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DISCLAIMER: None of the characters, plot-lines, or settings alluded or stated in this story belong in any way to me. I intend no copyright infringement nor am I writing this for anything other than pure enjoyment. No money is to be made off anything written here.
CATEGORY/TIMELINE: Old Republic: Set some 14 years before Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope.
TEASER: With Young Luke Skywalker trying to come to terms the his newfound
growing abilites he runs into trouble not only with his uncle but some
uninvited guests. Help, however comes from the most unexpected, and to
some the most unwelcome source of all.
Luke Skywalker did not know what woke him.
He opened his eyes and sat up on his thin mattress and scanned his darkened room with its whitewashed walls warily. The distant hum of the electron fence outside pervaded his senses above the hush of desert night and he knew if he ventured from his warm comfortable spot in bed to his bedroom door he'd hear the steady sound of his uncle and aunt breathing.
No, there was nothing wrong. Nothing that could have woken him.
Easing back down and pulling his worn and soft blanket tight over his head he prepared to bury back into sleep until the twin suns of Tatooine dawned when he suddenly heard it again.
Without thinking Luke bolted out of bed to stand barefoot on the woven mat the covered the stone floor of his tiny room. He blinked once and shook his head. Heard was not quite right, he thought to himself. More like felt, like a shiver up his spine. He shifted from one foot to another, ears and eyes straining in the night, the scent of the dried reeds of the floor mat Aunt Beru had made filling the air.
Luke wanted to go back to bed. It had been a long day helping Uncle Owen with the vaporators. He was only just six but his stern guardian insisted that he start learning the family business now. Vaporators, droids, moisture caches; his head fairly swam at the end of the day. All of this for the elusive promise of harvest once a year, just enough to get by on until next harvest.
Anyway his uncle didn't like it when he *heard* things. His face would darken and his voice would become a brusque growl and sometimes he would shout at Luke who stood there not understanding what was so wrong about what he did.
He wanted to go back to bed take refuge in his dreams that offered him some small measure of control over his life. He'd been having his favorite one where he was a star pilot. It was so real to him that if he closed his eyes and concentrated enough Luke could swear he could feel the vessel moving, guided by his hands. Sometimes the ship was a land speeder instead and Luke would dart across the dunes, wind streaming past him as he hit the accelerator. And sometimes, if he was lucky he'd be racing through Beggar's Canyon in his dream, banking and twisting and turning as he left his opponents behind and breezed through the flats the way his friend Biggs Darklighter had described the races at Mos Espa. His uncle disliked his almost habitual daydreaming almost as much as he disapproved of Luke *hearing* or knowing things without explanation. And the last thing he wanted was his uncle mad at him. *There was nothing out there, nothing wrong* he scolded himself reaching to pull back his blanket and crawl under the covers once again. *Nothing that could--*
Luke dropped the blanket as if he'd been stung by an electroprod. Something *was* there. A *something* outside. He was sure of it.
Instinctively he fumbled for his boots slipping them on quickly and letting his fingertips and memory guide him down the hall past his uncle and aunt's bedroom in silence. Luke's first breath of night air was already chilled. It couldn't be past midnight, the moons were still rising casting a luminous blue glow to the sands. Climbing up out of the subterranean courtyard Luke shivered slightly as he stared out across the expanse of never-ending desert.
He wasn't really sure what he was looking for, or why he was even outside. If his uncle found him, he'd have more than a little explaining to do, there'd be hell to pay as Owen was fond of saying, but Luke had no answers, not even to satisfy himself. He turned a slow circle searching the darkness. If he had macro binoculars of his own, liked he'd asked for for his recent sixth birthday but had failed to receive, the silent night observation would have been easier. As it was Luke considered himself lucky if his Uncle let him even hold the pair he had. He could almost feel the smooth weighted casing in his small hands, where he would hang it on his belt . . .
*There it was again!* Luke snapped around suddenly taking a few steps toward the east, closer to the humming electron fence he could not see but could *feel* was there as the hairs on the back of his neck pricked. He rubbed them ruefully and then his head as if he could somehow scratch the nagging itch he felt oddly, relentlessly tickling the inside of his skull. It was almost like . . .
"Sand People." he murmured absently as the desert seemed to grow even stiller in the night. It took only a moment for the young boy to realize what that meant. "Uncle Owen! Uncle Owen!" Luke yelled as he stumbled back towards the stairs at the edge of the pit. Practically tumbling down them he scrambled back inside calling for his uncle and aunt.
He ran blindly into something in the darkness of the entryway, eyes accustomed to the moonlight outside. Luke tried to jump away in fright but a heavy hand held him fast and hard.
"What in blue blazes is wrong with you Luke?!" His uncle roared.
A light was suddenly switched on and Luke shut his eyes as the stabs of color filled his vision and flinched at the sound of his uncle's voice. How could he explain without getting into trouble?
"What were you doing outside?! It's the middle of the night!"
"Fence is down!" the words tumbled out in a rush almost unintelligible. "East side . . . sand people, raiders!" Luke gulped in a breath of air, as he stared from his uncle to his Aunt Beru who stood in her bedroom door, a shawl wrapped around her narrow shoulders.
Owen Lars' anger faded quickly and he swiftly took charge of the conversation again and halted the boy's frantic babbling. "You sure Luke? You saw them?" he asked his nephew, suddenly all business, crouching down in front of the blond boy.
"The fence is down! I can't hear it anymore!" Luke insisted "They're coming!"
Owen looked back at his wife, suddenly unsure. Luke followed his uncle's gaze and saw sparks of fear in his aunt's eyes. Relieved that his guardians seemed to believe him he tugged on his uncle's hand. "Uncle Owen what should we do?"
The man stood, his eyes never leaving those of his wife's. "We'll Luke," he began slowly "we'll go check it out. If there's trouble--"
"There *is* trouble!" Luke persisted feeling a little worried by his uncle's sudden lack of action. Owen was not a man that spent much time pondering things. He arrived at his decision quickly and logically without "emotional entanglement." It was a harsh environment on Tatooine and there was little time for dreaming and dallying. At least that's what Owen was always telling him.
The man turned back to his nephew, eyes filled with something Luke didn't understand. Owen regarded the boy for a moment before setting his mouth into a tight light, jaw clenched, displeasure filling his eyes. Luke's heart sank and he knew that no matter what happened, he was in trouble. If only he could figure out *why.*
"Let's go," he urged pushing the boy towards the old, practically archaic comm unit near the kitchen. "Stay here and get dressed." he said to his wife quickly. Beru nodded and ducked back into her room even as Owen grabbed his only blaster rifle, something that resembled the gaffe sticks the Tuskans used. Its powerpack had barely been used since Owen acquired the weapon and he had no spare. Keying the comm he already found several messages from the Darklighters and several other neighboring moisture farmers warning of Sand People on the move.
The Tuskan Raiders were a tribal people who roamed the dunes and guarded them jealously. They raided on a regular basis, shooting and attacking anything that came too close, stealing what they needed from the human settlers around Anchorhead. Much bolder than the scavenging Jawas, they could and had killed settlers before just as the human community had killed Tuskans. It was a mutual animosity that was a part of life on Tatooine; not all out war, but enough skirmishes to keep things interesting.
Not bothering to reply to the messages, Owen headed for the garage and workshop and quickly interpreted the results of the flashing lights of the small readout and squawks from the attending droids. "The eastern fence is down." He murmured concurring with his nephew in astonishment. He looked down into Luke's blue eyes feeling more than a little uneasy, and it had nothing to do with the impending Tuskan threat.
"Stick close Luke," he finally ordered gruffly as he tightened his grip on his weapon as they headed out to take a look. As Owen stalked through the small living area of their subterranean dwelling he grabbed his macro binoculars off the table. He quickly slipped the binocs from their soft hide casing and shoved them unceremoniously into Luke's hands without missing a stride. "You keep lookout and I'll keep them out until the droids can get the electron fence back up."
Beru watched them go in silence nodding reassuringly as Luke glanced back at her before he followed his uncle outside. She sighed, rubbing her forehead with one tired hand. She worried for her husband and for Luke. The sand people could be deadly, but at the moment it was not that she feared most.
She had tried to dismiss Luke's strange behavior as flukes as Owen had, not wanting, not willing to believe the only other damning explanation. Since he'd been walking-- a skill the boy had learned with remarkable and accelerated ease --odd circumstances and coincidences had followed Luke. Like the time he had known exactly where to find the power wrench Owen had been searching for for days. Or how Luke always knew when the Jawas were coming to trade, even which direction their large land mover would approach from. And last harvest, last harvest it was Luke not Owen who knew when and where the desert would bloom first. Little things, big things such as how quickly he picked up his letters and reading as if pulling the information out of thin air, teaching himself; all that added up to something Beru didn't want to think about, something Owen denied vehemently. He had accused Luke of hiding the power wrench and seemed to grow more harsh and gruffer with every occurrence of his nephew's abnormal talents as if scoldings and rough words could somehow beat back the tide.
It was a futile as raging against an impending sandstorm but nothing would shake Owen. Beru knew that after this particular incident with the Tuskans had been dealt with Luke would be given the scolding of his life, more chores, more responsibilities, and less affection and consideration from his uncle. And Luke would simply nod and say "yes sir" while his blue eyes filled with confusion and sadness as he retreated deeper into his own little world.
Oh yes she knew about her nephew's unspoken dreams. They radiated from his eyes, distant and star-filled, brighter than the suns and somehow more real because of his gifts. Her heart ached for the boy she had taken in as her son knowing the difficult road before him that had been practically preordained since the moment of his conception. Owen's behavior simply did not help matters.
If only she could somehow explain to Luke that what her husband did was not out dislike but out of fear and concern as any parent would, fear that the boy would irrevocably be drawn down the dark path his father had taken years ago because of his talent, because of the *Force.*
Owen peered over the edge of the pit from the top stair, sighting along his gun in the darkness eastward.
"The fence is still down." Luke whispered anxiously as brushed his blond bangs off his forehead. He raised the macro binoculars to his eyes. He scanned the east slowly, remembering his uncle's words not to move to quickly with the binocs. At first he couldn't see anything but then a familiar lumbering shadow with its rider perched effortlessly on its back moved into view.
"What do you see?" Owen prodded his nephew.
"Banthas and riders."
His uncle grunted under his breath. "Filthy raiders." he spat. "Those droids better get that fence up or we'll have trouble." With his free hand he motioned Luke down several stairs so that he was better protected by the wall, out of sight, and hopefully out of danger.
Luke held still, trying not to fidget, hands clasping tight around his knees as his uncle took the macro binoculars away to see the view for himself. He must have cast a shadow in the moonlight because a shot suddenly rang out over the dunes. Owen wasted no time returning fire shoving the binocs back into his nephew's hands. His uncle hit his targets; howls of pain filled the still air and Banthas let out long mournful bellows in response.
"Luke go help your Aunt! Go on now!" Owen ordered over the ringing shots. "Go on!" he shouted when Luke hesitated. "We need that fence up!"
"Do as you're told boy!" Owen shouted in response shoving Luke none too gently on his way. For the second time in one night, Luke stumbled down the steps and dashed inside the house.
"Aunt Beru! Uncle Owen says we need the electron fence up right now!" The boy reported in an anxious rush as he plowed into the garage.
Beru wheeled around and knelt down to her nephew's level. "Luke go tell your uncle that we can only get the fence up from the generator room."
"But the Sand People--"
"Just go! And be careful." She said with quiet insistence running her hand quickly through his mop of sandy blond hair.
Luke nodded, his hands tucked the binocs securely on his belt as hurried out of the room back to his uncle as fast as his legs could go. He was halfway across the subterranean compound when he skidded to a halt. The generator was on the north side above the sunken courtyard. He glanced up at his uncle who seemed to be holding his own out of sheer determination against the Sand People and then back at the white moonlit walls of the generator room. Indecision paralyzed him for a moment but only for a moment. Luke pushed it firmly aside followed his instincts and sprinted up the stairs on the north face of the courtyard and ducked into the generator room even as the Tuskan weapons turned on him. White and beige clothing may have been a sensible color in the desert but on nights such as this it was more than inconvenient, it was life threatening.
Bumbling into several pieces of machinery he knocked over at least one tool box with a crash before he calmed his thoughts and actions enough to scramble around in the dim lighting to the generator controls. Luke scanned the panel frantically trying to remember how to turn on the electron fence. He reached up for one of the levers and then pulled back quickly before actually touching it.
"Wrong one." he muttered to himself absently. For a moment the sounds of roaring Sand People broke his concentration but he ruthlessly focused once again. *That one? No, *that* one!*
Luke grabbed the lever and started to push it up to restart the electron cycle that would raise the east fence, but he was too short and even on tiptoe with his arm outstretched he couldn't push it all the way up to lock into place. He strained again, tried jumping but there was no way he could even touch it. He quickly whirled around desperate to find something to stand on, but there was nothing that he could possibly lift closer. The whine of his Uncle's blaster rifle was fading in pitch, there was no more time.
Extending his fingertips up again Luke screwed his eyes tight shut, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he vainly reached for the lever.
The muscles in his arms began to protest at the strain but Luke ignored them trying to ease the stubborn thing just a bit *higher . . .*
With a snap and whirring sound the generator began the recycle sequence and the electron fence sprang to life. Letting out a surprised laugh and a little cheer, Luke grinned.
Ducking out the door Luke glanced over to his Uncle on the other side of the courtyard pit driving the Tuskans back. Scrambling to join him, the boy didn't notice the Raider that had circled around behind Owen while the fence was down until the robed man turned on him.
Letting out a yelp of fear Luke backpedaled so quickly from the Raider he fell with a teeth jarring thump onto the sand. The Tuskan raised his gaffe stick and howled. Petrified Luke nearly didn't dodge in time.
"Luke! RUN!" his uncle's voice commanded as the blaster turned on his attacker. Not wasting a second the terrified boy bolted, heart pounding in fear hearing and feeling the footsteps of the Tuskan right behind him. Shots sounded again to the left of him and then the right, but Luke did not look back as he zigzagged haphazardly. He came up to the electron fence but did not slow. As it was cycling he dashed through in the split second it was down. The Tuskan followed but was caught in the field and was fried in the backlash letting out a scream of agony. Luke wheeled around eyes wide as he watched the unfortunate raider's body crackle and jerk like some broken doll before being thrown back towards his uncle. The Tuskan's pain seemed to fill the dry air until he could practically taste it on his lips. Shaking his head in frantic denial of the horrible sight that filled his mind he turned and continued running, plowing forward unheedingly. From behind him he though he heard his uncle's voice, but Luke did not look back.
Panicked Luke found that he could do nothing but run out into the dunes, slipping and sliding in the loose sand, fleeing as far away as he could from the Sand People with their gaffe sticks and that horrible howling death cry that seemed to echo in his mind so loudly he couldn't think. Clutching his hands to his ears as if he could block it out and sobbing he stumbled across the gritty ground that had long since given up its heat. The wind picked up but he didn't feel the cold, he only knew that he had to run, and keep running and then maybe the screaming in his head would stop.
He didn't know how long he kept up his frantic hysterical unthinking flight, it all seemed to pass by him in a blur as he raced along, chest clenched tight, breath ragged. At some point some part of the frightened boy realized that it was getting darker and colder as deep starlit night approached, but Luke didn't care.
At long last exhaustion and his footing conspired to betrayed him and Luke went tumbling down a dune. He rolled head over heels finally sliding down to the bottom of the hill landing hard on the macro binoculars, the lense fracturing, cutting deep into his arm. Not really knowing why tears streamed down his face, partly from physical pain, but most from the screaming hole that he felt in the back of his mind that he couldn't explain, that scared him deeply. Sobbing he pounded the sand in frustration wishing it would just *stop!*
And suddenly it did.
The wrenching hole in his mind, the lancing pain, the howls that still rang in his ears vanished, evaporated as if they'd never existed.
The silence was somehow more deafening, more profound and for a moment Luke simply held still, not daring to draw in air, waiting . . .
A hand touched his shoulder lightly and inexplicably the wracking sobs that shook his small frame stopped. "Breathe Luke, breathe." An unfamiliar voice instructed gently and the boy hurriedly tried to fill his lungs, coughing and gasping as he worked around the pain in his chest. The hand shifted to pat him solicitly on the back while the voice murmured soothingly to him as he fought for breath.
As soon as he could Luke turned to regard the stranger in the darkness, blue eyes wide and wary. "Who--?" He managed to begin hoarsely.
"Shh. It's all right." The cloaked figure that knelt next to him helped him sit up. The movement was dizzying and Luke shook his head in an effort to clear it, trying to focus on the empty sensation that now filled his mind instead of the storm of pain. "You've come a long way from home Luke Skywalker." The voice, the man said kindly. "What would you be doing out here in the middle of the Dune Sea at night?"
"How-how do you know my name?" Luke asked in bewildered surprise as he tried to make out the face of his rescuer.
"I know your uncle, Owen Lars." The cowled man explained in a wry tone as if smiling at some private joke.
"You do?" Luke blinked slowly, his young mind trying to come to grips with the sudden change in his head, in his situation. It seemed almost like it was days ago that he had gone to bed, but it was still the same long night. "Who are you?"
The man seemed to hesitate for an instant at the question before answering as if looking for the right response. "Ben. Ben Kenobi." he said at last.
Luke seemed to ponder this for a moment, a searching frown on his flushed face before shaking his head. "I've never heard of you." he admitted honestly.
"I'm not surprised." Kenobi responded with a chuckle which faded into the wind as he turned his attention back to the boy. "What brings you out here my young friend? This can be a dangerous place even for the well prepared."
Recent events seemed to suddenly press to the forefront of his mind and Luke bit his lip wondering if the noise would start in his head again, deafening him. But there was no echo of the Tuskan's death cry, it was simply gone, not that he wanted to dwell on *that* particular missing piece. He glanced up at his rescuer in the dark and began to relate the night's events, the words spilling out as he went along. "I thought I fel-- *heard*" he corrected anxiously, expecting disapproval from the stranger "*heard* the electron fence fall, and the sand people-- and I told Uncle Owen and he got his blaster rifle and we went to look for them and he had to hold 'em off and Aunt Beru couldn't get it back up from the garage only from the generator room and--"
"Remember to breathe." Kenobi reminded him with a hand on his shoulder. Luke nodded but continued in the same hurried breathless manner much to the man's amusement.
"And so I went to the generator room and I couldn't reach the lever to push it up but then I guess somehow I did cause it started and I went out to help Uncle Owen and the-the raider was there from behind and h-he chased me and I tripped and then I ran through the fence a-and he followed but h-he . . ."
Luke's voice trailed off to a whisper and then nothing, but Ben Kenobi needed little else to understand what had driven the boy on his frantic flight across the dunes. Even now he kept a firm hand suppressing the boy's Force sense for fear the death pain of the Tuskan would drive him into hysterics once again. Luke had been deeply frightened and at the same time open wide to the Force in a way he hadn't before and the first thing he felt with his newly discovered ability was the violent death of another sentient creature. While this awakening had been shocking and painful there was no other way Luke could have made it through a cycling electron fence unscathed without being in tune with his gift. Indeed it was that sudden awareness of the Force that had called to the Jedi Knight from across Tatooine where he had lived in seclusion since placing Luke with Owen and Beru Lars nearly six years ago. Even now with the boy calmer and the mental anguish gone Ben Kenobi, once called Obi-Wan in certain galactic quarters, could feel the power within Luke stirring, freed quite suddenly after the night's hectic events and now seemed to pace back and forth eager to explore its world like any wild creature.
"I tripped, fell down and I ran through the fence a-and he was right behind me . . ." The boy tried again his whole body beginning to shake, remembering the awful sound that had pierced the night air the very way it had pierced his soul.
"It's all right. I know Luke, I know." Ben placed his hand on the boy's shoulders and squeezed gently, a physical reminder that he was no longer alone.
"But he got-- the fence . . ." Luke continued brokenly as if trying to expunge the experience from his heart by telling the story as he grabbed the robed man's arm so tightly Ben would have been surprised if he didn't leave bruises.
"Shh, quiet now." Obi-Wan put a low inflection into his voice. "Quiet . . . calm . . . It's over." Perhaps it was merely who was saying them or the method with which they were spoken but those few words were enough. The boy quieted and simply leaned his head against the stranger's shoulder, breathing deep ignoring the throbbing in his arm. They sat for a long moment in the meager shelter the dune offered from the night air before the robed man stirred to action. "It's late, let's go, son."
Luke's blue eyes snapped open in bewilderment as he sat up straight again. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"Well Luke," Ben turned quickly to look over his shoulder as if verifying his position amid the endless featureless dark. "We're actually closer to my home than yours." He got to his knees and chuckled lightly. "You ran a long way."
Luke ducked his head in shame. "I didn'tó I felt, *heard* --" he quickly amended, not wanting to upset this friend of his uncle's with his strange intuition.
A light hand brushed his brow bringing Luke's attention up sharply, and the voice turned serious, but surprisingly concerned not angry. Maybe even a little understanding. "You won't *hear* it anymore Luke, I promise."
Luke didn't know why but he suddenly felt as if great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. His mind still felt strangely blanketed but at least he knew that the screaming hole would not come back from wherever it came from. And his new acquaintance and rescuer didn't seem to mind that he *heard* things, he seemed to know exactly what Luke was talking about instead of getting angry and shouting. Kenobi smiled sadly in the darkness feeling the boy's relief as he lead them deeper into the waste towards home. Luke stumbled after the tall robed man sticking as close as possible, small hand clasped tightly in Ben's.
The wind picked up as darkness became absolute but somehow Kenobi led them unerringly forward, sight somehow unnecessary. At some point the robed man, the stranger that was as familiar as he was unfamiliar reached down and picked up the exhausted child in his arms. Luke instinctively clung close even as Obi-Wan wrapped his brown robe, once a symbol of his station around his young trembling charge. Luke rested his head on the Jedi's shoulders and drifted, feeling safe at last.
"Owen it's Obi-Wan."
"What do you want?" the curt and disgusted voice snapped back from the comm unit on the table.
Kenobi ignored the moisture farmer's surly tone. Their argument was a long one and wasn't going to be resolved any time soon. Besides the Jedi had other concerns right now. "I believe I found your nephew out in the dunes."
There was silence for a moment on the other side of the comm line before: "Is he with you? Is he all right?"
"He's resting comfortably now. He's had a long day and an even longer night." Ben mused with a fond smile directed at the sleeping form on the couch before him. The Jedi had finished checking the boy over and now sat beside him watchful and patient.
"Is he hurt?" Beru's voice now asked from across the distance, her worry tinging her tone.
"Some nasty bruises, a few scraps, a cut on his arm." the desert hermit told her frankly as he bound Luke's arm tightly before drawing the sleeve back down. "He is confused and frightened but he'll be fine Beru. He wasn't prepared for the raider's death cry, it scared and hurt him inside." he explained.
"You are not to do anything Obi-Wan." Owen's voice pushed through the tiny speaker "When it's light I'll--"
"When it's light I will bring Luke back to you." Obi-Wan interrupted firmly, booking no argument.
"You are not to tell him anything!" Lars countered, hotly flustered by his lack of control "You weren't even supposed to see him."
Luke shifted slightly, tensing on the spartan pallet, his uncle's words somehow finding him deep in his exhaustion. His tanned features became drawn, hands clenching. Obi-Wan reached out and touched the boy lightly on the forehead before smoothing back his sun bleached hair in a repetitive motion calming the child. "Owen you think you can simply command the force talent out of him?" He asked bitterly, his concentration now on the boy not on the guardian. "It is there, now more than ever."
"I don't care, I don't want him learning any of that stuff especially from you." Owen snapped back "That's not your job remember? You're to shield the boy, dampen and crush whatever it is, keep him from--"
"If I had kept him from using that which is natural as breathing he would be dead by now, and maybe you as well." Kenobi retorted sharply, anger rising at the thought of suffocating Luke's talent beneath his will simply because of his Uncle's fear born out of deep concern. "He *heard* the electron fence go down, not you."
"Dammit, electron fences are silent! You can't *hear* anything! I've told him a hundred times--"
"Luke knows things, feels things. You cannot deny that not matter what your opinion of the Force Owen. He is strongly gifted. Punishing and scolding him for trusting his insights will hurt him and only make things more difficult when he learns later." Obi-Wan futilely explained knowing from long experience what the response would be but had to try regardless for the sake of his best friend's son.
"Luke is NOT learning anything from *you*!" the emphasis was not lost and Kenobi winced internally. "That damn Force stuff, it's just a fluke. As soon as he stops daydreaming and settles down things will be fine. You are not to talk to him about it. Not about that hocus-pocus or his father. I forbid it! We look after him and we will decide what is best! That was the arrangement Kenobi, keep your Jedi stuff out of it!"
With a click the comm went silent.
"Just as well." Obi-Wan murmured as he drew a light covering over the sleeping boy. Luke had managed to sleep through the friendly little *social call*, but the Jedi was quick to notice, was only now beginning to relax again, now that his uncle's anger no longer invaded his dreams.
"Damn. It just had to be him!" Owen cursed pounding the wall next to the comm unit in frustration.
"Owen." Beru said waiting until her husband looked at her before continuing "Owen perhaps he's right. You press Luke so hard about this. It's not his fault."
"I know it's not his fault!" the farmer roared defensively turning to face his wife, hands thrown up in despair. "Don't you think I know that? I see him and-and . . . then he does something or knows or says something . . ." his expression fell despondent "Beru sometimes I swear that boy is more adult than child." With a sigh he sat heavily down at the table, resting his elbows on its clean surface, face in his hands.
Beru came to stand behind him, hands tentatively resting on her husband's broad shoulders. "But he still *is* a child no matter what he can do Owen. He doesn't understand--"
"He's not normal and that's not safe in this galaxy, not now." He replied, voice and face calm and collected as he turned slightly and looked up. "Do you think I want to see him hurt? I just don't want him dead." He reached out and took her hands in his, concern and affection that he so rarely showed creeping into his eyes "That's what they'll do if they find him Beru. They'll kill him or-or twist him so that he might as well be dead."
"So this is for his own good is that what you're telling me?" she asked rhetorically, voice breaking as she thought back to her nephew, her child. She pulled her hands away. "To keep him away from Obi-Wan who could help him control these flukes that frighten you so? To see him stand there and have you yell at him when heó when he finds out what's wrong with the droids before you do or-or anticipates the help you want before you want it? Luke is just trying to help you. He so much wants your approval."
Owen seemed to wilt and shrink inside himself visibly, his wife's honesty striking him to his very core. "I can't give it to him, not on this." he finally said softly staring at his calloused hands "I can't approve of what he can do, it will only bring him pain."
"So we simply continue on as we have done alone." Beru put in her voice steady but remote and distant as she crossed her arms tightly across her torso as if suddenly cold.
Owen nodded slowly.
"Scold him when he hears things like raiders and electron fences, keep him naive and ignorant of his past and of things outside Anchorhead and watch as he simply turns inward in that fantasy world of his?"
The farmer stood and placed strong hands on his wife's shoulders wondering not for the first time why they had accepted to take this child in the first place with his unique heritage. "In time he'lló he'll understand, stop using it, bury it deep inside and forget about it. Luke will be better for this Beru." He shook her gently until she raised her sad eyes to meet his. "Trust me."
Ripples in the Force.
Obi-Wan had sensed them for years, a constant faint reminder of his duty and his greatest failure living close by. They had been getting stronger, more focused and frequent and young Luke was slowly beginning to realize that he was unique from his family and other children. Like his father before him the Force surged through Luke Skywalker.
"Good Morning." he greeted with a smile as the blue eyes opened and stared uncomprehendingly up at an unfamiliar ceiling.
Luke's attention shifted towards the voice hesitating a moment while the face was matched to the man who had found him on the dunes last night. "Morning."
"How are you feeling?" the Jedi asked quietly as the boy propped himself up on his elbows cautiously.
Luke pulled his wide eyes way from his surroundings to regard his host before sitting up and swinging his legs over so they dangled down to barely brush the floor. "Okay." he allowed.
A hand was placed comfortingly on his shoulder and the robed man looked him in the eyes, seeming to stare straight through him, making his own assesment. "You're a bit worse for wear Luke, but breakfast should help somewhat." Ben said softly with a light smile "Go wash up." he motioned the boy forward. Luke rose and made his way towards the washroom when he suddenly halted in his tracks, hands reaching for his belt. "What is it?"
Luke whirled around eyes wide with fright and shock. "Uncle Owen's macro binocs, I had them on my belt when . . ."
"Don't worry Luke, they're fine. I brought them with us." Ben reassured him quickly slightly taken aback by the unexpected wild frantic look in the boy's eyes.
A grin of relief spread across Luke's face and he nodded his head quickly. "Thank you."
Obi-Wan smiled in return, letting the expression fade to one of concern as they boy disappeared from sight.
Luke regarded his mysterious benefactor. He was of indeterminate age, no longer a young man but not old either. His eyes were blue like his, but they changed to green at random, seeming almost boyish when he smiled, but with a hint of something darker almost haunted just beneath. His very presence seemed to fill the room with a sense of order and peace without the iron command that his uncle wielded so efficiently. Clad in a off white tunic and trousers he could be mistaken for any other threadbare settler. But the clothes were not of a careless make and the boots, though worn were clearly of off-world design. Ben Kenobi projected a strength Luke didn't quite understand but somehow knew its force would never be directed at him.
"Can I help?" he offered coming forward to peer over the counter at whatever the man was preparing for breakfast.
"Yes you can, you can eat." Obi-Wan insisted with a smile reaching over and lifting Luke into his chair in one smooth motion.
"Whoa." Luke said in surprise before suddenly wincing when his right arm brushed against the chair.
"Are you all right?" Ben asked, hesitating before moving around to take his own seat.
"Uh-huh." he nodded as he pulled up his sleeve to see what hurt.
"It's small but deep, I'll redress it before we go back to your Uncle and Aunt's." Kenobi explained as Luke eyed the bandage tied around his right forearm.
Blue eyes snapped up to meet his, injury suddenly forgotten. "You have a speeder?"
"I don't need one Luke, not out here." Obi-Wan replied trying not to chuckle at the boy's enthusiasm as he took his seat and began to eat.
"Oh." Luke said, silent for a moment as he picked up his spoon. "Uncle Owen has one. Someday he'll let me pilot it."
"You think you could pilot a land speeder?"
The word *yes* was instantly upon his lips but then he glanced at his breakfast companion shrewdly, quite cautious for a six year old. "Maybe. I'm not allowed to until I'm older. Everything only happens when you're older." Luke explained with a world weary sigh. Ben barely suppressed his laughter.
"You just need to grow a little more. It's not as easy as it look." Kenobi offered as a way of consolation as he tore a piece of flatbread in half.
"I've done it in my head a thousand times" Luke mused aloud sharing with a stranger something he hid most carefully from his uncle and aunt "Same as an orbital ship."
"Not only a speeder but a ship as well hmm?"
"Yeah and maybe even a . . . " the boy leaned forward conspiratorially, voice dropping to a whisper, eyes alight with pleasure at his fantasy "a racer."
The words struck a long buried chord deep within the Jedi. *I should have known* Obi-Wan thought to himself wryly. *Like father, like son.*
"Have you ever seen a 'race Luke?" he asked with an arched eyebrow.
Luke shook his head slowly, disappointment evident as he reached for his cup. "My friend Biggs did when he was in Mos Espa once with his father. He told me about it but Uncle Owen doesn't like me to talk about it and neither does Aunt Beru. She says she'd have a heart attack if I even so much as sat in one." he explained in a mock dramatic voice, obviously reciting something his Aunt had said to him many many times.
"They go very fast," Obi-Wan warned enjoying the boy's willingness to open up and share his interests with all the eagerness of youth undaunted. "Humans aren't really equipt to race against other life forms."
Luke tapped his finger against his lips thinking over this precious scrap of information before replying. "I wouldn't know for sure until I did it but I think I could do it." he nodded slowly his voice steady and sure as he set the cup down again. "I could do it." The boy's blue eyes grew distant, his face pensive.
Obi-Wan nodded his honest agreement as he reached across the table to touch the boy's hand lightly. "I know you could."
"So you help your uncle with the farm?" Ben asked casually as he pulled out a sand colored poncho from his expansive old chest.
"Every day." Luke replied with a nod from where he sat perched on the edge of the counter, legs swinging idly back and forth. "Sometimes it's hard cause it's like nothing seems to be happening at all, there's just sand, sand, and more sand and then harvest comes and poof! Everything's suddenly alive."
Kenobi pulled the large poncho over the boy's head watching Luke run his hand through his unruly hair pushing it away from his eyes leaving a smug on one cheek. "We should be going soon, it's quite a walk."
"Yeah, Aunt Beru'll be worried."
"And your uncle?" Ben pressed quietly as he pushed up Luke's sleeve and began peeling away the old bandage.
Luke watched the process with interest. "We were going to get the new droid up to the south >ow< south side today."
Obi-Wan picked up the fresh dressing even as the boy peered to look at the jagged cut. There was no sign of infection luckily. He searched the boy's face for a moment but could not catch the averted blue eyes. Luke had deftly sidestepped the question about his uncle in a surprisingly adult manner. Silently Ben let the remark pass without comment, without judgement as he smeared a piece of cloth with antiseptic and bound it to the boy's arm.
Luke tugged his sleeve and poncho back down in silence, attention drifting, thoughts probably light years away as he rubbed the back of his neck ruefully.
Ben let him have his moment as he reached over and brought out the macro binoculars from his small functional workstation and placed them in the boy's hands. "Ready to go?"
"You fixed 'em!" Luke crowed in surprise as he hopped down. "Thank you." he said brightly looking up at the Jedi, his pleasure evident.
"Your welcome." Obi-Wan replied with a smile as he ushered his young charge to the door.
Out into the bright, bright morning of Tatooine the two stepped. The sky was a flawless blue not yet molten with the day's heat. Without a word of direction Luke turned and started walking unerringly southeast into the Dune Sea towards home, Kenobi close behind him, hood drawn up.
"You wander around the desert often Luke?"
The sandy blond head shook ruefully in denial. "No sir. I've never even been to Anchorhead. Uncle Owen goes in alone."
The Jedi nodded slowly and knowingly once and followed letting Luke lead the way.
As the little homestead came into view the easy conversation between the two died. Luke took a few quick steps forward, relieved to back on familiar ground. The morning had seemed surreal almost dream like and now he was home again with his Aunt and his Uncle--
Luke halted in his tracks, mind reviewing last nights events and his surrogate father's disapproving scowl and the clenching of his jaw, all waning signs Luke had long ago learned indicated anger. Not that his uncle ever hit him, but he would sometimes grab his arms so tightly that they'd be finger marks and purple bruises for days that would slowly fade to sickly yellow greenish reminders of his disobedience.
"Is everything all right Luke?" Obi-Wan's voice asked quietly from behind him, not intruding but there at his back, offering silent support.
"Uh-huh." he nodded tightly as he watched the figures of his aunt and uncle rise from the subterranean courtyard. He felt the robed man's hand on his shoulder, a soothing strength filling him for a moment. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply savoring the precious sensation.
"Luke! Luke!" Beru called, frantic in her relief. She fell to her knees in front of her nephew and hugged him tightly. Ducking his head in embarrassment at the rare show of physical affection, Luke scuffed one foot in the sand before the shadow of his uncle fell upon him.
"What were you thinking running off like that?" Owen began without preamble, face read, eyes snapping.
Luke's face flushed with nervous shame as he averted his eyes from the impending storm seeing anger and not the fear and concern an genuine affection that fuled it. "I-I don't . . ."
"Owen." Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice intruded on the conversation, steel and warning beneath his unassuming tone.
"Stay out of this." the moisture farmer shot back. Beru, still holding her adopted son at arms length looked from one man to another before rising to her feet. "We'll talk about this later Luke." Owen promised his nephew darkly "Go on, get inside! Half the day's gone already."
"Yes sir." was the quick reply as the six year old scrambled to do as his uncle ordered.
As soon as both Beru and Luke were out of sight, Obi-Wan turned his attention back to the man who had been entrusted with Anakin's son. "Don't punish him for this Owen, you'll only make this harder on him." he urged quietly.
"I will not have Luke growing up as his father did. The sooner he learns that the easier this will be. None of this Force or piloting nonsense, he's safe here on the farm doing honest NORMAL work and that's the way it will stay." Owen replied harshly as he crossed his arms over his broad chest. "I don't want you coming around for any reason. You do your job," he continued pointing accusingly at the Jedi his voice bitter "make your penance by keeping those damned Sith away from here and Beru and I will take care of raising Luke."
Obi-Wan shook his head, the weight of the past hanging heavy from him. "Your fear for him does him more harm than good."
"Keep your Jedi wisdom to yourself." Owen said acidly "I'd rather not have the council of the last of a doomed kind."
For a long moment Kenobi stood in silence before nodding once. "As you wish." If the farmer was at all taken aback by this abrupt victory he did not show it beyond a grunt of surprise. Obi-Wan reached beneath his robe a nd pulled out a shining metal cylinder with a comfortable grip and a power cell. He fingered it for a moment, staring at the weapon of a Jedi long lost to him, his own apprentice and dear friend. "Anakin wanted Luke to have this, wanted to pass it on to his son."
Owen took a step away from the lightsaber as if it were something possessed with evil. "You keep that cursed thing away."
"It's not a curse Owen, it's a gift." Ben countered simply eyes locking with Luke's guardian.
Owen's nostrils flared and he took a deep breath as if coming to a decision. "You claim you want what's best for Luke then listen to me Obi-Wan because I'm only going to say this once more. Stay Away From Him."
With that the moisture farmer wheeled around and descended back down to his domain, to his wife and his ward leaving the Jedi Knight to stand alone amid the sands. He could have made Owen listen to him, could have forced the man to see his point of view but he would not. He wasn't sure what exactly stopped him, the fear of Imperial discovery of Jedi on Tatooine or something older, something or someone at one with the Force.Wan held still in silence gathering strength from within, from the past, from the Force before turning and beginning his long journey home alone.
Familiar rapid footfalls came from behind followed by a child's voice breaking him out of his thoughts. "Mr. Kenobi. Sir!"
The robed Jedi turned around eyes smiling in greeting when his mouth would not oblige. "Just Ben, Luke. What is it?" he asked crouching down the boy's diminutive level.
"Here." Luke offered the poncho back to the hermit.
"No, it's all right" Obi-Wan said pressing the item back into Luke's arms "You keep it."
"Nah." the sandy head shook sheepishly and a little ashamed as the free hand reached up in the familiar gesture at the back of his neck. "It'd be an obil--oblgi . . ."
"Obligation." Obi-Wan Kenobi supplied helpfully biting back a chuckle.
"Obligation yeah, and I'm not supposed to have those."
Blue eyes met blue, locked for a moment before Ben nodded and took back the poncho. "I'll keep it for you then."
A smile followed his words and then Luke looked quickly over his shoulder before asking hesitantly "Do you . . . do you think I could visit sometime?"
Obi-Wan paused for a long moment and Luke's hope seemed to wilt visibly. He would have liked nothing more than to be with the boy who was practically his father reborn, or simply taken out of times long past to appear here and now on Tatooine. But it was not to be, not now, not for a long time if his insight served him, much to his regret and much more to Luke's. "That's up to your Uncle." he finally replied wondering if that would ever be enough as he reached up to gently brush the smug of dirt off the boy's cheek.
"Oh." Luke eyes turned away, but the knowledge was there, the understanding. "So . . . I guess this is good-bye."
"We will meet again Luke." Kenobi assured him, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders, trying to offer something to the child he had taken from his mother, his sister and left in Beru's arms nearly six years ago.
Luke nodded his agreement with the words, but whether or not he believed them Obi-Wan couldn't tell. "Wanted to thank you 'gain about the binocs. Maybe he won't even notice I broke 'em." the boy offered hopefully meeting his gaze at last. Kenobi felt a pang of sadness at that odd little statement that revealed so much about Luke's upbringing. If only the Jedi had not been lost. If only things were not as they were . . .
Obi-Wan pushed the thoughts away and focused on the living, the here and now as his own Master had instructed him so very long ago. He ruffled the boy's hair fondly. "Take care of yourself Luke Skywalker."
"You too." Luke replied with a grin, sticking out his hand which the Jedi grasped and shook in parting.
"Lu-uke! Luke where are you?!"
Luke's head snapped around and then back to Obi-Wan "I gotta go." he said as he took a few steps back towards the insistent call. Kenobi rose to his feet, brown robe swirling around him in the sand. Luke raised his hand in farewell as he hopped down the first steps, eyes bright. "Bye!"
Obi-Wan watched until the little figure vanished from sight before turning back to face the expanse of desert he now called home. Behind him the wind carried the sound of voices from the house and the Jedi knew what he would find filling young Skywalker's heart now if he were to reach out with the Force. But he didn't, he couldn't no matter how much he wanted to. Luke was not his to raise, not in this newly Imperial Galaxy. Sighing, Ben continued through the dunes heart heavy but eyes long since dry.
Obi-Wan Kenobi hadn't had any tears for a long time now.
Luke Skywalker crawled into bed, exhausted and despondent. The day's work had been hard, his uncle pressing him until Aunt Beru had intervened. The two adults could even now be heard down the corridor whispering in urgent angry voices that Luke was too tired to make out. Rubbing his bruised arm fitfully and then fingering the bandage the old hermit had placed there the boy smiled forgetting the discord in the house and the despair in his heart.
Ben had thought him capable, even of racing not just piloting. Luke smiled in remembrance in the darkness of his room as he leaned back against the wall, knees brought up to his chest as he rocked back and forth on his mattress. *The thrusters would be *here,* and the panels *here,* and it would bank left and right with the turns . . . *
Blocking out his uncle's harsh voice that rose from down the hall Luke hugged himself tight, retreating deep within where it didn't matter if he *heard* things only who crossed the finish line first.
Someday, someday . . .