At the sound of Luke's earsplitting yell, Beru's gaze popped up from her stitchwork. Her instantaneous panic vanished in a heartbeat. It vanished at the sight of her little son toddling around, swiping and swatting at something only he could see. He was so beautiful in those moments, sandy hair flowing and blue eyes sparkling, that she felt a place deep inside swell with love as if he were her own.
A smile erupted on her face, and a giggle followed. A giggle with two echoes. Around the quilt, her girlfriends Redya and Aleon were just as amused by Luke's merry antics. They joined her laughter until it became a bubbling chorus.
Then Redya's eyes widened, and a gasp replaced the happy sound.
Swinging her head back toward Luke, Beru's smile was chased away by a mother's fear. He had swiped again, knocking his tiny body out of equilibrium. One precarious misstep after another, the boy teetered between remaining upright and smacking the earthen floor. Hands shot out. Legs scrambled. Yet somehow Luke found his balance - before Beru could even think of extricating herself out from under the quilt.
"Amazing," Redya whispered.
"I can't believe he didn't fall," Aleon added.
Beru said nothing. She should have known Luke wouldn't fall. He would never fall. Because her son was special. Her son - who wasn't her son, but rather the son of the greatest Jedi ever - had unique powers. If she were honest, Beru might never have to fear the obvious. Instead, she would always fear the future, the unknown. She feared Luke's destiny.
Luke, on the other hand, feared nothing. He resumed his hunt with carefree abandon, determined to finish his quest.
For a few more heartbeats Beru watched her son careen and leap around the sunken courtyard of their Tatooine home Satisfied he was fine, she returned to the task at hand. They needed to get this quilt finished quickly. It was only a matter of days until their friend Lapa's wedding, and this was their gift to her. So for days they had sat in the shade of the dining area, buried in the monotony of sewing.
"He must be getting bored," she wondered aloud, glancing back at Luke as he danced around in the light.
"We're almost finished." Aleon gestured to the nearly complete design.
From her spot finishing the trim, Redya nodded. "Almost."
There was a different tone to the child's voice this time that gave Beru cause to look up once more. Luke stood in place now, utterly still, with one hand extended forward in a fist. He held it up like he was offering it to someone, someone Beru couldn't see. She was out of her seat in an instant, her corner of the quilt practically forgotten on the ground.
He walked away, still holding out his offering. "Choy-kla."
"Lu-" His name died in her throat when she saw who Luke was addressing.
Kneeling down to the toddler's height was a man hidden among the furls of a large brown cloak. The material seemed to consume him, yet he still existed within it. The cowl hid his face, but she knew exactly who he was. And her son went to him without hesitation or fear.
Luke stopped before the uninvited guest, his fist held up to the man's face. One finger after another uncurled to reveal his hidden prize. "Choy-kla."
The man chuckled softly, the sound a low melodic hum that possessed little volume yet managed to resonate everywhere. "Hello there."
Luke thrust his upturned palm at the man. "Choy-kla."
The man slowly wrapped a hand around each side of his hood, then drew it back with such deliberate efficiency the action seemed perfect. Gazing upon Luke, his bearded face knew only a smile, and his eyes twinkled with mirth. Anyone could have seen that this man loved the boy, or so Beru worried.
"Who is that?" Redya asked.
Aleon tipped her head closer as if to share a secret. "Isn't that the hermit who took up residence -"
"Oh-bi-en...Ben. Ben Kenobi," Beru told them brusquely. She wanted them to be quiet. Now.
Not Obi-Wan. Ben. She had to force herself to remember.
By now Ben had brought his hand out of the deep robes and held a finger up to Luke's hand. "Yes. I see. A shoikler," he pronounced in a smooth voice, which spoke of elegance and roots closer to the Core.
"I caught 'im," Luke declared.
"Good job, hmmm?" A tiny insectoid jumped onto Ben's finger and flapped its wings to celebrate a newfound freedom. He drew his finger up toward his face, then grinned at the buzzing shoikler. "You gave a good chase, my little friend."
With a flap of his hand, Ben sent the insect flying.
Grunting in protest, little Luke jumped and swiped at his prize. "Mine!"
Ben caught the boy by the arm before he could resume the chase. "No," he said firmly. "Not yours."
Beru wanted to be mad, wanted to shoo this man away. She wanted to tell him to leave her son alone. But in the end, they needed him. Luke needed him. She listened as the lonely man from the desert, their benefactor and Luke's protector, explained to the boy about the value of all life, how no individual was more important than another, not even an insect like the tiny shoikler. That no living thing could ever be truly possessed. And Luke simply listened, entranced by the rhythmical truth-filled cadence of the man's voice.
"I could listen to that man talk all day," Redya said quite suddenly.
Aleon giggled. "It's not his voice that has you enamored, Reddie."
Beru gawked at her friends. They had stopped sewing and sat dumbstruck, watching the man formerly known as Obi-Wan instruct Luke in one of his first lessons about the mystery called the Force. A lesson so cleverly disguised and the deeper truth so powerfully veiled that its meaning would be lost to all, even Luke. For now. There was a momentous turn of history in the making, yet all her friends saw was a mysterious handsome stranger with an intriguing accent. She couldn't help but laugh. "You two!"
Aleon shook a finger at Beru. "Don't you lecture us, Berrie. You have a wonderful husband, and now a son. Reddie and I are stuck hoping to find happiness among the dregs of Anchorhead and Mos Eisley."
Beru bit her lip. Aleon was right. To all appearances Beru had everything - and everything to lose. They would never understand; they never could. This was the price of the gift Obi-Wan Kenobi had given them. This was the price for Luke.
"I made fwend with choy-kla, Auntie." At some point Luke had dragged Ben over to table. Beru should have realized by the silly expressions blooming on her friends' faces.
"Apparently, that is not your only new friend," Beru said, indicating Ben with the shift of her eyes.
"Ben? He been my fwend fo-eb-er."
Beru exchanged a knowing look with the lonely Jedi and found longing intermixed with hope. She turned back to the boy and forced a smile. "You have lots of friends, don't you?"
"Uh-huh." Luke nodded. "I tink I wanna show Ben my mousedwoid."
"Luke, wait for -" Beru started to call after the boy as he scampered away up the stairs, but she recognized the futility of the effort.
She was about to chase after him when a comforting palm stayed her. "He'll be fine."
Beru met Ben's guarded stare. "The Tuskens?" The raids had been brutal recently, and closer than ever.
"Gone. That is why I came by today." His eyes pierced her with truth. "You have no more reason to worry."
"You chased them away?" Aleon exclaimed.
Ben removed his hand, tucking it into his cloak. "Perhaps you could say I... negotiated them into finding a new hunting ground."
"Negotiated?" Aleon practically swooned over the word. "All by yourself?"
He tipped his head respectfully. "Of course. The Sand People are my speciality."
"Spe-ci-ality?" This time it was Redya. "Where are you from? Certainly not from around here."
He chuckled once. "I suppose not. But is anyone really from Tatooine?"
Redya giggled, flirty and saucy, as she tipped her head back. "No. Or at least no one I know would care to admit it."
Beru rolled her eyes, but even as she did she recognized discomfort coloring Ben's face. He stepped back and bowed respectfully. The robes once more were the man, and Obi-Wan Kenobi disappeared behind an emotionless mask.
"I should be going, then."
"Must you?" Redya asked.
The corner of his mouth curled upwards. "I must."
With a graceful whirl Ben turned on his heel and headed for the stairs. Inexplicably, Beru found herself chasing him. "Wait."
Ben stopped on the steps, and faced her. "Yes, Beru?"
"Will you send Luke down...before you leave?"
"His mouse droid is - "
"In the garage," Ben finished. "He returns with it now."
Beru blushed. He would know; he would always know. "He likes to fix things. He fixed that silly droid all on his own, at only five. I imagine he gets that from his father..."
She left the rest unsaid as sadness rolled across Obi-Wan's face. Beru wondered often - about Anakin and Padm?, Luke's mother and father. Obi-Wan had brought Luke to the homestead five years before. A tiny infant swaddled in Jedi robes. Those had been the darkest hours of the galaxy, and as much as she had needed to know, Beru hadn't asked. The haunted look in Obi-Wan's eyes even now told her perhaps she would never want to know. Anakin had been a Jedi, and the Jedi were no more. Save one. And she would no more forsake him, than forsake her son.
Obi-Wan pulled up the cowl of his cloak so his expression was hidden. "Always fixing things. Perhaps more like his mother in that way."
"Ben?" Luke's voice called from above.
The flash of a toothy grin beamed from the shadow of the Ben's hood. "Always on the move." He spun and bounded up the steps. Luke appeared in the arched portal, the mouse droid in his hands. Ben scooped the boy into his arms, and the two friends grinned at each other.
Beru felt Redya and Aleon at her sides. Together they watched Ben walk away with Luke.
"What an odd man," Redya said.
"Not odd." Aleon sighed. "Just... different."
Beru wrapped an arm around each of her friends. "No. A very dear man." She left the rest unsaid. A friend with no friends. The last of a dying breed. A hero.
Original cover by Altaira. HTML formatting copyright 2005 TheForce.Net LLC.