Author's Note: This is just a little something the popped into my head while writing Forgiven; I have no idea what triggered it. Anyway, hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars. I can only wish I did.
Better Than Me
"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." -- Aristotle
When Leia is four years old, she tells her mother that she can feel people in her head.
It is innocent enough; Breha is reading a bedtime story to her, relaxing in one of the rare moments she has to spend quality time with her daughter, when the princess raises her big brown eyes and calmly informs the queen that Daddy is on his way to kiss her goodnight.
Two heartbeats later, Bail walks in the door.
Leia hadn't heard him coming, she says. She's felt him coming, all green and wavy inside her head.
Always a precocious child, she must have noticed Breha's discomfort, for she never mentioned the sensation again.
Breha knows of the Force, and knows Leia has a high chance of being sensitive to it, but it is still a shock to see it manifest in such an ordinary situation. She prays Leia can control it, and hopes Vader will never discover it. She knows the fate that befalls Force-sensitives these days all too well. Bail witnesses the Jedi Purges firsthand. She has heard his horror stories.
The royal couple does not know how to train a child in mastery and control of the Force.
For the first time, Breha wishes Anakin Skywalker were still alive to raise his daughter. He could teach her better than she or Bail ever could.
Luke has always been fascinated by cooking.
Beru thinks it is strange for a little boy who lives in the desert to want to spend his time in the company of a hot stove, but on second thought, she really shouldn't be surprised. Shmi had always said that by the time he left her side shortly after his tenth birthday, he son's grilled bantha steaks were better than hers.
And Beru has always considered Shmi's steaks to be heavenly.
Perhaps she should have started Anakin's son on something a bit simpler. She does not have Shmi's kitchen skills; she can not afford to waste meat teaching a child how to cook.
But she does it anyway.
Owen eats it, reluctantly. Beru chokes it down. Luke loves it, simply because he was the one to prepare it.
Beru sighs. As much as she loves Luke, she has to admit that he needs his father, if only so he can learn to cook an excellent bantha steak.
No, Luke needs Anakin for more than that, far more than that. She and Owen are a poor substitute for the man who, if he didn't know an answer, would search to the ends of the galaxy with a single-minded fervor until he found it.
Anakin would be good for Luke. Owen doesn't think so, but Beru does. At the very least, Anakin would be a better instructor than either of them. A better instructor for more than just cooking.
He had met Skywalker once, briefly. He is now in possession of the dead Jedi's droids. However, Captain Antilles has never imagined that one day he would teach the Hero With No Fear's daughter how to drive a speeder bike.
Antilles knows about Leia's parentage only because he had been the one to carry the infant and her new father to Alderaan, and he has been sworn to secrecy. He hadn't believed it at first, but watching the girl now handle the speeder with a firm but gentle expertise most pilots did not acquire in a lifetime, there is no doubt in Antilles's mind.
He wonders if he will be able to keep up with her, once she becomes more experienced. He doubts it. Having inherited a fierce love and respect for fast machines and a natural intuition for how to work them, Leia is definitely a Skywalker.
How could her father – her biological father – have died and left this child to be taught by the likes of him? He is good, yes, but she needs the better; she needs the best of the best. Namely, she needs Anakin Skywalker.
There is no questioning who this boy's father is. The Mos Espa jeweler immediately recognizes the sandy blond hair and the bright blue eyes, surrounded by the same general bone structure.
Like his father, he has a fascination for japor snippet necklaces. And the jeweler is unable to resist showing the child how to make them, as he was unable to resist his father so many years ago.
The jeweler wonders why the father has not taught his boy this craft yet. He loved it so much, himself.
A better question: where is the boy's father? He says he lives with an aunt and uncle.
The jeweler hopes the boy is reunited with his father soon. His hands are far steadier than the jeweler's frail old bones. He would be a better teacher for this youngster.
She is too young to be suffering from a broken heart, Bail thinks as he holds her. He knows she will forget in time; it is just puppy love. The thought does not stop his heart for aching for her. At her age, this was the end of the world.
Bail wishes Breha were still alive. Leia needs a woman right now, or a fierce protector to assure her that he will always be her knight in shining armour, there to keep her safe for ever and ever.
Bail does not feel comfortable making such a promise. He is not a fearless warrior who will dash into any situation, lightsaber swinging, to save those he loves. That is Anakin Skywalker's territory.
What would Anakin do in this situation? Bail wonders. Somehow he doesn't think Anakin would wish for his wife to deal with his stricken daughter. No, Anakin would, as usual, prefer to deal with the situation himself. He never could trust anyone else to do things properly . . . except perhaps Obi-Wan.
Bail stops himself from thinking about Obi-Wan, alone on Tatooine. The Jedi had been shattered, the last time Bail had seen him. Bail doubted Obi-Wan would ever be whole again, however well he may hide his pain.
Leia's cries have subsided; Bail begins to talk. He soothes her, tells her she will love again. She is doubtful, but unlike Obi-Wan, he knows she will easily put herself together again.
Anakin would be able to restore Obi-Wan. Bail has to wonder if he would have done a better job of restoring Leia, too.
He wonders if she would have doubted him.
Luke is well-known around Anchorhead for being able to fix anything. The other farmers praise Owen for teaching him so well.
Owen doesn't tell them that Luke's skill is from Anakin's genes, not Owen's lessons. The less people recall of Anakin Skywalker, the better.
He is still something of a celebrity over in Mos Espa, Owen knows. He avoids taking Luke there. The boy has been there a couple of times, but once people started commenting on how much Luke resembles their hero, Owen convinced Beru that Mos Eisley was a much better – and closer – city to visit.
Even now, not even a teenager yet, Luke is a far better mechanic than Owen. He has taught himself a lot of what he knows, because Owen is in over his head.
Anakin could teach him even more.
Owen remembers how Anakin only stayed for a day after burying his mother, but after he left it was discovered that every broken machine in the garage now worked perfectly. They never knew if it was thanks for freeing and taking care of Shmi (which Owen doubts) or if he just needed an out for his grief and frustration.
Owen regrets lying to Luke about Anakin, but it is for the best, he convinces himself. If he paints Anakin as ordinary, then Luke will not go off on some foolish hero's errand.
He will not meet Anakin's fate.
Owen thinks about the machines he and his father have given up on. Anakin could fix those; he could teach Luke how to fix them, too. Never mind that Anakin couldn't fix himself – he's still better than Owen.
The Princess of Alderaan is a very straightforward child, Mon Mothma muses. The girl is constantly voicing opinions that could get her killed – about the Empire, about the Senate, about Palpatine; she is the only one who dares to utter an insult aimed at Darth Vader outside the safety of the Rebel base. Bail says that he shushes her even at home, because the Empire's spies are everywhere.
Bail has other business to attend to today, so Mon agreed to take Leia to the Senate meeting with her. Now she is regretting it. It is only a matter of time before one of her neighbours overhears Leia's treasonous mutterings.
As she has her assistant take her place so she can talk to the girl, she thinks that perhaps Leia is more like Anakin than anyone ever gave her credit for being.
Mon had guessed Leia was Amidala's child when she was seven – the resemblance was uncanny. Learning her father's identity from Bail had been a shock, but she had quickly brushed it off, assuring herself that Leia was far more like her mother than her troubled but passionate (and dead at a young age) father.
But looks and an interest in politics do not define a person, and Mon has quickly discovered Anakin's temper, his passion, his loyalty and his disregard for authority in his daughter.
Avoiding the blue streak the princess was cursing and wondering if Bail knows about the language his ward employs, Mon sits beside her and sighs inwardly. This behavior is definitely something she inherited from the Jedi.
She tells Leia about the necessity of appearances in politics, about hiding your true feelings, and watches her jaw clench defiantly.
Leia informs her that her policies will be different when she is a Senator. She will fight, and she does not believe you can fight lies with lies. Only with truth. She gets up.
Mon watches her leave the pod. She has a point. Perhaps Anakin's traits are wiser than Mon's beliefs.
Perhaps Anakin could have taught her better.
Obi-Wan watches Anakin's son from afar, marveling at how much he looks like his father. He wishes Owen would let him talk to the boy.
Even at this distance, Luke's Force signature stands out like a beacon. In a galaxy full of darkness, Obi-Wan finds it refreshing.
Luke knows him only as Ben. It is a name less conspicuous than Obi-Wan, and he doesn't want to stand out. Not if Anakin isn't there to stand with him.
He wishes Anakin were there to teach Luke about the Force. If these were the old days, he would have been, and Obi-Wan would be able to sit back and laugh as Luke gave Anakin just as much grief as Anakin had given Obi-Wan. Anakin would realize that he is not all-knowing and come running to Obi-Wan for advice and answers to questions Luke has that Anakin deems stupid because he doesn't know the answers himself.
It is a fond fantasy, one Obi-Wan has replayed many times over the years.
Obi-Wan knows that one day, despite Owen's objections, he will have to teach Luke about the Force, because Anakin isn't here to do it.
But Anakin, born of the Force, always had a better understanding of it than Obi-Wan. Anakin would have been the better teacher.
Besides, Obi-Wan has already failed once as a Master.
Deran is astounded at how much the princess of Alderaan resembles a Jedi Padawan.
She has coolly informed him that she has never held a weapon in her life, as they are not normally permitted on Alderaan. Desperate times, however, call for desperate measures. Yet she handles the small pistol with a deadly efficiency and perfect aim, as if she was born with it in her hand.
Which she wasn't. She does, however, have the Force.
A lot of it.
Unknown to most, Deran had been a Jedi. For the last several years, he has taken Imperial jobs and stirred up discontent whenever and wherever he could. Now he is teaching young Alderaanians how to shoot at the behest of Bail Organa, the father of Princess Leia.
Ha. That is a laugh. If Organa is truly Leia's father, then Deran is Yoda. With Force sensitivity like hers, he won't be surprised if she turns out to be Anakin Skywalker's daughter.
Oh, but how he longs to put a lightsaber in that delicate little hand of hers! Just to see how she'll handle it, he tells himself.
But he doesn't. The best teachers are the best swordsmen, like Skywalker. Deran doesn't feel he is included in that elite group.
For the millionth time, Deran wishes Skywalker was still alive. He is the only one Deran can think of who would have the audacity to teach the Jedi arts in this dark age.
Deran wonders once again how someone like Anakin Skywalker died when he, Deran, managed to stay alive. Luck of the draw, he supposes. What kind of cruel joke fate was playing on the galaxy, taking their hero from them, he doesn't know.
All he knows is that the cannot fill those shoes.
Owen has put off this moment for years. This morning, Beru had told him he could not put it off any longer.
As he and Luke approach the vaporator, Owen's palms begin to sweat. He knows it is not caused by the dazzling Tatooine heat.
He doesn't know how to bring the subject up. He is a quiet man; a shy man. He has never done this before. He cannot remember the talk his own father gave him. He is not sure if here even was a talk.
How does one bring up the subject of sex with one's nephew while bent over an old, rusting vaporator? Owen has no idea.
Luke quickly identifies the problem; he was always good at that. Owen kneels beside him to take a look, then turns to gaze into the boy's bright, innocent blue eyes.
Except for the innocent part, they are so like his father's.
So like Anakin's. Anakin, who may have been nervous, but who would have approached this conversation with the same bold determination he applied to everything. Anakin, who would have looked back on it and laughed.
Owen wishes he has Anakin's confidence.
Owen opens his mouth.
And asks Luke if he brought a wrench.
As he attacks the vaporator with the tool, Owen acknowledges with bitterness and shame that once again, he has failed Luke. Once again, he has failed where Anakin would have triumphed.
Bail watches Leia as she approaches him, dressed all in white. She is a vision Bail feels blessed to behold.
She is a woman now, responsible and intelligent and independent, yet she still hugs her adoptive father tight for a long moment before boarding the Tantive IV.
He is so proud of her.
Bail knows Anakin could have taught her better, but as he watches the door of the ship close behind her, he wonders if he could have raised her better.
Beru smiled as Luke dashes around their small kitchen, fixing a plain breakfast for himself. He won't tell her what his rushed behavior is caused by, but that is okay. She trusts him to know what he's doing.
She studies him as he moves, watches how his shirt strains across the shoulders when he reaches forward. He is still rather slight, but he has the build of a man now. She can't recall when the change occurred.
He kisses her cheek affectionately before racing into the dawn. She smiles. Always on the move.
She is so proud of him.
Beru knows Anakin could have taught him better, but as she listens to the sound of his footsteps as he runs, she wonders if he could have raised him better.