Ben Solo was practicing forms on a staff a little distance apart from the rest of the students practicing their forms when Master Luke approached.
“Ben, come with me please.”
Ben discreetly rolled his eyes before putting his practice wooden staff aside and falling in step with his Uncle Luke. He wondered what this was about. He’d completed the due detention, punishment and extra chores awarded to him over his display of petty violence already. That was days ago. Luke hadn’t reached out to him since.
He was silent for the four minutes it took to reach Luke’s hut.
“Master Luke” He bowed formally, wishing the other man would get on with it already.
“Your mother contacted me. She wants you to visit with her for a few days.” Luke said, smiling slightly.
“Did she say what this was about?”
Luke shook his head, “That’s between you and your mother. You best prepare. She is sending a ship. It should be here sometime within the hour.”
“And you’re telling me now? This is not about the, uhh, my violence from a few days back is it? Some kind of punishment visit or…”
“No. I didn’t tattle about you beating up a bunch of kids.” Luke smirked and this time Ben didn’t suppress his eye roll.
“Of course, master. I did not mean to pry.”
“Ofcourse you didn’t.” Luke smiled solicitously, “Convey my regards to Leia and Han.”
“Han?” Ben asked with some alarm, “Is Han there with mother?”
“I believe your father is expected to be there as well.”
The teenager wilted a little, before straightening up, the chip on his shoulder making a clear appearance for Luke to see.
“I shall make preparation for my departure then.”
Ben bowed and left. He planned to walk to the kitchens to pick up something to eat and then to his quarters to pack a bag.
As soon as he entered the kitchen hut, he saw a package of food already waiting on a little stool by the door. Despite the prospect of suddenly being pushed to meet his parents, his eyes softened at the large package. He knew it was for him and who prepared it just in time for Ben to find it.
Rey…the omniscient not-jedi…
He took the food to his small hut and stuffed it in his bag, along with a change of clothes. On second thoughts, he removed the simple set of robes from the bag and dumped them on his bed. It felt like they better remain there. Where Ben was going, plain beige robes wouldn’t be needed, nor encouraged. He would be expected to dress like a prince, talk like a politician and act all innocent and humble, just like his mother taught him.
Thinking about it made Ben want to go back to bed and not wake up for a couple of days.
He didn’t find Rey before he left. She must’ve been with the caretakers at the stream, washing clothes, the little busybody. Ben wanted to wait for her to come back, but the ship’s crew had a strict timetable and instructions to not linger. He almost used the force to make them do his bidding, but decided it was too risky to misuse the force so near to Luke. In the end, he had to obediently settle into a seat and be content with sending death glares at whoever tried talking to him.
The trip to Hosnian Prime was uneventful. Leia wasn’t at the docking station, which was nothing new. Some looser from her staff came up to him with a holo of his name, complete with the princely titles spelt wrong. Things just went downhill from there.
Rey sat under a tree, holding two broken pieces of her comb. She’d glued the pieces together with sticky sap from the wild trees she loved and had been waiting for the last fifteen minutes for the sap to work its magic. When it looked like it would hold together, she rubbed off the stray solidifying drops of gunk from the wooden comb and wiped the whole of it with the corner of her loose linen shirt.
Ben would have told her to throw it away and gotten her a new one at his next market visit. But Rey had trouble throwing things. The more they were broken, the more she wanted to fix and keep them safe. Her trunk in the corner of the kitchen hut was full of knick-knacks she’d rescued all over the temple. Things no one wanted or appreciated anymore. Things people threw away without second thought. Ben laughed at her hoarding habits. In response, Rey always told him that things were never really broken, only given up on. Ben would laugh some more at her seriousness and pull her hair in affection.
Ben always had affection to spare for her.
Ben Solo. Her hero…
He’d been gone two days and already Rey felt unsteady. He hadn’t had time to come tell her goodbye. In the middle of washing a bedsheet, when her heart told her to run, she’d run as fast as she could from the washing stream, climbed up the hill she was being pulled to, and watched the ship that carried him take off from afar. She followed the silver vessel for as long as her eyes could see, and then minutes afterwards when she couldn’t see it anymore.
Ben went away sometimes, stayed with his parents for a few days before coming back angrier than he’d been before the trip. The anger took longer and longer to dissipate with each visit. The past couple of months, Rey had noticed that the dark shadow of his potent anger never really left Ben. Despite her efforts at cheering him up, the shadow always followed him around. Rey saw it and no one else did. It made her worry for her only friend in the world. She wanted to hide Ben in her cape and shoo away the shadow to some galaxy far away.
Rey’s stomach grumbled. She held the mended comb gently with both hands and started towards the kitchens. Just as she caught sight of the temple buildings, a student stepped into her path. Rey sidestepped and he matched her movement to block her path again.
Rey stared at the boy standing in the way.
“What do you want Corbin?”
“I just wanted to check on you Sunshine. Ben has been gone two days. Are you alright?” He eyed her mended comb. “Do you need something?”
As always, Corbin’s words were always kind and mindful. No one could say the boy didn’t mean well. But something about him set Rey’s teeth on edge. Ben was the only one who agreed with Rey’s assessment. Rey tried to keep her distance from Corbin, but sometimes, like this evening, he cornered her into a conversation.
“I have everything I need, thanks. I’m hungry and heading to the kitchens now.”
Rey tried to sidestep the other boy again and this time he gently grabbed her elbow to stop her. Corbin bent over to get close to Rey’s ear while keeping an eye out on the path to ensure no one disturbed them.
“In a moment Sunshine. Listen. I’ve been meaning to tell you this and now’s a good time. Try having more friends. A little girl, without any family, might get lonely if her only friend didn’t come back to school from vacation.”
“What do you mean Ben won’t come back to school?” Rey asked sharply.
“He is a kriffin’ prince Rey. And a senator’s son. He has a bigger purpose in the galaxy.”
“He is going to be a Jedi. Nothing is more important for the galaxy than that.”
Corbin laughed in her face.
“You are so innocent Sunshine. Do me a favor and stay that way.”
Rey jerked her arm free.
“I’m not doing you any favors.”
She started walking down the hill towards the kitchens again. Corbin grabbed her tunic to stop her and Rey twisted. The fabric tore up across her back, exposing her to the chilly mountain air. Goosebumps broke across her skin, partly from the cold and mostly from the discomfort. Rey dropped the comb to clutch at her shirt. The mended piece of wood hit a rock, breaking into two again. A sob broke out of her closed throat at the sight.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
Rey snatched the pieces of her broken comb, turned and ran towards the Temple. A few students meditating in the open garden in the middle of the huts didn’t pay any mind to the running girl.
Instead of the kitchens, her feet took her to Ben’s hut. She entered and shut the door behind her. A set of robes lay in a bundle on his bed. Shivering a little, Rey put the pieces of her comb on a stool by his bed, picked up the robes and wrapped them snug around herself. Warmth filled her body, Ben’s scent hit her nose, calming her, centering her. Rey buried half her face in the thick fabric and curled up on his sparse bed.
‘I miss you.’ She sent into the ether, sure in her heart that her words would reach Ben.