Obi-Wan Kenobi no longer lived. There could be no more risk, no more chance. If his name got out, Anakin would find him. If Anakin found him, Kenobi would be killed.
Perhaps not such a bad thing....
For a long time, the Jedi had felt as much. He had for months considered ending the chase, searching his apprentice out, dying with the knowledge that the last thing he had done was try to bring Anakin back to the light.
Try. If Master Yoda heard that word from him again.... Obi-Wan had heard that lecture more times than he could possibly give number to. Yet, trying was always what Obi-Wan had done. The Jedi had tried. He could not just "do," nor could he be content with doing not. Trying was a compromise. Obi-Wan had tried, for example, to do what was best for the children. Was he actually doing what was best? Who could possibly say?
The girl had been easily taken care of. Leia would be raised an Organa, the daughter of Bail and his wife, Sach?. The child looked so much like Padm?'s former decoy it would be a wonder if anybody figured out the truth. Padm? and her daughter would have occasional visits, but they would never be seen in public together; Vader would never make the connection. Leia Organa would fit very well on Alderaan.
The boy, on the other hand, had no place. So he had been sent to the planet where he was least likely to be found, put in the trust of the last two people Anakin would suspect...and a Jedi in exile.
Obi-Wan could hardly bear to meet Padn?'s eyes. "It'll have to be the boy. He and Vader look too much alike."
"But why-I still don't understand - why can't they both stay with ? He won't go after Bail again, not after what happened before."
"He won't go unless he's given a very good reason. Luke would be exactly that."
The former senator pulled her son closer to her. "You told me he wouldn't go to Alderaan. You said that I would be safe there."
"And so you will be, both you and your daughter. Vader won't suspect, so long as you and Leia are never seen together, that she is his child. If he sees Luke he will know in an instant. Perhaps you would be able to hide it until he was three or four, but then Vader would realize." He shook his head, locking eyes with her.
"Palpatine will know. My Lady, if Palpatine finds out he will turn your son into something terrible. If Luke is trained from the beginnings of childhood he will become a ruthless, fighting machine, free of conscience and soul. He'll-" Padm?'s voice was harsh and pained. "He'll become like Anakin?"
A lightsabre twisted into Obi-Wan's gut and turmoil flashed through his eyes. He faltered, gripping the edge of the table with white-knuckled fingers. A mix of fear and concern swept over Padm?'s face.
"Obi-Wan, I'm sor-"
"Yes. He will become just like Anakin." Obi-Wan cut her off, eyes blazing, a bite to his tone. Yet his voice was tired. The Jedi was weary, weary of the war, weary of running, weary of the guilt and the accompanying pain.
Nobody could successfully face a trial so great. Losing a padawan was like losing a son or daughter. Losing a padawan to the dark side was like watching a child bind himself to the Jedi funeral pyre and set himself alight. Losing Anakin meant failing to fulfill his master's last wish, and that was worse than anything Obi-Wan could imagine. He could not bring peace to his mentor, the closest thing he had to a father....
"Where will he go?" The senator's voice had become despondent, subdued.
Obi-Wan recovered himself. He tucked his thumbs under his chin, touched his hands beneath his nose then looked back up.
"I don't know, My Lady."
"He couldn't stay with you?"
Instantly, the conversation reverted to its previous state. The words were exchanged formally, driven by necessity. Obi-Wan was once again the former senator's bodyguard. His services were strictly professional, and in the best interests of her children and herself. He was not Padm?'s friend.
"No. It's too great of a risk. Wherever he goes, I will watch over him, but only from a distance. To actually keep him with me would be too dangerous, for both of us."
He glanced over at Padm?, giving a glare that caused the "why" forming on her lips to fade. He had no wish to discuss that. "We need Luke to be raised on a planet far from Coruscant, away from Vader and Palpatine. One of the Outer Rim systems would be best."
Silence ensued. Then, painfully, Padm? spoke. "Tatooine."
It hurt to hear Padm? able to form solutions instantly that Obi-Wan would perhaps never realize. Yes, his former padawan had spent a lot of time with the senator in the past few years, but he and the boy had been together for the ten before that. He should have known it would be Tatooine. Vader's years in slavery, his mother's death, his first two significant dips into the dark side...he would never return there. Obi-Wan couldn't believe that he hadn't thought of it before.
"Yes. You're right." The Jedi sighed. "One of the moisture farms would be the most suitable. I'll contact Owen Lars and see if he would be willing to give us the names of a few farmers who might be interested in adopting a child."
"Owen?" Padm? asked. "Master Kenobi, are you sure that's wise?"
"I don't know if he'll be willing to help, but it's a place to start. If he won't assist us, I'll look for other options."
Obi-Wan hadn't expected Owen Lars to comply. On the contrary, he would have been surprised if Lars kept the comm. open for more than thirty seconds. As it was, he was entirely taken aback. Lars offered to raise the boy himself.
"You'll what?" the Jedi asked. Owen led his wife into the holo-image.
"We'll raise Luke."
Obi-Wan still didn't understand. "But-after all that his family has caused you-I feel horrible even asking your assistance in locating a home for him. I would never ask you to carry this burden yourselves."
Beru started to speak. "Master Kenobi, Owen and I have wanted a child for over a year now, but I am unable to conceive." Lars nodded.
"Shmi married my father when I was eleven years old. My real mother had died when I was a toddler, so that's what she-Shmi, I mean-became to me. Shmi was the kindest person I have ever known. If we could raise her grandson, it would be an honor."
Obi-Wan sighed. "You would be putting yourselves in danger... perhaps not a great deal of it, but danger all the same."
"We're willing to take that risk."
Obi-Wan didn't understand then. He didn't understand now. Anakin had killed Cleigg Lars. He'd placed the blame for his mother's death on the moisture farmer and gone after him. That was after he'd abandoned the Order. It was Obi-Wan who had traveled to Tatooine to comfort the family and look for any sign as to where Anakin had gone.... The Force would be a mark of the past for Obi-Wan, and a hope for the future. Someday...he could see it in his mind's eye. Seasons would change. The farmer's life would grow to be as pointless and dull for Luke as Anakin's life during his time in slavery. The boy would grow curious. Lands beyond the dunes, beyond the sky would beckon him. And always Owen would stand close behind, grounding him. Owen, like his stepbrother, so full of fear. Not like Luke, brimming with vivacity and spirit.
Luke deserved a chance to fly. He ought to sail among the stars, taking all that the universe has to offer. But he wouldn't. Luke would remain for far too long on this planet of misery and idleness. His friends would move on, attend the Academy, become Rebels and Imperials both. Yet still Luke would stay at home, waiting season after season, until finally the Force saw fit to release him to the Jedi once again. All of this Obi-Wan saw, and all of this he hated, though not for himself. He deserved the punishment. For all the Jedi Knight had done, he deserved far worse. Luke deserved none of it. His suffering would be brought on by what Obi-Wan did...by Kenobi's stupid, horrible mistakes.
"Anakin! If you go with him, you'll never be allowed to return to the Temple. You can't!" Obi-Wan's words were almost swallowed by the dull roar of the rain around him and the rapids below, but his padawan heard him nonetheless. It seemed as if their bond was as strong as ever. He shouted back, fury resounding in his voice.
"Since I was nine years old you've been making every decision for me. All the Jedi did was bring me from one life of slavery to another. Well, this is the end of that. I'm choosing not to stay. I'm going. You can't stop me!"
Skywalker crawled towards the opposite side of the log, his foot almost slipping. Obi-Wan looked after him, distraught. One word could, would be the difference between returning home with his padawan and returning home with a flurry of rumors and a heart full of painful memories. He had to think. He had to concentrate.
"Anakin, this is crazy!" The Jedi's voice was hoarse. "Come here. I just want to talk to you. You have to trust me this once!"
"How can I?" the boy yelled. "I won't " He stumbled back even further, slipping into the fog.
"Anakin!" Obi-Wan's shout tore from his throat and he followed, fingers grappling for holds on the wet log, sweat and the first trace of tears running down his face. Rain pounded, plastering the Jedi's cloak to his back and arms, darkening everything. The log seemed endless, stretching through the fog. Hand over hand, Obi-Wan crept along. One boot slipped off the side, followed by the other, and suddenly the Jedi found himself dangling by slippery fingers. The river rushed below him, its roar becoming strangely welcoming. He considered accepting the water's call for a moment, his head turned skyward, then wrenched himself back up. At long last the Jedi reached the other side of the treacherous rapids. He pushed up onto level ground and searched desperately for any sign of the boy. What he found was a small, metallic cylinder, placed carefully near the edge of the cliff, meant to be found. The symbolism couldn't have been clearer.
Anakin was gone, and Obi-Wan knew then that his padawan would never return.
Obi-Wan's head fell into his hands. He sat silently on the threshold of his small, out of the way home. It was far from the city and far from the moisture farms, settled amongst the countless dunes, perfect for a hermit. The Force moved around him, mingling with the grains of sand, the dry air, the fading sunlight. It would be Kenobi's last night as a Jedi for a very long time. When Tatooine's stars rose again, he would carry a different life, a different name.
Sunlight at last flickered into darkness and still Obi-Wan sat, regarding the world, a part of it. Minutes melted away and meditation took him.
He was looking into the eyes of a small child, one of the initiates. The boy was strong, stronger than most in his clan. There was a certain seriousness about him, and he always seemed to understand more about what was going on around him than most children would, even Jedi children. He had liked Obi-Wan, had enjoyed following him around the temple when not occupied with other things, and the knight had welcomed his company. Many times he had toyed with the idea of taking him as an apprentice after Anakin was knighted. The boy's name was Bentablin Oris, but only Master Yoda called him that. Obi-Wan, like all of the young children for whom pronunciation was a struggle, like the other padawans, knights, and masters, called him "Ben."
That boy no longer lived. Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, continuing the Jedi purge, had struck him down without a thought.
"We are both dead, you and I," Obi-Wan mused.
The first of Tatooine's suns rose, and Ben Kenobi with it. He took a breath of the desert air and for a long moment gazed at the spot where he knew the Lars' homestead would appear if he traveled in its direction long enough. Then the hermit turned his face to the ground and walked back inside.
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