A Night at the Solo Household | Chapter 1
Rey weaved through the crowd bustling in excitement as the night drew on. Drunken shouts rang about the streets and more than once the scavenger found herself stumbling after being bumped around by careless bodies. It was ironic, she thought, how she had once longed for nothing more than the company of others. Yet now, she could not help but feel that a night in her fallen At-At might be a blessing. However, the scavenger quickly chastised herself for thinking such things, recalling the countless number of tears that had been shed in her pathetic make-shift home.
"Rey!" Poe shouted from above the crowd. Rey greeted him with a smile, even when he took a step too close for comfort. "Where have you been?"
Rey tried tilting her head casually to catch a breath of fresh air. Though, given the stench of alcohol on the man's breath, she could only assume her repulsion would go unnoticed.
"We came here for an actual reason, you know," she reminded with a chuckle. "To find General Leia's files?"
"We also came here to spend time with the locals. Come on, this is a party! Enjoy yourself for one night," he shouted unnecessarily loud while placing a full bottle into her hand.
Rey accepted the drink without hesitation, not wanting to argue the matter any longer. To her relief Poe quickly grew distracted as the crowd began dancing to a new song. Rey continued her path, hiding her drink on a table before finally reaching an empty street. The fresh air relieved her lungs as she took a deep breath.
In the distance the path wound through fields of green, leading to the lonely house resting at the edge of the forest. The dark home beckoned her forward, offering peace and quiet to contrast the busy day. But then, a couple holding hands emerged onto her path.
"Rey? Where are you going?" Finn smiled at the sight of his friend. Beside him, Rose shared in his joy. "You're not heading back already, are you? The party just got started!"
"It's been a long day, Finn. I just need someplace quiet for a while." She said.
"You sure? Want us to bring you back some wine?" Finn pressed. "Supposedly it's a specialty here."
"No, really I'm fine," Rey smiled.
"Alright, suit yourself." He shrugged. "We'll be here if you change your mind."
Rey nodded in response and scanned the crowd once more. Before the pair could flee, she quickly asked.
"Have either of you seen Ben? I haven't seen him since lunch."
Three months. Three months had passed since she had called for Finn's aid deep down in the dark caverns of Exegol. He had been all too eager to reach her before noticing the large man struggling to walk at her side. She had been ready to collapse herself but was more than happy to have the heavy arm draped over her weakened shoulders. They were alive. That was all that mattered.
Finn had been reluctant to help smuggle the man responsible for so much chaos and pain, but in the end he had helped. The former Stormtrooper had even kept their secret, fueling the rumors to all others that Kylo Ren had died in the caverns. It was the compliance of her friends and few others that allowed Ben Solo to be hidden in a lonely cell far beneath the resistance base. She knew that Finn would come around, that one day her friend would forgive the once tyrant. And yet, after three long months of waiting, she began to think that maybe she had been mistaken.
Finn scowled at the simple mention of his name. If not for Rose's hand within his, Rey thought for certain he would already be shouting.
"I don't care where he is," he growled. Rey couldn't help but sigh.
"It was just a simple question, Finn."
"And I gave you a simple answer."
"A simple no would have sufficed," she tried to offer kindly, but her own temper began to grow.
"Leaving that monster for dead would have sufficed, but here we are."
Rey couldn't help but flinch. She had known such thoughts existed amongst the rest of the Rebellion, even amongst her own friends. Hearing the harsh words aloud however, was a deeper blow than she could have imagined.
"Finn, why don't you go find Poe. I'll catch up with you in just a minute," Rose nudged him forward.
The man didn't move immediately as he glared at his dearest friend. At least, Rey hoped that he still thought of her as such.
It hurt, oh how it hurt that her closest friends refused to listen to her desperate pleas. She had tried countless tactics. From begging with tear filled eyes that it was only because of Ben's selfless acts that she had even survived, to wielding angry reminders that Leia would have fought just as vigorously for her son's return. Her breath hitched at the very thought, imagining how different it could have been with the General to fight at her side. Maybe, just maybe, they would have listened to Leia.
When Finn finally began to move away, eyes glaring the entire time, Rey had to close her own to combat the rising heat. So much time had been spent fighting. How were they not tired of it?
"Rey…" Rose began.
"I do not want to be lectured to tonight," Rey interrupted. She had planned to waltz right past the girl but was stopped by a gentle grasp on her arm.
"I would never lecture to you," Rose smiled sweetly. Rey willed herself to calm before turning back to her friend. "Rey, I didn't understand at first. I… I felt disgusted when you brought him to our base."
"How is this not a lecture?" Rey grumbled tiredly. Rose merely smiled again.
"I understand now," she promised. At that, Rey flinched.
"He's quiet and a bit brash at times, but he works hard. Today I watched him help a group of kids fix a speeder so their dad wouldn't wring their necks." Rose chuckled at the memory, while Rey stared in disbelief at what she was hearing. "He was patient with them. One of the kids accidently cut his hand when trying to help, but he never got angry."
The girl started to frown before looking to the ground in shame.
"I feel ashamed for how we've been treating him," she admitted. "I can tell he's trying, I have for a while. I just didn't want to believe it."
"I'm glad someone does," Rey sighed.
"They'll come around," Rose promised softly. "Just give them time."
Rey scoffed in disbelief.
"Only two days ago Poe pulled a blaster on him," Rey reminded. "If I hadn't been there who knows what would have happened."
"Chewie would have ripped his arms off," Rose smiled.
Rey felt a bit of relief at the reminder. She did have Chewie, she had Lando, and now she had Rose. Perhaps things could start to mend after all.
"I'll talk to Finn," Rose promised before pulling her into a hug. Rey couldn't help but tense at the contact. It seemed even now, after over a year of being around proper civilization, she still could not seem to overcome Jakku's lonely conditioning. Rey forced herself to hold her friend, smiling at the revelation of her new ally.
"Thank you, Rose."
"Go get some rest." Rose pushed away. "I'll handle the boys for the night."
Rey chuckled as the girl jogged into the crowd, before happily finding comfort in the peaceful road once again. She looked once more for Ben, sighing when his tall form was nowhere to be found. Was he avoiding her on purpose? She couldn't help but wonder.
For nearly three months Ben had been forced to remain in a cell. No, a cell would imply that the space had been humane. A cage was more like it.
Every morning and every night she would sit on the other side of his cramped space, talking far too much. Rey would have loved to take a break to listen, but the troubled man hardly spoke of anything more than simple pleasantries; of the paint chipping away on the doorframe, of the impressive technology they had made just to keep him captured, or of the time a family of small critters entertained him for at least an hour. Eight words was the current record that she could get him to speak in a single sentence; a record that she failed to beat.
Rey tried not to feel offended by his reservations. Knowing better than anyone how hard his journey had been. However, after everything that happened between them, after everything they had endured together, and after the wonderful gifts they had given one another that terrible day in Exegol, she could not help but feel slighted.
Ben had given her life when she had none remaining and in turn, she had offered affection that they had both craved so deeply. The desire had been mutual, hadn't it?
Rey had felt his heart when the strange bond between them placed her within his mind, when for a short moment all was right with the world. In that moment there had been no doubts that her feelings were shared. After limping out of that dark place they were swiftly met with the reality of Ben's crimes and the grudges that might linger forever. Now she was left with only a memory that grew more distant each day and every day she was left wondering if their moment had been imagined.
With a sigh, Rey continued her walk down the dark pathway alit only by the moonlight. However, as the music and shouts faded behind her, the cruel loneliness was there waiting with a cold embrace. She wanted to groan at her conflicted heart, stopping only once to stare at the joyful crowd now far in the distance. It was her exhaustion that won her over in the end, as she turned once more to the empty house just ahead.
The Organa-Solo household was much smaller than she would have imagined. If two war heroes could not afford an extravagant footing, who could? Then again, she recalled Poe's jab at the house's size when they first entered that same morning. Ben had bitterly informed them that its owners had hardly ever been around to use it for more than a place to sleep.
The old wood moaned when she stepped onto the porch and the first thing she noticed was the light creeping through the windows. Rey slowly pushed the door open and took care when stepping around the pile of bags that had been carelessly tossed aside when they first arrived. She began walking towards the light with a careful hand resting at the hilt of her saber until a sweet scent filled her nostrils. As she entered the kitchen, her eyes widened at the organized mess of trays cluttering the tables. Then, she finally noticed the tall figure standing at the window.
The man startled just a little, but never tore his gaze from the dark glass before him.
"Rey." He replied simply.
Her heart leapt in the same way it always did when she heard her name on his lips; a feeling that she was far too embarrassed to ask even Rose about.
Rey scanned the trays of sweets littering various surfaces, counting enough pieces to feed their small group three times over.
"Did you make all of this?" She asked.
A moment passed and then another. The silence tamed her excitement at seeing him at last and she struggled to clear her throat quietly. Was this the first time they had been alone since Exegol? Rey wondered to herself. Sure, she had visited his cell countless times, but she was no fool to think that they weren't being watched by the various cameras recording his every move. This, this was far different.
Finally, yet another moment later, he shifted on his feet.
"My mother and I used to bake on nights I couldn't sleep," he explained quietly.
Rey couldn't help but tense in surprise, threatening her victorious smile from forming as he offered something personal at last. She stood silently, focusing all of her senses on the man brooding in the corner. Tell me more, she wished to say.
Ben was slow to turn around and when he finally met her gaze, he nodded to the table.
"You can have as many as you want."
"What are these?" Rey's brow scrunched at the strange food. They smelled good enough, but the dark brown color seemed far too unnatural for her taste.
"Brownies," Ben scowled, as if her question appalled him. "You've never had one before?"
When she shook her head in response, he moved around the kitchen; shuffling through an array of drawers before producing a knife. In a few swift slices, he carved out a piece before holding it out for her to take.
"What does it taste like?" She asked in suspicion. Ben merely scoffed before placing it in her palm.
"Only one way to find out," he answered.
Rey smirked at the cryptic answer, lifting the food to sniff for any signs of mischievous tampering. Then again, she didn't take Ben as the type of person to play such vicious pranks. When she finally took a small bite, the sweetest flavor exploded into her mouth.
"Good?" Ben smirked when her eyes widen.
"These are amazing!" She exclaimed.
Ben laughed. It was short and quiet compared to the roars she would hear from her friends, but it was beautiful passing through that set of lips. It was gone as quick as it came, and Rey was left with only the ghost of his smile. How she wished to see it more.
Rey couldn't help but reach for their bond even when she already knew what would happen before slamming into a wall. She flinched at the coldness of his loss, desperate to once again experience the warmth of their dyad before it had been severed far too quickly. Maybe then she would understand why this strange tension lingered between them.
Rey stared at the unique cuffs on his wrists that blocked his connection to the force. The invention was the only reason that the vote had passed amongst the small gathering of leaders that were privy to the knowledge of Ben Solo's survival; the vote that allowed him to leave the strong cells that had been crafted just for him. With the powerful bracelets clasped around his wrists, Ben Solo was merely a man. At least, that had been their perspective.
A hand reached out without her permission and before she could control herself, her fingers were tracing the terrible material resting below his palm.
"I hate these things," she murmured.
Ben merely shrugged.
"They're not so bad."
"It feels like a part of me is closed off," she explained.
"It's not your doing," she reminded. Ben scoffed in response.
"On the contrary. I have every reason to be in these cuffs."
"Do they hurt?" Rey asked with a firm tone to deter any thoughts of lying. Given the way Ben was watching, she could only assume that he was calculating the risks of doing so.
"They're inconvenient," he answered.
Rey moved her fingers to the small latch just below his palm. When her intentions were realized, his arm was stripped from her grasp.
"I agreed to wear them at all times," Ben stated firmly.
"No one else is here, Ben." Rey reminded.
At that, he glanced around the room to avoid her gaze. His eyes settled back on the window where the party still raged in the distance.
"Why are you here?" He asked.
Rey couldn't help but flinch. A tightness built in her throat and her hands retreated to her sides as she fought the wave of his indirect rejection.
"I didn't mean to bother you," she said quietly. Rey began to turn towards their luggage to retrieve her bedding before his voice stopped her.
"You're not. I just meant why aren't you with your friends?"
The hurt lifted slightly as she returned to meet his gaze once more.
"Poe's already drunk and I think Finn and Rose wanted some time to themselves. I'm not sure where Chewie went," she shrugged. "I just wanted someplace quiet."
Ben nodded before he began playing with the clasps at his wrist. It felt like forever before he finally spoke again. Rey half-wondered if he had changed his mind when his lips parted.
"I want to be good," he admitted quietly. "I don't want to break anymore rules. No matter how small."
Her stomach swirled at the admission. Rey nodded, petrified that she had tempted him with even the slightest bit of darkness. Before they could fall silent again, she gazed over his shoulder.
"Is that you?" Her eyes settled on an image nestled on a shelf. Rey moved around him, smiling as she observed the young boy in the photo. Behind him, Luke stood with a hand on his nephew's shoulder and surrounding them both were three other figures. "How old were you?"
"I was thirteen," he answered above her shoulder.
Rey stiffened at the nearness of his voice, while her heart fluttered as her skin captured a bit of heat radiating off his body.
"Who are the others?"
"My friends Tai, Hennix, and Voe. They were the first to join Luke's Academy after me."
"You had friends?" The thought slipped into words unconsciously and Rey startled when she realized what had passed her lips. Her face flushed as she turned to him with an apologetic gaze. "That came out wrong."
Thankfully, Ben only chuckled.
"It's alright, Rey." He spoke softly. "I'm trying this new thing where I control my temper."
"Are you?" Rey smiled through her blush. "You're doing rather well at it."
"Not like I have much of a choice," he reminded with a scoff. "I can't tell which of your friends will pull the trigger first the moment I snap."
The smile faded from her expression as her head bowed in sorrow.
"They'll come around," she stated weakly. Ben only shrugged and Rey wasn't certain if she should be disappointed by his lack of concern.
"I nearly tore the pilot's brain apart and FN-2… Finn, has his own set of grudges," he reminded. "The mind has a way of healing bitterly."
"Rose thinks you've changed," she tried.
"I never harmed her. Well, I suppose not directly."
"I forgave you," she reminded firmly. Unwilling to speak the words floating through her mind. You hurt me.
Ben's breath hitched before it was released slowly. It had become a fragile dance to deal with his stubborn mind during her visits to his lonely cell. Every time Rey worked hard to drill it into his thick skull, I forgive you.
"Yes, you did." His voice barely broke a whisper. "That doesn't mean they will. Nor should they."
Rey shook her head in exasperation. She thought about pressing again, about shouting the truth until he tired of her whining. However, she was uncertain herself. Could her friends truly ever forgive him? Rey had done her best to hide the world's joyful chants that first week upon their return, the gleeful shouts that Kylo Ren was dead. However, she was no fool to think their cruel celebrations didn't reach his ears.
Rey returned her glance to the picture before them, tracing a finger along the photo.
"I've never actually met a Quarren."
"They smell like the ocean," Ben mused aloud. "But, Hennix was a good guy. He was my first…"
The voice paused from behind her. Rey waited a moment and then another before turning to see his pained expression. Tears pooled at the edges of his eyes as he gazed longingly at the photo.
He waited yet another moment before finally taking a deep breath.
"He was the first person I killed."
Rey knew better than to flinch, however, her body failed to obey her senses. She swallowed a lump of discomfort, making certain that her throat was clear before speaking.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
For a fraction of a second, his head began to shake. But as a tear slipped along his cheek, he forced himself to speak.
"They were off-world the night that Snoke destroyed the temple. They didn't believe that Luke tried to kill me, so they pursued me when I tried to leave. They chased me to Elphrona and I lost my temper with Voe. I… pushed her off a cliff but regretted it immediately. I was trying to slow her fall when Hennix threw his saber at me."
Ben closed his eyes and she knew it was to prevent a wave of tears from escaping.
"I deflected it. I didn't realize I was hurling it right back at him." He tried so hard to keep his breath steady, but she could hear the slight tremble in his voice. "He didn't make it."
Rey had been prepared for some horrific tale of the first time he had lost control to the dark. Perhaps of him losing his temper at someone in a fit of rage after his uncle's attempted execution. She had imagined terrible images of him slicing through defenseless bodies, innocent to the atrocities that had been dealt to the young Ben Solo. She had not expected a story so tame.
"Ben, it was an accident."
"An accident that killed him," he stated in defeat. "An accident that I caused."
Rey fought against the tears starting to swell in her own eyes. Had he truly fallen to the darkside because of a mistake? She knew it was risky to ask, but her curiosity outweighed her worries.
"Is that how you… fell? Is that what made you turn to the darkside?"
"No." The answer came so simply that she didn't think he'd tell her anything further. To her relief, he began to speak a moment later. "I set off to find the Knights of Ren on Snoke's advice and spent some time amongst them. Tai found me when I was traveling with Ren, he tried to help me…"
Ben's jaw clenched. Rey began to regret coaxing him to talk about his past, but quickly banished those fears once again. He needed this. They needed this.
"Tai was always good to me, he was innocent. Ren killed him right in front of me. All the anger that I held back for years, it just felt like too much. I lost control," he swallowed. "I killed Ren… and then Voe. My training with Snoke began shortly after."
Rey remained silent. A part of her battled with the will to act, to pull him into a hug as she would for any of her friends. Affection hadn't come easy for the scavenger. When Finn had taken her hand abruptly so long ago on Jakku, she thought of how close she had come to breaking the fingers that dared to touch her. It wasn't until she learned that he had come to her rescue on Starkiller Base alongside Han Solo, that affection became so much easier. In fact, it had made her wonder how she survived so long without so much as a friendly hug. She could only wonder if the same could be said for Ben.
As she watched him struggle with his own sorrows, she wondered if he would reject her attempts to comfort him. Would he push her away? Or would he melt into the hold that she desperately wished to give? Rey's thoughts drifted to that night on Exegol seemingly so long ago. Ben had allowed her kiss. If memory served her right, she remembered feeling an arm around her back while the other tightened at her neck. Surely he would welcome her touch?
Just when courage nearly pushed her to him, a harsh logic held her in place. It was just a memory, Rey tried to tell herself. Since then, he acted like nothing had happened in that beautiful moment in a dark place. Then again, he was here; he was sharing his secrets. However, before courage could find her again, Ben was backing away.
"Want to get some air?" He asked as he was already moving towards the exit.
Rey merely followed him out the door and into the night. They didn't go very far as instead Ben sat on a couch seated on the porch. Rey shook her nerves before taking the narrow space beside him. Together they sat in silence, watching and listening to the drunken hollers in the distant.
"I used to sneak out here at night just to sit under the stars," he spoke absentmindedly. "When there was a full moon, I'd have enough light to bring my pens."
"You can draw?" Rey tilted her head in curiosity. Ben appeared to flinch slightly, as if only just realizing what he admitted.
"I, um, I used to write," he corrected nervously.
"What would you write?" She pressed; confused as to why such a simple conversation could make him so uncomfortable.
"When I was older, mostly things about the force and discoveries I'd make." He cleared his throat uncomfortably and she couldn't help but smile. Rey could only imagine his fury if he were to learn of the thoughts tickling her stomach. That his strange nervousness was adorable.
"And when you were younger?"
Ben's throat bobbed with his deep sigh and she felt a swell of victory, knowing that he would never lie to her.
"Poetry," he whispered before staring at his fumbling hands. The man never looked so young as he simmered in a pool of insecurity.
"Could I read them?" She asked softly. Ben released a shaky breath as he relaxed ever so slightly.
"All of my things burned with the temple," he answered. "They were childish anyways."
Rey tilted her head as she looked to him.
"I think a man drinking himself under a table is childish, but for some reason Poe still likes it," she smirked as her gaze returned to the party. Unable to fathom how Ben could feel embarrassed by his peaceful hobby, when Rey could only imagine which of the shouts in the distance belonged to her friend. Her fingers traced the edge of her pocket and she wondered if there were enough credits to purchase him a set. "I think you should write again."
"I don't need it anymore," Ben shrugged. "I used to write when I was upset, usually when mom and dad were fighting. I'd write stories about a boy named Kylo. I would give him the life I always dreamed of having."
Rey tensed, surprised by the wave of fury that swarmed but quickly shook it off.
The cheering crowd snapped her attention back to the gathering in the distance and she rejoiced in the chance to change the subject.
"Why weren't you at the party?"
"I've never been fond of big crowds," he answered.
"Instead you prefer baking for an army?" She smirked, hoping the jest would lift his mood. Unfortunately, the jab only seemed to cause him to still. What had she said wrong?
"I was trying to see if my mother might appear," he said. "Has she come to you since… Since Exegol?"
The simple reminder of her mentor's loss nearly broke her in an instant.
Rey's heart dropped even further with his sigh. She watched him carefully, noticing the way that his body fell deeper into the couch as his neck craned to see the stars above.
"She's still with you. You know that," Rey reminded softly.
Ben scoffed in response.
"That's what they always tried to say. That the Jedi of the past will always be there to guide you," he recited bitterly. "They were never there for me. No one was ever there for me."
Resentment sparked her fire.
Rey recalled the vows she made herself when she first began visiting him in his cell. Patience. She needed to be patient. When he gave her short answers, when he refused to offer anything more than simple conversations, she was always patient. Oftentimes they would sit in a silence that would be awkward to most. For so long she had mastered the art of it and yet, in a single moment her resolve was shattered.
"You had parents that were there for you," she reminded angrily. "You had friends and a family. You had more people in your life then you're willing to admit and you discard them like they were nothing."
You had everything, she refrained from saying. When I had no one.
"I did?" His brow rose in challenge. "What do you know about my past?"
Rey opened her mouth to speak, but clamped it shut instantly to refrain from shouting. Ben had taken the love of his parents for granted and it damaged the fondness that she held just for him. That he would allow his uncle's misguidance to erase the memories of his loving mother and father. Something that even her strange affections for the man could not erase. The anger subsided ever so slightly, though it dared her to wield the bitter thoughts aloud.
"Why didn't you go to them?" She asked. "When Luke failed you, why would you not go to the people that loved you? Instead you went to Snoke."
"You think it was that simple?" Ben retorted.
His calmness only seemed to frustrate her further. Of course it was simple! Ben must have noticed her fury as he sighed gently.
"I know how terrible it was for you, Rey. I do. But you have no idea what my life was like."
"Then tell me," she stated in challenge. Ben continued to stare and she could see his mind calculating the risks of sharing. Then he shook his head, while his gaze fell back to the porch with a sigh.
Rey's shoulders slumped as her heart fell into the pit of her stomach. All anger faded, replaced by an agony that was far worst. He didn't trust her. After everything they had been through together, he still didn't trust her.
"But I can show you."
Rey's pain ebbed ever so slightly.
He turned towards her, offering his full attention. Waiting, but for what?
"I will let you look." He pointed to his skull when she failed to break from a blank stare. When she finally understood, she recoiled backwards.
"No," she answered firmly. Ben smiled, but his eyes fell with a disappointment that only she could see.
"No!" She quickly stated. Recalling the discomfort of having him rummage through her own mind over a year ago. "I just, I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't. I'm giving you the memories. It only hurts when you fight."
"But the cuffs," her gaze fell to his wrists.
"They only stop me from using the force," he explained. "You are free to take whatever you want."
Rey swallowed nervously. Knowing that if she denied again, he might misunderstand her reluctance. Her fingers tangled together in a weak attempt to soothe her anxiety.
Ben answered by reaching for her hand. He handled her gently as her palm was moved just short of his forehead.
"All you have to do is reach. It's easier the closer you are," he instructed as the heat of his fingers faded from her palm. Had that been their first touch since…?
Rey released a shaky breath, stripping her mind of the embarrassing thoughts before allowing her fingers to graze his forehead. She hesitated another moment, before pressing into his mind. The first thing she heard was the sound of a terrified baby.
A/N – This is going to be a short story, there are currently only two chapters planned.