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Chapter 35: Imperfections

In which Ben's perfectionist streak starts to get worse, and Lisaris breaks out of jail.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Lisaris was not in chains, but he felt as if he might as well be.


Even sitting behind the Force cage, he already felt too big for it, too confined for that matter, sitting with his legs crossed and his hands slightly out. He was always a big man, always had been a big man. Something that was a blessing and a curse.


He had not expected it to be a case of him being captured so soon, yet here he was. Here he was, captured and imprisoned, in a Force cage that seemed too small for him. Across the hallway, there were prisoners badly butchering the heavy isotope song “The Bantha Hop” (how exactly did you get that wrong? It took a certain talent, Lisaris would say that much), and it seemed to only emphasize how alone Lisaris really was.


Still, there was no use for self-pity. One couldn’t deactivate a Force cage from the inside, but they could find subtle ways to...complicate things for the guards.


Lisaris focused on one of the guards, a twitchy-looking young man who seemed to be nineteen at most. Were they really hiring their thugs this young nowadays? The last Lisaris had experienced, at least previous thugs of that sort had had years upon years of training. This...


This was pathetic.


“Hello,” he said.


The guard looked already nervous, but seemed resolute nonetheless in his looking away from Lisaris. Lisaris continued, keeping his voice calm and open. Without the mask -- which they had confiscated -- it was easier. The only true downside was seeing his face, not as the Supreme Leader’s apprentice, but a boy who had once been known as Daniel Fay. The mask was a symbol, and in times like these, symbols were of the utmost importance.


“Come here,” said Lisaris. “No need to be afraid.”


***

If one were to ask Ben Solo what exactly defined his young adult years, it was the matter of practicing.


He continued to be relentless in terms of pushing himself, in terms of testing himself. Poe managed to coax himself to take care of himself after being badly burned from a training session, however, and coax him to drink some water, to eat something, anything like that.


And whenever he could, he slipped out to see Poe.


There was always something safe, Ben thought, about Poe. There was something about just going to see him, just going to find him, that felt safe. And there was something about that safety that seemed to wrap him in pure warmth, in pure heat, that was comforting.


The matter of love seemed to be split across the Jedi Order. Uncle Luke was married, and yet there were even those in the Order, like Master Naris and Master Mei, who didn’t approve of that. You could use someone for their body and then toss them aside, but you couldn’t love them. Even thinking about that, what he had read about that, Ben couldn't imagine that.


He couldn't imagine not loving Poe.


So he slipped out to see him, frequently. So he slipped out to hold him, to nuzzle him, to kiss him, to smell Yavin in his hair and hear his voice, bright and sweet.


All between training to be better.


It was after one particular session that Ben walked out, badly battered, bruised, and with fresh burns on his shoulders that he had applied bacta to. The burns were still stinging, but at least they were healing up nicely. The worst part was the feeling of failure that Ben had. He had done well against stuff like Niman, but Ataru...Ataru had given him trouble, still?


Still wounded and sore, he limped towards Poe’s house and knocked on the front door. “Poe,” he said, “Are you there?”


The door opened and Poe practically skidded to a halt. Then, “Ben...are you all right?”


“Never better.”


“Ben, really,” Poe said. “Are you all right?”


“I am. Really.”


“You look like hell, Ben.”


Ben could already feel the weight of Poe’s worried gaze on him and he already felt a prickle of irritation. Did Poe think he was delicate? Did Poe think he was unable to handle himself? So he was sore and wounded and bruised and burned a little, it didn’t mean that he needed coddling. Coddling wasn’t going to help anything. Coddling wasn’t going to make Ben better at this, at all.


“I’m fine. I just got...banged up a little, that’s all.”


“You look like you’re going to fall over.”


“I’m fine!”


At the flash of concern that came across Poe’s face, Ben softened his voice. “I’m fine, Poe. I’m just...I’m very, very tired.” And that was an understatement.


“I can see that,” Poe said. “I mean...” He looked over Ben. “You look like you’ve been through a lot of strain, Ben. Just sit down.”


Ben did so.


“What are you doing?” he said.


“I’m trying to help you. Just...let me look at you. Your injuries...where are they?”


“They’re on my arms. I just...have to show you.”


Ben shrugged away his robes, letting them fall to the ground, letting them expose the tunic beneath before rolling up his sleeves. He could swear that he felt Poe’s eyes on him, momentarily longing before becoming softer.


“Those burns look painful.”


Ben sent him a quick grin. “You should see the other guy.”


“Did you put bacta on them?”


Ben nodded.


“All right. I’m just going to apply more, just in case. You should come inside.”


Ben did, picking up his robes and heading in. It was a cozy place, Ben thought, even if Poe had left some of his stuff lying around. Usually model X-wings and such. He’d gotten the place after he’d moved out.


Minutes later, after Poe had gotten the bacta, he began smearing it over Ben’s wounds. Ben hissed, hating the stinging pain as Poe did it, loving Poe’s touch.


“You okay?” Poe’s voice, gentle.


“Stings a little.”


“Sorry. How did you even get those burns?”


“The Ataru module.”


“How did you even -- ’’


“I’m just not good at it, Poe. I’m not good enough.”


“You don’t have to say that.” Poe said.


“It’s the truth.”


“It’s not.” Poe stood up. “I’m just going to get the bandages.”


Seconds later, Poe was carefully, tenderly applying them to Ben where the lightsaber in the training module had got him, and Ben sighed in relief. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.”


“No problem. Just...don’t overstrain yourself like that, Ben. Really. You’ll just hurt yourself more. Besides, you’ve got to keep yourself running somehow.”


“I’ll try not to overstrain myself.” Ben rubbed his neck. He could already feel the tension in there, in his back, for that matter. “I think my whole body’s feeling it.”


“You’re worn out. You’re...” A hand rubbed his back. “You’re really tense, Ben. I can’t believe how tense you are. Let me help you.”


“I can feel it.” Ben groaned softly even as Poe’s thumbs began to caress the knots in his neck. “Poe...where did you learn to do that?”


“Dad used to do it for Mom. When she was stressed.”


Ben groaned even as the tension in his neck began to fade. “It...ah! It really works. It really does.” A sigh of relief even as Poe’s fingers -- those skilled little pilot’s fingers -- continued to move down his back, massaging the tension out of it.


“Are you all right?”


“I’m fine. You feel so good, Poe, you feel so good.”


“I hope so.” A slightly teasing note in Poe’s voice. His fingers moved further out. “You’re so built, Ben. You’re big. You’ve got a lot of muscle there, a lot of tension.”


By now, Ben was starting to relax enough where anything would have seemed funny. “Are you going to keep a running commentary throughout?” he said, but there was a note of teasing, a slightly sleepy note in his voice.


“Maybe.”


By the time Poe was done, it was like the tension had drained from Ben’s body, the aches and pains having subsided. He felt so very exhausted and yet looser, more relaxed even as he rested his head on Poe’s lap. Poe’s hand played with and stroked his hair as Poe hummed softly.


“How do you feel?”


“Better. Really good.”


“That’s good. I know I’m worrying about you a lot, Ben, but I just want you to be happy. To be safe. You deserve that happiness, and I mean that, with all my heart.”


Poe’s voice sounded so very earnest, so very kind, even as Ben’s eyes drooped, even as he felt tiredness overtaking him at last. “You deserve...happiness too.”


“I’ll get there. Hopefully.”


“I can stay with you, if it keeps the nightmares away.”


“You should get back.”


“Just for the night...can I stay? Just to help you through this.”


“Just for the night.”


Ben fell asleep in Poe’s lap, content, boneless, damnably happy, a man he loved and who loved him in turn holding him, and for a moment, his dreams were soft and loving.


For a moment. The dream shifted, and it became full of fighting and anguish, full of the Dark -- and Ben jolted awake in Poe’s arms, looking up frantically at him.


“He’s killing them, Poe.” The horror of it washed over Ben in that moment, and he realized his eyes were leaking. “Oh Force, he’s killing them...”


“Who, Ben?” Poe looked down at him, worry in his eyes. “Breathe, just breathe -- who’s killing them?”


Ben forced air into his lungs. “It’s Lisaris,” he said. “He’s out. I don’t know how, but he’s out.”

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