Disclaimer: Neocolai does not own The Force Awakens or anything related to Star Wars/Disney/etc. (Which is probably a good thing, since I can't take Kylo Ren seriously...)

When Poe Dameron first met up with the kid, Ben was having difficulties. Difficulties insinuating an unfortunate mishap with tangled boot laces, to be exact. If Poe had known him better, or if Ben had been a little older, it might have been funny. The boy was writhing agitatedly on the floor, yanking savagely at laces which were so impressively knotted together that Poe could only guess one of the Jedi-in-training had decided to play a harmless prank.

Harmless enough, if the victim wasn't a child – a child whose eyes welled with devastated tears as he ripped his fingernails trying to tear the knots apart.

"Stop laughing!" Ben screamed when he saw Poe in the doorway. "It's not funny!" With a snarl he lunged at his boots, trying – and comically failing – to grip them between his teeth.

"Easy," Poe cautioned, sliding into the room when he realized the kid was about to bludgeon his head from sheer desperation. The Solos would never forgive him if he watched their son hyperventilate himself into a coma.

"Get away from me!" Thin fingers were turning purple as Ben twined the laces around his hands. He punched out instinctively and Poe staggered as an invisible blow struck his shoulder. Instantly Ben froze, still curled like a hogtied womprat. "I – I didn't mean to."

Well, at least the kid wasn't trying to strangle himself any longer. Huffing, Poe rubbed his shoulder briefly and knelt beside Ben, pulling a small blade from his pocket. "No harm done." Not even worth a bruise – thank goodness the miniature Jedi had only begun his training. "Hold still a minute and I'll get these off of you."

"They did it." Ben sniffled, blinking rapidly as he wiped a sleeve across his nose. "I hate them."

Some inner sense warned Poe that this wasn't the terminology a Jedi was supposed to use. He shrugged it away; the kid was too young to be corrected after a bullying incident. "Who did this to you?"

"Them!" Ben emphasized in frustration. "Those stupid bandas that Master Skywalker initiated."

"Oh, those guys." Poe wasn't away of any new trainees, but the new Jedi Order wasn't his business, anyways. He sawed through another lace, saying noncommittally, "Yeah, they're real bullies."

The anger drained from Ben's expression and he straightened, focusing intently on his benefactor. Had Poe chanced to look up, he might have seen worship in the boy's eyes.

One last hack and the knotted laces fell away. Poe grinned as he slipped the too-tight boots off Ben's feet. "There; problem disentangled." He wanted to smirk at his own joke, but now didn't seem to be the time.

"You didn't laugh." The somberness in Ben's eyes was unnerving. It was like the kid saw more in life than he ought, and had decided the vista wasn't appealing. "The others laughed. You didn't."

"Well, I…" Poe coughed softly and retrieved his knife. "There wasn't much to laugh at. Clearly it was bothering you."

Ben nodded. Dark eyes scrutinized Poe until he felt as though he was reporting to his mother after crashing her ship. He was relieved when Ben looked away. The boy's lower lip trembled as he assessed his boots. "Father won't be pleased that I ruined another pair."

"Another?" Poe chuckled sympathetically, only to receive a dark glance from Ben.

"I already lost one in the mud yesterday. Don't laugh."

"I'm not – I'm not laughing." Poe rubbed a hand over his mouth, eradicating all signs of mirth.

Soberly Ben retrieved his boots and rose, cradling them to himself. "I should tell Father, I suppose."

"Do you want me to go with you?" Poe wasn't sure what kind of trouble could be gathered from a ruined pair of boots, but Ben looked worried. Besides, someone should tell Master Skywalker about the prank.

"No. I don't need your help." Ben's lower lip wobbled again. He heaved a sigh and trudged into the hall, stocking feet scuffing on the floors. On an afterthought he turned. Sincerity shone in his eyes as he stated, "Thank you. For not laughing."

Chestnut eyes were indiscernible, but Poe imagined he could read more in that impassionate face. Thank you for not telling the others. For helping me. For acting like you care.

The thoughts were only Poe's paraphrase. He quirked a smile, uncertain how to respond. Ben didn't spare him another glance as he strode down the hall, shoulders braced like a tiny warrior. Must be the Solo genes, Poe figured. Kriff, the kid had a temper.

Glancing at his chrono, Poe bit down an explicative and raced down the opposite hall. Han Solo wouldn't be the only one railing at irresponsible youths if Poe was late for another flight test. He had already missed the morning inspection…