Title: Light in the Darkness
Rating: PG-13, maybe? IDK.
Fandom: Star Wars: Expanded Universe
Characters: Ben Skywalker, Tahiri Veila
Timeline: Post LotF by some years but doesn't take any canon after that into consideration.
Spoilers: If by some miracle you haven't read Invincible yet and you actually aren't spoiled for what happens then definitely don't read this.
Author's Notes: Written for rjsteamboat76 and his prompt of hot Older!Ben/Tahiri. Don't know if I suceeded, Dude, but this was the best I could come up with. It's probably more plotty than what you were hoping for, but I was sorta squicked out by certain parts of Invincible and I sorta had to come up with a motivation for it, and this was what I came up with so I hope you enjoy it at least a little.
Summary: Ben screws up and Tahiri finds out the secret he's desperately been trying to hide from her in his efforts to be a worthy friend and partner.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Lucasfilm, Ltd. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.
"Leave her alone!" The words were spoken in a low voice, not the high, cracking voice of the teenager that Ben Skywalker had once been, but the words were still spoken a bit too quickly for the Hutt Slime in front of him to take him seriously.
Hutt-Drool-For-Brains laughed. "And what are you going to do about it, if we don't, boyo?"
Like his father before him, Ben looked much younger than his twenty years. It was unfortunate for his tormentors. Perhaps they would have taken him more seriously. One look in his eyes would have made it obvious, but these were far from the trained soldiers and guardians of the peace that Ben had received his training from.
"It's okay, Ben. Let it go." Tahiri's hand was warm on his arm, and Ben could sense a hint of the Force in her soothing words. The words were directed not just at him, but more purposefully at the men in front of him.
Part of him wanted to shrug her hand off of his arm and walk away. It was a part that he was uncomfortably aware of, but he could well imagine the hurt look on Tahiri's face. In the years since she had returned to the Jedi, few of her fellow Knights had been willing to work with her, and the Masters all regarded her with a hint of distrust. Even Jaina could barely stand to look at her, saying she reminded him too much of Jacen and what she had been forced to do.
Ben had been the only Jedi willing to work with her and the only one that Tahiri felt comfortable with. Their partnership had grown from necessity and been forged into an unshakable bond through the trials of adversity. If he shrugged her away now, she would misinterpret his gesture and that was the last thing that Ben wanted. What he wanted was entirely the opposite, and made his head swim with painful distraction.
He nodded sharply with one last look at the men in front of him and turned his back to them. He felt the blow coming through the Force before he had even completed his turn. Tahiri gave his arm a little tug, using his own momentum to bring him forward and stepped behind him herself. With a flick of her hand, she intercepted Hutt Slime's blow and deflected it away from them. She hooked her heel behind his foot and swept it out from underneath him. Overbalanced and unprepared, Hutt Slime landed hard.
"That wasn't very smart," Tahiri said mildly. "You should never attack a Jedi if you'd like to keep all of your limbs."
It was the calm way that she said it that terrified the men, sending them scrambling to their feet and running into the distance.
Any other Jedi would have reminded Tahiri that Jedi didn't threaten. Or perhaps they would have stared at her fearfully, looking as if indications of the Dark side might have been tattooed on her forehead. Ben did neither.
He bumped her elbow with his. "I thought you wanted me to let it go."
His teasing words drew a smile from Tahiri, and just as quickly as that the anger that had been simmering behind her eyes was gone. "Besides, you know I can take care of my own problems."
Tahiri laughed. "You know I like to spoil your fun, Jedi Skywalker."
Ben mock scowled. "You do!"
Tahiri rolled her eyes. "Not this again." She sighed. "But seriously, Ben, you don't have to protect my honor." She glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes, without turning her head. "You should know better than anyone that I don't have any left."
Ben stopped walking abruptly, forcing Tahiri to stop and turn around. She was looking at him - or not quite looking at him - with a furrowed brow. It made the faint scars on her forehead stand out.
"You shouldn't say that." Ben's voice had an unusual edge to it.
"Why not, Ben? It's the truth. We both know why you're my partner. You pity me. Someone has to make sure the ex-Sith girl doesn't go crazy again and murder us all."
The muscles in his jaw worked. Only someone as familiar with Ben as Tahiri could have seen the emotion the young Jedi was working to hold back. Ben was most often compared to his father, but in some ways he was very much his mother's son.
"Is that what you think?" He asked in a voice that was far too calm.
"Why else, Ben?"
The worst part, Ben decided, was that Tahiri was asking a serious question. She wasn't mocking him. She really had no idea....
"Tahiri, if I thought that I wouldn't have worked with you for a week, much less years."
Tahiri smiled but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
"You don't have to say that, Ben."
"Force! Will you just listen to what I'm saying?"
He kissed her. It was rough and clumsy, completely unlike the hundreds of ways that he'd pictured kissing Tahiri so many times before. His anger made him move too quickly and his teeth knocked into hers hard enough for him to feel the impact jolt down through his jaw. The faint tang of copper tainted his mouth as his lips claimed hers.
Just as abruptly as he'd started, he stumbled back from her. Tahiri was staring at him, her light green eyes widened with shock. Her hand rose to brush across her lips. Even in the dim light of the alley, they looked full and bruised.
A brief pang of regret found it's way through Ben's anger. It was enough. As abruptly as he'd been caught in the force of emotion it drained away leaving him only with regret.
"Tahiri...I shouldn't have. I'm sorry. I was out of - I can't believe I did that."
Tahiri didn't speak. She was staring at him as if she'd never seen him before. She shook her head minutely before she turned and disappeared into the shadows. Everything in Ben screamed to follow her, but common sense held him back.
He was meditating when she found him. Of course, Ben sensed her coming through the Force long before Tahiri arrived in his room.
Ben had made himself invisible in the Force as Jacen had taught him long before. Not to hide, really, not even as much as he wanted too. Tahiri had been Jacen's student too; she knew that just because he might not appear in the Force, it didn't necessarily mean he wasn't there.
No, over the years Ben had found invisibility to be comforting. He did some of his best thinking that way and the deeper he submerged himself the more in tune with the Force he became. When she came, he didn't so much sense Tahiri as feel her become a part of his awarness - a part of him.
Tahiri wasn't invisible in the Force, but her emotions were locked down so tightly that Ben had no idea of what she was feeling. He stopped trying to read her emotions almost immediately. She was coming to him and she clearly didn't want him to know what she was feeling, so he would respect that. It was the least he could do.
When Ben opened his eyes Tahiri was sitting cross-legged in front of him in a pose that mirrored his own. He immediately regretted looking as he saw the pain in her eyes and the hint of redness that said she'd been crying. He couldn't ever remember seeing her cry. Not even after the worst missions.
"Did you mean it?"
"Mean-" The question died in his throat as he realized what she meant.
In the moment that he'd kissed her, he hadn't been thinking about anything but proving to Tahiri without a doubt that pity was the last thing that he felt for her. He hadn't been thinking. In a Jedi it was an unforgivable error. His concentration had slipped and the careful hold that he'd been keeping on his emotions had fallen away. With the touch of his lips on Tahiri, he had shown her more than that he'd wanted to kiss her; he'd shown her the deepest secrets of his heart.
"Tahiri...." He didn't know what to follow it with.
"Did. You. Mean. It."
How could he answer that? What would make it worse? Did he even still have a chance to fix this? Desperate thoughts for a desperate moment. In the end, Ben Skywalker was a Jedi, one who had turned away from the slippery path of the darkness at a young age. He told the truth.
He watched as she shifted forward until she was towering over him as she knelt and slowly crossed the few feet seperating them. Her hand threaded through his light blond hair, her nails scraping lightly across his scalp. He couldn't help but turn his head into her touch. Ben swallowed.
"Tahiri." It seemed the only thing he could say tonight was her name, and this time it came out like a plea.
The tip of her index finger brushed his lip, lightly but definitely holding him silent. He kissed the silencing digit, as Tahiri bent her head. Her lips found the hollow of his throat. Ben's eyes fell shut at the feel of her lips against his skin. It was more, better than he'd ever imagined.
Her lips burn a trail up his neck and across the line of his jaw. His skin grew ever more sensitive with each touch. Ben reached out blindly, and found the curve of her neck.
His eyes flew up and he strove to catch her liquid green gaze. He waited until he held her focus and then slowly lowered his lips to hers. It was nothing like their first kiss. For that, Ben was grateful. This time he opened himself to her deliberately, and felt her reaching back for him. He felt her pain and anger and confusion. He felt the layers of tangled emotion that she buried under Jedi discipline. Most of all he felt how badly she wanted him, just as much as he wanted her.
"I love you," he breathed the words into her ears that he'd been waiting years to say, sure that the chance would never come.
Against his lips, she smiled, and kissed him again.