15. The Exchange: Part One

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Oh my goodness! I'm back!!!! What!?!

Gosh guys, I'm so sorry for making you wait this long for an update. I ended up getting sick, which was followed by intense rock climbing training, injuries to three fingers, and an enormous amount of school work.

Nevertheless, the summer is approaching fast, and I am finding myself with more time to write.

I really hope you guys enjoy this chapter. I worked insanely hard on this, and I'm hoping it will pay off.

Who's ready for some more Reylo? With, of course, some Nico Deist, that mere peasant.

As always, thank you for reading!

Chapter 15

Ben POV:

He was being suffocated. He could feel him, in the dark crevices of his mind. He could feel Kylo Ren resurfacing when he turned on his heel and stalked like a hunter down the dimly lit hallway. The lights flickered as he passed (onoff onoff onoff), blinking as though they were a sniveling adolescent, ready to burst into tears.

Ben had been like that once--weak. He had thought he overcame the weakness when he joined Snoke, leaving behind all that he loved and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

But then he learned that the Dark Side, the corruptness, the anger, the rage, the hatred, the bitter fury that plummeted from his pounding heart to his toes, he learned that had been his weakness.

His weakness was his fear of the light.

He never feared the dark when he was a child, when the luminescent bulbs above his head flickered off and his mother whispered a gentle good night, quietly slipping out of the room. No. He never feared the dark.

He had relished in it.

He had taken comfort in the way he could hide in the inky blackness, closing his eyes shut and letting the darkness that covered his eyes like a mask settle on top of him and pull him under into sleep.

Then he had grown up.

Then the mask of darkness had changed into a mask of metal. Then the nothingness, the deep darkness that surrounded him as a child in his room, it had developed into his robes. And so too had the darkness of his childhood bedroom turned into the black, metal hallways of Starkiller Base, in which he could roam freely without anyone seeing his emotion.

He wore a mask for a reason after all.

The evil, Ben realized then, as he felt the darkness slipping into his heart like tar--black and sticky and consuming--never changes. Just evolves.

Don't you dare say that.

Ben recognized the chastising, yet gentle voice at once. Rey. And then he remembered their connection. Even now as they walked a few paces apart, he could feel her behind him like a sharp prick, an announcement that flared through his senses, blinking and flashing and seeming to let him know that she cared.

And would you have me lie? He spat back, harsher than perhaps be intended to. He could feel it when his words hurt her. It hurt him too. I have tried so hard to become this person--to become Ben. And yet no matter what I do, my old self comes back to haunt me. I may have left that mask behind, but I did not leave Kylo Ren in the dust.

I know. Her answer was soft, accepting and understanding. You cannot be one man or the other. You are both, no matter what you do. It is your choices in each moment that allow one man over the other to surface. She paused then, breathing in deeply. What's wrong? What's right? You have to decide for yourself.

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