She hadn’t even considered it, until their fingers touched. Until, with tears slipping down her face in sorrow and frustration at her own loneliness, she’d realised the true extent of his. How heartbreakingly similar they were, how poor in spirit. How, in one utterly forbidden gesture, the seemingly innocent meeting of fingertips to fingertips, she’d discovered a well of sadness and frustration as deep as her own.
At that moment, across the galaxy and between the stars, she’d realised. No one, not a servant, not a friend, not a member of his family, had touched Ben Solo for a long, long time. Weeks, months, years, even. Not a fingertip, not a palm. Gods, she drew breath at the thought, not a pair of lips had brushed his skin, caressed him in love or held him in comfort.
And gods, the yearning for that touch. It consumed him, just as it consumed her. When they’d made actual, physical contact, albeit with the help of the Force, she’d felt it all. All of his pent up emotion, his absolute hunger to have some tangible connection with another human being, to be held again. It had been too, too long. Images flashed through her mind; of Leia, his mother, running a tender hand through his hair as he drowsed after a bad dream, of Han, his father, pulling him close before closing the doors of the Millennium Falcon, of a pair of soft, gentle lips that met his own late in the night in the open air round a camp fire and caused his heart to hammer in a teenaged, pulse-racing first frenzy. And, finally, agonisingly, of his Uncle Luke clapping a hand on his shoulder in congratulation of work well done and then…and then…nothing.
In that eternal moment of connection across time and space, she felt the world under his skin, saw it through his eyes. The total and utter isolation, arms wrapped protectively around himself as he slept, and often on other occasions, trying to draw comfort that wasn’t there, that he didn’t feel. Too painful to admit, but too obvious to hide. And far, far, too similar to her own nights spent alone on Jakku. Nights when she craved the feel of arms around her, of someone to whisper that yes, it would be all right. But it never came.
Was it the hair on the back of her neck that was rising as their fingers touched, or was it his? Was she shuddering in imagined ecstasy as she revelled in the warmth she could feel from his fingers, wanting, aching for more, or was it him? Was it her heart beating faster and faster in her chest, or was it his? Was her breathing coming in shorter and shorter gasps as the pressure of their fingers increased, or was it his laboured breaths she felt as their bodies drew closer to the fire. Gods, the longing, the yearning, the absolute, insatiable hunger for contact, for touch…
When he whispered, his voice had a characteristic tremor he could never quite seem to control. It was a voice that both mended and tore apart her soul; deep, resonant and simultaneously full of pain and promise. He needed her. Gods, how he needed her. All those nights, those long, tortured, drawn out nights alone, despairing, afraid. For one blissful moment it didn’t matter that there was a galaxy and an empire between them. For that moment they were just two achingly lost souls, trying their hardest to find one another amidst the stars of the cold night sky.