Title: The Family Script
Pairing/characters: Shmi, Beru, Vader, Luke, Leia
Word count: 5000
Written for Skywalkathon
Request: What's it like to raise a Skywalker? How does one parent such powerful children?
Summary: How do you bring up an extraordinary child in extraordinary circumstances? From Beru to Vader to Luke - what started with a slave girl called Shmi Skywalker trying to protect her son from unpleasant truths echoes through a family's 'destiny'.
Warnings: none that I can think of, maybe some adult themes in the context of slavery.
Notes: Diary entries are denoted by italics. I've taken some liberty with the back-story of Shmi on - that is, no one really thinks that she was just a serving girl, do they?
The Family Script
They moved us again today.
Anakin cried when we left the old compound. I don't know why, he wouldn't say. I don't think he knew why. Maybe it's the same reason I want to cry. More uncertainty, another place to try and make home, and for who knows how long? Gardulla moves us so frequently, there's no point becoming attached to your new home.
I didn't have anything to left to reassure Anakin with. Lately, every time I've promised him everything is going to be okay, things have only got worse. And he doesn't believe me anymore. But why should he? I can't offer him any proof. I can't offer him anything more than my conviction to keep him safe.
He's getting too old. When he was a baby, it was easier to hide from him the world about him. Now, he sees things I wish he wouldn't see. Hears things. He can't understand them, but he hears them.
Why did you fight, Sam? Sometimes I'm so angry with you. I can't bear that anger, it's so righteous it makes me feel powerful. But I'm not. I got left behind, when you died. Why did you provoke them like that? You knew what they would do. And I'm forgotten now. Adrift. Sold on. And angry.
But I can't be angry. Anakin is too old - too clever. He can see it in me. Sometimes he looks at me and it's like I'm standing under a burning sun, and his gaze razes straight through me, and there's nothing left for him to see but the lies.
Everything will be okay, Anakin. You'll see.
He doesn't understand why I make promises I can't keep. His eyes are bursting with questions. Where does his mother go when she's called away from the slave compound? Why does she come back looking like that? Why won't she hold him until she's washed? But he never asks. It's an unspoken rule we have - we don't speak the unspeakable. I can't tell him what happens, but I can't hide from him that it does happen, either.
Last night I dreamt that I told him everything.
I sat him down and told him that his father must be someone I'd been hired out to. I told him that I know I haven't always been a slave, but I can't remember the family I was taken from. I told him about you, Sam. I told him that you were supposed to have been his father, if we'd been free.
I told him I'm more of a serving girl now. I told him how when I was younger, when he was a baby, I was more... popular. You know, you remember how it was. I told him I was worried about what will happen when I get too old to even serve drinks. I told him I that worry what will happen to him if I become disposable. I told him I'd started to act more willing to ward off that day.
I told him that I can't keep him safe. And I told him not to believe me when I said I could.
My dream Anakin stared back at me blankly, and I thought it wasn't Anakin anymore, for a second. It was someone else, someone cold and hard and I was glad I woke up before that boy could speak to me.
And don't tell me it was just a dream, Sam. I know that. But lately Anakin's been reacting less and less to being in this pen. Just like that blank-faced boy in my dream. And that scares me, love. That really scares me. When he hears people screaming and crying or sees people disappear without a trace, he should be scared. I'm scared. But he doesn't show it.
Lately, he's been the one doing the reassuring.
It's okay, Mom. We'll be fine.
And that scares me more than anything else. That wilful denial of the fear and horror that illuminates every minute of our day. I wonder what he's really thinking, and I have no idea. No idea at all. And I can't ask, because we don't speak the unspeakable.
[ 18 years before The Battle of Yavin ]
"It's like she's talking to me, trying to tell me something."
Owen snorted at that and shook his head, downing the remaining caff in his mug and banging the mug back down on the kitchen table. "She's writing to her dead slave lover, Beru, the one that was killed before she fell pregnant."
A flare of irritation went through her at that. "I know that," Beru said. "But still." She took a sip of her own drink, mind wandering again to the diary. Impossible to get it out of her head, now that she'd started to read it. Impossible to dispel the lump in her throat.
"She was so desperate, Owen. She-"
"You know I don't like talking about her." Owen's eyes narrowed.
She sighed. "I liked her. I know you liked her, too. I think you-"
"I mean it, Beru," he warned.
She pressed her lips together and looked aside. Her gaze moved to the baby's shake-rattle that sat on the scratched tabletop, the highchair at the end of the table. Three-month-old Luke was asleep in the small storage room that had been swiftly transformed into a nursery, where she'd discovered that one of the old store boxes had held Shmi's handwritten diary.
"I'm scared," she said.
And that stopped Owen's imminent departure. He frowned. "Scared? There's nothing to be scared of."
She looked up at him. "Shmi tried to hide the worst parts of life from Anakin, but she couldn't do it." She paused, trying to find some way of verbalising the unsettling ache in her chest. "I don't think we should lie to Luke. I think he'll know, too."
"If you even for a second suggest we tell him about his father, then I'll-"
"But I'll know, and that will be enough." She stood, because Owen had moved to lean across the table at her. "I know we told Obi-Wan we'd claim him as our own... but I don't think we should." She took a steadying breath, hearing her voice rising in agitation and knowing it would only put Owen on the defensive. "At the least, he should know we're not his biological parents, Owen."
She waited, watching Owen's silent fuming turn to contemplation. Letting out a quiet breath, she moved to the kitchen counter to refill the two mugs of caff. In the heat of the midday suns, there was no steam rising from the hot liquid.
"He'll want to know about his parents," Owen finally said. "And that's dangerous."
"We'll tell him they're dead." She paused, shrugged as she turned back to him. "It's true, after all. With Anakin and Padme dead, who will care what his name is?"
Anakin was gone when I got home today.
He's never gone, he always waits for me. Sometimes the other women look after him, sometimes he just has to stay on his own. He knows it isn't safe, he knows the rules. Stay where you are, don't get noticed.
He got noticed.
He'd tried to help someone, a free-man, by repairing his protocol droid. Nothing too complicated - just complicated enough that a six-year-old boy shouldn't be able to do it. The free-man told the guard, the guard told the majordomo... and Gardulla now knows Anakin has a special talent.
I'm scared, love. I don't want Anakin to be special - being special gets you noticed.
He came back later. He said it was fine, he'd just chatted to the hutt, he wasn't scared.
[ 16 years before The Battle of Yavin ]
"You told us he was dead!"
The explosive anger made Beru take a step backwards, instinctively backing away from her husband's ire, but Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't flinch. He did, however, fold his arms over his chest and look to the sandy ground. "I hoped he was," he said.
Beru felt her own temper flaring, a slower burn than Owen's anger. She looked down to the courtyard area, to where an eighteen-month-old Luke toddled across the bleached stone, pushing a toy spaceship along in the thin gathering of sand. Hair as white as bones in the sun, and clothing the colour of the sand, she imagined blinking and he would be gone, vanished into a mirage. Something hard and cold blocked her throat.
"You lied to us," Owen ground out. "We gave him his name, for stars sake, man! If you had any doubt, any doubt at all, that Anakin was dead-"
Obi-Wan straightened again. "I suggested he take your name, Owen." His mouth quirked into a half-smile. "And it wasn't really a suggestion."
Owen sneered. "You're so used to giving orders you don't even bother to justify them any more, do you?"
Obi-Wan sighed, but it wasn't an irritated sigh. He sounded tired. "Perhaps," he said at last, "I should have made my self clearer."
Owen took a step forward, anger clear to see in his tense frame. "You-" he started to say.
"Will he find out about Luke?" Beru interjected, and Obi-Wan turned to look at her. There was something weary and old in his eyes. "Is Vader coming for him?"
There was a breathless moment, as if the heat of the midday suns had burned away the oxygen and left her feeling light-headed, parched.
"I doubt it," Obi-Wan said at last. "He believes that his child is dead, and he has sworn never to return here." A smile that was supposed to be reassuring made Beru's insides clench with painful anxiety. "This homestead is probably the last place Vader will ever come to."
"You better be right about that," Owen growled.
Obi-Wan unfolded his arms and bowed. "As you say," he acknowledged. "Never forget that I am close, if you need me... if I am wrong."
"The day I need your help is the day I die," Owen replied sharply. Beru swallowed thickly. "You should leave, Kenobi."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "Owen, be reasonable. I-"
Beru looked down, startled at the sudden interjection by her nephew. Luke was toddling across the courtyard below them, heading for the sandy steps that led up to where they stood, his hands out and ready to start climbing. "Up!" he said again, and fixed his brilliant blue gaze on hers.
She shot a warning glance at Owen as she set off to capture Luke before he could try climbing the steps alone. She spared no similar glance for Obi-Wan, feeling a protective loyalty to her husband in the face of the Jedi's admission of error and the sudden, frightening new development.
And they'd given Luke the name of Skywalker.
She shook her head, foreseeing years of anxious anticipation stretching ahead of her, waiting for the day that Obi-Wan Kenobi was wrong - again.
In trying to climb the steps whilst carrying his toy with him, Luke dropped the spaceship to clatter to the ground.
Luke looked down at it. "Oh dear," he said, a phrase he'd started to say whenever something slipped out of his grasp. "Oh dear."
"You said it, Luke," she muttered, and lifted the wiggling bundle of toddler up into her arms.
It's dangerous for me to keep writing in this. Anakin's strange skills are developing so fast - I'm sure he could open the lockbox I keep this in, if he wanted to. I hope he doesn't even know this diary exists. I should get rid of it. But all these long years I've written to you, and I can't destroy that now. It is the only thing that is mine. But if it comes to it... then I'll destroy it. For Anakin.
[ 14 years before The Battle of Yavin ]
"I'm telling you, I did put it away! It was in the safe, Owen."
Owen just stared at her, not quite accusing, but doubtful, disbelieving.
Beru took a steadying breath of air. "You know how I check things, Owen. I didn't leave it unlocked."
He nodded. "Ahhh..." he said, and then nothing more. He's looking old, Beru thought. The lines at the corners of his eyes are getting deeper. The diary that was held in his hand was tossed onto the kitchen table with an angry sigh.
Beru pressed her lips together as it fell open on the last page that had been open - on a page now covered in a messy scribble of red and green crayon. "He's too young to have read it," she said. "He just wanted something to crayon on."
Gruffly, Owen laughed. "He sure knows how to pick 'em." Then, more soberly. "How the hell did he get it, Beru? It was in a locked safe, well above his heightl."
She didn't need to answer that. They both knew how. Now that Luke had hit the end of his toddler years and started to grow into an exuberant, irrepressible three-year-old, strange things had started happening in their home. And Beru had no idea how to deal with them.
What did you do with a child who could miraculously open locked doors or levitate confiscated toys back to himself when in a tantrum? What did you do with a child who knew when you were upset and cried out for solace, even when you weren't in the room? A child who could read the weather and would warn of un-forecast sandstorms before they hit? A child whose strange abilities you had to hide from the neighbours, who you feared would always be an outcast because of them?
She didn't know.
She'd unearthed Shmi's diary to re-read her entries during Anakin's early life, looking for inspiration. But she'd been upset after reading it, irritated with herself for struggling now when Shmi had coped despite living in slavery. Beru felt like she was coming apart despite being a free woman with a hard-working husband. She felt judged, and found wanting. But she was sure, she was sure, that even in her self-doubt, she had not forgotten to lock the book away again.
"Well, that's it," Owen said. "It has to go."
Beru looked up from her introspection, startled by the proclamation. "But that's all we have left of her."
Owen shook his head, picking the diary up and waving it in her face. "This is no time for sentimentality. It's dangerous, Beru. It has to go."
She snatched it from his hand. "No," she said, and was surprised by the vehemence she heard in her voice. "This is Luke's inheritance. One day he should know -"
"Reading that diary has caused enough trouble as it is, Beru. Luke doesn't need to know about his bloody heritage. Better we discourage his abilities and lead him towards a simple life - our kind of life."
But she doubted that would ever happen, didn't know how Owen thought that their vivacious boy could ever be happy with a simple farmer's life.
Maybe that's just children for you, she thought. When she was young, she too had been fiery and determined. She'd desperately wanted to escape Tatooine any way she could. But then she'd grown up, met the obstacles set in her path by galactic and local society, and married a farmer's son instead, just as her mother had wanted.
Would the same happen to Luke? All those young dreams crushed?
"I know," she whispered. "I know."
"Then it goes?" Owen said. It was voiced as a question, but Beru knew it wasn't really a question. It was an order, softly spoken.
"Yes." And she turned and tossed it into the recycle unit. She smiled grimly, feeling the heat of her impending deceit burning in her chest. "Better it's gone," she lied. And she made a show of hitting the 'recycle' button without actually hitting it.
When she turned back to Owen, she was surprised by the sadness dulling his eyes. No time for sentimentality, indeed, she thought. She put a hand on his stubbled cheek. "We'll be okay," she said.
He nodded stiffly. For a moment she thought he might be about to turn and kiss her palm, but he straightened his back and took a step towards the doorway. "I better get going," he said. "That vaporator isn't going to fix itself."
She nodded, watched him go.
She waited a moment. Made herself collect together the ingredients for lunch on the worktop. Waited another moment, just to be sure, and then, with a sting of shame she couldn't rationalise, reached into the recycle unit and retrieved the diary.
"I need you," she said to it, imagining Shmi's standing at her side, uncertain of whether the older woman would understand or not. "And Luke needs you."
She hid it in the front pocket of her tunic, and turned back to the cooking. If she was careful, if she was deceitful, the diary could be hidden again, and Owen need never know it still existed.
But where to hide it? Somewhere safe, where Owen and Luke would never look. It would be hidden, but reassuring just by its continued existence.
Somewhere it could sit until it was safe for Luke to have it, if that time ever came. A future that might be years away, but that she could wait for. She just had to be patient.
I've been thinking, love.
I'd go hungry for Anakin, you know that. I'd do anything, go to anyone Gardulla wants me to go to if it kept him safe. There's nothing I wouldn't do, to see him safe. And I've been thinking... that I would even give him up, if it would free him.
I've thought about this, Sam. It started with a dream... I don't know... an idea. Sometimes I fantasise about someone coming to his rescue, taking him away, and I don't fight it, Sam.
I don't think I'll ever be free. I'm not sure I remember how to be. But for Anakin.... If I could send him away, with anyone, anywhere, then I would. Anywhere has to be better than here.
In my fantasy, I don't fight it at all.
I just smile as he waves goodbye.
[ 1 year after The Battle of Yavin ]
The blastproof door rumbled as it opened with a slow crawl, lifting away, opening up from floor to ceiling. Darth Vader waited, schooling patience within him whilst the durasteel box in his hands seemed to weigh heavier with each passing second.
Finally, the room before him stood open. A narrow, squat store-room, deep within his private retreat. Lined with shelves, box after box sat in silence, waiting for him.
Vader fortified himself against the press of memories and walked inside. Each of these boxes belonged to a different life. Each one held relevance to another man, a dead man. Padme and Anakin's possessions were not his own. He stored them here only as a temptation to be resisted, to prove he needed them not. And in the eighteen years that they had sat here, gathering dust, they had remained sealed.
But this box, this new box, was different.
Within it was all that had been salvageable from the Lars homestead, and that was precious little after it had been abandoned for a year following the death of its owners shortly before the Battle of Yavin.
Then that name had been revealed -
- and once his lethal anger had subsided, once the dust of his ire had settled, Vader had ordered the homestead to be cleared out, the remains delivered to him.
There would undoubtedly be little of worth to the search for Skywalker. Vader had seen the inventory - personal possessions: burnt toys, unexplained mementoes, a charred diary that had been found taped to the underside of a burnt-out kitchen store cupboard. That last one intrigued him, but nothing more. It would not be of any military value. But Vader wanted it shelved, buried along with the rest of these items, sorted away from curious eyes, another test to his temptation and proof of the completeness of his transformation.
And so the box remained unopened.
Stopping at the end of the room, Vader placed the box atop another box, one of an older construction. He turned and began to move away again, back towards the doorway.
Something... called to him. A familiar warmth, a whisper beyond the range of hearing.
He turned back briefly, narrowing his eyes as he looked to the box he had just deposited.
I do not need to look inside, he thought. I will not look. That life is gone. Only a weak man would look. Only Anakin would look.
And he turned away, striding from the room without another backward glance.
[ 3 years after The Battle of Yavin ]
The blastproof door rumbled as it opened with a slow crawl, lifting away, opening up from floor to ceiling. Darth Vader waited, schooling patience within him.
Nearly two years since he had last visited this room. It seemed to greet him silently, a sigh of relief as the door opened and the light from the corridor swept inside ahead of him. It seemed to know that something had changed, or was about to change.
Vader headed for the box at the end of the line; the Lars homestead box. His hands grasped it and he lifted it, noting and dismissing the lingering ache in his shoulder from a recent shoulder injury, the blow delivered by his son on Bespin, some months ago now.
He began to walk for the door. And stopped. Suddenly, he didn't want to remove it from here, from the surroundings of another life. He had intended to take it with him to Executor, to look through the contents in privacy, enroute to the second Death Star and an increasingly pressing meeting with destiny. Now, it seemed a mistake to remove it from this place.
With a raised hand from Vader and a command to the Force, the door slid shut and the lights in the room were flicked on. Returning the box to its place, Vader ripped open the seal and slid aside the top.
Inside there lay just a few items.
The charred and blackened toys drew his gaze first, quickly re-triggering anger at what might have been, had his son not been hidden from him all those years ago. Other items he could not identify, mementoes without stories to explain their relevance. But there was also the diary.
He had suspected whose diary it was, the first time he had read the inventory. Now, seeing it, recognizing it, he knew.
How many years had passed since he had found this diary as a nine-year-old boy, and read it, and hidden it again, wishing he'd never seen it, unable to tell his mother what he'd done, suffering silent nightmares from the feeling of helplessness it had unearthed in him?
Too many years, and yet no time at all.
Then it had been flesh and blood hands that held the small, tightly bound book. Now it was gloved, mechanical hands that opened the charred pages to re-read it, to see it again with a parent's eyes, knowing now what had haunted his mother all those long years, because those fears for a son now haunted him also.
A flimsiplast note fell out.
Sweetheart. Your uncle wanted me to destroy this, but I couldn't do it. I hope, one day, when you're ready to read this, you'll understand why we hid this - and so much more - from you. I hope I get to pass this on to you when you're grown up and Kenobi's "destiny" is done with, and you can read it without the weight of a galaxy resting on your shoulders.
I'm sorry if what you find in here hurts you, Luke. But secrets hurt more, sometimes. I suspect, by now, that you already know this.
All my love.
Vader's mechanical fingers closed around the note, and then, with a force of will, he relaxed his fist and straightened out the now creased slip of flimsiplast, replaced it in the book.
[ 3 years after The Battle of Yavin ]
Luke looked up, surprised that he had been so lost in thought that he hadn't noticed Leia enter his room and cross to his side.
"Hey," he said, and drew himself up the medical bed, ignoring the spasming muscles in his arms. Only a couple of days after the second Death Star had been destroyed, he was still suffering the consequences of Palpatine's lightning. "I thought you were still on Endor."
"I was, but I was called back up here." She paused, not hiding the worry from her face. "Luke... Command received a package for you," she said.
Luke frowned. "Huh?" The Rebel Alliance didn't exactly run a postal service for its soldiers. "From who?"
She perched on the edge of his bed, shaking her head. "It was delivered by a private merchant. He claims he was asked to deliver it in the event of the death of the Vader." She shot him a look. "It's encrypted for your biometrics."
Luke didn't bother to hide his surprise. "What? You mean - hang on, Command tried to open it?"
Leia shook her head. "No. It's clearly marked with warnings." She paused. "Intell have scanned it, though - there doesn't appear to be any explosives or biological agents in there."
Luke let out a long sigh. "Well, that's good," he said, lightly.
Leia's razor-sharp you're-not-taking-this-seriously-enough look was levelled at him. "That doesn't mean there isn't something nasty hiding in there that we can't detect."
He didn't miss her double meaning. She, too, thought it could only be from Vader. Luke nodded. "I suppose not. But... Leia, if it's from-"
She stood abruptly. "The safest option would be to blast it."
Luke drew up sharply. "What? No! Leia, what if it's from-"
"It come be from anyone," she replied, pacing away from him and then back.
His heart was racing, the possibility too tempting, too impossible. "It could. But if Vader-"
"-if Vader sent it... Leia, I can't blast it. It might be all that's left."
Her eyes were pained. "If Vader sent it, that's even more reason to blast it. We don't need anything from him."
Luke closed his eyes briefly. "You don't need anything from him," he amended. And he wanted to say more, but he feared wounding her with the strength of his grief for a man she saw only as a monster whose relation to them was an unfortunate twist of fate. Or that's how she described it now - a little too vehemently for Luke to completely believe her.
A silence stretched between them, sparking with a clash of emotions.
"Okay," she finally said, the word shatteringly loud. Then quieter, "Okay, if that's what you want." She lifted her comlink, spoke to someone on the other end. "Bring it in," she said.
Luke swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat on its edge as an aide brought in a durasteel lockbox. The man hovered in the doorway until Luke stood and held out a hand for it.
"Good luck," Leia said, turning to leave as the man gave Luke the box.
"You could stay," he suggested.
She paused. The tension was written into every line of her body, a conflict between too many emotions for Luke to pin down in her confused Force presence. "Not today," she said, with a small smile. "Okay?"
He smiled slightly in return. "Okay."
Then she was gone and he was alone with the box. Without hesitation - with a pounding, expectant heartbeat - he pressed his left thumb to the lock panel, and opened it.
Blue light flashed outwards, and Luke resisted the instinctive urge to step back, the split-second fear that Leia had been right after all and this was his last mistake.
The light coalesced into a holograph.
"Luke," the image said, in Darth Vader's heavy voice, from the image of Darth Vader's expressionless mask. "If you are watching this, then it is done. And this is yours now. There are several other... items... that are now yours. They will come to you in due time. But this... you should have now." The image paused, as if considering saying more but deciding against it. "Farewell, Luke."
And then nothing more. The light of the hologram flickered, died.
Feeling oddly bereft, Luke looked inside the box and, frowning, reached in and lifted out an old and slightly scorched diary into the light. He turned it over in his hand, a faint tingling in his fingers as he held the book, read the name written on the front cover in simple but neat handwriting: Shmi Skywalker.
There was a tag, a page marker, placed in the middle of the book. Luke looked at it and, uncertainly, opened the book on the saved page.
He left today, my Anakin.
Remember the saviour I dreamt of, that I had given up hope of appearing? Well he came. He was a Jedi. And he saved Anakin. Or at least, he freed him. And now Anakin is gone.
I wanted to go with him, to live free with my son. Secretly I'd hoped that if the opportunity came, both of us would make it away from slavery somehow. But it was a greater love that made me realise only one of us would escape today, and I chose for my son to live free. After all, I have been a slave for so long, it scares me to think of what I would do if I was freed.
I suppose that is the sacrifice of parents. To let go, eventually. And I let go.
My Anakin was freed today. And I am lonely. But I am glad.
footnote: Family Script (Byng-Hall, 1995): shared family beliefs and shared family rules are encoded in repeated patterns of interaction and are important for how a family functions. A family script is the family's shared expectations of how family roles are performed in different contexts, including the role of caregivers. Scripts often oscillate between extremes from generation to generation, as the current generation attempts to avoid the 'mistakes' of the previous one.