CHAPTER ONE: DEAD Ben was sprawled on a milky white bridge, his limbs spread out, his mind trying to dizzily process everything. He was dead. But Rey was alive. He died for her. And he was stuck somewhere in the Force.
Ben could feel it humming around him, being sucked into the collection of doors in the dark void he was trapped in. Pathways of milky white light that bridged all the doorways, linking all moments in time together. The World Between Worlds. He had seen it in the Jedi texts before, but he hadn’t believed the bridge between time and space really existed in the Force.
Ben sat up. There was no ground or ceiling, only darkness. But, somehow, he had a sense of up and down, and where to put his feet. His breath came in shaky gasps. Was he really breathing? Or was it just habit? Ben walked across one of the countless paths, trying not to look at the infinite darkness below and around him. Instead, he looked at the doorways.
Why aren’t I with the other ghosts? He had no idea of how the afterlife worked, but this was not what he had imagined. But he knew, deep inside, he wasn’t dead. So this couldn’t be the afterlife. And, from his studies as Luke’s apprentice, he knew what the World Between Worlds was. It was a link between time and space. So, really, Ben was nowhere. He was in the center of it all.
As his mind kept racing a man appeared. He had similar wavy hair, and had the same blue light other ghosts had. He wore a basic Jedi robe and was lit up by an ethereal blue light. “Grandfather.” Ben breathed out. “Hello, Ben.” Anakin smiled. So many emotions rushed through Ben. Anger, jealousy, confusion, admiration, love… He settled on confusion: “Why am I here? Why are you here?”
“Ben,” his name on Anakin’s lips sounded like music, “You are neither dead nor alive. Your dyad with Rey is strong, and it keeps you from entering the Force. I am here to help you.” Ben felt more confusion and more questions flooded his heads . “I’m sure you have a lot of questions,” Anakin added as if reading his mind, “And I will try to answer them all.
The Force is ready to accept you, but it also binds you to Rey, who is living.” Ben chewed his bottom lip, then asked softly -as if ignoring his explanation- “Is she okay?” Anakin’s heart melted. “Yes, she’s safe. But not happy.” “She’s not happy?” “No. She wants you.” “But-,” Ben exclaimed, “But I hurt her! I killed and I hurt and I made people suffer for no good reason!”
“Yes,” Anakin sighed, “But I did that, too.” Suddenly, Anakin’s blue form flickered into a red figure. His face seemed to flash, being replaced by a dark helmet for a moment before flickering back to his young, normal face. “My grandson,” Anakin’s hand rested on his shoulder, “Redemption and atonement is something I never had. I never had a chance to go back and right my wrongs.”
Ben choked out the largest question in his head, “Why didn’t you come to me before?” “Snoke had turned your mind so close to the darkness that I couldn’t be seen. But I was always there, Ben. I watched you every moment I could. You did finish what I could not.” “I did?” “Yes.” Anakin looked at one of the doorways behind them, which began projecting one of Ben’s memories.
It showed the moment Ben had heaved Rey’s lifeless body onto his lap and rested his hand on her abdomen to give her his life. “You saved the woman you loved.”
CHAPTER TWO: Rey stood in the center of a sprawling desert, watching two orange suns dip beneath the horizon. Tatooine was very similar to Jakku. It was just as hot, insufferable, and homey. She pulled her white hood over her ears as she felt the cold night breeze kick up the sand. It was going to be another very cold and lonely night.
But every night since Exegol had felt that way. Since Ben died, it had felt like there was no happiness in the the galaxy. Half her soul, being, and body was gone. Forever. There was a vacant hole in the Force, and in her, that could never be filled by someone else. Tears stung her eyes again, and she blinked them away before they could drive her crazy again.
She needed to stay strong. That’s what Rose had told her, when Rey had told her everything about the dyad. Rose was the only one who knew what was going on. Finn might be able to sense it -he’d admitted that he was sensitive to the Force- but he and Poe were otherwise clueless. Rey turned and began to walk back to the Skywalker homestead. ~~~~~~~~
“STRIKE ME DOWN!” Rey found herself in the cathedral again. Shadows filled the room. Flashes of lightning brush from the surface of the planet, bathing Palpatine’s scarred face in white light. Rey stared at her grandfather, resisting the urge to wrinkle her nose at the choking scent of rotting meat. His eyes were milky white, but blazed with an inhuman like hatred and hunger.
His teeth looked like decaying fangs when he spoke, urging her to kill him and ascend to the throne of the Sith. This isn’t real, she told herselkf, Ben comes in in three... two... At three, she expected the beacon of light in the Force to spark and return to her. To come to her side so that she wasn’t alone in this final battle. But it never came. She was utterly alone.
That fact, that one terrible fact that she was alone and Ben never came for her, hurt terribly. Her arms raised, her saber ignited, and Palpatine crumpled. His soul joined hers plaguing her thoughts, memories, and soul in darkness. ~~~~~ Rey jolted awake with a loud scream. She jolted upright, knuckles white.
Scared, she began to whisper a chant. “Be with me, be with me, be with me...” “You don’t have to chant, Rey” a lovingly familiar voice murmured..” She looked up and found Ben there, his entire form blue. Rey stared at him, unable to speak. “Ben?” She finally managed. His dark eyes searched her face.
Rey laughed and launched herself forward, wrapping her arms around him. Ben leaned forward and cradled her against his cold, blue, ghostly body. She felt tears seeped down her cheeks. Ben’s cold arms held her tight. His face buried into her hair. His fingers stroked her back comfortingly. “Ben...” she breathed out, looking up at him. “Ben, you’re here, really here.”
He stroked her hair behind her ear and nodded. “I miss you so much.” She choked out shakily. He stared at her heartbrokenly. “I want you back,” she whispered, voice trembling as more salty tears dripped from her eyes and streaked her cheeks. “Oh, Rey…” He sighed. Both of his hands rested on her cheeks.
“I miss you, too. And I’m honored that you want me.” She met his eyes. He dropped them again. “I’m sorry I didn’t try to come to you earlier. I didn’t think you’d want to see me… after everything.” “I forgive you, Ben. That wasn’t you. It was Kylo Ren.” “Still the same person.” “Not to me.” Rey murmured. Ben gave her a tiny smile. “You should rest, Rey.”
“Will you stay here?” “I’ll do my best.”
CHAPER THREE: DARK ANSWER “Rey, you shouldn’t be spending this much time on me.” Rey looked at Ben, who sat next to her, dizzily. Her eyes could only see words. How long had she been looking at the Jedi texts?
All she could remember was maps and paragraphs of Luke’s notes attached to the worn pages of the old books. Ben’s dark eyes studied her face in concern. “Seriously, that’s enough reading for today. I didn’t give up my life for you to spend your days reading useless books.” Rey grinned a little. “They’re not useless, Ben. There has to be something in them that can help me bring you back.”
“Rey…” Ben said uneasily. “Please don’t spend the rest of your life chasing after me. I don’t want to see you like this…” “Like what, Ben?” Rey snapped irritatedly. “Like what you used to be! Chasing ghosts!” He barely managed to control his temper. “You’ve always been chasing ghosts, please don’t spend the rest of your life doing it again.” “Ben!”
“I gave you my life! I want to see you happy! Go find someone! Go to your friends!” He gestured angrily to the old Tatooine homestead. “Don’t waste away here like my uncle did on his island!” Tears burned her eyes. “I can’t do that,” she choked out, “There will never be anyone else, Ben. Only you. I wanted only you.” Ben choked on a knot of emotion in his throat.
~~~ Rey watched the rations turn into a bread roll, and the veg-meat concoction boil into a broth. It seemed so routine to be eating the same things from Jakku, and living in a desert. She glanced at the pile of books against the wall. Only, there was more to do other than scavenge for parts. She bit into her roll as she began looking back through the pages.
She didn’t bother to connect herself to Ben’s ghost -he would only protest against her looking through the texts again. Her mind began to wander, thinking about her friends, the Resistance… Then her eyes skimmed over four precious words: Bringing back the dead. Rey threw away the rest of her breakfast and read the following passage very, very carefully.
Her hands trembled with excitement. All she needed was an object the person owned (easy, she still had Ben’s sweater) a sacrifice, and herself. This was it. This was the answer she had spent days looking for. She didn’t care that the passage had the Sith symbol, or notes Luke had written advising himself and others not to use this. Her joy was blinding. Tears welled in her eyes.
“You’re coming back, Ben.” Ben waited in the World Between Worlds, walking down the seemingly endless bridges of time. Suddenly, through the once-strong bond that barely managed to connect him through Rey, he felt a sudden burst of joy. The next moment, he stood in front of her, still in the Tatooine homestead.
Rey’s face was lit up with excitement. “Rey, what is it-,” “An answer, Ben! I found a way to bring you back!” Rey answered ecstatically. She grabbed his hands and forced him to sit down. Then she showed him pages in one of the oldest Jedi texts. “No…” Ben skimmed over the words, the feeling of joy that had ignited in him crushing. “No, this isn’t right.”
“Ben, I can bring you back!” Rey was beaming, rifling through the pages. “It’s perfect!” “It’s from the Sith!” Ben protested, reading the lines again. “Rey, it requires a sacrifice! You can’t do that!” “Of course I can!” She snapped defensively. “I can get some animal and use it for the sacrifice! It’ll be easy, and you’ll be back!”
Ben’s brows knitted together. “If you’re going to do this,” he said sternly, “Then I refuse to come back.” Her happiness disappeared. Her lips tightened. “What? -why?” “I don’t want you to use the dark side like this!” He said sharply. Desperately, Rey grabbed his hand. “It’s just one thing! Then I’ll forget all about it!”
“No, you won’t. It’ll be one thing after another. You might choose to bring your parents back next. You’ll go down the same path I did,” Ben’s throat felt clogged again. His eyes burned as tears welled in them. “I don't want you to -to become what I did!” Rey stared at him, eyes searching his. “I can’t let you do this,” he tossed the papers away.
“I can’t go on without you!” “Of course you can!” He snapped irritatedly. “You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t spend the rest of it going down this dark path, Rey.” She dropped her eyes, and looked back at the scattered papers. Tears slipped silently down her cheeks and her shoulders began to tremble. “Rey...” Ben murmured, shifting closer to her.
He reached over and gently wiped her face. They held each other, both saddened again by how cold the other felt. “I don’t deserve to come back,” Ben murmured. “Don’t I deserve to have you back?” Rey pulled away and looked at him firmly. “Haven’t I done enough? I think I deserve some happiness.” He stroked her hair. “Yes, you do. I’m sorry.” ~~~
“Grandfather!” Ben shouted into the void. “I need your help!” There was no reply. Ben turned around in a full circle, looking to the faraway stars for answers. “Please!” He added. “I need you!” “I’m here, Ben,” a familiar voice came from behind. Ben turned, and let out a sigh of relief when he saw Anakin.
His ghost grandfather seemed worried. “What’s wrong?” Anakin asked. “Rey. Rey needs me. I need to get back to her, grandfather,” Ben said pleadingly. “Please, there has to be some way I can return to her.” Anakin smiled. “I knew you’d ask eventually.”