Obi-Wan was aware that the twin suns were beating down on his head, just as they had for the last nineteen years he had been on this planet. It was also dimly registering with him that there was a sunburn on his nose. He should put his hood up, to keep it from getting worse. Mid-day on Tatooine was nothing to take lightly. He just couldn't quite bring himself to care about something so insignificantly mundane.
It struck him as strange, that when everything else in his life had gone completely sideways on him, including all the laws he understood that governed the Force and time, that the damage a human could take from the sun still remained constant. Obi-Wan remembered that there had been a sun on Mortis too, but he couldn’t recall if he had a sunburn after he had left that planet.
Obi-Wan was no stranger to oddities and the weird cross paths a life could take. He had been raised as a peacekeeper and become a soldier. He had lost almost everything he cared about and valued in one horrible day. He was now a man with no home, and no people to call his own. He had learned, through his Master, that death could become a path to a different type of existence. He had been to Mortis. He recalled it like a half-remembered dream, but he did remember it. But none of those events, horrible and shattering as most of them had been, had his reality shifted this much.
Even more disconcertingly, the source of his disorientation was, right in this exact moment, the man who was driving the speeder Obi-Wan was in.
To anyone that wasn’t paying attention, Luke looked like any other young human out for a joyride. But Obi-Wan was paying attention. Luke was no careless adolescent, even if he was driving with the reckless speed of one. But his hands were too steady on the controls, his face too somber to be a teenager indulging in a bit of risk-taking.
Then there was what Luke was paying attention to. His eyes were constantly scanning the horizon. But he wasn’t searching for physical obstacles in the path in front of them. No, his gaze was darting too much around them for that. He was looking for threats. Obi-Wan could see the fine line of tension along his back as if he was braced for an ambush. An attack. Here. In the middle of nowhere. Obi-Wan and paranoia were long familiar friends, but even he wouldn’t maintain this level of hyper-awareness in this desolate wasteland.
Obi-Wan was too familiar with his own haunted echoes not to recognize the survivor of a war was sitting next to him.
In the normal course of events, that should have been impossible. Luke had never even left this planet. Tatooine was its own harsh hell, and the weak and foolish did not survive here, but it wasn’t a war zone. There was no call for nineteen-year-old Luke to be acting this way.
“He isn’t nineteen, is he?” a voice pointed out snidely in his own head.
And then there was the Force. Gone was that disquieting nothingness from earlier today. The feeling that had sent him scrambling to the Lars’ homestead, as fast as he could. He had thought Luke had been killed, or worse, taken off-planet. What he had found was so much stranger and frightening than that.
Obi-Wan could feel Luke in the Force, that heavy presence appearing and disappearing. It was almost like he was trying to reacquaint himself to its rhythms. The fact that he had, at some point, cut himself off from the Force, and all the horrifying consequences that came with it, was worrying enough. But the immense eddies that Obi-Wan could feel swimming beneath each simple motion were terrifying. Anakin, even at the height of his powers, had never felt like this. He had been brighter, certainly. Louder too. But when he had moved the Force, it had never stirred to the depth it did now. Even Master Yoda had never managed this. Power and control the likes that Obi-Wan had never seen, even with Luke seemingly being a bit rusty with it.
Luke cleared his throat, bringing Obi-Wan’s thoughts to the present. “Is there a problem, Obi-Wan?”
Yes. Starting with when had Luke begun calling him Obi-Wan? The few times they had interacted while he was growing up, Obi-Wan had always been Ben. But his mind was too much a whirlwind at this moment to even begin to try to understand any answer Luke would give him on that subject. He would do better sticking to basic concepts. Anything more complex would slip through his hands like water.
“What are you doing?” he asked, trying to keep his voice even.
Luke wasn’t the only passenger in the speeder, however. They might have been just as quiet as Obi-Wan had been on this trip through the desert, lost in their own thoughts and concerns, but they were here. Owen and Beru were in the back seat of the speeder, with a vaguely familiar-looking golden droid wedge between them. R2 was tied to the back of the vehicle. And how had that droid managed to end up here?
It was Owen’s rough voice that came from behind Luke’s seat that answered Obi-Wan. “What do you mean, what are we doing? We are abandoning our home because trouble found you.”
“Owen,” Beru whispered softly, in a conciliatory manner.
Luke shook his head. “No, Obi-Wan didn’t do this. Destiny did this.” His hands tightened on the piloting sticks so much that Obi-Wan could see his knuckles go white. “The Force did this.” Obi-Wan jerked back, taken aback by the sudden cutting anger whipping slices into his mind.
Luke’s head turned towards him at his sudden movement. There was a long pause, then he grimaced. “Sorry,” he said, his gaze turning back to the desert in front of them, and neatly avoiding Obi-Wan’s gaze. But that needling emotion disappeared as if it had never been. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had to maintain my shields. I didn’t mean to slap you with that.”
“Why weren’t you maintaining your shields?” For someone of Luke’s power, that was the path to madness.
“Because I didn’t need them after I cut myself off from the Force,” Luke said calmly. “And that was what I was doing earlier, by the way, when you showed up at the farm.”
“Why would you do something that risky?” Obi-Wan asked, aghast at Luke’s recklessness anew. And just how long had Luke been mutilating himself like that, that he forgot the most basics of self-preservation? Luke hadn’t answered that question the last time he asked it, but Obi-Wan could forgive him that. There had been stormtroopers about to murder Owen and Beru after all.
Luke sent him a puzzled look. “To hide, of course.”
“Hide from who?” Beru asked.
Luke’s face grew stony.
Obi-Wan felt a chill travel down his spine. Had it all been for nothing? All the years of waiting, all the souls who had been lost, for the one shot they had. Here Luke sat, a complex web of power in the Force, and he felt that the only option he had was to hide from Vader?
Perhaps it was something else. Luke had said he knew Vader was his father. There was a wavering in Obi-Wan’s heart, and he acknowledged, to himself, that was true. At least biologically speaking. But Luke’s father? Everything that Anakin had been, had been consumed by the Sith. There was nothing left of Obi-Wan’s brother. Only his murderer.
Had Luke refused to kill him because of that flimsy tie? Perhaps so. Obi-Wan had died in that past of his. If he understood Luke’s rushed explanation, most of his training had been handled by Yoda. Yoda had a perspective on such things that even Obi-Wan had a hard time understanding. Yoda had been old before Obi-Wan had even been born. It was entirely possible that he failed to make Luke understand that Vader had destroyed Anakin.
“Or maybe Luke understands they aren’t different people?” that voice deep in his mind pointed out.
Obi-Wan pushed that thought away. He was having a hard enough time trying to keep himself level. Of trying to think, not react. There were things he preferred not to dwell on because long experience had taught him that it would do him no good. He needed whatever calm he could muster to deal with the present in front of him, not dwell on the past.
Luke’s mouth tightened. “It doesn’t matter,” he said tightly. “Who I was hiding from…They haven’t been born yet.”
Obi-Wan felt himself relax, just slightly. Luke hadn’t been hiding from the Empire. A new enemy then, not the one they were currently facing. Then sorrow filled his heart. Bad enough that Luke had been left to correct Obi-Wan’s mistakes, but he had encountered a problem so severe that he had run from it. What could possibly be worse than Vader and the Empire?
Luke looked over at him again, and he was frowning. It occurred to Obi-Wan that he wasn’t the only one who hadn’t been around another trained Force user in a long time. He wondered how much of what he had been thinking Luke had picked up on?
“Not much,” Luke’s voice in the Force sounded older than the one that he spoke with. There was a sense of resignation and embarrassment in those simple words. Obi-Wan felt his mouth drop open at that clear and direct communication. Luke had said he had been talking to Leia earlier, but they were twins. It was always easier for twins to do such things. Even if that thing was impossible to begin with.
Luke blanched. “I’m sorry,” he said out loud. “You were projecting so loudly.” He sighed and took one hand off the controls of the speeder to rub his forehead. “I’m having a hell of a time trying to balance between completely cutting myself off and drowning in the Force.”
“Why are you even bothering to open yourself back up again?” Obi-Wan asked, trying to find some reason in this familiar stranger’s actions. It wasn’t like there weren’t plenty of people to hide from in this time as well.
Luke gave him a wry look. “Because Leia is aware of where I am? And if I did cut myself off again, she would hunt me down and yell. I told you, you pick your battles with her.”
Obi-Wan sank back into his seat, trying to make sense of what he had been told so far. Luke knew Leia was his twin. And they apparently were used to talking to each mentally across planets. And that fact caused his mind to whirl uselessly for a few moments before he regained his control. But what had happened between the two of them, that Luke felt he needed to hide from her? And why was he not trying to now?
There were several minutes of silence, when finally, the droid sitting in the speeder spoke up. “Master Luke, I hate to be an inconvenience-”
“Never Threepio,” Luke’s voice was back to warm and loving. And had he just said Threepio? Anakin’s droid that he had come back from Genoisis with? Oh, that was a droid Obi-Wan had never hoped to run across again.
“Oh!” the droid gave a delighted squawk, pleasure clear in his electronic tone. “I was just wondering, where are we heading?
Luke let out a bitter laugh, his mood swinging again. “Mos Eisley,” he said.
Owen started at that. “That is where your friend is? That cesspool?”
Luke’s smile was grimly amused. “I did say you probably won’t like him.”
Obi-Wan frowned. He hadn’t left Owen or Luke’s side since the troopers had all been killed back on the Lars farm. Apparently, he was more out of sorts then he thought, if he was missing entire conversations.
“Has he time-traveled like you?” Beru asked.
“I don’t know,” Luke said. “But even if he hasn’t, he can get us past the blockade the Empire has around this planet.” A declarative sentence, not a theory. Of course, it was, Luke was reliving these events again.
“Because he did before?” Beru asked.
“And then what, Luke?” Owen demanded. He had always been a bluntly practical man. A trait that led him to butt heads with Obi-Wan about the best way to protect Luke, but was a quality Obi-Wan was appreciating now. He could barely process what was going on, never mind plan.
“We are going to Alderaan, and then heading to Yavin.” Luke jerked his head to indicate R2. “We need to get the technical readouts of the Death Star to the Rebellion.”
That must be the planet-killing weapon that Luke mentioned earlier. And even in his worst nightmares, Obi-Wan had never thought that the Emperor would try to resurrect that weapon of legend.
“Was it destroyed before?” Obi-Wan asked.
Luke nodded. “Yes. The lead engineer on the project, he had been forced to work on it against his will. He placed a deliberate weakness in the thing. I blew it up in the Battle of Yavin.”
Owen’s voice was horrified. “You were in a space battle!” he roared.
Luke’s shoulders hunched. Obi-Wan could feel the whiplash of guilt, worry, and trepidation at that parental tone. Then Luke straightened up, and his shields came back up, shielding what he was feeling from Obi-Wan.
There was no mistaking his tone though. “Yes,” he said firmly. “Because it needed doing. They had already used it to destroy Alderaan, a planet with billions of people on it. The Death Star needed to be taken out, and the Alliance had a way to do it.”
Obi-Wan felt all the blood drain from his face, but he couldn’t form any words.
Beru’s voice filled that fraught moment. “The Empire destroyed a planet? Why?”
“For the reason they do anything. To get what they want."
"And what did they want?" Beru asked.
"To get Leia to talk,” Luke said grimly. “Which she did. She gave them a base the Alliance had been on. But it wasn't enough. They didn't even know it was a lie. Tarkin said Alderaan needed to be destroyed to set an ‘example.’” Luke spat that last word out.
Obi-Wan stuttered, “If that is the case, why are we going there? Why not go directly to Yavin, and just do what you did before?”
Luke gave him a grimly amused look. “Yes, I’ll just show up on Yavin, tell them I’m a Jedi Master from the future, and I know how to blow up the Death Star because I’ve done it before. I’m sure they will be very eager to put me in an X-Wing after that.”
That was a fair point.
Luke’s emotions slid into pleased satisfaction. “Besides, Leia isn’t on the Death Star to interrogate anymore, so Alderaan won’t be a target this time.”
“She escaped?” Obi-Wan squawked. “From an Imperial base?”
“Yes.” A simple and direct answer. Luke didn’t look all that surprised. He didn’t even look like he should be surprised. What had Leia become, if her achieving this, didn’t even phase Luke?
Luke shrugged. “She didn’t get into the details. All I know is that she told me to get to Alderaan.” Luke went from condescending to amused. “And when Leia tells you to do something, you do it. Because you—"
“Pick your battles with her.” Obi-Wan finished for him. “She sounds terrifying,” he said, mostly to himself.
Luke’s smile was real, and the look of mischievousness on his face was all Padme. “She is. In the best way.”
“And after that, Luke?” Owen asked, troubled. “After this…Death Star is destroyed. Then what?”
Luke’s smile faded away. “I have no idea.”
Well, wasn’t it nice to know that Obi-Wan wasn’t the only one lost on what to do next.
Obi-Wan hadn’t dared to come to Mos Eisley the entire time he had been on this planet. It was too populated for one. Well, populated for Tatooine. The other concern was that it was a hive of activity for bounty hunters. And though it had been nineteen years since Obi-Wan had essentially disappeared from the galaxy at large, he hadn’t lasted this long without taking due precautions. The last time he had checked, his bounty was worth fifteen million credits. That was more than enough incentive for any number of people to memorize his features, even on an open bounty of almost two decades.
It was that danger, and not the one presented by the twin suns, that had Obi-Wan finally pulling up his hood in order to hide his features as they entered the outer edge of the city limits. Just in time, because as they rounded the first cross-section, Obi-Wan spotted a group wearing a very distinct white armor.
In all the chaos of the farm, and his worry about Luke, he hadn’t paid much attention to that uniform. Now, though, for a few heart-wrenching moments, his first reaction to that sight was relief. Because for three chaotic years, that sight meant his men were there to back him up.
“They were never your men.”
Then the differences in the uniform became apparent to him. The helmets, they were all the same. Not a single one was decorated with art, or even kill scratches. The armor looked brittle, even at this distance, as if it was made of the cheapest materials available. The type of blasters they held wasn’t the right model.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes. He couldn’t afford to get lost in the past right now, no matter how much that betrayal still ached.
Luke’s voice cut through his confusion and pain. “There should be more stormtroopers.”
Obi-Wan opened his eyes to see Luke frowning. Frankly, Obi-Wan was surprised they were here at all. Until today, he had neither seen nor heard of any on this planet. The Empire pretty much left Jabba to run this world as he saw fit.
“Isn’t that better for us?” Beru asked. “It will make this easier.”
Luke’s frown deepened. “It’s a change. A change I can’t account for.” He looked sour, “And that never leads anywhere good.”
He sounded like a veteran. Well, he was one, from what Obi-Wan could infer. Belatedly it occurred to him to wonder how old Luke actually was.
Luke pulled the speeder into one of the areas on the street set aside for the parking of vehicles and pack animals. He climbed out of the vehicle, pausing to help his Aunt and Threepio out of the back seat. Owen followed Obi-Wan out, grumbling how his knees were too old to be squashed up like that. Luke ignored him, choosing to untie R2 from the back.
Beru looked around the busy square and clutched the bag hanging off her shoulder more firmly to her side.
Owen had a scowl on his face. “You sure about this, Luke?” he asked.
Luke nodded, and he put R2 on the ground. “I’m sure.” He straightened, and Obi-Wan was once again hit with a whiplash of Luke’s emotions in the Force. Fear, worry, and an almost obsessive need to protect. Then it was all gone. Obi-Wan wasn’t sure which worried him more, those deep emotions, or the sudden absence of them in the Force.
Luke looked at his Uncle, and there were tight lines of anxiety around his mouth and eyes. “I think we should split up.”
Obi-Wan blinked. Not that he disagreed with the statement, he was just surprised Luke would suggest it. Especially given the riot of emotions Obi-Wan had inadvertently eavesdropped on not even a moment ago. Anakin would never have sounded so calm about a plan he hated.
“There were a lot of things you thought Anakin would never do,” a small part of Obi-Wan’s mind pointed out. He ignored it with the ease of long practice.
Owen didn’t look any happier about the suggestion then Luke felt. “Why?”
“Because if any of those troopers at the farm reported back to their superiors before they were killed, they would have mentioned how many of us there were there. The stormtroopers that are here in town will be looking for a group. We are less noticeable in pairs.”
“Luke,” Beru said softly, shaking her head. “It’s too dangerous.”
Obi-Wan spoke up. “He’s right, Beru.”
Owen scowled at him. “I think we’ve had enough trouble out of you for today.”
Luke shot his Uncle an exasperated look. “Just because you are angry with him doesn’t mean he isn’t right.” He shook his head. “I don’t like it, trust me, I really don’t like it. I would much rather hover over your shoulder and protect you from everything.”
Owen looked upset. “Luke, you are our nephew. We protect you.”
Luke looked at him, and there was such grief surrounding him. That emotion didn’t belong, not on so young a face. But how old was that mind behind those bright blue eyes?
“I wasn’t there,” Luke said. “In my past, I wasn’t on the farm when the troopers came for the droids. That’s how I survived.” He gave a bitter smile. “Irony of ironies, they weren’t there either.”
Beru frowned. “Where were they?”
“Threepio was with me. I left early in the morning in the speeder to go looking for R2.” Luke shot the droid a fond exasperated look. “He tricked me into removing his restraining bolt and made a break for it.”
R2 whistled. [Oh, that was how you knew I was lying yesterday.]
“Yes, R2, that was how I knew you were lying.”
Owen scowled. “How could you be so foolish?”
Luke looked nothing but happy at the lecturing tone. “I know. That’s why I didn’t tell either of you what I was doing or where I was going. Aunt Beru assumed I was taking them to get their memories wiped.” Then the happiness vanished as if it had never been.
“By the time I got back to the farm, it was a smoking ruin. I found you….” His voice trailed off, and he closed his eyes. There was no doubt as to what he had found. Luke took in one long breath, visibly scrambling for control. The three of them waited for him, not willing to upset his clearly delicate balance.
Luke’s eyes opened, and his voice was filled with patience. No begging, pleading, or whining. Just a statement of how he saw the world. “I think there is a large part of me that never really recovered from that. No matter what other horrors happened in my life, that always stayed with me.”
Luke turned his head, so he was directly looking Owen in the eyes. “But here you are. Alive and whole. And I have so much more ability and power to protect you now, than I ever did then.”
Obi-Wan tried to contain the shiver that ran down his spine. That did sound like Anakin.
“And I know myself too well. If I ever came on a similar sight again, with you two taken from me, after being given such a gift…” Luke’s eyes became distant and lost. “It would not go well.”
Owen and Beru didn’t know the full terror of what Luke had just so casually announced. But Obi-Wan did. He fought his growing panic. It wasn’t all that bad. Force knew how Obi-Wan would react if he was suddenly nineteen again with the Jedi Temple whole and untouched around him. It was very clear Luke had a hard life. And here he stood, not fallen. Obi-Wan would have sensed that. Luke wouldn’t fall, not like—
And Obi-Wan cut that thought off right there. It led nowhere he wished to go.
Beru might not understand the full implications of what Luke was implying, but she looked worried enough about his words. She went up to him and wrapped her hand around his.
“Luke,” she said firmly. Luke blinked and came back from wherever his mind had wandered to. “We are here now.”
There was the slightest easing of tension in his shoulders. “Yes,” he said wonderingly. “You are.”
“If you are so worried about us, then why are you suggesting we split up?” Owen Lars was not a soft man. He couldn’t be, not on this world, in this time, and survive. But he wasn’t a cruel one either. Obi-Wan had never once doubted that he loved Luke with a strength and dedication that Obi-Wan had rarely seen. The man was obstinate and headstrong in other areas of his life as well. Which is why it left Obi-Wan shaken, to hear Owen’s voice sound so lost.
Luke’s mouth firmed up, and it was the voice of experience talking now, not the scared man of a minute ago. “Because it’s our best shot at surviving. I've been on the run a lot, and we'll blend in better if we're in pairs.”
Owen looked away first, seeking his wife’s gaze. Beru looked at him, and then Luke. Finally, she nodded her head, knuckles white as they tightened around Luke’s hand.
Owen sighed. “Alright, Luke,” he conceded grudgingly. “We will do it your way.”
Luke’s face relaxed. “Thank you,” he said. At his visible easing of tension, Beru’s own posture relaxed, and her grip on Luke’s hand eased.
Then Owen scowled. “I suppose you want us to scuttle away in some hidey-hole while you find this friend of yours?”
Luke’s smile came quick and bright. “No, I was going to put you to work.”
Owen looked as disturbed as Obi-Wan felt about these lightning-fast mood changes Luke was undergoing. “I don’t think there is anyone here who wants to pay me to work on their water evaporators, Luke,” he said cautiously.
Luke shook his head and pointed down the street. “There is a mechanics shop at the end of this street. I need you to go there and talk to him about buying the speeder. We could use the cash.”
“But Luke,” Beru said aghast. “You love that ship.”
Luke looked at her, and then using the hand still in his, he pulled her into a hug. Beru gave a startled yelp, but she returned the embrace.
Luke pulled back after a long moment. “I love you more,” he said fervently. “It’s just a speeder. I can get a new one. I can’t get another you.”
“Luke,” Beru whispered, sorrow and grief on her face. She put a hand on his cheek. “Oh, I wish I got to see you grow into this man,” she said.
He gave her a sad smile. “Me too.”
“Alright, Luke,” Owen said. “If you’re sure.”
Luke seemed to draw in on himself. “I’m sure,” he said firmly. “Besides, you forget, from my perspective, I sold this speeder decades ago.”
Owen frowned at the reminder. Obi-Wan mentally pushed his estimate of Luke’s age to at least forty.
“And while I can’t say we will never be back here, it might be a long time.” Luke didn’t look like this was a guess on his part. He sounded like at some point, he had returned to this planet. Why? Was this where he had gone to hide from this enemy of his? Obi-Wan was well aware that for all its harshness and brutality, Tatooine was an excellent place to hide.
Luke took a step back from Beru, then embraced his Uncle. Owen looked shocked, but all Luke did was whisper, “Stay safe. We’ll meet back here at this spot when we are all done.”
The two of them nodded and headed down the street. Luke watched them until they disappeared into the shop.
Then he turned to the droids. “You two need to hide,” he said. “They don’t like droids where we are going.” He jerked his head back the way they had come. “And those stormtroopers are looking for you both.”
“Of course, Master Luke,” Threepio said. The droid was surprisingly being quiet about the frankly very strange conversation that he had to have overheard. “R2, and I know what to do.”
[I know what to do,] R2 contradicted.
Threepio ignored him. “When should we expect you to return?”
“Thirty minutes,” Luke answered. “If we aren’t here, find another spot to hide, and keep coming back here every ten minutes.”
Luke sounded like having a backup plan for a rendezvous point was an old habit. Obi-Wan felt a chill go down his spine. He had hoped that Luke would at least get to put down the burden of being a warrior. If this automatic behavior of his was anything to go by, that was not what had happened to him.
R2 gave an affirmative whistle, and he put his front wheel down, the two droids heading in the opposite direction of Owen and Beru.
Luke turned to him and arched an eyebrow. “Shall we?”
Obi-Wan watched Luke closely, wondering about the man who stood in front of him. “Yes. Unless you have any orders you would like me to follow?”
Luke looked puzzled, then sheepish. He rubbed the back of his neck, “No,” he said. “Sorry. I guess old habits die hard.”
Obi-Wan couldn’t stop the disapproval from clouding his voice. “You mean being a military commander?”
Luke gave him a confused frown. “Being in charge, Obi-Wan. Being the one who is expected to have the answers and a plan.”
“I see,” Obi-Wan said.
Luke frowned. “Although, now that I think about it, I should have asked Aunt Beru to bring a cloak from the farm, so I could obscure my face while I’m out in the open.”
“Why?” Obi-Wan asked, alarmed.
Luke looked at him, askance. “What do you mean why? I’m Luke Skywalker. I have a bounty of…” his voice trailed off. “Bantha shit,” he said wonderingly. “I don’t have a bounty right now, do I?”
“Unless you were engaged in some criminal behavior in your youth, I wasn’t aware of, no,” Obi-Wan said honestly.
Luke looked delighted. “Nobody knows who I am,” he said.
“I know,” Obi-Wan said, deeply worried.
“No, you don’t understand,” Luke said excitedly. “I can just go into a bar, and that’s it. No one looking at me in half awe and dread, or worse, as a curiosity. No one wanting to start a fight to say they took on a Jedi.” He let out a delighted chuckle. “And no one looking to collect on my bounty.”
Obi-Wan chose to focus on the part of that sentence that most worried him. “How long did the Empire last?”
Luke waved that away. “I had a bounty on my head for all my adult life,” he said. “And it wasn’t just the Empire looking for me.” He gave a shake of his head and let out a chuckle. “It’s a hell of a thing,” he said to no one in particular, “to be nobody.”
Before Obi-Wan could address that idea, and all its horrifying implications, Luke turned and headed down the street.
Obi-Wan caught up with Luke when he stopped in front of a nondescript building, with a mountain of parts strewed next to it. He was startled to realize he recognized the name on the door. He had never stepped foot in Mos Eisley, but that didn’t mean that he hadn’t asked around in Anchorage on where to find a pilot in a hurry, who wouldn’t ask too many questions. Everyone he talked to, mentioned this place. Obi-Wan owed his life to his preparedness, and a well thought out escape route.
“Paranoia, Master,” Anakin had always teased him.
“This is where I would have gone to find a pilot,” he murmured.
Luke gave him an odd look. “I know. This is where we went last time.”
Of course, it was.
They walked through the doors together. It was like most bars Obi-Wan had been in, smelling of alcohol, drugs, and not very well lit. He was vaguely surprised to hear a live band though. That made this a bar, and not a dive. He turned to ask Luke if he saw who they were looking for, but the boy was gone.
Obi-Wan felt a momentary wave of panic. Then he forcibly reigned himself in, chiding himself for the reaction. Luke had a blaster on him. And he was armed with Anakin’s lightsaber. His showing with the stormtroopers at the Lars farm proved he knew what he was doing in combat. He would be fine.
Obi-Wan took another moment to look around the establishment, then shrugged his shoulders. He headed to the bar, looking for a place to sit down. Standing in the doorway, looking like a lost fool, was a good way to draw attention to himself.
Obi-Wan sat on one of the stools. The bartender, who was human and looked like he long ago stopped caring about anything, looked him up and down.
“What will you have?” he asked.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to request water, and found, “Whatever the cheapest and strongest brandy on your shelf is,” falling out of his mouth.
The man smirked knowingly. But he returned quickly with a full glass, plunking it down in front of Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan laid a credit down for it, which the bartender snatched up quickly, like he was afraid it would be stolen. He wandered away to serve his next customer, leaving a grateful Obi-Wan alone.
This was foolish. Obi-Wan knew it was foolish. He needed all his wits about him, and it had been a long time since he had a drink. His tolerance was probably shot. But he had just had a very trying day, and the future wasn’t looking to be any less exciting. He needed something to soothe his jagged nerves. He thought a few days of deep meditation in the Force might be just enough to bring a veneer of sanity back into his life. Since that wasn’t an option, at the moment anyway, he would take this poor substitute.
Thinking of all the ghosts of his past, as he had been involuntarily and viscerally reminded of today, he raised the glass into the air in salute before bringing it to his lips. Before the glass could reach its destination, a large furry hand settled over the top of it.
Obi-Wan frowned, and his gaze went up to see who that hand belonged to.
It was a Wookie.
Obi-Wan blinked, taken completely aback. He had kept up enough with the goings-on in the galaxy to know that the sight of a free Wookie was an unusual thing these days. Even in the times of the Republic, it was rare to find one in a desert. The climate was too hot for them, and the sand was a terrible nuisance in their fur.
Nevertheless, there was a Wookie sitting on the stool next to him, his eyes very intensely looking at Obi-Wan.
Only wanting to finish his brandy in peace, Obi-Wan asked in a cool tone. “Can I help you?”
The Wookie cocked his head, and he didn’t remove his hand from Obi-Wan’s glass. After a long, thoughtful moment, he said flatly. <You need a ship. And a pilot to fly her.>
Obi-Wan frowned. Now how would he know that? Or that Obi-Wan would understand him? Shyriiwook wasn’t one of the languages that were routinely taught outside of Basic.
It didn’t matter. Wookies were enslaved by the Empire. The fact that this one was here, out in the open, meant he was no friend of the Empire. It didn’t mean that he wouldn’t sell Obi-Wan out at the first opportunity for his bounty. But he wasn’t a direct agent of the Empire.
“I do,” he said, more to see where this strange conversation was going, then actual need.
<You are going to hire me and my partner,> the Wookie said as he finally removed his hand from Obi-Wan’s glass.
Obi-Wan felt his eyebrow arch. “I am?”
<Yes.> And with that, the Wookie stood and turned to head to wherever this partner of his was.
“Do either of you have names?” Obi-Wan called out to his back.
The Wookie stopped, and when he turned around, there was a fierce smile on his face. <I’m Chewbacca. My partner’s name is Han Solo.> Then he turned away again, heading to the back wall, where the tables were located.
Feeling bemused, Obi-Wan followed him. While he was rather sure he could take anyone in this bar in a fight, well, perhaps save Luke, he would rather not draw attention to himself. It would be far easier to hear these two out, while he finished his drink. Once he figured out what con they were trying to run on him, he would politely decline to participate, and then go look for Luke.
Han Solo turned out to be a dark-haired human, who looked to be in his early thirties. He was sitting in one of the booths, but at the end of it, instead of the middle. Probably a wise move in an establishment such as this. It meant he could very quickly get out of his seat and have more room to maneuver or flee if he had to. He was Corellian, proudly proclaimed by the blood stripe on his pants. He didn’t look up as Chewbacca neared the table.
“Chewie,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I-“ his voice trailed off, and he took in that Chewbacca was not alone.
His eyes narrowed as he took Obi-Wan in. Chewbacca slid into the other open side of the booth. Obi-Wan merely stood at the foot of the table, waiting for whatever game these two were about to play.
Solo sent Chewbacca an exasperated look. “Really?”
The Wookie shrugged. <He’s looking to hire a ride.>
Solo’s eyes were a bit wide. “Is he now?”
“Your partner was the one who approached me,” Obi-Wan said mildly. “I do have another means of transportation lined up.” At least he hoped that Luke had found whoever he was looking for.
Solo’s mouth twisted into a mocking smile. “And what are you going to pay them with?”
“I have money,” Obi-Wan said firmly.
“Sure, you do,” the Captain drawled. He took one long sweeping look of Obi-Wan, examining him from head to toe. Obi-Wan merely waited for the inspection to finish. His robes were old, and there was quite the collection of patches on them to cover old tears in the cloth. But he was Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he wasn’t going to be made embarrassed by a third-rate smuggler.
Then, oddly, Solo’s eyes flickered past Obi-Wan’s shoulders, as if he was looking for someone else. His eyes were disappointed as his gaze fell back on Obi-Wan. “Where are you heading?”
“The Alderaan system,” Obi-Wan said.
“Yeah,” the Captain rubbed his forehead. He sounded bewildered and confused. “That sounds about right.”
Obi-Wan frowned. Something was off here. “Provided you have a fast ship,” he needled the man.
Something flashed in the man’s eyes. Frustration? Disappointment? “Of course, I have a fast ship. I’m a smuggler. It’s a pretty basic requirement.”
He didn’t sound very happy about his profession.
“Would I have heard of it?” Not that it mattered one way or another to Obi-Wan. He had never kept up much with fast ships. But there was something more going on here then two men looking for easy prey to scam. Perhaps if he asked the right question, he might find out what was driving all these undercurrents he was sensing.
Solo leaned back in the booth. “The Millennium Falcon. It made the Kessel run in less than fourteen parsecs.”
Obi-Wan kept his face light and pleasant, as if the man hadn’t just spouted nonsense. It was impressive the man had figured out a shorter route through the Maw, and hadn’t died, but that had nothing to do with the speed of his ship.
Luke’s voice came from behind Obi-Wan, dry and amused. “I thought it was twelve.”
Solo sat bolt upright, all weariness gone from his face. Chewbacca had also come to attention.
Obi-Wan allowed the hand not holding his drink, to drift to the lightsaber at his waist. These two were showing far too much interest in Luke.
Solo’s mouth opened and closed several times, without a word coming out of them. “Kid?” he finally managed to stutter out.
Luke came up to Obi-Wan’s left, the side closest to Solo. His voice was both wary and welcoming. “Hi, Han.”
Captain Solo came up from the booth fast. Obi-Wan started to move to intervene, but Luke took a step forward, and then the two men were wrapped in a fierce hug.
Obi-Wan felt his mouth drop open at the unexpected sight, and then he was shoved roughly backwards as Chewbacca went over to join them. He wrapped his large arms around both men. His voice was so garbled, that Obi-Wan couldn’t make out what he was saying, but the tone was nothing but pure joy.
Obi-Wan reached out and pulled the chair that had been near the booth over to himself so he could sit down.
“Oh,” he found the words coming from his mouth almost on autopilot. “They time traveled too.” Well, at least that explained Chewbacca’s odd approach and Solo’s attitude. They were trying to figure out if he knew who they were. He took another sip from his drink and dimly noticed that the glass was shaking.
His words must have broken some spell, because Captain Solo pulled back from the embrace, breaking Chewbacca’s hold. The Wookie took a small step back to give the men some room.
Solo’s finger came up to point in Luke’s face. “What did you do?” he asked, voice hysterical. Well, Obi-Wan would be hysterical too if he woke up somewhere in his past, and convinced Anakin had something to do with it. Come to think of it, he probably wouldn’t be as calm as the Captain was right now.
Luke shook his head. “Nothing,” he said. Captain Solo didn’t look convinced. “Nothing, Han,” he insisted. “I went to sleep on…” his voice trailed off, apparently not willing to reveal where he had been before this insanity started. Was Captain Solo another person he wished to hide from?
Captain Solo’s face contorted. “Doesn’t matter what planet you holed yourself up on, Luke. There is no way in hell I’m going to let you crawl back there. We have too much to do.”
“Han,” Luke protested. “It was better for everyone—”
It was Chewbacca who cut Luke off, with a soft whap upside his head.
“Hey!” Luke protested, looking and sounding nineteen for once.
<Stop being stupid,> Chewie barked. <You are too old to act the age you look.>
Luke gaped at him.
Obi-Wan found himself asking. “Do they know Leia too?”
Solo’s head whipped around to look at Obi-Wan. “Leia?” he demanded, and all the blood drained out of his face. “Leia?” he repeated, turning back to Luke. “Our Leia is here?”
Solo’s entire body tensed, and Chewbacca let out a sharp frightened yelp. “Kriffing hell!” Solo swore. “What are you standing around for?” He took two steps forward as if he intended to run to Leia this very moment. He came to an abrupt halt, as Luke grabbed his arm.
“What are you doing?” Solo demanded. “We have to go. Now. Bad enough if it was the younger Leia, but it’s our Leia! You know where she is!”
Solo’s voice had an edge of manic desperation to it, and Chewbacca looked like he was two seconds from physically intervening between the two men.
Luke cut him off, his voice level, and soothing. “Leia is safe, Han.”
Han froze. “What?”
“Leia is safe,” Luke repeated. “She’s on her way to Alderaan as we speak.”
Solo slumped a bit, and Luke removed his arm from him. “You sure?” the taller man asked.
“Yes,” Luke said. “She made that very clear.” Then a small fond smile broke out on his face. “After she yelled at me for not answering her the first time, she reached out to me.
Solo looked indignant. “Why didn’t you answer her?”
Luke’s smile faded, and he looked guilty. “I thought she wasn’t real.”
Solo didn’t look like that cleared up anything for him. “Why the ever hell not?”
Luke just gave him a patient look, but Solo didn’t break his gaze away. Finally, Luke waved his hands to indicate the bar. “I thought I had run mad.”
Solo’s face changed into rueful understanding. “Alright, I’ll give you that.” He shook his head. “Goddamn figures,” he said, half in exasperation and half in fondness. “The pair of you.” He ran his hands through his hair, then collapsed back into the booth.
Chewbacca let out a woof. <That’s the first sensible thing you have said today.>
Luke gave him a wry look. “You thought you’d gone insane too?” he asked.
Chewbacca took the end of the booth opposite from Solo. <Of course.> He gestured to the man. <Then I figured out he was here too, so it lessened the odds.>
“Force nonsense,” Solo muttered, as Obi-Wan stood and brought his chair closer to the table. Luke grabbed a chair from a nearby table and sat it next to Obi-Wan. “And somehow, we all got swept up in this.”
“When did you become aware?” Luke asked, ignoring Captain Solo’s snide remark.
“Twenty minutes before you walked into the bar,” Captain Solo rubbed his hands down his face. “I thought I had died and gone to hell. Why hell looked like a dive bar, I couldn’t even begin to understand.”
Luke frowned. “Why would you think you were dead?”
Solo’s head came up instantly, and he was gaping at Luke. Then all of that emotion fell away from his face. “It’s not important,” he said quickly and rather unconvincingly. Obi-Wan had first met the man five minutes ago, and even he could tell he was lying.
Luke’s eyes narrowed. “I rather think it is.”
Captain Solo’s face grew hard. “Leave it alone, Kid.”
“I may look nineteen, but that doesn’t mean you have to protect me like I am.”
“You are always going to be an annoying fresh off the farm kid to me, so don’t even start.”
Chewbacca looked back and forth between the two men. <Han,> he said very softly, <he needs to know.>
Solo leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, a look of mulish obstinacy on his face. “No, he doesn’t.”
“Know what?” Luke asked, exasperated.
There was a long pause as all three of them continued to glower at each other. Obi-Wan took the opportunity to take another sip of his drink. He sensed he was going to need the fortification. Whatever this was about, it wasn’t going to lead anywhere good.
Chewbacca let out a soft growl of impatience. <Han thought he was dead because Ben stabbed him through the heart.>
Obi-Wan felt his mouth drop. The man had died? And woken up here? He thought Luke’s vague explanation of the circumstances of how he found himself here was bad enough. At least it didn’t involve being murdered. Distantly he was aware of his glass clinking back onto the table.
“CHEWIE!” Solo hissed in a low whisper. The Captain hadn’t forgotten they were in a public place. But there was no missing he wanted to yell. “He didn’t need to know it was Ben who did it.”
Obi-Wan’s confusion was only growing. He was pretty sure that neither man was talking about him stabbing Captain Solo, but it was odd that there was someone else who was close to all of them, with that name.
Then all thoughts about death, men named Ben, and understanding the story that was only half being said fled his mind. Luke paled, and he slumped. Concerned, Obi-Wan reached out to catch him before he slid to the floor.
Luke’s entire focus was on the Correllian. “Ben killed you?” he whispered through bloodless lips.
Captain Solo shot a nasty look at Chewbacca, then looked at Luke. “Yeah,” he said gruffly, eyes falling to the table. “He did.” Then he made a frustrated face. “Or didn’t because,” he waved his hands around, indicating the room.
“This is all my fault.” Luke sounded haunted.
Captain Solo’s head shot up. “The hell it is,” he snarled.
Luke shook his head, “You don’t understand—"
“About the Force? No, never did. Including that time travel was possible.”
“To be fair to Luke,” Obi-Wan interjected, feeling the need to defend Luke. From what he wasn’t sure, but he did know he didn’t like the beaten air all around him. “That wasn’t something the Jedi were aware of either.”
Solo shot him a look, “Well, isn’t that nice to know.”
The sarcasm was thick enough in his tone to shatter lesser man. On any other day, Obi-Wan would have been delighted to trade wits, but his mind kept curling around the fact that this man had died. While it wasn’t unusual for Obi-Wan to talk to dead men, thank you very much Master Qui-Gon, they tended not to be still breathing. It made it hard to find the words to rebuke the Captain.
Solo wasn’t all that interested in him anyway. His gaze swung back to Luke. “This is not your fault.”
Luke shook his head in mute denial.
“I approached him, Luke.” There was no give in Solo’s voice. “And nobody forced me to do that. I could have walked away, and he would never have known I was there. But I called out to him. I took the chance that I could reach him.” A look of regret passed over Solo’s face. “And it almost worked.”
Luke’s face crumbled. “Han,” he said brokenly.
Solo’s face firmed up. “I did, Luke. I almost reached him. But,” he sighed. “In the end, it wasn’t enough. He still chose to ignore his own conscience.”
Luke let out a broken sob. Obi-Wan found himself looking away. This sounded all too close to events in his own past that he had no wish to dwell on. Which it shouldn’t. The two situations could not have been more different. He had no hope of reaching Anakin-
Not Anakin. That had not been Anakin. His brother had been dead by then. Consumed and devoured by the Dark Side. Vader. It had been Vader on Mustafar. And there was no reasoning with that monster.
“Luke,” Han said softly. Obi-Wan felt, more than saw, Luke’s head move towards the Captain. He forced himself to focus on the now, instead of his own mistakes and past. “I don’t blame you.”
Luke raised his head. “But—"
“No buts,” Solo said sternly. Then he sighed, and for a moment, a very old man was looking out of that very young face. “Luke, I know you never listen to me when your mind is made up. But for once, can you do us both a favor and hear what I am telling you?”
Solo leaned forward and made sure Luke was meeting his eyes before he went on. “Ben made his own choices. Like I did. Like you did. Hell, like Vader did.”
Obi-Wan started at the name. What did he have to do with anything?
Luke looked desperate to believe Solo, even as he shook his head in the negative. “You don’t know everything.”
Han leaned back, looking tired. “No, I don’t. But I know you. And I know that no matter what you think you did to set this all off, you loved him.”
Luke’s voice cracked. “That love didn’t keep me from failing him.”
Han looked defeated. “Think what you want Kid, you always have. But I don’t blame you for anything.”
Luke’s emotions were suddenly there again in the Force, swirling in his guilt and self-loathing at those kind words.
Alarmed, Obi-Wan leaned over, and put a hand on Luke’s shoulder. What he was feeling was dangerous. He needed to come to terms with this, or it would tear him apart.
“Luke,” he said, shoring up his own mental walls against the rampage of emotions that became so much stronger the second he touched Luke. “You should listen to him.”
<And me,> Chewbacca said. <Han’s right. We all are only responsible for what we do. Not others.>
Luke only shook his head. Obi-Wan could see his own frustration and agony reflected on Solo’s face at Luke’s stubbornness. Just what had happened to all of them that had set Luke on this course?
Chewbacca didn’t look defeated. Instead, he leaned forward, switching tactics, and topics. <At the very least, can we wait to get into punishing you for your sins later? Leia needs us. And for us to help her, we need to get to Alderaan.>
Luke blinked as if he had completely forgotten about that. The Force began to practically vibrate with a fierce love, wrapped around a steely resolve. Obi-Wan’s breath caught at the force of it. Then those walls of his went back around Luke’s mind, and the Force was once again calm.
“Yes,” he said, trying to put on a brave smile. Obi-Wan could see the effort it cost him to pull himself together.
But his tone was light and cheerful as he announced. “Leia’s already irritated enough with me today. I don’t need to add to it by being late.” This was all disquieting. Obi-Wan couldn’t feel anything in the Force around Luke. He had no way to tell if this was Luke truly mastering his emotions or was merely papering over the cracks.
He shot a look at Solo, but he couldn’t read anything in the man’s face as he stared at Luke. His voice was wary, though. “Alderaan?” he said slowly. “Is that the best idea? Why not head directly for Yavin?”
Ah, his concern was for their destination, not Luke’s tone. Perhaps Obi-Wan was worrying over nothing? The Captain seemed to care a great deal for Luke.
“I raised the same objection,” Obi-Wan felt the need to point out. Solo looked at him irritated, and in a flash, Obi-Wan understood the man was doing his own test of Luke’s mental stability. He was feeling very superfluous to everything that was going on. There was too much history motivating all of this, that he wasn’t aware of. And too many wounds on all these men he couldn’t even begin to guess at.
A spark of defiance flashed in Luke’s eyes. “Leia told me to go to Alderaan. So, I’m going to Alderaan. If you two want to argue it out with her, you are more than welcome to.”
Han blinked, and swung his gaze back to Luke. “Why would Leia—” His words trailed off as he blanched. “Oh,” he whispered. “She wants to go home.”
Obi-Wan felt a giant maw open up in his stomach. Luke had said Alderaan had been destroyed. It was just something so horrible, Obi-Wan had shoved it into the back of his mind as something to forget. All that beauty and grace, gone. All those people, wiped out in a second. And though Luke hadn’t said so, chances were strong that Bail and Breha had died with their world.
Order 66 had been hard enough to feel in the reverberations of the Force. Two billion people all at once, he was rather surprised that other version of him hadn’t gone mad. It was an evil on a scale Obi-Wan hadn’t even been able to conceive the Empire capable of.
Leia was right about one point, though. Without her there to use the planet as blackmail, Tarkin wouldn’t pick that world. At least not yet, anyway. There was no way that Alderaan would ever bow to the Empire to the extent they would need to, to avoid destruction. It was a world that was too old, and too proud of its history, one that stretched far beyond any version of the Republic, to concede that much.
But just because that wasn’t Alderaan’s immediate fate didn’t mean that it was wise to go there now. Obi-Wan couldn’t shake the feeling they should go directly to Yavin. Presumably, that was where the Rebel Alliance was, and the sooner they had the plans, the sooner that abomination would be destroyed.
Then Solo’s eyes went very wide. “Oh,” he said, and now his voice was bordering on panicked. “Luke, are they there?”
Luke frowned. “Who is where?”
“Them,” Solo whispered. “The Organas,” he hissed as Luke continued to look perplexed.
Obi-Wan frowned, not quite getting what the Captain was trying to imply. Why should Bail and Breha worry him this much? But apparently, Chewbacca understood the half of the conversation that wasn’t being said, because he let out a roar of laughter.
Luke blinked and looked at the Wookie puzzled, as he banged his fist on the table. Obi-Wan wished he would share what he was so gleeful about. There was nothing funny about any of this. And the noise he was making was bound to attract attention, even in a place like this, where the clientele went out of its way to ignore everything.
Then comprehension broke out over Luke’s face. He gave Solo a wide teasing grin. “Oh,” he said, his own giggles escaping him. “I forgot about that.”
“How could you forget about something like that?” Han demanded, wounded.
Luke wheezed and shook his head, not able to answer.
Solo ran his fingers through his hair. “Kriffing hell,” he said passionately. “This is going to be a disaster.”
Luke managed to gain enough control of himself. He gave Han an openly amused look. “Oh, I don’t know. There is no way this meeting goes as bad as Bespin.”
Solo only shot Luke a dirty look. “Not. Helping.”
Given the despair Luke had been wrapped in, not even a minute ago, Obi-Wan should be relieved to see his mood swing up to such joy. And it was Luke’s joy, humming along his skin in the Force. He wasn’t though. Luke was cycling too fast between emotions. He wasn’t covering up anything, or even in control. He was following his moods as they struck him. But Luke was a Jedi Master. There was no mistaking his power and control. He might be a bit rusty in his shields, but the same could be said of Obi-Wan. So why was he allowing these feedback loops to occur in the first place?
“Luke cut himself off from the Force, remember?” a snide voice whispered in his head.
Horrified at the answers he was coming too about Luke, Obi-Wan opened his mouth to ask some very pointed questions when a flurry of movement caught the corner of his eye. Obi-Wan would have ignored it, this was a bar, people were moving all the time, but the Force went from dancing in Luke’s joy, to the low subtle hint of danger. Obi-Wan turned his head, and there was a cluster of white uniforms coming in through the door.
“Not that I’m not both horrified and intrigued as to what happened on Bespin,” Obi-Wan said, eyes never leaving the troopers. “But given the company that just showed up, might I suggest we save that conversation for when we are on our way to Alderaan?”
Beside him, Luke turned his head, and his mood immediately plummeted in the Force as he caught sight of the troopers.
Chewbacca gave a soft growl.
“Shoot them later, pal,” Solo said. “Now’s not the time.”
Chewbacca spat out a curse, but no weapons came up.
Solo transferred his glare to Luke. “You either, Kid.”
“Yeah,” Luke answered, but his eyes were intently tracking the troopers as they started questioning the patrons on the other side of the bar.
“Luke!” Han hissed. “Leia? Death Star plans? Time crunch? Any of this ringing a bell?”
Luke blinked, and he drew his eyes back to Han. “Yeah, right. Leia.” He shot another glance to the troopers. “It’s just weird seeing them.”
Solo relaxed a little. “Yeah, something I could have lived without seeing again. But I also want to get out of here before I end up shooting Greedo again.”
“Who?” Luke asked.
Solo waved a hand in the air dismissively. “One of Jabba’s flunkies. He’s a greedy idiot with little sense, but that doesn’t mean he should die over it.”
Luke’s face hardened at that name. “You are going to pay back Jabba,” he said firmly, which was not what Obi-Wan expected him to say at all.
Solo rolled his eyes, and this was not comforting. The man was in debt to Jabba? “Yes, Luke, I’m going to pay back Jabba. I have no desire to live through that little adventure again.”
“As I recall, you spent most of it frozen in carbonite,” Luke’s voice was amused.
“Yes, I know. I still owe you for that one.” Solo sounded exasperated, instead of being on his knees, thanking Luke for saving him. Jabba had been a thorn in the Old Republic’s side almost since it was born. Extracting someone who he had targeted for revenge was a minor miracle.
<Can we get going?> Chewbacca barked. <Or we all going to sit here and banter with each other some more?>
“Yes, yes,” Han stood, and freed himself from the booth. “The Falcon is in Docking Bay—"
“Ninety-four,” Luke finished for him, as he came to his own feet, Obi-Wan following the motion. “I remember.”
Solo’s eyes glittered with amusement. “Wasn’t sure if you would. Old man brain in that young body.”
Luke didn’t even pause. He just turned to Chewbacca and asked, “Forget where it was, didn’t he?”
Chewbacca let out a loud laugh. <Yes,> he said, standing.
“Ha-ha,” Han muttered. Then he frowned. “And if your memory is so sharp, why weren’t you here before Chewie found the old man?”
Luke blushed and mumbled something.
Han cocked his head, a smirk on his face. “Sorry, can’t hear you?”
“I said I thought you were on the other side of the bar,” Luke muttered petulantly.
“And who has the bad memory?” Solo chortled gleefully.
Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “Do you always act this childish when your lives are under threat?”
Solo and Luke looked at each other and shrugged. “If we didn’t, we would lead pretty dour lives,” Solo admitted.
Oh, wonderful. Luke had grown into that kind of person.
Then Han frowned. “I’m going to ask you to wait for about twenty minutes to get there.”
“Why?” Luke asked.
“Because Jabba is going to be there waiting for me, and I rather him not get a look at your very valuable face.”
Luke smirked, “Oh, but I don’t have a bounty on me right now.”
Solo opened his mouth, to argue, then snapped it shut. “That’s right. You don’t.”
Luke looked smug. “Unlike other people I can name.”
Solo’s eyes narrowed. “Jabba doesn’t want to collect my bounty. I got most of them doing jobs for him.”
“I, on the other hand, do have a rather substantial bounty on my head,” Obi-Wan said pleasantly, as he returned the chair to the table he snagged it from. “So even if Luke doesn’t currently need the warning, I do.”
Luke looked a little abashed. Solo only gave him an accessing look.
“How much?” Solo asked.
Obi-Wan shrugged. “The highest in the Empire the last time I checked. Fifteen million credits.”
Solo snorted and shook his head. “Didn’t last. Mon’s higher now.” Did he mean Senator Mothma? Obi-Wan hadn’t heard anything that would indicate why she would have such a high bounty. Then again, Tatooine was rather remote, and the locals didn’t much care for the goings-on in the Core or Mid-Rim worlds.
“And Luke set the record for all time.” Solo started to move away from the tables.
Obi-Wan looked down at his still half-full glass. “I didn’t get to finish my drink,” he said mournfully.
Solo snorted. “Oh, trust me, there isn’t enough alcohol in the galaxy to help you deal with him.” He jerked his thumb in Luke’s direction. “And with Leia thrown in the mix?” He waved his hands in the air. “You might as well just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.”
Luke let out a squawk. “It is not that bad.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Luke gave Solo an outraged look. “What does it say about you that you stay?”
Solo gave Luke a wicked grin. “I never denied I wasn’t crazy.”
When they all exited the canteen, Solo and Chewbacca turned to the right, heading down the street to the docking bay. Obi-Wan turned to Luke, who was looking down the opposite way.
Whatever laughter Solo had managed to put on his face was gone. Luke’s entire body posture was tense, and though his shields were up in the Force, it felt more like a coiled wire then the smooth walls of earlier.
“Luke? Is everything alright?” Obi-Wan asked.
Luke turned and met his eyes. “Can you meet up with the droids?”
“I can,” Obi-Wan said. “But may I ask why?” Not that he needed to. It was written all over Luke’s face that he was allowing his fear for the Lars to rule him.
“I’m going to the mechanics' shop.”
“I thought you said it was better if we were in smaller groups,” Obi-Wan tried to remind him.
Luke flashed him a sassy grin. “Three is smaller than six.”
Before Obi-Wan could even begin to refute that, Luke took off down the street, without waiting for Obi-Wan’s answer. He could have gone with him, of course. Luke wasn’t moving all that fast. But four would definitely be more noticeable then three, and someone did need to collect the droids.
The speeder was still there. Obi-Wan idly wondered if the mechanic was waiting to come to collect his new possession. More than likely, Owen was still haggling with the man.
It only took about ten minutes before the droids reappeared.
R2 gave a questioning whistle. [Where is Luke?]
“Escorting the Larses,” Obi-Wan said.
R2 made an affirmative noise. Then his visual sensor homed in on his face. [What is going on Obi-Wan?]
So, the droid did recognize him. Obi-Wan hadn’t been sure. Anakin and Ahsoka had been closer to R2 then he had. And in the entire strange journey from the Lar’s farm to here, the droid hadn’t said a word to him. Well, he had always been more discrete then C3-PO.
Discrete, but stubborn. R2 wouldn’t budge until he had an answer. Unfortunately, Obi-Wan didn’t have any for him. And even if he did, a street on Mos Eisley wasn’t the place to go about it.
“That is an explanation that is best left till we are on our way to Alderaan,” he said, trying to keep his tone firm and commanding.
R2 let out a rude sounding noise. [Isn’t that always the case?]
“If I might be so bold, sir,” C3-PO asked. “Is Master Luke going to be alright?”
“I don’t know,” Obi-Wan answered truthfully. “But I do know that he won’t find what he needs on this planet. We have booked a ship off this world.”
“Oh,” the droid sounded disappointed. “I dislike space travel.”
Given how often this droid had been shuffled from one end of this galaxy to another, that was a rather surprising statement.
“Shall we?” Obi-Wan said, gesturing for them to follow him. “But slowly, please. My knees aren’t what they once were.”
As excuses went, it was a poor one. He actually just wanted to buy time to make sure that they didn’t run into Jabba, but they didn’t need to know that.
As they made their way down the street, Obi-Wan could only marvel at the fact that despite his incessant chattering, Threepio was turning out to be a calm refuge in his day. He was in turns insanely cheerful, then, with no reason Obi-Wan could fathom, was convinced they were all going to die. And he went on, at length, about both possibilities. But he wasn’t doing anything that was breaking Obi-Wan’s understanding of reality, so he was turning into the most peaceful person he had interacted with today.
When they arrived at Docking Bay 94, Obi-Wan had the droids wait in a small alcove before entering. His caution turned out to be for nothing. Only Solo was there. If Jabba had come by, he was long gone now, and that was all Obi-Wan cared about.
Solo hadn’t noticed his entrance. He was under the ship, looking up at it, as if it were a lost treasure. That was a bit of a stretch. Obi-Wan was no connoisseur, but even he recognized that the Falcon could only be politely described as ‘barely functional‘ looking. A ruder man would call it a junk heap.
“Captain Solo?” Obi-Wan called out.
Without a word, the Captain whirled around, blaster up, and aimed at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan’s hands instantly shot up in the air, to show that he was unarmed. Or at least, to appear so to the Captain. It wasn’t like he couldn’t yank the blaster out of his hands before he could get a shot off.
There was a long pause, and then recognition flashed across Solo’s face. He holstered the blaster. “Sorry about that,” he said.
“It’s alright,” Obi-Wan said back smoothly, lowering his hands. “It pays to be vigilant on this planet, Captain.”
“Yeah,” Solo rubbed the back of his neck, looking a little embarrassed. “Or in general.” His embarrassment faded, and he scowled at Obi-Wan. “And knock it off with the Captain stuff. Han is fine.”
“Han then,” Obi-Wan replied. “If you call me Obi-Wan.”
Han shrugged. “Sure.”
Obi-Wan turned slightly and raised his voice. “It’s safe to come out now.”
The droids made there way over. Threepio called out, as he noticed Han. “Oh, hello!”
He walked up to the man and cheerfully announced, “My name is C3-PO, human-cyborg relations.” He laid a hand on R2’s domed head. “And this is my counterpart, R2-D2.”
Han gave the droid a sour look. “Oh, I did not miss this.”
“I beg your pardon, Sir?” Threepio asked, confusion clear.
Han shook his head. “Never mind,” he said dismissively.
“Have we met before?” Threepio asked, voice anxious. “It’s just that I have no memory of you in my data banks, and if we have, it means that there is a corruption in my files—"
Han cut him off. “Get in the ship, will you?”
Threepio’s voice was nothing but wounded dignity. “Of course, Sir,” he said stiffly. Then he angled his head down to the astromech at his side. “Come along, R2,” and both droids headed to the gangplank.
Han watched them go, shaking his head. “That droid never learned when to shut up.”
Obi-Wan gave a dry chuckle. “No, he did not.”
Han shot him a side-eyed glance. “You know him?”
“Indeed. He and R2 both. They belonged to…” his voice trailed off. Why would Han even care about who the droids once belonged to? “Some old friends,” he finished lamely.
Han snorted. “Some friends. R2 is fine, but Threepio?” He shuddered. “That droid is a menace.”
Then he frowned, and his gaze fell behind Obi-Wan. “Where’s Luke?”
“He wandered off,” Obi-Wan said, eyeing the ship with an abundance of caution.
“You let him go off alone?” Han demanded.
Obi-Wan blinked, startled. Han’s vehemence seemed a bit out of place. Obi-Wan himself had been worried about Luke going off on his own. But because of Luke’s reasons, not that he didn’t for a moment think that Luke was in any danger. He felt his spine stiffen at the implication that he would be careless with Luke’s life. He had dedicated a good portion of his own to protect that boy.
“He is a grown man. And a Jedi Master. Do you think there is something in this town he isn’t capable of handling?”
Han rolled his eyes at him. “Oh, now you’ve done it,” he complained. “Now, something is bound to show up.”
“I don’t believe in luck,” Obi-Wan said coldly.
Han sneered. “Well, I do, and if you hang out with Luke and Leia long enough, you will too.”
“I sincerely doubt that.” Anakin had wandered into more dangerous situations and miraculously found his way out of them then Luke could possibly dream of.
Han shot his hands up in the air in exasperation. “Fine. Don’t believe me. But a bit of friendly advice, never let those two wander off alone. It all ends in screams, crying, and half the time, an overthrown government.”
Obi-Wan wasn’t even sure where to start with that, but Luke’s voice came from behind him. “Who is overthrowing governments?”
Han and Obi-Wan turned to face him as he came walking towards them, a puzzled look on his face.
Han’s face was nothing but relieved, but his tone was caustic, as he said. “You. Usually.”
“You were there for most of them,” Luke protested.
“Only to make sure you and Leia didn’t die,” Han said, crossing his arms over his chest. “It was never my idea.”
Luke looked thoughtful, then gave a rueful chuckle. “True.”
Han didn’t look mollified. “Where did you go anyway?” he asked.
Luke’s face contorted in confusion, then slid into embarrassment. “I uh…”
“Spit it out, Kid,” Han said.
“They’re coming,” Luke said in a rushed voice. “I just wanted to make sure Jabba was gone.”
“Who’s coming?” Han demanded. “You’re here. The old wizard is here. R2 is here. Goldenrod is here, may the gods help me. Who else is there?”
“Luke?” Owen’s voice called out from the door.
“Them,” Luke said, his face and voice brightening. He called out over his shoulder. “It’s safe. But I did tell you I would come to get you.”
Owen and Beru entered into the bay. Owen had a slightly defensive look on his face. “We wanted to see if you needed help,” he said. Obi-Wan was startled to see that Beru had her blaster out of its holster, but it was pointing at the ground, not at anyone in particular.
Solo’s eyes went wide at the sight of them. “Luke?” he demanded, voice very high pitched. “Who are these people?”
Luke gave him a blindingly, happy grin. “Han, I would like you to meet my Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen,” Luke gestured at the couple. “Aunt Beru. Uncle Owen. This is Han Solo.”
Han ran his hands through his hair. “Skywalkers!” he muttered under his breath. Then he gave Luke a glare. “You didn’t think to warn me?”
Luke’s smile was wicked. “No, should I have?”
Han bared his teeth. “You are not as funny as you think you are.” Then he turned to the Lars, straightening his vest as he did so. “Uh, hi? I’m Han. I will be your pilot today.” He gestured behind him. “And this is my ship, the Millennium Falcon.”
Owen’s face was distrustful. “And how do you know Luke?” he asked. “I wouldn’t expect him to be so close with someone who works for Jabba.”
Obi-Wan would give him this, Han was very quick on the uptake. He had no trouble immediately identifying the problem the Lars would have with that. “I ran spice,” Han said firmly. “Not water or slaves. Just spice.”
Owen shot the Falcon a mistrustful look, and then his glare came back to Han again. “You sure about that?”
Chewbacca took that moment to call out from the Falcon <Han, is Luke here yet?>
“I’m here, Chewie,” Luke called out. “My aunt and uncle are making sure that Han doesn’t run slaves.”
There was a moment of silence, and then heavy footfalls as Chewbacca made his way down the gangplank. <Did you say—> he cut off as he took in Owen and Beru, who was standing there, looking at him suspiciously.
<Luke,> Chewbacca asked, eyes wide. <Is this your Aunt and Uncle?>
“Yes,” Luke said, bouncing on his toes a bit.
Chewbacca came over to the couple. To their credit, both of the Lars stood their ground, as an eight-foot sentient approached them.
Chewbacca put out one hand, palm up. Obi-Wan doubted that either Beru or Owen knew about the deadly claws that were currently retracted in those large fingers. Or the significance of Chewbacca offering this gesture to them. <It is an honor to meet you.>
They stared at him, confused. Beru was the one to clear her throat and say, “I’m sorry. We don’t understand what you are saying.”
“This is Chewbacca,” Han explained. “He’s a Wookie. They can’t speak Basic, but he does understand it. He says it’s an honor to meet the people who raised Luke.”
Beru blinked, then looked horrified. “A Wookie?” she asked. So, the Lars weren’t ignorant of what the Empire liked to do with them. “And we accused—"
<It’s alright,> Chewbacca said soothingly. <Jabba does keep and run slaves. You knew we were in his employ. How were you to know different?>
“He isn’t offended, Aunt Beru,” Luke said. “I told him all about you and Uncle Owen.”
“Luke!” Owen protested.
“Give it a rest Owen,” Beru said. “We were dead. What more harm could come to us?”
And just what did that mean? What had these two been up to that Obi-Wan hadn’t noticed?
Beru looked up at the Wookie, eyes assessing, then a wide grin broke out over her face. “It is an honor to meet you.”
Chewbacca grinned and gently closed his hand over the woman’s.
“Still doesn’t explain how you two know Luke?” Owen grumbled.
“Han’s my brother-in-law,” Luke said cheerfully. “Chewbacca is his partner.”
Obi-Wan barely kept his mouth from dropping open. This is who Leia Organa married?
Neither Owen nor Beru were as good at keeping their shock off their faces. They were openly gaping at Han, who turned a slight shade of pink under their scrutiny.
Owen’s face morphed into a scowl. “You are married to our niece?”
“Yes,” Han said promptly, and his voice was full of pride. Then confusion clouded his face. He shot a questioning look at Luke, but the other man only shook his head. Obi-Wan really wished he understood what the two of them were communicating with each other with all these pointed glances.
“I might be way out of line here,” Han said hesitantly, “but as I recall, Leia never met either of you.”
“Shmi Skywalker was my step-mother,” Owen said. “And Leia is her grandchild as much as Luke is. Therefore, she is our niece.”
<Han!> Chewbacca barked. <What did you say to them!>
“It’s not my fault!” Han howled. “Luke sprang them on me.”
Luke looked a little contrite. “He’s right Chewie,” he said. “I did.”
Chewbacca rolled his eyes. <You better work on what you want to say to Leia’s parents before we get to Alderaan.>
Yes, that might be wise. Bail and Breha were fair people, but this entire situation was…well, it was a disaster to be quite plain about it. Han Solo must have some good qualities. Obi-Wan could hardly see any child, raised by Bail and Breha, not seeking that in a husband. But he was hard-pressed to see what they were at this moment.
“I’ll do better on Alderaan, promise.”
Obi-Wan would be more likely to believe him if Chewbacca hadn’t shaken his head, and Luke looked at him pityingly.
Owen crossed his arms over his chest. Since he didn’t speak Shyriiwook, he addressed Luke. “Why didn’t you mention us to him? And don’t tell me it was to pull his leg. I raised you to have better manners than to indulge in foolishness in a life and death situation.”
Luke flushed and looked away. “I forgot.”
Owen’s scowl became even harder. “Better excuse, but not much. We raised you better than that.”
Beru blanched, and she came up to Luke, grabbing his hands. “Luke, it’s alright,” she reassured him.
“The hell it is,” Owen said. “He might be some high and mighty Jedi Master, but we raised him to remember manners, and courtesy for everyone—"
“He forgot we were alive, Owen,” Beru cut her husband off with an impatient huff. “That’s why he didn’t mention us.”
Luke looked at her, eyes wide, and nodded. “Yes,” he croaked.
Owen looked taken aback, and his face and posture softened. “Well,” he said awkwardly. “Still not right, to pass your mistake off and try to shame someone else, but under the circumstances-“
Han cleared his throat. “It’s fine, sir.”
Owen’s scowl returned. Didn’t the man have any other facial expression? Surely at some point in his life, he had laughed, hadn’t he? “Nephew-in-law or not, I will not have you lecture me on how I raise my nephew.”
Han look taken aback at that title, and a pleased look entered his eyes. Then he stood up straighter. “Be that as it may, I won’t have you telling my brother how he can and cannot speak to me. I’ve known Luke for thirty-four years. When I have a problem with his behavior, I’m happy to let him know.”
“Often,” Luke said softly. “And a great length.”
Han swiveled and glared at Luke. “Yeah, and because I’ve known you as long as I have, I am way more worried about you than those two are.”
Luke looked both embarrassed and guilty. “Ah,” he said lamely.
“Yes, ah. You are a terrible liar, Kid.”
Owen’s gaze narrowed. “Then why let him get away with it?”
Han didn’t back down. “Because I wanted to question him somewhere private. I don’t know about you, but I don’t bandy about family business in front of strangers.”
“We are not strangers,” Owen said hotly.
Han crossed his arms over his chest. “You are to me.”
Beru gave him a wide beaming smile. “I like you,” she said.
Han’s defensiveness melted away. He blinked and looked at Beru, startled. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Luke was always hardheaded,” she said pleasantly. “I can’t see that changing. But you aren’t his Uncle, so yelling at him wouldn’t get you anywhere.” She came up to him and patted him on his still crossed arms. “It’s good to know that Luke found people who care about him, and more importantly, understand him.”
Han didn’t look any less suspicious. “Is it?”
“Yes.” She turned to her husband. “Isn’t it, Owen?” Despite her pleasant tone, there was no mistaking the command in her voice.
Owen grumbled something and rubbed the back of his neck.
Apparently pleased with her husband’s non-apology, Beru turned back to Han. “So, what was your plan?”
“I, uh,” Han looked for help from Luke. He only shrugged.
“You’re no help,” Han muttered. He sighed and looked back at Beru’s patient face. “Nothing drastic, just a long conversation when we had a moment.”
Luke looked thoughtful. “Do I need to be drunk for it?”
Han waved a hand. “Not that bad, Kid.”
Luke cocked his head. “Do you need to be drunk for it?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am sure!” Han snapped, hands coming up in irritation.
“Because I have to say, when you are drunk, you are much better talking about your feelings,” Luke said in a teasing sing-song voice.
Owen and Beru watched the exchange, clearly fascinated. Chewbacca just looked bored.
<If we are all done making fun of Han?> he asked, gesturing up the Falcon’s gangplank.
“What’s your hurry?” Han asked.
Chewbacca gave a shake of his head. <Last time, this is when the stormtroopers showed up and shot at us.>
Luke’s postured immediately stiffened, and Obi-Wan could see the awareness and tension enter his shoulders. Owen and Beru tensed in response to Luke’s reaction.
“What did he say?” Owen demanded.
“Stormtroopers ambushed us last time,” Luke said hurriedly, his gaze falling back to the hangar bay’s entrance, as if he expected the stormtroopers to appear right that second. Obi-Wan watched as his hand moved towards Anakin’s lightsaber.
Owen’s face paled. “Then what are we all standing around yapping for? Let’s go,” and he and Beru walked quickly over to the gangplank.
Han watched them and then looked at Luke. “If they are going to stick around, yapping is something they need to get used to.”
Luke scowled. “I am not dragging them into this. We get to Alderaan, then Yavin. After we destroy the Death Star, we are finding them somewhere safe to live,” then he huffed his own way into the ship.
Han watched him go, then shook his head. “Yeah, sure,” but he didn’t sound all that convinced.
“You think the Larses will stay?” Obi-Wan asked. He rather doubted it himself. He had his own decades-long failure of trying to convince Owen Lars to care about affairs that were outside his own immediate sphere.
“I think they love Luke,” Han said evenly. “And they will follow him.”
“Luke doesn’t seem to be all that interested in getting involved himself.”
Han snorted. “I don’t know what parasite crawled up his ass, but the chances of that happening are nil.”
Obi-Wan had to wonder about that. Luke seemed rather determined not to get involved any more than necessary to save Leia and destroy the Death Star. But he went up the plank, the Captain on his heels, without any further word.
They were airborne in under a minute. Despite the dire warnings, no stormtroopers came out of nowhere to shoot at them. Luke, Han, and Chewbacca seemed nervous about that, but at this point, Obi-Wan was willing to take whatever small mercies the Force was willing to grant.
Obi-Wan settled himself in the cockpit, more to avoid Owen and Beru, who were in the hold with the droids, then any real desire to be there. That was why he was there, when they broke atmosphere, and the sight of two Star Destroyers hovering over the planet filled the viewscreen. Obi-Wan felt himself tense, even though he knew these ships were going to be here. Luke had mentioned a blockade of the planet, and it was hard to blockade a planet without ships.
Perversely the other three men relaxed at the sight.
“Not too different,” Han muttered.
“Yeah,” Luke said, craning his neck to get a look. “Just like old times.”
“Yeah, except this time, I had the nav computer start the calculations before we took off,” Han said.
“Show off,” Luke muttered.
There was a laser blast across their front bow.
Han laughed. He actually laughed. “Here is where the fun begins,” he said, and he took the ship into evasive maneuvers.
<Really?> Chewbacca asked.
“It’s imperials, and they are dumber than dirt,” Han said, eyes flickering back and forth as he took in where the shots were coming from.
“Funny, I remember them managing to graze the Falcon quite a few times,” Luke said.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Han sniffed with wounded dignity. Then a green light lit up on the console, and he spat out, “Hit it, Chewie!”
The Wookie threw the throttle, and the sight of the stars streaming away filled the viewscreen as they jumped into hyperspace.
“Not bad for an old man,” Han said satisfactorily.
Luke rolled his eyes, “An old man who looks thirty.”
Han swiveled his chair and leveled a look at Luke. “You are looking pretty spry for fifty-three.”
Obi-Wan felt the ground under him wobble dangerously. More so, because he was sitting down. Four years. Luke was only four years younger than him.
Catching who knew what in the Force, Luke turned to look at him. “Obi-Wan, are you alright?”
Obi-Wan started to nod his head, then thought better of it, and shook it in the negative. “I need a few minutes of quiet and meditation.” He looked at Han. “Is there somewhere on this ship that can happen?”
Han looked thoughtful, but it was Luke who spoke.
“I’ll show you,” he said, getting up. Not where he was expecting an answer from, but it would do.
Obi-Wan rose to follow Luke, but before they could exit, Han’s voice followed them. “Don’t think we aren’t going to have that talk, Luke.”
“Won’t that be fun,” Luke said, but he kept walking. Obi-Wan was too tired to even wonder at what the good captain was going to say. There were so many things to choose from. And that was limited to what had been said in his presence. Obi-Wan was well aware, he hadn’t even scratched the surface to the history between these two men.
Luke took Obi-Wan through a short hallway, the one heading away from the main hold. Obi-Wan could only be grateful. He didn’t have the strength to deal with the Lars at this moment. It was only about ten steps, and Luke flicked open a door. It led to a room filled with boxes.
It was a storage space of some kind, but given the Captain’s profession, likely not the only one. Obi-Wan didn’t care. He desperately needed to meditate. He had woken up this morning, thinking Luke was dead, and things had only gotten stranger and more disquieting as the day went on. And if Han and Luke were to be believed, things weren’t going to get much better once Leia got involved.
Luke looked around, “Sorry, it’s not much.”
“It’s fine,” Obi-Wan said gratefully, sinking to the floor.
“Call me if you need anything,” Luke offered and closed the door behind him.
Obi-Wan merely closed his eyes and sank into that swell of power to let go all his worries and fears about things that could not be changed. He went deeper and deeper, feeling his swirling mind finally start to slow down, allowing him to catch his breath.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed. This deep in the Force, time became a meaningless concept. It had been years since he had dared to go down this far. Without an external reminder to pull him out, he could very well die of dehydration before he realized there was a problem.
That was not the issue today. One moment he was alone, except for the Force. The next, Luke’s presence was right there.
“I thought you should know we are about to arrive at Alderaan.”
Obi-Wan yelped, and in his distraction, his connection to the Force snapped. It took him one long, disorienting moment to understand he was sitting on a cold metal grate floor, with a physical body that did not appreciate being left there for so long.
Luke’s contrition washed over him. “I’m sorry, Obi-Wan, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Luke wasn’t in the room, so Obi-Wan couldn’t even begin to answer him. Speaking like that in the Force was a skill he had never mastered, even in the long years on Tatooine.
He slowly got up, wincing as his knees protested. He sent a bit of Force healing into them to soothe the ache, and Luke’s interest sharpened noticeably.
“How did you do that?”
Obi-Wan paused, baffled by the question. It was a simple enough thing. Healing had never been his specialty, but he could do the basics. Given the miraculous feats Luke was pulling off, it struck him as strange this was something he didn’t know about. Well, it wasn’t like he could answer that question until he found Luke.
Obi-Wan focused on that nova presence in the Force to guide him to where Luke was physically.
“Obi-Wan?” Luke asked. “I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”
Luke’s mental voice was steady, but there was a flavor of unease and worry singing under every word. This older Luke was very sure of himself, and it sent alarm bells ringing in Obi-Wan’s head that something as simple as his silence was causing this reaction.
Words were beyond him, but he did try to send Luke the feeling of puzzlement.
He got through, because those dark ribbons of feelings vanished, replaced by amusement. “Wow, I thought I was out of practice with this.”
This level of clarity was what Luke considered rough communication? Obi-Wan turned around the bend and spotted the door to the cockpit. He pushed the button to open it and wasn’t that surprised to see Luke sitting there, in the chair behind Han.
“I never mastered that particular skill,” Obi-Wan said, trying to keep his voice level and not start demanding answers.
Luke looked puzzled. “Really? It’s not that hard.”
“Maybe for you,” Obi-Wan said, sliding into the seat behind Chewbacca.
Luke frowned. “Obi-Wan, all my students learned how to speak like that. Their range wasn’t as far as mine, but they could do it.”
Luke’s dismissal of a skill that took years to master suddenly became a very trivial point to Obi-Wan. Students meant a school. A school meant, at some point, there had been other Jedi.
“Your students?” Obi-Wan asked, trying to keep the eagerness out of his voice.
The question hung in the air for a moment. He was faintly aware that both Han and Chewbacca gasped. But before he could ask them what was wrong, there was a great rendering in the Force that struck him blind and mute for a second. In the silence of that sudden slap of the Force, Luke was gone.
“LUKE!” Obi-Wan shouted. It took him a moment to understand what his eyes were showing him. Luke was sitting in the passenger chair, startled at Obi-Wan’s yell. Obi-Wan reached out to grab his arm. Partly to shock him out of the foolish action he had just done, partly to reassure himself Luke was still there. “Do not do that!”
Han and Chewbacca turned around in their seats to look at the pair of them.
“Did I miss something?” Han asked.
Luke took in a deep breath, and then he was there in the Force again. “Sorry,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you. It’s just habit, when I’m feeling a great emotion, to cut myself off.”
If he was hiding from another Force user, that was the one thing he had done that even made a modicum of sense.
“Never mind me,” Obi-Wan said. “I’m worried about what it will do to you.”
Luke frowned. “What do you mean?”
This was so much worse than Obi-Wan thought. He had assumed that Luke was so desperate to hide, he had embraced the consequences of cutting himself off from the Force. But he had done it out of ignorance, not understating the danger he threw himself into.
“Luke,” Obi-Wan said carefully. “Cutting yourself off from the Force can have terrible consequences.”
“Cut yourself—" Han looked at Luke, aghast. “Why?” he asked, voice hollowed out.
Luke’s eyes grew desperate. “You know why, Han.”
“I really don’t.”
Luke looked like a frightened child in the face of that simple question. Without thinking, Obi-Wan tightened his grip on his arm, trying to ground Luke into the now.
Luke looked down at his arm, frowning as if he forgot that Obi-Wan was touching him. He looked back up, and those blue eyes focused in on him. Luke gave Obi-Wan a tight nod.
Obi-Wan withdrew his hand. He didn’t want to. In fact, he had wanted to hold on to Luke in case he slipped away in the Force again, but he asked for his space.
“I cut myself off from the Force because if I didn’t, he would find me,” Luke said in a dull voice.
Han’s eyes fell away from Luke. “You sure?”
Luke snorted. “I’m sure. If I had given him the slightest presence to trace…” Luke’s mouth compressed in a thin line. “If he found me, there was no way it wouldn’t lead to a fight. One that only one of us would walk away from.”
Han was pale, and Chewbacca let out a long, painful wail that ended on a snarl.
Luke ignored both reactions, and instead sent Obi-Wan a heated look, like this was his fault somehow. He crossed his arms over his chest, obstinacy radiating from every inch of him. He looked so much like Anakin at that moment, it stole Obi-Wan’s breath away.
“I don’t know what you are so worried about, Obi-Wan. I cut myself off from the Force for seven years, and I was fine.”
With those words, all thoughts of his past scattered in his mind. “Seven years?” Obi-Wan fought hard to keep from yelling. He was beyond aghast and rapidly heading into pure panic. “Luke, you are lucky that didn’t kill you.”
Luke’s defensive posture faded. “Excuse me?”
“Short term consequences of cutting yourself off from the Force like that are major depressive episodes, heightened paranoia, and hallucinations. Long term, your brain chemistry starts to permanently alter.”
“Alter, how?” Han asked, voice quiet. Luke said nothing, he merely stared at Obi-Wan, mouth agape.
“It starts with losing the ability to maintain your focus, followed by loss of emotional regulation. You begin to lose the ability to form long term memories. And your overall memory recall starts to deteriorate.” Obi-Wan glared at Luke, “And that is on top of the first symptoms. They don’t go away when this begins to happen.”
<Luke,> Chewbacca said, <What did you do to yourself?>
“I don’t see how any of that leads to me dying,” Luke said in a shaky voice.
Obi-Wan shook his head. “Presuming that you don’t walk into a dangerous situation because you are seeing something that isn’t even there?” Luke’s eyes went wide. “Long term stress on the body is never good. But coupled with the other symptoms and the permanent shock of being cut off from the Force, the likely hood of a stroke or heart attack increases exponentially every year.”
Han slapped the panel. “What the hell Kid?
Luke sat up straight at the accusation. “How was I supposed to know?” he complained. then sent a frigid look at Obi-Wan. “It’s not like either you or Yoda ever mentioned that.”
“I don’t know, the fact that neither of them tried it, to hide from the Empire?” Han shot back sarcastically.
“They could have,” Luke muttered. “There were a lot of years between them going into hiding and training me.”
“No,” Obi-Wan said slowly. “I never once even entertained that option, not even at my most desperate.”
Luke huffed. “If it was so dangerous, why didn’t you say anything?”
Obi-Wan felt the words come out of him slowly, as the horror of what Luke voluntarily did to himself, sank in. “I can’t speak for Yoda, but it never occurred to me that you would even try. It’s painful to do to yourself. Like deliberately cutting off a limb. Only instead of doing it once, you do it over and over again, every moment, of every day.”
Luke lost all the color in his face.
“Luke,” Obi-Wan said gently. “What happened to you, that doing that was the less painful choice?”
Luke looked away. Han swore, and Chewbacca let out a mournful moan. Whatever event precipitated this, the other two occupants in this cockpit were aware of what it was. And, right at this moment, none of them were willing to tell him what it was.
Obi-Wan felt himself slump. “At least I now have an explanation about your mood swings,” he said tiredly.
“What mood swings?” Luke asked, sounding defensive.
“Luke, you are swinging between euphoria and depression so fast I can barely keep track,” Obi-Wan said grimly.
“Well, don’t you think this,” and Luke waved his hand to indicate his face, “isn’t worth a little bit of loss of control?”
“Not loss of control, Luke,” Obi-Wan corrected gently. “A stark difference between what your mind is, and what you are expecting.”
“Okay, care to explain that for the non-Jedi in the room?” Han asked.
Obi-Wan gave him a tight smile. “I was actually referring to the physical Han.” He reached up and tapped his own head. “Luke remembers being depressed, paranoid, and cut off. But he is now in a body that never suffered from those very real chemical alterations to his brain.”
“So, I swing,” Luke said.
“You swing,” Obi-Wan acknowledged. “Luke, I don’t know what happened to you, or why you felt the need to set yourself on such a desperate course of action, but this mind,” and he tapped Luke’s forehead gently. “The actual physical structure of it, is responding in ways that you aren’t used to anymore.”
Luke looked thoughtful, then nodded. “I take your point, Obi-Wan. I’ll be careful in the future.”
“Careful in understanding that you are currently somewhat being yanked around by your body, or careful in that you won’t cut yourself off from the Force again?”
Before Luke could answer, the proximity alarm went off.
Han shot Luke a look, “Don’t think this is the last we will be talking about this, Kid,” he warned, then swung around, so he was facing the viewscreen.
Luke looked over at Obi-Wan. “I swear,” he said. “I didn’t know the consequences.”
“But you had to know it was hurting you, Luke,” Obi-Wan said.
Luke’s smile was sad. “Not as painful as some of the other things I’ve done in my life.”
There was so much agony in his eyes. Obi-Wan felt guilt claw its way into his heart, his regrets almost swallowing him whole. And whose fault was it that Luke had to clean up the mess that others had left behind?”
The Falcon’s engines cut off at that moment, and the streaming stars faded away. Alderaan laid out before them.
Luke sat up straighter in his chair, and just like that, his bleak mood was gone. He was peering avidly through the viewscreen, at the planet below them. Obi-Wan knew this couldn’t possibly be the first time he had been off-planet, so what was so fascinating about Alderaan?
It was Han and Chewbacca who brought understanding to Obi-Wan’s confusion.
“Damn, Your Worship,” Han breathed. “When you set out to change things, you don’t mess around.”
“They’ve never seen Alderaan before.” And that thought sent chills down Obi-Wan’s spine.
Obi-Wan forced himself to ask. “It wasn’t here the last time, was it?”
Chewbacca shook his head. <We jumped into the debris field that was left. We didn’t understand what had happened at first.>
Obi-Wan had lived through the horror of having his people and culture wiped out. He had hoped that at the very least, he could prevent it from happening again. But he had failed. If not for the miraculous intervention of the Force, Bail and Breha would have died here too, with everything that was Alderaan.
“Why didn’t the Force save the Jedi? Why not sent me back?”
Obi-Wan pushed that thought away. It wasn’t important why this had happened, only that it had. If he was ever going to get an answer, all he could do was move forward and hope the Force would one day show him.
“It’s beautiful,” Luke whispered. “And it feels…” he closed his eyes, and Obi-Wan could feel that heavy presence beside him reaching out into the flow of life below them. “Content.”
Han grunted. “We got the control tower.” He flipped the com switch on.
“Unidentified vessel, please state your name and purpose.”
Obi-Wan leaned forward to give the passcode that he and Bail set up years ago. It should give them all instant access to landing at the palace instead of one of the commercial ports.
Which was why he was completely shocked, when Han leaned forward, and spoke into the com. “This is phoenix eight two six. We are here to see the Royal family of Alderaan and have a delivery for them.”
There was a very long pause, then that voice said, “Please stand by.”
“Not a problem, Control.” Han switched the open com off.
Obi-Wan frowned. “Where did you get that code?” he asked.
“Leia,” Han said. “It identifies us as allies vetted by her.”
“When….” Then his voice trailed off, and he looked at Luke.
Luke shrugged. “We need to tell them something, or we would have had to land in one of the commercial spaceports, and it would have taken forever to get to the palace.”
“If they would even see us,” Han muttered.
“Oh, if I had dropped my name, they would,” Luke said airily.
Han looked at him askance. “Why?” he squawked. “You said it yourself, you are nobody right now.”
Luke didn’t look all that put out by Han’s harsh words. “And it’s going to stay that way if I have anything to say about it.”
Chewbacca gave Luke a very long, judgmental look. <I don’t see that happening, Luke.>
“Really?” Luke challenged.
<No. It is not in your nature to turn away from those in need.>
Luke ignored that and chose to answer Han’s question. “Do you really think the Organas were ignorant that Leia had a brother? Or what my name is?”
“Oh, right. That.”
“I have a passcode that could get us to the palace,” Obi-Wan said, a bit miffed it hadn’t occurred to anyone on the ship to ask him. As opposed to reaching out into hyperspace and contacting Leia. Who was who knew how far away and defying every known practice of the Force as he understood it. “Bail and I set up a system years ago, in case I needed to come here.”
All of them shrugged. “It’s handled, Obi-Wan,” Luke said. “And I needed to contact Leia anyway to tell her Han is here, and alive.”
That wasn’t the point. But he could see how letting Leia know her dead husband was, in fact, not dead, was a rather pressing matter. At least to Leia.
But Obi-Wan felt a trickle of unease at the thought that Luke let that prohibition of the Jedi lapse. It had been put in place for very good reasons. But he had so many of his assumptions turned inside out today, he thought it was wiser to ask.
“Is Leia a Jedi Master, like you, Luke?”
All three men looked at him like he suggested they should dance naked under the suns of Tatooine.
“No,” Luke said, very firmly. “Leia is not a Jedi.”
“And if you value your skin, you will never even imply that she is one,” Han said.
“But she can talk in the Force,” Obi-Wan sputtered.
“Yes,” Luke agreed. “She thought that was too useful a skill not to learn. And she learned to protect her mind, and, if given enough quiet or motivation, move small objects. Other than that, she has wholeheartedly refused to learn anything else.”
Luke’s face became closed off. “That is not for me to say.”
Perhaps it was because of Han that she didn’t want more. The life of a Jedi was not for everyone, after all. There was more than one way to fight for justice in the galaxy.
<Where is Leia?> Chewbacca asked.
Luke’s face softened. “She’s not that far behind us. She’s due to arrive in about twenty minutes.”
The speaker crackled, and the com came back on. “Unknown ship, you are cleared to land. Approach the palace on vector 2.8.”
Han flipped the mic back on. “Received and understood.”
He leaned back in his chair, but he didn’t relax. His hands were clenching and unclenching on the throttle.
“Alderaan is a peaceful world, and they did give us permission to land.” Obi-Wan felt the need to point out. “It will be well, Han.”
“Usually, that’s the cue of when people start shooting at us,” he muttered.
Obi-Wan looked at Luke. Another bit of confirmation that the future was not any more peaceful than the past. “People shot at you regularly?”
“Not so much in the later years,” Luke shrugged, seemingly not overly concerned. At least there had been some peace in his life.
Han abruptly stood. “Kid, take the com, and back up Chewie.”
Luke looked startled as the captain walked past them. “What? Why?”
“I need to change,” Han said over his shoulder. Then he paused, “What do you think, the blue uniform pants and jacket?”
Luke frowned and got up to take the pilot seat. “Do you even own that outfit yet?”
“Yes!” Han shot back.
<No,> Chewbacca calmly corrected.
“Maybe?” Han sounded mildly hopeful.
Han ran his hands through his hair. “What am I going to do? I don’t have anything…how about the yellow jacket?”
“Han,” Luke said mildly. “I don’t think Leia is going to care what you are wearing. Only that you are alive to wear clothes.”
“This isn’t about her,” Han snarled. “It’s about them.”
Luke arched an eyebrow, as he settled himself into the Captain’s chair. “Them?”
“Oh, you remember? My in-laws? The not dead ones? The Queen and King of Alderaan?”
“Prince Consort,” Obi-Wan found himself correcting Han, since this was apparently his life now. Come to think about it, why didn’t Solo know that? Technically that should be his title as well. Oh, by the Force, he was looking at the future Prince Consort of Alderaan. A man who made his living smuggling and was in debt to Jabba. He was the furthest thing from a politician Obi-Wan could imagine, and the Prince Consort of Alderaan needed some political acumen.
<Han,> Chewbacca said. <Just make sure your clothes are clean. It will be fine.>
“Yeah, until I open my mouth.”
Luke looked at him askance. “Like you even need to speak to piss people off.”
Chewbacca barked out a sharp, <Luke!>
Luke sighed. “Not the yellow one,” he said. “It’s too flashy. Simple will be better.”
“Simple. Right.” With that advice, Han wandered away.
“I would think he would know all of this by now if he married Leia,” Obi-Wan said.
<He does,> Chewbacca rumbled. Beneath them, Obi-Wan could feel the Falcon’s engines kick in with more power as they transitioned from space to the upper atmosphere. <He’s just nervous, and it’s all flying out of his head.> He glared at Obi-Wan. <And it’s not like he hasn’t had a very long day.>
That had started with his murder. Yes, Obi-Wan could see how that would throw anybody off. And now he had offended Chewbacca. Wonderful. Obi-Wan sighed. He had no business criticizing the Captain’s skills. It wasn’t like he had made a great showing of any of his own ability to coax and maneuver. It had been years since he had required them. Hell, it had been years since he had seen this many people in one day.
And speaking of people that he had dealt with over the last nineteen years…
“Where are Beru and Owen?” he asked Luke.
“They wanted to rest before we got here,” Luke said, eyes intent on the planet coming up beneath them. “I put them in Han’s quarters.”
“Are they still there?” Obi-Wan asked.
Luke shrugged. “I don’t think so. I woke them up about ten minutes ago. Knowing Uncle Owen, he’ll want to be in the main hold to get started as soon as possible when we land.”
Or was waiting to ambush Obi-Wan.
Well, that settled it. Chewbacca might be put out with him, but he wouldn’t lecture him like Owen undoubtedly would. He let his thoughts drift, as the Falcon broke through the atmosphere, and he could see the endless plains stretch out before him, hoping to find some measure of peace.
The landing platform near the palace was well hidden. Obi-Wan knew where it was from experience, not because he spotted it when they did a flyover of the palace. Alderaan was very much about presenting grace and beauty whenever possible. The landing platform was tucked into the back of the palace, so it didn’t intrude upon the aesthetics of the building.
Despite never having been here, Luke and Chewbacca had no issues finding it on their first pass and landing. It was a far cry from the first time Obi-Wan had attempted to land her. He had overshot the platform twice, despite the navigational beacon to follow.
With a sigh, Obi-Wan followed Luke out of the cockpit. He hoped, rather than believed, with Luke present, Owen might curb his tongue.
Owen and Beru were sitting at the dejarik table, but they both rose when Luke entered the hold.
“We’ve arrived,” Luke told them.
“Where on Alderaan are we?” Beru asked, while Owen glared at Obi-Wan. No, Luke wasn’t going to be a restraining presence. Foolish hope, really. The man never let anything go.
“The Royal Palace,” Luke said. “We are here to see their Majesties.”
Beru frowned. “Palace? Majesties? I thought Leia was the one meeting us here.”
Luke nodded, “She is. But we need to talk to them before she gets here.”
Owen, having enough of the pleasantries, rounded in on Obi-Wan. “Who cares where we are?” he hissed. “We shouldn’t be meeting Leia for the first time now. She is our niece! You should have brought her to us with Luke.”
Obi-Wan felt the bite in those words, and a great weariness filled him. “Owen, it wasn’t safe.”
“No,” Owen shook his head. “I’m done with your lies and excuses. I know you never thought much of us. That we aren’t some well off, fancy, Core-Worlders, but we would have handled two children just fine.”
Obi-Wan could feel anger stir in his breast at the unfair accusation. “Once I met you, I never once doubted your ability to care for Luke, Owen. But I’m telling you, Luke and Leia needed to be separated.”
Surprisingly, it was Beru who spoke next. But her disapproval and disgust matched Owen’s. “They are children, Obi-Wan. Twins. They needed to be raised together.”
“They were children,” Obi-Wan said. “They are now only four years younger than me.”
Owen and Beru both looked at Luke in shock. He nodded his head, affirming Obi-Wan’s answer. Beru’s face crumbled, and Luke took a step towards her. She shook her head, heading him off and the comfort he so clearly wanted to provide.
Owen, predictably, turned to anger. “Children or adults, they are not some weapons to be used in your war.”
Luke’s face was broken as he stared at his Aunt. “I am no one’s weapon Uncle Owen, I promise.”
Owen looked torn. “Are you sure? Because it wasn’t a farmer who killed those troops at our home.”
Luke’s gaze broke from his aunt. “No,” he admitted, hard lines forming around his mouth. “It was a Jedi Master, who had no intention of letting his family be slaughtered. Again.”
Luke’s eyes met Obi-Wan, and there was something there. Regret? Sorrow? Sympathy? Obi-Wan couldn’t tell.
“And in defense of Obi-Wan, if Leia and I were raised together, it would have increased the chances that we would have been found.”
“How?” Owen demanded. “It’s not like the Empire has that much of a presence on Tatooine.”
Luke’s smile was sad. “I don’t mean physically, but in the Force.”
Owen frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Luke’s voice took on a faintly lecturing tone. “Imagine two very bright lights in a sea of darkness. It’s possible to overlook one, in that vast space. But you put them together, they become that much brighter.”
“And easier to see,” Beru said, finally looking into Luke’s face.
Owen let out a huff of irritation. “How can you not be furious about this? She’s your twin. And you grew up apart.”
Twin. Not sister. It belatedly occurred to Obi-Wan that there might be some cultural significance to that on Tatooine that he wasn’t aware of.
Luke shook his head. “By the time we learned of it, I was just too grateful to know that I wasn’t the last of my family left to be angry about that.”
Owen’s face reddened. “Yes, let’s talk about that. How Kenobi turned us into thieves of children. From your own father.”
Obi-Wan tried to find the words. He really did. But all he could feel was the heat of Mustafar, and Anakin screaming. His brother was in such pain, and Obi-Wan didn’t want it to stop. Wanted him to hurt as Obi-Wan was hurting—
“Are you going to answer me, Kenobi?” Owen demanded. “Why did you steal Anakin’s children?”
Obi-Wan blinked and forced himself into the now. He shook his head. “I didn’t have a choice, Owen.”
“There is always a choice,” Beru pointed out.
“Yes,” Luke’s eyes were thoughtful. “But sometimes those choices are both horrible.”
“What could be more horrible then taking away his children?” Owen demanded.
Obi-Wan’s mind managed to cough up the one thing that might buy him some leeway. “I didn’t know Vader survived our fight,” he told the Lars. “When I brought Luke to you, when Bail adopted Leia, I really believed that he was dead.”
Owen didn’t look mollified. “Bantha shit. If not Anakin, then who were you trying to hide them from?”
At that name, both Owen and Beru paled.
“Oh,” Beru said. Then she frowned. “He can use the Force?” she asked Luke,
Luke nodded. “Yes, he’s a Sith Lord.”
Both of them blanched. Owen ran a hand down his face. “Wonderful,” he growled. “Another thing to be hidden from us on the Outer Rim?”
“Actually,” Luke said dryly, “it’s a pretty well-kept secret in the Core too. Palpatine has quite the grip on his Empire, but there would be open revolts if it were known he was a Sith Lord. Even after a thousand years, they are still feared.”
“Why not tell everyone?” Beru asked. “I would have thought the Alliance would be broadcasting it.”
Luke shrugged. “Who would believe the Alliance? There is no proof.” He shot Obi-Wan a dry look. “The Sith are gone. Everyone knows that.”
Obi-Wan winced. Yes, that particular myth had been the work of the Jedi. He supposed Luke wouldn’t be all that forgiving if he knew that it was something that the Order had thought was true as well, instead of an inconvenient truth they had kept to themselves.
Beru bit her lip. "I’ve heard of Vader,” she said hesitantly, shooting a look at Luke. “Once you discovered he was alive, couldn’t he have protected you and your sister?”
Vader would only see a weapon to be used against his master. Like Maul and his desperate attempt to find an apprentice.
Shockingly, it was Luke who answered. “No.”
Owen scowled. “You don’t know that. Unless the Force lets you see everything.” And was the pointed look in Obi-Wan’s direction really needed to emphasize that point? Everyone in this room was well aware of who he was referring to with that little dig.
Luke shook his head. “No, it doesn’t. But I did meet him, Uncle Owen.” Something like grief and pain filled his face. “And I have seen people who just fell to the Dark Side. They aren’t sane at that point. He wasn’t all that sane when our paths did cross.”
“But you are his children,” Owen said. “Surely, he didn’t forget that much.”
Luke looked very small in that moment. His eyes were unfocused, his attention caught by something the rest of them couldn’t see. “Father sits in the middle of the web of his master’s making, weaving more threads.”
That meant something to Owen and Beru, because both of their faces changed into sorrow and regret. What all the implications were, Obi-Wan couldn’t even begin to guess at.
“There are many decisions I don’t agree with Obi-Wan about,” Luke said, his eyes locked on Obi-Wan, “but that one…” he sighed. “Just because you love someone, and want to protect them, doesn’t mean you will.”
Beru’s lips compressed into a thin line. “Luke, are you sure?”
Luke gave her a bitter smile. “I’m sure.”
Owen shook his head. “Stop trying to protect us, Luke. We neither need it or want it. Tell all of it.”
Luke glared at Owen for a moment, then his gaze slid away. He sighed and started rubbing his forehead. “Since the moment I joined the Alliance, I was of great interest to the Empire. At first, I thought it was because I was the pilot that destroyed the Death Star. Then, as word got out, I was the son of Anakin Skywalker, and looking for any help in my Jedi training, I thought the interest showed by Father was because I could be a potential enemy.”
“The Alliance leadership agreed with me,” Luke said quickly, at the looks of horror on Beru and Owen’s face. “Especially when Father personally put up a bounty of twenty-five million credits for my capture. Alive, no serious damage.”
“We had a few encounters,” Luke said. “And one very memorable one, face to face, where I accused him of killing my father. He told me I would have to be more specific, he had killed a lot of fathers.”
“He didn’t know then,” Beru surmised.
Luke shook his head. “No.”
“How did you escape?” Obi-Wan asked, horrified at the thought of a barely trained Luke going head to head with Vader. And what could have so innocently tumbled out of his mouth.
Luke’s mouth twitched. “Han stepped on him with an AT-AT.”
“A what?” Owen asked, confused.
“It’s a walking armored vehicle,” Luke explained. “About six stories tall.”
“Oh,” Beru said faintly, and Obi-Wan was in complete agreement with her on that point.
“It all came to a head on Bespin. He lured me there, and we dueled. He knew by that point who I was.” A self-deprecating smile twisted his lips. “Looking back, I could see he was playing with me. Or perhaps trying to take my measure.” Luke’s voice became distant. “Towards the end, he pretty much had me where he wanted me. But I got in a lucky blow, and that was when he lost control of himself.”
“What did he do?” Owen demanded.
Luke looked down at his hands, and the right one clenched in a fist. “He cut my hand off.”
“Luke,” Beru whispered and came forward to take his hand in hers.
He twisted his hand up so that he could grasp hers. “In the next breath, he offered that I should come with him, and together we could destroy the Emperor. That it was my destiny.”
“You refused?” Obi-Wan croaked out.
Luke nodded. “I did. Then he told me he was my father.”
Owen’s face paled. “How deep into the web is he?”
“Very,” Luke’s smile was self-deprecating. “Leia and I come by our stubbornness honestly.”
“As to her parents,” Luke’s eyes hardened. “Whatever you think of them, please keep it to yourself for now.”
Owen opened his mouth to protest, but Luke cut him off. “Leia loves them. And just like me, she lost them. Leia has already been dealt enough pain in her life. I won’t have you adding to it.”
“Luke, they kidnapped her,” Owen snarled. “Maybe you are right about your father. You seem to know more than I do,” and he shot a murderous look at Obi-Wan. “But, at the very least, she should have been brought with you to us.”
That was when Han walked in, face frowning. “Why is everyone yelling?” he asked.
Luke laughed, but there was no joy in it. “Minor disagreement.”
“Minor in, we can’t decide where to go? Or minor in as, everyone near us should run?”
Luke waved his hand back and forth. “Little bit in between.”
“You tried to kill Vader with an AT-AT?” Obi-Wan demanded.
Han looked puzzled for a moment, then his face cleared up. “Yeah, I did. Didn’t work though, more’s the pity,” he remarked drily.
Luke shook his head. “What happened is the will of the Force, Han.”
“Sure, it was.”
Luke looked disgruntled, but before he could say anything, Beru spoke up. “Did you change your clothes?” she asked Han.
Han fidgeted. “Yes?”
“Why?” the woman looked baffled.
Han made a frustrated noise. “See?” he complained. “This is not good enough.” He turned to Luke, irritated. “I told you I should have put the other outfit on.”
“Han, you don’t even own that outfit yet.”
“Well, something more than this,” he gestured down at himself. The outfit wasn’t all that different then what he had been wearing before. The Corellian blood strip was there, but the pants were black, instead of a dark navy blue. The vest was gone, replaced by a black fitted jacket. The shirt was still white, but it was of a more formal cut, it buttoned up all the way to his neck. But it was made of the same cheap material as the one he had been wearing in the cantina.
It looked better, but Obi-Wan could understand Han’s concern about the impression it would leave on his in-laws. And Bail and Breha were this man’s in-laws his mind gibbered at him. He had to say, never in his wildest dreams, did he ever think if he was fortunate enough to see Bail again in this life, it would be under these circumstances.
Luke waved a hand dismissively. “I told you, Han, you are worrying over nothing. I’m sure they won’t care.”
Owen snorted at Han’s discomfort. “Who cares what a bunch of royals think? Just a way to make people buy more clothes then they need.”
“Oh, that’s not why he’s nervous,” Luke said, faint amusement coming off him. “It’s because we are meeting his in-laws.”
Owen looked at Han again, but there was a softening to his gaze. “Well, that’s different.” He looked Han up and down assessing. Finally, he shrugged. “The outfit’s fine. You need to fix your hair.”
“What’s wrong with my hair?” Han demanded, hands going up to his head to fuss with it.
“It’s too fluffy,” Owen said.
Beru cocked her head. “Luke,” she said slowly. “You said Han was your brother-in-law.”
“He is,” Luke said.
She nodded, and Obi-Wan could see her putting the pieces together. “And you said that we are here, to meet the rulers of Alderaan.”
Luke frowned. “We are.”
Beru looked pale. “Luke, who adopted Leia?”
“Breha and Bail Organa.”
Beru had always been able to think quickly on her feet, even when she was upset. “And they are?
“The Queen and Prince Consort of Alderaan,” he said nonchalantly. “Leia is their heir, as well as their daughter.”
Owen’s mouth dropped open. “She is their what?”
Beru took a step back, her hand over her mouth. “She’s a Princess?” she asked.
Luke, realizing that both the Lars were upset, looked contrite. “Yes?” he said, nerves suddenly showing. “Sorry, in the rush of realizing I was going to meet them, I kind of forgot that?”
“You forgot that?” Owen was sputtering, his face turning red. “How?”
Luke’s face was vacillating between embarrassment and defiance. “She’s Leia,” but there was the slightest wobble in his voice. Like he didn’t quite believe what he was saying. “I never thought of her that way.”
Han looked at him cross-eyed. “The hell you didn’t,” he mumbled.
Luke blushed bright red. “We are not drunk enough to discuss that,” he hissed at Han.
“Not drunk enough to discuss what?” Owen demanded.
“Not important,” Luke’s tone was brisk, and clearly wanting to move past that subject. Whatever that was. Obi-Wan got a flicker of shame and deep embarrassment, but it was here and gone before he could delve deeper into it.
“Suffice to say, in the beginning, Leia was Her Highness. But as I got to know her, she became Leia. Not a princess, but my friend. Then I found out she was my sister.” His eyes grew distant. “I had resigned myself to being the only member of my family alive for so long. Then I learned Vader was my Father. Learning about Leia...” his voice cracked. “I was so relieved.”
A sharp bark of disapproval cut through the room. All of them flinched, save Han, as Chewbacca stomped into the hold, displeasure on every inch of him. <Leia was not your only family at that time, Luke.>
Luke looked up at the Wookie, shocked.
“What did he say?” Owen demanded.
Han shot Luke a glare. “That Luke is too overly melodramatic and prone to feeling sorry for himself.”
Luke arched an eyebrow. “What, I can only look nineteen? I can’t act it?”
“That was never one of your finer traits, Luke.” Han huffed. “And Chewie’s right. You had him and me, as family.”
Luke’s shoulders slumped. “You’re right. I know you’re right. But it was a relief to learn that Darth Vader wasn’t my only blood family left.” All his embarrassment slid away, and he gave both Owen and Beru a wide smile. “But now you are here. Again.”
“Yes,” Beru’s face didn’t match the firm conviction of her voice. Was she picking up on Luke’s whirling emotions too?
Luke picked up on it. But Obi-Wan got the impression he was misinterpreting the cause of it, because he stated. “I told you, you are going to love her.”
“That was never in doubt, Luke,” Beru said gently. “But as to whether she would want us is another.”
Han laughed. “You’ll do fine,” he told them.
Owen’s face mottled with anger. “It shouldn’t be an issue at all,” he snarked. He turned to Obi-Wan. “If you were so worried about the Emperor finding Leia, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to hide her. Even we,” he gestured to Beru, “have heard of the royal family of Alderaan. You chose to hide our niece in one of the most visible places in the galaxy?”
Obi-Wan stiffened. “I’ve known Bail for years,” he said. “And he could be trusted to protect Leia.”
“Is that it? Owen snarked. “Because he’s a friend? I hate to think who you would have left Luke with if we weren’t around.”
That was unfair. “He was also very close friends with Padme, their mother.”
Owen scoffed. “Politicians are nobody’s friends.”
That Obi-Wan wouldn’t let stand. The Force knew he had made many mistakes over his life. But Bail was nothing but a true and loyal friend to those he loved.
“Bail took me in and sheltered me, Owen, after Order 66. Even though the decree marking all Jedi as traitors was less than a day old.”
“So, he does have a spine,” Owen begrudgingly admitted. “Doesn’t mean he has any connection to our family.”
“He and Padme were good friends, and they both held a lot of the same ideals. She trusted him, and she didn’t trust easily. I knew that he would honor her memory and raise Leia to believe in the ideals Padme fought for her entire life.”
Owen opened his mouth, but Obi-Wan cut him off. For once, this man was going to listen to him. “Bail was there when Padme died, Owen. And he was devastated by it. He sought the best medical help he could find for her, which given the state of the galaxy at the time, wasn’t an easy thing to do.”
Owen’s eyes narrowed. “If he was there, do they know about Luke?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Bail does. I presume he told Breha, but I can’t know that for sure.”
“Oh, and why was he told, and we were left in the dark?”
“Because it wasn’t safe,” Obi-Wan spat out again, trying to get it through this man’s thick head. That is all he had ever wanted for the children. For them to be safe, in a galaxy gone mad.
And now, the legacy of his decisions was standing in this broken-down junk heap of a ship’s hold, looking haunted. Someone who had to run from what he was, and put his own life in danger, to do it. Someone who had been forced to kill his fath—the shell that was once his father. This older Luke, was another failure in a lifetime of them. But by the Force, no one couldn’t say Obi-Wan hadn’t tried his damndest.
Owen sneered at Obi-Wan. “So, Luke got the short end because he was the son then? Like a royal family couldn’t afford to take both of them in?”
“I told you, they couldn’t be kept together—" Obi-Wan started to say, but Han clapped his hands, cutting the argument off.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Here’s what I care about. The Organas know we are here. They know we have a code given to them by their daughter. A daughter they don’t know the state of, or even if she is still alive. Never mind that she is on her way here. So, let’s not keep them waiting, okay?”
Owen glared at Han but conceded the point. “This isn’t over,” he growled at Obi-Wan as he stomped towards the gangplank to exit the ship.
Obi-Wan shook his head, wondering how much more explosive this was all going to get with the Organas, Leia included, in the mix.
The Royal Palace of Alderaan was as beautiful as Obi-Wan remembered it. He took a moment to look up at its intricately carved walls and graceful arches, marveling at the sight. It was so different than anything he had laid eyes on over the last twenty years. A reminder that there was still beauty and grace in the galaxy. Luke was right. There was a feeling of contentment seeped into this world, and Obi-Wan wished for one brief second that the entire galaxy could experience this.
They were greeted on the landing platform by a woman dressed in the livery of the House of Organa. She looked as if she had been there for a while. Han had been correct. They had spent far too much time being distracted by petty concerns. Well, perhaps petty wasn’t the right term for it. Time-traveling was many things, supposedly impossible at the top of the list, but petty wasn’t a description one should use. Perhaps it was better to say they had had been distracted about things that could be resolved later.
The woman nodded her head to all of them. “If you would follow me please,” she said, and without waiting for an answer, she turned and walked towards the palace.
She made Obi-Wan uneasy. There was nothing about her that seemed suspicious. She was perfectly polite as she indicated that they should follow her. It was just…he didn’t know this woman. It was unlikely that Bail and Breha would trust just anyone to serve in the palace. But Obi-Wan couldn’t shake his unease at being confronted with a stranger. For the last nineteen years, more likely than not, strangers had been a threat.
As they made their way through the hallways, Obi-Wan could feel that disquiet within himself become an itch on the back of his neck. This was foolish in the extreme. The feeling wasn’t even being prompted by what anyone was doing. No one was all that interested in them. There were a few curious looks, but most were busy doing their own tasks. Obi-Wan still took a second to pull the hood back over his head. He didn’t like that there was no one here he recognized.
Which was leaving foolish behind, and bordering on paranoid. It had been a long time since he had been here, before the Clone Wars, in fact. There was no reason he would have paid particular attention to the servants. Even if he had, it had been over twenty years. Chances were low he would recognize such brief an acquaintance after that long.
It took him long uncomfortable minutes, as they moved through the halls of the palace, to understand the source of his distress. It had been a long time since he had been around so many people. The crowds had made him uneasy in Mos Eisley, but he thought that was because that was Mos Eisley. This was the Royal Palace of Alderaan, it was as safe as any place in the galaxy could be for him right now, and he was looking into every shadowed corner for an enemy.
He breathed a bit easier after they were led into the great stateroom. It helped that the room was meant to contain hundreds of people, and after their guide left, it was only the six of them in the room.
Obi-Wan reached out with the Force and was forced to change his assessment. There were guards, at least a dozen, who were discreetly placed around the outer edges of the room. That was a new development. Armed people hadn’t been allowed in the palace the last time he was here. And if Bail and Breha had felt the need to do this, install guards even though it was the antithesis of what they believed in, what had the rest of the galaxy done to feel safe?
The one bright spot was that they were far enough, and few enough, that Obi-Wan could feel his nerves start to settle. He wasn’t fully calm, by no means. They were watching him. It didn’t matter that it was their job to guard their rulers, and as such, assess any unknown person entering the room. Obi-Wan wanted to flee and find somewhere solitary to sink into the Force. But he had been feeling that way since this morning when he watched Luke take control of the Force with a mastery Obi-Wan himself hadn’t achieved yet. His discomfort right now was manageable.
They didn’t wait long. Han was gaping at the room, looking awestruck. Luke had a faraway look in his eyes, and Chewbacca was watching him worriedly. Owen and Beru were talking quietly to themselves. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before Breha and Bail came in.
Although their gate was stately, Obi-Wan could sense the great urgency in them both. Breha remained back a bit, but Bail came right up to the group.
“Who are you, and where did you get that code?” he demanded, forgoing any and all pleasantries.
Obi-Wan was taken aback for a moment, then realized there was no reason for Bail to recognized anyone here, save him. And he still had his hood up.
Obi-Wan pushed it back and said warmly. “Hello, Bail.”
Breha recognized him before Bail did. Obi-Wan could tell by her shocked gasp. But there was a momentary confusion in Bail’s eyes, before realization sank in. Obi-Wan reflected that he must have aged more deeply then he thought, if it took the man that long to recognize him.
“Obi-Wan?” Bail breathed. He took a step forward, as if he didn’t quite trust what he was seeing. Then hope infused his voice. “Leia found you.”
Obi-Wan wasn’t even sure to begin with what had actually happened, but perhaps it would be best to start with correcting that assumption.
“Not exactly,” Obi-Wan said. He gestured behind him to the droids. “But these two did. We have the plans.”
Relief and disappointment crashed over Bail’s face, and Breha stepped forward until she was parallel with her husband. “Do you know where Leia is, Obi-Wan?” she asked, her hand slipping into her husband’s. From what he remembered of her, it was rare for her to be this physically affectionate in public. While Obi-Wan was a friend, the rest of the human’s in this room were not.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to reassure her, but Luke cut him off. “Yes,” he said. “But we are going to need the room.”
Obi-Wan barely contained his wince. He was sure Luke hadn’t meant to sound like he was giving orders to the Queen of Alderaan in her own palace.
“I beg your pardon?” Bail looked affronted. Probably on his Queen’s behalf, not his. Bail had always been rather even-tempered about insults directed at him.
“The guards,” Luke went on, and of course, he had noticed them. Neither Han nor Chewbacca looked all that surprised, but both Owen and Beru craned their heads around as if they could suddenly see them.
“And why should we do that?” Breha asked, icy fire in her tone, and every inch the aristocrat.
Han stepped in front of Luke, blocking him from their view. “He meant no disrespect, Ma’am. Uh, your Highness,” he corrected. Luke gave Han an odd look, but since he was behind him, Han couldn’t see it. “Leia is safe, I promise you.”
Breha’s ire focused on Han, and her face adopted its most condescending air. “I would be more reassured by that if I knew who you were.”
“Me?” Han pointed at his chest.
She arched one elegant eyebrow. “Yes, you?”
Han looked at Chewbacca, who made a ‘go on’ gesture at him. Luke had taken a step back from Han and was peering around the taller man to look at Breha. “Uh, I’m Han,” he managed to stutter out.
Breha did not look impressed. “Han, who?”
Han seemed to rally. “Solo, Your Highness. I’m Han Solo.”
“I see,” she said.
Luke looked like he was torn between wanting to laugh or throw his hands up in exasperation. Chewbacca was not as subtle in his disapproval. He was glaring at Han, who was by now turning beet red.
Obi-Wan didn’t feel it was his place to tell Breha and Bail that the man standing in front of him was actually their son-in-law. From the future. He didn’t see how it would help if he suddenly started spouting nonsense like a mad man. But he could see Bail making the internal evaluation that the man in front of him was an idiot, and best get rid of him as fast as politely possible.
Using the one thing he knew would get both their attention and stop them from trying to herd Han out of the room, Obi-Wan said, “Leia is safe and on her way.”
It worked. They both focused in on him with alarming intensity.
“Are you sure?” Breha asked. He knew her too well to think that her controlled tone didn’t mean that she wasn’t terrified.
“I’m sure,” Obi-Wan looked at Bail. “And the young man who asked you to clear the room is Luke.”
There was no need to bandy about his last name until Obi-Wan was sure the room was empty. And he might have gone about it inelegantly, but Luke wasn’t wrong that what they had to say should not be said in front of witnesses. It had been a long time since intrigue was a daily facet of his life, Obi-Wan thought ruefully. The Banthas he spent time with in the desert certainly hadn’t cared about what secrets he told them.
At that name, both Bail and Breha turned to look more closely at Luke. He met their gaze, and it wasn’t the bitter old man who was looking back, but the eager boy. Breha studied him, but it was Bail who realized who was standing in front of him first. It made sense. Bail had known Anakin personally, and he was stamped all over Luke’s face.
Bail’s face descended into a polite mask. “Ah, Luke. Of course.”
He turned to Breha, but she had come to the same conclusion he had, moments after he did. She stepped forward, addressing the still hidden guards scattered in the room.
“We would like a moment of privacy, please,” she said. “And when you exit, could you make sure we are not disturbed, unless it is news of the Princess?”
There was the sound of shuffling fabric, followed by the slamming of several doors. Obi-Wan thought it more to reassure the guests that they had left, then lack of ability to leave silently. The guards might be a change from what he remembered, but he highly doubted the Organas had changed so much that they wouldn’t hire the best people they could find.
Breha turned to Luke, who was still avidly watching her. “Do you know who I am?” she asked.
Luke nodded. “Your Leia’s Mama.” There was reverence and respect on his face, and a touch of wariness. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Bail frowned, confused. “I thought we weren’t going to tell them until they had met, Obi-Wan?”
Obi-Wan let out a half-strangled laugh. “I didn’t tell Luke a thing.”
Bail looked over at Luke, then his gaze fell on the Lars, who were watching Breha like they were afraid she would snatch their nephew away, right in front of them. “Obi-Wan, what is going on?”
“I wish I knew,” he said back helplessly.
“Your Majesty,” Luke said and stepped forward. He executed a perfect bow to Breha. As he came up, he gently kicked Han in the shin. Han flinched, then he also performed a firm and swift bow. He had done that before. It wasn’t his first instinct, but the precision which he carried it out meant this wasn’t something he had never done. At least at some point, he had manners drilled into his head.
“Forgive my earlier impertinence,” Luke’s voice was warm and gracious. “I allowed my sense of urgency to override my manners.”
Owen and Beru weren’t the only ones who were staring at Luke in shock. If he didn’t know any better, Obi-Wan would have thought this was a stranger. While he didn’t drop his Outer Rim accent, the words were crisply presented and was strictly within the protocol of the Alderaan court. Where in the galaxy had he learned that?
Breha looked taken aback at this abrupt change in address, and then it slid into a thoughtful look. “Of course,” she said slowly, her eyes never leaving Luke. “I have had a trying day myself. I would hardly hold it against you.”
Luke smiled. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” He gestured behind him. “And in the spirit of full manners, may I introduce my Aunt and Uncle?”
Breha nodded her head, and Obi-Wan didn’t think it was luck that Luke mentioned his Aunt first, instead of his Uncle, as was the custom on Alderaan, but not Tatooine.
“Aunt Beru. Uncle Owen, this is Breha Organa, mother of my sister Leia Organa, and the ruling Queen of Alderaan.”
Obi-Wan frowned. Except for his first thoughtless blunder, Luke had gone according to the correct protocol of Alderaan right up until that moment. The correct greeting would have been, her Majesty, Breha Organa. And he had a feeling it was a deliberate move on Luke’s part and a message.
Breha picked up on what the message was, though, because the Queen’s mask dropped from her face, and the real woman shone through. She walked up to Beru and took the woman’s hands. “It is a pleasure to meet you both.”
“And you,” Beru said firmly. However, her face was deathly pale.
“I wondered about you,” Breha confessed. She dropped Beru’s hands and went to take Owen’s next, giving him a wide beaming smile. “I regret our meeting is under such fraught circumstances, but I am so glad you are here.”
“Uh.” Owen looked a little starstruck by her open manner. Obi-Wan was somewhat delighted to note that Owen looked at a loss for words. “Thank you?” Then his habitual scowl came back. “I wish that we were given the same opportunity.”
The joy slipped off Breha’s face, but instead of rebuking Owen for his rudeness, she turned to Obi-Wan. “They didn’t know?” she asked.
Obi-Wan shook his head.
“Who do they think you gave Leia to?”
“We didn’t know about her until today,” Beru said. The mildness of her tone did in no way cover over how upset she sounded.
Bail looked at Obi-Wan. “What?”
Breha scowled. “That was damn foolish of you,” she snarled. Yes, snarled.
“It was too much of a risk,” he started to say, but Breha was having none of it.
“We knew,” she said, indicating her head towards Bail. “And we were much more likely to be interrogated by Imperial forces than a pair of farmers from Tatooine.”
And just what had Bail and Breha been doing, that they would expect attention from the Empire? Along with Buru’s earlier comment about doing something that would land them in danger with the Hutts, it made Obi-Wan’s heart pound. Why was it, that both families that he had entrusted Anakin’s children to, had decided to risk everything?
Owen looked delighted that he had an ally in his crusade against Obi-Wan.
“Nevertheless, it wasn’t safe,” Obi-Wan stated, then he shot a hard look at the couple. They weren’t Owen, so wrapped up in their own limited view of the galaxy and trapped by their own feelings not to see the larger picture. And that larger picture was the immense danger that Anakin’s children had been in, simply because they had been his children.
He was also not without his own weapons in a quarrel against them. Taking a guess, he said acidly. “If you want to throw stones, Your Majesty, I have to wonder, are the Naberries aware of Leia?”
By the flick of guilt on both their faces, the answer to that question was no.
“Who are the Naberries?” Beru asked, frowning as she looked between Obi-Wan and the Organas.
“Padme’s parents,” Obi-Wan said. “And, if I recall correctly, Padme has a sister too. And a niece, who is around Luke and Leia’s age.”
“How many people did you steal our children from?” Owen demanded.
Bail straightened. “In the case of the Naberries, the decision was made because it would place them in more danger than they already are.”
Beru frowned. “Excuse me?”
Bail gestured to himself, “Alderaan is well known for being a planet of pacifists. While I have a reputation for speaking out against the Empire in certain circumstances, I sincerely doubt that most of my enemies are aware of how involved I am in the Rebellion. The Naberries…” he sighed. He turned to Obi-Wan.
“Did you know Padme is consider something of a martyr for the Empire?” he asked Obi-Wan conversationally.
“What?” he asked, horrified.
Breha’s smile was bitter. “Her death was attributed to the Jedi. She was buried with full honors on Naboo, Obi-Wan. By order of the Emperor himself, as a reminder to what the Jedi stole from the galaxy.”
“People actually believe this?” Obi-Wan sputtered. Padme had been well known for being a defender of democracy.
Breha shrugged. “I’m sure some do. And remember, she achieved many impressive feats before her ‘martyrdom’.” Breha practically spat the word. “She is quite the popular figure even outside her ‘role’ in the founding of the Empire. As such, her family is very closely watched by the Empire.”
“So?” Owen demanded. “From what I gather, a lot of people are. It’s half of what has you Core-Worlders so upset with the Empire.”
“Palpatine was aware that Anakin and Padme had a relationship,” Breha said grimly. “Any child we gave to them, would immediately be suspect.”
Luke said nothing, but there was no shock on his face. It suddenly occurred to Obi-Wan it was entirely possible he had already met the Naberries.
“Even if I could have found a way to tell them without the Empire’s spies overhearing it, I didn’t want to add to their burdens,” Bail explained, looking drawn and suddenly older than he was a moment ago. “Their existence is precarious enough, Obi-Wan.”
Beru shuddered. “The children with him.” And there was no doubt which him, she was referring to.
“Beru,” Owen started to say, but she shook her head, cutting him off.
“I don’t like it. I really don’t like it,” she said. “But Luke was right. There were only horrible choices available.” Her eyes met Obi-Wan’s. “I can understand why you chose the ones you did.”
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said.
“Understanding isn’t forgiveness, Obi-Wan,” her voice hard again.
“I don’t think—" Owen started to say, but Luke cut him off.
“Decisions made in panic and pain maybe aren’t the best ones,” he said softly, and there was such self-knowledge in that voice. “But they were made. The only thing you can do is try to live with it and not do it again.”
Owen’s face softened, and then he reached out, clasping Luke’s shoulder. “When did you get so wise?” he asked.
Luke shook his head. “Far from it. But old enough to know answers are rarely simple.”
“I think it was for the best,” Han said softly. “You might not like it, but Luke’s right, it’s done.” He would think that. Except for being murdered at the end of it, it sounded like his life had been measurably improved by Luke and Leia.
Bail sent him an annoyed glare. “I’m so glad you approve.”
Han flushed, and then said, “Sorry, sir.”
Luke blinked and looked over at him, but before he could say a word, a young woman entered into the great hall with haste.
“Excuse me, Your Majesties,” she said. “But her Highness just requested permission to land.”
Both of them stiffened, and it was very easy to see the eagerness on their face to go to their daughter.
“We can finish this later,” Luke said. “I’m sure you are very worried about Leia.”
“But shouldn’t they know about the time—" Beru started to say, but Luke sent her a pleading look, and she stopped.
Bail gave them all a distracted smile, clearly his attention was elsewhere, and he hadn’t heard Beru’s aborted sentence. “If you will excuse us,” he said, as he followed Breha out of the room.
“Of course, sir,” Han said, for all that statement hadn’t really been directed at him. Bail gave him a puzzled look, then turned to follow Breha.
“What are you doing?” Obi-Wan heard Luke hiss at Han. All formality was gone, and he sounded like the Luke of this morning.
“Me? Nothing?” there was an edge of panic in the Captain’s voice that belied his words.
“What’s with all this, yes sir, no sir?”
“I told you,” Han hissed back. “We have got a million and a half problems, and I guarantee you Leia has run all of them through her head. I do not need my father-in-law, getting a bad impression of me.”
“You think Leia cares about that?” Luke sounded aghast. “Han, your marriage has survived everything that could be thrown at it, including your de—fall.”
Han snorted. “This is the father that Leia loves, Luke. I am not here to make things harder for her. I’ve done that enough, don’t you think?”
Luke scowled, but he didn’t refute it either. Apparently, they had covered a lot of ground in that conversation on the Falcon.
“What do you mean?” Owen demanded. Wonderful, he was already rapidly as protective of Leia as Luke, and he hadn’t even met the woman yet.
Han looked at him, and his face smoothed over. “Begging your pardon, but that is none of your business.”
“It is my business, if it involves my niece.”
Han smirked. “I would stuff the overprotective attitude. Leia can handle herself.”
“Yes,” Luke said. “That was the problem. She always did handle everything life threw at her.” He frowned, “And we thought that it meant it wouldn’t kill her to leave her. But we certainly wounded her, didn’t we?”
Han said nothing to that.
“Luke?” Beru asked. “What are you talking about?”
Luke looked at his Uncle. “Han isn’t any guiltier than I am in abandoning Leia. Less so, in fact.”
Owen frowned. “What do you mean?”
Luke swallowed hard, and his gaze dropped to the floor. “She trusted me,” he said, voice scratchy. “She trusted me with the most important task of my life, and I failed her. And when I couldn’t face what I had done, I ran.”
There was a long moment of silence as they all tried to make sense of what Luke was saying.
Chewbacca let out a growl of frustration. <Bantha shit,> he spat.
Luke blinked, then a regally offended look crossed his face. “I beg your pardon?” he asked.
<Luke,> Chewbacca asked. <Why do you insist on making everything about you?>
Owen and Beru looked at interest between Luke and Chewbacca.
“Threepio,” Beru called out. “What did he say?”
The droid’s voice was confused, but he did translate directly. “Why do you insist on making everything about you?”
Owen and Beru looked back to their nephew. Luke looked hurt, then some of his pain bled away, replaced by a bone weariness. “Usually, because it is,” he said.
Han snorted. “I would love to argue with that, but more often than not, he’s right.”
There was really nothing to say to that. Mostly because Obi-Wan didn’t have the first clue as to what was going on. He was rapidly tiring of that.
Beru bit her lip, studying Luke. “Alright,” she said. “If you don’t want to talk about this right now, I understand. But can you answer a question for me?”
Luke nodded his head hesitantly.
“Why didn’t you want me to tell the Organas that Leia is not who they think she is?”
Luke looked confused for a second, then his face cleared up as he remembered. “Leia wanted to tell them.”
“If they believe her,” Obi-Wan said. “It is a rather farfetched tale. I believe you because you feel older in your mind then you physically appear to be. But they have no such abilities.”
Luke gave him an odd look. “Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru believed me.”
“Yes, well, you did throw a caravan of troopers,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “That is rather hard to dismiss.”
Han snorted. “Leia doesn’t need fancy tricks with the Force to convince her parents. When Leia wants you to believe in something, you believe it.” He gave Obi-Wan a tired look. “How do you think a guy like me ended up fighting in the Rebellion?”
He might have a point there. If this older version of him was the more polished version, Obi-Wan shuddered to think what he looked like younger and rawer.
It was at least ten minutes of awkward silence, as they waited for someone to come to fetch them. That was when a woman walked into the great stateroom, and for a moment, it was a ghost that stood in the doorway. Then Obi-Wan caught a strong presence in the Force, and the illusion shattered. The resemblance to Padme was startling, but there were several key differences. She was dressed in an imperial uniform, for starters. Her gaze didn’t so much as flicker as her eyes passed over Obi-Wan, only seeing a stranger. There was also the fact, that for someone that Han and Luke both seemed to be wary of, Leia Organa was very short.
Leia’s gaze fell on Han, and her entire face lit up.
“Hey, Your Worship,” he said sheepishly.
One moment she was standing in the entrance of the room, the next she was right in front of Han, and jumping into his arms. The Captain seemed to expect this because he caught her. They embraced like that for a moment, then Leia shifted so that she could wrap her legs around him, and she buried her face into his neck. His hands fell, cupping her butt, so he could support her weight.
She had just used the Force to run to Han. There was no other explanation for how she got across the room so fast. But Obi-Wan hadn’t even felt a hint of it. Not to mention both Han and Luke were very clear Leia wasn’t a Jedi.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to address this, but then his ears caught a repeating incantation. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Obi-Wan shut his mouth. It was Leia who was speaking, and Han’s face crumbled. He made some soothing noises and started to rock them both back and forth.
Now wasn’t the time to question either of them about how Leia wasn’t a Jedi, but certainly moved like one.
And it looked like he wasn’t the only one in the room that had questions. His fascination with the scene playing out in front of him, didn’t mean that Obi-Wan hadn’t noticed Breha and Bail enter the room. It said something to the intensity of this reunion that it took Bail and Breha a moment to recover at the sight of their daughter flinging herself into the arms of a man who was a stranger to them.
“Leia?” Breha asked.
Leia’s head popped up from Han’s shoulder. “Mama,” she said. She didn’t jump out of the Captain’s arms, though. “I’m sorry. I didn’t introduce you. This is Han.”
“Yes,” Breha said very slowly. Bail looked like he was trying to find his tongue. If this had been any other time in his life, Obi-Wan would have been delighted by the sheer dumbfounded look on his friend’s face. Bail wasn’t often at a loss for words.
Breha gestured to Han. “He introduced himself to us earlier.”
Leia scowled, then looked back at Han. “What did you say?” she demanded.
“Nothing,” Han protested. “I was very polite.”
“People only get that tone about you when you accidentally insult them.”
Luke cleared his throat. “No, he was very polite. Sounded like an idiot, but polite. I think their shock more has to do with the fact that you are wrapped around him like a kshyyy-vine.”
Leia’s eyes narrowed, and she turned her head to look at Luke. “You!” she said ominously.
He gave her a weak smile. “Hi, Leia.”
“You thought this was a dream?” she howled. Han flinched at the loud volume Leia’s voice suddenly took.
Luke didn’t look chastised though. He merely rolled his eyes. “Well, it was as good as an explanation as any.” He gestured to the room around them. “Honestly, was time travel supposed to be the first thing I jumped to?”
Leia didn’t look at all appeased by that explanation. “How could you be so foolish? Hell, even the Force feels different.”
“Yeah,” Luke rubbed the back of his neck. “About that.”
Leia’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do?”
Luke shifted on his feet, clearly uncomfortable. “Are you going to cling to Han, or are you going to yell at me?”
Leia tightened her hold on the Captain, who shot a worried look over to Breha and Bail. Leia’s chin lifted, and Obi-Wan marveled at the fact that she looked that imperious while clinging to Han like a kowakian monkey-lizard. “I can do both,” she told her brother.
Chewie let out a roar of impatience. <When did you all become so foolish?> he complained. He stalked over to Han and Leia, snagging Luke’s arm as he went, hauling him with him. Luke gave out an undignified squawk at being manhandled, but Chewbacca merely ignored him. He shoved Luke into Han and Leia and then wrapped his arms around all of them.
<We are all here,> the Wookie complained. <And we are alive. Shut up and enjoy it.>
It seemed none of them were foolish enough to argue with him. Obi-Wan felt his heart clench at the sight. The contentment and love he could feel rolling off all of them was both soothing, and a stab through his heart. He had once had a home like this, that would welcome him back, no matter his troubles. He wanted….well, there were many things he wanted. Most of them were completely out of his reach. But at this particular moment, he wished that he could have told his younger self to embraced Anakin this way. Or Ahsoka. Even the clones, before they turned on him.
Obi-Wan cut that thought right off. He couldn’t afford to get caught in the past, no matter how raw today had been on his old wounds.
Beru cleared her throat. “Your Majesties, I assume Leia has filled you in on what is going on?” she asked.
Breha looked over at her. “Time travel. Han is her husband.” Well, at least they had some warning. That was something. “We died in her past when Tarkin used the Death Star on Alderaan.” That would explain the state of their shock, not just Leia practically climbing Han like a tree. “That Vader is on his way here.”
At that name, Han, Chewbacca, and Luke pulled back to look at Leia.
“Father is on his way?” Luke asked. “Here? Why?”
“Why do you think?” Leia’s voice was huffy. Chewbacca lowered his arms so they could all step back. Leia unlocked her legs from around Han and dropped to the floor.
“He’s after me?” Luke asked.
Leia shook her head. “No, me.”
The Force along Obi-Wan’s skin prickled. “He knows about you?” Luke’s voice was grim.
Leia’s expression flattened, and Han stepped closer to her, putting his hands on her shoulders.
Leia looked Luke directly in the eyes as she answered, “Yes.”
The Force went from murmuring to an all-out roar. Obi-Wan blinked. Luke’s fury to that information seemed somewhat out of place.
He watched as Luke’s face darkened, and his hand came up to Leia’s neck. “Leia?” he asked in a quiet voice. “Where did you get these?”
Obi-Wan frowned and came closer. He winced when he saw the dark ring of bruises on Leia’s neck.
Leia scowled and batted Luke’s hand away. “Where do you think?” she hissed.
Luke paled. “Leia, what happened in that cell?”
“Does it matter?” she shot back. For the first time since she walked into the room, she looked uneasy.
“Yes,” Luke said, voice hoarse. “It matters a great deal.”
Leia hissed through her teeth. “He choked me, is that what you wanted to hear?”
A deep well of anger rose in the Force, and Obi-Wan shivered at the coldness it brought with it. Even Owen and Beru looked alarmed, but that had more to do with Luke’s darkening expression then the Force. At least Obi-Wan was pretty sure they weren’t sensitive to the Force. After the day he had, could he really be sure of anything anymore?
Luke’s anger was clear in his voice. “He hurt you?” he demanded. “Before or after he learned you were his daughter?”
Obi-Wan shivered at the pitiless tone he was using. Bail took in one long breath, and even Chewbacca seemed alarmed. But Han and Leia weren’t. In fact, Leia went up to Luke. How could she bear to be so near those frigid cuts in the Force?
She touched his arm. “Hey,” she said.
Luke didn’t say anything, merely continued to stare at her, eyes ice cold.
She grabbed both his hands in his. “I survived. I’m here. It’s done.”
There was the slightest softening around Luke’s eyes, but that tempest storm in the Force didn’t ease.
She gave him a mischievous smile. “I got to hit him.”
There was the smallest crack in that stony façade, as a tick of amusement twitched at the corner of Luke’s mouth.
“It was wonderful,” she said, satisfaction dripping from every word. “I can’t tell you how much better it made me feel, when he flew across the room.”
Luke’s face softened more, but the delicate moment was shattered by a semi-hysterical voice crying out, “You did what?”
Oh, that was his voice. It seemed to be his day to be completely taken by surprise, even by himself.
Leia blinked, and her hands fell from Luke’s. She turned to look at him, and there was a whole slew of emotions crossing her face that he couldn’t even begin to decipher.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi I presume?” she asked.
Obi-Wan nodded dumbly.
A smile broke out on her face. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Obi-Wan found himself answering by rote, “You as well.” Then his mind returned to what she had said that had so thrown him. “You threw him across a room?”
Leia look a bit taken aback by that, then a deep look of satisfaction crossed her face. “Yes, I did.”
“With the Force?”
She arched one delicate eyebrow. “Well, I’m hardly capable of doing that without the Force.”
Obi-Wan could only gape at her. How had she managed that? Even if An—Vader had been unaware of her strength in the Force, and that was unlikely given the power she was exuding, and taken by surprise, he should have been able to right himself after a second or two.
Luke’s face contorted in concern. With a slightly trembling hand, he touched the bruises around her neck. “Before or after, Leia?”
Leia sighed. To her credit, she didn’t try to play dumb. “Before.” Her own hand came up and grabbed his again, pulling it away from the bruises. “And I baited him, Luke. I can’t say I’m all that surprised that this is how he reacted.”
“I would ask you if you are out of your damn mind,” Han’s voice was controlled fury. “But I already know the answer to that.”
Leia stiffened. “I had it under control,” she told Han hotly.
“You most certainly did not,” Bail said. “Leia, what were you thinking?”
“I was thinking he owed me answers,” Leia shot back.
Obi-Wan rather agreed with Han and Bail. Who in their right mind baited a Sith Lord? Especially that Sith Lord?”
“Father knows about you,” Luke murmured again. Then he paled and sent a look at Bail and Breha.
Beru followed his gaze, and then that steely determined voice cut through the shouting. “Enough!” she said. “We need to leave, and now.”
Leia snapped her head over to the couple. “I’m sorry, who the hell do you think you are to be giving me orders?”
Beru’s eyes glittered. “I’m your Aunt Beru. And if even what half of what you are saying about Anakin’s mindset right now is true, we need to leave, before he comes here to raze this planet to the ground.”
Leia looked taken aback by the commanding tone, then her face softened. “Aunt Beru?” she asked quietly. She shot a look at Luke, who nodded, that sunshine smile coming out again on his face. As she went over to the woman, Leia studied her face as if it held the secrets of the universe.
“Hello, Aunt Beru,” she said softly. “I’m Leia.”
Beru smiled ruefully. “So, I gathered.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Leia said, voice still soft and hesitant, as if she was afraid of rejection. “I’m sorry about my tone.”
“It’s alright,” Beru assured her.
Owen grunted. “Luke insulted your mother earlier. So, rudeness seems to run in the family, at least.”
“And people think I’m bad at meeting people,” Han muttered to no one in particular.
“Luke,” Leia hissed, sending her twin a hot look. “What did you do?”
“I might have ordered her to disperse her own guards?” Luke said, a faint pink tint to his cheeks.
Leia rolled her eyes. “Every time I think you have a handle on giving a good impression.”
“I’m better at it then Han,” Luke said indignantly.
“Oh, like that is a high bar.”
“Hey!’ Han protested.
Owen’s voice cut through the chatter. “Do you all ever stop gabbing on and on, in life and death situations?”
Chewbacca snorted. <No.>
“Chewbacca says-” Threepio started to translate, but Owen put up a hand to stop him.
“Don’t bother,” he said tiredly. “Some things are universal.”
Leia looked at him and gave him a wide grin. “Yes, they are, Uncle Owen,” she said. The man looked taken aback to be addressed that way, then a shy, pleased smile crossed his face.
Leia nodded her head to Beru. “Aunt Beru is right. We need to move.”
“Why would he come here?” Breha asked, a frown of concern on her face.
“Of course, he is coming here,” Owen said, voice puzzled. “She’s his daughter.”
“She is our daughter,” Bail hissed. “Like Luke is yours.”
Obi-Wan winced. That was a mistake. Obi-Wan had said that to Owen, once. It had led to him being banned from even coming near the perimeter of the Lars’ farm for a year.
Before Owen could erupt in fury, Leia stepped forward. “Either way, we need to be gone. He doesn’t know about Luke, and I would like to save that reveal for later, and not where there are people around him that he can kill, to take his anger out on.”
Luke looked troubled. “Point.” He gave Leia a thoughtful look. “You came in an Imperial shuttle?”
He sighed. “I’ll fly it back to Yavin. It could be useful to have one of those on base.”
Han snorted. “No, you are going nowhere without the two of us.”
Bail looked put out. “And you are going to leave us here?”
Han looked startled. “Of course not. I assumed you were going to file a false flight plan, and then come with us. The Empire isn’t going to be looking for the Falcon.”
Bail looked surprised that Han even had the ability to plan. “What good what that do us?” he asked. “It would be a waste of time. We aren’t trying to evade being painted as rebels. We are trying to evade Vader. If Beru and Owen are to be believed, even keeping to the flexible version of what passes for the law in the Empire, will not stop him from taking us into custody."
“Also, it’s yet,” Luke said. “They aren’t looking for the Falcon yet.”
Han grunted. “It’s good enough for now.”
“So, we should leave an Imperial shuttle here?” Luke demanded.
“No,” Breha said smoothly. “We have several pilots here who are with the Rebellion. I will see if one of them will volunteer to fly it to Yavin.”
Luke looked like he wanted to argue, but Breha didn’t give him time. “I don’t doubt your abilities, Luke, but it would be easier if someone who was a known quantity shows up on the planet flying a Lambda shuttle.”
Luke looked incredulous, “And they think I would be an Imperial? I’m the least likely person in the galaxy who would be. I’m the last Jedi.”
“Not the last,” Obi-Wan said, heartbroken.
“And no one knows you are a Jedi,” Beru said simply.
Luke looked so lost. “Yes,” he said slowly. “You’re right.”
Leia shook her head. “I’m going to go change,” she said. “And grab a few things out of my room.” She looked at Han. “Coming?”
“Always,” he said.
Chewbacca let out a huff. <Luke, go with them and keep them on track.>
“Hey!” Han said. “I resent that!”
Chewbacca rolled his eyes. <You died, Han! And now you are miraculously alive, and both of you are in much younger bodies? What do you think will happen?>
Luke looked amused, Han indignant, and Leia? She blushed.
Breha eyed Leia. Oh, thank the Force, neither she nor Bail understood Shyriiwook. That would just add to this disaster.
Breha turned to Threepio. “What did he say?” she asked.
Of course, she would think to ask the droid. Because that was just how this day was going.
The droid cleared his throat, but Han shouted, “Not a word, Goldenrod!”
Threepio’s voice got prissy, “I had no intention of saying anything Captain Solo, since clearly it was meant to be a private remark.”
Han just glared at the droid. Of course, by refusing to translate what Chewbacca had said, he left little doubt as to the nature of it.
Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “I’m sure Bail, that you and Breha have much to do and not a lot of time.” He gestured to the droids, “I will take them back to the Falcon and wait for you there.”
Both Bail and Breha nodded their heads, and Obi-Wan made his way out of the room, and the very awkward conversation that was bound to ensue.
Leaving Alderaan didn’t end up being as exciting as leaving Tatooine. It helped to have royal clearance, of course. Owen and Beru ended up following him to the Falcon. It said something about the amount of information that had been dropped on their heads, that neither of the pair talked to him about anything on the way to the ship. Or perhaps they were just beginning to realize the sheer mess they were all in. Or they were worried about Luke. Or completely bowled over by Leia. Or plotting Han’s death. Who knew? Obi-Wan certainly had never understood them.
Obi-Wan settled himself into the booth, and the Lars took the two swivel chairs near the Falcon’s main computer. The droids wandered off, both claiming they wished to shut down for a bit.
Chewbacca came back first, followed very shortly by Han. They both headed to the cockpit, Han calling out over his shoulder. “The rest of them are right behind us.”
Bail and Breha entered. Obi-Wan could tell by their dubious glances around the ship they were no more impressed by it then he was. But they said nothing as they slid into the booth, Breha in the middle, and Bail at her right.
Leia came in after them, Luke on her heels.
“We’re all on board,” she shouted to Han. Luke was looking around, frowning.
“Where are the other chairs?” he asked Leia.
She shook her head. “That was later,” she said.
“Right,” Luke looked around, and then gestured. A large box came floating over, and he put it down opposite Owen and Beru. Obi-Wan started at that, which was silly. He had seen Luke flip that armored carrier, and that was certainly heavier than a box. It had just been such a long time since he had been around another Jedi it looked strange to him to see objects being moved by the Force. Not to mention the small silent scream building in his mind telling him he needed to warn Luke to be careful.
Which was also foolish. Luke had survived to see the end of the Empire. Obi-Wan was sure Luke was as aware as he was, about the dangers of using the Force openly.
Luke sat down, and without a word, Leia joined him.
Obi-Wan noticed the looks exchanged between Bail and Breha that their daughter didn’t join them in the booth. They had left room for her.
Obi-Wan was more worried that Luke had placed the box against a wall. It provided him and Leia with an angle so that they could see everyone in the room. He didn’t think Bail or Breha had noticed that little detail.
Things were strangely quiet, as the Falcon’s engines kicked to life beneath them. All of them were staring at each other, waiting for someone to break the silence. All Obi-Wan was sure of was that it wasn’t going to be him, for the simple fact that he didn’t even know where to start.
And with the bad timing that was a hallmark for him, Qui-Gon appeared to his right, sitting in the small open space at the edge of the booth.
“Obi-Wan, the Force is screaming. What happened?” he demanded.
Leia jumped up, and her hand went to her side. Where her blaster would be, Obi-Wan realized dimly, if she had one on her.
Luke only cocked his head, looking interested.
Owen straightened up, worry on his face. “What’s wrong?” he asked Leia.
Han walked in from the cockpit at that moment, and his eyebrows shot up at Leia’s tense form. Then his gaze fell on Luke, who was watching Qui-Gon with sharp interest.
“Uh, sweetheart,” Han said. “You want to explain why you look like you want to shoot thin air?”
“We have an unexpected visitor,” Luke said, a faintly bemused look on his face.
Shockingly, Han’s face cleared up. “Oh. Force ghost?”
“Force ghost,” Luke and Leia answered in unison.
Solo snorted “Figures.”
Figures? Something that was so rare and hard to obtain, that even Master Yoda hadn’t known it was possible and the Captain dismissed it like it was an annoyance?
Solo straightened up from his slouch against the door frame. “Well, since the old wizard is sitting right there, and I know Yoda is alive and well at this point, who the hell is here?”
Luke shrugged. “I have no idea. I’ve never seen him before.”
Solo pointed a finger at the empty space next to Obi-Wan. Beside him, Master Qui-Gon blinked at the cutting condescension in his tone as he asked. “Well, are you going to introduce yourself? Or sit there and be rude?”
Master Qui-Gon gaped for a moment, then his mouth shut. Obi-Wan wondered for a moment if his master wouldn’t wander off in a fit of pique. He hadn’t been all that fond of people calling him out on his behavior when he had been alive.
Then there were gasps coming from the Lars, Bail, and Breha. Apparently, his master had decided that he wouldn’t be going anywhere for the time being. But Obi-Wan was interested to note that Solo’s expression didn’t change one bit at the sight of a slightly blue transparent person suddenly appearing in front of him.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had that word used about my behavior,” Master Qui-Gon said thoughtfully as he stared at Han.
“Benefit of being dead,” Han said. “Not that I got to experience that part.”
“You didn’t get to experience what?” Bail asked.
“Being dead,” Han repeated, and he sounded exhausted.
Leia stood up and went right over to Han, taking his hand in hers. “You are not dead,” she said. “You are here, with me. Where you belong.”
Han peered into her face. “You sure about that?”
Leia’s imperious tone did not match the heartbreak on her face. “I don’t say things to you that I don’t mean.”
Obi-Wan could see Han’s face and the contortion’s it underwent, but he couldn’t understand any of the meaning underneath it.
“Well, if you insist,” he said, as his face smoothed out. His free hand came up to cup her face. “I know how much you hate it when I leave.”
Leia’s smile was wobbly. “And don’t you forget it.”
“I’m sorry,” Master Qui-Gon said. “Did I hear that correctly? You were dead?”
Before Han could answer, Luke’s voice came across the room, mildly puzzled sounding. “I know your voice.”
Master Qui-Gon started, and he looked at Luke. “I don’t see how.”
Luke closed his eyes, head cocked, like he was trying to place something. “Sometimes, when I was meditating, I would hear you. I never saw you, though.”
“When you meditated?” Qui-Gon looked both amused and put out. “And when was that? Because I have watched you most of your life, and that is certainly never an activity you engaged in.”
“He’s from the future,” Obi-Wan said, those words still not sounding right. He gestured at Luke, Leia, and Han. “All three of them are. Four, if you include Chewbacca.”
Master Qui-Gon turned and gaped at Obi-Wan. “What?” he demanded.
“They are,” Breha said slowly, watching Master Qui-Gon with both fascination and wariness. Ah yes, Alderaan had some interesting ideas about ghosts, and the bad luck they could bring.
Luke’s eyes opened back up. “I do have to say, in all that time, you certainly never introduced yourself.”
Master Qui-Gon’s head snapped back to him, mouth still agape. Then he seemed to look, really look at Luke. At the casual way he held himself, but ready to burst into movement at a second’s notice. Where he chose to sit, and that loud thrum of power that was all around him.
Master Qui-Gon’s mouth shut, and he came to his ghostly feet and bowed to everyone in the room. “You are quite correct. That is rather rude.”
Obi-Wan just managed to keep his snort to himself. As if his Master had ever really cared for that. Dead or alive.
“My name is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.”
Luke didn’t look like that enlightened anything for him. Bail had a frown on his face, as if he recognized the name, but couldn’t quite place it. It was Owen who surprised the hell out of Obi-Wan, by jumping to his feet.
“You!” Owen shouted, pointing a finger at Master Qui-Gon. “You are the one who did this!”
Master Qui-Gon looked taken aback at the man’s vitriol. “I assure you, I had nothing to do with their presence in this time. I am dead, not all-powerful.”
Owen shook his head, face going ruddy. “Not that,” he spat. “You are the one who took Anakin away.”
“How did you know that—" Master Qui-Gon’s voice trailed off. “Shmi,” he said quietly.
Luke looked interested. “You knew my grandmother?” he asked.
“I did yes,” he gave Luke and Leia a sad smile. “She was a remarkable woman.”
“And you left her on Tatooine,” Owen snapped. “Once you had what you wanted.”
“I’m afraid I was in no position to help her,” Master Qui-Gon said serenely, composure reestablished.
“Because your precious Order wouldn’t let you?” Owen sneered.
“No, because I was killed two days after I left Tatooine,” Master Qui-Gon stated.
Owen didn’t seem to know what to say to that. Master Qui-Gon did tend to have that effect on people. Of course, he had been dead for almost forty years, so that effect was limited to Obi-Wan and presumably Yoda. Reluctantly Owen sat back down, for once without a retort.
Chewbacca came in, head ducking to avoid the door jam. <Han, we are on our way to Yavin—> his voice trailed off as he caught sight of Master Qui-Gon.
<Force ghost?> he asked.
“Force ghost,” Han, Luke, and Leia said together.
Chewbacca cocked his head. <How many are there running around right now?>
Master Qui-Gon looked slightly taken aback. “Just me, as far as I know.”
Chewbacca shrugged, then ambled over to the box Luke was sitting on and plopped down. <Does that mean Yoda’s alive?> he asked Luke.
Luke nodded. “Yes.”
<Hmmm,> Chewbacca looked thoughtful. <I wonder if I will see him again before he dies this time.>
Han frowned. “What do you mean, see Yoda again? When did you meet him for the first time?”
<During the Clone Wars,> Chewbacca stated. <In fact, Tarfful and I helped him escape the planet after Order 66.>
“I’m sorry, you did what?” Han demanded.
While it was interesting to learn how Yoda had managed to escape that battle. It wasn’t very much relevant right now. Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “If we could focus on the now, please, instead of events decades in the past?”
“Oh,” Luke said, eyeing Bail and Breha, “but you seem awfully interested in events decades from now.”
That was by no means a friendly look. While Obi-Wan had been here on the Falcon, just what conversation had he missed between those three?
“Because what comes can be changed,” Bail protested. “And the past cannot.”
Luke’s eyebrows went up. “I don’t know about that,” he gestured to include Han, Leia, and Chewbacca. “Seems to me we all are.”
“Luke, knock it off with the dotty Jedi master bit,” Leia’s voice was sharp. “It’s not helping.”
Luke sighed. “It’s not a bit, Leia. It is a deep and abiding exhaustion, that somehow we are all here, again.”
“We can make it better,” Leia insisted.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Luke leaned against the walls of the Falcon, looking much older than his face. “All I know is that the cycle seems to repeat, over and over again. Before it was bad enough, but now?” He snorted. “It’s the Empire on the other side. Again.”
“We won?” Bail asked, voice breathless.
“Are wars ever really won?” Luke asked mildly.
“Yes,” Leia said.
Luke’s eyes narrowed. “Knowing what came after, how can you say that?”
“Knowing what we bought, how can you sit there and want to do nothing?” Leia demanded back. “Thirty years of peace is not nothing. There was an entire generation in the galaxy who grew up without war.”
“Maybe in the Core,” Luke muttered bitterly. “The Outer Rim wasn’t so lucky.”
“No, that peace didn’t last as long,” Leia conceded. “But they did have it. And we know better now. We can stop the First Order, Luke. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our past.”
“No, we can make all new ones.”
Obi-Wan cleared his throat, Luke’s earlier words ringing in his ears about the painful actions he had been forced to make. Obi-Wan wished…well he wished for a lot of things, and none of them had come true.
“I understand we are asking a lot of you, Luke,” he said gently. “I can’t imagine what it cost you to kill Vader the first time—"
Luke made a shocked sound, cutting him off. “Kill Father?” he asked, aghast, sitting up straight. “What makes you think I killed him?”
“You,” Obi-Wan looked at Leia and Han, who were both frowning at him. Then he looked back at Luke. “You said the Empire was defeated.”
<It was,> Chewbacca confirmed.
“That would never have happened without Vader gone.” Obi-Wan was as sure of that as he was that the stars were in the sky.
Luke was only looking at him pityingly. “Obi-Wan, I most certainly didn’t kill Father.”
Obi-Wan forced the question out. “Then who did?”
Luke frowned, looking confused. “The Emperor.”
Obi-Wan felt close to tears. This was so much worse than he could have ever imagined. He wasn’t sure why, though. That was the Sith way. There was a Master and one Apprentice. Luke certainly had to have presented a tempting target as a new apprentice. Not as strong as Palpatine’s old one, but strong enough. Obi-Wan could testify to that fact. And young. Not crippled and forced into a suit for his very survival like Vader had been.
There was the traitorous thought of how Vader ended up in that suit, but Obi-Wan shoved it away. Even so, the fact that Vader had been used up and discarded without so much as a second thought horrified him. Almost as much as the only reason Palpatine would do such a thing, was that Luke was close to falling himself. Much like Anakin, when he had killed Dooku all those years ago.
But Luke hadn’t fallen. He was sitting right here. Sadder than Obi-Wan would have preferred, and lost in ways that didn’t bear thinking about, but here. And Luke had said they won. So that only left one logical conclusion. “So, you killed the Emperor?”
“No!” Luke looked shocked. He gave a frustrated shake of his head. “I’m saying this all wrong.”
He took one long deep breath in. Neither Han, Leia or Chewbacca offered any commentary, although they surely had to know the details of whatever Luke was trying to get across.
“Father died of injuries he sustained when he killed the Emperor,” Luke’s voice wobbled a bit on that. Then his eyes met Obi-Wan’s “And the only reason he moved against Palpatine was to protect me.”
There was a roaring sound in Obi-Wan’s ears. All he could focus on was Luke’s face as those words tumbled over and over again in his mind. He didn’t know how long he sat there, staring at nothing, lost. But he was brought back to the physical world when there was a slight surge in the Force. Obi-wan looked down at the source. Master Qui-Gon had laid a hand on his arm.
“Breath, Obi-Wan,” he commanded.
Obi-Wan took in one long shaky breath. Oh, how he wanted to believe that Anakin had done exactly what Luke implied he did. Even if it was for only one moment. But he thought that before, and Padme had paid the price for his hubris.
“Why?” he finally managed to ask Luke. Perhaps Vader had been playing some long game and underestimated how viciously Palpatine would fight back. He certainly wouldn’t be the first person to make that mistake. But there was no way Vader had done it for any altruistic reason.
Luke was staring at him in concern. Hell, all of them were staring at him in worry, even Owen. Obi-Wan didn’t even want to know what expression he was wearing if Owen was concerned.
“Father came back to the Light Side of the Force, Obi-Wan,” and Luke’s voice was so proud. “He let go of his hatred and anger, and he came back.”
“That is impossible,” Obi-Wan protested, vaguely aware of how badly his voice was shaking.
Luke’s face morphed into angry confusion. “No, it is not. I was there Obi-Wan, I know what I felt. What I saw.”
“You can’t come back like that,” Obi-Wan’s voice was very far away.
“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon whispered across the Force. “Gentle.”
“He loved me,” Luke said. “Why wouldn’t he choose to come back for me?”
“He loved Padme,” Obi-Wan said back hysterically. “And he hurt her. He loved Ahsoka and he killed her.” At least that was what he assumed had happened to her. All he was sure of, was that one moment things had been as they always had, the next, there was a great void in the Force. A place that Ahsoka had been in. One of the greatest pains of that knowledge, was until that moment, he hadn’t realized she had still been alive.
His breath had caught in grief, but before he could let it out, a pool of rage and despair rippled into the Force. From a mind that felt very familiar to him. He had spent the day in meditation, trying to let go of his grief, and also to reinforce his shields. If he could feel Vader, Vader could feel him.
“He also loved me, and he did a damn fine job of trying to kill me,” a part of him wailed.
Or maybe Anakin hadn’t loved him. Maybe it was all on Obi-Wan’s side, and Anakin viewed him as a worthy battle partner, nothing else.
“You know that’s not true, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon chided him again.
Maybe. Maybe not. It was all so hard to remember sometimes.
Luke looked only puzzled. “If you are talking about Ahsoka Tano, she is not dead.”
Obi-Wan didn’t understand how he was still conscious with all the information Luke was oh so casually throwing out there. “What?” he whispered.
It was Leia who answered him. “Ahsoka survived to the end of the war.”
Bail’s voice sounded as shattered as Obi-Wan’s heart felt. “Ahsoka is alive? Are you sure?”
Leia sounded incredulous. “I know what a Force ghost looks like, and she was neither transparent nor blue. So, yes, I’m sure.”
“Who is Ahsoka?” Han asked.
“The first Fulcrum for the Alliance,” Leia said briskly. “You met her once. She was the Togruta who was looking for Mon for a favor.”
“Oh, her.” Han frowned. “Didn’t she disappear into the Unknown Regions a couple of years after the war ended?”
And why had Ahsoka done that? Why hadn’t she stayed with Luke and help him rebuild the Jedi?
Leia turned to Luke, and there were threads of accusation in her tone. “Ahsoka is a Jedi?”
“Was,” Luke corrected. “And I don’t know why she didn’t consider herself one anymore. Even I could see it was a painful subject.”
Leia didn’t look all that appeased by that knowledge. “How does Vader know her?”
“She was his apprentice,” Obi-Wan found himself saying. Master Qui-Gon’s hand didn’t weigh anything, but it was about the only thing that was currently keeping him from falling over. Ahsoka was alive?
“She was his apprentice?” Leia sounded horrified. Then she turned that accusing tone on Luke. “Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“You said you didn’t want to know anything about Father.”
“No. And I still don’t. But her being a Jedi was very much my concern, even at that time. You know that.”
“I told you,” Luke’s voice was testy, “she’s a former Jedi.”
They were all talking nonsense. “This isn’t possible,” Obi-Wan stressed, not sure if he was referring to Vader’s return to the light, Ahsoka’s survival, or if anyone could truly go back to not being a Jedi.
Luke glared. “I was there, Obi-Wan. I felt it when he chose to let go of the Dark Side. Even half out of my mind in pain, it’s something that is hard to miss.”
“No,” Obi-Wan denied.
Now both twins were glaring at him. “Are you calling Luke a liar?” Leia demanded.
“No, Luke believes what he is saying. But it’s not true.”
Owen’s face twisted. “Why not?” And, of course, he would choose to get involved in this. “Or is this your own guilt talking, because you didn’t even try to reach him?”
“Not try?” Obi-Wan came to his feet, suddenly filled with more rage then he had felt in years. “There is nothing I wouldn’t have done for Anakin. I loved him.”
“Including setting up his own son to kill him?” Owen’s words were deep cuts into his heart.
“Vader is not Anakin!” Obi-Wan howled. “Vader is the one who killed Anakin!”
Vader wasn’t Anakin. He couldn’t be. Anakin would never do what Vader had done. Anakin was brave, loyal, and had a heart too big for his own good. Vader was none of those things. Vader was the rot that had swept all of what Anakin was away.
And not even Anakin could do what Luke was saying. Leave the Dark Side after decades of wallowing in it. Everything Obi-Wan had ever understood about the Force told him that this wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. Because if it was, it meant...
And suddenly, his vision was filled with Han’s face. The captain was standing right in front of him, eyes sympathetic.
“Hey,” he said calmly. Reaching out a hand, he waited a moment to see what Obi-Wan would do. When Obi-Wan merely watched him, Han laid that hand gently on his shoulder. “Why don’t you do me a favor and take a deep breath, Obi-Wan? You look like you are about to pass out.”
“Please, Obi-Wan,” and though his master’s hand held no weight like Han’s did, Obi-Wan could feel his steady and sure presence in the Force.
Obi-Wan took one deep breath in, as his eyes fell shut to block out all those concerned faces. Then another, and another.
“You with us?” Han asked, voice still gentle when Obi-Wan managed to open his eyes.
“Yes,” and suddenly, all his energy was gone. With an exhausted sigh, he sank back into the booth.
Han crouched down, so his eyes were still level with Obi-Wan’s. “Care to explain to me why you are so freaked out about this?”
“It’s not possible.”
Han’s smirk was gentle. “So, you said. But I thought you, of all people, would know that if it involves Skywalkers, that is almost never true.”
“But if..” Obi-Wan’s eyes slid away from that sympathetic gaze. “If it’s true. That means…” he swallowed the wail of pain that threatened to break from his throat. “That means that my brother, he’s alive. And he did all those terrible things.”
“Yes.” There was no give in Han’s voice. A great deal of compassion, but no give.
“And I left him,” Obi-Wan’s voice was so hoarse he didn’t even recognize it. “He could have been saved, and I left him.”
Han’s face contorted into grief. “Luke said it best, it had to be his choice. No matter how much you loved him, it was always going to be his choice.”
“I don’t love Vader,” he protested, but it was rote at this point. A habit, not because he believed. “I loved Anakin. And he’s dead.”
“He’s really not,” Han’s voice was gentle. “And it doesn’t make you a bad person because you still care.”
“Vader has done horrible things,” Obi-Wan tried to explain. “I shouldn’t love someone like that.”
“Shouldn’t, is not don’t.”
Obi-Wan heard a hysterical giggle. He was vaguely astonished to realize that horrible sound came from him. “He tried to kill me. If I had any sense of sanity, that would have been enough to destroy anything I felt for him.”
“My son put a lightsaber through my heart and killed me.” Han’s voice was curiously empty about that. Leia’s pained cut off moan said more than enough for both of them. “And I still love him.”
Ben. Han had been killed by a man named Ben. Not his son. At no point had he ever said, my son. It had always been Ben. Even Luke…
Obi-Wan’s eyes flew to Luke, who was sitting there looking racked with guilt and grief. Luke had said he had failed Leia, and what she had trusted him with. No, not what. Who. Who she had trusted Luke with. Not just some random person who was strong in the Force. Luke had failed his nephew.
“But you aren’t dead,” Obi-Wan felt the need to point out. It was the only thing that vaguely made sense anymore.
“Yeah, and that makes it even more complicated.” There was such a stew of love and grief in Han’s eyes. How could the man feel this much, and still sound so calm? “But it doesn’t mean I don’t miss him.”
“Your son,” Breha whispered.
“I don’t want to talk about this,” Leia’s voice was sharp and angry. Not just her voice, suddenly all along his shields, there were tiny hot needles pricking away at him.
“Leia,” Breha’s voice was full of compassion. “It’s not just your decision to make.”
“I don’t want to talk about it either,” Han’s voice was remote and cool, but his face was still concerned. “I only brought it up to get Obi-Wan to understand.”
“But—" Bail tried to inject.
“I’m not looking for your pity or sympathy,” Han said sharply, as he stood up to face his father-in-law.
Bail opened his mouth, then shut it again. He looked over at Leia, but her face was as remote as her husband's. Then he looked at Breha, who was pale and shaking, then back to Han.
“Alright,” he said. “I will leave it be.”
Perhaps it was because he wasn’t as invested in this as the others in this room. Perhaps it was because he had known Bail for so long, but Obi-Wan didn’t miss the unspoken ‘For now.’ He was fairly certain everyone else in the room had.
Leia took in one long breath, then winced. Obi-Wan was puzzled for a moment, until her hand fell to the bruises on her neck.
His mind still reeling from things he didn’t wish to focus on, Obi-Wan turned his attention to her. It was odd that Luke hadn’t offered to heal them for her. But healing was a delicate business. It could so easily go wrong, and you ended up using your own lifeforce, instead of the Force around you. Given that Luke was still not completely in control of himself, and these weren’t life-threatening wounds, it made sense he was hesitating to act.
But Obi-Wan could. At the very least, he could take some of the pain out of those eyes that were the same color as a dear friend’s. It had the side benefit of doing something, rather than focusing on how he felt like everything inside him had been shattered to the core.
“Your Highness,” he said as he stood up to make his way over to her. Leia gave him a gentle smile.
“It’s Leia,” she said.
“Leia,” he agreed. He reached up a hand, hovering an inch over her neck. “May I?”
She frowned at him, then glanced over to Luke, who looked equally baffled.
“Okay,” she said slowly.
Not a ringing endorsement, but not an outright denial either. Gently Obi-Wan laid his hand against her neck, and drew the Force around him, pushing it as gently as he could into the broken capillaries beneath Leia’s skin. He couldn’t make them disappear, healing had never been his specialty, but he certainly could lessen the damage, and speed up her recovery.
So, he was shocked when his hand was yanked away abruptly.
“What are you doing?” Luke asked.
Obi-Wan could only gape at him for the suddenness of his movement, and the sheer terror he could see in Luke’s eyes.
“Healing her bruises,” Obi-Wan said, looking over to Leia to see if she had any idea what was driving this. She looked as baffled as he felt.
“It’s not worth it,” Luke said, voice furious.
Obi-Wan stiffened, taken aback by this unprovoked attack. “I beg your pardon?”
Luke didn’t relax his grip on Obi-Wan’s arm. “I know they are deep, but a bacta treatment will take care of it.”
Luke’s tone was not angry. He was frightened.
“Master Luke,” Master Qui-Gon asked softly. “Just exactly what did you think Obi-Wan was trying to do?”
Luke’s face twisted. “Trade away some of his lifeforce to heal bruises.”
Leia’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
“I most certainly was not,” Obi-Wan sputtered. “That would be insanity.”
Luke cocked his head. “It would?”
“Of course, it would,” Obi-Wan huffed. “You heal with the energy around you. It produces slower results than a direct transfer, but it does work.”
Luke let his hand go. “Huh,” he said, looking thoughtful.
Obi-Wan was aghast. “Luke, that is the most instinctive way to heal, but it is far from the safest. You can kill yourself quite easily, and it’s not a one to one ratio. If the other person’s wounds are severe enough, you can pour everything into them, killing yourself in the process, and they still die.”
Luke nodded. “I know.”
Oh, that would explain his panic. And his confusion about how Obi-Wan healed himself earlier. You could hardly cannibalize your own life force to heal yourself.
“How do you not know this?” Obi-Wan asked. “It is one of the most basic lessons.”
Luke shrugged. “My training with Yoda lasted about six galactic standard months. It never came up.”
“It never came up?” When he got the chance, Obi-Wan was going to have stern words with Yoda. Given Luke’s caring and protective nature, healing someone was predictably one of the first things he would have tried. He could have very easily killed himself in the process.
“It wasn’t written down in any of the surviving Jedi materials either.” Luke scowled at him. “In fact, the sacred Jedi texts were very clear about the impossibility of healing any other way.”
“Luke, those were written thousands of years ago, of course not everything the Jedi Order discovered how to do, was in there.” Obi-Wan rubbed his head. “Didn’t the notes section tell you that?”
“Yes,” Obi-Wan said patiently. “The sacred Jedi Texts have been studied extensively, by hundreds of Jedi over the centuries. I realize that most of the copies have been destroyed,” and oh how that burned in his belly. All that knowledge lost. “But didn’t the copy you found on a holocron, have the general overall notes and translations?”
“Holocron?” Luke looked confused. “There were holocrons with copies on them?”
“Of course there were, they were basic required studying…..” Obi-Wan’s brain caught up with Luke’s words. “You didn’t find copies of them?”
“No,” Luke said. “The Empire was pretty complete in its purges of all Jedi records and teachings. I never found a copy of them Obi-Wan. I found them.”
Master Qui-Gon was suddenly by Luke, a look of wonder on his face. “You found them?”
“Yes,” Luke nodded. “With a little bit of luck and a lot of searching.”
Obi-Wan couldn’t even find the breath to get the words out. Master Qui-Gon had no such issues. “Just like that?” He looked disbelieving. “Master Luke, they have been lost for centuries. Since the last Sith War, in fact.”
“Oh,” Luke looked taken aback. “I mean, I always figured they had been lost before the purges. No Jedi would have had the time to take them to….” He trailed off and shot a guilty look at Han and Leia.
“So that’s where you went to hide,” Leia said flatly. “Wherever these sacred texts are.”
“Where?” Obi-Wan reached out and grabbed Luke’s hand. “Luke, where are they?” This was part of the Jedi Order’s history. No, not just its history, those texts went back to the founding of the Jedi Order itself. To learn that such knowledge, the originals, were safe, filled Obi-Wan with a desperate fluttering hope in his heart.
Luke looked back at him, then his gaze fell to everyone in the room. “I’ll tell you later,” he said to Obi-Wan.
“How about now?” Leia asked, eyes focused laser-sharp on Luke.
“No,” Luke said firmly. “I won’t.”
“Still preserving your bolt hole?” And there was the lingering taste of bitterness in Leia’s tone.
“Leia,” Luke said simply. “We are not the only ones in this room. Do you have any idea what the Emperor would do to find those texts?”
Bail looked pale, but resolute. “The possibility of being captured by the Empire and tortured has long been a fact of my life, Luke.”
“I agree with his Highness,” Owen said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You think physical torture is what I am worried about?” Luke let out a bitter laugh. “No, Uncle Owen, Bail. He will reach into your mind and rip it out of you. And he won’t have much care what state he leaves you in when he is done.” Luke’s face twisted. “In fact, knowing what a sadist he is, he’ll let you live out the rest of your days like that. Knowing that once you were more, but not quite able to understand how.”
A dreaded silence filled the room. Obi-Wan shuddered. No matter how desperately he wanted to grab onto what was left of the Jedi, he wouldn’t endanger the people on this ship more than they already were. He could wait to approach Luke quietly about this.
Luke returned to his seat. Obi-Wan finished what healing he could do to Leia’s neck, aware of the silence all around him.
When he was done, and seated back into the booth, Bail cleared his throat. “If we can’t know about the texts, can we at least solve the issue of what we are going to tell the Alliance leadership?” he asked.
The time travelers looked at each other for a long moment.
Leia shook her head. “We tell them nothing,” she said.
Both Bail and Breha opened their mouths to argue, but Luke beat them to it. “I don’t know,” he said, "I find the truth is usually the easiest way.”
“No, Luke.” Leia’s voice was strident.
Luke leaned back. “Why not?”
Leia threw her hands up in the air. “Are you seriously asking me that?”
“You know why. Because it’s a horrible idea!”
<He knows why you think that,> Chewbacca said calmly. <I know, and I think even Han knows why you think that. But we are not the only people in this room with a stake in this.>
Leia looked at him, exasperated. “What is that supposed to mean?” she demanded, hands falling to her hips.
<Use your words, Leia,> he said gently.
Luke bit back a snort.
Chewbacca ignored Luke and gestured to the Organas. <They aren’t following your logic. All they see are the answers to the fight that they have dedicated their lives too. And your refusal to give them.>
“Fine,” she muttered and turned to address her parents. She took in one deep breath, and in a much calmer voice, addressed them.
“I don’t want to tell the Alliance leadership anything because we have no idea if things will even remotely look like they did before. And if we tell them we beat the Empire, they will think it’s inevitable we can do it again. Which is not the case.”
Luke clucked his tongue. “Are you sure you don’t want to say anything because you are a massive control freak?”
Leia scowled. “Aren’t you always the one saying that the future is always in motion? That we shouldn’t rely on visions?”
“This isn’t a vision,” Luke said calmly, folding his hands over his stomach. “It’s a possibility.”
Leia opened her mouth, but Luke waved her off. “Look, you might be able to control what you say enough not to give it away, but I’m not so sure about myself. And I know Han can’t.”
“Hey!” Han protested.
The twins looked at him as one, and there was both exasperation and fondness in their gazes.
Chewbacca let out a huffing chuckle. <They aren’t wrong, Han>
Han crossed his hands over his chest. “I know how to keep a secret,” he insisted.
Luke’s smile was warm. “Yes, you do. But what you aren’t good at, is being anything other than yourself. And that will give it away.”
“Why?” Han demanded. “It’s not like anyone knew me before. They have nothing to compare to.”
Which was actually a good point. For him and Luke.
Luke’s smile was openly mocking now. “Of yes, because as soon as you get to the base, you will act like a smuggler, as opposed to a seasoned General.”
Han looked supremely uncomfortable. “I never wanted that.”
The Alliance had made this man a General? And by the horrified look on Bail’s face, Obi-Wan wasn’t the only one thinking that.
Luke’s face sobered. “I know. And I know you only took the position so you could better protect Leia and I., But that doesn’t change the fact that you were one, and it shows.”
“Really?” Bail looked openly doubtful.
“Put him in the middle of a battle, and it will come out real quick,” Luke said mildly. And yes, Han had been very calm about facing down two star destroyers, hadn’t he? “And then there is the other complication.”
Han scowled. “Such as?”
Luke’s voice was filled with nothing but patience. “Han, you know these people. Can you really control your reactions to that?”
<Even Ackbar?> Chewbacca asked in a quiet voice.
Han rolled his eyes. “That won’t be hard. He hates smugglers. When he finds out I am one, he’ll be back to his annoying self-righteous self, and I won’t have to pretend to like him.”
Leia turned to Chewbacca. “He has a point.”
<Really?> Chewbacca complained.
Leia shrugged. “Ackbar is a friend. But he’s my friend, not Han’s.”
Chewbacca gave out a huff of annoyance. <Then how about the first time Han tries to tease Mon, using knowledge he shouldn’t have.>
Han scowled, but he offered no rebuttal to that.
“Chewie’s right. How you are going to treat the Alliance leadership will look insanely suspicious,” Luke said. “And if I recall correctly, there were quite a few of the Alliance leaders who were downright paranoid about everything.” Then Luke’s face turned rueful. “And then there is me.”
“What about you?” Leia asked.
Luke shot Obi-Wan a long look. “I can’t do what I was doing before we got to this time. Now that I know the consequences, I can’t cut myself off from the Force again.”
Obi-Wan felt a knot of worry he hadn’t realized he was carrying, uncurl with those words. That was one disaster averted.
“Oh yes,” Leia said, venomously sweet. “Let’s talk about that.”
So, that had also been discussed when Obi-Wan hadn’t been there. Owen might not approve of their “gabbing” as he put it, but the four of them did seem to get a lot of information to each other with it and in a quick amount of time.
“Let’s not,” Luke countered smoothly.
Han was openly mocking now. “Why is that going to be a problem for you, Luke? I thought you said after the Death Star is destroyed, you didn’t want to get involved?”
Leia shot Luke a betrayed look. “Why ever not?”
Luke shook his head. “I don’t want to fight anymore, Leia.”
“Well, you don’t have much of a choice,” her voice was full of scorn. “I sincerely doubt Palpatine is going to leave you be.”
“I know,” Luke rubbed his forehead. “But I still don’t want to join the Alliance.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, looking very much like her husband in that moment. “When has what we wanted, ever come into this?”
He looked up at her, and then his eyes slid to the Organas, then the Larses. “Never,” he said softly. “But I have to admit, if the Force wanted me to take up its cause again, it certainly knows what to use to get me to move.”
Obi-Wan fought to stay in his seat and not immediately start lecturing. Being led from his heart had been Anakin’s downfall.
Owen paled. “Not for us, Luke” He shot a glare at Master Qui-Gon. “Anakin thought he was doing the same for Shmi, and it all came to ruin.”
“Yes,” Master Qui-Gon said, levelly. “He did.”
Leia snorted. “Who cares why he did what he did?” she asked bitterly.
“I care,” Luke said softly, but there was no malice, only a deep thoughtfulness. “Because I would like not to repeat his mistakes.”
“Make new ones instead?” Master Qui-Gon inquired politely.
There was a tick at the corner of Luke’s mouth. “Quite,” he said.
Master Qui-Gon looked Luke up and down. His master was up to something. Obi-Wan knew that gleam in his eyes too well to think otherwise. “I thought you weren’t interested in the fight, Master Luke?”
“Master Luke,” Luke said, and there were so many emotions in those words, Obi-Wan couldn’t even begin to parse them out. “No, not a master. Only an arrogant man who thought he knew best.” He sighed. “And no, I don’t want to be in the fight. But I don’t think there is anywhere I can run to where I would be safe and can be myself.”
“And who is that man?” Beru asked.
Luke’s mouth twitched. “Haven’t the first idea.”
Leia rolled her eyes. “Your self-pity was never your best quality.”
“Leia!” Breha gasped, but Leia wouldn’t be swayed.
“No,” she said as she marched over to Luke. She leaned down slightly and poked him in the chest. “Listen to me, Luke Skywalker, I know you. And if you think for one moment that you are capable of sitting on the sidelines while people around you are suffering and dying, you are deluding yourself.”
Luke’s chin came up. “I managed for seven years.”
Leia snorted. “Yes, by cutting yourself off from everything and retreating into complete isolation to maintain your ignorance.” She leaned forward, so they were eye to eye. “But that isn’t going to work here. You know what the Empire is capable of. You can’t spin some pretty little tale about how everything will be better with you gone.”
Master Qui-Gon let out a loud laugh. “You are both so like your parents. It will be interesting to see what you do to this poor unsuspecting galaxy.” And when they both turned to glare at him, he gave them a jaunty nod of his head and disappeared.
“Coward,” Obi-Wan muttered, wishing he had the ability to simply whisk himself away from this situation.
“I am not here for any revolution,” Luke said tiredly. “Already did that, and paid a heavy price.”
Obi-Wan winced at the grief and despair in Luke’s voice. He was far too familiar with that tone, and the painful events that caused it.
“So, you are going to leave again?” Leia asked, mouth tight with pain.
Luke shook his head. “The Death Star needs to be destroyed. We need to get to Yavin for that to happen.” He looked at Owen and Beru. “And I need Alliance resources to find somewhere safe for them to go.”
Owen snorted at that. “If you think we are leaving you, you have forgotten everything important.”
Luke’s mouth twitched. “And I need time to convince them that the safest place for them is far, far, away from me. In the meanwhile, I will stay on Yavin.”
Leia looked calculating, as she took in the Lars’ expression. “That might take a while,” she observed.
“No doubt,” Luke huffed.
“As in never,” Owen said firmly.
Luke ignored his Uncle and focused back in on Leia. “And while I’m there, the problem is that in all of my life, I’ve never hidden that I was a Jedi.”
“You went around proclaiming that at the top of your lungs?” Owen demanded. “How are you not dead?”
Luke looked a little abashed. “In the beginning, it was more, I was looking to be a Jedi, but yes, I did learn to keep quiet about that. At least as long as the Empire still stood. But I never hid it from the Alliance. I don’t think I could start now.”
“So, we tell them Obi-Wan has been training you,” Leia said, still doggedly on her point.
Luke looked at the Lars, then shifted his eyes back to Leia. “That isn’t going to work.”
Owen cleared his throat. “I would do anything to protect Luke,” he said stiffly. “Even pretend to tolerate Kenobi. But I don’t think we could maintain something like that full time.”
“Why not?” Leia asked. “You have experience in espionage.”
What espionage? For how long? And on Tatooine? That meant against the Hutts, not the Empire. And did everyone on this ship know what the Lars had been up to, except him?
“Not with people who were supposed to be our allies,” Beru said sharply.
Han huffed. “Hell,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “They’re right. I hate to say it, sweetheart, but they are right.”
Leia opened her mouth, then shut it. She huffed, and paced a few steps, then threw her arms up. “Fine!” she said. “You win. I can’t fight all of you on this.”
Obi-Wan was surprised she was even willing to change her mind. She had felt like an immovable rock, not even a moment ago, on this point. Obi-Wan noted, he wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed the Captain’s ability to corral the twins.
She shot Luke an annoyed look. “So, we disclose the time travel part. How much do we tell?”
Luke looked thoughtful, then turned to Owen and Beru. “Any thoughts?”
They both looked startled. “What do we know about this?” Beru asked, with a rather pointed looked at the Organas.
“Does anyone?” Luke asked. “You have to admit the question itself is very odd.”
Beru narrowed her eyes at Luke. “Don’t think I don’t see through you, Luke,” she said. “And you are avoiding why you aren’t asking their Highnesses first. We weren’t the ones trying to overthrow the Empire.”
“No,” Luke admitted, a small smile on his face. “You weren’t. And I will be getting to them. But you haven’t asked me one question about the future. About whether your life’s work came to anything.”
Owen looked at him, shocked. “We didn’t need to. By my count, our life’s work seemed to turn out all right.”
Luke, instead of looking pleased, had a stricken look on his face.
Leia laughed. “You did,” she said. “More then you know.”
“Leia,” Luke protested.
“I told you, self-pity doesn’t suit you.”
Luke shut up at that.
Leia looked at both the Lars. “In fact, the argument could be made that you two are the most influential and important people in the galaxy.”
They both looked taken aback. “We aren’t important to anyone,” Beru protested.
Leia scowled. “You most certainly are. You are my family, and that makes you important to me.”
“You just met us,” Owen said, sliding an uneasy look at the Organas.
“Yes, and I see the people you were, no,” and Leia looked pleased as she corrected to “are. I see the people you are through, Luke.” Then the pleasure faded away as she stared at both of them soberly. “But even outside of that, don’t you understand what you have done?” she asked.
Neither answered, only looking baffled.
“You raised a good man,” Leia said.
“Plenty of people do that,” Owen scoffed.
Leia looked momentarily taken aback, then a steely resolve came over her face. “Not enough do. And he never abused his power, which is more than I can say for a great many people in the galaxy.”
“Leia,” Luke protested, looking ashen. “You don’t know what I’ve done.”
“I told you,” she said dismissively. “I’m not here for your pity party.”
Luke slumped back in his seat, but wisely, said nothing more.
Leia studied the Lars thoughtfully. “We told Mama and Papa the broadest outcome of their lifetime fight. Only seem fair we tell you too.”
“Tell us what?” Beru asked.
“We can’t recreate the circumstances that created it,” and here, Leia shot Han a hard glare.
Han looked sheepish. “Already told the Kid, I’m paying him back.”
Leia nodded and then turned back to the Lars. “In that other time, we helped bring down the Hutt Empire. We killed Jabba.”
“What we?” Luke asked. “As I recall, it was you strangling him to death?”
Leia had done what?
Owen looked like Obi-Wan felt, but Beru merely pursed her lips. “Jabba died?” she asked. She didn’t sound disbelieving, just like she wanted confirmation. Frankly, Obi-Wan couldn’t blame her. Jabba had been forever.
A small satisfied smile flickered over Beru’s lips. “Good,” she said fervently.
“While I’m glad everyone learned they didn’t all die in vain in another past,” Han said. “That still doesn’t answer the question of how much we tell the Alliance. Because frankly, I see Leia’s point. Learning that we won could make the leadership overconfident.”
“Really?” Luke asked.
Han shot him an exasperated look. “I’m not saying it will, just that it could.” He looked at Chewbacca. “There is a lot riding on this, Luke. It’s not just avoiding the destruction of Alderaan. It’s all those planets we freed.”
Yes, Kashyyyk was an occupied planet now, wasn’t it? And there had to be dozens, if not hundreds of others. The stakes of getting this wrong was daunting.
“But I do see your point, Luke. The secrets that were kept from you? They did a lot of damage, I’m the first to say it.”
“Like being set up to kill his father?” Owen snarled.
Han shrugged. “That. But from where I’m standing, his death wouldn’t be a huge loss.”
“It’s his father,” Owen said. “I don’t know where you are from—“
“Corellia,” Han said.
“But we care about such things on Tatooine!”
“I get that,” Han said mildly. “But I also know he tortured Chewie, Leia, and me, to get Luke to come to him. So, forgive me if the thought of his death doesn’t upset me.”
Owen lost the ruddy flush to his face. “He did what?” he whispered. He looked at Leia. “Did he know you were his daughter?”
Leia shook her head. Then scowled. “But he should have.”
How? Obi-Wan thought distantly. He and Bail had done everything they possibly could to make it look like Padme died while still pregnant. Bail might have let Leia join the Senate, but he would have done everything he could to minimize her resemblance to Padme. And it wasn’t like the woman wasn’t known for employing multiple look-a-likes during her life.
Han cleared his throat. “But that wasn’t what I was referring to. I was talking about—"
Leia cut him off. “We are not drunk enough for this conversation,” she said hastily.
Everyone looked around the room, confused. Both Luke and Leia had a slight blush to their cheeks, and that cloying embarrassment was back in the Force, surrounding both of them. Han just looked annoyed.
“Drunk enough for what?” Breha asked.
“They might have kissed,” Han said. “Like a few times.”
“Han!” both twins shouted.
“What?” he shouted back. “You didn’t know.”
Owen glared at everyone in the room. “And it’s a good example of what their lies cost you.”
“Yes,” Luke said, voice wry. “Like my father was a navigator on a spice freighter.”
Owen flushed. “I told you that to protect you,” he said.
Luke nodded his head to the Organas and Obi-Wan. “So did they.”
Owen mashed his teeth together in frustration, but it wasn’t like he wasn’t any less guilty of lying to Luke.
Beru laid a hand on his leg. “We all want the same thing for the children, Owen,” she said softly, looking at the Organas. “For them to be safe and happy.”
“And look how well that turned out,” he muttered.
Bail cleared his throat. “Which is why we should do everything we can, now, to change what is to come.”
The Larses looked at the Organas, who were staring right back. There was some sort of shift in the air. Some wordless agreement between the parties. Obi-Wan had to wonder what these two very different sets of parents, who were equally matched in stubbornness, were capable of achieving working together. Especially in the cause of protecting their children.
“No details,” Beru said firmly.
“Excuse me?” Han asked.
“How much to tell the Alliance,” Beru said. “General and vague.”
Breha looked at Beru with a great deal of interest. “She is right. Also, try to keep timelines and deadlines out of it. It will either give a false sense of security that we can’t afford, or despair when things don’t exactly line up.”
“Hmm,” Leia said, finger idly tapping on her leg. Obi-Wan could practically see that mind going to work.
“Speaking from the first years of the Alliance, we want to keep it contained to a certain circle of people,” Bail added.
“A tight circle,” Owen said. Obi-Wan was shocked he was even participating, given his general distaste for the larger fight. But Luke, no, the children, had asked for help, and Owen was apparently going to give it. Even if he disagreed with what they were doing.
“The more people who know, the more likely it is to get out. Beru’s right about not being specific. If it’s vague, it means people won’t look for things specifically, because as more changes happen, the effects are going to ripple out.”
“Ripple?” Leia asked.
Owen shrugged. “Apparently, there were supposed to be more stormtroopers at Mos Eisley.” He pointed to Han and Luke. “Made them uneasy as hell.”
“Vague. That we can stick to,” Leia said.
Han rolled his eyes. “Draven and Rieekan are going to hound us.”
Luke snorted. “Let them.”
Bail looked at Han, surprised. “You’ve met them?”
Han just stared back at him pointedly. “I was with the Alliance for years, sir. Of course, I met them.”
Bail and Beru exchanged looks. “We don’t have to tell either of them anything,” Breha offered.
Han shook his head. “One or the other, preferably both. They both have mazes for minds, and they will pick up real quick something is off about all of us.”
Breha blinked. “Any other names you want to suggest?”
“Mon,” Han said.
Bail’s mouth twitched. “That’s a given since she is the leader of the Alliance.”
Ah. That explained the bounty that was higher than Obi-Wan’s.
Bail cleared his throat. “Is one of those vague issues letting the Alliance know we won?”
Leia made an unhappy face. “We are going to have to. Once they know our ages, it won’t be hard to guess.”
“And how old are you?” Breha asked.
“Luke and I are fifty-three,” Leia said. “Han is sixty-two.”
Breha’s face paled, and she closed her eyes.
“Mama?” Leia asked, concern in her voice.
Breha shook her head. “I’m alright,” she said, voice slightly wavering. “It’s just that…That’s thirty-four years I’ve missed of your life.”
Leia didn’t seem to know what to say to that.
Bail cleared his throat. “Are you going to tell anyone how you won?”
Leia gave her mother another worried look, then focused in on her father. “No,” she said. “The circumstances that it happened under would be almost impossible to re-create.” Then a distasteful look crossed her face. “It was partly luck in any case.”
Luke looked disgruntled. “It wasn’t all luck.”
Leia hissed through her teeth. “Fine. Some of it was sheer bloody lunacy.”
Luke sat up straighter. “I was right, Leia.”
“I never said you weren’t,” she snapped. She looked like she was going to hit Luke or burst into tears. “I’m sorry if I have a more complicated view of this. He tortured me. Twice! I don’t have to forgive him.”
Han cleared his throat, and both twins snapped their heads to him, looking for all the world like they were going to pounce on him next. “I thought you all had settled, decades ago, not to talk about this,” he remarked calmly.
Luke looked at him, and then he slumped back down. “We don’t have a choice, Han,” he said, fingers coming up to rub his temples. “Father knows about Leia. He is not going to let this go.”
Han looked horrified. “By not let it go, do you mean twenty-five million bounty, and half the damn fleet chasing you, not let it go?”
Luke nodded. Obi-Wan felt his heart increase in tempo. Anakin had done what? Even for him, that was overkill.
By the looks on their faces, everyone else in the room, was equally as horrified as he was.
Luke looked at Leia. “What happened in that cell, Leia?”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her hand drifted up to her throat. Those bruises looked better, but they were a stark reminder of the power Vader had to bring down on someone.
Luke looked really worried now. “Leia,” he said placating.
“No,” she snapped. “All you need to know is that I thought I could control the future, because it was my past.” She let out a bitter laugh. “As if anyone, or anything, could control Vader.”
Luke sighed and put his hands up. “Alright,” he said soothingly, “Alright. I know better than to push.”
Leia sent him a skeptical look. “Almost never.” Then a pained look crossed her face. “Are we going to tell the leadership about Vader?”
Luke was quiet for a long time. Then he said softly. “I won’t tell them. But I’m not going to lie if anyone asks.”
Leia looked betrayed. “That is not good enough, Luke.”
“There is a way around that.”
“Really?” Leia’s hands fell to her hips.
Luke’s voice and face were decidedly neutral. “We don’t have to tell anyone that we are brother and sister.”
By the horrified looks on Beru and Owen’s face, that meant something more than the simple lie that it appeared to Obi-Wan.
Leia went over to her brother and practically slammed into him as she threw herself into his arms. “Never,” she said.
Luke’s veneer broke, and he twisted so he could return the embrace, burying his face into her neck, hiding it from everyone.
The two of them clung to each other, and Chewbacca carefully laid a hand on Luke’s back and started making shushing noises. Han approached them and crouched down, placing his hand on Leia’s back.
This went on for a long moment, then Leia pulled back. Obi-Wan could see the tear tracks on her face, but she was composed, as she cupped Luke’s face.
“I will never understand how you can love Vader,” she said. “But you are my brother, and I would rather cut off my own arm, then deny we are blood.”
There was some cultural taboo or custom going on here that Obi-Wan didn’t understand. What he did understand was the relief practically pouring out of Luke.
“I’m with Leia,” Han said from his crouch. “You don’t get away from us that easy, Kid.”
<Me either,> Chewbacca growled.
Luke looked around him, and he leaned forward, so his forehead touched Leia’s. “I missed you,” he said simply.
She gave him a smile in return. “I missed you too,” she said. Then she pulled back, “But I’m about to fall off this box.”
Han stood up and offered a hand to her. Leia took it and rose to her feet. But instead of returning to their previous positions, Han against the door, and Leia in the middle of the room, they chose to stand on the other side of Luke and Chewie’s makeshift seat.
Luke rubbed his face. When his voice came out, it was rough. “We still have to figure out what to tell them.”
Leia snorted. “Like it will come up.”
Luke looked at her. “Of course, it will. At the worse possible moment.”
“You don’t know that,” Leia insisted.
Luke’s face twisted in frustration. “No, I don’t. What I do know, is that us lying to the galaxy about this, didn’t work so well last time.”
“That is easy for you to say,” Leia said. “You didn’t have to deal with the fall out of everyone learning that we are Darth Vader’s children. And it’s going to be worse here, because he is still alive.”
Beru cleared her throat. “Is this something that needs to be decided now?” she asked.
The twins looked at each other. “No,” Leia said.
“Yes,” Luke countered.
“Why?” Leia looked tired and frustrated. For the first time, Obi-Wan noticed the deep circles under her eyes.
“Because it is going to come up,” Luke said. “Father is going to do everything in his power to find you, Leia. You know that.”
“So? He did the same for you, and the Alliance didn’t question it.”
“I was trying to find information about being a Jedi,” Luke said, coming to his feet. “Of course, nobody thought twice about it. You aren’t in the same position now, that I was then. Unless,” and there was a desperate hope under his words, “you’ve changed your mind about being a Jedi?”
Leia shook her head.
Luke sighed. “That means, as far as the Alliance is concerned, you are Princess Leia. Heir to the throne of Alderaan, yes, but you are not a powerful player in your own right. You are not General Organa. Not yet. So, when Father starts marshaling the forces, he is about to, for the sole purpose of capturing you, we need to tell the Alliance something. And it would be better, for all of us, if it’s now, not later.”
Leia sighed. “And again, you weren’t there when it all came out. You have no idea what it cost me—"
Luke waved a dismissive hand, cutting her off. “A senate seat? Election as the First Citizen? Things you didn’t even want, just thought no one else was as competent to handle?”
Leia paled and took a step back.
Han’s voice cut through, and he sounded furious. “No, Luke. The survivors of Alderaan stripped her of her title, because they learned that she was the daughter of Darth Vader.”
Luke blanched. “Leia—" he started to say, but was cut off by Breha.
“They did what?” she hissed, coming to her feet as well.
“They stripped her of her position,” Han said, voice low and hoarse.
“Why?” Breha sputtered.
Leia looked away. “I was the daughter of Darth Vader. And he was the one who ordered the destruction of Alderaan.”
“Tarkin did that,” Luke said testily.
“I know that, Luke,” Leia snapped back. “I was there, remember?”
Luke backed off immediately. “I know. I know. But he did enough harm. I don’t understand why people feel the need to add on.”
Obi-Wan could only stare at him. Leia and Han just looked resigned at Luke’s defense of Vader.
Beru looked around. “I don’t understand,” she said thoughtfully.
“That the children have been through hell and back?” Owen asked, his voice sorrowful.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “That I understand. The yelling has made that clear.” She turned to Luke and Leia. “But I don’t understand why you are arguing about this. Leia needs time to come to terms with the fact that Anakin is alive.”
“She’s known she’s his daughter for decades.” Luke protested. And for the first time since he had met this strange older version of Luke, he sounded like he was truly at the end of his patience.
“And in order to protect her, we need to tell the Alliance why Father is about to turn the galaxy upside down, for her.”
Beru shot him a quelling look. “Yes, Luke, I know. I have been here, listening to you two. Don’t teach your grandmother how to search for water.” He flushed and looked away.
Content that Luke had understood he needed to back off, Beru turned to Leia. “What I don’t understand, is that if you are going to tell the Alliance leadership that you are time travelers, why not make that the reason Anakin is hunting you?”
Obi-Wan just barely restrained from groaning out loud. It had been a long day, and he wasn’t operating at his best, but Beru was right. This should have occurred to one of them.
The rest of them were also staring at her, with various levels of shock, and in Bail’s case, self-recrimination, for not thinking of the simplest answer.
Beru sat up straighter. “It makes sense he would be very interested in a woman who has knowledge of the future,” she said somewhat defensively.
“Yes, it would,” Leia said, a gentle smile blooming on her face. “It’s just I should have thought of it.”
“I don’t see why,” Beru said, looking at Leia frowning. “I think it’s remarkable you are standing on your feet and not sobbing in a corner.”
“You don’t know, Leia,” Luke mumbled. “She always stands. Even when it would be wiser to bend.”
Beru gave him a look, and Luke’s mouth snapped shut. “No,” she said calmly. “I don’t know her as well as I wish.”
She looked Leia up and down, thoughtful. “But you do strike me, Leia, as a sensible person. Anakin is alive here, this issue can’t be avoided any longer.” She sent Leia a stern look. “Can it?”
“No, ma’am,” Leia said softly.
Then that glare transferred to Luke. “And I would think, that after her husband was murdered by their son, being thrown back in time with her torturer, and then finding out her husband is not dead, would qualify as a horrible day. And that expecting Leia to stand in the middle of this storm and take it all, is a bit much?”
“Yes, Aunt Beru,” Luke said.
“Good,” she brushed her hands together, as if she would wipe away the high emotions of the last few minutes. She stood up and went over to Leia, peering into her face.
“You’re shaking,” she observed.
Leia shrugged. “Adrenaline,” she said. “It will pass.”
“Hmmm,” Beru didn’t look convinced. “When is the last time you ate?”
“Last night?” Leia gave out a semi-hysterical laugh. “Or thirty-four years from now, depending on how you look at it.”
“Leia,” Han growled.
“What?” she complained. “I’ve been a little preoccupied.”
Beru turned to Han. “Do you have any food on this ship of yours?”
<We do,> Chewbacca said, rising to his feet and heading towards the cabinets on the far wall.
“Was that a yes?” Beru asked.
“Yeah,” Han said, running a hand through his hair.
“Good,” She looked at Luke. “And you need sleep,” she told him firmly.
“Sleep, Luke,” Owen commanded. “We’ll stand watch.”
Luke looked at him, relief clear. Obi-Wan felt an ache in his heart. Luke felt safe with the Lars. And it wasn’t that Obi-Wan resented that fact, he just wished that his presence was enough to make Luke feel safe too.
<Take my bunk Luke,> Chewie said, ambling back over, ration bars in his hands. He handed one over to Leia, who automatically took it. <And you look like you need some sleep too, Leia.>
“I’m fine,” she said, opening the wrapper on the bar.
“Yeah, sure,” Han said.
Leia only glared at him.
“C’mon Leia,” Han said coaxing. “Chewie will wake us before we get there.”
<And I will have some caf ready for you,> Chewie threw in.
Leia sighed. “Fine,” she said. “But only if you come with me, Han.”
Han gave her a mischievous smile. “As if I ever turn down a nap,” he said, sliding his hand into hers.
Bail looked like he wanted to say something, but Breha put a hand on his arm, shaking her head.
Luke rose to his feet, “If you can get me at the same time, Chewie?”
Chewie nodded his head, and the three of them walked down the corridors of the Falcon.
“Well,” Beru said, once the sound of doors closing echoed down the hallway. “How are we going to fix this?”
That was an answer none of them had.
When they arrived at Yavin, they were immediately cleared to land once Bail gave the control tower his name and identification codes. And it turned out the Rebel Alliance base was in the middle of a jungle. Because, of course, it was. Obi-Wan had spent twenty years on a hot desert planet. Why not immediately go to a hot, humid one after that?
Before they disembarked from the Falcon, Obi-Wan put up the hood on his robe. It was at Bail’s request, since it wouldn’t have occurred to him to do so. All things considered, he would rather have not. The planet was uncomfortable enough, and there was no benefit to the hood being up, since the sun wasn’t nearly as punishing given all the foliage it had to come through before it hit one’s head. But they couldn’t take the chance that he would be recognized in the hallways, not until they had told the leadership what had happened.
They were greeted by Senator Mothma, who was flanked on her right by a tall green Twi’lek male. Obi-Wan took in her somber face and acknowledged to himself the years had been far kinder to her then they had to him. She wasn’t by any means that young, energetic senator he remembered. But there was a serenity to her face, that Obi-Wan wouldn’t have thought belonged there. Especially given she was the highest value target in the Empire.
“Bail, Breha,” she said, and came up to them, but there was a tight smile on her face that bellied her warm tones. “I’m glad you are here safely.”
Bail and Breha nodded, and Bail gestured behind him to the droids. “We have the plans, Mon.”
“Thank god,” she murmured gratefully. Then all trace of emotion was gone, and the serene expression came over her face again.
She opened her eyes and let her gaze fall on Leia. There was a lecturing tone in her voice. “And while they aren’t words to express how relieved I am to see you, Leia, you should have come here first, not Alderaan.”
Leia opened her mouth, but Bail cut her off. “Mon, we need to convene the Alliance leadership. Immediately.”
It was rather fortunate that Leia was behind Bail so he couldn’t see the look on his daughter’s face at being cut off like that. If her face and body language was anything to go by, it had been a long time since Leia had taken orders, instead of giving them. General Organa, Luke, had called her. Not her Majesty, or Senator, but General.
Obi-Wan idly wondered to himself if Luke might have been wrong about her ability to fool the people around her. Not when she reacted like this.
Mothma turned to Bail, a questioning look in her eyes. “I beg your pardon?”
Bail gestured to R2. “We need to get started now on extracting the plans. But while we wait for that to happen, we need to brief the Council. Another complication has arisen.”
Mothma looked at the group of them, behind Bail. She looked thoughtful as her eyes drifted over Han, Chewbacca, Luke, and the Lars. When her glance fell on him, though, her expression changed. There was the quickest indrawn breath and a quiver of her hands. It was slight, but there.
Obi-Wan said nothing, but he could see that mind working. Just what had Bail told this woman about him? And how far did he trust her?
“The entire leadership?” she questioned as her gaze fell back on Bail.
Bail shook his head. “No, only those you trust.”
“I trust all of them, Bail,” Senator Mothma said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on the council.”
“Mon,” Breha said quietly. “Only pick those you would trust with everything in you.” A small amused smile crossed her face. “And I would stick to those who are more open-minded, and willing to listen, no matter how outlandish the story.”
Mothma raised an eyebrow. “Anything else?”
Bail nodded. “You need to confine it to only those on base. We can’t trust this over coms. The smaller the number, the better.”
Bail looked at his wife, then his gaze fell on Leia, who was standing rigid. Then his eyes fell to the small clumps of people who were walking by, desperately trying to overhear what was being said.
“That is an explanation that will have to wait,” he said softly.
Mothma followed his gaze, noting the stares of curious onlookers. She gave him a regal nod of her head. “Since you are someone, I would trust with everything, I will do as you ask.” She gestured, and the Twi’lek male came forward and took the droids away. “My private office should be big enough. I will get the others.”
Bail bowed. Not as low as he would to his Queen, but enough to show respect. “Thank you, Mon.”
He started forward, and the rest of them, including Owen and Beru, started to follow him.
Mothma looked startled. “All of you?” she asked, surprised.
Mothma’s lips quirked. “This better be one hell of an explanation, Bail.”
Oh, if only she knew.
Bail led them to a mid-size room, that had a large table in the center. They all took their seats, even as the Lars looked around at the imposing stone walls of the place. Or maybe it was the greenery creeping up the walls that held their attention. Green wasn’t a color found on Tatooine, and as far as Obi-Wan knew, they had never left that planet before today.
Mothma was back quickly, three humans trailing behind her. Obi-Wan recognized Dodonna. They had never served together directly, but he had met the man more than once during the Clone Wars. The other man was a stranger to him, as was the elegantly dressed dark-skinned woman.
“Well, Bail, we are here,” Mon said, as she and the others took their seats. “What is so important?”
Bail gave Obi-Wan a look. Taking the unspoken cue, he removed his hood. “Hello, Senator Mothma, it’s been a long time.”
Mothma blinked. For one moment, Obi-Wan was worried that once again, there would be someone who didn’t recognize him. Then a tremulous smile broke out over her lips. “Yes, General Kenobi, it has been.”
There were audible gasps from the others in the room.
The man who was a stranger to him, leaned forward. “Kenobi? Obi-Wan Kenobi? We are supposed to believe this is him?”
If the man was having issues with Obi-Wan’s identity, he might have been a poor choice on Mothma’s part given the fantastical tale they were about to spin.
“It’s him, General Draven,” Bail said smoothly.
Dodonna looked thoughtful. “General,” he said, with an inclination of his head. “Welcome to Yavin.”
Obi-Wan inclined his head back.
“Really?” Draven snorted. “You are going along with this, Dodonna?”
Beside him, Obi-Wan could hear Han mutter under his breath, “Typical.”
Not a fan then. But Draven was one of the names Obi-Wan remembering Han mentioning he wanted brought in on this. Curious.
“What benefit would it serve for me to lie?” Obi-Wan asked Draven curiously.
Draven folded his hands over his chest, looking grumpy. “People do things for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I try not to discount sheer stupidity.” Then he shot a glare at Mothma. “Or desperation.”
“Bail brought the Death Star plans with him,” Mothma said. “Even now, they are being extracted. I have no need for such drastic measures.”
Well, wasn’t this getting off to a lovely start? Obi-Wan hoped it was because Draven was simply disbelieving, and not playing some obscure power play against Mothma.
He sighed, the long day catching up with him. And they hadn’t even started into the most unbelievable parts. He gestured with his hand, and every unoccupied seat in the room shot up three feet from the floor.
“Is that enough proof for you?” he asked an open-mouthed Draven.
The woman, whom Mothma hadn’t introduced, said in a half-whisper. “I heard stories…” she reached out a hand to the chair closest to her. Obi-Wan gestured, so that it would move closer to her. She poked it with one finger, then gave out a small disbelieving laugh, when the chair didn’t move.
Her head turned towards him. “It’s an honor to meet you, General Kenobi,” she said, voice half in awe. “My name is Senator Pamlo.”
He inclined his head as he let the chairs fall back to the floor. “A pleasure.”
Draven finally managed to gather some of his wits. “All right,” he conceded, his gaze bouncing from Mothma to Obi-Wan. “I’m not sure about him being Kenobi, but I concede he’s a Jedi.” Then a frown crossed his face. “But either way, where have you been all this time?”
“Tatooine,” Obi-Wan said blandly.
All of them, save Mon, stared at him. “Where?” Dodonna asked.
Draven was openly frowning. “You were hiding in Hutt territory?”
Obi-Wan shrugged. “I had my reasons,” he said.
Draven didn’t look like he liked that answer, but he turned to Mon, mouth in an unhappy line. “Why drag us in here for this? And with such secrecy? Surely you aren’t thinking a Jedi joining the Alliance is going to be kept a secret?”
No question in his mind that was what he was going to do. However, it wasn’t from any desire on Obi-Wan’s part. But, like the Larses, he wouldn’t abandon Luke. And once it got out Obi-Wan had survived, the Alliance would be the only place where it was reasonably safe for him to stay. Both for himself and the people around him.
But much like Luke, all he could muster was a resigned exhaustion to the whole thing. Tatooine had been its own kind of hell, but it hadn’t been a war.
“The others weren’t invited, because of security concerns,” Bail said smoothly. “But after today, we can discuss briefing them on what you are about to learn.”
“Well, Bail,” Draven said, smirking. “I am nothing but anticipation.”
Bail looked at Leia, nodding his head.
She leaned forward in her chair, but instead of addressing Draven, she turned to Mothma. “I wasn’t panicking when I went to Alderaan, Mon. I went there because I needed to get Mama and Papa off that planet.”
The woman cocked her head. “Why?”
“Because I am from the future,” Leia said calmly, her eyes never leaving Mothma’s. “And Vader knows it.”
Well, that certainly got everyone’s attention. Of course, that was also when the shouting started.
Once Mon had gotten everyone semi-corralled, she was the one who demanded an explanation. The time travelers kept it brief. Leia did most of the talking, and she didn’t tell the Alliance council much more than had been explained on the Falcon. Minus Han being murdered, Luke and Leia being Skywalkers, and the real reason Vader would be so interested in Leia.
Of course, even with that left out, not one of the four members of the Alliance believed what was being said.
“But if what you are saying is true, why did this happen?” Dodonna asked, for the third time.
Luke looked tired. “As I said before, I don’t know.”
“And you General Kenobi,” and that was quite the bite in Draven’s tone, “You believe them?”
“Luke is a Jedi Master,” Obi-Wan said, once again reiterating this point. “If he was chronologically the age, he is supposed to be, that wouldn’t be possible.”
“He could have been a prodigy,” Draven muttered.
“I didn’t train him,” Obi-Wan said sharply. “And in order to achieve the rank of Master, you had to have trained someone else. Luke is a bit young for that.”
“As if we would let Obi-Wan train him,” Owen snapped, speaking up for the first time.
“I’m sorry,” Senator Pamlo said, a frown on her face. “Who are you again? And what do you have to do with any of this?”
“My name is Owen Lars, and this is my wife, Beru. Luke is our nephew.”
Senator Pamlo nodded. “I see.”
Mothma cleared her throat. “Why were you so opposed to General Kenobi training Luke?” she asked.
“Because Luke would follow him into some damn war that would kill him. Just like his father.”
There were glances all around the room. Mothma was looking at Obi-Wan though, a look of surprise on her face. Well, she had known Anakin, and it was entirely possible she knew what planet he was from.
Dodonna was the one who asked the question, though. “Who was his father?”
Luke was silent for a long moment, and then he gave a shrug. “Anakin Skywalker.”
The entire table gaped at him, and he only met their gazes coolly.
Draven gathered himself together first, giving Obi-Wan a cool look. “Well, that explains why you were on Tatooine.”
“It does?” Beru asked.
“Where there is a Skywalker, Kenobi isn’t far behind,” Draven said coolly. Obi-Wan forced himself not to flinch. The man was far too observant for his liking, and he didn’t want in any way to lead him to wonder about the circumstances of Anakin’s ‘death.’
Senator Pamlo frowned at Owen. “You changed your names?” she asked.
Owen shook his head. “Anakin was my step-brother. But his mother,” his lips compressed in a tight line. “She was a good woman, and I loved her.”
Han shook his head. “Believe. Don’t believe. None of that matters. Because Vader believes.”
That seemed to sink into Draven’s head. “You think Vader is going to come hunting for her.”
Han cocked an eyebrow. “Draven, the second it gets into your head we are telling the truth, you are going to make our lives a misery.”
“We do not condone torture,” Mothma said stiffly.
Han rolled his eyes. “Of course not,” he said. “But since when has Draven ever had the good sense to let things go, when he thinks he has a lead on something?”
Dodonna muffled a snort. “He has you there,” he told Draven.
“I wouldn’t torture you,” Draven snapped.
Han lost his impatient look. “No,” he said softly. “You wouldn’t. And I damn well know why. But what you would do was hound us with a million and a half questions, bug our quarters, and set who knows how many people to watch us to see what we would inadvertently reveal.”
Draven sat back, and he drummed his fingers on the table. “We were close?” he asked. “Because my reasons for why I joined the Alliance isn’t common knowledge.”
Han shook his head. “No. But I heard things…” he trailed off.
Draven snorted. “Oh no, please do go on. Where did these things get bandied about?”
Han stared at him for a long moment. He flicked his eyes to Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca. All of them nodded their heads.
“Your funeral,” Han said. “Catloe is a great mechanic, and good to know on this base because she can find any part you need. She is also quiet, observant, and smart enough to hear what isn’t being said. I see why you recruited her to ferret out Imperial spies. But she blabs a lot when she’s drunk.”
Draven paled. “How do you know Catloe?” he whispered hoarsely.
“Because we have been here before,” Luke said resignedly. “And did you think she would treat your death casually, Draven?
Draven swallowed hard, and it took two tries before he managed one word. “How?”
Again, the looks. And again, they came to a consensus without saying a word.
“Vader killed you,” Leia said gently.
Draven looked away.
Mothma looked at Leia, clearly catching on to what those long pauses meant. “You aren’t going to tell us everything you know, are you?”
Leia shook her head.
“You believe them?” Beru asked.
Mothma nodded her head. “Yes. I’ve known Leia since she was a child. She’s different.” Her eyes flicked to Luke and Han, then fell on Obi-Wan. “And I can see no reason why General Kenobi would indulge in such an elaborate ruse.”
Dodonna opened his mouth, probably to once again try to put holes in their theory, when the intercom in the room crackled to life.
“Senator Mothma,” a nervous sounding voice spoke across the speaker. “I know you asked not to be disturbed, but I think you need to hear this.”
Mothma frowned, “Go on, Malis.”
It had been decades since he heard the man, but Obi-Wan could still hear that cold voice pronouncing that Ahsoka had been found guilty. He didn’t sound much more pleasant now.
“Attention all Galactic citizens. This is Grand Moff Tarkin of the Imperial Navy. This message is being broadcasted along all known subspace and communication relays in an attempt to reach the insurrectionist terrorists known as the Rebel Alliance. I am currently aboard the newest weapon of the Empire, the Death Star. If the entire group does not surrender to face justice, I will destroy the planet of Alderaan. They have one standard galactic day to comply.”
There was a moment of silence. Bail and Breha looked gutted. And Leia….
The look on her face did not bode well. For anyone, but especially Leia.
“We have to surrender,” Pamlo breathed, breaking the silence of the moment.
“We can’t,” Leia said flatly.
“This is your world they are threatening to destroy,” Pamlo said, horrified.
“I know,” Leia looked ashen. “But the Alliance can’t surrender to the Empire, because they will destroy Alderaan anyway.”
“You can’t know that,” Draven said.
Leia turned to face him, voice sounding very far away. “I can, and I do.”
Mothma’s eyes met Leia’s face. “Leia,” she breathed, horrified. She had always been quick on the uptake.
Leia met her gaze. “I didn’t break Mon,” she said simply. “When I faced this choice before, I told Tarkin the Alliance was on Dantooine.” Her smile was pitiless. “He believed me, but said it was too remote to serve as an effective target.”
Han leaned closer to his wife, putting an arm around her shoulder and kissing her head.
Dodonna’s face lost all color. “What are we going to do?” he asked, sounding lost.
Leia looked up. “Luke?”
“What am I supposed to do, Leia?” Luke’s voice was bitter and angry. “Go up there and wave my laser sword and demand that they surrender?”
“No, Luke,” Leia’s voice was cutting. “I want you to go up there in an X-Wing, and blow that station out of the sky, again, and save my world.”
“Oh,” Luke looked sheepish. Then he ran a hand down the back of his neck. “Yeah, I can do that.”
“How?” Dodonna demanded.
Luke shrugged. “Make the shot I did before. Erso put in a ventilator shaft that leads directly to the power core. One direct hit with a proton torpedo and the whole thing goes up.”
Mothma took one deep breath in. “The plans should be extracted by now. We will see if what you say is true.”
“Hell of a gamble,” Draven muttered, looking between Bail, Breha, and Leia. There was a curious gleam in his eyes. He was starting to believe, Obi-Wan realized.
Mon stood up. “All right,” she nodded her head to Dodonna. “Get the pilots in the briefing room in ten minutes. I want you in the air as soon as possible.”
Luke stood, “I’m going to need the astromech that you took the plans out of, back.”
Leia stood too. “I’m going too.”
Breha protested. “You don’t even know how to fly an X-Wing.”
Leia looked sad. “Been a while, but yes, I do.”
Han came to his feet. “Well, you know I’m coming too. Neither one of you are great at watching your backs.”
Dodonna looked slightly affronted. “Do I get a say?”
They all looked at him, like they had forgotten that he was there.
Draven snorted. “Hell, Dodonna, if you want to win, let them go.” He stood. “Mon,” he nodded his head towards her, and left.
Dodonna rose, and Senator Palmo, following his lead, also excited the room.
Mothma started at all of them, “We will be having a much more in-depth discussion about what you know when you get back,” she warned all of them.
It wasn’t until they had all left, that Luke turned to Leia. “Why are you going up there?” he asked.
“It’s my world,” she said. “And I will defend it.”
Luke chewed on his lip. “About what happens after this is over—”
Leia gave a sharp wave of her hand. “One problem at a time. Destroy the Death Star. Then the lecture about your idiocy.”
“Leia, I know you don’t believe me, but it’s better for you if I am far away. Being a Jedi has brought nothing but pain to our family.”
Leia looked back at him, and she made a rude sounding noise. “Don’t you get it?” she asked. “I never needed Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. I needed my brother.”
Luke looked like he was going to be sick. “Leia,” he started to say.
She shook her head. “Later. All of it, just later.”
She looked at her parents, “I’m going to the briefing, but I’ll come and find you before I leave.”
Bail and Breha nodded their heads and Leia left the room.
Luke sighed, “C’mon.” he said, gesturing to Han and Chewbacca, “We need to go to the briefing.”
“We’ve already been at this briefing,” Han complained.
“Thirty years ago, and do you trust your memory to get all of it right?”
Han grumbled but came to his feet.
“Luke,” Obi-Wan called out as he turned to leave.
“Yes?” Luke asked, turning around to face him.
“May the Force be with you,” Obi-Wan offered.
The smile Luke gave him was bitterly amused. “It always is,” he said matter of factly. “Whether I like it or not.”
And that was the truth. And like all those, that the Force was strong with, there was a heavy price to be paid for that. Obi-Wan just wished that he had found a way so that Luke and Leia hadn’t paid that price. But the future was unwritten, for now, and he set his mind to thinking of ways to make it better for both of them.