His feet throb. His skin burns. He has lived on Tatooine almost four decades now, and never in all that time have the suns seemed so close to the surface. The sand glitters, and he mops sweat from his mouth and pounds on the door again with his good foot. The other one has developed a raw, festering blister.
He has just crossed the Dune Sea on foot.
"Kenobi!" he shouts, a note of desperation creeping into his voice. Owen Lars is a proud man – he has never begged for anything in his life, but he has ever been close to it, it is today. "Open the damn door!"
Of course, Kenobi has his own vaporators to tend. There are any number of things that could go wrong – shorted wiring, leaking coolant, blown power converters – these are the things he and Luke deal with on a daily basis. These are problems he knows how to handle. But there are any number of problems in the Dune Sea that one man – even a Jedi – should never handle alone. It's one of the things that has always struck him as arrogant about Kenobi, and the Jedi in general, because one thing that life has taught him is that a man alone is a dead man.
And Kenobi, he thought bitterly, had better not be dead. Not yet. There isn't a doctor in Anchorhead, and the only medics in Mos Eisley are as criminal as their clientele. They need him. Luke needs him.
He is thinking about breaking the door down when he sees the old Jedi scrambling over a hill, and starts for him.
"Kenobi," he pants. "The boy. Speeder crash."
They are both climbing into Kenobi's ancient landspeeder as Kenobi says "I know."
"He put something funny in the engine. Designed it himself, I think. It worked all the way to Anchorhead but we lost control about halfway back."
Biggs Darklighter's got a bandage wrapped around his forehead, pushing back overlong fringe. He's firmly planted next to the counter where Luke's been stretched out and a pillow tucked under his head, and hasn't moved since Owen bolted out the door that morning. Beru is dabbing his forehead with a wet cloth, and she gives Owen a helpless look as he approaches.
No change, then.
The slatted blinds they use to block the midday sun on the upper levels draw dark shadows across Kenobi's face, and the old Jedi pushes past all three of them to lay his hands on Luke. The boy's face is bloodied, his nose broken, his breathing shallow.
Kenobi turns to Biggs. "You carried him here?"
The boy's chin lifts; his fine clothes are torn and covered in blood that must be Luke's. Normally Owen considered the boy an arrogant pest, but today, he thinks, with a glance to his nephew, he is family.
"Course I did."
"Then you have my sincerest thanks, my boy."
A sour taste rises in Owen's mouth – that is his boy, not Kenobi's. And it isn't fair, he thinks, that for the last fifteen years Owen and Beru have done all the loving and teaching and raising and Kenobi is the one who can heal with a touch, and be grateful for something he's never even had.
Kenobi brushes the hair away from Luke's forehead, resting his weathered hand there. Owen wanders over to Beru, who has quietly stepped aside to let Kenobi work his voodoo. He puts an arm around his wife, and, in an uncharacteristically open display of affection, kisses the top of her head.
"Come on," he says, putting an arm around her shoulders. "Everything's going to be all right now. Let's let them be."
Biggs follows them down into the underground portion of the house, and they wait.
Three hours later, Biggs is pacing back and forth, fiddling with a little device he keeps in his pocket.
"What's taking so long?" he moans in a tone of voice he must have picked up from Luke. "It's been forever."
The little device twitters, and the boy becomes consumed with it again. Sending messages, Owen thinks. Probably to Tosche in Anchorhead. That's where Luke spends most of his time, and if things were normal, he'd probably be there right now.
A spare glance at his wife and the sad, anxious look on her face tells Owen she's wondering the same thing. He gets up, walks to the edge of the stairwell, where he can see the edge of Kenobi's robe. The man hasn't moved since they left.
"D'you think he can really do it? I mean...some folks say stuff about old Kenobi."
Beru starts to say something, but before she can, Owen interrupts. "Stuff and nonsense, whatever it is you heard. "
"Well, something folks say about him has to be true."
"Not one whit."
More silence. Kenobi stirs upstairs, but only just.
"I've been to the Core, you know. I'm not an idiot."
The resulting glare he gets from Owen flattens him to the wall. "I didn't mean – I only mean that they say things out there. That there are stories that people tell when the Imps backs are turned."
"You'll think long and hard before you keep talking, son."
But Biggs and Luke have always been kindred spirits, and the elder boy is nothing if not fearless. He winces and pushes the hair back out of his eyes, but leaps forward with all the subtlety of a charging bantha.
"They're about the Clone Wars. About…heroes. Kenobi and Skywalker. They were Je-"
"Idiot boy!" Owen grabs Biggs by the collar. "If you're as smart as you claim, you won't finish that sentence."
Instead of responding, Biggs presses a button on his communication device, and a holograph springs to life. It's old, and there is some static, but there's no denying who it's a holograph of.
"It's all over the holonet," says the boy, rubbing the back of his neck. "At least, it was. I managed to download a copy before the Imps vaped it."
He's injured. That's the first thing Owen notices. Despite Anakin's gargantuan height (he'll never forget that as long as he lives, because Shmi Skywalker was so small) Kenobi is half-carrying his fellow Jedi Knight as they hobble down a ship's entrance ramp. Injured though he is, both men are grinning from ear to ear as though laughing at some private joke – they have won again, they have saved the day, and life is good.
Bastard, he thinks to himself. Selfish, idiotic –
It's odd, seeing Kenobi smile. Owen is no bundle of laughter and smiles himself, but every time he's ever met the old wizard, he's been grim and brooding, or else argumentative and difficult. That time he'd come 'round the farm with Anakin's old weapon he'd been downright annoying, digging his heels into the sand and refusing to give ground until Owen took it back with his rifle. But in the holo, if he hadn't been lugging Anakin's massive bulk, he might've been doubled over with laughter, just the same.
A man alone is a dead man.
He looks at the holo. He looks up the stairs, to where he can see the corner of Kenobi's robes as he heals the injured son of his friend.
"Skywalker," Owen says tersely to the boy. "Was a damn fool smuggler who got himself blown out of the sky, and that's that. You understand?"
"No buts. And if you ever want to come 'round here again, you'll give that to me. Now."
Biggs closes down his communication device, and places the device in Owen's hand, his look still defiant. "A smuggler. Right."
"Rest easy, son. You've had a busy day."
Owen is already halfway up the steps when he hears Luke start to stir, with Beru hot on his heels. Luke grimaces as he sits up, rubbing his head where an open gash had once been.
"I'm itchy," he complains.
"It's a side effect of the medicine I've given you," says Kenobi, giving the boy a pat on the shoulder. "But it should wear off in an hour or two. And now, if you'll excuse me – I do believe you have some company."
Biggs scrambles past Owen and Beru to cuff Luke on the back of the head.
"That is the LAST time you tinker with engine accelerants, got it?"
"Ow! I just wanted to see if –"
Luke freezes at the sight of his uncle, his blue eyes wide. For all he knows, he has destroyed his family's only source of transportation, plus the cost of medicine (of which Owen knows there is none) and not to mention Aunt Beru's worry. He's disrupted the day's work, cost them half a day's water, and tomorrow Owen is going to have to find a way to deliver the Darklighter boy back to his rich family, because there is no way Owen is going to ask them to come out here. The boy has certainly cost him a lot of trouble.
And he has never been so glad for so much trouble in his life.
Still, Owen is not an emotional man, and he's not going to start now. He squeezes Luke hard on the shoulder, and meets his eyes; his intuitive nephew offers a sheepish smile in return, and then Owen steps aside to allow Beru to fuss.
He stops Kenobi just as he's about to slip away, unnoticed.
"It's dark out," he says. "Too many raiders out in the dark."
Kenobi turns to him, and smirks – the merry expression on his face somewhat dampened, now that they don't have Luke between them.
"I am well prepared." Kenobi's hand brushes his laser-weapon, and he looks Owen in the eye. +
For the first time, Owen is able to imagine Kenobi as a young man – the man in the picture, the father that a shadow-eyed and desperately sad Anakin Skywalker had claimed he needed to rush away and save. There were as many grains of sand as there were wishes Owen Lars had wished regarding his brother, and now, he wished another one – that he hadn't been raised among the Jedi, but among family who knew what the Jedi didn't – that you didn't abandon your people – that a man alone is a dead man.
There are different kinds of dead, he knows. His father is one kind – beneath the sand, never to return. But as he stares at Obi-wan Kenobi, he sees another, more terrible death- he sees that between the years-ago holograph and the man in front of him, something is missing.
"Well," says Owen after a bit. "If you're going to insist on being foolish, at least take this with you."
It's a stupid gesture. Kenobi has powers none of them could ever even imagine. He's just saved Luke from certain death – what good's a little radio supposed to do? Still, he unclips it from his belt and tosses it casually at the old Jedi, who looks at it, and then at Owen, with a strange, soul piercing look that makes Owen draw his tunic a little closer around his body.
"I shall return it in the morning, my friend." There is a glint in Kenobi's eye, a hint of something Owen had never seen before. He regarded the other man for a long second.
"You better," he grunted, and then turned to head inside.