This didn't really turn out the way I wanted to, but alas, here we are. I finished it but can't go anywhere else with it. Oh well! This is more of an experiment than anything. I'm a bit late to the reylo fandom. Hope y'all enjoy, though!
A broken, bloody throne room ablaze. A funny, curious thing: destiny. He's heard the word from Snoke so many times, he's forgotten what it truly means. But it is just there, following a spider's web of possibilities, fracturing into a million different universes, right there, right now. He sees it in front of him: a life with her or a life on his throne. Why can't it be both?
Dark and light; balance. Who needs them when you have power, especially over those that have controlled you for a lifetime? (He seethes over Snoke's body, the vile moss that are his thoughts and manipulations still clinging onto his mind, a parasite that can't be exterminated.)
And so he offers his hand, just as she did on Ahch-To, and he sees the betrayal, hurt, and disappointment in her eyes, making him pause. "You're nothing," he says. "But not to me." Beneath it all, he sees what draws him to her, always: the hope in him that no one else has ever had before.
And so she offers her hand, just as he has done. "Please, Ben. Please don't go this way. Join me."
He scoffs. As if turning back to the Light would solve everything. She came to save his soul, to bring him to his redemption. What makes her any different than Snoke, who crept into his life and told him he owed his master to join the Dark Side? If there is one thing he knows to be true, it is that saving him is impossible. "What?" he spits out. "Join the Resistance? Try to win a losing war?"
"With you, we can win it! You know it to be true." She steps closer to him. "That thirst for power, that hunger for control? That's something Snoke taught you." That's not all that Snoke taught him: it would be so easy to crush the world and take apart the universe, to let everything die and everything start anew. (But not her—he couldn't kill her minutes ago, and he knows he never could.) Death is the start for all living things. A blank slate, one that he can control.
And yet the call to the Light has always been something he could not ignore, no matter how much Snoke tried to beat it out of him. Destroy the Jedi temple, the others training there. Destroy Han Solo. All it did was tear him apart, and the only other person who sees it is meant to be his enemy. "And you think you can teach me differently?"
"No. I can't turn you back to the Light. I know that, now." Her eyes plead with him. This is an entirely different look than in the forest. This is the look in the elevator when they stood so closely, he could feel her breath on his cheek and on the scar she gave him months ago. It draws him in, and before they realize it, they've stepped closer to each other, hands dropped to their sides. This is a look he cannot comprehend: it says faith and hope and devotion; it says I'll help you, when no one thought to say it to him when he heard Snoke's voice invade his mind for the very first time. "Only you can make that choice."
A strangled sound escapes his throat before he can swallow it down. Does she have any idea what she has given him? The magnitude of being given control over what and who he chooses to be, after a childhood of having the Skywalker legacy on his shoulders and years of serving under a master who molded him into the most powerful weapon he could wield to destroy the universe?
"Then what are you suggesting?"
She gestures with an open hand once more. "Would you rather conquer the galaxy on your throne, alone as you've always been? Or come with me to save the galaxy instead of ruling it?"
The world stills around them. Spiralling around the throne room are two choices for two wills that are at odds and unyielding, or perhaps just on the tip of compromise. There is hurt and doubt, longing and loneliness. There is no one that knows the other one better; if they could conquer the galaxy, they would be an unstoppable force, rising against everything that stands in their way.
But there is another choice: Rey's light is infectious and bright; her optimism is blinding. There is the darkness they share, but with it comes the light. There is some part of him that craves balance, that seeks understanding of the peace that somehow exists in both the fire of the throne room and the streams of Naboo. When they come together, fire and water, rage and calm, him and Rey: it brings him ever so closer to what he seeks. You have too much of your father's heart in you, young Solo—I sense the conflict in you, it's tearing you apart—Let go of the past. Kill it if you have to.
He steps forward, tentatively, then boldly until he comes to a stop just a few feet apart from her. He rips his gloves off, letting them float to the ground in the midst of the carnage around them. His fingers meet hers and they both take a breath. Kylo Ren lets this past die. "Ben Solo is dead. I killed him."
Rey shakes her head and he has the boldness to lift his other hand to wipe her tears away. Every touch between them is fire and ice all at once. "No, Kylo Ren is dead. Ben Solo is alive." Her smile is radiant and brings more heat to his face than the throne room around them.
He orders his troops to stand down. Out of fear, they obey. Hux, however, is the insolent bastard he's always been.
"What are you doing?" he screams as he barges into the throne room. "We have them cornered; the time is now to—"
"It appears you've run out of breath," he says, fingers twitching on the hand that's not clutching hers. Hux's face is turning as red as his hair as he takes in the scene around them, eye twitching at Snoke's severed body, and the look in his eyes turning furious as he notices their hands together. She is squeezing his hand, nudging him to stop.
He releases the general reluctantly and Hux falls to his knees before them (where he belongs—there was once a vision of them together, ruling as Emperor and Empress; the thought of it lingers in his mind). Gasping and adjusting his collar, he says, "The Supreme Leader… is dead. What have you done, Ren?"
"I killed the Supreme Leader. You answer to me now."
"You heard him. Stand down. The First Order is finished," Rey orders. He spares a glance at her: her lips are curved in excitement and anticipation, and her eyes are fierce and wild.
"That is… hilarious," Hux starts to chuckle hysterically, clutching at his sides. "You… you're standing with the scavenger girl you've been hunting all this time? The First Order will live on, you idiots! Do you really think you can defeat us, even with whatever Force tricks you rely on?"
"The Resistance will rise and defeat your order," Rey seethes.
Hux is having none of it. He regrets not killing him. "And how will you win the war? You're not a strategist, Ren! I've been leading while you've been—" Hux crashes into the wall.
He meets Rey's sideways glare with a shrug. "At least he's still alive."
Crait will end the way it would have ended either way. The Resistance is clinging onto small numbers, squeezed onto what small ships they have. While their numbers may have been saved due to his temporary stop of the violence, it won't be long until Hux wakes and alerts the other generals, and even the Knights of Ren.
Then there is the issue of being accepted by the Resistance itself. By Leia Organa-Solo.
"We'll explain that you've turned, that you're with me," Rey is saying while they pilot Snoke's aircraft towards the other ships that have landed. They are expecting Rey, who radioed in and identified herself; they would never dream of having Kylo Ren in their custody. Maybe his mother can sense his presence on the aircraft.
"Have I?" he challenges. Rey raises an eyebrow. "I told you, I killed Ben Solo. You can't resurrect a man and expect him to be the same as he was before."
"No," Rey admits as the ship lands smoothly, turning white to red as the salt shifts underneath them. "But maybe now, you can be just Ben."
A funny, curious thing: change. He's heard the words failure and disappointment more times than ever, but Snoke had never encouraged him to change. He had always been groomed to make the right decision (Snoke's decision) and follow his master without question, without remorse, without guilt. He'd been taught to use his fear and anger for power, to use the Darkness to overcome the Light. Ironically, he used his fear and anger in the moment to defeat Snoke.
Leia has changed so much and yet so little, from what he can remember. He can see old and new burdens in the lines of exhaustion near her mouth and the darkness under her eyes. She still captures the attention of an audience, looking upon her with awe and honor: the Princess and the General. But there is weariness weighing down on her shoulders and mourning in her eyes. These are new. She waits for them exactly where the ramp of the ship would land, expectant. She sensed him, even after all this time.
The look of shock on her face is something reminiscent of his father's when he struck him with the lightsaber.
Guilt, anger, pain: Snoke had lied about many things. That his parents hated what he was and what he was always destined to become, that his father left in fear of the lineage of Darth Vader and his mother abandoned him because of the burden that he was and always would be. Perhaps the worst lie whispered in his mind was that living in his guilt and anger day after day would give him power and set him free. He thinks of Rey: of her quiet admission that her parents abandoned her to a life of starvation and scavenging under the thumb of Unkar Plutt, of her acceptance that they sold her away. Confrontation, admission, acceptance: Rey has never lied to him, and he has never lied to her. The first time neither of them have hid any part of themselves from another person (even themselves).
So he walks down the ramp from where he looms in a stand-off with General Solo, Rey behind him and the crowd hushing in anticipation and fear. His footsteps are accompanied by the sound of blasters humming and murmurs growing until the General raises a hand to silence the rebels. His foot barely grazes the white-red ground when he drops to his knees in front of her. He raises the very weapon he used to murder his father and places it in his mother's hands, head bowed to avoid her eyes.
He waits and waits and listens to the wind on Crait, watches the salt shift in the breeze. The red of the planet blemishes the white. It's somehow entrancingly beautiful as he stares into the ground, offers his sin out to his mother, and lets her have her judgement. It's nothing short of what he is owed. But nothing happens until he hears her take an unsteady breath of air; on its way back, it hitches in her throat, and he readies himself for his fate—
"Ben." He looks up. She hasn't said his name in twenty years. He meets her eyes and she says, "I'm so sorry."
He has a choice, yet again. Has the universe always bursted with choices? How much did Snoke take away from him? He wants to scoff like a child, because she had the luck to miss those years of defiance and rage that most parents experience. He wants to throw her guilt away like they threw him away. But that's not quite true, is it? (They were filthy junk traders, who sold you off for drinking money.)
It takes three words for him to embrace the pain that has plagued him ever since they left him and accept that nothing can change or erase the past, no matter how much he longs to kill it. "I know what I have to do. But I don't know if I have the strength to do it."
She gives him back the lightsaber, and they both feel that the kyber crystal no longer answers to him, and he no longer answers to it. His mother smiles. "You do."
Change is twisted in the midst of destiny, in the cracks of a mirror. For many years, Kylo Ren has been the lonely occupant of a cracked reflection of Ben Solo, a boy suffocated by the expectations of generations of Jedi legends and the fears of a rebuilding Republic with the fresh memory of a terrible Empire. When he chooses Rey, the Light shimmers through the broken lines and she brings her own lonely glass shards that the Dark colors in. When he throws the lightsaber as far as he possibly can, and he turns back to his mother, there—just right there, he sees Just Ben: newly resurrected, raw, and hopeful.
They call Chewie from the old Rebellion base to meet them with their getaway ship: his father's ship. He can't bring himself to call that piece of junk by its name. When Chewie sees him, flanked by his mother and Rey on both sides, he lets out a painful roar that he interprets as no, I don't want to see the man who killed my best friend, even if I did help raise him. Everything inside Ben wants to run away.
When Chewie comes near him, his crossbow slung across his back, Ben yells out his apologies in Shyriiwook until he has no breath left, regardless of the Resistance soldiers around him. He feels a hint of amusement from Rey through the bond.
And from Chewie himself: his howls of pain and grief turn into hysterical giddiness. Ben hasn't heard Chewie do that since the last time he tried to speak the Wookie's language, when he was six and only Chewie had been home to look after him. Other times, he was out with Han on a smuggling run.
He's surprised, to say the least, when Chewie carries him into the Falcon as if he's six again, murmuring assurances in Shyriiwook when Ben lets himself mourn for his father for the first time since he's killed him.
So the Resistance lives on, cramped onto the hallways of his childhood home and hunted by the government he once fought for, the old ghost of Han Solo laughing at the irony. Hux resurrects the First Order with the generals he used to command. He can't even begin to imagine the terrible incompetence of the new Supreme Leader.
At first, the pilots and the soldiers fear him. The stormtrooper (FN-2187, he thinks) hates him the most. That is to be expected, since the last time they met, Ben nearly killed him by slashing his grandfather's saber down his back. The pilot he tortured, his mother's golden child, also despises him.
Rey walks next to him, talks to him excitedly about improvements to BB8's datacore, eats with him, and spends every waking minute of the day with him, it seems. Even when she is not physically next to him, he feels her in his mind, just out of reach. She is the first voice in his head that he has not come to despise, the first voice in his head that cares for Ben, not because she wants power or influence or control, but because she is kind.
With Ben on the Resistance's side, the war ends swiftly. The First Order's bases crumble, its leadership is distraught, and the galaxy is turned upside down. He takes more than enough pleasure out of watching Hux scramble around and try to assemble his army as the Resistance strikes the stormtrooper bases.
Each battle is a victory. The universe sings when Ben and Rey fight side-by-side, the Force and life and everything in perfect balance.
It is a life where everything is so much easier and so much clearer than the one he had as Kylo Ren, or even as Ben Solo, lost padawan burdened by his family's legacy. But now, as Ben and Rey, two that are one, he knows exactly what he needs to do and where he needs to go. He knows that wherever she is, he will be.
"If not for Snoke," Rey says, hesitating. "If not for everything, do you think we would have this? The bond?"
If not for Snoke: if he had not turned to the Dark, if Luke Skywalker had not tried to murder him, if even Anakin Skywalker had not fallen short. If Rey's parents had not abandoned her, if Jakku had not been a wasteland of scavengers and Unkar Plutt, if, if, if.
Out of the thousand Ben Solos and Reys that exist across the stars, if they were to follow each strand of possibility along the spider's web of all those shattering universes, he knows they would find each other.
"Yes," Ben says, and kisses her, again, and again, and again.
"Would you rather conquer the galaxy on your throne, alone as you've always been? Or come with me to save the galaxy instead of ruling it?" Rey pleads.
In the throne room—the world still around them, the two spiralling choices at odds, hurt and doubt, longing and loneliness—Ben stares at Rey, knowing that all the happiness in the world Rey could give him is so far beyond anything he could ever deserve.
He destroys everything he touches, betrays everyone he loves. He could never do that to her.
He steps away from Rey. Their fingers never touch.
"You're still holding on," Kylo Ren says. Ben's still holding on, and he knows he will never be able to let go of the hold she has on him.
Rey reaches for the lightsaber, and he pulls it back to him, this damned legacy of royalty and Jedi and Sith.
The saber breaks.