ladyofleithian: (hungry hearts)
[personal profile] ladyofleithian
In which Yana continues to manipulate Ben.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Notes: I want to apologize for how Yana/Snoke portrays Leia here. Let's say it's part of more of an attempt to manipulate Ben. That's basically why I included it. 

Ben turned twenty-three. And even as that year came up, Poe could tell that his husband was slipping into old habits again. 
Poe wasn’t going to lie; there was something about watching Ben’s Force powers developing that was both invigorating and worrying. It reminded Poe too well of the days when Ben would show up on his doorstep, pale, pasty, skinny-looking, and with that crazed look in his eyes. It reminded Poe of those days so well that it was scary to watch, actually. But Ben reassured him that he wasn’t falling to the Dark Side, that he was doing all right. 
“I’m just honing my skills a little more,” he said. “I won’t fall to the Dark Side, Poe. I promise.”
All while Poe’s face was cupped between his hands as if Poe were delicate, breakable. All with that look in his eyes as if Poe were unspeakably precious and beautiful. 
Poe didn’t doubt Ben’s sincerity -- at least in his intentions to not fall to the Dark Side. At least in his love for Poe. Poe knew that Ben loved him, and stars knew that he loved Ben back. 
But loving someone and hoping you could do what you could wasn’t enough to ward off against mistakes, was it? 
Ben still went to see Yana for sparring practice. So far, he thought, he was getting better. He wasn’t perfect -- far from it, actually -- but he was getting better than he was. At least, it was a step up from the one-legged drunken tach that Master Naris said that was better than him. He wasn’t the best duelist in the Order, but he was getting better. Maybe one day he’d be a superb duelist. One day. 
And he spoke with Yana. There were things that Yana said that seemed all but outrageous, and yet somehow, they made sense. Even if Ben didn’t think that they were things you should just go around and say. 
It was after Yana had expressed one opinion about the Empire and the Rebellion not being so different that Ben spoke up. 
“I don’t think you should just go around saying that,” Ben said. 
“Well, really, Ben, was the Rebellion any better?”
Ben bit his lip. “They were trying to restore peace to the galaxy.”
“And yet they left numerous amounts of bloodshed in their wake.”
“But that’s what happens during war, right?” Ben said. “War...isn’t supposed to be clean. Just because they had to kill doesn't necessarily make them bad beings.”
“No.” Yana actually looked pensive for a moment. Ben thought he could, for a moment, catch glimpses of a younger Yana leading his troops into battle. Still smooth-headed, but having a sort of idealism that Ben doubted he could see on this Yana. “No, of course not. Killing in battle is a necessity. I doubt your enemies would be interested in talking over caffa, after all. But the Rebellion were too willing to strip their enemies of anything that made them sentient and worthy of being treated with respect. They cared little for those who perished in their attacks -- did you know that the majority of those who died on the First Death Star included civilian workers?”
Ben’s breath hitched. “Mom...never told me that.” Did she not know? Did she not care? Even that idea was too horrifying to consider. Mom, who was compassionate and kind to others, actually condoning the deaths of innocents. 
And even that was enough to hurt. To think Ben was monitoring his every move to make sure one sneeze wrong didn’t turn him to the Dark Side, but somehow killing civilian workers was a righteous act. Did anything about the Light Side actually seem kind?
“Of course she didn’t. It would poke quite the sizeable hole in her narrative. Good triumphs, evil is punished...that’s the popular narrative for as long as stories were first invented. What measure is a civilian worker life to those who think that way? Clearly they are evil and deserve to die. Compassion is for those who deserve it, in the eyes of the Rebel Alliance.”
“They couldn’t possibly think that way,” Ben said. Could the Rebellion have thought that way? That individual lives could simply be divided into “deserving of life” and “deserving of death”? Beings like Tarkin were hardly innocent, they were monsters, even, but did everyone else deserve death? There had to be someone who was worthy of life...
“Many did. Like so many monsters, they believed themselves to be heroes.”
Ben bit his lip. Were the Rebellion monsters? He could remember how in his childhood being told about the Rebellion’s heroic exploits (as well as Rogue One’s) -- the story of Jyn Erso killing Orson Krennic, the story of how Rogue One stole and transmitted the Death Star plans, the story of how Uncle Luke destroyed the Death Star, the story of the Battle of Endor, stories about Shara Bey and Kes Dameron and Mon Mothma and many others. “They -- ’’
“Some of the more extreme branches, such as Saw Gerrera’s partisans, even tortured other beings.”
“They couldn’t have!” Ben said. 
“Oh yes. They definitely thought it was perfectly all right if the ends justified the means. They even tortured a pilot who sought to go over to their side. Not exactly the deeds of heroes, is it?”
“That’s wrong,” Ben said. “That’s...” He trailed off. Had he been any better, what he had done to Narudar? But that had been different, hadn’t it? 
How different? True, Bodhi had been an innocent and Narudar was not, but even so, it was an act of mental invasion. 
“Like so many villains,” Yana said, “Saw Gerrera fancied himself to be the hero. I’m certain it justified what he did to a pilot who wished to ally with him, or leaving a sixteen year old child soldier to fend for herself.” A beat. “Of course, he had been fighting a pointless war for some time. Perhaps his sense of morality had withered. No such thing as bad tactics, is there?”
“But there are bad tactics. I mean...just because the targets are evil doesn’t give you the right.”
Beat. “I think you have more morals than both your parents put together, Ben.”
“You really think so?”
“Of course. Wherever you got your sense of morals from, it certainly wasn’t from either of them.”
“Dad’s a good man.”
“But he’s done things that have frustrated you, has he not?”
Ben swallowed. “It’s in the past,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Yana was silent. Then, “Ben, have you ever heard of Milaran junglecats?”
Ben shook his head. “Not really.”
“They eat their young.”
Ben looked at him, startled. Yana continued. “There is much that can be learned from them. How similar they are to humans -- and aliens too. How callously they can betray their young for their own gratification. As far as I’ve observed, your mother is no different than a junglecat. Did she ever show you affection? Did she ever see you as a being in your own right, or did she ever see the shadow of Vader?”
Ben couldn’t say he could argue with that. He could still remember the moments when his mother had read to him and laughed with him, but he could also remember her fear, her anxiety whenever he got upset, and the thoughts that streamed out of her about him being too much like Vader. Something he was still scared of. As if Vader were some spirit in a horror holo and Ben was possessed. Other beings in the Enclave, at least some of them, seemed to think so too. At least some of the Masters did. 
Ben bit his lip. “She didn't do it on purpose.”
“You don’t know that. Of course she could have.”
That was something that Ben couldn’t bear to think about. “She wasn’t all bad -- ’’
“Does the good really outweigh the bad?”
“She’s...she’s not a monster.”
“But she’s not a saint either, is she, Ben?”
Silence fell. 
“Think, Ben. Think, and you will understand.”
Ben doubted he could, but he could try. 
“Tell me more,” Ben said. “About the Empire, and the Rebellion.”
Yana did, and there was something about his voice, Ben thought, where he could simply get lost in it. He had the sort of voice that was made for storytelling, talking about Darth Vader and the Empire, as well as the Rebel Alliance. He spoke and Ben listened, strangely drawn in by what was going on all the while. .

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