When Luke is fourteen, Owen sits him down and has The Talk.
It’s filled with all the things that Owen suspects is normal for parents and their teenagers around the world. They talk about consent, and what age is normal, and how to get out of a situation where Luke’s feeling pressured. They talk about being careful with species that have other genitalia, in case Luke finds himself in that sort of relationship, and why it’s a good idea to avoid drinks or drugs when bedding someone new. They talk about how to tell a girl’s interested, and how to politely ask if she’d like to stop.
There are also some parts that Owen thinks aren’t quite as common in the Core, where Luke would have grown up if not for his father’s terrible choices.
They talk about how, if Luke has his sights set on a slave, there are ways to navigate that, but very, very, very carefully. Owen talks a bit about how his Pa married Shmi Skywalker. It can be done, and loving, and fully, happily played out for both sides. It’s hard to make sure both do want it, though.
Luke reacts about how Owen did at his age. He’s disgusted by some things and intrigued by others. He nods solemnly, if not a little uncomfortably, when Owen explains how relationships between slaves and freeborn have to be handled.
It’s all about what Owen expects. He does his part, and Beru whispers ‘good job’ to him, and that’s about all there is to it. They ask Luke if anyone’s caught his eye yet, now and again, and he always says no. Owen believes him. So does Beru.
And then, a year later, Owen catches sight of Luke’s expression as he bids the Darklighter boy ‘goodbye,’ and the kid is besotted.
It looks like Owen may have skipped a few things.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Beru comforts him, later in the afternoon, after Owen’s come to her in a tizzy about the mess. “Honestly, he’ll probably just apply the same suggestions you gave him about other species until he figures it out.”
“But he doesn’t know how to—his own body, Beru,” Owen says. “He can’t tell other people how to—for him. If someone else is using the same plan to just ask.”
He’s having a hard time figuring how to explain anything, because he’s failed his nephew. He put effort into it and he messed it up. He should have researched more.
“He can figure it out,” Beru tells him. “There are resources on the holonet, I’m certain. He can look it up.”
“I ain’t trusting the holonet to teach our nephew these things,” Owen immediately refutes. “And he doesn’t know how to, y’know, figure someone, how to know if a guy’s into him or if he’ll get clocked on the jaw just for asking.”
Beru grimaces. “Well, I suppose, but it’s not like you could teach him that, and he’s… well, he’s Luke. He’s got a feeling for people. The Force and all that. He can probably guess who’ll react well and who won’t.”
She’s not wrong, but… “There were some boys like that, in my school. Back on Ator. Some of ‘em joked about getting hurt, when we were all jokin’ around in the communal showers. Things can tear, I hear, or go wrong.”
Beru considers that. Owen doesn’t think she has any more of an idea how two men can make these things work than Owen himself does. He knows a few things, that boys will use more lubricant, that the other hole is involved, just from gossip in the locker rooms. He doesn’t know a thing about the way it works, or about the culture. He knows there is one, even on Tatooine, but he’s not part of it. He doesn’t think he knows anyone who is.
“I’ve got a cousin, Ranko,” Beru says, “he’s been with more men than women, I reckon. We could ask him to talk to Luke ‘bout it.”
“He’s days away,” Owen says. “Don’t know when we’ll see him again.”
“We could do the research ourselves,” Beru suggests, “though I don’t know that we’d have any way of knowing what’s true or how it works out in practice. I don’t know anyone else that I’d trust to talk to Luke, though. Anyone else is a stranger.”
Owen puts his head in his hands. They can reach out to Beru’s cousin. It might be a few months before they see him again, maybe even a year with how the harvests have been, but Luke probably won’t be doing more than kissing Biggs for a while. Maybe stuff with the hands, which he doesn’t want to think about, but not more. They’re young, yet, and Owen’s got no idea if Biggs even like Luke back that way.
“There is another option,” Beru says, and Owen knows, without thinking about it, that he’s not going to like what she has to say.
“What?” he asks anyway.
“Well… I do remember hearing some rumors, ages back,” she says. “About Ben Kenobi.”
He was right. He does not like what she had to say.
“And everyone always said the Jedi were open-minded,” Beru adds. “So even if the rumors were wrong, he might know things anyway. Experiments and all, you know.”
Owen does not want to think about Ben Kenobi’s possible past experiments.
“He’s only a few hours away,” Beru finishes, “and we both know he’d never, ever hurt Luke. Not with what he risked to bring him to us.”
Owen knows that. He just doesn’t like thinking about it.
“Think on it,” Beru suggests. “We can talk it over tomorrow.”
Ben Kenobi opens the door to his hut to find a distinctly uncomfortable Owen Lars standing there. He’d known the man was coming; he was meditating, since he’s got scarcely little else to do with his free time these days. Ben has no idea why the man is here, but he at least doesn’t feel like he’s looking for a fight. Ben doesn’t want to think ill of the man, but they don’t tend to get on, and most of that is Owen’s grudge about Anakin.
“Is something the matter?” Ben asks, because he can’t imagine why else the man would be here and feeling anxious.
“Got some questions, if you’ve got the time,” Owen says, as if Ben has anything but time.
It’s damnably vague, but Ben shrugs and steps back, gesturing inside. “Come on in, get out of the sun. I’m afraid one of my vaporators is down; I can only offer blue milk.”
Owen nods. “I’ll take some if you can spare it.”
He can. He takes his time pouring it, hoping that it’ll give Owen time to calm down. It doesn’t, because he winds himself up further instead.
Ben sighs, quiet and to none but himself, and brings the blue milk to the kitchen table. It’s old and rickety and he hasn’t had the energy to fix it since he got it. He hopes Owen isn’t offended by the lackluster hospitality. He hasn’t entertained visitors other than the occasional escaped slave in… a very long time.
“So,” he says, when it seems that Owen’s got no intention of starting the conversation himself. “What’s all this about?”
Owen looks down at his cup, turning it between his palms. He doesn’t look much younger than Ben, in that moment, though he knows there’s a good ten years between them. He’s tired and anxious and worn down. They both are. “Beru said she heard some rumors. Wanted to figure how much of it’s true before I went asking around.”
Vague, still. “There’s plenty of rumors. I’m guessing you intend to inquire after rumors about me? Or rumors that I can confirm are true or false, which could be… well, any number of things, I suppose.”
Owen grimaces. “These ones’re about you.”
“I see,” Ben says, hoping that it’ll prompt Owen into actually saying what he’s come to say.
It does, if not immediately. They sit in silence, Owen struggling to put the words together for whatever it is that he wants to say, and Ben waits. It’s probably not a difficult concept, but perhaps a delicate one. Owen’s not a stupid man, but he’s not quite used to being anything but direct about most topics, and the rest are ones that he’s put a lifetime into learning to be subtle about.
Blunt honesty does not a freedom trail make.
“Beru said that, back in your war,” Owen starts, and Ben bites back an instinctive it wasn’t mine, “you were, er… involved. With more’n just women.”
Owen won’t meet his eyes. That’s fine. Ben can talk enough for both of them. “The war didn’t exactly leave time for relationships, Owen. My interests were varied, if you’re asking after my orientation, but—”
“Could you try not talkin’ down to me?” Owen grouses. “You don’t need to dress it up, Kenobi.”
It hangs between them, ugly and unvarnished. It’s a minor accusation, as they go, but it’s not the first he’s gotten from Owen.
“I… find it easier to discuss these things with such language,” Ben says. “People tend to shy away from it, if I’m too blunt, or even be disgusted.”
Owen sighs. He still won’t meet Ben’s eyes. He’s still blaring out discomfort. “Listen, I just—those rumors Beru heard, about you gettin’ it on with men, they true? That’s just—that’s all I’m askin’.”
“Have you really entered my home solely to demand answers about my sexual orientation?” Ben asks, because it’s not the first time someone’s done so, but usually the someone in question was someone who wanted to sleep with him. “I don’t tend to entertain such questions from anyone that isn’t either looking to sleep with me, which I can quite certainly guess you are not, given that you are a married man who has made his disapproval for me quite clear, or people looking for advice, which… well, if that’s the case, I suppose we can chat about it, but I’m rather offended by the manner you’ve chosen—”
“It ain’t about me!” Owen finally snaps. “I’m here to figure somethin’ out, because I need to know, and Beru said she’d heard the rumors and I should just ask.”
Owen glares at him, frustrated and embarrassed and his words sink in.
Ben feels the blood drain from his face. “You—oh. Those rumors.”
Now Owen just looks annoyed. “What rumors do you think I’m talking about?”
The same rumors that had circulated half the galaxy throughout the clone wars, the ones that had been lobbied from dark corners by snickering politicians and jealous ‘fans,’ such as they were. The rumors that had given him nightmares, after he’d caught the edges of a few too-loud thoughts from people who didn’t realize he’d hear them. The rumors he’d actually gotten sick over.
“The—the—Owen, please tell me you don’t think I ever developed such a relationship with Anakin,” Ben begs. “I raised that boy, and I didn’t do it very well, given what he became, but I swear I never—”
“Wait, wait, what?” Owen asks, cutting him off. He looks confused and a bit sickened by that. “People—the hell?”
“That’s… not the rumors you came to ask about?” Ben questions, because the framing… he’d been sure it was about that.
“People said that?” Owen demands. “Hold on, the other thing can wait, why did people think you were sleepin’ with my stepbrother?”
Ben sinks back. Oh, he’s made things worse by saying anything at all. “It’s not… it’s nothing. Just people spreading lies for their own amusement.”
“Kenobi, I may not have known about this before, but I know now,” Owen stresses. “Tell me why people thought you were screwing Anakin, because that’s damn well got to do with where I was goin’.”
Ben puts his head in his hands. He feels Owen’s gaze on him, accusing, and tries to ignore it. “We were the faces of the war effort, a team. If we went into battle together, we won. We were like brothers. Close. Like I said, I’d half raised him. But people who saw us, they didn’t have that background. They didn’t know how our friendship had started. They just saw two Jedi Generals who acted closer, were closer, than most others. We weren’t unusually affectionate, but we were in the holonews more often than the others. I was known to be a flirt, and Anakin was keeping his marriage a secret, and people just… they put two and two together, and got five.”
He feels himself tearing up. Blast. He wipes at his eyes, and hopes Owen doesn’t ask about why he feels any right to cry over Anakin; he’s done so before. “I’m not going to feign humility; I know I was attractive when I was younger, and Anakin had his own share of admirers. People, even if they didn’t believe we were together, liked to imagine we were, and they talked about that, which muddled the waters when tabloids took someone’s fantasies as the truth. There was also propaganda, because some people did know he’d been my apprentice, and I know now that it was Sidious trying to undermine public trust in the Jedi, by implying that a master could… could ask such things of their student.”
Ben’s drained. Owen still isn’t talking, but he feels less aggressive, at least. Ben can’t bear to look at him, though, so he gets up and says, “I’m going to make some tea.”
“Tea first,” Ben orders. “Please.”
He bustles about, using what little water he has left and some of the milk to fill it out. He has a handful of teas that work well with bantha milk, ones he’s picked up in Anchorhead after finding out just how often he’d be down to milk instead of water. He’s gotten used to that, and the teas aren’t… well, they aren’t sapir, but they’re tea. He’s worked out the best ways to get something out of them, even if people tend to think he’s mad when he admits to drinking tea during the day, to boiling water and letting even the slightest bit escape as vapor.
Everyone has their little habits to keep their sanity. This is Ben’s.
“Here,” he says, voice low as he sets a cup and saucer in front of Owen. This one’s a Mirialan chai, though these days it’s mostly grown on an outer rim colony planet. He’s not sure if Owen’s ever had any, but it’s not uncommon in Hutt space. “Drink up.”
Owen takes a few sips before he speaks. Ben appreciates that. It’s good tea. “I shouldn’t have pressed. Not about that.”
“I don’t like talking about it,” Ben says carefully, “but I suppose if anyone has a right to ask…”
It would be Anakin’s family. Not that they were much of one, really; they’d only met once, that Ben knew of. They were family, though, and Owen would have cared for Shmi and Luke’s sakes, and for whatever this reflected about Ben himself. If there’d been even a hint of truth to the rumors, Ben’s sure that Owen would have opted to be even more stringent about keeping him away from Luke.
Might have just tried to shoot him where he sat, actually.
“I believe you,” Owen says, after some more awkward silence. “And, listen, I just… you were sleeping with men, then? You know how that all goes?”
Ben laughs mirthlessly. “Yes, I do know how that all goes, as you put it. I was adventurous as a younger man, and had a longer relationship with… well, he’s likely dead now, but we’d been students together. Another Jedi, bit older than me. A scoundrel, or inasmuch as a loyal Jedi can be. Or… well, could be.”
Owen continues to look uncomfortable. “Right. That’s… right. Reason I’m askin’ is, well, some of the kids in Luke’s circle, they’re getting’ to be about that age, yeah?”
“And if one of them wants advice, well, I can give The Talk for boys who like girls, and Beru can do the reverse, and most of the parents can do the same,” Owen keeps talking, apparently hoping to explain himself without getting sidelined into another deeply awkward and questionably stable tangent, “and we can all say to just be careful and ask if the other partner ain’t human, but if one of the boys is likin’ other boys, and wants to do all that… well, he won’t know what he wants, right?”
Yes, that’s about the shape of it.
“I’m surprised you considered asking me at all,” Ben says instead. “You haven’t made your distaste for me as a person a secret, Owen Lars.”
“Beru’s got a cousin up a ways, but he’s days away,” Owen explains. “Ain’t nobody closer that knows all this ‘cept you. I won’t trust the holonet, and it’s… it’s more than just the physical stuff, isn’t it? There’s a culture, and knowin’ how to avoid the guys who’ll punch instead of just turnin’ a guy down.”
Ben is almost amused. Not quite. It says a lot, that Owen’s going this far to try and make sure that… well, probably Luke, if the man’s putting in this much effort. It’s nothing new, that the Lars care for their nephew, but it warms his heart anyway.
“I’d be happy to have such a conversation with any who need it,” he says. “Though some may not be willing to listen or believe that the crazy old hermit was ever quite so free with his body as I was.”
Owen looks at him, suspicious. “You weren’t always a hermit. Everyone knows you came here with war scars. Nobody asks, but we all know you had another life fifteen years ago. Beru and I may be the only ones who know what you were, but everyone—”
“Owen,” Ben says, trying to be gentle, “I meant that I was an absolute slut, and none of them are going to believe I was ever good-looking enough to pull in quite the number of partners I had.”
The expression is still suspicious. “…just how many are we talking, here?”
Ben smiles. “I was a curious young man, and I spent quite some time traveling the galaxy. A truly wild youth, some might say.”
“That’s… not an answer.”
“Well, I did lose count by, oh, my early twenties,” Ben says, a little bemused at Owen’s befuddled horror. “Goodness knows there were enough bathroom blow—”
“I don’t need to hear more,” Owen rapidly cuts him off.
Ben laughs at him. It’s not a very loud laugh, and it’s a bit creaky with how little reason he’s had to use it recently, but it’s still a laugh. “You did ask. Twice, if you count your comment about me not answering properly.”
“And I already regret it,” Owen mutters. He stands, tea mostly-finished with only a few soggy leaves and spices at the bottom of the cup. “I should… get going.”
Ben almost teases him, almost says Oh, but we were just getting to know each other, and refrains. He’s pushed his luck enough today, he thinks. He just nods, and shows Owen to the door, and bids him adieu.
He makes another cup of hot milk tea, and meditates ‘til morn.
Beru knows her husband well enough to guess that the meeting with Ben went well, but also very likely went incredibly oddly. Owen’s quiet and a little distracted, and she thinks it better not to ask until he’s had a little time to process whatever it is.
Unfortunately, Luke does not have her restraint, and asks Owen what happened right out.
“Had a conversation with Ben Kenobi today,” Owen says with a very neutral tone, which is enough to grab what little of Luke’s attention wasn’t already on his uncle. “Went to some… strange places.”
“What kind of strange?” Luke presses. Beru goes to tell him to lay off, but Owen answers before she can.
“He told me that he used to be, in his own words, ‘an absolute slut,’ and when I asked what he meant, he told me he’d lost count.” Owen pokes at his meat, not quite seeing it. “I left after that.”
Luke stares at him, confusion and fascinated horror dripping off of him. “We’re talking about crazy Ben, right? The hermit? He told you that, and you believed him?”
Owen looks at his nephew, and then at Beru. He seems very lost.
“Well,” Beru says, and doesn’t say anything about not judging people by how they look, because Luke’s judging by far more, and much of what he’s judging by was told to him by Owen, so it won’t ring true for her to talk on that, “I do remember what he looked like when he first arrived. He was quite handsome, even nearing forty. I don’t find it hard to imagine he might have been very popular in his youth, before the suns got to him, and, well…”
She makes a little gesture that both her boys read as ‘a little touched in the head.’
Owen grimaces where Luke can’t see. He knows as well as she does how much of that is just a truly horrifying amount of grief, but they won’t say as much, either of them. Not in front of Luke. Ben’s entitled to his privacy, especially given what kind of hell the empire would rain down, if the wrong words were to reach the wrong ears.
The man’s had enough of all that.
“I mean, I guess,” Luke says, with the odd expression only a teenager could really make. “But what were you even talking about for that to come up?”
Owen stiffens at that, glancing at Beru for support, and in hope that she’ll take over. She does, if only because her poor husband’s had enough difficult conversations today.
“Your uncle and I were talking about a cousin of mine a few days away. The man’s been halfway married to another man for, oh, near a decade now. We realized that if any of the boys your age found themselves in the same situation, none of us really know enough about what it’s like for them to actually talk you through it,” Beru explains, hoping Luke hears a general ‘you’ instead of a ‘you’ that is very much pointed at him. “I remembered some things I’d heard about Ben and, well, I know he’s a bit odd, but he’s kind and… well, I heard he used to get around, and I trust him to not to hurt anyone who isn’t outright trying to kill him.”
Luke’s staring at his tubers now, a flush high in his cheeks. He’s not hiding what he’s got on his mind very well, but she won’t comment. Owen won’t, either. They’ve put their thoughts on the table, so to speak, and all that’s left is for them to wait for Luke to come around.
“So, um, Ben said he had been with men?” Luke asks. He’s not the slightest bit subtle.
Owen’s expression grows pained, eyes focused on the wall behind Luke. “More than a few, apparently. At least one was long-term. Like I said, I left before there were more details.”
“Oh,” Luke says. “And you guys think he’s a good person to go to for advice? I mean, um, if one of my friends talks about liking boys.”
Not subtle at all.
Ah well. They’ve got good hearts, and that’s what matters. It’s why she married Owen, after all.
“Better him than a stranger in a cantina,” Owen declares, which is damning by faint praise, but at least it doesn’t suggest that Owen and Beru have other, secret reasons to trust Ben with Luke’s safety.
“Cool,” Luke says, and then doesn’t talk about the subject again for a while.
Luke comes home one afternoon, looking as shocked as Owen had.
When Beru asks, Luke just says, “there were… diagrams?”
She presses, and he elaborates. “He talked about muscle tears. And infections. Not just sexual infections, but urinary tracts and why plasts are important for anal, and so is cleaning out. And then he explained how prostate stimulation is sexual, but that form of stimulation can incidentally help someone check for cancerous growths and infections by feel. There were charts.”
Well, Beru supposes Ben was a real, proper teacher, once upon a time. It seems the habits stuck with him.
Luke stares at the floor a bit longer, and then says, “Aunt Beru, I think I like boys.”
“I thought so,” she says, not at all commenting on how he’s been rather obvious about it. “Got your eyes on Biggs, right? He interested?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” Luke stares at the ground for a bit, lost in thought, and then says, “I asked Ben how to flirt with boys and he said it’s not much different from flirting with girls, except you can be more touchy about it if you know they’re into boys, since girls don’t feel as comfortable saying no ‘cause of societal pressures, and I told him I don’t know how to flirt with girls either, and he had an entire presentation about how to flirt with different species and different genders and… Aunt Beru, why did he have that?”
That’s an amazing question. Beru would love to know how Ben’s brain works, actually. She’s not entirely sure he’s put this much effort into anything since he came to Tatooine, except for keeping Luke safe. Maybe he considers this part of that duty. She wonders if she maybe should have put more effort into convincing Owen to give the man a chance, when he’d first arrived. He’s terrifyingly efficient.
“Well, he did know we might be sending some of you kids his way,” she hedges. “Were the charts helpful?”
Luke gestures vaguely. “Maybe? Some of them? The one about forms of protection made stuff clear, but I… I didn’t think crazy Ben was like that about it. Uncle Owen said he got around, not that he was all… academic about it.”
Beru very, very distantly recalls something about how Jedi were often scholars.
Without the Empire breathing down his neck, Ben could have easily become a professor somewhere, couldn’t he?
It would have suited him better than Tatooine.
“I think he was a teacher at some point,” Beru finally says. “Maybe he missed having students.”
Luke fiddles with his sleeve, frowning. “Do you think he wanted to work at the school? They always need more teachers that can trade off when it’s harvest time and half the staff goes off to work that instead.”
“I think… that he might have, once,” Beru hedges, “but Luke, you have to understand that Ben was a very, very broken man when he first arrived here. He lost a lot of people in the Clone War, and he was… unwell, for a very long time. I think he’d already established a reputation for being a little mad by the time he was well enough to teach again, and he thinks nobody would trust their children to his care, or that most of what he has to teach is not something the people of Tatooine would find useful.”
Luke has… some trouble tracking that. “He was Core before, right? Their math and aurabesh can’t be that different, not so much he couldn’t teach the younglings. And all the Tatooine-specific stuff is taught by parents anyway, like vaporator maintenance and the like. What he can teach could still be useful. He definitely knows more about medical theory than any of the teachers out there right now.”
Unbidden, the memory of Ben’s broken voice saying even the younglings comes to Beru’s memory.
He hadn’t been talking about the Tuskens, which she and Owen had long since figured out. He’d been talking about the Jedi, about how Anakin had done it again.
“I think that if he hasn’t tried yet, then there’s likely a good reason,” she says, quiet and solemn in a way that even Luke manages to notice. “Ben’s got… he’s got a lot on his memory. Tatooine folk know how to deal with slave traumas, but what Ben’s got is a kind of shell shock we can’t relate to. I’m not sure even your gran would have been able to.”
Luke’s only got the faintest edges of story when it comes to Shmi Skywalker, but Owen’s always emphasized how compassionate and preternaturally perceptive the woman had been. A slave for over thirty years, and she’d still traded her own chance at freedom to get others off of Tatooine. The first person to greet and calm and comfort the runaways that passed through the Lars farm, while she’d been alive. The most successful at it, too.
“You think?” Luke asks, after he processes just how severe Beru thinks the issue is.
“I do, dear.” And stars help them all, she doesn’t know if there’s anyone alive that could help Ben.
The Jedi are all dead, after all.
All he really has left is Luke.
Once a month or so, Luke goes up to Ben’s hut with some groceries and the intent to exchange enough words that he can assure Beru of Ben’s continued sanity, such as it is. This has been going on for years, since Luke was old enough to be trusted with the trip, and has been decidedly awkward for the past few months. Luke just keeps thinking about the cheerily clinical descriptions of erogenous zones and their risks of injury.
Luke hadn’t known what rectal tearing was, before. He does, now. He wishes he could scrub the knowledge from his brain.
He’s got a weird feeling as he brings the speeder to a stop, and it takes a moment to figure out that it’s because there’s another speeder outside Ben’s hut. It’s not a speeder her recognizes, either, which means it’s nobody from town or nearby, unless they got a new bike. Ben doesn’t exactly get visitors other than Luke, and he’s a little concerned.
He knocks on the door, and he’s not sure, with the wind and sand and all the desert noises being what they are, but he thinks he hears some muffled swearing and a thump.
“Ben?” he calls through. “You alright? Aunt Beru sent me over with some groceries!”
He waits, wondering if maybe he should have brought the rifle in case the visitor is actually some random spacer who thought Ben might have something worth stealing; he doesn’t, ‘cept for the educational datapads, which are all about sex ed and very hated by Luke. He tenses, and then the door swings open to reveal the man himself. He’s rumpled and red-faced, in what appears to be a sleep robe, and Luke thinks he’s either embarrassed or ill or… drunk.
“…Ben?” Luke asks, not entirely sure which question to ask first. “You look kinda… flushed. Are you sick?”
“I’m perfectly fine,” Ben says, oddly high pitched. He runs a hand back and over his hair. Luke’s worry inches higher. “Er, now isn’t the best time—”
“Are you drunk?” Luke asks. “Uncle Owen said—”
“I’m not drunk,” Ben hisses. “I’m just—it really isn’t a good time, young one, I’m just—”
Ben cuts off as a dark, well-muscled arm drapes over his shoulders. The arm is attached to an equally dark, equally well-muscled chest, and the head of this particular being fine and chiseled, with a striking tattoo and dark eyes, framed with locs that are only just starting to go grey. The stranger is very, very handsome, even if he’s probably at least three times Luke’s age.
Ben curses under his breath, elbowing the stranger in the ribs. The stranger ignores him, and holds out one hand—wow, those callouses—to Luke with a smile that could light up a whole town. “Hey kid, you must be Luke. Call me Quin.”
“Um, I mean, uh—hi?” Luke manages, dragging his eyes up from the extraordinarily nice forearm to the man’s face. He shakes the hand. He takes a few seconds to remember to let go. “I mean. It’s nice to meet you?”
There’s movement in the corner of his eye. It’s Ben, palming his face in frustration. “Quin, you were supposed to stay back.”
“And risk not meeting the kid you keep talking about? For shame, Obi,” the man teases. He’s got an afternoon shadow, and he makes it look good. Luke wonders what it feels like. Even Biggs isn’t growing hair like that yet, and he’s two years older than Luke. “It’s almost like you want to keep me your dirty little secret.”
“We’re not seventeen anymore,” Ben says, voice dry. “And don’t call me that.”
The man—Quin, apparently—rolls his eyes. “You’ve been telling me not to call you that since we were nine. Have I ever, in my life, listened to you?”
“I was hoping you might start.”
Quin laughs. It’s full-bodied and rich, head thrown back and leaning onto Ben. It’s a very nice laugh, and Luke maybe wants to keep listening to it for a while.
“So, um… you’re an old friend of Ben’s?” Luke asks. “It’s just, he hasn’t had any visitors before. I didn’t think…”
“I’ve spent the past fifteen years thinking the poor bastard had died in a ditch somewhere,” Quin informs him. “You just managed to walk in on a reunion of two very, very old friends.”
Ben rolls his eyes. It’s fascinating, really. He’s so calm and casual and irritated; it’s like he’s a completely different person. Luke wonders if Ben might have been more like this before he came to Tatooine, and before whatever happened in the Clone War that broke him so badly he’d decided to come here of all places.
“Quin and I have known each other since we were, oh, about five or six. Friends since about ten,” Ben explains. There’s a soft fondness in his eyes when he looks down and away, reminiscing, that Luke doesn’t think he’s seen before. Such things always seem to hurt, with Ben. “It’s… like a miracle, running into him again.”
“You old sop,” Quin chides, reaching up with his free hand in what appears to be an attempt to pinch Ben’s cheek. His hand is slapped away before it makes contact.
“Who are you calling old? I distinctly remembered you lording over me that you were a whole fifteen months older than me,” Ben sniffs.
“Yes, when we were eleven,” Quin grouses, and Luke doesn’t know if they’re aware of how Quin is sliding his hand into the collar of Ben’s robes to feel at his shoulder, but—
Quin withdraws his hand from Ben’s chiding smack. “You wound me, Kenobi.”
“You’ll get over it,” Ben dismisses.
Luke watches them in fascination. “So you two are, you know…”
“More than friends? We have been, intermittently,” Ben explains. Quin smirks, plants a kiss on the man’s cheek, and gets pushed away with a palm to the face for his trouble. “Though I regularly ask myself why I bother.”
“Because I’m hot and we’ve got history,” Quin croons, laughing when Ben irritably swipes at him again. “Oh, come off it. You could have just gotten married thirty years ago and skipped all the drama. Or fifteen years ago, when she asked you again.”
“Who did?” Luke asks, eager for more information on Ben and his life before Tatooine.
“A duchess,” Quin informs him, eager in a way that is clearly not to Ben’s liking. “They were head over heels for each other for the longest time, and she was… not uninfluential.”
A duchess. A duchess. Ben had been cool enough and hot enough to almost marry a duchess?
“I’ll thank you to stop sharing information,” Ben says, elbowing the other man. “Luke, you… Quin’s made some enemies in the past fifteen years. You can tell Beru and Owen, that’s fine, but please don’t tell anyone Quin visited, or the information he’s shared about my past, for your own safety. If people know I’m here…”
“They might try to use you as a hostage against him?” Luke asks, excited despite himself. It’s like a spy adventure. He’s almost sixteen, so this the coolest thing he’s ever been involved in.
“…something like that,” Ben says, which is certainly part of an answer, but Beru’s been stressing that Ben’s got enough on his mind without Luke digging. Ben shrugs Quin off and steps back, finally inviting Luke inside. Luke steps back to grab the groceries he’d come to deliver in the first place, and tries not to look too interested in the way the adults hiss to each other in a language he doesn’t understand, in part because wow is Quin’s back is just as nice as his—
Luke’s shoulder cracks against a doorframe. He hopes they didn’t notice.
(They definitely noticed.)
(Ben is covering a smile.)
(Quin isn’t even trying to hide his.)
Luke has probably gotten the flush out of his cheeks by the time he backs out of Ben’s kitchen—just as shabby as the last few times he’s been in, though there’s a new-ish kettle on the counter—and finds Quin grabbing at Ben’s face and making mocking coos at him. It’s kind of sweet, in an old person way. It’s a little weird.
“You look doubtful,” Quin comments, eyeing Luke with something like interest, past the amusement. “What is it that you’re doubting?”
“Just…” Luke gestures and, embarrassed, admits what he’s been thinking. “You seem really out of Ben’s league.”
Quin starts laughing again, and Ben looks something between resigned and offended. He rubs at his face with one hand, which Luke thinks is probably a bad sign.
“You’re sweet,” Quin tells him. “But trust me, Kenobi here was quite the looker twenty years ago. Not as good as me, of course, but—”
“Remind me what Siri and Lumi decided when they started ranking all the boys in our cl—age group?”
“That Siri was biased because she was still a little in love with you?”
“She wasn’t, and they didn’t, and I won,” Ben accuses, tweaking one of Quin’s ears. “Don’t twist the results, darling.”
“Don’t deny you were breaking hearts, sweetie.”
Luke latches on to that. “How many hearts have you broken, Ben? It sounds like a lot.”
“That’s—I did not,” Ben defends, immediately flustered. “You—Quin, stop laughing.”
“Shan’t,” Quin taunts. “He broke so many, young Skywalker. So many.”
“I am going to bury you out back,” Ben comments, entirely mild. “No hesitation.”
“Basement garden would be better, I’d feed the crops that way.”
Have they always been like this? Luke hopes so. They’re funny, and it’s weird in a good way to see Ben actually relaxing and enjoying someone’s company.
Luke wonders if he’ll ever have a chance at that. He thinks so. He’s still young, but Ben’s proof that someone can find love even in the desert, right? And Ben’s life has been utter kark, but that’s got almost nothing to do with his sexuality, probably. And Aunt Beru’s cousin was proof, too, but it’s different to see someone just… in a relationship, or something like one, and happy about it.
Luke’s lost track of the conversation. Quin is flexing and alternately squeezing Ben’s lax bicep and his own, and Luke thinks he’s going to combust. A man in his… what, fifties? Ben’s about that age, right? So Quin is too. A man that age has no right to be that attractive.
Luke takes a sip of the water he’d been given, and misses his mouth.
Stop staring, dummy, he chastises himself.
“Um, I should go,” he says, because he thinks he’s made enough of a fool of himself for one day. “I’ll, um, I’ll come by again sometime?”
He manages to escape with a minimum of pleasantries after that, if only because they apparently take pity on him, and makes his way home. Beru finds him sitting on the couch, staring at the ceiling, and asks what’s wrong as Owen washes up in the kitchen sink.
“I met Ben’s boyfriend,” Luke says, and the bustling noises from the other room cease.
“Oh?” Beru asks, artificially light. “I didn’t know he had one.”
“Apparently they’ve known each other since they were kids and they both thought the other was dead for… I dunno, since Ben came to Tatooine, I guess?” Luke doesn’t look to see his aunt and uncle’s faces about that. “They were cute. The guy’s name is Quin and I think he’s Kiffar.”
He’s got amazing muscles, and I walked into a doorframe because I couldn’t stop staring.
“I didn’t realize… well, it’s a good thing he’s found someone he cares about from back then,” Beru decides.
“Apparently Ben used to break a lot of hearts,” Luke continues, because they said he can only tell Beru and Owen, and he needs someone else to know. “And he almost married a duchess. Twice.”
“Like they said no and then she asked him again ten years later and he said no again?” Luke’s still not sure about that particular order of operations, but they were pretty clear about that. “I told them that Quin seemed out of Ben’s league. He laughed at me and Ben was just tired about, it like he’s been dealing with it for way long and he’s used to it.”
“Luke. You know saying that was rude.”
He raises his head to look at her. “Yeah, but they didn’t care.”
“You know better,” Beru scolds.
“But he was!” Luke protests.
Beru pins him with a look, and then snaps a towel at the cupboards. “Set the table, we’ll talk about your behavior after dinner.”
He sets the darn table.