2. “Learning to Fly” -Pink Floyd
Rey woke up quick; sitting up so fast her head swam. She looked around, taking in her surroundings. She was in a bedroom, but where, she had no idea. Rey looked down and breathed a sigh of relief. Her clothing was intact. She looked around and saw a wall of windows off to her left with sunlight streaming in. Rey got up and walked towards them, wondering where she was.
Rey pulled back the curtains and a gasp escaped her. She was on a beach. There was an ocean not 300 yards away.
At night, desperate for sleep…you imagine an ocean…
Were they on Nubia? Had she slept that long? She didn’t recall being awake at any time since she fell asleep on Kylo’s cot.
Rey began looking around for her things and found them on a chair. She saw the bathroom and looked down at herself once more. Deciding, she headed in to take a shower. ‘Freshers were nice, but the opportunity to have cascading water…she’d heard the stories and wasn’t about to miss it.
The bathroom was enormous. There was a shower and a bathtub the size of her escape pod. Rey stared at it dumbly. She’d never seen a real one before.
“My mother used to have one.”
Rey jumped at the sound of his voice; deep, mellifluous. She looked up to see Kylo standing in the bathroom doorway, filling it with his enormous frame.
“You scared me,” she said. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“I thought you heard me enter. I asked if you were decent.”
“I didn’t hear you.”
“Well, I imagine you’re curious. That is a bathtub. You fill it with water and get in. My mother had one. Sometimes she would let me use it when I was younger.”
Rey turned to look at him, wondering about the child he had been. “What was it like?”
“I don’t remember.”
She nodded. “Ben, where are we?”
“I told you. Nubia. We are outside the capital city of Kalamar, in the Veridian Province.”
“There’s a beach,” she said, smiling. Ahch-To had no beaches. “There’s an ocean. The water looks green.”
Kylo turned his lips up in the barest of smiles. “I thought you might like that.”
“Where’s everyone else?”
“Another city. Madir. It’s not nearby.”
“So I’m here alone?”
“No. I will be staying here as well. My quarters are on the other end of the house. And there is a gardener and a maid somewhere around here.”
Rey held herself. “Just me and you?”
“You want me to train you, right?”
“Then yes, it’s just me and you. We need a measure of privacy. General Hux won’t bother us unless it is of extreme importance. Does this make you nervous?”
“Of course not, Ben. I’m not uncomfortable around you.”
“I’ll have breakfast prepared for you while you shower. And then we will begin your education.”
He turned to leave and she said, “Ben. Wait.”
Kylo turned to look at her. “Yes?”
He nodded and left the bathroom in a swish of black robes.
To Rey’s delight, breakfast was outside on a huge verandah that overlooked the beach. She sat down across from Kylo and took everything in. There was a warm breeze blowing. She closed her eyes and took several slow, deep breaths while listening to the sound of the waves gently crashing on the shore. She didn’t think she would ever get used to listening to the sounds of the ocean. That was one of the benefits of Ahch-To, but Ahch-To didn’t have beaches like this.
Kylo had a holoframe in his hand and was reading it when she sat down. He looked at her. She looked well rested, which was good. She needed to be. He wasn’t sure exactly where they were going to start, but he knew he planned to push her as far as she could go.
The maid came up, pushing a service. She began to serve breakfast and Rey’s stomach did a series of somersaults when she smelled the food. She had never smelled anything so divine.
“What are we having?” she asked. She really didn’t care what it was; she was starving.
“I don’t know your preferences, so I had Sora make a little bit of everything that was available.”
Rey turned to the maid. “Hi Sora. I’m Rey.”
Sora nodded, giving her a small smile as she laid out the serving dishes: there were sausages, bread rolls, eggs both boiled and scrambled, fresh fruit, Danish and toast, polenta, jam, honey, marmalade, juices and yogurt. Sora handed Rey a plate and motioned that she serve herself. Rey did so, noticing that Sora began fixing another plate; piling it high with eggs, sausage, rolls and fruit.
Sora placed the plate in front of Kylo and Rey made a face.
Kylo, feeling the ripple of curiosity, looked up from the holoframe. “She knows what I like to eat. Does that bother you?”
“No,” Rey said. “I was just wondering why she made me fix my own plate but served you. It really doesn’t matter; I prefer to do for myself.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Rey. Sora is very good at what she does. All you have to do is let her know your preferences and you’ll be fine.” He turned his attention back to the holoframe.
Rey nodded and picked up her sausage, trying to think of the last meal she ate that required anything more than her fingers. The sausage was cooked to perfection, the scrambled eggs divine. She took a swig of juice, noticing the odd way Kylo cracked his boiled eggs. He put them on an empty plate and rolled them across using the palm of his hand. He picked up an egg and began to remove the shell, which came off in three easy pieces. Kylo liberally doused the egg in salt and pepper before biting into half of it with his front teeth. He chewed slowly before finishing off the egg with one last bite.
Rey was captivated, but she continued to eat her food, enjoying every bit. This was downright extravagant compared to the simple meals she’d consumed on Jakku and Ahch-To. She tried not to wolf down her food, but it was so…good.
Kylo put the holoframe away and stared at her as he ate his second egg. “Rey, do you know how to swim?”
“No,” she said. “I’m from a desert planet, remember.”
“I was just thinking. There’s a pool here, on the other side of the house. You should learn how to swim,” he replied. “I think it will add another dimension to the way you move when you fight. And it’s good exercise, not that you need it.”
Rey was interested. “Are you going to teach me?”
Rey got the bright idea to cut open a warm bread roll and stuff it with eggs and sausage. She took a bite and chewed heartily before asking, “What else do I need to learn?”
“You should improve on using the Force when you fight. You do it with me, but I haven’t seen you do it to anyone else. I will also teach you how to deflect and stop a blaster bolt, and there is the matter of the darkness in you. Dealing with that will come soon enough. We have plenty of time. No need to rush.”
Rey looked up from her breakfast sandwich, mouth full of food. Kylo stabbed a sausage with a fork and ate it in two bites. “He saw it too. That you went right towards the dark and did not try to stop yourself. There’s a reason for that.”
Rey upended her glass and wiped her mouth. “I’m not on the Dark Side, Ben.”
“I didn’t say that,” he said, taking a sip of coffee. “I said you have darkness in you. Don’t be afraid. We all do. Most people try to lie and pretend they don’t, and won’t acknowledge it. But if you are to be with me, to rule with me, you must. It doesn’t make you evil to own every part of yourself.” He began to eat his third and final egg. “Knowing yourself is key. You understand that on an instinctive level; you wanted to know who your parents were and you want to know who you are.”
She considered that as she began to eat some fruit. “What do we do about that? The darkness, I mean.”
“Channel it. Use the energy; don’t let it corrupt you.” It was certainly odd to be saying such things when he allowed the darkness to rule him completely at times. Many a room had been destroyed when he allowed his rage to get the better of him.
Kylo didn’t want that for Rey. It was fucking exhausting.
Later that morning, they were by the swimming pool. Rey kept looking at the pool and then at the ocean in the distance. Her eyes flitted back and forth, taking in all the water. She wore a blue robe and even though it was tied tight, she held the collar together with her fists. After breakfast, Rey returned to her bedroom to find scraps of cloth that Sora informed her she had to wear when it was time for her to swim. Rey had never worn anything as skimpy as what lay underneath the robe. Didn’t even know such things existed. So much skin showed and she was self-conscious about removing the robe.
“I’ve never seen so much water. Why are we here and not out there?” She waved at the ocean.
“Because you can’t swim and you should not learn how to in the ocean where the current can pull you under. Baby steps, young padawan.”
Rey rolled her eyes. “Don’t call me that.”
“You’re not a Jedi either, but you insist on using the term. What would you like me to call you?”
“Works for me.”
Kylo wore a long black robe and removed it. Rey found herself staring at him and quickly turned her eyes away. She remembered when the Force brought them together when he was half-naked and she couldn’t help but blush. Kylo was in very good shape.
He also wasn’t embarrassed. “You do understand that when you go swimming, you have to wear appropriate attire. These are swim trunks. Did you put on the suit Sora left on your bed?”
“Would you turn around so I can see your face?”
Rey turned around. “I’m sorry. I’m not used to all this.” She was next door to naked.
“Fair enough.” He tossed his robe onto one of the lounge chairs, walked down the steps and slid into the pool as smooth as a hot knife sliding through butter. Rey watched him, entranced by how gracefully he entered the water. He turned back to look at her and held out his hand.
“Come, Rey. Come to me.”
Rey hesitated, closed her eyes and sucked in a long breath. She opened the robe and let it fall to the ground. The swimsuit she wore was a red bikini. She took another breath and opened her eyes. Kylo was staring at her.
“I feel naked,” she said. “I’m practically naked.”
Kylo raised his eyebrows. Rey was of average size, but she had a beautiful shape. Long limbs, a snug waist, slim hips, almost-perfect breasts…and he averted his eyes.
“Come into the water. It’s not deep here. You can walk in.”
Rey made her way in, screeching when the cool water touched her skin. “It’s cold! I thought it would be warm.” She tried to jump back.
“It takes a lot of energy to warm up a swimming pool. Come to me.” He held out his hand again and she took it. Kylo brought her close and led her to one side.
Rey was glad that she could stand up. “Is it this deep all over?”
“No. It gets deeper. Grab the rail,” he said. “We’re going to start with breathing. I want to see how long you can hold your breath under water.”
Rey’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Like this.” Kylo took a deep breath and submerged. Rey stared, trying not to freak out. After what felt like a long time, he came back up and moved his hair out of his eyes.
Rey shook her head. “I can’t do that.”
“You can. All you have to do is bend your knees. I’m here with you. I won’t let anything happen to you, Rey. You know this.”
She did know it, but it didn’t change the fact that she was scared.
“Do you trust me?”
Her response was immediate and truthful. “Yes.”
“Hold on to the rail with one hand and take mine with the other. I’ll do it with you. Take a deep breath.”
She did. Then, following Kylo’s lead, Rey squeezed her eyes shut and submerged. Even though she had a firm grip on the rail and Kylo held her hand, she was still nervous. After a couple of seconds, she stood up and pushed her hair out of her eyes, gasping for breath.
Kylo popped back up. “You’ll get used to it. The plan I have for you is that you will do ten of these before doing water calisthenics. I want you to be comfortable in the water before we do any serious lessons. I want you to learn how to hold your breath and how to be at ease when you’re in the water. You can do it.”
“I’ve never done this before.”
“I know. As I told you, we have plenty of time. Come on; let’s try again. Then we’ll work on your floating.”
An hour went by. By the end, Rey was better at holding her breath. Kylo also showed her how to lie on her back and float. The first time, she freaked the hell out, but once she realized that she was fairly buoyant, it became easier to relax. Kylo was extremely patient and encouraging, and pleased when she began to get the hang of it. He asked if he could help her balance. She agreed and ignored the flutter in her belly when she felt his hands on her.
“Relax,” he said, in a low voice. “It’s not hard. You just have to get used to it. Lie back. I won’t let you slip under.”
Rey lay back in the water, her hand on his shoulder. She extended her legs and closed her eyes.
She heard Kylo say, “Open your eyes.”
When she did, she found herself staring up into a blue, blue sky with enormous fluffy clouds. A flock of birds flew overhead. It was easy to focus in the water when she allowed herself to be distracted by the sky. Part of her was giddy at the multiple sensations: the water, the sunlight, the sounds of the birds and the breeze and the feel of Kylo’s hands on her back and waist. She could hear Kylo’s breathing change and wondered if his heart was beating as fast as hers was. The other part of her could not believe she was immersed in a body of water in such a lush and beautiful place. Three weeks ago, she was on Jakku, scrapping for a meager existence in a barren desert wasteland.
Kylo’s deep voice broke through her consciousness. “Try to right yourself. I’m right here. I won’t let anything happen to you. Don’t be afraid.”
Rey tried to nod. “Okay,” she said.
“Take a couple of breaths and relax before you do it.”
“Okay,” she said again. She took one long, deep breath, moved her arms and tried to orient herself in the way he showed her. But when her head unexpectedly dipped below the water, she freaked out and inhaled water. She tried to get her head back up, but panic set in and she began to flail, swallowing even more water. Kylo grabbed her and brought her up to the surface. She wrapped herself around him, coughing until her face turned red.
“I’ve got you Rey,” he said in a low voice, his hand on her back. “I’m here.”
Rey refused to let him go and buried her face in his neck. Kylo rubbed her back. “I’ve got you, Rey. It’s okay. Relax. Let’s get out of the pool. I think that’s enough for today.”
She was still scared. He could feel her trembling. “You need to let me go so that we can get out.”
“N-n-n-no,” she said. That had been utterly terrifying. Being in Kylo’s arms made her feel safe and she desperately needed to feel safe.
“Tell you what,” he said. “Slide around and you can hold on to my back. That will make it easier for me to swim. Can you do that?”
“I-I-I’ll t-try.” She tried to calm herself down but it wasn’t working.
Rey kept her arms around his neck as she slipped around his body to attach herself to his back like a wayward turtle shell. He had blessedly broad shoulders.
Kylo loosened the hold on his neck. “Don’t choke me, all right?”
Kylo adjusted her and pushed off towards the pool steps. He could hear Rey’s erratic breathing. It took him all of five seconds to reach the steps and then he got to his feet. She still clung to him.
“Rey, you can get off now. We’re in the shallow end. You can stand up.”
“No,” she said, clinging to him.
“You’re safe,” he said. “Please. Come on now, let me go.”
Rey loosened her grip and slid down Kylo’s body, holding on to him until her toes touched the bottom of the pool. Slowly, she removed her arms from around his neck and exhaled deeply when she realized she was standing up, half out of the water. Kylo took her hand and led her up the steps. He handed her a towel and took one for himself.
Rey sat on one of the lounge chairs and collected herself. The one time she’d seen water was on Ahch-To and learning to swim was neither on hers nor Luke’s agenda. She’d only been able to marvel at the sight of the ocean. Rey now understood why she wasn’t ready to actually be in the ocean. But she was strong. In spite of how much it scared her, she was not going to let today’s little setback keep her from learning how to swim. She would overcome her fear.
Rey dried her hair and looked up to find Kylo back in his robe, with her robe in his hands. She took a moment to appreciate the sight. He really did have a nice body and she found herself blushing like an errant schoolgirl.
“Are you all right now?” he asked.
“Yes.” She stood up to put the robe on. “I don’t know what happened. I just—”
“No need to explain,” he said. “It’s an unfamiliar environment. You lost your balance. You just haven’t had the experience of open water. By the time we leave Kalamar, you will be a proficient swimmer. The Force will guide you, and as long as I am with you, you’re safe. Just don’t get in the pool without me.”
She tied her robe. “What are we doing next?”
“For you, I suggest a nap. Then we will start working on your meditation skills. Then lunch, and after that, we will spar. As you have no lightsaber, we will fight using balsawood swords.”
“I have to get a new lightsaber.”
“You’ll get a new one soon enough. For now, we’ll use the wood swords. Why don’t you return to your quarters and get some rest? I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Rey nodded. That was good enough for her.
Some hours later, after a delicious lunch of roast chicken and vegetables, Rey and Kylo squared off on the beach. Rey was over her swimming snafu and felt supremely confident facing her opponent. She’d beaten him before and fought him to a draw that last time. And they were playing with little more than sticks. The balsawood sword was light, far lighter than her lightsaber. She did a few practice swings to get the feel of it.
“Are we going to land blows?”
Kylo stood about eight feet away, wearing a black T-shirt and pants. “I plan to.”
She nodded. “Fair enough.”
Kylo swung the balsawood as easily as he swung his saber. “Ready?”
Without warning, Rey ran towards him and the wood swords clicked as Kylo blocked her initial swing. He stepped back and assumed a fight stance, beckoning Rey to come again. She did so, sidestepping and swinging, pushing forward as Kylo stepped back. She swung hard and Kylo ducked the blow before kicking the sword out of her hand. Before Rey had a chance to retaliate, Kylo swept her legs out from under her. He took two steps back, staring at her, his face impassive.
Rey scrambled to her feet. “Did you just kick my legs out from under me?”
As soon as Rey was upright, Kylo swung his balsawood stick at her head and she ducked as fast as she could, but not before the stick grazed her scalp. Rey grabbed her head and found herself knocked back about 20 feet. She fell into the sand and glared at Kylo, who stood calmly watching her, his hand out. He had hit her with the Force.
Rey angrily held out her hand and her balsawood sword flew into it. She got to her feet, furious. She was better than this! She could beat him! The top of her head hurt. She looked at her opponent. Kylo was still in his same spot. His expression was unreadable, but Rey could feel his smile.
I told you that I planned to land blows.
Rey paused, realizing that Kylo hadn’t responded verbally. She looked at him. “Did you just…?”
“You called me a jerk.”
“But I didn’t say it!”
“I heard you clearly.”
“But did you see my mouth form the words? Because I didn’t say it out loud.”
Kylo frowned. “What do you mean?”
Rey walked towards him, her balsawood sword forgotten in her hand. You’re in my head, Ben. You’re in my head. You’re a jerk for hitting me on my head.
Kylo’s expression changed. He could hear her, but her lips weren’t moving. Then it hit him. “I can read your mind. And apparently, you can read mine.”
Rey stopped inches in front of him. “Is this the Force?”
“This is the link Snoke created between us. It has to be.”
Rey waited a moment, considering. “Your mother said that it wasn’t Snoke that created the bond between us. She said he merely amplified a connection we already had. She told me that Snoke couldn’t manipulate what didn’t already exist.”
Kylo stared at Rey. Don’t be afraid…
She finished the thought. “I feel it too.”
He stared at her. I did not think such a thing was possible, even with the Force. In all of the histories that I’ve consumed, I have never read of such a connection.
Rey was practical. So how do I keep you out of my head? How do I stay out of yours?
“Maybe it’s cliché,” Kylo said. “But I guess we just have to concentrate and use the Force. I really don’t have an answer for you, Rey. It will take some practice, I’m sure.”
Rey had another question. “Ben, after I left Crait, did you hear me? Did you sense me? Did you feel me? Did you see me?”
“I felt something in my mind. It was like an itch that I couldn’t scratch and it got worse and worse. I found a quiet place in the base so I could meditate. And then I saw you.”
Rey nodded, understanding that their connection went a lot deeper than just random drop-ins. She could summon Kylo if she concentrated hard enough. It was likely Kylo could do the same. This was going to require further investigation.
“So now we know exactly what we’re dealing with,” she said.
Kylo gripped his sword and assumed a fight posture. “We do indeed. Now, let’s see if you can figure out my next move.”
Rey smiled and jumped into an L-stance, raising her balsawood sword. “Challenge accepted.”
After an intense sparring session and a delicious dinner consisting of grilled salmon, sautéed lemon broccoli and whipped potatoes, Rey was convinced that returning to Kylo was the right decision.
"Just Me & You" --Tony Toni Tone
“Live With Me” –Massive Attack
“Shoop” --Salt N Pepa
“Alone” –Colin Newman
“Read Your Mind” –Avant