Rey finds out she has her work cut out for her in more ways than one.
SUUUPPPPERRRRR BIG THANK YOU TO SunshineDaysies
for the tarot stuff (she actually wrote the tarot scene and I just ? ﾟﾥﾺ) go read her HP/Reylo crossover RIGHT NOW: Follow the Blue Butterflies
also thanks as always to skyeryder01 for tolerating me
CW/ Tarot reading and very light magic.
In the second week of working in the White House, Rey was introduced to another of Leia's assistants: Rose Tico. Tiny and efficient, Rose was formidable but friendly. Rey liked her instantly, and she felt that the feeling was mutual, though she rarely encountered Rose outside of brief meetings in the hallways or chance encounters near the coffee service. The other staffers seemed not to have the time or inclination to talk to Rey. So far, Rose was the only one who'd bothered to introduce herself other than Dameron. Dameron was nice enough, but he was rarely around. No, Rey's interactions with her fellow staffers were limited to Rose and Solo.
In fact, her encounters with Solo seemed to be increasing.
Rey didn't mind, though. He was alright, really, if one could look past the ever-present stuffiness and a distinct lack of respect for anything remotely arcane. Quite often, more often than was strictly necessary Rey thought, she felt the brush of his eyes lingering over her back, though he'd never meet her gaze when she turned to face him, and sometimes she thought she caught sight of his coattails disappearing beyond a corner when she left a room. His aura was still dark, and it was growing more unpredictable. There were times when his light shone brightly, casting rays through his shadows. But there were still darker days too, days when it seemed the blackness would swallow him whole.
So Rey resolved to do what she could to help him, despite his apparent lack of disrespect and understanding of what she did. She recharged the crystal she'd chosen for him in water, and sometimes she sang to it after all the others had left for the day. The dark stone responded well to her voice, releasing all of the negativity it had absorbed from being in his presence. She continued giving him the calming tea, and it seemed to help. He certainly seemed less intense than when they'd first met, though she had had to instruct him to remove the silver tea strainer before drinking. He'd proclaimed the tea tolerably drinkable after that, and Rey had hidden her smile beneath the fall of her hair.
Leia flourished and thrived in her new position as president. Not the first woman to hold the title, Leia was the first female since her mother had held the office over half a century ago, and Leia often confided to Rey that she felt she had much to live up to in order to fill her mother's impeccably-chosen heels. Rey made sure to have large batches of the tea brewed for Leia, and if she happened to share some with Solo after seeing to his mother, well, so be it.
For the most part, Rey did her job, and she did it well. But there was one area left in the White House that Rey didn't want to tackle on her own. So, after deliberating internally for days, Rey finally decided to call in backup; she needed their broader expertise. Once she'd called them and explained, they'd both agreed to join her at the end of the week to rid the White House of Snoke once and for all.
Until then, though, Rey would have to make do. She'd trapped the malicious energy in an ugly, abandoned conference room, and she had jokingly told the staff that it was haunted to keep them away. Her joke seemed to have worked though, or maybe it was just the lingering traces of an evil old man, but her coworkers kept their distance.
Except for Solo. Just like catching him pretending not to stare at her, she caught him walking away from the room many times, despite the fact that no other meeting rooms down that particular hallway were in use. Once she'd followed him, wrapping light and air around herself to hide from his view, but all he'd done was walk to the end of the hallway, gently open the door, peek inside, and gently close the door before walking back the way he'd come with an odd look on his face.
Rey didn't know what Solo was looking for, but she knew that the sooner she cleared the last of Snoke's energy from the room, the sooner they'd all have peace.
Ben tried, and failed miserably, to contain his sigh. One of Leia's translators, Charles Pio III, had demanded a late afternoon all-staff meeting to coordinate with the Gungan ambassadors. He'd droned on and on about President Amidala having made such a good alliance with the Gungans but Snoke having ruined it, and after a while, Ben had just tuned the nervous little man out.
Ben had chosen a table in the back corner, one near a window, so he could get some actual work done, but he eventually decided that the heat of the room and the approaching line of dark clouds were more interesting than trading policies with Tattooine. A small flash of movement from across the room caught his eye, and he turned to see Miss Byrne's fingers flashing as she shuffled a deck of cards. He watched her as she spread out the cards on the table, flipping over one at a time, peering at it, then looking up at one of their fellow staff members. She repeated the process several times, looking at a different staffer for every card, sometimes nodding, sometimes looking back and forth between the person and the card curiously before shrugging and starting the whole process over. She paused only once - when she pulled a card for Rose Tico. Miss Byrne's dark brow arched as she peered at the card, and a little quirk passed over her lips before she placed the card back in the deck and shuffled yet again.
Clearly, she wasn't paying attention to Charles's speech either, but she also wasn't paying attention to him. So he stared at her, trying to figure her out. All the "work" she did for Leia was smoke and mirrors, obviously, and she dressed like some sort of gardening grandma. He made sure to keep watching her to be sure she didn't do something really awful, like dripping candle wax on the Oushak. Because for some reason, the woman insisted on burning candles everywhere, but he hadn't seen any drips staining the heirlooms.
His loud sigh seemed to draw her attention, and he jerked his head back toward the window, watching lightning break through the darkness of the clouds. Clouds that were much closer than they had been the last time he'd looked out the window. Surreptitiously, Ben felt himself glancing back at Miss Byrne.
A massive clap of thunder paused III Pio's incessant droning. Every inhabitant of the room jumped.
Except for Miss Byrne. Her bottom remained in her seat, though every other in the room, including Ben's own, had not.
Was she that lost in whatever it was she was doing?
Another wave of lightning flashed outside, illuminating the room more than the fluorescents could ever do. Finally, Miss Byrne looked up, straight into Ben's eyes.
Thunder boomed again.
The lights went out.
Nobody screamed; they were all professional adults. But nervous laughter sounded all around the room. They were still too new at this to know protocols for loss of power, and the security officers had been sly enough to weasel their way out of the meeting, claiming a need to prepare the perimeter for the Gungans or some such bullshit as their reason for not attending.
"What do we do?" Pio's voice rang out through the room, high and nervous. But that was not unusual for the anxious little man.
"Stay calm," Leia's voice said, firmly. "The lights will come on soon. Until then, let's all stay here, just in case the storm gets bad."
Ben heard murmurs of agreement from his now invisible coworkers and wondered what they were supposed to do now that the power was out and Pio's presentation was effectively over.
Light flared across the room, flickered for a moment , then grew brighter, softly illuminating Miss Byrne's face.
It took every ounce of Ben's self control not to leap across the room and snatch the candle from her, but she'd already passed it along to Mitaka, who'd jumped up to receive it, and was lighting another that she'd pulled from her bag. The woman just carried candles around in her bag?
Ben watched as Rose came over and plopped herself at the table beside Miss Byrne. She leaned forward, pushing the cards toward the other woman, clearly asking a question. Rose nodded, and Ben watched in confusion as Miss Byrne went through the process of shuffling and pulling cards again. He watched as she separated the nine cards she'd pulled into groups of three, tapping certain ones with her finger. Together, both women leaned forward to peer at a card as Miss Byrne picked up the last one she'd drawn from the deck. Ben craned his neck to see what it was, but in the process leaned too far forward and knocked his coffee mug over, spilling its contents onto the papers strewn all across the table.
Swearing loudly, Ben jumped up and searched for something to clean the mess with. But in the darkness all he saw was the small circles illuminated by the candles Miss Byrne had passed out.
"Honestly, Ben, you've been so clumsy lately. Are you all right?" Leia appeared beside his table, two candles in hand.
"Lightning startled me," Ben muttered
"Hmm," Leia hummed. "You shouldn't be over here all alone in the dark; come with me." She held out her hand, and though he didn't need the help, he took her hand and followed her - right over to Miss Byrne and Rose Tico.
Inwardly, Ben groaned, and he tried not to roll his eyes too visibly.
"What's this?" Leia asked eagerly, pulling out a chair and taking the one Rose vacated. The smaller woman murmured something to Leia, who nodded before Rose walked away.
"A tarot reading," Miss Byrne said, as if that was any sort of explanation.
"Oh lovely! I've been meaning to ask you about that. Do you mind if we do one now, Rey?" Leia clasped her hands on the table and leaned forward.
"Of course not," Miss Byrne said, shuffling the cards again. The cards slid through her fingers, making faint ruffling sounds as her hands flew to mix them together.
Scoffing, Ben leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his pectorals to observe. Leia listened intently as Miss Byrne pulled nine cards and explained them, but Ben just heard words like past, present, and future and tuned out everything. There was no way a deck of cards could tell anything of any use, but Leia hung on every word the younger woman said. Ben didn't; he just watched with increasing consternation as Miss Byrne remained passive and Leia grew more and more emotional. Finally, at the end of her "reading", Leia rose with tears in her eyes and hugged Rey. A firm hand on Ben's shoulder told him that he should remain where he was.
"So," he said, after Leia had gone.
"So," Miss Byrne replied agreeably.
"What are you really doing?" He asked conversationally.
Hazel-green eyes blinked back at him.
For the first time, Ben heard a hint of anger tinge her voice.
"It's just that there's no way cards can predict the future or know the past. So what are you really doing?" He leaned around, looking to see if she'd stashed her phone somewhere to Google Leia's backstory.
"Sit there," she snapped, her seemingly inexhaustible patience reaching its breaking point. "I'm going to give you a reading, alright? Your disbelief is…tiring, and I don't have the energy for it any longer." She cracked her neck and rolled her shoulders as if preparing for battle. Then she rolled up the sleeves of her emerald green sweater and showed him her hands like a magician preparing for a trick. "Here's my phone," she said, handing it to him, "so you can't say I'm cheating."
"Okay?" He mumbled, more of a question than a statement. How had she known that he'd thought she was cheating?
"Since I don't know you well, and you haven't asked me for any particular type of reading, I'm just going to do a somewhat simple nine card spread. Past, present, future. Three cards each. Open to my intuition and interpretation… Okay?"
It took Ben a second to realize that her question wasn't rhetorical. "Oh, yeah. Sure. Whatever," he shrugged.
She nodded then made to pick up her cards. The backs of them were violet with some kind of intricate design in silver foiling.
Her eyes were focused on him though, more intensely than she had ever looked at him before, and for some reason Ben felt the tips of his ears start to warm. He looked away quickly and inhaled slowly before peeking over at her again.
She had started shuffling the cards, but her eyes were closed now, which gave Ben the opportunity to study her freely. She looked serene, almost pretty in the low, flickering candlelight. Not that Ben found her attractive, of course not, but objectively speaking she wasn't terrible to look at, actually.
The thought caught him off guard.
Maybe it was just because the power was out, the semi-darkness making her tacky outfit not quite so… tacky. That was it, of course.
With her eyes open again, she cut the deck into three piles on the table before combining them back into one stack. She glanced up at him then laid out three cards face-down, then three more face-down, and finally, another stack of three, again facing the table. She picked up the first of the three stacks of cards and flipped them over to peruse them for a few moments.
Her face softened a bit, mouth parting in a sad sort of surprise.
Ben felt his eyebrows furrow as he watched her.
He found himself reluctantly curious as to what her reactions meant. What she thought she "knew" about him now.
She cleared her throat and started the reading in a soft, whimsical voice. "Your past holds deep sorrow, but also hope and transformation. The Devil—," she pointed to the very first card and Ben snorted derisively. Of course he would get the the fucking devil. "—represents a thing or a person… I think a person in your case, who you had a toxic, but dependent sort of relationship with. You were caught up in the fantasy they - he spun. Power, possessions, status. He manipulated you, played on your desires and insecurities, until you felt lost and isolated…"
No matter how much bullshit Ben thought this was, he didn't enjoy being reminded of former President Snoke. He stared down at the stray pen he was now fidgeting with.
"Which brings me to your next card," she said softly. "The Three of Swords represents heartbreak, loneliness, and confusion. Feelings of abandonment and betrayal; either by whoever The Devil card was representing or by the people you left behind to follow him," she paused thoughtfully, "or both actually. This card is about your pain, but also your liberation. Finding your way out of the Darkness—"
Ben exhaled heavily, realizing that he had been holding his breath.
"—and into the Light. But I think that this fall from grace was always your Fate, required to bring out the strength you never knew you had within you. Which ties into your third card: Judgement. This was you on the cusp of your new beginning. You made a difficult choice and then acted upon it. Rising to answer a call for redemption and a more meaningful life. Judgement is also about being judged of course, by the Universe, yourself, the people around you. I think we both know that you've been absolved of your misdeeds by everyone but you. You need to forgive yourself."
He could feel her gaze heavy on him, but all he did was grunt in acknowledgement. He was not about to discuss any of this with her, and his throat was too dry to speak anyway. This was fucked up. All of it. Either his mother had divulged all his dark secrets to this— woman, or she had read something online about him. Or maybe he was just that fucking obvious. He had always worn his heart on his sleeve, no matter how hard he tried to mask it.
Thankfully, she didn't pry further.
Her voice was lighter when she began again. "So, that was your past. Now for the present." She paused, taking her lower lip between her teeth and flipping over the next three cards in quick succession. "Oh look, it only gets better from there, so don't worry."
Because none of this was real. Or meant anything. Or mattered in any type of way.
"So, for your Present, these three cards tell me who you are right now. Or perhaps who you're striving to be. The Four of Wands shows me a homecoming, a reunion. Presumably with those you had previously felt isolated from. And based on this card I can now assume that was your family. So, you're back and you've all created this familial, domestic type of environment filled with optimism. Which is rather fitting really, since you are all literally living in The White House now," she chuckled, then turned serious again. "But for all the harmony achieved, I think it's important that you and your parents both remember to accept each other for who you really are."
Ben was still mostly staring down at the table, but he had glanced up at her a few times while she spoke, unable to stop himself. Having long realized that he was not going to participate though, she mostly looked down at the cards and touched them lovingly, brushing her delicate fingers over them as she spouted nonsense inspired by esoteric pictures printed on card-stock, that she'd probably bought at some dollar store or joke shop.
Except that it wasn't nonsense.
Sure, it was completely coincidental. Or maybe she was just molding her intuition or knowledge of him to fit with whatever card was pulled so that it appeared that cosmic energy or divine intervention had placed the perfect cards in the perfect position.
Regardless, everything she had said so far had been utterly true and it made Ben feel incredibly uneasy.
"This is another obvious one." How convenient. "The Ace of Pentacles clearly represents your new job as Chief of Staff. This new venture is something that, no matter your other feelings about it, you are taking seriously and want to excel at. I think you'll take great pride in putting down roots here, like….like a redwood," She paused and he couldn't be sure, but he thought she smiled to herself before she continued. "And turning your mother's White House into a well oiled machine."
Ben huffed, in obvious mockery. Well, it doesn't take a genius or a psychic to figure that one out.
Her gaze was both ice and fire when she looked up at him, cold eyes flashing as lightning flared outside the window. Okay, maybe that had been a bit rude, but come on. She stared him down for several seconds before starting again, and Ben found himself both surprised at her sudden ferocity and sheepish under the intensity of her hazel-green gaze.
And maybe he felt something else too, as evidenced by the burn at the tips of his ears.
"Your third Present card is the Kind of Swords. Which—"
Is she— laughing?
Ben stared at her incredulously. Her hand was covering her mouth and her shoulders were shaking with barely contained mirth, and all he could do was gape at her. She looked kind of adorable.
For a swindler masquerading as some sort of metaphysical maven.
One last little snort escaped her, "Sorry, I'm so sorry. That was rude of me." She cleared her throat in an attempt to squash the impish grin that was still betraying her usual airy countenance.
He couldn't believe it. She was poking fun at him. During this— this thing that he was being subjected to. He wasn't sure if he should be annoyed or amused.
She took a steadying breath. "A King is one of the court cards, which generally represents an actual person in the reading recipient's life, and I think it is painfully obvious that this is representing you."
The corners of her mouth twitched.
Both. Definitely both, he decided, his own lips curling up at the corners to match hers.
"The King of Swords is highly intelligent and clever. A natural planner and problem-solver. He believes in rules and structure, especially if he's the one creating said rules and structure," Rey smirked and Ben rolled his eyes. "But he - you - shoulder a lot of heavy responsibilities so that others don't have to. This is your way of both protecting and serving them. You pride yourself on having a tough-minded common sense, believing yourself to be a realist, however this often leads to cynicism, pessimism, and a narrow mind. All of this is the lense through which you view and interact with yourself, your family, your job and employ—"
Ben snorted indignantly, "Seriously? You're using this as a way to try to 'call me out' for being skeptical of your New Age hippie sh— stuff?"
Now she was rolling her eyes, "Ben, I have no control over what cards turn over, nor how you choose to interpret them. Perhaps you're just feeling guilty for being so rude and dismissive towards me all the time."
"I am not rude all the time."
"But you are dismissive."
Ben gave her a look that said, "Well yeah, duh." Even though he was now feeling a twinge of remorse for his attitude towards her. Not because he was actually concerned for her feelings, of course not, but because as Chief of Staff he should really be mindful of setting an example of professional courtesy.
"Will you just let me finish and then you can tell me all about how wrong I've been about—"
"You haven't," he murmured.
"I— what?" She blinked.
She just looked at him, studying his features that he quickly schooled into a faux nonchalance.
"Just finish this… Please?" he added sincerely, hoping to change the subject and not further cement her opinion of him as rude and surly. He gestured towards the cards for her to continue the reading. Not that he really cared about her opinion of him, but in the name of workplace civility.
He politely gestured towards the cards for her to continue the reading. After a beat she nodded, looking somewhat mollified.
"Alright. The next three cards are your future. Obviously, this is not something that you can prove right or wrong right now, so I implore you to just listen with an open mind," she looked up at him doubtfully, the candles flickering with the movement of her head before she flipped over the final three cards. A tiny gasp left her lips as she studied the three cards she'd laid out before her. She traced the tips of her fingers over the first one before clearing her throat. "But, know that no matter what, the future is never set in stone. You can always make the choice to change your path."
He nodded at her silently, continuing his attempt at being more friendly, surprised that he found one thing they agreed upon.
"So, your first Future card is— " she paused, staring at it like it was the first time she'd ever seen it. "Um, so you've got the Queen of Cups here. And um, like I said before, a court card personifies an actual person, in this case a woman who you will either meet in the future, or one you already know, but will become increasingly more important in your life. The Queen of Cups is creative, sensitive, and empathetic. Always trying to nurture and soothe the emotions and energies around her. I'd um, imagine that this woman will be someone who will make you feel calm, understood, taken care of… even loved," she swallowed. Ben was staring out the window though, thinking that that sure sounded nice, like a fucking dream actually. He scoffed internally. As if he'd ever find the time to find such a woman.
"Hm, well I certainly don't know anyone like that right now."
Her eyebrows furrowed a bit in the low, golden light. "Oh um yeah," Why did she sound so hesitant? Like she didn't believe him… "Well, so, for the next card it's the, uh, Two of Cups, which represents the creation of harmony between you and someone else. The beginning of a new partnership, friendship, or romantic relationship. Possibly with whoever this Queen of Cups person is," her voice trailed off sheepishly.
Ben puffed out a skeptical laugh. "Yeah okay, I guess I'll invite you to the wedding when I meet this perfect mystery girl." He continued to chuckle, highly amused at the ludicrous idea of him finding someone that wonderful who would actually want to be with him, of all people.
It was probably just the movement of the candlelight, but he thought he saw the barest hint of a flinch at his laugh. He stopped laughing.
She wore a pinched expression that was a little difficult to decipher in the dim candlelight, but she ignored his comment and moved onto the last card. Thank fuck. Her reading for him had turned out to be far longer than any of the ones that she had done for anyone else, even Leia. Ben wondered why that was… Probably just her way of prolonging his torture…
"So your very last card is The World. Which is a rather lovely card to end a reading on," she flashed him a little smile. "It indicates a satisfying and successful completion of one phase of your life before the next one starts. This accomplishment will be achieved through hard work, but also because of the experiences and insight you gained during your trials and tribulations, as indicated by your previous cards. It's about a difficult journey that will lead to more fulfillment, peace, inner balance. A stronger sense of self. This achievement however, will only be brought about by you finding your purpose, realizing what your goals and desires actually are so that you can actively pursue them. This happy ending could be in regard to anything though: your family, your job, your love life," she glanced up at him again. "Or all of the above."
She took a deep breath. "So my conclusion, or overall takeaway, is that sometimes we must go through Hell in order to reach Heaven."
As soon as she said the last word, the bright fluorescent lights burst back to life with an insistent buzz. Ben threw his arm up to shield his eyes, and by the time he'd adjusted to the harsh new light, Miss Byrne had gone, leaving her candles behind.
Tiny trails of smoke curled upward from each as though they'd all gone out of their own volition when the electricity had returned.
Ben rolled his eyes as he absently began gathering the candles. It was a pity, he thought, as he shoved a handful of the cooled wax candles into his leather bag, that Miss Byrne had learned so much about him through this 'reading' as she called it and he'd learned nothing at all about her except that her skin glowed in candlelight, her face like the reverse of a galaxy with her freckles like dark stars tracing constellations across her cheeks. As he continued making his circuit around the room, weaving through the sea of tables and chairs, Ben found himself wondering about her past and her family. It was only when he had gathered the last of the candles that Ben realized he was alone in the room.
Alone, except for the faint scent of mint and lemon verbena.
The end of the week couldn't arrive fast enough for Rey, who was not normally the "working for the weekend" sort. Ever since her encounter with Solo, she'd felt as though her little world had been knocked off its axis. Rey didn't like it feeling off-center and out of focus; it felt like some portent of doom hanging over her shoulder, breathing down her neck, watching and waiting for her to make a slip, to catch her unawares.
Which, oddly enough, was how she'd thought of Solo before the reading, but…now…
She'd had no idea about his past. But a quick internet search had confirmed what the cards, and Ben, had shown her. Had she known that she'd be opening such a fresh wound, she never would have pressed him for the reading. Her temper had bested her, as it often did, and she knew Maz would be disappointed in her.
But…the Queen of Cups…
In all the times she'd done a reading for herself, romantic readings especially, the Queen of Cups had been the card she'd associated with herself. And now that she thought about it, she remembered all the times that the King of Swords had popped up and she'd wondered if her future had included someone with those qualities.
Rey shuddered, pushing thoughts of those broad shoulders and tree-trunk thighs out of her mind, and returned to the task at hand.
Maz and Armie would be arriving soon, and Rey needed to be prepared. She gathered all of the materials she'd need to rid the White House of that disgusting remnant of Snoke once and for all, before heading down to wait for her adoptive mother and oldest friend at the security station near the back entrance.
Rolling her neck and bouncing on her toes, Rey felt her anxiety pouring off her body in waves. She nodded at the security guards who eyed her suspiciously and tried to contain her nerves. Her skin felt cold and clammy.
A faint, deep rumbling sent warmth shooting back through her, and she closed her eyes and tipped her head back as she absorbed the vibrations of the sound, nearly purring at the sensation of tension leaving her body. The rumbling grew slowly closer, and suddenly all the blood drained from her face, leaving her light-headed.
She'd been left a purring mess at the sound of Ben Solo's voice .
"Girlie!" Maz's voice rang out from the hallway, and Rey rushed to meet her rather than face Solo in her current state. Rey raced into her foster mother's arms, squeezing the smaller woman into a hug.
The sounds of an argument emanated from further down the hall, and Rey felt Maz laugh silently.
"She is necessary !" Armitage Hux's clipped tones were even haughtier than usual.
"Millicent?" Rey asked.
"Millicent," Maz agreed, and they turned together to rescue Armie and his cat from the muscle-bound men at the security.
Again a huge thank you to my favorite mermaid, Meli. She seriously went above and beyond when I asked for help, giving me THOUSANDS words to work with and more detailed information about Ben's reading, which I'm linking below since AO3 told me it was too long to include here
Thank you for reading.❤️