He’s too young to remember this. Too small and new to the world to even begin to understand the conversation around him.
He has no clue what the sad man glowing bright blue is saying or why his mother’s normally kind eyes go harsh so suddenly.
He won’t remember the way she struck out, her hand passing through the blue man like he was nothing, her voice loud and angry, “I don’t want you here! I don’t want you anywhere near my family!”
He will never recall the way the other voice had seemed to tremble, soft and barely there. “He’s my grandson, you’re my family-“ Before his mother had replied. “My family was killed, by a monster in a mask, when my planet was destroyed.”
There’s something though, a feeling of sadness that washes over him, too young to do anything in that moment but let out a shrill cry. Until his mother crouches beside his cradle lifting him too her chest in some semblance of comfort.
Barely there over his cries, she’ll speak in accusing tones one last time. “Look what you’ve done now. This is all your fault.”
He’s too young to remember any of this, too young to understand what he’s losing until it’s gone.
“Tell me the story again! The one about the droids and the princess and the kidnapping!”
“Now technically, she was a senator, though she’d been a queen before that, things were complicated-“ His storyteller pauses, trailing off into nothingness.
He looks older today, not as old as he looks other times, with his hair greyed and hands wrinkled. There are shadows under his eyes, a deep dark blue contrasting the rest of him that seems to glow in a luminescent color remnant of the sun.
Ben doesn’t understand why he looks young sometimes, like a boy with his hair shorn a braid hanging down just past his ear while other times he looks so fragile that all Ben can do is ask him to sit down and rest. It’s always the same man, the same ghost that comes to visit Ben on these nights.
Yet, for some reason he always appears. When his parents are fighting again and the nightmares start up and his fingers begin to itch with a strange sensation that he cannot describe. This apparition appears before him, like a guardian angel.
“The Force works in mysterious ways,” his storyteller says.
These are words Ben is more than familiar with now, echoes that he has heard in his head too many times to count. He doesn’t even have to ask how the ghost knows what he is thinking - and if he did Ben is certain the only answer he would get is to trust the Force.
“Tell the story! Please!”
There’s a long suffering sigh, the kind that Ben is all too familiar with. His mother sighs like that and rubs at her temples as she sorts through political matters. He wonders if his mother picked it up from the ghost that tells him stories.
They both had the same sad smile when they look at him, the same tired look in their eyes, surely that couldn’t just be a coincidence?
Eventually his storyteller speaks up, just like he always does. “How about I tell you a different story? About when this fool of a padawan I once had, tried to rescue me and managed to get himself captured instead?”
Ben laughs, he can already tell this is going to be a good story. “Your padawan did that a lot? Got into trouble, huh? He must not have been a very good padawan?”
That seems to stop his storyteller, the sad look back on his face, “Anakin was – is…” He shakes his head once, a cold chill spreading through the room. “He was challenge. As I am certain you will one day be.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Not necessarily,” his storyteller says. “Now, be a good youngling and listen to your elder.”
He falls asleep before the end of the story. Just as he has every time before, but he remembers the warmth that had spread through him, the tales of heroics and of Jedi’s who could do no wrong. He dreams of wars that he’s never seen, of men he’ll never know.
When he tells his mother the story the next morning, recounting it just as his storyteller had said, he cannot possibly miss her clear displeasure. The way she pretends to keep her voice steady as she asks who told him these things.
Later he’ll pretend he doesn’t hear his mother comm Uncle Luke, worry in her voice, catching only the end of her words. “-To talk to Obi-Wan, I don’t want Ben to get the wrong ideas.”
He tries to pretend he doesn’t resent her the next time the yelling starts up again, and his storyteller doesn’t show up.
It doesn’t work.
Force Ghosts. That’s what they’re called.
Uncle – no, Master Skywalker has made it very clear that seeing a Force Ghost is a privilege and that only the most powerful of Jedi can see them and that only a powerful Jedi can appear in the form of one.
He catches Ben’s eye when he says those words, and Ben can’t help but smile – it means he’s special.
He thinks of his storyteller – Master Obi-Wan - who appears to him now from time to time, offering sage wisdom that Ben nods along in an attempt to understand. This is the man he was named for, the hero that helped to save his mother, who accidentally brought his parents together. Obi-Wan doesn’t come as often as he used to, he’s busy doing whatever Jedi do after they die, and Ben tries to pretend it doesn’t bother him.
At least now Ben knows who he is.
“Hey Sky Guy– or well, Mini Mini Sky Guy.” The voice is sharp, pitched higher than he’s used to and not anything close to the voices of his fellow padawans.
Ben’s not entirely surprised when he turns to find the source of the voice and is met with the sight of a blue tinged Togruta.
Force Ghosts seem to have an affinity for him, though normally Ben can’t get them to talk to him. They’ll be there, at the edge of his vision, in their blue forms before blinking away. Sometimes he sees them conferring with Master Skywalker, though they always slip away before Ben can get too close.
He hasn’t seen this one before, but she’s got a mischievous smile on her face.
While normally he would relish the chance to talk with someone new, to learn from them, this one appears almost as young as he is. There are no secrets to the universe that she can teach him, and there’s a paper he needs to be writing on Force Theory.
“I’m trying to study,” he tells her, forcing his gaze away from the ghost and back to his books. “Go away.”
“Not a chance, Sky Guy.”
“My name’s not – It’s Ben, Ben Solo. If you’re looking for Master Skywalker then you need to go down the hall three doors.”
That gives the Togruta pause, she makes a soft humming noise. Like a whisper on the wind, before speaking up once more, “You sure you’re not-“
“I’m sure,” Ben replies. His voice sharp and angry, and when he finally looks up the ghost is gone.
The next morning he’ll ask Master Skywalker if the ghost ever made it his way, describing her as best he can, only to be met with a look of confusion and a reassurance that he’d never heard of a ghost like that.
He never sees the Togruta again, he almost wishes he wouldn’t have sent her away.
There are whispers in his dreams. Whispers that sound so familiar, that when he hears that voice for the first time, louder and so much more assured of itself he cannot help but feel pride, a swelling of something in his chest as he meets that gaze of the ghostly man before him.
He’s older, as old as Master Obi-Wan appears from time to time, but there’s something else about him; a friendly nature and a smile that seems practiced. It reminds him of the senators that his mother used to invite over for meetings when he was younger – all of their smiles looked too nice to be real.
“I’ve been wanting to speak to you for a long time, Ben.”
Something surges inside of him, a burst of hope.
This is it then, the one ghost he had been wanting to meet, the one he had been dreaming of meeting since he was a boy hearing stories of old war heroes. The one he had been searching for after each of his uncle’s lessons, desperate to see the chosen one with his own eyes. To see the man whose legacy Ben was living proof of.
“Who are you?”
He needs a name, he needs to hear the confirmation. For the ghost to welcome him home, like the family he surely is.
“You know who I am,” the ghost says, and it’s not an answer, not exactly.
His own voice sounds hesitant, as he forces himself to ask, “Grandfather?”
The ghosts smile seems almost sinister for a moment, far too pleased with himself, but Ben brushes that thought out of his mind. Clearly it is just his grandfather happy to be recognized, happy after all this time that Ben is finally strong enough to communicate with him, to reach through the Force and find him.
“Tell me, young one, what lies have they told you about me?”
They linger at the edges of his vision. Faces that he once knew, friends that he once had. They stare at him, accusations unspoken, blood staining their robes – where he-
“Ren, is there something distracting you from our meeting.” The general’s tone is sharp and dissatisfied. Something Kylo Ren has become used to since the Supreme Leader ordered him to come to this planet to help with the First Order’s operations.
Foolishly he had hoped that the ghosts would not follow him here. That the ones he had sacrificed (necessary sacrifices, he tells himself time and time again) would find other people to haunt.
He had long since grown tired of them.
They never speak, simply stare at him. The horrified expressions frozen on their faces, surprised at his sudden turning. Sometimes when he dreams he can almost hear their screams of terror, the faint echoes of it.
The sound gives him power. The dark side so ready to welcome its new favorite son into the fold that even the unspoken accusations of his ghostly victims cannot steer him back into the light.
The voice is sharp again. When he speaks like that, Kylo Ren could almost hear the echo of another name – of Ben.
But Ben is dead.
His voice when he speaks is distorted by his mask. So difference from who he had once been, as he drawls out the words. “I grow tired of your rambling, general, that is all.”
The general’s indignant reply is lost on Kylo Ren, as he instead watches the last of the ghosts blink out of existence, the room feeling colder despite his many layers.
Somewhere deep down inside himself he knows that they will be back. They always come back.
He cannot help but wonder what they hope to achieve.
There will be no ghost appearing to him this time.
No man with a face so familiar to him, who had looked at him one last time with tenderness before his fall, to come and haunt him.
The realization hits him like a gust of wind, hands clutching at his chest in a pain that he cannot even dare to explain.
It shouldn’t matter.
This one ghost, this one murder compared to so many. His hands are already stained red with blood, such that they can never be clean again. And yet for some reason it hurts more than anything.
They say that the reason the Sith were so powerful was because of their sacrifice, that by killing one who they had truly loved they could achieve true power.
He wonders, staring down at his shaking hands, if this is what true power ought to feel like.
And if so, why it felt so much like loneliness.