His master had compared him to an exquisite work of art, a true masterpiece, perfectly forged from the light and the dark. That he was crafted from the finest of materials, the most dutiful and unwavering of any student he had ever encountered. This was the biggest lie of all. Snoke believed he was hewn marble. He at the helm, chipping away until Ren was scratched and scraped into what he desired him to be. But he just wasn’t. He was sand, roughly shoved into some form of a shape, slipping through fingers uselessly. Drifting, lost and confused, looking for home and finding nothing. And then when the searing, scorching pain, the lightning, his reeducation by Snoke had come, he shifted into something even more delicate and fleeting: glass.
He was chaos incarnate, thoughts scattered and in disarray. The only thing grounding him at the moment was the steady, rhythmic thud of his boots, echoing hollowly in the metallic cavern. The squadron of Stormtroopers that had escorted him now scoured the upper floors of the building. He had made an elaborate show of angling his helmet upwards and then bit out, “Find them.” But they wouldn’t find him there. He didn’t want him to be caught. Why? He could sense the steady hum of his fath--Han Solo’s-- presence, distantly reminding him of memories of light speed travel. The smuggler was mere feet away, hidden carefully behind a pillar. He paused, expecting the man would leave, abandon him, like he usually did, but he didn’t. Why hasn’t he left? He hurriedly stepped up onto a long, metallic bridge, panic edging into his thoughts, more cracks developing in the glass.
“Ben!” the voice sounded firm, no false bravado leeching into it. Unlike the time when, as a child, he had listened to the smuggler try to charm his way out of a--No. He was not going there. He frantically shook his head, as if that would remove the onslaught of agonizing memories. He hadn’t heard his name, his true name, uttered in years, the unfamiliarity of it grating on his ears. He froze, halfway across the bridge, not nearly far enough, never far enough. The shout had alerted the white-clad soldiers, who swiftly charged their weapons, waiting at the edge of the railing for conflict. Faintly, he heard the long, drawn out whine, almost like a question, of a Wookie. He was still with him, after all these years? He twisted around, thankful for a mask to hide his conflicted, fearful gaze. His attire was familiar; leather jacket, white shirt, black pants, trusty blaster at his hip, but his face had aged. There were weary lines around his eyes, a worried furrow in his brow and hair that was grizzled and gray. Was I the cause of those lines?
“Han Solo.” He pronounced it slowly, the words rolling around in his mouth. He had never uttered the smuggler’s full name before; he hoped it sounded cold, impersonal. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.” Just, not like this. Not facing each other on opposite sides of a war. The old man released a tired sigh. Is he as tired as I am? Has he waited as long as I have for this?
A look of grim determination appeared as he slowly started to approach Ren. He didn’t seem afraid of him, just resigned. He should be afraid. Everyone else was. Looking at him, whispering about him, like he was some sort of demon, inhuman and supernatural. A door at the upper level whooshed open, revealing the scavenger and the traitor. In a while they wouldn’t matter. He’d be gone. Natural light filtered in from the dying sun, illuminating him and Solo, burning him. It’s getting harder and harder to hide. Too many people. Too much light.
“Take off that mask.” Han practically commanded. He sounded stern. He’d heard that tone before. Don’t use the force like that. Don’t talk to your moth-- “You don’t need it.” But I do. I do need it. He was starting to sweat, fear snaking through him, coiling in his stomach. He was glad that the modulator hid the tremble in his voice as he nervously asked his question. “What do you think you’ll see if I do?” There was no hesitation, his eyes unblinking, as he firmly stated, “The face of my son.”
Son. He was stunned. This man standing before him had never called him son. It had always been boy, sport, or kiddo. Never son. Never good enough to warrant or earn the title of son. This child, a son he spoke of, had never existed, at least not to him. The man was waiting for him to react, pinning him with his solid gaze. He slowly reached up, undoing the clasp, and his helmet released from his head with a loud hiss, resounding in the large space. He attempted to school his face into a neutral expression, not give him the satisfaction that he had shaken him to his very core. Solo let out an exhale of air, but there was no gasp, no recoil in horror, just his steady gaze, eyes softening at the edges.
Ren tried to goad a reaction from him, acid in his frustrated response. “Your son is gone.” He continued, remembering only himself as he said this. All the indecision, all the pain he had, and still, suffered through. “He was weak and foolish, like his father, so I destroyed him.” The old man began to move again, inching closer towards him. This wasn’t working. He wasn’t listening! Why couldn’t he be impulsive or cowardly, just this once? “That’s what Snoke wants you to believe. But it’s not true. My son is alive.” Ren started to panic –He’s still calling me his son?!- But his voice flattened into a hollow denial. “No, the Supreme Leader is wise.” An empty phrase by an empty puppet. It sounded false even to his ears. “Snoke is using you for your power.” Han stated this confidently, brushing away the lie that Ren had desperately thrown at him. “When he gets what he wants he’ll crush you.” Maybe Snoke already had.
Solo was edging nearer towards him; he was almost within an arm’s reach. He quickly tried to step back, to run away, like a coward, but then Han stated the words, “You know it’s true.” He was sure, firm; there was no denying him now. It was like Han was the one picking apart his mind, opening him raw, and he couldn’t fight it. Like their roles were reversed and Kylo was the man strapped to the diagonal plank, as Han circled closer and closer, taking answers and leaving agony. The man standing in front of him was resilient and incomprehensible. Tears started to blur his vision. Why am I so weak? But he couldn’t be weak. He had to end this.
“It’s too late.” He choked it out, a tight knot in his throat, a weak excuse, fear flashing in his eyes. “No, it’s not. Leave here with me. Come home.” He proffered a tantalizing concept, a confident reassurance, a warm hope, but it couldn’t be true. What home was there? When home was constantly changing? In a new galaxy, on a different planet. When parents leave, and then, when reunited, constantly fight? He knew it was entirely his fault. “We miss you.”
We. Oh. Moth—no, Prin--General Leia Organa, silky tresses done in elaborate braids, opening her arms wide for a loving embrace. Eyes crinkling, mouth open in a wide smile. Later, he discovers everything he touches disintegrates, from the abrasiveness of his sand filled destruction. It morphs into worried glances, hiding her face in worn hands, tears falling, shoulders shaking, when she thinks he’s not looking. No, she can’t possibly miss him. Him and all the barren misery he brings. He blinks rapidly, trying and failing to get rid of the tears building in his eyes.
I can’t hold this in, can’t hide, anymore. It won’t matter anyways. He deserves to know. Before…before, it happens. Chin quivering, nostrils flaring, tears threaten to escape, as he tries to contain an anguished sob. “I’m being torn apart.” The old man’s expression transforms into a potent mixture of worry and concern. But why would he be concerned? He should be glad that I’m suffering. I’m the one who ripped this family apart after all. This has to be some trick, some sort of ruse. The words quickly tumble out before he can turn back, change his mind. His voice wavers and catches at the end. “I want to be free of this pain.”
He looks down, for a moment, before relenting, not wanting to meet his gaze as he admits that he is weak. “I know what I have to do but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.” He swallows apprehensively, knowing this is a gamble, knowing he shouldn’t be playing this game. Surely, his father will answer his last, desperate, plea. It’s his only hope. “Will you help me?” Having heard his agonized confession, Solo readily agrees. “Yes, anything.” He steps so close that they are almost brushing shoulders. Ren can clearly see the defined scar on his chin, from an accident many years ago. Caused by him of course. It was always him. Always his fault.
He glances down; his hands are tightly clenched around his battle-worn helmet. It reluctantly slides from his leather-clad fingers, landing with a resounding thud of finality. The sound reverberates around the man-made hollow. It feels like the end of an era. Because it is one: Mine. At least it had produced more sound than the other helmet had, Darth Vader’s. It was forever silent, its empty and melted eye sockets forlornly staring up at him. Never providing answers, never solving the conflict that raged within. It didn’t even listen. No matter how much he pleaded and prayed. Maybe the answers did lie with the living. Maybe not.
He looks back up at the man patiently standing before him, struggling to strengthen himself for what he was about to do, what Han Solo was going to do for him. He looked away, guilt eating away at his insides, unclipping his lightsaber from his thick leather belt. Why should he feel guilty? This man would be doing a service for the rebellion, ridding it of a villain, reliving his fame as a war hero. Destroying the thing that had devastated his home.
He glances down at his lightsaber, trying to delay the inevitable. His shoddily crafted weapon is a tangled mess of wires and singed metal, but it’s his. All the way down to the fractured kyber crystal nestled within, unstable in its ferocious energy. Broken, just like him. At the academy, the Jedi, Skywalker, had let him borrow a saber, never allowing him to make one, always dismissive. Snoke had been unconvinced, as Kylo unearthed the design, claiming it was wholly impractical for true battle. But he was determined. This was the only true thing he had.
He could feel the man’s gaze flicker down to the lightsaber in his hands but only for a moment before it was back on Kylo. As if he was more important than a weapon. He slowly brought his own gaze up to meet Han Solo’s. He gently held out the hilt, hands open, proffering it to him. Han watched him, as if unsettled. Why was he hesitating? But then his coarse hand wrapped around the hilt of the weapon, gripping firmly. Han continued to stare, transfixed, as if he was the only presence in the room, the one individual that mattered. But he didn’t matter. He wasn’t even a whole person anymore.
The light that had shone from above dimmed and then disappeared entirely, consumed by the destructive weapon, Star killer Base. Now they were merely bathed in red hues, emitted by the lights that surrounded them. Maybe he truly looked like an unfeeling creature, incapable of being saved. He desperately hoped so. He nervously swallowed, his lips twitching. He pressed his eyes closed tightly, seeing stars. He could feel the blade start to shift from his own grip as the man angled the hilt into position. He waited, preparing to hear the now familiar, rumbling growl as his crimson blade vibrated to life. To feel the wild heat burn and blaze as it ripped through its master viciously. Instead he felt as it began to get pulled from his grasp.
No! Why? Why? Why?! His eyes snapped open, despair and betrayal burning in his eyes as he clung even tighter to the lightsaber. He could never keep a promise. I’m such a fool. Why did I think I could trust him, after all these years, to do even this? Doesn’t he hate me? Despise me? Emotions flitted across his face, rampant thoughts rattled around in his brain, desperation setting in. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to do this, please. He raised his free hand, shaking and trembling, preparing to summon the power of the force. Suddenly Han’s other hand shot out and firmly but gently gripped his wrist. Ren wrenched back his hand as if it had been burned. Solo slowly lowered his hand but kept an unrelenting hold on the saber hovering between the two. If he could twist the blade some more he could get—
“Ben Solo.” His father whispered it softly, tenderly, like he was a gift. He was supposed to be gruff and irritated. He was no gift, only a curse, a plague that haunted everyone. Kylo Ren’s eyes widened anxiously, frantically looking anywhere but him. I can’t. I can’t do this. Coward. Tears started to silently stream down his face, dripping off his nose, catching in his eyelashes. He wanted to deny again that he wasn’t him but his mouth was frozen, throat clogged, so he just shook his head hysterically. Not him. Not him.
“My son.” He reached out again and Ren flinched, expecting to be hurt, wanting to be hurt. The old man carefully placed his palm on Kylo’s cheek, angling his face towards his. His hand was warm, comforting even. Ren kept his sight stubbornly fixed on a point below his whiskered chin, gazing at worn leather lapels. If I don’t look at him, it won’t be true. He was in denial and he knew it. But he couldn’t, wouldn’t stop. The smuggler’s presence had now grown to an insistent buzz, pulling at his own scrambled static. He gasped, physically staggering, feeling a fresh sensation radiate from every pore in the old man’s body, vibrating from his very being.
“I love you.” Son. Sentiment. Compassion. Love. Words that sounded foreign in his head. Supreme leader had always said them with such disdain and venom that they sounded like a contagious disease. The man standing before him had uttered words, but the influence, the forceful passion reeling behind it, shimmering in his eyes, proved it was a cure. It was too much. Fractures began to spread across pale glass, slivering their way deeper into his essence. He loves me? He loves me. He loves me?! He loves me! His ears were ringing as if Han Solo had piercingly yelled it. Han was now crying, silent rivulets of water falling onto his white shirt. Not once in his youth had he seen this man cry. Ren tentatively lifted his hand, wiping a tear from his cheek. He gazed in wonder at the slick streak of fluid on his black leather glove. This is real. He managed to gasp out a choked response as he met Han’s tender gaze. “I…I know.”
He could sense it. The sudden creak of leather gloves as Stormtroopers readied their blasters, fingers inching towards the trigger. The man who had just proclaimed his love for him would die. A flash of plasma energy burning a hole through his back, singed around the edges. Staring blankly at him, then falling, falling, falling into the abyss below. Then the rest of them, the scavenger, the traitor, the Wookie, would perish as well. Once again, the grief-stricken screams of General Organa and Jedi Skywalker would come resounding across the galaxy, rippling through the force, as they felt them expire. It would be so easy too. Coward. He could let the soldiers do it for him. Weakling. Watch from below. It would happen all over again. History would repeat itself. It would be a horrifically sickening ring of death and destruction.
Huddled in a corner, hands clapped over his awkwardly large ears, a cocoon of blankets wrapped around him, like its flimsy fabric fibers could protect him. Children, crying for mothers, begging for mercy, suddenly silenced with the screeching buzz of a lightsaber. He had let them come. His crippling fear, his indecisiveness, had caused this. Suddenly a woman screams for her child, her little r—“NO!” he roars wildly, spittle flying, hand whipping out in a powerful force push. It was too much suffering for her. For him. For everyone. It wouldn’t happen again. The soldiers slam against the wall with a deafening crack, sliding down and slumping against the floor. Han twists around, startled, before turning back to his son, a relieved half smile worming its way onto his face. “Here, you’re gonna need this.” He gently presses his lightsaber back into his hands. He looks back at Han, gaping in surprise. How does he know that he can trust me? Han nods at him softly, as if reading his thoughts. Acknowledging that his life is in his son’s hands, that he trusts him.
I've decided to post 2 chapters instead of 1 because this one is so short! Plus, i know how it feels to have to wait for updates! It sucks! So without further ado, enjoy!
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“Well, you just going to stand there all day?” His voice cuts into his dazed and scattered thoughts. But its light and teasing tone betrays any gruffness the words may have held. His face still holds a smirking smile, a slight twinkle in his eye. This can’t be happening. He turns around, starting to walk down the bridge, taking out his blaster. Noticing that Ren hasn’t moved he gestures with his gun for him to follow. It can’t be real. Maybe this is all an illusion fabricated by Snoke to torture him. “Come on, Ben!” The use of his true name finally manages to jolt him from his stupor. “Chewie and I rigged this place to blow, so we gotta get out fast!”
Some of the Stormtroopers had managed to recover from Ben’s deadly attack and were now shooting down at them. Han lifts his blaster, firing haphazard shots, as he runs across the bridge. There isn’t any time to think, just react. Ben ignites his lightsaber, deflecting beams efficiently with his weapon and the force alike. He follows swiftly behind the old man, as close as he can manage. Chewbacca joins the fray, lifting his bow caster and shooting from above. It hits an unsuspecting soldier who smashes backwards into a pillar from the strength of it. The scavenger and the traitor begin to rain down gunfire on the Stormtroopers below them, who are still fixated on him and Han Solo. In the ensuing battle, plasma bolts ricochet though the room, bouncing off walls and connecting with flesh and metal. A stray shot slams into a highly explosive charge, magnetically attached to a long steel pipe.
The rest of the Stormtroopers are thrown from the safety of the railing, as a result of the concussive blast, plummeting to their deaths. Roaring flames rip through the air and shards of shrapnel go flying. Ben swiftly throws out his hands, shielding Han, with the force, from the worst of the deadly debris soaring through the air. He grunts in pain as metal nicks his skin but this is nothing. Nothing to what Snoke has done to him. A thick billow of black, acrid smoke comes roiling in and he can’t see Han. He can’t see Han. He couldn’t tell if he was shaking or his lightsaber was. It all blurs together into a frantic heap of worry. Is he alright? Where is he?
Slowly, he presses forward, aware that one wrong step could lead to a messy death, a long way down. He shouts out desperately, raw terror edging into his voice. “Han!” He instantly regrets it as smoke fills his mouth, clogs his nostrils and stings his eyes. He coughs, trying to hack away the bitter taste that fills his lungs. He gives up, running a hand distractedly through his sweaty hair. He lifts the ragged woolen cowl that hangs around his neck up to his face, giving him some semblance of protection. He still can’t see anything though. What is he going to do?!
Then, unbidden, an old teaching, from before, comes floating into his mind. Spoken in that infuriatingly calm voice. You don’t need eyes to see. Use the force and you will see without looking. A little boy’s nose scrunches up in confusion, black hair brushing his face, but he obeys begrudgingly, closing his eyes. Then screaming, writhing on the ground, in pain as he feels it rush in. Too many voices. Too many people. A disappointed master, staring down at him, confused and uneasy.
He sighs, frustrated. I don’t have time for this. He could be trapped. He could be bleeding out. He could be dead for all he knows. No. He would’ve felt it. He closes his burning eyes, trying to center what remains of his tired soul. He’s so tired. He carefully breathes, trying not to disturb his irritated lungs. His agitated heart rate steadies to a slow, even pulse. He reaches out tentatively with the force. An intricate spider web of energy starts to emerge from the haze. He distinctly sees two shapes up at the top, huddled together, alive and safe. The girl and FN-2187. He pulls in further sensing another shape below, leaning against a surface, uninjured. The Wookie. So where is Han? Another form slowly shifts into focus, a little to his left. It seems fine, for now, but he can’t tell who it is. It could be a Stormtrooper. He carefully slides forward letting the tug of its luminescent energy pull him closer. His foot connects with something soft and his eyes instantly fly open. Han Solo is lying down on the ground before him, motionless.
Quickly stooping down, he turns the man over, afraid of what he might see. What if he’s dying? I’ll never get to tell him—“Ugh. Kriff. This is worse than the time I drank an entire flask of Twi-lek whiskey.” He’s never been happier to hear a disgruntled Han Solo. He wraps his arms tightly around the older man’s shoulders, clutching him in a taut embrace. I never want to let go. Despite the slight grumble of pain, Han returns the embrace in full force. He can’t believe someone is touching him with affection, hugging him. Ben pulls back, scanning him for wounds. He has a few bruises and scratches but other than that he seems relatively unharmed. Good. He hastily stands up before Han can check him. He looks ready to argue, face furrowing, so Ben changes the subject swiftly. Leaving is more important anyway. “We need to get out. Can you stand?” He nods, but Ben offers his hand anyways, lifting him to his feet, muscles straining as he does so. They both survey the damage created by the explosives. A giant section of railing has collapsed blocking the door to the outside.
Han cups his hands around his mouth, hollering. “Chewie!” A worried howl sounds in the distance. “Find the kids and get out!” A few more anxious barks reply. “Yes, Ben and I are fine! Now move, you big carpet!” Chewbacca was worried about him? Braiding bits of brown hair, being lifted into the sky by shaggy arms. “Head towards the Falcon!” An assenting growl comes back. Han turns towards Ben, wondering aloud. “Now, how are we getting out?” Ben silently moves towards the warped metal blocking their escape. It’s too heavy to lift with physical strength, so he concentrates, the force building in pressure around his hands. He lifts his arms in a commanding gesture, the metal twisting away with a screech. “I’ll never get over that.” Han murmurs in amazement, as he watches his son connect with the force. It startles Ben, who quickly drops his hand, embarrassed. Most people who aren’t force sensitive are usually fearful or dismissive. It’s something they can’t process or understand. When did he change? Han steps towards the exit, trying to access the door panel. “Damn, it won’t open.”
Instead of using the force, anxious that Han’s admiration might be a fluke, Ben unclips his lightsaber. He ignites it, motioning for the smuggler to step out of the way of the sparking blade. He swiftly jabs the heated plasma into the center of the door, steam and rapidly melting metal dripping onto the floor. He methodically carves a large circle through the thick surface. It collapses to the floor with a hollow clang. Han looks at him, eyebrows raised, thoroughly impressed by his handiness. How is he not disappointed in me? Still, as he clambers through the newly formed hole he can’t resist saying, “Still doesn’t beat a good blaster!” He leans his head back through the opening and winks at Ben. There’s the man he knows. He shakes his head, bemused, trying to hide the slight smile tugging at his lips. When was the last time he actually smiled? He follows him out into the frigid frozen forest.
Once again, any input you have is gladly received!
Snowflakes are falling calmly, betraying the chaos that roils beneath. A fiery sun trapped in an icy shell. As they trudge through the snow, they expect to be ambushed, weapons at the ready, but no one comes. The First Order is too distracted to notice, or even care. The military base, off in the distance, is in complete disorder, alarms blaring, as they try to flee the condemned planet. It’s a bit ironic that an organization that proclaims order, plainly stated in its titular name, doesn’t actually practice it. Lies. All lies. Suddenly there’s yelling ahead of them. Ben tenses, worried that they’ve come to take him back. They won’t unless it’s over his dead body. Which might very well happen.
They both freeze, waiting for the intruders to come. The two figures come into focus and—it’s the rogue Stormtrooper and the girl. Han is belligerent as he demands, “Where’s Chewie?!” “He already…ran ahead…to the ship…” FN-2187 is practically panting, breath puffing out in white clouds, as he motions behind him with a thumb. “And…he needs help with… “At this point he gesticulates with his hands, making a circular motion, unable to explain the technological problem. “…it seems to run on some form…of electricity.” he finishes lamely. Han squints, clearly unsure and confused. Even Ben can’t interpret his crude hand gestures. The girl huffs out a sigh impatiently, rolling her eyes, eventually deciding to help the poor soul out. “It’s the motivator, again. It keeps turning on and off. Some of the circuitry must’ve come loose.” she smoothly explains. “If I ever meet this Junker, Unkar Plutt, I’m shooting first.” Han growls, fuming at the state of his precious ship. He stomps off with FN-2187, who leads the way back to the Corellian freighter.
Ben stares at the scavenger. She stares right back. There is a long pause as they study each other, sizing the other up. She’s suspicious and he’s wary. The last time they had stood this close they had been tearing through each other’s minds, viewing the most intimate of thoughts, the deepest of desires. She breaks the silence first. “Is there something on my face?” He gasps, having heard that phrase before, but from his own lips, many years ago. It is her. Did she know? Did she remember?! He tries to brush against her mind but this time she is ready, mind fortified by sturdy titanium. “Stay out of my head.” She says quietly, gazing up at him, fists clenched. She’s frustratingly unreadable. What is she thinking?
Slowly she starts to reach for an object at her side. It’s a lightsaber. His eyes widen. He knows that shape, the familiar grooves of a black lined hilt. It’s Anakin Skywalker’s. Darth Vader’s. The denial of a loss-filled vision, a wife dying, and a husband destroyed, desperately trying to save her. A son deceived, being wounded by his own father. It had been the last push in the spiral of ben’s own destruction. His mouth dries as he fearfully asks her, “Where…Where did you get that?” She tries to be defensive, casual even, but he can see by her furrowed eyebrows that she’s confused. “Does it matter?” He can tell he’s not going to get any answers, at least, not right now, not from her. They are both mixed up, wading through murky water.
“We…We should go. They’re probably done with the repairs.” He nods, waiting for her to plow ahead but she doesn’t budge. Oh. She doesn’t trust him. She won’t show her back to him. He shouldn’t be surprised but it still hurts. He slowly starts to tramp through the white powder, her having to take an extra step to match his longer gait. They walk side by side; the only sound is the swish of their robes, their panting breaths and the crunch of snow.
A rumble starts to build in the distance, wildlife scatters from the trees. They pause, looking at each other. “Did you feel that?” She asks nervously, eyes glancing downwards. “Run.” He breathes. “Run!” She quickly breaks into a sprint, him trailing behind her. Branches tear at their clothes and skin as they dive through the forest. The growl crescendos into loud booms and cracks as the ground splits open, fissures appearing. She gives a high-pitched shriek as she tumbles into a newly formed chasm. He yells out a strangled shout as she falls, “REYNA!”
He didn’t realize what he had uttered until he slid to the edge of the cliff and saw her expression. She was terrified and…confused. Confused? She didn’t know—because of—He started to panic. What if she figured it out? He couldn’t—her face, much smaller, terrified and confused, as he stood above her, silent and—She let out a whimper of pain, snapping him from his self-induced anxiety. Her arms shook tiredly as she gripped the rocky cliff face, barely holding on. She started to slip, the slick snow causing her to lose her grip. He quickly reached down but he was too far.
“You have to trust me, please.” He pleaded frantically, his eyes flashing with worry and concern. She’s barely hanging on by the tips of her fingers. “Please, Rey.” She seems surprised, as he speaks her name, the name she has chosen, not just scavenger or girl. She carefully stretched up, placing her hand in his. She’s still so small. He gripped it tightly in his own, yanking her up. He gasped from the solid impact as she collided with him. It didn’t matter through. She was safe. “I…Thank you.” She manages to whisper, as she rolls off him, brushing snow from her arms.
They slowly stood up, cautious to stay away from the edge. They began to run again, muscles aching and bruised as they looped around the gaping crevice. He lagged behind, drips of red streaking in the pure snow. He did taint everything he touched. As they approach the ship, he hears the rushed shouts of FN-2187. “Come on! Hurry!” The access ramp is lowered, as he waits, beckoning frantically to them. The ground beneath their feet is starting to crumble, threatening to swallow both of them whole. They quickly leap, tumbling into the transport, as the ramp slams shut.
The defected Stormtrooper and Rey head to the cockpit, excitedly chatting. “That jump was amazing! Are you ok?” She nods, impishly asking, “How’s the “thing that runs on electricity”?” He groans, mortified, covering his face with his hands as she giggles. Their voices fade away as they move down the worn corridor. Ben stands in the main chamber, contemplating the shabby items scattered about. He had been here earlier—Had it really only been a few hours ago?--searching fervently for the infamous smuggler, Han Solo, but he’d been too distracted to really take it in. Besides it wasn’t the same without him in it. It had seemed empty, cold, just another vessel that hauls cargo. He surveys the ship that had made the Kessel Run in 12, not 14, parsecs, that defeated a villainous empire, that had just rescued them from certain death. Well, maybe not yet.
A sputtering whine issues from further down the hall, sounding like the familiar failing of a temperamental hyper drive. He warily enters the cockpit, stooping low to avoid hitting his head. Han splutters, face scrunched up in annoyance, “What do you mean?!” There’s an irritated growl, as Chewie points at a knob on the complicated dashboard. He retorts, exasperated, “I am pressing that button!” He stabs emphatically at it but nothing happens. Rey pipes up from behind, “Well, at least it’s not the motivator.” A fresh surge of arguing rises up between the three as they debate what to do. The Stormtrooper apprehensively tries to cut in, “Um…guys?” A foreboding rumble proceeds to shake the ship, as the planet begins to rapidly deteriorate. “You might want to hurry.” “Not helping!” Han snarls, hands flying across the controls.
Sitting in his lap, wondrously staring at the massive array of buttons, levers and switches in front of his tiny but curious hands. He can smell the man’s aftershave, a hint of clean citrus, as he leans forwards. “I’ll let you in on a little secret.” He whispers conspiratorially, a sly grin spreading across his face. The little boy wiggles excitedly on the man’s legs. No one ever shares secrets with him. They’re always about him. The man presses a palm fondly against the panel in front of him. “All you gotta do is show her some love.” The boy rapturously absorbs the words, before randomly selecting a silver lever, jiggling it. The ship lets out a high-pitched whine as it hums into hyper-space, stars blurring from the sudden surge of speed. The man emits a cry of pain at the unexpected shift into space, his chin slamming into the dashboard. With a frightened wail, the child twists to the ground, panic swarming his thoughts. He hurt him. He didn’t even use his “special powers” and he still had hurt him. Holding one hand to his chin, the man tries to reach out with the other to try and comfort him. “It’s ok, kiddo, it’s ok,” But the child is inconsolable, shaking his head, messy black hair shifting. “I’m fine.” He attempts to reassuringly insist that there is no lasting harm done but this just makes it worse. “Not fine.” He shrieks, darting out of the room, stifling his sobs. Only weaklings cry, only cowards cry. He has to be strong, like Han Solo; state that everything’s fine even when it’s not. Lie.
Ben breaks out of the memory, the quarrelling having escalated to heated shouting. “Do you have any bright ideas?!” Han is pointing irately at the anxious deserter. He begins to indignantly defend himself, saying, “Look, I’m just trying to point out that…” He stops, staring at Ben, who is leaning carefully over Han to touch a certain silver lever. “…What is he doing?” He murmurs. Rey looks just as bewildered as he is and whispers back. “I don’t know…” You don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know either. She plainly states, “We’ve already tried it. It doesn’t work.” Lie to her. Tell her you know what you’re doing, that it’s fine. Lie. You’ve already done it anyways. What does it hurt to lie again? He ignores his spiteful thoughts and the girl, furtively checking that everyone’s safety harness is in place before shaking the switch. Please work.
Humming to life, the worn ship finally obeys, stars streaking past the viewport. He lets out a relieved gust of air as the Wookie howls in triumph. FN-2187 whoops excitedly, fist-pumping the air and leaning over to clap him on the shoulder. Rey gapes at him with astonishment, eyebrows raised to her hairline. Instead of wearing his signature smirk, Han is staring at him solemnly, eyes misting over with events long gone. Bens gaze automatically drops to the faded scar on his chin before gently connecting with the man’s teary look. He quietly whispers, so low, only Han hears it. “You just have to show it -- (me) -- some love.” Please don’t leave me.
Now that they’ve escaped immediate danger, the Stormtrooper and Rey are absolutely ecstatic. He eagerly shares information with her about D’Qar, how green it is, even more green than Takodana. That he’s made friends with the best pilot in the resistance Poe Dameron. She fires questions back just as fast, impatiently asking about x-wing fighters. Han and Chewbacca have calmed down considerably and are casually discussing overall flight plans.
He limply slumps against the far wall, observing the conversations occurring in the cramped cockpit. They don’t need me anymore. Good. The adrenaline fades and the pain comes pounding in. Snoke’s training is failing. The physical agony is not a supposed strength anymore. He glances down at himself. His thick robes hide the vicious glint of metal he knows is there, digging deeper and deeper. He presses a hand tightly to his side, wincing in pain, trying not to cry out. He can’t ruin their happiness. Can’t let them worry. He slowly backs out of the room, staggering down the hallway. As his hand clutches the wall for support, he realizes. This is the last time I will get to see this ship. At least I got to see it again. At least I got to see him, after so many years apart. He sluggishly drags his feet to the common room, blood haphazardly spattering onto the ground. His vision tunnels to a pinpoint and he sways dangerously. There’s a rush of air and then the Holo-chess table in front of him tilts sideways. When had that happened? He listlessly ponders it for a moment before fading.
Rey unhooks her safety harness, standing up for a moment to stretch her aching muscles. Finn stares at her before his eyes widen in horror. “Rey! What- why didn’t you tell me you were bleeding?!” Upon hearing Finns worried exclamation both pilot and co-pilot concernedly turn to look at the girl. She quickly protests, only feeling a slow soreness, not sharp pain. “What are you talking about? I’m fi—“. She looks down. There’s a smear of red all along the front of her beige linen wrap. Then her eyes widen as realization dawns. Ben gasping in pain as she slams into him, slowly limping behind her, pale and dazed as she leaves with Finn. “Oh no.” She breathes. Han seems to realize something is wrong as well; noticing his son is absent from the room. “Ben!” Han leaps out of his chair, dashing off to find his child.
He’s being rolled over, someone gently cradling his head in their hands, brushing away sweaty strands of hair, just like mother. The warm comfort disappears for a moment and he panics-don’t go- before it’s replaced by their lap. His senses are slowly coming back to life. It’s like a switch flicks on, flinching as he hears frenzied yelling above his head, “—the med kit, now!” Is someone hurt? “Ben, son, can you hear me?” Of course I can. Why is he so worried? Then another pair of hands, small but sturdy, is pressing down on his chest, intuitively moving downwards towards his stomach and he feels it. Oh. I’m the one who’s hurt. A protective cage of ribs now turned deadly as they stab into his lungs. Shards of foreign metal sending ricochets of pain through his body. He wants to howl from the sheer agony as it burns but all he can do is drown.
A metallic tang. Blood. His blood. He was going to choke to death on his own blood. His eyes snap open, sheer panic flooding his system. He gurgles, crimson spilling past his lips. There is panicked yelling as they try to help him. “Turn him onto his side!” The liquid spills onto the floor, in precious streams of red. He’s getting the old man’s ship dirty. Han’s going to kill him. Maybe he wouldn’t have to worry about going home. About facing her. She probably would’ve executed him anyways. He spasms, barbs squeezing his lungs.
Han is swearing and cursing in a surprisingly colorful array of languages ranging from Huttese to Shryriiwook. The only thing Ben can pick out in the flurry of worried frustration spewing from his mouth is “Kriffing hell!” He would’ve laughed as the man virtually tries to heal the wounds with all his heated cussing but he can’t. All he manages is a weak wheeze of pain past all the blood filling his mouth.
“Hold on, son. Hold on.” He’s gripping him tightly in his arms as if that will keep him there. Ben forces his stiff lips to from the words, past the blood. All he manages to rasp out is “Father.” I’m sorry. Can’t hold on. So tired. His Father-my Father, mine- is so distracted, stunned, that he almost misses his eyes fluttering shut. “Ben, no, stay with me. Keep your eyes on me. Stay awake.” His voice is starting to quiver, tears dripping onto Ben’s face and hair. Don’t cry, please. I don’t deserve it. Being held by a Father that loves him. It almost feels like he’s falling asleep. His tense body relaxes as he begins to fade. The only sound that fills the room is his labored gasping, wetly rattling through his chest in short spurts. His breathing slows with each passing second. Han Solo knows, he’s been counting.
Kylo Ren, no, Ben Solo was an interesting sight to behold, as he is hurriedly carried from the Millennium Falcon. He has a haphazard mess of clothing swathed across him. Poe’s, now Finn’s, tan leather jacket is draped across his chest, Rey’s linen wrap is tucked around his stomach, and his father’s leather belt is cinched round his leg, acting as a tourniquet. Chewbacca cradles him carefully in his arms, like he’s a newborn child again. The Wookie moans softly, worried, as he gently hands him off to a medical team. Then there’s a flood of activity as the medics run his prone figure into the resistance base.
General Leia Organa surveys the scene with a sense of rising fear. Even seeing her husband back safe is not enough to stop her devastation. He had returned with their son but Ben was not safe. He was dying. She can feel him dimly, flickering, fading, then ending. He has vanished. As if he never existed. She comes undone, mouth open in a silent scream of anguish, stooping over from the pain. Her sweet child, her baby, gone, before she could speak with him again. See him. Touch him. Anything. Han has wrapped himself tightly around her smaller frame, as if to try and protect her, whispering comfort into her ear. But she doesn’t hear it. All she hears is silence.
She runs into the room they are holding him --his body-- in. He lies there, pale and unmoving, a sheen of sweat coating his skin. The medics are urgently trying to restart his heart. It’s not working. Nothing. Silence. They try again as Leia desperately prays. Alternating between selfishly begging and pleading. I’ll do anything, just please save my son. I don’t care if he hates me forever, for what I’ve done, I just want him back. I want him. Alive.
As if hearing her pleas, his body suddenly shakes, greedily heaving in a gasp of air. The doctors swarm around him trying to stabilize his pulse. They attach an oxygen mask and begin cutting the thick black robes from his battered body, mindful of the shards of metal that impale his chest and legs. Her hands fly up to her mouth, tears filling her eyes. Underneath the recent bloody wounds, faded white scars were scattered across his form. She’d left him alone with that creature. Snoke. She’d underestimated his power and he’d snatched him from her. Sorrow and silent fury swirled through her in a potent mix of emotion at the sight of her son. He would never take him again.
Rey can’t stop crying. She doesn’t really know why. She had been relatively composed when they’d found Ben and started trying to help him. But the moment they landed and the medics had wheeled him off she had started sobbing. It felt as if her family was leaving her all over again. She had noticed General Organa running into the base, so she followed her. After they had managed to stabilize him and gotten him out of surgery she’d practically collapsed. Leia rushed over and they embraced, sharing in each other’s mutual comfort. They both went into his room hesitantly, cautiously surveying the scene. Finn would’ve stayed but he had muttered something about hospitals and him not mixing, saying he was going to help Poe. She didn’t really process what he had said, all her attention focused on the man lying in the bed in front of her. She could tell Leia was lost in thought, staring at her son.
After a tense few hours of waiting, Ben had emerged from surgery, returned to a comfortable, if slightly short, bed. Wires wrapped around his body, a monitor by his bedside displaying a slow, steady pulse. Leia had never heard a more beautiful sound. She remembered listening to it for the first time, fast and fluttering, like a hummingbird. Holding her child tight against her chest, comforting him from a horrific nightmare as he fell asleep. It was still wonderful. She never wanted to hear it fall silent again. She recalled a phrase she had once heard. “A parent should never have to see their child die.” and she fervently agreed.
After hurriedly discussing the map with the other advisors and counsellors in the conference room Leia had returned to where Han was, watching their son. She looked on, marveling at how they were back together again, reunited, all in one piece. They might still have some kinks to work out as a family, but she was willing to deal with that as it came. She reluctantly called out to him, breaking the moment. He turned, realizing he was going to have to leave his son for a while. He leaned over, brushing his lips against Ben’s forehead, murmuring some tender words, before stepping out into the hallway.
He looked worried, as he asked, “What’s wrong?” He could always tell when she was nervous. She continued anyways, voice faltering, “I…They found my brother.” He gasps, eyes widening in surprise. “The farm boy from Tattoine?” She wants to laugh as he uses the old nick-name he used to tease him with. Luke had never been happy about the nick-name but he hadn’t stopped it, so it stayed. She manages to stifle her chuckle, a wry smile fondly spreading across her face instead. He curiously questions, “Where was he?” She quietly interrupts his increasing interest, earnestly explaining, “Artoo has the coordinates and will help guide you there.” He points at himself, disbelief rising, “Me?” She patiently responds, settling any doubts, “Yes, you. And the girl, Rey.”
He continues to look troubled, face furrowing, as he asks, “What about our son?” She leans up, meeting his gaze lovingly, stroking the scar on his chin, “He’ll still be here when you get back, Han, I promise.” His lips brush against her fingers as he hums, “What are you going to do?” She looks infinitely more tired as she quietly continues, murmuring, “Ben and I are going to have a chat that was long overdue.” He sighs, leaning into her hand, savoring her touch as he tenderly states, “I love you.” She gazes back, warmly echoing his sentiment, “And I love you.” She hesitates, before whispering, admitting gently, “I…I was worried… that I would never get to say that to you again. Or to our son, for that matter.” Han nods, pulling her into another embrace, pressing his face into her hair, this time relieved. They were all alive.
Rey left the room when Han and Chewbacca arrived, feeling like the duo wanted some time alone with Ben. Leia had also left, albeit regretfully, when C-3P0 had appeared, excitedly claiming that Artoo was awake and they had finished the map to Luke Skywalker. Shortly after, Leia returned, calling Han out into the hallway, the Wookie obediently following his partner. They began discussing something in earnest, which she felt included her, but she was too distracted. Ben was dreaming. Or maybe he was remembering. Even though Rey was outside the room she could still sense him. He was experiencing the destruction of the republic and it felt horrendous. So much screaming. So much burning. She physically shakes, feeling inexplicably cold as she feels a foreign voice crawl into his mind and hers as well. When she hears him start pleading she wants to run into the room and rescue him, tell Ben she’s there, that he’s not alone. But something, or someone, beats her to it. She doesn’t recognize the woman but Ben seems to.
Suddenly she’s pulled from his thoughts as she hears someone addressing her. “Rey?” She’s still disoriented, the flash of images and emotions that don’t belong to her, overwhelming her for a moment. It reminds her of the vision she’d had when she first touched the lightsaber. “I…What?” Leia’s gently setting a hand on her forearm, stabilizing her. “We’ve found Luke.” Rey cuts in excitedly. “The Last Jedi?!” Leia pauses, a look of sorrow crossing her face, pondering. “…For now, yes.” She continues, authority seeping into her voice. “I’m sending you, as well as Chewbacca, R2-D2, and my husband to retrieve him.” Rey practically starts vibrating with energy, eager to meet the legendary man, Skywalker himself. “When do we leave?” Leia responds firmly. “Right now.”
Suddenly Rey remembers the man in the room behind her, still recovering. Her face creases in concern, worriedly asking, “Will Ben be ok?” Leia responds wearily, eyes starting to shine with unshed tears. “He’ll be fine, in time.” Rey nods, turning and getting ready to leave, when Leia stops her. “Oh, and Rey? I believe Luke may have some of the answers you’re looking for.” How did she even know I had questions? I guess she is related to Luke. “Thank you. For the advice.” She mumbles hurriedly, anxiety starting to creep in. Will she find her family? What if-Leia leans in, gripping her by the shoulders in a comforting hold, seeming to give her strength, courage. “May the Force be with you.” She nods again, this time more confident, as she heads towards the Millennium Falcon with the rest of the group.
Ben could feel. He could feel. He was alive. Someone was distantly humming an old lullaby, a melody from Kashyyk. It sounded muffled, like he was underwater. As if sensing he was semi-conscious, they ruffled his hair playfully, warm, fuzzy paws brushing his forehead. Another voice indistinctly mutters something to the one sitting next to him. Their shaggy warmth leaves and is replaced by someone else’s touch. Their stubble scratches his face as they press a tender kiss to his brow. The person murmurs something and even though he can’t tell what they are saying, its tone radiates love. Their voices begin to disappear as his consciousness drifts.
He’s standing on the bridge of the Finalizer. No, no, no. Why am I here? Abruptly a red stream of light hungrily carves its way across the sky, glinting off metallic surfaces, with malicious and bloodthirsty intent. Why am I experiencing this again? The beam rapidly diverges into five separate paths, slamming into its destination, the Republic. He wants to join in with the screams of the billions of souls that have suddenly been obliterated. Is this how his mother felt when Alderaan was destroyed? He feels as every cell is scorched, incinerated into ash and dust, mouth open in a scream that will never be uttered. He’s burning. He’s on fire. Heat tearing into his skin, unquenchable. He can’t be saved.
A voice slithers into his mind, “You think you can escape from me?” He shudders, terror burrowing into his skin. He locks his arms tightly around himself, curling into a corner. You’re not here. You’re not real. He clasps his hands firmly around his ears; eyes clenched shut, futilely trying to block Snoke from entering. “You think you can escape from this, from what you’ve done?” his former master hisses. The burning intensifies, as lightning scalds his body. He can’t process anymore. All he thinks is pain. Help me. Anybody. Please.
Something blessedly cool sweeps across his mind, a soothing flood of calm comfort. A blurred shape comes into focus—it’s a woman. She is stunningly beautiful. She has wavy brown hair that brushes her hips, small white flowers weaved throughout. A long flowing gown in exquisite shades of blue brushes the floor. A wave of confusion spreads through his mind but it’s not his. Who is she? Just as suddenly as it appears, the intrusive thought is gone, fleeting. He’s seen her before, in a frightful vision. She had been in pain, dying, tears rolling down her face. Now she is serene, staring down at him softly, gently smiling. She leans down, lightly pulling him into her lap. She strokes his cheek sympathetically, the unconditional and tender love of a mother flowing into him. He blinks. She’s gone.
He’s staring at the white ceiling of a hospital room. Hundreds of questions race through his mind. Why am I here and not in a cell? It’s where I belong. Shouldn’t I be tied up? Executed? He hears his mother’s voice talking just inside the doorway with someone. “When do you think he’ll be awake?” The individual, probably a nurse, responds, “He should regain consciousness within the next few hours, but it all depends on him.” She replies politely, “I understand, thank you.” Then he hears the door slide shut as she quietly walks towards his bed. He panics, snapping his eyes shut, attempting to slow his breathing. He can’t face her.
She slowly sits down, tired and age-worn, with a weary sigh. Leave. Please leave. You shouldn’t be wasting your time on me. Don’t you have a resistance to run? She gently takes his hand, mindful of the needle taped into his vein, stroking it softly. She opens her mouth, quietly murmuring, “Ben, I know you’re awake.”
His breathing hitches, his eyes slowly sliding open and he shudders trying to pull his hand from her grasp. How can you touch me? She lets him jerk it back, wrapping it around his middle defensively. He weakly turns his head away from her kind look. I don’t deserve this. “Don’t love me.” He brokenly chokes it out, tears burning his eyes. “Not now.” He wishes he still had his helmet, his thick black robes, to hide him, shield him from his mother’s gaze. All he has is a curtain of messy black hair. He hunches inwards forgetting his wounds before they flare to life. He hisses out a breath as she carefully places an arm around his shoulder, guiding him to lie back down on the bed.
She quietly states, “I will always love you. You are my son.” He finally faces her, ready to retort, mouth drawn down into a grimace. She cuts him off, firmly, “No. No matter what you have done. Always.” His expression contorts in anguished grief and he breaks. He hysterically begins to howl, breaths heaving out of him, his side beginning to ache. Then, why? Why? Why did you leave me? Why did you let me go? He didn’t realize he’d said it aloud until he feels movement, her sitting on his bed, pulling him to her chest, wrapping arms tightly around him. She’s weeping as well, tears dripping down her face. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, my poor boy, my poor son, I’m so sorry.” She keeps chanting it, as if it will make it all go away, as if it will magically make it better.
“I made a mistake.” His mother’s voice wavers, tears still seeping out of her eyes. He looks up, curious. She was smart and levelheaded unlike his father. Where had she made a mistake? “I was afraid and unsure. I didn’t know what to do and I panicked. Out of desperation, I turned to my brother, hoping he could fix it. Fix it for me.” She laughs brokenly. “How did I think a man who has never had children could handle a whole school of them is beyond me. I should’ve known better.” She almost sounds stern, like she’s scolding herself. She continues, her voice softening, “Especially with you.” What about me? “You were different. I could tell. You were always so sensitive, so empathetic to those around you.” She had watched him? How did she know all this?
She seems to sense his confusion. She takes a deep breath, preparing herself and states, “You’re like me. That’s how I know.” His eyes widen in surprise. “Luke offered once.” He looks at her warily, disbelieving, as she continues, “To teach me the ways of the force. But I never trained because of the pull I felt from both sides.” Now he sees it. Beneath her calm exterior, a storm is roiling, light and dark fighting for control. She continues, earnestly speaking, “Ripping me apart. Everything feels so intense. Thoughts, feelings, emotions.” It feels like a mirror has been placed between the two, as she describes, puts perfectly into words, what he feels. All the time. “I panicked because some creature was taking my son from me.” She knew about Snoke?! “I figured Luke could teach you to manage, not control, the emotions that were in you. Instead he told you to empty yourself. To get rid of it. But you can’t. It’s a part of who you are.”
“Love is what you had needed most. And I wasn’t there.” He remembers her running off to meetings, trying to establish the new republic. Being elected as the new general and seeing her less and less. “When…I sent you away to the academy your father was furious. He wouldn’t talk to me for days. He disagreed, thinking it was terrible idea. Which it was. I was just too blinded by fear to see it.” Ben looks at her disbelievingly, brows furrowed in suspicion. “It’s true. He wouldn’t…he left after that. Went back to smuggling.” Her eyes mist as she begins to cry again. “After he heard what happened, that you had left the academy, he went looking for you.” He stiffens, completely stunned. How? Why? He numbly manages to ask, “What do you mean?” She smiles patiently, stroking his cheek, “He searched all the way to the Outer Rim. He contacted everyone he could find to help him, even your Godfather, Lando.”
He shudders. This is a lot to process. How is it all true? Leia seems to notice and gently brushes his hair back from his forehead. Blood and sweat has matted his hair in spots but she isn’t disgusted at all. His eyes flutter shut for a moment, savoring the contact. I’ve missed this. A sharp pang of pain makes him wince; reminding him that he’s still injured. She shifts, getting ready to leave, to get him some more medicine. He reaches over, latching onto her wrist. I don’t want to be alone. He tentatively lifts his gaze, whispering, “You’ll…stay, won’t you?” Don’t leave me again. “Of course.” She whispers back, warmth shining in her eyes, as she gives his hand a light squeeze. “I’ll stay.” She continues to stroke his head, lulling him to sleep. As his vision slowly begins to blur he realizes that she’d managed to administer a sedative while he wasn’t looking. He’d always hated needles. This time, he doesn’t dream.
There was a hum, almost like a mechanical purr, coming from next to his bed. His eyes crack open, light filtering in, as he turns to look at the noise. It’s a droid. An orange and white BB unit with a solanum drive, to be precise. The one that had contained the map to Skywalker. It notices he’s awake, releasing an excited squeal, spinning in a celebratory circle. The mechanical sphere stops, issuing a few questioning beeps. Ben ventures a hesitant guess. “I’m in a…hospital?” It chirps, positively. Affirmative. He sighs, wondering what the droid is doing here but then he recognizes who it belongs to. Poe Dameron.
He lets out another sigh, this time dejected. He’s just here because his Master is worried I’m going to go on a rampage, torturing and killing everything in my path. I don’t blame him for thinking that. Because I hurt him. He was my best friend. My only friend. That was before I left. Before I became a monster. No, maybe I always was, I just didn’t know it yet. He quickly stands up, unhooking machinery as he goes, the droid protesting in a rapid series of beeps. “I’m returning you to your master. He must be worried.” The spherical droid tilts its head, confused. It whines up at him, objecting. He stiffens, eyes darkening as he turns away from BB-8. “I’m not…He’s your master, not me.” He hobbles away before the little droid can protest again. It rolls after him, letting out a concerned high whine. “I’m fine.” He bites out, lying, as he winces from the physical exertion. Why does it care? The orange and white machine follows him, patiently matching pace with his labored gait.
As they travel through the maze of hallways, he looks at the droid. He remembers fixing it, with him, with Poe. They had been eager, little hands excitedly reattaching wires, installing software. When it had suddenly buzzed to life, the children had jumped up, screaming in victory, proclaiming themselves its masters. He wished he was a droid. The problems he had would then become so easy to repair. Reattach a few wires. Rewrite a few lines of code. All fixed. No problems. But he wasn’t a machine, no matter how much he wanted it. He was just a broken, flawed person.
He entered the hangar, realizing how stupid he was. This was a terrible idea. Everyone was going to whip out their blasters, killing him on site. He reaches for his weapon only to grab at empty air. He glances down recognizing he has nothing. Nothing that would identify him as Kylo Ren, Master of the Knights of Ren. Supreme Leader Snoke’s apprentice. His menacing and familiar helm is gone, disintegrated, his black robes and lightsaber destroyed or missing. He had never shown his face to first order or resistance personnel. Easier for them to fear or kill him if he looked like a monster, a true villain, Darth Vader incarnate.
Now, he is dressed in nondescript clothes; a white t-shirt and grey pants. He doesn’t even have shoes, his gangly feet peeking out from underneath the soft trousers. His bedraggled black hair brushes his shoulders, too large ears sticking out rebelliously. He has a wide, freckled face, almost innocent looking, except for the intense look of concentration he currently wears, brown eyes warm and wary. He looks ordinary, unassuming, and almost…normal. But he knows the truth.
The clothes seem to do their job because no one seems to notice him. It is a hive of activity, as they busily swarm here and there, preparing for the next mission. Sparks fly as engineers and pilots welded ships back together. Others pack and ship crates across the massive room. It is utterly strange not to be crowded by attention, no matter how negative it might be. Students whispering about him, glaring at him enviously. Stormtroopers and officers cowering in fear, gawking at him. He shakes his head, reminding himself of why he was here in the first place. He glances over to where the droid had been sitting, but it had disappeared. Great, just great. Where was he even going to find BB-8 in something like this? Someone starts yelling, distracting him from his current predicament.
“Hey! Is anyone there?” All he can see of the person hollering is a slim hand, covered in soot and grease, poking out of the belly of an x-wing fighter. “If you are there, could you hand me the crescent wrench that’s by the ladder? I need it.” He stands there awkwardly, debating. Surely, the person doesn’t mean me? The pilot waves their hand impatiently, declaring, “Hey, I know your there. If you do this there might be something in it for ya!” He starts to get nervous. What if Poe sees him? The faster he does this the quicker he can be out of here. He grabs the tool, feeling a slight tug in his side as he leans up to give it to them.
The unseen pilot hears his bare feet slapping across the floor, getting ready to leave, interjecting “Its fine if you don’t wanna talk. But I wasn’t lying about needing that crescent wrench. If you hadn’t been here to hand me that wrench I would’ve fried from the engine overheating.” The person says it in such a casual matter-of-fact way, as if this happens all the time. He pales, gaping up at them. “So, Thanks, for that. I also was not lying when I said I would reward you.” There’s a slight teasing tone to their voice, despite being muffled by the ship. The pilot continues, declaring, “Hold on a moment and I’ll be right out.” He wants to ask if it’s safe to leave the engine unattended but doesn’t. He really shouldn’t be here. He nervously eyes the exit, deciding, but it’s too late. The talkative pilot has already descended to the floor with a loud thud.
It’s a girl. She has long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her almond eyes widen in pleasant surprise. “Oh, hello. Name’s Jessika. And before you ask, spelled with two s’s.” She apologetically looks at him, her mouth sliding into an easy smile. “I’d shake your hand but mines covered in grease which I’m pretty confident you don’t want.” There was an uncomfortable silence and he shuffles his feet, looking down. She playfully cuts in. “So, I should just call you Tall, Dark and Handsome, then?” His eyes widen, realizing he should probably offer her his name as well. It was extraordinary to be interacting with someone with no fear, no pre-determined judgement. He mumbles out a response. “Ben, with one n.” She laughs and it startles him. What had he said? He’d just said his name. Did he do something wrong?
She notices his confusion and changes the subject effortlessly. “So, reward. I was thinking I could take you out for drinks sometime? It’ll be my treat.” He blushes, hiding his face behind a curtain of hair. He recalls his father sneaking him a drink, some sort of Corellian moonshine, warning him not to tell mom. Han had definitely regretted it. The child had been hyperactive for the rest of the night, bouncing off the walls of the Falcon with boundless energy. Jessika’s eyes gleam excitedly. “A-ha! I see you have some fun stories! Alright, it’s a deal!” A groan comes from behind her, as someone joins the conversation. “Jess, who’ve you roped in this time? Hopefully, not another keshian.”
A stocky man emerges, wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to hers. She giggles, winking back at Ben, before facing the other pilot. “I made a new friend. His name’s Ben. He saved me from getting fried.” He raises an eyebrow, mostly unperturbed by her antics. “I see. Well he seems to be a true gentleman then.” He leans over; taking Bens hand in a friendly handshake. “Hi, Ben” His hand is firm and calloused from hard work. Ben nods back, murmuring quietly. “Hello.” The man continues, withdrawing his hand with a kind smile. “The name’s Temmin Wexley but that’s quite a mouthful to say,” He leans in conspiratorially, a sly grin crossing his face as he whispers, “Plus, I don’t like it. But don’t let anyone know I said that, especially Jess. I’d never hear the end of it.” He pulls back, gesturing towards himself, “Anyways, most people call me “Snap”.”
Ben looks down as he feels something wet on his side. His white shirt has a red stain blooming across the front, as the fabric sticks to his stomach. There’s no heavy black wool to soak up the blood and hide it this time. Huh. He must’ve pulled some stitches when he reached up to give the wrench to Jessika. Ben snaps out of his dazed reverie, hearing someone just around the corner.
“What?!” A man is speaking with a droid, as it frantically beeps. “What do you mean he left?” They continue, sounding more and more worried.“Hes here?!” The man, a pilot, comes running into view. They have curly black hair and gentle brown eyes, their expression seemingly furrowed in concern. It’s Poe. Ben pales, face widening in horror. Oh no. He’s going to kill me. He tries to move, to scramble backwards, but suddenly the room spins as a bout of light-headedness strikes. Why now?
Strong, sturdy hands grab his shoulders, preventing him from slamming into the ground. “Woah, you alright there?” He attempts to reply that everything’s fine but the only thing that comes out is a groan of pain. He tries to get back up, get away from all this attention, all this sympathy, but his body is numb. He rolls his eyes blearily, searching wildly. Where is Poe? Has to get away.
A hand is pressing against his chest, gently pushing him back to the floor. “Easy there, buddy.” He freezes. Poe’s touching him. Maybe he won’t think I’m a threat if I stay still. He forces himself not to flinch as Poe gingerly peels back his blood soaked shirt to examine the wound. “Might’ve pulled some stitches. Can’t say for sure, with all that gauze covering it.” Snap replies from somewhere above Ben’s head. “We can take him back to the hospital.” Poe responds immediately, firm and insistent. “No, Ben doesn’t do well in hospitals.” That’s an understatement. Poe still remembered what had happened. Jessika pipes up then, helpfully offering a solution. “Well, we can take him to my room. It’s a lot less messier than Snap’s anyways.” Snap protests, embarrassed that she ratted him out. “Hey!” Jessika retorts, playfully. “Well, it’s true!”
“I got him, Poe.” Someone lifts him up, carrying him. He’s always such a burden. Always his fault. He groans again at the sudden shift. “Sorry.” It’s Snap, who sounds sincerely contrite. Snap is holding him in his arms being careful not to jostle him. Ben should be mortified but he can’t really process much through the haze of pain. It descends on his brain, making everything frustratingly fuzzy. It drains him of all physical energy, leaving him limp, like a rag doll. His legs dangle uselessly, weightlessly swaying with the movement the pilot takes. It takes all of his strength just to focus on what they are saying.
“You should’ve seen his face. It was like he’d seen a Krayt Dragon!” Jessika launches in, enthusiastically dramatizing what happened. Even Snap had seemed to notice Ben’s reaction, disbelief leaking into his voice. “I didn’t think you were such a scary guy but he sure seemed to think so!” Continuing to pursue the topic playfully, Jessika teases Poe, exclaiming, “I wonder what happened? Your famous Dameron charm not on point?” Poe seems to have lost his patience and cuts them off, frustrated. “Kriff! Guys, look, can we just…cut the chatter?” Jessika agrees good-naturedly, realizing she may have gone too far. “Yeah, sure.” Snap recognizes Poe’s not just stressed, he’s concerned. He reassures him, confidently stating, “Don’t worry, Poe. I don’t think it’s as serious as you think it is.” Echoing Snap’s comfort, Jessika sympathetically affirms, “Yeah, we’ll get him patched up in no time.” Poe nods, accepting the words. Nobody picks up the last part, which is muttered under his breath with concern. “It’s not his body I’m worried about.”
Ben hears a metallic bang, cringing at the loud noise, as Jessika has to practically shove her faulty door open. How is this a good idea? Poe and Snap seem to agree with him. Poe is shaking his head in disbelief, hands resting against his hips in a disapproving manner. He incredulously asks, “Do you need some… help?” There’s another ear-shattering clang as she rams her shoulder into it. The stubborn door finally gives up, slamming into the far wall. “Nope!” She breathlessly replies, blowing stray hair out of her face. Snap’s eyebrows are raised, voice coloring with skepticism. “And you said yours was better.” She retorts, sassily arguing. “I didn’t say it was ‘better’ per say just that it was less messy.” He sarcastically agrees, gaze widening playfully. “Right. Mm-hmm.” She rolls her eyes as he continues. “It was certainly implied though.” “Shut up.” She grumbles, a slight grin ruining the effect it might’ve had. She rubs her hands together enthusiastically, announcing, “Alright, home sweet home.”
Snap gently sets Ben down on Jessika’s bed, while Poe grabs some more pillows from the other side of the bed to prop him up slightly. The female pilot races off to find her medical supplies. Snap looks back at them, grinning ruefully. “I’d better go help Jess. Who knows where she keeps her stuff stashed.” She interjects, voice shouting indignantly from the bathroom. “Hey, I heard that! I do label my stuff unlike a certain someone!” He freezes, sheepishly rubbing a hand against the back of his head. He mouths back at them in mock horror. “How does she do that?!”
Snap shuffles out of the room, apprehensive that he may have to face a particular female’s wrath. “I’ll just, uh, make sure she’s got everything.” Poe shakes his head bemusedly at their antics, a fond smile slipping onto his face. Ben can see why Poe is friends with them. They have the same interests, the same kind of easy-going humor and friendliness. He can’t see why Poe was ever friends with him. Especially now that he’s hurt him. Now that he’s his enemy.
With the other two pilots gone, Ben tries to muster the strength to confront Poe. “S’my fault…” He slurs, trying to get Poe to listen, but he’s distracted. He presses a palm against Ben’s forehead, eyes darkening with worry. He thinks I’m delirious. “M’not…d’ler’ousss…” He tries again, sounding even worse. Poe’s eyebrows crease as he tries to understand what Ben’s saying but he gives up, instead trying to reassure him. “It’s alright buddy, we’ll talk after you get fixed up. I promise.”
Poe reaches towards his utility belt and Ben panics, starting to tremble in alarm. Is he going for his blaster?! Poe sees his wide-eyed fearful expression and realizes what he’s thinking. “Woah, its ok!” He spreads his hands apart, away from his belt, in a placating gesture. He slowly reaches one hand towards his pocket, speaking calmly, as if to a startled animal. “Just reaching for my flask so you can get a drink.” Ben cautiously tracks his movements before relaxing as he sees the bottle, not a gun, in his hands.
Poe reaches out, offering it to him but Ben still recoils. The pilot tries not to look hurt as he carefully sets it by Ben’s lap. He picks it up, staring at it, contemplating. What if it’s poisoned? Poe is watching him, a worried frown tugging at his mouth. Finally, Ben breaks. He doesn’t care if he dies, his parched thirst overriding his self-preservation instincts. Poe looks on appreciatively, a hint of disappoint in his eyes. “Careful, don’t drink too fast or you’ll get sick.” Why does he care?
Thankfully, the other two resistance pilots return, Jessika in the lead, proudly carrying a bin that is very much labeled. She energetically inquires, “So, how’s our patient?” Snap exclaims with an undignified snigger. “You, a doctor?! Woah, that sounds scary.” She smacks him hard, in the arm. “Ow! I thought doctors weren’t supposed to hurt people!” She snootily replies, “Well, I’m technically not a doctor. Plus, doctors have bad days too!” Snap retorts, confusion evident in his voice. “What does that even—“Do you guys argue this much all the time?” Poe interjects incredulously. As Jessika goes to open her mouth again, he wisely cuts her off. “You know what? I don’t think I want to know.” He glances back at Ben, gesturing at him. “Can we get to the problem at hand? Ben?” Oh. I’m a problem. Something to be solved. Fixed. Isn’t this what I wanted?
She sets the container down carefully at the foot of the bed, as she takes Poe’s spot. She innocently asks, “You wanna help?” Poe stares at Ben, debating. Nervousness settles in the pit of Ben’s stomach and he apprehensively swallows. I’m just a problem for him to get rid of. Poe sees him tensing up and shakes his head, disappointment and sadness settling into his expression. Why is he sad? Sad because he can’t finish me off? Jessika shrugs, ambivalent, unaware of what’s transpired between him and Ben. Snap leans over, handing her the tools she requests. She gingerly peels back Ben’s shirt again and grabs some scissors to cut through the blood-soaked gauze.
“Hold still.” She murmurs, bracing one hand against his side, deep in concentration. He grimaces as the cold metal touches his skin and then he hears the snip of her cutting through the thick bandaging. He shivers as the stitched-up wound is exposed to cold air. It looks terrible, angry and red, mottled bruises of purple and yellow spreading across his side. He’s unfazed, compared to the others in the room who are wincing with sympathy. This isn’t the worst wound he’s had to endure. She’s prodding at it, carefully. It still hurts. He grips the sheets next to him in tight fists, trying not to cry out from the pain, tears pricking at his eyes. Poe looks pained, like he’s trying to hold himself back from rushing to his side, to comfort him.
Jessika starts muttering to herself, sounding like a mad scientist, or more likely, a crazed witch. “Alright…gotta make sure it doesn’t…hmmm…looks good…looks decent…ok…” She nods to herself, deciding. She clicks her fingers impatiently at Snap, declaring, “A damp towel, disinfectant, ointment and bandages!” He mocks her, as he hands them over, imperiously stating, “Yes, Master.” She corrects him firmly, winking. “Doctor.”
She leans over the wound again, removing all of the old dressings. She grabs the bottle of disinfectant and looks up at Ben. She plainly states, “This is going to hurt. Like, a lot.” He mumbles back at her. “I’ve had worse.” And he truly has. Still, as she dumps it on he can’t stop a gasp, practically a wheeze, of pain from escaping and trying to instinctually curl inwards. Poe and Snap carefully grab his shoulders, pressing him back against the pillows, while Jessika lectures.
She wags her finger at Ben, admonishing him. “Oh no, you don’t! You’ll ruin the medic’s hard work! Think how distraught they’ll be to hear all their beautiful effort went down the drain! Especially if it’s Dr Kalonia. Don’t tear your stitches!” Ben gasps in pain again; sweat dripping down his face, rolling his eyes at her overly dramatic reaction. But he nods, grateful for her humor, as the two men gently let go of him. Poe slowly releases the hand he had reassuringly squeezed. Ben misses his touch already.
Jessika proceeds to quickly swipe some ointment over the gash, efficiently covering it in soothing balm. He winces a bit as she wraps the roll of bandages snugly, but not too tight, around his midsection. She’s about to say something when BB-8 comes bursting in, rolling straight towards her. It begins to whine frantically, pitch wavering as it tells its story and she listens, her eyes gradually widening in shock. “Oops…” She mutters under her breath. That is never a good phrase to say.
She stands up quickly, nervously brushing imaginary dust off her orange flight suit, before clearing her throat. “Well, the good news is he’s not dying! As long as he doesn’t move or irritate his wound, he’s all good.” She announces this with hesitant finality. Snap looks up at her, squinting suspiciously, knowing. There’s always bad news. Especially with Jess. She’s just bad luck and he’s just learned to accept and appreciate it. He sighs, apprehensively asking the dreaded question “So, what’s the bad news?” She wrings her hands, looking incredibly guilty. This time, Poe is the one who impatiently asks “Well, spit it out, Jess!”
The words come tumbling out and she looks more embarrassed than anything. “The x-wing I was working on earlier may have exploded.” Snap looks absolutely horrified, as he shouts, “What?!” She quickly backpedals, trying to reverse some of the damage. “Ok, so explosion may have been a bit extreme, it’s just on fire—just on fire?!--and I think—“Alright!” Poe stands as he yells, so he can be heard over the panicked din of two pilots and a droid.
He straightens up, resolve shining in his eyes, becoming a leader. He points at everyone as he addresses them confidently. “Alright…Jess, BB-8, you’re coming with me to handle this mess. Snap, you’re watching Ben until we get back.” Snap nods determinedly, glad not to have to deal with a flaming catastrophe. “I’ll keep an eye on him. Make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.” Is he serious? Where would I go? And it’s not like I’m a complete invalid. I’m still here you know. Poe’s eyes soften with concern as he glances at Ben, quietly requesting, “Notify me if anything changes.” Ben silently fumes, frustrated. Being stuck here is not what I had in mind. Snap nods again, motioning towards the door as he responds, “I will. You just worry about containing that fire.”
Ben sighs, staring at Jessika’s room. It really is a clean and immaculate space. Not a piece of furniture is out of place. “Here, you look like you need this.” Snap hands him a clean white shirt, a tired smile crossing his face. Ben hesitantly takes it, still unused to actually having friendly interaction with others. Why is he being so nice to me? He barely even knows me. Snap politely turns around when Ben pulls the dirty clothing off, before gently pressing it into his hands. The pilot stands up, going to the waste bin in the corner and throwing away his old, bloodied shirt. Ben puts the new top on as fast as he can without injuring his wound. He doesn’t want the man to see his scars.
He remembers one of the first scars he had ever gotten. It was actually quite innocent, compared to the rest of them. He and Poe had been young, children at the time. Although, he’d recalled being proud, bragging that he was the same height as Poe even though he was a few years older than Ben. They went running through the massive hallways of a new resistance base as they played smuggler and bounty hunter or spacers as they liked to call it. Ben, naturally, was the dashing rogue smuggler—Hey, no fair! You’re always the smuggler!--and Poe, the deadly Bounty Hunter, Jango Fett—He’s cooler anyways!--.
Ben had been hiding in a doorway, waiting for Poe to run past, trying to stifle his excited giggles. A cart hauling heavy metal crates went careening past the corner as Poe came running from the opposite direction. Seeing that a collision was imminent if he didn’t do something, Ben quickly leaped from his hiding spot. He frantically used his “special powers” to push him out of the way. He’d remembered worrying that he’d hurt him, pushed too hard, as he crumpled to the ground. But then Poe had twisted around, fear on his face, reaching towards him, shouting something. “Ben! Look out!” But it was too late. He looked up as a crate fell off the top of the transport, smashing his arm, cleanly snapping it in two.
Poe sprinted over, wrenching Ben’s arm out from under the heavy cargo, shaking hands running over the wound. A shard of white bone was glistening, poking out of the skin. Ben stared in fascination as Poe tried not to panic. He quickly turned to the driver of the transport but he was already leaving. “Hey! Come back here!” Poe then said a bad word, that daddy said when his ship wasn’t working –which was all the time--, angrily glaring as the driver took off.
Poe leaned down, motioning for Ben to get on his back, forcing enthusiasm into his voice. “Come on, buddy! I’m taking you to the hospital.” He slowly clambered on, his broken arm dangling uselessly in front of him. Poe would periodically glance back at him, worriedly asking, checking to make sure he was still awake. He would reply with brief, detached answers, like “Fine. Ok. Good.” The whole time he didn’t utter a single scream of pain, he didn’t sob or cry. He was in shock.
As a result, the entire trip to the hospital and even in the hospital, Poe was frantically babbling, trying to fill the horrible silence with something, anything. He would alternate between telling stories—he liked his stories, they were funny, unlike him—and apologizing—sorry, so sorry, all my fault—which Ben didn’t like because he heard that all the time in his own head.
When they arrived at the hospital, Poe had deposited a drowsy Ben on the bed. The doctors insisted he leave so they could fix Ben’s arm. That had got a reaction from Ben. He almost started sobbing hysterically right then and there; face scrunching up in anguish, and it wasn’t because of physical pain. Don’t leave me, please. Poe had insisted on staying, seeing his distress at being alone. He craftily mentioned that he might tell a certain Mrs. Leia Organa about this incident and they had instantly changed their minds.
Poe held his other hand tightly as they set his arm. It crunched loudly as it scraped back into place, Ben whimpering, finally snapping out of his shock. Poe tried not to cry but a few tears slipped out anyways. Ben’s eyes widened in surprise at seeing the older boy cry. He was heroic, tough, just like his dad. “Why…you cryin?” He murmured, eyes slowly sliding over to his. Poe looks down, ashamed, fists clenched in anger. “I’m sorry, Ben.” He continues, his body starting to shake with suppressed sobs. “I should’ve seen it coming. I should’ve been faster. I should’ve been stronger. I Should’ve…shouldaa…”
But he couldn’t have. He didn’t have special powers like me. It was my job to protect him, at least in this instance. Poe starts hiccupping, tears and snot streaming down his face as he tightly hugs the younger boy to him. Ben pulls away, making sure he’s looking at him, as he evenly stares back. He calmly mumbles, words slurring as he begins to relax, “s’okay…S’not yur fault. Even if t’was…I’d forg’ve yu…” Poe looks at him, wide-eyed and awestruck, as if he’s the cool kid and not the other way around.
Ben begins to unwind too much, his mind stretching beyond his own control. The buzzing rises to a roaring crescendo. Suddenly, there’s screaming, vision shaking as he convulses on the table. Someone, three doors down, is having a very large needle injected into their spine. It hurts. He keeps on screaming, unseeing as Poe grabs him, holding him, desperately trying to protect him. He wishes Poe had special powers now; maybe he could’ve helped him then.
The monster that doesn’t hide under his bed or in his closet but in his mind comes slithering in, voice dripping like honeyed venom. “Your friend can’t help you now or ever. And neither can your family. Your sweet mother. Away. Leaving you. Abandoning you. Where is she?” Where is she?! He doesn’t know. All he knows is—I have a cold, I have broken ribs, I have a bleeding stomach, I have—it never ends and she never comes. She had been off planet, doing some mission for some organization. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t there. He screams and screams and screams until he passes out from the pain.
When he wakes up Poe is still holding him, both of them wrapped up in the tight cocoon of a scratchy hospital-issued blanket. Ben looks up at him, voice completely gone, hoarse and croaky, as he asks, “Why’re you still here?” Poe gives him a watery smile as he pulls him closer. He replies, simply stating, “We’re friends. Friends stick together. No matter what happens.” He remembers innocent and toothy smiles; a secret handshake developed when they’d first met. So simple. “So weak.” He still shudders, despite the warmth surrounding him from Poe and the flimsy blanket, when it speaks again. “I can help you more than they ever will.”
I'm terribly sorry that this chapter is so short. But i couldn't see it fitting any other way. I guess its kind of a transition between major scenes. : /
Ben is back in Jessika’s bed, listening to Snap snore in the uncomfortable chair next to him. It is incredibly annoying and incredibly loud. He pities whoever attempts to sleep next to him. He certainly isn’t. He experimentally sits up, testing his range of motion with the wound in his side. It only aches slightly now. Compared to earlier when it had constantly stung, digging into him until his eyes watered. He tentatively swings his feet over the side of the bed, placing them gently on the floor. He digs his feet in, slowly standing up. The room isn’t spinning or blurring like hyperspace travel. Good enough. He can stand. Which means he can move, which means he can leave, before Poe comes back.
He carefully begins to cross the room, trying to make as little sound as possible so as to not wake the slumbering pilot noisily snoring away. He’s almost to the door when his incredibly tall height causes his head to collide with a hanging plant. He grunts in pain, and it swings precariously. Please don’t fall. The cord that attaches it to the ceiling snaps and he tries to stop it with his powers. Unfortunately, all of his concentration is focused on staying upright and healing, not using the force. He tries to access some sort of emotion, fuel it that way but all he’s feeling right now is pain and drowsiness. He worthlessly stands there as it shatters against the ground, echoing throughout the room. Jessika probably isn’t going to be happy about the mess. Kriff. He’d been so close to leaving.
Snap startles awake, jerking out of his chair, soldier’s instincts kicking in. “Ben, where are you going?” Well, isn’t he direct? The pilot slowly starts to approach him and Ben waits until he is within reaching distance before turning around. He manages to mutter out a response, knowing he can’t lie to this generous man. “I’m…I’m leaving.” He exclaims, protesting with concern, “Leaving?!...What? Ben, you’re hurt, still recovering, at least stay until…” I’m sorry I have to do this. Before more people get hurt by me. I’ve wasted too many resources, too much time. He tries to strengthen himself, summon as much power, as much energy as he can into his gaze, his voice. He makes sure to maintain strong, unblinking contact as he influences the man’s mind gently, suggesting confidently. “You will let me leave.” Snap stares at him, still concerned for a moment, trying to fight the force, before his gaze eventually glazes over. “I…I will let you leave.”
Ben carefully but quickly guides the pilot back to his seat knowing he only has a short window of time before he wakes from his stupor. He pauses, feeling bad for the man, grabbing one of the blankets from the bed and draping it over him. You’re wasting time. He stumbles as fast as he can from the room, collapsing in the hallway, drained from all of the sudden exertion. He hadn’t really thought this through. He drags himself into an upright position and slowly limps down the passageway. He doesn’t really know where he’s going but it doesn’t really matter. Has to get away. Has to get out. Away from Poe. Away from Everyone.
Poe had managed to wrangle a few people in to help finish cleaning up the fire. He knew he had to return as soon as he possibly could to Ben. Ben hadn’t been okay. He needed him. The pilot quickly ran off, yelling out his appreciation, promising them a round of drinks when he got back. He begins to panic as he enters Jessika’s room easily, the door already ajar. “Snap?” He worriedly calls out, assuming the worst and drawing his blaster.
A tired voice comes back, exasperated, “He…He left…at least…I think so…not quite so sure…” At hearing his rambling response, Poe puts away his gun, eyebrows raised in confusion. He fully steps into the room, gingerly stepping over the ruined plant in the entryway. He tentatively asks, not really sure he’s going to get a coherent answer, “What happened here?” Snap shrugs, or at least he tries to shrug around the blanket wrapped snugly on his shoulders. “…Don’t really know.”
Poe looks down, examining Snap. He looks slightly dazed, lethargically staring into empty space, as if recovering from a hangover. Suddenly his gaze clears and he grips Poe’s shoulder in a firm grasp as he confidently states, “But I do know one thing. You have to find him. He seemed a little bit lost and scared. Ok, maybe a lot. He needs you.” He sees Poe’s troubled expression, comprehension dawning as he adds, “And you need him.” Poe nods, deciding. He’s going after him, alone. No weapons, no outside help. He unclips his holster and blaster from his belt before running back across the room. “Thanks Snap!” He responds slowly, talking to empty air, as Poe has already left. “Ok, I’ll be here…waiting.”
Ben had barely managed to slip into a spare storage room, before he’d heard someone’s footsteps clomping after him. He desperately hid himself, sliding his thin body between two large crates. He realizes this is a twisted version of Hide and Seek, a game him and Poe had played all the time as kids. Usually Ben had won, being a lot quieter, being able to sense Poe with his powers. Poe would usually give up, grumbling good-naturedly, teasing him, saying he cheated. He couldn’t help it then, though. He couldn’t control his powers. He’d remembered R2-D2 providing a distraction, diverting their temporary caregiver, C-3P0. “Oh, of course, Artoo, they must’ve gone this way.” Artoo turning, his light blinking back at them mischievously, as they ran off giggling, BB-8 trailing behind them.
The shuffling gets closer as their shoes scrape across the floor. This person isn’t giving up. Their scuffed black boots come into his field of vision. The man leans over, wavy black hair falling into kind brown eyes, as he stoops down, looking at Ben. Found you. But this time there’s no laughing. No happy reunion. Ben stiffens, expecting angry yelling or even some suave comeback but there isn’t. It unsettles Ben. Why isn’t he reacting? He’s never seen him be this serious before.
Poe sighs, scrubbing his face in frustration, tugging at his curly hair. What is Poe doing here? Ben tentatively brushes against his mind, shocked at what he finds. His thoughts are wide open, no defenses built. Why isn’t he blocking me? Ben recovers from his surprise, gently glancing at his thoughts. Poe is frustrated and angry but not at him. –did I leave him? Shouldn’t have. So stupid. BB-8 went on his own to see him and I—Ben stops, stunned at what he just heard. Poe hadn’t sent BB-8. The droid had come on his own, wanting to see him, make sure he was okay. Ben was one of his masters after all. He shakes his head, starting to tremble. It can’t be true. That droid shouldn’t care about him and neither should Poe.
“It was me.” He’s surprised Poe can understand him, he’s shaking so much. Poe stares at him, confusion spreading across his face. Ben dreads having to explain but plows ahead, knowing its necessary, “I was the one that…that tortured you.” He shudders, forcing the words past his quivering lips. He remembered Poe bravely but naively shooting at him, in the village. He’d wished it had hit him. That his amazing force abilities would falter. Then they wouldn’t be in a cell as Ben injured him. Then they wouldn’t be here having this horrifying confrontation.
He’d wanted to scream when Poe had smoothly retorted back at him, joking about his helmet, putting up a courageous front. He’d wanted to scream when he’d torn through Poe’s mind, remorsefully looking for what the Supreme Leader demanded. Poe had continued to fight, trying to be the brave hero, the fearless smuggler from their children’s game. Please don’t do this. Just give me what they want. Don’t resist. But he had. And it’d hurt. For both of them. Twin pain echoed through his mind as he felt what Poe was experiencing, as well as his own, magnified by his cursed powers.
He screamed now, a wail of pure misery and frustration tearing out of his throat, as he curled inwards, burrowing deeper into the crevice. Poe looks on sympathetically, wanting to reach out, but instead he crouches down to Ben’s height. They’re level with each other, equals now. But we never were. They silently stare at each other, tense and unsure, before Poe’s expression solidifies, confidence burning in his eyes, decisively opening his mouth.
“You’re strong.” Ben blinks, surprised. That is not what he had been expecting. He wasn’t strong. He wasn’t—Poe continues before Ben can keep thinking, earnestly explaining in a sure voice, “…I’ve seen soldiers, pilots, who’ve given up after their first battle, shell shocked, destroyed. But not you.” Ben looks confused and he opens his mouth to retort, grief shining in his eyes. But I am broken. I am destroyed. But Poe seems to know what he’s going to say, determinedly interrupting, “You didn’t get this way without getting hurt yourself.” His eyes soften, as he gently motions towards his head, tenderly murmuring, “Something got in here.” How does he know? Poe continues, gently lowering his hand to his chest, gesturing towards his heart, “But not in here.” Tears prick at Ben’s eyes as Poe passionately states, “You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that. You’re still you. You’re still Ben.” Ben goes to vehemently deny—not the Ben you want, you need--but Poe leans in, pointing at him, compassion radiating from his voice “You’re still my friend.” Now both of them are crying, tears dripping onto the concrete.
Poe pauses, remembering the last time he had seen Ben. He’d been sitting, dejectedly staring, disinterested and morose, at the twin suns setting in the distance. Poe had quietly sat down next to him, concerned, knowing this wasn’t the time for humor. He doesn’t speak, patiently waiting, knowing Ben will talk when he wants to. Frustration leeches into his voice as he angrily gestures at himself, “I don’t want this.” To others it might be vague but Poe knows. Ben has a connection, a power, ‘force sensitivity’ as some would call it. He’d seen how great and terrible it was. He could help people but he was always so afraid. That he would hurt others. That he would hurt himself. And Ben was suffering. He’d wished he could take it away for him. But he couldn’t.
Ben’s voice wavers, scared to voice his next thought, “I…” Poe nods, encouraging him to continue. He whispers, nervously looking at him, “I don’t want to go.” Poe’s face furrows in confusion. Why did he have to leave? Where was he going? Ben seems to panic at having said it aloud, now frantically trying not to look at him. “Ben…What…Where are you going?” As Poe asks this, he attempts to grab his shoulder in a steadying hold. Ben swiftly scrambles to his feet; hiding his face in his hair. Poe slowly stands up, even more worried for Ben. He softly pleads with him, offering a gentle bargain, “Hey…We can figure this out.”
He carefully leans over, staring at Ben. Poe realizes why he was trying to hide his expression. He’s absolutely distraught, tired and red-rimmed eyes crying as he gasps out “Too late.” Poe has to help him. He tries to reach out to him again, firmly stating, “Ben, you don’t have to go.” This seems to set him off even more, breaths heaving out of him as he starts to hyperventilate. He hunches over, gagging, choking on spit. Poe quickly moves, rubbing his hands soothingly along Ben’s shaking back, attempting to comfort him. Ben shudders, eyes widening in surprise as he vomits all over Poe’s shoes.
Ben is understandably embarrassed, trying to pull away from his touch, but Poe doesn’t mind at all. He grips him even tighter, forcing him to lean on him, “It’s ok buddy, let it out.” Better to let it out than continue to let it fester inside. Poe carefully sits back down, Ben slumping boneless against him. He’s still trembling as he burrows into his shoulder. Ben stares blankly, exhausted and empty, as the two suns dip below the horizon. Poe wraps an arm around him, pulling him closer, pressing him against his chest, trying futilely to protect him. They both sit there in silence, huddled together until the last rays of light fade.
Ben reluctantly begins to shift, getting ready to move but Poe tightens his hold, worried. He can’t let him go. He can’t let him leave. Ben sighs, pressing his forehead against Poe’s shoulder, eyes closed tightly. An alarm abruptly blares, announcing the arrival of the fleet, startling the two boys. Ben swiftly stands up, looking absolutely defeated. He weakly mumbles, shoulders drooping, “I…I have to go.” He sprints off, disappearing into the sudden crowd of resistance personnel. Poe runs after him, yelling frantically, “Ben, wait!” But he’s too late. Ben’s already gone.
He finds out the next morning that he’s left to train at a Jedi Academy. On a remote planet, with a distant uncle. He doesn’t even get to say goodbye. He remembers, a few years later, hearing about the tragedy that had occurred, all the student’s dead, murdered. He had panicked, urgently running to find the general. Was Ben really dead? She had shaken her head sadly and he knew that even though he was alive, something terrible had happened. He shouldn’t have let his grip falter. When she tentatively tells him her husband is searching for him Poe doesn’t hesitate. He’s going to find him. He departs, in his signature black x-wing, desperately scouring obscure planets. He just wants Ben back. And finally, over a decade later, he’s here. He softly smiles, looking at Ben’s tear-stained face, conviction burning in his voice, “No matter how much you think you hurt me, No matter how much you try to push me away. I’m not letting you go. Not this time. Not ever again.”
So I decided to post another chapter because i am going to be gone for memorial weekend, away from a computer. Have fun with the (relatively) fluffy chapter!
Poe is reaching towards him, smiling, so Ben hesitantly takes his proffered hand, firmly wrapping it in his own. The pilot grasps it, gently pulling him out of his hiding spot. “C’mere, buddy.” He pulls him into a tight embrace, wrapping his arms around his middle, mindful of his bandaged side. Ben tenses; hands’ awkwardly hovering at his side before Poe speaks again, murmuring into his shoulder. “You need one of these. Trust me.” He slowly reaches down, returning the hold, sighing tiredly. He smiles slightly, the movement feeling strange, as he sees that Poe only reaches his shoulders. I’m taller than him now.
“What’re you smiling about, silly?” He startles, as Poe looks up at him, beaming. He slowly raises his hand, placing it above Poe’s head, comically illustrating their obvious height difference. “Wha?” He splutters, a look of feigned outrage crossing his face. “Look buddy, I bet I could still beat you at a game of spacers.” A relieved laugh bubbles out of Ben, surprising both of them. The situation is so ludicrous. They are bickering about how tall he is. It’s like he never left. He’s still here. He’s still his friend.
Ben sways slightly, exhausted, before Poe reaches out, steadying him. He assesses Ben, declaring, “But right now it looks like you need a bed.” Ben panics. He doesn’t want to go back to the hospital. He doesn’t want to face the others. Poe eases his fear, winding Ben’s arm around his shoulder, taking his weight. He starts to move, decisively stating, “C’mon, we’re going to my place. You need to rest so your injuries can heal properly.” Ben protests, uneasy, “What a—“At this point a yawn escapes him, interrupting his question, before he finishes wearily, “—bout the others?” Poe brushes the problem aside, having already thought ahead. He waves his hand dismissively, saying “They’ll be fine. I’ll get BB-8 to tell Snap and Jess what’s happening. Plus, we should probably let Leia know as well.” Ben flushes guiltily, having forgotten about his mother in the chaos that had ensued. Poe reassures him, murmuring, “It’s ok, buddy. We’ll deal with it tomorrow. When we have a fresh start.” Poe might’ve just been using it as a figure of speech but Ben wonders. Do I have a fresh start? It’s strange to think he might have a chance at a new life. He nods resignedly, too tired to speak, too tired to think.
Poe kindly leads him down side corridors, away from prying eyes. Ben is starting to get slower and slower, sluggishly dragging his feet. Poe generously stops, letting him rest his aching legs as he heavily leans against him. Ben mumbles, looking down guiltily, ashamed, “Sorry.” Poe softly laughs, ruffling Ben’s hair playfully, “Nothing to be sorry about.” He looks thoughtful as he gently murmurs, “Everyone needs help at some point. They just have to learn to accept it.” He continues, lightening the somber mood with a wink, “Plus, I get to spend more time with my best friend.” He still considers me his best friend? What about the other pilots? He would’ve thought that after all that had happened that Poe would never forgive him. How did someone like Poe like him? Want to be around him?
The first time they met Poe had run into him. Literally. All he had seen was the blur of a weathered brown jacket and a mop of unruly black curls before the person had slammed into him. “Oops!” he fretfully exclaimed as Ben tumbled to the ground. Ben stuttered out a response, worried the other boy would be mad, timidly muttering “Um, s-sorry.” He smiled, brushing dirt from his jacket, “S’ok. S’my fault anyways.” Ben starts to fidget nervously, unsure of what he should say or do. Should I leave? Before he can act on the thought the boy is moving. He leans down, reaching towards him with concern, worry shining in his eyes, “You alright?” Ben stares up at him, mouth dropping open in disbelief. He quickly nods, realizing the boy is patiently waiting for a response.
The boy sheepishly runs a hand through his hair, explaining, “Mum’s always saying I hafta to slow down. That’s how I got this.” He breezily grins, pointing at an innocent gap where his two front teeth would be. Ben is still gaping up at him, astonished that he’s still speaking to him. Say something, anything. His mouth bobs uselessly as he tries to think of something to say. The boy helpfully continues, still beaming with delight, as he looks down at Ben, “Hey, M’Poe. Yours?” Ben chews on his bottom lip, brows drawn down into a worried frown. I can’t tell him my last name, then he definitely won’t want to talk to me. He slowly looks up at him with dread, waiting for him to laugh or run away, as he mumbles his name, “…Ben.”
Poe instantly lights up, practically buzzing with enthusiasm as he asks a question, “Wanna be friends?” Ben rapidly blinks, surprised, as he fumbles for a response. He hadn’t expected he’d get this far. “…uh…” He fidgets, looking down, tugging anxiously at his shirt, “I…” He’s too embarrassed to admit that he’s never had a friend. That he doesn’t know what a friend is. Poe insists determinedly, eyes brightening with excitement, “We should be friends.” He leans down pulling Ben to his feet as he eagerly says, “But first we need a secret handshake.”
Ben frowns, eyes squinting in confusion as he hesitantly echoes “A…secret handshake?” The boy nods excitedly as he exclaims “Yeah!” Ben pauses; worried he’ll upset him, as he asks for clarification. “Why is it…secret?” Poe waves his hands animatedly, glancing slyly at all the resistance personnel rushing through the room, “There are spies everywhere. They could be anyone! We gotta be sneaky.” Ben nods, eager to please his new friend. Poe proceeds to do a sequence of complicated motions with his hands before waiting for Ben to repeat them. Ben tries. He really does. But he isn’t as fast, clumsily ruining the signals. Why can I never do anything right? But Poe doesn’t mind.
He quickly grabs Ben’s hands, startling him from his negative thoughts, as C-3P0 comes tottering around the corner. Poe’s eyes widen comically, mock horrified, as he whispers intensely, “Quick! Behind those boxes or the spie’ll get us!” Ben is dragged along, still connected to Poe, as they dive behind a stack of crates. He stares at him, bewildered, as he furtively pokes his head out from behind their cover. Ben, still confused, points at the oblivious golden droid, innocently talking to a woman. “That’s just threepio.” Poe shakes his head frantically, as he crouches down next to Ben, whispering urgently “He’ll rat us out! He’s a mole sent to ’terminate us!” Ben giggles, before clapping a hand over his mouth, realizing their supposed to be hiding. The idea is preposterous, as the droid cringes at even the mention of combat.
Ben didn’t realize they’d spent the whole day together until Poe’s arm started buzzing. Ben looks at him anxiously, frantically cutting his hand across his neck in a silencing gesture. “Shhh! They’ll hear us!” He agitatedly agrees, whispering back eagerly, “I know!” Poe hurriedly turns the communicator off before it starts to vibrate again. He growls, trying to ignore it, but it doesn’t stop. He eventually peels back his sleeve, looking at it with a moan of frustration. He grumbles, disappointed, as he reluctantly stands, “Crap! Sorry buddy but I gotta go.”
Ben tenses up, hands clenched anxiously at his sides. Where was he going?! Would he still want to see him by tomorrow or would he change his mind? He cautiously asks, afraid of the answer, nervously mumbling, “Will I…Will I see you tomorrow?” A wide grin splits Poe’s face, as he shakes Ben’s hand, enthusiastically assuring him, “You betcha!” Ben lets out a thankful sigh, relaxing slightly. He softly smiles back at Poe, trying not to get too excited; otherwise he might scare him off. The boy turns, beginning to leave, as he happily says, “See ya, Ben!”
He pauses, already halfway across the room before twisting around to breathlessly yell, “Meet me at ten tomorrow by the conference room, the spies’ headquarters!” Ben grins with relief, unable to contain his glee as he eagerly shouts back in agreement “Okay!” He realizes as Poe runs off with a friendly wave that the boy hadn’t asked for his last name. That he didn’t care about that. He just cared that he had a fellow partner in crime, a friend. As he arrived at his home Ben didn’t mind that his parents were arguing, heatedly shouting. He didn’t even mind that the monster started whispering, enticing him with dark promises. It didn’t matter. He had a friend.
Whew! I actually got back early so as a result you get more fluff, although its incredibly (reaaalllly) short!
Poe waits a few moments, letting Ben gather his strength, before kindly asking “You ready to go?” He gently nods and they begin laboriously walking again. Ben stumbles a few times but Poe is there, strengthening him, ready to catch him if he falls. He was always there. As Poe’s door comes into sight, Ben turns to the pilot, quietly getting his attention “…Poe?” He hums distractedly, focused on getting Ben to safety, “Hmmm?” Ben halts, forcing Poe to look at him. He gazes at him with concern, about to question him. Ben has to say it, know how much this, everything Poe’s done, everything he is, what it means to him. He knows he’s never been very good about sharing his feelings but he hopes he gets the meaning across. He stares at him, eyes burning with sincere gratitude, his voice quivering with emotion, “Thank you. I just…Thank you so much.” Poe smiles softly, eyes crinkling with warmth, squeezing his shoulder tenderly, “Your welcome. Anytime.”
They manage to open the door without Ben falling on his face, carefully shuffling in. “Alright, buddy, you’re taking the bed.” Ben pulls away from him, standing stubbornly until his legs start to tremble, shaking his head emphatically. Poe sighs, exasperated, gesturing at the room with a wide wave “Ben, you gotta sleep somewhere.” He doesn’t want to take his bed. He probably wouldn’t fit on it anyways. Only one of us should be uncomfortable. Might as well be me. He tries to sound firm but it comes out sleepy and feeble, hardly audible. “I’ll just sleep on the floor.”
Poe sighs again, shaking his head as he mumbles out reasons he shouldn’t do it. “This probably isn’t a good idea. This probably isn’t conducive to healing…” Poe pauses, raising his eyes and grinning at him mischievously. Ben snorts deliriously, knowing that look. He would wear that expression when he came up with a plan, usually disastrous but always fun. The pilot interjects gleefully, exclaiming “But who said we came up with good ideas!” We? Oh, Poe was going to share the floor with him. He wants to protest but his body has other ideas, betraying him. He scowls, frustrated at his lack of strength as he starts to sway again. Poe eyes him critically, hauling a chair over as he declares, “Ok, but first you’re sitting down before you fall down.”
Ben watches the pilot lethargically; body slumped against the chair, long legs awkwardly splayed out. Poe drags the bedding from his bed, pulling out spare blankets and then arranging them on the floor in a messy but comfortable looking pile. He wants to help but he’s so tired. Besides, Poe probably wouldn’t let him. The pilot dives into the mound of layers, burrowing below until all Ben sees is his wavy mop of hair. His eyes slowly start to slide close and he droops even further into the chair, too drained to move. I’ll just fall asleep here. Suddenly Poe is tugging on Ben’s foot, trying to tempt him into joining him. “It’s cooler than Hoth in here! I need your body heat.” He groans wearily, before gracelessly collapsing onto the mountain of blankets with a loud thump.
Poe’s head raises just enough to look at him as he asks “You okay there?” He barely manages a muffled grumble, his face pressed into the pillows “Mmmff…” Poe drapes some of the bedding over him, pulling him closer, as he teasingly complains “Now don’t hog all the blankets!” Ben retorts, slurring drowsily “Just as long as you don’t kick me.” Poe chortles, as they reach a bed arrangement, “Deal.” Ben is unable to resist with one last request, lazily smiling into his pillow as he adds “Or touch me with your cold feet.” Poe pretends to ponder it, smirking happily, “Hmmm…that’s pushing it. But I’ll try.” Poe looks over to hear his response but Ben’s already asleep, a soft smile spread across his face.
He’s climbing steep stone steps. Everywhere he looks there is lush greenery, moss growing out of rocks, spread across the ground in earthy clumps. As he reaches a clearing near the top he realizes. This is the island. The island she had dreamed of. He stares out at the water surrounding it, calmly lapping at the rocks, birds quietly perched, casually observing. It truly was peaceful here. He can see why she would retreat to this place.
Then his gaze shifts, seeing a robed figure nearby, standing close to the cliff’s edge. They turn around, slowly removing their hood, revealing an old man. His gaze is wise but also incredibly weary, worn down from years of pain, like he’s seen too much. Ben gasps in shock. It can’t be. This can’t be real. It’s the Jedi. Luke Skywalker. His uncle. Not that the weathered man in front of him would ever admit to that familial connection, especially now. Once, a long time ago, his uncle had promised to take him to the sacred home of the first Jedi. This was probably the only pledge the man had ever fulfilled for Ben. He could sense it. Here was the place he had talked about. Ach-to.
His long legs were tucked up beneath him, face pressed against his knees as he sat on the stone steps of the Jedi Academy. He was staring at the spot that his Mother had been, when she’d dropped him off, hours ago. Left him here. Abandoned. He was just a nuisance to be taken care of. His father, no, that’s too personal--Han Solo-hadn’t even bothered to see him off or say goodbye. He really didn’t want Ben, didn’t even consider him his son. Ben doesn’t care that his muscles are starting to cramp up, he’s not moving from this spot until they return.
He hears shuffling behind him, but he stubbornly doesn’t turn his head, knowing who it is. The person sits down with a long-suffering sigh, tan robes fluttering around them as they settle on the ground next to him. He buries his face further into his knees, trying to ignore the man, not acknowledge him. “Ben…” He flinches, hearing the name that everyone expects him to live up to, especially the older man beside him. They gently murmur, “You can’t sit here forever.” Well, I can try. I’ll sit here until I starve if I have to.
Luke seems to sense his despairing determination, earnestly saying “At least give it a shot…” Ben turns his head slightly, staring at him out of the corner of his eye. Why should I? The man patiently stays, firmly stating, “If you don’t like it here, you can return to Leia.” What if she doesn’t want me back? What if she doesn’t care? But he latches on to the idea he offers, desperately wishing it’ll help.
The man looks at him, pondering, as he quietly says “I think there’s a place that you would enjoy.” Ben raises his head, curiosity piqued. He continues, encouraged by Ben’s reaction, “I’ve heard it mentioned once or twice in the Jedi Lore I’ve been reading. It’s supposedly the home-world of the first Jedi.” As his uncle enthusiastically describes the place, the growing vegetation they would find, massive rock cliffs jutting out, primitive temples made from rocks, the immense bodies of water that surrounded it, he couldn’t help but be entranced. It reminded him of the stories his Fath-Han Solo would tell him about deep space, the Outer Rim, unknown worlds to explore.
When Luke finishes, he confidently asks, “Would you like to go there with me someday?” Ben jumps up, eagerly shouting, “Let’s go right now!” Anything to get away from this unpleasant place, this pressure to be something else. But instead the man chuckles, eyes crinkling, as he protests good-naturedly, “I haven’t found it yet!” Ben slumps, dropping to the ground with a disappointed sigh. He should’ve known it was too good to actually happen. Did he really think he was going to be able to leave? Luke stares at him softly, before positively reassuring him, stating, “…but when I do I’ll bring you with me, I promise.” Ben looks at him, eyes shining with a hope that will be shattered in years to come. It was the start of many promises that never came true.
He returns to the present, feeling the man’s gaze settling on him. He felt like he was intruding on something private as Luke stepped closer. He wanted to run, but fear and something else--Curiosity? That…that wasn’t his.—rooted him to his spot. Unexpectedly the Jedi reached out, touching his forehead gently. But it felt rough, jarring, like he was reaching into him, through him. The feeling felt strange. Suddenly images, thoughts, emotions, feelings flowed in that were not his. It was like a rubber band had snapped, as memories flooded in, assaulting his mind. He…was looking at a sad boy, hunched over defensively, eyes downcast as he tried to burrow into the hood of his cloak. He had freckles scattered across his face and as the boy tentatively looked up, deep brown eyes stared back at him, filled with fear. He knew those eyes. It was himself.
No. He’s not-he can’t-how could he—he panics, trying to break from the memory, not his but hers. Shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be here. She’ll hate me. Why? Why? Why did I do it? He gasps, as he manages to fall from the memory, stumbling backwards into another. Sand. Mercilessly attacking his eyes, swirling all around him. He shoves his hands in front of him futilely, trying to block some of the grit from his gaze. He manages to stagger away, the abrasive storm raging around him abruptly halting as he enters some sort of shelter.
It’s a large metallic room, objects forlornly scattered about in an attempt to make it more hospitable. But his attention is drawn to the far wall, where lines stretch across, scratched into metal. They repeat in five mark intervals, tally marks, covering the entire surface. He’s seen this before. He knows the significance the symbols hold. They count, measuring days, months, years. He stares, utterly disturbed, horrified, dropping to his knees numbly. Waiting. Alone. For the return of a family that will never come. He curls inwards, wrapping his hands around his head tightly as he moans “Reyna…”
Ben jolts awake, urgently sliding out of the pile of blankets. My fault. Couldn’t save them. Couldn’t save her. It should’ve been me. Should’ve died. Why am I here? He’s thankful that Poe is a heavy sleeper as he leaves the now nauseatingly caring warmth. Poe moans groggily before rolling over and falling back to sleep. At least he has that luxury. Ben quickly stumbles to the shower, tripping over his feet in his haste, breaths tearing out of him in frantic gasps. Need to do something, anything. Need a release. He wrenches the clothes from his body, uncaring of where they land. He can barely turn the knobs; he’s trembling so badly, the spray of water doing nothing. He’s so dirty. So filthy. He shudders, repressing a scream of frustration, muffling it in his hand. Need to be clean. He grabs the bar of soap on the shelf next to him, desperately scrubbing until his skin is rubbed raw. It’s irritated; a pink hue. His eyes widen in revulsion, slamming backwards in horrified disgust. Pink fading to red. Crimson soaking his clothes, staining him. Blood seeping from his hands and onto the floor. He tugs at his hair wildly before slowly sinking to the floor. I can’t do this. He despondently stares at the wall, uncaring of the spray of water that showers down on him. He doesn’t know how long he sits there. Time doesn’t matter.
He only comes out of his stupor when he starts reflexively shivering, the water eventually having run cold. He stiffly stands up, reluctantly leaving the stall. He hastily dries himself, before dragging his pants back on. He stops, glancing at a reflective object hanging from the wall in front of him. The mirror is fogged up; blurring a face he knows he’ll see. He can’t look. He tries to distract himself, looking for his shirt. It isn’t here. He sighs, running a hand through his still dripping hair. He can’t face Poe right now. Him and his eternal happiness, his forgiveness. He stands close to the door, listening, waiting, debating. He slowly cracks it open.
As he tentatively leans out the door and glances at the pile of blankets he notices Poe has left. Good. He’s gone. He slips out, searching for his shirt. Need to hide. Filthy. Repulsive. He spies it on the floor, hiding behind the bathroom door. He turns, leaning down and picking it up. A nervous cough echoes behind him as he whirls, fear flashing in his eyes, clutching the top tightly to his chest. The defected Stormtrooper is standing by the entrance, staring at him. He spews out a rambling apology, clearly anxious, “Oh, uh, sorry, should’ve knocked. I’m just not used to, um, personal space. Didn’t have much of that back in the barracks…” Ben slowly pulls the shirt over his head; childishly hoping that by the time he is done the man will be gone. He isn’t.
The Stormtrooper is watching him intensely, a look of distress on his face. Ben desperately stares back, silently praying he’ll just go. Don’t mention it. Leave. But he doesn’t seem to get the message, still standing there, watching. He slowly opens his mouth, murmuring quietly, as he breaks the tense silence, “…Those scars…on your back…” Ben stiffens in pure dread. He’d seen the worst one. How could Ben forget? A thick white gash stretching diagonally from his hip to his shoulder, marring the smooth expanse of his back. It still twinges with pain occasionally, reminding him of how he had failed, that he must be punished.
“You showed mercy, compassion, for those children, found in the village we attacked today. You failed your mission.” He had been unable to stop from seeing it. They had looked like the students. From the Jedi Academy. He still had nightmares, hearing their shrieking as they died, seeing the carnage, the blood, so much blood. “I’m sorry, master.” The Supreme Leader continues, ignoring his remorseful confession as he calmly states, “As such, you must be punished.” It wasn’t enough to apologize, to beg for forgiveness. Never enough.
He tenses, trying to prepare for what is to come. He still isn’t ready. His muscles contract, clenching painfully, straining, as the electricity surges through his body, freezing him in place. When the Supreme Leader eventually stops he can taste blood in his mouth, his jaw having locked up, biting his tongue. He tries not to cry out from the stinging agony, for that is weakness, and weakness equals more suffering because according to his Master, in the end, it’s supposed to make him stronger. Forge him; reshape him into an unfeeling creature, like the thing standing before him. It’s an unbearable loop of pain stacked on more pain until he is what the Supreme Leader wants.
He wheezes in painful pants, desperately sucking in air, sweat dripping into his eyes. “Poor boy.” Supreme Leader murmurs it impassively, as he strokes his face with a slimy palm, in a sickening imitation of comfort. Ben wants to pull away from his touch but he can’t even twitch as the being looming above him presses him into the ground with the force. “You’ve done this to yourself.” He wants to yell. But I haven’t done anything.
He didn’t realize that Snoke had removed his lightsaber until it was hovering above his back, mere inches away from his shoulder. It comes to life, rumbling viciously, sparks flying as it ignites. He’d had saber burns before, while training with the Knights of Ren, but it was nothing compared to this. He can’t move as his own weapon betrays him, slowly burning through his clothes, carving into his skin. He tries to writhe away from the searing agony as it tears into his spine but he all he can manage to do, is allowed to do, is scream. He wants to cry out for help, but who would help him? His mother hadn’t. His uncle certainly didn’t. No one would want to help me. I have no one. I am no one. I’m alone. Snoke is looking on dispassionately, face completely blank, eyes cold and disinterested, as he tortures him.
By the time the Supreme Leader has finished he’d shouted until his voice went out, tears silently sliding down his face. His Master loosens his hold on him, turning off the lightsaber and dropping it carelessly on the ground next to his body. Ben couldn’t move even if he wanted to. Everything hurts. Breathing hurts. The wound is incessantly throbbing in time with his heartbeat. It’s the only thing keeping him from passing out. The Supreme Leader had cut so deep that it’s still bleeding, trickling down his back onto the stone floor. The ground feels blessedly cool, chilling his feverish body.
Suddenly, he feels himself shifting, being lifted by invisible hands. He wants to shout as white hot pain rips through him as the wound is moved but all that comes out is a hoarse whimper. Please, no more. Snoke has raised him into a slumped sitting position, facing him. He addresses Ben, coolly stating, “Do not apologize to me, boy. It means nothing.” Ben stares blankly at him, shaking from the pain, broken and defeated. I mean nothing to you. I’m just a tool, a weapon to be used.
“You must be ruthless, unwilling to compromise. You must be an example to those around you.” He knows if he doesn’t acknowledge him; respond respectfully, he will be tortured even more. He doesn’t really care about what he’s saying he just wants it to end. He barely manages to rasp out a response, throat bleeding from the effort, as his body limply hangs in his grasp, “Yes…Master.”
He waves, dismissing him, summoning soldiers to move him. “Take him away.” As if he’s some piece of garbage to be removed from his sight. The Supreme Leader gives explicit instructions that the Medics would let it scar, leave it there as a reminder of what he had done. He hadn’t been able to move for a week and it had been months before he was able to completely use the full range of motion in his back. During his recovery he had lain there listlessly, despairing. What was the point in getting up? Getting out of this bed? I should just give up. But the Supreme Leader wouldn’t stand for that, forcing him to move, to obey. Forever chanting away in his head, like a demented priest until he rose again.
When FN-2187 speaks again, it sounds less like a question and more like a statement. “That was your…reconditioning wasn’t it.” What does he want? The man is impossible to read, his face closed off. But he’s still standing there determinedly, as if waiting. Ben resigns himself to the fact that the Stormtrooper isn’t leaving until he says something. He manages to speak; warily whispering “…you could say that.”
The Stormtrooper frowns, looking like he’s deep in thought, pondering another question. Ben continues nervously, words tumbling out of his mouth before he can stop them, “You and Poe would’ve met a similar fate if I—I mean, you--hadn’t intervened.” He tries to calm his racing pulse, heartbeat pounding at his slip-up. No one was supposed to know about that. But no one was supposed to know about his scars either. He tries to keep his face as composed as possible, as the man squints in confusion at him. He was never very good at hiding his emotions. He squirms under the Stormtrooper’s scrutiny, wanting to escape.
“What do you mean…I? What-What did you do?” He flinches violently, having been caught. He frantically buries his face in his hands, shaking his head wildly, as he crouches low to the ground. Wasn’t enough. Never enough to make up for it. Should’ve stopped it when I had the chance. Not strong enough. He didn’t realize his thoughts had spilled out of his mouth in a twisted mantra until the Stormtrooper was wrapping his arms around him, awkwardly patting him on the back. He sounds unsure as he clumsily says, “Hey, uh, its ok, it’s ok…” Ben stops uncontrollably babbling, hearing something grounding, a voice, his voice. The man slowly gains confidence at Ben’s reaction, assurance seeping in as he continues “You’re here; we’re here…I think whatever you did...it did more good than you believe.”
He slowly untangles himself from the Stormtrooper’s protective embrace, caged around him defensively. He lets out a shuddering sigh, blearily leaning back against the metal frame of Poe’s bare bed. The other man copies him, facing Ben with a quiet curiosity. He still wants to know. Ben swallows uneasily before hesitantly explaining, “When I saw you in the village…I felt it. The light.”
In the chaos, the swirling darkness of First Order soldiers snuffing out the flickering flames of innocent villagers, he’d sensed a solitary light, shining faintly. It pulsed, calling out to his own pathetic sliver of light. He’d turned, seeing a lone Stormtrooper, clutching his blaster uncertainly, a bloody handprint smeared across his helmet. He saw himself reflected in the soldier standing across from him. Except he was still relatively pure, strong. He wanted to feel jealous, envious even, of the man but all he felt was pity, sympathy. Ben couldn’t kill him. Had to let him live, save him, spare him from this fate.
As the silver-plated trooper, Captain Phasma, asks what to do with the villagers, he struggles with the warring voices in his mind. He wants to save them, should’ve saved the old man, but his scarred back twinges with phantom pain, reminding him. The villagers resisted, disobeyed, and as such they must be punished accordingly. Just like me. Kill them, the alien voice hisses, overpowering, shattering, all rational thought. He wants to fight but he doesn’t have enough strength. He shudders as it scrapes its way into his head, forcing him to utter the words. The villagers scream as the modulator in his helmet flattens his voice into a dispassionate rumble. “Kill them.”
He lets the blaster bolt, hovering in the air, slam into the pole next to the Stormtrooper, warning him, startling the soldier from his trance. Even if the man wasn’t killed he would still face reconditioning. What is Ben going to do? And now, he has to deal with Poe. This…isn’t going to end well. He has to do something and soon. Has to make a decision. He hopes he has saved up enough strength, enough willpower to change what may happen.
Ben hadn’t realized he’d been staring into space, lost in the memory, until the defector sitting next to him emits a noise of confusion. “…The Light? What do you mean?” Ben turns to look at the bewildered man, debating his next words, what he should say. I won’t lie, won’t manipulate him. Not like the Jedi. Not like the Supreme Leader. He sighs, carefully stating, “You have force sensitivity…” The soldier’s eyes go wide as saucers, mouth dropping open, seemingly flabbergasted.
Ben quickly cuts in before he can swarm him with more questions, firmly asserting. “It’s not as strong as me or Rey but it is there.” He stops, uncomfortably shifting, eyes darkening as he glances downwards. He won’t offer to teach him and he definitely doesn’t want to volunteer Skywalker’s instruction. It hadn’t turned out very well. No one should influence him; taint him with their teachings or beliefs. He’ll have to figure it out on his own.
Unfortunately for Ben, the Stormtrooper recovers incredibly fast from that news, only distracted for a moment. He nods as if he’d already known and it was just being confirmed. He stares at Ben intently, prompting him gently as he slowly says “So, you didn’t kill me, you let me live.” He continues; face furrowing in confusion, as he states, “Still doesn’t answer the rest of it…” Ben tenses up, starting to sweat nervously. Why? Why does it matter so much to him?
The Stormtrooper scrutinizes him, firmly asserting, “You mentioned something about Poe as well…” He’s straight to the point, persistent. Ben stares at him warily, waiting apprehensively. The man’s eyes widen, as he realizes something, astonishment in his voice, “Did you know I was planning on escaping?” He was perceptive as well, so close to what really happened. Ben lets out a sad little laugh, trying not to hysterically cry, not keen to reveal what he’d done.
It still hadn’t been enough. Was never enough to make up for everything else. It was a pathetic attempt at help, they still had almost died anyways. “I…” He pauses, wanting desperately to lie, but he can’t. He’d promised he wouldn’t lie to him. He would never be like his former masters, ever. Lying liars weaving webs of deceit. He would keep his promise, no matter how painful it would be to accomplish.
He stumbles out an unsatisfactory answer, reluctantly giving it to him. “I gave you a little push…” The man is looking at him quizzically, eyebrows raised in confusion. Ben continues, mumbling quietly, flustered and uncomfortable. “You did the rest…” The Stormtrooper gives him an exasperated look, expectant for Ben to elaborate. He tentatively pushes, practically begging, looking at him with kind, understanding eyes as he earnestly asks “…Just tell me? Please.”
The man is asking, kindly, patiently. Not taking, stealing it with the force. He stares at him silently, debating. The soldier is returning his look intensely, open honesty shining in his eyes, a slight smile tugging at his lips. “Trust me. I’m the last person who would judge you.” He can tell Ben still isn’t entirely convinced, guardedly watching him. He gestures, waving at himself and then Ben, sincerely vowing, “This is between me and you, alright?” Ben slowly nods, cautiously agreeing. He doesn’t want anyone else to know. The Stormtrooper gently reaffirms his earlier statement, comforting him, “I promise I won’t judge.” Now they’ve both made assurances to keep.
After he’d failed--always weak—to keep Snoke out, torturing Poe, ripping the information from the pilot, he’d let out a yell of pain and frustration. He’d turned, shaking with explosive rage, wildly slashing at the wall behind the unconscious man, furious at himself, at the Supreme Leader, at this situation. It was always the same. I couldn’t keep him out. Couldn’t do anything except hurt, destroy. That’s all I’m ever good at. That and being his little puppet to play with. He’d had many of these emotional outbursts, it was his only outlet, only way to rebel against this ever-present parasite, burrowing into his head, becoming his thoughts, his voice, his body.
After a few moments struggling to gather what was left of himself, exhausted pants sounding like muffled static through his helmet, he knew what he had to do. It was a desperate idea but it was all he had, all he could attempt to contribute. Besides, at this point it wouldn’t matter if Supreme Leader found out. I’ll die eventually; this will make it come sooner. He stopped, quietly staring back at the bloody and bruised man behind him. He would never see him again. This is all he would remember him by. He wanted to reach out, touch him one last time, but he’d already done enough, inflicted so much damage. I’m so sorry, Poe.
He’d left; telling that infuriating man, General Hux, that he’d found the information he needed. He had to suppress a shudder at the man’s cold and unfeeling gaze, just like Supreme Leader. Ben turned dramatically, dark robes swirling about him, before slipping down a side corridor. He stopped, carefully feeling for the soon to be rogue Stormtrooper’s light. He peered out of the small passageway, head tilting as he stared at the soldier.
He was walking slowly, as if in a daze, thoughts loudly projecting, panicked and in disarray. He was supposed to be going to reconditioning, but it seemed he was heading in the opposite direction, towards the hangars. He was going to try to escape. But he wouldn’t get very far without a pilot. And Ben knew just the one.
They would die if they stayed, and they were just as likely to die, attempting to leave a star destroyer but…it just might work. It had to work. He straightened up to his full height, resolve strengthening. He had to do this. It was their only chance. He sucked in a nervous breath before approaching the soldier from behind, leaning down. He carefully whispered into his ear, injecting as much force power into his voice as he could. “Follow me.” The man stuttered anxiously, jerking his head to the side, “O-Ok.”
Ben was startled for a moment by the soldier’s uncertain response, more familiar with hearing the slow, repetitive reply of a weak-minded individual. But this man was different; he had the force as well. This might be harder to execute than he had originally thought. He was glad his helmet hid his increasingly nervous expression, as he clearly stated, “You will escape with the resistance pilot, Poe Dameron.” The soldier stared at him a moment and Ben started to panic. Did it not work? Now he was worried the Stormtrooper would turn, shifting sides, reporting him as a traitor to the First Order’s cause.
Luckily, he still seemed desperate enough not to protest or ask too many questions. The man shuffled his feet, white armor clanking as he uneasily asked, “…How?” Ben blinked, still surprised, unused to having someone still be so inquisitive when he was using the force on them. “Claim that Ren wants the Prisoner.” He nods, white helmet bobbing, as he agrees, “Alright…” He almost sounds relieved, nervously chanting, strengthening himself, “I can do that…I can do that.” Ben watches as the Stormtrooper leaves, touching his blaster in a soothing ritual, before timidly stepping into the hallway. He disappears a moment later, out of Ben’s sight, hopefully to find the pilot. He gently projects a reassuring thought to the man. You can do it. Do what I can’t. Save yourself. Save him.
Ben slowly opens his mouth, carefully picking what to say, where to tread, “You were already planning on leaving…I just told you to bring Poe as well.” He’s hanging on to his every word, eyebrows furrowing as he fixates on one in particular, “Told?” Ben winces at his choice, amending the phrase. “Well…suggested, in your case.” The Stormtrooper stares at him before his eyes widen in realization, as he figures something out. He elaborates, carefully explaining, “On the Falcon…Rey told me how she escaped…” Ben intently looks at him, surprised, not having heard this before. How had she gotten out? “She said that she had told a Stormtrooper to let her go, give her his weapon.” She had always been quite clever. That ability had come naturally to her, having descended from her force-strong family. Ben nods, accepting the explanation, grateful that she had left when she had.
The Supreme Leader had wanted her, the immense force abilities she contained. He had tried so hard to protect--hide--her; he’d almost gotten caught, Snoke misinterpreting his feelings, accusing him of having compassion for the scavenger. It didn’t matter. She would be like a lamb led to the slaughter, crushed by the malicious wolf towering above her, using her until there was nothing left. As he swiftly walked back to her cell, he had internally panicked, trying to go through scenarios that would get her away, alive and safe. They’d always ended with her either hurt, recaptured, or dead. So he’d been eternally relieved, a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding whooshing out of him as he entered the room. She was gone.
But Kylo Ren couldn’t be pleased. The Supreme Leader certainly wasn’t. His boiling rage was spilling over, burning into Ben’s psyche, until all he could see was red. His voice wasn’t his own, but his Master’s. It became distorted by his helmet as he growled ferociously, Snoke’s fury tearing out of his throat. “No, No, NO!” Clawed talons digging in, burrowing relentlessly as he howled furiously, in pain. He whipped out his weapon, swiping angrily at the walls, hoping to appease the voice in his head. Hoping it would stop the fiery agony, scorching everything in its destructive path. Moving made it worse, ears ringing as his Master snarled, rabidly demanding. “You have failed. Find her. Get her. Bring her to me.” The Supreme Leader wouldn’t stop until he got what he wanted. He always got what he wanted. He shuddered, remorsefully wishing for Rey’s safety. Get away from me. Far, far away from me.
The soldier is continuing, question sounding more like a statement as he stares closely at Ben. “That’s what you did, isn’t it.” Ben is startled, caught off guard, that he was able to connect the threads. The man continues; face wide with astonishment, voice rising in excitement, as he exclaims “It was you!” He blushes self-consciously, nervously tugging at a loose thread on his white shirt. The Stormtrooper’s earnestly talking now, words spilling out of his mouth in a rushed explanation. “You told me that you wanted the prisoner, that I could do it.” It’s weird to be hearing him repeat the phrases with such ecstatic enthusiasm as if it’s the best thing he’s ever heard. He’s looking at him with wonder, like he’s some blessing, admiration leaking into his voice “I knew it was right. I just needed a little help.”
Ben’s fidgeting, uncaring of the pain twinging from his side. He doesn’t like all this attention. All this praise. It feels wrong. He doesn’t deserve it. He protests dejectedly, hanging his head. “It didn’t matter anyways.” The soldier’s earnestly objecting, gently setting a hand on his knee to get his attention, “You’re wrong, though. It helped me, helped Poe.” But all the pain they went through, all the suffering. He half-heartedly protests again, sadly murmuring “You both almost died because of me.” The man emphatically assures him, hoping to get his point across “Like you said earlier, we would’ve died if we’d stayed.” Ben stays silent, solemnly staring back at him. Maybe, but was it worth it?
Ben is unable to stop a groan of pain as he moves again, nerves tingling painfully, having sat in the same uncomfortable position for too long. His wound aches and his back is falling asleep, pressed against the hard cot behind him. The Stormtrooper seems to sense his discomfort, quickly getting up. Ben stares at him in confusion—Where is he going?--until he returns, dragging the loose blankets and pillows in his arms.
He leans downwards, gesturing for Ben to move, gently muttering. “Here. Lean forwards.” Ben hesitantly shifts, letting the man place some bedding behind him before sitting back again, infinitely more relaxed. He lets out a contented sigh, gratefully mumbling, “Thank you.” The man rubs his hands together timidly, unused to polite conversation, timidly replying, “It’s no problem. Your, uh, very welcome.” The soldier quietly sits down next to him, resuming his original spot. He sits; face uncertain as he debates, tensing up as if he wants to say something.
He opens his mouth, spouting out a rushed response, “People here actually do accept me, regardless of my past with the First Order.” Ben stares at him, a puzzled expression crossing his face. What is he getting at? The man continues, eagerly explaining in an awe-struck voice. “Poe didn’t even ask any questions, he gave me a name!” Ben nods, believing him. Poe had always been like that, incredibly friendly and accepting.
The Stormtrooper is waving his hands now, trying to convey the meaning behind his words. “Rey…she doesn’t even have to say anything, she just looks at you and she-she understands.” Ben flinches as he mentions the girl, having forgotten for a moment his guilt, her suffering. The man is staring at him intently now, eyes shining fiercely as he reassures him confidently. “I’m sure you can be accepted by at least them.” Ben wants to sigh. He doesn’t understand. What he’s done, what he’s like.
The man pauses, mustering up the courage to say his next thought. “I don’t really know what you’ve been through but I…I think-I feel like…you think your worthless, garbage…that’s the way I felt.” Ben’s staring at him shock, surprised at his insight, relating to those words perfectly. The Stormtrooper gestures at himself, laughing bitterly as he says, “I used to be a janitor for Kriff’s sake.” He stares back at Ben, firmly declaring, “But when I met Rey and Poe, became friends with them, I realized…I’m not nothing. I have potential.”
Ben is staring at him in silent surprise, unable to speak. The man begins to fidget with nervous energy, earnestly trying to explain with a fumbling response, “Look, all I’m saying-what I’m trying to say is…” He waves his hands again, trying to translate thoughts into words, before looking back at Ben, resolving to answer, “If you ever need someone to talk to…I’m here…I’ll listen.” Ben blinks, again thoroughly surprised. He’s offered to be my confidante, my friend. He nods tentatively, a soft smile tugging at his lips while the Stormtrooper grins, beaming excitedly.
The soldier looks at him a moment, before sheepishly looking down, having seemingly lost his earlier confidence. He’s anxiously rambling, starting to sweat profusely. “Um, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. You know, outside of life-threatening situations; getting shot at, crash landing, sneaking into secret bases, planets exploding…” He wrings his hands, debating, and then decides. He stops, wiping his clammy palms on his pants before offering them to Ben. “My name’s Finn.” Ben’s glad, pleased even, that he has something to call him other than FN-2187. The designation assigned to them is meant to make them feel like empty vessels to fill, like they were nothing. Poe had chosen a good name. It just seems to fit, naturally flowing from the man’s mouth.
Ben gives him a shy smile, shaking his hand, just as nervous as him. “I’m Ben.” They stare at each other a moment, trying to think of something else to say after all the emotional confessions they’d just revealed. Luckily, Poe arrives, door banging open, startling them both, heads whipping over to the entryway.
He happily exclaims, “Hey, Ben I- Oh! I see you’ve met Finn.” He has something bundled in his arms as he strides across the room towards them. The pilot hands Ben a worn but sturdy pair of brown boots and a thick wool jacket. He looks up at him, eyebrows rising in confusion. What is this for? In way of explanation, Poe says, “Its cold outside. Wouldn’t want you to get sick.” He must still look puzzled because he elaborates, eagerly saying, “We’re going to get some fresh air, stretch our muscles.”
His grin widens as he looks at the pair still sitting on the floor, excitement slipping into his voice. “Besides , we’ve gotta greet our new arrivals.” Ben pales, wrapping a blanket even tighter around himself as he realizes who’s returned. It has to be them. Finn is swiftly jumping up, blurting out an enthusiastic response. “Are they back?!” Ben stares warily at the other two, definitely not as thrilled as they are about the new turn of events. He puts the newly acquired items on as slowly as he can while listening to them happily chat, teasing each other.
Poe’s eyes gleam impishly as he nudges Finn in the shoulder, mocking him gleefully. “What, excited that your girlfriend has returned?” Finn looks absolutely scandalized, at a loss for what to say, spluttering out a hasty reply. “Wha-what?!” As Poe begins to laugh he bashfully looks down, rubbing his neck as he tries to weakly protest. “N-no. She’s not my girlfriend…” He quickly tries to cover up his embarrassment, coming up with a lame excuse, waving his hands earnestly. “I’m just happy I get to meet a…Jedi.” Poe’s smile morphs into a smirk at the man’s pathetic attempt and he snickers before winding an arm around his shoulders. “Don’t sweat it, I’m just teasing you!” Finn looks apprehensive and nervous as he looks at the pilot and Poe lazily grins back, reassuring him, “Trust me, I bet she’s just as excited to see you again.”
Finn is leaving the room, practically running, excitedly looking back at Poe. “Come on!” He impatiently beckons, wanting to get there faster. Poe cups his hands around his mouth, scolding him cheerfully before waving at him. “Slow down, buddy! This isn’t a race!” He looks back at Ben, winking playfully as he whispers. “Eager, isn’t he?” Ben realizes he’s addressing him, quickly pasting on a tight smile that probably looks more like a grimace. It seems to fool Poe though because he turns back around, clapping Finn on the back as they both jog ahead.
When they arrive outside, a small crowd has already formed around the iconic ship, curious to meet the legendary heroes of the old resistance. Poe and Finn carefully push to the front, while Ben stops, staying cautiously hidden near the back of the group. Someone comes dashing down the walkway and Finn shouts happily, running up to embrace the person. “Rey!” She gives him a side hug but she doesn’t look as pleased. Her face is furrowed in concern, as if disappointed.
She’s looking over his shoulder intently, watching for someone. Me. He quickly draws up the hood of the jacket Poe had given him, getting ready to leave, worriedly staring back at her and the ramp. R2-D2 comes trundling down next, shrieking and whistling with ecstatic excitement as he sees the gathering of people. Then Ben sees billowing robes in varying shades of brown descending the ramp and he’s gone. Melting into the crowd, slipping into the entryway, disappearing as quickly as he can.
He leans heavily against the wall of the hallway, shaky breaths puffing out of him. He presses a hand against his chest, letting his pulse slow before pulling back from the wall. A voice exclaims behind him and he twists around, startled. “Man, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!” He relaxes slightly as he sees the female pilot, Jessika, smiling back at him. Her eyes brighten with excitement as she eagerly proclaims, “You also look like you could use a drink!” He stiffens, wanting to protest as he nervously tugs at the hood still draped over his head. “Aww, c’mon, I promised I’d reward ya!”
He’s still tense as his dark eyes stare back at her uncertainly, long fingers pulling even more at the thick cover. It reminded him of his dark robes, his ragged, woolen cowl. They had hidden him, kept him—his true self-- safe from the critical judgement of others. “Please?” I guess…it wouldn’t hurt. Too much. He slowly reaches up, reluctantly pulling back the comfort of the hood, revealing his anxious face. She teases Ben, looking up with a friendly expression as she wraps an arm around his, guiding him. “Wow, who knew it was that easy?”
As they enter the room, he sees Snap, propped up on a stool, excitedly waving at them. Ok, maybe this was a bad idea. He guiltily looks at the man as they approach, blurting out a reply before he loses his nerve. “I’m sorry!” Snap looks up at him, eyes crinkling with warmth even as he wags a finger admonishingly, teasingly saying, “Look, next time just give me a little warning before you do your hypnosis thingy.”
Ben wants to explain to him that you can’t really warn someone before you do it, that it’s not really hypnosis. Instead, he apologizes again, looking down ashamedly. “I’m truly sorry. I--” He cuts in earnestly, flapping his hands in an easygoing gesture, “Hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to explain.” He grins, lightening the mood as he runs a hand through his hair, confidently stating, “I just can’t understand why you didn’t want to be holed up in the same room with me. I’m such a cool guy. I hang out with Poe Dameron, for kriff’s sake.” Jessika cuts in at this point, giving him some serious side-eye, as she folds her arms in disbelief, firmly stating, “You do snore.” She had obviously encountered a sleeping Snap before. He nods sheepishly, giving her a small smile as he guiltily admits, “Oh, well that’s true.”
Snap perks up again, handing Jessika and Ben a drink, eagerly pointing out, “On the bright side, that force thing means I don’t have to get stupidly drunk tonight.” He leans over to Ben, mischievously muttering, “And besides, someone needs to make sure Jess returns to her room, with all her clothes on.” She grumbles, scowling back at him as she protests, “I don’t get that drunk.” Snap rolls his eyes, exasperatedly retorting, “Sometimes, you really do.” She squints angrily at him, raising a single digit as she loudly proclaims, “What? No, I don’t! Name one time!” Poe pretends to look thoughtful, stroking his chin before playfully saying, “Well, there was that instance when…” Ben tunes them out for a moment, distractedly looking around the room, watching all the jovial conversations being had by humans and aliens alike. A scavenger girl and an old Jedi don’t seem to be among them.
He’s startled from his observations by Snap, who’s roaring with laughter, slapping his hands against his thighs. Jessika was trying to sexily seduce him, unzipping her orange jumpsuit but it had gotten caught in the plain black undershirt beneath. She pouts, as Snap looks on, enjoying the sight gleefully before eventually reaching over to help her.
Ben can feel someone staring at him, burning into him. He’s afraid to look up. He slowly raises his eyes, gaze connecting with theirs. A familiar pair of pale blue eyes is calmly staring back at him, patient and unblinking. Relentless, tearing into him, seeing everything. Ben wants to claw his own eyes out. Unsee that look, that expression. His eyes go wide, fear spreading, spilling into his bones.
He is not calm. He has never been calm. Unlike the man before him. An unmovable pillar, a shining example. He doesn’t know how he gets to move his mouth as he hurriedly mumbles out an excuse to the pilots. “I’m getting fresh air.” He doesn’t hear their response. Doesn’t care. He’s running. But it’s never fast enough, never far enough.
The Jedi’s gaze is seared into his mind. He tugs frantically at his hair, trying to center what’s left of himself, trying not to explode or implode. He can’t damage the walls around him. Poe, the other pilots, the resistance, would get mad. He can’t hurt himself. Then his mother, his parents, would get mad. He moans in pained frustration, hunching over, fisting his trousers tightly in his hands. He can’t take another shower, it won’t work.
He hears a rumble of thunder and he tears down the hallway, wrenching the door open. It’s pouring, coming down in torrential sheets of water. No one is outside in this nasty weather. He stumbles out, frigid rain instantly drenching him, soaking him to the bone. Maybe he’ll freeze. He wants to numb the pain. Wants to numb everything. Until the buzzing stops, until his mind is blessedly silent, no more thoughts ripping him apart, viciously cruel, cutting into him with wicked insight.
Laughter. He hears giggling, coming from another side door as a person runs out into the storm. He quickly ducks under the overhang of the Millennium Falcon, hidden from their sight as he warily watches them. It’s Rey. She’s spread out her arms, spinning in a whimsical circle, tilting her head back to catch as much rain as possible. She’s enjoying it, incandescently happy, mouth open in a wide smile, eyes blissfully closed as she gets covered in icy water, messy hair plastered to her forehead.
Guilt surges through him, crawling into his skin, as he realizes she hasn’t felt rain in over a decade. Hasn’t seen greenery, hasn’t had a family in years. He shivers. He’d left the comforting ferocity of the sheets of rain pelting down. He’d doesn’t feel numb anymore. Suddenly, lightning streaks across the sky, illuminating the both of them.
He lets out a soft whimper as he sees bodies strewn about, draped across the floor in unnatural poses, staring blankly up at him. It’s not real. Not real. He lifts his hands, pressing them tightly into his eyes, frantically trying to erase the horrific sight, the memory forever seared there, from his mind. But it was real, it had happened.
He didn’t realize the laughter had stopped until sturdy arms wrapped securely around him from behind, their face pressing into his back. He flinches violently, arms wrenching downwards, about to remove her hands. Don’t. Get away from me. Let me leave. He stops trying to pull at her firm grip as he hears her speak. Her voice vibrates through him as she murmurs “Don’t leave. Don’t go.” He shudders, remembering a little girl shrieking at him, desperately trying to run to him. She seems to be recalling the same memory, holding him even tighter in her arms as she softly whispers. “Not this time.”
He slowly shifts, turning to face her, her arms still wound around him in a warm embrace. She’s looking up at him lovingly, eyes shining with unshed tears. She reaches up, tenderly stroking his cheek, speaking softly “We should never be alone.” Alone. He had written in a leather-bound journal, keeping track of the time, waiting for his parents to return. She had scratched it into walls, staying for a family she didn’t know, that would never come. Both so alone.
He shudders again, leaning down, slumping against her exhaustedly. He can’t run from her. He doesn’t want to. Not anymore. She pulls him against her smaller frame, drawing him in, accepting his weight, his burdens. He presses his face into her neck, tears slipping out of the corner of his eyes. He thought he would never see her again. And now, she knew. The Jedi had unlocked her mind. She’s stroking his back soothingly, trying to calm the tremors wracking his body. He doesn’t think he can let her go. She seems to echo his sentiment, keeping her arms draped protectively around him. They stand there for minutes, unworried of the time slipping away, the soft pattering of rain falling the only sound.
A voice abruptly calls out, interrupting the moment. “Hey, you two lovebirds, get inside before you catch a cold or worse, freeze to death!” They stiffen, guiltily looking back at the man. Han is smirking back at them, holding a door open, inviting them inside to the comforting warmth. Ben flushes, mortified at the nickname but Rey softly smiles, shaking her head as she grabs his hand. She gently tugs him along and they quickly run through the downpour, Ben kindly draping his jacket over her.
They slip inside; water dripping off of them as the smuggler slams the door shut with a satisfied grunt. He raises his eyebrows quizzically, asking, “What were you two doing out there?” Ben stares back at Han nervously but Rey rescues him from answering, innocently exclaiming, “Enjoying the rain! It’s quite refreshing!” He gazes back at them, not entirely convinced but he nods anyways. “I see.” He continues, planting his hands on his hips as he announces, “Well, I came to tell you that Leia has gotten you a room.”
He pauses, a sympathetic frown pulling at his face as he elaborates, “Unfortunately, you’ll both have to share. There’s not enough rooms for everyone to have their own. Space is pretty tight.” Rey nods understandingly, acknowledging the situation, “Oh, that makes sense.” She looks up at Ben, gently asking, “You’re okay with that, right?” Shock spreads across his face for a moment before he recovers, swiftly nodding, grateful she asked for permission.
As they enter their shared quarters, he realizes that she hadn’t let go of his hand the entire time. He shivers, trembling from the cold and she reluctantly removes her hand. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get us some towels and dry clothes.”
He rubs his stiff hands across his frozen arms, trying to get some warmth back in them. His clothes are sopping wet, making small puddles on the floor. He slowly shuffles across the room, leaning against the bedframe. She reappears, tossing a fluffy white towel at him. He clumsily catches it, body still lethargic and numb. She then hands him a new pair of clothes, nearly identical to his old set.
She instantly begins to strip, peeling the sodden clothes from her body. He blushes, averting his gaze, hurriedly turning around. Rey hastily apologizes, realizing what had happened, “Oh! Sorry, I’m not used to having an audience when I change. I’ll turn around as well, so we can both change in privacy.” He mumbles nervously, words slurring from the cold, “S’ok.” He quickly shucks the soaked clothing off, fingers shaking as he drags the dry pair onto his still damp body. He hears her clearing her throat and realizes she’s done.
He slowly turns around, sitting carefully on the bed. She settles down next to him, towel draped around her neck. She reaches up to undo her three buns but her fingers get caught in her damp hair. She grumbles in irritation, pouting as her hands awkwardly hang, helplessly stuck. He lets out a gentle laugh before quietly offering assistance. “Here. Let me help.” He reaches over, patiently unwinding her hands from the snarls. He untangles her hair, gently combing his fingers through until it’s relatively smooth again, now falling in wavy tresses.
She gestures at her hair, huffing in annoyance, “Thanks! I generally don’t know what to do with all this. Or how to handle it as you could see.” He chuckles again and she smiles back at him, glad she could provide some form of amusement. “It’s not that funny!” He puts his legs up on the bed, kneeling behind her. She looks back at him questioningly but he shakes his head, gesturing for her to look forwards. He runs his hands through her silky hair fondly. He’d done this before, a little girl giggling, twitching with barely repressed excitement before he had teasingly reprimanded her to hold still.
He gently pulls her hair back from her shoulders, beginning to weave the strands together into an intricate French braid. She sighs contentedly, enjoying the sensation of him tugging on her hair, playing with it. When he finishes, she shifts, lifting her hands to run them across the plait. She grins back at him happily, thrilled to have a new hairstyle. He gives her a small smile, tentative pride blooming in his chest as she praises him. “Wow! That felt amazing! Who taught you how to braid?” His gaze clouds, mind drifting, as he remembers. She seems to sense his mood changing, getting solemn.
She twists around, moving backwards until her back is pressed against the wall, carefully lying down. He slowly copies her, sinking down onto the bed, facing towards her. She’s staring at him intensely, eyes burning with compassion. “…Ben...can you show me?” He knows she’s not just talking about innocent braids. She wants to see his memories, all of them. He nervously stares at her, seeing the penetrating look in her eyes, before hesitantly protesting, “You…you already know what happened. The Jedi helped you.” She shakes her head slightly, persistent as she earnestly says, “But I don’t know your perspective. I just want to know. I want to understand.” He wishes he could turn away but her intense gaze has him pinned.
She gently pleads with him, eyes softening slightly as she tenderly whispers, “Let me in…Let me help you.” He shudders, agitatedly recalling the phrase that still haunted him, but this time it wasn’t spoken with malicious intent, trying to destroy and corrupt. He has to forcefully remind himself that she doesn’t want to hurt him. The words were meant to offer understanding; she just wants to provide comfort, relief.
He lets out a shaky sigh before slowly taking her hand in his, gently pressing it against the side of his face. “Don’t…Don’t hate me after this.” I couldn’t handle it. She’s stroking his face in soothing circles, gently murmuring, “I could never do that.” But you will. You’ll want to. He watches as she firmly stares back at him, still unwavering. He doesn’t want to tarnish her with his dark mind, his spiteful thoughts. He sighs again, before sucking in a nervous breath, closing his eyes from her burning gaze before hesitantly opening his mind, letting Rey see what lies within.
He runs out into a field filled with wildflowers. He’s been going out here more and more. Away from all the other students. They don’t like him. They make fun of the way he looks. He hasn’t fully grown into his appearance yet, legs long and lanky, ears sticking out awkwardly, nose a bit too long. He hunches over uncomfortably, pulling his brown hood over his strange—hideous—face. There’s rustling behind him and he fearfully turns, wildly looking for the source. What more did they want? What more could they take?
He squints in disbelief as he sees a comical sight; three small messy buns of hair sticking out of the flowers and brush. A little girl is crouched low to the ground, peering up at him through the greenery, trying to stifle her giggles through tiny hands. “Is there something on my face?” He’s hurriedly scrubbing, trying to get rid of whatever might be on it. The girl giggles again, shaking her head as she stands up. She walks up to him, dirt smeared across her robes and nose. Uncle Luke won’t be happy if he catches her looking like that.
The girl is looking up at him innocently, eyes shining with wonder. She raises a tiny index finger, rising to the very tips of her toes to point at his face. She still only reaches his chest. He looks down at her finger worriedly, confusion spreading across his face, “What-What are you pointing at?” She takes his hand, startling him, as she presses it against her cheeks. She looks delighted, awestruck, as she excitedly exclaims, “You have fre—freekles. Like me!”
He gapes at her, her simple happiness, her incredible kindness. “Mummy says their like stars. Like…” Her nose wrinkles, face pulled down in a frown of concentration as she tries to pronounce the next word. “Con-consterations.” He helpfully supplies the right word, softly correcting her. “Constellations?” She stares at him, eyes widening with amazement, as she enthusiastically agrees. “Yeah!”
She’s holding something behind her back, grinning with barely contained glee. “Here. I made these for you.” She thrusts a mashed and messily made string of flowers at him. He takes it, hesitantly looking back at her. “Um…thanks.” She’s looking back at him expectantly, waiting. Oh, she wants me to wear it. He anxiously looks around before removing his hood.
He gently places it on his head, careful not to ruin the already damaged and fragile flower crown. He self-consciously tucks some of his hair around his large ears, trying to hide them. She claps happily as she gazes up at him, immensely proud of her handiwork adorning his head. “Pretty!” He blushes abashedly, rubbing at his neck as she calls him cute.
As he looks at her he gets an idea, excitedly kneeling down to her height. “You don’t have a crown!” She tilts her head, confused, “Huh?” He pats the ground beside him, gesturing for her to sit. “Here.” He picks some scattered daises and poppies, setting them in a loose pile in her lap. “Hold these.” He begins to undo her buns before she protests, squawking in surprise, “Hey!” He reassures the girl, gently batting her hands away, softly muttering, “Don’t worry, it’ll look good.” I hope. He tries not to feel a pang of homesickness, of longing, as he braids her hair. Does she miss me too? Probably not.
He’d watched intently as his mother pulled her hair up, deftly weaving the strands together, getting ready for a day of meetings. “Mommy?” She pauses, staring back at him through the mirror, apprehension in her eyes. He tentatively asks, worried she’ll dismiss him, curiosity burning in his gaze, “What are you doing?” She smiles slightly, relief spilling into her expression.
She’s glad I’m not asking about it. The ‘special powers’. Grandfather. The scary ‘monster’ that doesn’t exist. But it does. It’s always there. They just can’t see it. They just don’t talk about it, any of it. Not in front of me. Always whispering, sharing furtive looks, secrets, with Daddy.
“Braiding my hair. You want to learn?” She’s offering to teach him something? He quickly jumps on the chance before she changes her mind, eagerly nodding, “Sure!” Soon, he’s braiding everything in sight, even Chewbacca.
Han had come in, staring at the braided Wookie before doubling over, roaring with laughter, tears of mirth spilling down his face. Chewie had growled at him angrily until he apologized, and he’d stopped, surveying the randomly placed plaits with rising interest. Ben didn’t quit because it was something to do. Something to distract his hands, his mind. Besides, he had plenty of time, no friends to play with, to waste the day away.
He’d even braided the top half of his hair away from his face, when he’d trained with the Knights of Ren. All of them would fight, attacking silently with their numerous and immeasurable weapons, viciously striking to kill. One little distraction could end in death so he’d put his hair up, out of the way. Still, it hurt to methodically weave the strands together, recalling his mother, the little girl, the light he could never reach.
He’s twining the loose flowers into her braid, draping the finished plait loosely over her shoulder. She grumbles, trying to turn her head far enough to look at the hairstyle. She whines, crossing her arms in frustration as she glowers at the ground. “Can’t see it…” He gently grabs her shoulders, murmuring, “C’mon.” He guides her to a pond nearby, letting her gaze at her reflection in the still water. Her mouth drops open in surprise, hands flying up in shock. Ben starts to fidget nervously, as she sits there in quiet wide-eyed astonishment. Does she hate it? She finally emits a high pitched shriek of joy, arms waving in the air excitedly. “I look like a princess!”
He falters slightly, remembering what true royalty is; his mother, the last princess of Alderaan. By default he had also became a royal, descended from her blood, the only Prince of a destroyed planet. He didn’t like to think about that. It was just another responsibility, another expectation that people wanted him to become. But he couldn’t help but listen in solemn silence, engrossed as she told about the Empire that had obliterated her homeworld.
She had quietly asked him a question after finishing her story. “Will you help me, Ben? Promise to help me in stopping this from ever happening again?” He had agreed, proud that she would trust him with something. “Of course, Mommy.” But he still had been puzzled afterwards; the Empire was destroyed. Who else would want to hurt the galaxy? It would never happen again, right?
He distantly recalled meeting the man who had first called her princess. He had entered their living room, with greying hair and kind blue eyes, wrinkled with smile lines. He had leaned over, kissing her hand, as he respectfully murmured, “Greetings, princess.” Ben had wrinkled his nose in confusion, peeking up at the man from where he had hidden behind his mother. What was a Princess and why was he kissing her hand? Daddy only kissed her face, not her hand.
His mother is exasperated, but a slight smile tugs at her lips as she frankly states, “I’m not a princess anymore, you know.” He gently smiles back at her, clasping her hands in a congratulatory shake. “I’ve heard. Rising through the ranks to become general. Quite an impressive feat.”
She sounds slightly sarcastic, as she fretfully gazes back at him, an apprehensive grimace marring her face. “Is it?” He nods confidently, taking her shoulders in a firm grip. “Yes, your family would’ve been proud regardless of what path you took.” Ben nervously coughs, a worried frown crossing his face as he protectively clutches his mother. This man’s getting too close. What if he hurts mommy?
The man’s attention moves to him and Ben shrinks, fidgeting anxiously, fearfully staring at him from behind his tight grip on Leia’s leg. He wished his mother still wore dresses so he could hide himself better. He stoops down, eyes’ creasing with gentle warmth, as he softly asks, “And who is this?” Leia gazes downwards, tenderly staring at him, murmuring, “This is my son, Ben.” The man looks at him approvingly, nodding sagely as he fondly says, “Named after the Jedi Knight. He was quite powerful in his own way.”
He stares at Ben, pondering, before uttering a quiet question, gripping his small hands lightly in his own weathered ones. “Do you want to be strong, little one?” Ben nods enthusiastically, eager to hear the answer. He wants to be strong so he can protect Mommy, his family, maybe even protect himself. The man earnestly leans in, whispering as he moves Ben’s hands to his head and then back to his chest. “Then listen to your heart, not your head.” My heart? But all I can hear from it is my heartbeat. What does he mean? But he’s standing, saying his farewells to Leia, leaving the room.
The girl is standing up, breaking him from his reverie, patting him on the shoulder pompously. “Princess Rey and her servant!” She declares it proudly, puffing out her chest, hands on her hips as she holds her head high. His eyes widen in surprise, letting out an inaudible gasp at the name. Rey. Short for Reyna.
His uncle had tried to introduce him to her once. He had told Ben in a hushed voice that she was descended from the Kenobi’s. Obi-wan ‘Ben’ Kenobi, his namesake, was her grandfather. Ben had tried not to get his hopes up but…she was like him. Carrying the heavy burden of a famous title, a familial name that promised great things, that the Galaxy would want them to rise up to.
The Jedi had turned, loudly pronouncing her name, but she was mysteriously absent from where she had been standing moments before. “Reyna?” Ben had snickered at the comical sight, trying to hide it with a hurried cough; his uncle was completely bewildered, looking around as if she would suddenly reappear. He hadn’t even met her yet and he already liked her.
“I love it!” she tackles him, slamming solidly into his stomach, wrapping her arms around his neck happily. Ben is startled, letting out an undignified yelp at the sudden embrace, and they both topple over, tumbling into the pond.
He quickly surfaces, spluttering at the shock of the frigid temperature, the water only coming to his chest. But Rey is much shorter than him and she probably doesn’t know how to swim. He wades through the water, making waves with his arms as he frantically searches, crying out her name with rising panic. “Rey!” Brown hair rises to the surface as the girl emerges, paddling over to him with a sneaky grin. “Gotcha!” He agrees good-naturedly, relaxing, letting out a relieved sigh. “Ye-yeah, you got me…” He’s just glad she’s safe.
He picks her up underneath her armpits, ignoring her protests as he lifts her out of the water. He swiftly hauls himself out, soaked robes weighing him down, dragging across the grass as he clambers onto dry land. He collapses next to her, exhausted, long wet hair obscuring his vision. She giggles, peeling back the sticky hair from his face with eager hands, poking him in the stomach. “Get up!” He squints up at her, a mischievous smile spreading across his face at seeing her innocent curiosity. “What?”
He swiftly reaches up, wrapping an arm around her back, tickling her belly. “Sto-stop!” She squeals with laughter, trying to squirm from his touch before giving up, falling on top of him in a messy heap. “Oof!” She giggles even more at his exaggerated reaction and he can’t help but join in with her contagious happiness. They both end up wheezing, clutching their sides, unable to stop from letting out joyful peals of laughter.
Ben hears someone behind him, reluctantly clearing their throat with authority and he quickly sobers up, hurriedly setting Rey beside him. He scrambles to his feet, mumbling out a nervous apology as he turns to face him. “Sorry, Unc-Master.” The man is staring at Ben, a slight frown tugging at his lips as he hears the respectful title.
Isn’t that what I’m supposed to call him? Have I already failed? Am I in trouble? The Jedi looks distressed, as if he’s debating something, about to protest, but then he simply says, “Dinner is in ten minutes.” They both watch as he forlornly turns; trudging through the field, back to the building in the distance. Ben would’ve thought he’d be mad because they were slacking, disobeying his teachings but he wasn’t. Is he…sad? Why?
Rey was patting her head, frowning at the state of her tresses, the flowers having fallen out. “Aww, my hair’s ruined…” Ben gently reaches out to her, quietly reminding her, “We’ve got to go. We don’t want to be late.” Don’t want to disappoint Master. Don’t want to disappoint anyone else.
But she’s distraught, frantically leaning down, attempting to stuff more flowers into her hair. Ben tries to reassure her, earnestly saying, “We can always make some more another time.” She wails, face scrunching up in frustration, tears dripping down her chin. “No!” He winces as he sees her begin to cry. He doesn’t like seeing her be so unhappy. He resolves to himself that he never wants to be the cause of her sadness, to hurt her, he always wants to make her smile.
He leans down, hooking a finger underneath her chin, softly offering her a deal, “Tell you what, we can come here tomorrow and do this again.” Seeing her expression begin to lighten is definitely worth any trouble or punishment he might receive from Master Skywalker.
She eagerly looks at him, eyes still shining with tears, stuffy nose muffling her response, “R-Really?” He stares at her seriously, assuring her in a firm voice. “Really. I promise.” She pauses, nervously looking at him, debating, before sticking her small finger out. “…Pinky promise?” He gives Rey a small smile, recalling secret handshakes as he hooks his own finger around her’s. “Pinky promise.”
He straightens up, motioning for her to climb onto his back. “Come on, princess. I’ll give you a ride.” She brightens up, an excited grin splitting her face as she hears the term of endearment. She sniffles, quickly swiping the snot and tears from her face. She jumps onto his back as he carefully hooks his arms under her legs. He begins the trek back, as she wraps her arms snugly around his neck, excitedly chattering into his ear. He stumbles slightly, remembering a boy with wavy black hair diverting him with similar stories, usually meaningless, but light-hearted, fun. He misses him. Still, he’s made a new friend, hopefully one he won’t have to leave.
He’s sitting, quietly reading a book on the language and symbolism of plants, sunlight spilling into the hallway from the courtyard, illuminating the worn sheets. He flicks a page before glancing up at the door across the yard. He’s waiting for Rey to get done with her class, designed specifically for her age group.
He sighs; it probably has something to do with meditation. Everything is apparently connected to having introspection, achieving a calm state. He can’t imagine how Rey is doing it because even he struggles with that concept. Sitting perfectly still and supposedly empting your mind. He snorts, trying to contain a huff of laughter, knowing she’s most likely doing the exact opposite of what Luke is teaching.
“What’re you laughing at, twig?” He stiffens, hunching over defensively as he hears the familiar jeer of another Padawan his age, Kaden. The boy has continuously antagonized him, spewing spiteful comments in his face, harassing him at any given moment, since first arriving at the school.
He pretends to continue reading his book, trying to ignore the boy, as he furtively stares at him through the corner of his eye. Maybe he’ll leave this time. Kaden stops, standing in front of him, grinning maliciously. He jabs out a foot, striking the book from Ben’s hands, the tome dropping to the ground with a loud thud. “Whoops.”
Kaden leans downwards, hostilely staring down at him as he states, “Now that I’ve got your attention.” Ben quietly stares up at him as the boy mockingly asks, “What’re you doing out here, huh?” He waves towards the door across from them, another derisive question spilling out, filled with contempt. “Waiting for that stupid girl?”
The other padawan snaps his fingers, pretending to think as he sarcastically questions him. “What’s her name…Rainy…no?” Ben glares, knowing the other boy knows her name, baiting Ben. Everyone in the whole school knows her name. Ben states it firmly, quietly saying, “Reyna.”
He clenches his fists, eyes flashing with livid fury as he tries to contain his anger, defending her as he retorts heatedly, “And she’s not stupid. She’s probably smarter than you ever will be.” Kaden eyes widen with mischievous glee as he crows out in mocking delight, “Aww, how sickeningly sweet! You are her little flower boy, her servant!” Ben bristles angrily, not at the words themselves but the fact that the boy knew them. He wasn’t supposed to know about that. He had intruded on something private, something that only he and Rey shared.
Ben is done talking. He gets to his feet, leaning carefully against the wall as he wearily asks, “What do you want?” Kaden’s amusement fades and he glares at him, bitterly saying, “Well, direct aren’t you?” He hooks a thumb behind him, gesturing to a smaller padawan timidly standing by the doorway, casually declaring, “My friend here tells me your old gramps is Darth Vader himself.” Ben silently watches him, tensing up in worry, knowing this isn’t going to end well as the boy continues. “I don’t really believe it …” Kaden’s fixing him with a menacing stare, beginning to curl his hands into fists, threateningly saying, “So, I thought I would try something.”
Kaden shifts into an aggressive stance, waving at Ben, angrily taunting, “C’mon, fight me.” Ben weakly shakes his head, backing away from the boy as he hurriedly mumbles, “No. I-I won’t.” Kaden lets out a bark of laughter, shaking his head in disbelief as he incredulously asks, “Are you really trying to be like that old man, the preachy Skywalker?” He continues, leveling a condescending glare at Ben as he sneers in disdain, “He’s always prattling on and on about being peaceful. There’s no such thing as peace.” Ben stares at him in disbelief as the boy loudly disrespects their master, indignantly muttering, “Then…why are you here?”
Kaden brushes away the question with an irritated frown before gesturing back at the classroom across from them, maliciously asking, “What if I were to arrange an accident for your precious little Rey, hmm? What would you do then?” Ben glares, moving to protectively stand in front of the door, blocking the other boy’s view as he firmly states, “That isn’t the Jedi way…” He’s disinterestedly examining his nails, injecting nonchalance into his voice as he coldly says, “No, I suppose it isn’t. But neither is this.” He flicks his hand, slamming Ben into the door of an empty classroom. “Wow. Looks like you’re a little clumsy. Let me help ya, pal.” He gestures sharply again, pushing him into the room, sliding him across the floor. “Man, this just isn’t your day is it?”
Kaden’s so called ‘friend’ is a shy little boy, Ravi, always following him around like a pitiful shadow. He’s quietly staring at Ben with sympathy, before guiltily turning away, trying not to think about he’s witnessing. Ben is distracted, looking at the other boy, silently pleading with him to stop this. Kaden is stepping into his field of vision, waving his hands in front of his face, reprimanding him. “Hey, pay close attention! Otherwise you might miss something.”
There’s a sharp audible crack as he harshly waves downwards, smashing Ben’s face into the edge of a desk. He attempts to not give Kaden the satisfaction that he’s caused him pain, trying not to cry out, instead letting out a muffled gasp. He can’t react to it. Has to show no emotion. Be like a Jedi. He slumps to the ground, clutching his nose, grimacing, as blood gushes out, spilling onto the floor. He wheezes, struggling to take in air normally, having to heavily breathe through his mouth. He winces as he realizes it’s probably broken.
The other two boys freeze in horrified shock at the damage, Ben’s blood staining the ground around them, audible gasps filling the room as he attempts to heave in oxygen. Kaden’s eyes widen slightly in fear and it almost looks like he’s going to apologize, opening his mouth hesitantly. But then he sees that Ben isn’t doing anything, just sitting there, holding his bleeding nose as he quietly stares up at him.
The boy’s gaze darkens and he furiously glares at Ben as he yells out in frustration, frantically screaming at him, “Why aren’t you defending yourself? Move, you idiot!” Ben flinches at his angry tone, knowing he deserves it. He really is stupid. Did he really think that not acting in this situation would be fine? That nothing would happen? He’s not a Jedi. He’s just a coward.
“Well, this is just sad.” Kaden is looking down, prodding him with a toe as he jeers derisively. Ben shifts away from his touch, arms shaking as he tries to lift his weight onto his feet. The boy glowers, taunting, beckoning with his index finger, “C’mon, Ben. Show me what you got. Maybe I’ll stop if you do something.” Ben slowly rises to his knees, defiantly glaring up at him but he doesn’t move from his spot.
Kaden gazes at him, rolling his eyes impatiently as he mocks him. “Mmm…I’m almost moved by this ridiculous show of being passive. Do you enjoy being his little pet, his precious padawan?” Ben stares, darkly scowling at him, still loosely holding a hand to his nose, blood trickling down his chin in a steady stream.
Kaden’s expression morphs into an angry glower as he hisses out. “To be honest, it makes me wanna throw up.” Ben coughs; saliva tinged red, dripping from his mouth, as the boy shoves him into the ground. Ravi looks utterly terrified, reaching out to Ben, nervously glancing between the two boys as he protests, “Kaden, stop. This isn’t a good idea.” The boy turns, leering at the other Padawan, a malicious gleam flashing in his eyes as he sarcastically states, “You’re right. Let’s finish this.” He raises his arm, throwing Ben into the edge of a window, glass shattering from the strength of the push.
Ben can’t stop a strangled scream of pain from coming out as shards of glass cut into his skin, weakly trying to pull away from the agony. But without the use of the force he is powerless, shoved into painful positions by the sadistic whims of the other boy. He wants to cry, call out for Luke, but his throat isn’t working, clogged with blood. He scrabbles at the wall, trying to reach for Ravi, desperation setting in. Ben grasps for something to help him, primal instincts kicking in, wanting to survive, to live.
He suddenly freezes in horror, not reacting to Kaden’s relentless attack, eyes glazing over, staring distantly at a point behind the boy’s shoulder. Please. Not now. He’d desperately hoped it had left, giving up on him. The boy is nervously saying something but he’s too distracted by what’s going on in his mind.
A sensation he hasn’t felt in months comes crawling in; sliding back into his head like it’s always fit there. But it doesn’t. It’s like a puzzle piece that is being pressed into the wrong spot. It’s rough, jagged, clawing into his newfound experiences, rifling through them like it’s theirs. It’s hissing, indistinguishable sounds forming into a voice.
Let me in, it whispers smoothly, spilling like silky oil into his mind. He’s never caved to its requests before, always trying to resist the alien voice that doesn’t belong, but he’s never been so close to dying. Kaden has tightly pushed him up against the window sill until he’s practically leaning out of it, arms straining to grip the ledge. The voice rises to a shout in its urgency, drowning out all other thoughts. Let me in, I can help you. He shudders, frantically allowing it to fully access his mind.
Ben’s arm is rising of its own accord, fingers hooked in a curved motion. The two boys instantly collapse, writhing on the floor, desperately clawing at their throats, trying to breathe. The voice was somehow controlling Ben, using him to hurt them. I don’t want this to happen. Don’t hurt them. Get out of my head.
But the creature doesn’t budge, instead tightening its hold over his body. He’s frozen; the only thing moving is his hand, closing tightly around them with the force. He tries to vocally fight its control, get it to stop hurting them. “D-Don’t.”
He’s managed to move his other arm, pulling at the offending hand, trying to shift its relentless grip. But he can’t do anything to stop the terrible torture happening before his eyes. Kaden and Ravi are still futilely trying to struggle, horrible choking noises gurgling out of their throats. He begs, tears beginning to stream down his face. “Please.”
Their eyes are rolling into the backs of their heads, lips turning a pale blue, barely twitching now. He’s killing them. He shouts, tightly pressing his eyes closed as he screams as loud as he can. “STOP!”
The oppressive power leaves his body, exits the room, just as suddenly as it had come. He falls to the ground in an exhausted heap, the strain of trying to fight the creature taking its toll on his mind. The voice murmurs condescendingly at him. You should’ve let me finish them when I had the chance. Ben shakes his head feebly, still tightly gripping his hand as he weakly protests, You wanted to hurt them, kill them. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to get away. The voice interjects, whispering forebodingly, You can’t run away forever, boy.
He’s interrupted from his internal argument with the monster when the two boys groan, slowly getting to their feet on shaky legs. They’re still desperately gasping in air, sounding like grounded fish as they clutch their tender throats. Ben slowly raises his hands in a placating gesture, voice cracking as he sees them involuntarily flinch. “I’m…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen…” Kaden is glaring back at him, bitterly rasping out a sarcastic response, “Yeah…right.” Ben winces, hanging his head, trying not to cry. The Padawan hisses out a response, angrily stabbing a finger at him, “You…freak…Monster!”
Ben staggers back, clutching his arms tightly to himself at the boy’s angry accusations. I know. You’re probably right. Kaden wheezes; fear beginning to shine in his eyes as he heatedly gasps out, “Just…stay away from me!” He looks like he’s about to say something else, eyes blown wide in fear, nervously trembling. They all freeze as they hear a noise outside in the corridor. The two boys panic, quickly stumbling out of the room, worriedly staring back at him as they run off.
The sounds are getting closer, the person’s robes shuffling against the stone floors as they begin to enter the classroom. Ben frantically swipes at the blood dripping from his nose, trying to remove the incriminating evidence. Unfortunately there’s nothing he can do about the rapidly purpling bruise tinged around his eye, swollen and irritated. He can’t remove the red smeared across his tunic or the puddles staining the floor fast enough.
His uncle is staring back at him, a worried frown crossing his face as he concernedly asks, “What happened?” Ben sighs dejectedly as he sees who it is, what this situation looks like. The Jedi always comes at the worst time. Why hadn’t he come earlier? Why hadn’t he heard something, sensed something? He mutters out a feeble excuse, trying to hide his arms as he gathers them in against his chest carefully. “Nothing happened.” Luke fixes him with a pointed look, raising his eyebrows at the obvious damage to Ben’s face, to the classroom, disbelieving.
Ben is reluctant as he hesitantly mumbles, “…I tripped.” His uncle is looking at him expectantly, knowing there’s more to the injuries, the story, than just that. He nervously looks at him as he weakly explains, “Fell into a door.” The Jedi is patiently waiting, arms folded, tucked inside the sleeves of his robes as he looks down at Ben.
He uncomfortably glances at the wooden table beside him, smeared with his blood, quietly whispering, “…and a desk.” And technically, it was the truth. Kaden hadn’t physically used his hands, instead using the force to push him.
His uncle’s gaze is still fixed on him, not really noticing the damage to the classroom, as if Ben is worth more. Ben guiltily looks down, kicking at scattered shards of glass, bitterly muttering. “…a window may have broken.” Luke is still watching him, coolly declaring, “I can see that.” How can he be so calm?
Ben looks up at him anxiously, mumbling out a worried apology, practically pleading, “S-sorry, Master. I’ll fix it…” His uncle begins to slowly lean down, eyes beginning to shine with something—worry? For him? Why?—as he steadily states, “Later. It looks like you need the fixing more right now.”
He crouches down, about to touch Ben, when he panics, eyes widening fearfully. He shrieks, bringing his arms up defensively, uncaring that the glass is digging in deeper. “Don’t!” He repeats it again, fearfully staring back at him through the gap in his arms, voice sounding stuffy from his clogged up nose. “Don’t…Don’t touch me.” I’ll hurt you.
Luke is staring at him patiently, arms hovering in the air as he kindly says, “Just let me pull the glass out…” Ben still isn’t moving from his anxious huddle so his uncle tries to reassure him, cautiously reaching out a hand, “I won’t hurt you.” But I might. His uncle is giving a tentative smile, attempting to ease his anxiety as he sympathetically says, “At the very least I’ll try not to.”
Before Ben can protest again his uncle yanks out a large piece protruding from his forearm. He flinches, slamming his eyes shut, worried that the creature will take over again, but nothing happens. His uncle stares at him with bewilderment before removing the rest of the glass, Ben warily watching. Luke leans over again, about to press his hands against Ben’s cuts and heal them but he pulls away, protesting, “S-stop. Just…” He waves his hands in frustration, still nervous and uncomfortable as he hangs his head. He should be punished not healed.
Luke calmly sits, waiting, before softly saying, “I can’t let you bleed out here, Ben…” Ben stares at the man as he worriedly watches him before uttering a reluctant answer, ashamedly mumbling, “…Fine. Just wrap them.” His uncle doesn’t look too pleased with his response but it seems to placate him because he moves forwards, carefully tearing strips from the edge of his robe, covering the wounds. Ben guiltily looks away from the man’s cloak which is now ruined because of him.
A small voice is drifting from the doorway, quietly saying, “Master Luke?” Ben stiffens in panicked alarm, nervously trying to conceal his bloody wounds and Luke notices his reaction, carefully turning to hide him from the girl’s gaze. Ben can just barely make out her three trademark buns over Luke’s shoulder as she leans over, worriedly asking, “What happened?” Even without seeing her face he can hear the concern as she admits, “Ben’s hurt…I could sense it.” He sits there; stunned that Rey is so thoroughly connected to him through the force, that concerned about him.
The Jedi is calm as he evenly reassures her, even as he carefully hides his hands, sullied with Ben’s blood, behind his back. “He’ll be fine. Just a few scratches.” And a bruised eye, a broken nose…maybe some cracked ribs as well. But Ben agrees with his uncle, she doesn’t need to know that.
She’s still determinedly standing there, earnestly saying, “I want to help.” Luke nods, pausing for a moment to think before kindly saying, “Of course. Would you mind fetching us some water? Ben and I are terribly thirsty.” She nods enthusiastically, glad to help as she swiftly runs off, shouting out an eager response. “Okay!” Luke waits for her to leave before waving his hand and quietly shutting the door, turning back to Ben with a serious expression.
The Jedi is moving on, changing topics, prodding him for answers as he gently asks, “What happened to those boys who left earlier?” Ben stares down at himself; guiltily picking at the strips of fabric wrapped around his wounds, blood already beginning to seep through. This was all me. Why didn’t I do something when I had the chance? Why did my uncle even bother to try fixing me? Why--Luke stops his agitated scratching, hateful thoughts angrily directed at himself, gently setting a hand on his.
His uncle is staring at him, even more worried as he quietly states, “They looked awfully frightened. But they wouldn’t tell me a word.” He fidgets, wanting to run but his uncle is still gently cradling his hands in his own, crouched over him in concern. Ben turns his focus inwards, looking for the voice instead of hiding from it, like he always does.
The voice is mysteriously silent, seemingly absent from his mind. He yells, frustration seeping into his voice. “It wasn’t me!” Tears spill out of his eyes, as he desperately screams back at him, wanting him to just believe, listen. “I didn’t want this to happen!” Ben wants to explain as he sees his uncle’s confused expression but he knows. If he tried to tell him that there’s a voice, a creature in his head that tells him what to do, that it had just controlled him, he would just dismiss it. He would probably think he was insane as well, a raving lunatic spouting nonsense.
His uncle looks back at him, slightly shaken at Ben’s outburst, firmly stating, “Ben, you must center yourself.” What center? There is no center. Luke is now fixedly staring at him as he quietly instructs, “Let go of your anger.” I’m not angry. I’m just frustrated. There’s a difference. But his uncle is continuing, oblivious to Ben’s inner turmoil as he says, “There is a class this afternoon that I believe can help you achieve that.” Of course. There’s always a solution. Fix the poor boy. He glares bitterly at the ground before slowly nodding.
He desperately accuses the monster in his head, wildly yelling, trying to project as loud as he can to the creature. You did this. This is all your fault. The thing finally returns, stirring restlessly, coiling in his mind until it’s firmly latched there. No, boy. You brought this on yourself. Your indecision and fear led you to this point. It makes you weak. Ben flinches, curling up even tighter against the wall, knowing it’s at least right about that. But I can teach you how to use those feelings, become strong. Not crush them like that foolish Jedi would have you do, until you are void of all emotion. Haven’t you realized it yet? Everything he says, he teaches are lies.
He doesn’t know what to call him. He knows he shouldn’t call him Darth Vader, everyone hates that name. “Was grandfather…?” He falters, seeing Luke’s expression rapidly darken at hearing the familial term. He slowly continues, hoping he’ll get answers this time, “Was grandfather a bad person?” Luke looks uncertain, debating what to say before hesitantly opening his mouth to offer a cautious reply. “…No.” He continues quietly, still unsure of how to discuss the topic as he explains, “He did bad things but he was a good person, at heart.”
Ben’s confused. Weren’t a person’s actions what defined them? Luke looks incredibly uncomfortable, nervously looking at the door. “Ben, can we…” The man’s expression becomes immensely relieved as they’re interrupted by another student standing out in the hallway. “Master Skywalker?” His uncle reassures him with another false promise, leaving the room, “We’ll talk about this again, just not right now.” He looks down, feeling heavy disappointment and frustration settle in his stomach as he mumbles, “Oh…Okay.” But they never do.
His parents had been the same way, always evasive, nervous. His mother would forcefully change the topic, his father stiffening, going silent. They never told him what had happened. Then, a few weeks later, he had found out why.
He’s been having terrifying nightmares for days, haunting him persistently, every time he closes his eyes. Tonight, there’s someone standing, cloaked in dark robes, their back facing him. They wield a ferocious crimson lightsaber, buzzing with angry heat. He screams, already knowing what will happen, begging them to stop, but it does nothing to end the senseless murder. Their blade finds an innocent victim, striking them down ruthlessly, without mercy. He doesn’t know who it is this time but it always starts the same; with the monster. The creature turns, its silver rimmed helmet emptily staring back at him, covered in blood.
He jolts awake, a strangled scream tearing out of his throat, constricting blankets wrapping around his thin frame as he thrashes wildly. His eyes snap open, hoping he won’t see it tonight, in reality, but it’s followed him from his nightmare. The shadowy presence is standing in the corner, leaning through his window, propped up by the doorway, its everywhere. Suddenly, the dark figure is looming over his bed, saber hissing and spitting angrily, silver and black helmet glinting in the moonlight.
He lets out another terrified shriek, tumbling from the bed, crawling into the corner of his room. He keeps his back pressed against the wall, vigilantly staring at it the whole time, unblinking. The thing doesn’t move, dark soulless eye sockets staring back at him, silently cocking its head to the side. Ben’s eyes begin to sting and he unwillingly blinks and when he reopens them, it’s gone.
But he doesn’t shift from his cramped spot, still fearfully watching the space it had occupied. It might come back again. He curls inwards, bringing his knees up defensively, rubbing his eyes wearily. It’s going to be a long night. He doesn’t get up, waiting, until the sun is shining high in the window, illuminating all the corners of his room, no shadows to be mistaken for monsters.
He shakily stands up, leaning weakly against the wall, stomach rumbling in hunger. He doesn’t know when the last time he ate was. Monday? Tuesday? It all blurs together into a fear-filled haze. Time, food, even sleep, doesn’t mean much when you’re terrified for your life.
When he enters the main gathering hall, everyone is already eating lunch; apparently it’s sometime in the afternoon. The smell of rice and bread reaches his nose and normally the scent would be inviting, relaxing even, but he can’t handle it. He folds over, clutching his stomach tightly, letting out a soft moan as it roils uncomfortably. He carefully breathes through his mouth, shuffling over to a discreet bench at the back of the room.
He sighs, head pressing tiredly into his folded arms, blearily staring at all the other students. He practically blanches as a tray of food is placed in front of him with an unceremonious plop. Rey has found him. He swiftly turns his head, shoving his face into his arm, trying not to inhale the scent. She pokes him, happily saying, “Hey, sleepy. Brought you lunch!” He slowly lifts his head, staring over at her excited face before reluctantly grabbing a spoon.
He looks down at the rice in front of him; disinterestedly poking at it, stirring it in circles, flattening it out. But he doesn’t lift it to his mouth. She stares at him stubbornly, folding her arms in protest as she firmly states. “I’ll eat when you eat.” She sits down on the bench across from him with a solid thud, silently challenging him to argue with her decision. Her stomach betrays her, growling impatiently, as if trying to guilt him into ingesting food.
He mechanically eats a few bites, glumly gazing up at her, hoping it appeases the girl. She’s attempting to cheer him up, making goofy faces at him; puffing her cheeks, sticking her tongue out, crossing her eyes. But even that can’t break him from his miserable mood, as he watches her morosely, head drooping wearily. She leans over the table, propping her elbows on the surface as she stares at him. She looks at him earnestly, quietly asking, “Why’re you sad?” He lets out an inaudible sigh, glancing away from her open and innocent expression. He can’t tell her about the nightmares, they would just scare her, make her afraid of him.
She presses a finger to her chin, eyebrows furrowing as she thinks hard. She hums for a moment before her expression brightens, an idea having formed as she excitedly exclaims, “You could always tell someone ‘bout it!” He explodes in frustration; no one would listen even if he did speak with someone. He swiftly stands up, fists angrily clenching, bowl clattering to the floor as he impatiently yells at her. “I don’t want to talk about it!”
Everyone has stopped eating, staring at the commotion, but all Ben can focus on is the fact that he’d screamed at Rey. He’s trembling, pressing a shaky hand to his face, not wanting to see her most likely terrified expression. He crashes into the table, before unsteadily righting himself, stumbling blindly from the room.
He begins to pant from the simple exertion of walking down the hallway, stomach clenching painfully. He groans, immediately slipping into the bathroom, swiftly throwing up in the sink. Whatever he had managed to eat at lunch is slipping down the drain. He moans, shakily pressing his forehead against the cool rim of the basin before swiping a hand over his mouth, getting rid of the bile.
He turns the faucet, splashing cold water on his face in a desperate attempt to make himself feel better. All it succeeds in doing is getting the top half of his tunic wet. He tries not to look up at the mirror above but he can’t help but glance at the pitiful sight. There are dark circles, practically bruises, smudged underneath his bloodshot and droopy eyes. There’s a slight flush to his pinched face and he’s leaning heavily against the sink. He shakes his head as he quickly looks away from his reflection. The mirror must be dirty. I’m not tired. Not sick.
He decides to go outside; maybe the fresh air will help. But I’m not sick. Just enjoying the sunny weather. He brushes his hands through the familiar field of tall grass and flowers, making his way to the pond. He wearily flops down by the edge, watching as pollen puffs into the air, drifting past his face. There’s a rustling noise behind him and he twists around fearfully, raising his hand in alarm, ready to defend himself. It’s Rey; she always manages to find him.
He rolls back over, draping an arm over his eyes as he begins to sob. He’d almost hurt her in his panicked fear. He promised he wouldn’t and he’d nearly done it twice today. He bites his lip, trying not to let out a distressed cry. He hears her shuffling in the grass, kneeling next to him as she carefully whispers in his ear. “It’s okay to cry. Everyone cries. Even Master Luke.”
Tears silently slide down his cheeks as he turns, pressing his face into her legs. She shifts, running her fingers gently through his hair, finding his padawan braid. She begins to gently slip flowers into the small plait, softly humming in an off-key tune. His eyes reluctantly close, resting them, but he can’t fall asleep. He won’t sleep.
She’s moving again, this time crawling down to his feet. He cracks his eyes open, watching her curiously. She peels off his boots, tossing them to the side, before placing his feet in the water. He wants to instantly jerk them back at the frigid temperature but he wills himself to be calm, to hold still, let it adjust. She’s wrinkling her nose in puzzlement, as she confusedly says, “You’re toasty.” He convinces himself that it’s just the sun shining above, heating him up. He mumbles to placate her, stop her from asking any more questions. “Just the sun.”
He waits awhile, listening to her giggle and splash water, before she’s leaning over, tongue poking out in intense concentration. “Rey? What are you doing?” She’s tilting even more, practically parallel with the surface of the pond. He pushes himself upwards hurriedly, ignoring the sudden dizziness he feels, warning her, “Don’t fall—she whips around, giggling as she splashes him straight in face. He looks back at her, startled, as water drips down, soaking his robes. She laughs again, and he runs a hand through his hair, giving her a wobbly smile.
She yawns sleepily, and Ben notices that its already getting dark, the lights of the school shining in the distance. He slowly stands up, but he still has to wait for his head to stop spinning before grabbing his shoes. He beckons at Rey and she follows, skipping ahead and then looking back at him happily. He gives her a small forced smile, knowing she can’t see him like this; he can’t keep up this façade.
He halts, reluctantly announcing, “Good night, Rey.” She’s looking worried, anxiously asking, “Will I see you tomorrow?” He smiles slightly, remembering asking the same question to another friend. He nods, gently reassuring. “You will.”
He dejectedly shuffles along, feet dragging tiredly as he moves to his room. He pauses, seeing Rey’s doorway in front of him. But he couldn’t selfishly wake her up. He shakes his head, moving to his own door, tentatively pushing it open, worried at what he might discover. He thankfully sighs as he finds it empty, his blankets still messily strewn about the floor. He slowly picks the bedding up, tossing them into a bundle on the bed. He falls on top, resignedly staring at his ceiling, letting out a frustrated huff of air. He doesn’t know why he’s bothered to lay down if he can’t sleep. He’s about to get up and do some training, something productive, when he hears his door ominously creak open.
He can barely see anything, the only light in the room coming from the glowing moon outside his window. He squints nervously, trying to see who or what, is standing there, waiting. He relaxes as he sees two tiny feet poking out of the entryway. She’s fidgeting, nervously playing with her hands, debating in uncomfortable silence.
Rey finally speaks up, whispering, “…Ben?” He nods before realizing she probably can’t see him in the dark room as she softly murmurs again, “…Are you awake?” He replies in the same quiet tone, not wanting to startle her as he gently says, “…yes.” She pauses for a moment, anxiously shifting, but Ben makes the decision for her, lightly patting his bed, murmuring kindly, “Come on.” She quickly darts across the room, clambering into the warm blankets gratefully.
When she eagerly wraps her arms around Ben’s slim frame he feels a pang of guilt, quietly saying, “I’m sorry I yelled at you earlier, Princess.” She looks up at him, a small smile crossing her face as she pulls him closer, openly murmuring, “M’ok. Didn’t hurt.” He shudders, trying not to cry as she presses her face into his chest, easily offering a sleepy pardon as she innocently mumbles out, “Forgive you…”
They lay there for a while, Rey curled up against his much taller body, his arms draped protectively around her. He thinks she’s fallen asleep but she hesitantly calls out his name, nervously whispering, “…Ben?” He doesn’t open his eyes but he nods, humming in acknowledgement as he answers her “Mm-hmm?” She sounds incredibly uncomfortable but earnest as well as she seriously states, “I hafta pee.” He tries to make his voice not sound too eager as he swiftly replies. “Oh, I’ll come with you.” I don’t want to be alone.
He unwinds his arms and she hurriedly stands, awkwardly waddling to the bathroom out in the hallway. As he sits outside of the stall, waiting for Rey, he remembers her innocent advice from earlier in the afternoon. A desperate seed of hope begins to bloom. Maybe he will talk to his uncle tomorrow. Maybe this time he’ll help.
Ben had spent the whole night thinking of what he would say, how he would approach it. His anxious thoughts are now crowding out any reasonable ideas that he had come up with. And now that it’s actually happening, he doesn’t know if he can go through with it. He nervously clenches and unclenches his hands, shifting his feet, fiddling with his padawan braid. He finally reaches up, knocking on the wooden door.
It opens by itself, propelled by the force, and a voice loudly says, “Come in.” The man looks up from his papers, sounding slightly startled as he greets him, “Oh, hello Ben.” Is that good or bad surprise? He can’t tell. Noticing Ben hasn’t responded, still uncertainly watching him, his uncle gently prompts him, asking, “How have you been doing?” In his training or general well-being? It still seems very ambiguous.
He hurriedly blurts it out, all his previous plans forgotten, the words tumbling out of his mouth in an anxious reply, “I’ve been having nightmares.” Luke stops casually observing him, now leaning forward to worriedly stare at him, eyebrows furrowed. He folds his hands in front of him, carefully asking, “What are they about?” He begins to formulate a response but he doesn’t know where to start, his heart pounding apprehensively. “I…” The voice is warning him, telling him it’s all a waste of time.
He plows ahead, timidly muttering as he fearfully glances around the room. “I see a dark figure. He’s turned away from me. All I can see is his silver helmet and his red lightsaber.” He hesitates but his uncle nods encouragingly, urging him to continue. He nervously mumbles in terrified dread, worried about what the man will think of him as he tentatively admits, “He…murders innocent people. He…He slaughters them…” Luke is looking more and more concerned as he tells his story.
When the Jedi realizes that Ben isn’t going to share any more, he ponders aloud, “It almost sounds like a vision…” It sure didn’t feel like a vision but Ben can’t guarantee that because he’s never had one before. The man is looking intently at him with a grave expression as he seriously asks, “Are you certain it isn’t one?” Ben is getting more and more afraid and his uncle’s solemn look isn’t helping. He fumbles out a shaky response, scared and uncertain as he replies, “I…I don’t know.” Does it matter? All I know is I’m afraid. But he doesn’t want his uncle rooting around in his head. Like the creature had.
The man hums before promptly asking a question he’s heard innumerable times before, in a cool and composed voice, “Have you done your meditation?” Ben takes in a shaky breath, pressing the heels of his hands tightly into his eyes in tired frustration. He wants to cry and scream at the same time. He never listens. It’s always a lesson to him. Meditate. Be calm. Do not give in to emotion, to anger. He rubs frantically, attempting to hide the rising tears of desperation that threaten to overtake him. You can’t be weak, can’t show your true feelings.
He pulls his gaze downwards, hiding in the curtain of his hair, beginning to tremble from the stress of internalizing his suffering. His voice wavers and cracks as he tries to contain an anguished sob, whispering out a weak and broken response. “…I-I’ve tried…” He wants to yell at him, tell him it doesn’t work. Not when you have another voice in your head, constantly telling you what to do, how to act.
Luke’s chair creaks as he moves, pausing thoughtfully for a moment before leaning inwards, fondly saying, “My old master, Yoda, shared some advice with me once. And now I am giving it to you.” Ben slowly looks up as the man firmly states, “Do or do not, Ben. There is no try.” He’s giving Ben a wise answer but not the answer he needs. He’s being the Jedi right now, not the uncle. He’s never been his uncle. He’s unable to look at him as he bitterly acknowledges his advice, spitting out a reply. “Of course…Master.”
The Jedi is standing up, staring out the window confusedly, as he decisively states, “Someone’s here. Stay put.” Ben half-heartedly watches him, frowning miserably. The needs of the many outweigh the one. The man didn’t want the other students to get the impression that he favored Ben. That he was anything more than just another Padawan. Just this once, could he just disregard it? Help me, please.
He weakly begs, trying to appeal to him. “Unc-Master Luke, I…” But the man is already hurriedly exiting the room, robes sweeping behind him. Ben stands there, dejectedly staring down the hallway as his uncle leaves him, getting farther and farther away.
He slowly collapses in a chair, blankly staring at the plain walls, harsh thoughts beginning to creep in. How did he think it was going to go? He was so foolish, so naïve. His mother had had a resistance to run and his uncle had an entire school of students to tend to. Why was he even here? No one would notice if he just left, ran away. A soft reminder cuts in, gently telling him that Rey would. He sighs wearily, tilting his head backwards, staring back at the corridor upside down.
Surprisingly, his uncle is coming back, not with another student but an old man. Ben’s eyes widen and he panics, quickly jumping to his feet before pressing a hand to his head to steady himself, feeling woozy. He needs to leave but he doesn’t think he can move fast enough to get out before they see him. He frantically scans the room, looking for somewhere to hide. He finds a tall wooden cabinet in the corner and quickly shoves himself inside.
Ben peers out from a crack between the two doors, staring as his uncle and the other figure enter the room, excitedly chatting. He lets out an inaudible gasp as he recognizes the man. He had called his mother Princess, all those years ago, when Ben was a little boy. He has more grey in his hair now, face having gained more wrinkles but he still has the same kind eyes.
Luke is incredulously asking him, “What are you doing here?” The man grins at the Jedi, teasing him good-naturedly as he says, “Is that any way to treat an old friend?” They both laugh, clapping each other on the back. Luke smiles, fondly saying, “I’ve missed you, Lor San Tekka.” The older man returns the sentiment, softly murmuring, “And I you.” He continues, voice rising in importance as he shifts, catching Luke’s interest. “But, I do have something.”
He’s withdrawing an item from the folds of his cloak, pressing it into the Jedi’s hands. “I believe this is yours.” Luke stares at him in astonishment, before the man cuts in, playfully mocking him, “Luke Skywalker, struck speechless?” The Jedi seems to still be trying to recover from his shock as multiple questions spill out of his mouth in a messy jumble. “I-How-Where did you get this?” Lor San Tekka seems pleased, smile widening as he motions towards the object, eagerly explaining, “It was being bartered for in an old market. I decided it should be in the hands of someone who really knows how to use it.”
Luke turns slightly and Ben can see what it is; a lightsaber. They are both looking at the weapon apprehensively but the older man exclaims in a lighthearted tone, gesturing excitedly, “Well, try it, make sure it still works! I would hate to return something to you that’s broken!” Luke looks down before pressing the button, startled as it ignites with a strong hum. The blade is an electric blue, removing all the shadows as it bathes the room in a bright glow. Lor San Tekka is looking on in awe, hands spread reverently, proclaiming humbly, “Your Father’s weapon, returned to you.” Ben tries to stifle a loud gasp as he hears who it used to belong to. He’s worried he’ll get caught but their attention is still fixed on the saber.
Luke is waving the weapon through the air, gently testing it. The blade remains strong, unwavering, as he moves, quickly thrusting in a practiced flurry of motions. Lor San Tekka grins, winking as he jokingly says, “And thankfully, it still functions.” Luke gazes appreciatively at the lightsaber as he turns it off, nodding, “Yes, it definitely is.” He turns, giving the older man a pleased hug as he murmurs gratefully, “Thank you, old friend.” Lor San tekka gently nods, patting his back, warmly saying, “Of course, anything for the Skywalker family.”
The man continues, conversation shifting as he kindly asks, “By the way, where is your youngest member, Ben? I hear he is here with you.” Ben stiffens guiltily, trying to breathe as quietly as possible as he mentions his name. He can’t believe the old man still remembers him. Luke is looking around the room worriedly, nervously explaining, “Well, I told him to stay here so you could meet him but it seems he’s left.” He hurriedly continues, eyebrows furrowing in concern as he distractedly says, “I…it was good to see you, my friend, but I have something I need to take care of.” Lor San Tekka nods, amiably agreeing, “I understand. I was merely here to return your lightsaber.”
He pauses, gazing at Luke thoughtfully, before deciding as he grips the man’s shoulders, gently murmuring, “I do not want to overstep any boundaries but I sense that you are having troubles with your nephew. Please think of him as such. He needs your compassion, your love.” Luke looks startled, staring in shocked surprise as the older man gives him some unexpected advice.
Lor San Tekka stares back at the Jedi, carefully but firmly stating, “You are worried that your emotion will affect your control of the force, will cloud your mind, but you are wrong.” Luke looks like he’s about to cry, eyes glistening with unshed tears, but that can’t be right. Ben must be seeing things; it’s just a trick of the light. But he remembers Rey, whispering into his ear that even Master Luke cries. He shakes his head, it can’t be true, Jedi don’t show emotion, otherwise they would supposedly fall to the dark side.
The older man tugs him into a gentle embrace, murmuring into his ear, “I’m sorry, I’ve drifted off topic, but please just remember that he is your family.” Lor San Tekka pulls back, clapping him on the shoulder before turning to leave, giving a farewell. “Goodbye and good luck, my friend.” Luke nods slowly, sadly waving back at him, unable to speak. As the man walks down the hallway, he shouts out a phrase, “And remember, the force will be with you always!”
Ben stares at the wall, bewildered at what the man had told Luke. He gets even more confused as he gazes back at his uncle. He’s hunched over his desk, turned away from Ben, tightly gripping the edges in a white-knuckled hold. It almost looks like he’s trying to hold something in. Anger? Sadness? Ben looks on in wide-eyed surprise before nervously pressing himself against the back of the cabinet. After a moment, he tentatively peers out of the crack, letting out an anxious exhale as he sees that he’s left.
Ben cautiously steps out of his temporary hiding spot, pausing as he sees something glinting on the edge of his uncle’s desk. He moves closer, gazing down at the famed lightsaber that had once belonged to his grandfather. He examines it intensely, seeing scratches and scuffs from countless battles of the past. He glances around furtively; worried his uncle will come back, before slowly reaching out a hand. Ben wants to touch it, feel its solid weight in his grasp, know it was truly real. As soon as his fingers brush against the worn metal of the hilt, he’s plunged into darkness.
Ben lets out a terrified cry, tumbling to the floor, quickly attempting to drop the weapon, but it’s too late. He nervously stands up; waving the roiling black soot away from his gaze and it slowly clears. It reveals a man and a woman, standing on a platform, a ship waiting behind them. Unstable volcanoes spew magma in the distance, fiery lava pooling around them in dangerous lakes.
The woman is beautiful, long brunette hair pulled back in a braid, but she looks grief-stricken, face crumpling in anguish. She’s pleading with the man, tears rolling down her face as she begs him to stop, come back, that she loves him. But he’s angry, inconsolable, screaming furiously that she’s a liar as he shakes his head. His blonde wavy hair whips in the wind, brushing his face and shoulders and as he lifts his arm Ben can see his lightsaber hilt.
Ben gasps, recognizing the weapon he had just touched seconds ago. This is Anakin Skywalker and his wife. Ben stares at him with newfound interest, taking in the scar that surrounds his eye before fearfully shuddering. His gaze is unnatural, horrifying. His eyes are a pale yellow, rimmed in red, as he cries, suspiciously glaring back at the woman. He suddenly summons the force, hand curving in a hooked motion, choking the woman as she frantically clutches at her throat.
He screams, desperately reaching towards them, trying futilely to get their attention, to stop his grandfather from killing her. It’s the same horrific scene playing out in front of him except now there isn’t other Padawans, it’s his family. Ben can’t turn away, frozen in terrified silence as the man doesn’t stop. It’s like a Holo-vid that he can’t interact with; Ben can only stare, only watch. She’s begging, as tears slide down her face, gasping at him urgently. “…Anakin.”
The scene abruptly shifts to a young man, clutching the edge of a pole, gazing fearfully up at a black cloaked individual. Ben shrieks in alarm as he recognizes the two figures. The first person is his uncle, looking much younger, and the second is Darth Vader. He fearfully screams again, attempting to warn Luke, trying to get him to do something to get away from the other man. But they continue relentlessly: Luke angrily yelling at the dark figure standing above him, clutching one of his arms protectively. Ben’s eyes widen in disturbed horror as he notices he’s missing a hand and…a lightsaber.
Darth Vader raises a clenched fist, black eyes emptily staring down at him, as he reveals that he is Luke’s father. The younger man weakly presses his face into the metal shaft he’s gripping, muttering out a weak denial, expression scrunching up in fear and confusion. Ben can literally feel the anguish, the betrayal in his uncle’s voice as he howls, still trying to deny it but knowing it’s true. “NO!” Then, Vader is reaching down, offering his son a wicked proposal to join but he refuses, sliding off, falling into the abyss below.
Ben screams in frightened panic, stretching his arms out to catch him but all he grabs at is empty air, suddenly sitting back in his uncle’s office at the Academy. His ears are still ringing, heart pounding from what he had just witnessed. He shivers, wrapping his arms futilely around himself to keep warm. If this is what a vision is like then his nightmare certainly felt like one. He dazedly stares at the blank walls surrounding him, suddenly feeling too tight, closed in.
He reaches up, grabbing the desk for support as his legs struggle to hold his weight, wobbling dangerously. He manages to stand, wiping a shaky hand across his sweaty face, before sluggishly leaving the room, unaware he’s still loosely holding the lightsaber.
He mindlessly wanders down hallways, side corridors, through courtyards, not really having a destination in his head. He’s not really thinking, not really seeing, he just has to keep moving. He falls a couple of times but in each instance he slowly staggers back up, uncaring of the scrapes and bruises he’s collecting.
A student comes up to him, asking if he’s alright, their nervous eyes staring at him in worry. He distantly recalls a name, Kalen…Kaden? But that can’t be right, Kaden hates him, thinks he’s a monster. Ben shakes his head slightly, walking past them, oblivious to their concern, eyes emptily staring ahead. Have to keep moving. They run off, probably disturbed by his reaction, by him.
He stumbles again, hands barely flying out in time to stop him from crashing into the floor as he slams onto his knees. He dully looks up, hearing faint buzzing, a blurred shape walking towards him. Their brown robes fill his sight as they stand above him, vibrations echoing faintly before forming into a voice. “Ben, I’ve been looking all day for--Ben?” Why did they stop?
As soon as their hands touch his face he jerks back, flinching violently, returning to his body, mental faculties sparking to life. He blinks rapidly, head turning to take in where he is, who’s talking to him. I don’t…What am I? Who am I? It’s already night time, he’s sitting in a dimly lit hallway and his uncle is kneeling in front of him, hands spread wide in a placating gesture. “Ben? Look at me? Please.” Ben gazes at the Jedi’s face, confused. He’s never heard him sound so gentle, so…afraid.
Ben muses bitterly as he scowls back at his uncle. When he talks to me this long it’s usually because I’ve done something wrong. I must look worse than I thought. He tiredly pushes himself to his feet, batting away his uncle’s helping hands as he sways, head tilting wearily. He didn’t help me earlier, why is he trying to help me now?
Luke’s still carefully watching him, hands still outstretched as if worried he’ll drop. I probably will. The man looks at him nervously, quietly asking, “Ben, are you alright?” Ben darkly gazes at him, irritability rising. What does it look like?! And when has he ever cared? Luke is staring even closer at him, voice climbing in concern, “When was the last time you slept?” Does it matter anymore?
Ben feebly pushes at Luke’s hand as the man worriedly presses it against his forehead, mumbling out a pathetic protest. “M’fine.” His uncle looks almost angry, but his eyes flash with fear as he shouts at him. “Ben, you have a fever!” Well, isn’t that a surprise. He wants to furiously glare back at him but all he manages is a weak frown. He resignedly stares down at the ground, defeated, not wanting to see any more of his uncle’s expression as he mutters, “I’ll just-just sleep it off.” Suddenly the man is moving, trying to touch him again and he bristles, withdrawing in anger and fear. Ben howls, fists tightly clenched, body trembling from the exertion as he screams back at him. “Leave me alone!”
As he goes to yell at him again, it feels as if it’s getting harder and harder to inhale, invisible fists squeezing his lungs. Where did all the oxygen go? He tries to push out an angry retort but all that comes out is a weak rasp. “Ju-Just…stay…a-a-…” He desperately coughs, trying to clear his airway but it just makes it worse. He leans over, shaking from the effort to take in air, weak wheezes rattling through his chest. He can’t breathe.
Luke is standing above him, anxiously asking, “Ben?” His vision starts to blur and he suddenly collapses, body slumping against the man as he reaches out in surprise. Luke hurriedly catches him before he can crash into the ground, shouting in concern. “Ben!” He can’t formulate a response fast enough, his brain like thick molasses, tongue heavy in his mouth. His eyelids flutter and he lets out a low moan, his uncle still clutching him in his arms.
Luke leans down, quickly scooping him up, holding him carefully. Ben’s head lolls as he begins to tire, losing strength, mind drifting to the edge of unconsciousness. His uncle breaks into an urgent run, roughly shaking him as he worriedly yells, “Don’t fall asleep on me, Ben!” He’s getting lost in memories, nightmares, barely managing to gasp out a vague and broken response. “D’n’t…c’re…f’m’nsters…g’t me…”
He’s a four year old again, running to his uncle at the first sign of discomfort. He’s inconsolable, diving into the man’s lap, not letting anyone else touch him. He’d skinned his knee, blood oozing out of the wound and Luke had leaned over, carefully pressing his hands over the scrape. When he had removed them, the wound was gone. It was the ‘magic’ of the Force. He’d stared up at the man, eyes shining with wonder, thinking he was the coolest uncle there ever was. A Jedi.
The memory is suddenly ripped to shreds as he feels his nerves come roaring back to life, pulling him back to a fully aware state, reminding him that he should be in pain. He can sense sweat sliding down his back, soaking his clothes, feeling as if he’s being stabbed by hundreds of jagged needles. He lets out an agonized scream of hurt, body tightly clenching, not feeling as his uncle holds him closer, not hearing as he murmurs comfort into his ear. This isn’t just a little scratch. It isn’t going to be as easy to fix this.
Ben shudders, muscles loosening slightly, breathing heavily through his mouth in frantic pants. He moans, pressing his face into his uncle’s neck, needy as he clings desperately to the man in an unrelenting grip. He’s surprised Luke can understand him as he slurs, “Unn’llle Luu’e.” The man responds, wrapping his arms securely around him as he tries to reassure Ben, saying, “It’s going to be ok.” He lets out a high-pitched whine, moaning plaintively as he gasps out, “…hurts…” Luke nods, gently moving Ben closer while he quietly murmurs, “I know, I know, I’m going to make it better.”
He didn’t realize that they’d already entered Luke’s bathroom until the man is carefully sliding down to the ground, methodically peeling the sticky clothes from Ben’s body. He lets out a pained whimper, too weak to fight the Jedi as his heated skin is exposed to the air. He gasps as his feet touch the cold tiled floor, too distracted to notice that his uncle is worriedly examining him until he feels his gentle touch, still frigid compared to Ben’s burning temperature.
Luke’s eyes are darkening with worry, eyebrows creasing in concern, frowning as he sees Ben’s too thin frame. His uncle lightly ghosts his hands across Ben’s chest, feeling the sharp angles of bone jutting out before he moans again, pulling him from his concerned scrutiny. He easily lifts him up, gently setting him in the bathtub, already filled with cool water.
Ben instantly tenses up, curling into a fetal position to desperately return some heat, letting out a long drawn-out groan of discomfort. The water instantly turns lukewarm, doing nothing to stop the relentless fever burning through him. He shivers, teeth chattering as he blearily leans his head against the edge of the tub. After a moment, he begins to breathe shallowly, his shaking abruptly stopping, gazing vacantly into space. His uncle stares at him, concerned at his reaction, or rather lack thereof, wondering why Ben’s suddenly so still.
He leans down, hurriedly pulling him out of the water, wrapping him in a soft towel. But Ben doesn’t feel it. He only feels a fast, erratic pounding, reverberating through his body, seeming to come from his chest. He sluggishly recognizes that he can literally hear and feel the beat of his heart. Is it supposed to sound like that? Apparently it shouldn’t because his ears start to ring, muscles locking up, clenching in excruciating pain. He barely manages to look up at his uncle in wide-eyed panic at the terrifying sensation before he begins to seize uncontrollably.
Luke quickly tugs him downwards, holding him in a loose but protective embrace. Ben doesn’t like the feeling of losing control, body thrashing and convulsing against his will. It reminds him of the creature, how he’d entered, taking his body and using it.
His uncle is still stubbornly holding him even after Ben accidently elbows him and slams his head into the man’s chin, thin frame shuddering with unnatural jerks and twists. He wants to apologize but all that comes out is a high keening noise, pitiful and filled with hurt.
He shakes even harder in Luke’s hold as he murmurs into his ear. The man is pushing his hair back from his face, gripping him protectively as he chants, “You’re okay, you’re okay…” Ben’s gasping for air, his breathing rapidly stopping and starting in random intervals as he spasms violently, heart frantically racing to keep up.
Luke is sounding more and more worried, desperate even, as he practically begs Ben to be fine. “Just breathe, let it pass, you’ll be okay.” Tense minutes go by with Ben still struggling to stop shaking and he faintly wonders who his uncle is praying to as the man whispers a distressed plea into his sweaty hair. “Please let him be okay, let him live.”
Ben finally stops, slumping against him weakly, completely spent, stuttering breaths puffing out of him unevenly. He whimpers as his muscles twinge uncomfortably in the aftermath. Luke carefully rests a hand on Ben’s trembling chest, inhaling deeply, getting him to slow his breathing. He curls up in his uncle’s lap, almost too old for it, barely fitting, but it doesn’t matter. He’s scared.
He can’t differentiate if he’s hot or cold. Up or down. The only thing he can tell is that his uncle is behind him, holding him, comforting him. He’s propped Ben up; leaning heavily against the man. They sit there on the uncomfortable floor, spending a few moments to calm down, gather some energy.
Luke reluctantly begins to shift, stiffly moving upwards, taking Ben with him, who’s still clutching him tightly. The warmth is beginning to return with an uncomfortable ferocity, making Ben twitch restlessly. He won’t be able to sleep; heat is burning off of him like a furnace, sweat dripping out of his body, futilely trying to cool him off. Luke wearily sighs before glancing down at him, quietly murmuring, “We’ve still got to lower your fever somehow…” Ben tiredly stares back at him, blinking owlishly.
“I’ve got an idea.” And then they’re both moving, and before Ben knows it they’re sitting on a soft mattress in Luke’s bedroom. But he stubbornly doesn’t let go, not wanting to fall into another uncontrollable fit. His uncle patiently strokes his spine, before nodding, pressing his hands firmly against his upper back.
The Jedi closes his eyes, focusing, and Ben shudders as he feels some of the heat begin to slowly seep from his slim frame. He sags tiredly against him, body going slack as his forehead drops against Luke’s shoulder, black beginning to creep into his vision.
He tries to fight it, worried about the nightmares, blinking rebelliously but his uncle is still relaxing him, soothing Ben as he takes some of the unbearable hotness. Luke gently rubs his neck in a pacifying gesture, softly saying, “I’ll still be here when you wake up.” Ben blinks once in acknowledgement and then he’s gone, shutting down to get some much needed rest.
Ben’s burning, stifling heat smothering him. A fiery fist is closing around him, crushing him in a strong grip, overpowering in its ferocity. He’s so small, so weak. It’s pointless to resist. A voice is surrounding him on all sides, seeming to come from nowhere and everywhere, all at the same time. It resonates in his skull, shaking him to his very core. We’re coming. We? He doesn’t have time to ponder it before it’s speaking again, roaring heatedly as it slowly breaks him, snapping bones like toothpicks in its hand. Soon.
Ben screams, howling until his throat fills with blood, furiously scrabbling at the fingers tightly wrapped around him. He attacks it desperately, throwing wild assaults at it with the force but it does nothing. It seems to lean in, now whispering into his ear as it hisses, I will find you, boy, and make you mine. He struggles, shrieking loudly, uncaring of the damage it’s doing to his vocal chords, trying to drown out the other voice with his own.
Luke hears noises coming from the bedroom where Ben was supposedly sleeping. He worriedly moves back towards the door, gently cracking it open, glancing in at him. The boy isn’t peacefully resting, eyes roving back and forth underneath his lids in a frantic pattern, head tossing agitatedly. He’s muttering, face furrowing in distress as he pants out, “…no…D-don’t.” Luke heads towards his writhing form, trying to project calm thoughts but they seem to have no effect, bouncing off of him worthlessly.
Ben tenses up, mouth opening in a surprised gasp, seemingly hurt. Luke stares at him, even more concerned as he hurriedly reaches out a hand, brushing it against his forehead. His temperature has risen again, and, if possible, it’s even hotter than before.
Suddenly the boy let’s out a blood-curdling scream of agony, arching from the bed in pain, before his voice cuts off, choking on air. Luke goes to touch him again but an invisible power holds him back, rattling the furniture in the room threateningly. Luke’s eyes widen in surprise as he realizes that Ben is trying to use the force to defend himself, accessing it unconsciously. Whatever he’s experiencing has him terrified.
Luke decisively moves forward, pressing his hand firmly against the boy’s temple again, intending to enter his mind. But something is blocking him, hissing and spitting angrily as it strikes at the Jedi. He recoils in shock, unprepared for the attack as it wraps him in black tendrils. It feels purely evil, radiating cold and unfeeling darkness.
It reminds of the cave on Dagobah where he’d experienced his vision, of ancient and sinister secrets waiting to creep in and destroy. He shudders, mustering his strength and calling on the power of the force, the light. It mockingly laughs at him before fading, shrinking back into Ben’s mind with a slither. Luke determinedly follows, trying to find its shadowy source but it redirects him to Ben’s mind, his suffering.
Luke snaps out of the boy’s thoughts as he hears Ben’s screams reverberating through the room, a vase flying into a wall, shattering with a deafening crash. He hurriedly leans over, yelling as loud as he can to be heard over his cries, “Ben!” But he isn’t stopping his frightened shrieking, face turning red, tears running down his cheeks as he clutches the sweaty sheets beneath him. At this rate, he’s going to suffocate. He swiftly grabs his face between his hands, shouting into his mind as loud as he can, startling the boy into consciousness. Ben, wake up! It’s not real!
Ben’s eyes snap open and he quickly moves upwards before woozily dropping back onto the bed below. But Luke is prepared, leaning forward to catch the boy before he bumps his head. Luke looks down at him, noticing his eyes are slightly glazed, fearfully gazing at something over the Jedi’s shoulder. “…Ben?”
The boy is intensely staring at the corner of his room and Luke gets the impression that he’s still seeing whatever it is. He presses his face against Luke’s shoulder, still fixedly watching the wall as he fearfully cries, “Don’t let it take me!” Luke replies with a firm assurance, injecting as much strength as he can into his voice, holding him even tighter in his arms, “Nothing’s going to take you, Ben.”
He’s deliriously mumbling, now anxiously looking around the room, paranoid, eyes blown wide in fear, “He will…he’ll find a way…” Luke quietly murmurs into the boy’s ear, wanting to put a name to this unknown darkness that seems to lurk in Ben’s mind, “Who is it?” The boy folds inwards, quiet for a moment before tucking his face tightly into Luke’s chest, hiding, seeking protection. Ben burrows even further into him as he softly whispers; voice muffled into the fabric but Luke still catches it. “…s-snoke…”
A pang of dread runs through the Jedi at the name but Ben is completely undone, hysterically sobbing after having uttered it aloud. He’s babbling incoherently but Luke can only guess what he’s so afraid of, so worried about. He tries to cut into his panicked muttering, firmly stating, “You’re safe, Ben. As long as I’m around, he won’t get you. He won’t touch you. He can’t reach you here.”
He shakes his head, brokenly whispering, “…w-wrong…” Ben’s deliriously rambling, lips brushing against Luke’s tunic as he still tightly clutches him, exhaustedly staring out the window. “…never-never enough…family…my fault…” Luke’s brow furrows in confusion as he stares down at the boy, worriedly stroking his back, rubbing away the nervous tremors that wrack his frame. What is he talking about? The man hopes that it’s mostly the fever talking but he’s still worried about the effect this thing, this terrible darkness, is having on Ben and his mental state. How long has he been suffering in silence with this?
Luke regretfully looks down at the boy, having forgotten how young he still is. He’s tall for his age and he acts a lot more mature than the other Padawans but he’s still just a child. Ben’s tired face is stained with dried tear tracks as he turns back towards Luke, wearily curling back into his hold, seeking his presence. No one should have to go through this alone much less a child, his nephew. He brushes his hand through Ben’s hair as the boy fearfully grabs him before he slowly dozes off into an uneasy and restless slumber.
Ben sucks in a fatigued sigh, feeling comparable to a wrung out towel; used up and limp. His brain feels scrambled, like it’s been beaten like a ball of dough, head throbbing with a ferocious headache. He’s sensitive; uselessly blinking and squinting to try to get rid of the harsh glare coming from the open window. His uncle seems to notice his discomfort, raising his arm, sliding the curtains shut with a wave of his hand.
His whole body feels raw, sore muscles aching unpleasantly, like he’s trained an entire day without stretching first. Every time he moves, stabbing pain slides along his skin, causing him to grit his teeth, wincing as he tries not to cry out. He feels as though he didn’t get any sleep at all last night; his uncle certainly doesn’t look like he did, slight circles forming under his eyes.
Luke is looking down anxiously, holding him supportively in his lap, hesitantly calling out his name, “…Ben?” The man gently runs a hand through his messy black hair, softly murmuring, “You with me?” Ben slowly croaks out a response, throat parched and stinging, blearily looking up at him, “…yeah.” Luke ventures a tentative question, quietly asking, “How do you feel?” He rubs at his crusty eyes groggily; bluntly declaring exactly how he feels with a weak grimace, “Like…Bantha shit.”
Luke nods sympathetically before giving Ben a friendly smile as he begins to shift, “That’s probably to be--Ben’s eyes widen in panic, face taking on a sickly green tinge at the sudden movement and he promptly leans over the bed, throwing up. Luke moves quickly, brushing shoulder-length hair away from his face as he gags, running his hands lightly along his trembling back as he shudders.
Ben finishes, wearily flopping onto his uncle, even more tired than he was before, if that’s possible. The man gives him another optimistic smile but his eyes still look apprehensive as he hopefully asks, “Better? Or still feeling like Bantha crap.” Ben tiredly looks at him with a deadpan stare, unhelpfully supplying a short and slightly sarcastic answer, “…yes.”
Luke’s smile widens into a grin as he asks him an innocent question, trying to lighten the mood, “Just out of curiosity, where did you learn that phrase?” Ben mumbles wearily, giving him a look of disbelief as he raises an eyebrow, “Who…do you think?” Luke breaks out in lighthearted peals of laughter, eyes crinkling with amusement as he realizes who it probably was. Leia was quite creative, inventing new curse words all the time. But Han was like a sailor, constantly spewing it out when his ship didn’t work or a situation turned south. It was definitely the rogue smuggler.
Ben stares at him in surprise as the Jedi unreservedly laughs, having never heard him sound so happy before. At least, not since the man had created the Academy. He’s still stunned by his uncle’s reaction but Ben manages to hesitantly give a small smile as the man stops, focusing on him. Luke watches him for a moment, before seemingly deciding something, nodding as he gingerly picks Ben up.
He turns, gently setting him in a soft armchair nearby before wrenching the sweat-soaked sheets from the bed. Ben cringes, attempting to apologize for sullying them but Luke lightly shakes his head, already setting fresh bedding on the bare mattress. Ben looks away, still feeling ashamed before brown robes fill his vision again.
“I’ll be right back. I’ve just got to grab a few things.” The Jedi slips out of the doorway before poking his head back around the frame, a sly grin crossing his face as he taps his forehead, still half-serious as he warns him, “And don’t even think about going anywhere. I’ll know.” Ben sighs in exasperation, rolling his eyes as he wryly thinks, wasn’t planning on it.
A few minutes had scarcely passed before Luke is back, clothes draped over his arm as he balances a tray full of various items. He sets the platter down on the bed before moving back to Ben, holding a damp towel in his hands as he carefully asks, “Can you stand?” Ben slowly drops his feet to the floor, tentatively testing his weight as he shakily moves upwards, gripping the arm of the chair for support. His uncle proceeds to reach out with the cloth, gently but efficiently cleaning the dried sweat from his body in swift swipes.
“Alright, now the hard part.” His uncle lifts a set of robes; patiently waiting as Ben carefully raises his arms before pulling the tunic over his head. He does the same with the pants, tugging them up in a swift motion. Ben begins to shake from the exertion of standing so long and his legs fold beneath him, unable to hold him up any longer. Luke swiftly wraps an arm around his thin waist, tugging him up towards the comfortable mattress and he lands on the bed with a soft thump.
His uncle is leaning over, grabbing the tray next to him as he declares, “Time for some soup.” Ben blanches; face tugging in discomfort at the thought of any sort of food, even if it was liquefied. Luke quickly amends the phrase, seeing his negative reaction, supplying another option as he brightly says, “Or tea!”
He sighs in exasperation, watching as Luke prepares the brew, steam drifting from the warm water. His uncle is always praising the virtues of the hot beverage, how calming it is, that it’s good for the soul or something to that effect. In fact, he’s saying that exact phrase right now. “Tea is always appropriate. It’s good for the soul, you know.” He rolls his eyes again but Luke is already pressing a clay cup into his hands, insistently saying, “Bottom’s up! But drink it slowly, to enjoy it better.”
His uncle is still blowing on his, taking his time to cool it down, so Ben slowly lifts his to his lips, taking a cautious sip. At first it tastes slightly sweet, easily sliding down his throat, covering it in a soothing coat of syrupy honey. Luke sheepishly smiles, seeming to want to see his reaction so Ben nods agreeably. It’s not too bad.
He decides to take a large swig of it, tossing his head back as he downs the rest of the drink in one go. His uncle looks at him, gaze minutely widening in surprise and then it looks like he’s trying to hide a mischievous smirk behind his mug, eyes twinkling with mirth. Ben stares at him suspiciously before almost blanching again, expression twisting with disgust at the horrid aftertaste. It begins with the strong, bitter tang of licorice before fading to another flavor that he doesn’t recognize. But it’s awful, like the foul stench of sulfur. He frowns as he rapidly begins to feel the side-effects, eyes already beginning to droop as he tiredly asks, “What’s…the third one?”
Luke stiffens, pretending to be surprised instead of guilty as he openly asks, “What do you mean?” Ben presses his head back against the pillows, resignedly heaving a sigh as he sleepily mumbles, listing the herbs in the drink, “Skullcap…Golden Poppy…?” He expectantly watches his uncle, wearily waiting for the answer and Luke smiles, impressed as he gently states, “Valerian.” Ben slowly nods, reaction delayed by his steadily increasing drowsiness, realizing that that was why his uncle hadn’t really touched his. All three of the plants were natural herbal sedatives, designed to gradually relax and calm the mind.
Luke breaks into his thoughts, murmuring fondly as he moves the tray out of the way, eyes seeming to shine with pride, “I should’ve known. You are one of the smartest. Especially with plants.” It must just be the effects of the herbs; Ben never recalled his uncle ever outright praising him. He sluggishly shakes his head, eyelids starting to flicker tiredly, keeping his exhausted gaze fixed on his uncle as he stubbornly tries to stay awake.
Luke is mildly reassuring him, gently stroking his face before pressing his hand against his forehead, checking his temperature again. “It’s alright, Ben. These are very potent herbs, especially when combined together. You’ll be in a fairly deep sleep; hopefully you won’t wake up before ten hours, possibly fifteen at most.” His uncle is tucking him in; shifting his limp body, wrapping a blanket snugly around him as he quietly murmurs, “You need the rest.” He must be imagining things as his eyelids drop; he feels the faint sensation of someone kissing his forehead, voice laced with the force as they tenderly whisper, “Sleep.” So he does.
Man, I am so terribly sorry I haven't updated this story in so long. I didn't want to be one of those authors who do that but...life happened. Bleh! : ( Anyways, I am hoping to (eventually!) finish this story! I cannot guarantee the next time i update but i promise it will not be upwards of three months!
He hears his uncle in the other room, quietly talking to someone, sounding incredibly weary. Ben hesitantly pushes himself upwards, letting out a relieved breath as the room doesn’t tilt or spin. He slips out of the warm covers, softly shuffling towards the partly open door, tentatively gazing out of the crack to curiously look at the Jedi.
Luke isn’t actually talking to a person. He’s addressing a machine, recording a holo-message to be sent to someone galaxies away, worried voice lowered in hushed tones. “I…he needs to come home. He hasn’t been eating or sleeping.” His voice shakes slightly as he continues, anxiously admitting, “He’s had a fever for days…it still hasn’t broken.”
He doesn’t say anything for so long that Ben thinks he’s done, beginning to shift before he hears the Jedi distractedly murmur, “But it’s not just that.” Luke pauses for another moment, thinking as he quietly states, “…I can’t tell what exactly it is but it’s something… dark.” Ben’s nervously peering out of the doorway now, worried about what the man saw or felt. His suspicions are confirmed when his uncle continues, uttering a name that shouldn’t be said aloud, saying it painfully slow and clear. “He said something about a creature…called it…Snoke.” He shudders fearfully, pressing tightly against the wooden frame as the room suddenly loses its warmth. When had he told Luke that-that thing’s name?
The man’s voice wavers with emotion, sounding choked and watery, shakily murmuring, “I think whatever it is, it’s influencing him…he needs our help.” He sounds slightly more firm, gathering strength as he desperately implores, practically begging with this other person, “I can’t fix this alone. I need you. Ben needs you.” Ben leans back against the door, having a sinking feeling that he knows who it is he’s addressing. He doesn’t know if he wants to face them just yet. He thought he’d be excited but now he’s just filled with nervous dread.
What will they think of me? What if they don’t want me? What if they think I’m just a failure? Endless what-ifs run around in his head until the room begins to spin and he stops, clutching the door tightly. He hears as Luke presses a button and it’s sent; data flying across space, transmitted and encrypted. But by the time it does happen to arrive to its intended recipient it will be too late.
Ben is about to step away, move back towards the bed, when a hesitant knock sounds on Luke’s outer door. The man’s head rises tiredly, and he rubs his hands across his face, trying to regain some of his composure before gently saying, “You may enter.” Two nervous faces peer around the doorframe, anxiously glancing at him as if scared of the man. He kindly gestures for them to come closer and they hesitantly move forwards before standing awkwardly in front of his desk. Ben gasps as he clearly sees the two young padawans; its Kaden and Ravi.
Luke smiles gently at them, gesturing at the two chairs across from him, teasing them uncharacteristically to lighten the mood. “You can sit, you know. I don’t bite.” The two boys nervously glance at each before silently agreeing to take a seat, perched uneasily on the edge as if ready to run at a moment’s notice. The man turns, praising Kaeden as he eagerly addresses him, relief and gratitude spilling into his voice. “By the way, I want to thank you, Kaden, for informing me of Ben’s whereabouts two days ago. I don’t know if I would’ve found him in time if it hadn’t been for you.”
So that was who he’d run into? And had it really been two days? Ben rubs his head as he tries to recall what had happened but it’s all very blurry and haze-filled, frustratingly slipping beyond his grasp. His mind begins to pound from the strain of trying to remember and he barely manages to catch the boy’s reply. He sounds nervous, even a little ashamed but his concern overrides it as he worriedly asks, “Is he-is he alright?” Luke nods somberly, gently saying, “Yes. I think he will be. He’s resting right now.” The boy looks immensely relieved, leaning back in his chair before guiltily looking down as he quietly murmurs, “…That’s…good.” He flinches as Ravi kicks him under the table, seeming to remind him of something with a meaningful look. Kaden sucks in a nervous breath before looking back up at the Jedi.
He shuffles anxiously, twiddling his thumbs, tensely muttering, “That’s not entirely why I’m here…” Luke leans forward, clear blue eyes seeming to look directly into the boy as he firmly asks, “Is this about Ben’s injuries a few weeks ago?” Kaden looks absolutely terrified at this point, twitching restlessly, trying to look away from the man’s relentless gaze. He barely manages to blurt out a nervous reply. “Erm…yes, it is.” Luke seems to realize the effect he’s having on the frightened boy so he pulls back slightly, waving with his hand for him to speak, softly saying, “Continue, then.”
He lets out an uneasy exhale, glancing at Ravi before beginning to haltingly talk, voice wavering with apprehension. “I had heard from a friend…that he was…” The man looks at him grimly, knowing he’s not going to like the response but nodding for the boy to continue. “…Darth Vader’s grandson…so I guess…” Luke tenses as he hears the name, eyes flashing dangerously and Kaden pauses fearfully, worriedly looking down.
He slowly looks back up, summoning courage, knowing he has to finish the story as he hurriedly explains, “I wanted to see what he was made of, what he could do. So I confronted him, attacked him to try and get him to fight back but he refused.” He’s beginning to shake from emotion, frantically waving his arms as he hysterically cries out, “I thought-I didn’t think he would just…sit there and take it!” Kaden’s sobbing, choking out a desperate and confused response. “He wouldn’t even defend himself!”
The boy drops to his knees, bowing his head shamefully as he apologizes, tears dripping down his face. “I’m so sorry, Master Skywalker!” Ben’s eyes widen in surprise as he watches the padawan’s sincere and heartfelt apology. He’s never seen Kaden act like this before but he knows it’s not an act; he feel the anguish radiating from him like a heavy and oppressive haze of fog. Ben has felt this way before and he would never wish it on anyone else. It’s a living hell.
The boy is unclipping his lightsaber with shaking hands, offering it the Jedi as he timidly says, “You can-can do whatever you want with me. Punish me.” Ben is about to shift from his spot at the door, ready to defend the Padawan but the other boy beats him to it. Ravi looks horrified, quickly jumping to his feet when he sees what Kaden is doing, frantically protesting as he steps in front of him, “No! It’s not his fault! I was one who started this!” Kaden looks up in surprise, desperately objecting with Ravi but Luke cuts them off, raising his arms to silence them as he calmly reassures, softly murmuring, “It’s alright.” He nods at the boys quietly as they stare in silent suspense, quietly stating with a gentle voice, “That is not the Jedi way…I will not punish you.”
They look absolutely startled at his response but then he moves forward, somberly staring at the two, fixing them with his solid gaze as he firmly states, “However, I must caution you that violence is not always the answer…it can lead to dangerous paths…” Kaden eagerly stutters out another apology, hanging his head with shame. “I-I know that now. I’m sorry.”
The Jedi is walking closer to the two boys kneeling on the floor, decisively saying, “The one you should be apologizing to isn’t me.” Ben can’t see his face but he can tell by the man’s tone that he’s getting…angry? His voice is still level but it seems deceptively cool like there’s an undercurrent of protective anger hidden within.
The man’s leaning down, gripping Kadens’s shoulder as he calmly rumbles, “But, as his family…”—he bends down even further, whispering into his ear and it must be a warning—a threat?—because the boy’s eyes are widening fearfully as he frantically nods his head, staring at Luke in surprise. Ben has to wonder what the man said to him.
Luke stands up, clearing his throat as he decisively says, “Thank you for informing me of what truly happened.” He seems contemplative, almost remorseful, sounding more like he’s talking about himself as he continues, murmuring quietly, “It takes a lot of courage to take responsibility for something you’ve done, especially if it’s a mistake.”
He’s distracted, worriedly gazing at the door behind him before turning back around, vaguely stating, “Now, I have other matters to attend to. Return to your studies and have a good day.” He nods at each of them respectfully as he states their names, dismissing them. “Kaden. Ravi.” They bow back at him, murmuring in unison, sounding relieved as they say, “Master Skywalker.” They leave the room and Luke sighs, wearily dropping into his chair, before again looking back at his bedroom.
Ben quickly pulls away, scurrying back into the blankets, hiding until all that sticks out is his long messy hair. A moment later, his uncle is pushing the creaky door open, walking across the room before gently sitting on the edge of the mattress. Ben nervously presses his eyes closed as he feels Luke tug the covers back gently, revealing his face. He brushes a stray strand away from his forehead, murmuring quietly, not realizing Ben is still awake. “What are we going to do with you?”
There’s a sudden loud crash in the other room and the Jedi leaps to his feet, standing protectively in front of Ben. He shivers nervously, peering around his uncle’s back to see what it is. Luke sighs at the sight of a certain tri-bunned girl; Rey is helplessly surrounded by a pile of now scattered papers as she innocently looks up at him.
The man shakes his head in disbelief as another tower of white sheets topples to the ground behind her with a resounding thump. “Oops…” She grins up at him, unabashed as she brushes herself off before clambering over the destruction spread all over the floor. She shamelessly stands in front of him, eyes gleaming mischievously, futilely trying to stifle a giggle, saying, “Sorry, Master Luke.”
He’s now leaning in the doorway of the bedroom, blocking Ben’s view of her as he incredulously asks, “What are you doing here, Rey?” She raises her chin, headstrong as she determinedly declares, “I came to see Ben!” How did she even know he was here? The Jedi folds his arms, firmly staring down at her as he unwaveringly states, “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” Ben’s relieved but also slightly disappointed at hearing his uncle deny her. He doesn’t want her to see him like this but he also selfishly wants her comfort, her happiness.
She’s angrily stamping her foot, grumpily demanding, “I want to see him!” Luke shakes his head, not moving from his spot in the entryway as he resolutely says, “No.” Ben can picture her frustrated and pouting face as she petulantly asks, “Why not?!” The man fumbles for a legitimate answer to her question before uselessly stating the phrase every parent utters at some point. Ben had definitely heard it quite a few times from his own parents, especially the Smuggler, who was not as eloquent as his better half. “Because…I said so.”
Rey is silent for a moment and Ben thinks she’s given up but the girl eventually replies, confidence radiating from her voice. “You will let me see Ben.” The Jedi stiffens, voice flattening into a monotone drone as he echoes her force-filled phrase, falling under her influence. “I will let you—Hey! Reyna!” There’s a scuffle, the sound of her trying to slip past him before he stops her. She squirms in his arms, shrieking desperately, “I need to see him!”
He gently sets her on the ground, still holding her back with an arm, exasperated and ruffled before unfortunately looking down at her innocent and wide expression. Ben almost laughs, knowing she’s won as she juts out her lower lip, batting her eyes as she asks the magic word, “Please?” The man huffs out a sigh, rolling his eyes before hesitantly loosening his grip, shaking his head as he reluctantly agrees, “Oh, alright…” She raises a happy fist, jumping up and down in the air with excitement, eagerly exclaiming, “Yes!” He wags his finger at her, cautioning her as he attempts to curb her enthusiasm slightly, stating, “But only for a few minutes.”
Luke issues another warning but it falls on deaf ears as she eagerly runs into the room. “And don’t—she’s already diving onto the bed, happily shrieking out his name as she lands, gripping him in a tight hug. “Ben!” He returns her embrace with equal fervor before she pulls away, tugging something out of the pockets of her robes, carefully cupping them in her hands. She looks up at him with excitement, eagerly placing them in his lap as she happily explains, “I brought flowers. Your favorites.” He manages to give her a small smile before reaching out and affectionately swiping the dirt off her face, softly murmuring, “Thanks…princess.” She gives him a wide grin, not even trying to hide her delight at the affectionate nickname.
She lets out an exaggerated gasp, eyes widening with delight as she remembers something and she eagerly asks, “Did I tell you my mom’s coming?” The question startles Ben and he fumbles for a response, hastily mumbling, “Oh…no. I, that’s-that’s…great news.” He bats down the sudden pang of jealousy he feels—your mother would never visit you. It’s not fair, is it?—trying to keep his expression from betraying the negative thoughts slipping in. He nods agreeably, attempting to smile but it looks thin and shaky.
Luckily, Rey doesn’t seem to notice, already plowing ahead, clasping his hands in hers as she happily exclaims, “I’ll show you to her tomorrow!” Her next sentence is a rushed jumble of excitement and Ben can barely keep up, eyes widening with realization when she says, “She told me to tell you that she’s already excited to meet you!” He stares at her, asking for clarification as he uneasily says, “Wait, you told her about me?” She nods, happily confirming his suspicions, loudly saying, “Yeah!”
He carefully pulls his hands from hers, anxiously glancing away as he stutters, “What-What did you say to her?” The tone in her voice still seems animated and cheerful as she ramblingly explains, “I told her about the flowers…that you help me train…stuff like that!” She grabs his hands again to get his attention, gazing at him kindly.
She smiles at him, slight dimples forming in her cheeks, innocent eyes shining brightly as she earnestly says, “She said that she’s glad that I have friends like you.” Her eyes soften slightly, eyebrows furrowing with worry as she softly murmurs the last part, continuing reluctantly now. “…She also said that she feels bad that your mommy doesn’t get to see you as much.” He looks away from her gentle gaze, tensely moving the flowers around in his lap so she doesn’t see the flash of anger and disappointment in his eyes, slumping over sadly. She gently lifts his chin with a tiny hand, looking at his stormy and conflicted expression, nodding confidently before firmly stating, “I’m sure she’ll come soon.” He remembers the message Luke had sent, uncertainly mumbling to appease her, desperately wishing he had her faith, her unwavering hope. “…Maybe.”
Her feet are bouncing with happy energy as she wiggles on the bed, looking joyfully up at Ben, telling him about her mother. He marvels at her reaction, that she still wants to be around him. Even when he can’t do as much, still weak and recovering, she still seems content to just be with him, cheerfully chattering away. She suddenly leans into Ben, cupping a hand around her mouth as she breathlessly confesses, “I missed you.” He’s shocked by the innocent admission but he returns the sentiment a moment later, warmly whispering, “I-I missed you too.”
She throws her head backwards, jutting her lip out as she whines plaintively, complaining in a rather melodramatic fashion, grousing muffled by a pillow. “It felt like forever.” He smiles slightly at her pouty confession but he wholeheartedly agrees. It had felt like an eternity since he’d seen the tri-bunned girl. He doesn’t know what he would do without her. He would do anything for Rey.
He leans over, wanting to show her how much she means to him, lightheartedly bopping her on the nose with a yellow flower. “Do you remember what these are called?” She puffs out her chest, proudly saying, “Mm-hmm. Sunflowers!” He nods, encouraging her quietly as he continues, cautiously asking, “Do you know why this is my favorite flower?” She shakes her head, curiously looking up at him as he quietly explains, “The sunflower means love, adoration and loyalty. It also represents happiness.” He looks down at the golden flower cradled in her hands, hesitantly admitting, “It…It reminds me…of you.” She’s leaning further in to catch Ben’s gaze, matching his soft tone, voice laced with surprise as she eagerly whispers, “Me? Why?”
He struggles for a moment, trying to put his thoughts into words. They shouldn’t have worked, shouldn’t have been acquaintances, let alone friends; they were complete opposites. He was as worthless as the dirt smeared across her nose, nothing, whereas she was priceless, something entirely pure and just naturally good. He finally manages to open his mouth, carefully grabbing her by the shoulders, fixing her with his loving gaze as he fervently murmurs, “I-you’re so bright, so…radiant. I love that about you Rey.” She giggles, blushing at the attention, shyly gazing at him through her lashes.
She stares at him closely, becoming somber as she thinks before softly echoing his intensity with a quiet but powerful statement, “If I’m the flower, you’re my sun.” Ben stares at her in shock, at the incredible insight she had just shared, the intense comparison she had just uttered. He’s not-How could someone associate him with the sun? Does she really mean it?
He stares at her imploringly, searching her fiery and determined expression for cracks and then he can feel it. It’s true; this feeling of a connection, of love, is hanging thickly in the air, thrumming with an uncontainable energy so strong he can almost taste it. He stares at her, face beginning to scrunch up with grief and confusion as he desperately wonders. But, why? Why trust me?
She’s reaching up, gently smoothing out the worried furrow that’s developed between his brows with a small finger before tracing the digit across his face in random patterns. He wants to cry as he realizes what she’s doing. She’s touching his freckles, or as she likes to say, connecting the dots or even her preferred phrase, finding the constellations. Her favorite feature was his freckles, one of the things he hated the most about himself, marring his pale skin. She found them fascinating, looking at them for minutes, finding new ones every day.
He slowly looks down at her, still dazed and distracted until she playfully pokes his nose, practically instructing him, seriously stating in a firm voice, “’Member to smile. Looks better on you.” Abruptly, a mischievous grin spreads across Rey’s face as she hooks her fingers in his mouth to force it into a cartoony parody of a smile. She giggles, entertained by the dorky look on his face before he snorts, reacting in kind and reaching his hand out to tug her nose upwards. She laughs again before moving out of his grip, collapsing next to him and curling into his side with a tired yawn, eyes sleepily sliding shut. He carefully pulls some blankets back, sharing the bedding and his warmth with her.
After letting them have a small nap, nestled together in the bed, Luke had reluctantly moved from his spot in the doorway, softly waking the pair up. He shooed Rey away, ignoring her protests, heaving her from the bed and gently pushing her out the door. She let out a happy shout, glancing back at Ben as she left, “I’ll see ya tomorrow!” He nods, smiling at Rey as she waves enthusiastically, disappearing around the corner. Luke shakes his head, chuckling at the girl’s antics, before walking back towards Ben.
He nervously looks down, fiddling with the bright yellow flowers in his lap before setting them on the bedside table across from him. He carefully glances up at his uncle as the man sits down on the edge of the bed. Luke is staring at him patiently, knowing he has something he wants to say. Ben fidgets uncomfortably before hesitantly opening his mouth, glancing back at the cheerful flowers, not wanting to meet his gaze as he anxiously mumbles, “Do you…Do you hate me?”
Luke instantly protests, eagerly arguing with his tentative question, “No! Of course not!” Ben flinches at his loud response and the older man notices, lowering his voice as he softly asks, “Where is this coming from?” He continues, voice tinged with sadness and confusion, inquiring, “Why would you say that?” Ben feels tears pricking at his eyes, so he tries to hide it, pressing his face into his knees. I don’t know. He can’t tell which thoughts are his and which are Snoke’s anymore.
His uncle seems to see into him, sensing his despair as he delicately murmurs, “Is it because of…Snoke?” Ben shifts anxiously but he tries not to react too much, staying silent. He can’t know. He shouldn’t know. But then his Uncle is softly asking, “Ben…Do you hate…yourself?”
He stops trying to hide, slowly lifting his head, tears beginning to track down his face as he bitterly says, “I’m such a burden.” Luke firmly shakes his head, eyes burning with determination as he passionately stating, “Ben, you’re not a burden. You’re so smart and kind; always contributing helpful knowledge, serving other students in thoughtful acts of compassion, regardless of how they treat you, I’ve seen it.”
Ben stares at him surprise, not realizing his uncle really had been watching him, maybe even looking out for him. But his shock begins to fade when he remembers the other issue hanging heavily on his chest, weakly mumbling, “…It’s not just that.” Luke’s brows furrow in concern as he worriedly asks, “What do you mean?” Ben is a tangled ball of emotions; he’s scared, nervous, and angry. He throws his arms out in frustration, yelling out, “I’m not…I’m not what you want me to be!” “And, what is that?” He doesn’t know any other way to say it so he just tells him, muttering bitterly, “I can’t be a Jedi.”
Ben nervously waits for his reaction, thinking he’ll be angry or disappointed but instead the man just sits there, contemplatively stroking his beard. His uncle finally opens his mouth, quietly looking at her as he ponders aloud, “Well…I’ve been thinking…maybe it’s true.” Ben gasps in surprise, hands fisting in his lap, expression falling into a despondent frown. I knew it. But Luke is raising his hand, cutting into his frantic thoughts as he firmly says, “Let me finish.” Ben stares at him in confusion as the man continues, gently explaining, “…Maybe that path isn’t meant for you.” Luke can tell he’s still perplexed, so he leans in, emphatically and decisively stating, “You don’t have to be a Jedi…if you don’t want to be one.”
He should feel liberated of that pressure but instead he just felt more panicked and nervous than before as he miserably whispered, “Then…what am I going to do?” His mind begins to whirl with thoughts, latching onto the visions he’d recently seen, the creature that lurked within his mind. He looked fearfully at his uncle, desperately hoping for comfort as he frantically asks, “I’m not going to be evil am I? Like a-a Sith?”
Like Darth Vader? He shuddered as he recalled the vision he had seen. He didn’t want to be like his grandfather if it meant killing or betraying his family. His uncle grips him soothingly by the shoulders, reassuring him as he softly smiles, shaking his head. “No, no, Heavens no!” He pulls Ben into an awkward side-hug, gazing down at him fondly as he gently murmurs, “I haven’t entirely figured it out…but for now I think we should just focus on getting you better.” Ben nods quietly, tiredly leaning against him as he slowly returns the embrace.
A loud beeping comes shrieking in from the main living room and Luke growls out an annoyed response, muttering angrily under his breath. “What is it now? Can we not have a conversation without getting interrupted? Just once?” Luke carefully stands up, turning to reassure Ben before carefully shutting the door behind him, having learned his lesson from last time. “I’ll be right back.”
Ben hurriedly slips from the bed, not entirely convinced, still worried about the man, what might be happening. He presses his ear to the wood surface, straining to listen. A recording is playing in the background, sounding garbled and muffled not only by static but by the thick door and he struggles to pick out what its saying. The message seems to start out in nervous panic before ending with desperate shouting, whoever was recording the message having lost any sort of composure as they finish. “…needs help…attacked by seven…dying…anyone…please!” There’s a loud click as Luke presses another button, answering their distress signal, calmly stating, “If you can hear me, I am within a close distance and can assist you. I am on my way and will forward this distress signal to the Resistance.”
Luke is walking back towards the room, calling out his name, “Ben?” He didn’t realize he’d reached over and locked the door until the man is quietly murmuring, voice sounding worried and concerned even though it’s muffled. “What’s wrong?” What’s wrong? Everything’s wrong.
It seems as if all his thoughts are spilling out in twisted, inverted lies as he says them out loud. As if something or someone is manipulating his speech. He wearily leans against the door, miserably muttering, “I hate you.” No, I only hate myself. The Jedi was at least right about that. The man protests, easily seeing through the lie as he softly murmurs, quietly disagreeing, “You don’t mean that.” Ben shudders, pressing a fist into his mouth to muffle an anguished cry, shoulders starting to shake with repressed sobs.
“Ben something’s happened…I—He slams his hands against the door, heatedly mumbling, “Just…Just go.” Don’t go. He glares down at the ground as he bitterly murmurs, “I’ll…I’ll still be here when you get back.” I won’t be. Not at all. Luke sighs, and Ben can hear him shifting, pressing his hand against the door as he solemnly states, “I won’t be gone long, Ben. I promise.” Ben snaps at hearing him utter one more false declaration, brokenly muttering, “Take as much time as you want. It doesn’t matter.” But it does. Please, don’t go. Something is coming.
As his uncle reluctantly leaves, Ben slides down to the floor, curling up into himself fearfully. Something bad is going to happen, he can sense it, twisting in his stomach with sickening dread. He resignedly moves back to the bed, knowing he won’t be able to sleep but still wanting some form of solace from the messy pile of blankets. He presses his nose into the bedding, still smelling Rey’s scent. A whiff of an earthy and clean aroma reaches Ben and he calms down a little. But he still stares out the window, worriedly watching as the Jedi departs in his personal ship, rocketing into the sky before vanishing into hyperspace. He’d left him…just like his parents had.
Ben shudders, slowly pulling himself from the memories, sluggishly returning to the present before sliding his bleary eyes open. He stares at the girl lying next to him in confusion, disoriented for a moment, blinking as he takes in her older but still concerned face. She’s…real. She’s not gone, not dead. Rey is very much alive and she’s here, next to him.
He slowly reaches out a tentative hand, touching her own hand with his, relaxing slightly as he feels the warmth radiating from it. He lets out a relieved sigh and drops his head back onto the bed. She carefully sits up, nervously looking down at him, quietly asking, “…Ben?” When he doesn’t respond, still staring at her warily like she’ll disappear, Rey’s face scrunches up in worry and concern and she cautiously asks, “…What is it? What’s wrong?”
And then he remembers. Why he’d stopped at that particular moment. He didn’t want her to see what happened in the following hours after the Jedi had left. He instantly coils up into a defensive ball, shaking his head as he brokenly mutters, “…Rey…You...You shouldn’t see what comes next…” He presses his eyes closed, gripping his arms tightly, as if trying to keep it in, barely getting out a strangled whisper. “It’s…I can’t.”
She’s carefully wrapping her arms around him, pulling his head into her lap, stroking the hair away from his face. He reluctantly opens his eyes, letting out a shaky sigh as he meets her kind eyes hovering above and she softly murmurs, “I…I probably don’t want to see what happens next—He heatedly cuts in, panic seeping into his voice as he quickly retorts, “Then don’t!” But she determinedly finishes what she was going to say, firmly stating, “But I need to.”
He shudders again, tears dripping out of his eyes and into his hair as he shakes his head, inaudibly whispering, “…I’m sorry.” She wipes his them away, trying to reassure him, calmly saying, “It’s okay.” His voice is cracking and shaking as he forces out words, still distressed and distraught. “It’s not…Th-There’s…everything that I--” Could’ve done. Should’ve done.
Rey gently cups his head with both her palms, kindly but firmly murmuring, “Ben…what’s happened in the past…they wouldn’t blame you…they would understand.” He turns, unable to meet her earnest gaze as he mumbles into her lap. “…I’m truly sorry, Reyna.” He keeps mouthing it over and over like a broken record. Sorry, sorry, sorry. She softly sighs, patiently stroking his face, his back, anything she can touch to try and calm him.
He manages to stop after a few minutes, dazedly gazing at the far wall, trying not to think about any of it. “Ben.” At hearing the tender tone in her voice he warily shifts to look back up at her. She continues, speaking softly. “…Please, I-I know this is going to be painful but I think…it’s necessary.” His eyes go wide with panic and he fearfully whispers, “N-no…you don’t understand…can’t…I can’t!”
Rey protests, voice rising with worry and frustration, as she loudly exclaims, “Ben, it’s going to eat you alive if you don’t let it out!” Seeing he’s still not listening, she softly murmurs, tears’ building in her eyes as she quietly pleads with him. “It-It’s…going to break my heart if I see you fall apart any more than you already are.” He stares at her, still not understanding why she’s so persistent when she already knows. Still he slowly nods, reluctantly agreeing as he whispers, “…okay.”
She carefully moves so he’s in a more comfortable position, carefully raising her hands and pressing them to the sides of his head, soothingly saying, “I’ll do it this time. Just try and…relax.” Instead of attempting to force her way into Ben’s mind Rey gently invites him into hers, tugging him into the memories of the peaceful island she had recently departed, Ach-to. Gradually, he feels as the warm lap he’s lying in fades away, turning into the soft sounds of water tumbling across rocks, birds lightly calling above. He opens his eyes and gazes at the greenery surrounding him, the clear blue water reflected in the skies overhead.
The calm and gentle view doesn’t last; interrupted by massive black clouds, roiling in the distance, rumbling threateningly as they steadily come closer. A storm is coming. Suddenly, he’s not standing on a grassy Cliffside; he’s sitting in his uncle’s bedroom, staring out the window. He’s back in his own memories.
It’s too quiet. It’s the calm before the storm. Ben knows from experience that it won’t remain for very long. And just like that there’s a crack of thunder, the flash of lightning, wind whipping through the room, the tranquil peace shattering. Even over the loud din of the roiling storm Ben can faintly hear something. He strains to make out what the noises are, hesitantly moving closer to the window and then he freezes; it’s screaming.
He tries to stumble away but his body’s too numb with horror, feet catching on a blanket as he crashes into a corner nearby. He can still hear it, even though it’s muffled through the bedding, horrific shrieks digging in until that’s all he hears. He slams his hands over his ears, pressing tightly until he feels his head ache and it stops. But it won’t stop his mind from thinking, from sensing, absorbing what’s around it.
He unwillingly senses their deaths resonating and rippling through the force with horrific shaking. It makes it painfully clear as he covers his physical senses and feels only the tug of energy that flows through everything, violently extinguished; vibrant cords cut short with a sudden snap. Ben had never felt or seen someone die before but now he knows what it’s like. His uncle had always told him about the sanctity of life, how important it was to give, not take. And now Ben understood.
He would gladly invite any pain in the world over this. Give me needles, give me broken bones, give me seizures, anything but this. There’s nothing. They’re there and then they just aren’t. They suddenly cease to exist, wiped from this world with the harsh heel of a boot, a cruel flick of a wrist, the burning slash of a saber. They’re like ants beneath a behemoth, crushed by uncaring and unfeeling creatures, indifferent to their fate. He can feel his mouth opening in a scream but it isn’t his. It’s his uncle’s, his mother’s, the children’s. He can only listen to what’s closest to him; their relentless screaming, their suffering and fear as they beg for life and are denied it. Please, don’t—Where’s Master--Mommy!—No, you won’t—I promise—Dead.
He’s slumped over, gaze unfocused, blood dripping out of his ears and nose as he lies against the wall. His mind is unraveling, overloaded, abandoning any sort of cohesive thoughts or feelings it might have had. He’s vanishing into the tide of residual fear and death, identity lost and confused in a swirl of darkness as it rushes to overtake him.
Ben isn’t I or me; he’s we. And we are suffering, dying, dead. Twitching in the violent throes of death, choking on blood, silent tears dripping out of unseeing eyes. He’s unaware and uncaring that a hushed quiet has fallen outside except for the occasional rumble of thunder. It’s still not silent in his head, distress and phantom pain that isn’t his rattling around in his fractured mind.
A horrified shriek cuts through the silent air, shattering the somber atmosphere. Ben vaguely realizes it wasn’t in his head but had actually been uttered in reality. He tries to focus his scattered brain but it hurts so much. He groans, weakly shifting as he can finally catch some of what they’re screaming.
A high-pitched voice, a female, is yelling at the attackers, anger and fear in her trembling voice, “Why? Why have you done this?!” Ben would like to know as well. And who are they? Who is she? What is--A sharp stab of pain causes his train of thoughts to derail and he misses a few seconds of consciousness, awareness fading briefly as he blacks out.
When he blearily returns the woman is screaming at them angrily, hysterically shouting, “Where’s my child? My little Reyna?!” His eyes widen in surprised horror and he tries to move but he almost passes out again, gripping the wall tightly to remain awake. Rey excitedly mentioning her mother coming, being happy to meet him. She couldn’t have picked a worse time to be here.
He only manages to slump even further as he attempts to do something, feebly pressing his head against the sill of the window as he continues to unwillingly listen in nervous dread. A different voice replies, colder and gravely, sounding slightly distorted as it coolly states, “If she isn’t dead, she’ll be joining you soon, woman.”
She’s earnestly protesting, denying the concept that her child might be deceased, firmly stating, “Master Skywalker won’t stand for this, he’ll—No, the Jedi won’t be doing anything. I think you’ll find he’s distracted by a planetary distress signal far from here.” The other voice had harshly cut her off; confidently proclaiming what Ben had feared would become true. It’s what the voice in his head…Snoke…had promised him. The school was unprotected; their Jedi, their guardian was gone, leaving it defenseless.
Their cruel voice cuts into his terrified thoughts, increasing his panicked hysteria even more as they viciously demand, “We’re only here for one thing; the boy. Ben Solo. Now, where is he?” He can’t move, he can’t leave, he can’t run. All he can do is be afraid. Panicked breaths heave out of him, adrenaline pounding through his system and he manages to lift himself up to the window with shaky arms. He grips the ledge tightly with his hands, propping his chin on the edge and peering down.
As he finally sees the group of figures below, he can dimly see the silhouette of the woman, unobscured by dark helmets unlike the others. He can make out long brown hair but the rest of her is hidden from view as she is facing away from him. She calmly shakes her head, folding her arms as she defends him, evenly saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. He left with the older man.” Ben wishes he had.
One of the dark figures near the front steps forward, calmly stating, “You’re lying.” She angrily retorts, waving her arms at the carnage surrounding them as she heatedly snarls, “Well, maybe you should start looking among the bodies of the innocent children you just murdered. It must be terribly hard to see in those ridiculous masks.” He lets out a muffled whimper, feeling the severe sting as the man whips his hand across her ch3eek, harshly rebuking the woman. “Silence!”
The dark figure turns away, facing the school as he firmly states, “I can sense him. Somewhere in the building. He will come to us eventually.” Ben would never come to those monsters. The man is continuing, pulling something from his belt, confidently declaring, “You will be destroyed.” She is still fiery and firm, standing tall against his imposing frame, determinedly answering, “Fine. You may do what you want but it will not stop the Jedi from returning.” He moves in closer, unimpressed and indifferent as he smoothly says, “We shall see.”
She turns to meaningfully look back at the school, seeming to be scanning the windows for something before her firm gaze connects with his. He gasps, seeing Rey staring back at him, reflected in the woman’s features. She has the same smattering of freckles scattered across her nose, strong straight eyebrows, a firm chin, inquisitive hazel eyes. She truly is Reyna’s mother. He realizes as she softly directs some thoughts at him that they will be her last. Find my child and run. Save yourselves. You are her family now.
He stretches out a hand, desperately trying to move her with the force but he can’t seem to access it, frustratingly slipping through his grasp and then she’s turning back around. She bravely faces the dark figure, not flinching or making a sound as he raises a blade above her smaller frame. He harshly swipes downwards, striking the woman across the chest, instantly killing her. Ben stops, slowly sinking to the ground as he feels another light fade away, crumpling against the floor in a numb heap. Rey’s mother.
He lies there in a shocked state, drained of all energy, too tired to do anything, to comprehend anymore. He vacantly gazes at the closed door, numbly thinking, desperately projecting, knowing it won’t reach him in time. It was already too late. Why waste effort on one child when the man’s whole school had just been slaughtered? When it was his entire fault? But Ben sends it anyways, quietly whispering into the far reaches of space, Uncle, where are you?
Chapter 31: Chapter 31
Welp, it's been forever since I've posted a chapter but better late than never, right? So i'll be honest I've rewritten this chapter at least 2 or 3 times and i'm still not 100% satisfied but it is what it is. Hopefully it's still semi-decent! Enjoy!
He’s still blankly staring at the old door, indifferently examining the knobs and cracks in the wood. Water is dripping in from the window, slowly soaking into his robes, trickling down his back and pooling onto the floor. It begins to downpour outside; the soft pattering of rain should be relaxing him but he can’t feel. A heavy hollowness is settling in his mind.
And then he rapidly lifts his head, staring in surprise as he feels a faint impression beyond the door. It isn’t entirely empty. There’s something flickering at the edge of his senses, indistinct but it’s there. Is it one of the students? Her? Ben tries to stem the swell of hope surging through him at the thought but he’s already moving. He leaves the room as fast as he can before hurriedly opening the door, stumbling out into the hallway.
He walks carefully, brushing his hands along the walls, sticking to the shadows and warily looking around the corners. It’s eerily silent. The only sound is the soft scuffling of his bare feet across the stone floor. He slows to a stop as he nears the main courtyard, the front doors lying just beyond, partly open. But what catches his gaze the most is what lies in front of him, reflecting his stunned expression.
The silver-rimmed helmet, the shadowy robes from his nightmare are real; sitting in front of him, darkly beckoning, stark against the pale floor. He’s not a Jedi. He’s not a coward. Kaden was right. His nightmare—vision--was right all along. It hadn’t been another man; He’s the monster. The one that slaughters innocent people, bathed in their blood.
He slowly slides to the floor, letting out broken gurgles of laughter, until his stomach hurts and then he’s crying. Even through the haze of hot tears he can still feel the persistent pressure just beyond the walls, feeble and wavering. It could be her. He latches onto the feeling, desperate to maintain some semblance of sanity, some sort of reason to keep on living. It has to be her.
Ben shudders, staring back at the unfeeling helmet, knowing it’ll be necessary for this to work. He’ll be making a sacrifice and he hopes it’s worth it. With grim determination he slowly reaches towards the pile of dark clothes, remembering the woman’s last words, her dying wish for her only child. He would do it. He would save her life even if it meant the end of his.
He slips the thick, black robes over his thin frame and they swallow him, hungry to envelope him in darkness. Tentatively wrapping his hands around the cross-guard saber hilt, he tests its heavy weight before igniting it. Startled by its frenzied buzzing he nervously raises the blade to his head. The acrid smell of singed hair fills his nostrils as he messily shears off his padawan braid, the symbol of his allegiance to the Jedi. It can no longer mean anything to him.
The last item stares back at him mockingly, daring him to oppose it. He sucks in an anxious breath as he swiftly snatches the metal object from the floor, roughly shoving it over his head. He wants to scream from how suffocating it feels; a muzzle or vice, squeezing tighter and tighter until there’s nothing left.
It’s like the saber is weighing him down, the robes are too big and the helmet is slowly smothering him. But it doesn’t matter. She is all that matters. He slips through the crack in the door, heading to the sensation, towards his inevitable fate.
As he trudges further and further away from the school he tries to ignore the black shapes that begin to appear, attempting to step around them, to not look down and see. Firmly staring ahead he can pick out figures huddled in the distance, slowly gathering in a loose circle around something, moving closer towards it. A pang of fear runs through him and he begins to quicken his unsteady stride.
Lightning swiftly streaks across the sky, clearly illuminating what he’d been trying so hard to deny. Ben freezes, instantly squeezing his eyes shut but it’s too late, the morbid vision spilling into his mind. He hunches over, helplessly gulping down air to stop the sudden bout of horrified nausea. The beautiful field of flowers they had played in is now the site of a massacre. Their twisted and curved forms litter the once innocent meadow, still staining the ground red despite the shower of water.
A weak wheezing noise emanates from beneath him and his eyes snap open in uneasy disbelief. Someone else is still alive. Blood is caked under nails, matted in hair, carelessly spilled along his chest but Ben can still recognize who it is; Kaden.
He’s struggling to breathe, his entire side covered in the precious liquid, one arm wrapped half-heartedly around his wound. The other is draped protectively over a smaller boy; Ravi. The latter child almost looks as if he was sleeping except for the blank eyes, neck twisted at an unnatural angle, undoubtedly broken.
Ben is startled from his dazed observation when Kaden makes a feeble rasping noise, opening his mouth to speak. Instead the boy wheezes again, tightly clutching his bloody side before beginning to wetly cough, the force of it rattling through his chest. Ben looks on with grief, feeling absolutely worthless. He can’t save him. The only thing he can do is relieve him from his suffering. Ben begins to move towards him when he hears a high-pitched shriek from across the field. His head whips towards the source of the noise. Rey.
While he stands in the soaking rain, deliberating, she gets closer and closer to meeting the same fate as the other children. As Kaden. He stares back down at the other child; anguish welling in him but the boy is softly mouthing something. He faintly gasps, crimson bubbling out of his mouth but he fixes him with an intense stare. Ben remembers him being just as passionate when they’d fought, urging him to do something, anything. Make a choice.
He shakes, tears beginning to silently trickle down his cheeks beneath the helmet as he decides. He quickly side-steps, shifting to the side of Kaden’s form but not before noticing the expression he’s giving him. His drooping eyes are struggling to follow Ben as he leaves but the boy tiredly smiles, blood-stained teeth shining in the dim light.
Why? What does he have to smile about? He’s leaving him to suffer and slowly bleed to death, all alone. The guilt begins to tear at him and he has to frantically chant her name so he doesn’t break, doesn’t change his mind. He drowns his sorrow in her light; the sensation that’s so close he can almost touch it.
It’s sickening; they’re up ahead, gradually pacing, patiently waiting for her to drop, like a cat playing with its food. Suddenly she falls and one of them pounces, lifting his weapon above his head to strike. She twists to look back, eyes shining with fear and Ben hurriedly presses to the front of the group. Not her. Not his Reyna. He doesn’t even process it, a surge of pent-up fury and rage rushing through him as he charges. In one swift move his saber flares up, exploding in a harsh blaze of red energy, ripping through the man’s back.
Rey stares on in horror as the figure lets out a howl of pain before collapsing to the ground in a heap, thoroughly lifeless. Ben doesn’t feel a flicker of remorse, still in the heat of the moment. The man had murdered other padawans, would’ve killed her.
She manages to unsteadily clamber to her feet and he strides forwards, intending to grab her but she shrinks back, hesitant as she uneasily looks back at him. She’s afraid. Of me. It slowly dawns on him as he stares down at the crumpled body in front of him, blocking her from his view. I’m one of them now. Murderer. But I can’t be distracted by that. Besides, it doesn’t matter anymore. Liar.
He frantically shakes his head before whirling, robes swishing imperiously as he turns to the group of hushed men. He draws from the pool of emotion he’d felt a moment ago, not having to fake the protective anger he feels, harshly snarling, “She’s mine.” He elaborates, angrily gesturing with his spitting saber to prove his point. “I will take care of the girl and meet you back here.”
There’s a tense few moments as they silently stare at him, unmoving and unreadable through their thick robes and helmets. Finally, a man near the front speaks up, silver squares on his mask glinting when more lightning flashes, a loud crack of thunder quickly following. “Whatever you wish, young one.” He carefully watches as they begin to head back towards the school, waiting until they’ve gone to make his move.
Grabbing her arm, he hurriedly pulls her along but she seems injured, her feet dragging. He instantly stops, worriedly looking her over. She’s leaning heavily on one leg, bracing against him for support. She must’ve hurt the limb when she’d fallen.
Ben furtively glances back, checking to make sure the others have left. He twists around, grateful that they’ve gone. She’s already reaching upwards, seeming to want him. How does she know it’s really me? That I won’t just kill her now?
He pulls her up, wrapping his arms securely underneath her legs as she winds her arms tightly around his neck. She tucks her face into his cowl, burrowing into his touch. She’s shivering but he can’t tell if it’s because of cold or fear. He’d thought he wouldn’t get to her in time. That she would--He tightens his white-knuckled hold around her, probably leaving bruises but she doesn’t say anything.
They manage to get on the men’s ship and he hurriedly deposits her into the copilot seat before leaning over the controls, distractedly making some calculations. He has to find some place where she’ll be safe without really paying attention to the finer details. It’s like playing a child’s blindfold game; knowing the general area but leaving it vague enough that he won’t know everything. So the creature won’t discover what he’s done.
He jumps slightly when she tugs on some of the loose hair sticking out of his helmet, anxiously murmuring, “…b-ben?” He keeps working, fixedly staring at the screens, trying to ignore the worry in her voice. He’s not Ben anymore.
This time he can’t overlook the wobble of worry as she carefully asks, “What’s happening?” He slowly takes off the helmet, nervously swallowing as he glances over at her concerned face. He can’t say it out loud.
She’s looking up at him, confusedly enquiring, “Where’s mom?” He shifts uncomfortably, looking for anything to delay having to speak. His eyes dart down to her leg, noticing her injury from earlier. It’s only a few scratches but he instantly busies himself with ripping strips from his robe before slowly kneeling, wrapping the newly-fashioned bandages carefully around the damaged limb.
He slowly glances up when he finishes, letting out a discouraged huff of air when he discovers she’s still fixedly staring at him, patiently waiting for an answer. He has to pause so his voice doesn’t crack as he quietly murmurs, “She’s…she’s gone.” She tilts her head, the confusion beginning to fade and replacing by something desperate as she asks, “Gone? Where’d she go?”
Tightly gripping the fabric bunched up at his knees, he presses his eyes closed in a futile attempt to stop the emotion from leaking out, weakly gasping, “I… Reyna.” He just can’t. Can’t tell her that her mother’s dead, murdered. That all of them were killed. Because of me.
He leans over, grabbing the adult safety belts, cinching them down as tight as they can go to fit around her small frame, softly whispering, “…I’ll protect you…I promise.” He presses a palm to her forehead, copying what his uncle had done to him, murmuring, “Sleep.” She instantly slumps downwards, lying unconscious in the harness and he turns, starting the hyperdrive to their destination.
All he can see is sand, stretching for miles as far as the eye can view. He had wanted somewhere that was relatively remote. Out of everyone’s reach. It’s a force-forsaken desert that no one cares about. His gaze falls on what passes for civilization on this barren planet; a ragged outpost with foreign species huddled inside their makeshift homes. It was perfect, right?
He stares down despairingly at the girl tenderly cradled in his arms. Reyna’s mouth is half-parted in peaceful sleep, oblivious of the turmoil raging around her. A messy strand of hair falls into her face and he reaches out, gently tucking it behind her ear. He doesn’t want this moment to end. He continues to watch her sleeping form, desperately drinking her in, trying to savor what she’s like.
There’s a loud creak as a gust of wind swirls past them and she shifts, face scrunching slightly in discomfort. Knowing he doesn’t have long, he heaves a regretful sigh, slowly weaving through the tents. He warily stares at the various merchants and workers alike, holding her protectively against his chest, gradually making his way to the back of the run-down group. He stops hesitantly, having found what he was looking for.
A stubby alien is hunched over, muttering as it runs bloated hands over a rusted hunk of metal, obviously inspecting the item’s value. The creature seems to sense him, turning to scowl at the intruder, rolls of hideous fat adding to his sour expression. Black beady eyes squint suspiciously as he glowers but his greed seems to eventually win over his self-preservation.
It crosses its flabby arms, impatiently rumbling, “Are you here to make a trade?” His black hood rustles slightly as he nods, motioning to the precious cargo he holds, firmly announcing, “I am. This girl becomes your worker and in return gains your protection.”
The greedy trader lets out a roaring, hacking sound, spittle spraying as he incredulously exclaims, “Why would I ever let that tiny runtling work for me? I run a respectable business.” He doesn’t flinch at the creature’s outburst, patiently waiting before deliberately shifting, pretending to leave. After a moment the creature hurriedly waves its hands, huffing out a petulant response, grumpily hissing. “Wait!”
He rubs his chin thoughtfully, hungrily eyeing the girl as he weighs the pros and cons of the transaction. “Hmmm, I suppose she’ll grow into a fine enough specimen.” He finally nods, growling out, “Fine, it’s a deal. But I won’t pay you.” Noticing the alien is still staring at them, he looks up slightly, quietly requesting, “May I have a moment alone?” He sighs before moving away, coldly barking out, “Make it quick.”
He lets out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding, carefully setting her on the ground, letting her semi-limp body lean against him. He cups her face in his hands, gently murmuring, “…Rey?” She lets out a soft moan, eyes fluttering open and he comforts her, brushing his hands through her hair.
Her eyes drift, distractedly looking at their surroundings, confusedly mumbling, “Where…?” He interrupts her train of thought, pulling on her chin to look at him, urgently muttering, “Rey, we don’t have long. I…I think you’ll be protected if you’re here.” She seems to sense his nervousness, worriedly asking, “But you’re staying too…right?”
His hesitation is all she needs to know his answer and she hurriedly clenches even tighter to his frame. This is not how he’d wanted this to turn out. Why is it so difficult? Her face crumples, eyes shining with tears and she barely manages to force out a reply, whimpering, “W-why?”
He tries to be firm but by the end he has to whisper so his voice doesn’t crack. “You need to be safe. You won’t be if I’m here.” She pounds her fists into his chest, desperately crying, “I don’t care!” He grabs her flailing limbs, trying to calm her as he brushes the angry tears from her face, soothingly saying, “But I do.”
He bitterly smiles, pressing a soft kiss to her brow, murmuring, “I’ll make it all better, princess. Don’t worry.” Resting his chin on the top of her head, he lets out a slow breath, intently focused on his goal. He doesn’t want to look at her when he does it. See the light leave her eyes as the memories fade. He can feel her tense body suddenly slump against him, ragged breathing slowing and he knows it’s done.
He leans down, lips brushing against the shell of her ear, whispering, “Your name is Reyna. You have a family that cares about your well-being. I promise…someday they will come back for you. They will always love their little princess.” He straightens to his full height, eyes blazing with intimidation as he faces the merchant, firmly stating, “Take care of her or I will come for you.” The alien’s head bobs like a worthless womp rats, understanding the thinly veiled threat.
He doesn’t look back, he doesn’t stop, her tear-stained and stricken face still burned into his mind. He’s so dazed; he doesn’t even process that he’s back inside the ship until he feels the pressure of launching out into space, seat rattling from the force of it. Even over the roar of the engines he can hear her screaming, shrieking for a family she doesn’t know but feels. Come back! No! He shudders, pressing his eyes closed, glad he’d left it on auto-pilot as he’s overcome by an onslaught of emotion.
Scrabbling at his harness frantically, he drops from his chair, hurriedly tumbling to the ground to try and release some of the pain he’s feeling. His mind is a live-wire, buzzing with barely contained energy. Someone else’s thoughts are just as frantic and desperate as his; beginning to slide into the chaos.
Ben? What happened?! He knows he should be relieved that his uncle has finally replied but all he can remember is a little girl asking the same question only minutes ago. He almost breaks right then and there, pressing a fist into his mouth to keep from howling. Ben! Are you alright?!
It gets even worse, even more crowded when he doesn’t reply as he faintly senses a woman joining in with the Jedi’s frantic questioning, screaming at him in panic. He tightly wraps his hands around himself, digging his nails into his skin as he hears a voice he hasn’t heard in years. The individual seems to be concerned for him in supposed parental concern as his mother yells to him. Ben! Tell me what’s going on?! Please!
He hesitates, thoughts scattering all over the place, moving in different directions. I need help. I’m crazy. Help me. I’m a monster. It’s too late. The only thing he can manage to say is one word that he will always feel, that he will forever carry with him, following him during the day, haunting him at night. Sorry. Sorry for being such a disgusting imitation—failure--of a son. Sorry for not being good enough to be a Jedi. Sorry for letting them get killed.
He briefly considers telling them what happened, that he needs their help but he knows if he involves them, Luke and Leia will be killed. Either by the other shadowy figures or by Snoke. He doesn’t want to be responsible for any more deaths tonight. He already has enough blood on his hands. All he sends them is another pathetic excuse of an apology, for his weakness, for what had happened at the academy, for what he was about to do. So Sorry.
Ben shakes, his fingers clawing into his back even more until he’s drawing blood, pressing his forehead tightly against the floor as he hears the confusion and pure distress in their voices. Ben? What are—No! We can--And then he’s pushing as hard as he can, shoving them forcefully from his mind, blocking and distancing the desperate pair from himself, away from the creature in his head.
It hurts worse than Ben thought it would as he hears them still begging at him—Please! We still--before suddenly being cut off, leaving his thoughts silent and empty. At least, until even Snoke attempts to fill the void, hissing and spitting in what it thinks is soothing tones. Well done. They wouldn’t understand. They are weak and foolish.
He painfully whispers out the words, too tired to care about the wavering in his voice, softly pleading, “…please…leave me alone…” Ben knows it’s just an illusion; that it’s still there, waiting, lurking in the shadows but he takes it anyways. He turns his head slightly until his ear is pushed into the dirty metal floor, absorbing the sounds of the rumbling engines below, vacantly listening to the simple white noise. He didn’t think he would have any tears left to give but a few begin to silently trickle out, dripping onto the ground as he begins to shake with suppressed sobs.
He can practically taste the scent of acrid smoke lingering in the air; feel the harsh drone of words cutting through the undisturbed atmosphere. He tenses slightly but doesn’t open his eyes as he hears them talking above him. One of them growls, voice sounding accusatory as he hisses with suspicion. “He was away for a long time. Where did he go?” Another pipes up, sounding annoyed and tired as he retorts, “The girl’s gone isn’t she?”
The other man is still determined, stubbornly snarling, “But did he kill her?” A third finally cuts into the heated argument, decisively stating, “Enough. It doesn’t matter how he got rid of the girl. All that matters is that the Jedi’s precious school has been desecrated, practically burned to the ground and the last of the younglings are destroyed.”
As the man utters those words, he realizes it’s true. Rey’s memory was gone, erased and she was no longer Reyna, a padawan descended from the Kenobi’s. Ben had lost any sort of title when the rest of the academy had been slaughtered. He wasn’t a student of the Jedi any longer. He was a traitor to his cause, he wasn’t even human anymore.
The men sound almost smug as they begin to move away, murmuring with reverence as they change topics. “And now we have what he wants.” A second voice hums in agreement, grim satisfaction dripping from their tone. “Supreme Leader will be pleased.” Ben has to suppress a shiver of terror at those parting words, knowing they’re talking about him as they leave his range of hearing.
When his eyes peel open a few moments later, he’s not alone. One of them is sitting next to him on the floor, face turned away as they steadily stare at the door. The man moves his head slightly, gold squares on his helmet catching the available light and winking it back at him. He wearily squints as the figure shifts, grabbing something from his lap before gently pressing it into his hands.
He looks down to his own helmet with a growing sense of detachment. The man seems to sense his discomfort, only quietly remarking, “You’re going to need it.” As he gazes confusedly at his surroundings, it slowly dawns on him that the ship is silent and unmoving. They’ve arrived, wherever this destination is.
It’s strange to be seeing the creature, putting a face to the voice in his mind but there he is, towering overhead. He’s leaning casually on a stone throne, peering down at them with mild interest but when he spots him he eagerly beckons, fervently purring, “Let me look at you, my apprentice.” The rest of the dark robed figures surrounding him part, silently staring back at him through their metallic helmets. Shuffling of cloth and the clanking of armor can be heard as the knights kneel, heads bowed in respect. He can’t tell if it’s for him or the creature in front of him. He slowly steps forward, standing alone at the front, raising his head to gaze at the shriveled thing looming above.
He leans in until he can see the cold glittering darkness in his empty eyes, harshly commanding, “You are no longer Ben Solo. Cast aside that sniveling and weak boy. He is dead.” He waves theatrically, gesturing first to the group at his feet and then towards himself, passionately proclaiming, “You will be a follower of the First Order, a knight of Ren. But most of all you will become a servant…to me. I am your better half. I will make you whole.”
His voice is rising with a barely contained fury as he thunderously declares, “Claim your true inheritance. Claim the legacy your family has denied you all these years and become something great, something…powerful.” He points a bony finger before beginning to lift it into a clenched fist, pride seeping into his voice as he supremely states, “You are now my new apprentice. Rise from the ashes…Kylo Ren.”
A sinking feeling of despair and dread settles in his chest as the withered being above him pronounces those words, his new name, a fanciful title to strike fear in the hearts of men. He knows, in that moment, there’s no hope for him. No saving him. There is no going back.
As the memories fade, the despairing thoughts disappear, giving way to the present. He absentmindedly strokes her hair. Rey’s silky chestnut locks spilling out around her shoulders. Perhaps there is hope for what’s left of himself. She slowly lifts her head, warm green eyes gazing intently, finding something within that he can’t quite see yet. But maybe, just maybe, he can be saved and redeemed of his sins. She gives a soft smile, gently curling a hand around his. And he certainly doesn’t have to go back; he just needs to move forwards.
A soft scuffling noise rises from out in the corridor and the moment’s broken. Ben sighs, dropping his gaze, nervously shifting away. She might’ve forgiven him but what about the rest of his family and friends? Or the other people on this base?
He didn’t realize he’d risen to his feet until he turns to glance back, her trim frame leaning against the edge of the bed. She’s still loosely gripping his hand and his expression must give away some of what he’s thinking because she squeezes it reassuringly. She slowly slips her fingers away before gently nodding towards the exit.
Nothing needs to be said. She understands the need to escape; to have some precious time and space alone so you can think. He dips his head once in gratitude, striding through the door. As he shuts it he turns to look back, noticing that she’s dropped onto the mattress with a tired sigh. But her eyes are focused, face furrowed in contemplation as she clearly thinks about what had been shared between the two of them as well.
While he moves through the base, corridors and hallways spread before him, he doesn’t think of a destination, moving as if he were on autopilot. He knows if he stops his thoughts will catch up to him so he treads softly but swiftly.
He doesn’t even pause when he reaches an exit, walking into the crisp night air. Taking a deep breath, he savors the clean, earthy smell that settles in after a rainstorm. It must be incredibly late or early, honestly he can’t tell but no one is awake or active at this hour and the silence is a welcome reprieve.
A small huff of laughter spills out of his lips as his feet brush the worn metal of a ramp. Ben cranes his head back to take in the familiar dome-shaped hull, a rueful smile twitching across his lips. He’d never been able to stay away from his father’s ship for very long. It almost feels like coming home.
He deliberates a moment, wondering if someone is still inside but decides it’s safe enough since it’s such a strange time. Carefully stooping as he crosses the threshold, he makes his way down the corridor before turning the corner into the main gathering area. He slows to a stop, staring at the unexpected sight in front of him.
The Jedi is sitting on the curved bench, playing holo-chess. He looks up, noticing Ben standing there, frozen in trepidation. His face lights up with excitement when he spots him, warmly exclaiming, “Ah, there you are!”
Raising an eyebrow, his voice is friendly as he teasingly says, “You make it awfully difficult to have a conversation with you.” Maybe that’s because I don’t want to talk to you. The old man takes his sullen silence in stride as he pats the seat next to him, inviting him to take a seat. Ben stubbornly stays in the same position, not moving as he warily watches him.
The old man shrugs and there’s a beat of silence before he switches topics, wistfully murmuring, “You know, me and Chewie used to play this game together.” Of course Ben remembers. Luke had always let Chewbacca win. He doesn’t know why the man had ever bothered playing with the Wookie if he was just going to lose.
His face furrows in confusion as he stares at the other man. He’s smiling, fondness in his tone but there’s a tightness to his eyes that belies his sadness. “I let him win because…I loved to hear you laugh. You were always so sad, tense…” Ben doesn’t know what to say to that admission so he stays quiet. It hurts to know that he had cared. That he still cared.
Luke gestures to the hologram in front of him and he’s still smiling but it looks forced now. “It’s quite difficult to play against yourself.” Ben frowns at his repeated attempt to get him to sit. He’s not moving.
He grudgingly turns to stare back at the diagram, hiding from the man’s stare. Luke is losing terribly, the empty seat across from him apparently winning. But the man is determined, still softly speaking despite Ben’s feigned indifference, vaguely saying, “But this isn’t about me…” Isn’t it?
He pauses the game and Ben can’t keep up the charade any longer. He can hear the squeak of the leather bench as Luke moves, attention now fully focused on him. He reluctantly shifts his gaze to the man as he firmly states, “This is about you.”
Luke is looking up at him with an inscrutable look. Pity. Sympathy. Kindness. He can’t tell exactly what it is but he doesn’t like it. He can’t handle this. He doesn’t want or deserve it, not from him.
Ben turns, swiftly leaving before he can utter a protest. By the time he makes it to the back of the ship, the ramp is already closed, sealing him inside with the Jedi. He nervously moves to the control panel with shaking hands, trying to unlock it. It won’t budge.
Pain suddenly lances up his arm when he slams his fist into the wall in frustration. There’s an audible crack as something fractures and he grits his teeth to keep from crying out. This is ridiculous.
Storming past the common room where Luke is still sitting, he resolutely ignores him, trudging towards the cockpit. He looks at the controls, glaring at the readout’s results. There wasn’t anything wrong with the ramp, it was being held shut. Anxiety slides into his gut as he slowly walks out, dreading the confrontation, wondering if he can still manage a way to get out.
The old man has the audacity to look slightly surprised, mouth lowering with sympathy as he says, “Oh dear. It won’t open will it?” As if that was even a question. Luke strokes his beard thoughtfully before easily humming as he comes to a reasonable conclusion, “Well then, it seems we’ll be here awhile.”
How long is awhile? Fine, he can wait it out. He crosses his arms defensively, stonily staring back at him. Luke makes a deliberate show of stretching himself out, draping his arms along the back of the booth, casually suggesting, “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable? Sit down?” Or not.
He starts to pace back and forth in agitation as the man’s gaze gently tracks his movement, patiently waiting, seeming to sense the tense atmosphere. Ben clenches his injured hand until he feels blood trickling through his fingers, bones creaking and twisting uncomfortably but the pain can’t distract him anymore. Why won’t it work? Is it because I’m too weak?
Weathered hands suddenly cover the rivulets of red running from his knuckles, gently cradling his battered palm. “May I?” He’s asking permission to fix me? He wants to laugh at the irony but instead he resigns himself to giving a jerky nod. Could you heal my head and heart as well?
They’d gone through this before; Ben being injured, Luke reaching out to help him. How long could they keep doing this? Forever? He studies the man as he takes care of the injury.
Bacta-gel is carefully smeared across the cuts and then bandages are wrapped methodically in horizontal strips to cover the wound from the open air. They’re both silent throughout the process but Ben might be breathing a bit heavier than is necessary. Thankfully Luke doesn’t comment on it.
It’s still the same. Luke’s infuriating calmness and Ben’s mounting inner turmoil. Nothing has changed. What’s the point?
Wet droplets begin to drip onto the gauze but they’re not his. He’d thought Luke’s silence had meant he wasn’t affected like he was. Why? He can’t tell which one of them falls first just that his knees buckle and his uncle is there to catch him. He’s securely wrapping his arms around Ben, gently guiding them so they end up huddled on the floor.
It’s like he’s a child again, being held in the man’s embrace although now he’s much too large to fit and he lets out a shuddering sigh. He feels cut open and exposed to the world. He senses Luke pulling away and has to force himself to not instinctively tighten his grip. He’s going to leave again, just like he always has.
The man is only shifting so that Ben can see his expression. He lets out an involuntary gasp at what lies in front of him. He’d had no idea it affected him so much. He’s completely devastated, the façade he’d put on earlier so easy to see through now. His eyes are red-rimmed, tears still streaming down his pained face and he just looks so shattered. He’s just as vulnerable as he is.
Luke doesn’t even attempt to stop his voice from cracking and breaking, wetly whispering, “…The last thing you said to me was that you were…sorry. You never needed to be.” Ben can only gape at him, stunned into silence. There’s no mistaking the warmth in his stare when he strokes his cheek, fervently murmuring, “There were moments when I wanted so badly to just reach out to you…to love you.”
He glances away guiltily for a moment before forcing himself to look back at Ben, gaze now heartbroken as he mournfully confesses, “But I restrained myself and that was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I think…that’s the thing that’s haunted me the most.”
Continuing his admission, he softly but steadily says, “You gave me your trust and I broke it. You shared how you felt and I didn’t respond.” He’s shaking now, practically sobbing as he haltingly pleads, “I…could you ever—Yes.” Ben breathes it out, moving before the man can even finish, squeezing him tightly as he pulls him close.
Surprised he can even speak around the lump in his throat, he manages to choke out, “I forgive you.” His voice is muffled from where he’s buried against Luke’s chest but he doesn’t even care if it sounds childish, quietly begging, “…I just want you back.” The man must seem to hear him, emitting a strangled sound of acknowledgement, nodding as he presses his face into his shoulder.
He recalls what had gotten them into so many messes; all the mistakes and misunderstandings as he hesitantly whispers, “…no secrets. No lies, please. I couldn’t…can’t take that.” His uncle shifts, softly whispering into his ear, “Okay, same goes for you…and no more hiding?” Ben is shy as he decides, tiredly agreeing as he echoes the man’s statement, “…no hiding.”
They both blow out weary exhales, reluctantly pulling away from each other. Luke scrubs at his eyes, rubbing away the remnants of his tears, knowingly exclaiming, “Whew. Exhausting, isn’t it?” Ben lets out a shaky laugh, nodding as he wipes at his own face. This doesn’t even seem real.
Slowly standing up, bones creaking as he does so, Luke stretches before offering his hand. “How about some fresh air?” Ben looks at the extended palm, carefully wrapping it with his own, appreciating the hidden strength as the man tugs him to his feet with a grunt.
As he follows the man he realizes they’re not headed towards the ramp but the middle of the ship. They stop at the ladder that leads to the roof and Ben stares at him in surprise but he just looks expectant, politely motioning with a hand. “After you, nephew.”
Ben tries to tamp down the warmth spreading in his chest at the title but he can’t help a small smile from forming as he begins to climb the metal rungs. Once he reaches the top he hefts the hatch open, carefully scrambling into the night air. Returning the recent gesture, he reaches over to help the older man up, leaning back to give him some space when he’s safely over the edge.
There’s a few moments while they stumble around radar arrays and various bits of machinery before finding a relatively flat place to lay down. Resting shoulder to shoulder, they settle in, watching the clear sky. Astral lights wink and glitter, scattered across the inky canvas in seemingly random patterns until constellations are spotted and named by the pair of onlookers.
Turning his head to look at the older man, Ben can’t believe the Jedi—no, his uncle—is star-gazing, with him, of all things. Ben raises his head, softly calling out, “…Uncle?” The man turns slightly to indicate he’s listening, humming gently in affirmation.
Just hearing him react is enough. He drops back down with a satisfied sigh, a wave of overwhelming relief washing over him, breathlessly admitting, “I…nothing. It’s just…nice to be here. With you.” Luke pats his hand in agreement before suddenly wrenching it upwards, pointing at a streaking flash of light as he exclaims, “Did you see that?! I haven’t seen a shooting star like that in ages.”
Ben stares at where he’d pointed but all he sees is a dark sky. He rubs at his eyes, thinking the rapidly dimming sky is a lack of sleep catching up to him. The black space begins to spread, swallowing stars in its wake and Ben frantically blinks, trying to rationalize what’s happening. It’s just an optical illusion. Right?
He goes to turn his head to find Luke but he can’t move. He shudders and it’s not because of the cold. He’s terrified. There was a reason it had seemed so still in his mind. The creature had been waiting for the right moment to strike.
He bites down hard to keep from screaming, a metallic tang filling his mouth and something is shifting next to him, noticing his sudden tension. He tightly grips the metal beneath him until its biting into his palms, trying to stay grounded but there’s nothing but faint shadow to grasp at.
At first, he’d wanted his uncle but now that the man is worriedly leaning over him he doesn’t know if he should. It’s not safe. I could hurt you. But he can’t utter a word, mouth locked in a pained grimace, eyes wide in desperate panic.
The moment Luke’s hands brush his shoulders, an involuntarily howl tears out of his throat, pure pain and misery. His body twitches and writhes as it tries to decide what to do and something wet is trickling down his nose, mingling with the taste in his mouth.
There’s a faint roar in the distance, building with a mechanical hum, the power of it vibrating into a deafening crescendo. Ben jolts, eyes seemingly flying open as if the overwhelming darkness he’d just experienced had been a dream. Only slightly relieved when his hand doesn’t come back with blood, he glances around, disoriented at the sudden change in location. Where was Luke?
He frowns in confusion, noticing he’s lying in a recessed bunk bed, the sheet tucked around him slipping to the floor as he stands up. A blanket covered bundle near his feet shifts, long brown hair spilling out at the edges as Rey moves to get comfortable. When had she gotten here?
Only puzzling over the lost time for a moment, he adds his quilt to her pile before hurriedly moving into the passageway for answers. Something is happening and he has a feeling it isn’t good. Following the unrehearsed sounds of a haphazard pre-flight check wafting in from the cockpit he leans in, surveying the scene.
His father and Chewie are unceremoniously running through an array of switches and levers but even more surprising is the weathered Jedi and the rebellion general sitting in the seats just behind, chiming in with various comments.
Leia is leaned forwards, staring at the haphazard wiring, sarcastically remarking, “I’m surprised you’re bothering with this hunk of junk, even after all these years.” Han glowers, fondly patting at the messy panels, defensively retorting, “Hey, she’s still got it where it counts, all right.” Raising an eyebrow, she drily replies, “Like a failing hyper drive?” Luke has to muffle a chuckle when Han shoots him a dirty look before turning to address her, “Well, you said it yourself; we don’t want what’s left of your fleet involved so this is our best option, right?”
Choosing that moment to interject, Ben nervously clears his throat, asking, “…for what?” They all turn, pleasant surprise coloring their faces as they see him and his father gives a friendly greeting, murmuring, “Good to see you awake, kiddo.” Chewie echoes his sentiment with an amiable rumble, still fiddling with some of the controls. Ben nods distractedly, already looking at Luke but there’s no indication in the older man’s expression to suggest that anything bad had happened recently.
Catching his gaze, Leia gives him a small relieved smile but it drops the moment she speaks, grimly stating, “Our intel says that there may be first order forces gathering at Jakku.” He tenses, chest tightening with worry at the possibilities and he tries to keep his voice from wavering as he voices his concern, anxiously saying, “What if it’s a trap?” Slowly nodding, she reluctantly admits, “…that is a possibility. That’s why we’re going with a limited amount of people.” Ben stares at the individuals seated in front of him, knowing they’ve already made their minds up but he vocalizes it anyways, softly asking, “Who?”
An arm wraps around his shoulders, tugging in for a familiar side hug, their warm voice laughingly exclaiming with a cheery cockiness, “Well for starters, me of course.” Poe gives him a happy wink before waving at the rest of the group gathered around. He tries to sound contrite but it still comes out fairly pleased when he states, “I’m sorry, general but where you go I will follow.” Leia shakes her head disapprovingly, practically rolling her eyes with fond exasperation but knows it’s pointless to argue with the rebellion pilot.
Yet another voice pipes up, the former Stormtrooper craning his neck around the already crowded door way, fretfully rambling, “This is great and everything but I still wanna know…” He hesitates, leaning in so he can be heard, irritation and confusion lacing his question, “Why Jakku?” Finn elaborates, frustration rising as he explains, “We’ve all been there, right? I mean there’s literally nothing there but miles of sand!”
Leia sighs, distantly recalling, “Well, there was a battle there, thirty years ago. Maybe they are there to salvage something.” Finn bewilderedly replies, “But what could be left after all this time?!” She sounds exhausted, rubbing wearily at her temple, declaring, “I don’t know. They could be there for an entirely different reason. But that is precisely why we are going; to find out what they’re up to.”
Ben notices that Luke hasn’t spoken this entire time but he looks thoughtful, almost contemplative as they discussed the planet. He’s distracted from his observations when Leia raises her head, staring at everyone in turn, firmly announcing, “I suppose this is all of us…Han are we ready to go?” He grumbles, his muttering loud enough for everyone to hear as he reaches for the hyper drive, “I certainly hope so.” There’s a worrying judder and then they’re sliding through space.