Beyond - Legends Two Worlds Colliding and Conjoining (Ben/Vestara Multichapter for OTP Challenge #13)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by devilinthedetails, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: Two Worlds Colliding and Conjoining

    Author: devilinthedetails

    Characters: Ben Skywalker; Vestara Khai; Luke Skywalker

    Genre: Romance, family, and general.

    Timeline: Legends continuity. Post-Apocalypse.

    Summary: To understand Vestara, Ben travels from Coruscant to Kesh and back again.

    Author's Note: Written for the OTP Challenge #13, City Mouse and Country Mouse.

    Monument Plaza

    Ben stared out the transparisteel viewport of his sleeping quarters at Coruscant’s nightscape. Coruscant was supposed to be the most beautiful at night when it shone with the trillion lights of its trillion occupants, but much of its beauty and its light was marred by the recent Sith occupation of the planet. In some places dark holes lurked where brightly skytowers and superskytowers should have pierced the night clouds. Gazing out at the cityscape of Coruscant at night, he was filled with wonder at what sentient beings could create over millenia and what they could destroy in his short lifetime…It was staggering to contemplate…

    His reflection was interrupted by a beep from his comlink that signaled an arriving text message. Pulling his comlink from the pocket of his robes, he read: Meet me at Monument Plaza as soon as you can.—V.

    V for Vestara, he knew, and not just from the number that had sent him the message. After how she had betrayed Allana, he wasn’t certain that he could bear to see her or speak to her face-to-face again, but at the same time a part of him that harbored an attachment inappropriate in a Jedi feared losing her forever, so he typed back, hoping she could hear the coldness through his text: Why?

    A single, sharp word and no signature. A discouragement of further conversation, but also an invitation to it. A harsh question with no good, believable answer. Ben was living in a world of gray paradox and skirting forbidden territory. Part of him wanted Vestara to join him in that as she had on so many of their journeys together as they fought and tracked Abeloth across the galaxy.

    Because we need to talk.
    Vestara’s response sent a shiver down Ben’s spine.

    I have nothing to say to you after you betrayed Allana to the Sith. Ben typed back, hoping the words would hit her like a slap in the face—the way her betrayal of Allana had hit him in the heart.

    Oh, but you do, or you wouldn’t be talking to me now. Vestara’s slyness could be heard through her text, Ben thought, and he could imagine the ironic tilt that her small scar added to her lips.

    All right, I’m coming, but whatever you have to say better be good. He thrust his comlink back into his pocket, determined to ignore any smug replies she might send back to him.

    He pressed a button to shadow his viewport, switched off the light in his sleeping quarters, and stepped out into the common area, where he saw his dad sitting on the sofa, nose in a holobook that doubtlessly contained arcane Jedi wisdom of interest only to Masters. Ben wished that his dad hadn’t been in the common area so he couldn’t snuck out of their quarters with a chance of his dad not noticing. Then he remembered that he was a full Jedi Knight and didn’t need his dad’s permission to go anywhere or do anything…

    “I’m going out.” Ben hoped that his matter-of-fact statement made it clear he wasn’t asking his dad’s permission to do so.

    “It’s rather late, isn’t it?” Dad checked his chrono as if to confirm that it was indeed rather late.

    “So?” Ben stifled an eye roll. “I’m a Jedi Knight. Jedi Knights don’t have curfews.”

    At least he hoped they didn’t. He hadn’t exactly felt like negotiating that detail before they left Coruscant on their quest to try to understand what had happened to Jacen when they had both been mourning Mom’s death, and then when they were on that quest and later devoting all their attention to defeating Abeloth, there had been many more important things to worry about than curfews.

    “I suppose they don’t.” Dad was looking at Ben with the expression of mingled pride and sorrow that Ben was starting to identify as his father’s recognition of the fact that he was indeed growing up, but his next words seemed to irritatingly contradict this knowledge. “You have your comlink with you?”

    “Yes.” Ben snorted to convey what he felt about this line of questioning. “And I’ve got my brain too, thanks for asking.”

    “You’ve got your sharp tongue with you too, I see.” Dad’s tone was mildly reproachful as it often was when he thought Ben was verging on the disrespectful.

    “I’ve always got that with me.” Ben gave a slight smile—a small apology and peace offering—as he headed toward the door of their shared quarters. “I’ll try not to be out too late, Dad.”

    “You’re going to meet Vestara, aren’t you?” Dad’s question froze him before he could leave.

    “She asked to speak with me in Monument Plaza as soon as possible.” Ben’s chin lifted to show that he intended to keep this appointment even if his dad forbade it.

    “She betrayed Allana.” Dad spoke in a slow, patient voice as if Ben needed to be reminded of this painful fact.

    “I know.” Ben took a deep breath that settled in his lungs heavy with a reality that could make his heart break. “That’s what I have to speak with her about, Dad.”

    “She might lie to you.” Dad’s warning was one Ben didn’t need.

    “She might but she might not.” Ben gave the helpless shrug of a boy whose heart had been stolen by someone who had once been an enemy and might still be. “Mom was a Hand for the evilest man in the galaxy. I inherited your attraction to women with dark histories.”

    Ben wasn’t certain his dad would respond to this remark. As he disappeared through the door, he heard his dad murmur, “I hope your attraction ends happily for you, son.”

    Ben didn’t know how to answer that so he stepped into the Temple corridor, closing the door behind him. From the hallway, he rode a turbolift from the residential levels to the hangar bay, where he claimed a speeder to fly to his rendezvous with Vestara at Monument Plaza.

    Joining the endless stream of congestion that was always Coruscant’s crowded traffic lanes, he tried to prepare himself for meeting Vestara again for the first time since he knew she had betrayed Allana to the Sith, but when he parked his speeder at Monument Plaza he still felt unprepared to see her face-to-face again and wondered if anything could have prepared him to meet the woman he thought he loved who had betrayed him and his family after they had opened their hearts to her.

    He left his speeder and entered the forever teeming Monument Plaza. He didn’t have to scan the faces of the hordes of many species that admired the illuminated statues in the square or made purchases from the shops and eateries that outlined it. He could feel her presence—bright with anticipation but shadowed by wariness—in the Force as he crossed the plaza to join her on a cold stone bench.

    “You betrayed Allana,” Ben accused her as soon as he sat down, staring into her face illuminated by the amber glow of a thousand lights of Coruscant at night.

    “I betrayed my own people, those who had raised me since birth.” Vestara’s words were cutting as her shikkar, but there was grief in her eyes. Grief that testified to how alone she must have felt in the galaxy, Ben thought. “How can you be shocked that I betrayed you and Allana after that?”

    “I thought you were determined to change.” Ben bit his lip. “I thought you wanted to join the Light Side.”

    “Changing and joining the Light Side was harder than I imagined.” Vestara’s scar trembled, a sure sign that her lips were as well. “I didn’t want to betray Allana, but I didn’t want to die either. I wasn’t trying to be evil. I was just doing what I had to do in order to survive.”

    “Even if it meant betraying Allana?” Ben’s hands shook, whether with sorrow, rage, or both, he didn’t know and probably never would. “Even if it meant Allana died?”

    “I didn’t want Allana to die, but I wanted to live, Ben.” Vestara grasped at his wrist almost desperately, pleading with him to understand a selfishness that would always be incomprehensible to him. Waving the palm that wasn’t clasped around his wrist about the plaza, she added to her appeal. “Look at all the life, all the beings around us. Is it any wonder that I wanted to stay among the living?”

    Staring out at Monument Plaza, Ben saw the young lovers kissing on benches and the friends laughing as they shared a late dinner and drinks at outdoor tables along the plaza, but he also saw the wounds that would never heal—the wounds that had been left as an eternal testament to the Yuuzhan Vong war. The wounds that reminded him that he could only go forward, not backward, in time, and that the dead remained dead and lost to him forever. Wounds that reflected the ones inside himself—the wounds of losing his mother to death and Jacen to the Dark Side—that he knew would never heal.

    “We’re both too young to die.” Vestara tilted her head so that it rested on his shoulder, and he didn’t jerk away although he should have. He should never have met her either. She was a beautiful temptress to him, leading him away from the light and into the dark shadows of night. “I’ve heard Coruscant is most romantic at night, but I know a place even more romantic…”

    She trailed off delicately, and Ben found himself thinking about a romance with her and asking in an almost whisper rough with denied desire, “Where?”

    “Kesh.” She pulled away from him, as unattainable and impossible to change as always.

    “Kesh?” Ben repeated, loud enough to draw stares from a number of curious Coruscanti wondering why he had raised his voice. “Your Dark Side homeworld.”

    “Kesh is beautiful and seductive though steeped in the Dark Side.” Vestara was touching him again, trailing warm fingers along the sleeves of his robe that he could feel through the thick fabric. “You want to understand me, don’t you?”

    “More than anything.” The truth—because he still couldn’t lie to her even though she had betrayed him and his family—tore at his heart like the loss of a loved one.

    “Then you must travel with me to my homeworld.” She leaned toward him again, heady with the scent of the forbidden. “You can’t understand me unless you really see and experience the place that shaped me.”
  2. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 27, 2013
    You developed the atmosphere and flow here so well!--From Ben receiving a "text" (wait.. comlinks can do that!? Yes, that is useful to know...:D) to the Galaxy's far far away equivalent of the modern Dad-teenager-talk (It's late, did you bring your phone/comlink!? etc) to finally meeting Vestara and an invitation to her Dark side home. Attraction to women with dark histories, indeed! I have to say I'm pretty impressed with the emotional tones here--they felt very natural.
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Super handling of the tangle of Ben's emotions. "Attraction to women with dark histories" -- excellent and insightful line. ;) =D=
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  4. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @gizkaspice Thank you so much for commenting! :D I'm happy to hear that you felt I developed the atmosphere and flow so well. Hopefully you'll continue to feel that way as the story travels to Kesh and then back to Coruscant in future chapters. I like the idea of comlinks being able to receive texts because it feels so teenager and as if Star Wars should have advanced enough technology to do that like we can on Earth, plus it can be very useful for the plot;)...I really enjoyed writing the galaxy far, far away equivalent to the Dad talk so it makes me super happy to know you enjoyed that part as well. The attraction to women with dark histories remark made me smirk so it's awesome to hear that you liked that comment as well. I hope you'll continue to find the emotions natural in the future chapters.

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting! This chapter was definitely a great opportunity to delve into Ben's complicated emotions after the Fate of the Jedi series, and future chapters should provide me with more chances to do so, so hopefully you'll continue to enjoy delving into Ben's tangle of emotions. Ben's line about an attraction to women with dark histories was one of my favorite parts of this chapter so it makes me so happy to know it was a highlight for you as well. :D
  5. Ben_Thryss

    Ben_Thryss Jedi Knight

    Sep 13, 2011
    An awesome start! Really looking forward to what you decide to do with this.

    It’ll always tear at me that Disney canned the EU before Vestara and Ben’s arc together could be properly concluded. It’s always exciting to see others who love these characters pick them up where they were left off.

    Also, way to work in text messages without it seeming awkward and shoehorned. Realistically, it’d be stupid if they didn’t have some form of texting, which makes it all the more baffling that I’ve never seen it done before.
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Ben_Thryss Thank you so much for commenting! I'm flattered you thought this was such an awesome start, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy the story. It does make me sad that Disney ended the EU before we could read the conclusion to Ben and Vestara's story, though it does at least clear the way for fan fiction to provide answers, which can be nice for me as a fan fiction author. So glad that you felt I worked in text messages in a way that didn't feel shoehorned and awkward. I agree that it makes sense for a galaxy far, far away to have some form of texting, so I'm happy to hear you enjoyed seeing it here.

    Resilient Heart

    “You don’t mind if I take the Jade Shadow on a journey, do you?” Ben asked his dad, taking advantage of the fact that spreading roseberry jam on his toast gave him an excuse not to look at the man sitting across the table from him. He had already packed his duffel and sleeping bags—they were waiting on the floor of his sleeping quarters for him to collect them—but he felt that it would be polite to at least appear to ask permission before departing. His relationship with his dad had been strained once before, and he didn’t particularly want it to be strained again. He enjoyed the closeness that had developed between them when they were traveling the galaxy together, investigating Jacen’s fall to the Dark Side and fighting Abeloth to want to give it up now.

    “A trip to where?” Dad lifted an eyebrow as he cut a piece of jogan fruit.

    Ben took an extra second to chew his toast before replying, “Kesh.”

    “Kesh?” The fork bearing the jogan fruit paused halfway to Dad’s mouth. “The planet of the Sith?”

    “I’ve been to Korriban.” Ben’s jaw clenched as he remembered the eerie Valley of the Dark Lords that had echoed with Dark Side energy and the tuk’ata Sith hounds that would have torn him, Dad, and Jaina to shreds if Vestara hadn’t intervened to command the tuk’ata hounds to spare them. Sometimes it had been useful to have Vestara speak Sith. “That’s got to be several orders of magnitude worse than Kesh, doesn’t it?”

    “Kesh will be a dangerous world full of many temptations to the Dark Side,” Dad remarked in a tone that suggested he wasn’t completely confident Ben could confront those temptations.

    “I won’t be alone. Vestara will be with me,” Ben tried a different approach before seeing from the furrowing of his dad’s brow that these words were having the exact opposite of the reassuring impact he had envisioned. Floundering, he went on, “Um, I don’t mean she’ll be in the same ship as me. She’ll be in Ship.”

    Vestara had told him last night that she still had possession and control of Ship. Ben didn’t know how to feel about that as Ship always imparted him with a disconcerting sensation, but Vestara very much viewed Ship as a strong ally and trusted companion. Her connection to Dark Side creations unsettled him, and yet with her having grown up on a planet of Sith, he couldn’t be surprised at her affinity for such disquieting inventions.

    “Vestara will know what temptations Kesh might pose for you.” Dad shook his head. “I think that’ll make Kesh an even more perilous place for you, son.”

    “I won’t fall to the Dark Side.” Ben could sense his father’s fear for him in the Force and tried to soothe it. “I didn’t fall to the Dark Side for Jacen. I won’t fall to the Dark Side for Vestara either.”

    “I know you won’t.” Dad sighed softly. “I’m not worried about you falling to the Dark Side, Ben.”

    Gratified but confused, Ben cocked his head. “You aren’t?”

    “No.” Dad reached across the table to cup Ben’s cheek as if he were a small boy instead of someone very eager to be seen as a man. “I’m worried about Vestara breaking your heart.”

    “You don’t need to worry about that, Dad.” Ben lingered in his dad’s touch for a moment before twisting away in the interest of maintaining appearances. “My heart was broken by everything Jacen did and when Mom died, but it keeps coming back for more breakage. It’s a very resilient, possibly masochistic heart.”

    “I realize I can’t protect you from everything.” Dad pinched his brow. “I’ll allow you to go, but I want you to comm me every day you’re gone.”

    “Really, Dad?” Ben instinctually felt himself chafing at this restriction. “How old do you think I am?”

    “Old enough that I don’t want you traipsing to Dark Side worlds with Sith girls without being in regular contact with me.” Dad obviously wasn’t about to relent. “You have a choice, Ben. You can either comm me every day or you can remain here.”

    “Some choice,” muttered Ben, biting back a scowl. Rising to wash his plate with half his toast sill uneaten, he conceded more clearly, “All right. I’ll comm you every day.”

    “Good.” Dad steepled his fingers as he added another stipulation to their agreement in what Ben considered a very sneaky fashion. “And make sure that you’re back by the end of the week. We’re going to your Aunt Leia’s and Uncle Han’s for dinner that night.”

    “Aunt Leia’s not cooking is she?” Ben wrinkled his nose. Aunt Leia was a woman of many talents, but, sadly, none were in the culinary realm, though that never stopped her from fearlessly attempting dishes beyond her abilities in a misguided effort to satisfy her family.

    “She is,” Dad responded in a manner that implied Ben shouldn’t complain about this.

    “You’d think a former Senator and Head of State could afford to hire caterers,” muttered Ben, ignoring the warning implicit in his dad’s voice.

    “She can afford it.” Dad stood and crossed over to the sink to wash his plate. “She just enjoys making her family happy by cooking for them.”

    “Her family would be happier if she didn’t cook for them,” Ben mumbled under his breath.

    “What was that?” Dad turned away from the sink, finished cleaning his platter.

    Not wanting an argument before he left by repeating a rude comment he suspected his dad had heard, Ben answered instead, “I’m going to get my luggage and head down to the hangar.”

    When he emerged from his sleeping quarters with a duffel in one hand and a sleeping bag in another, Dad took the duffel, slung it over his shoulder, and said, “I’ll go with you to the hangar to say good-bye.”

    They left their quarters and boarded a turbolift, watching the illuminated numbers of the Temple’s levels flick by as they rode in silence. When they reached the hangar bay, they walked over to the Jade Shadow, both of them staring up at it for a moment, remembering Mom.

    Their moment of remembrance done, Dad gathered Ben into his arms. “May the Force be with you, son.”

    “And with you, Dad.” Ben returned the embrace. “Thanks for letting me go to Kesh with Vestara. I know that was hard for you.”

    “Thank you for asking permission before just leaving.” Dad tousled Ben’s hair. “I know that was hard for you.”

    “I didn’t want a rift to develop between us.” Ben’s words were muffled by his dad’s beige robes as he deepened the hug. “I’m enjoying our new closeness too much.”

    “Me too.” Dad patted Ben’s shoulder before repeating, “May the Force be with you, son.”

    “You’ve said that before.” Ben finally extricated himself from his father’s embrace.

    “I can never say it too many times.” Dad smiled.

    “I suppose not,” agreed Ben with a crooked grin. “May the Force be with you too, Dad.”

    With that final exchange of the traditional Jedi benediction, the two parted ways, Ben striding up the landing ramp into the Jade Shadow laden with his duffel and sleeping bag while his dad remained on the ground to watch as he left for a planet steeped in the Dark Side with a girl who had once been a Sith as his only guide in that strange terrain.

    Ben completed the pre-flight procedures before grabbing his comlink, entering Vestara’s frequency, and informing her as soon as she picked up, “I’m leaving the Temple now. Meet me in atmosphere.”

    “Will do.” Vestara offered a clipped reply before closing the connection without a word of farewell. They didn’t do greetings or good-byes. It was the rough pattern of their relationship.

    Minutes later, as he pierced the durasteel gray sky of Coruscant’s atmosphere, he felt more than saw Ship slide in beside him. Ship’s presence was a shadow in his mind, a shadow that whispered, Ben Skywalker, we meet again. Your presence will cause Vestara pain but that is a good thing for her.

    Pain is a good thing for nobody. Ben would’ve raged against the Dark Side philosophy Ship was transmitting to his mind if he didn’t know that was what Ship wanted. Ship was a Sith training vessel constructed to encourage the development of the Dark Side in generations of Sith apprentices. There was something perversely nourishing about Ship, but nourishing only in the Dark Side emotions of fear, anger, and hate. Why will my presence cause Vestara pain?

    Because you’ll never forgive her for her betrayal. There was a cold, smug triumph in Ship’s declaration. I know that and she knows that, but she seeks you out to carve more scars on her hardening heart. That is good. Suffering strengthens a Sith.

    A Jedi can forgive anything. Ben had learned that from his parents and from his quest to understand what had made his cousin whom he had once admired fall to the Dark Side. He didn’t need to cling to fear, anger, or hatred when he had forgiveness, acceptance, and peace inside him. He was a Jedi, and that was his ultimate answer to any Sith temptation. Jedi are stronger than suffering. They accept pain and transcend it when they can’t heal it. They don’t wallow in it or let it harden them.

    He would show Vestara that, he thought but didn’t share that final notion with Ship. A Jedi had to have his secrets.
  7. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 27, 2013
    And so the Dad-teenager session resumes with Dad trying to knock some sense into the teenaged mind to keep in touch daily, especially when traveling to Dark Side worlds with Sith women! (love that part!). Poor Luke is a single dad, but he cares so much about Ben and hopes Vestara doesn't break his heart (that dialogue between father and son was quite nice!)
    The complicated and rough relationship between Ben and Vestara is getting interesting here---wonder how this will all unfold on Kesh and what Ben can teach her.
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Super talk between Ben and Luke, full of candor, affection, and snark. Luke's concern is absolutely understandable. The humor about Leia's "culinary effort" lightened the mood just enough. The farewell exhcnage--sweet. :)

    You can feel Ben's strength and conviction in his exchange with Ship; it feels like a solid belief not overconfidence. I think he will be rather a good influence on Vestara.
    gizkaspice and devilinthedetails like this.
  9. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @gizkaspice Once again, thanks so much for commenting!:) Yes, Luke does need to talk some sense into his teenaged son about keeping in touch daily especially when traveling to Dark Side worlds with Sith women because Ben has a bit of that very independent adolescent spirit. One of my favorite parts about writing this chapter was being able to show how much Luke cares about his son and doesn't want to see Ben's heart broken by Vestara so I'm so happy to hear you found that dialogue between father and son nice to read. The complexity of Ben and Vestara's relationship always drew me in throughout the Fate of the Jedi books, so being able to explore some of that complexity for myself in this story so far has been an awesome experience for me as an author. Next chapter should develop that complexity a bit more so hopefully you'll continue to find it interesting once they reach Kesh and Ben might have an opportunity to teach her some important things.

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for your kind comments!:) I've really enjoyed being able to explore the relationship between Ben and Luke in this story, so it makes me so happy to hear that you found their conversation full of candor, affection, and snark since those were exactly the attributes I was hoping to achieve. I agree with you that Luke's concern is absolutely understandable and part of what makes him such a great dad in my opinion. Leia's culinary skills were a good way to lighten the mood, and might crop up again, so it's good to know you enjoyed that bit. The farewell exchange warmed my heart as I was writing it so it is lovely to hear you found it so sweet. Ben's conversation with Ship was a great opportunity for me to showcase his strength and conviction, and I agree that with Ben it is about a solid belief rooted in some hard experiences that he and his family members have had, so it isn't really about being overconfident as it is about being mature in his perspective and convictions as a Jedi. I agree that he should be a positive influence on Vestara, and hopefully by the end of the story, she is in a lighter place.
  10. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Oooh, this is delightfully good so far! =D=

    It's always wonderful to see such classic EU characters feature on the boards; it's been much too long since I read a good story featuring our Ben, and with Vestara, no less! And you're off to a great start so far. Ben really is grappling with a full plate, with the weight of his heritage and healing from the tragedies he's already suffered and survived in his young life. Now he's trying to find balance between justice and forgiveness and parsing out just exactly what he feels for Vestara, and she for him. It's going to be an illuminating visit to Kesh and back, I bet, for both of them! If anyone fits the city/country mouse dynamic of the challenge, it's Ben and Vestara. :p

    I really loved the dynamic between Ben and Luke, too. The trust and confidence and the bit of banter, even when it's tinged with sadness and them still trying their best to figure out exactly how their relationship works with each other, was good to see. It's been too long, again. [face_love]

    Thanks for sharing this story with us! I can't wait to see how it develops from here. =D=
  11. Ben_Thryss

    Ben_Thryss Jedi Knight

    Sep 13, 2011
    I think this is going really well. Both Luke and Ben’s emotions really shine through. I really felt their bond, and how scared both of them were of losing it again.

    Really looking forward to seeing your take on Ben and Vestara’s dynamic, and how it’s changed post-Apocalypse. Judging by what you’re produced so far, it seems promising.

    Eagerly awaiting your next instalment. :)
  12. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Mira_Jade As always, thank you so much for your kind and detailed comments! Reading them always brings a smile to my face:) I'm so flattered that you've found this delightfully good so far, and I hope you'll enjoy the next installment just as much. I've really loved being able to write about classic EU characters like Ben Skywalker and Vestara Khai and being able to explore the Legends-verse in my writing so it's awesome to get feedback that my readers are enjoying it as well. I agree with you that Ben is grappling with a lot, dealing with the weight of his heritage, the tragedies and losses he's experienced in the past, and his confused feelings for Vestara. Ben is definitely going through that very Jedi and very human struggle of balancing justice with forgiveness as well as the perhaps more teenage struggle of figuring out what his feelings for Vestara are exactly. The trip to Kesh should certainly be illuminating for both Ben and Vestara (at least that is my humble goal and ambition;)) so I hope that you enjoy seeing that next chapter. I really loved writing the dynamic between Ben and Luke, since their relationship was one of my favorite parts of the Fate of the Jedi books, and I've really been enjoying the opportunity to sort of expand upon that in my own story. I really did want to show their trust and confidence with one another along with the banter, the sadness of losing Mara Jade, and them still trying to pan out exactly what their relationship is. There should be a little more chance for Luke and Ben interaction before the end of the story, which will be nice.

    @Ben_Thryss Once again, thank you so much for commenting!:) I'm so happy to hear that you think this story is going so well and I have my fingers crossed that you'll continue to enjoy where it goes next. Luke and Ben were at the heart of this past chapter, so it's awesome to know that you felt their emotions and bond shine through as well as their fear of losing that bond between them. Next chapter should provide more of a chance to delve into the dynamic between Ben and Vestara on Kesh, and I hope that you'll enjoy it! Thank you again for your support and interest in this story:)
  13. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Great dialogue and character interactions here!
    I have to admit I kinda bailed on the EU late in the game so I’m not up to speed on the Ben/Vestara ship. But I like the edginess to it, the grit and sandpaper that created the friction that lights the spark between them. Clever use of the prompt, too.

    Luke is doing his best, caught in that limbo of trying to be a good father and protecting his son but also letting Ben go so that he can make his own choice (and his own mistakes). It must be tough for Luke. How empty the house must be with Ben gone from it.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  14. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Nov 1, 2004
    Very nice! I really miss the Skywalker family. I am still hopeful that Mara might show up in the new canon. Until then, thank goodness for fan fiction. I look forward to reading more.
  15. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @divapilot Thank you so much for commenting! :) I'm super flattered that you found the dialogue and character interactions great, and I hope you'll continue to think so as the story progresses. I can understand not being able to keep up with all the EU material being released since there was just so much of it, but it sounds like what appeals to you in the Ben/Vestara ship is very similar to what appeals to me, so hopefully you'll find that in this story as it continues. The prompt is truly an awesome one, and I'm very much enjoying writing the story that it inspired. I agree that Luke really is doing his best to be a good father protecting his son while also allowing Ben to make his own choices and mistakes as a parent must. Luke will definitely find the house empty without his son, but at least he has Ben's promise to contact him along the journey to comfort him.

    @Jedi_Lover Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! :) I'm so glad that you are enjoying this story, and I agree that I really miss the Skywalker family of the EU. I want to do a big re-read of the EU to revisit the Skywalker family this year, in fact. It'd be so cool if Mara ended up appearing in the new canon. Until then, fan fiction and the old EU have to provide our dose of the Skywalker family as you say.

    Purple Sands of Time

    From space, Kesh was a glittering gem of emerald jungles and sapphire seas. It looked beautiful and lush, not like a planet that had been home to a Lost Tribe of Sith for millennia. Ben had seen it before, but now he knew he would be exploring the depths of its Dark Side with Vestara. The idea made his stomach swoop. As if thinking of her caused her to contact him, the comm of the Jade Shadow crackled with Vestara’s crisp voice: “We should land somewhere away from where what’s left of my people live. If they see me, they’ll cut off all my limbs before beheading me with their lightsabers.”

    “Charming folks.” Ben was beyond being surprised by Sith brutality. After all, he had seen firsthand the evil the Dark Side could draw forth from even a once good and noble person like his cousin.

    “I’m a traitor to my people.” Vestara’s tone was more defensive than Ben liked to hear. It was as if she still perceived herself as a member of the Lost Tribe in exile. “Many cultures around the galaxy—even your own precious Republic—execute traitors.”

    “It’s not my Republic. I don’t run it.” Deciding to drop the argument, Ben added, “Lead the way down, Ves. I’ll follow you.”

    “Don’t get lost.” With that last cool comment from Vestara, the comm clicked off as Vestara ended the communication with her characteristic lack of a farewell.

    Ship streaked through Kesh’s atmosphere, and Ben followed, feeling the pull of the planet’s strange, strong magnetic field that had first drawn a Sith warship into a crash landing millennia ago on the navigation instruments of the Jade Shadow. Flying by the Force as much as by his craft’s equipment, Ben trailed Ship over a blue ocean toward a continent edged with lavender sands that rose sharply into rocky mountains and verdant jungle highlands.

    In a cloud of purple sand, Ship landed along the coast. Several wingspans further along the beach, Ben did the same. He powered off the engines, activated the ramp, and disembarked his vessel, joining Vestara, who was already waiting for him on the beach.

    With a jerk of her chin, she gestured for him to walk beside her as she began to walk along the edge of the ocean, foaming waves dancing around her ankles. His feet sinking into the damp sand of this strange world, Ben matched her step by step, pleased at how easily they could fall into rhythm with one another and with the beat of the ocean waves breaking around them.

    “My friend Ahri and I used to train along these beaches,” she said, eyes alight with memory as she gazed at the sand around her, searching for footprints that she had to know had been erased long ago by wind and water but wanting to glimpse a mark of herself and her friend on a timeless landscape. “We loved how the ocean breeze would cool us when we worked up a sweat and how the smell of salt lingered in our noses after we left the coast.”

    She might have been any young woman reflecting on a vanished childhood, Ben thought, or at least she could have been until she went on with a reminiscent smile tinged with an almost cruel amusement, “I liked to take advantage of the terrain when I could. I’d use the Force to fling sand into Ahri’s eyes when he got distracted and left himself open to attack.”

    Leaving oneself open to attack must have been a crime often punishable by death on a Sith world, but still Ben couldn’t prevent himself from observing with a trace of reproach, “Almost blinding your friend with sand doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to do, Ves.”

    “Sith don’t do nice things. Not even to their friends.” Vestara shrugged, which Ben suspected was another way of saying that the Sith didn’t have friends at least not as Jedi understood them.

    “Of course they don’t.” Ben’s jaw tightened as he told himself that he should’ve known that. With Jacen, he had seen how users of the Dark Side weren’t even capable of doing nice things for their family, and Vestara’s own father was more proof of that idea. “Sith don’t do anything nice for anybody but themselves, because all they care about is themselves.”

    “All the Sith of the Lost Tribe care about is survival and advancement,” Vestara corrected him, somehow without contradicting him. Survival, Ben remembered, was what had motivated Vestara to betray Allana. “Do you know why?”

    “I have my suspicions.” Ben’s lips thinned. “If you want to confirm them, go on.”

    “You aren’t the most pleasant person to share a stroll along the beach with, are you?” Vestara asked rather rhetorically.

    “Neither are you,” retorted Ben. “Talking about how you used to blind your friend with sand for fun.”

    Vestara nudged him before returning to their original topic. “The Lost Tribe of the Sith care about survival and advancement more than anything because they are the Lost Tribe of the Sith, marooned on a primitive world where they had to be strong and shrewd to survive and which they would always, generation after generation, dream of escaping. That’s what drove my people for millennia, Ben: that first abandonment.”

    That made Ben think of his own first abandonment—or perceived abandonment. When he was young for a dark time he had tried to block out of his mind for years, he had been left in a care center in the Maw by his parents with other Jedi children. He had felt the void of what he now understood to have been Abeloth reaching out to swallow him, and he had instinctively retreated from the Force, cutting himself off from it for years until Jacen had come along and encouraged him to reconnect with it. His connection to Jacen had led to him becoming Jacen’s apprentice, which meant being there to witness firsthand the horror and agony of Jacen’s descent to the Dark Side…His life, he mused, might have turned out so differently if he hadn’t felt abandoned by his parents in the Maw…

    “Maybe that’s what drives us all.” Instinctively, as if the talk of abandonment motivated him to reach out, Ben slid his hand into Vestara’s, taking comfort from the touch of her skin against his. “The pain of our first abandonment.”

    It wasn’t a reassuring thought that he might have anything in common with the Sith, and he shivered despite the warm rays of sun beating down on the beach.

    “Pain makes Sith stronger.” Vestara squeezed his fingers between her own. “Yet we never became strong enough to leave Kesh on our own, not until Ship came. I was the first to see Ship, you know. I was sparring with my friend Ahri only a few kilometers away from here when I spotted Ship coming to land at the Sith Temple built over the site of the crash landing that isolated us on this remote world. I was the first Sith on Kesh Ship contacted.”

    Perhaps it was the pride in her voice that made Ben remark snidely, “You and Ship have a special connection.”

    “As do you and Ship.” Vestara’s fingers slipped out of his and crawled up his sleeve like soft spiders. “We all share a special connection, Ben.”
  16. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 27, 2013
    Lovely Kesh scenery! Love how Ben is teaching Vestara about "not nice things to do" to throwing sand and almost blinding your friend isn't very nice....but of course, "Sith don't do nice things!" which translates to.....Oh, right. Sith don't actually have any friends.:p That was good.
    These two are an interesting duo!
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2020
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= We have a lovely bit of scenery and a candid conversation. You do the two together with brilliant ease!
    gizkaspice and devilinthedetails like this.
  18. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Great descriptions here. I love the use of color; the lavender sands that sink as you walk on them, the verdant forests.
    Ben and Vestara have an interesting relationship, to say the least. He seems to be equally attracted and repelled by her. In some ways, the EU was more nuanced than the “canon” because it allows for a person to be simultaneously good and troubled. Vestara hasn’t done anything explicitly evil, but she’s shown she’s not above being cruel, yet it’s a detached cruelty- it’s nothing personal, a girl’s just gotta do what she must to stay ahead. She claims it’s survival, but it sounds more like she just wants to win.
  19. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 11, 2016
    Intresting story, will say I don´t really like Ben/Vestara as a couple but the idea of them going to Kesh together to "understand" one another is pretty neat. And yeah there defenetly seems to be an intrest in the Skywalker men for female dark siders, not just Luke and Ben but also Cade later down the line.
  20. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @gizkaspice Once again, thanks so much for commenting! I'm so glad you found the Kesh scenery lovely (I was enjoying the chance to imagine the Kesh beach as I wrote this chapter, not gonna lie;)) and that you enjoyed seeing Ben try to teach Vestara the basics of friendship like it not being nice to try to blind your friend with sand. You're right that "Sith don't do nice things" does translate into Sith not having any real friends. I'm so happy you continue to find these two an interesting duo. I loved their dynamic in the books and want to try to do it justice in this story:)

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for your kind comments and support! I'm so happy you found the Kesh setting so lovely and that you appreciated the candid conversation between Ben and Vestara:D

    @divapilot Thank you so much for commenting! I'm so flattered that you thought the descriptions were great and capture the color of the scene and the feeling of feet sinking into the sand so it makes me so happy it worked for you. :D I'm really enjoying this opportunity to delve into the interesting relationship between Ben and Vestara and explore some of the nuance of Vestara's character. As you say, she hasn't done anything explicitly evil but she's not above being cruel to advance her goals and her goals are I think more ambitious than straight-up survival. I think she's a quite competitive and ambitious person who grew up in a ruthless society that really nourished that ambition in a twisted way. She still is wrestling with how much of that culture she wants to carry with her for the rest of her life after seeing the other, kinder way Ben and Luke model.

    @Anedon Thank you so much for commenting! :) I'm happy to hear that you found the story interesting. I can understand Ben/Vestara not being everyone's cup of tea, but I really respect you for giving this story a chance despite it not featuring a pairing you're a fan of, and I'm glad that you like the idea of Ben and Vestara coming to Kesh together. When it came to me, I knew I had to try to write this story and so far it has been a rewarding one for me to write. Yes, the Skywalker men do seem to have a real attraction for females with Dark Side tendencies from Luke to Ben to Cade. It really runs in the family generation after generation[face_laugh]
  21. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Always Watching..... star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 3, 2003
    Love the Father/son interactions, so nice. Not a fan of the pairing, but that's not to say you haven't handled it well. ;) What is it with Bad Girls chasing good boys?!? I thought it was the other way around! :eek:
  22. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Adalia-Durron Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I'm so glad that you loved the father-son interactions, and I promise there will be more to come before the story ends, so hopefully you'll enjoy those. I appreciate that you took a chance with this story even if you aren't a fan of the pairing and I'm happy to hear that you thought I handled the pairing well. I suppose the Skywalker boys are just so good that the Bad Girls can't resist them. ;)

    Terrains of Beauty and Loss

    “I can’t believe the City of Glass has been reduced to ashes.” Vestara stood, stunned, among the charred ruins of Tahv, the city that had once been the grand capitol of her Sith civilization and was now cindering rubble. That morning, they had hiked across the Takara Mountains, leaving the beach before dawn to reach the remains of Tahv by the time the noon sun was beating overhead.

    Ben longed to take her hand—to comfort her—but didn’t want her to pull away from him, so he kept them tucked at his side and stayed silent, giving her the space to continue to share her grief if she wished or to mourn in silence if she preferred.

    “Abeloth did this.” Vestara’s voice was jagged with a pain that could be cut into a blade of anger and hate so easily.

    “Yes.” Ben nodded. Like Vestara, he could feel the cold void of Abeloth’s presence shrouding this place, chilling him to the bone marrow.

    “An entire city lost.” Vestara’s fingers brushed through the ash, staining her fingertips soot-black. “Sith are trained at a young age to deal with loss so it doesn’t cripple and destroy us. Our beloved uvaks are taken from us when we begin training at the Sith Temple as apprentices, and if we resist they are slaughtered. The pain of separation and loss is supposed to make us stronger.”

    “Jedi are taught to accept loss as part of life but not to revel in it.” Ben thought, not for the first time, how seemingly little distinctions in the philosophy of the Sith and the Jedi made such starkly differences in attitude, training, and life. It was as if the little differences did truly define them.

    “I can’t accept this loss on top of everyone and everything I’ve already lost.” Vestara’s lip might have trembled but it was difficult to discern with her scar. “No city, not even your city-planet of Coruscant, could ever compare to the City of Glass in my eyes. The City of Glass was full of works of Force-art created by Sith artists and artisans. It had levitating fountains, trees sculpted into impossibly beautiful shapes by Force manipulation, and glass sculptures carved with use of the Force. The galaxy will never again see such beauty and art, Ben.”

    “I’m sorry.” No longer carrying if she jerked away, Ben reached out to clasp her shoulder and squeeze it.

    “Are you really?” Vestara didn’t twist away from him, but she did study him skeptically with a brown gaze waterier than usual. “Is a Jedi truly sorry a city of Sith was destroyed?”

    “Jedi always mourn the loss of life,” Ben assured her softly, inspired to reverence by the charred evidence of thousands of lives ended around him. “Life is creation. Life is change.”

    “Life is beauty. Life is energy.” There was a mocking uplift to Vestara’s mouth as she finished, “Life is power.”

    “It is,” Ben both agreed and disagreed. “Just not as a Sith would define power.”

    “Oh?” Vestara’s eyebrow lifted. “How would a Sith define power?”

    “I don’t need to explain that to you. ” Ben snorted at her deliberate obtuseness. “You know that better than me.”

    “I do.” There was more than a trace of smugness in Vestara’s voice, which somehow managed to irritate him as much as it amused him. Her footsteps echoing across the ruins as she began to move over them toward the towering peaks of the Takara Mountains, she tossed over her shoulder, “Shall we begin our trek back to the beach?”

    Ben, knowing they’d be hard-pressed to make it back to the beach before nightfall if they didn’t leave soon, had no argument with this. He followed her out of the ruins of Tahv and up the steep, jungled slope of the mountain they had crossed that morning. The trees formed a verdant canopy overhead, trapping their moisture so sweat covered their faces and backs.

    Three hours into their hike, they stopped to soak their feet in a cool mountain stream. As they waded in the water, fish in a rainbow of colors swimming around their ankles, Ben told Vestara, “Point out a non-poisonous fish for me to catch. We can cook it for lunch.”

    “You trust a Sith girl to point out a non-poisonous one?” Vestrara’s foot nudged his beneath the water.

    “Only because that Sith girl will be eating with me.” Ben chuckled because that wasn’t completely true. He trusted Vestara not to poison him even when they weren’t sharing a meal. Otherwise, he never would have come with her to Kesh.

    “How do you know I haven’t built up an immunity to the toxins after a childhood spent on Kesh?” Her foot continued to tease his beneath the water. It was very distracting.

    “I’ll take my chances.” Ben didn’t know if he meant with the fish, with her, or with both. He just knew he felt suddenly breathless and not from the trek up the mountain.

    “You are a daredevil, aren’t you?” Vestara’s laughter skipped like a stone across the brook.

    “That’s what my dad said when I told him I’d be traveling to Kesh with you.” Ben smiled, pleased to think of himself as a daredevil if that was how she perceived him. A daredevil sounded daring and risky, possibly even romantic…

    “I’d take a chance on that fish if I were you.” Vestara’s finger pointed out a fish swimming by Ben’s feet, scales shimmering an iridescent blue in the light filtering through the jungle’s overhanging green leaves.

    With instincts fast as Kamino lightning, Ben snatched up the fish. He wrestled it to the bank, where he dispatched it with a swift swipe of the small vibro-dagger attached to the survival kit clipped to his belt. While Vestara gathered wood for a fire, Ben set about the laborious, agonizingly slow process of de-boning this strange fish of Kesh.

    He was still engaged in the excruciatingly slow business of de-boning the fish when Vestara had a fire blazing.

    “You can speed that up with the Force, you know.” Vestara, the perpetual champion of tempting and trivial uses of the Force, leaned toward him, her hair tickling his cheek.

    “It’s not Jedi to use the Force to accomplish things that can be easily done by hand.” Ben decided not to mention that the classification of de-boning this Kesh fish as easily was starting to seem increasingly dubious.

    “It may not be Jedi, but it saves time and frees up your hands”—Vestara’s fingers found his thighs and began to climb up them like extremely seductive vines—“for other purposes.”

    That evening, around another fire—a blazing bonfire they built from driftwood on the lavender sands of the beach—Vestara asked as they munched on a seaweed salad Ben knew would get stuck most unflatteringly in his teeth, “What do you think of Kesh?”

    “By the standards of Sith worlds, it’s quite charming.” Ben stared at the figures dancing and cavorting in the flames. “It’s a paradise compared to Korriban with weather far more agreeable than anything to be found on Dromund Kaas.”

    “By the standards of the Jedi, that’s quite a compliment.” Vestara tilted back her chin so she could gaze at the star-strewn sky. “The stars are so beautiful and bright here. It’s not like on Coruscant where they get outshone by a million competing skytowers and super-skytowers.”
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Kesh does indeed sound more hospitable and lovely than spooky Korriban and inhospitable Drommund Kaas. I enjoyed the discussion about life and the definition of power. The exchange about lighting fires quicker reminds me of Mara's advice to Luke about shortcuts in VoTF. [face_thinking]
    Vestara and Ben -- they are fascinating in their tone with each other in this update: flirty and comfortable, not wary at all.
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  24. AusStig

    AusStig Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Feb 3, 2010
    Lovely story so far. I can't wait to read more.

    I love how you have captured the characters, you have pulled the best of them from Fate of the Jedi.

    Also Benstara is best. Glade it is getting more attention.

    Oh this is so good, they are so lovely together.
  25. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting! :D Yes, Kesh definitely seems very hospitable compared to Korriban and Drommund Kaas. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the discussion about life and power and that you found the dynamic between Ben and Vestara so fascinating in this chapter. Flirty and comfortable was sort of the vibe I was trying to achieve so it makes me happy to know that came through for you.

    @AusStig Thank you so much for commenting!:D I'm so glad that you found the story lovely so far, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy it. I really love writing about these characters, so it's awesome to hear that you think I captured their best qualities from the Fate of the Jedi books. Yes, Ben/Vestara is an amazing pairing, and it's nice for me to have the chance to give it some love and attention.

    Invitations to Fiasco

    “Dad.” Ben leaned back in the pilot’s chair of the Jade Shadow, pondering the best way to broach the issue that had been lurking in the depths of his mind and heart since he arrived on Kesh with Vestara to the blue holographic image of his father spouting like a spring flower from the comm console. Deciding to be blunt rather than beat around the prickly bush, he took the plunge into the uncertain conversational waters. “I want to invite Vestara to stay with us for a bit if that’s okay with you.”

    “You want to invite Vestara to stay with us?” Dad repeated as if Ben had asked to adopt a rancor. “Why?”

    Dad sounded shocked and not particularly pleased, but he hadn’t forbidden Vestara to stay outright. Choosing to interpret that as a positive omen, Ben pressed his case. “She’s a war orphan all alone in the galaxy. I sense she’s at a fork in the road of her life and needs our guidance not to go down a truly Dark path.”

    “She’s about your age, Ben. She’s not a child but a young woman who can make her own decisions and has already made some Dark ones.” Dad’s forehead knotted.

    Frustrated with how Dad could treat him and Vestara as children one minute and as adults the next as convenience dictated, Ben answered, sweet as a thick slice of Sic-six layer cake, “Exactly. She’s about my age, and you still worry about me venturing out into the galaxy all by myself. Why else would you want me to contact you every day I’m on Kesh?”

    “You really are as headstrong as your mother.” Dad shook his head in what could only be fond exasperation.

    “I’ll take that in the spirit in which I know it was intended.” Ben placed an earnest hand over his heart. “As the highest compliment you can give.”

    “Vestara can stay with us for a few days, but after that we need to figure out her future.” Dad gave Ben a meaningful look. “Don’t forget that your aunt Leia is hosting a dinner two nights from now, which means you should leave Kesh tomorrow.”

    “I was hoping you would’ve forgotten by now,” muttered Ben, who wasn’t exactly eagerly anticipating consuming anything cooked by Aunt Leia. He thought there was a greater probability of him becoming sick from her concoctions than any strange food Kesh could offer.

    “I haven’t forgotten, and I’ve already told your aunt Leia that you’ll be there.” Dad was obviously not about to relent about this the way he had given ground about Vestara. “She’ll be very hurt if you don’t come.”

    “Can I bring a special guest?” Ben had a sudden lightning bolt of inspiration.

    “The special guest would be Vestara, no doubt.” Dad’s words were dry as a plucked clean bone. Without even waiting for Ben’s nod, he added, “You’ll have to ask your aunt and uncle for permission. It’s their house and their dinner.”

    “Will do.” Ben nodded. “Thanks for letting Vestara stay with us, Dad.”

    “I’ll see you soon.” Dad’s tone was soft but Ben could still hear the love in it from across the light-years and void of endless space. “Good night, son.”

    “Good night, Dad.” Ben echoed the farewell, feeling like a small boy for a moment as he watched his father’s holographic form flicker out.

    Stirring himself into action, he entered the frequency for Aunt Leia and Uncle Han’s residence, hoping belatedly that the call wouldn’t awaken Allana. He hadn’t calculated the corresponding time on Coruscant, which was careless and stupid.

    “Ben. Good to see you.” Aunt Leia did indeed appear happy to see him as she glowed before him in blue holographic form, assuring him that he indeed hadn’t awoken her in the middle of her sleep cycle. “Han and I can’t wait to have you for dinner.”

    Taking advantage of the opening she had given him, Ben said, “About dinner, Aunt Leia, you wouldn’t mind if I invited a special guest, would you?”

    “A special guest?” Uncle Han joined the conversation, wearing a sly smirk that made Ben wish he had awoken them in the middle of the night. Then Uncle Han wouldn’t be so swift on the uptake or with the teasing remarks. “Has our nephew found a girl then?”

    Aunt Leia elbowed Uncle Han before replying to Ben smoothly, “The more the merrier. Of course you may bring a special friend to dinner.”

    It was only after they had exchanged good-byes and the holographic images of his aunt and uncle had winked out that Ben’s conscience began to poke at him, pointing out that he really should have mentioned that the special guest was Vestara Khai, the girl raised Sith who had betrayed Allana. He hadn’t been brave enough to do that, though. He had been too afraid they might refuse to have Vestara around for dinner if they knew she was coming, and he knew, deep in his bones, that she had to face Allana and the rest of the Solos before she could forgive herself for what she had done. He could feel the cage of guilt surrounding her because of her betrayal of Allana, threatening to trap her in the Dark Side forever if she didn’t break free of it, and the only way for her to break free of it was to apologize to Allana…

    With renewed resolve to save and heal Vestara, Ben emerged from the Jade Shadow and strolled the moonlit sands until he reached the bonfire Vestara had created a little farther along the beach. Sitting beside her and staring up at the moons of Kesh, one waxing and one waning in a dancing effort to balance light and dark energy that reminded him of them, he gathered his courage before speaking. “Dad has agreed that you can stay with us for a little while if you like.”

    “Why would I, a girl raised among the Sith, want to stay with two Jedi?” Vestara’s eyebrows arched.

    “You might not want to stay with us, but I didn’t want to go to Kesh, and I came here for you—to learn about the place that shaped you so I could understand you better.” Ben stared into her eyes that burned like embers in the inconstant, ever-shifting light and shadows of the bonfire. “It’s only fair that you spend some time in my home, learning about the place that shaped meet.”

    “It might be fair, but why should I, daughter of a Sith Saber, be fair to a Jedi?” Vestara had a vexing habit of acknowledging a point before dismissing it as utterly irrelevant.

    “Because you want to be more than just the daughter of a Sith Saber.” Ben could feel the ambition blazing in Vestara, the ambition to be different than her people, to cut herself free from the past that entangled her, to do good in the galaxy despite the selfish, ruthless urges that flared within her nourished by a childhood on a Sith world. “You want to do good in the universe. You want to be healed. You want to be whole. My father and I can help you with all of that.”

    “I don’t want to give up myself.” Vestara shook her head, but Ben could sense that she wasn’t disagreeing.

    “You wouldn’t be giving up yourself.” Ben squeezed her hand between his own. “You’d be becoming your best and truest self.”

    “Fine. I’ll come visit and listen to all your father’s lectures about the Light Side.” Vestara’s comment was tinged with mockery, but Ben sensed no malice within her.

    “And you’ll be a special guest at a dinner my Aunt Leia and Uncle Han are hosting.” Ben wasn’t about to stop pushing now that she was making concessions.

    “Do they know that I’m coming?” Vestara’s face could only be described as dubious.

    “They know a special guest is coming.” Ben skirted the question though he suspected she was too shrewd to be fooled by his evasion.

    “Do they know the special guest is me, though?” Vestara persisted, undeterred. “Do they know the girl who betrayed Allana is coming to dine under their roof?”

    “Er, no,” Ben admitted, eyes dropping to the sand beneath his boots. “That might be a bit of a surprise for them.”

    “Wonderful.” Vestara snorted. “This’ll be a fiasco. The kind of fiasco people pay money to see in holodramas.”

    “That kind of fiasco is a specialty of the Skywalker and Solo families.” Ben had the odd urge to laugh and didn’t suppress it. “And you won’t have to pay to see it. You’ll get to experience it for free as a special guest.”