'Of course we'll take the child; he's family.'
She watches the man eat, sitting across from him at her small dining table. His manners are excellent, but she suspects it's taking him immense effort to keep from simply tearing into the food she'd laid out. There's something in his eyes—the way he struggles to pull them away from his plate each time he raises them to speak with her—that tells her this is his first meal in days. He's thinner than he was when he first showed up here, just a few weeks ago, and his fair skin is red and peeling. He looks thoroughly unkempt, and she can tell that it bothers him. He eats with such care, she wonders if she shouldn't come up with some excuse to vacate the room for a few minutes—let the man stuff himself as he clearly wanted to. In a house with an infant, there's no shortage of reasonable excuses to choose from. But no, he seems as lonely as he is hungry, and anyhow, she doesn't want to give him the chance to eat himself sick.
'How is Luke?' he asks.
She opens her mouth, he cries so much it breaks my heart… he fusses at the bottle and I feel terrible that I can't nurse him…this is so much harder than I thought it would be. 'He's wonderful,' she says, finally, honestly, 'thank you for bringing him to us.' She smiles, and stands.
She leads him into their bedroom, silently so as not to wake Owen, and shows him the crib where Luke is mercifully asleep. She can't see the man's face clearly in the half light, but she feels his stance relax slightly, looking down with her.
She hears his breathing hitch. She thinks he may be crying. Crying is for offworlders and children. Water is precious here; he clearly does not understand yet how precious. She is dubious of the intentions he'd outlined to her over his supper. How a man who doesn't understand even the basics of the desert expects to survive alone on the Jutland Wastes she can't imagine. Still, if he seeks death, Beru will send him off well fed, and as comfortable as possible. She owes him that, at least.
She gently grasps his wrist, pulling him away from the crib. 'If you'd like a wash before you go, you can use our sonic. The pressure's shit, but you're welcome to it.' 'Am I that obvious?' He rubs his dusty beard, and rewards her with a tiny, tired laugh.
Luke's first birthday party had occurred earlier in the day. They don't have the money for anything fancy, so the party had been a decidedly small affair. He won't remember it, she thinks, they can make it up to him in later years. Small party or no, a house full of young children was exhausting, and Beru had turned in almost as soon as she had settled Luke to bed. She woke at three in the morning to an unexpected comm call.
Their comm set is old and the image quavers and blurs, its projector as worn out as Beru feels. 'Hello?' The man in the picture is Phelix Greymorn, a cantina owner in town. They're not well acquainted. 'Sorry to bother you Ms. Whitesun, I just don't know who else to call. It's your offworlder,' he gestures with a thumb to someone out of holo range 'it's past last call, you know, and I can't get him to leave.' He shifts uncomfortably, 'he's not a bother or nothing, but I've already sent the boys home and I can't stay here all night. Ordinary times I'd just haul 'im out to the stoop, but…' he lowers his voice so Beru has to strain to hear him over the static 'this one gives me the willies; I don't care if he's a madman or a wizard or what, but I'm not touching him.'
Beru sighs, 'I understand Phelix; I'll be there as soon as I can.' She wakes Owen, explains the situation. He is understandably resistant to her 'risking her life for that miserable wino.' She could be snatched by raiders on the way—had that occurred to her? All for the sake of some loony snob who'd brought nothing but trouble. She calms him—she'd bring the rifle, and besides, she says, looking pointedly at the crib in the corner, Kenobi has brought them more than trouble. They owe the man. Owen grumblingly agrees, but then insists that he comes along—it's not safe, alone out there. 'Someone has to stay with Luke,' she points out, and besides, she adds in her head, she's not sure this type of task is really Owen's forte.
He manages to lift his head from the tabletop. It is…sticky. He grimaces. He knows, on some level, that given just a moment he could make all this—the infernal fuzziness in his head, the inelegant heaviness of his limbs, the roiling in his stomach and the utter indignity of it all—go away. He used to have that knack, probably still does. But no, he deserves to be punished like this, came here to be punished, today of all days. 'I'm so sorry.' He says this aloud and suddenly remembers why he'd bothered to raise his head in the first place. A small, sensibly dressed woman has slid into the booth across from him and is staring him down with a surprisingly mild expression on her face. Luke's Aunt Beru. 'I am so sorry,' he says again, this time for her benefit.
'It's quite alright,' she sighs, 'Come now, you're coming home.' 'Wait,' he says, fumbling in his pockets; he can't possibly leave without settling his tab. At the moment, the various accepted currencies of the outer Rim evade him, and he can't quite figure out how much to leave. 'Credits are no good here,' he mutters under his breath, giving up and leaving everything he has on the unwashed table top.
Before they get into the speeder she asks him, quite matter-of-factly, if he's quite sure he doesn't need to be sick. Sensible woman, he thinks, she's probably made a good mother, and he finds, upon reflection, that he really would like to be sick. She rubs his back gently, leaving him space, and when he's finished she gives him a canteen of water and firm instruction: 'Rinse, but don't spit, then make sure you drink all of it, slowly.' 'I can't' he protests, 'you've given me enough.' 'Please,' she says, 'you can it make up to me next year, when you come for Luke's birthday, bring him a very nice present, and stay until the cantinas are all closed.'
When he returns from checking his vaporators, there's a small package on what could generously be termed his doorstep. It proves to contain a half-dozen dumplings and a note:
Luke's been asking about flight school. I used to hope that he'd grow to be content here, take over the farm in time, stay out of trouble. I wouldn't change him for the world, but well… you know. Anyhow, Owen and I have managed to hold him off for another year at least, but I'd be a fool if I thought this was the last we'd hear of it, and we'll run out of excuses someday. Owen may still be deceiving himself, but you and I both know the boy can't stay here forever. I'll keep him off their viewscreens as long as I can, but I hope you have a plan when the time comes.
Enjoy the dumplings—I know you don't feed yourself properly,
Come in, please. How can we help you?
Of course, I'd be happy to answer any questions—I don't know how much help I'll be though.
Yes, we did purchase an R2 unit yesterday, but it only shorted out on us before we even left the lot. Last time I buy anything from a Jawa, I'll tell you!
No, I don't know anyone who goes by that name.
Nor that one.
I'm sorry; I wish I could help you.
Here? Just the two of us. Our nephew stops by sometimes, leaves some of his stuff about, but he's not in today.
My nephew, my husband's cousin's sister's boy. On Tatooine, everyone is family.
No, I've told you I don't know that name.
Take your hands off me!
There's nothing else to tell!
Harassing a simple farmwoman. You boys should be ashamed of yourselves!
I. Don't. Know. What. You're. On. About.
I don't know.
I don't know.