First published in Another Sky #10, 1996

WRITTEN IN THE STARS

by MJ Mink

He's a free man, free to go where he pleases. He's been free for such a short time, and already there have been so many deaths close to him. Owen, Beru, Ben, and now Biggs. He wonders if he's making a mistake by becoming involved with the Rebellion. Perhaps it's not written in the stars that he should be here with them, now, at this time. If he hadn't taken the droids to Ben Kenobi's, if he hadn't lingered there, wasting time -- If he hadn't let Ben go off alone to shut down the tractor beam -- If he hadn't told Biggs to follow him, to cover him --

Now he's alive because they died in his place. How can it be that their lives are the price of his freedom? Who will be next? There's a name for someone like him, someone who poisons everyone he touches...widowmaker. Gods know that Lis Darklighter must feel that way. Newly wed and newly widowed. He's been to see her in the med center, but she doesn't speak to him; her hair clings darkly to her forehead as she tosses in a fever that all their medications can't lower. The psychological devastation brought about by Biggs's sudden death, the med tech tells him, is complicating her already fragile condition.

Luke sighs heavily, hands dangling loosely at his sides. What can a fighter pilot do when there's no fighting? They've thrown him off the medical frigate, and he's returned to his carrier... but what is there to do? Maybe he can help Han and Chewie with the Falcon, take his mind somewhere else. Anywhere else.

"Hi."

He looks down. The child -- who can't be much more than five or six -- grins up at him. There's a gap where a tooth should be. "Hi there." Luke squats so they're eye to eye. "What're you doing here?"

"Watchin'." The brown eyes sparkle with mischief. "They let me sometimes," comes a quick defense.

"Oh, do they?" He smiles back. It's been a long time--too long--since he's been around any little ones. Years, since Beru's sister came to stay for a few months and brought her three babes. He likes children, likes their life-giving energies, their mercurial emotions. They touch him, somehow, in a way adults don't.

"Uh-huh. I like t'look at the ships. My daddy's got a ship. C'n I see your ship?"

"Well..." He hesitates, glancing around. "Where are your parents?"

"Mommy's over there." The pudgy hand makes a vague gesture. "C'n I see your ship?"

"I guess so." Without planning, he ruffles the unruly mop of dark hair. It's warm and silky against his cold fingers. There's something vaguely familiar about the boy; he wonders which of the pilots is the father. There are few children with the battle fleet, but on at least one other occasion, he's seen a child slip past the security checkpoint to gaze in awe at the fighters. "Come on then, let's go see my x-wing."

It's thoroughly against regulations, but he lets the boy sit in the cockpit and then patiently answers his questions. Yes, it goes fast. No, it doesn't have a siren. No, they can't go for a ride. Yes, it's messed up on the outside. Yes, it was in a fight.

"My daddy was in a fight. Unca Luke?"

He can't hide his grin at the designation. It warms the chilly corners of his heart. "Yeah, kid?" he says in his best Han Solo imitation.

The boy giggles. "Is it okay if I call you Unca Luke, but I know you're not my really uncle?"

"It's okay."

"'Kay." The little arms raise in demand. Luke lifts the boy out of the cockpit and carries him down the ladder. They settle underneath the big wing. "This is like a cave."

"I guess it is." Someday... someday... would there be a child like this in his life? A son, a daughter? Right now, it's hard to imagine that he has any future at all. But, oh, if he has a son -- he will never desert him, never leave him behind, without a name, without a memory. "Did you want to ask me something?" He strokes the dark hair again. The feel of it gives him comfort on some basic, primitive level.

"Ummm..." The dark eyes grow rounder and a small thumb edges toward the open mouth. "Did your daddy die before you got borned?"

His lips part, then he quickly closes them. He's forgotten how children are, with their pointed questions and quicksilver minds. "Yes, he did."

"Mine too. Inna fight. Did your daddy die inna fight?"

"I... sort of." He thinks he'll never know the whole story, the real truth, about his father's death at the hands of a Dark Jedi. His aunt and uncle had steadfastly refused to talk about his father, his Skywalker First-Name-Unknown father, and now there is no chance that they ever will. He will never know, never understand what happened. Depression sweeps over him as quickly and abruptly as night falls in the desert. Alone, he is so alone. He's failed everyone he's cared about. What's the point of going on with this charade if there is nothing and no one --

"Don' be sad, Unca Luke." The small hand pats his larger one. "Maybe you'll see your daddy someday, huh, an' then you won't be sad."

Religion and philosophy appear from where you least expect them. Luke smiles reluctantly. "I hope so. Do you think we should find your mommy so she's not worried about you?"

"Well... 'kay. 'Cept I know where she is. An' she's not worried about me no more."

"Anymore," he corrects automatically.

The child giggles. "It's time. I gotta go," he announces and clambers to his feet. "Bye, Unca Luke."

"Hey, wait a minute!" Fear creeps through his veins. The boy begins to run as if he senses it. "What's your name, little one?" He stands quickly, hoping to stop the boy, hoping to save him from... something. Hoping to keep him for a moment longer, just a minute more. Hold onto the warmth.

The child turns around, giggling. "Unca Luke! You know my name! It's the same as yours!"

"Your name is Uncle?" Luke teases, shoving his hands in his pockets and taking a few steps toward the boy.

"NO!" More giggles come from the child. "Silly! I'm Luke, you know that!" The brown eyes look at him evenly, familiarly.

He shivers, not with cold. "Luke who?"

"I know my whole name!" the younger Luke says proudly. "Luke Biggs Darklighter! Remember? And, Unca Luke...Daddy says to tell ya it wasn't your fault."

Now he feels cold, very cold. He reaches out with the Force, at least he thinks that's what he's doing because he's been practicing and practicing -- he reaches out to feel the child's spirit and feels -- nothing. Nothing at all.

"Daydreamin' again, kid?"

He turns his head slowly and stares at Han. "Do you see that little boy?"

"What boy?"

It doesn't surprise him that when he looks back, the child is gone. Luke shakes his head. He's hallucinating. Or losing his mind. "I -- Nothing. What's going on?"

Han is distinctly uncomfortable. He looks to one side, then twists his head around and looks to the other. Looks everywhere but at Luke. "Uh... kid."

"What is it?" He feels like screaming. His nerves are stretched to their limits and he's just seen -- what? Just seen what?

"I, uh, went to check on Lis Darklighter. I know you've been -- you're -- well... "

"She's dead, isn't she?" he asks dully. Another one, another one -- damn the Force! Soon it will be Han and Leia and Chewie --

"Hell, no, she's not dead." Han puts his hand on Luke's shoulder and squeezes. "But she lost the baby. They couldn't do anything to stop it. Sorry, kid. I know Biggs was your friend."

He nods. "It was a boy." He doesn't need confirmation. He walks away, braces one hand against the body of his x-wing, stares across the crowded bay, hoping for a glimpse of a child he knows he will never see again. A child with no future. So what does that make him? How often has he felt like a child searching for a future? But now he has a chance, which is more than that little boy, that little Luke, Biggs's son never to be born, has. And Lis -- Lis has no one now, she's lost everyone. Except him.

Daddy says It wasn't your fault.

He slams his fist against the fighter, welcoming the pain, the sound, of a tiny bone cracking. Ben -- Father -- somebody -- I need some answers! I need some help. Tell me what's going on -- tell me what to do.

The only answering sounds he hears are the mechanics--footsteps and words, the dull clang of tools against metal. Business as usual.