|Walking the Sky (PG)
Archived on: Monday, November 14, 2005
AU. Nine years after becoming a Sith, Darth Vader hears of a supposed Jedi on Tatooine calling himself Anakin Skywalker. He investigates, and finds much, much more than he would have imagined. Inspired by a challenge on the Luke/Vader Yahoo!Group.
Like many plans, Ray Jopaan?s seemed brilliant at first.
Although just a padawan when the Jedi Purges began, and then a padawan on the run five years into Emperor Palpatine?s New Order, Ray had been nearly killed by Darth Vader and presumed dead, but had managed to pull himself together with a healing trance. And four years after that day, four years after an angry red lightsaber had just barely missed his heart, he?d finally done it. He found the hiding place of one of the last remaining Jedi Masters, and finally would be able to finish his training.
But when he finally set down on Tatooine?s surface, and looked around Mos Eisley Spaceport with its dirty buildings, dirty streets, dirty people, and two hot suns pounding midday heat against all of them, he wondered what Master Obi-Wan Kenobi had been thinking, going to ground in a place like this. How could he stand it? Ray remembered Master Kenobi, remembered him looking comfortable in the halls of the Senate building and the upper echelons of Coruscant, striding around as if he didn?t even notice its elegance and beauty. How could he stand living on this nothing, this dustbowl of a planet, surrounded by criminals, murderers, and slavers?
A cloud of dust blew in front of Ray?s face, and he coughed. Well, it didn?t matter why Master Kenobi had chosen to hide here, because here he was, and here was where Ray would find him. Now to find a room to stay, and to start putting his plan in motion.
There was an upwelling in the Force, a glorious song of potential so strong that it disturbed Darth Vader?s meditation aboard his flagship, currently traveling through the Outer Rim. Vader snapped open his eyes, and then narrowed them.
There was a disturbance in the Force. Something was going to happen. Nothing had happened yet, but something would. And this something was bound up in the Light Side of the Force - the way the knowledge thrummed and sang beneath his consciousness told him that. Only the Light Side sang to its users, bright and bubbling over with warmth, joyously proclaiming itself. The Dark was much too smart for that, for giving itself away. It whispered, cool and commanding, until Vader found himself doing its bidding almost unconsciously.
But there was Darkness in this potential as well, Vader realized, listening more closely to that song in the Force and recognizing a jarring note, as if the singing voice had faltered. The Light was there, almost overwhelming, but Darkness threaded itself through, just waiting to grow strong enough to wrap itself around the throat that sang the song and tighten, cutting off the voice forever. And it was Vader?s duty - and his pleasure - as a Dark Lord of the Sith to help it do just that.
Eyes closed again, Vader resumed his meditation, this time seeking the Force for that something he?d felt earlier. Images flashed in front of his eyes and passed away almost too quickly to be seen properly - Vader thought he saw his former self at nine years old, surrounded by the sands of his home planet, but the image blew away and was replaced by a red lightsaber hurtling towards an unprotected neck, guided by a black-gloved hand. And then that image, too, was replaced, by something familiar and hated. It stayed in front of his eyes, Tatooine as seen from orbit, and suddenly Vader knew/knew, that the upwelling in the Force came from there.
It figured that it would be there, Vader thought, as he brought himself out of the meditation. There, where both his paths had begun, Light and Dark, where a crucial podrace was won and a village of Tuskens slaughtered. Something powerful was again stirring on Tatooine?and he would see exactly what it was.
Luke Skywalker had just finished his first of the morning?s chores, picking mushrooms at the vaporators, when he heard his aunt calling him.
?Coming, Aunt Beru!? he yelled back, and picked up his pace until he reached the homestead, with his aunt standing at the door.
?Good morning, Luke,? Beru said with a gentle smile. ?I?ve got to go shopping in Anchorhead today. Once you?ve put the mushrooms away, would you like to come with me??
Luke grinned and nodded in answer, and ran inside to leave the mushrooms in the kitchen. Anchorhead! It wasn?t much, Luke knew, just a small, sleepy town, but it was going to save his day from the complete monotony that was life on a moisture farm.
Beru drove the speeder as Luke kicked his heels in the passenger seat. He wanted to be the one driving, because he knew he could, that a lack of formal lessons on driving a landspeeder couldn?t stop him. He knew he could drive a landspeeder, even an airspeeder, or a starfighter. He didn?t know how he knew, but he did, just as surely as he knew that Uncle Owen was lying when he said Luke?s father had been a navigator on a space freighter, and that the crazy old hermit Ben Kenobi was hiding something important.
But it wasn?t Luke behind the wheel of the speeder; it was Beru, whose feet could reach the pedals. Luke sighed in momentary depression as his own body, small for its nine years of age, defeated his dreams, but then he brightened up. He wasn?t doing boring chores on the farm, and he wasn?t being yelled at by Uncle Owen. He was going to Anchorhead, and he might see Biggs, and they could run around and annoy Fixer and pretend to be Jedi Knights out to save the galaxy.
Luke grinned to himself, and looked down at his hands. Hands that were already rough and brown and calloused from working on a farm, hands with small, broken fingernails, hands that had been lightly slapped whenever Uncle Owen discovered him daydreaming instead of working. Hands that would someday pilot a starfighter across the galaxy, that would rescue princesses from evil black-caped men who wanted to kill them, that would someday hold a Jedi Knight?s lightsaber for real. And he knew those things would happen, because something about those dreams sang to him whenever he thought about them. He just knew.
But Luke had time, and the dreams could wait. After all, Luke told himself, still grinning, it would look pretty funny if a boy too small to drive a landspeeder rescued a princess.
With a flourish, Ray signed the name Anakin Skywalker to the datapad provided by the Anchorhead hotel manager. Then, carefully pulling back his cloak so that the lightsaber clipped to his belt was visible to the bored man seated at the desk, he bent down and picked up his luggage. When he stood up again, he let his eyes wander over the manager, whose gaze was fixed on the lightsaber. A smirk pulling at his lips, Ray headed towards the room he?d been assigned.
Once there, he flopped on the bed, leaving his luggage at the door. The room wasn?t much, but it was clean, which was almost more than he was expecting, given what he had seen of Tatooine so far. He still didn?t know what had prompted Obi-Wan Kenobi to make it his new home, but Ray supposed he would ask Master Kenobi that when they met.
And they would meet - Ray was sure of it. He felt the Force guiding him to this little nothing town in the middle of nowhere, and what would the Force be guiding him to if not Master Kenobi? And if that hotel manager talked about a man with a lightsaber by the name of Anakin Skywalker, who was Master Kenobi?s last padawan, and who was simply missing, not confirmed as dead?Kenobi would come. What the unknown name of Ray Jopaan wouldn?t do, the beloved name of Anakin Skywalker would. Master Kenobi would seek out the man that even Ray, who?d been too busy with his own master to talk to either Kenobi or Skywalker, could see he loved like a little brother. And then Ray could finish his training.
Smiling at the thought of being fully trained, then going back out into the galaxy to train more Jedi, enough to defeat Palpatine and his lapdog Vader, Ray drifted off to sleep.
Darth Vader did not turn around. ?Yes, Captain Ozzel??
Vader could hear the other man swallow in apprehension. ?My lord, we?ve received a transmission from the planet Tatooine. A hotel manager in the small town of Anchorhead reports that a man bearing a lightsaber checked into a room there under the name Anakin Skywalker. They are presuming him a Jedi, and wish to know what to do.?
Vader was silent for a moment, then, ?Do not let the man leave the planet,? he said abruptly. ?We are approaching Tatooine, are we not??
?Yes, my lord. We shall arrive there in approximately twelve hours,? the nervous captain replied.
?Very good. Begin readying my TIE fighter when we get closer - I shall take care of this Jedi myself. Dismissed, Captain.?
Without waiting for a reply, Vader strode away, heading for his quarters. Anakin Skywalker! Of all names, why did this supposed Jedi choose that one? And Tatooine?Tatooine, where his meditations lately had been focusing. Something was going to happen on Tatooine, Vader was sure of it, and that whatever it was that was happening there, this Jedi was part of it.
Something in the Force was thrumming. Ray could feel it, and he immediately woke up from his nap. Almost without realizing it, he jumped up and started shoving his feet into his boots, pulling his shirt over his head, clipping his lightsaber to his belt, and then swinging the hooded cloak over his shoulders.
Something was coming, the Force told him. Something was in Anchorhead, and it was getting closer. Ray closed his eyes for a moment and reached out - and touched a bright presence in the Force, so bright it almost blinded his mental eyes. It pulsed with energy, fairly crackling with it, and Ray could feel his excitement growing as he slipped out of the Force?s flow and opened his eyes.
So much power, so much Light Force power?it could only be Master Kenobi. And if Kenobi was here in Anchorhead, coming closer and closer, then Ray?s plan was working. Ray suddenly laughed out loud in sheer and utter delight. It was working! Soon Master Kenobi would be here and he would train Ray and together they would get rid of Vader and Palpatine and revive the Jedi Order.
Ray could see the events unfolding in his mind, see Obi-Wan Kenobi?s duel with Vader, the look on Palpatine?s face as he realized he was going to die. He could see it. It would happen. Ray strode out of the hotel, not even noticing the fear etched on the face of the manager, sitting behind his desk in the lobby. That bright presence was getting closer, and Ray followed its trail in his mind, dodging people and turning corners.
Then it was right in front of him, getting closer and closer, and Ray walked faster in anticipation of finally seeing Master Kenobi - and abruptly fell backwards when a young, blond-haired boy collided with him.
Luke looked up at the brown-haired man he?d just run into, rubbing his head. ?Sorry about that,? he offered, springing up immediately. ?I didn?t mean to run into you, I was just trying to catch my friend.? Beyond them, Biggs had stopped, looking at them curiously.
?Oooof,? the man groaned, sitting up and rubbing the back of his head. ?What, did your friend steal something from you? That why you were in such a hurry you couldn?t look where you were going??
Luke blinked. ?No, we were just playing Tag,? he said. ?Besides, I don?t think you were looking where you were going either!?
Luke glared at him, and waited for the man to angrily deny it because none of the adults /he/ knew would have admitted to something like not looking where they were going. But, unexpectedly, the man laughed. ?Guess I wasn?t, kid,? the man said affably. ?So I?m sorry too. I was just looking for someone.?
Luke stepped back, and the man stood up. ?Who?? Luke asked curiously, the game forgotten for the moment. ?Maybe I know them.?
The man shrugged. ?I don?t know if you would, but?his name?s Obi-Wan Kenobi. I thought he was in this town, but...? the man looked at him, sharply, and Luke wondered what he was seeing, ?...I might have been mistaken. I don?t suppose you know him??
Luke looked thoughtful for a moment. ?Um, I know a Ben Kenobi,? he said hesitantly. ?He lives out in the Jundland Wastes. Maybe he?s related to this Obi-Wan??
The man didn?t look convinced. ?Maybe,? he said, and he seemed disappointed. ?Anyway, kid??
?LUKE!? Aunt Beru?s voice interrupted them, and then she marched into view, holding onto a couple of bags. ?Luke, how many times have I told you not to talk to strangers??
Luke rolled his eyes. ?I was just helping him, Aunt Beru,? he said. ?He wanted to know if I knew an Obi-Wan Kenobi, so I told him about old Ben.?
Beru looked at the man with fresh suspicion. ?Obi-Wan Kenobi,? she said quietly, slowly, her gaze fixed on the stranger. ?Who are you, that wants to know where to find Obi-Wan Kenobi??
?My name is?? the man hesitated, then answered quickly, ?Anakin Skywalker, and??
Luke abruptly sat down again, interrupting the stranger. His eyes were wide and his legs wouldn?t hold him, and he must be going insane because he just thought he heard the stranger identify himself as Anakin Skywalker and that was impossible because Anakin Skywalker was the name of his father and he was dead. He was. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru said he was, and they would tell Luke if he really was alive. It was impossible.
But then, Luke had always known that his aunt and uncle weren?t telling the whole truth about his father?
Confusion roaring around his mind, Luke sat in the dust of the street and tried not to look as if his world had just been turned upside down.
Ray stopped talking when the boy suddenly sat down in the middle of the street, looking dazed and as if his legs wouldn?t support him. The woman - Beru, the boy called her? - looked at him with wide, suspicious eyes.
?Luke,? she said quietly, and the boy scrambled up again, ?go play with Biggs.?
The boy protested, shooting a glance at Ray, ?But, Aunt Beru??
?Now!? she snapped, and the boy, with one final look at Ray, reluctantly trudged off to join his friend.
?Ma?am, I?? Ray started, but the woman spoke right over him.
?You aren?t Anakin Skywalker,? she said, still quietly, as if she didn?t want anyone to hear what she was saying. ?Who are you, what are you doing here, and why are you claiming that name??
Ray felt a sudden flash of panic. How did this woman know? A middle-aged woman in the middle of nowhere on a backwater planet in the Outer Rim - how could she know Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight?
But that didn?t matter right now. This woman, whoever she was, spoke about Obi-Wan Kenobi as if she knew where he was, so maybe she would take him there. He had to take that chance - he needed this training.
?Not in the middle of the street,? he muttered, and looked around for a suitable place to talk. And there one was, an abandoned awning near the mouth of an alley. Ray stretched out his senses in the Force and detected no listeners, so he made his way there. After a moment?s hesitation, a last glance at where the boy was back to chasing his friend, the woman followed him.
As soon as Aunt Beru wasn?t looking, Luke stopped in his tracks, ignoring his other friends still playing, not even pretending to care about the game anymore. Biggs likewise stopped, and made his way back to where his friend was standing, now that it was obvious that Luke wasn?t going to play.
??Luke?? Biggs asked cautiously, following Luke?s gaze to where his aunt was talking to the stranger. ?What?s going on??
?That man,? Luke said quietly, not moving his head at all. ?He said his name was Anakin Skywalker.?
Biggs took a moment to absorb that, and then asked, ?So you think he?s your father? He doesn?t look much like you.?
Luke shook his head, but didn?t look away. ?Maybe I take after my mother or something, I don?t know. It?s just?? He struggled, trying to put in words what he had felt. ?There?s something about him, something familiar. I don?t know what it is, but I know it?s there.?
Biggs looked dubious. ?I dunno, Luke,? he said. ?I mean, I know you and your feelings, and how you?re usually right about them. But your aunt and uncle told you your dad was dead, and now this guy just appears out of nowhere, and doesn?t look like he even knows who you are.?
Luke shot an angry glance at his best friend. ?So what, are you saying he?s an imposter? Why would someone else be using the name of a dead space freighter navigator?? Luke narrowed his eyes, conveniently forgetting that he never thought his father really was a navigator, regardless of what his uncle said. ?I?m going over there,? he announced. ?I want to hear what they?re saying.?
And before Biggs could make any move to stop him, Luke strode away towards his aunt and his supposed father, hiding himself behind some crates not far from them. With a sigh, Biggs followed.
Once they were away from the traffic in the middle of the street, the woman folded her arms over her chest in an unspoken question of ?Well??
Ray swallowed - the woman looked so much like one of the Masters he?d had as a youngling whenever she caught someone in an act of mischief. But he was an adult now, and trying - no, doing - something important, and he would not let her intimidate him. ?First of all, I?d like to know how you knew I?m not really Anakin Skywalker.? He crossed his own arms in a conscious imitation of the woman.
The woman raised an eyebrow and leaned back against the wall. ?Did you know that Tatooine is Anakin?s home planet?? she asked conversationally. Ray felt his eyes widen; no, he?d not known that. ?My husband is his step-brother,? she continued. ?You look nothing like him. Now, who are you really??
Ray sighed, and slumped against the wall. He hadn?t expected to meet someone who?d actually /known/ Anakin Skywalker, hadn?t expected his disguise to be challenged so soon, but his plan was still salvageable. He just had to convince this woman to lead him to Master Kenobi, and he could tell the truth for that.
?My name is Ray Jopaan,? he began, ?and I was a Jedi padawan nine years ago when the Purges began. My Master was killed by Darth Vader, but I managed to survive, and since then I?ve been on the run, looking for someone who could complete my training so I can confront Darth Vader again, this time as a full Jedi. I heard rumors that Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was living on this planet, so I came here to look for him.? Ray shrugged. ?I figured that if I took the name Anakin Skywalker, who was his last padawan, and spread it around, then he?d come looking for me, and help me finish my training.?
Then from behind him he heard a loud crashing sound, and Ray whirled around with a hand on his lightsaber?to face two boys in a pile of overturned crates. One of them was the boy he?d run into earlier, who?d had such an extreme reaction when he heard the name Ray was using. They?d obviously been eavesdropping on the conversation, and Ray wondered for a moment how he?d not detected them so close, especially when given the massive Force presence the boy had. He?d just decided that it had probably been because neither boy was a threat when the woman now standing behind him spoke.
?Luke,? she sighed, ?what have I told you about eavesdropping??
The boy and his friend clambered to their feet and slouched closer. ?Not to do it, Aunt Beru,? the boy replied dejectedly. He and his friend kept looking at the ground, the very picture of boys awaiting punishment they knew they deserved.
?Right,? his aunt said severely. ?Now, what did you overhear??
Now the boy looked up, his eyes wide. ?I heard him?? he pointed to Ray, ??say that he wasn?t my father, and that he?s a Jedi padawan looking for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and that my father was Obi-Wan Kenobi?s padawan.? The boy looked at his aunt, clasping his hands so tightly that the knuckles were white. ?Aunt Beru, was my father a Jedi??
Ray was completely and utterly confused. Jedi didn?t have children. They just didn?t. It was against the Code! So why did this kid think?. Ray shook his head, trying to clear it. This situation was impossible. It was supposed to be so simple?go in, find Master Kenobi, get trained, and kill Darth Vader and the Emperor. Now there were Force-strong boys and women who knew more than they should and Jedi with children?when had things become so complex?
The woman looked at him, probably noting his confusion, and smiled, albeit sadly. ?Ray Jopaan,? she said softly, and indicated the boy, ?this is my nephew, Luke Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker?s son.?
Ray?s head was spinning, and he leaned it against the wall. Suddenly it was hotter than usual, even for this Force-forsaken desert planet. Except it wasn?t Force-forsaken - Anakin Skywalker had come from it. Anakin, who was such a powerful Jedi Knight, and now there was this boy, Anakin?s son, whose very presence in the Force sang with power.
?Calm,? he told himself. ?Calm, calm, calm.? There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. As he recited the Code to himself, he could see the woman speaking quietly with the other boy, and the other boy nodding, touching the first - Anakin Skywalker?s son - briefly on the shoulder, and then running off.
Luke?s mind was similarly spinning. His entire world had been turned upside down in the space of ten minutes. First his father had miraculously been found, then discovered to be a fake, and then discovered to have been a real life Jedi Knight! Luke knew he hadn?t been just a navigator, he knew it, but a Jedi?
Then Aunt Beru was speaking to both of them, Luke and the stranger - Ray Jopaan. ?Come,? she was saying. ?I think we need to all go speak to Master Kenobi.?
Almost in a daze, Luke walked with the other two to the clear lot where the speeder was waiting. Aunt Beru dumped her groceries in the front seat, and /looked/ at Luke and Ray until they both got in the back. Then they left, and even through Luke?s own confusion, he could tell that Aunt Beru was nervous. He wondered what she was so nervous about.
And then they were out in the desert, suns beating down on them mercilessly. Tatoo I was almost at its zenith, and Tatoo II wasn?t far behind. Luke closed his eyes and leaned his head against the side of the speeder, letting the air rushing past him cool him down and wipe the sweat off his brow.
?So I?m guessing your Ben Kenobi is the same Obi-Wan Kenobi that I?m looking for?? a voice said quietly from right beside him, and Luke angled his head to look at the speaker.
?I s?pose,? he answered, his forehead furrowing in thought. ?Aunt Beru said we?re going to see Obi-Wan, and we?re headed out towards where Ben lives. So I guess they could be the same person.?
?They are,? Aunt Beru called from the front seat. ?When he brought you to us, Luke, Obi-Wan told Owen and me that he was going to take the name Ben, and that we should always refer to him by that name.?
Luke blinked in surprise. ?He brought me to you?? he exclaimed. ?But I thought?? Actually, he hadn?t thought about it, Luke realized with a start. Beyond being told that his parents were dead and that was why he was with his aunt and uncle, he hadn?t thought about how he?d actually came to live with his family.
Beru sighed, loud enough that Luke could hear it in the back. ?Now that you know part of the story?you?ll be told more. I promise you that, Luke.? She sighed again. ?Once we meet Obi-Wan, and I tell him what happened today?we?ll tell you more.?
Vader sat in his meditation room in his quarters, his eyes closed behind the mask, the Dark Side of the Force rushing through his body and filling his veins with a cold power. Its whisper to him reminded him of cool nights on Tatooine, but Vader welcomed the cold - ever since that day nine years ago when Obi-Wan Kenobi left him to burn in the lava, his skin felt too warm for him. The Dark Side refreshed him.
He sank deeper into his meditation?and saw again the boy he?d seen the first time the Force had brought his attention to Tatooine, such a short time ago. At first he thought it was himself when he was younger, but there were differences - the curve of his mouth, the shape of his nose, the pattern of freckles on his cheeks. Subtle differences, but differences nonetheless. This boy was not a young Anakin Skywalker, but he was important. Vader wouldn?t be seeing him so often if he weren?t.
Then he felt something requiring his attention, and reluctantly let go of the trance. He stepped out of the meditation room and strode to the bridge, coming to a stop next to Captain Ozzel.
?My lord, we are now orbiting Tatooine,? the captain said, gesturing towards the viewscreen where the desert planet hovered. ?Your TIE fighter is prepared, unless you would like to take a shuttle with some stormtroopers??
Vader held up a hand, cutting the man off. ?That will not be necessary, Captain,? he rumbled. ?Stormtroopers will not be needed, and I do not foresee this taking long.?
?Very well, my lord,? the captain said, but Vader was already striding away.
There was a man, maybe fifty years old, standing at the edge of the Jundland Wastes. Ray narrowed his eyes and thought for a moment the man was a mirage, because why would someone just be standing out in the open in the middle of a desert?
Unless he was waiting for someone. Ray?s heart skipped a beat as he realized that the man wasn?t a mirage, and that, despite not having seen him for a decade, he recognized him. There was a lot more white in ginger hair, and his face had a lot more lines, but he was still recognizable as the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
?Beru,? he said, as Beru pulled the speeder to a stop right alongside him. ?And Luke - it?s nice to see you, young man.? Luke grinned. Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at the third person in the speeder. ?And who is this??
?Ray Jopaan,? Ray answered gruffly, before Beru or her nephew could say anything. ?Jedi padawan Ray Jopaan.?
Obi-Wan looked at Ray sharply. ?I remember you. A?Sharad Hett?s padawan, right??
?I - yes.? Ray blinked. Master Kenobi recognized him? He?d never thought he was that memorable. ?But my Master died nine years ago, in the Temple. I?ve been on the run, looking for someone to complete my training, and then I heard rumors of you on this planet, and thought you might finish it.?
?And you just happened to meet Beru Lars, one of the only two people on this planet who knew that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ben Kenobi were the same person,? Obi-Wan said, with a heavy amount of irony. ?Well, the Force works in mysterious ways. But Beru,? he turned to face her, ?why is?? He gestured towards Luke.
?Why is Luke here?? Beru finished, voice grave. ?He?s the one who found Jedi Jopaan, not me.?
Obi-Wan smiled. ?I?m not surprised. But??? he prompted. ?There?s more, isn?t there.?
Beru sighed. ?Jedi Jopaan thought that his own name wouldn?t attract your attention, so?? she swallowed, ?he used Anakin?s. Luke knows that his father was a Jedi.?
Obi-Wan flinched in surprise, and he swung around to face Ray again with astonishing speed. ?You used the name Anakin Skywalker?? he asked urgently, and taken aback, Ray nodded. ?How many people knew you by that name??
?I?? Ray thought for a moment. ?Just Luke there, his friend, and Mrs. Lars, though they all know I?m really not. I didn?t really use the name all that long before finding Luke?. Oh, except for when I checked into a hotel. I used the name Anakin Skywalker then.?
?Sithspit!? Obi-Wan swore, closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead. ?Well, what?s done is done. Beru, I?ll need to talk to you and Owen. Do you mind if I go with you back to the homestead??
Without a word, Beru grabbed her groceries and shoved them in the backseat with Luke and Ray, making room for Obi-Wan, who immediately took it. Ray looked between the two for a moment, wondering what was so important about some hotel manager thinking Anakin Skywalker was on Tatooine.
?Ah, Master Kenobi?? Ray asked hesitantly, as Beru swung the speeder around and they started off across the sands again. ?What?s so important about Anakin Skywalker??
Obi-Wan turned his head back to face him, and looked him hard in the eye. ?Anakin Skywalker is /not/ an unknown Jedi in this galaxy,? he said shortly. Ray almost stopped breathing as he felt the fear coming off of Obi-Wan - a Jedi Master! - in waves. ?If that hotel manager let anyone know?we might be dealing with Darth Vader soon.?
Beru gave out a little moan, though she continued driving steadily. And Ray sat back against his seat, completely understanding why Obi-Wan was afraid. He wasn?t ready to face Vader yet, not /yet, not after having gotten no farther in his training since Vader had almost killed him.
This plan, far from being as brilliant as he?d first thought, was quickly turning into a disaster.
The suns climbed higher and higher overhead as the speeder raced back to the homestead, and Luke was confused. After all the revelations of the day, he wasn?t sure what was really true about his life, and what was a lie. His father hadn?t been a navigator, he?d been a Jedi Knight, and a famous one at that. Ben Kenobi was really Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a Jedi Master instead of a crazy old hermit. And Obi-Wan said that Darth Vader might be coming?Luke shivered, despite the heat of the suns pounding down on him. He?d heard things about Darth Vader, horrible, scary things about how he was always killing people and didn?t know what mercy was, and the last thing Luke wanted was to meet Darth Vader.
But at the same time, he knew something was strange here. Why did Obi-Wan have to talk to his aunt and uncle if Vader was coming? Luke didn?t think they were Jedi too. He?d lived with them for the past nine years, and they didn?t feel like Jedi, not the way that Obi-Wan and Ray Jopaan did. And Uncle Owen wasn?t a big man in Anchorhead and Mos Eisley the way that Huff Darklighter, Biggs?s dad, was. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were just moisture farmers trying to make a living in the middle of a desert. What was special about them?
?I know you have questions, Luke,? Obi-Wan said, turning around in the front seat to look at Luke, interrupting his thoughts. Luke jumped, not having expected Obi-Wan to say anything to him, and Obi-Wan smiled. ?But don?t worry,? Obi-Wan continued. ?I assure you, you?ll get some answers when we get to your home and can talk to your uncle too.?
Luke nodded, but questions were still bouncing around his mind. Something was missing here. It was like a jigsaw puzzle with the center pieces gone, the biggest and most important part of the picture incomplete. He now knew his father and Obi-Wan had been Jedi, and that was important, but it wasn?t the heart of the puzzle. There was something more.
?Beru!? a voice shouted, and Luke blinked and came out of his thoughts. Time and the desert must have flown by, because they were back at the homestead, and Uncle Owen was standing in front of the speeder, glaring at Obi-Wan Kenobi. ?What?s he doing here?? Owen growled, obviously speaking to Aunt Beru but not taking his eyes off Obi-Wan.
?Owen?? Obi-Wan began, but Owen interrupted him.
?I thought I told you not to come around here! And Beru,? he turned to face her, ?you brought him here! What about?? He cut himself off when he noticed Luke in the back of the speeder, and his eyes narrowed.
?Owen,? Obi-Wan said heavily. ?Listen for a moment, will you? I wouldn?t have come if it hadn?t been an emergency, and Beru knows it. Luke found out about his father.?
Owen?s eyes widened, and he seemed to wilt into himself. ?All of it?? he asked hoarsely. ?He knows about??
?He knows that his father was a Jedi,? Obi-Wan cut him off, and Luke frowned. What had Uncle Owen been going to say if Obi-Wan hadn?t interrupted him? ?And he knows that I am too, now, which is enough to be dangerous. We need to talk.?
Owen nodded without saying anything and turned towards the house. Beru gave the others a tight-lipped smile and followed him. And as Luke followed the others into the homestead, he wondered at how quickly his neat, orderly, boring life seemed to be disappearing into a black hole.
The future was so close now. Vader could almost hear the Force yelling at him, pushing him towards what was going to happen.
It was close. It was inevitable. It was happening.
The Force was pressing him, and he let it guide him, let it take over his hands on the controls and take him where he needed to be. The desert rushed past him, the wind from his passing stirring up little flurries of sand.
In front of him, he felt a presence; it was one he?d not felt for nearly a decade, but also one that he would never forget. Kenobi was here, on this ball of sand and dirt and heat, probably thinking that Vader?s hatred of the planet would keep him safe. But he was wrong, and Vader felt a quick, fierce stab of pleasure at being able to show Kenobi how wrong he was.
Even when memories of where he was kept bubbling up from his subconscious, memories of why he hated this planet so much, Vader focused on his goal and shunted them away, flying onward to where he thought he saw a homestead in the distance.
Owen took the news of who Ray was and what he?d done remarkably well, Ray thought, as the five of them sat around the Lars? kitchen table. Though he?d glared at Ray a few times during the story, he seemed more afraid than angry. And while Ray could understand being afraid of Vader, he still didn?t know why the Lars family was being involved.
?Well, that?s it, then.? Owen sighed. He turned to Obi-Wan. ?You really think Vader could be coming??
Obi-Wan echoed his sigh. ?I think he is,? Obi-Wan said, gently. ?When Jedi Jopaan said he used Anakin?s name, I got this foreboding feeling?I think the Force was telling me that Vader will come. I don?t know when, but I think he?ll come.? He stood up, and started pacing the small kitchen. ?You and Beru should take Luke and hide somewhere. Try to protect him, at least. Vader might kill him, just for being the son of a Jedi and potentially strong in the Force.?
Ray felt sick. So much for his brilliant plan ? it seemed the only thing he?d done was put his hoped-for mentor and this innocent family in terrible danger. He should have thought it out better - surely there had been some other way of finding Obi-Wan, or of getting trained?some way that didn?t involve this careworn couple and their Force-strong nephew.
But Owen was shaking his head. ?Where would we go?? he asked gruffly, but regretfully. ?We can?t get off-planet - Beru and I don?t have the money. Besides, being out in the middle of the desert seems a good enough hiding place to me.?
Obi-Wan clasped his hands together tightly. ?It may not be enough,? he said. ?I don?t have the money to get you off-planet either, and I don?t think I could hide Luke?s Force-signature anymore if we?re on different planets. I could distract Vader here, and you could disappear into Mos Eisley??
?And what if he kills you, Obi-Wan?? Beru cut in sharply. ?He?s spent the past nine years killing Jedi Knights and Masters, and I daresay he?s gotten quite good at it! You can?t hide Luke?s Force-signature anymore if you?re dead, either, and then Vader would be able to find him still!?
Ray looked at Luke, sitting quietly in his chair, his face pale as he looked at each adult. Ray wondered what he was thinking, if he even knew what the Force was, if he?d known about any of this. Luke was at the heart of this, Ray realized suddenly. Obi-Wan was on this planet because Luke was here, because he?d had to dampen a presence so strong that it leaked through a Jedi Master?s shields enough that Ray could feel it from blocks away, and all to protect him from a monster Jedi-killer.
Then Obi-Wan stopped his pacing, suddenly, and closed his mouth in the middle of a retort to Beru, and Ray realized he should pay better attention to the conversation if he wanted to know what was happening. ?All of this is now a moot point,? he said abruptly. ?I thought we had more time, but?I feel his presence getting closer. I think he?ll be here within five minutes.?
Beru and Owen turned pale faces to each other, and quickly started moving. Owen grabbed his nephew, stopping a shout of surprise with a hand over his mouth, and took him deeper into the house.
?Come!? Obi-Wan shouted, grabbing Ray by the forearm and pulling him out of the chair as Beru followed her husband. ?You?re the one who got us into this mess, so you?re going to help me distract him enough to let Owen and Beru escape with Luke. Follow me!?
Ray shook off his shock and ran after Obi-Wan, up the stairs and back out into the desert suns. Off in the distance he could see a black dot swooping closer and closer, and with a trill of fear, Ray recognized an advanced TIE fighter, and knew, with a sudden certainty born of the Force, that it was Vader flying it, and that this was not an encounter from which he would be walking away.
Luke was terrified. He tried desperately not to show it, but he was. He kept quiet even after his uncle took his hand away from his mouth, and stood silently as his aunt and uncle moved through the house, grabbing their emergency stash of credits and other things Luke couldn?t see.
He stood there, pushing away all the questions he?d thought of during the discussion in the kitchen, trying to think of something he could do to help, when Aunt Beru knelt in front of him and took his hands in hers.
?Luke,? she said, so quietly that he had to strain forward to hear her, ?Master Kenobi and Jedi Jopaan will be out front, distracting him, while we get away. We?re going out the back, and we?ll try to get to the speeder, but if Owen and I,? she swallowed, and the skin around her eyes tightened, ?don?t make it, then you need to get away. Take the speeder, drive it as best you can to Anchorhead, and go to the Darklighters.?
?Aunt Beru,? Luke said, just as softly, ?what about what you were saying, in the kitchen? Something about him being able to find me?I don?t want to lead him to Biggs.?
Beru bit her lip, though something in her eyes softened. ?We?re hoping that he?ll be distracted enough by Master Kenobi that you?ll be left alone,? she said.
Luke had other questions, but Beru put a finger over his lips to indicate silence, then quickly hugged him close to her. Luke hugged her back, tightly, and felt her tears on his neck and soaking into his shirt.
?Whatever happens, Luke,? she whispered hoarsely, pulling back enough to look him in the face, ?know that I?ll always love you.?
Luke felt tears prick his own eyes, but he didn?t let them fall. He was nine years old, and the son of a Jedi Knight, and he wasn?t going to cry. ?I love you too, Aunt Beru,? he whispered in return. ?I love you too.?
Four years was apparently enough time for Ray to forget his fear at the sight of the tall black figure now standing in front of him. He?d buried it deeply enough that it had gone to sleep, but now that the object of his fear was back, so was the fear, and it threatened to overwhelm him.
Vader breathed. ?Obi-Wan Kenobi,? he said, the deep voice sending a shudder throughout Ray?s body. Then that mask turned to face him, and Ray froze. ?And this, I assume, is the fool who used Skywalker?s name and brought my attention to this planet??
Vader meant to do that, Ray thought, meant to remind him of how stupid his plan really was, and cause him to despair at how utterly it had failed. But Ray would act like a Jedi, would hold his head high and not let his fear or despair control him.
?Jedi padawan Ray Jopaan,? Ray introduced himself. He met the mask calmly, though he was sure that Vader could feel his fear and was amused by it. ?You nearly killed me four years ago, but you failed. I think you will regret that.?
?I think not, padawan,? Vader replied, and gestured to Obi-Wan with his unlit lightsaber. ?You led me to him, after all, and now I can take care of both of you.?
Ray felt his despair returning, and stronger, at the realization that Vader was right; Obi-Wan was in danger, and it was solely because of him. ?Act like a Jedi,? he told himself, and kept his gaze fixed on Vader?s mask.
Obi-Wan was standing calmly, his lightsaber held in his right hand, but as yet unlit. ?You might be surprised,? he said serenely. ?You were in our last duel, weren?t you??
Ray felt a fierce spike of anger from Vader at that, and wondered for a moment what Obi-Wan was referring to. But Vader was replying, and Ray silently encouraged Obi-Wan in keeping up the conversation, and giving Luke and his family more time to escape.
?It is you who shall be surprised, Obi-Wan,? Vader said, and thumbed his lightsaber on. Ray shuddered again at the sight of that blood red blade, which he?d last seen being pulled out of his chest. ?I am not your apprentice anymore!?
?What?? Ray thought. ?His apprentice???
Obi-Wan just slowly brought his left hand to grip the saber below his right, and turned it on. ?No, Anakin, you?re not,? he said, sadly.
Ray didn?t even have time to react to that before Vader roared, ?Anakin Skywalker is dead! I am Darth Vader!? Then he rushed forward, swung at Obi-Wan, and the battle was joined.
They crept out the back way, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru herding Luke protectively in between them. Tatoo I and Tatoo II felt hotter than they ever had before, even with Owen and Beru hunched over him and shielding him from as much as possible.
The landspeeder was parked to the side of the homestead, and Luke heard voices coming from the front. One of them was deep, cold and commanding, and Luke shivered because he knew it was Darth Vader?s voice, and that meant that Darth Vader really was here. At his home. Threatening his family and people he cared about.
As Owen and Beru hustled him towards the speeder, Luke listened closely to the conversation, listening for any clues that Vader knew that Luke and his aunt and uncle were trying to escape.
Then he stopped, and ignored Owen and Beru tugging at his arms, when Obi-Wan called Vader Anakin. His head flew up and his eyes met his guardians?, and he could see their desperate fear - fear for him, and fear of the knowledge he just realized they were trying to keep from him.
That awful cold voice had just roared that he was Darth Vader when Luke shook off the protective hands, and ran back to where he could see a bright blue lightsaber blade coming up to parry a blood red one. He wasn?t thinking, didn?t know what to think, but he trusted the feeling that told him run.
Ray told himself not to think, but it didn?t work. Obi-Wan had called Vader Anakin, and Vader had disclaimed being his apprentice anymore. There was only one thing that made sense, and Ray didn?t want to think about it, but he couldn?t help it.
This was Anakin Skywalker. This black-masked, Dark Side-wielding travesty of a man, this merciless Sith Lord, was Obi-Wan Kenobi?s former padawan, Owen Lars?s step-brother, and?Luke Skywalker?s father. Ray felt a sudden rush of anger, which he quickly beat down. He knew that he?d played the biggest part in bringing Vader here, and he took full responsibility for this whole sorry position they found themselves in, but he couldn?t stop the feeling from bursting inside him that the worst thing about the entire situation was that Luke, that shining Force presence, had such a miserable excuse for a father.
Ray turned his lightsaber on, and the blue blade popped up with its distinctive snap-hiss. He didn?t like the idea of attacking someone in the back, but Obi-Wan needed help and Luke and his family needed defending, and they were worth this breach of honor.
So Ray charged forward, both hands clasped tightly around the hilt of his lightsaber, and thought grimly that if he died in this attempt, it would be in the defense of innocents, and a death worthy of a Jedi.
Both of the Jedi, the Master and the padawan, were fools. He parried one blue blade aimed at his neck, and immediately swung around to block the other from biting into his thigh.
Did they think that, even teaming up against him, they could prevail? He had defeated teams of Jedi before, whole coordinated attacks - what were Kenobi and this other thinking, to stand against him?
Vader lost himself to the movements of the deadly pattern, exulting in the adrenaline rushing through his body. It had been too long since his last lightsaber fight against real opponents, as opposed to battle droids that died all too easily. Obi-Wan and this padawan - what was his name again? It didn?t matter - were skilled, but they were nothing to him.
Block. Parry. Feint. Cut. His lightsaber danced in his hands, a whir of red energy seeking an opening. He drove the padawan back for the moment, stepped away from Obi-Wan, and then cut forward at an angle, a vicious chop towards the padawan?s waist. The young man blocked it, though awkwardly, his face drawn in effort, and Vader wanted to laugh because he wasn?t even starting to feel winded yet.
Obi-Wan darted in quickly, lightsaber sweeping downward to Vader?s left upper leg - a weakness that Obi-Wan had exploited before in practice duels against his padawan, but Sidious was a much better master than Obi-Wan had been, and Vader blocked it effortlessly.
Something flickered at the edge of his Force sense, a teasing presence that was somehow familiar, but Vader ignored it. It posed no threat to him. It could be taken care of once Obi-Wan and this padawan were dead.
And there - there was the opening Vader had been looking for! The padawan faltered a bit, lowered his blade in anticipation of a torso strike, and Vader swung high, penetrating defenses easily. His blade hurtled towards the now-unprotected neck - and met its target, slicing down and through the padawan?s neck and upper chest. The boy collapsed, his life energy quickly slipping away, and Vader smiled behind his mask in triumph. Then the boy disappeared and the robes collapsed in on themselves as the padawan became one with the Force.
At the same moment, he felt Obi-Wan at his back, rushing towards him. There was an opportunity in the charge, if Obi-Wan had put enough momentum into it. And at the last possible moment, when Obi-Wan truly gave himself to this last desperate attack, the Force trilled a warning and Vader turned around and lunged forward, letting Obi-Wan spear himself through the heart upon Vader?s blade.
The shock was already leaving Obi-Wan?s eyes when Vader stepped back, letting his old master collapse on the sand. Then Obi-Wan opened his mouth, and almost against his better judgment, Vader leaned forward to listen.
?Anakin,? Obi-Wan whispered, clearly holding onto the last vestiges of life in order to say this one thing. ?Don?t hurt the boy.? What boy? ?Don?t hurt?your son.?
Then he closed his eyes, let out one deep, shuddering breath?and disappeared, his robes collapsing in on where his body had been.
The next thing Vader became aware of was someone screaming.
Luke hadn?t even realized he?d been screaming until two weathered pairs of hands clamped over his mouth and cut him off. But the damage was done: Darth Vader, with his red lightsaber that had just taken the lives of two Jedi, was looking straight at them. Luke sagged back against Uncle Owen as he realized what he?d done - he?d fouled up their only chance of escape, and brought them to the attention of a murderer.
But Vader wasn?t coming at them with his lightsaber. He was still standing there, beside Obi-Wan?s empty robes, and Luke would have sworn that he was puzzled about something. Obi-Wan had said something to him before disappearing - how had he managed that anyway? - so maybe it was that that left Darth Vader standing in front of them without trying to kill them.
For a moment, the only sound Luke could hear was Vader?s distinctive breathing. Then Vader took a step forward - Owen and Beru almost reflexively stepped back, bringing Luke with them - and asked, ?Who is the boy??
Luke realized that Vader was talking about him, and wanted to tremble. Aunt Beru was trembling, and Luke took her hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure her. She squeezed it back, but didn?t stop trembling.
Uncle Owen cleared his throat. ?He?s my nephew,? he said roughly, answering the question with as little information as possible. Luke, who normally hated his uncle?s overprotectiveness, now felt grateful for it.
Silence for a moment, apart from the breathing, then: ?Why are the boy?s parents not taking care of him??
Luke didn?t like this display of interest in him from one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. He wished, suddenly and intensely, to go back to being the anonymous boy he?d been that morning, the unknown nephew of a moisture farmer. But that was impossible now, with Darth Vader looking at him and asking about him, so he closed his eyes and told himself to be brave.
Finally, Owen replied, ?His parents are gone. We?re the only family he has left.?
?What is his name??
Now they were for it. Luke left his eyes closed, and fought to keep his breath from speeding up. ?Be calm,? he told himself. ?He hasn?t killed us yet, so he might not. Panicking won?t help anything.?
Owen swallowed, and then said, gruffly, ?Luke.?
Vader breathed, and Luke could feel him getting annoyed. His lightsaber was still on, and Luke eyed it warily. He didn?t want Uncle Owen to die. His life was forfeit if he was uncooperative with Imperials, and with Darth Vader to answer to, telling anything less than the truth was a death sentence. Not many stories from off-planet made it to the gossip market in Anchorhead, but ones of Vader had, and Luke silently urged his uncle to tell the truth and not annoy Vader. He didn?t care what Vader did to him upon discovery that he was the son of a Jedi Knight, but he didn?t want his uncle to die.
?Surname?? Vader asked, the annoyance coming through in the tone of his voice.
Uncle Owen bowed his head, was silent for a moment, two. ?Skywalker,? he whispered, finally, almost too low for even Luke to hear it.
?Speak up!? Vader snapped, raising up the lightsaber slightly and stepping towards them.
Owen?s head was still bowed, and Luke looked up at him, then looked away, unable to bear the pain in his uncle?s eyes. Luke could feel his uncle?s fear - mostly fear for him, and for Beru, with only the smallest part for himself. And suddenly, he knew that his uncle wouldn?t say any more, that he would prefer death to giving up Luke to a man like Darth Vader.
But Luke didn?t want him to die. Couldn?t let him die. His chin came up, and he shook off his aunt?s and uncle?s hands, taking a step forward towards Vader. ?Skywalker,? he said, loudly and clearly. Vader?s gaze fixed on him, but Luke stood his ground. ?My name is Luke Skywalker,? he announced, ignoring the little moan of fear that came from his aunt behind him.
Then his chin came down a bit, and he wilted slightly. ?Don?t hurt Uncle Owen,? he said, quieter now but no less clear. ?Do whatever you want to me, but don?t hurt Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.?
Obi-Wan had said it, and the Force confirmed it, but he?d had to make sure, had to hear it, straight from the mouth of someone who knew. And he knew that this was a true Skywalker, unlike the foolish padawan whose empty robes were lying somewhere behind him.
This was his son.
It was definitely possible, Vader knew. Padm? had still been pregnant when she confronted him on Mustafar, and she could have given birth before she?Vader shied away from the thought; even though it had been nine years, it still hadn?t been long enough to take the pain away. Even if she had led Obi-Wan to him, even if she had betrayed him, he?d repaid all that by inadvertently killing her in his anger, and the thought that she had had their son first was?almost a comfort.
?How old are you, young Skywalker?? Vader asked, his voice coming out more gently than he?d meant it to. He was still testing, though what for he didn?t know, because he knew the boy was his son. The Force couldn?t lie.
?Nine,? the boy answered, just as Vader expected he would. He looked small for nine, but Vader himself had been small, before he hit a growth spurt.
Vader closed his eyes behind his mask and breathed. He had a child. A son. Unbidden, images of the boy from his meditations arose, and Vader realized that the boy was not a young version of himself, which had been his first thought, but was his son.
His son, Luke. He had a son named Luke. It was something strange and almost wondrous, life where he?d thought it lost, family when he?d thought it destroyed. He wasn?t alone in the world, aside from his master. He had a son. He could sense his presence in the Force, pulsing so brightly it was almost blinding, could feel the boy?s hopes and fears and dreams.
But however wondrous it was, it brought back so many memories he?d thought safely buried or cast out, memories he wanted no part of anymore. This place, and this boy, brought them all back.
In his mind?s eye, Vader could see another nine-year-old boy holding fast against an adversary without fear keeping him back, another boy running across the hot sands of the Tatooine desert under the heat of the twin suns, another boy who took a chance and put his life in the hands of an unknown man?another boy who secretly dreamed big, wild, free dreams of walking the sky and making it his own?
Vader wanted to kill that other boy, wanted to snuff out his life and grind it beneath the heel of his boot, wanted to take those dreams and pluck them out of the sky like stars and crush them in his hand. Those dreams had led that other boy nowhere. Dreams were all that boy had had, his life, and look at how insubstantial they really were, how quickly they passed away?
But this was his son, and his son?s dreams, and he had to protect them, like his mother had tried to protect his own. This was his son, and he could never hurt him. Perhaps there still was some sliver of Anakin Skywalker still left in him, a weakness for family that he hadn?t rooted out because his own family was gone and it was a moot point, and now it came back to haunt him. And it probably would haunt him, later, but he was living in the moment and decided not to care.
Abruptly, he realized that his lightsaber was still on, and quickly extinguished the blade. There was no more threat here, now that the Jedi were dead. There was only the boy and his aunt and uncle, and they weren?t going anywhere.
Luke gazed nervously at Vader, but the tall man made no threatening move now that his saber was off. He?d spent the last several minutes standing in silence, as if lost in thought, though Luke didn?t know what he had to be so thoughtful about. Luke was the son of a Jedi Knight, and wasn?t it Imperial policy that Jedi and children of Jedi were killed?
Then Vader spoke, and Luke almost jumped at the sound of his voice, almost as gentle as it had been when he?d asked Luke his age.
?Owen and Beru,? Vader said, as if considering something. ?Owen Lars?son of Cliegg Lars, step-son of Shmi Skywalker, step-brother of Anakin Skywalker.?
Luke felt his eyes widen. How had Vader known that? How could Vader, of all people, know that much about his family?
Behind him, Owen cleared his throat. ?Yes,? he said gruffly. ?I am Owen Lars. Beru is my wife.?
Vader was silent for a moment, then asked, ?What have you told Luke about his father??
Owen stepped up to Luke, put a hand on his shoulder. ?We told him that his father?s dead,? he said quietly, now looking almost fearlessly at the man in black across from him. ?And he found out today, thanks to that padawan, that his father was a Jedi.?
Vader exhaled, loudly. ?So?he knows practically nothing about his father,? Vader said, his voice lower than usual, with a hint of leftover anger and violence. ?Kenobi?s doing, I presume??
Owen shook his head. ?Obi-Wan just brought him to us. Beru and I made the decision not to tell him, for his own safety.?
Luke looked between the both of them, confused and not liking it. He?d always known that there was something about his father Owen wasn?t telling him, but then he thought that the big revelation was that he?d been a Jedi. There was more to it than that, apparently.
Vader exhaled again, the breath coming out like a hiss. ?For his own safety?? Vader growled, taking a step forward. Luke could feel the anger spiking in him. ?Did you think I would hurt him??
Owen looked steadily at Vader, but his hand tightened on Luke?s shoulder, and Luke could feel his growing fear. ?We didn?t know what you would do,? Owen replied roughly. ?And we weren?t ready to bet the boy?s life on a wrong guess!?
Vader stopped his advancement, and seemed to think about that, but Luke could still feel his anger. ?Everything that I have done has been done for my family,? he said lowly, dangerously. ?I would never hurt any of them, and definitely not my own son!?
Luke reeled back in surprise, feeling like someone had punched him in the gut.
That was the missing piece, the last one in the puzzle. That was the big revelation Luke had known was coming. That was why Uncle Owen had always changed the subject when he brought up his father, and that was why Obi-Wan Kenobi called Vader Anakin.
Luke fell to his knees on the burning hot sand, welcoming the heated pain, ignoring Owen?s comforting hand on his shoulder. Owen had lied to him, and so had Beru, and Obi-Wan, and they tried to keep him as far away from this man, his father, as possible. Luke couldn?t be angry with them for it, because they had been trying to protect him, and Darth Vader was undoubtedly a dangerous man, and a killer.
But he was still Luke?s father. Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker?s father, and Luke choked back a little laugh-sob, because he didn?t know what to feel about the idea, whether to be happy because his father was alive and in front of him, or to be appalled because he?d just killed two men and seemed to think nothing of it, and Luke knew they weren?t his first murders.
Then there were two heavy hands on his shoulders, and Luke looked up, ready to tell Uncle Owen to go away. But these hands were not his uncle?s hands; these hands were covered by black leather gloves, and nothing like his uncle?s calloused ones. Luke looked at his father, down on his knees beside him in the sand, and any words of reproach died in his mouth. He couldn?t tell his father to go away.
And then Vader was pulling him closer, and Luke let himself be pulled. This was his father, whatever else he was. Later, perhaps, he would ask him why he?d killed Obi-Wan and Ray and so many other people, and perhaps later he?d be angry. But for now, he was in his father?s arms, where he?d so often longed to be, and he was content.
It had been years, Vader reflected, since he?d last held someone. And though he knew he would not do it again - his reputation, and the echo of his master?s voice in his mind, would not allow such a thing - he just couldn?t help it this time. Luke was confused and in pain, and Vader had offered comfort the simplest way he knew how.
Then he stood up and stepped back, his arm still around Luke?s shoulders, and Luke came up with him. Together, they faced Owen and Beru, Owen?s mouth tight and Beru?s eyes filled with tears.
?I will never hurt him,? Vader said, and Owen nodded, but his mouth tightened even more. Not that it mattered what Owen thought - he wasn?t in control anymore, and Vader was.
They stood there for another few moments, in silence, and then Luke?s voice asked quietly, hesitantly, ?Are you taking me with you??
Vader looked down at his son, at the tousled sandy hair and the brilliant blue eyes so reminiscent of his own childhood. ?I would like to,? Vader replied, just as quietly. He should give the boy a choice; he didn?t want to be hated or resented by his last remaining family. ?But it should be your decision. Would you want to live with me??
Vader knew he shouldn?t make a promise like that, not without consulting his master first, but this was his son. He would not allow his family to be separated from him so easily anymore.
He could feel his son thinking, and without hesitation followed the thoughts. Fear, and glimmers of anger, because of what Vader had just done. Concern for his aunt and uncle. Lingering surprise over the unexpected revelation of who his father was. And underlying everything, a quiet happiness at finally having a father, a real father and not just an uncle and father-figure. And too, there was hope that he would be a mitigating influence on his father, so that Vader would not kill so casually anymore - Vader was amused at the idea, but decided that breaking that illusion could wait until Luke truly trusted him.
They would have to work at building a real relationship, Vader knew. Luke would miss his aunt and uncle, and his friends on this planet, but Vader would let him come back to visit. He remembered only too well the Jedi refusing him a similar courtesy, and the anguish that it caused him - anguish that he would spare his son. And Luke would come to see that there was still a man behind the mask; Vader felt him coming to that realization already, as he clumsily touched Vader's emotions and felt the genuine surprise, warmth, burgeoning love, and desire to have his son with him. He dropped his mental shields slightly, to let Luke feel the emotions more clearly, and hoped that would influence the boy
There was quiet, broken only by the sound of his breathing and the wind blowing sand, and then Luke suddenly leaned into him, closer than he had been before. ?I want to go with you,? he announced solemnly. Then he looked up, and smiled, and those blue eyes brightened even more. ?Father.?
Vader smiled behind his mask, and held Luke close against him. He didn?t care about his master at the moment, nor about what his crew would think when they saw him come back with a young boy. They didn?t matter. All that mattered was Luke. Just Luke, his bright, Force-strong, newfound son.
Original cover by PrincessKenobi4. HTML formatting copyright 2005 TheForce.Net LLC.