Summary: From Obi-Wan to Ben to Obi-Wan.
Author's Note: The last bits, taking place during A New Hope will no doubt be a bit non-canonical like the rest of this, since I don't have the movie on hand to check the scenes. I hope you'll like it anyway, since a fair bit of the non-canonical stuff was intentional.
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars.
Obi-Wan Kenobi came to Tatooine with a sleeping infant in his arms, his heart cleaved in two and nothing to him but the hope, the insane, so very small hope that when the newborn in his arms was grown, he would wield his father's lightsaber and strike down Darkness. The sand all day had blown in his face with the wind, and the only difference at sunset and twilight was that the wind was cool instead of burning.
The young woman who emerged from the house—Obi-Wan would not learn her name until later—smiled brightly to his face when she approached to greet him. She could have been any well-brought-up Tatooinian girl, just like the man further off could have been any moisture farmer. They were average, they were almost obscenely normal; if Anakin—No, Vader, Obi-Wan corrected himself, a hard lump forming in his chest. He goes by Vader now—ever discovered he had a son, these two would exist beneath the radar.
Vader would never wish to return to the planet he so abhorred, anyway.
The girl was smiling, her dusty blonde bangs dipping into her eyes—she could pass as Luke's mother if she wanted to, and perhaps it would be for the best if she did just that—but her smile faded to be replaced by an expression of perturbed surprise as she saw the baby asleep in Obi-Wan's arms.
"What…" her voice, choked on sand and choked in whispers, barely carried over the wind.
"His name is Luke." Obi-Wan's voice was even softer than hers, both to not disturb the baby and because he could not manage anything louder. "You are his only family."
"Please…" Obi-Wan didn't know that he had ever pleaded so abjectly as he did now. He couldn't find it in himself to argue, not now, but he could not take Luke himself, as much as he wished he could; he had his directive, he could not stray…
Understanding dawned in her eyes, and the young woman, with a wistful smile—there was more to that than merely sadness over lives lost, he was sure—reached forward to relieve Obi-Wan of his burden. She took Luke into her arms with an expression of such warmth that Obi-Wan felt a little safer about this whole arrangement.
Warmth died from her face again when she looked at him. The fair-haired girl, made nervous by his somber quiet, slightly over-awed by the silver in auburn hair and beard and just a little cowed by Obi-Wan's direct, drained stare, ducked her head and moved on to where her husband stood.
Obi-Wan could only stand and watch them, listening to the lone bird cry forlornly from the wilderness.
Owen Lars was the first to call the future hermit of the Jundland Wastes "Ben" instead of Obi-Wan.
Seeing as night had fallen and the wind had grown especially fierce, Owen and Beru—as they had introduced themselves—extended the hand of hospitality and invited Obi-Wan in for the night. Beru had disappeared into another part of the house, whisking Luke away to prepare a bed for him, and Owen took the opportunity to interrogate Obi-Wan as to why he had come and what the circumstances of his arrival and Luke's being orphaned were.
"What did you say your name was?"
Either Owen had a hard time understanding Obi-Wan's thick Coruscanti accent or the wind howling on the shutters was such that he had misheard him. "So Ben…" Obi-Wan didn't think to correct him "…how did you and Luke end up here on Tatooine?"
So Obi-Wan related his long, sordid tale. It was only honesty and the fear of being thought untrustworthy by this man and thus being denied access to Luke that made Obi-Wan tell the whole tale in full.
As he went on and got closer and closer to the finish, Owen's face grew progressively stormier. When Obi-Wan was finished, Owen, sitting across from him at the kitchen and sipping at his cup of blue milk, fixed him in a nasty stare. "So let me get this straight." Owen's tone was just barely hiding anger, making his voice crack slightly. "You brought this child to our doorstep with the Empire and all the forces of Hell looking for you, and when Luke is older you want to train him as a Jedi?"
Obi-Wan nodded, wincing as he felt the sense of righteous indignation rising in the much-younger man. "Yes."
"Are you crazy?"
The Jedi Master, now exile, rubbed his forehead and looked into Owen's incredulous and furious blue eyes. "Master Lars, if the Sith are to be defeated, the child must be trained in the ways of the Jedi."
"Rubbish!" Owen spat. "What you mean to say is that you want to make that boy into a weapon and turn him loose on his own father." Obi-Wan flinched in the face of that bitter, truthful accusation. "Well no thank you. I'll see no kin of mine treated so poorly. You gave Luke to us, and I say that the boy should be allowed a life of some safety.
"The Jedi Order is dead. If you're intending to raise it from the dead with Luke, then Gods help us all, but I'll not sit by and let it happen. I'll not sit by and let you ruin the boy.
"Let him live his own life. Let the dead bury the dead and the Order have its peace, and let Luke Skywalker grow up, without the weight of the dead on his shoulders."
If he wanted to do that, Obi-Wan wondered why Luke was to be Luke Skywalker and not Luke Lars.
Obi-Wan stared desperately into Owen's eyes, and saw no sign that the young farmer would be willing to alter his opinion. In extremity, he could have utilized the Force to guide Owen's opinion in a different direction, but there were no mental suggestions that would imprint themselves on the mind for more than a few minutes; at least, there were no mental suggestions that Obi-Wan was willing to use that would last for more than a few minutes.
He would have to wait, then. When Luke was grown and no longer under Owen's watchful care, Obi-Wan would do what he could then, if anything at all could be done. He was a patient man; he could wait as long as he needed to. And, when the time came, if Luke did not wish to learn…
Then the Force help us all.
There was naught to be gained in arguing with Owen; he could not be moved. But Obi-Wan made one more plea, for his own sake. "Master Lars, why…"
Owen's look was again that of an accuser. "You said it yourself," he intoned softly. "You failed his father. I'll be dead in the ground and damned to Hell before I see you fail the son."
The next morning dawned over the sand and rock with a monstrous heat and a sudden lack of wind that if it was even possible made the heat worse.
Obi-Wan was not to linger any longer at the Lars homestead; Owen didn't trust Obi-Wan not to attempt to impart his ideals on young despite the vow he had extracted from Obi-Wan that he would not meddle in the raising of the younger Skywalker. However, when Obi-Wan made it clear that he had no way of leaving the planet, Owen, possibly at his wife's insistence and possibly not, softened a little.
"There was an old hermit who lived out in the Jundland Wastes." Owen pointed out the direction in which Obi-Wan needed to go. "He was a friend of my father's; odd old man. He's been dead these past seven years, but he left his hut behind. If no one else has set up there and the roof hasn't caved in I suppose you can make your home there. But you're not to interfere with us, do you understand?"
Obi-Wan had no chance to see Luke again; Beru kept him in the house away from the glaring sun and the biting sand, and if he trained his ears on the house he thought he could make out the clear, slightly reedy strains of a song being sung.
With a grudging gift of supplies from Owen (he had no desire to see the man starve or die of thirst, whatever he thought of Obi-Wan personally) and a curt nod from him as well, Obi-Wan again mounted the eopie and ventured out into the vast emptiness of the Tatooinian desert.
It was around noon that Obi-Wan found himself dismounting from the eopie and slipping inside the hut that Owen had told him of.
The place was without a doubt empty, and had been for many years; everything from the couch to the bed to the bathroom sink was dusted with a fine layer of sand. The roof had not caved in, nor had anyone taken up residence, it seemed, since the hermit had died. Obi-Wan really thought that it was quite a bit bigger than what the word "hut" implied.
The interior of the house was sparsely furnished, with no unnecessary comforts—either the hermit had been an ascetic or (more likely) he was very poor, a trait shared by the wide majority of the freemen of Tatooine. The generator had been switched off, but when Obi-Wan flipped it back on it, after a few worrying moments of spluttering and coughing, hummed into life with the sort of vitality that made him think that it wouldn't be quite so bad to live in the desert after all. While getting down to the business of storing the supplies (a few gallons of precious water—a generous gift indeed—and a pack of protein bars and food pellets) that Owen had given him in the refrigerator and attempting to make the house livable (getting the bed and the couch clear of sand), Obi-Wan came across a box filled dusty with books and journals.
They were odd things, these works—all written in a language Obi-Wan couldn't understand with a flowing sort of script. He'd never seen the language before, had no way to trace it. It wasn't written in the Aurebesh or Huttese, or even Jawaese or Tusken, not that the latter had any written language that Obi-Wan knew of. Though he knew not the words, they still seemed beautiful to the eye and Obi-Wan decided that he would keep the books and journals there, even if he had no idea what they said. They could prove useful in the future.
I like the look of this place.
Qui-Gon's spectral voice echoed in the room as though he had always been there, and Obi-Wan couldn't help but agree with him.
It wasn't Paradise. It wasn't home.
But for an exile, this was better than he could have reasonably hoped for.
That night was the first for nightmares.
Everywhere Obi-Wan went in the mist of his dreams he was surrounded with the acrid stench of smoke and sulphur and the deathly smell of lava and brimstone. Violence erupted across the skin like a rash and his hands lifted the lightsaber of their own accord. There was no stopping it.
Anakin (No, Vader, he still had to tell himself) wore a thousand different faces between blinks.
He was angry.
A spill at the fault line later and Anakin was gone in the mangled burnt deformity that was Darth Vader. His internal transformation now reflected on his whole self, and Obi-Wan looked at him—
—And blamed himself. After all, there was nothing more appropriate to it than that. Obi-Wan had been Anakin Skywalker's Master. He of all people should have been able to see Anakin's fall and done something, anything to prevent it.
You were my brother, Anakin!
If they had been brothers, Obi-Wan should have known him better.
The wind, howling against the shutters, agreed with him.
For some reason that Obi-Wan could not hope to fathom, the Tusken raiders, the Sand People of Tatooine, were paralyzed with terror at the very thought of him. At first, he assumed that they believed him to be the ghost of the last old hermit to live in the house out in the Jundland Wastes (and it really wasn't too far off the mark to call Obi-Wan a ghost), but that couldn't be it. The Sand People were a superstitious lot, but though they believed in ghosts and spirits, they thought them beings to be respected and revered, not feared and loathed.
Obi-Wan took to haunting the bars of Mos Eisley in the search for an explanation as to why the Sand People were so abjectly terrified of him. After all, men moist with drink tended to have easier tongues, and storytelling was a grand and prized tradition on Tatooine anyhow.
In the second week of his search, Obi-Wan found what he suspected to be his answer. His heart grew leaden in his chest as he listened to the Rodian relate his brief tale.
"A few years back, a village of Tuskens who were on hard times and short of water took a human woman captive for water and to perform the bloodrite. With their ways of extracting water and considering how little of it they need, the water from a human's body could sustain them for months.
"Well, a month later, all of the Sand People in that village were dead."
"Obi-Wan frowned, startled. "Dead?"
"Dead, all of them."
"What could do that? Some sort of illness?"
The Rodian shook his head. "No, not a plague. They were all slaughtered in the night, killed down to the last male, female and little one, like animals. Not a single soul was left alive when the morning came, and no evidence as to who did it, except for unidentifiable burn marks on the corpses and the dwellings. I was there, and let me tell you, it didn't look like any blaster pattern I've ever seen. The other Tuskens are spooked something awful." The Rodian quirked what might have been a humorless smile and let the acid green fluid in his glass ooze down his throat.
Obi-Wan stared into his own clear glass for the longest time, feeling something hot and sickening settling in his stomach like the lead in his heart.
He recognized this tale.
So this was the legacy Anakin had left behind on Tatooine.
Some four years into Obi-Wan's self-imposed exile on Tatooine, Qui-Gon announced that he would not be making visitations to the house in the Jundland Wastes again.
"But must you really leave, Master?" Obi-Wan asked sadly, the word "again" plainly heard even if it was never spoken.
Qui-Gon's gentle voice came out of the walls and the sand and the cloth on the bed; he did not materialize, did not become corporeal for his student's sight. Obi-Wan, I have taught you all that I can. There is nothing more to learn. Now comes the time for you to grow into this life. You must wait for Luke now, and one day become teacher to him.
After that, silence resounding.
The house seemed lesser now without Qui-Gon. Smaller, somehow, without his voice.
Luke Skywalker's birthday went off in a quiet, pleasantly predictable way; Beru made sure of that. Nothing was going to spoil it, not even the sandstorm curling patterns in the sky overhead. So few things in her nephew's life went off without a hitch, and this year, (birthday five: power outage; birthday three: too poor to afford anything) his birthday would be one of them.
Beru had overseen the preparations; Owen had opted out of preparing due to a combination of his work having grown completely overwhelming and his awkwardness towards the whole thing. The foods ordered may have been plain and not really in great quantities to the eyes of others but to Beru who had grown up with little it was an extravagance that would likely not be repeated again.
From Owen and Beru Luke received two changes of clothes (he was outgrowing them so quickly, Beru remarked fondly to her husband). From Biggs, his first blaster (Owen would likely wish to put it up until Luke was a bit older) and a high-quality one at that, finer than anything Owen and Beru could have afforded him.
Just as the suns were starting to sink in the sky (or so Beru thought; it was so hard to tell with so much sand blanketing the sky), Owen came back inside.
"I was starting to get worried," Beru remarked with a smile as Owen kissed his wife's cheek and patted Luke's shoulder. Owen was holding a package wrapped in brown paper in his hand. "What's that, Owen?"
Owen didn't answer her. Instead, with an atypical stillness about him, he gave the package to Luke. "This came for you, Luke. I found it sitting against one of the outer walls."
Luke frowned as he started to undo the bindings (intricate and delicate knots, difficult to untie) on the paper. "Who's it from, Uncle Owen?"
"Old Ben Kenobi." Beru and Luke both stared at Owen, who had said the older man's name with an uncharacteristic lightness to his voice, at least where old Ben was concerned. "You know, the hermit out on the Jundland Wastes."
Brow deeply furrowed, Beru tried to derive more answers from her husband, but Owen held his hand up and refused to say anything more on the subject until that night when they were alone and Luke had gone off to bed.
Luke ripped apart the paper, and the expression he wore when he saw the contents of the package was identical to Beru's: surprise mingled with fascination. Ben had sent what appeared to be a flat river stone, the surface of the thin rectangular stone worn smooth. Beru couldn't help but wonder where he had gotten it; there were no rivers anywhere on Tatooine. Luke himself seemed to intuitively have some idea of the stone's origin, as he murmured, "It smells like water."
Beru could discern no such smell; she frowned, and wondered if this was another symptom of Luke's Force Sensitivity manifesting itself. Owen certainly seemed to think so, as he wiped his gritty hands off on the table and muttered, "You're imagining things."
Beru could tell just how relieved he was that Ben hadn't seen fit to send his father's lightsaber to Luke.
Obi-Wan was nursing his drink in his hands, blinking against the blinding sunlight just outside the door as it poured on the dusty, unpainted walls and when the fair-haired child crawled up in the chair beside him, he smiled at him and greeted him. "Hello, Anakin."
Then, he stopped, his heart choking in his throat and all further words clinging to the walls.
Luke smiled at him with a horrible sort of politeness, no doubt from the sudden change in his demeanor either thinking him drunk or mad. Possibly both—in Mos Eisley, there were plenty, human and otherwise, who fit the bill and covered both criteria. Even at his young age—just ten, Obi-Wan was quite aware—Luke had to be aware of that; no one stayed innocent on Tatooine for long.
At the sound of Beru's voice, both child and man turned round and saw her standing in the doorway, framed by a fiery corona of binary sunlight. Beru had a brown paper bag balanced in her arms.
Her soft blue eyes sparked when they met Obi-Wan's and Beru's eyes soon snapped to Luke. "Luke?" The child was distracted by the sight of a Wookiee—a rare sight indeed—outside in the street and didn't hear her. "Luke?"
"Yes, Aunt Beru?" came the absent response.
"This is Ben Kenobi, from the Jundland Wastes. Have you said hello?"
When Luke turned his eyes back on Obi-Wan his smile was still polite but slightly less distant. He still thought him drunk, mad or both—that impression was being made of him with appalling regularity these days—but he obviously now saw him as someone to be treated with a distant sort of pitying friendship reserved for the lunatics and the drunkards one knew, rather than the distant pity expended on the drunk lunatics one didn't know. "Hello," he murmured, ducking his head under Obi-Wan's stare.
"Come along, Luke; your uncle's going to wonder where we are."
As they were leaving, Beru paused long enough in the doorway to give Obi-Wan a sad smile. She had heard what he said.
Obi-Wan couldn't muster the energy needed to smile back.
Upon returning home to the Wastes, Obi-Wan moved in front of the small, scratched mirror—the veteran of many bloodless wars with razors and combs—and fingered at his reflection, staring startled at what he found. Obi-Wan had not truly looked at his reflection in many years, and he hadn't expected to see what he saw now.
Auburn hair had all gone hoary silver, likely to bleach to white in later years—so Luke had seen a man who was drunk, mad and old—and slightly sparse across the crown of his head. Obi-Wan couldn't remember his face being quite so heavily lined the last time he had looked at it closely. He couldn't remember his eyes looking so weary, so blank—he had a thousand-yard stare and though the haunted aspect was not at all unusual to Obi-Wan it seemed more pronounced now than it ever had before.
Small wonder Luke had thought him mad, as Obi-Wan grappled with the reality of his reflection.
That meeting with Luke had told him, in full, just how far lost Obi-Wan Kenobi was. The Universe had let him slip away, down the drain and through the cracks, to be forgotten by nearly everyone. There was no trace of the Jedi Master and General in the face of the prematurely aged man who hovered vaguely in the mirror. Instead there was a hermit who had suffered greatly and lost everyone dear. One whose failings and great grief dominated him.
Obi-Wan knew the truth.
There was no 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi anymore. No Jedi, just hermit.
In the moment Obi-Wan Kenobi died, Ben Kenobi, who had been brought into existence prematurely, truly began to be born. Obi-Wan didn't exist anymore.
Everyone knew about Old Ben Kenobi.
He was the old hermit who lived out in the Jundland Wastes, mad as anyone they had ever met; kindly, the most gentle of souls, but still mad.
No one was quite sure how old Ben was. Though he was only middle-aged as far as humans went he had the air of an extremely elderly man and the looks to match; even by the standards of Tatooine he had aged badly, his face deeply furrowed and his hair white as sun-bleached bone. Time had taken its toll on him and hadn't allowed him to age with anything resembling grace. The way they figured, he was ancient.
The Sand People were unreservedly terrified of him. No one was quite sure why they should be terrified of such a gentle old man, to be honest, and rumors of course abounded. They ranged the gamut from the unimaginative (Well maybe they just think he's something that will eat them if he comes close) to the downright weird (Maybe Old Ben's a vengeful ghost; maybe they think he's some sort of demon).
He was the old man who talked business, politics and niceties with Jawas and enjoyed their company as much as they did his—immensely.
Everyone knew about Old Ben Kenobi.
But no one really knew about him. With the exception of two, no one knew where he had come from or why he had come to Tatooine, because from his noticeably cultured accent he certainly wasn't from anywhere on the planet. No one knew what it was that made the air seem so sad and melancholy around him or why his eyes were always so heavy and cheerful only when they were full of bittersweet cheer. No one knew what it was about him that was so magnetic or why the majority of those who spoke with him almost immediately felt at their ease even though they knew him to be thoroughly mad. And no one was quite sure what it was about Old Ben that made him mad.
No one knew Old Ben Kenobi. They pondered, they speculated, they traded tales (each more far-fetched than the last), but they could never claim to know him.
No one could.
He had nine years to be Old Ben, the mad hermit of the Jundland Wastes who spoke with Jawas and terrified Tuskens. In those nine years, 'Obi-Wan' became more and more a distant dream, something hazy without any real substance to it. Ben found it increasingly hard to believe with each passing of the suns that Obi-Wan had ever been real at all.
He would have forgotten him altogether, had it not been for the lightsaber.
But once those nine years were up, things started to crack and fall back into place again.
It started with a boy on the cusp of manhood lying on the ground, Sand People swarming around.
They ran when they saw him. Sand People always ran when they saw the man in the brown cowl advancing on him—it was one of those unspoken laws of nature. Ben narrowed his eyes against the glare of the suns and saw the boy on the sand by the speeder, the two droids clustering around him, worried sounds clanging off their metal.
So close to Anakin he was, only with a softer face and a slighter build. Luke was likely much shorter than his father as well; he seemed to have inherited his mother's slight stature.
As Luke groaned awake, Ben almost said once more, "Hello, Anakin," but stopped himself. He wasn't that mad.
Instead, he patted Luke's shoulder gently and advised, "Rest easy, son. You've had a busy day."
Brilliant blue eyes turned on him, and Luke's dazed face contorted in incredulity as recognition dawned. "Ben?" The tone of his voice was unflattering disbelief.
He couldn't believe how old he looked. Ben couldn't blame him.
"Of course I know him. He's me." Ben couldn't remember the last time he'd heard the name Obi-Wan.
"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."
Leia looked even more like her mother than Luke did his father. The sight of her stabbed Ben's heart.
It had been years since the last time he held his lightsaber. Ben had no need for it, after all. But somehow, it fitted in his palms just as easily as ever. It still sang to him. It still felt right.
"Ben, there's something I've been meaning to ask you…" The wind blew back Luke's sun-bleached hair and he looked somehow younger, his face rounder and softer in the glimmering heat. "… Why did you call me by my father's name in the cantina all those years ago?"
Luke winced a little as Ben got that thousand-yard stare he was so famous for, and fixed his eyes out on the desolate landscape beyond. "You look very much like your father, Luke," he murmured very quietly. "That's all."
Luke knew it wasn't, but knew just as well that he couldn't ask.
Ben knew when he smelled the acrid, horrific stench of burnt flesh and saw the smoke.
Luke was there, eyes riveted on the charred shells that were the corpses of his aunt and uncle, their hands outstretched grotesquely, the faintest suggestion of a blaster rifle in Owen's claw-hands.
For himself, Luke had his hand seized over his mouth, trying desperately not to be sick. His eyes were swimming with water, though whether it was tears or just an involuntary reaction to the smoke Ben couldn't tell.
There was little he knew to do, except put a comforting hand on Luke's shoulder. "I am sorry, Luke," Ben said uselessly, finding his own eyes fixed on Owen and Beru as well. It was a mesmerizing sight, in a horrific sort of way.
"Oh my God," Luke choked out, before stumbling away to sit on a nearby rock and be sick until his stomach was so empty that even bile wouldn't come forth. Harsh, ragged sobs rose with the sound of retching.
Ben just stared at the corpses.
Hermit he had been for nine years. Broken man he had been for nearly twenty.
Ben Kenobi had been the mad old hermit of the Jundland Wastes. He had been the gentle old man who wouldn't hurt a fly if it started to suck his blood, no matter what the Sand People chose to believe.
He had been Old Ben because the Universe no longer saw fit to remember Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan did not have a purpose; Obi-Wan had no reason to live.
Ben couldn't wield a lightsaber, Ben couldn't fight for justice or the Force or even for the memories of the shadows of all those who were long dead.
But Obi-Wan could.
The Universe had put Obi-Wan Kenobi away. Now, it was calling him back.
Obi-Wan Kenobi looked with new eyes on Tatooine, on corpses and droids and on a painfully young boy, and knew what needed to be done for the first time in nineteen years.