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Rule of the Sith

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Ben sat alone on the workbench in Rey’s ‘quarters’ on Ajan Kloss. It hardly provided any privacy––unlike his personal quarters within the ships of the First Order––as it was only a rocky bit of ground slightly suspended over the rest of the camp, but he needed some time to gather himself. Away from prying eyes and faint, displeased whispers about his presence inside the rebel base.

A task very hard to accomplish in such a buzzing environment. His attention was captured by a conversation in the proximity of Rey’s room––they were talking about him.

 

“What’s wrong with him?” 

He distinguished Rey’s attempt at a whisper, but the noise around them didn’t allow a low enough register. In truth, he had isolated himself in there for the past few hours; she probably assumed he was asleep.

“Oh, he’s pissed,” Poe claimed, very certain of his opinion. “He thinks he failed.”

Ben detected resentment towards his persona. He assumed his arrival on Resistance territory wouldn’t be most welcomed, but he had still hoped his change of allegiance would make a difference. 

“Which, of course, he did! That’s why he’s here now! He has no other place to go back to,” Poe continued. “His Master is gone, and the First Order is in shambles!”

A swift slap over the rustling material of the flight suit accompanied his last statement. Ben reckoned it came from Rey.

The girl argued back, “He isn’t Kylo Ren anymore, he has changed. I wouldn’t be standing here without hi-”

 

Ben closed his eyes and tuned them out. 

In a way, he did fail. Not by turning to the light, but by sacrificing himself, he brought about Maeve’s death. He failed her . Her last image haunted him. He couldn’t stop picturing her grotesque eyes. And the pain. Stars, that pain was horrendous.

He had seen the decaying corpse of the Emperor and it did not affect him, but to see the person closest to him in such a condition left a mark on his soul. 

The woman had given up her existence for him to live on, to build a future with the Resistance, regardless of how he had treated her the last time they spoke. He regretted Kylo Ren’s burst of anger, he never should have lashed out at her.

The man reached through the Force, yearning for contact, a glimmer of hope, something. For a fraction of a second, he thought he felt her presence. It passed like a fleeting shadow, and he was left searching.




Ben’s fall had been caught on a jagged outcropping. His ankle was twisted, and he was pretty sure he’d broken at least two ribs. But he had to get back to the throne room.

Because he couldn’t sense Rey at all.

The climb up was agonizing. Each time he reached for a handhold, a hot knife of pain stabbed his left side. Dizziness threatened to send him tumbling back into the abyss, but he kept on, one hand over the other until finally, his fingers grasped the top.

He hauled himself over the side. Paused a moment to catch his breath. Dragged himself to his feet.

Ben made it only a few steps before he crumpled, forced himself to his feet yet again, limped forward.

He could see her now, collapsed on the floor, and the pain in his chest was suddenly so much worse than that of a couple of broken ribs.

She seemed at ease, almost as though she were sleeping, except her eyes were wide and staring, lifeless and dull.

He hardly knew what he was doing as he crouched beside her, wrapped his arms around her limp form, yanked her onto his lap. Rey’s skin was growing cold. Her barren eyes stared up at him, and he imagined them accusing him. You did this. This is your fault.

No, Rey would never be that way. Those thoughts were the vestiges of Snoke’s conditioning. Rey was good. Kind. No matter what had happened between them, what he’d done, she’d always showed him compassion.

He cast his gaze around the ruined cathedral as if answers might lie in the shadows. But there was nothing. Just aching emptiness and a sense of loss so sharp and terrible it was like a vise around his gut.

Ben pulled her against his chest and hugged her to himself for a moment. He’d just found her, really found her. He’d wasted his life, he knew that now. But anyone who could have shown him the way forward, helped him be Ben again, was gone. Luke. His parents. And now Rey.

He couldn’t make himself believe it. Rey was the strongest person he’d ever known. She’d fought off the darkness in a way he never could. She’d saved everyone. She deserved better.

As he held her, he sensed something. The tiniest spark. And he realized: The Force hadn’t taken her yet.

He knew exactly what Rey would do, in his place. It was the easiest decision he’d ever made.

He cradled her gently and placed his hand on her abdomen. He closed his eyes. Called on the Force. Ben didn’t have much strength left, and he was about to do something he’d never done before. Fortunately, Rey had shown him how to give.

Ben poured everything into her. He found reservoirs he didn’t know he had. He gave her his whole self.

Her diaphragm rose with a breath, and her warm hand covered his. Her eyes lit up.

Rey seemed surprised to see him. She sat up, but she didn’t draw away.

They stared at each other for a moment. He waited for her to understand what had just happened. It would be okay if she left him behind now. Got on with her life without a backward glance at him. It’s what she should do.

Instead, she smiled, and she whispered, “Ben!”

She was glad to see him. Glad to be with him in this moment. It was the greatest gift she could have given him.

His heart was full as Rey reached for his face, letting her fingers linger against his cheek. And then, wonder of wonders, she leaned forward and kissed him. A kiss of gratitude, acknowledgment of their connection, celebration that they’d found each other at last.

But then she drew back, concern on her face. She could feel him growing cold.

Ben smiled at her.

He had given Rey back to the galaxy. It wouldn’t atone for the darkness he’d wrought, but it was what he could do.

Ben Solo had no regrets as he collapsed to the ground. The Force reached for him in welcome. His final awareness was of Rey, clasping his hand with her own.

Rey stood over the place Ben had fallen, staring down at his empty tunic. Tears streamed down her face.

He had sacrificed everything for her.

She did not mourn Kylo Ren. She would never mourn Kylo Ren. But she dearly would have loved the chance to get to know Ben Solo. It felt like half of her was missing, and she supposed it was. The girl who had felt alone for all those years on Jakku had been part of a dyad the whole time. And just when she’d discovered that precious connection, that incredible oneness, it was ripped away.

She retrieved her lightsabers and sprinted from the ruined cathedral.

 

Just as Rey sprinted out, Maeve darted out of the dark, narrow corridor at the opposite end of the throne room and ran up to where Ben’s empty clothes lay. She collapsed to her knees, scratching them against the coarse ground. Her nails clawed at the tunic frantically, as if Kylo––no, it was Ben now––would still be inside them somewhere. As if she only needed to search harder.

Emotions chased themselves across her features as she picked up the piece of material and held it tightly against her chest. 

There were many things she had anticipated, but not his death. For the love of the Force, not his death. Frustration, ache, wrath—they all simmered inside of her.

He was gone. Not only Kylo Ren but Ben Solo too. There was no coming back, no trick or truth she could twist to have him by her side ever again. Her mind raged.

          He is gone. 

                 He is gone.

                       HE IS GONE!

The woman let out a pained scream, a relinquish of anger and grief. The intensity of her emotions reverberated through the Force, sending waves of energy crashing against the walls of the cathedral with the impact of repeated seismic charges. The rock crumbled and fell all around her, adding to the destruction caused by Rey. 

The adjacent entrance from which she came was blocked by newly collapsed boulders. With a swift gesture of the hand, she sent them flying across the room, loud thuds accompanying them. The Sith cultists were gathered at that exact opening, all peeking inside at their Master. 

“Bring me the artifact,” she growled at them, her chest heaving like that of a berserk animal. 

They scuttled off like a hive of loyal bees. 

Instinctively, her eyes closed and reached out into the Force, unsure of what she was searching for. Perhaps it was for clarity or a sense of serenity. Perhaps it was by habit, a place where she could find refuge, away from the hectic galaxy. In any case, she needed to gather herself. She hadn’t had an outburst of such magnitude in a long time––longer than she could remember––and it took a toll on her mind.

A presence made itself known to her, a haunting wind brushed against her cheek, sending a chill through her whole being––something familiar. When her eyes opened, a pit formed inside her stomach as her gaze met the one of the man she once loved, smiling down at her. 

“Vad–” she began in a husky whisper, her vocal cords strained from her earlier outburst, but she stopped herself mid-word. It wasn’t Vader in front of her, she realized, partly saddened. “Anakin…” she resumed, in a softer tone.

He looked so young––younger than she physically was at the time––dressed in a robe similar to her own, limned in ghostly light, almost transparent.

The man looked at her with a mix of sadness and compassion as he sat next to her, and reached out with his pale, translucid hand, and rested it on top of hers. It was a strange feeling, a touch that was part both of the Cosmic Force and the Living Force alike.

“Maeve,” he addressed her softly, maintaining his smile. 

Him being there brought back memories from when she would follow his life during her exile. He had the same young, smooth skin, the unburned golden locks like the sands of Tatooine, and those blue piercing eyes, untainted by the darkness––she found herself just as fascinated with him now as she was back then. The only difference was, her feelings were devoted to his other-self. The illusion he was trying to create wouldn’t work for him in this form. She knew full well why he had appeared to her at that moment. 

Her hand didn’t pull away, but her face maintained itself as a blank canvas. 

“You’re here to stop me, aren’t you?” Her tone was deliberately icy and incriminating. “You must know you have no power to influence my decisions.”

“You once loved me,” he argued.

The woman scoffed, amused. “And that is supposed to change my mind, how?” 

‘You did though…perhaps still do,’  a voice inside her head felt the annoying need to remind her. 

“I only meant that you valued my opinions.” He sighed when her gaze didn’t soften. “What you’re about to do is going to break every law of life. Of the Force. You have to realize the implications of this action.”

She glimpsed at his hand, then back at him. He withdrew it reluctantly.

“No one can stop me,” she declared coldly. “Especially not a Jedi.” Maeve stood up, taking Ben’s sweater along with her. “My decision is made.”

Anakin followed her. “You’re going down a path darker than any other before it. I know evil, I have been an evil person who has done evil to things. It leaves a mark on you..."

“Oh, Anakin,” she breathed out his name. “The difference between you and me is very clear. Despite your evil actions, you were redeemable. I, just like my brother, am not. I surrender myself freely to the will of the dark side.” She turned her back on him, not interested in a reply. Her flaming yellow eyes were pinned to the entrance in the throne room, waiting for the cultists to return.

“I know you, you’re not evil,” he lingered behind her, hoping that she would listen.

“You know nothing about me,” she spat at him, noticeably vexed. “Nor what I’m capable of.”

Anakin appeared in front of her, inches away from her face, once again trying to reason with her. "This could have ripple effects through the entire universe. Please..."

“I don’t care.”

“He is finally at peace, Maeve. Bringing him back could be the beginning of a new tormented existence for him.”

As his hands reached for hers again, she dropped the piece of clothing at his feet as a warning to keep his distance, then bluntly enunciated: "I. Don't. Care."

Anakin was confused, perhaps even a little shocked. He had saved that argument for last, thinking it would be the catalyst to a change of heart. “Then you are truly lost to the darkness.”

She leaned even closer to him, barely a finger’s distance between them. “Yes, I am.”

With a billow of cold wind, Anakin’s spirit was gone. 



Maeve clutched the necklace containing the vanta kyber in her hand, then ripped the string from her neck. The crystal was released from its metal cage and brought to her lips––thus began an intimate ritual.

The cultists stared at her, captivated by her chanting over the crystal. 

As she reached for the door of the artifact, one of the creatures stopped her. 

“Master, is this wise? You could end up trapped there, just like before.”

Her gaze didn’t shift away from the artifact, its familiarity still sending her into an entranced state. “The great characteristic of Sith artifacts is their intelligence. This was meant to be a prison only for someone outside the order, a torture chamber for our enemies. When a Sith is trapped inside, with the right tools or skills, it can provide a gateway to dimensions you cannot imagine.” Her hand brushed almost nostalgically against the frame. “I have seen it. It’s marvelous.”

A murmur of approval and delight came from the hive.  

Maeve stepped inside, holding a tight grip on the crystal. “In case I don’t return for more than a day, pull me out of there.”

They all nodded.

 

She fell through the fabric of space and time. Unlike the last time, the transition was forced, not offered. Her body hit the ground with a loud thud that echoed through the separate dimension like an alarm, blaring about the presence of a possible intruder.

Maeve pushed off the ground, and the cloak clapped at her ankles as the softest of breezes ruffled her grey locks. The Vergence Scatter, or more commonly known as the World Between Worlds, was one of the most beautiful and serene places she had ever experienced, despite it acting as an eternal prison for her soul. 

She was surrounded by sheer darkness that stretched on forever. Soft speckled stars dotted the visible horizons of the space. The sacred plane of existence, a legend amongst Force users, spread out in front of her, welcoming her back. This was the place she could call home since she had spent more than half her life within its rims.

Hundreds of curving pathways filled the dark areas around her––almost transparent, translucid, and outside the reach of the physical realm and all that it represented. The only markings to guide her were the dimly glowing white lines––lines which, as well as the pathways they delimited, defied gravity. They curved and arched and flipped upside-down. Dozens of portals, just like the one Maeve had fallen out of, were positioned along the ethereal roads. Circles, triangles, all sorts of shapes, each outlined in white auras with markings so old, not even she recognized them or could make out what they symbolized. 

This time she was physically in this world, not only in essence. Hesitantly, she took a step forward, unsure of what her presence might unleash once she walked on the translucent surface. She bit her lower lip as her heavy boot connected with the pathway. White ripples, as though she stepped on liquid, pooled around her foot. 

“So far so good,” she told herself, then let out a relieved exhale.

A voice started murmuring inaudible phrases in her proximity. The voice then turned into multiple all at once. Some of them overlapped, some cut off one another. The buzzing sound she had grown so familiar with. Same as the last time, she could not identify them all, but some were painstakingly familiar. 

‘Sheev, don’t you dare!’ Cosinga ordered, although fear had clearly overtaken him upon seeing the bloodthirst in his child’s eyes.

A distant excited voice, a small boy’s, came from somewhere behind her, ‘I want to be the first one to see them all!’ 

‘The Republic will be reorganized,’ the soon-to-be Emperor paused for dramatic effect, ‘into the first Galactic Empire!’ 

Followed by a mechanized plea, ‘Show me again. The power of the darkness.’

‘The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.’

Maeve froze where she stood when she heard her own voice and Vader’s overlapping over the same words.

“Vader…” she whispered faintly. 

Realization hit her like a boulder. As soon as she would finish what she came there to do, she would never be able to see him again. Only in her memories. And it just wasn’t enough. 

He was the only one she wanted to hear in the sea of whispers and yet, she couldn’t identify him. 

“One last time and I’m out of here, 

      one last time and I’m out of here, 

           one last time and I’m out of here…” she kept repeating to herself like a chant to keep herself from losing sight of her purpose. 

While frantically searching for her long-lost love, another image caught her attention. It was Rey, in the cave from Ahch-To. The woman made the connection with the image she saw when she first got there. It did explain the familiarity––after all, they were related.

Maeve dismissed it quickly, she couldn’t care less about the scavenger at that particular moment.

 

––

 

She roamed the pathways for what seemed like hours. Just as she was ready to give up her search, she heard it: his breathing. His unmistakable, mechanized, ominous breathing. 

The portal showed the eve of a battle above Scarif. Just like she did for almost a century, she sat down, cross-legged, with her eyes glued to the events.

 

The Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator cut through an ocean of ships and trailed a wake of burning gases and crackling particles. The light of Scarif reflected dully on the vessel’s hull as it swung into the planet’s gravity well, coursing toward the damaged Mon Calamari cruiser positioned above the Citadel.

Darth Vader observed the chaos surrounding the Devastator and reordered it behind the red glow of his mask. He recognized the maneuvers of fighter squadrons on both sides, identified pilots who broke from their formations to better or worse effect. He saw the battle in microcosm and macrocosm and was instinctively aware of how each shot could contribute to ultimate victory or defeat.

Yet only the cruiser concerned him. He made a single stroke of his hand as the enemy came into firing range.

The ensuing echoes of turbolasers were garbled static in his helmet. Streams of energy poured from the Devastator toward its foe, illuminating the darkness like lightning. Starfighters—friend and foe— caught between the two massive ships suffered instant obliteration. The cruiser’s shields shimmered with iridescence then vanished in a flash. Fires flared along its port side as hull plating shattered or melted and venting oxygen combusted.

“The rebel flagship is disabled, my lord,” the Devastator’s captain reported crisply at Vader’s side. Darth Vader did not turn to him as he spoke. “But it has received transmissions from the surface.”

Vader stared at the burning ship. There was death at play, suffering, and fear, yes—and something entirely different. Something that repelled his withered, agonized flesh.

“Prepare a boarding party,” he said.

“Yes, my lord.”

The destruction of the Citadel—the lancing of Scarif with the Death Star’s superlaser, the evaporation of a sea, and the disintegration of archipelagos—sent a tremor through the shuttle as Vader and his squad rode to the flagship. He felt fear then, too, vast and powerful and purer than that which emanated from the cruiser. When his vessel reached the flagship and his stormtroopers burned their way through the hull, he started toward the rebel bridge and then pivoted.

Perhaps instinct guided him. Perhaps something more. It did not occur to him to wonder. He sent his troops to continue on his prior path and moved on alone.

The corridor lights flickered while alarms blared. Trapped in the blood-red chamber of his helmet, Vader was troubled by neither. He attuned himself to emanations of panic and desperation and followed their trail. When he encountered rebels reaching for their blasters or dashing to seal blast doors, he drew his weapon and cut them down with unhurried strokes of his crimson blade. 

The voice of a stormtrooper spoke to him through his comlink. “A data tape was recorded on the bridge just before we boarded. No sign of it here.”

Vader did not answer, but he bolstered his pace.

He wound through the cruiser leaving corpses behind him. He found his prey at last in a corridor thick with rebels backed against a security door. As particle bolts shot toward him, he watched a data tape pass between desperate soldiers. He knocked the bolts aside with his blade, tore a blaster from one foe with a might that defied nature and gravity, and marched on. He delivered killing stroke after killing stroke, awakened and relentless.

The security door opened a mere crack and rebel hands shoved the tape through. Vader reached through life and matter and air and by will alone he pulled. He fueled his will with rage and fear and need. It was enough to tear the rebel from the door and drop him at Vader’s feet.

But it was not enough to claim the tape.

He grasped the rebel sprawled before him by the throat, lifted him, and stared at him through bloody lenses. “Where,” Vader demanded, “are they taking it?”

The reply was a strangled whisper. “Away from here,” the rebel said. “Away from you.”

Vader clenched his gloved hand until the man’s neck snapped. Then he tossed the body aside. He

activated his comlink and barked to his stormtroopers, “Find their escape vessel.”

The prospect of failure crept over his skin like fire. The supremacy of the Death Star could not be jeopardized. The total obliteration of the Rebellion remained possible; that it was in question at all was unthinkable.

Darth Vader chased his quarry, seeking solace in the final triumph of the Emperor.

 

Maeve had seen that scene so many times. Whenever she missed Vader, that was the scene she enjoyed watching the most. A monster unleashed––her monster. 

With the end of the scene, the faint whisper of a past Kylo Ren rang in her ears. "I will finish what you started."

Her head tilted back as though to address the memory. "If only you could," she muttered.

Just as she was about to stand, the image inside the portal shifted. It was still him, but… she was in the picture as well.

 

Vader held Maeve’s unconscious body in his arms, carrying her down the corridors of the main Imperial base on Corellia. Her upper body was leaned against his broad chest, her head fallen on the scorched plate on his shoulder. 

 

It was an endearing picture. She remembered the day. They had caught wind of a passing Jedi trying to get away from the Empire’s reach and buy passage to one of the Outer Rim planets that weren’t yet under occupation. 

It was pure chance that both of them were sent to Corellia that day. Vader had been summoned to witness the launch of a newly finished addition to the Empire’s fleet. Maeve was already there to oversee preparations for her brother’s arrival, to make sure all the safety measures were in top shape and order. The intel that a rogue Jedi might be around alerted them both, making them wonder if there was more afoot. A plan to stop the launch. Or worse, assassinate the Emperor. 

They split up that day, trying to cover both exits of the reported location. Little did they know it was a trap, an act of terrorism against the Emperor and his enforcers. Before she could flee to safety, a bomb went off, and her mind blanked.

What astounded her the most about the image inside the portal was that Vader carried her body himself, although they were almost at the medical bay and other means of transportation were available. 

Not stormtroopers, not droids, not stretchers. Him.

 

Vader’s determined steps caused loud thuds against the sleek floors of the base, officers and troopers sliding out of his way, murmuring behind his back. 

His suit had seen better days. His cape was half gone, its remaining hem burned. The helmet was scratched and dented in places. One crack was close enough to the right red tinted lense that it caused it to fall, exposing the damaged flesh and a golden iris, glowing like molten lava. More pain he had to endure. In the absence of the protective layer over his eyes, the light burned, especially the bright, ever present one in the Imperial bases. To make up for the missing lense, Vader used the Force to make the lights flicker before him, then turn them back on once he was past their harsh glare. For the bystanders, it looked like a scene out of a nightmare—the dark lord closely resembling the embodiment of death itself. 

One of his robotic forearms was completely exposed; the silver pieces of durasteel glimmered in the flickering light of the hallway. He had been mostly protected from the explosion, by his suit and the distance between himself and the bomb’s location. 

The girl he carried wasn’t as lucky as she was in the closer proximity of the explosion. He had found her half-buried under chunks of cement and metal, unconscious. Maeve’s head was split, blood pouring down her face and seeping into her light gray hair, her clothes were torn in places––there was a noticeable contrast between the black attire and the particles of dusted cement that had settled upon them, and her arms had burn marks all over them, worst on her forearms. The lack of burns on her face suggested she had tried to use her arms as shields in the moments before the blackout. 

The man set her down gently on a stretcher in the medical bay and brushed the messed-up hair from her face, but he didn’t leave just yet. He made a small gesture, almost undetectable.

 

Maeve’s face almost went through the portal as she tried to see better. She could have sworn that he made an attempt to caress her cheek. The gesture was definitely cut off, but there was intent. A gesture that implied he cared about her more than he cared about the rest of his inquisitors. Cared enough to carry her around, cared enough to be gentle around her. 

She shook her head, trying to snap herself out of a fantasy that could be nothing more than pure misinterpretation––her own mind playing tricks on her. 

Another thought struck her in the moment. Perhaps her mind wasn’t to blame, after all. Perhaps it was something––or someone ––else. She narrowed her eyes at the possibility and looked around her as though she tried to identify the culprit. 

Clever, but not clever enough , she thought as she resumed watching the scene.

 

Droids rushed from behind him as he pulled away. 

“Run every test necessary,” he ordered. 

One of the droids, a CT unit, turned its head around to look at the man. “Upon first scan, she appears to have no major injuries, apart from the burns on her arms, some broken ribs, and shattered bones in the right leg. Nothing we can’t treat within a few days.” 

“I want her to make a full recovery as soon as possible.”

“Yes, Lord Vader,” they all said in a chorus.

 

Her hand extended towards the man and almost reached inside. For a moment, she considered aborting her entire plan to jump in there. Stars, how she missed him… 

A tear ran down her cheek, a mournful gesture on her behalf. An acknowledgment of the pain and sorrow that simmered in her soul.

She quickly wiped the tear away, knowing full well that Vader was gone and the girl who loved him died alongside him on the Death Star. 

A feral growl came from the depths of her throat––a release of grief rather than anger. 

The woman twirled on her heels, ignoring all thoughts screaming at her body to return. Bigger plans were in motion, she couldn’t allow herself to forget that. 



A sharp exhale left her lips as she felt Ben’s presence nearby. 

That was it. The point of no return. 

Once done, it could never be undone. Her connection to the World Between Worlds would be shattered. Banned for eternity, never to return, in any form, back to it. 

Maeve looked over Ben’s shoulder as he held Rey into his arms. 

It was the ultimate dark action, using a place meant for knowledge to change events in one’s favor instead of gaining wisdom from its teachings. 

She steadied herself, waited for the perfect moment. The moment in which the man’s energy would be at a minimum. 

Once he had transferred his life Force to Rey, Maeve reached in, pulled his head back through the portal’s frame, and put him to sleep with a swift flick of her wrist. Her hands pressed against his sweaty temples and gave enough of her energy to him to keep him alive and well. 

“Qåzoi Kyantuska,” she muttered in Sith as her hand brushed over his face. Then pushed his body back, just before the scavenger girl woke up. 

Maeve’s body was sore and ached, never before deprived of its own life energy. Now all she had to do was lurk, to wait for the hardest part––dealing with herself.

As Rey sprinted out of the citadel, the past Maeve ran up to Ben’s corpse. The other Maeve saw right through the trick, unlike the inexperienced scavenger. 

She couldn’t afford to hesitate, not now. She took one last look back at the ethereal place, and let the sound of Vader’s mask fill her ears one last time, to sink in her mind. 

With a swift gesture, she grabbed the other Maeve by the uniform and pivoted herself out of the portal at the same time she brought her past self in, all the while catching glimpses of her turn to ash as they took each other’s places. 

The entire place screeched and rumbled.

The act of betrayal cosmically hurt the netherworld. 

And consequence followed. 

There couldn’t be two of them in the world at the same time, and she wasn’t allowed back inside the Vergence Scatter. The only option was annihilation. 

The remaining Maeve collapsed on the ground, writhing in agony, as the Dark Side claimed her body and soul. Her insides felt like they were melting, her skin was burning, the blood in her veins thickened, and it felt as though there were pieces of ash in her eyes. 

As a crippling scream echoed throughout the entire cathedral, the cultists rushed in to help their Master. They all gasped in unison, then started chanting pain aiding incantations. 

Maeve’s eyes flew open, revealing the intense yellow orbs, encircled by a sea of blood. “Stop it!” she growled at them. 

What true Sith would she be if she let them take the pain away? Pain, anger, hatred… they were her fuel now; the balance she once held inside was no longer sustainable. 

Her blackened hand grabbed Untusha’s collar, “I need some privacy for the next part. Hide so he can’t see you. Prepare everything else in silence.”

A round of nods came from them, then they all disappeared in the shadows, doing their Master’s bidding. 

Maeve moved an arm. Then a shoulder. She turned over, placed a palm to the ground, pushed up. She got a knee beneath her, leveraged herself up onto her toes. Maeve paused, crouched, gasping for air. Her muscles didn’t want to obey. Every movement turned her very bones to knives of pain.

Reality momentarily glitched around her, and it made her see herself take the same steps as Rey did when she was about to face her brother. Darkness clouded her vision. Rey had a thousand generations of Jedi helping her go on––she only had herself. Her passion, her pain, her anger. Her hatred.

The woman dragged herself across the rocky ground; whether she was making new injuries or not, she couldn’t tell. Her entire body was in unimaginable pain. 

She waved her hand over Ben’s face to lift the sleeping spell, then pulled his body on her lap.



A haze slowly lifted from Ben's body and the initial whiff of air inside his lungs felt like he had just drawn his first breath. He smelt smoke and burning flesh, combined with combustible and dust. It wasn't the best first breath, but it made all the difference. 

His senses were so dulled, it made him wonder if he was conscious. It felt as though his mind was a stranger in the body he inhabited. He tried to assert control over his limbs but found it to be futile. Even his eyes refused to open.

He tried to remember where he was, and what happened. 

He and Rey were on Exegol, she used all the life Force she had to save the world from the rule of her grandfather. He gave her all he had left, in hope that she would live on and bring balance to an unstable galaxy. Then he remembered seeing a starry sky, followed by darkness. 

Am I dead? Is this what death feels like?

His answer came moments later when he heard a series of restrained grunts nearby; moments later, arms pulled up his limp body. Gentle hands pushed aside the hair that was stuck to his sweaty face. He recognized those hands. 

The thought acted as a shot of adrenaline that went straight to his numb mind and his eyes flew open. The image before him awakened the rest of his slumbering body and jolted him into sitting up instantly.

Corpse grey arms covered in swollen dark veins, as if the blood running through them turned into black plasma, reached for his hand. Charred fingers like the tips of black leather gloves gently held him. 

"Maeve, I–" he paused, lost for words.

The woman's whole appearance was ghastly, an object of nightmares. Her once light gray hair was now pitch black, with only a few stray, white strands. The veins on her neck and face looked just like the ones on her arms, and the white of her eyes almost disappeared, leaving two glowing, red-rimmed yellow irises on a bleeding sclera. The rest of the skin was so sickly looking, it reminded him of the Emperor’s, the only difference was she didn’t seem to be rotting away. Not yet anyway.

He couldn't help a gulp, but she smiled.

"It can't be a pretty sight," she admitted, too casually for his own taste, "but everything comes with a price."

"I was gone, wasn't I? How did you–"

A hand pressed against his lips and put an end to the interrogation. It smelled like embers and smoke.

"I know you must have a lot of questions, but I'm not sure if I have time to explain. I also don't know how this is going to come to pass," she said, then drew a deeper breath of air. 

A low wheeze came as the air went down her throat as if her airways were scorched and strained. Waves of pain rolled out into the Force––he felt the ripples of her agony, but she was doing her best to restrain herself. 

"I want you to do something for me. Go join the Resistance, their base is on Ajan Kloss. Go be with them, it's where you belong now. You deserve it." Another surge of pain coursed through her body––this time she squeezed his hand, unable to hold it within herself. "Give it a shot with Rey," she continued, more faintly this time, "I have sensed your bond and your feelings for her. I don't want you to miss out. I..." Her face grimaced, contorted with pain. “I want you to be happy,” she breathlessly rasped eventually. 

Ben felt conflicted. This was the same woman he had seen almost every day for the past six years. The woman whom he had trusted more than anyone else. A Sith, he reminded himself, but one who saved him, a Sith who had given him a new chance. And now, she was dying... 

"You did all this... for me," he said, heartbroken with realization. 

He wrapped his arms around her, thankful for her sacrifice, and hoped that the embrace would have the power to somehow trap her life force inside her body, that perhaps it would keep her alive for longer. 

"One last thing," she whispered in the crook of his neck. "Leave my body here. With my own kind."

He agreed silently with a nod. 

She was thankful he had hugged her, it would have been harder to try and meditate with him staring at her. Looking at a redeemed Ben Solo was even harder now than it was originally—knowing she had condemned him once more.

In the absence of someone competent to wake her up from a sleeping command, the only way she could think of to slow down her heart to the lowest possible was through deep meditation.

As her body went limp in his grasp, tears spilled down his cheeks and he let out a ragged breath. When he made the choice to go back to the light, he didn't realize the extent of what it would cause. He didn’t think it would mean losing Maeve. His turn killed her... it didn’t matter that he had helped Rey, it didn’t matter that Palpatine was gone. All he could think about was that his existence is the reason why another someone dear to him was gone.

He couldn't face her death just yet, he didn't want to let go of her. He imagined her as she looked the first time he laid eyes on her when she fell into his arms. 

Peaceful, asleep for decades. 

He cradled her body as if trying to lull her back to that sleep. It was easier to picture her consciousness safe in a Force Netherworld rather than wasted into nothing.

He let out a pained, ragged sigh as he looked up at the sky covered in the smoke of burning Star Destroyers. 

 

––

 

He lost track of time. It could have been minutes or hours. 

In the end, he let go of Maeve's body and made peace with the idea that she wasn't coming back.

He set her down gently on the rocky ground and left. 



Once Ben’s presence was no longer in proximity, Maeve let her consciousness return to her body and struggled to get up on her feet. 

The cultists were already waiting for new instructions, all gathered up a few feet away from her. 

“Bring me my brother,” she commanded.