A Boy Named Ben
For most of his childhood, Ben Solo is half-raised by a protocol droid. He sees more of Threepio than his own parents—Father too busy with his adventures to much bother with his son, Mother so embroiled in the Resistance that she never prioritizes him over her political responsibilities. The droid is fussy and irritating, but at least he’s present.
Ben knows that his mother and father love him. Just not quite enough to put him first.
His father is off-world again. Mother won’t tell him what he’s up to, or where he’s gone, so Ben can only imagine what’s important enough to call Father away the day before his birthday.
It doesn’t matter, he thinks. I don’t need him anyway. This isn’t true, but Ben has always been good at lying to himself.
At least when Father is gone he doesn’t have to listen to his parents argue.
Mother makes his favorite breakfast for him the morning he turns ten, but she’s called away for an emergency meeting before he can take the first bite. She kisses the top of his head and says, “Be good for Threepio.”
“Yes, Mother,” he says.
“I promise I’ll be home before you go to bed.”
Ben stays up until midnight, but she doesn’t make it back before his birthday fades into the early hours of the morning.
It isn’t the first promise his mother has broken, and it won’t be the last.
Father returns almost four weeks later. He takes Ben for a ride in the Falcon and allows him to co-pilot (on the condition that he doesn’t tell Mother about it). This is his way of saying he’s sorry without having to voice the words. In their month apart, Ben had imagined being silent with his father, refusing whatever apology he managed to make, but he’s too happy to see him to maintain his cold front for longer than a minute.
After they’ve landed, Father ruffles his hair, then pulls him into a loose, barely-there hug. It’s the sort of rare show of gruff affection that makes Ben remember why he’d do anything in the world for just a moment of this man’s attention.
Mother returns from her Resistance duties early and catches them as they’re exiting the Falcon. She stalks over to Father and hits him on the arm hard enough to draw an indignant noise from him.
“You let Ben co-pilot,
didn’t you?” she asks.
“‘Course not,” Father lies smoothly. “I was just spending a little time with him. You’re not gonna fault me for that, are you?”
“How could I?” she asks sweetly. “You’re never here to see him.”
“That’s rich coming from you,” he says.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mother asks.
Father shrugs, his smile lopsided and sharp. “I’m sure a smart woman like you can figure it out, Princess.”
They fight all night, and when Ben goes to bed he can hear their raised voices through the thin walls of his bedroom. He tries to meditate, the way Uncle Luke taught him to do years ago, to shut out the sounds of broken love coming from the next room over. But he never has been any good at clearing his mind. He feels everything too much, feels it viscerally and violently. Lying there, alone and angry, the bed begins to shake and the knick-knacks on his dresser shiver and clatter. It ought to scare him, Ben thinks, but somehow this tangible expression of his anger calms him.
By morning, Father is gone again.