/notes: The World between Worlds is a place in Star Wars canon where time travel is possible. Ezra uses it in Star Wars Rebels to save Ahsoka Tano's life (one of my favorite characters in SW!). Title is from Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 2: "Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die,/Take him and cut him out in little stars. And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night/And pay no worship to the garish sun."
Also, this is definitely inspired by a life between times by kuresoto, a beautiful time travel fic that got me thinking about a very Whovian-esque timey wimey AU for Reylo myself. Thank you again to my beta, produwuce. And lastly, this is for one of my closest friends in college: thank you for always being there for me and for making the first two years of my college life bearable. I really couldn't have done it without you and your love and support. Congratulations on graduation and I will miss you lots!
a long, long time ago—
There are whispers all around her, hidden in the darkness. Is this a dream? Is she thinking of him again?
She turns around, but there is no one. Rey has not heard that voice since Crait, since the throne room, since he offered her the galaxy and whispered please. Ben isn't here.
Rey can feel the Darkness of the Force around her: this is not a friendly place. There is only darkness, lined with white lines that stretch on forever, marking paths that lead to more emptiness. It reminds her of the cave on Ahch-To.
The Darkness draws her, as it always has. Rey steps nearer and nearer to the white, a drawing in some kind of symbol in the dark. Triangles and circles: it must mean something, but what?
Closer. The largest triangle is big enough for someone to fit through. Unlike in the cave, she does not see millions of herself. She sees nothing, and, she supposes, to some people, that must be the same thing as seeing herself. She stretches her hand out to touch the circle in the middle and—Rey gasps as her hand slips through. Something (the Force?) pulls her all the way through.
On Jakku, Rey sometimes did not have the luxury of water for two or three days. When Plutt gave her enough rations and water for her scavenging, she would sip the half-cup slowly, letting it last for days, if not weeks.
Rey learned that lesson well when she was younger. Plutt had not given her water for two days, and the desert was unforgiving. When he finally awarded her for finding a fuel driver, she drank the whole half-cup in one gulp. Rey spent the next day sick in her AT-AT.
The trip through the darkness feels like that day. Rey sees nothing at first, blinking and blinking until her surroundings come into focus. But the Darkness around her is jarring. If the world behind her was unsettling, then this is agony; she feels power, anger, and fear. The heat is moderate, but rising in temperature. She starts to cough, and looks up.
Rey knows this place. She's seen it before. The temple ablaze, the lightning striking, the huts broken down, the night vibrating with energy, as if it knows: this was the night Kylo Ren was created.
She hears ragged, heaving breaths, ones of panic and despair. It takes her a moment to realize she is not alone. Rey turns her head, and he is there. Unscarred, his blue lightsaber loose in his hand. And Ben Solo stares right back at her.
She can't help herself. "Ben."
"You," he says, and they are both breathless. "Will you betray me, too?"
She can't bear the weight of his sentence, the pain in his eyes. The fire before them is nothing compared to the heat of his stare. Underneath it all: recognition.
Rey falls to the ground, tumbling into the dark again. That was him—Kylo Ren. How could it be him? On the day he became a monster? He looked at her as if he knew her. As if their connection had been present from the very start of their lives and not a weapon formed by Snoke to torture him and lure her to the Supremacy.
She looks around. There are many other doorways, many other paths. If they—
The idea is wild and dangerous. One wrong move, and she may change the whole of history.
Rey runs towards the next doorway.
Ben is crying. He is barely three months old and through the Force, or perhaps through their bond, she can already hear the whispers beginning to attack his mind. Rey grinds her teeth. She wishes Ben could kill Snoke a thousand times over again.
She can't seek out Snoke through one of these portals. First, she has no idea how to find him in any timeline; second, she does not want to stay too long. If she gets stuck, it is over for both of them.
If she could convince Ben Solo not to turn, she would spare thousands of lives. The Hosnian system, destroyed by Starkiller base. Finn, as well as all of the other stormtroopers, kidnapped at a young age and trained to be killers. All of the Resistance soldiers who fought against the First Order. All of the lives tormented by Snoke, the Knights of Ren, and especially Kylo Ren himself. The death of Han Solo.
But. If not for Kylo Ren, where would she be? Rey of Jakku, waiting for an awakening. A scavenger girl, waiting for her parents to come back to her.
Before her, Han Solo cradles Ben to his heart, soothing his cries away. Leia is nowhere to be seen. Years from now, they will both think of this moment and the many moments in Ben's childhood that pushed him to the Dark, before Kylo Ren drives his saber into Han's chest.
The decision is already made. Rey backs away from the peaceful father and son and dives back into the dark.
The ground is so, so green. Seeing something other than orange desert sand fills Rey with joy. Her legs are crossed and the grass is soft underneath her fingertips.
Sitting in a meditative pose, one that is familiar to her, and wearing traditional Padawan garb, is Ben Solo. She almost snorts at the sight of him. She's never seen him wear something so white before.
Behind him is Luke's Jedi Temple, newly constructed. She's never seen the temple during the day before. It's beautiful: simple, but peaceful. The balance in the Force is strong here.
Ben opens his eyes, sensing her presence. "It's you again," he says, voice higher than what she's normally used to. He can't be more than ten years old. "It's been a while."
"Yes, it has," Rey replies, not knowing what else to say.
"They sent me away. I think they're scared of me."
"No," Rey is quick to say, but that's not entirely true, is it? What person, including his own mother, did not fear Kylo Ren? "Your parents only want to protect you. They love you."
Ben scoffs, turning his nose in the air. "How would you know?"
"Search your feelings. Use the Force. Can't you feel how much they love you?"
"I can feel how much they fear me. How they wanted to throw me away to Uncle Luke so they didn't have to worry about me." She flinches when he mentions they threw him away, because even now, Ben has no right to say that. But she feels it through the bond, that lurking darkness that threatens to swallow him whole, that part of Snoke that has already begun to eat him alive.
"That's what he wants you to believe." There is acid in her tone and her fists are clenched. "Ben, you have to know—"
"He? Do you hear him, too?"
She already feels it, how the portal is already pulling her back, just as quickly as their own moments through the Force end. She has to say something, quickly, now. "Don't listen to him. You don't have to go down this path, Ben. You can choose not to believe him!"
Damn. Rey grits her teeth. The darkness no longer feels oppressive in this strange world, this in-between region. It feels like Ground Zero and she wants it to feel like victory. She is used to searching for the right parts and fixing broken things. Perhaps the Force placed her on Jakku as practice for this.
The practical side of her, the side that never believed in the Force or Jedi before she met Han Solo, tells her that the only reason why she was on Jakku was because her parents abandoned her there. Just like the only reason why Ben was with Luke was because his parents sent him there.
The next one is after the Temple burns. He's on a ship, blue lightsaber dismantled on a table in front of him. There is blood on his hands and a shallow wound on his leg. An aura of Darkness snakes around him like smoke.
He is in so much pain that the Force screams. "Ben," she starts forward, hand outstretched when he catches it before she can touch his leg. The wound is not the main source of his agony, and the Darkness is not only Snoke's.
"Don't." His voice chokes and he turns away. Ben already wears black instead of the white Padawan clothing Luke must have given him for years. "Where were you?"
"On that night! When Skywalker nearly murdered me," he spits out. "Where were you?"
Should she tell him the truth? For a moment, she considers the magnitude of what she has done: she has inserted herself into his past, has warned him about Snoke before he understood anything about the Dark Side, has complicated things so much more. Does this change how Kylo Ren first saw her on Takodana? Does this change anything about her Ben?
But if she just manages to change things, she can fix this. She can turn him.
(The Millennium Falcon pod and her arrival on the Supremacy. She thought the same then. What is so different now if she believes in Ben Solo all the same?)
"I wasn't there in time for that. But now, it's not too late for you. It never is."
"Do you know what I've done today?" At her silence, he continues. "I've killed the remaining Jedi that Skywalker was training. I've killed the leader of the Knights of Ren."
His explanation is clinical and hollow. "I know who I am now. Who I was always meant to be. Kylo Ren."
There is burning rage and a terrible sense of foreboding hidden in that name. The ship quakes at his decision to rename himself, but she sees the self-hatred and agony hiding behind the rage, and stands her ground.
"I told you before. You can choose another way. You do not need to bow before Snoke. In fact, I know you won't." You choose me, instead, she doesn't say. "I know you can feel me through the Force. You know it: the power I have. As if it were your own."
"And who are you, that you seem to know me? I've wondered for years." The ship is suddenly smaller; the heat is suddenly higher. There is no longer a table between them. There is nothing that stands between them and it terrifies her. "You look the same as you did years ago, and if I see you again, I am sure you'll look the same as you do now. I thought you were just another voice in my head, just like Snoke. But you—you're something else. Something different."
She finds she is breathless, once again, at the intensity of his gaze. Rey swallows, her throat dry, and clenches her fists to keep her hands from shaking.
"I'm someone who can feel the conflict in you tearing you apart. I'm someone who doesn't want you to feel that pain. Someone who wants to help you."
"No, if you wanted to do that, you would have been there to fight Skywalker with me! You would have been there before Snoke showed me my place in this world. You left me, too." He leans down and it takes every bit of self control to stay still. "You are always there one moment, gone the next. And every time you leave, I feel more loneliness, more than I have ever known."
He raises a hand, dripping with blood. He cups her cheek and pulls her closer, and Rey can feel how his fingers quiver from their touch, how his pulse races in his wrist. "I asked you a question that night. Will you betray me, too?"
"No. I would never. Our souls are bound," she whispers. "We will never be rid of each other."
He doesn't believe her, but he needs to. He must. There is one more assurance she can give him. "You're not alone."
There must be something in her eyes, in the slump of her shoulders, or perhaps something he can sense through the bond, even now. Ben replies, "Neither are you."
He presses his lips to hers, violent and desperate, a battle without lightsabers or the Force or blasters. His thumb follows the line of her jaw as her hands tangle through his hair. She traces the line along his face where the scar she gave him will one day be, or perhaps, will never exist. But he pulls away when he tastes her tears.
"What is it?"
He will not know her after this. He will never be Kylo Ren, and she will never meet Luke or Leia or Han or Ben.
"You have to turn back. It will be better for you; you have to understand. You can be Ben Solo again. Your parents, Luke—they regret everything. They'll accept you with open arms—"
"What about you? How can I find you?"
She shakes her head. It's already pulling her back, whatever it is; she doesn't care if it's the Force or the dark room or the rules of the universe. He is hers, and she no longer wants it to hurt him.
But he is shaking his head, too, long locks shaking and blinding him. He lets go, stepping away from her, and Rey is left with blood on her cheek, the warmth of his hand still lingering. "No, Snoke has taught me the right way. The only way to get rid of pain is to use it."
Her heart falls, just as it did in the throne room. "Please, Ben, don't go this way."
He turns to the table once more. Kylo grabs his blue crystal, and screams.
The pain is blinding and vicious and cruel as he bleeds the crystal, and Rey can only see red, blood-red tears on his face—
She falls out of the portal again, this time with a frustrated groan. How could she stop the creation of Kylo Ren? And just now, pleading with him, but having to leave him all alone: did she have any part in it? (Did you create Kylo Ren? she demands of Luke Skywalker.)
The lines are blurred. Rey wonders, not for the first time, where Ben Solo ends and Kylo Ren begins. The answer is immensely harder to find when they look at her the same way: as if she is a curiosity and a puzzle, something precious and wonderfully sacred. Valued, and not the way the Resistance values her, not the way Snoke valued Kylo Ren.
It is harder still when she can still taste his lips on hers, still feel his hand on her cheek.
To others, they are weapons, the only Force-users left in the galaxy. The amount of power they hold means they must either be controlled or be labeled as dangerous enemies. To each other, they are the only ones in the galaxy who could ever comprehend how lonely they are with such incredible power.
She curses under her breath. There is nothing she can do here, and she knows it as soon as she steps inside the Falcon. Han and Leia are curled up together while Chewie plays sabacc against the droids. Han's hand rests on Leia's stomach. The darkness already lingers, and Rey's heart breaks even more.
"Yes, I can feel it's a boy," Leia is saying as Han complains about the Force.
"Just you watch. When he's older, he's not going to buy into that mumbo-jumbo. He's gonna fly with me and Chewie, right, pal?" To this, Chewie growls a few syllables of agreement that Leia responds to with rolling eyes. "The Force. Please."
Leia kisses him, nice and slow, until Han's ears burn red and Chewie makes a disgusted noise. When she pulls away, Rey feels struck. Leia's eyes are utterly, completely devoted. They remind her of Ben's eyes, looking at her: in the throne room, across the fire in Ahch-To, in the ship. "He will love you no matter what, whether he has the Force or not, even if you do not. He'll grow up loving his father and looking up to you."
Han has a brief, rare moment of seriousness. He smiles.
Rey blinks back tears, steps back, and falls to her knees on the opposite side of the doorway. She wonders what Ben's smile looks like.
There are three portals left. This one is dark, on the precipice of something distasteful. Rey can feel the Force tipping, the balance close to the edge of a cliff, the free fall imminent. There is a dim lamp in the corner of the room. Ben sleeps on the floor. His blue lightsaber lays on the table beside him.
He is young and handsome, despite the darkness under his eyes from lack of sleep. He must spend his nights battling the Darkness that constantly attacks his every thought, with Snoke twisting each to fit his agenda. And Ben is so full of Light. She feels it so strongly, knit together with her own Light and Darkness, waging war inside her and finding peace and balance only in his presence. She was not lying on the ship when he asked her if she would ever betray him. Their souls are inexplicably, eternally bound.
This is it. She knows what she has to do. Rey only needs to find Luke, to explain to him that he is about to make a terrible mistake. The balance will be ripped apart. His doubt and fear will drive his nephew away towards the Dark, to a disgusting Master who will torture Ben and force him to become Kylo Ren by killing his father.
Rey knows it's not that simple. Ben made his own choices, his own mistakes, too. But it is easy to give into simplicity.
She turns away from him and leaves the hut, searching for Luke. He passes right through her.
There is nothing, not even a chill. There is only dread.
"Luke! Luke, stop!" Rey screams, yells, shakes him as he enters the hut, but her hands never touch him. Of course Ben is the only one who can see her, touch her. She should have known on the Falcon when neither Han, Leia, or Chewie sensed her on the ship.
Of course she is only here to witness a terrified man attempt to murder a lonely boy. She hears the hum of the green lightsaber and sees the glowing light on Ben's face. The look of betrayal and fear—a scared boy searching for his place in the galaxy, in this damned legacy of Jedi and Sith. Her throat is hoarse from screaming.
Of course the Force has only brought her here to teach her a lesson: we cannot kill the past, nor can we change it.
She is pulled away as the hut crashes down.
It is painful. She curls up in front of the doorway and her sobs echo in the darkness. She is alone and so is he, wherever he is in the present. Giving orders to his First Order generals, spreading darkness and fear across the galaxy because of his anger and pain, most likely. The Force bond thrums with energy and brokenness.
Is this what they are destined for? Missing each other by mere seconds, seeing each other through their bond, his mother behind her and his generals beside him? Tormented by longing and anger and betrayal, only to wish for the other the moment the bond closes, and they are alone?
He saved her from Snoke. Is it too much to ask for, that she could do the same for him?
When she stops to take in a breath, she hears him again, as she did when she first woke in this dark room: Rey.
Where? Where is he?
Please, let me find him, she thinks.
She walks towards the next doorway, hearing him behind it, and, as always, reaches for him.
He does not have his scar, but he is older than when she left him in the throne room. This is the first time she has been allowed to see the future through these portals. This must be the future she saw on Ahch-To.
Ben opens his eyes from his meditation and smiles. Rey feels the hope inside her soar through the heavens.
"Rey. I was wondering when I'd see you again. You never told me if I would. Then again, if I say that now, I suppose you never will."
She tries to smile back. Instead, she sobs into his chest as he pulls her toward him. "I'm so sorry, I didn't, I wasn't thinking, and now I've brought you even more pain."
She rambles on, muffled by the press of her cheek against his heart and the sound of his assurances as he strokes her back. Ben is warm and gentle. He is so large, it's almost impossible to think of him as gentle. But he is so full of that wonderful Light she sensed in him, now free of Snoke's creeping presence.
Rey pulls away and looks at him. The darkness under his eyes is gone. He must be able to sleep better now, without the whispers in his mind.
Ben reaches out and tucks her hair behind her ear. His fingers find their way to her jaw, to her lips, to her neck. "Thank you," he says.
"Thank you? I couldn't prevent any of it. And when I tried, I only drove you mad, thinking I was another voice trying to use you."
"Rey, don't you see? We can't kill our past. You taught me that." He presses his forehead to hers. "You brought me hope. You put your faith in a man who tortured and killed the people around you. You believed in me when everyone else only feared me. You chose love over hate. Because of you, I was never truly alone in those moments of agony and pain. So yes, thank you."
"But how?" Rey shivers as he wipes away the tears, and she leans into the palm of his hand. "How can I get to you?"
Her Ben is still Supreme Leader. Her Ben still believes he can rule the galaxy and take over the stars.
This Ben smirks, Han Solo written all over it. "You think I'd tell you exactly what's going to happen? Where's the fun in that?"
Rey laughs through her tears. In the distance, she feels the darkness calling once more. Rey wipes her eyes and steps out of their embrace. Her shoulders are set and she heaves a heavy sigh.
"I just want to let you know. You're a complete idiot."
Ben's laugh nearly sends her to her knees. She cannot wait for the first time she'll hear her Ben laugh, for the first time she'll see him smile, for all of the other first times she'll share with Ben Solo.
"Remember, Rey," he says as she slips away. "I'll come back for you, I promise."
She steps through the last portal and hears a little boy crying. He is on his bed, heels of his hands pressed against his eyes, and his hair is already curling.
Rey rushes forward and hugs him tightly, banishing the darkness with the Force, if only just for this moment. She knows there is nothing she can do to take away Snoke's voice until years later in the throne room.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?"
Ground Zero. It does not feel like a victory.
Rey pulls away from him and looks him in the eye. "I'm a friend. I'm sorry, but you'll have to keep me a secret. Can you do that?"
He nods solemnly.
"Good. Now, let's get you to bed, okay?"
"I can't sleep. I have nightmares every night."
Rey swallows the lump in her throat and keeps the fury hidden. She wraps his blanket around him and wishes someone would have done the same for her, alone in her AT-AT and ready for Plutt's orders to come the next morning. "It'll be okay, just for tonight. I'll keep your nightmares away."
Years from now, Ben Solo will be sent away to his uncle. He will grow in strength and in darkness. He will become Kylo Ren and bleed his kyber crystal. And lightyears beyond that, he will meet a scavenger girl who will challenge his strength and his family's legacy. He will find someone as lonely as he is, and that will mean everything to him. And Rey was and is and will be there through all of it, time and space be damned.
For now, Ben falls asleep easily. The darkness pulls her away, and she lets it.
Rey drops to the ground from her meditation. She looks around, disoriented, as if waking up from a long dream. She is in the jungle of Ajan Kloss, the Resistance base. Leia had told her to meditate and call on the Jedi of the past.
What broke her concentration? Usually, this comes in the form of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, his full title, the one he chose when they broke his grandfather's saber. And yet, they cannot stop sensing each other through the bond, seeing each other in the corner of their eyes, dancing around the tension that has built since he offered her a place by his side.
And yet, Rey feels it: the sliver of hope that roars inside her whenever she thinks of Ben Solo.
"Master." Caught red-handed. Rey still has not told Leia about her bond with her son.
"Is something wrong? You've stopped meditating. You were doing very well."
"No. I'll continue, just… distracted."
Leia nods and raises her eyebrows, skeptical. When she accepts this explanation, the corner of her mouth lifts in a Solo half-smile. It does nothing to ease Rey's uncomfortable feeling. "I will see you at the meeting, then. Two hours."
Rey takes a deep breath. The Jedi await. Be with me. Be with me.
After Exegol, she buries the lightsabers on Tatooine. Shortly after Ben's death, she remembered everything about that in-between world. Now, her hope is dying, but she remembers: I'll come back for you, I promise.
Where is he? Why has he not come back?
Rey meditates in Ben Kenobi's former home, waiting and waiting for her Ben to show up. She has no idea how long she has been sitting with her legs crossed. Every part of her feels numb. She doesn't care how it happens: through the dark portals that led her to him, through resurrection, through time travel. Her heart is empty and the Force stings without their bond. She will never rest until he is with her.
Be with me, she whispers, over and over and over. Be with me.
Until she hears a voice:
but first, a soft epilogue—
Rey disappears into the World between Worlds. She is gone in the blink of an eye, just like when they first discovered their Force bond so long ago. Ben thinks back, for perhaps the first time, with fondness instead of regret and sorrow.
He hears footsteps behind him and whirls around, grinning.
"Well? Did you see me?" This Rey stands in the doorway of their home, silhouetted by the setting sun on Naboo.
"You knew!" Ben says with mock betrayal.
"Of course I did. And I second that, you were a complete idiot."
"I know, I know." Rey reaches up on her tiptoes as he leans down to meet her in the middle. His arms wrap around her waist. "But I did come back for you."
Her smile is blinding and carefree. His Rey, light so heavenly in the days of his darkness. "I love you," he says, and he wants to say it for each day she scratched on the walls of her childhood home, when she was so alone but she was right beside him, on planets and lifetimes away from Jakku, all throughout his life. And he will.
Time and space, Skywalker and Palpatine, Jedi and Sith, and somewhere in between, Ben and Rey. The legacy breaks and their defiance shakes the stars.
—in a galaxy far, far away.