The Guardian

Thanks to all readers and special thanks to ZekksGoddess and KnightMara for their reviews. I really appreciate your feedback which encouraged me to continue this story as a series of vignettes at different points in Ben's life. Sorry for the delay in this update. I should have the next update posted soon.

Chapter 4: Sickness (One year later)

Benpeeked from behind a mountain of pillows, toy ships, and stuffed animals. He sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his hand as he waited impatiently for the thermal sensor in his mother's hand to beep.

"One-hundred three. Oh, no, Ben. I think this is a record."

She moved a stuffed Wookie out of the way and brushed Ben's coppery bangs off his forehead.

"You're burning up."

"I'm not dat hot. Really. By dose is just stuffed up."

"Uncle Luke is coming back with Cilghal and this time I'm staying right here to make sure you don't run away again."

Ben tried to sit up. "I wanted to go to the jungle. I promised Elya I'd play with him."

"I'm sorry, but you're too sick."

"But—"

Mara's voice was firm this time.

"No."

She cast a sidelong glance at the huge spotted cat that napped on the floor.

"And you—you stay out of it."

The cat yawned and rolled over, its ears perking up as Luke entered the room with Cilgahl. He kneeled softly kissing his son's forehead.

"Daddy—careful I might be codtagious," Ben sniffed. Luke fought a grin knowing Threepio had been watching the child.

The healer carefully examined him and closed her large misty eyes in concentration.

Luke held Ben's hand as she slowly attempted to cleanse him of toxins.

She placed him in a healing trance so he would sleep and took Mara and Luke outside.

"He has a bad case of Antaarian flu. I gave him antibiotics and removed some of the virus, but it will take forty-eight hours for him to be fully healed."

"But he'll be ok—right?" Luke asked.

"He'll be fine."

"Thank you, Cilghal."

"May the Force be with you, Master Skywalker."

"I'll stay with him tonight. You've been with him all day."

Mara was reluctant to leave her son even for a moment while he was ill, but she was exhausted and nursing a few pulled muscles and bruises from sparring with some of the Academy's teenage students.

Luke settled into a chair and adjusted Ben's blankets. Ben slept deeply most of the night, but Luke was on his feet the instant that he woke up with a coughing fit.

When Mara came in the next morning, Luke was slumped over on Ben's bed and father and son were sleeping.

Ben opened his eyes causing Luke to snap awake.

"Hi, Daddy. Good morning, Mommy."

"Good morning sweetheart. Are you feeling better?"

"Yes. Can I go outside now?"

"Ben, Cilgahl said you're very sick and you have to rest." Luke's feet were very warm and he glanced down to see Elya sleeping on his feet. He reached down absently to scratch the large cat's ear.

Mara gave Ben a comlink with two large buttons. "Your daddy and I have to teach classes today, but Threepio will be here in case you need anything. The red button signals Threepio and the blue button signals us if you get to feeling worse. If you need us, we'll be right here."

"Ok," Ben whispered and sneezed loudly.

His mother returned with juice and his favorite stories and toys.

"Now, I don't want to leave you, but I have to just for a little while. This time—no trouble. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mommy."

"Take care of my son, Elya."

Staying inside was way too boring. Ben counted the stones in the walls and read his favorite story for the second time. One thing was really bothering him. He didn't want to worry his parents. They'd been so busy repairing the temple and teaching since the war.

"Too bad there's not a button for you, Uncle," he whispered.

"I don't need one," said the young voice full of laughter.

"Anakin! You're back."

"You called me, Ben." The boy glanced at the floor before sitting on the foot of Ben's bed and said to the large cat, "I see he decided to keep you."

"What?" Ben asked scrunching up his face.

"Nothing. You remind me of your uncle Jacen sometimes."

"Really?" Ben didn't mind being compared to his older uncle. Jacen Solo was a hero!

"When Jacen was your age, he had an entire wall of pets."

Ben giggled. "I bet he didn't have an Irkyiat."

"No, but he would have liked one. Is something bothering you, Ben?"

"Cilgahl said I was really sick. Am I going to …die?"

"No. Not for a very long time, Ben."

"I'm scared."

"Shhh. A Jedi doesn't fear death. When a Jedi becomes one with the Force it means the end of pain and fear and the beginning of something much bigger. It means never being alone again and feeling part of everything."

"Anakin, how did you die?"

The boy's eyes were at once infinitely wise and very young.

"I died on a battlefield very far from here. I was wounded very badly."

"Were you scared?"

"Yes, at first. I felt like my entire body was on fire. Then, the pain went away and I was very cold. I was alone and everything was dark. Then, there was a light coming from all around me."

"Then what happened?" Ben asked with wide eyes.

"Then, someone took my hand and lifted me, carrying me into the light of the force so I wouldn't be alone or afraid anymore."

"Who was it?" Ben asked softly.

"I think you know, Ben. It was our grandfather."

"Grandfather?"

"Ben, you must remember that even when you think you've been abandoned you're never truly alone."

"Never?"

"Never. But we shouldn't talk about these things. You have to work on getting well. Someone has to take care of your Elya."

"I'll try," Ben said and promptly started sneezing.

"I'll help you go into a healing trance so you'll get better faster."

"Ok." Anakin's touch was barely felt on the child's hand and then he felt himself falling into a river of energy. Somewhere between asleep and awake, he drifted through a haze of swirling colors and shapes that energized and refreshed him. He could have stayed in that in-between place forever.