|Force Bond: Social Trials
Author: KittandChips PM
Set between Force Bond 2 and 3. Vader decides it's time for Luke to learn a thing or two about mixing with the Imperial aristocracy, while Luke is struggling with his own sense of self identity.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Humor - Luke S. & Darth Vader - Chapters: 6 - Words: 49,172 - Reviews: 56 - Favs: 129 - Follows: 9 - Published: 02-03-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2781607
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Summary: This is part of the Force Bond series, an AU where Vader raises Luke, but is a complete story unto itself. It is set between FB2 and 3, and after Dentist. Luke is thirteen. Vader decides it's time for Luke to learn a thing or two about mixing with the Imperial aristocracy, while Luke is struggling with his own sense of self-identity.
Completed: This fic was completed and posted on the lukevader yahoo group in November 2003.
Modified: 26 March 2008 (scene divider issue)
"How long are you intending to stay on Coruscant, Governor Tarkin?" Darth Vader enquired of the man walking beside him. They had just finished a brief meeting about the progress of Tarkin's pet project, and Vader was now showing the man back to his transport.
"As long as I can afford to deprive my own sector of my presence," Tarkin said. "I am anxious to return as soon as possible. I intend to personally oversee the elimination of the Nandrai underground resistance."
"I am finding myself having to personally oversee operations to an ever increasing extent," Vader said, with a touch of weariness.
Tarkin offered a cold smile. "I intend to draft a proposal for improving officer training methods, once I have some spare -"
Tarkin broke off and came to a sudden halt. Vader glanced in front, and quickly understood the reason for Tarkin's surprise. Luke was wandering towards them, dressed only in a towel wrapped loosely around his waist. A trail of water dripped behind him.
"Dad," Luke said, earnestly, "have you seen my black shirt? It has red writing on the front."
Vader stared at Luke, scarcely believing the sight before him. Several seconds passed before he could bring himself to reply. "Why would I have seen your shirt?!" Vader demanded, with more than a hint of annoyance.
"Well, it's black," Luke explained, as if the reason were obvious. "I thought it might have been mixed up in your laundry by accident. Can you check, please? I really wanted to wear it today. See we're having a no-uniform day at school and -"
"I am busy -"
"It would only take a second to check!" Luke insisted.
Luke's gaze flicked to Tarkin, who was still staring at him in astonishment.
"Hi, I'm Luke," Luke said, offering a dripping wet hand. When no response was forthcoming, Luke prompted him. "Who are you?"
"Luke," Vader said, struggling to keep his temper in check, "go and wait in your room. And for star's sake, put on some clothes."
"Okay, okay," Luke said, still trailing water as he made a quick exit into a nearby elevator.
Tarkin stared after him. "I wasn't aware you had a son, Lord Vader," he said, thoughtfully.
"You were talking about drafting a proposal for dealing with the lack of competence among Imperial officers," Vader said, hoping his embarrassment wouldn't leak into his voice.
Tarkin gave Vader a somewhat amused glance, before he resumed his earlier conversation. Vader sighed, inwardly. It was likely the story of Governor Tarkin's first encounter with young Luke Skywalker would find its way to the ears of the Emperor before tomorrow.
Why did no one warn him that this is what fatherhood involved?
It was fifteen minutes before his father turned up in his bedroom, and Luke had been looking through his closet, trying to find another shirt he could stand to wear. Luckily, his father was carrying the black shirt, and he tossed it in his direction.
"Thanks," Luke said happily, as he pulled it over his head.
"Luke, come with me. We need to talk."
"Can't it wait?" Luke said, hastily picking up his school pack and combing his hair. "I'm going to be late for school if I don't hurry."
"No, it cannot wait. And I do not care if you are late for school. Come with me, now."
Luke sighed in response to his father's harsh tone of voice, and he followed reluctantly. It sounded like he was in for a long, boring lecture. Luke wasn't exactly sure, but he had a feeling it might have something to do with the guest his father had met with that morning.
They moved into a nearby conference room, containing a round black table with matching chairs, but his father made no move to sit down. The doors slid closed behind Luke, and he walked forward until he was standing directly opposite his father, yet at a carefully-selected safe distance. He folded his arms, hoping to appear relaxed and undisturbed by the confrontation.
"What is it?" Luke asked, looking up to meet his father's masked gaze.
"Son, this is a place of military and political business," his father started, waving a finger at him. "It is not a holiday beach resort. You will not wander around naked."
"I was not naked!" Luke protested.
"A towel does not meet my definition of being dressed."
"Your idea of being dressed is covering every last millimeter of skin," Luke mumbled, under his breath.
His father continued, choosing to ignore him. "Also, talking about subjects such as missing laundry, in front of guests, is not only inappropriate, but plain bad mannered."
"What's wrong with laundry?" Luke asked. "Everyone has laundry!"
"I do not care. You will not do that again. And, most of all, you will address me with appropriate respect, especially in front of guests. I never want to hear you call me, what you called me this morning, ever again."
"What did I call you this morning?"
His father was not convinced by his innocent tone. "You know what you said."
Luke thought back. "You mean 'Dad'?"
"Yes." His father leaned closer. "Don't ever call me that again."
"Why?" Luke said, stepping back. "That's what Ben calls his father."
"I am not now, nor have I ever been, your 'Dad'." He said the word carefully, as if afraid of it. "I am your father - there is a vast difference. Address me as such, or by my proper title."
Luke couldn't help but smirk at the words. "You expect me to go around calling you 'sir' or 'my lord'?"
"Yes. Or else plain 'Father' is also acceptable. But that is all that is acceptable."
"Come on," Luke said, incredulous. "Anyone would think I had called you by your first name, Ana -"
Luke reared back as his father stuck his gloved hand over his mouth.
"If you say that word, I will send you to school with a mouth gag," his father said. "And that is no longer my name."
"Mmm-hmmm," Luke mumbled, nodding as best as he could.
His father removed his hand, and Luke wiped his mouth.
"Now, repeat to me the three points about your behavior I have just made."
"Three points?" Luke said, confused.
"I will start you off. First - you will not wander around naked."
"Okay," Luke said, looking thoughtful. "Uh, the second one was that I'm not allowed to call you Dad."
"No, that was the third one."
Luke thought for a moment. "I can't remember."
"It was about inappropriate topics of conversation."
"Oh yeah," Luke said, brightening. "No discussing laundry."
"Now repeat them."
"Come on," Luke said, looking longingly towards the door.
Luke sighed. "No wandering around naked, talking about laundry, or calling you Dad."
"Good. Now make sure you remember that."
Luke rolled his eyes, and then spoke up, "I'm late now, can you at least give me a note so I don't get in trouble?"
Luke dug in his school sack and pulled out a datapad and lightpen. He waited impatiently while his father wrote the note, and then raised a hand to take it back.
But his father didn't oblige. Instead, his gaze was focused on his shirt. Luke glanced down at the writing, then back up at his father, smirking.
His father spoke quietly, but dangerously. "Son, what does that shirt say?"
"It says 'You think you've got problems? My father is a Sith Lord!'"
His father didn't reply, he simply stared at him.
Luke swallowed, sensing his father's darkening mood. "It's funny! I got it last weekend at the market down in the senate square. They'll put anything you want on a shirt for you. Neat, huh?"
"Then he made me go and change," Luke said, sadly. "He confiscated the shirt. I don't think I'm ever going to see it again."
"I guess he didn't find it funny," Ben said, munching on a piece of fruit.
"No kidding." Luke rested his head on his hand. "He said I have to come home straight after school."
"You're grounded?" Ben asked. "For how long?"
"I don't know. It may just be for today. He said something about having a talk about my recent attitude."
"Ah," Ben said, nodding in understanding.
"- which probably means he's going to spend the entire day making a list of everything I've done in the last two years which doesn't meet with his approval," Luke continued. "And that means just about everything, because nothing I do is right by him. It seems like all we do is argue over something or other."
"That's normal," Ben said, helpfully.
"It's not fair!" Luke said, not pausing to listen. "He never listens to me! I try and yell to get my point across, but my voice comes out all scratchy and squeaky."
"Sounds like you need to take some time out and punch something," Ben suggested, continuing with his lunch.
"That's not going to help me tonight," Luke sighed.
"Maybe you should start calling him 'sir'," Ben suggested, grinning.
"Yeah, that's another thing," Luke said, slamming his hand on the table. "Who in their right mind goes around calling their own father 'sir'? I can't believe he actually suggested that."
"It's common in the Imperial military families," Ben explained.
"And you should have seen the note he gave me!" Luke continued. "You know what it said? After he held me up with all his lecturing, he had the nerve to write on the note 'Luke is late this morning because he forgot how to dress himself'."
Ben smirked. "Did B-60 accept it?"
"Eventually. After I argued with that stupid droid for ten minutes!" The signal for the end of the lunch break sounded, and Luke stood up with a groan. "This day couldn't get any worse!"
"Here's something good," Ben said. "Holo-Gamer's Haven are having a one day sale. Let's head over there after school."
Luke glared at his friend, until he caught on.
"Oh, that's right, you have to go straight home."
"He'll probably send out the army if I'm so much as five minutes late."
"The store doesn't close until 18-hundred," Ben said. "Maybe you can come after he's finished lecturing you."
Luke considered it. "You may have something ..."
"I'll meet you there," Ben suggested.
"If I'm still in one piece," Luke said, with a heavy sigh.
It had been a busy day for Vader, with reports to be heard and meetings to be attended. His mind hadn't focused on any of it, however. There was something about the incident this morning that was continuing to bother him, no matter what new task he attempted to complete. It went beyond the usual family arguments he had with his son ... there was something at the root of this, which, in the heat of his anger, he had overlooked.
His son had been genuinely unaware that he was acting inappropriately around Tarkin. Of course he would have no idea! After all, two years ago he had been a farmboy in the wastelands of Tatooine. Wandering around in a towel, and a casual greeting would be expected on Tatooine. There was a time when he wouldn't have thought twice about behaving the same way himself.
Vader sighed, staring blankly at the inner walls of his meditation chamber. It was a serious matter, and one, until now, he had been ignorant of. Somehow, in the glow of a false, naïve hope, he had simply imagined Luke would learn how to live in his new environment without any assistance from him. It was lazy, he concluded. He had accepted the task of guiding Luke to adulthood, and so should be more conscious of the work and attention that required. There was far more to becoming an adult than simply the physical changes his son was struggling through, and he should know that better than anyone.
A ripple in the Force caused him to sit up slightly, searching for the reason. He was rewarded with a familiar presence. His son had returned home. He probed deeper, testing his son's mood. It was much the same as the one he'd left with. A mixture of frustration and anger, countered by a nervous concern for what awaited him. He did not respond to his mental greeting, he was far too focused on himself to be aware of it. Vader stood up, deciding to continue this somewhat one-sided conversation in person.
Out in the corridor, Luke was creeping along the wall looking like he was here to rob the place. The sound of the doors sliding open startled him, and he tripped over his own feet. Vader moved forward to help him up, but he ignored his offer and scrambled back up using the wall to assist.
"How do you do that!?" he asked, annoyed.
"Know when I'm coming. Do you have security cameras installed?"
"No cameras. Your presence has an effect on the Force, which I can sense."
"What kind of effect?" Luke asked, curiously.
Vader considered how to describe it. "Imagine a vast room ... like the senate chamber. Imagine this room is completely in darkness. When you enter, every light in the room is turned on."
"I really do that?" Luke asked.
Vader nodded, pleased that Luke was interested. "You have the strongest presence in the Force that I have ever sensed. Which," he added, "makes sneaking down the corridor somewhat redundant."
Luke shrugged, looking aside.
"When you are ready, join me in the conference room," Vader said. "We have a matter to discuss."
Luke sighed, and trudged into his bedroom. Vader wondered exactly what was causing such reluctance. His son truly was a mystery - at times he craved his attention, and badgered him endlessly for it, yet at others, he seemed more comfortable in isolation.
Unfortunately, his current phase of seclusion was occurring at precisely the time when isolation was the last thing he needed.
Within half an hour, Luke returned to the corridor, and crossed the hallway to the conference room. He felt resigned to this lecture. It was unavoidable, and the sooner he got it over with, the sooner he could go and meet Ben at the Imperial City mall. With any luck, his father didn't plan to go on too long. Maybe it was just another reminder to clean up his room.
He took a seat opposite, and stared down at his reflection in the black table surface. When no admonishing words were forthcoming, he looked up, curious.
His father was staring at him. "What is wrong with you?"
"Nothing!" Luke said, defensively.
"You look like you think I am going to yell at you."
"Why would I do that?"
"You always yell at me."
"That is an exaggeration."
Luke shrugged, looking aside. "What's this about, then?"
"I have been thinking about what happened this morning, with Governor Tarkin."
"The person you greeted with 'who are you?'"
"Oh. Governor Tarkin ... sounds familiar."
"He was instrumental in the formation of the Empire, and is one of the Emperor's most loyal subjects. He now rules one of the largest sectors in the Empire."
"Really?!" Luke said. "I guess that explains why you were so annoyed at my towel."
"It wasn't entirely your fault."
Luke was stunned into silence. He hadn't expected that, after the lecture this morning. Not entirely his fault? Was his father feeling all right?
"You are not used to dealing with important people," he continued. "I think it is time for a few lessons."
"Lessons?" Luke asked, curious.
"In how to socialize with the ruling class."
"We've been over this," Luke said. "Don't wear a towel. Don't call you -"
"Those are the most obvious things. There is much more you need to learn."
"Like what?" Luke asked, becoming nervous.
"You will understand as I begin to teach you."
"You don't mean you're going to teach me to act all snooty and proper, do you?" Luke asked.
His father leaned back, apparently considering his words. "That depends on your definition of proper," he said, eventually.
"No way! I'm out!" Luke said, pushing his chair back, and standing up.
"I do not recall giving you a choice!"
"You're just trying to make me more like you," Luke said. "Forget it!"
"See, I knew you were going to yell at me!" Luke yelled.
His father appeared to take a moment to calm himself, before replying with an even voice. "This has nothing to do with my ego, Son. Like it or not, you are highly placed in the Imperial social hierarchy, and you must learn how someone in your position should behave. We cannot delay this any longer."
Luke sighed, in two minds about whether to keep arguing, or simply resign himself to this. His father sounded pretty serious, and when his father was serious, there was no point arguing.
"How long is this going to take?" Luke asked, flopping back down into a seat.
"As long as it needs to. I will train you in what's expected of you, and then we will attend some formal functions where you can practice."
Luke felt nervous. "You mean gatherings where there are lots of important people?"
"This is crazy!" Luke said. "You might as well try and teach a Tusken Raider to recite poetry! Face it, I'm never going to fit in."
"I am going to teach you how to fit in," his father explained. "After a few, simple lessons, you may surprise yourself and actually enjoy a formal, social occasion."
Luke rolled his eyes with skepticism. His father had some amazing abilities, but not even he could change him to the point where he'd look anything less than a snowman on Tatooine at one of these parties.
"When are we going to start?" Luke asked, his voice heavy with dread.
"Immediately," his father said, standing up. He raised a hand to beckon him over. "Come here."
Luke looked at his wrist-chrono. He wanted to get to the mall by 17-hundred, and it was already 1620. He looked back at his father, who was waiting for him to join him. He debated mentally whether or not to ask if they could do this later, until his father put a quick end to that line of thought.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Luke sighed, pushing his chair back. His father was always so impatient.
"If you co-operate and pay attention, this will not take long," his father said, as Luke came to stand opposite. "Now, the first thing I am going to teach you is how to greet someone."
Luke groaned. "I know how to do that."
"Demonstrate, then." His father folded his arms. "Pretend I am someone important."
"There's a stretch," Luke said, grinning.
His father ignored his comment. "What would you say to introduce yourself?"
"Are you kidding? I wouldn't say anything to you," Luke said. "I'd mumble some excuse and run."
"Luke!" his father said, losing his patience. "Stop wasting my time!"
"Okay, okay," Luke said. "Uh ... I'd say ... 'Hi, I'm Luke', then I'd offer to shake hands."
"'Hi, I'm Luke'?" his father repeated, incredulous.
Luke shrugged, grinning at the sound of the casual words coming from his overly formal father. "What's wrong with that?"
"Perhaps that is an acceptable way to greet one of your peers in an informal setting, however it will not pass in Imperial high society. A formal greeting is expected. You will need to state your full name, and perhaps add that you are my son, if they are not already aware of the fact."
"But that sounds like I'm name-dropping!" Luke said.
"If you want people to treat you with any respect at all, name-dropping is essential."
"This is all so fake," Luke said, looking aside. "Why do I have to act like someone I'm not?"
"Because that is what dealing with the upper class is all about. All outward appearances are simply projections, perhaps some more true than others. But showing your true self is showing weakness ... and to succeed among the powerful, you must never appear weak."
Luke nodded, staring at the floor. His father reached out, and shifted his head back up.
"You may not feel very confident, but you must learn to project confidence. Stand up straight - do not slouch. Look people in the eye."
"Okay," Luke sighed, wishing he was at the mall right now. No one cared if he was slouching there.
"Now, let's revise. What would you say when introducing yourself to an important adult at a social gathering?"
"I'd say ... 'Hello, I'm Luke Skywalker' ... and then I'd point you out, and say 'that's my Dad'."
Vader stared at his son, clearly on the verge of breaking something with frustration, when Luke suddenly smirked.
"I think I have had more than enough of you for one day," his father said, sounding weary.
Luke brightened, glad that his baiting had paid off.
"We will continue tomorrow ... come and find me when you are eating a meal, and I will ensure you know how to use eating utensils properly."
"You mean knives and forks?" Luke said. "Of course I know how to use them!"
"We shall see," his father said. "Before you go -" His father held out a hand. "Show me how you would shake hands."
Luke extended his hand, and gripped his father's black-gloved one. After a moment, his father let him go.
"That was pitiful," he said. "It was similar to shaking hands with a dead fish."
"Fish don't have hands," Luke said, confused.
"Grip the other person's hand properly. Shaking hands should be an active gesture."
"That reminds me of Uncle Owen," Luke said. "He used to practically break your hand while shaking it."
"Good. That shows self-assurance."
"Breaking somebody's hand shows self-assurance?"
His father replied by pointing firmly at the door. Luke hastily left, knowing there was only so far he could push his father.
Besides, he didn't want to wear out his patience after only one of these lessons.
Within fifteen minutes, Luke arrived at the vast Imperial City mall, and took the elevator up to the entertainment level. There was a crowd of bargain hunters at Holo-Gamer's Haven, but it didn't take him long to find Ben. He was in the racing-sim section.
"Hi," Luke said, walking up beside his friend.
Ben looked up. "You're still in one piece, I see."
"Huh?" Luke was confused for a moment. "Oh yeah," he added, understanding. "Still alive ... but I don't know if that's a good thing."
"Are you grounded?"
"No," Luke said. "It's worse."
"Worse than grounded?"
"Much worse," Luke said, picking up a marked-down flight sim game. "He's trying to teach me how to act when in -" Luke put on an affected voice, "- upper class Imperial society."
Ben smirked. "I didn't think your father was into all that stuff. From what I've read in the news, he'd rather be flying a snub fighter than attending a party."
"I know," Luke said. "But somehow, he's got it in his head that I need to learn how to fit in with all these people. It's crazy! Me, Luke Skywalker - mixing with the elite!"
"Well, you are his son," Ben said. "A lot of people would consider you part of the 'elite'."
"But I'm not!" Luke insisted. "I'm just ... well, I'm just plain old Luke."
Luke began to dig through a bin full of old software, hoping to find a long lost gem.
"Honestly, why me?" he mumbled. "I didn't do anything special."
Ben watched as Luke dug roughly through the bin, but didn't add any insights into Luke's dilemma.
Eventually, Luke looked up. "Nothing but trash," he said. "No wonder they're on sale." He became aware that Ben was holding a box tightly. "What have you got there?"
"Coruscant Street Racer 3. Half price."
Luke made a dive for it, but Ben held it out of reach. "Find your own. There's probably another one there somewhere."
"Even at half price I couldn't afford it, anyway," Luke said, looking up his credit balance on his personal data card. "So much for being a member of the rich and powerful. I spent most of my allowance, and I don't get paid until the weekend."
"Maybe if you called your father, he'd give you an early payment."
"I might as well ask him for a lecture on the emptiness of materialism."
"Well, you can borrow mine when I'm sick of it," Ben said. "I'll go pay for this."
Luke nodded. He browsed the store aimlessly for a while, before deciding he was better off waiting outside. No point finding out something was on sale if you couldn't afford it anyway.
After passing through an elaborate anti-theft field, he picked a bench, then sat and watched the various shoppers walk by. Nobody looked at him - he was just another teenager, one of thousands who came to spend time at the mall. He wondered if they would react differently if they knew who his father was. For a moment, he had a vision of being pointed at, and talked about, and was secretly glad he was anonymous.
Once Ben emerged from the store, Luke stood up, ready to leave. It was a quiet walk back to their respective homes - Luke was brooding, and not really in the mood for conversation.
Once they reached the corner where they parted ways, Ben finally said something.
"Maybe you should look on the bright side. There are many people who would give anything to be in your position."
"But why?" Luke asked, surprised.
"Because when you're important ... you can make a difference. You have the possibility of one day doing something about all the problems in the galaxy."
Luke considered it. He hadn't really looked at it from that angle.
"Just think about it. See you at school tomorrow."
Luke nodded, absently.
Luke did think about his friend's words. All evening, and well into the next day.
He began to wonder if maybe he was just being selfish, complaining about being important. His father's position meant that he had a bedroom larger than some people's entire home. There was no need to worry about food or any other essentials, and he had the very best health care and education. There was a time when he'd dreamed of simply having a father, never mind health care and education.
Was he becoming self-absorbed and unaware, complaining about having to listen to social lessons, while creatures in the dark underground of Coruscant did not even have a crate to live in?
By the time evening rolled around, Luke was determined to start afresh. He collected a well-stocked dinner tray from the kitchen droids, and then went in search of his father.
His father looked up as he entered the conference room, and Luke could sense his surprise.
"I was expecting to have to send a squadron of stormtroopers to escort you here," his father remarked.
Luke pulled out a chair, and sat down opposite his father. "Look, I know I was being annoying yesterday, and I'm sorry. I understand why you're doing this, and I promise I'll cooperate from now on."
His father leaned back, flexing his hands together. "Are you sure you are my son?" he asked, eventually.
Luke nodded, smiling.
"Very well." His father stood up, and joined him on his side of the table. It soon became clear that Luke's tray didn't contain the complete set of eating utensils that would be provided at a diplomatic function, because his father contacted the kitchen droids to have more brought in.
"What is the point of all this stuff?" Luke asked, eyeing the pile of forks, knives, and spoons. "This is totally unnecessary. I can eat all my food with just a fork."
"I am sure there is a HoloNet channel who would pay money to record you eating a bantha steak with 'just a fork', Son," his father said. "However, most civilized people would rather not have to witness that."
"I guess," Luke admitted. "Aunt Beru always made me cut it up into pieces. But why does there have to be so many knives and forks?"
"Often, it is simply to show off the wealth of the host. The cutlery will be plated with a precious metal, or embedded with jewels."
Luke studied the fork he'd been eating his vegetables with. "This is just a plain old fork, as far as I can see."
"It is a plain fork. I have no desire to own expensive cutlery. Material possessions are worthless." His father stood up, returning to his work on the other side of the table. "Practice using the different sized utensils for eating different parts of your meal. And never eat with your fingers or lick your plate."
Luke nodded, automatically, while continuing to make his way through his meal. He wondered what was the point in having lots of money, as his father did, if you didn't use it for anything.
But then, it wasn't like he would buy gold-plated cutlery himself if he was rich. Luke pushed his food around his plate, considering. Who knows what he could be like in another ten years? Maybe if he attended enough of these parties he'd become used to using expensive cutlery, and want nothing but.
"Father," Luke said, suddenly. "Do you think I've ... I've changed since I moved in with you?"
His father looked up from his work, clearly surprised at the question. "Changed in what way?"
His father seemed to consider it for a moment. "I did not know you very well when you first moved in, so it is difficult for me to compare. However, I do remember you were very withdrawn. Understandable, considering the difficult circumstances. You have since gained some self-confidence. Perhaps a little too much, at times."
Luke grinned, looking down.
"Why do you ask?" his father enquired.
Luke leaned on his hand, still pushing his vegetables in endless circles.
"I'm worried that I'm turning into a ... well, not that exactly ... it's more that ... I don't really know how to describe it." Luke was quiet for a moment, trying to think of a way to express his thoughts. "Sometimes I'm scared I'm becoming -" Luke gestured out beyond the walls, "- one of them."
"Taking everything I have for granted ... thinking I'm better than everyone else, just because of the size of my home. Treating credits like they fall from the sky."
"And you are worried this social training will encourage this mindset?" his father asked.
Luke nodded, relieved that his father understood. "Yes."
"Luke, I deal with the people you mentioned on a daily basis. If I ever suspected that you were becoming like them, I would send you back to Tatooine for a few weeks."
Luke flinched, his fork nearly slipping out of his hand. He wouldn't ... he couldn't!
"But I do not believe it will ever come to that," his father continued. "I have not always lived among this social class, and neither have you. We both know what it is like to live at the other end of the scale, and that alters our perspective."
Luke nodded, feeling slightly better.
"Learning to live in a society does not mean compromising your values or your personality."
Luke nodded, and returned to his food. After shoveling in the last mouthful, he gathered up the multitudes of eating utensils, and arranged them in a stack on his plate.
"So what else do I have to learn?" Luke asked, voice somewhat obscured through his chewing. "Are we finished yet?"
"Do not talk while eating," his father said. "Other than that, you have learnt enough for today."
Luke swallowed, hiding a smile. For a moment, he almost felt like he was back on the farm, eating a family meal with his aunt and uncle. His father was his family, in every possible way, but eating together daily wasn't a possibility, both due to his father's medical condition and his busy schedule. This was probably the closest they could get.
"We should do this more often," Luke said, pressing a nearby terminal button, to summon a kitchen droid.
His father was focused on his computer terminal. "I am free to give you another lesson this weekend."
"I meant eating together, not the social lessons!" Luke protested.
His father leaned back, studying him silently.
"I know you can't really eat ..." Luke said, suddenly feeling awkward, "... out in the open, but ...it's nice to eat with company." Luke swallowed, feeling increasingly uncomfortable as he stared into the blank recesses of his father's gaze. "It reminds me of back on the farm," he finished, in a rush.
His father didn't reply, he simply continued to gaze at him. Luke began to think about his words, and wondered if his father had taken them the wrong way.
"I ... I understand you're busy. I don't mean to make you feel bad ... I'm not saying that I'm homesick for the farm life." His voice began to sound raspy, as it sometimes did when he was nervous. "I guess it's hard for you to be around people eating -"
"Son," his father said, cutting him off, "if I am home, you are always welcome to eat in my presence."
"Okay," Luke said, deciding to make an exit.
"Stop," his father said, causing him to pause in his retreat. "Have I ever given you reason to feel otherwise?"
Luke shrugged, staring at his feet. "We've never really discussed it before."
His father appeared to be considering his words. "Then it is good that you brought this issue to my attention. Do you have anything else on your mind?"
Luke shook his head hastily, feeling like he was caught in a speeder's headlights. Of course there were other things on his mind - especially where his father was concerned. Questions, concerns, worries ... but the eating issue was more than enough for now. The rest ... well, he had only known his father for two years. Most people knew their father for their entire lifetime. It was only natural they had a lot of catching up to do.
"I better go and finish off my homework," Luke said, when his father did not continue the conversation. "'Night."
As Luke left the room, he could almost feel his father watching him. What he was thinking, Luke could only wonder.