised himself, knowing that the grandparent's he would never get to meet still managed to strike a wound in his mother's heart. He stepped into her arms this time, accepting her hug with far more vigor than even she had given.
"Thank you for coming with me," he spoke into her shoulder.
"You're welcome," she smirked while pulling away; collecting her staff and reaching for their bags before Zayden offered his help. "Although, there was no way in Chaos that your father would have allowed you to come alone."
"I'm surprised he let either of us come," he half-rolled his eyes. "I thought his head was going to explode when you stepped onto the ramp."
"I love your dad very much," she stated, halting just a moment to stare at the young aspiring jedi. "But he does not get to tell me that I can't go with my son to fetch his very first kyber crystal."
"True but mom, Keera?" he reminded. "You did just have a baby."
"She will be just fine without me for a day. However, we should get going. Your father might just tear apart the galaxy if we're late and besides, I nearly froze standing out here waiting for you."
"You nearly froze?" Zade scoffed. Holding out his sleeves to show the crystals that had formed on his jacket.
"Yes," his mother confirmed; playfully unfazed by his own discomfort. "Come on, warm up the engines and I might let you drive."
"Really?!" Zade perked up in excitement.
"As you said, I did just have a baby. This mama needs a nap."
"Deal!" he shouted before racing towards the ship. Rey waddled slowly behind him, silently regretting the long trip to Illum. Her body ached, but even that was not as torturous as the agony in her chest. All day her thoughts drifted to the rest of her family back at home, especially of their newest addition who wasn't even a month old.
On instinct, Rey thought of Ben and the bond they shared before testing its strength. They were miles away, practically a galaxy apart. But, the moment that she began to reach, all her misplaced sorrows were put to rest when her husband's love purred through the bond. He didn't appear, not physically at least, but she could feel his heart beating with hers. Rey smiled as she stepped onto the ramp of her ship, sending one line of grace to her husband.
We're coming home.
Thousands of miles away, warmed by a blazing sun above the green planet of Chandrila, Ben Solo closed his eyes to hear his wife's message. The very presence of Rey's mind brushing along his own, soothed the constant worry that had plagued him the moment she'd left that same morning.
I await impatiently, my love. He whispered through the bond.
Ben smirked when he was certain that he could feel her eyes rolling. Even years of marriage had not warmed her to his poetry, yet he tested the limits with every chance he got. Showering his wife with sweet nothings that more often than not had her blushed and cackling instead of cooing. But no matter how much she tried to deny it their bond failed to shield him from the truth. She loved his lovesick ramblings of adoration, as strongly as he loved her. And Ben decided long ago that he was obliged to give her anything that she wanted.
An excited yelp snapped him from the peace and quiet and Ben barely lifted his arms in time to block the splash of his son pouncing into the water beside him. He couldn't help but smirk as he watched the spot where the boy had disappeared. Smiling when he surfaced a moment later.
"Did you see that daddy?! I jumped a ga-gillion miles high!" Maro threw his tiny arms to the air to emphasize his victory.
Ben merely chuckled.
"I saw. Don't swim too far," he reminded sternly when the boy began paddling away.
"I won't papa!"
Ben turned back towards the dock when a second splash never came, and there standing anxiously at the end of the dock was the boy's terrified twin sister.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?"
"Is it cold, papa?" the little girl asked. Ben could not help but smile at his daughter's immense similarities to her mother.
"A little, but you get used to it," he answered honestly. She played with her fingers while glancing anxiously at the deep waters below. Ben sighed before taking a few slow steps through the water until he reached the edge of the dock. Lifting his arms towards the girl in offering. "Come here, I'll help…"
"No!" the girl recoiled in terror.
"Lina," Ben groaned, his patience thinning. Another failed attempt, he thought.
"Daddy I don't wanna!"
"You said you wanted to only a few minutes ago," he reminded.
"I changed my mind!" She shook her head fiercely, moving to grasp the edge of a post as if her life depended on it.
"I'll help you, sweetheart," he tried once again to pry her from the post but stopped instantly when his daughter began to sob. It was always the cries that broke him. Ben's irritation cooled in an instant, with his heart falling deeper into the pit in his stomach with every sob. "What are you afraid of, little one?"
"It's scary!" she pouted, as if it were the most obvious fact in the world.
"I know, but have I ever let you get hurt before?"
Lina sniffled, wiping her eyes with the backs of her tiny hands before shaking her head a moment later.
"I won't make you do it," he said while reaching to run a gentle stroke of his finger through her thick brown hair. "But, if you still want to try, I promise that I won't let you fall."
She wiped at her face again before glancing over his shoulder at her twin brother who was shouting excitedly as he paddled through the lake. Ben could see the longing there in her eyes, hidden beneath the terror.
"You promise you won't let go?" she sniffled again, taking a step towards her father.
"I promise," he smiled. Ben pressed himself flush against the edge of the dock, holding his arms in one final offer. This time, Lina stepped into him and clung tightly to his shoulders when he pulled away from the dock.
"Daddy!" she cried as he sunk into deeper waters. Ben tightened his hold to comfort her.
"It's okay. I'm going to lower you…"
Lina crawled further up his shoulder the moment he began to step into deeper waters, gasping and panting the entire time. His heart longed to return to the dock, to refuse to allow his first daughter to ever feel fear. His logic, however, forced him to encourage her onwards.
"I'm scared," she sobbed. Ben twisted his neck to place a kiss at her head, running his large fingers through her hair.
"But I made you a promise, you have no reason to be frightened. Hold on to my neck," he commanded. Lina did as she was told and practically choked him with her small yet mighty hold. Ben took another step, tightening his arms when the water came up to both of their shoulders, cursing himself with every tortured gasp that escaped her lips, and then his satisfaction of reaching the sand bar.
Ben began lowering his daughter.
"Daddy!" she shrieked the moment her feet entered the water.
"It's okay, you can touch here, see?"
Lina practically hyperventilated for a few moments before realizing that her own feet were buried in the sand. She glanced down into the waist deep water, smiling only another minute later.
"Did I do it, papa? Did I swim?" she asked excitedly.
"Not quite, kiddo. Here," he explained as he kneeled into the cold sand beneath the shallow section of the lake, holding his hands just beneath the surface as a guard. "Lay on my hands."
Lina stared for a moment before resigning her lovely little heart to trusting her father. She clumsily leaned into his hands, gripping them tightly as he held her near the surface.
"That's right, now try paddling."
"Like this, Lina!" Maro shouted from beside them, exaggerating his strokes to demonstrate to his sister. Ben smiled as the girl made her first attempt, moving too quickly at first before finally relaxing when she realized that she was in no danger.
"That's it, sweetheart," Ben encouraged when she tried again.
Lina slapped and grasped at the water as he moved with her. He would have been more than happy to end there, but when he tried suggesting that maybe they should take a break it was Lina who protested. A few moments later, she was pushing his hands away.
"Let me try, papa!" she insisted.
"You sure?" he smiled. Skeptical of her sudden bravery but Lina only pushed harder.
"Yes daddy! Want to try," she mumbled as she began paddling on her own. Ben stayed close, waiting nervously for her to dip below the water. Yet, the moment never came. "Daddy I'm swimming!"
"I see, you're doing great, sweetheart."
His daughter beamed at being complimented, before becoming distracted by her brother once more. Together the twins began playing in the shallow water. Ben watched, uncertain if his pride for his daughter's achievement outweighed the pain of seeing her grow so quickly.
He thought of Zade, his first born. How it seemed like only yesterday he had been in these same waters, no bigger than either of his twin siblings as he too learned to swim for the first time. Now, that same boy was off world, determined to race into his life as a Jedi and leave his family behind. Ben's heart lurched at the very thought. What if all of them go on to become Jedi? He thought. What if all of them leave me?
"Eww!" Lina's disgusted shriek tore him once again from his own thoughts and he looked just in time to see his son attempting to put a fish in his mouth.
"Maro, out! Spit it out!" Ben growled as he hurried over to his son, sighing his aggravation away when his twins giggled. Kids, he thought in exasperation. "Alright you little gungans, let's get going."
"Aww," both twins groaned in unison.
"Come on, you're both starting to prune," Ben insisted before taking both kids and hoisting them up to sit on his shoulder.
"Will mama be home?" Maro asked.
"Not until tonight," he answered. Receiving another set of disappointed pouts.
"Can we stay up late?"
"Perhaps, if you behave and eat all your supper," he stated before placing them both on solid ground.
Ben collected their towels before following the little terrors he helped create as they raced up the hill to their cozy home. His knees argued with every step, making it even more difficult to deny the unfortunate fact that he was getting old. Only a week ago Rey had spotted his very first grey hair and if his own father was any indication of his fate, there would be plenty more to come.
As if the old man could sense the direction of his thoughts, Han stepped onto the front porch to greet them.
"There's my favorite set of twins!" he smirked as the kids sprinted to him. The velocity of their collision nearly sent the old man to the ground. "Oof! You two are going to be the death of me, I just know it."
"Sorry grandpa!" The twins apologized but their giggles betrayed them.
"Sure you are," he grumbled as the two hurried inside where the scent of freshly baked rolls lured them to the kitchen. Han couldn't hide his smile as he smirked to his son. "How many of these little terrors do you two plan on having?"
Ben tossed the load in his arms aside, surprised to find that he no longer blushed at his father's teasing. Ben stood straight as he looked through the window to his home. Inside, the twins surrounded their grandmother who was gleefully holding her youngest granddaughter.
"Rey doesn't want to feel alone ever again," he finally stated.
"You don't need an army of children for that, kid," Han chuckled.
Ben only smirked.
"I will give her whatever she wants."
"There's a word for that, you know." Han rose his brow. Ben scoffed without missing a beat.
"If you think I'm whipped, just know that I learned from watching you."
By the time he disappeared into the house, his father was mumbling some choice words behind his back and Ben couldn't help but smile. However, his lips quickly curved down as he began to follow the wails of a baby throughout the halls. When he finally found his mother, she was desperately bouncing his newborn in her arms whilst trying to hush the infant.
"I tried giving her another bottle, but she refuses to drink," Leia said worriedly.
Ben slowly made his way across the room, grumbling the entire way.
"She wants Rey," Ben sighed before taking his daughter into his own arms. To his amazement, Keera's cries began to soften at the sight of her father before disappearing entirely another moment later.
"Or she just wants you," Leia replied; placing the bottle in his palm. Leia ruffled his hair before leaving him to feed his child. Ben sat in the chair that Rey normally nursed in, sighing in relief when the little girl began to suckle.
"Your mother will be home soon," he promised. Glancing out of the window into the sky. "Very soon."
Hours later, long after the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, Ben stepped out into the lawn the moment he could sense Rey entering the atmosphere. The ship's lights were easy to spot in the contrast of the dark sky and he came to a halt when reaching the edge of their landing pad. Ben wasn't even concerned by the fierce burst of wind that would have sent a smaller being flying, and instead stood patiently as the ship neared its destination. The ground vibrated from a sloppy landing, followed by a loud hiss when the ship finished docking. A final creak sounded as the ramp began to lower and seconds later his son emerged wide-eyed with one of the largest smiles Ben had ever seen.
"I take it you found it then?" Ben smirked.
Zade nodded before digging into his pocket and raising his hand to show the sacred crystal. Ben forced a smile at the familiar sight while internally dreading the next steps. There was no denying it now that Zayden's interest was growing past infatuation. It took every ounce of willpower to sift the venom from his voice as he spoke.
"Well done, kid."
Zade frowned for a moment, before wearing what Ben could only conceive as a fake smile.
"I'm one step closer dad," he spoke; his voice filled with hope. "Then I can be a Jedi, just like you and mom!"
Against his better judgement, Ben scoffed.
"I am not a Jedi. I left that life behind a long time ago."
"After you and mom defeated the emperor, yeah I know," Zayden sighed. "You already told me like a hundred times."
Then why state otherwise? Ben would have asked had it been anyone other than his own son making such claims. Zade tucked the crystal back into his pocket before hiding his eyes to the ground. Ben was ready to ask what the matter was before a voice sent his heart in a frenzy.
"Your father only left the academy because I was starting to win every single duel," Rey joked.
Ben's heart lurched, acting as if the single day had lasted a lifetime.
"I left to marry you, my love," he countered playfully. "One of us had to watch the children."
"Is that why you needed me to stay home when the twins were born?" Rey's brow rose with her retort.
"It's not my fault we became outnumbered."
Rey very nearly choked through a stifled laugh. "It is entirely your fault."
Ben blinked patiently.
"I'd love to stay and listen to… this, but… actually no, no I don't," Zade rolled his eyes before reaching for the bag his mother was carrying.
The moment Rey was freed of her baggage she turned towards her husband. Ben couldn't count the steps before she was already in his arms with her lips molded against his own. His heart fluttered, aggravated by the distance they had willingly put between them no matter how necessary it might have been. However, how relieved he was to have her home again.
"Oh come on, can't you wait until I'm in the house!" Zade blurted as he rushed to the front door.
Together they smiled against one another while listening to their son's bickering as he hurried into the house. The moment they were freed from distractions, Rey pressed deeper into their kiss while Ben anchored a large hand at the back of her neck; holding her close when she parted for breath.
"Next time, we go together," he stated firmly. Kissing the side of her mouth when she smiled and continuing a gentle trail along her cheek.
"We already talked about this; I didn't want our baby on an ice planet."
Ben traced her skin with his lips as she explained what he already knew. Reveling at her sharp inhale as he placed light kisses at her neck.
"She would have never left my arms," he argued into the crook of her neck.
"Ben," she groaned through a stifled chuckle. "This is how we ended up outnumbered."
He had begun to laugh when she tilted his chin towards her for a proper kiss. Ben was more than happy to accept, but practically forced his displeasure through their bond.
We're never parting again.
Rey pulled away with a smirk.
"Stop being dramatic. You should be proud of Zayden, he found his crystal."
Ben groaned before forcing himself to ask.
"How did it go?"
"He looked like he wanted to strangle me when I told him about the door," she sighed, bringing her arms to encircle his neck as his forehead came to rest upon hers.
"It's necessary," he promised. "Without overcoming fear, they can't find their crystals. He'd still be there without a sense of urgency."
"I don't want him to be afraid," she whispered softly. "I don't want any of our children to ever be afraid."
He kissed her again.
"No one can avoid it forever," he mumbled against her lips. Rey parted with a smile before flashing a stern stare.
"You could have at least pretended to be excited for him," she chastised.
"I am excited," he lied. Rey merely narrowed her brow when his tone betrayed his words.
"Ben, he can tell you don't want him to do this," she spoke seriously. "He thinks your disappointed in him."
"That is not true," he grimaced. Rey silenced him with a gentle finger tracing his lips.
"I know that, but does he?" she challenged.
Ben opened his mouth to argue. Of course! Ben started to form the words before beginning to ponder. Didn't he? He let his head fall forward until he was resting at her shoulder. A moment later he could feel her hands running through his hair.
"I'll talk to him," he finally sighed, and Rey rewarded him with a kiss to his temple.
"Good, now, I want to see my baby."
"I just got her to sleep," he groaned but not without a smile, knowing that she wouldn't dare be stopped by such a minor detail. As expected, she merely glared before preparing to stride into the house as quickly as her body, still wounded from birth, would allow. Gripping his hand to drag him behind her. Ben chuckled at her urgency and the moment they stepped foot inside the house, they were greeted by loud screeches.
"Mama!" Both Lina and Maro raced into her arms.
"My babies!" Rey sighed through her joy as she bent down to collect the two younglings. Ben held a cautious hand at her back as she lifted them into her arms, biting his tongue to refrain from reminding her that she should be taking it easy. He remembered nearly tearing his hair out during their first pregnancy, when his strong-willed wife failed to accept the tole that growing a baby would take on her body. After three pregnancies, it was a wonder how he had any hair left.
"Mama, I swimmed today!" their daughter exclaimed.
"You did?!" Rey smiled, kissing both her cheeks before moving to her brother. Both giggled in delight as their mother showered them in kisses and beautiful words, until Han stepped into the room with their youngest screaming her little lungs out.
"I told you kids to keep it down," he stated grumpily. "You went and woke the baby."
"Sorry grandpa," they stated in unison as they were placed back on their own feet.
"It's alright Han, I'll take her," Rey smiled. The relief she felt once little Keera was back in her arms at last was strong enough for Ben to experience through the bond. The crying ceased almost immediately as Keera warmed to her mother's arms. Rey hushed the remaining sobs with tender kisses and whispered coos.
"You've got the touch, kid, I'll give you that," Han said. Ben wanted to smirk at his father's expression, knowing that the man felt almost betrayal that he had been unable to sooth his granddaughter.
"Alright, time for bed," Ben told the twins only to be met with scowls. "None of that, we had a deal. You could stay up until your mother got home."
"No," he stated, pointing a firm finger in the direction of their bedroom. "Bed. Now."
The twins grumbled, but begrudgingly obeyed their father. He followed behind them, ensuring that both found their way into their beds before leaving them with a final kiss. Ben turned out the light and stepped back into the hall. As he reached the kitchen he could hear his mother speaking to his son.
"It was so cold grandma, but it was like the force told me where to find it!"
He heard his son exclaim.
"Everything is as the force wills it," Leia assured proudly. "You did well, Zayden. Luke would be proud."
Ben's heart fell. That voice, the desperation for reassurance pierced Ben like a charged blaster. Rey had been right, he thought. After years of promising to be careful and to avoid putting the same pressures that had been placed upon him as a young boy, Ben realized he had failed his son.
"I know I'm older than the others, but do you think Master Luke would still let me enter the academy next year?"
Ben flinched. And just like that, his guilt evaporated in the heat of his fury.
"What are you talking about?" He stepped into the room and Zayden's skin turned pale.
"Dad! I-I was just, I didn't mean…" Zade stuttered through several failed sentences. Ben crossed his arms, waiting for him to produce something coherent. "I just thought that maybe, now that I have my crystal it might be a good time to…"
"I said no," Ben growled again.
"Ben, he is getting older. You should consider…" Leia tried.
"My son is not going to live at the academy, he is staying with his family." His mother flinched at the underlying accusation but recovered quickly to glare at her son.
"Ben, you cannot punish your children for our faults," she stated in a low voice. Ben refused to budge.
"This is not punishment. When Zayden's of age, he is free to make his own choices," he tightened his expression.
"But I'll be too old then! Dad, I'm already behind the other students…"
"I already told you no," he growled. Feeling his impatience growing.
"I know that you think you know what's best for your son, but so did we," Leia scolded; only fanning his temper further. "Imagine if I had spoken to you before sending you away."
"I'm not arguing with you mother," Ben stated firmly, ending the discussion. "He is not going."
"You're being unreasonable."
Ben couldn't remember exactly when his voice had risen above a normal volume. But he could feel his control waning as he turned to shout.
"Whether I'm being unreasonable or not is none of your concern! He is my son and my word is final!"
Zade flinched at the risen tone. Leia merely looked on; eyes filled with disappointment. For a fraction of a second Ben felt sorry for his tone before recalling what was on the line. I don't care, Ben thought finally, no one is taking my son away from me.
"Ben," Rey's voice crept softly from behind. As his son and mother received the full fury of his glare, a small bundle of warmth was pressed into his chest. "Hold your daughter."
His wife's plea slowly cooled the fire in his heart. It wasn't until Keera cooed when he finally turned his attention to his youngest.
"Remember your promise," Rey whispered while coaxing his hands to unclench. When he relented at last, she forced their baby into his arms. Ben released a breath as his fury waned, taking her fully into his arms to surround her with his warmth.
I promise that I'll never hurt you.
The words he had spoken to each of his children rang in the back of his mind. Seeing the buildup of tears in his son's eyes was proof enough that he had failed. And then, shame began to consume him.
"Tell your son that you love him," Rey ordered, somehow both gentle and firm at the same time. "And Zade tell your father the same."
"I can't mom," their son surprised them both with venom in his voice. Before Zayden disappeared from the room, he landed a blow that Ben wasn't sure he'd ever recover from. "You taught me to never lie."
Rey closed the door softly after lying the twins to rest in their beds after having both woken up at hearing Ben's shouts. She quickly fetched a spare blanket for their guests even after Leia insisted that she knew where everything was. Rey thought about entering Zayden's room once more but resolved to knowing that it wasn't her presencethat he needed. With a sigh, Rey made her way to their bedroom. Trying to not break down when hearing the muffled sniffles that snuck through the walls of her firstborn's room.
He's still crying, she thought with pain. If there had not been an equal sense of dread emanating from her own room, Rey knew she would be throttling Ben until he moved his stubborn rear to speak calmly with his son. However, before she even opened the door to their room, Ben's broken heart bled through the bond. Rey stepped inside to find her husband seated at the edge of their bed. In his arms Keera slept; unaware of just how desperately her father was clinging to her.
Please love me. She could hear Ben thinking. Love me before I fail you too.
Rey wanted to sigh. All thoughts of wondering if Ben's damaged past had ceased to be a problem any longer vanished in that very instant.
"We've talked about Zayden wanting to become a Jedi," Rey started while leaning against the door frame.
Ben remained silent and focused on his daughter. Holding her as if she were an anchor and he would drift off into oblivion if she were to leave his arms. When he didn't respond Rey continued.
"We both knew that he would want to enter the academy someday," she reminded. "We agreed that we should support whatever path he chose."
"We also agreed that we would never send any of our children away," he snapped quietly. "Ever."
"We wouldn't be sending him away," she pointed patiently. Walking slowly to take a seat beside him. Rey sighed deeply before resting her head against his shoulder. "I know why you're afraid, but this is nothing like what you went through."
Bitterness filled he and it took a moment for Rey to realize that it wasn't her own emotions she had been feeling.
"You're right, it's not," he replied. Stroking a gentle thumb along Keera's cheek. "He wants to leave us."
"Your parents have made it clear how sorry they are for sending you away."
"That has nothing to do…"
"You are letting your own fears push him away," she interrupted sternly. Rey then hesitated, knowing she was about to dread dangerous ground. "Continue this path and you are no different from them."
She suffered the sorrow that accompanied his intake of breath and then the glare that followed. Rey however, stood her ground.
"You need to talk to him. Calmly this time."
"He's not going, Rey. Not until he's older," Ben stated. His dark eyes filled with desperation as he pleaded for her to side with him.
"I don't want to lose him either," she stated just as firmly. "But holding him too tightly will only push him further away. He wants this."
"He can go when he's of age," he mumbled again.
Stubborn man, Rey thought with a sigh. Just like his son.
"You hurt him tonight," she reminded. "Did you forget about that promise?"
She hated using his own words against him, especially when his heart was pierced with the pain that followed. However, she took a deep breath and prepared to bear it with him. Afterall, they had made their own promises to each other long ago. Promises to pummel one another senselessly if either began to trickle to the dark. Rey brought her arms around him, taking care not to disturb the sleeping infant in his arms.
"I didn't mean to," he finally whispered.
"I know you didn't," she mumbled into his shoulder. "He didn't mean to hurt you either. He loves you."
Ben's scoff broke her heart.
"I think he made it clear that he feels otherwise."
"He was angry, same as you. Go talk to him and you'll see."
"It's late," Ben shook his head with a sigh. "I'll go to him in the morning."
Rey groaned. Debating the outcome of taking her husband by the arm and dragging him into their son's room. Instead, she sat up and reached to take Keera into her arms.
"You're not just prolonging your own suffering by waiting until morning," she reminded as she rose from the bed. Moving to take a seat only a few feet away where she had nursed every one of her children just before bed. She watched Ben twist his neck to stare at the door, his eyes widening with thought as he pondered over her words. However, to Rey's dismay he merely laid back into the bed, his head slumping against the pillow with a sigh.
"In the morning."
Ben watched the rise and fall of Rey's chest as she finally managed to sleep. How many hours had the labor lasted? Ben had lost count in the chaos that ensued overnight. It felt like days ago when he had been startled awake by the firm pinch of Rey's petrified grasp. Then, it was a miracle that Ben managed to form even the simplest of words when he contacted his mother to inform her that the time had come. It all seemed like a long and terrifying nightmare when he stood helplessly beside his exhausted wife as she was coaxed to keep pushing. Every pang from each contraction, every sharp pain in her back, and every ounce of exhaustion and torture soured through the bond to show Ben only a fraction of what his wife was enduring. He had never felt so lost when he could do nothing but endure helplessly beside her. And then, in a fraction of a second, it had all been worth it.
The wail of their newborn silenced the room. Rey's screams, Leia's encouragements, and Ben's worried mutters all vanished as they watched the little one squirm in his grandmother's hands.
Rey's baby. Ben's son.
It was all a dream. Ben was certain of it. What else could possibly explain the sight of their creation now resting in his own arms? Him, a father? It had been baffling enough that Rey had been so eager to marry him and yet, there he was in the small bedroom of their cozy home. A few feet away his wife was sleeping off the exhaustion of childbirth while Ben watched over their new family.
His heart, filled with a level of fullness he had never experienced, forced him to his feet before the emotions had him sobbing in a pathetic display on the ground. Ben clutched his child as he stepped outside of the house, breathing in the fresh air as he took a seat on the old sofa that sat on their porch. He carefully turned the little one so that he was lying in the crook of his lap, allowing Ben to look properly at his son.
Zayden. A name chosen for no other reason than because they desired it. Not a grand name of some former warrior, nor a hero's heir that would be filled with expectation. Just little Zayden Solo, son of two parents who had already loved him since the moment he'd begun to stir in the womb.
Sometime during his daydreaming, a tiny hand captured his finger. To his amazement, and absolute terror, the baby's eyes were open and fixated upon him.
Ben knew he probably looked crazy sitting there, staring in fright at the fragile human in his lap. 'What does one say to a baby?' he wondered as Zayden squirmed, testing new movements with his limbs.
"Hey," he said simply. Internally scolding himself for sounding so stupid. How could he do this? Be a good father when he couldn't even form a proper sentence around his son?
And then, as if the force itself existed only to fuel his insecurities, the baby's nose scrunched up while his mouth fell open. A terrible wail sounding off only a second later.
"N-no no no, it's okay! Your mother's trying to sleep, shh," he tried to hush while his heart began to beat uncontrollably. Ben brought little Zade up to rest at his shoulder, mimicking the way that Leia had placed him on Rey's chest for the first time. He tried patting the infant's back, cooing sweet nothings into his tiny ear until finally the cries began to lessen. Ben kissed him as the last bits of cries faded entirely; carefully as to not allow the harshness of his scruff to scrape against the sensitive skin.
My son, he thought with emotion, my beautiful innocent son. Free from pain and suffering. Free from the dark.
Ben choked on a wave of conflict. A great terror mixing with the overwhelming love he felt for his newborn. How long would his freedom from evil last? Did his own father have the same fears that were coursing through his mind now?
No, Ben quickly decided, these thoughts would not tarnish the beauty of his family.
"I promise," he whispered into the tip of Zayden's head, "I'll never let anything hurt you. You'll never be tempted by the dark because you'll always know that your family wants you. I'll make you feel loved, so loved."
Ben's voice caught on another sob. Whispering it over and over.
Ben woke for the third time that night, this time to a distant clatter. His face was wet with tears as the memory tormented his dreams. You failed, Ben reminded himself, you failed your son. For two rooms down was that same boy grown into the shell of a young man, sleeping off the memory of his father's scolding while his tender heart ebbed of pain that Ben had put him through.
He would have likely broken into tears if it weren't for the weight atop his chest where Lina was curled in on herself to fit the whole of her body on his broad form. Beside him was Maro resting on his arm. When no one else's sleep was disturbed, Ben half-wondered if he had imagined the sound. Inhaling deeply, he tried to relieve his lungs from the pressure of his daughter's elbow digging into his chest, curling an arm around her to hold her close.
It no longer surprised him to wake with additions in their bed. More often than not using his large body for their own personal mattress. Allowing their children to share their bed had been a topic of strain shortly after Zade was born. Rey, who could never seem to rid the memory of those lonely desert nights, had been appalled by the very idea that their baby would sleep anywhere else besides their loving arms. Ben had been patient at first, thinking the phase would pass. However, when days turned to months when his wife would sneak their infant in between them long after Ben had fallen asleep, aggravation began to wear at him. The one and only night he had snapped at her, angrily arguing that their coddling would somehow damage their firstborn son, Rey had finally relented. Ben remembered arrogantly going to bed feeling victorious that night. A victory that was very short lived.
Visions had plagued him the very moment he fell to sleep. Nightmares of a horrific voice taunting their son, images of Zayden kneeling in a dark corner drowning in his own tears as his parents murmured about the monster they had bred, of him crying in agony as his parents left him behind, and finally of an image of that same child grown into a man. His expression dark, desperate and pleading as Ben stepped onto the narrow bridge that mirrored his own father's walk. The last image that the cruel dream had shown was a blade of red piercing Ben's chest and the pain in Zayden's eyes as he realized what he had done. The moment Ben awoke from the torture, he raced to retrieve his son and they never fought over the issue again.
However, children clambering over him was far from the reason for his restless sleep that night. Zade's final words were its own torture, piercing him time and time again. The memory broke his heart and every time he was reminded of his greatest fear coming true. His son didn't love him. If Zayden couldn't bring himself to love the monster that was his father, how could the rest of his family?
Beside him, Rey shifted in her sleep. Ben forced himself to control his emotions that were no doubt disturbing her blissful dreams. He tried to think of happier times, back when Zade was first born. Long before his inevitable interest grew in his mother's involvement in the Jedi Academy.
It would have been so much simpler had he taken another path, any other path. Luke already gloated about the possibilities that would come from the children of a dyad. Han and Leia both praised Zade's clear raw talent and what his skill could amount to in the future. Ben, it seemed, was the only one to fear a more devastating possibility. What if his son couldn't live up to the pressure? What if the same fears that Ben himself had fallen to once before plagued the boy when no one was looking? What if in opening himself to the force a sinister being was whispering lies into his ear? What if he fell so far to the darkness and its lies that neither he nor Rey could help him find his way back?
Ben forced a deep breath as his emotions began to rise again. And then, another clatter sounded a few rooms down and this time Ben was certain he didn't imagine it. Curling slowly to his side, he carefully laid Lina beside her mother and siblings. Moving with caution Ben crawled over his family in an attempt to leave them undisturbed. Sneaking around the creaky floorboard that he promised to fix months ago and slowly closing the door behind him.
Ben walked through the dark hallways of their home until he found the streak of light pooling from underneath their firstborn's door. He hesitated with a hand on the knob, listening to the sound of tinkering until there was a gasp of pain at the other side; followed by a curse. Ben pushed the door open to find his son holding a bleeding palm.
"Hey kid," Ben greeted. Zade nearly jumped out of his skin.
"Dad! What are you doing up?!" he spoke frantically as he scrambled to hide the mess of scrap beneath a rag. Bits of metal, scrap leather, and just a touch of his new kyber crystal peaked out beneath the coverings. Ben's heart dipped at what he saw but moved to meet the boy's wide gaze.
"What happened to your hand?" Ben asked, focusing on the line of red that grew messier by the second. Zade quickly covered it with a dirty cowl, his expression twisting as if having only just recalling their latest encounter.
"Nothing, I'm fine," he groaned.
Ben's lips tightened into a thin line. Frustrated by the notion that he had no right to be angry with his son for lying about something so trivial. You did this, he reminded himself. Casting aside his stubborn musings, Ben stepped into the room and slowly made his way around the mess.
"Your mother said you did great today," he tried, but Zade merely scoffed.
"I barely made it out in time," he mumbled. "Luke said that mom found it within a few hours. You even less."
"You think it's a competition?" His question was met with a glare.
"Spare me the pat on the back, dad. You and I both know that you aren't impressed."
Ben tensed, biting his tongue as every emotion pounded against his chest. Sorrow, disgust, anger. Everything. Failing to decipher how his son had managed to translate something so poorly, but even more so towards himself for missing it. How many other times had Zayden gone to bed with tears in his eyes while he scooted off to bed without thought?
Hiding his gaze into a nearby shelf, Ben swallowed to contain a sob. He picked up a nearby frame and took solace in the view it offered. A younger Ben, free of those grey hairs that Rey liked to point out, smiling widely with a little Zayden seated upon his shoulder. Laughing at how high off the ground he was. Ben couldn't help but smile at the memory before his heart with pierced with longing for those simpler times. After a long silence, he finally sighed.
"You think I don't see it, but you're wrong," Ben mused aloud, placing the picture back on the shelf before running a hand along the clutter nearby. "I see your books, Jedi texts. I see the crinkles in the bindings that tell me you read them." He paused to pick up a scrap of paper, filled to the brim with writings of Jedi discoveries. "I see you scribbling away underneath your favorite tree near the lake. And the dedication you put into your training."
He returned the paper before turning to the middle of the room where the boy sat. Moving slowly and cautiously until he was seated just across from his son. Ben reached, knowing that he might be denied, but breathed a sigh of relief when Zade surrendered his arm. He pulled the dirty wrappings from the boy's bleeding palm before placing his own hand above the wound. Opening himself to the force for what felt like the first time in ages he welcomed its power to flow through him and into his son. It only took a matter of seconds for the skin to heal and Ben could tell that even Zayden was impressed. He sat quietly, enjoying a moment of silence before meeting his son's eyes.
"And I see that I hurt you tonight."
Zade winces at the bluntness but makes no move to retreat.
"I'm sorry, Zayden," Ben stated.
There is a hint of elation before Zade's expression turns dark and then he is ripping his arm from Ben's grasp.
"You're always sorry, dad. It never changes anything," he mumbled before hiding his eyes to the floor.
Ben's heart fell again. The question once again fresh in his mind. How many times had he been hurt?
"Why do you want to join the Academy?" Ben finally asked.
"I'm way behind the other students," Zade grumbled into his knees. "Way behind. I know it's not her fault, but mom barely has time to work with me anymore. I'm almost fifteen and I can't even build a lightsaber!"
He pushed away the rag that was hiding the mess of materials scattered on the floor and Ben sighed.
"It takes more than a day to assemble a light saber," he explained. Earning a dark glare from his son.
"You did," he accused. "Mom told me. When you were ten years old, you only took an hour in that stupid cave and assembled it on the ride home. Why can't I? What's wrong with me?"
Ben swallowed a lump building in his throat. Knowing that he could never explain the voice that had been inside his head, urging him on in his youth before he had realized the sinister nature behind it. And then of course there was the matter that he had lived the moment twice.
"You're stressed, nothing more," Ben assured.
Zade scoffed in disbelief. His voice was lined with sarcasm as he spoke, "you weren't?"
Ben's mouth opened then clamped shut. Yes, he thought, he had been. But for different reasons.
"What if…" Ben paused, calculating the risks of making his offer. However, it didn't take very long to come to the simple conclusion. He wanted Zade to be happy, he wanted his son to be home. There was only one way to allow for both. One way that made Ben sick to his stomach. "What if I taught you?"
Ben could hear his own displeasure in the tone. Returning to the life of a Jedi, opening himself to the force once again. It was something he had vehemently promised he'd never do again after defeating Palpatine with both Rey and Luke at his side. The moment he offered a ring to Rey, he became fully invested into his family and waned nothing to do with the powers that had ruined his life once before. Never wanting to be known as the mighty Ben Solo, son of Han and Leia, nephew of Luke Skywalker, namesake of the great Ben Kenobi. Instead, he eagerly embraced the life he and Rey had made. Just Ben, a flawed but loving husband and father, living a humble life with his family. How, Ben wondered, had his son desired something that he had worked so hard to bury?
Given the expression Zayden wore, Ben could only assume that the boy realized how foolish of an idea it was.
"You don't want to do that," Zade stated plainly; obviously. "I know that you don't."
"I'd do it for you," Ben affirmed. "I want you to be happy."
His son narrowed his gaze, opening his mouth to speak before clamping it shut a second later. Ben watched him rethink his choice of words before finally Zade sighed. Straightening his posture, the boy met his father with renewed confidence.
"I want to be a Jedi. Dad, I can't do that here."
Ben released a deep breath, trying to push out every ounce of frustration that his son's desires continued to fuel. He looked away, avoiding Zade's gaze as he gathered the reins of his emotions. A minute of silence passed where they sat there, one fuming while the other sat anxiously; waiting to hear his father's final plea. All the while, Rey's warning continued to buzz in the back of his mind.
Continue this path and you are no different than them.
Ben released a groan while pinching the bridge of his nose. When he finally met his son's eyes again, it was with a glare.
"You will holo home every day."
Zade blinked, then flinched. Mouth dropping in both confusion and shock. "What?"
"You will come home every other weekend minimum to spend time with your family. I don't want to hear any bickering when we pick you up. And… pay attention," Ben groaned as his son began shaking with delight. Rising to his feet when he couldn't contain his excitement any longer. "Are you even listening?"
"Yes! I mean, yes," he lowered his voice when he realized he had shouted, still shaking from his father's compliance.
"What did I say?" Ben challenged.
"I-I'll holo daily, come home every other weekend without complaining, wash the dishes, shine Dee-Oh, and fold the laundry…"
"I didn't say… Well since you're offering," Ben smirked. Not a second later he was being tackled. Even with all his strength Ben barely managed to catch himself before the force of Zade's hug could put them both on the floor. When he recovered, he welcomed the relief of a thousand suns being lifted from his shoulders and embraced his son.
"I promise dad, I won't let you down," Zade choked through a sob. "I'll make you proud."
Ben tightened his arms around him while his brow scrunched. Scowling into his shoulder as he whispered.
"I'm already proud of you kid."
Rey woke to a dark room. A creak in the floor was all it took for Keera to flinch beside her and Rey moved a hand to stroke the baby's hair. When the infant returned to sleep, Rey glared at the shadowy figure staring down at the bed.
I asked you to fix that board, she complained through the bond. Ben merely smirked, calculating his chances of moving the two twins sprawled about in his spot without disturbing their sleep
"Where were you?" she asked softly as he slid an arm underneath to haul them both up and onto his chest as he crawled back into bed. Maro groaned for a minute before adjusting himself to lie at his father's side, while Lina took to nesting atop his chest.
"Talking to Zade," he answered quietly; tightening an arm around both children.
Rey merely groaned.
"A few hours ago was too late to talk, but four in the morning is perfectly acceptable?" she complained tiredly. Hearing his smirk before his lips were at her forehead.
"I told him he could go," he whispered against her skin and Rey's eyes snapped opened as he laid back down.
"You were right. I've only been pushing him away," he said simply. "He belongs at the Academy."
Rey blinked. Her eyes just as tired as her mind. She supposed that might be a good thing, less she move to strangle her husband for not coming to that same conclusion a few hours ago. Suppressing a groan, Rey laid her head back down and tightened her arm around their daughter.
"How'd he finally get to you?" she murmured above the baby's forehead. "He cried didn't he?"
"I do not give them what they want just because they cry," Ben muttered.
"Sure you don't," Rey merely smirked at his lie. "Like the time you wanted to throw out Dee-Oh for being too old when his battery fried, but instead you spent every waking minute finding a replacement while Lina begged you to fix him?"
"I merely liked the challenge of fixing that old droid," Ben denied. "Besides, he makes for a good babysitter."
Rey chuckled. Knowing full well that all of their children had him wrapped around their fingers.
"When should we let him go?" Rey asked. Her question lingered in the silence of the room and she could swear she felt him tense, as if he had not yet fully grasped the concept that their son would in fact be leaving.
"How are you so comfortable with this?" he whispered sadly. "My heart breaks every time I think of it."
"I saw this coming years ago, love. I've had more time to mourn," she explained softly while reached to find his hand in the dark. Ben accepted, holding her as a lifeline. "Besides, it will give us a reason to visit the academy more often. I miss Voe, and Finn has been begging for us to come see the new troopers. He's changed so many lives. It's time we let Zayden to the same."
Ben released a deep sigh before there was silence. When a few moments passed she wondered if he had fallen asleep. And then, she felt the gentle graze of his lips tracing her mouth. Rey lifted herself to receive his kiss, taking care not to harm the sleeping baby resting at her breast. Ben parted too quickly, but Rey supposed that he could not be blamed given his awkward posture to avoid disturbing the twins cuddling against him. Instead, Rey smiled. Knowing that it was her fault for insisting that their family share a bed. And then, the door to their room opened once more.
Rey lifted her head in alarm to see who had entered, but relaxed when recognizing Zayden's figure walking to the edge of the bed. Ben was the first to ask.
"Nothing," Zade shrugged in the dark. Then, to both of their surprise, began lifted the covers next to Ben.
"What are you doing?" Ben asked in surprise.
"Dad, scooch over," he merely replied. Rey bit her tongue to refrain from laughing as their eldest son forced himself into their bed. Resting his head against Ben's free shoulder as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "Goodnight mom and dad."
Ben tried to glare, groaning through the bond. This is your fault.
Rey merely chuckled.
We're going to be just fine.
Ben's peace flowed through the bond.
Yes, we are.
A/N – There you go everyone! I hope you enjoyed what is probably the end of my reylo writing. If you haven't seen, I have a few other smaller stories written in a series. Feel free to check those out if you are interested! The series begins with A Night at the Solo Household. Thank you so much to everyone taking the time to read/comment/kudos. I appreciate you all and God bless!
Review Replies – Thank you to all anonymous guest who left reviews! You are much appreciated!
CharlieBoneFan – Thank you very much! Haha figured I should include something regarding that! Thanks for reading!
HGRHfan35 – That is so lovely to hear! Wow! Thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed the epilogue just as much!
RedPandaJoy – You are so sweet! I hope you enjoy the epilogue and thank you so much for reading!
toptolvr – I believe this has been fixed! Thank you very much for pointing that out and thanks for reading!
Red Panda – Are you RedPandaJoy? Didn't want to combine the review just in case you aren't. Thank you very much for your comments and thank you so much for reading! You are so very sweet!
RC – Wow! Thank you so much, I am honored! I hope you enjoyed the epilogue and thank you for reading!
reylo trash594 – Thank you for all of your comments! I am so glad that you liked the story so much and I hope you enjoyed the epilogue!
rjsethjob02 – Aww thank you so much! I am so glad that you enjoyed the story and I hope you enjoyed the epilogue!
Jani – Thank you very much! I am glad that you felt the time jumps made sense. I believe I made that edit you suggested but I'm not sure about the counting, I don't think I wrote that they were waltzing. That is good to know though! Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts!
Epicweaver – Thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed a little bit more of Rey's scenes now that the epilogue is out. Thank you very much for reading and leaving your thoughts!
Reyoflight – Wow! Thank you so much! I treasure your comments and am so glad to hear that you feel everyone is true in character. Thank you, Thank you!
MagicalSocks – I am so glad to hear that you liked the story and I hope that you enjoyed the epilogue! Also glad to hear that you liked how I wrote the reconnection of the dyad! Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts!
styer lauren921 – You're amazing! Thank you so much for reading!
YueAiNoYume – Thank you very much! I am so glad that you liked the story! Thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts!
The Doctor Rose – Thank you very much!
Ditzy Lizzy – I am so glad that you enjoyed the story and I am relieved to hear that you liked the character development! Thanks for reading!
Brainy-brownie123 – I am so glad that you enjoyed the ending! Wow that is so wonderful to hear, you are very sweet! I hope that you enjoyed the epilogue and that it didn't ruin the original ending! Thank you so much for reading!
Blade's Lover – I couldn't imagine an ending where Rey didn't get her memories back, so I am glad that you enjoyed that! You are so sweet… You're very welcome for writing this story and thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts! It's comments like this that keep us writing I hope that you are staying safe in these unfortunate times and God bless you!
11morsmordre – I am so glad that you enjoyed the story and to hear that you enjoyed the open ending! I hope the epilogue did not ruin that vibe for you! Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts!
FourShot411 – I am glad to hear your thoughts on Rey getting her memories back, I agree it would have felt wrong to not return them! Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts! Hope you enjoyed the epilogue!
Tee – Haha glad you enjoyed the "grateful" joke! Is there a Han/grandchildren joke that I'm missing out on? That sounds awesome…. Haha I am so glad that you enjoyed the story and thank you very much for reading!
d52896b – Haha I couldn't leave Rey without her memories by the end of the story! Thanks so much for reading and I hope that you enjoyed the epilogue!