Disclaimer: We don't own anything from any of the Star Wars franchise and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: Set after Episode 7. Follows Mind Matters. Facing the one he wronged.
Warning(s): Spoilers for the entire Star Wars franchise and major spoilers for episode 7; spanking; AU; some violence and memories of torture
Authors: Hope1iz and BlackFox12
Leia had made sure to finish her meetings and paperwork early enough to leave the evening meal free to spend with her husband and son. While the trip to find Luke wasn't expected to take long... Han wasn't sure how easy it would be to convince him to return with him and Ben; or even if Luke would be amenable to working with his nephew again, given everything that had happened. But although the three of them had discussed the potential problems Ben and Han might face, they were in agreement that they needed to act... especially considering how much the nightmares were affecting Ben.
It was still a relief to be finished her work and be able to meet her family and Leia quickly made her way to their quarters, wasting none of the little time they had before the three of them would be temporarily separated.
Ben sat on the bed, watching as his father made their dinner. He'd attempted to help, but when he'd come too close to cutting off his own finger because he was unused to handling a knife properly to prepare food (as opposed to fighting someone), Han had ordered him to sit, watch and learn. He might have been offended, if he hadn't also been told that he could help again next time, when his nerves weren't so highly strung. After his father had commented on his nerves, Ben had reluctantly admitted that he was very nervous to be going to face Uncle Luke. He hadn't known it was so obvious, though.
Han was just beginning to put the food onto plates as Leia walked into their quarters. He gave her a smile. "I take it you didn't have any trouble getting away?"
"There are some advantages to what I do." Leia stepped over to Ben, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and kissing the side of his head. "How are you feeling?" she asked gently.
"More nervous than I'd like to admit..." Ben tried to joke, but it was obviously the truth. "Dad wouldn't let me help..." He smiled impishly at his father, before realizing what he was doing- teasing his father- and blinked self-consciously.
"You don't need to be cutting your fingers instead of the food." Han responded with his own teasing tone, hoping doing so would reassure Ben it was normal. He brought the plates over to the table.
Leia gently encouraged Ben over to sit with them, keeping in contact with him.
Ben moved to the seat his mother indicated, finding himself sat between both of them. As it always did since he'd returned 'home' to them, the position reminded him of his childhood before everything had gone wrong. It gave him a sense of security and comfort that he didn't try to deny or hide, which was probably why they always placed him there. "I'm a master with a lightsaber, but a complete failure with a carving knife..." His voice was droll.
Han rested his hand on Ben's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I spent a long time only eating food from a replicator. Took me a long time to learn how to cook," he said dryly.
"And you'd never know that now." Leia smiled at her husband.
"So there is hope for me..." Ben chuckled. He looked down at his plate, sobering quickly as he remembered where he would be going early the next morning. "What...what if he doesn't want to listen? What if he thinks I want to fight and I don't have a chance to explain?" he asked, in a tiny voice.
Leia kissed Ben's cheek. "Your father's going to be with you. Your uncle isn't going to assume you're only there to fight when he can see you reunited with us," she said softly.
Han squeezed his son gently with his free arm. "I'll get him to listen... one way or the other," he promised his son.
Ben swallowed hard then nodded. "Yeah...he...he won't think the worst if you're there..." he whispered. He looked at his plate and took a few more bites, before saying softly, "I'm scared, momma...daddy..."
Leia wasted no time in wrapping her arms around Ben from the side she was on. Han did the same, cocooning him in between them. "I know you're scared," she whispered, stroking his hair and kissing his head. "But this is the best plan we have right now."
"I think facing your uncle was always going to come sooner or later," Han added. "And you won't be alone."
"I won't be alone..." Ben agreed, before pausing, then giving a decisive nod. He needed to face his uncle. His father would be with him. It would be ok. "I love you both," he said, with a quiet sigh, before returning to eating.
His parents echoed his words of love, hugging him tight once more before eating as well... though they both carried on a conversation, including Ben in it as well.
While Ben knew it was important to go see his uncle- they'd tried everything they could think of to break his old master's hold on him, but he still was visited by the evil man in his dreams...nearly every night- it was still hard to calm down. After everything he'd done to Luke, to Luke's students, to the family...his uncle had every reason to hate him and want him dead. Having lived in the dark for so long, it was hard for Ben to believe he'd be forgiven...even after both his mother and father had forgiven him. He somehow managed to keep up his part of the conversation, but it was obvious he was worried.
Both Han and Leia could see how worried he was... and without conscious decision, they both kept touching him; squeezing his arm or shoulder... pressing kisses to his head.
Dinner had finally finished and Ben had helped with clean-up. He knew that his father and he were leaving early in the morning, so he should probably get some sleep. Instead, he found himself moving to sit on the floor at his mother's feet and putting his head against her knee. As much as he trusted his parents and as much as he knew in his head that Han would protect him (and more importantly, unless his uncle had changed drastically, Luke wouldn't attempt to kill him on sight; he'd try and sway him to the light side if he thought he was still dark), he was still scared that this might be the last time he saw his mother and he wanted to make the most of it. Years of having a cruel, egotistical, mad-man in his head had taken their toll...the fact he needed his uncle's help so badly was testament to that.
Leia wrapped her arms around Ben, drawing him close to herself. "Take it one step at a time, Ben," she said softly. "Don't worry about what to say to your uncle. Even if you stay awake all night worrying about what to say, it'll probably all fly out of your head when you do see him."
"I'll try, Momma..." Ben said quietly, snuggling into her embrace. When he was alone with his parents in their quarters was when he was most able to be himself, always trying to seem in control and grown up when around other people...certain that it would cause a panic on base if the people thought he was anything but in control. Alone with his parents, he could let go and let them be in control. He tended to revert back to a more childlike and clingy state when alone, simply because he was just so tired of pretending he was alright.
Han moved over to join in with the hug. "Why don't we move this to the bed?" he suggested quietly, gently stroking Ben's hair.
"Ok, Daddy..." Ben responded with a tired smile, slowly and carefully extricating himself from the hug and moving to crawl up into what had become his position on the bed: between his father and mother.
It didn't take long for Han and Leia to take up their position on either side of Ben, each embracing him from either side. Leia kissed his head. "Try to sleep," she said softly.
Ben obediently closed his eyes and, despite his fears, was soon asleep in his parents' arms.
Morning came sooner than Ben was ready for. His family had eaten breakfast together before he and his father had gathered their bags and made their way to the Falcon, his mother walking between them both. He blinked as he saw who else waited by the ship to say goodbye.
Despite the very rocky start to their friendship, Finn's attitude towards Ben had done a complete turnaround and he'd insisted on seeing Ben off and wishing him luck. As the family approached, he quickly moved over. "I wanted to say goodbye and safe journey... I'm sure your uncle will be able to help you."
Ben blushed and gave Finn a tiny smile while fidgeting. He'd not had a real friend since ever, that he could remember. Having someone other than his parents care about him was still a novel experience and he didn't know how to respond. "Thanks..." he finally said, in a near whisper.
Poe moved closer to his brother and nodded at Ben and Han. "I'll keep an eye on things for you...not that the General needs me to, but I know you'll worry..." His grin was friendly if teasing.
Rey moved up on the other side. "I hope you can convince him to come back..." she whispered.
Ben nodded at her. He knew Luke returning was just as important to her as it was him. He glanced toward Chewbaca, the last member of the little family group they'd formed, who stood in front of the hatch to the Falcon.
Chewie patted Ben on the shoulder, demonstrating his affection for the youngster... even though Han was the one who could translate exactly what he was saying most of the time.
Han smiled at Rey, having caught her comment. "We'll do our best," he promised.
"Keep momma safe, uncle Chewie..." Ben whispered to the Wookie, giving him a big hug, before he turned back to Leia.
"Love you, momma..." he whispered against her ear, before kissing her cheek and hugging tightly. Grabbing he bag, he went up into the falcon.
Han paused to hug his wife and say a quick goodbye to Finn, Poe and Rey. Sharing one last kiss with Leia, he hugged Chewie and then followed his son onto the ship.
Ben had dropped his bag on the bunk then moved forward to sit in the copilot seat. By the calculations his father had done, it would take them at least a week to reach the planet where Uncle Luke was. He and his father would have some time to bond. Or drive each other crazy. He gave Han a cheeky grin when the older man came aboard.
Han smiled at his son and settled down in the pilot's seat. "Do you need me to refresh your memory, kiddo?" he teased his son gently, reaching out and playfully ruffling Ben's hair.
Ben's grin turned more fond than cheeky and he glanced at the ship's console. "You know...I was the best pilot the First Order had, when they'd let me pilot... I never reached your level." His voice was admiring. "I think maybe you could refresh my memory about a lot of things and I'd benefit..."
Han's own smile was fond... loving... affectionate. "You were always a good pilot, son. But we have plenty of time for those refreshers." He began reminding Ben of the more complicated things involved in flying the Falcon; not to suggest he might not remember, or be as skilled... but to remind his son of happier times, when he was just teaching Ben about the Falcon.
Ben paid close attention; just as he had when his father first began teaching him how to fly. Most things he could recall as soon as his father pointed them out, but there were a few things that he really hadn't remembered and the reminder had been necessary. He made certain his father knew every time that occurred; he figured it would be a good idea for his dad to realize that he did need the help and not think he was humoring his old man just because it gave him an excuse to be with him. Han had just shown him one last thing that he'd need to keep an eye on and they were now sitting at the controls, just watching planets and stars drift by. Biting his lip, Ben decided to start a conversation. He knew his father had questions, but had refrained from asking them. Maybe if Ben asked a question first, the older man would realize that Ben was willing to talk. "What did you do all those years? When you weren't with Momma? After I'd...left...?" he asked hesitantly, skirting around what he'd really done that had led to his family breaking apart (or seeming to, since they were now back together and stronger than before).
Han took a few moments to answer; not because he was unwilling to discuss this with his son, but because he was ashamed of how he'd reacted to what had happened. "It was hard for me to be around your mother," he admitted. "I took on a lot of jobs I wouldn't have before... because it was easier to be alone with my own grief than to see your mother struggle to stay strong after we lost you." He looked at Ben. "I'm not proud of how I reacted, kid. I tried to run from my own feelings of failure. I spent too long running."
Ben winced, but forced himself to look his father in the eye. "You didn't fail...the failure was mine. I am sorry that it pulled you and momma apart..." His voice caught.
Han wrapped an arm around his son. "Losing you was hard... more painful than anything I've ever faced before," he said. "But I know things weren't easy on you." He'd seen the scars, the invisible ones as well as those in full view.
Ben leaned into his father. "Everything that happened to me was because of my own foolish choice..." he admitted softly.
Han kissed his head. "You made a mistake. You didn't deserve what you were forced to go through."
"You didn't deserve what I put you through..." Ben sighed. "I'm sure you have questions..."
"Most of those are about what happened to you, son," Han replied. "You are my priority. And if there are things you need to talk about... I want you to know you can talk to me. About anything."
"I know, daddy. I just have no idea where or how to start." Ben shook his head.
"Why don't you start talking... see what comes out?" Han suggested. "It doesn't have to make sense."
Ben bit his lip and stared out into space for a few moments. Just when it began to seem like he wouldn't say anything, he whispered, "The night after... everything...I was on the ship with Snoke. I knew then I'd made a mistake, but I was too afraid to do anything about it. The longer I waited, the easier it was to push everything down and let myself believe the lies; it hurt less believing I actually wanted to be there than to know how badly I'd messed up and know that I wasn't ever going to get away..."
"Being scared is natural," Han said, his voice gentle. "I'm not sure any of us knew what to do... I wanted to come and find you; bring you home. Your mother was worried about what would happen if I tried." It had been a point of contention between them.
Ben glanced at his father with a sad but grateful look. "As much as it helps to know you wanted to do that, I'm glad Momma disagreed. He would have killed you. I need you so much..."
Han tightened his arm around Ben's shoulders. "I wish I could have protected you from that pain."
Ben swallowed. "I know..." he whispered. "You're helping me now...that's more than I deserve..."
Han pressed a kiss to his head. "You made a mistake, son. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. You were tricked and manipulated."
"And I listened...despite knowing you and momma loved me- that Uncle Luke and Uncle Chewie loved me- I listened to the lies and did everything I could to hurt and disappoint you... to make you ashamed. I'm sorry, daddy..." His voice was quiet but firm, although it caught at the end.
Han gently stroked his son's hair. "I know you're sorry, but you've been forgiven. We're a family again," he promised.
Ben rubbed at one of the scars on his arm. "Forgiveness wasn't given by Snoke, ever. Mistakes were paid for in blood and tears...it's hard to not expect worse punishment..."
Han frowned, but tried not to show how angry this knowledge made him as he continued the gentle, comforting touch. "Snoke was not a good person." There was a slightly encouraging note to his voice. He hoped Ben would hear it and tell him what he was thinking about.
Ben bit his lip and gently took his father's hand, rubbing it over the raised edges of the scar. "This was the first time I angered him. He'd...he'd captured a rebel girl...she was maybe eleven years, if that. He told me to kill her. I couldn't do it...so he did it in the slowest, most painful way he could and made me watch. When I cried, he cut me with a rusted hunk of metal..."
Han's eyes darkened and he pressed close to his son, so Ben could feel comforted... or so he hoped. "You shouldn't have had to go through that." He gently stroked his son's arm, wishing he could take away all of the memories of that time... the scars his son carried inside and out.
Ben pressed as close as he could, not an easy feat in the cockpit. "I'm so messed up, daddy. Sometimes, if it weren't for you and momma..." He left the words unsaid, but it was obvious he meant his parents were the only reason he still lived.
Han pressed a kiss to his head. "Healing is going to take time," he said softly. "But you don't have just me and your mother. Even if there was a lot of conflict between the two of you at first, it's clear you have a friend in Finn."
"Yeah..." Ben answered wonderingly. He'd not expected to form a friendship with the ex-trooper. "I think maybe even Rey and Poe have forgiven me...even after what I did to them..." He smiled crookedly. "I'm really very lucky..."
"They've seen you for the person you truly are and not what Snoke and the First Order tried to make you into," Han said.
"...What I should have been all along..." Ben said quietly, feeling guilty again for all the horrible things he'd done to his family. He looked out the window at the stars again, feeling ashamed at what he'd become...what he'd almost become...because of listening to Snoke.
Han stroked his son's hair. "You are now," he said, his voice soft but sincere. "I love you. Your mother loves you. You are still our son," he promised.
"I know." Ben gave his father a tiny smile. "I still feel guilty, though."
"Healing is going to take time." Han didn't say that his son would heal better once they dealt with Snoke, even if that was on his mind.
"Yeah...I know..." Ben whispered. "If it was easy..." He shrugged faintly, before shifting so he was closer to his father.
Han kissed his head. "I love you, kid," he reiterated. "I know it's scary right now... but you're doing the right thing."
"I'm glad you think so." Ben sighed. "Most the time, I can't tell what the right thing is." He didn't say anything else. He didn't want his father to worry more than he already did. He almost didn't say anything more. One thing his father needed to know the minute it happened. "Do you have anything to block me from using the force?" His voice was calm, but there was a tense, nervous edge to it.
"I have things I can make use of if they become necessary." Han trusted his son... but he and Leia had discussed the possibility of Ben doing something he couldn't control; and there were people they trusted to provide things that could disable Ben without causing any harm to him.
"Good..." Ben nodded in obvious relief. "...I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I hurt you."
"No matter what happens... you're never going to lose me," Han promised.
"Do...do you think it's safe to leave the controls for a little bit?" Ben asked quietly, not quite able to admit he needed to be held.
"The ship can hold," Han promised his hand still on his son's arm. He was prepared to pull Ben into his lap in an instant.
Ben nodded, shifting closer, but embarrassed to admit he was feeling scared and needy enough to want to be held. He was an adult and thought he shouldn't need to be comforted physically when nothing had happened.
Han didn't hesitate, gently tugging Ben into his arms, on his lap, hugging his son tightly to himself. After Ben having been lost for so long... Han often needed to hold, or at the very least touch, his son.
Ben slumped in relief that he wouldn't have to ask for what he needed, although he knew Han would never look down on him for it, and wrapped his arms around his father tightly, putting his head against Han's chest. "Sorry for being a baby..." he said quietly.
Han pressed a kiss to his son's head. "You aren't a baby," he said softly. "Needing comfort doesn't make you a baby... and needing your family doesn't make you weak. I'm here for you, son. Where I'll always be."
"Will it ever stop being scary? Will it ever stop hurting?" He didn't ask if he'd ever stop feeling guilty. He was pretty certain he wouldn't.
"It'll get better with time." As he spoke, Han gently stroked Ben's hair. "I know it doesn't feel like that right now, but it will."
Ben wasn't sure he believed that, but the fact his father believed it was enough for the moment. He snuggled closer, letting himself just relax and accept the offered affection. "I love you daddy."
"I love you too," Han replied, tightening his embrace. "No matter what... that love isn't going to change or grow weaker," he promised. "Not mine... not your mother's, either."
"I believe you..." Ben responded, continuing to snuggle.
Han kissed the top of his head. "I know you're worried about seeing your uncle, but I'll be right there with you," he promised.
Ben just nodded and continued to snuggle. There was a bit of time before they'd arrive. He didn't want to think of the confrontation. He wanted to make up for years of lost time with his dad. He held on more tightly. "Love you, dad..." was all he said.
Han kissed the top of his son's head, holding him close... determined to not only make the most of having his son back with him, but also to make sure Ben didn't dread the coming confrontation as much as Han knew he was right now.
The flight to the far away planet his uncle Luke had retreated to years before went much quicker than Ben was ready for. Soon, the Falcon was landing and he was giving his father nervous looks.
Han gave his son a reassuring smile. "I'm going to be right there with you," he promised, climbing out of the pilot's seat and heading straight for the hatch. While Ben could probably take care of himself, Han still intended to take the lead.
Ben blinked at the fact his father was taking lead, taking charge, and found himself very relieved. He quickly jumped up and followed his father out the hatch. He slowed as he reached the bottom of the ramp and saw the steep hilly terrain. "He's up there somewhere," he whispered hesitantly.
Han wrapped his arm around Ben's shoulders... partially for comfort and partially to indicate to Luke that he and his son were together. "He might already be aware of your presence here." His own voice was soft, as he started guiding his son up the terrain.
"He knows..." Ben asserted uncertainly. He could sense his uncle. There was no way that Luke, with his many years more experience, wouldn't sense Ben. He let Han lead him up the trail, though, only shifting slightly behind his father when the path narrowed.
Even when the trail narrowed, Han stayed close enough to Ben to touch, though he let his son choose whether to keep in physical contact or not, not sure what would be more helpful for him.
Reaching the top of the terrain, Han kept himself slightly in front of Ben as he saw the familiar figure turn to face them... revealing it was indeed Luke.
Ben felt his breath leave him at the sight of his uncle. The last time he'd seen the older man, there had been a huge space between them filled with the dead Ben had betrayed. The look of betrayal in his uncle's eyes had never left Ben and he couldn't stop tears from forming in his eyes. He wanted to look anywhere but at Luke, but his eyes refused to focus anywhere else. He was certain his soul was laid bare for the Jedi knight to read everything.
Luke's eyes moved over first Ben and then Han, his face revealing nothing. "Han... Ben." His voice was calm, but to his nephew, with Ben's affinity for the force, his deep sense of grief would be tangible. "I'm surprised you're here."
"A lot's changed," Han replied... though he didn't speak for his son. Ben was going to need to talk to his uncle... even though Han was there for support.
If Ben could feel his uncle's grief, he was under no illusions that Luke couldn't feel his own grief, deep guilt, self-loathing, regret and fear. He might have tried to mask it at one time, but he was here to make things right and he knew that the only way to do that was through complete honesty. He had to let himself be vulnerable to his uncle; to accept what Luke decided was necessary. Otherwise, he might never repair their relationship and wouldn't feel right asking for his uncle's help. He couldn't help moving closer still to his father, seeking reassurance...yet another thing he allowed Luke to see fully.
It was an automatic thing for Han to wrap his arm around Ben in response to his son's seeking of reassurance. He squeezed Ben gently, all while not taking his eyes off of Luke.
Luke's gaze focused more fully on Ben, taking in what he could see and sense from his nephew. "You've turned away from the dark side."
"I was dragged away from it..." Ben looked down in shame that it had taken Han forcing him into the Falcon to admit he was wrong. "...I'm more than thankful to have been given no choice...it was the first time in a very long time I was able to think clearly and see...admit how utterly wrong I was..." He swallowed and didn't try and stop the tears that began to fall down his face. "I've made so many terrible choices...I don't want to be that man anymore," he finished weakly.
Luke sighed. "I'm glad to see you are finally making the right choices," he said. "But a lot of people had to die for you to reach that." Including Ben's fellow students... Luke's kids... he hadn't been able to save any of them.
Ben looked down, vision blinded by his tears. His guilt spiked at Luke's words. He knew what his actions had wrought and he knew he would never be able to pay for them. He was fairly certain he didn't deserve to...he found himself wishing his uncle would end him...make him pay the way he deserved. Only his father's presence kept him from falling to Luke's feet and begging for death. "I deserve to pay for my crimes..." he finally whispered, in a voice that showed how broken he was.
Han's arm tightened around his son, hearing the broken tone of Ben's voice. He knew Luke... knew the other man wouldn't do anything to harm his son; but he could still hear how much his son was hurting and he ached for him.
Luke closed his eyes for a second. "You don't deserve to die, Ben." His voice was soft, but he was obviously sincere.
Ben looked up at that, a lost, haunted look on his face. "How can you say that, let alone believe it after everything I've done?" he whispered, before reaching up and rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. He looked very much like the young child who had followed his father and uncle around, pestering them for attention, an adoring look on his face...except for the obvious pain and staggering guilt that was wearing him down.
"Because... you are still my nephew. Still my family." There was a flicker of pain from Luke... but it was the ache of remembered wounds. It still hurt, but his main focus was on his nephew.
"I don't deserve to be...I don't deserve to be your nephew..." He glanced at Han. "...Your son. I deserve to be punished...to be dead like all those I harmed..." He finally couldn't control himself any longer and slumped to the ground, crying.
Han wasted no time in crouching down next to his son, wrapping his arms around Ben and holding on tight.
Luke reached them within seconds. Crouching down on his nephew's other side, he wrapped his own arms around Ben, nothing but concern and love for his nephew showing through.
Ben couldn't find words to express how much he regretted his actions; how guilty and hopeless he felt to make things right. He couldn't find words to express how scared he was that Snoke would get hold of him again and he'd return to the monster he'd been while out of his family's care. All he could do was cry and repeat, "I'm sorry..." over and over.
Luke and Han kept tight hold of Ben between them. Han didn't say anything of what was going through his mind, even though he wanted to tell Luke of what Ben had been going through. It wouldn't surprise him if the other man already knew.
Ben finally calmed enough to reach out and grip his father and uncle's shirt in tightly clenched fists, but he couldn't stop crying and while he knew he needed to tell his uncle about Snoke, he couldn't say anything other than he was sorry.
Of course, Snoke decided to make another bid to get him back under control. The evil dark lord must have sensed his past apprentice's weak emotions and the neediness in his soul and felt it was a good time to attack. He began sending images of all the fallen Jedi students Kylo Ren had murdered and whispering insidiously, 'he will never forgive you. He will cut you down like you cut them down. Return to me, my child!"
Ben began to shake his head frantically, letting go of his relatives' clothing to thrust his hands through his hair and pull on it painfully in an attempt to shut Snoke up. "No! I'm not yours!" the younger man sobbed out in a growling tone.
Han shot Luke a look that was filled with silent pleading... that was unnecessary, as Luke drew closer to Ben, wrapping his arms tightly around his nephew, while at the same time throwing a shield of the Force around Ben's mind. He knew it would act as a temporary barrier to the outside force he could feel tormenting his nephew.
It took several minutes for the pain of Snoke's mental assault to ease enough for Ben to realize his uncle was protecting him. The knowledge that Luke had stepped in to help without being told what was wrong eased some of the fear he'd felt about facing his uncle. Ben wearily tried to build up his own mental defenses so that Luke could withdraw, but it was difficult. He was ashamed at how difficult.
Whimpering slightly, Ben looked up at his father and uncle, wanting nothing more than to be held and let them take over. It felt like he'd been fighting Snoke all his life and had never won. He was so tired.
Luke touched his nephew's head, gently stroking his hair. "You don't have to fight him for now, Ben," he said softly. He could feel the exhaustion radiating from him and he looked at both Han and Ben. "I think resting needs to happen first."
Han nodded his agreement. His son was exhausted... he hadn't had a good night's sleep in as long as Han could remember. If Luke could protect Ben while he was able to get some proper sleep...
Ben didn't argue, just slumped toward his uncle uncertainly as he pressed closer into the affectionate comfort. "...Missed you, Uncle Luke..." he admitted with a tiny whisper, not sure how the older Jedi would take the words. He reached out and grasped his father's hand tightly.
Luke pressed a kiss to the top of Ben's head, only shifting just enough to allow Han to comfortably grasp his son's hand. "We'll be more comfortable inside," he said to both of them... focused only on making sure Ben was able to get at least a portion of the rest he needed.
Taking a shivery breath, Ben waited just long enough for his family to begin moving before he carefully stood, his whole posture like a submissive, wounded animal hoping for a small bit of kindness. The proud, arrogant young man who had faced Luke years before was nowhere evident now; and the confidence he had displayed even minutes before his father had caught him was non-existent. He'd finally been able to see what his life had become and what Snoke had done to him and he was afraid.
Neither Han or Luke strayed from Ben, Han keeping hold of his son's hand while Luke wrapped an arm around his nephew's shoulders as he guided them towards the small building he'd used as his home on the planet.
Once in the building, Ben looked around with a mixture of curiosity and guilt. The building really wasn't very big and he knew that he and his father had 'sprung' themselves on his uncle unexpectedly. He didn't want to be in the way. He bit his lip and tried to figure out how to tell his uncle why he had come, but he didn't feel like he had the right to ask for help with the way he'd treated the older man in the past. What he had done to his uncle and all the students. He didn't have the right to ask for help and didn't have a clue how to explain anything. He opened his mouth then closed it again, swallowing. "I'm sorry..." was all he managed to say, in a tiny, almost childlike voice, before he looked at Luke and Han uncertainly.
"You need to rest first, before we discuss anything," Luke said gently. "I'm still shielding you... and things will look better once you're less tired," he promised.
Ben gave his uncle a pathetically grateful look. He knew he didn't deserve any help from the other man, and yet Luke was protecting him from the monster that Ben had destroyed everything to join. "Where do you want me?" he asked softly. He didn't want to impose any more than he needed to and was perfectly happy and willing to lay down on the floor- as soon as he figured out where on the floor he wouldn't be in the way.
Instead of answering with words, Luke gently guided his nephew through to his own sleeping area. While he hadn't expected to have visitors, he wouldn't leave Ben to sleep anywhere less than comfortable.
Ben followed his uncle meekly, obediently crawling onto the bed when Luke indicated he should. He gave his uncle and father a fearful look, though. Sleeping was not an easy thing; hadn't been in entirely too long. The only reason he'd been getting any sleep at all since being pulled away from Snoke's influence was because his parents were right next to him at night, holding him close. He wasn't certain he'd be able to rest, even if Luke and Han were in the tiny building with him, if he was left alone on the bed.
Han wasted no time in sitting on the bed next to his son, wrapping his arms around Ben and holding him close. Luke's influence or not... Han knew Ben was better when he and Leia were there.
Luke didn't hesitate either, settling on the other side of Ben and wrapping his arms around his nephew.
Ben couldn't help but relax physically and visibly when both his father and uncle held onto him. Letting out a tiny sigh, he closed his eyes and forced himself to obey his uncle, trying to rest. With both of them there, it wasn't as difficult as it could have been.
Han gently stroked his son's hair, hoping he would be able to soothe him to sleep.
Luke not only continued the comforting touch physically, but used traces of the Force to soothe what he could of the hurts inside his nephew, apart from the shield he still held around Ben's mind.
When Ben awoke, he was disoriented and couldn't help but gasp and quickly sit up looking around fearfully before his memory caught up to him and he remembered that he was safe in his uncle's dwelling. His uncle... Ben swallowed and turned regretful, guilt filled eyes toward Luke, wondering how much Han had told him, if anything, about why they'd come at this point in time.
Both Han and Luke were awake, having been talking in whispers... though Ben had been so deeply asleep, they likely hadn't needed to be as quiet as they had.
Luke gently squeezed his nephew's shoulders when Ben looked at him. "How did you sleep?" he asked softly.
Ben blinked then slanted his head, thinking about it. "I...I didn't dream at all..." His voice was surprised. Even when sleeping beside his parents, the nightmares had still occurred. Their presence had helped calm him more quickly- or in some cases, they'd woken him before the dreams became too bad- but the dreams had always been there. The lack of dreaming was unusual and he blinked as he realized he'd actually got some rest. "I feel much better, thank you..." he concluded in a whisper, looking into his uncle's eyes.
"Your father told me about the situation between you and Snoke." Luke's voice was still soft. "That he talks to you now... that he talked to you before." There was no judgement or blame in his voice.
"He was talking to me for as long as I can remember..." Ben admitted in a whisper. "When everyone realized I was force sensitive." He knew both Han and Luke knew when that was. He didn't actually want to voice the fact that he'd not quite been four years when the dark lord first made mental contact with him.
"I can understand how difficult that was for you to deal with," Luke said plainly. "I'm not going to point out you should have told one of us... because I'm sure you're aware of that now." His voice was low and filled with compassion.
"Y'sir..." Ben mumbled, looking down at his own lap and unable to face his relatives. Of course he knew now that he should have told someone. His three-year-old self was afraid to, though. Snoke had convinced him if he said anything, really bad things would happen.
Luke gently hugged his nephew closer to himself. "We do need to have a discussion." His voice was soft and gentle... but still serious.
"I'm sorry..." Ben closed his eyes tightly against sudden tears and hunched in on himself, the guilt over what he'd done to his family and in particular his uncle and fellow students overwhelming him. He knew he needed to talk with his uncle, but he had no idea what to say that would make even a small bit of what he did, alright.
Han placed a hand gently on Ben's shoulder. "Do you want me to stay?" Even though he was addressing both of them, he was really just asking his son.
Ben looked up at his father and smiled crookedly, the tears escaping and dripping down his face. "I..." He took a deep breath. He did want his father to stay, even if it meant Han saw and heard whatever Luke said and did. At the same time, Luke deserved to face him without any interference (or at least potential interference) and he trusted his uncle. It would look like he was afraid of Luke (instead of just any repercussions) if he had his daddy stay with him. "I need to own up to my actions on my own..." he finally said weakly, giving his father another crooked smile and hoping he understood; and maybe might be a little proud of him.
Han leaned forward and kissed his son's forehead. "I'll go and get some breakfast prepared... but I won't go far," he promised, leaving unsaid that he would come running the moment he thought Ben needed him. Stroking his son's hair, he added, "I love you, kid... and I'm proud of you for doing this and coming here."
Ben closed his eyes and his smile grew a bit happier at his father's words. "Only because you and momma helped me be brave," he whispered. Opening his eyes again, he watched his father leave the room before turning to his uncle. "Do you need me to confess all my wrongs? I think you probably know them better than me, but if you want to make sure I understand what a monster I was, I'll confess everything..." His voice was small...uncertain...guilty and scared.
Luke placed a hand on Ben's shoulder, squeezing gently. "You made mistakes, Ben, but you are not a monster." His voice was low, but rang with certainty. "And I'm not looking for a confession from you." Not knowing how guilty his nephew was... and Luke didn't want to hurt Ben anymore.
Ben couldn't help but feel a small bit of relief that he wouldn't have to talk about all the wrong he'd done. It was hard enough to look his uncle in the face now when they both knew what he'd done, without saying anything. If he had to voice the words, he wasn't certain he could ever face the older man again. He did find the nerve to disagree about one thing, though. "Aren't I?" he whispered, with a hitch in his breath. "I've done such monstrous things, how could I not be a monster?"
"If you were a monster, you wouldn't feel remorse... guilt..." Luke's voice was low and gentle. "You wouldn't be doing everything within your power to avoid falling to the dark side again... including facing up to your past darkness."
"I'm afraid I'll fail again...like I did before..." Ben admitted, letting his fear in his voice.
"You weren't honest with any of us," Luke said. "You carried a great burden alone. You aren't alone with it any longer."
Ben looked down at that. His uncle was right. He hadn't been honest when younger. He'd hid things he should never have hidden. The price had been very high. "I'm sorry," he said again, for what must have been the tenth time.
"I know you are. And I am going to respond," Luke said. "Not to cause you harm... but to help you heal."
Ben nodded. "I deserve whatever you do to me, even if you did harm me..."
Luke drew his nephew closer. "I'm going to spank you." While Han hadn't said it outright, Luke had read enough between the lines to know what had happened.
Ben bit his lip, but nodded. He wasn't surprised at his uncle's words. "Ok," he whispered. Standing up carefully, he finally looked Luke in the eye. "Where...?"
In answer, Luke gently drew Ben close, having already decided there was no need to move anywhere else. He guided his nephew across his lap.
The by-now familiar position (even if he hadn't been over his uncle's knee since he'd gone to train with him when still a child) was a relief to Ben. He found a tension he hadn't even acknowledged draining from him, leaving him lying over Luke's knee loose limbed and pliant. He'd been crying before it all began, but the tears began to run faster down his face. He didn't think one spanking was nearly enough to pay for all his wrongs against his uncle, but at least it was a start.
Luke gently rubbed Ben's back a moment or two before he bared his nephew, wrapping one arm around Ben's waist to hold him secure and then raising his hand, bringing it down in the first sharp swat at the crest of Ben's backside. The second swat landed almost on top of the first.
Ben closed his eyes tightly and reached down, holding onto Luke's ankle tightly. He let out a tiny gasp at the first swat...a slightly louder grunt at the second...but otherwise didn't voice any complaint or discomfort. He was positive he deserved so much worse than this and he was determined to take the punishment quietly and not make things difficult for his uncle.
Luke continued down to Ben's thighs, keeping the swats at the same force even as he started over from the top... though that was when he began to speak. "No matter how young you were when Snoke started speaking to you, Ben, you should have trusted me enough to tell the truth. By keeping silent, you gave him even more power over you."
Ben cringed visibly at the words, beginning to squirm. "He told me I couldn't tell anyone...that you'd think I was crazy...you'd send me away..." he sobbed. "...I believed him. I shouldn't have, but I did..."
"Why did you listen to him?" Luke pressed, knowing he needed to break through to the underlying causes of Ben not being able to trust his family.
"Bec...because when he first...first started talking to me...everything he said was true. I don't know how he knew, b..but he was always right. So I ...I thought he'd be right about everything...I think," Ben said uncertainly. He'd been asking himself, ever since Han had reclaimed him, why he'd believed. He'd only been three when the voice first began speaking to him and he hadn't thought to question his belief when a child. He could only guess at his reasons for listening now.
"You trusted him over your parents... over me." Luke hadn't stopped swatting, but they served as much for an emphasis of what he was saying. "You didn't tell any of us the truth. You didn't tell us what was really going on." He paused as his voice broke and he tried to regain control of his emotions.
Those words sliced into Ben like a light-saber. He'd trusted a complete stranger over his family. Never mind that they were busy all the time and he felt like an after-thought; when they were home with him they treated him as the center of their universe. Now he couldn't even imagine why he'd listened to Snoke and kept quiet. Whatever his reason, it had been lost to time and he was only able to guess- the fact remained that he hadn't trusted his family and they hadn't given him reason not to. Ben stiffened, not moving at all- even to squirm- as he tried to think of something, anything to say that would make sense to him -let alone his uncle- regarding his choices. He stopped moving, he stopped breathing, he stopped listening and became lost in his own tormented thoughts trying to find something that might make it all make sense and maybe help his uncle not hurt so much; he'd rather Luke be angry and disappointed (and he hated that he'd disappointed his family) than hurt.
Luke could feel... could sense... his nephew becoming lost inside his own mind and he paused the spanking, resting his hand on Ben's lower back. "Ben." He didn't just speak his nephew's name out loud. He also used the Force to reach out... to be a guiding light inside Ben's mind and draw him back out.
Ben could feel his uncle's force presence and he focused on Luke, gasping in a breath and tightening his grip on his uncle's ankle. And then he began to cry vocally; not loud sobs, but quiet whimpers and moans as he tried to contain his emotion, feeling like he had no right to be upset and hurt after what he'd done to his family. "I don't know why..." he admitted among the crying. "I don't know why now...then it made sense but now...I was a foolish child! And I am so sorry!" He gasped again and began to shake from the effort to not cry too loudly.
Luke rubbed his nephew's back gently, speaking in a voice that was soft and understanding. "We need to work on those areas he targets... build up your defenses... but you have to be honest. No more hiding when he speaks to you, no matter how true you think what he says is."
"No...won't hide...will tell truth..." Ben choked out. "...Promise." He shook again, trying to regain his composure.
Luke lifted his hand again, but the next round of swats he delivered were more stinging than truly hard. "I love you, Ben." His voice... and the sense through the force... carried the sincerity of that emotion strongly.
Ben hadn't quite calmed when the spanking began again. It wasn't the sting that caused him to lose complete control...it was his uncle's words. "Y...you love me?" he asked, his voice tight with unshed tears.
"I never stopped," Luke confirmed. "When I sensed your presence... knew you'd turned away from the dark side... I was happy I would see you again, because of how important you've always been to me. And I would never have turned you away."
"I love you too..." Ben choked out, before losing the small bit of composure he'd had. He began to cry again; only this time, he was sobbing, loudly.
Luke immediately lifted his nephew into his arms, hugging Ben tightly to himself and pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
Ben twisted until he could wrap his arms around his uncle and held on tightly, pressing as close as possible. He couldn't speak, his love and gratitude for his uncle was obvious however.
Luke tightened his embrace, gently stroking his nephew's hair. He continued to murmur soft words of reassurance and love to Ben.
Ben didn't know how long he cried, cuddled close to his uncle, but eventually, he was able to calm enough to speak. "I am sorry. Thank you for helping me...I know I don't deserve it."
Luke pressed another kiss to Ben's head. "Even though you fell to the dark side, you're still a good person," he whispered to him.
"I don't feel 'good'..." Ben sniffled and cuddled closer; he was too tired, scared and guilty not to reconnect with his uncle in what he felt was a very childish manner. He huffed wryly. "For so long, all I wanted was to get power...be like grandfather when the galaxy feared him...now all I want is to let you, and momma, and daddy tell me what to do and how to do it and...and not have any power at all. I'm afraid of what I'd do with it," he whispered against Luke's chest.
Luke hugged his nephew tighter. "You have a strong connection to the Force... and that connection can be a draw to those who would seek to use you. But even though your father pulled you back... he couldn't have done so if there hadn't been a part of you, no matter how deeply buried, that yearned for it."
"Snoke wanted me to kill him..." Ben whispered. "I tried once and...and I couldn't try a second time. I never want to feel the way I felt after that again..." His voice was choked as tears again slid down his face. "I've never been so grateful to fail..."
"You failed because you didn't want to... because there was still a part of you holding onto the light." Luke spoke with certainty.
Ben relaxed at the words and tightened his hug. "Do you really believe that?" he asked hesitantly.
"I believe in you, Ben," Luke reassured him. "And I believe there has always been good in you, even when it's been buried deep."
"Can you forgive me?" Ben's voice was even more timid.
"I've already forgiven you," Luke promised. "I love you."
"I love you too..." Ben smiled crookedly. "Thank you for helping me."
"I will always help you," Luke said.
"I know..." Ben looked down, ashamed. "...Now. I was a foolish child, but I never want to hide anything from you or my parents again." He glanced up. "He's not going to just let me go. I'm scared, uncle..." Ben's voice was indeed frightened.
Luke kissed his head. "You aren't going to be facing him alone," he reassured his nephew. "You don't have to be scared, because now that I know everything... I can help you fight him."
Ben noticeably relaxed, snuggling closer. "Thank you...after everything I did, I don't understand how you can forgive and help me, but thank you..." He snuggled a few seconds more before shifting to fix his clothing; not pulling away completely, because his uncle having a physical hold on him was helping him feel safer and less at risk from Snoke; much like his parents holding him helped him feel safer.
Luke kept his hand on Ben's shoulder. "You don't need to understand it. Just know I am here for you."
Ben nodded and took a slow, deep breath. "What now?" He asked softly.
"Perhaps we could join your father, if you feel able to," Luke suggested. "He knows you're safe with me... but I imagine he still worries."
Ben smiled and nodded at that. "It took me too long to realize that he did...I believe he worries about you as well." He stood and waited to Luke to lead him out, not wanting to leave his uncle's side unless Han was there to latch onto. The longer Snoke was kept at bay, the happier he'd be.
Luke rested his hand on Ben's shoulder, guiding his nephew from the bedroom and through to the kitchen area, where Han was.
Ben's focus was immediately on his father as soon as they were in the kitchen. He felt torn between wanting to stay next to his uncle, who he had missed a lot more than he'd thought, and wanting to go to his father. "He's going to help me, daddy..." Ben smiled, almost shyly. His father had told him so, but he'd needed to hear it with his own ears to believe it.
Han smiled, stepping over and wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders, though he was careful not to dislodge Luke's hand. "You're worth helping, son..." Glancing at Luke, he added, "I know you've been away for a long time... but I'd like it if we could all go back on the Falcon together, even if you need to take a bit of time before doing so. Leia will want to see you... and there's someone else who I think would benefit from you being there rather than here."
Luke hesitated, not certain he could go back after so long away from everyone. "I'll have to think about it..."
Ben smiled at his father then looked at Luke. "There is a girl like me- she's really strong in the force...and Snoke wants her..." he said soberly. "Before daddy caught me...rescued me...I'd been tasked with grabbing her and breaking her so Snoke could step in." He looked down in shame that he'd done at least part of what Snoke had desired regarding Rey.
Luke nodded his understanding... although a slightly troubled look came over his face. "I'll need a few days to... prepare myself. Is she safe for now?"
Han nodded. "She's with Leia... other friends. But she needs your help, Luke. Her and Ben. You're the best hope they have."
"She's full of light.. " Ben said quietly. "She forgave me for what I did and has tried to help, even though she had no reason to care about me..."
Luke patted his nephew's shoulder gently. "I understand, but it sounds as if she can see what you're truly like, underneath the influence plaguing you for so long."
"Are you hungry?" Han interjected gently, knowing his son hadn't been eating as well as he could have been.
Ben blinked at the change in subject and slanted his head thoughtfully. He really wasn't very hungry, but he knew his father and mother worried about him eating. "I can try to eat a little bit," he finally answered.
Han nodded and gestured to the food on the table. "Whenever you're ready..." he addressed both his son and Luke.
Ben waited for his uncle to be seated before moving to a seat between Luke and Han. Soon, they had plates of food in front of them and Ben was eating quietly, surprised to find himself hungrier than normal. "The shielding you are giving me..." he asked hesitantly, "...would it help me in other ways?" He was curious.
"It isn't just a shield against Snoke, although that is its primary purpose," Luke said. "It'll also stop any potential 'leakage' from coming through, in case Snoke isn't the only threat you'll face. And it'll help keep nightmares at bay," he added, fairly certain Ben had been suffering from those.
Ben nodded at the answer then grinned sheepishly. "Just wondered if it would affect my appetite, since I seem to have gotten it back again after it being absent for so long..."
Luke wrapped his free arm around his nephew in a hug, smiling gently. "Not directly... but indirectly, it's helping you with the real problems; which means that things like your lack of appetite... a direct result of everything going on... are likely to change."
Ben nodded, leaning into his uncle for a bit before returning to eating. "How long can we stay?" he asked his father quietly. If Luke decided he couldn't return with them, then he needed to know how much time he had to try and learn to shield himself before they went back. It was either that or he would stay with his uncle Luke, but he didn't like the idea of not being with his mother for a long length of time; now that he was finally back with her and his father.
"It's going to depend on a few factors," Han answered. "But the primary one is going to depend on you. And we're not going to leave until you're ready. I know it's not the same... but we can still use the comms to contact your mother."
"Ok..." Ben blushed, wondering if he didn't come across as even more childish, but not really caring too much. "I just...I was away from you all for so long..." He couldn't voice the rest of the sentence; that he didn't want to be away from them ever again. It was his own fault that he'd been separated from them, after all.
Han wrapped his arm around Ben's shoulders, hugging his son close. "We'll see how things go for the next couple of days and then we'll discuss where to go from there," he promised, hoping Luke would feel able to come back with them.
Ben nodded. "Ok...sorry about being such a...such a child." He sighed and took another bite of food.
Han pressed a kiss to his son's cheek. "Needing your family doesn't mean you're a child and you have nothing to apologize for," he whispered.
Ben leaned into his father. "I'll try to remember..." he said softly, before smiling at his father and uncle. "I don't think I can eat anymore..." This time, his grin was rueful. He really hadn't been eating that much, so his ability to eat a lot was diminished.
"That's fine." Han stroked his hair gently. "Eating too much will make you feel sick."
"It's possible you'll find yourself getting hungry later, as your body adjusts to everything," Luke put in. "That won't be a problem. You can eat anything here."
"Thank you, Uncle Luke..." Ben smiled crookedly then covered his mouth as he fought a yawn. He'd been so worried before arriving; and now that his uncle had forgiven and accepted him back, the adrenaline that had fueled him drained out, leaving him weary.
"I think it's time to have a nap," Han said, his voice gentle, as he hugged his son from the side.
"I'm inclined to agree with you," Luke said, noticing his nephew's tiredness as well.
Ben laughed softly then grinned. "Yeah...I feel like a little kid now..." He didn't argue, though, standing so he could go wherever he was led. He was tired, so a nap sounded good.
Han stood as well, wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders. "Do you want both of us with you?" There was no question that one of them would be with Ben while he slept.
Ben slanted his head and bit his lip before nodding hesitantly. "If you both don't mind..."
"Anything for you, son," Han said seriously.
Luke stood, placing his hand on Ben's other shoulder. "It couldn't ever be a problem," he promised.
Ben visibly relaxed. "Thank you...I don't think he'll be able to get to me if I'm with both of you..." he admitted bashfully.
"You're never going to be left alone," Han promised. "Not as long as I have anything to say about it."
Luke nodded his agreement and walked with Han and Ben, only shifting enough to allow them to exit the room and then enter the bedroom.
Ben shifted closer to his father as they entered into the bedroom. He knew instinctively without either of the older adults saying anything that he'd be kept safely in the middle, like his mother and father kept him at home. He continued to feel very childish...but more so, he felt extremely guilty. If he'd only trusted his family in the beginning, he never would have been swayed to the dark. All the wrong he had done...he felt he could never be punished enough for it. And it hadn't been necessary. Tears began sliding down his face and it was all he could do not to begin sobbing out loud again. He began peeling off clothing while looking for the away bag that held their sleep clothes. It was hard to see through watery eyes, though and his body was beginning to shake with the effort of keeping quiet so his father and uncle wouldn't notice him crying again for no good reason.
Han didn't fail to notice his son's breakdown. Without any hesitation, he gathered Ben to him, sitting on the bed and tugging his son into his lap. He held Ben tightly to himself, pressing a kiss to his forehead and stroking his hair. "I love you," he whispered.
Luke stepped over to them, placing a hand on Ben's back and rubbing gently, hoping his nephew would be encouraged by both of them.
"I can't make it right." Ben shuddered, his voice heartbroken and hopeless. "I can't undo any of it..."
Han pressed a kiss to Ben's head. "Maybe you can't undo it, but you can work to make up for what happened," he whispered. "You are not bad. You aren't a monster."
"You made a mistake." Luke wrapped his arms around his nephew from the other side. "And you aren't the only one who's made mistakes."
"I feel like one..." Ben sighed, slumping further into his father and reaching up to grip his uncle's arm tightly. "I feel like I'm bad..." Swallowing, he took a deep breath and forced himself to straighten. "I'll do everything I can to make up for what I did...I don't think I ever can make up for it, but I'll do everything I can."
Han kept his arms around his son. "Right now, resting is going to be important." Stroking Ben's hair, he continued, "It feels hopeless right now... but it's likely being tired doesn't help. You aren't a bad person. Snoke is the one who used you... but you have help now."
Luke used his free hand to pick up the bag. "We'll be right here with you while you sleep," he promised.
Ben knew they were both probably right; he needed sleep because things did look hopeless and likely his feelings were affected by how tired he was, but he suspected he'd always feel guilty about what he'd done. He only hoped he didn't react in negative ways to the guilt.
Nodding at both Han and Luke's words, Ben undressed the rest of the way, reaching blindly for the bag so he could grab his pajamas. Han had already seen all the scars marring his body...he hadn't even thought about the fact that Luke hadn't seen them yet. He was too tired and heartsick to think about it and by the time he remembered, it was too late to play shy and modest; he was naked and it would likely draw more attention to them if he suddenly tried to cover up. He couldn't face his uncle, though; not able to face Luke's reaction to what had obviously been done to him, so he stared at the floor as he wearily pulled on pajama pants and then a shirt.
Luke's wince was obvious and he reached out, wrapping his arms around his nephew and hugging him tight. "No one is going to hurt you again," he whispered, before guiding Ben over to the bed, where Han had already turned down the blankets.
Crawling onto the middle of the bed, Ben bit his lip and finally looked at his uncle and then his father. "I know...I'm back home with my family- where I belong...I'm safe..." he whispered before giving a tiny smile. His eyes were haunted but he meant what he said and he was trying to be optimistic. And he believed he was safe with his father and uncle- they wouldn't let anyone hurt him.
Luke and Han took up position either side of Ben, both reaching out to wrap him in tight, safe embraces. There was no hesitation or evidence of either holding back as both did their best to provide him with a sense of comfort and safety.
Ben snuggled close to his guardians and was soon sound asleep, his face falling into a peaceful, innocent expression.