Ben meets the High Lord.
Locked in a Cage/Dead Inside
The tiny woman sauntered up the grey stone walkway to the door of the mansion and waved her hand over another dark panel near the knob. This door did not spring open immediately as the gate had done, and Ben was able to take in the beautifully detailed carvings of mountains and stars and intricate scrollwork. Beside him, the tiny woman hissed a curse and sucked in a breath like she was about to start yelling. But the door slowly swung open to reveal a man cloaked in a swarm of darkness.
Out of instinct, Ben reached for his missing lightsaber, and upon finding it not there, gestured wildly with the Force. But before he landed the blow, he felt a thin trickle of peace through his terror.
Look , it seemed to say. Feel .
Ben stayed his hand. And looked. And felt.
Though the person before him stood wrapped in darkness, Ben neither saw nor felt any malice or immediate threat, so he lowered his hand and tried to ignore his pounding heart and rush of adrenaline. Instead, he took in the man who'd let them in. He's roughly Ben's height and width, though perhaps a bit more leanly muscled to Ben's bulk. The man was dressed in all black, as Ben was, though his clothes were clearly finely made and considerably less damp and hole-y than Ben's. Violet eyes were assessing Ben as surely as Ben assessed the man. For a threat.
"I found this one," the tiny woman poked Ben in the ribs, "washed up on the beach like a drowned rat."
"Dear Amren," the man said, nodding politely to Ben, "must you speak so?"
The tiny woman, Amren, snarled in response. The violet-eyed man turned to Ben.
"You fell through the door?" He asked.
"I…I think so," Ben answered.
"He said he died today," Amren said, prodding the man in the ribs with a sharp nail. He let out a long-suffering sigh in response, but he turned back to Ben with renewed interest.
"Ah, so you're part of the 'I died' club, are you? You'll fit in well here."
And blinked again.
"I'm sorry," he said. "What?"
"Well," the man said, "I died. Dear Amren here died, and Feyre…" he trailed off for a moment. His voice had just the slightest hint of a crack on the name. "So you see, you chose an excellent door to fall through."
Ben was very, very confused.
"I'm sorry," he said again. "What?"
Amren and the other man shared a look.
"Amren," the man began, "ah, did you tell your new friend nothing ?"
"I thought I'd let you do the honors, High Lord ," Amren scoffed.
Nervously, and rather belatedly, Ben realized that the man before him was the High Lord of whom he'd been apprehensive over meeting, and he wondered if he should've bowed. Or something.
The High Lord sighed and refocused on Ben. After a moment, the High Lord rolled his eyes in the direction of Amren's back; she had spun on a heel and headed down a long corridor beyond the foyer. Snapping his fingers, the High Lord just continued to stare at Ben, who noticed that his clothes were now dry. So the two men continued staring at each other, and Ben, who didn't feel threatened so much as bewildered and lost, began to clench and unclench his fists at his sides, which the High Lord noted immediately.
"What's your name?" The High Lord spoke suddenly.
"Ben," Ben answered. The other man nodded.
"I'm Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court. Welcome to my domain." The last sentence was said a bit drily as Rhysand gestured around him to the estate and beyond. "You look like you could use a meal… and a fight."
Ben tensed and physically had to clamp his hand to his leg to keep from reaching for his missing lightsaber. Through the Force, he reached out toward Rhysand in preparation to send him flying or choke him or Ben didn't know what. But instead of finding the malice of impending threat, Ben found… humor? And a cool reserve, yes, but also something else.
"You don't mean to harm me? You feel…as though you're wearing a mask?" The questions were tentative. Rhysand's violet eyes snapped to his and darkness flickered there.
"You…felt? How did you do that? I felt it but it was unlike anything I've ever…" The High Lord trailed off, considering. "You're from another world." He tapped a finger on his chin. "The magic is different there." Ben thought he looked intrigued and a little apprehensive, but Rhysand continued. "I'm a daemati and the most powerful fae male to have ever existed, so believe me when I tell you that you should not be able to bypass my mental shields." A hint of a growl had crept into the High Lord's voice, and Ben thought for a moment that he'd seen a shadow of wings behind the other man.
"I used the Force," Ben said simply and shrugged. He was curious about what the High Lord had said, but felt it best to keep his questions to himself .
Rhysand considered him for what felt like a long time, and Ben felt claws scraping against his own mental shields.
Instantly, Ben felt the old mask slip over his features as the instinct to protect himself, his mind, for further invasion and violation like he'd endured for years . Years of torture and lies and being alone and anger and hatred and fear and pain. A bloodred haze crept around the edges of his vision and his heart pounded, the adrenaline rush like icy fire through his veins. It burned his body even as it froze his mind to a single point.
Fear and pain and anger and hatred and fear and pain were a song in his blood, the darkness in his shattered soul rising to meet them.
"Stay out of my head!" He snarled as his hand flew up and he reached through the Force to cut off the High Lord's air as he looked around for a weapon or a path to flee.
Rhysand's own hand flew up in the same instant and Ben felt magic and Force battling between them, and then they both just…stopped.
Both men left their hands in place, but their power no longer battled as a feminine voice sounded behind them.
"Rhys," she said. Her voice was the female mirror to the High Lord's, and though it sounded nothing like Rey's it brought her back to mind and
How had he let this happen? He'd nearly fallen to the dark again .
"What have I told you about fighting in the foyer?" The voice was filled with humor and a hint of exasperation and love for the man he'd wanted to kill.
Ben felt his body sag and he collapsed to his knees.
Light, feminine-sounding footsteps came toward him and stopped. Worn leather boots appeared in his vision, and then her hands as she offered them to him. Her right hand was covered with the blue-black ink of a swirling tattoo. Both were flecked with paint.
Ben turned his head away from her offered hands. He didn't deserve help. He deserved to feel the pain and shame of what he'd nearly done.
"Stop." Her voice was queenly and commanding, and now it reminded him of his mother and he couldn't decide which was worse. The memory of Rey or of Leia.
"Stop," she said again and placed one hand on his shoulder.
Rhysand growled behind her but did nothing.
"I am Feyre, and Rhysand is my mate. Please don't kill him in our home, even if he is a bit of a prick."
Ben blinked and Rhysand let out a barked laugh.
"I could feel your pain when you fell through the door," she said. "You've been hurt. Broken. We all have. I'd like to help you, if you'll let me." Her words were kind, and that kindness ripped his already broken heart to shreds. He did not deserve kindness.
He told her as much.
Ben felt her turn slightly toward her mate and remain there as they had some sort of silent conversation. Her hand left his shoulder, and he was glad.
He shouldn't be touched out of kindness.
Air moved around them as the woman gestured to her mate, but Ben still hung his head.
"Ben." The commanding tone was back. "Get up."
Slowly, Ben unfolded to his feet, though he still looked away from the two mates before him.
"Feyre," Rhysand's voice came as a strained warning.
"Rhys," Feyre growled back. "Stop." She paused, turning to her mate. "Do you not feel it? He needs our help, Rhys ." His name on her lips was a command, and Rhysand remained silent. "Ben," she said turning back to him, "let us help you."
When he remained silent, she faced Rhysand again.
"You go find Cassian or Azriel; I'll stay here." Another order to the High Lord. Dark power rumbled through the room, but Feyre stopped him before he could speak. "No male posturing, Rhys. I'll talk to him. I'm not afraid."
Something cracked inside him at Feyre's words.
Ben heard the High Lord leave and finally turned to look at the woman with the kind words.
Feyre had golden-brown hair twisted into a long braid draped over a shoulder that was clad in a loose-fitting cream colored sweater. He'd noticed paint on her hands, and there were flecks of it over her sleeves too. Her grey-blue eyes looked at him kindly out of a pretty face, and delicately pointed ears peeked through her hair. She crossed her arms over her chest as she took him in.
"You don't want to talk about it?" She asked.
Ben shook his head, his long salt-roughened hair stinging his cheeks at the movement.
"That's fine," she looked up at him and grinned. "Do you want to eat?"
"Yes, please," Ben said quietly.
"Manners! How nice! Az won't be alone in judging how feral we all are at dinner!" She laughed and turned, starting down the corridor, gesturing for him to follow. "Come on, let's find food."
Ben found himself following this commanding woman and winced when he heard his stomach growl. When had he eaten last? On Kef Bir? Maybe? It might have been days, and he'd forgotten in his single minded search for Rey. Shoving his hands in his pockets and hunching his shoulders, Ben emerged into a large, bright kitchen, and some distant, buried part of himself that he'd thought was lost longed to make use of it. The tiny spark inside him sputtered and flickered.
He would have loved to cook for Rey, to hear her moan at new flavors and see her wrinkle her nose at ones she didn't like. Once, he'd thought he might have to search high and low to find things she wouldn't like, but now, he wouldn't have the chance.
"Stop thinking," Feyre called over a shoulder as she pulled dishes out of a cabinet. "I can practically hear it through your shields."
Ben froze. She could read minds too. Just kriffing great.
Feyre snorted a laugh from where she now had a box of pastries out on the counter, setting them on a tray with meats and cheeses. Ben watched from where he stood awkwardly in the middle of the kitchen until he felt a sharp prod through the Force that felt distinctly like his mother poking his ribs.
"Can I help?" He still felt awkward and unworthy of her kindness, but he could at least make himself useful.
"Oh, I knew I'd like you! Cassian just sits and stares and Rhys just uses magic for everything ." She sighs. "Can you pull that box off the top shelf? Rhys is a prick and likes to put my favorites on high shelves."
Trying desperately to make himself as small as possible, he edged around her and grabbed the box she wanted. She nodded her thanks and gestured at a bar stool nestled under a marble-topped island for him to sit. He sat. Feyre brought over the tray and the box he'd retrieved for her and plunked them down between them as she sat across from him.
"Go ahead," she said and picked a few pieces off the tray and immediately stuffed them in her mouth. It was so like Rey that he wanted to simultaneously laugh and cry at missing her. But he also took small pieces off the tray, unfolding a napkin and placing it in front of him. Feyre quirked an eyebrow at that.
Ben cleared his throat.
"My mother, ah, would not appreciate my making a mess as a guest. But my mother is dead, so, I don't know why I'm doing this." He felt Leia's Force ghost jab him again, much sharper this time, and he flinched.
"My mother never had time for me," Feyre said conversationally through a mouthful of bread. "She was always planning parties and balls, and then she died when I was young."
Ben nodded and finished chewing as he thought. He felt comfortable speaking to this woman, at least a little, and maybe… maybe talking about Leia would ease the tension in his chest.
"My mother was a senator," he said. "She didn't have much time for me as a child, either."
Neither of them spoke again as they continued eating, but he felt a tiny bit of tension drain away. He'd never told anyone that, not even Rey. He'd never felt comfortable telling her about his youth before going to train with Luke, not when he'd had every luxury and she'd had to fight to survive from such a young age.
"Would you like to bathe and change clothes?" Feyre asked. They'd cleared the tray completely, and Ben supposed that he wasn't particularly pleasant to be around after dying and then nearly drowning.
"Yes, please," he said and gathered their dishes. Feyre took them before he could go to the sink and wash them, though.
"I'll take care of those later. For now, you come with me. Dying is…unpleasant." She said the last sentence so matter-of-factly that it took a moment for her words to sink in.
"You…too?" He waved his hands vaguely.
"Yes," she said simply. "We'll talk about it after you've changed. You smell like a dead fish." Her words were said without a hint of malice, only honesty, so once again, Ben followed Feyre forward.
Feyre led him down another hallway that led away from the kitchen and showed him to a room with a bathing room attached.
"I'll see if I can find some spare leathers around." She eyed him appraisingly. "You look like you're close in size to all three of my Illyrians, so that helps," she paused for a moment, tapping a finger on her chin in thought. "You don't have wings though, do you? You can't summon any?" She peered around his shoulder inquisitively.
"No?" What an odd question.
"Hmm." She tapped her chin again. "Well, I'll find you a tunic or something then. I'll make it work. Get cleaned up and rest, then we can talk, all right?" She smiled kindly and left him at the door.
Inside, Ben slowly went around the well-appointed room and searched for booby-traps or listening devices or anything suspicious but found none. The room was done in shades of cream and tan that reminded him of Rey, but he pushed those thoughts aside. The bed was enormous and looked lovely and soft, and Ben wanted nothing more than to fall into it and sleep to oblivion, but he was very, very salty. And sandy. Sighing, he shucked his clothes and folded them neatly despite the state they were in. He gathers them up and walks gingerly to the bathing room. It was a bit different from a 'fresher on a destroyer, but it reminded him vaguely of family trips to Naboo in his childhood. Like the bedroom, the bathing room was mostly cream-colored, with gold accents, rather than tan. An enormous tub was sunk into the marble floor, and Ben leaned down to run water to fill it. While he waited for the tub to fill, he found himself standing in front of the mirror.
The face that stared back at him was definitively different from what he'd seen for the past decade. At least.
Ben Solo stared back at him, not Kylo Ren.
The scar Rey had given him during their first duel was gone; she must have healed it when she'd healed his wound on Kef Bir. He tried not to feel anguish at its absence; any mark Rey gave him was cherished, even such a hideous scar.
That thought stopped him in his tracks.
What does it mean that I miss a scar she gave me? What is wrong with me? he questioned himself.
But the scar wasn't the only difference. The weight of Kylo Ren was gone from his shoulders, replaced by a lightness that felt foreign and new.
The bubbling of the tub behind him broke his reverie, and he slowly lowered himself beneath its foamy surface. Its warmth surrounded him and only then did he allow himself to feel everything that had happened over the course of the past several days.
Rey killing Kylo and bringing him back as Ben, facing the emperor, Rey dying, bringing her back, death…
It was too much.
All at once Ben felt too large and too small at the same time. His breath came in shallow gasps and his vision started turning black around the edges. Curling in on himself in the heat of the water, Ben allowed the intensity of his feelings to wash over him and allowed his body to shake until the panic had passed.
Once he was able to breathe again, Ben realized that there were some things he needed to address about his relationship with and his feelings for Rey. Surely, it was unhealthy to feel attached to a scar she'd given him.
A knock sounded on the outer chamber door, and checking to be sure that he was covered by bubbles, Ben told the person, Feyre, he assumed, to enter.
It was not Feyre. A woman who looked faintly smoky around the edges floated through the wall next to the door. Floated. Through the wall. And she was smoky and alive, not a Force ghost.
"Um. Hello?" If Ben's voice hadn't been a deep baritone, he was sure it would have come out a squeak. It was still a bit higher than usual.
"I'm Nuala," she said. Even her voice was smoky and faint. "The High Lady has asked me to bring you these." She presented a pile of clothing and lay it on the white marble countertop. "I'll take these for laundering and mending."
"Oh, sure," Ben said. "Thanks."
Nuala nodded and floated back through the wall the way she'd come through.
Exhaustion crashed through him and Ben decided that he had had enough excitement for one day. Gingerly, he climbed out of the tub and Force-pulled a large fluffy towel to him. He silently gave thanks to whatever gods had created these supposedly large 'Illyrians' because, for once, the towel wrapped fully around his waist and was large enough to cover everything that needed to be covered. Not that anyone around here would see him naked, but it was a nice change from the First Order's tiny, rough towels. The clothes Nuala had brought appeared to be pretty close in size to his own and he was grateful. Once he was dry and dressed, he tumbled into the large bed.
It was plush and soft and nothing like the bed in his quarters on the Finalizer. He wondered if Rey would love it or hate it in all its plush glory. Personally, Ben loved it.
And so he slept and dreamt of Rey.
She sobs, alone, rocking back and forth in a corner, her own arms wrapped around herself where his should be.
"Ben," she sobs, over and over.
He tries to reach out, to call to her, anything to make it stop.
"I'm here, Sweetheart, I'm here."
But she can't hear him and he can't get to her.
He screams her name and thrashes against the invisible bonds holding him back.
He reaches through the Force to calm her or embrace her, he doesn't know, but it doesn't work .
And now her head is thrown back as she screams in agony.
Ben woke, gasping and blind, with glittering darkness wrapped around him, restraining or soothing or -
He was floating in it, the darkness.
"Breathe," a male voice commanded through the darkness.
"Breathe." This voice was softer and feminine, but still commanding. "Ben, breathe."
Two figures pushed their way through the starlit dark and Ben could feel his body readying for a fight.
"Ben. You're doing this. You're safe now, you can stop."
He wasn't safe, Rey wasn't safe, she was screaming . Her voice still echoed in his ears, pleading for him.
Light poured through the darkness he created in the shape of a woman and he grasped blindly for her.
"Ben, no. I'm Feyre. You're dreaming. Wake up."
That time, the command in her voice was enough to break the hold the dream had on him.
Gasping like he'd been drowning, Ben pulled himself to the surface of consciousness enough to use the Force to gently lower himself back to the plush haven that was his bed.
"I'm sorry," he rasped. "Did I- did I hurt anyone?"
Feyre and Rhys traded a look.
"We're used to nightmares around here. Started putting shields around the bedrooms every night," Rhys shrugged, feigning nonchalance, but the tightness of his shoulders betrayed him.
"I'm sorry," Ben repeated, letting his head drop. "I can go…somewhere else."
Not that he had anywhere to go.
"You will not," Feyre said, every inch a queen. "Come on; it's nearly dawn. It's time you heard Rhys's story."
Feyre is pronounced Fay-ruh.
A daemati is a person who can read, invade, and control other people's minds.