Luke Skywalker is in trouble...again.
He set out to cause trouble and, being a Skywalker, he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination. The boy had a real knack for it, and no one could deny it. For the moment, we both ignored the still-smoking wreckage of the grav sled. He did so out of embarrassment; I did it because every time I looked at it I felt my knees go weak.
He could have been killed.
Luke, however, seemed to have no clue about the danger. Instead, he seemed more perturbed about failing than frightened of being hurt, and that scared me even more. Torn between anger and terror, I tried to focus on my anger. But even that was going to be difficult.
As I stared down at him, I had to work hard to keep my expression stern. Luke glanced up at me through blond lashes and his lips quirked as if he recognized my difficulties.
That was part of the problem; Luke always knew more than he should.
“You could have hurt yourself, Luke,” I chided him, shaking my finger at him. Or worse, I could not help thinking. Shaking that finger was not difficult, since my whole body was trembling. He blinked up at me, probably confused at the distress in my voice. My heart was still beating like a herd stampeding banthas.
“I know,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry.” Then he kicked at the sand with his feet, his thin shoulders slumping. “I’ll try and do better.”
The words sounded remarkably sincere given the fact that I knew I could go into the house for a few minutes and come back outside to find Luke knee deep in some new and even more dangerous mischief. “Really?” I asked with skepticism. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to appear unyielding.
“I said I’ll try,” Luke explained patiently. “That’s different…” He looked up at me to see if I grasped the finer points of his argument.
I did. We had had this conversation more than once.
Apparently Luke sensed that my anger and worry had not quite passed because he wrapped his arms around my legs. “I love you, Uncle Owen,” he said sweetly. He peered up at me with innocent blue eyes.
No one could put on the charm like Luke Skywalker. No one needed to quite as much either.
“I love you, too, Luke,” I told him as I picked him up. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you did something you were told not to do.” Our eyes met and he gazed at me mournfully.
“I know,” he said in a small, miserable voice. It was the voice that never failed to end my bad temper and he knew it. The boy was a master at his craft; I had to give him that.
Hugging him close, I inhaled the slightly pungent scent of sweaty little boy. It’s an odor that I would recognize anywhere in the galaxy, and as familiar to me as the scent of Beru’s hair, but much less pleasant I had to admit. “I was worried about you,” I whispered.
Luke leaned back and patted the side of my face. “Don’t worry, Uncle Owen. I know what I’m doing.”
That was my fear. Luke seemed to know exactly what he was doing. I could not forget that Anakin Skywalker had raced his way to freedom, and his son showed every sign of wanting to follow in his father’s fast and dangerous footsteps. I couldn’t keep up with him and wasn’t sure I would want to even if I could. “You go too fast,” I chided him.
“I like fast,” Luke replied with an unrepentant grin. “It feels good.” Then he dipped his head and looked up at me through his lashes once again, giving me a sly smile. “You should try it. I could show you,” he offered.
I laughed and put him down on the ground. “Oh no, my boy,” I told him. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t survive.”
“I won’t crash,” Luke vowed. “I’m better than that.” There was disdain in his voice for lesser pilots, even at the tender age of seven.
“Really?” I asked, glancing at the wreckage.
“Most of the time,” Luke amended easily.
I shuddered to think of what he’d try and pilot ten years from now. In fact, it was better for my sanity if I banished that thought immediately and I did. I was better off not knowing.
“That old grav sled isn’t made to go so fast you know,” I told him as he took my hand. He skipped along at my side, his close call already forgotten in happy anticipation of what his aunt was cooking for dinner. I only wish I was made of sterner stuff and could forget the way my heart had jumped up into my throat when I had heard the crash and come running from the garage to see Luke sprawled on the ground and the grav sled smoking in ruins around him. “It’s just made to carry things, sort of like a bantha.”
“I can make it go fast,” Luke said and he laughed, squeezing my hand. “You just have to know what to do.”
“Could you wait until you’re on your own before you start risking your life?” I teased.
“Probably not,” he admitted in a moment of painful honesty.
“Probably not,” I agreed.
He was quiet for a moment, a rarity, and then he asked, “What do you think makes a bantha go faster?” There was terrifying curiosity in his voice and I envisioned Luke atop a bantha, prodding it to go faster and faster, carrying him out far into the desert until he toppled off and got trampled.
“You don’t need to worry about that,” I said sternly and frowned down at him. I must have failed miserably in my attempts to look angry because he giggled up at me. “You’re not to get on a bantha. Do you understand?”
“Don’t worry, Uncle Owen,” Luke said to placate me. “I won’t try to make a bantha go faster.”
We both heard the “yet” in his voice and I sighed in resignation.
When we got to the entry, I stopped and knelt down in front of him, putting my hands on his shoulders. “Listen to me, Luke,” I said solemnly. “You worried me, but if Aunt Beru found out, how worried do you think she would be?”
Luke’s face fell and his shoulders slumped beneath my hands. “Really worried,” he whispered sadly and I saw the shimmer of tears in his eyes.
“That’s right, really worried,” I agreed. “And you don’t want to scare her like that. Do you?”
He shook his head. “No sir,” he murmured dejectedly. His tender heart was wounded at the thought of displeasing Beru and once again I marveled at his sweet spirit. I would not have expected it of Anakin’s son, but there it was, shining through so clearly that I could not help but see it. I could see Shmi’s goodness in him and that gave me hope. Luke might be mischievous, inclined to trouble, and far too confident in his ability not to get himself killed, but he was a loving child and I was humbled at the thought of being entrusted with his well-being.
“I know you don’t, Luke,” I said as I pulled him into a fierce hug. His thin arms wrapped around my neck and he held on tightly.
“I’m sorry, Uncle Owen.” His words were muffled against my throat and I felt the hot fall of tears.
“There now, Luke,” I said as I wiped away his tears. “No need for that. I’m not mad…” He looked at me doubtfully. “Not anymore,” I amended and his expression cleared. “Just be careful. Okay?” I ruffled his hair. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“I know,” he said quietly. Then he put his head on my shoulder. “Do we have to tell Aunt Beru?” he asked worriedly.
Laughing, I shook my head. “No…I think we’re both better off keeping this little escapade to ourselves. I’ll figure out something…” I muttered, thinking of the wreckage. There tended to be a lot of wreckage around Luke Skywalker, I mused.
Luke fell silent for a moment as I carried him down the stairs. “Uncle Owen?” he asked quietly.
“What?” I asked just before we stepped into the courtyard.
“Can I have a bantha?”