A bit of Rey POV, dreams, and... a paint bubble?

My darling readers, I do apologize for the long wait. For some reason, this fic puts me in a very strange headspace, and it gets difficult to write. It's not abandoned, I promise.

Thanks to skyryder01 for the beta read and ideas.

Don't Wake Me

Every night while she dreams, Rey comes back to life to Ben's beautiful face, kisses him, and feels a missing piece of her soul click back into place. Before it's ripped away as he collapses in a heap in front of her. But every night, she wakes frozen in place with his name on her lips and his sweater clutched in her hands, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes until her limbs unlock and she can curl up around the sweater and sob herself back to an uneasy sleep.

Her friends are worried; she knows that, but it takes too much out of her to try to explain the dyad when she still doesn't truly know what it means. Rose brings her bits and pieces of broken machinery to try to coax her into joining the engineering team now that her services as a Force user is no longer needed, but Rey's fingers fly over the pieces, fixing them as if she were a droid rather than human. Finn brings her treats from the multitude of planets he visits as co-general with Poe and Rey accepts them only to place them uneaten in her small personal conservator. For the first time, she has a stash of food, but is no longer hungry. The irony is not lost on her. Poe just tries to irritate her into her old self, but he only succeeds in irritating her further. On the rare occasion that she leaves her quarters, she hears whispers from her fellow resistance fighters. "The last Jedi" was most heard, and she wanted to scream at them that she was no Jedi, but that requires energy she doesn't possess.

So she simply exists.

Ben wouldn't have wanted her to let herself fall so badly into this deep pit inside herself, but the sight of his last smile is burned into her mind like a brand. He had just disappeared , leaving nothing but his clothes behind.

What does it mean ?

For a whole week after he was gone, Rey let herself wallow. It was a luxury she had never had before, so she let herself feel all the things she'd never been able to. Anger and sadness for her parents, missing Leia, trying to work through her complicated feelings toward Luke, but mostly just yearning for Ben. And after one week, she simply shoved her feelings down into the pit, so like the one he'd fallen into.

During that week, she'd cut herself off from the Force. When she finally allowed herself to reconnect to it, she felt unsettled. The strength of the force crashing back into her knocked her back over the brink into unconsciousness, and she let herself fall willingly if it meant no longer feeling the pain of his absence.

While she was unconscious, she dreamed about him. He was in another place, a place filled with bright colors and magic and he was calling her name. In her dream, he dreamed of her too.

But what did it mean?

Rey noticed that once she reconnected to the she felt connected to those who had come before her. The Jedi who abandoned her, who hadn't spoken to her until they needed her. Rey felt betrayed and ignored them all. They called her name, but she still ignored them; Luke and Leia and all the others that she didn't recognize.

Why couldn't they come to her when she needed them? She had begged for them to be with her, and they only came after he was gone.

When she returned to herself, she joined the engineering team with Rose, and she started eating with Finn, though she didn't taste her food. She talked to Poe whose good nature ribbing still rankles her, but she didn't give it back to him like she used to.

And she was angry. Angry at the force and at the Jedi and at Ben for leaving her.

She dreamed still… Until one night when she dreamed she said his name and he answered her back.

Ben sat bolt upright in his bed, not sure where he was, not sure what had just happened. But it felt like he had connected with Rey the way they had connected a year ago on Crait before Exegol. He felt her in a way that was stronger than the small blips he'd felt since his fall to Velaris.

His hands roughly pushed through his hair, and he felt sweat drip down his back. He couldn't breathe. He could still feel her.

Was he imagining her scent in the air, or had there really been another Force connection?

Ben didn't know what to think, so he wrenched himself from the damp bed and walked through the hall to the kitchen where he rummaged in the cabinets until he found enough ingredients to throw…something…together. Being Supreme Leader hadn't offered much opportunity for his culinary experimentation, but now he found himself in this strange kitchen in this strange land chopping and sautéing and stirring. Rey, he thought, would have loved it. She would've eaten anything he cooked for her with no hesitation; she might have eaten so quickly that she wouldn't have even tasted it.

Eventually, Feyre joined him in the kitchen, and when he finished cooking, Ben placed a well-heaped plate in front of her. She dug into her food with the same gusto that he'd imagined Rey would have, and even if Ben can barely manage a few bites himself, it's nice to see someone else enjoy it.

"Rough night?" Feyre asks around a mouthful of potatoes.

Ben sighed and ran his hand through his hair again.

"I had a dream about her…that we connected again the way we used to and it seemsed so real." He paused to duck his head. "But how can it be real? I'm here and she's there, and I don't even think she knows I'm alive. So how can we be connecting through the Force if we aren't even in the same universe?" The words tumbled out of his mouth in a rush.

Feyre nodded as he spoke.

"I don't know how the doors between worlds work, and I don't know how you got here," she said. "But somehow something is connecting you despite the distance. Rhys and I used to dream of each other despite the Wall between the human world and Prythian. If she is your mate, or your…," she paused to remember the word he'd used, "dyad…maybe the connection is strong enough to speak across worlds. Aelin would know. But her door is shut." Feyre trailed off, lost in thought.

Ben listened, but didn't understand. Aelin and her doors had been mentioned, but no one really seemed to know how they worked. He tapped his finger on the cold stone of the countertop in contemplation.

"Have you seen Velaris?" Feyre asked, breaking his reverie.

"No," Ben said simply. He'd been staying in his room, trying not to cause trouble or be noticed by the inhabitants of the house. The Illyrians were already mistrustful of him; he had no interest in bringing more attention to himself and his power.

Feyre grinned at him, like she knew.

"Come on," she said, standing. "I"ll show you the city."

She gestured for Ben to follow, and together, they left the kitchen and made their way through a hallway to a different door than the one he'd entered with Amren. Feyre eyed him for a moment, then grabbed two coats off the rack beside the door. The one she handed to him was dark and lined with shearling wool, much softer than the industrialized fabrics he was used to wearing. It fit perfectly.

"Thank you," he whispered, and Feyre just smiled and nodded.

Together, they ventured out into the cold air. Once outside, they walked along the river walk, with Feyre pointing out various sites and battlegrounds until they came to an arched sign proclaiming the entrance to the Palace of Bone and Salt. They entered the palace, with Feyre leading the way. She pointed out her favorite spots to buy treats, though they passed on buying raw meats and fresh spices; she said she wasn't much of a cook. Taking it all in, Ben wondered what Rey would think of such bounty out in the open, and easily accessible with their delicious, almost overwhelming scents. Ben very nearly was overwhelmed; he imagined Rey would turn feral with wanting to try it all.

They wandered along, with Feyre stopping at her favorite shops and stalls, making purchases, and handing them over to Ben who'd quietly offered to carry them for her. Quite frequently, the people of Velaris paused to hail Feyre, and she took the time to speak to each one. The people all knew her and treated her with deference and respect, but they were not afraid.

Feyre's people loved her, and that was new and strange.

Beside him, the High Lady of the Night Court seemed to pick up on his thoughts and placed her hand on his shoulder. Images of wolves made of water and winged demons and blood flashed through his mind, and Ben understood. She'd fought for them, been willing to die for them, loved them as they loved her.

As she smiled sadly, Feyre linked their arms and led them further into Velaris.

The colors of the buildings were even brighter than they'd been on his first journey through the city, though that may have been because he was less frightened and confused on this second trip. Feyre seemed intent on showing him every shop in the city, and eventually she took pity on him for carrying such a large amount of boxes, and vanished everything to a pocket realm. Ben didn't understand the last phrase and was startled when her things disappeared, but Feyre didn't seem bothered, so he wouldn't be either.

After a long time wandering the paths of the various palaces, Feyre took Ben's elbow and gently steered them to a building that appeared to be an art gallery. Ushering him in, Feyre pulled the door closed behind them with a little jingle from a silver bell that hung on the door knob. She went through an open door into the room beyond, leaving Ben just inside the threshold. Once he was fully inside, Ben observed the room. The walls were bright white, with canvases of varying sizes hung at intervals along the white surface, and a pleasant scent he couldn't quite place permeated the air. Stepping closer to view the paintings, Ben was startled at what he found. Some of the paintings were calming pastorals and portraits, but others were dark. Angry. Painful to see. The inherent darkness of the paintings seemed so at odds with the stark white of the room, and seeing the florals amongst the images of blood and gore and monsters was jarring. Ben felt his jaw set in a firm line as he followed the paintings around the room, determined to look at each one, despite the growing pit he felt in his stomach.

Seeing the paintings was like having his anger and guilt and hurt ripped from inside him and put on display for all to see.

"Who painted these?" Ben asked the empty room.

Feyre's golden-brown head peeked in from the hallway.

"They did," she said, gesturing behind her, the inhabitants of the room blocked from his view. "Would you like to join us?"

Ben swallowed thickly and nodded, stepping across the gallery and into the other room.

The room was filled with…children.

Ranging in age from what Ben judged to be about five to teens, several smock-wearing children of varying rainbow-hues and shapes stood before easels laden with canvases and paints. Some peered at him curiously, while others blinked and returned to their work. Though he was fond of children, he'd never really known how to be around them, so he remained where he stood, unsure of what to do.

"Here," Feyre said kindly, "we made a spot for you." She waved him to an easel without a painter, and Ben lumbered over to stand behind it. "Oh, ah," Feyre looked between him and the easel, which was much too small, "I'll get you a stool."

The stool floated toward them from a corner, and Ben sat. The stool was also too small, but at least it made him eye level with the canvas.

"Thank you," he said. When Feyre turned to walk away, Ben panicked. "What do I do?" He whispered.

Feyre's braid slid over a shoulder as she leaned forward to show him the brushes and paints in the compartments of the easel.

"Paint," she said simply before patting his shoulder and walking away to see to a child who had abandoned his canvas and was floating blobs of bright orange paint in the air.

Paint, right , Ben thought as he picked up brush after brush, unsure of which to use. His fingers sifted through the tubes of paint, cataloging the colors there, still uncertain. Casting his eyes to the side, he saw that the girl nearest him, about seven he guessed, was gesturing at him with the round thing on her hand. It was covered with blobs of paint, some colors mixed and some remaining pure. Ah. Ben nodded at the little girl and offered her a half-smile. She nodded solemnly back at him and went back to her work. After finding his own palette, Ben carefully squeezed out tiny amounts of the paint colors he'd chosen and stared at the blank white canvas before him, willing the paint to just…take shape on its own.

"You're supposed to actually use the paints." The sad voice belonged to the little girl beside him. She'd walked over to stand beside him, looking between his palette and the canvas.

"I'm not sure how," Ben admitted.

"Feyre says to paint what you feel," the little girl said.

Ben looked to the little girl's easel. A pattern of darkness and colors dotted her half-covered canvas.

"What do you feel?" Ben asked her, but he thought he knew the answer.

"Some days I feel good, some days I feel bad," she said simply.

Ben nodded.

"What do you feel?" The little girl asked.

"I…don't know."

"Hmm." The little girl's silvery blue eyes fell on him. "Close your eyes and just let your brush move." She stared at him for a moment with a face too serious for a child, then crossed back to her own easel.

Her words were oddly reminiscent of his earliest teachings of the Force, and Ben almost bristled at the thought. But he reminded himself that the Force had connected him and Rey, and that it had been the Jedi, not the Force, who had…

He let go of the thought and closed his eyes.

Setting his thoughts and feelings aside, Ben let the force flow through him and began to paint.

Minutes or hours later, when he opened his eyes, a pattern of green and gold and soft brown stared back at him.

Rey's eyes.

In her dream, and she knew it was a dream because her vision was blurred around the edges and odd things were drawn into focus, like the little boy with green skin who appeared to be using the Force to float a bubble made of bright orange paint above his head while a tall woman with pointed ears gestured at him.

But Ben…she saw Ben in the back of the room, sitting with his eyes closed and…painting?

Rey's vision shifted as though she'd moved across the room in half a moment, and she stood face to face with Ben, holding his dark gaze with her own. He blinked. She blinked.

She tried to speak, to reach out, but as was often the case with dreams, she was rendered mute and still.

But Ben saw her too. She knew he saw her in the way his eyes widened and the harsh line of his mouth softened.

Movement flashed behind him, but Rey didn't care. She drank in the sight of him like water in a desert.

Their eyes met and it was like finding half of herself again, that missing, aching piece. Neither spoke; they just…stared.

Until orange paint exploded over Ben's head, splattering his hair and face.

And for a moment, Rey forgot they were separated by life and death and she threw her head back and howled with laughter.

By the time Ben had blinked orange paint out of his eyes, Rey had disappeared. But he'd seen her smile.

Her face had been wan, and she'd had dark circles beneath her eyes, but she had smiled. At him.

For the briefest moment, his heart soared with the familiar feeling of excitement. At seeing her, connecting with her. Until it all crashed back down as he remembered that they remained separated.

Awareness returned as Feyre's magic brushed softly against him, gently removing the orange paint from his skin and hair and clothes. Ben scowled.

And recoiled when he saw the face of the little boy who'd accidentally dumped what appeared to be an entire bucket's-worth of paint over his head.

Abashed, Ben lowered himself to be eye-level with the little boy.

"I'm sorry," the little boy said, looking down at the scuffed brown leather of his boots.

"It's alright," Ben said and flicked a drop of paint that the magic had missed at the child.

Apparently this was all the encouragement the boy needed, for he threw himself forward and wrapped his arms around Ben, nearly toppling them both backwards. Ben looked to Feyre for help, but she was off with another of her students, so Ben awkwardly patted the top of the boy's head.

When the class was declared finished and Ben had helped Feyre clean up the last of the stray drops of paint, they left the gallery, locking the door behind them. Rhysand waited, leaning lazily against the outer wall, before approaching Feyre with his arms outstretched. She hugged him quickly and brushed her lips lightly against his, but backed away before Rhysand could turn the kiss into something less meant for public viewing. Ben would've sworn the High Lord pouted in response.

"We saw her, Rhys." Feyre's voice was quiet and serious, and it took a moment for her words to register. When they did, Ben whipped his head around to gape at the woman.

"You—you saw her? R—Rey?" His voice was a harsh croak in the cold air.

Feyre nodded.

"But—how? No one has ever seen our…connections before."

"Things are different here, Solo. Perhaps whatever magic that connects you works differently in our world." Rhys's voice was not unkind, but matter-of-fact.

Feyre elbowed her mate in the ribs.

"Let's send a message to Aelin, Rhys. Maybe she can help."

"And Aelin is…who?" Ben shoved his hands into the pockets of the borrowed jacket.

"She's the one who opens doors between worlds," Feyre and Rhys said together, and smiled.