Ben Solo is ten years old and he doesn’t want to be a King. He wants to be the hero — the Jedi Knight who saves the planet. Like every youngling, really. But he lost the draw and he’s too shy to complain, so he puts on the makeshift wooden crown and carries the necklace in his fist into the middle of the clearing, where he reaches up and drops it over the hero’s neck.
“You saved us,” he intones with childish solemnity. “How can we ever repay you?”
“I sure did!” the boy chirps, grinning. The other children whoop and dance around them. Ben sighs and drops his sceptre.
“I wanna play something else.”
The boy leans in, casting a quick glance around at the others to make sure they’re not listening. “Can you get us into the hangar? I wanna see your dad’s ship!”
Ben heaves another sigh. It’s a familiar request. “Yeah, okay.”
“Awesome! You’re the best.”
He tosses away the cape and crown, ignoring the warmth that creeps over him. “Uhuh.”
Ben is twenty three now and he’s resigned himself to his fate. His coronation is in six months.
He has not, however, resigned himself to this.
“You want me to marry?” He can’t keep his voice from creeping up incredulously. “You can’t be serious. What does Dad say?”
“Your father has no say in the matter,” Leia says as sharply as she always does when he invokes Han. “You ought to be married by now anyway. I’ve put it off long enough. I thought you might meet someone but it’s clear that won’t happen before your coronation. A political union is next best thing.”
“You weren’t married at this age,” he points out.
“I was never in line for the throne,” she counters. “And, might I add, there were rather more pressing issues at the time. You’ll be King in less than a year. Tradition dictates that you marry before your coronation and I am inclined to agree.”
He slumps back in his seat. Nothing like one’s mother issuing orders to make one feel like a child again. “Ridiculous,” he says. “Who would I marry? To what end? Tie myself to some idiot who can’t tell their tail from their hindquarters, or some power-hungry minor lord from a backwater planet?”
Leia frowns. “Don’t be absurd. The candidates have been well vetted. None of them will be a poor match.” She pulls out a holo pad and taps it. A list of names springs up and she hands it to him. “Choose. You have a week. This isn’t negotiable, Ben. Your image among the Ministers is already poor — you refuse to attend public functions, you refuse to make nice with the Ministerial Council members. I won’t be around to soothe their ruffled feathers forever.”
Ben stares at the holo pad. “And if I can’t envision marrying any of these people?”
“Then I will choose for you,” she says, and he knows by the tone of her voice that she’s not bluffing. She folds her hands together, back stiff and upright as always. He knows his mother can be charming and warm, has witnessed it more times than he can remember, but both of them are too stubborn to ever have gotten on well. Instead of the sweet-talking politician he gets the woman who’s never seemed to know how to touch him, or smile at him, or reassure him. Well, he doesn’t need any of that now, he tells himself.
He lets out a sigh without thinking and Leia’s eyebrows come together. “It won’t be so bad — an arrangement like this is beneficial to both parties. There’s more to a marriage than love.”
“Oh, yes,” he says, scrolling through the names. “I’m well aware of that, thank you.”
In the end he chooses because he can’t bear the thought of her choosing for him. He knows as soon as he sees the name that she’d make him marry Hyatha Ruth of the Corellian nobles, because Corellia is Leia’s weak spot in the Senate and she’s been looking to fortify her alliance with them for years. But he can’t stand Hyatha, who’s as dimwitted as a sack of rocks and too politically-minded to be brushed aside; one of them wouldn’t survive the wedding.
He picks the one least likely to be interested in politics or marriage — a pilot, a commander in the New Republic Starfleet only a few years older than him. Poe Dameron of Yavin IV is dedicated to his career and not much else, by all accounts, which suits Ben just fine. As a pilot Dameron will be away on missions more often than not, leaving Ben free to manage matters of the state without interference.
Leia is obviously not pleased but, having given him the freedom to choose, she bites her tongue in a rare moment of restraint.
“He isn’t the best political match,” is all she says.
Ben snorts. “You asked me to choose. I chose someone I can live with. He is charming and well-liked, but responsible enough that his company won’t be insufferable, and he has no political ambitions. It’s the best I can hope for.”
“You might need someone politically savvy who can take on the mantle of Senator one day when I retire,” she points out. “Someone loyal.”
“Marriage is no guarantee of loyalty.”
She sighs. “Well, that’s true enough. Alright, I’ll arrange it.”
“Much obliged, I’m sure,” he says darkly, and as easy as that his fate is sealed.
It feels like no time at all before Ben is standing with the welcoming party, watching Poe Dameron disembark from an ancient A-Wing as his escort stands to attention. It’s a Starfleet escort, of course, because his primary contribution to Yavin IV is one of military prestige. There are only one or two civilians. Dameron himself looks tousled and cheery, helmet tucked under one arm, wearing a standard navy-issue flight suit. He bows to Leia and as he straightens his eye catches on Ben, and he winks. Nonplussed, Ben looks away quickly.
“Your Highness,” Poe says as he reaches him. Ben holds a hand out and Poe takes it and raises it to his lips, pressing a kiss to his knuckles.
To his horror Ben feels a flush rise in his cheeks and he pulls his hand away as quickly as he can politely manage. “Commander,” he replies, bowing his head. Poe moves on to greet the Minister beside him, unruffled.
It’s the only exchange they have before the ceremony less than a day later.
The ceremony is held in the Parade Square of the Upper Courtyard, where most formal events that Ben can remember have been held. It’s strange to stand at the head of the Square before the podium instead of on the left with Leia as he usually would. If he glances over he can see her now, and Han, too, looking as stiff and uncomfortable as ever. That old familiar bitterness rises in him and he tamps it down ferociously. This might not be a day of celebration for him but if he doesn’t manage to put on a good face for his own wedding he’ll never forgive himself.
Poe leans over. “They look proud,” he murmurs. He looks every inch a commander in his crisp dress uniform, the cloth expertly cut and the buttons gleaming. A badge pinned to his chest denotes his home planet; he’ll have to commission a new one soon.
“They’re required to look proud. They’re my parents.” Ben looks again, wondering what Poe sees there. Poe is frowning, but before he can say anything else the officiary sounds his horn and the party comes to attention.
The rest of the ceremony passes in a blur until Poe holds out his hand and Ben takes it clumsily and leans in, realizing suddenly that he has to kiss this man he’s only met a day ago, an act which seems unbearably intimate. To his surprise Poe cups his chin with his free hand and draws him in gently and the kiss itself is a soft, considerate press of lips, warm and dry and thankfully brief. Ben closes his eyes for a moment and then it’s over. The audience applauds, weddings being nothing so much as a spectator sport.
As they walk through the path the party makes for them Ben notices belatedly that he’s still holding Poe’s hand. Poe flashes him a smile and gives his hand a little squeeze, and then he’s whisked off by one of his military companions as the band strikes up a beat and the crowd disperses to clear the floor.
I’m married, Ben thinks dazedly, watching Poe dance back-to-back with a dark-haired young woman. I’m married to a complete stranger. For the first time during this whole affair he feels panic bubbling up inside him. He’s a Prince and soon he will be a King; he’s used to his decisions having weighty consequences. But this is perhaps the only time that he’s made a decision which directly affected his own day-to-day life, and he can’t help feeling like maybe he made a mistake.
It’s bizarre being at a function where everyone wants to talk with him and he’s soon exhausted by the constant stream of well-wishers. He’s almost never among people who are more interested in him than in his mother — he’s accompanied Leia to councils and functions and Senate meetings since he was nine and most people never spared him a second glance until he was eighteen and had officially been named heir to the throne. He’s accustomed to being overlooked. The attention is unsettling and after two hours of it, he thinks that if he has to thank one more person for their congratulations he might crack.
When the music picks up and someone organizes a group dance, drawing a few of the still-hovering dignitaries away, Ben makes a quick escape.
Outside the circle of lights the Houses glow softly in the gloom and twilight makes everything indistinct, blurring objects and their shadows together. Ben picks his way down a path hung with heavily scented flowering vines and stops at the small courtyard where the statue of his mother stands on a plinth.
Leia hates the thing but Ben is rather fond of it — it’s her as a young woman, her hands tucked into her sleeves in a formal, almost serene pose, her dress billowing out behind her. It’s the fierce expression that he really likes, though, the barely contained defiance which makes her look almost human. It’s an expression that gives him some small measure of hope — that perhaps she hasn’t steered him wrong after all, that she understands him better than he thinks. It’s telling that every time he comes here he’s older and his hope is less and less.
“Senator Organa told me I might find you here.”
Ben turns. Poe’s cheeks are dark with exertion and he’s smiling, a sparkle in his eyes that makes Ben’s stomach twist up. He hasn’t looked to his peers for affirmation or acceptance in a long time — he’s been sure of his place since he was young. Now he feels himself uncharacteristically wanting to endear himself to Poe.
“Good party.” Poe comes closer. “Your mother dances well. I missed you on the dance floor, though.”
“You didn’t miss much, I can assure you.” Ben turns back to the statue, cheeks warm. Just from the attention of an attractive man, he thinks, a little disgusted with himself. A political union is not a romantic one. Perhaps he should have married someone a little less charming to mitigate his expectations.
“On Yavin it’s customary for the newly partnered to share a dance,” Poe is saying. “I was hoping you’d permit me to lead you through it.” He’s standing close enough now that Ben can feel the heat coming off him. He risks a sidelong glance. Poe catches his eyes deliberately and rests a hand on his arm. “May I?”
“I suppose, if it’s customary,” Ben says, allowing himself to be pulled in, his heart hammering. Poe’s hands are firm and he isn’t shy about moving Ben where he wants him to be. It sparks a contrariness in him that makes him say, “I’ll lead the next one.”
Poe grins, although the usually charismatic expressiveness of his smile is subdued. “If you insist.”
The music comes to them faintly from down the path and Poe turns them in perfect sync with the swell of it, their boots tapping the stone as they step. Ben makes the mistake of looking down as Poe looks up and his breath catches in his throat. Poe reaches up smoothly as if he’s planned this all along, sliding his hand around the back of Ben’s neck under his hair, his thumbs ghosting along the smooth spot behind his ear. With a sigh, Ben dips his head and his eyes drift shut.
This kiss is better than the last — both for being somewhere without an audience and because of the easy way Poe moves his mouth against his, the puff of his hot breath when he pulls away, the gentle pressure he exerts to keep Ben in place so he can lean in again; a host of insignificant details that rush through the cracks of his defences like water. They kiss with increasing urgency, lips parted, and a noise escapes him when Poe licks at his bottom lip and into his mouth. He groans and presses forward but to his disappointment Poe pulls back, eyes flatteringly glazed over.
“Alright,” he says breathlessly. “Your turn.”
Ben takes a moment to get himself under control.
He doesn’t enjoy dancing but Leia made sure of his technical ability over the years. The music has faded now, so he leads Poe through the traditional Alderaanian dance for newlyweds, a slow and straightforward number which needs no accompaniment. Poe is quite pliable when he’s being led and Ben feels a warm, shivery feeling growing in him as they step sideways around the plinth. The air has begun to cool and a breeze kicks up from the lake far below. They finish and then begin again, this time with Poe hesitantly leading him through steps he has only just learned, and Ben is impressed in spite of himself at Poe’s skill.
“You’re quite good,” he says. In his effort not to sound begrudging it comes out low and intimate in the near-dark. Poe’s hand on his waist is hot and he’s not quite maintaining the distance required to step accurately.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” Poe returns, stepping out and then back to an imaginary beat. He puts both hands on Ben’s shoulders and stills them both. “Hey,” he says softly. “Maybe we should… retire elsewhere.”
A curious fear bubbles up in the pit of Ben’s stomach. He could say no; a relationship is predicated on the ability to know and enforce one’s boundaries, he hears Leia say. But the idea of refusing is almost laughable. Even if he never has this again, he’d be a fool to turn it down now.
“My rooms,” he says, a rasp of anticipation in his voice. Poe gives him a look through his thick eyelashes that’s almost shy, that Ben is certain he’s misinterpreting in the dim light.
Ben sheds his robe in the outer room, a flutter of nervous anticipation alive in him. He’s certainly had sex with strangers before, but this is… decidedly different. He hangs up the robe and sets his boots by the door, straining to hear anything from the inner chamber. Poe asked to shower first, which is both considerate and nerve-wracking, and speaking with the guards outside the door has put him on edge. The guards are a new addition to his security as the rooms themselves aren’t bio-locked, and he struggles not to find their presence an insult. They also have the tendency to cede rank to Leia and allow her into his rooms when he’s specifically told them to let no visitors pass. He’s damn sure they know why he’s demanding privacy tonight and it rankles him.
He shuts the door to the inner room behind him and it seals with a hiss. Inside it’s dim and hushed and he can hear the faint rush of water as he sits down on the edge of the bed and loosens the tie at his waist. There’s a bag at the end of his bed, military-issue, unbuckled. Someone must have moved it in here. Their rooms are adjoining so that they can come and go freely but even the passing thought of someone like Poe Dameron settling into Ben’s carefully carved out spaces in this galaxy simultaneously warms his cheeks and feeds the rising panic in him.
“Hey, you okay?”
Ben looks up. Poe stands in the doorway between the shower room and the bed, a white towel around his waist and another one in his hand. He’s otherwise naked, and clearly in good shape. He’s well-defined and golden in all the places that Ben is lean and soft and pale. Ben drags his eyes away and tugs at his shirt, suddenly self-conscious. “Yes, fine,” he says.
“You know we don’t have to — “ Poe makes a gesture in the air between them. “Do anything you don’t want to.”
Ben frowns. “Of course,” he says, maybe more sharply than he means to. Immediately regretting his tone, he stands and drops his shirt over the back of the chair next to the bed and strips out of his under-clothes before he can talk himself out of it. “How would you like to — ?”
Poe closes the distance between them, tossing the towel over Ben’s clothes. “Just like this,” he says, cupping Ben’s face with both hands, thumbs brushing his cheekbones gently. He kisses Ben until they’re both a little out of breath and more than a little turned on. Poe bites the juncture between his neck and shoulder and Ben shudders. He reaches for the towel around Poe’s waist and yanks it down, suddenly eager. Poe herds him toward the bed, one hand splayed against the small of his back, his half-hard cock brushing Ben’s thigh.
The backs of his legs hit the bed and he sits down abruptly. “Lie back,” says Poe, giving his shoulder a firm push. Ben goes, letting himself take pleasure in how easily Poe handles him, letting it cloud his head a bit. He blinks uselessly up at Poe as Poe arranges him to his liking, nudging his thighs apart, pulling his knee up, reaching down with a casually proprietary air to rub a thumb along his collarbone and down his chest. He shivers and sighs and his eyes flutter closed. When he opens them again Poe is kneeling over him with an expression that could be called predatory, a smirk with just the barest hint of teeth. “Better.”
He kisses his way down Ben’s smooth chest, licks his soft, flushed nipples until Ben whines and bucks his hips. Bites at the pale skin of his abdomen. Ben touches his hair cautiously and then decides against it. A moment later Poe sucks at the head of his cock and Ben grabs his hair without thinking, a sharp sound escaping him.
“Oh, fuck,” he gasps, one hand on the back of Poe’s neck to hold him in place. He tries not to move his hips as Poe takes him down. His mouth is hot and silky-wet and the back of his throat closes around his cock as he swallows and then pulls back, then swallows again. Ben moans and tosses his head back against the pillow. Poe is enthusiastic and he doesn’t let up, jerking the base of Ben’s cock while he licks around the shaft and then taking him in impressively far. Far too quickly the heat wells up inside him and Ben pushes at his shoulder in warning.
Poe pulls off. “You can come in my mouth,” he says.
Ben curses. Poe runs his tongue up the underside of his cock and over the slit in the tender, leaking head, and sucks at it like he’s waiting for Ben, and Ben obliges, biting off a moan into the meat of his palm as his orgasm rushes over him. Poe opens his mouth and takes it, and then gently mouths at his cock, come dribbling down onto Ben’s curls. When it becomes too much Ben pushes at his forehead in protest and he lets Ben slip out of his mouth and rubs the come into his softening shaft with two fingers.
He moves up the bed and kisses Ben, slips him his tongue, and Ben tastes his own bitterness on Poe’s lips. He twines his fingers into Poe’s hair and Poe makes a pleased noise.
“Can I fuck you?” he asks, and Ben suddenly, viscerally wants that, the thick push of it, the intensity of being fucked. It’s been a long time — a couple years, he thinks — but he still remembers liking it enough that he begged for it.
“Yeah,” he growls. “Do it.”
Poe moves away suddenly and leans off the end of the bed, rifling through his bag. Ben realizes Poe must have prepared for this, that he’s brought his own lubrication — it’s both flattering and sort of presumptuous. He folds his knees up and shuts his eyes. His hands are trembling with anticipation.
Poe braces himself over him and kisses his neck, his breath hot on Ben’s skin. He rubs the slippery pad of his finger over Ben’s hole before he pushes in. Ben makes a strangled noise and shifts away from the intrusion. It’s more uncomfortable than he remembers it being, or maybe that’s only because it’s not obscured by the immediate urgency of arousal. “Stop, stop,” he mumbles, pushing Poe’s wrist away.
“Shh, okay.” Poe strokes his face, the dip between his eyebrows, the curl of his mouth. It’s too much; Ben turns his face away and tucks it into the crook of his arm. Poe presses his lips to Ben’s forearm and sits back.
He wraps his slicked-up fingers around his cock and jerks off while Ben watches, one palm cupping his balls, his lip drawn up between his teeth as he looks down at Ben. A cocky smile pulls at one corner of his mouth. “You look good like this,” he says. He pauses to swing one leg over Ben’s thighs and straddle him. The minute jerk of his hips makes his ass rub against Ben’s cock and Ben wonders if he can get hard again from the little shocks that run up his spine. He smoothes down the hairs on Poe’s chest and Poe covers his hand with his own, his grip tightening as his other hand moves faster over his erection. His breath is coming in short pants now. Ben tugs their joined hands down and licks at the pad of Poe’s thumb, sucking it into his mouth and running his tongue down the underside. He nips it sharply and Poe hisses and pushes his thumb in past Ben’s teeth, rubs his tongue with it.
“Yeah,” he groans. “Shit, your mouth.”
Before Ben can offer to suck him off he comes with a gasp, spurting over Ben’s stomach. He milks his cock through it and gently withdraws his thumb, wiping it on the sheets beside Ben’s head. With a sigh he gets off Ben and stands.
“Here,” he says, reaching for the towel.
They clean up silently and Ben tries to be subtle in watching Poe, though he doesn’t think he succeeds. Poe takes the towel from him and he slides between the sheets, finding himself suddenly exhausted. Poe has his own bed in another room, of course, but Ben wonders if he’ll stay. He’s gone a while.
Finally the other side of the bed dips and Poe leans over him and brushes the hair off his forehead.
“You can sleep here,” Ben tells him, his voice rough.
“Thanks,” Poe says. He sounds amused. “Goodnight, Ben.”
“‘Night.” Ben rolls over and thinks the lights off.