A/N This story was posted a long time ago, but it was posted in several different parts. I've now grouped all four parts of this story under one title, making it a single story in four chapters. I may develop it further at a later date, but who knows.

Youthful Mistakes, Part 1

By KnightMara

"Hey, I think he's starting to wake up."

"Luke? Luke, can you hear me?"

"Come on, Wormie, wake up."

The voices tumbled over one another as Luke slowly regained awareness. He could feel hard ground beneath his back, and there was an incessant throbbing in his head and a slight stinging sensation across various parts of his body. Tentatively he opened his eyes and then quickly shut them again as the glare from two suns overhead relentlessly washed over him.

"Luke, open your eyes and look at me."

Obeying the command of the familiar voice, Luke blinked his eyes open once more. Someone had thankfully blocked out the glare, and he tried to focus on the two faces that danced in front of him.

"There we go. He's coming around."

Luke painfully managed to focus in on the rightmost of the two faces and recognized it. "Biggs?" He winced as the sound of his own voice echoed through his throbbing skull, even though it was barely a croaked whisper.

"Right here, buddy," the older boy replied. "How do you feel?"

Dumbly, Luke glanced over at the other face that hovered over his field of vision, trying to word his answer in the quickest and most painless manner. He recognized the second face, even though the name was escaping him at the moment. He wasn't even sure how he'd gotten himself in this position. He couldn't remember what he had done to batter himself so badly, but he was clearly aware of the pain now. He shut his eyes and pressed the heels of his hands against them. "Hurts," was the only thing that escaped his lips.

"Is it your head?"

Luke tried to nod, but pain exploded in the back of his neck. "Yes," he whimpered, silently cursing his weakness. He was thirteen years old after all. Too old to be acting like such a baby.

"Does anything else hurt?" Biggs' voice pressed.
Luke wasn't aware of anything else really hurting, although his skin felt like it had been scraped against sandpaper in several places. It stung like hell, but it didn't hurt.

"Luke?" Biggs' voice continued, insistent. "Can you move your legs and stuff?"

Groggily, Luke concentrated on wiggling his toes. He could feel them brush against the inside of his boots, and he could also feel tiny bits of sand in there as well. How had he gotten sand in his boots? That was pretty hard to do. Unless, of course, he'd managed to tear them somehow in doing whatever it was that had gotten him into this mess. He still couldn't remember. His head pounded again.

"Luke, answer me."

His mind had been drifting, he realized. He braced himself to speak, knowing the effects it would have on his aching skull. "Yeah, I can move."

"Do you think he'll be okay?" the second voice asked.

Luke was still trying to place a name to person number two when the world suddenly lurched and his stomach did a sickening roll. Knowing what was about to happen, he fought the urge to lie still and rolled weakly onto his left side only seconds before his stomach emptied itself onto the sand. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain that this action set off in his head before rolling back onto his back, panting and weak.

"Ugh, gross!" Fixer cried. "You could have warned me, Wormie!"

Fixer, that's who it was. The name finally attached itself to the person who was frantically scrambling to his other side to kneel beside Biggs.

"Uh-oh," he said dropping to his knees again. "He's blacking out again."

Indeed, Luke felt the world around him start to waver and fade. He was aware of a slight shiver that went through his body as his grip on awareness began to slip.

"No you don't."

He barely heard Biggs' panicked voice as his mind tried to shut down. But he did feel the gentle smack of a hand repeatedly against his cheeks. His eyes flew open.

"Stop," he groaned. It was bad enough to have a herd of charging banthas wreaking havoc in your brain, but to be slapped in the face over and over was flat out annoying.

"Good. He's awake again."

"Okay, so now what?" Fixer demanded.

"Dunno. Do you think one of us should go for help?"

At that, Luke grasped Biggs' arm and began struggling to sit up. There was no way anyone was going for help. Not after the recent streak of overprotectiveness that had seemed to plague his uncle and aunt where he was concerned. Lectures on this and that, warnings about what to do and what not to do, and the repeated expressed concern over his chosen group of friends flashed into his mind as he groaned, "No help. I'll be okay."

"Whoa, Luke. Maybe you shouldn't be sitting up yet."

No sooner had Biggs spoken the words than Luke began to agree with him. His head felt like it was splitting in two, and he fought back another wave of nausea as he continued to pull himself into a sitting position. Once seated upright, he squeezed his eyes shut against the pain and murmured, "No, I'm all right." He had to get over this. His uncle would not be pleased if he'd gotten himself hurt by. . . .by doing what? He still couldn't remember what had happened. Had it been his fault? Had he been doing something his uncle would lecture him about?

It didn't matter. He was thirteen years old and living with the most overprotective couple in the galaxy. He would hide a missing limb from them if he could. What was a little headache?

He rubbed his closed eyes, saving him from having to open them and refocus once more. He had to try to get himself as close to normal working order as soon as possible.

"How are you feeling, kid?" Fixer's unusually concerned voice asked.

Keeping his eyes closed, he lied, "Getting better."

He heard Fixer's relieved sigh. "You had us a little worried, there, Wormie."

"More than a little," Biggs countered. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Luke nodded, trying to work out some of the stiffness in his neck. He imagined his brain sloshing about inside his skull as he did so, as that was about how his head felt. It wasn't, however, pounding quite as badly, which was a marked improvement. Feeling a slightly stronger grip on things, he ventured to ask, "What happened?"

"You did a nose dive off the bike, that's what happened," Fixer replied.

That opened Luke's eyes as he brought his head up to study Biggs. "What bike?"

He saw the worry in Biggs' look as the older boy answered, "The brand new speederbike I got for my birthday. Don't you remember?"

Luke only had a vague idea of what a speederbike was. They were fast, dangerous, and illegal for anyone under sixteen. They also were highly unstable in Tatooine's climate. He certainly didn't remember Biggs getting one or why he would even want one when he'd just recently started fixing up that old Skyhopper. Swallowing down his growing uneasiness at his lack of memory, he responded honestly by shaking his head.

Luke watched as his own apprehensions were mirrored in his friend's face. "Luke, I got that bike two days ago. You don't remember?"

Again, Luke could only shake his head in response. He was beginning to panic, which didn't help his aching head any. It was one thing to try to hide a headache from his family, but he'd also managed to knock at least the last two days out of his brain, and that scared him.

Apparently, it scared Biggs as well. "That's it. We're getting you to a medic." He turned to Fixer. "Let's get him up." They each struggled to get the kid's arms over each of their shoulders before slowly easing into a standing position. Luke managed to get his feet under him to support himself, but he was weak and shaky. Not to mention terrified.

"We are in so much trouble," Fixer murmured softly as they slowly walked Luke away from where he'd fallen.

With dismay, Luke suddenly noticed he crowd of kids that was clustered around them. Luke hadn't even been aware that there were others, and he shuddered as Biggs attempted to dismiss them. "Okay, guys. Show's over."

There was a collective grumble as kids started to back away from them, but they didn't leave entirely. They just continued to watch as Luke allowed himself to be helped to a waiting speeder. He couldn't really blame them, for even he would've been drawn to a spectacle like this. Although he still wasn't sure what exactly had happened.

"Biggs, what happened, exactly?" Luke whispered as they propped him against the side of the speeder.

Biggs grimaced. "It was my fault. I lost control for a minute in the turn, and I managed to knock you off in the process of trying to get it back again."
Luke merely nodded in understanding, a sudden throbbing in his head keeping him from speaking.

"Luke, I'm really sorry. I-I was so scared when you didn't get up after you fell." Luke could hear the sincere concern in his voice and wanted to reassure him that he was fine.

"Biggs, it's okay," he said quietly.

"No, Luke. I'm getting rid of that thing," Biggs insisted. "Look, I almost got you killed back there."

Luke's head had begun to ache fiercely again, and he really didn't feel like arguing. But Biggs was his best friend, and he felt strangely guilty for worrying him like this. "Biggs, don't be crazy. I'm far from dead. I just banged my head that's all." When Biggs looked at him skeptically, he pressed, "Look, you don't even have to take me to a medic. I mean, I really don't even want you to. If my uncle finds out about this, I don't know what he'll do. He's already started to get crazy about the stuff I do, and this will only make it worse."

Biggs shook his head. "Luke, if you've got a serious head injury, you need to have it checked out."

"It's not serious," Luke protested, although the fierce ache had already begun to resemble a stampeding bantha once again. "I'm fine."

"Luke, I don't know-"

Fixer cut in, "Hey, if the kid says he's fine, he's fine. Leave him alone."

Biggs shot both of them a disapproving glare before caving in. "Fine. Fixer, you can take him home."

"Me? Why me?"

Luke, too, look confused.

"Because we arrived on that bike, and I'm not stupid enough to put him back on that thing. You have the speeder, remember," he argued, indicating the speeder Luke was currently leaning against.

Fixer seemed to weigh the situation in his mind a moment before grudgingly agreeing. "All right, I'll take him back to that farm of his." He turned sharply to Luke. "But you watch it, Wormie. I don't want you messing up my interior. You gotta hurl, you lean out the side, got it?"

Luke nodded weakly.

Biggs patted Luke on the shoulder. "I'll swing by tomorrow to see how you're doing, okay?"

"Sure," Luke replied.

"Come on, Wormie. I don't have all afternoon," Fixer shouted as he climbed into the speeder. Luke wasn't sure if Fixer was really annoyed with him or simply reverting to his obnoxious self after his brief lapse as a caring person. Either way, Luke mutely followed, climbing into the speeder and easing himself into the passenger seat. He winced as the back of his head made contact with the headrest, and reached back to feel a rather large and tender lump. Shifting to a more comfortable position, he indicated to Fixer that he was ready to leave.

Fixer gunned the engine and took off across the desert.

Luke rode silently beside him, fighting back nausea and desperately trying to figure a way out of this mess. Deciding to focus on something other than the odd sensation of moving and not moving at the same time that travelling across a desert plain seemed to induce, he studied his knuckles. Caked blood and sand covered them where he'd managed to scrape them across the sand. His shirt, too, was torn in a couple of places. Wincing as he flexed his raw fingers he looked down at the rest of his body. There were holes in his pants at the knees, and he could see a bit of blood and sand caked there too. His boots were indeed torn, as he had suspected earlier, right at the toe. Wriggling his feet, he grimaced at the gritty sand that brushed up against them. He sighed, closing his eyes. He really didn't know how he was going to explain this.

"You know, you can always tell them that I beat you up," Fixer suggested in answer to his unspoken question. "That way you won't get in trouble."

Luke glanced up at him, surprised at this moment of insight coming from someone he'd long suspected as being all brawn and no brain. Fixer was looking back at him, seeking a response. Luke sighed again before replying, "That won't work. My uncle has a serious thing against me fighting anyone. Remember that wrestling match me and Windy got into?"

Fixer nodded. "Windy got you good that time."

"Yeah, well I got grounded on top of it all," Luke finished.

"So, then just tell him the truth," Fixer argued.

"I've been saving up for a landspeeder. If I tell them about this, they'll never let me drive."

"You're only thirteen. You can't drive a speeder anyway."

"I'm almost fourteen," Luke countered. "And it'll take me a year to save it up as it is."

"So, then what are you so panicked about?" Fixer was clearly confused at Luke's logic.

Unfortunately, in his state, so was Luke. "Look, it's not that simple," he struggled to explain. "My uncle doesn't forget stuff like this."

Fixer just shook his head. "Whatever."

Wincing against the pain that suddenly surged up through the back of his neck and into his skull, Luke said nothing more. All he wanted right now was to get home and curl up in his bed. He hoped fervently that no one would be there to greet him and question him about the cuts and scrapes. He didn't want to have to answer, and didn't think he could come up with anything convincing right now that would keep him out of trouble.

Again, a spasm of pain shot up through him, and he gasped involuntarily.
Thinking he'd done something to cause it, Fixer quickly reached a steadying hand out to his shoulder. "Sorry."

Luke couldn't even utter thanks, let alone dismiss Fixer's apology as not being his fault. Instead, he held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut, willing an end to the pain. His stomach rolled again, but he fought back the urge to throw up for fear it would make his head worse. He felt the cold beads of sweat spring to his forehead as well as the cold dampness that soon covered his body. His torn tunic clung to his chilled skin and he shivered, signaling the inevitable. Eyes still closed, he leaned over the side and retched.
He was aware of the speeder's decrease in speed as Fixer slowed down to a stop. "You okay, kid?"

The question sounded distant and murky. He pulled himself back into the speeder and felt his grip on reality begin to waver. His heart was beating at an odd rhythm, his breathing didn't feel right, and his hand quaked as he brushed it across his forehead. Tears worked their way out from the corners of his eyes as he fought to stay conscious. He couldn't lose it now. He just couldn't. Not over a lousy headache. But why did it have to hurt so badly?

"I'm starting to think this is serious," Fixer's voice interrupted his thoughts. It was clearer this time, a good sign.

Luke worked moisture into a suddenly dry mouth and managed, "I'm okay now."

"Yeah, right, Wormie," Fixer shouted. "It looked like you were going to pass out just now. And I'm thinkin' that Biggs was right. You might have a concussion or something."

Luke risked opening his eyes and focusing them on Fixer. He wasn't blurry, another good sign. "And just what is a doctor going to do for a concussion?"

Fixer shrugged, "Dunno. Make you stay home and rest, I guess. That's what my uncle did when he had one."

"Okay, so I'll do that on my own. I'll lie and say I'm sick." Luke looked at him imploringly. "Come on, Fix. My aunt and uncle can't know that I did this . . . however I did this."

"See! You can't even remember how you got yourself hurt, Wormie!" Fixer cried. "It was on a speederbike. Biggs was showing off and you fell off. That's what happened!"

"I know!" Luke retorted, although he really didn't. In fact, he had no memory of a speederbike at all. He couldn't even remember how Biggs got it. Or where Biggs was now. Why wasn't he driving him home? He vaguely remembered lying in the sand, but it was all a blur. Any conversations they'd had were completely gone. All he knew was that he hurt and he didn't want his aunt and uncle to know because they'd overreact. But now he was so confused, he wasn't even sure if it was possible for them to overreact to this situation. It was beginning to look worse and worse in his mind. Panic surged like a sudden sandstorm and Luke groaned, "Oh stars!"


Luke turned to Fixer and tried vainly to fight back hysterical tears. "My memory. It's all messed up. I can't remember. And stuff is just gone. Stuff from five minutes ago. It's all a mess. Oh sweet stars, what do I do?" He knew he was breaking down in front of one of the least compassionate people he knew, and the person who was furthest from being considered a friend. But right now he didn't care. He was scared. Terrified. He drew deep breaths to try to keep calm, but his alarm was too great and his head was too sore. All he could do was cry. And crying hurt.

Fixer stared at him for a moment, trying to process the whole situation. In a moment, he simply swore. "To hell with driving you home. You need a hospital." He reached down to throttle up the speeder.

Luke frantically grabbed his arm. "No, wait! We're almost to my house. Let my aunt and uncle do it."

Fixer gave him a wary stare before nodding. "Okay, but you make sure you get checked out." He turned back toward the desert landscape and hurried toward the Lars Homestead as fast as his speeder could take them.
Dumbly, Luke watched the landscape scream by as he dried his tears and hoped things didn't go from bad to worse.

A little while later, Luke was staggering to the door of his home, aware that Fixer's eyes were trained on him the entire time. When he finally reached the entrance, he threw a small wave back at the unexpectedly compassionate boy and ducked inside. Bracing himself, he waited for his aunt's usual, "Is that you, Luke?" When he heard nothing, he went further inside and was greeted by silence and emptiness. He breathed a sigh of relief. Both his aunt and his uncle were out of the house.

Suddenly, he wondered why he felt relieved. After all, hadn't he promised Fixer that he'd get help? But if they weren't there, that would give him time to see if he really needed the help. After all, there was no sense getting in trouble for nothing if he started getting better. Why tell them that he'd been . . .what was it that he'd been doing? He tried to clear the fog in his aching brain, but he couldn't quite remember. Wait! Fixer had told him. He'd been riding on Biggs' speederbike. That was it. At least, that was what Fixer had told him had happened, which was all Luke had to rely on right now. And he knew that his uncle would react badly if he'd gotten hurt on a speederbike, so it was better not to tell him. No, he wouldn't say anything unless he absolutely had to.
Looking down at his torn and bloodied clothing, he quickly decided to shower and change. That would get rid of the most visible evidence. Yes, that was what he'd do. He headed toward his bedroom to get some clean clothes and to throw away the ones he'd ruined. Halfway there, he was forced to stop. The wall paintings suddenly began to sway and dance in his vision, and he leaned heavily against the wall until they were finished. Righting himself again, he felt that cold dampness that had crept up on him earlier and tried to force it back. He wouldn't get sick again. He had nothing left in his stomach anyway.

He continued resolutely to his room and gathered up the clothing he'd need to change into. There was a tunic that was a bit too large for him, and he hoped the sleeves would cover up his scraped knuckles. The only other thing that concerned him was his boots, but he could go barefoot for now. That problem could wait until morning if it had to. He gingerly climbed out of his ruined clothes, bracing himself against the wall with one hand and being careful not to pull too hard on the cloth that was caked to his knees. Undressed and clutching the bundle of fresh clothes to his chest, he headed for the 'fresher.

He emerged a little while later fully clothed once more, but doubled over from the pounding agony in his head. The sonic shower had cleansed him, but it had made his headache worse, and he didn't know why. Gripping the wall for support, he weakly stumbled back to his room and collapsed on the bed, tears streaming unbidden from his eyes. He took several shallow breaths, trying to ease the pain, the nausea, and the pull toward unconsciousness that was beginning to look like a rather pleasant option. He shivered as he broke into a sweat again, so carefully he reached down and pulled his blankets up to his chin.

At that moment, he heard movement in the house.

"Luke, are you home yet?" his aunt's voice called distantly from somewhere inside the home.

Shivering violently and hugging his blanket as a lifeline, Luke was unable to respond. Any improvements he had made since hurting himself had been erased in that blasted shower, and now he could barely summon the energy to move his lips, let alone call out to his Aunt Beru.

"I guess he's still out with his friends," he heard her say. If she was still talking aloud, that meant that-

"Well, he'd better get home soon. I don't like him staying out like this. Too much trouble to get into."

Luke winced at the sound of his uncle's voice. Just recently, he had begun to develop a stubbornness regarding Luke's activities, and he had become almost unreasonable. Luke told himself that Owen was simply being a bit overprotective of him out of love, but it was often hard to believe that when confronted with his uncle's stern glare. The man was intimidating and gruff, and he'd long ago ceased any undue outward signs of affection. Luke knew in his heart that the love was there, but it was very hard to spot most of the time. Especially when his uncle was disappointed in him. More than anything, Luke hoped to avoid that tonight.

"Owen, you worry too much," Aunt Beru was saying. "You know he's not going to-did you leave these lights on?"

"Oh no," Luke breathed. They'd discover that he was home, come in to find him lying here, and he wouldn't be able to hide the fact that he'd been out . . . doing what again?

His head throbbed mightily, and he gave up trying to remember as his stomach lurched again. He bit back the nausea and hugged his blankets tighter. He had to do something. He was aware that his aunt and uncle were talking, although he could no longer hear what they were saying through the drumming in his ears. He tried to slow his breathing, which had become rather rapid, hoping to present a somewhat normal appearance. But how normal could he appear if he was lying in bed before dinner? He gave up and decided to leave things to chance.

"Luke?" His uncle's voice called loudly through the hall leading to his room. A moment later, both Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen were standing at the foot of his bed.

"Luke, honey, what's wrong?" Beru asked as she sat on the edge of the bed and worriedly regarded her nephew. "Are you sick?"

Illness! That was the key! Why hadn't he thought of it before? Or had he? "Yes," he lied, his voice barely above a whispered groan.

"Probably caught that thing that Huff had from hanging out with his son," Owen muttered as his wife placed a hand on Luke's forehead.

Her hand felt surprisingly warm against his skin, and he relaxed into her touch.

"Well, he doesn't have a fever," Beru commented, "but he does seem rather cold and clammy." She delicately brushed a few sweaty strands of hair off of his face and asked, "Can you tell me what's bothering you?"

Luke was saved from answering by a sudden wave of dizziness that had him heaving over the edge of the bed as his aunt gently stroked his back. Luke trembled uncontrollably as he lay back down on the bed, and he watched as his aunt and uncle exchanged worried glances. They knew!

"Do you think it's serious enough to take him to a doctor?" Owen was asking.

Beru tucked the blankets more snuggly around her nephew to ease his trembling before replying, "I think we can wait until morning. There's no fever, and it could easily just be something he ate."

Luke looked at her in shock. They didn't know. He still had a chance to hide the whole incident from them.

"What do you think, Luke?" his uncle pressed, concern etched on his features.

Luke's heart went out to him. He suddenly wanted to confess everything. To cry out to him, "No, take me to a hospital! I disobeyed you and got hurt! It's all my fault!"

But he didn't. He remained mute, for reasons he couldn't explain. He'd later regret his mistake; but for the moment, he kept quiet, glancing from one guardian to the other.

At last, Beru sighed. "We'll let him sleep and keep an eye on him. He should be fine." She leaned forward and planted a loving kiss on his cheek. Then she rose from the bed and turned to her husband. "I'll clean up in here and then get dinner ready, Owen."

Owen nodded and left the room as Beru proceeded to clean the small mess Luke had made. When she was finished, she placed another kiss on his forehead.

"I'll be back in to check on you in a little while, okay, honey?" she whispered.

Luke mouthed a "Yeah," unable to actually speak or nod, then watched as his aunt disappeared out the door, shutting off the lights as she left.

Alone with his pain and fear, Luke wondered why he'd remained silent. Why he'd been unable to speak up when he'd had the chance. But before long, he allowed his eyes to drift shut and he sank into painless darkness. Whether it was sleep or unconsciousness, he wasn't sure. But either way, it was a blessed release from the anguish he'd endured throughout the day, and it was several hours before he opened his eyes again.

When Luke did finally open his eyes, it was perfectly dark in his room, throwing him into a disoriented panic. The bed seemed to sway gently beneath his body, and he found himself clutching at the sides in an effort to find some semblance of balance. Without light, it was hard to tell which direction was up, so he remained in a state of terrified paralysis for several minutes. When things slowly began to stop their sickening motion, Luke tentatively tried to move.

Miraculously, the throbbing pain was gone from his head, and he was left with merely a vague soreness behind his eyes and at the back of his skull. His stomach still felt a bit on the weak side, and his balance was far from perfect as he struggled into a sitting position on the bed. Sore muscles protested against his action, but he had no choice. Nature, it seemed, was calling him to the 'fresher, and he had to obey or risk more embarrassment than a thirteen year-old boy was able to handle. He gingerly swung his legs around to the bedside and placed his feet on the floor. Taking a deep breath, he rose to stand, and was satisfied when he didn't collapse into a heap.

Blinking his eyes around the room, he realized it must be nearing dawn, for the faint outlines of the objects in his room were starting to emerge from the total darkness he had awakened to. He must have been asleep for quite a long time then, for it was early afternoon when his aunt had left his room to go prepare dinner for his uncle. Hoping that the sleep had done him some good, he reached out his hand and felt along the wall as he made his way to the 'fresher. Realizing that his nose had started to run, he sniffled and wiped his sleeve across his face. No, it wasn't very hygienic, but it would do. As he walked, his dizziness increased, but the pain didn't. Feeling that this was a good sign, he stepped into the 'fresher and switched on the light.

And drew a startled breath at the red stain on his sleeve. Wiping his nose once more, he realized that his nose wasn't running. It was bleeding! He reeled. He'd never had a nosebleed before, and he wasn't good with blood to begin with. Small cuts were one thing, but any large quantity of blood was enough to make him faint. Especially if it was his own blood. Weak with fear and the aftereffects of his injury, he pondered risking a glance in the mirror to see how bad it was. Thinking it would be best to confront the problem face to face, so to speak, he approached the mirror.

His reflection made him stagger. Eyes wide with horror and underscored with dark purple circles stared out of a face that was ghastly pale, while a thin trail of crimson blood ran from each nostril and down to his collar. He couldn't help but focus on the blood that glared red against his deathly white skin. Suddenly icy cold, sick, and dizzy, he backed into the wall, not realizing his mistake. The tender lump at the back of his head made contact with the hard surface and his mind exploded in a brilliant flash of fiery pain as he was plunged into absolute darkness.

There were voices. Disjointed ones. And they seemed to be asking questions and making statements at the same time.

". . .coming around. . . . .hear me?. . .your name. . .? . . . stay with. . . . . fracture. . . . .hear me?. . .. give me a. . . out again. . .."
They were swallowed up by the darkness almost as quickly as they had emerged and he plunged back into unawareness.

Luke's eyes flashed open and then squinted again as they were confronted with brilliant light. It was almost blinding in its glare, and Luke dimly wondered if he was staring at the twin suns. Shadows seemed to move before him, periodically blocking the light, but he couldn't focus on any of them. And it hurt too much to try. His eyes didn't want to work, and neither did his ears as he was greeted back to consciousness by a mumbled drone of what he guessed were voices. Nothing was distinct, however, and he gave up trying to figure out what was going on as pain racked him once more. Closing his eyes again, he drifted back into oblivion.

When his eyes opened again, the brilliant light was gone. It had been replaced by something much softer. The voices were gone as well, leaving him in a kind of soothing silence. Glancing about, his eyes fell upon a figure at his bedside. Through his blurry vision, he could not make out the person's identity. Narrowing his eyes, he tried to focus, and eventually managed to make out the form of an unfamiliar old man. As though suddenly taking notice of his effort, the old man regarded him with a smile and placed a hand upon his shoulder.

"Not yet, young Luke. Rest."

The words were clear, even though Luke had not seen the old man make a sound. It was as if the command had been spoken inside of his own head. And yet, it was one he could not resist, as he slowly slipped back into unconsciousness.

As he drifted back into awareness, he was conscious of the tight squeeze on his left hand and a mild pressure against his head. He was lying on a soft bed that wasn't his own, but he felt relatively comfortable. In fact, as he opened his eyes once more, he noted that there was very little pain at all. It seemed that the only thing he could recall experiencing before this moment had been pain. But now it was gone. He blinked his eyes, and took in the warm light that bathed the room. Things were coming into focus without much effort, and within moments his eyes fell upon a familiar form.

In a very unfamiliar position.

Perched in a chair at his bedside, head resting on one arm that was curled on the mattress, was his Uncle Owen, perfectly sound asleep. His other arm rested at Luke's side, holding the boy's left hand tightly even as he slept. Luke stared dumbfounded at the older man, puzzled as to how circumstances had placed him in this position. He noted that his uncle's face was unshaven, and that his clothes appeared rumpled. As he watched the man's steady breathing, Luke winced at the thought of the aches and pains his uncle was going to wake up to after sleeping in such an awkward position. He hoped it wouldn't make him grumpy, as he was prone to get without a good night's sleep. But why had he slept there in the first place?

Glancing around the room in search of an explanation, Luke balked at his unfamiliar surroundings. The room was very small, and sparsely furnished. The walls were a warm, sandy shade, but devoid of the paintings that decorated his own home. A small table sat against one wall, with another chair beside it. Next to his bed, on the right side, some sort of machine whirred and beeped rhythmically. And suddenly, he knew. He was in a hospital. He'd never been in one before-he'd never had a need to, for he was never sick. But his groggy mind had somehow managed to piece things together quite rapidly, and he knew that was where he was. But why?

At that moment, the door to the room slid open, and Luke quickly looked over to see who was coming in, half expecting to see the strange old man whose image hovered inexplicably at the back of his consciousness. Instead, a tired and weary woman entered. Aunt Beru?

Luke gasped audibly at her haggard features, and she looked up from the cup of caf that she held tightly in her hands. She almost dropped it at the sight of his wide-eyed stare.

A smile that hovered somewhere between surprise, relief, and joy graced her tired features as she rushed to his right side. "You're awake!" she whispered excitedly, taking his right hand into hers. Quickly setting down her caf, she stroked his face with her other hand, tears glistening in her eyes. "You had us so scared."

Luke shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to see his aunt cry or to hear the anguish in her voice at what he'd somehow put her through. "I'm okay now, Aunt Beru," he whispered back to her. "I'm okay."

Not taking her eyes from him, she pressed, "How-how do you feel? Does your head hurt?"

He shook his head, noting a bit of stiffness in the back of his neck and the unfamiliar pressure against the back of his skull, but no pain. "Not anymore," he answered.

He felt a shift on his left side, and glanced over to see his uncle stirring out of his slumber. Tired eyes focused on Luke's alert gaze, and Owen jerked awake.

"You're awake!" he nearly cried. "How do you feel, boy?"

Luke swallowed back the lump that rose in his throat at his uncle's tearful concern. "I'm good," he replied hoarsely. "A bit tired, but the pain's gone."

Uncle Owen clasped Luke's hand in both of his and squeezed tightly, pressing his forehead to the tips of Luke's fingers. He was silent for a long moment before he finally breathed, "I was afraid we were going to lose you." He raised his eyes to his nephew's face and implored, "Why didn't you say something? Why didn't you tell us?"

Guilt, like a sandstorm of hurt, washed over Luke at his uncle's words. He vaguely remembered not telling his aunt and uncle about his injury, but he couldn't remember why. Things were already too muddled in his brain to make any sense out of what he'd done, and the only thing he could remember clearly was the pain that he'd felt. Everything else was a blur, and he found himself unable to answer his uncle's question. He fervently wished that he could, however. Staring into his uncle's face, he wanted to tell him anything that would make the guilt go away. He wanted to explain away his uncle's worry and his aunt's tears.

Instead, he felt the tears spring into his own eyes. "I-I don't know," he stammered. "I don't remember. I'm sorry, Uncle Owen. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay, dear," his aunt began, wiping away his tears with her hand. "It's okay. Everything is okay, now."

Luke shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't even know what happened. I just remember being afraid to tell you."

"Why were you afraid, Luke?" his uncle asked.

"I-I don't know," Luke replied, choking on his tears. "I don't know. It was stupid, but I don't remember why I did it. I'm sorry." He felt that he couldn't apologize enough. He'd made a mistake, he knew. But he couldn't sort out the jumbled memories in his brain to explain himself. "I'm so sorry, Aunt Beru. Uncle Owen. I'm-"

"Shhhh," Aunt Beru soothed. "You were confused, that's all. It doesn't matter." She wiped away a few more tears before she added, "What matters is that you are all right now."

Luke nodded, wishing her words would erase the guilt. They didn't, but he did feel a bit better. Brushing his hand across his eyes to get rid of the last of the tears, he blinked sleepily.

"We'd better get that droid back in here," Owen spoke to his wife. "Let them know that he's awake."

Beru nodded, and moved toward the door.

"What droid?" Luke asked in confusion.

"The medical droid that's been working on you, dear," Aunt Beru answered gently.

"Droid?" Luke questioned. "Then who was that man?"

His uncle's face grew grave. "What man?"

Alarmed at the shift in his uncle's expression, Luke tried to explain. "The man. The old man who was sitting right there." He indicated the spot where his uncle was now sitting. "He made me go back to sleep."

"Are you sure?" his aunt asked, her own face mirroring his uncle's sudden concern.

Luke looked from one to the other worriedly. "I think so. I mean, it could have been a dream, I guess. But my head hurt like when I was awake, so I think it was real." He continued to move his eyes from one guardian to the other. "I thought he was a doctor or something."

Neither his aunt nor his uncle replied. Instead, they looked to one another, exchanging glances that Luke could not understand. Puzzled, he waited for an answer.

Without looking back at Luke, Beru headed once more to the door. "I'll get the medical droid."

Luke watched her leave before turning back to his uncle. "Uncle Owen?" When the other simply watched the door and didn't respond, Luke continued, "Uncle Owen, was it a dream?"

Uncle Owen turned back toward Luke, forcing a smile. "It probably was, Luke. Just a dream." He stroked the boy's cheek a moment before looking back over his shoulder toward the door.

Within moments, Aunt Beru reentered, followed by a rather terrifying metal entity. With a skull-like face and transparent abdomen, it looked like something out of Luke's nightmares. Unable to stop himself, Luke drew in a sharp breath in shock before demanding, "What is that?"

Beru was startled by her nephew's reaction. "Luke," she said in a calm voice, "this is the medical droid that's been taking care of you. He saved your life."

Luke persisted in gazing at the metal man with furrowed brows and a doubtful expression. This was no soothing doctor standing before him, but a metal horror. He was glad he'd been out of it earlier, because he was sure the shock of seeing this thing would have killed him. Then, suddenly, something clicked in his mind. Something his aunt had just said.

"What do you mean, 'saved my life'?" he asked slowly. "What was wrong with me? I just bumped my head and passed out, right? "

Beru and Owen looked at each other uncomfortably before the medical monster finally spoke. The voice it emitted was surprisingly soothing and gentle. "You've suffered from a severe skull fracture and some internal hemorrhaging, sir. It was, in fact, quite a life-threatening injury. However, I must say, your recovery has been remarkable. I have never seen such a rapid improvement. By all accounts, sir, you should still be in a coma."

Listening to the droids words, Luke suddenly felt his mouth go very dry and a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Reality hit him like a physical blow, and it stunned him. Reaching tentative fingers up and across his forehead, he felt the plaster-like bandage that encased his head and suddenly realized the source of the odd pressure he'd felt there. "C-c-coma?" was all he could stammer.

"Yes," came the all-too-calm reply from the droid. "You've been unconscious for the better part of ten days, with a few brief periods of semi-consciousness. We had to perform surgery on-"

"Stop!" Luke cried, feeling ill with the knowledge of what he'd been through without his even knowing it. Blurred recollections of staggering pain and blood rose to the surface of his consciousness, and hearing the droid's words made their disjointed and distorted appearance too much to handle. "I've heard enough, thank you."

"Yes, sir," the droid politely responded. "But I do have to perform a few tests."

Luke threw a terrified glance at his aunt and uncle.

Aunt Beru moved toward him and placed a hand gently on his shoulder. "Luke, it's important. We'll be right here. You'll be okay."

Luke mutely nodded at her, but he turned his gaze away from the droid. He felt like a baby for being so scared around what was obviously a care-giving machine, but he couldn't help it. So, instead, he stared down at his folded hands, noting the healing scars on his knuckles. Tightness formed in this throat as he remembered seeing these knuckles torn and bloodied the last time he'd looked at them. Unbidden, the image of his own face, deathly pale with lines of crimson, flashed into his mind. Flipping his hands over so that the palms faced up, he swallowed and pushed the vision out of his head. He didn't need to remember that. He didn't need to remember any of it. But even as the thought crossed his mind, he realized that there was too much that he didn't remember. How much had been erased forever? He shivered.

If he'd only known how badly he'd been hurt, he'd have gotten help sooner. Wouldn't he? The circumstances of his injury were still lost among the memories he wasn't sure he would ever be able to retrieve. The image of his pale face in the mirror came to him again, and he winced.

"Are you experiencing physical pain, sir?" he heard the droid ask gently.

Startled, Luke looked up into his metal face. "No," he replied softly.

"Psychological pain, perhaps?"

Luke didn't know what that meant, but he felt it was important that he answer. After all, the last time he'd kept something to himself, he'd almost died. This much, he could recall. He shook his head and whispered, "Just tiny memories of being hurt. But they're just flashes, really. And I can't remember a whole lot else, which scares me."

"Some memory loss is typical with severe head injury," explained the droid with a caring voice that still seemed out of place coming from such a skeletal head. "Short term memory is most often affected, usually causing the days or weeks surrounding the injury to be permanently lost."

"You mean I'll never remember what happened?" Luke asked, his voice rising slightly in panic.

"More than likely," replied the droid. "But we still need to run some more tests to be sure. And you'll be staying here for some time for observation."

Luke silently nodded his head before allowing the droid to poke, prod, examine, and analyze. He began to grow sleepy as the droid continued his examination, and wished he would just go away. With heavy eyes, he watched as the droid finally seemed to complete his tests and a data screen slid out from the wall beside his bed. It took the droid several minutes to key information into it before it turned back to Luke.

"Now I think it's time for you to rest, sir."

Luke was about to protest when his uncle stepped in.
"Didn't you say you were tired, Luke?" he asked.

Luke looked down at his palms and answered honestly, "Yes."

"Then get some sleep."

Realizing that his uncle and the scary droid were right, Luke agreed. "Okay, I'll sleep."

Aunt Beru came forward and clasped his hand in hers. "We'll be here if you need anything."

Suddenly feeling too tired to answer, he nodded, closing his eyes.

He heard the droid say to his aunt or uncle, "I would like to discuss a few things with you in the hallway, if I may."

"Yes, certainly," came his uncle's response.

Luke's eyes popped open. "Uncle Owen, wait!"

Owen turned to regard Luke for a moment before stepping close to the bedside. "What is it, Luke?"

"I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am. For all of this. I didn't mean to make you guys worry." He tried to put as much earnestness into his sleepy voice as he could. He wasn't sure how successful he was, though.

His uncle simply patted his hand and smiled. "I know you didn't mean anything. And I know you're sorry. Now go to sleep before we have to start worrying about you again."

Luke smiled up at his uncle before closing his eyes. In mere seconds, he was fast asleep.

"Now tell me, sir, what is your full name?"

"Luke Skywalker." Luke was bored and hungry, but he knew that the medical droid-whom he'd discovered was a 2-1B model-needed to ask these questions to see how serious his memory loss was. It was an annoying drill.

"Your age?"

"Thirteen standard years, but I'll be fourteen in two months."

"The names of your parents?"

Luke was quiet.

"Do you remember the names of your parents?"

Luke shook his head and explained, "I'm an orphan. I live with my aunt and uncle, Owen and Beru Lars."

"Ah, I see," the droid responded.

Luke frowned. The droid was acting like this was new information. All of this stuff was already on his charts. He didn't see the need for the droid to start play-acting when it was Luke's memory that was being tested.

"Favorite moment in the past year?"

Luke smiled. This was a different type of question. "I helped Uncle Owen get his landspeeder running again. His hands were too big to get inside the repulsor system, so I did it instead."

"How long ago was this?"

Luke thought a moment. "A few months, I guess." Dryly he added, "Give or take ten days."

The 2-1B ignored his sarcasm. "What was your first day of school like?"

"Terrible. I got picked on by a bully who later became sort of a friend of mine. But I got him back. And the teacher was awful."

Uncle Owen took a step toward Luke from the corner of the room. He'd been silently watching over every test they'd run on the boy. "I thought your first day of school was great. Isn't that what you told me?"

Luke shrugged. "I lied because you told me never to complain about stuff."

Owen found himself smiling in spite of himself, and indicated to the medical droid that he could continue.

The droid studied the interaction between the two before continuing. "But you do remember everything about that day?"


"And what about the accident that caused your injuries?"

Luke shook his head. "Still nothing."

"What's the last thing you remember before the accident?"

Back to the questions that bothered him. Without the aid of a calendar or a set of days he could use as a marker, Luke found this task rather hard. Images and words still came to him in brief flashes, but they were unconnected to anything else and only served to confuse him more. Biggs had already told everyone what had actually happened. But to Luke, it was like hearing a story about someone else. As far as he could recall, nothing Biggs said had happened to him. He merely bore the scars of the events in the story.

"It's hard to say," he finally responded. "I still don't remember Biggs' birthday. And I don't remember anything about the speederbike. Actually, it's a lot easier to tell you what I don't remember. Why don't you ask me questions like that?"

"Luke, don't be difficult."

Luke turned his head in reaction to his uncle's comment and threw a sharp glare at him. "I'm not trying to be difficult! This is just very frustrating and pointless!" He looked back at the droid. "I can't tell you my last memory because it's all jumbled up with stuff from after I hit my head, so it's hard to get it all straight. And there's a lot of stuff that happened before that, so it's hard to sort out which one is the most recent! Okay?" He let out an angry breath. "Look, I just don't want to do this anymore!"

Before Owen could react to Luke's brief tirade, the 2-1B interjected. "Sir, I think I've obtained enough information within the past few days to assemble a diagnosis and prognosis. I'll return after I've processed everything." With that the droid turned and left the room, leaving a frustrated boy and an irritated man behind.

A thick silence descended upon the room. Owen stared at his nephew in obvious disapproval, and Luke glared back at his uncle in just as obvious aggravation. Neither seemed about to speak or release the stare. It was quite sometime before Owen, being the authoritarian, finally spoke.

"I think you should explain yourself right now, young man." His voice was harsh and commanding, but Luke didn't flinch. "Droid or no droid, that 2-1B is the only reason you are sitting up in that bed, so I would expect some respect, or at the very least, some courtesy to be displayed here. Not this inappropriate and childish impertinence."

Instead of feeling ashamed, Luke only intensified his glare. "Explain myself? Do you have any idea what it is like to lose huge chunks of your memory and know that you're never going to get it back? Do you know what it's like to be poked and prodded and tested because even the medics are surprised at your fascinating recovery even though you still don't feel so hot? Or to be confined to a bed in a tiny cubicle because you've been in a coma for ten days?"

Owen's temper rose at Luke's surprising insolence. "And do you know what it's like to wake up and find your nephew lying pale and unconscious and bleeding on the floor and not know why?"

Luke blanched at his uncle's retort. He'd no idea that they'd found him that way. He only vaguely recalled that night. Great stars, what must they have felt? No wonder they'd both looked so haggard yesterday. Luke opened his mouth to speak, but more harsh words followed.

"If you hadn't been fool enough to get on that speederbike, none of this would have happened! There are always consequences for your actions. You have no one to blame but yourself for this, Luke!"

This time, his uncle's words hit Luke like a slap in the face, and all the compassion he'd just felt vanished in a heated rush. "I can't believe you are going to blame me for something I don't even remember doing! And that I will probably never remember doing because I cracked my skull in the process! No wonder I was afraid to tell you what happened!"

Owen took a step toward his nephew and demanded, "Is that why you wouldn't tell us? Because you were afraid of dealing with the consequences? Of suffering the blame of your own mistake?"

"I don't remember!" Luke screamed. The frustrations of the past two days welled up inside him and broke like a dam bursting. "Don't you get it? I don't remember! I don't know why I did what I did! I don't know why I hid everything from you! But I do know that I'm tired of walking on eggshells because I'm afraid of disappointing you all the time! And I'm tired of having to make excuses to you about why I hang out with the only friends I've ever been able to make on this dustball of a planet! And I'm tired of feeling guilty about everything I do when all I'm doing is being a kid! I'm tired of not being good enough for you! And I'm tired of worrying you! And I'm tired of being reminded that I'm only your nephew and feeling like I'll always be a burden to you when all I've ever wanted was to be treated like a son!"

He choked on the sobs that unexpectedly began to wrack his tired body, and he collapsed back on the bed pressing his hands to his eyes as the tears streamed out of them. He'd just poured out his worst fears to his uncle at the worst possible moment, and he didn't care. He was now crying uncontrollably like a little baby, and he didn't care. He didn't care if his uncle would be disappointed in him now for not behaving like a man! He was exhausted and confused and aching inside, and he was only thirteen years old! He was a boy. He needed to cry. He needed to vent.

He needed to be hugged.

He grabbed one of the pillows from behind his head and clutched it desperately to his chest, rocking back and forth in a fetal position as he continued to sob uncontrollably. This had been too much for him. He wanted his memory back. He wanted to leave this blasted hospital. He wanted a damn father! Not this man who was always criticizing but rarely encouraging, always watchful but never loving. He wanted the kind of family he saw other kids with. The kind of family he would never have.

Already weakened, his fit of tears brought him to the brink of exhaustion. It didn't take long for his limited energy to be spent, and his sobs slowed as his strength waned. Gasping into his pillow, he shut his eyes and willed himself to sleep, no longer caring if his uncle remained in the room or not. He was tired. He was drained.

And suddenly, he was being held.

Luke's eyes weakly fluttered open at the unexpected sensation of being held in a pair of strong arms that reached around him from behind and rocked him gently as his tears slowly subsided. Craning his head to look behind him, he gazed into the grief-stricken face of his uncle. It was a look Luke had never seen on his face before, and it almost brought him to tears again.
But he felt his uncle's warm breath against his forehead as he softly whispered, "Shhh, it's okay, Luke. Shhh."

Too moved to speak and too tired to move, Luke shut his eyes and relaxed into his uncle's embrace. He could not recall ever being held like this before. Not by his Uncle Owen. Grasping his chance, he allowed himself to drift to sleep in his uncle's arms.

"I'm actually gonna' miss you, 2-1B," Luke admitted with a slight smile. He sat on the edge of the bed, fully dressed in his own clothes for the first time since he'd been admitted, regarding the droid fondly. "No one else has ever called me 'sir.' It's been kinda' neat to hear on a daily basis."

"It's part of my programming, sir," the droid replied simply.

"Yeah, well," Luke shrugged, sliding off the bed to stand on his own two legs again, "I still liked it."

He wriggled his toes inside the brand new boots his aunt had brought him this morning. He'd definitely need to break them in. And now that he was finally going home and getting back to his normal life, he'd certainly have the chance. He took a few steps around the room to get used to them, and to simply walk around some more. He'd walked around some yesterday, but his legs still felt a little wobbly. Pausing at the mirror the staff had placed in the corner this morning, he examined his reflection. He still wore the hard bandage on his head, but the rings under his eyes had faded to a faint blue that would probably become less visible as soon as he stepped out into the sun. He'd have to get a hat soon, though. Aunt Beru had informed him, with no small amusement, that they'd had to shave the back of his head. That was bound to be a hit with the Anchorhead gang. For now, the bandage covered it. But that would be coming off in less than a week, and he'd need something else to hide his "haircut" under.
"You have a visitor, sir," the 2-1B's voice spoke from behind him.

Luke spun away from his reflection to see Biggs standing sheepishly in the doorway.

"Biggs!" he exclaimed as he crossed the room to greet his friend. "So you've finally come to visit me now that I'm leaving," he laughed.

Biggs shifted uneasily. "Well, I've been sort of . . .well, I guess you could say . . .sort of . . .grounded." The last word was a barely uttered whisper.

Luke, however, caught it easily. "You? Grounded?" His eyebrows raised in disbelief.

Biggs grimaced and slowly nodded.

Howling with laughter, Luke teased, "And here I thought you were immune!"

With a shrug, Biggs explained, "Yeah, well my dad wasn't too pleased with what happened to you. And seeing as it was my fault anyway, I accepted it fair enough." He sighed. "Figured I owed it to you."

"Owed it to me?" Luke was clearly confused.

Biggs stared at his feet, unable to meet his younger friend's gaze. "Luke, I nearly got you killed back there. And if that wasn't enough, I didn't listen to my gut instinct and get help. Instead, I let myself be talked out of it by a guy with a skull fracture."

"You didn't know," the other suggested, trying to brush it off.

"Yeah, but I should have. You fell pretty hard. And you were out for a few minutes." He paused. "And then when I heard . . . it was pretty touch and go for a while there, Luke. I was really scared that you weren't . . .that you wouldn't . . . you know."

Luke shook his head. "But I'm fine now."

"Yeah, but I'm the one who's supposed to be looking out for you."

"Says who?"

Biggs drew himself up and finally looked Luke in the eyes. "Luke, I'm older than you, I'm bigger than you, and I have more experience than you."

"Yeah, but you've never experienced falling off a speederbike, now have you?" Luke countered with a grin.

His retort had its desired effect, as Biggs' lips twitched and he seemed to relax. "You've got a point there."

Glad to see his friend more at ease, Luke smiled and moved to a chair. "Mind if I sit down?"

"Nope," Biggs answered and crossed to sit beside Luke. He pointed to the bandage. "Nice headwear, by the way. Meant to compliment you on it earlier."

"Ha ha," Luke responded. "Unfortunately, I'm stuck in it for a few more days. And it's starting to seem like I'm stuck in here, too." He gestured toward the door. "Go see if my aunt or uncle is coming yet. I'm ready to go."

Hopping out of his seat, Biggs quickly crossed to the door and peered down the corridor. He glanced back at Luke with a smile, waving him over. "They're on their way. Come on."

Luke rose from his seat and crossed to the medical droid. "Bye, doc," he said, patting the droid's metal back.

"Take care, sir."

Luke nodded in reply and hurried out the door with Biggs.
They quickly met up with Owen and Beru.

Beru smiled briefly to Biggs before asking Luke, "All set to go?"

"You bet," was Luke's heartfelt reply.

Owen drew a steadying arm around Luke that the boy was grateful for. Luke hated appearing weak, but both he and his uncle knew it would be a few days before his legs gathered strength. Besides, Luke was enjoying his newfound closeness to Uncle Owen, and he wasn't about to give that up over a silly matter of male pride. Who knew how long this would last?

Giving Luke's shoulders a gentle squeeze, Owen asked, "Feeling all right?"

"Feeling great," Luke answered.

Turning his head to the other boy in their company, Owen surprisingly inquired, "And you?"

Both Luke and Biggs were shocked at the question, for they both knew that Owen did not hold high regard for Biggs. Or his father, for that matter.
Biggs stammered, "As well as can be expected with all of the youthful mistakes I've made, sir."

Owen looked at his wife and smiled. "Well, we all make youthful mistakes from time to time." Giving Luke's shoulder another squeeze, he added, "No matter how old we get."

Luke remained silent, grinning at the warmth that flowed through their little "family." He'd been mistaken in his estimation of their relationship to one another. They were a family. Even if they didn't fit the standard definition of one. And they were the only family he had.

They walked out of the hospital and onto the sunbathed streets of Mos Espa, the only city on Tatooine with a functioning medical center. As they moved through the streets, Luke noticed someone out of the corner of his eye. Glancing in that direction, he spotted a figure and gasped.

It was the old man. The one from his dream. Or had it been a dream? Luke stared at him, and the old man gazed back with a smile on his gentle, bearded features. It was as though the old man knew him. And, strangely, Luke felt as though a part of him recognized the man as well. He turned to his uncle.

"Uncle Owen," he began, pointing in the direction of the old man, "there's the-" He broke off, realizing that the old man had vanished. He looked around, frantically trying to spot him again, but he was nowhere to be found.

"The what, Luke?"

Luke stared back up at his uncle's face. "Nothing," he replied. "I thought I saw something."

Aunt Beru stared down at her nephew in concern. "Are you sure you're feeling all right?"

Luke smiled at her, dismissing the old man's disappearance and his aunt's worry at the same time. "Yes," he answered. "And this time, I mean it."

The group moved down the street toward the family landspeeder, unaware that a pair of kindly blue eyes was watching them. Blue eyes whose owner would continue to watch over them and protect them for as long as he was able. No matter what youthful mistakes he himself had made in the past.