Disclaimer – Lucas owns the characters in this story. He's hidden them away somewhere dark and dusty whilst he's got his mind on episode2, so I snuck in and broke them out for a quick jaunt in the sunshine. I wish I was making money from them, but unfortunately it's all in the name of 'fun'.
Setting – Eight years post Episode Three.
Note: this is an old, old story which isn't the finest piece I've ever written! I'm only leaving it here for posterity. It was written before the release of AOTC - hence Owen and Beru's background is somewhat different to the canon explanation for their relationship to Luke.
Episode One - Rebirth
The tortured hiss of his breathing was the only sound to intrude upon the silence of Darth Vader's quarters aboard the Star Destroyer Adamant. His fingers brushed aside the datapad he had been reading. It fell from the table to the floor with a muffled clang, and Vader reached for the communications board.
Even as he flicked it on, calling the Bridge, a part of Vader hesitated. Perhaps he should simply ignore this information - there was a multitude of excuses for doing so; a hundred other duties would he could easily prioritise above this one. Because he had sworn that he would never go back there, never think about that planet again... never allow his past to corrupt his present.
But... he had also sworn to banish slavery on that planet, and the presence of slavers in the system was something he could not ignore. And the planet's strange magnetism pulled its former slave back - again.
"Admiral, set course for Tatooine. Full speed."
The small figure lay prone on the shallow ridge, dwarfed by dunes, his toes playing with the fine material, his homespun clothes whiter than the Tatooine sand.
He had his hands crossed behind his head, fingers teasing the sand to fall between them. It slipped down into his hair and between his toes but he didn't care. His Aunt would probably have a fit about him needing an actual water shower to get it out - but that was okay.
Sunshine and sand, sweltering heat, the heatwaves rising from the desert surface: these were the few things the small boy had known for most his life. Sand and sweat and toil and tears. They didn't mar his features – soft tanned skin and crystal clear, intelligent blue eyes framed by an unruly mop of shock-blonde hair. He looked like a part of the desert, like the he belonged on that dune, staring into the sky, dreaming the noon away.
There was nothing but peace on his face as a brief and rare wind caught the loose sand and it blew it over the dune to churn at his feet. He didn't pay it any attention, except to wonder briefly that something so dry could mimic the water his home planet was so parched of.
The sand was hot beneath his back, but Luke Skywalker didn't squirm. He was staring up at the sky, the twin suns ridding high in the Tatooine afternoon, watching the rare slithers of clouds rush across the dusty planet. He fancied he could see small, grey dots in the sky, speeding out to space.
What he wouldn't give to be up there with them, flying through space. He closed his eyes, unable to rid himself of the wide smile the thoughts brought.
He would make the ships go faster than anyone else. He would twist and juke and climb and dive. Just like that.
The images made him smile wider. For a minute he was Luke Skywalker, pilot. And he wasn't a eight-year-old kid – he was old. He was at least ten. And he had a helmet – a shiny helmet emblazoned with his name, and a very, very fast ship.
He opened his eyes again, not seeing the vivid blue atmosphere or the burning suns above it. He saw space. Stars and planets and asteroids and...
He frowned, crumpling his features with the pout. He couldn't visualise anything else. He didn't know about anything else. Stuck on this dustball where everything was sand or parched rock, he'd never known anything else. What was out there?
The grin returned – everything was out there. Adventure, fun, friends, enemies, hyperspace. He wished he knew what hyperspace looked like.
His aunt's shrill voice broke his thoughts and he sat upright, the sand blowing around him at the sudden movement. More sand fell from his hair and into his eyes. He raked fingers through the unruly bleached blonde hair and squeezed his eyes shut, pushing the sand back down where it belonged. He caught a sandy sleeve and wiped his eyes, smearing more grit around his face.
Luke scrambled to find his boots and brushed ruthlessly at the sand hiding between his toes before yanking them on. "I'm coming, Aunt Beru!" he called out, voice sing-song, images of diving through space still clambering through his mind.
He took a second to brush the worst of the sand away and ran quickly towards the small homestead's sunken courtyard. The sand drifted over the edge and fell in a powdered stream to Beru's brushed floor as he skidded to stop. Standing in the kitchen doorway, a washcloth in her hands, she frowned at her small charge as his small head peered down at her sheepishly. Luke tried another grin and it worked – Beru always said he had a winning smile, and he'd learnt that it would get him out of most of the trouble he tended to collide head-on with.
"Luke, could you come down here?"
Luke wasn't great at reading expressions, but Beru's wrinkled brow and her sad eyes told him something was wrong. "Sure..." he said, bowing his head like he felt her sadness. The fighters still flew in his mind, though. Dive, roll, turn it into a climb. Full power to the engines.
He clambered down the stone steps and crossed the courtyard quickly, relishing the sudden, welcome cool in the shade. He brushed at his hair again and more sand fell in front of his eyes.
Luke placed a small tanned hand on the doorway to the kitchen and looked in to the lounge area beyond. He didn't know what the word 'trepidation' meant, but he felt it.
Luke was small for his age, skinny but lithe. He peered around the doorway, trying to spy on the conversation he could hear but not quite make out - but his aunt and uncle were watching for him and abruptly halted their discussion.
Feeling uncharacteristically nervous, Luke walked into the kitchen area, sand trailing behind him. When Beru didn't mention his dishevelled state he knew something was wrong. He quickly lost the grin and starfighters fell from his mind.
Beru's big eyes focused on him. "Luke, we have to go away for a little while," Beru said. She placed a hand on his messed-up hair and more sand fell to the floor. She didn't mention it even then.
"Away...?" Luke's voice was very small, and marked with excitement. "In a ship?" His eyes burned with enthusiasm.
Beru gave a warning glance to her husband as Owen growled under his breath. The boy was obsessed. "No Luke, but away from here." Beru smiled kindly.
He didn't get it. So they were going away for a while – that was pretty unusual, and pretty exciting, but not scary. Or sad. "Why?"
Beru looked troubled, "There's just some people coming we don't want to see," she said. Cryptically. Always cryptically.
Luke's mood soured. "But- "
Owen stepped forward, placed both big hands on Luke's shoulders and spun the boy around before he could ask questions. As always.
"Go run and pack now." His voice was stern, as Owen always was and Luke had long learnt to bite back his questions at that tone. "Don't waste time." He gave the boy a push and Luke ran from the room to his small bedroom.
Beru watched her charge disappear into his bedroom with a confused look on his small face. "Where's left to run to?" she whispered. Owen didn't reply.
Beru turned to her long-suffering husband and dared to place a hand against his cheek. He started, then looked at her sadly. His own calloused hand came up and grasped hers softly.
Owen was a good man; a loyal, hardworking man. And he would defend Luke with his life, even if he rarely showed the compassion burning deep in his heart. Beru could see it though, in his eyes. And it was on fire now, his need to protect his family fuelling it.
"I don't know," he said sadly. "Is this it, B? Does he know?"
Beru felt her muscles coil. Owen gathered her into a hug, a rare gesture for him. But these were rare circumstances. "If Anakin knew, he would have descended on us without warning, Owen. It has to be a coincidence." She felt the muscles in his back tense at that name.
"Anakin is dead, Beru."
She bowed her head sadly. "Yes, I know."
Owen brushed her shoulder-length hair softly, tucking it behind her ear. Sounds of hurried packing came from the small bedroom down the hall. His eyes strayed into the dark corridor. Anakin is dead - and not reincarnated, I hope, he thought.The need for action, to protect Luke, stirred him out of the reverie those kind of thoughts would lead to. He pushed Beru away from him and held her at arms length. "This isn't it. I won't allow it to be. I haven't brought that boy up for the past eight years to-" His jaw was set firmly, the stubble not eclipsing his determination. Beru knew he could never finish that sentence.
"Where are we going to run to?" She wiped unshed tears from her eyes. The past was creeping up again, as they'd always known it would. "Maybe the Darklighters-"
"No. That's too close."
"Where then?" She was thinking furiously. They had to hide, and they had to hide fast. The imperial ship in orbit could send down troopers at any time.
"The best place to hide is in plain sight."
Beru's head shot up at the voice – not Owen's, but another equally familiar one. Owen looked up and Beru found herself stepping backwards from the look of hate in his eyes.
"Obi-Wan." It was almost a swear word. "How long have you been standing there?"
The man was silhouetted against the bright noon sun, his cloak covering his weathered features, but there was no mistaking the errant Jedi. He stepped into the small room, face still in shadow. Obi-Wan took down the cowl of the long robe and stepped forward, a true Jedi entrance. Owen scowled. He glanced back towards Luke's room but the boy hadn't come out.
"Not long," Obi-Wan assured him. "Hello, Beru." He turned a kindly gaze on the woman.
"Obi-Wan, get out of-"
Beru cut him off with a glance and a sharp word. "Not now, Owen. He can help us." She turned to the dark-haired man, still strikingly handsome despite the grey showing at his temples. It hadn't been there the last time she'd seen him. Some eight years ago now. "Anakin knows that, Obi-Wan."
The man nodded, his gaze piercing, his expression grim. "But Anakin is dead."
Beru was going to protest that Vader would carry the same knowledge but...
"Where do you suggest then?"
Obi-Wan buried his hands in the cloak's wide sleeves and steeled himself. "Mos Espa."
Owen let a low moan out of pain and Beru shook her head furiously. "No. No! Not there."
Her lips made to make more protestation but the Jedi's gaze silenced her. "Neither Anakin nor Vader would go back there."
There was no readable expression on his face. Beru frowned. Twisted logic, but still logic.
Owen moved towards the Jedi and he didn't back away. His hands wrung together and he looked away, brow furrowed. "Mos Espa is a –" He trailed off and sighed, hands balling into fists. "Is a good idea." Even Owen had to admit it made a strange, twisted sense. Anakin had sworn never to return, and Vader had his reasons too. He stood for a few seconds in contemplation before Obi-Wan stirred.
"We must leave, and quickly. He knows this homestead." Obi-Wan didn't offer whether 'he' was Anakin or Vader.
Owen shook his head. "No. You're not coming with us." His dislike of the man suddenly erupted again. "And you're not going near the boy, you hear me?"
His voice was raised. He was almost shouting. Beru put an arm on his hand but it was too late, a small blonde head had appeared around the corner.
Blue eyes fixed on uncle and aunt to ask a question, mouth forming the words, then gaping at the stranger. The small holdall in his hand fell to the floor forgotten.
"Who are you?" He walked right up to the man, and stared the long distance up to his face. Obi-Wan fixed him with a kind smile and Owen bristled as he placed a hand on Luke's shoulder, only Beru tightening her hand quieting him. Luke stared transfixed into the Jedi's deep eyes.
"A friend, young Luke."
The boy's eyes narrowed in suspicion and he turned to look at Owen. His uncle cut the questions short. "We're leaving now Luke, go out to the speeder and pack your stuff."
"Do it, boy."
Luke's jaw hardened and he moved for his bag. Before Owen could stop him, Luke returned, small hand extended to the cloaked man.
"It was nice to meet you, sir." He smiled.
Obi-Wan looked across at Owen in surprise, and a smile flickered across mouth. He bent to the child's level and shook his hand firmly. "Nice to meet you, too. My name is Ben. I hope I see you again, young man."
Luke grinned and disappeared through the doorway, bag slung over his shoulder.
"He's so alike..." Obi-Wan murmured.
"Leave." Owen stepped forward and Obi-Wan rose to his feet. "And don't follow us."
Obi-Wan only nodded as Owen took Beru's hand and stormed past the Jedi to the garage. He watched them leave, his eyes staying on the intense young boy, his breath catching in his throat.
"Luke, what are you doing?"
Luke climbed back into the speeder back seat, "Getting a blanket." He said, teeth chattering. The wind blew his hair in front of his face and he swiped at it, burying himself under the coverlet he had snatched from the back compartment.
His aunt glanced at his uncle and then leaned over to him. "You cold, honey?"
Luke nodded as he shivered. Dusk had fallen and they were still travelling. Had been for hours now, the second sun just setting over the horizon. His aunt and uncle had been very quiet, Owen driving in silence, Beru offering only a few cursory observations. Luke had picked up on the sour mood and been unusually quite in turn.
Beru leaned over and the wind swept her soft, brown hair in front of her eyes. She wrapped Luke tighter in the blanket and smiled at him. He thought she wanted to say something, but instead she just smiled again and turned back to stare forwards.
She turned back to Luke. "Yes?"
"Where are we going?" He lifted the blanket higher under his chin.
Luke's teeth chattered. "But where."
"Luke-" She turned to look at his Uncle, but he just shrugged. "To the city."
He frowned even as he felt excitement thrill through him. "Mos Eisely?"
Beru shook her head and he felt his growing smile fade. There was something terribly serious in her expression.
"No, Luke. Further than that. Mos Espa."
Luke blinked hair out of his eyes and made a true expression of his understanding of that: "Huh?"
She managed a smile. "We could be travelling a while. Why don't you try and get some sleep, huh?"
Luke pursed cold lips in concentration, then nodded. Beru smiled at the very adult expression and turned around again. He hunkered down – the back seat offered very little protection from the desert nights, the temperature falling rapidly and making him shiver. The heating unit was broken, too. Luke blushed as he remembered trying to fix it. He had as well, he just wasn't quite sure how – Owen had pulled him away, mad when he'd seen what Luke had done. His punch to the unit was what'd broken it a second time. He found his aunt and uncle's current mood disconcerting. Especially his aunt's it wasn't like her to look so down.
Luke closed his eyes and tried to sleep, breath beginning to crystallise in front of him in the frigid air.
"Beru, take Luke and go get some provisions. I'll clear it with the owner." Owen had lifted the first of their bags from the speeder and slung it over his shoulders, offering a grim but reassuring smile to his wife.
"Will you be alright?" she asked him. Her hand was wrapped firmly around Luke's arm, white marks forming under her fingertips where she clung to boy. The boy was still gaping at the city and didn't seem to notice the grip. He hadn't stopped staring since they had reached the outskirts of the sprawling port. Everything amazed and enticed him and his eyes were wild with excitement. He had barely squeaked his amazement, knowing Owen's dislike for his lust of adventure, but it was impossible for a eight-year-old to keep the joy from his face.
Behind them, an old Corellian ship lumbered up on repulsorlifts, taking off from some private docking bay.
Luke stared at it, mouth working but no words coming out. The ship rose straight over them and moved off behind them. Luke followed it the whole way, neck craning to keep it in view until Owen was sure the boy would fall over backwards trying to watch it fly overhead.
He studied the child, dishevelled as ever and grinning wildly. Luke looked at his Aunt. "Did you see that?" The grin was light-years wide.
Beru looked at Owen, frowning slightly. Her hair was forced back into a plait to keep it out of her eyes. Luke was making them stand out as outsiders when they really needed to blend in.
Owen knelt in front of his small charge and placed both hands on his thin shoulders. He captured Luke's gaze before speaking. The boy needed a focus or he'd draw attention to them with all his gaping.
"Luke, I need you to do me a big favour." The boy gaped at him now before shutting his mouth and nodding sternly.
"I need to rely on you to look after your aunt for me. Can you do that?"
Beru smiled and covered her mouth with her free hand. But the reaction from Luke was everything Owen must have hoped for.: his shoulders squared and his jaw set firm, and the boy was deadly serious. "Yes, sir." His own hand grasped protectively around his aunt's, spaceships and strange aliens forgotten.
"Good boy." Owen made sure to keep the serious expression on his face. He stood again and nodded to his wife. "Don't be too long."
She smiled and Luke stepped closer to her.
Beru was bargaining for some sort of fruit from one of the many street stalls that lined the streets of Mos Espa. Luke was burying his feelings of awe with some difficulty. Aliens, droids, ships, so many people, more than he had seen in all his life... and all crammed together into such a small space. He'd only imagined this kind of place. Beru was talking sternly with a strange alien stallholder, the aliens' quadruple arms thrown up in distaste. Luke glanced around. He was trying to watch everything and everybody at once. His uncle had charged him with the safety of his aunt and Luke wasn't about to betray that trust.
And...well looking around let him watch Mos Espa bustle her way through the afternoon.
"Come on, Luke."
His aunt hadn't bought the fruit, and was moving on to the next stall. Luke walked along a step behind her, trying to keep up with her fast gait. His aunt was dressed differently than he was used to. More like a city dweller - with an indigo skirt wrapped in big folds around a petite waist and clinched with a cheap bone fastener, a tight tunic in the same coarse material and her hair plaited. Luke had also been redressed and he wasn't comfortable in the new clothes, a shade darker than his farming whites.
He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead as they tried to keep in the shadows whilst moving. His aunt, talking to another stallholder, didn't see the ship approaching slowly, low over the city. Luke, kind of bored with buying fruit, watched the sleek black ship as she flew a few metres away overhead, the triangular array of wings slowly folding upwards around a beak-shaped nose. Luke's mind registered that it was a pretty cool design at the same time as realising it was a lot sleeker and newer than the other ships he had seen. It disappeared into the distance, falling below the line of the buildings.
Luke's eyes refocused back on his immediate surroundings and he found himself staring at a small stall in a corner, a gnarled old woman staring right back at him. Luke quickly looked to his feet and shuffled uncomfortably. Beru continued arguing.
After what he thought was a good length of time, his eyes came back up. The woman still stared.
Curious and unnerved, Luke let go of his aunt's hand and walked towards the stall. She didn't seem to notice he'd gone.
He had to dodge a dewback crossing the street, and most of the other denizens tried to trample him, barely noticing the small boy.
The woman watched him approach. He grey hair in dreadlocks that had been pulled tightly away from her face, making the lines in her face look deeper. Luke thought she had to be really old.
She smiled slightly at him as he stopped in front of her, his brow furrowed in confusion.
"There's a storm coming Ani, better get to cover." She leaned towards him and smiled.
Luke felt like taking a step back in confusion. He was also a bit annoyed. Annie was a girls name and he was definitely a boy.
"My name isn't Annie, it's Luke. Annie is a girls name."
She looked at him in confusion and shook her head. "Are you sure?"
Luke was feeling increasingly uneasy. He shifted his feet. "Sure I'm sure."
Her gaze suddenly focused on something else behind Luke's view and Luke whirled. He saw flashes of white approaching from the direction that strange ship had landed. He turned back to her, a frown puckering his brow. "What's that?"
The old woman just blinked at him. Luke turned back, searching for his aunt. But he couldn't see her - there were too many people and he felt panic rise in his throat.
"Aunt Beru-! Where-!"
A cold wrinkled hand had clamped across his mouth as he started to shout and the old woman whispered in his ear.
"Shhhsh! Quiet Ani!"
Luke struggled to get out of her grasp, annoyed at that name, scared for Beru. The woman's hair brushed against his cheek, gritty with sand.
Luke followed her gaze and saw the white-clothed people march closer, and realised it wasn't clothing but armour. The old woman shook. "There's a storm coming!" She spun Luke around, shielding him with her body then shoved him forward. "Run, Ani!"
He stumbled forwards, and turned to tell her his name was Luke. Then he saw the rigid white masks of stormtroopers and a sudden fear gripped his heart.
"Run Ani!" she urged him again, and Luke did run. His legs were leaden, his heart was pounding in his chest, and there was a fast thrumming sound against his temples. In his fear he ran into the edge of her stall, rebounded off it and fell on his knees.
"Run!" she hissed.
Luke clambered back up again and pelted forwards.
He was small and he was fast – both advantages. He dived between legs of the passers by, sprinting as fast as his terrified legs could carry him, never looking back to see if the white armoured figures were following him.
He made it around a street corner and didn't stop, something telling him he had to keep going.
But Aunt Beru! You promised Uncle Owen!
He couldn't stop, he had to keep running. His cheeks were flushed and he was panting for breath as he tore down the street. He didn't even know what he was running from.
More of the white armoured figures appeared at the end of the street he was running down and he collided with a tall pair of legs whilst his attention was drawn to the terrifying masks they wore. His heart was racing.
"S-s-sorry!" He gasped as he picked himself up off the floor. The alien grunted at him and walked on. Luke shook the stars from his eyes and saw the troopers were closer. And he recognised a blaster when he saw one, too.
Luke was starting to shake now, terrified.
Be strong. Keep calm. Think!
He had to hide. He was small; he could hide.
He looked around the street, hair plastering itself to his forehead. Everywhere was lined with doorways to shops or storage houses, and they all looked pretty solidly locked.
Come on, Skywalker. What would dad do?
He fell back on the old reserve – act like the father he so revered. The non-existent phantom his imagination had created. What would he do? His eyes fell on a small air bracket in the wall of a building on the other side of the street. It was dusty and broken, small and dark. Perfect.
He ran for it, diving between legs. He didn't think the white-clad men had noticed him yet, but he didn't spare a glance. He reached the small pane of punctured transparisteel slats and his fingers dug around it's edges. It was already loose and its frame was crumbling – a solid tug and it lifted upwards.
He slid his legs under the pane and wriggled in the sand, no one sparing the boy a glance. Then he pushed his torso through the small opening, scrambling backwards along the sandy ground as white-booted feet approached ever closer.
Luke realised he hadn't looked at what was beyond the air bracket, but it was too late now. He bit down hard and shoved his body through, holding his breath as the troopers got within metres of him.
A few seconds of falling, the bracket falling back into position with a muffled clang and-
He hit the floor and clamped a hand over his mouth to stop himself crying out at the hard landing. Couldn't afford that now. Got to be quiet.
He had landed somewhere dusty, throwing it up into the air in a cloud, and it threatened to make him cough and choke. The hand clamped down harder and he scuttled up against the outside wall holding his breath.
Through the dim light reaching the small room he had landed in, he saw the shadows of the troopers move against a far wall through the falling dust.
Don't look, don't look!
The shadows didn't pause as they passed by and Luke stayed very still in the quite dark.
One minute. Two minutes. Five minutes. Still nothing.
Now he had to move, but his muscles had locked into position in his fright. Luke fought with himself, trying to get them to move despite the paralysing fear. His eyes blinked in the dust, trying to make anything out in the dark. What little light there was lay in stripes from the slats of the grate on the far stone wall.
Luke didn't manage to stand, but he did manage to crawl slowly across the floor, eyes getting accustomed. He saw the prints his movement left in the thick carpet of dust. The room seemed pretty small and cold, very dusty like it hadn't been used in a long time. He had to get out and back to his aunt!
She had been with that crowd, if those men had found her...
Fear took his strength again and he felt it boil up inside him. He looked around desperately, only then realising how far he had fallen. The grate was a good two metres above his head, and there was nothing else in the room apart from him.
He looked up despairingly at the distant light. It might as well be a million light-years away. He felt tears well up in his sand-soared eyes and sting him as they fell down his cheeks.