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The tauntauns know that there is something wrong with Hoth.

 

They shift and stamp and bray alarm at all hours of the day and night. The stables reek of dung and terror, hot and thick and sour, and Han knows this firsthand, because the Princess’s version of flirting is to order him to go and muck them out as part of her ongoing campaign to ignore the fact that she is clearly, clearly in love with him.

 

“Have you ever considered that you are her bitch?” smirks Chewie, leaning up against the wall like a moth eaten hunk of rug. Wookies are amazingly good at smirking, despite the abundance of facial hair: they somehow do it with their whole body, shoulders and teeth and long arms all combining to form the perfect picture of absolute amused disdain.

 

“Have you ever considered,” retorts Han, “that you’re a dick? The Princess loves me and just can’t admit it.”

 

“And you don’t love her?”

 

“She’s...pretty,” says Han, “but I’m Han Solo. I’m not in love with her.”

 

“You’re shovelling shit because she asked you to.”

 

“I’m -- shut up, I’m helping with the Rebellion.”

 

“Remember when you flew away from the Rebellion because you’re a strong independent smuggler -- “

 

“--shut up --”

 

“--who don’t need no Princess?”

 

“Oh, fuck off.”



--



The first time Han met Luke, he had to look twice.

 

Ask him why. He’ll say something like, “I couldn’t believe that some scruffy hick was wandering around the Cantina looking like a good time…” Give him a drink. Ask him why. He’ll say, “Well, he had an amazing arse.”

 

But get him good and properly drunk, pop him in a corner of Hoth -- miles and miles from home, where everything is dark and lonely and strange -- and sit down next to him and ask .

 

Why did you look twice at Luke -

 

Han will wipe his mouth, fretful. He’ll blink. He’ll look left, then right, then lower his voice.

 

“Because he was shining. Because, for a moment -- just for a moment -- I swore he had wings .”

 

He’ll pause. Inhale shakily. And then he’ll say, “And teeth. Sharp, blood-dripping teeth.”



--



“She’s...something,” says Kaali, thin and careful, treading around what she really wants to say which is this: there is something wrong with the Princess. There is something wrong with her eyes --

 

Kaali’s new to the Rebellion; it has taken her months to find her way to Hoth, following trails of misinformation, leaping from informant to informant, navigating the layers of secrecy that shield the rebel base. She arrived to this monochrome world -- with the iron sky and white-as-death ground -- with nothing more than a heart full of hope and a blaster that doesn’t work.

 

They take her in. They are teaching her to fly.

 

“She’s awesome,” coos Wedge, staring dreamily into the distance.

 

True: she inspires awe.

 

It’s the awe that Kaali feels for a blizzard though, or a raging forest fire: you stare at it, admire the gorgeous destructive power of nature, and then you run, you run for your life, you run until your feet give out from under you --

 

The Princess greeted her when she stumbled off her stolen ship. Kaali, drenched in travel-sweat and shivering, had met her eyes -- her huge, dark eyes, spangling with stars and the light from distant parts of space where no life has ever been, an abyssal void, a shrill dark aching emptiness --

 

Kaali froze, her tentacles coiling back in fear, her hearts stammering against her ribs.

 

Predator , roars her blood, predator, predator run run run --

 

“Good to meet you,” said the monster, the Princess, the thing with eyes like handfuls of empty space suspended in the air, black and quivering holes in reality. And, as Kaali stared, the monster’s skin started to change: glowing white reaching out for every corner of the room, tendrils that became wings, became talons, became teeth. No fixed shape, no outline to that body; a blur of white that transcended space and time.

 

Kaali did the only sensible thing one can do in a situation like that: she fainted.

 

And here she is, six months later, cursing her Force-sensitivity. She has -- finally -- stopped getting nosebleeds when she hears the Princess’s voice.

 

Baby steps.

 

“Yes,” says Kaali. She gathers her courage into a bundle in her arms, thrusts it all forwards. “But -- there’s something strange about her. Do you know what I mean? There’s something strange about her.”

 

Wedge hesitates. They’re perched on a set of crates to the side of the hangar, sharing a break and a cup of caf. Around them, the Rebellion hums and sings with activity, buzzing with laughter. Somewhere Kaali read that the only revolution worth having is one where there is dancing, and that is certainly true here. Yes, there is struggle and pain and bloodshed -- but there is joy as well.

 

“Yes,” he says, eventually. “She...shines. Sometimes -- sometimes, it hurts to look at her. But in a good way. If that makes sense.”

 

It does. Kaali sips her caf -- bitter, because sugar is rationed down to the quick -- and thinks of joy, and fear, and monsters who bring hope to pilots. And she thinks of the blizzards on Hoth, how hard they are to navigate, but how they shield the Rebellion, this warm heart of ferocious struggle nurtured and sheltered by a Death Planet.

 

She shines. And it hurts to look at her. But that makes sense.



 

--



 

Han dreams that he is walking through the tauntaun stables -- only there are no tauntauns, just dusty straw silvered by the moonlight, because in his dream the stables are half-demolished, the roof gaping open to the stars.

 

It is silent, apart from a sort of wet, crunching noise. Every fibre of his being tells him to stay away from that sound; but this is a dream, and in the manner of dreams he cannot control his body; and so he walks on, turning corner after corner

 

( the stables aren’t this big this is a bloody labyrinth -- )

 

until he turns into one of the stalls and there is the slack body of a tauntaun, split open crotch to throat, and buried half inside it is a monster with bright white wings and a mouth on the back of its head, a mouth gaping so wide that you could stride right into it, complete with rank upon rank of bloodied teeth.

 

Then it turns -- and as it turns it changes, its glistening silver-white skin contracting, its wings dissolving into glitter, and transforms into Luke. Big-eyed, golden-haired, smiling -- and red-mouthed, and red-handed, and chewing on tauntaun guts. His teeth flash scarlet and sharp.

 

“Hi Han,” he chirrups. “You okay?”

 

“Uh,” says Han, because even in dreams there isn’t much to say to such an image. Luke slurps a dripping hunk of...something off his finger and grins even wider. Too wide. His cheeks split right open, almost to his ears.

 

“Hungry?” says Luke, offering him a fistful of red meat.

 

“Aren’t you going to cook it first?”

 

“Nah. I like tasting the life in it.”

 

His teeth are red, his eyes white and bright and they aren’t eyes, not at all, they are the moon, hungry and huge, they are the sun, hot enough to turn all life to ash and that is all there is, teeth and eyes and hunger  -- hunger enough to swallow the universe.

 

( he’ll eat the galaxy up in bites and grin while he does and -- )



--




The next day, Han sneaks up behind Luke in the canteen and smacks him around the back of the head.

 

“Hey!”

 

He turns around, scruffy and shocked, and every inch human.

 

Reassured, Han slumps down beside him. “Farmboy, you look like shit.”

 

“You’re a dick.”

 

Han’s mother, before she died (and when she was around), would tell him how we only see one world. There are others, she would insist, layered on top of each other, like a collage. And those with the Force can peer through the skin of this world into others -- into the past, into the future, thousands of miles away, or into another realm where there are no laws of nature, where strange and dark things roam.

 

He never really believed her. But now he lets his gaze slip off Luke and he tries to look beyond and through and his eyes start to water and --

 

A wing? A tooth? Yes: glossy tentacles and --

 

“Han? Han?”

 

Luke waves his hand in front of Han’s eyes. Han, for a moment, doesn’t see a hand but a talon covered in dense white feathers which quickly becomes an ivory hissing snake and then a hand again.

 

A headache starts to build behind his temples, dull and pounding.

 

“Sorry, kid. Not quite awake yet.”



--



The rebels didn’t like Luke when they first met him.

 

None of them can quite describe it, but there is something off about him; not off in the same way that Leia is because Leia is their commander and her offness is their offness , and she belongs to them, and they belong to her, and that is the way of things. Before battle, when she addresses her troops, for a moment, she is not a tiny almost-woman not-quite-girl but a towering white and gold wonder: like an ancient goddess of battle, spreading her wings wide, protecting all who would shelter at her feet. She’s a she-wolf, a krayt dragon, everything sharp-toothed and ferocious, and she would kill and die for her pilots, and in that moment her white-gold wings touch them all, lie over their heads and hearts, whispers be brave be bold be true I will not abandon you .

 

She is a monster, but one you want on your side. One you have on your side. She is fury and the warm embrace of a mother and the cleansing scour of the sun. Look on her, ye unworthy, and fucking tremble .

 

And then Luke, big-eyed farmboy, swans in, babbling about womp rats, and there is something off about him as well. They call it arrogance, blame the Jedi, say that it must be a Tatooine thing.

 

But they avoid him. Because every now and then they see something, and they can’t explain it, and he isn’t their general, and his offness isn’t something that they can qualify or understand.

 

do you trust him they ask Leia.

 

She says he’s a scoundrel but –

 

no, not Han Solo, why do you think everything is about him – ok, ok, we mean Luke –

 

Luke? I think he can do this. Yes: I trust him

 

He brings the Death Star down, and tumbles out of the cockpit, and for one moment he isn’t human; he’s a star, he’s shining, he’s a wonder. And the pilots cheer and chant his name, because he is their Skywalker, and his strangeness is part of the Rebel Alliance now.  

 

 

--



 

“What are you doing?” Chewie says.

 

“Counting the tautauns.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Making sure they’re all there.”

 

Why ?”

 

“I had a dream.”



--



 

“Hey, Princess -- do you think it’s time you kissed me?”

 

Han Solo is one decadent slur against the wall. Leia tips her nose up, slants him what she thinks is a look of pure dignity.

 

(Kaali walks between them. Neither notice. The rebels are so used to this kind of nonsense that they just walk in and out of the arguments.)

 

“Depends nerfherder -- has Hoth defrosted?”

 

“Have you?”

 

Leia rolls her eyes.

 

“Has anyone ever told you that you’ve got eyes like the night sky?” Han says, tipping his head on one side. “You look like you’ve got all the stars in all the universes in there.”

 

“Huh,” says Leia. “You’re a poet.”

 

“Yup,” says Han -- though he doesn’t see it as poetry.

 

It’s true.

 

Her eyes are dark and you could drown in them, let go of everything and soar off into the night. Han looks Leia in the yes and she looks back at him and the air around them takes on a strange static charge, and Han feels the brush of something -- a tendril, or a wing -- on his shoulder, curving to his back, caressing him, pulling him closer. Closer --

 

Into the dreaming dark, into the starlight, the fall of silver and midnight, the unimaginable cavern of her gaze. It’s monstrous. It’s wonderful. Leia’s skin is lightning-white and glowing, and she has more teeth than most girls do, and yes most people Han has been with do not literally shine but he wants her so much he could die from it.

 

Han’s in love with flight. He’s in love with freedom. Of course Leia -- Leia who is strange, and wonderful, and not-entirely-human -- is his dream woman. Person. Thing?

 

She makes him believe in the Force. She makes him believe in hope.

 

He loves her not in spite of her bizarre nature but because of it, because of it --

 

An alarm starts to shrill. The gentle brush of an invisible limb vanishes and there’s a patrol missing, there’s work to be done, and Leia spins on her heel and runs towards the bugle. In her wake is a shadow with vast, shaking wings.

Chapter Text

Anakin and Padme have been sleeping together for a little under three months when he asks to blindfold her. She pretends coyness: lashes dipping down, smiling up at him, fussing with the front of his robes. “Oh, my noble paramour,” she coos. “Why would you want to do such a naughty thing?”

Anakin’s cheeks go bright pink. “Well, we don’t have to, I just thought – I mean it was just – sorry if I offended you –”

He’s so easy to fluster, this Jedi of hers. He makes a pretence of being brash and tough and powerful, but he comes undone at her touch (quite literally: their first encounters are marked by their brevity more than anything else) and she loves to see him blush and stammer.

“My darling,” she purrs, pressing herself closer to him. “I would adore that.”

And later, in her quarters, Anakin knots a silk scarf around her eyes. He kisses her neck and she shudders with pleasure. His hands are hot as firebrands, sliding under the layers of her dress. It’s like he carries a little of the desert inside him.

“Will you, um. Can I take your dress off?”

“Of course,” she says, and he fumbles with the catch at the nape of her neck. It’s a complicated one. She could assist him. She doesn’t; instead she giggles, wiggles her arse against his crotch; giggles more when his breath hitches.

He finally succeeds in undoing the catch, but doesn’t pull her dress down. Instead he says, “What did you see when you first met me?”

“I – what an odd question.” Anakin’s twenty. He’s not really given to deeper conversation when she is squirming and eager for him. But she replies anyway: “I saw a boy brimful of potential.”

“No. More than that. Was there – was there anything strange about me?”

“Anakin, what’s wrong –” she makes to take the blindfold off, to turn around; but he catches her wrists (releasing her dress in the process) and pulls her hands back down to her hips, pressing his forehead into the nest of her hair.

“Nothing. I’m just – I just want to know.”

She settles herself back against him. “I saw a boy bright-burning,” she says. And then, shocked into honesty: “I sometimes…there were moments when there was something odd about you. Like…like your eyes were full of fire, or you had wings – but it must have been a trick of the light.”

“Yes,” says Anakin. “Yes. And that was before my training. Before Obi Wan taught me that…that control is needed, sometimes. I didn’t know how to – how to –”

( hide )

The word snaps into her head. But that wasn’t what he was going to say. Was it? No: it is just her brain filling in gaps.

The blindfold rests across the bridge of her nose. For a moment, she wants to rip it away; but then Anakin releases her hands, turns her back to face him. His lips find hers, briefly. He smiles.

( hide )

It’s just her brain. Silly random words popping up. It happens to everyone.

They make love. And when Anakin comes, he presses his face into the curve of her neck. She doesn’t see his face.

 

 

--

 

 

Vader is blind.

Sometimes, he remembers a time when he was larger than the skin he wore. But those times are few and far between, and he crushes them down.

He is an instrument of the Emperor’s Will. Nothing less.

And, certainly, nothing more.

 

 

--

 

 

“I’m a monster,” says Anakin, his voice stretched thin. His hands shake around his mug of hot chocolate. One day, his son will love the same drink with the same egregious intensity. Anakin will never know this. He will never know his son. Not really.

“You are a monster,” says Senator Palpatine. “But do not be ashamed of that. You are magnificent. You are more than the Jedi wish to make you.”

 

 

--

 

 

“Again?” says Mace Windu. “ Again . Skywalker, you can’t -- did Obi Wan not teach you control?”

Anakin’s hands flex in on themselves. He breathes slowly and deeply.

He’s twenty one. He’s a general. And yet he is chastised because he permits his extra limbs to show, because he sometimes forgets to speak with only one mouth -- instead he speaks with fifteen throats at the same time, his voice layered and quivering and buzzing.

“This is why you cannot teach the younglings,” says Mace. Anakin feels a sharp stab of shame, neat as a needle under his heart. The image

( he hadn’t meant to shout he’d been angry he hadn’t known there was a youngling walking past his quarters he didn’t know that if they hadn’t learned to shield their Force senses -- )

(she was okay. She was bleeding from the eyes and ears and nose but she was okay, she was breathing, she could see, still.)

(but next time?)

flickers once more into his head, and he lowers his eyes.

“If you gave me a chance,” he says.

“You’d blind them,” says Mace, flatly, “I can barely stand to look at you. How would it be when a child tries to look at you in your true form --”

“This is my true form!” Anakin barks. His throat buzzes. The lights dim. He feels wings unfurl from flanks that extend into dimensions that no human can perceive without madness and Mace Windu unsheathes his lightsabre --

Anakin fights, chokes on the coppery rush of his own blood, and withdraws. His eyes boil red with tears. “This is my true form,” he says. “I’m human. I’m human .”

 

 

--

 

 

“You’re not,” says Sheev Palpatine. “You’re so much more .”

 

 

--

 

 

This is what it is to be Anakin Skywalker: the Jedi call you a monster. They don’t let you have an apprentice. You hear the thoughts of the council, how they worry that you would cannibalise any padawan under your care. Only, only, it wouldn’t be cannibalism would it – because you’re not human, not really.

This is what it is to be Anakin Skywalker. Padme makes you feel human. She also makes you feel less human than ever. He swallows down the Force side of him when he is with her, locks it tight inside him, behind his ribcage, feels it simmer vinegary and bitter. Sex with Padme is an ordeal, sometimes. Above her, inside her, and it is all he can do to stop himself unfurling ten sets of wings, all molten gold and running with inky ichor that could be blood, or could be liquid night. No human could say.

 

 

--

 

 

All that power.

All that strength .

But all the power in the world means nothing when its wielder is frightened, and alone. In another world, an entirely-human Anakin is manipulated through his love for his wife, his desperation to belong. In this one, exactly the same thing happens. Anakin is caught in the sharp cracks of: I want to be human and I am not human and I am not a monster and they tell me I am and I want to do the right thing and I do not know what the right thing is , and fear leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side where all things drown, and even the son of the Force cannot escape the tides pulling him in, deeper and deeper, until the Light is a dim and distant quiver.

 

 

--

 

 

He kills the younglings with a thought. Their blood splashes high on the walls and his mouths open up to drink it.

He is hideous. He is glorious. His heart beats with the enormity of empire and Sheev Palpatine still holds his lead.

 

 

--

 

 

Mustafar.

The molten planet, the blistering lava, the dead and empty sky. Padme lying where Anakin threw her. Anakin himself breaking apart at the seams: his eyes huge and black, too many teeth in his gums, his tongue splitting in twain, becoming a twisting pair of snakes – and Obi Wan closes his eyes, he has to. The images are too awful. The Dark Side, where all things drown. Even the brightest son of the Force. Oh how thou art fallen –

“Master! Master! Won’t you look at me?”

And Obi Wan does , but he doesn’t open his eyes: he opens himself to the Force, and feels it pour into him in a hot red tide, snarling and sparking with Anakin’s frenzy. He sees Anakin in his entirety for the first and only time: both human and Force, monster and wonder, mortal and god, wound together, ever-shifting. How can you fight something like that? How? Obi Wan illuminates his lightsabre. Anakin snarls with a thousand tongues, and starts forwards, and it seems that all of reality is surging towards Obi-Wan, breaking at the edges and –

I am one with the Force, and the Force is in me , Obi Wan thinks: the old Jedi meditation, and Anakin is bigger than any moon, anything, he is in the physical realm and the mental one at the same time, he is an impossibility he is –

I AM ONE WITH THE FORCE AND THE FORCE IS IN ME and Obi Wan opens his eyes and his apprentice is there, sort of human-shaped, but only in the vaguest possible way. Like a blurry holovid, or one of those optical illusions so popular among younglings; you look at it this way and it is a droid, that way and it is a star. Obi Wan keeps his eyes open, and his Force-sensitivity open, and Anakin flickers in and out of existence, sometimes there and sometimes not, and reality itself shrieks. But the Force is everything and everywhere, and Obi Wan draws on it; because power is what you make if it, life is what you make of it, and there is always a choice.

Obi Wan makes his.

 

 

--

 

 

“What’s a lightsabre made of?” says a golden-haired child, fresh from the desert.

Obi Wan unsheathes his, spins it in a circlet of glowing blue. Anakin coos in delight. He’s still young enough to be awed by his Master.

“It gets its power from a kyber crystal -- it vibrates, and creates a constantly moving stream of energy. See? They’re unique. There’s an old legend that they exist in every realm at the same time. You see, there’s this theory that there are multiple worlds all linked by the Force -- ”

“Huh.” Unimpressed by this foray into theology, Anakin directs the conversation to more interesting ground. “And they can cut through anything?”

“Yup. Anything .”

 

 

--

 

 

The battle jumps between realms, between times, in and out of the physical landscape, and there are times when Obi Wan doesn’t know if he’s fighting on the planet Mustafar or in the heat and tempest of Anakin’s mind. He ignores everything around him and focuses on the beat of his heart, the strength of his lightsabre, his padawan. And –

You can’t win Master!I have the high ground! And are they in Anakin’s fevered dreamscape? Are they on the lava-carved banks of a dead planet? Are those Anakin’s eyes, or are they stars, bright-burning and so very close?

It doesn’t matter. Obi Wan makes his choice. His lightsabre can cut through anything. Anakin falls in two smoking halves, and the lava takes him. The air around him catches fire, and for a moment Obi Wan sees tentacles, wings, teeth: all burning.

“You were meant to be the Chosen One,” says Obi Wan.

And he turns his back, and leaves the wonderterror son of the Force to the fire.

 

 

--

 

Breha and Bail Organa have spines of purest kyber. They have to. Raising a baby is hard enough -- raising a baby who occasionally forgets that she is meant to look like a baby and becomes a twisting white-gold mess of light and insanity, a vortex of unholy chaos and dread that causes mortal eyes to stream blood, isn’t exactly in the parenting handbook.

But they manage. When she changes form, they hold her. They sing their love to her. And Leia learns what humanity is, and she learns how to keep her other form -- not her true form, for her human form is the form she chose for herself and thus is the truest form she could have -- secret.

What better skill is there for a politician than the ability to hide one’s secrets?

 

 

--

 

 

Vader is blind.

Vader is a husk of a man. Powerful, yes, but nothing – nothing! – compared to Anakin.

(Sometimes he remembers the taste of the stars -- but now he is trapped and sealed in a metal prison, and he will never see them again.)

(This is what Palpatine tells him, so it must be true.)

Here is a girl, dressed in lethal white.

She stands in front of him and lies. She stands in front of him and sneers.

She is ferocious and young, and he wants very much to see what her spine looks like. It would be white and red and glistening. (Vader hates all things. He does. He does . And if he tells himself that enough, he will believe it.),

Here is a girl, almost entirely human, full to the brim with love and hope. She stands before Vader and lies, and her wings shine with the power of ten thousand suns.

Vader doesn’t see them.



Chapter Text

Luke is six months old, and has just started to sleep through the night, when Jabba’s men come for the quarter-tax.

 

Owen is expecting them. He stands on his porch, besides the standard three barrels of water, and he breathes. In out. In out. The stars glare down, and the three moons form a malicious, staring triumvirate.

 

There are gods on Tattooine, but they aren’t kind ones.

 

Out from the shadows come the men, and Owen doesn’t recognise them. That thought alone sends a crawl of fear down his spine.

 

(Beru is in Luke’s room, blaster on her knee, eyes bright and ears pricked.)

 

There are two. The larger is a great hulking mess of man and cyborg, his right arm replaced by a vast rusted claw. Cords of muscle bulge and pulse along his bare chest and shoulders, the noxious purple-red of bio-implants bought from the black market. His thighs, likewise, are larger than they have any right to be, supported by quivering metal shins.

 

(Beru is in Luke’s room. She has a blaster -- )

 

The smaller is female, red-haired, with a modified Tusken raider mask serving as a prosthetic lower jaw; it extends under her hair, to her ears, and leaks poisonous-looking black oil. Her eyes are yellow and manic.

 

“Owen,” she drawls. Her voice is distorted by the mask. “What’s this?”

 

“Jabba’s tribute.” Owen’s got his own blaster on his hip, but they all know he won’t use it. He can’t. If he kills them, the galaxy isn’t large enough to shield him and his tiny family. Jabba will find them. And he will flay Luke first, and then Beru, and he will make Owen watch, and Owen knows this, because he has seen it happen.

 

(Beru is in Luke’s room. She has a blaster. If she hears shots -- )

 

“Doesn’t look like much to me. It look like much to you, Sartra?”

 

“Don’t look like much to me Laylee,” says the man. His voice scrapes low, guttural and thick.

 

“It was what Jaytra asked for --”

 

“Didn’t you hear? Jaytra’s dead. Dumb cunt was skimming water for himself. Jabba fed him to the Sarlacc. You know it takes ten thousand years to digest you? Last thing to go is your face.”

 

“It likes babies ,” coos Sartra, and sniggers, and --

 

(Beru is in Luke’s room and she has a blaster and it is not to use on the henchmen --)

 

“What do you want?” says Owen.

 

“Well,” says Laylee, “we’ve been hearing rumours. Apparently there’s an old man in the caves, protecting your farm from raiders.”

 

Ben. Force curse him. He doesn’t know Tattooine, he doesn’t know the cruel gods of the desert, he doesn’t know --

 

It’s too late.

 

(Beru has a blaster -- )

 

(Beru has a blaster and right now it will be pointing --)

 

Owen crushes his thoughts down, clenching his jaw until his teeth ache.

 

“Have you,” he says, “I haven’t seen any old man.”

 

“Liar,” growls Sartra, and Laylee laughs, an awful sound completely divorced from delight.

 

Then she hits him.

 

Owen stumbles back, blood welling in his mouth. He reaches for his blaster --

 

(--Beru has a blaster and right now --)

 

( -- the Sarlacc likes babies --)

 

(--ten thousand years--)

 

(-- pointing at the cradle the blaster is trained on the cradle --)

 

-- and stops, his fingers flexing. Hopeless tears boil behind his eyes. “Please,” he says. “Please, take whatever you -- “

 

Laylee grabs him by the front , hauls him aloft. His legs dangle. Sartra kicks the barrels over and precious water gurgles along the red sands.

 

“We’re gonna take your wife first, and -- “ starts Laylee.

 

She doesn’t get any further.

 

Owen is aware, first, of a tremendous heat on his back; a searing, scalping heat.

 

And then Laylee screams: a high, rasping metallic ululation. Her eyes bubble and boil and drip down her cheeks.

 

She drops him.

 

(there was a blaster --)

 

And Owen rolls over, looks behind him, and there stands Beru, baby Luke shining in her arms. Shining . His skin roils and dances into wings, stars, teeth. He’s the most beautiful thing Owen has ever seen.

 

( CLOSE YOUR EYES)

 

Owen covers his eyes with his hands, presses his face into the sand.

 

In the morning, they bury the bodies.

 

The next day Owen hikes out to where Ben Kenobi made his home.

 

He tells him to stay away.

 

“Luke isn’t a normal child,” insists Ben. “He needs to be watched, he needs guidance -- “

 

“He isn’t a normal child. But I don’t see how your guidance helped my brother,” snaps Owen. It is cruel, but so is the desert.

 

He does not see Ben Kenobi again.



--



Pretending to be more dangerous than you actually are is an essential skill in Tattooine -- so it feels anathema to Beru to take her sunshiny nephew and tell him to make himself appear vulnerable, to tamp down his extra limbs under his skin.

 

“Not all the time,” she hastens to add, “but around people in the town, and around Jabba’s gang -- but when you’re out, when you’re hunting, then you can...let yourself go a bit.”

 

Here’s the difference between Luke and Leia. A politician is always watched. A farmboy is not. A politician's main skill must be deception. A farmboy must be able to defend his homestead. And, yes, sometimes this farmboy will go after womp with his bare teeth and hands and stagger back, blood-drunk and grinning, his face painted scarlet and his hair spiked on end with sweat, depositing a carcass for dinner straight onto the table (a carcass that has clearly had bites taken out of it) before curling up in a spot of sun like a cat, and dozing off his meal. And, yes, this farmboy takes his A-17 and pours his soul into it -- quite literally, for in certain lights the A-17 wavers, and you swear it has wings.

 

Owen knows that the boy’s father is hunting him. Owen remembers his one and only meeting with Anakin Skywalker -- eyes like pollution, and the stink of blood around him.

 

But Owen also remembers how close they came to disaster that night. Two or three times a week he wakes drenched in sweat, sobbing, as those three shots-that-never-came echo in his head.

 

A blaster pointed at the cradle --

 

So, they have their compromise. It isn’t a great one, but it is all they have: Luke does not leave Tattooine.

 

Luke grows up feral and loved and trapped and every passing year he chafes against it more.

 

But he is a child, and he does not understand.



--



By the time he does understand, it is too late and he screams his grief in the Falcon. The security lights gutter and an alarm, somewhere, starts to wail.

 

“Hey kid!” says Han, sticking his head into Luke’s room. “Whatever Force shit you’re doing --”

 

And he stops. Luke is hunched over, his teeth showing. He rocks back and forth keening .

 

The Death Star is just ash scattered across the stars. They’ve won.

 

And they haven’t.

 

“Is it -- Ben --?” hazards Han.

 

Luke lifts his head up. His face is a red, snotty mess. He looks all of twelve years old. “It’s everyone,” he says.

 

Behind him, his shadow is winged and huge -- but Han doesn’t see that, he sees a boy weeping, he sees his friend weeping, and he gathers him up into a hug. Luke clings.

 

No one can cling quite like Luke. Han’s back is grabbed at by what feel like a multitude of needles -- feathers? Tiny tentacles? -- and even his heart feels squeezed.

 

“I couldn’t save them,” sobs the wonderterror son of Anakin Skywalker.

 

Part Force, perhaps, but entirely, entirely human.



--



Luke vanishes into a snowstorm on Hoth.

 

He’s attacked by a particularly stupid wampa.

 

Han finds him comfortable snuggled up in a cave, wearing a new wampa-skin cloak and picking his teeth with a fragment of wampa fingerbone.

 

“That was yummy,” says Luke, grinning like a spring day. “Shall we head back?”

 

Han makes a thin strangled sound that translates, basically, to fucking Skywalkers.



--




Han arrives into Cloud City wearing a wampa-skin coat. It’s a little heavy, but it’s the fanciest thing he owns -- the collar puffing white around his throat, the fur spangling silver -- and, given that Lando hasn’t toned down his fashion sense any, Han feels he’s got to be on par.

 

Leia tuts at him, rolls her eyes (aren’t they as gorgeous and black as the void between stars -- ) and leaves Han and Lando to their manly nonsense.

 

( hey do you remember when we got married -- )

 

(did we ever get divorced -- )

 

And then it all goes to hell. But afterwards, they catch Luke -- he goes from dangling from the belly of a ship to the Millennium Falcon, and as he falls, he blisters and sparks and glows, like a shooting star.



--



After the first Death Star was obliterated, smudged across the stars in dust and rubble, Han takes Luke’s virginity.

 

It’s his most terrifying lay to date. Luke gasps yes and please like any normal human -- but he also says get inside me in a downright predatory way, and his eyes shimmer like heat haze in the desert, and when he comes his skin splits open and from within his chest writhes out a --

 

Han blacks out.

 

Later, Luke drapes over his chest and says, “Was that good for you too?”

 

“Kid,” says Han, sincerely, “that was the best sex I have ever had.”



--



Vader is blind.

 

Vader is useless and blind, Vader is amputated from what made Anakin Skywalker great. Vader carries his prison within himself, and has long forgotten what it is to spread out his wings and touch the stars.

 

Palpatine is sickened by his weakness. He remembers Anakin Skywalker -- the wonderterror too bright to gaze upon -- and remembers how sweet it was to hold the chain that bound him.

 

There are two alternatives. It took him an absurdly long time to find the girl -- she clamps her heart tight to her ribs, holding herself with great, grave dignity and terrible pride. She has an absurd -- an obscene -- level of self-control. It is nothing short of criminal how her potential has been squandered. Those filthy politicians who raised her stamped humanity on her bones, and taught her that the universe had rules and that there was fairness to be found between the uncaring stars.

 

The boy is mildly more promising. His kindness is palpable. He makes friends too easily, gathering the weak and useless to him, defending them with the sweep of his wide, white wings. He smiles often, and means every one of those smiles; there is no falsehood to him.

 

But: he doesn’t have his sister’s self control. He was raised on a hell-world. He learned hunger from an early age.

 

Besides -- there was once a man called Anakin Skywalker, and he smiled readily, and he had friends, and he protected the useless and frail. And look what happened to him.




--



Luke tastes blood on his breath, flesh between his teeth, ash in his throat. He is hungry . No: he is starving .

 

Famine has eaten him to bones and flesh, and the barest trace of flesh at that.

 

The universe is full of power, ripe with it, singing with life. Stars are circled by neat little planets, and those planets swarm with everything living, souls that shine in the dark In that moment, Luke sees them all. He remembers how womp rats crackled and burned black at his touch. He remembers how the wampa had tasted, fresh and hot in the snow.

 

Han, Leia, Chewie, Ben: all his.

 

They all belonged to him.

 

The universe belonged to him, and he could slake his thirst with rivers of blood and his hunger with every life that belonged to him -- which was, coincidentally, all of them --

 

-- and all he needs to do is kill this empty husk of a man.

 

Not even a man.

 

Luke hacks his father’s hand off. Wires crackle and spark.

 

Luke stares at the hand, severed and flexing and useless, and he tastes blood, he sees the universe, he sees every bit of it, it is his, all of it, his birthright, he is the child of everything ancient and he will feed and --



--



No.

 

(look at his hand. Look how broken it is, how frail, what honour is there in killing a man hapless at your feet --)

 

Luke is human. Luke is the grandson of the Force. Luke is a monster. Luke is hungry. Luke drinks blood by the gallon. Luke cradles the weak and helpless to his heart. All of these things are true.

 

What is most true is this: he is a good man.

 

Luke casts his lightsabre aside, and his limbs -- his wings and teeth, and appendages that there are no human word for -- twine around a second, suddenly emerged, set of limbs and wings and mouths and teeth. Anakin Skywalker breathes his guttering last, and his shining other form -- his Force-self, his wonderterror heart -- entwined with his son.

 

In that moment, Anakin sees everything.