Ben Skywalker entered the modest Tatootine dwelling knowing full well that his father was already aware of his presence. He had sensed his father's touch the moment he landed at the space port in Anchorhead. It had been six months since he had last seen the man so many had called Master in previous times, but that was before the Hecatomb and the reign of the last Sith Lord. Now there were no Jedi left to call him anything.
Ben sighed and shook his head. This was not the time to remember such things. His father's welfare was his first concern. Laying his hooded robe and supplies on the kitchen table he moved silently through his father's childhood home; the place where the former leader of the Jedi had returned to, the only place where he could possibly heal. Entering the master bedroom, Ben paused. "Hello Father."
Luke Skywalker, though deep in meditation, smiled at the sound of his beloved son's voice. Breathing deeply he emerged from the Force and opened his eyes in greeting.
"Ben, it's so good to see you. Did you have any trouble docking?"
Ben walked over to his parent and helped him up from the floor. "Not this time. The port authorities have finally worked out most of the delays, so it wasn't nearly as troublesome as last time. It's the fuel that's still hard to get. I was able to get almost a full tank in Corellia, though. Have you eaten today?"
Luke smiled as if realizing his son's concern and pulled him into an embrace "I was waiting for you, son."
"You'll pardon me if I have my doubts." His father felt so thin in his arms, he had to restrain himself from holding him too tightly. "Come to the kitchen—I've brought you some food and other supplies."
"You're a good boy, Ben," said Luke, ruffling his son's hair as he did when he was a small child.
They walked arm in arm to the next room as Ben reached out with the Force to determine his father's state of mind. But Luke had his shields snapped as tight as a vornskr's muzzle. He helped the master Jedi sit down at the table and then began preparations for the soup his mother had often made them. As it simmered on the stove, he cut slices of dense bread and applied it liberally with butter, then placed it before his father. Pouring two glasses of blue milk he joined him at the table.
"Try the bread. I got it in Anchorhead," said Ben sampling the crusty bread himself before taking a drink of milk."
"They're baking bread again?" Luke asked, raising the cup to his lips and drinking slowly.
Ben nodded. "Yes. I also got some of those sweet rolls you always liked so much. There's even a new cantina opening; there's no alcohol available yet, but there will be soon. Funny how the cantinas always seem to be the first things to re-open, isn't it?" Ben took a sip of milk and watched his father carefully. "It's that way just about everywhere, people are starting over again. Commerce between planets is sure to follow soon. It will take time, but trade routes will re-open and governments will be rebuilt."
Luke looked away, staring off into the distance. "The suns will be setting soon."
"Did you hear what I said Father?" asked Ben trying to get his attention.
Luke turned as if he would get up from his chair.
"No, stay seated," said Ben gently touching his father's hand. "The soup is ready anyway." Rising from his chair, he ladled two bowls full of hot soup and carefully placed them on the table. The spicy aroma filled Ben's senses, reminding him of happier times. "Do you remember the first time Mom made this soup?"
Luke smiled as he tasted the familiar staple of the Skywalker family. "You were sick—with some kind of throat infection. She tore through the house looking for the datapad with the soup recipe on it."
Ben shook his head. "She never was much of a cook, but she was determined to make me some soup. Even if she burnt down the entire apartment."
"She almost did."
Both men smiled at the memory.
"It was good, though," said Ben, remembering.
"Still is," said Luke, his eyes twinkling.
Ben finished the dishes and put away the rest of the supplies noticing that the pantry was all but empty before he stocked it. Concern for his father flared up again as he wondered how he was going to convince him to leave this place and travel back to Yavin. It wouldn't be easy convincing him, but he had to try. For his own sake—and the galaxy's. It was a universe gone mad; he could feel it all around him. No, not mad but—without any portion of hope. And isn't that a kind of madness?
Reaching out with the Force to find his father, he sensed him outside, knowing that the setting suns had beckoned him up there. Draping the dish cloth over the chair he climbed up the old tundra stairway to join his parent.
As Ben reached Luke's side he was again struck by the slender frailness of his father's frame. Almost like a gnarled tree branch withered by desert sands. He sighed and looked up to see Tatoo I begin its slow slip into the horizon. Glorious hues of orange, purple and red splashed across the vast skyline. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. No matter how many times he'd seen the two suns set, it still touched his soul like nothing else could. Perhaps that's why his father had chosen to exile here. That or it somehow reminded him of her.
They watched together as Tatoo II followed its predecessor slowly toward the horizon.
Luke cleared his voice to speak. "I've told you the old folk tale about the suns, haven't I? The one the old watcher woman of the dunes used to tell us children long ago."
Ben took in his father's calm visage and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's been a while…perhaps you could refresh my memory?"
Luke paused for a moment, as if he had not heard Ben reply. Then he said softly, "Long ago there was a man and woman, deeply in love. They each made a pledge that nothing would separate them from each other, not even death. But their people came under attack and so the man, along with the rest of the men, went off to defend their tribe. The woman begged to go with her beloved, but she was refused."
Ben wrapped his cloak tighter around him and noticed the tears welling in his father's eyes.
Luke continued. "The woman followed behind the men in secret, hiding so as not to be found. Then one morning as the men were preparing to leave their temporary campsite, they were ambushed and killed by the other tribe. The woman watched in horror as her beloved was struck down. Rushing to his side, she cradled him in her arms as he lay dying. She promised never leave him and would follow him even unto death. As she cried out in anguish, the desert winds heard her wail in torment and felt compassion for her. They took the soul of the man and woman and flung them into the sky as they exploded into two bright bodies of light, Tatoo I—the man and Tatoo II—the woman. And by doing so she could keep her promise to always follow her beloved. For the man leads the way to the horizon…followed by the woman."
Tatoo II had just nestled into the horizon as Luke finished the story. Ben shivered as the temperature began to drop noticing that his father seemed unaffected.
"I always thought I would be the first to go…" whispered Luke softly, his eyes closed.
Ben swallowed back tears as he put his arm around Luke's waist. "Come on, Dad. Let's get inside before it gets any colder."
Luke blinked in surprise. "What? Yes—you're right, time for bed."
Ben awoke early the next morning to find his father still asleep. Dressing, he padded to the kitchen to begin breakfast and consider the best way to convince his father to come with him. It would not be easy—or pleasant. So much of his father's spirit seemed trapped deep inside him somewhere. He pondered how far he would have to go to bring that part of him to the surface again.
He sighed as he drank from his cup. Maybe it was wrong trying to get his father to return with him. Hadn't he given enough to the universe? Hadn't he suffered enough for a hundred life times? But Ben could think of no other way to restore balance to the Force without the help of the Jedi master. It seems the Force was not done making demands of Luke Skywalker.
"I thought I smelled hot chocolate," said Luke smiling ruefully. "Where did you find it?"
Ben looked up to see his father standing in the doorway. "Oh, I know a place or two where the smugglers still have a supply."
"Careful," said Luke pouring himself a cup. "You're starting to sound like your Uncle Han." He froze a moment as if realizing what he had just said.
"It's okay, Dad. It did sound like something Uncle Han would've said."
Luke joined him at the table and began to sip the hot liquid slowly. "It's good," he smiled. "I think I'd actually forgotten the taste."
"Don't let Lando hear you say that," teased Ben.
"Ahh…so that's where you got it," said Luke taking another sip. "He's well?"
Ben nodded. "And full of plans, as usual."
"Some things never change."
Both men laughed at the thought of Lando, ever the entrepreneur and businessman.
Ben looked at his father. "Dad, I need to talk to you—"
"Come on Dad—at least hear what I have to say before you turn me down," pleaded Ben.
Luke shook his head. "I know what you're going to say and the answer is still no."
Ben sat silently for a moment realizing that he would have to go to the place that he most dreaded. He placed his cup on the table, folded his hands and prepared to go into battle. "Do you think that this is what Mom would've wanted?"
Slamming his cup on the table, Luke locked eyes with his son. "Don't you DARE bring your mother into this."
Ben could see his father's hands trembling, could feel him trying to calm himself using a calming exercise. But he realized there was no turning back now. "Why not Dad? Because you're afraid of what the answer might be? Because if she were here right now you KNOW she would be busting your backside for giving up."
Luke rose from his chair, fury flooding his face. His hands braced on the table seemed to be the only thing keeping him vertical. "Don't you tell me what your mother would say. I hear her voice in my heart everyday—EVERYDAY! I can't do what you want me to, Ben."
"You haven't even tried! You've just given up, left everything and holed up here licking your wounds like a crippled dewback," cried Ben, reaching across the table to touch his father's shaking hands. "Don't you think I miss her, too? Don't you think that a part of me died when—"
"Stop it, Ben….just stop," whispered Luke hoarsely, closing his eyes. "I wouldn't be any good to anyone anymore. I failed—I failed them all, even you."
He turned to leave the kitchen, but Ben stood and grabbed him by the shoulders. He could feel his fragile shoulder blades jutting out through the worn shirt. "You did not fail! You didn't embrace the dark side! You didn't lure other Jedi to the dark side and set yourself up as Sith Lord of the galaxy! You didn't murder billions of beings in an effort to dominate the universe and you did not murder Mom or the rest of our family!"
Sobbing now Luke buried his head in Ben's shoulder and clung to his son. "But Jacen did…"
"And you stopped him, Dad," whispered Ben. "You stopped him."
"But not soon enough," cried Luke. "I was too blind—"
"—we all were!" said Ben, tears falling freely now. "He fooled us all. But you were not the cause of the Hecatomb. Jacen was. Do you hear me? It wasn't your fault!"
Wracking sobs sent Luke's body writhing against his son, rendering him mute for a time. Ben sensed his father's walls crash down around them. He felt his father's tortured anguish and guilt; it took his breath away.
Gripping him tightly, Ben sent waves of love and compassion to his father all the while rocking him gently. "None of us knew—he was so compelling. I trusted him just as much as you did and he was my mentor. I was the one who should've seen him slip into the dark side. I should've seen him embrace the evil of the sith."
Ben slowly led Luke back over to the table and helped him sit down into the chair. Handing him his cup of chocolate, Ben seated himself across from his father.
"You were just a child," whispered Luke. "Barely a teenager when—when Jacen fell…"
"So it wasn't my fault, either—was it Dad?"
Luke met Ben's eyes in shock. Realization seemed to shine from his face as he took a deep breath and then smiled. "You're so much like your mother…she always won most of our arguments, too."
"But this is the most important argument of my life. I'm fighting for you, Dad, and the galaxy. I need you to come with me to Yavin. We can rebuild the Jedi like the rest of the universe is rebuilding itself."
"Yavin?" asked Luke, raising his eyebrow.
"Yes! Ossus is gone! But the temple on Yavin is still there. We can start a new there," said Ben, enthusiasm shining in his eyes.
Luke shook his head. "But there's only the two of us left, son."
"You did it once all by yourself—now you have help. We can do this, Dad." Ben saw a small gleam start to surface in his father's blue eyes. "If we do nothing then the dark side has truly won."
Luke nodded slowly. "Perhaps you are right."
"I know I am," said Ben. "I know this is the will of the Force. Together we can do this. Please Dad—I need you, the Force needs you." Ben watched as a myriad of emotions washed over his father's face. He held his breath hoping for some sign of the Jedi Grand Master and hero of old.
"When do we leave?"