@advenvs + Heavily Plotted Starter
You've known me your whole life he’d said and part of him knew. Felt it in every inch of his bones that rattled and moaned saying he was right. How the curl of his fist knew the right amount of force to use to break open his skull if he wanted to.
The Winter Soldier falls to water logged knees straddling red white and garish blue, fist twisted in the taut grip of America’s golden boy and the mockery of an SSR uniform hugging broad chest. It’s a familiar feeling this close familiarity, the way those stars and stripes are a beacon in the moonless night bearing down on your shortcomings, illuminating the blood on your hands.
It’s his. His blood. His sweat. Your sins.
There he remains, gasping for air and the control over his breathing, lungs spasming to shed the water filling them and he stares into the pale lifeless form of his target. Ex-target? HYDRA’s fallen, the remnants of its ghost still sinking as his shoulders sag heavy. They can’t confirm the kill order, so he waits. He waits and he waits and he waits.
The target comes to, spluttering for life that returns to him eagerly and the river that pours from his mouth is concerning. No- not concerning. Impressive. Lungs full of water for so long, still alive. It’d take more than drowning to kill the man. The assassin wonders how long he’d last before his body gave up the ghost. How long HYDRA could play with him before they broke him like the twig he is.
Bright blue eyes flutter from beneath those pale golden lashes and though bleary and riddled with uncertain agony they focus on him. Two imperfect gems assaulted by the dying light of the sun, blinded by pain and somehow always find...home?
A hand draws back, gears settling into place to make the impact more...impactful, sending the blond tresses crashing into the hard surface of rock. Captain America is out like a light and rigid shoulders settle easier, thighs relinquishing their hold on mid-section, fingers loosen in patriotic attire.
Somewhere at the back of his mind there’s Reason whispering: they haven’t called because there’s no one left. They couldn’t call regardless, your phone is at the bottom of the Potomac water logged and dying a quicker death than Steve Rogers your target ever will. Find them. It’s the only way you’ll ever get your answer. The only way you’ll ever be done with this.
More than fifty missions, centuries shaped by the strength of his hand alone, cities brought to their knees in fear of him and he can’t let this one go. There has to be resolution, another mission well done. There has to be someone out there who has survived. Tell him what to do, take his choice from him. He doesn’t want to go back to...
The Soldier’s gaze lingers at the bright red line spreading like veins from the newest gash in his cheek, the sickening rise of his skin discoloring and disfiguring and it makes it easier to look at him. Fingers curl into fraying straps at his shoulders, strength returning to quivering limbs and, with a growl to bolster his resolve, the Winter Soldier throws his target over his shoulder and carries him from the water’s edge.
He still remembers the old HYDRA safe houses, bases underneath the metropolis in which to lay low for months at a time, tunnels connecting a network of hide-aways and that is where he finds himself returning, praying that someone is there to take this burden off of his shoulders. Nothing but the sound of water greets him, trickling through cracks that are leaking into the pipeline they’d rearranged to suit their own needs. All the old equipment is still there, basics and provisions secured in titanium boxes so the rats don’t get in.
The Soldier picks through the boxes until he finds the keys to the restraints in the room over. The same line of restraints they use for him. Heavy, six inch thick cuffs for the wrists. Not keen for mobility, but sufficient enough. They’re moored into the wall with steel bolts and a spider network of steel reinforcements. It’ll hold him for some time while the asset can charter a plane out of the city. There has to be remaining connections not yet unearthed in the aftermath of Widow’s exposure. It’ll take years for them to find it all. For now...he collapses against a stack of boxes, facing the room his target is chained in, door open, waiting again.
over summer i am going to redraft one play, do the prep reading for another, write a crime drama tv show, and also start assembling the bones of a novel. i am speaking it into existence!!
honestly watching people get canceled on twitter is making me nervous because im bad at understanding how to communicate in “proper” ways to the point that a lot of things i say can be seen as rude if you don’t have the context and don’t know me, by which i mean don’t know i’m not the type of person to actually insult or hate people casually.
like the most recent example i can think of is when me and my friend were waiting to get on the bus for our track meet and i asked how is she not cold because it was chilly and windy out and she was wearing short spandex and a skirt. she told me that her thighs were big and so they just stayed warm easily and my first reaction was to compare them to the blubber of arctic seals.
i learned later after speaking to my brother this could be considered calling her fat. at no point before that had i ever considered i could be calling her fat. in my head, blubber meant thiccness that kept you warm like that cute baby arctic seal pup in that one rescue video i watched. i don’t think she took it as me calling her fat either because i’ve stated multiple times i see everyone on the track team as buff and cool and also we are friends so she understands my humor more. at least i hope she understood i meant that harmlessly.
the things i say about things are never really negative. i don’t say anything that i don’t think i could say to their face and not make them feel bad. i told one of my classmates that he was so tall that he could be a redwood tree and when my brother commented on what made me think of him as so tall when they were the same height, i told him my brother looked like a basketball ball player tall while he looked more along the lines of an enderman, meaning he was just more lanky and thin. my brother also pointed out that that could be offensive.
a lot of things apparently are offensive. talking is hard.
and so looking at how people get canceled for things like that, i’m worried about what this means for people like me who don’t really understand what is and what isn’t socially acceptable to say and i hate that i have to live in fear of people flooding me with hate simply because i am clueless.
and it’s also stressful enough already because imm trying to do this around people whose reaction is to either laugh awkwardly or just go silent in discomfort when i say things that are apparently disturbing (i.e. me responding to a medicine ball almost being dropped on my foot with “i already have blood on this shoe so they would match” and then having the rest of the team go silent and start to panic laugh making things more uncomfortable)
socializing is hard when you aren’t good with understanding how people’s minds work. i can already tell from interacting with my peers that mine seems to work a little differently and many have already taken note of that. but if i’m put into a position where people don’t understand that part of me and don’t understand that i’m never really intentionally rude then that sucks for me because there’s not going to be people wiling to take those things into consideration. y’all already don’t for people with diagnoses that explain there mental disconnect.
this is kinda of a discomfort rant because i hate misunderstandings like these and seeing them online makes me genuinely nervous and upset. i just kinda wanted to point out that people like me exist just incase people didn’t know we did and also just to check if people like me existed. is this normal?
i know its bad.i know that you are a bad news for me but still i can't resist myself falling for you.i have seen so many red flags yet i always convince myself that you're the one.I know this thing will only hurt me but I'm fine with that i will let myself Bruise if it means to spend a few moments with you.I know there is nothing between us or there ever could be but somehow i convince myself there a mere chance of something happening.You let me down manytime and everytime i make myself believe that its not you I've always blamed myself for the things you've done.my concious is in the dark abbys now. I've always tried to let go but i couldn't and by doing that ive lost myself. but its high time bid adieu to you. Because no matter how dreamy you are you're not the sun i am. and its the time i should realise that.
𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙙𝙤 𝙞𝙛 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙝 𝙣𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙨𝙞𝙨 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙖𝙢𝙚 𝙜𝙪𝙮 𝙖𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪?
MAY THE BEST MAN WIN
Read for free right now!
hey! I’ve started writing it again! it will be up ASAP. Sorry to keep you waiting
𝐌𝐀𝐘 𝟎𝟒, 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏 / / 𝐟𝐨𝐫 @aniimvs
❝ 𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐘. ❞
𝐒𝐔𝐑𝐅𝐀𝐂𝐄 𝐎𝐅 𝐋𝐀𝐒𝐓 𝐒𝐂𝐀𝐓𝐓𝐄𝐑𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟏. 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐬𝐦𝐢𝐜 𝐦𝐢𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 (𝐜𝐦𝐛) 𝐩𝐡𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐬, 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐚𝐬 “𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧” 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐬 𝐚𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞, 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐜𝐨𝐬𝐦𝐢𝐜 𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐝𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐡’𝐬 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐞. 𝟐. 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐭 𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐛𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞 𝐚 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐧 𝐚 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐨 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞.
𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭: 𝟔,𝟑𝟕𝟗 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞: ???
the supremacy was a mega-class star dreadnaught that served as the mobile headquarters for the first order and supreme leader snoke’s primary base of operations. the only one of its kind. with 32 sublight engines propping up its six fusion reactor complexes locked inside a quadanium steel hull, enough hangar space for eight resurgent-class star destroyers and over two million personnel, it was more than a sight to behold. especially from a freighter like the millennium falcon. the supremacy was a ship that could repair other ships. a ship that could mine material from asteroid fields while not breaking away from its charted course. it was a location from which wars could be won or lost. it could have been a worldcraft but for its shape, certainly in comparison to any other ship in a first order fleet. it remained, by far, the most frightening piece of tech to ever emerge from the kuat-entralla shipyards, even when in bits and chunks.
some of these details a cuffed rey saw as she was pulled through the supremacy’s labyrinthine innards. some she knew already — knew to fear. resistance intel, while valuable, often explained more of what the resistance had to run from than it did what to fix or fight. while this had not been the case for starkiller (or so she’d been told), so much of her previous knowledge pertaining to this floating fortress had chilled her to the bone.
( after landing inside the monstrous craft, she might have frozen in terror-induced fascination if there weren't so much else to see immediately. ben solo being of primary importance. he'd been waiting for her. or that was the impression rey had received through the force as her escape pod drifted through space into the maw that was one of the supremacy's many hangars. he'd known exactly where to find her. that much was certain. what she hadn't anticipated was the minute, almost undetectable smile hovering at the corners of ben's mouth. there and gone in an instant when he saw the saber that she clutched to her chest. as if he'd expected her to come without any sort of weapon, just for him.
she had come for him, but so much more than that, too. )
as she was made to march forward with tripping steps, clapped in irons with a silent stormtrooper at each elbow, rey collected her determination into a pillar, let it prop up her spine. ahead of her might as well have lain every horrifying unknown she had yet to face, yet she still had power here. there was ample reason to be confident. ben had expected her arrival and waited so impatiently that as soon as the smoke surrounding her pod cleared, he was leaning over, looking in. he'd been affected enough by the sight of her with his uncle's saber that he'd taken it almost immediately, as if it made any kind of difference to rey. yes, her affect was palpable.
"it called to me," she'd been eager to remind him. "and not to you." it mattered little whose hands clasped the weapon at any give moment. if it had obeyed her once, it would obey her again. of this, rey was sure.
most surprising, however, was ben not escorting her through the ship himself. no, she was dragged along by lackeys as the master of the knights of ren strode at the head of their group. waves of both intrigue and fear coated the walls of the supremacy as they passed, onlookers glancing but turning away just as quickly as if afraid of being seen observing.
eager though she'd been to witness for herself how the first order managed to move so quickly and destroy so much, rey was impatient to do what she came to do. the more she inwardly bemoaned the walk, the longer the path ahead seemed to stretch.
at last, there appeared a turbolift ahead of them. ben entered first and rey was bundled unceremoniously in after him. with incredible speed the stormtroopers withdrew from her side and backed out of the lift, pressing something on the opposite side of the wall. it seemed to her they were eager to separate themselves from the two force users and the power they possessed.
with a clang, the doors slammed shut.
she and ben were alone.
for the first time since reaching over her paltry fire mere hours ago to touch his hand across a galaxy, they were completely alone for a few precious minutes at most.
though the air was quiet under the hum of the turbolift, her companion’s turmoil was palpable. they were going to snoke, that much was clear, but he was wrestling with struggles both old and new. the black of his discomfort and ever-present anger, the gray of the hurt killing his father left behind, and the lightness of his apparent interest in what she would do, what she was here for melded together, thickening the mood between them.
so she told him so. everything she could feel from him she told him, but he wouldn't meet her eyes.
"look at me. ben."
and he did, his expression faltering subtly before staring at her with a mix of something dampened and lost in his gaze. it nearly took her breath away, yet hardened her resolve to cling harder to what she knew: that ben solo was conflicted. that if she tried hard enough, he might surrender to the light he'd been swindled out of and denied in himself all those years. if only she could make him see that if he reached for the light, he had nothing to fear in snoke any longer. neither of them did.
if she drew closer, he might discover the strength of her vision in her eyes, how powerful her belief in him truly was.
"you'll turn." please believe me. you won't regret it. "i'll help you."
her insistence was almost tender for the way she whispered it. assurance was indeed a precious thing, observed only by the two of them and for only him to hear. it was in private that ben was confronted by his uncle so it was in private that rey sought to pull him back home. still ben looked on searchingly and said nothing, still strangely soft. soft yet emboldened.
then he opened his mouth and she began to realize why.
he'd seen something, too. something else.
of course. it wouldn't make sense for only her to be witness to the possibilities of the future. but rey had reasoned that they'd both seen the same thing, experienced the same blinding, blissful flashes of what was to come. apparently not.
"rey." quiet. terrifyingly intimate. (had he ever said her name before? it sounded brand new like this.) his tone lowered to match hers. he's working up to something. "i saw who your parents are."
....ah. spoken like a last ditch dejarik move meant to crush the opposition and take the day in a shock sweep. rey moved away slowly, wondering how she was meant to respond, scrambling for a way to steal back his high ground. but as she moved the turbolift began to ease its ascent in tandem.
they were arriving. to where she wasn't sure, but the doors did not need to be open for a sickly fear to begin to collect in the pit of her stomach.
a quiet hiss belied the opening of the lift and rey whirled to face her next adversary, be it mental or physical. before she could connect one dot to the next, ben chose that moment to touch her again. there was no room for surprise now. one enormous, gloved hand molded against the curve of her elbow to push her forward, then slid to the small of her back. as she walked on (under her own will, not his), the deformed, seated shape of an unknown being loomed over the throne room drew closer, surrounded on all sides by bulky crimson armored guards and arterial curtains. rey continued her stride undeterred toward ben’s master, but ben did not. his hand slid away from her back when she stepped too far out of his reach. she could only assumed he’d stopped to pay his allegiance.
the being she now faced sat up and spoke, his voice slithering like filthy oil across the floor. though he directed his speech toward kylo ren, snoke's eyes bored into her all the while.
he was pleased with kylo ren's work. so pleased that any wavering faith in his apprentice was restored to full health. acid churned in rey's gut at the sound. she could feel when his full attention returned to her like an unwelcome hand running down the length of her back.
"young rey. welcome."
the bonds fell from her wrists; a tempting gesture stemming from deathly cunning.
"come closer, child."
rooted to the spot she remained, challenging the supreme leader with every whit of her will.
if she thought snoke was pleased before, he was thrice as much now. so intrigued by the mysterious figure that had risen as ren's foil in the light. so strong, and so unlike skywalker.
"closer, i said." amused, patient, infuriating. and he began to drag her bodily closer to the throne, away from a kneeling ben and further toward the unknown.
yet there was one thing rey still knew beyond doubt.
there were depths to ben solo that snoke didn't understand and could never. after all, rey herself was only scratching the surface. vengeful pleasure tingled in each nerve as rey announced this triumphantly to snoke, fighting against every tendril of the dark that dragged her nearer to the mangled soveriegn.
"you underestimate luke skywalker. and ben solo. and me. it will be your downfall."
snoke's laughter shot shards of ice through her blood. for the first time that day, rey wondered if she'd made a mistake she couldn't fix.
"have you seen something?" the supreme leader's smile was cutting. the scavenger gulped.
and then snoke tore her last bit of knowledge limb from limb. according to him, he had engineered the bond rey had dared to hold closely, even within the past day alone. her mind ground to a halt then jumped back to full speed as she felt ben's miasma of something like wounded horror and bewilderment at her back.
don't believe him, ben! he's nothing but a liar. the bond is ours.
but her bonded courted no protest and snoke continued his taunts, this time with a bony claw digging into her jaw. fully in command, there was no hope in resisting him.
everything after that was a haze of complete agony, rage, horror, and failure. failure after failure was paraded before her face until at last snoke had her dangling midair as if kneeling before ben. all of her was focused on trying - trying and failing - to break free from the grip snoke still had over her limbs. and then she looked up at ben. towering ben who seemed a stranger and nothing like the softened, observant, intense ben she'd been so drawn to in the turbolift. while his eyes never left hers, rey found nothing to cling to within them. nothing to give her hope.
the warm brown she'd looked into so confidently mere minutes ago appeared resoundingly empty.
slowly, impassively, the master of the knights of ren picked up his saber that had been ripped from rey's hands. slowly, he angled the unlit hilt at her heart.
"i know what i have to do."
all of her was held captive not by the force but by paralyzing despair. had she truly lost ben to the blackened wiles of his master?
in fear she said his name, whispered like a plea after she'd sworn as a child that she'd never beg anyone for anything. but she'd never been forced to her knees with such finality before. odd how so many of her firsts were bumping up against her lasts.
surely he didn't mean to kill her. surely.
but she wasn't sure. rey had never been so uncertain of anything in her life. ben's face brooked no clues though the next second was no guarantee. so she kept looking, kept silently pleading for just a chance, one more chance for the last, lost solo to rise again.
please, ben. please. it isn't over. if you let me live i promise there will be another chance for us both.
ben's face filled her vision until rey was surrounded by it. by the nothing he revealed.
somewhere in the room a saber ignited.
not into her chest.
suddenly the force withdrew from her with a pop and every sore joint and fresh bruise crashed against the hard ground, but she paid them no mind in favor of hurriedly searching out snoke ——
who was dead. sliced in half by the brilliant skywalker instrument of pure, sky-blue light. while she was undeniably alive.
( in her previous panic, rey had neglected to track anything else ben might have been doing. and what he had been doing was turning his uncle's saber just so in order to trick his master into exactly the right mindset, before the cruelest stroke was ben solo's to claim. )
the still blazing hilt was borne away from snoke's rapidly cooling corpse, called for her into her waiting hand. somehow, she knew it was meant for her to hold in this moment. the weapon fit into her grip and she stood, whirling to find ben's eyes again. what she found waiting for her sent astronomical pride surging through her entire system. the ben she'd longed to see stood shellshocked, saber still in hand, staring back at her like he couldn't quite believe what he'd done. the best part was that regret was nowhere to be seen.
the day was saved. because of him. something in rey stirred, whispering that she'd known he could do it. all along, he was capable. he only needed to see it for himself first.
like unto a snap, their two minds connected. their wills agreed.
we know what we have to do.
red lit the air and for another first that day, rey had never been more relieved to see the fiery cast of kylo ren's saber wash across ben's face. the carmine hue of a heart still stubbornly beating, that hadn't given up after all.
as one they turned to face the onslaught of guards intent on avenging the fallen supreme leader. even with no one to protect, they would still fulfill their purpose to the death. as rey and ben raised their sabers in tandem, they declared so be it.
the battle commenced with a superheated screech.
she’d fought for everything her whole life, but she’d never fought like this in her life.
this was how it was always meant to be between them. this was what she’d been waiting for, before she knew what to wait for.
like clockwork, the scavenger and the knight turned and spun. like new machinery they moved to take out the guards in their garish magnetized armor. one by one, rage of different shades exploded across the room that slowly became stripped of its majesty and threat. curtains fell and tech was smashed. burns were scored into the floor mercilessly by a combination of vibrobladed weapons and lightsabers.
while they began back to back, free to lean on each other as needed, they could not stay that way. the guards knew better than to encircle the two frenzied force users for long and allow them to fight their way out of the swarm. no, it was better to separate them. but even without ben at her back, rey knew she could trust him. she trusted his rage as she trusted her own and drew on their mingling strength in the force to propel her from one enemy to the next.
it was simply a shame she couldn't watch him fight with an unobstructed view. she could feel the twists and turns of his technique at least, supplementing her own through the bond, and it would do for the time being
soon, though, exhaustion began to creep up on rey like another adversary, but she pushed it away time and time again, shrieking her determination into the force whenever the stitches in her side grew too sharp. the pain she used to propel her forward, discovering that it really did work as an effective backup. on and on she swirled the skywalker saber through the air and relished the way it sung.
and it continued to sing as it flew through the air into ben solo's waiting hand.
a fizz and a rush of armor falling, then the last of the guards was downed, speared through the face by ben's expert aim. even facing the wrong way he'd struck true. wide eyes locked on hers, he disentangled himself from weapons and armor and limp grips with an ease that spoke of enormous strength that hadn't yet waned despite all he'd just fought off.
the moment stretched on as they breathed out their wonder heavily, decisively. they'd done it together. victory was a shared prize and their bond keened silently through the air. joy flooded her from head toe and rey wanted nothing more than to drown in it.
she wished she didn't have to pull herself out of it so soon.
recalling the fleet that ended her reverie. abandoned panic from before crashed back in as she sped to survey the damage beyond the enormous viewport, no longer hidden by curtains. the prognosis was still bad and there were fewer ships. the amount that remained were a pitiful number barely befitting an army, let alone a resistance. rey didn't want to try and puzzle out how many survivors could fit in each pod, how many had been lost to torpedoes, and how many might still be left and growing smaller by the minute. time was no longer on their side, if ever it had been.
"order them to stop firing, there's still time to save the fleet!" order who? how? and was it even worth calling a fleet? yes. as long as the resistance lived, as long as leia did, hope was alive. and now she would have her son to help her.
but instead of a nod or an acquiescing answer, she received silence.
ben was no longer paying attention and his eyes were elsewhere. absentminded steps ferried ben's figure toward the throne which still held half a snoke and dwarfed even ben's immense height.
she ought to be shouting at him now. behind her, that same fleet she'd cried out to save continued to be blown to bits pod by pod. but instead rey was glued to the sight of a panting kylo ren standing in front of his slain former master. his fixation stirred a note of unease in her chest.
"ben?" hoarse and so, so hesitant. please. she'd worn the word out in her mind not having spoken it aloud even once. come out of it. you can come out of it now, ben, it's safe. he can't command you any more, or hurt you. you made sure of it.
"that's my old name."
no. oh, no. this was not what she wanted.
"it's time to let old things die."
it's a long slide from one moment to the next before she could choke out, "what?"
when he turned at the sound of her voice, ben's face was no longer twisted with shock or the fading grip of adrenaline. it had settled into a formation of resolve; that same resolve snoke must have sensed earlier and was so boastful of, so eager to reward with praise.
it was not the voice she'd heard in the elevator. it did not emanate from the man she thought killed a supreme leader standing between him and taking charge of his own life, living as a prisoner no more.
rey began to feel sick with worry. the tide was changing too quickly for her to keep up.
"snoke. skywalker..." don't say that. "the sith, the jedi, the rebels. let it all die." you can't mean this. your mother is waiting for you. she wants you home. so do i.
"rey." a gloved hand reached for her, woodenly and too far away, but the meaning was obvious. "i want you to join me. we can rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy."
her newly forged hopes did not die with a bright explosion, but slunk down, down and away like precious water drying up in a desert sun.
eyes stung red by exhaustion and smoke began to fill with tears. there was no energy left to fill her voice with anything but quiet despondence.
"don't do this, ben." i thought you'd changed your mind. that you weren't going to let the dark win. "please don't go this way."
his snarl came as a shock and she held back a sob, feeling thoroughly like a foolish, chastised child. (perhaps snoke had known more than she gave him credit for.) the command to let go hurt worse than the buzzing electric slash across her upper arm had - a parting gift from a losing guard. perhaps symbolism was carved into her skin, as the blood leaking from her wound mimicked all rey thought she'd worked so hard to save slipping away.
it was then he deigned it appropriate to strike where it hurt most.
"do you want to know the truth about your parents? ...or have you always known? and just hidden it away?"
a mighty flinch set her joints to spasming.
i can't, i can't do this, don't make me do this. i've lost too much. you should know.
images, flashing: inches upon inches of notches in a durasteel wall, shards of scavenged metal that cut her hands until she learned to craft a poor excuse for a pen, nights spent watching the stars and the flashes of ships coming and going, never changing her hair, nightmares filled with empty holes, a voice ensuring "i'll come back for you, sweetheart", cries aimed at the empty skies, tears no one saw pouring down that left her dehydrated and utterly broken.
and hope. wasted hope that she swore she wasn't a fool to hold onto year after year after graceless year, until she was the girl that would tell each person she met a fairy tale of love longed for and returned. one day.
hot and salty tears coursed down tender cheeks, burning like acid all the way. yes, she had suspected for a long time.
"they were nobody." and so was she. the glass of her composure was left utterly shattered.
each word of kylo's response drove splinters into her skin, peeling her apart to flay her emotions down to the nerves and past them to the marrow of brittle bones that could no longer hold back their sorrow. she'd been strong, for so long. and for what?
the pain of it made her gasp.
filthy. junk traders. drunks. useless thieves. dead. buried in sand. seeds that would never grow. that was her legacy. nothing.
nothing at all.
"you have no place in this story. you come from nothing. you're nothing."
as if she needed to be reminded more that every dream she'd ever had was dashed beyond repair. while his tone held no victory or note of vindictive pleasure, kylo sounded so sure. nothing was the only thing she'd ever been. there was no way around it.
"but not to me."
and suddenly, she understood. his meaning crystallized swiftly in the span of a breath.
to the rest of the galaxy, your power should not be yours. you don't have the name or the history to earn it, deserve it. but that does not matter to me. i see you for what you are: undeniably powerful. because of it, i know you're the one to stand next to me. the power we share could burn everything to the ground and rebuild it. everyone who hurt us would pay and no one else would suffer like we had to. stand with me.
once more, he stretched his hand out to her. that gloved hand that had wrought so much pain and suffering across countless systems, that had awoken the power inside her but made her pay for it every step of the way. that hand that had removed its shield and reached across the same galaxy it tortured to touch hers, shaking all the while. the hand by which she'd seen what she thought was the truth. beneath that glove were the grooves of fingerprints that had slotted against hers so effortlessly and were still outstretched for her when the bond had winked closed, protecting itself against luke skywalker's arrival.
"please." that, she hadn't expected. the force of that single, humble supplication hit her harder than the first moment of jumping into hyperspace. he was at her mercy. for one short, sweet blur of time, the upper hand was quite literally hers.
her right hand rose almost under its own will. it wanted. it wanted to feel that mysterious joining again, the way the meeting of hands effortlessly calmed the clamor of loneliness. if she took his hand, she would say yes to companionship. the kind that knew her better than she knew herself. yes to assuring this lost soul that he would never be alone again, never imprisoned by solitude and buffeted by emotions he felt he was too weak to control.
he could teach her how to be truly strong.
finn. chewie. poe. the resistance. leia. leia, for whom she traveled to ach-to. leia who held rey up when sadness had rendered her legs to jelly when the general's own grief had been far more crushing.
i don't want to just be powerful. i want to be wanted for me. just me. even if i'm nothing to everyone else.
a lightning strike later the force rose rushed to her aid, snatching the skywalker saber from kylo's side. yet somehow her quickest thinking was still too slow. kylo responded nearly as fast by wrenching the force to him as well and the saber fluttered in the air between them. harder she pulled, but so did he. the sheer power spreading across the nets of the force pushed them away from one another as the saber struggled and struggled to break free from their battle. within its housing, rey could hear the screech of a crystal in agony, being split apart at seams it had not formerly possessed.
this is wrong, everything in rey's body silently cried out.
and then, with a piercing scream, the world went white.
rey burst from fitful sleep with a loud, gulping breath, her heart hammering hard enough that she worried it would give out in the prison of her ribs. the dregs of her dream still swirled in her mind as she gasped, wracked with horrors that had been long past for years. but roaring in her ears even then were the last vestiges of the explosion the skywalker saber produced as it was torn apart.
a whimper fell from her lips at the residual memory.
she felt him before she ever saw or heard him. one hand clasped at her side while the other pulled back on her shoulder until she was forced back supine. then a shadow that she knew so well was hovering over her, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her into his chest.
"rey. be with me." rey's sob gusted against his skin. always, i always want to be with you. "be with me. you're safe. i'm here."
ben repeated it softly over and over until all she could hear was him. precious was the moment her heartbeat and heaving sobs no longer drowned him out but simply simmered, more under control. how long it had taken to get there, she had no idea; time was of no consequence to pain and certainly hadn't been to ben. in all her years rey had yet to meet a more patient being than ben solo when the situation called for it, save for alana.
while she'd been fighting to gain control of her lungs, ben's thumb had been stroking the place between her shoulder blades, back and forth. once she had decidedly calmed the motion stopped. it was as loud a question as anything else.
"i saw the throne room. us. fighting together, and then..."
ben made no noise, but she could feel part of him slump. difficult to do in his position yet rey registered it all the same. it went without saying that the memory plagued them both. even with years in between them and the fateful day the resistance nearly winked out for good, time and friendship and yes, even love, had not faded the memory.
in fact, it made the dreams worse, when they came.
"it hurts, ben. i can't ever think of a way to change it. it's too late, i know, there's no use trying. but whenever i dream of it i keep hoping ---" another sob cut her sentence apart, though much quieter than the others of before. an answering wave of grief flowed from ben to rey, not entirely borne from sympathy. part of it was simply ben's own lingering pain.
he remembered being refused just as vividly as she remembered refusing.
the abandoned replaying being abandoned. again. the hurt went both ways.
"ben," came her pleading whisper. but she wasn't sure how to continue suddenly. there had been apologies before; genuine, but always skirting. neither had been willing to say they were wrong and still weren't. in that very moment rey wasn't certain she could speak as though she would have done anything different. the resistance had to be saved for them to fight back, and ren had to rise to supreme leader to fall as hard as he had. they had to tunnel down to their lowest points, feel their most profound desperation, to come together on exogol as they had.
"i am sorry we hurt each other like we did." the grip between her shoulders tightened. deep inside there was a part of her that shook in relief that ben never said it's alright. because none of it was. he'd never lied to her and rey could up and wither completely if he decided to start. "but what else could we have done? there was no place i could go but away."
misery rose anew as she pictured the subtle tremble in kylo's expression, watching her like a hawk from the floor of the rebel stronghold as she worked up the conviction to slam shut the ramp of his father's ship in his face. the orphan becoming the merciless render of bonds. standing there, staring at the wound she'd ripped open in kylo ren, rey knew the last image of them face to face in the same room mere feet apart would forever haunt her most potent nightmares - and they had. but even with the high ground in the millennium falcon, the way he'd crumbled looking up at her pained rey far more.
the force of the memory pressed her further into his form, further into all of the waxing internal suffering that clattered inside ben's own chest. like a scar torn open. and all her doing.
“please understand. i know you were left behind, but i was the one that had to walk away from you. on the floor, all alone, and then in the falcon. and then after, over and over. i hated it, every time,” she tells the sharp ridges of his shoulder. the pain of waking to an unconscious kylo and realizing she could not take him, stealing his dead master’s escape craft, seeking out his dead father’s ship piloted by his uncle to resume defending a limping resistance helmed by his mother had been unbearable. the white hot unfairness of it all while she simmered in guilt over a promise she couldn’t keep never left her, even once they’d learned to live in close quarters. remnants of the regret still rattled like forgotten credits in a jacket pocket, always when she was just about to forget them. when the two were enemies, she’d been able to turn her frustration back on him for making her dishonest. but all things become clear again over time.
all that time, they'd been grieving another broken promise.
abruptly, rey found herself stricken by a singular terror: that she was not in fact awake but asleep, unconscious still on the rapidly disintegrating obsidian floor of snoke's throne room. no saving for the failed savior.
she needed to touch him. prove this was real.
with frantic focus rey began running her shaking hands across ben's shoulders, down his arms, over his chest, delving her nails into his hair and over his scalp, all trying to convey the depth of her mingling sorrow and despair and anger (you made me leave you, you didn’t turn when you should have), as well as hope that he was truly in her arms and not worlds and worlds away.
ben endured this display with a sort of long-suffering silence that indicated he knew this was more for her than it was for him, but he allowed it all. when rey finally slowed her desperate tour of his many angles he sighed, banding his arms around her to trap her to him. it squeezed a whimper from her lungs, almost childish in its pitch. not from discomfort, but quite the opposite. rather, it’s a relief to be held so tightly and physically stopped from driving herself crazier than she already had done.
"do one thing for me." murmured into her hair, the words were so soft rey might have missed them had they not rumbled through her very bones. ben's weariness deepened his voiced and caused her to still, listening intently. "stay." every muscle in her body twisted tense. "stay this time."
she had stayed. through years of turmoil and fighting and being at loggerheads every other moment, she'd stayed. through new leaves and cautious offerings and small kindnesses that wouldn't have meant the same thing to anyone else but her. through days upon days of ungraceful attempts at sweetness and gentleness, but above all learning. so much learning. the ugly and the beautiful, one after the other. again and again, she hadn't left.
but as always, whether she wanted to or not, rey understood ben's meaning.
"i will, i promise. i'll keep staying."
her kiss was feverish, doused in the bruising aftermath of abandonment. their ghosts hadn't left them alone and she needed to forget. wanted them to make each other forget they were ever rejected. made to feel value-less. this way she could show him how much she meant it. how much her promise was worth now.
but once breathing tempos settled and the sweat of agitation began to cool, uncomfortable doubts settled, too. as she clung tighter to ben and their limbs wove together in an effort to not be torn asunder by their past hurts, rey wondered if their shared scar was in fact a wound still festering. even as sleep crept over them, tattered and drained, she wondered if it would ever heal.
and if they couldn't heal, rey thought through the daze of encroaching slumber, maybe they could keep trying again.
maybe this time it could work.
years later, the life rey is living is somehow even more rich than she thought it could be. while there was so much left that could go wrong - and so much that already had - contentment is the first thing she feels upon waking up. satisfaction lulls her to sleep more often than not. watching elias and alana has taught her much and still ben has taught her even more. love doesn't frighten her like it used to and she is no longer wary of her own intensity. patience has never been so rewarding.
so life does not get easier but instead becomes sweet. a continual fight, but somehow peppered full of gentleness and care, enough for her to store away when the gray of it all threatens to shut out the light.
home is nowhere; not one place, as is befitting of a scavenger like her. but she is not the scavenger she used to be and her yearning for a home is not the same as it was. instead, he is. home is ben. home is the ship where ben lingers, where elias hovers, where she and her shadows are friends.
it is in this home that she senses a new flare in the force. so sudden that it takes her breath away. bright and piercing, it shears through the morning fog still hanging about rey's inner ramblings. the force's song becomes richer as rey reaches into the depths of its power, desperate to understand the source of the light.
what she detects spurs her into action faster than she can think.
rey is used to not hearing him move. the sheer bulk of him ought to make it rather simple to track his movements, but even at his size his heavy tread is cat-like, padding.
this time she hears him clearly as he rushes to the door of the 'fresher to heed her call. once their gazes meet neither can move from their spot, minds reeling. pinned as she is by the enormity of her wonder, rey searches his face religiously for what could be possibly running through his mind.
she tries to say his name again, but the sound sticks.
his eyes flicker down her body then back up quicker than rey can think to blink and clear away what has begun to cloud her vision.
breaths catch in both throats and rey watches ben's expression wobble as her own does the same. fear. oncoming tears, perhaps. or a strange elation rey has never before experienced and cannot believe exists for her to feel.
somewhere deep within a scar fades, smoothed over by something mysterious and uniquely hopeful.
"did you......did you feel that?"
- 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐞𝐝 -