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Stand the Hazard

Chapter Text

At seven years old, he knew that the life he lived wasn't normal by anyone's definition in the galaxy.

Slam it in a metal box. Wrap it up in energy beams. Lock it in a ship. Send it out to space where you can't see. Always keep it hidden.

The forest was dense, the branches reaching out and scratching at his arms. Ahead, Old Ben seemed unconcerned, hiking as if it were perfectly normal to see that much greenery, to feel the ground squidge beneath your feet because there was too much water. Luke couldn't help but stare down in awe as they tore their path through the trees and bushes.

It was like a wound. Every time you put pressure on the brown chunky surface, liquid welled up.

He knew where they were going. That he always knew. Old Ben always made sure knew exactly what planet, what meeting point, what ship. Who was taking them, who they were meeting. What marks to look for. What to run from.

The why though? Luke squinted up at the sun that burst through the tree's leaves and at the temple that was looming larger and larger as they made their way towards it. That he didn't know.

Old Ben held out a hand and Luke scampered through quicker, ducking under the arm so that he stood at Old Ben's hip and peered down.

There were Storm Troopers. A whole sunken area, like a meteor had hit the planet there long ago, meant that it was unprotected and the entirety of the area surrounding the temple could be easily defended.

He could feel Old Ben think. It wasn't that they hadn't expected there to be Troopers (there were always Troopers, Luke thought. Everywhere in the galaxy there was a Trooper watching and waiting), but even Luke could see that it would be difficult to get in.

"They're rubbish shots," he grumbled, pushing into Old Ben a little, hoping to stir the man into some action. The ground here was less wet and if they were going to stand and think somewhere he'd rather it was back in the thick of the forest where it had been interesting.

"Hush, young one," Old Ben said absently, smoothing a settling hand through Luke's hair. "And I do not believe that will be necessary."

That was because he hated blasters. Luke glanced at the one that had been confiscated from him in the ship, sulkily remembering the lecture.

Old Ben suddenly let out a deep sigh and shook his head. "This had better work," he muttered to himself and then stepped out from their cover, a hand on Luke to move him forward as well.

It was dumb. Everyone that Luke had ever met would say it was dumb. And it would be so easy to reach out and get the blaster but he'd solemnly promised not to disobey Old Ben again-

The Storm Troopers started for them and then swayed and fell to their knees. Then to the floor. It was like watching the market stalls in Anchorhead go one after the other when a fight toppled into one. They fell like it was a chain reaction in a sequence they couldn't avoid and Luke could feel Old Ben burning brightly in that way that he never understood other people didn't feel.

And just like that, they walked to the Temple opening and stepped into the darkness of the tombs. Old Ben muttered something about primitive tech and found a way to get fire onto a stick with rags before he took Luke's hand and led him down the steps.

It was cold underground. Like Space, which made no sense to Luke because one was high above his head and the other was deep into the planet and how could they be so similar? But it was so very dark without a single star to guide them, only Old Ben's torch that barely let them see anything in front of them.

There was a compressing darkness ahead, a threat that Luke could feel on the edges of his fingernails, at the base of his spine that urged him to move quicker, to put a distance between them and it. The thing. The monster that hunted them and killed the Jedi and his father and everything.

Old Ben must have felt it too. His hand tightened a little on Luke's.

Minutes later, Luke could hear the distant sound of explosions, like charges had been dropped. The ground shook a little and Old Ben paused, looking up and tilting his head.

"Come on," he said softly.

Eventually, Old Ben stopped them and touched his torch to some form in the darkness. More light burst forth as he lit torches that surrounded a chamber and Luke stood, unsure and shivering as he tried to puzzle out what the thing in front of him was.

It looked like an archway.

Suspicious, he watched Old Ben. The man traced some of the patterns that had been carved into rock and turned to Luke.

"Stand in the middle," he instructed.

He'd promised to be obedient for a whole standard day. Making his annoyance known in the noise he let out, Luke reluctantly meandered over and stood in the middle, glaring at the old man.

All he received for his efforts was a sad smile.

It panicked him when Old Ben knelt down in front of him and cupped his chin.

"What happened here…" Old Ben swallowed. "Do not let it happen again. The boy will save Anakin, but I cannot predict how that will change things." He glanced up and looked a little worried. "Vader died the moment he had to choose between the boy and his power. Luke is the key and he is all you will need to save us."

"Who are you talking to?"

"Myself," Old Ben said and then leaned forward to rest his head against Luke's. Luke could feel something, like his mind was a storage unit that Old Ben was reordering a little. "There," he said, pulling back. "You need to find me. Obi Wan Kenobi. On Coruscant, Luke, can you do that."

"I'm not going there," Luke huffed. "No-one goes there. There are loads of Strom Troopers there."

But Old Ben was shaking his head. "Promise me. I swear, you will find it much changed."

"Why can't we just go together?" Luke asked, peering up as Old Ben stood. "I promise not to gamble," he added hopefully, just in case it was that which had annoyed Old Ben into thinking that they had to travel separately.

"You have spent far too much time with criminals," Old Ben muttered. "Do not move."

Bored now, Luke glanced up at the ceiling of the cavern they were in. It was quiet now, as if they'd given up bombing the surface. "They're coming down," Luke said, knowing as he said it that it was true.

And that didn't count. He hadn't tried to see what was happening. It had just come. He wasn't breaking the rules.

But Old Ben shook his head and held up a hand, his signal for silence as he started to meditate.

Biting at his thumb nail, Luke shifted from one foot to the other, trying to keep still. Sometimes Old Ben did things that seemed to make no sense, and Luke wasn't sure that he would ever understand the old man.

Then the torches started to go out. One by one until half the room was plunged into darkness and Luke stared down at his hand, barely able to see one. In the darkness, he could almost swear he saw another figure, silent and waiting.

Without breaking his promise, Luke couldn't quite sense what was going on, only that something was and that it was powerful. A stalking storm that was wild and focused and he was trapped in the middle of it while staying completely still and unaffected. It was almost too much sensation to comprehend and the jarring nature of it all made him close his eyes, half sure he was about to puke.

He sucked in a breath and then there was a complete absence of anything.

When he opened his eyes again, it was still dark. Completely dark. And he could only hear his own breathing. The threatening ache that had been building in his stomach was completely gone and he knew, in a way he could never explain, that he was alone.

Completely alone.

Tentatively, he crept forward. It was pitch black and he couldn't see his own body and there was something about that which terrified him. Scared, he held his hands out, questioning whether he was really doing it because he couldn't see at all until something like a wall came into contact with his fingertips.

He followed it, trailing his short stubby nails along the ridge until he came to an opening. He reached out with the other hand, had to rock to one side and risk losing his wall to feel the other side of the opening.

He found he knew the steps from there without thinking about it. It was a trick that Old Ben had used more than once to ensure that Luke could always get to where he needed to be. Once he found the stairs, he climbed, knowing that nothing was coming down.

In many ways, there was something scarier about that.

He'd half expected to find the top of the stairs caved in or destroyed from the explosions, but everything was fine. And, as the light grew stronger and he could see more and more, he was startled to realise that it looked better than it had when he'd gone in with Old Ben.

As he neared the exit, he could see that the light wasn't as strong as it had been. It was dappled as he approached and there were branches invading the entrance.

There wasn't a clearing anymore.

Confused because maybe Old Ben hadn't led him the way they'd come, Luke peered out at the forest that was slowly invading the Temple. Reaching out a skinny arm, he wrapped his hand around a branch and clambered out onto the tree, agile and his feet gripping onto the branches to keep him balanced.

It was almost fun.

Grinning (and half convinced that would summon Old Ben because the man was allergic to fun), Luke leapt up to the next trunk, catching himself easily and swinging up. Scrambling across it, he paused to stare at the texture of what he was on and then squinted up, half tempted to see how high he could climb.

He probably should, right? He needed to see where he was and he could feel the soothing guide of Old Ben's instructions fading away like a shadow at sunrise.

So he did. Up and up he went, feeling oddly free and delighting in doing something so…playful. As his footing grew more sure, he grew more reckless, leaping up to branches that he probably shouldn't have been able to reach.

He paused, worried suddenly and checked. Closed his eyes and pictured something precious locked up tight, in a metal box and guarded by fizzling wires and tossed into a ship to be jettisoned off to somewhere far far away.

He climbed with more caution, losing the carefree feeling as he realised how close he had come to using the thing that Old Ben said they mustn't even name.

The canopy, when he broke it, looked like mottled copper, all green and brown like a walkway. There were odd sounds of chirping, a distant roar of something and the faintest hint of something that might have been music.

Panic rose in him as he twisted, searching desperately for something that hinted towards technology being on the planet. He needed to get off, he had to meet Old Ben in Coruscant (why there?) and he needed to go.

Turning, he blinked as he saw a small clearing or a dip in the treeline. Squinting, he tilted his head a little and then ducked down under the leaves again and into the cooler shade.
There was definitely something there. Something that might have been a ship.

By night, Luke was on the edge of the forest again, watching the group of Weequays that swarmed around the ship.

"Mother of Kwath," spat one. "What a useless dirtball," he added, kicking at the ground. "Waste of time-"

"Shut up whining," another snapped. "Said it was a hoax, didn't I?"

Luke bit his lip as he stared at the open cargo hold. Cages were being loaded on with some plants and some smaller things.

They were leaving.

Keeping low, Luke crept over and waited, barely breathing as he watched them pack up. He glanced at the ship and then at the Weequay men who seemed sore about whatever it was they'd been sent to do.

Luke had far too much experience of sneaking onto ships for it to be a challenge. The half-light and the annoyance of the crew made the whole thing easy and Luke ducked through into the hold and then hid in space between the cages, being sure to find refuge with the items that looked as non-threatening as possible.

Within an hour, the cargo hold went pitch black as it was shut up and he could hear the ship rumbling as it started to rise.

He put his chin on his knees and stared at the darkness.

Chapter Text

Luke was startled awake when a hand closed on neck and lifted him clean into the air, like he was some Eopie pup. He was hauled up to stare right into the face of one of the Weequays. The thing was all leathery wrinkles and sneer.

"It's a human," it said in disgust. "One of the small ones."

"I needed transport," Luke said, squirming to try and break free. "I didn't hurt your profits."

"Nah, just had a free lift, didn't it?" A Weequay behind sneered. "Think we're running a charity, small human?"

"I'll fix something," Luke offered. "I can fix things. Something you'd lose a profit on anyway."

He was tossed towards the other one and then picked up like a sack of garbage. He winced as he was brought out into the light. A frantic glance told him they were definitely on a different planet. There were flashes of stick line things and flashes of colours that he wanted to stare at.

But there were more important things he needed to pay attention to.

He could spot the leader right away. The Weequay stood without moving, arms folded and his eyes glaring under the googles. Weequay's always looked like they were scowling, Luke had found, but this one looked furious.

"It says it can fix things," the one carrying Luke declared as he dropped Luke to the dusty ground.

"Can it?"

Luke reared back at the tone and then set his jaw because no-one in the galaxy ever cared if you were frightened.

"I can fix something to pay for the lift," he offered again. "Might as well, I've done it now."

It might be stupid to remind them of the fact that he'd stolen a lift. Most of the Weequays hissed at the reminder. "Sell it," one sneered.

"How old is it?" the Weequay asked, cutting through the noise. Most of them looked blank.

"I'm thirteen," Luke lied.

"Almost grown," a Weequay translated and Luke felt a small puff of pride that he'd managed to fool them.

"It's short," the leader huffed. "Taller humans get a better price."

"I…we grow suddenly," Luke tried, trying to stall for time. "Sometimes," he added when a few started to look doubtful.

The Weequay in charge gestured at one of his crew and a staff was brought forward. It has been crushed by the looks of it and Luke stared at the object as it was tossed down to him. "Fix it," he was told. "Or I will sell you to the slavers."

Like they were hard to escape from. Luke couldn't count the amount of people he'd met who had once been aboard a slavers ship. But Luke schooled his expression in such a way that he hoped it looked scared and then reached up for the staff.

There were power couplers at the end and it looked like, when on and working, it would conduct energy across the ends. "It's a weapon," Luke mumbled, a little surprised that he'd never seen a weapon like it.

"You have an hour."

"I need tools," Luke said, turning it over and studying the other, functioning side. He turned it on and blinked for a moment as the sound briefly reminded him of Old Ben's lightsabre.

He turned it off and studied it a moment longer. When he looked up, the Weequay in charge was watching him with an odd expression on its face.

"Humans are stupid," it muttered.

Luke ignored him. Instead, he sat cross legged and fascinated by the thing in front of him. He'd been half sure that he'd seen most weapons and yet, this one was new to him. By the time they brought over the tools and dumped them with a rattle and clang, he was pretty sure he understood how it worked.

This was easy work. The amount of times that Old Ben had bartered them onto a ship with Luke's ability was stupid. Often Luke would be left with the crew if Old Ben deemed them safe enough and then Ben would find him a month or two down the line, picking him up and dumping him on the next ship and the next and the next.

There had been a time when it had been different. He remembered the sand of Tatooine and his aunt and that she had sung to him and that he'd had friends his own age.

He didn't know why it had changed. He didn't know why Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen hadn't come with him.

He never knew why.

"You said an hour," a Weequay snapped at him later.

"I'm making it better," Luke huffed. "The other side is loose."

The staff was snatched from his hands and Luke glared up, squinting again. The leader (Luke was almost sure it was the leader) studied it, and then nodded. "Close this up," he ordered. "You can have this," he offered another of his men. "Give them Jedi something to think twice about."

Jedi?

The Jedi were dead. Old Ben was all that was left. Luke took the staff back and closed up the panel, re-screwing the ends.

"You wanna say something?" The Weequay sneered at him. "Move quickly, small human."

Obeying, Luke handed the staff back then watched the Weequays start to prepare for something. There was a flurry of activity and a lot of muttering. Clearly, the Weequays were unhappy about something though they handled their blasters with glee.

He hesitated when the leader turned to him once more.

"You are not a nearly grown, human," it said to him.

"Prove it."

Weequays never smiled. Not that Luke had seen, but he'd swear there was almost one of this one's face. "Two of the Jedi are human," he said. "They'd probably prove it easily."

Kriff. Trying to act like he didn't care, Luke shrugged.

"If we win, they will be my hostages," the Weequar said. "If we lose…well…go down yourself. Either way, you will bother them with your survival and not me. There is no profit to be made from you."

"We're even," Luke checked.

He didn't get a reply but he did get a noise that was the equivalent of a Weequay rolling his eyes.

Xxx

Luke followed them. For the most part, the pirates didn't seem to care and he watched enviously as they got on the speedbikes and took off over the ridge.

No-one ever let him control anything that could be called speedy. Old Ben usually threatened everyone he left in charge of Luke that he was to go nowhere near piloting or driving.

The sounds of blasters could be heard and Luke peered over, curious. Down below there was a set of buildings that he vaguely recognised probably did some farming and there were plants with thick stalks and ridges that looked like thin platforms going all the way up the stem. Distracted, he found himself gazing at all the colours rather than the battle that was going on below.

He didn't stay distracted for long though. He clung to the ground and peered over and then stared, wide-eyed at the three lightsabers that were being wielded.

Jedi warriors.

Gasping, he edged forward, darting over them and trying to take everything in. To his side and on the edge of the cliff, the Weequays were getting vicious with the guns they were firing down into the valley and Luke gazed at them, a little relieved that there was some distance between him and them.

It seemed an obvious ending. The Weequays withdrew when it became clear it was more effort than the battle was worth and Luke squinted up as their huge ship roared up into the sky. He'd guess the smaller one he'd come in was docked in there somewhere. And then they were gone, the villagers below cheering and the Jedi standing tall against the sky, watching them leave.

It was like something out of a story that smugglers told when drunk. The kind when they got sad and wanted to talk about the past. The kind of stories that weren't real because life wasn't like that.

It was probably a trap. Luke knew that. Had been warned against it so many times. But the Weequays were flying away and, well…he wasn't really sure what other options he had because he needed to get off this planet, whatever it was.

He flexed his fingers in the dirt underneath his fingers and hummed to himself, trying to weigh it up. A small part of him was waiting for some hint to come from Old Ben, but he'd felt nothing since he'd left the Temple, however many hours ago that had been.

In the end, he climbed down the ridge, grinning as he gained speed and ended up tearing down the slope. The stalks with the colourful ridges were easy enough to climb as a bit of a distraction and he could see ahead where most of the fighting had been. Small figures were wandering around the village ahead and a few taller figures seemed to be talking to them seriously.

Maybe…maybe getting closer would help him make up his mind.

He clambered down and jumped to the ground, then scampered closer to the village, pausing only to study some of the crashed speeder bikes before admitting that even he would struggle to put it back together without some tools.

He froze when a creature opposite him was doing the same. It had a long face, all nose and kind eyes. He was dressed as if he'd been in battle, but he didn't walk like any fighter that Luke had seen. He had to live in the village that Luke had seen earlier.

They stared at each other warily and then Luke edged a little to the side, hoping to get by without a word being said.

"There's a small human," the thing yelped loudly. "A small human. Come. Quick."

Poodoo!

Luke turned and ran.

He didn't know where he was going, only that he needed to make sure that he wasn't captured by anyone again. The huge plant life made it easy to lose himself in what was becoming a maze of thick stalks and colourful ridges, but he could hear noises as if they were giving chase and that wasn't good.

He sprinted as fast as he could, skidding underneath the ridges and not daring to look back in order to keep himself weaving through the plants.

Should have stuck with the pirates. At least they were easy to trade with and predict.

A flutter of panic wove through his belly.

Then strong hands gripped him and lifted him up so that his feet almost ran through air for a second as his brain started to adjust. And this time he was being held by his upper arms rather than the scruff of his neck and it was a secure solid grasp rather than a careless irritated one.

"By the force," a familiar voice rung out. "What are you doing out here, youngling."

And Luke found himself staring into Old Ben's eyes in a much younger version of the man's face and felt a deep sinking feeling in him when it wasn't followed by the usual tirade about how careless and foolish he had just been.

No. Instead, Old Ben looked as if he didn't have a clue who Luke was.

Xxx

They didn't let him go. Luke was hauled into a ship that he'd have to blind not to recognise as one that belonged to bounty hunters. He was put in a corner as they hopped a lift to some outpost where they were then given a ship (who gave people ships?!).

Once inside their own ship, they gave him food. Finally. Luke sat in the edge of the ship and messily wolfed the rations down, not caring when the Togruta Jedi apprentice stared at him with disgust.

You ate when you could. Everyone knew that.

"Is there more?" he asked hopefully, when he'd licked the cartoon clean.

The Jedi human who wasn't Old Ben, the one who was younger and dressed in darker clothes, threw him a stunned look. "Do you ever stop eating?" he asked wearily as he reached in for another pack.

Luke eyed him up and then darted forward to snatch it up from the man's grasp. "I'm hungry," he muttered.

"When was the last time you ate?" Old Ben asked, folding his arms and frowning down with some concern.

When you last fed me, Luke wanted to say. But there was something strange going on and he wasn't about to be stupid. "Dunno," he said with a shrug. "Pirates didn't feed me."

"So you were with them?" the other Jedi asked, and there was a little bit of a sneer on his face.

"No. Fixed their staff thing so they wouldn't sell me to the slavers for sneaking on their ship." Luke tore into the rations and scooped the mush out with his fingers, going a little slower now that the burning hunger had lessened. "I fix things," he added, just in case he needed to barter his services. He drew his knees a little closer to his chest, part of him sure that things would go better of he took up less room on the ship.

Though he was with Old Ben now, he thought glancing at the man and feeling a weird unease when he did. This wasn't how things usually went.

Old Ben exchanged a look with the other Jedi and sighed. "Where are you parents?" Old Ben asked quietly as the Togruta Jedi seemed to find the end of her patience with watching him eat and climbed into the cockpit.

The human Jedi watched her go with an almost envious look on his face.

"Dead," Luke said with a careless shrug, peering after the female and half tempted to see if maybe he could at least just watch her fly the ship. Like, he wouldn't touch of nothing, just see the controls and maybe remember and-

Now the other Jedi was pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. "We don't have time for this, Obi Wan. Hand him over to the GCS. They must have an outpost somewhere."

He was annoyed. Luke chewed on the mush and glanced between the two men as the female closed the cockpit door with what he was sure was a smirk at the other human Jedi.

Old Ben had said…

Maybe it was a game, Luke thought, staring at him as he dunked his fingers into the mush again. Shovelling another scoop into his mouth, Luke decided it might be worth taking a risk. "I was told to find you," he risked as he licked his fingers. "On Coruscant though," he added still thinking that was mad. "Like anyone's dumb enough to do that."

That seemed to have an effect. The Jedi exchanged a look, their brows creasing in a way that many people's faces did when they were confused and then Old Ben was in front of him, kneeling down and still looking younger as he frowned. "Who told you to find me?"

"Old Ben." Luke stared at the floor now, food forgotten. "He said he was talking to you," he added in a small voice, still confused by that.

But it must have meant something because Old Ben knelt down by him and moved the ration tin to one side, the sound ringing out loud as metal scraped against metal.

"What is it?" the other Jedi asked.

"I'm not sure?" Old Ben replied as he reached out for Luke's forehead. Luke jerked away, bumping his head on the ship's hull behind.

"I will not hurt you," Old Ben promised but he still talked as if Luke was a stranger and it was weird to hear him be nice and not really care at the same time. "Let me see."

Old Ben was clever when it came to the mind. Luke could keep everything tightly coiled up and hidden and Ben could layer stuff over the top that Luke had no control over.

And this he saw.

The moment Old Ben prodded, Luke could see events he couldn't understand. Old Ben looking younger and staring at the other Jedi man with worry. A pretty woman with the nicest smile Luke had ever seen. There was a long dress that still showed a bump when she moved at a strange angle. A whispering shadowed hooded figure. A baby crying and the woman screaming and the other Jedi's eyes going red.

And then images that were familiar. Luke, younger and playing with Aunt Beru while Uncle Owen and Old Ben watched on. A news cast about the assassination of the royal house of Aldaraan. Him and Old Ben running. Always running. And the heavy breathing that Luke pulled them away from because he didn't want to remember that moment.

And then the Temple. Old Ben staring at them earnestly, as if it were important beyond words. "What happened here, in this time. Do not let it happen again. The boy will save Anakin, but I cannot predict how that will change things. Vader died the moment he had to choose between the boy and his power. Luke is the key and he is all you will need to save us all."

And then the image was gone and Luke stared up into Old Ben's eyes that actually, for a moment looked like they used to before Old Ben yanked himself away and stood shaking.
"Master?" the other Jedi asked, stepping forward in a sort of protective manner as he glared down at Luke, like it was Luke's fault that Old Ben had left a message for himself in Luke's head.

Thankfully, Old Ben waved a hand at the man, stopping him in his track. "Don't," he croaked, hoarse. "I cannot…this is unheard of," he whispered.

"Master?" It was a more urgent demand this time.

"The youngling is from the future," Old Ben breathed, staring down at Luke in horror. "How are you from the future?" he asked.

The future? "I'm from Tattooine," Luke mumbled, not understanding and pushing a little more into the ship's hull.

"Yes, I saw," Old Ben said, his tone gentling as he stared at Luke and seemed to get some control again.

"The future?" The other Jedi sounded as if he'd never heard something so stupid in all his life. "Obi-Wan, you can't seriously…"

"Search the force, Anakin. Search around him. He is out of place. Once you see it, it's hard to understand how you didn't."

The other man…Anakin? blinked and then looked down at Luke for a long moment. For a moment, he just stared at Luke and it made him shift, feeling the weight of that gaze. Then suddenly Anakin's eyebrows rose a little. He sucked in an odd breath and stepped back, leaning back against the ship's hull so that he was almost directly opposite Luke.

He wasn't sure what they were doing, but they both seemed fascinated by him.

"And…I believe there is something that you should have told me, Anakin."

"Maybe we should deal with the youngling from the future before you start scolding me for whatever it is you've decided to take issue with today."

Old Ben opened his mouth and then looked oddly resigned before he turned to the Jedi. "His name is Luke Skywalker."

Anakin opened his mouth and then his jaw dropped, as if moving without his say-so.

That was a secret. They weren't meant to ever say the last name. Glaring at Old Ben, Luke folded his arms. "Not meant to tell people," he huffed.

"I imagine not," Old Ben muttered before he scrubbed a hand over his face. "Anakin?"

The other Jedi was shaking his head still. There was a noise as the cockpit opened and the Togruta Jedi blinked at them all, but let her eyes rest of Anakin. The silence was so heavy that Luke found himself dragging his eyes away from the three of them and searching desperately for a place to wriggle off to so that they would forget he was there.

"Here," Old Ben said, handing Luke the food again. "Eat. We need to have a conversation." He almost had to steer the Anakin out of the room and into the single privacy cabin that they had on the ship. The Togruta opened her mouth as if to say something, but closed it when Old Ben shook his head at her. With a wide-eyed glance at Luke, she settled back into the cockpit, though she didn't close the hatch this time.

It didn't take long for him to hear the voices of the Jedi men as they started to get louder and louder. Luke stared at the door, unsure. He gulped down the rest of his food and then looked around, a little defeated already because it was a small ship and there wasn't room for him to hide just for a little while so he could sleep.

He jumped when the door opened. Anakin stood and stared at him as if he'd forgotten that Luke would be there. Then with an odd noise, he stormed past Luke and went into the cockpit, slamming the door closed.

Almost two minutes later the door opened again and the Togurta came out, glancing over her shoulder with worry as she carefully shut the hatch. Luke pressed back into the wall, uncertain because Old Ben still hadn't come out of the room.

The Togruta came over to him, rummaging through the pack to hand him some cloth. "For your face," she explained when he stared at her blankly. "Here." She took it and wiped around his mouth. "My name is Ahsoka," she said softly. "How old are you, Luke?"

"Twelve," he tried.

"Really?" she asked, sounding almost as if she found his claim funny.

For a moment, Luke debated a smaller lie and then he gave up, feeling oddly tired. "Seven." Over her tentacles, he could see the privacy chamber door open and Old Ben stood, leaning against the doorway with a frown.

Ahsoka turned around to look up at Old Ben. "Is he…is he Anakin's?"

Old Ben nodded slowly. "Doesn't take a genius to work out who the mother would be," he added, sighing heavily and leaning his head against the door frame. "You said…you said your parents were dead?" he asked after a moment of staring at Luke.

Nodding, Luke darted a glance around again, desperate for some maintenance hatch he could curl up in and leave the conversation behind for a bit.

"Do you remember when your parents died?" Old Ben pressed which was so strange because Old Ben was the one that told Luke most of the information about his parents. You know, when he was in a weird mood.

Luke shook his head. When they kept staring at him, he chewed on his thumb nail. "I…I don't really remember them," he mumbled.

"And who's been looking after you since then?" Ahsoka said, looking worried suddenly. She tried to exchange a fierce look with Old Ben, but the man was ignoring her in favour of staring at Luke.

Luke gazed up at Old Ben and then shrugged, still not understanding what they were doing.

Xxx

In the cockpit, Anakin punched in the holo key and the authorisation code to contact his wife because he hardly needed to keep that one secret now thanks to-

He wasn't even thinking about HIM.

Refused to.

Despite everything, his heart brightened a little at the sight of Padme as she answered the call. It was probably just before a meeting, he recognised the heavy robes and the hair that was probably about to have the finishing touches set to it.

The things he had learned since being married to her.

"Jedi Skywalker," Padme said, smiling as she answered the call. "Can I help you?"

"They know."

He needed to get control of himself. That shouldn't have been how he told her and he could see the wobble in her expression before she schooled her face into something perfectly neutral. "Know what?"

He couldn't say it, but his face must have been enough because her eyes warmed with sympathy. "Ani," she whispered softly. "Are you sure?"

"I admitted it to Obi-Wan," he confessed. "There was…" he groaned and leaned forward, tugging at his hair with his fingers.

"Ani, I need you to explain what happened," she said firmly. "I need to know what's happening so I can help."

Help. She would help because they were a team and this was why he couldn't ever cope without her. Slowly, he raised his head and stared at her, wishing desperately that he was closer and could just hold her, just briefly. It would be all that he needed to tackle this head on.

"I…" he sat back a bit. "We were on Felucia," he said. "Ran into pirates and-" he waved a hand because it was hardly important now. "The force…"

"Ani," she snapped. "Quickly. Before I have to talk to the council."

"We found a boy who's from the future and when Obi Wan looked in his head it turns out he might be our son. From the future."

There. The ridiculous kriffin' situation all laid out for her. He watched her as she lifted her gaze away from the screen and seemed to be staring at something over his head. A muscle in her jaw ticked and she took several breaths.

"I…that's…are you…" she closed her eyes and shook her head. "Of course you're sure, you wouldn't have confessed if you weren't." She looked down and he could see her gathering herself together. He watched closely, half hoping that she would give him some hint of how to deal with this.

"A child?" she asked eventually and he felt a stutter of panic at the hopeful tone in her voice. "How old?"

He had no idea. "About," he tried to measure with his hand before remembering that she couldn't see how far off the floor he was indicating. "I don't know," he confessed. "It wasn't…Obi Wan knows," he said, unable to get past that key fact. "He's going to tell the council."

"We knew this could happen," she said after a moment. "And you need to prepare for-"

Anakin closed his eyes. "We're at war," he said, uselessly. "I can help."

She nodded seriously. "You don't need to be a Jedi Knight to help people," she said quietly and he loved her a little bit more for the certainty in her voice. "Are you coming back then?"

"Oh yeah," Anakin said opening his eyes and tracing his finger over the screen. "It's the only bearable thing about this. I'll be seeing you shortly."

"Obi Wan will contact the council after you finish this," Padme said with certainty. "Ani…what are the chances that they'll try to take the child?"

The child?

Anakin glanced back at the door and thought about the wild feral thing that ate like a creature and helped pirates. If the council had almost turned him away as a child, he doubted they'd want the one on the other side of the door.

"Not to train," he said, and there was not a moment's hesitation there. "But…they will need to know what happened in the future. Obi Wan left himself a message in the boy's mind. Apparently there's a danger threatening-"

He broke off as the boy's frank statement earlier hit him again. He'd said his parents were dead.

Both of them.

He and Padme died young in the future if nothing changed.

"I'll deal with it," Padme said firmly. "Just get both of you back here in one piece."

Both of them? Anakin nodded and almost protested as the screen went blank. What if…what if the council didn't want him and they didn't want the boy? From the sounds of it, Padme wanted to at least meet him. And she was good, she would probably want to look after the child…

He had no idea how he felt about that.

xxx

Luke fell asleep at some point, huddled against the metal walls of the ship. He usually fell asleep when he found Old Ben again, like some instinct was fine with him finally resting because Old Ben was there to take care of things again.

He woke because it felt miserable and frustrated. And what 'it' was, he couldn't say exactly, but he felt it and he curled up tighter because he didn't like it.

"-how could I not tell the council?"

"We're at war," Anakin was saying. "We need every fighter out there. He doesn't change that."

"But it does change you," Old Ben said firmly. "Anakin, for force sake, you are married!"

Luke peeped an eye open. Old Ben and Anakin were sat at the tiny table. Anakin had his elbows on the table and head in his hands as if his world was coming to an end.

"And the world I saw… it was jumbled Anakin, I cannot lie. I barely understood what I was seeing. But there is a malevolent force out there and somehow that boy will save you-"

There was a snort that Luke felt was just a bit rude. Like Luke was incapable of saving people.

"Do you think you can ignore this?" And that tone, Luke knew well. Old Ben was changing his argument just to make sure that he completely won the disagreement. "Will Padme agree that you should walk away from this child?"

"He isn't…" Anakin trailed off. "I don't feel anything for him. He's…"

"You will." Old Ben sounded odd suddenly. "It is the one thing I am certain of in this, Anakin. One day you will love him above everything else and, somehow, that will save you."

Luke closed his eyes when he felt both men were about to look over at him. Thankfully, the frustration was easing and it was easier to get to sleep.

Chapter Text

"Where are we?" Luke asked as the ship docked. Anakin had ignored him for most of the morning and Old Ben had kept staring at him as though waiting for Luke to shout 'surprise!'. Only Ahsoka seemed to be acting like a normal person as she smiled down at him, waiting by the ramp.

"Coruscant."

What?

Horrified, he stopped dead and started to back up, shaking his head. Without really knowing where he was going, he turned and slammed his face right into Old Ben's belt.

"Don't be silly," Old Ben chided. "It's Coruscant."

Yeah.

When it became clear he was about to be shoved down the ramp, Luke feinted and then ducked down between Old Ben's legs before wriggling free and heading to the cockpit because the only sane thing he could think of doing was flying them all away.

As Anakin opened the door from the cockpit, Luke slid through and almost threw himself at the controls, searching for anything that looked like it might fly them away. Even if it was the buttons to get them into hyperspace.

"What is he doing?" Anakin snapped.

"I have no idea," Old Ben sighed. And then an invisible force caught Luke and started to tug him back to Old Ben.

"No," Luke yelped as he squirmed to get free. "They'll be troopers. And him. And the Emperor. And-"

Old Ben stared at him as the force held Luke in front of the Jedi so that they were almost eye to eye.

And then something crossed his face. "Sweet force," he muttered. "You have no idea what year it is, do you, youngling?"

No?

Who bothered with things like that?

He was set on his feet again and he glanced over at Anakin who was staring at the floor in a way that made Luke wonder if he was angry with it.

"Ahsoka's outside," Old Ben suggested. "She'll look after you."

And because she was nice and probably in danger, Luke dropped his shoulders and stomped out, annoyed that no-one was listening and half expecting a blaster bolt to hit him the moment he-

He stopped on the ramp as the world came into view.

There were so many speeders. And so many different types. And they looked in good condition even if there were going slow. The sky was bright and clear, the buildings sleek as if they were new and well cared for. The landing pad was smooth and polished to an inch of his life and, for the life of him, he couldn't work out why anyone had bothered other than to make it look nice. The speeders above and around them were all following neat lines in paths that Luke couldn't quite work out. Sometimes they weaved among the buildings and sometimes they were out in a clear part of the sky.

"Come on," Ahsoka coaxed, holding out a hand.

He took her hand, still trying to take in the new world they were on. When he peered down, there were speeders down there too, the light getting weaker as the amount of buildings became more layered below. Maybe there was the surface somewhere deep down below them and, if there was, he imagined it would be like night down there.
Probably a good place to hide.

Ahsoka was leading him down the walkway where a small crowd was gathered. Luke slowed, trying to make his reluctance clear. When he looked over his shoulder, Old Ben and Anakin were following. Old Ben was watching Anakin with concern as they walked at an even pace, while Anakin was staring at the crowd, eyes looking for someone as his face remained carefully blank.

Old Ben must have felt his gaze, because he switched his gaze to Luke and smiled in a way that might have been meant to be encouraging.

When Luke turned back, Ahsoka made a soothing noise and squeezed his hand, picking up the speed a little.

The crowd opposite were mainly human, though there was a green person that was a little shorter than Luke. He stood at the front, leaning on a stick and tracking Luke with his big eyes, a thoughtful frown on his face. Behind him, wearing a similar outfit, was a tall human male. There was something about him that made Luke feel as if he was being measured and lacking, which wasn't new, but for some reason it felt more important this time. There were three others dressed as the first two and they were similar to what Old Ben, Anakin and Ahsoka wore so maybe they were all Jedi knights.

Can't be, a little voice whispered. The Jedi are dead.

"This is the child?" the tall human said.

"This is Luke," Old Ben said, walking forward. Ahsoka let go of Luke's hand as Old Ben's hands landed on Luke's shoulders. It was tempting to press back into him, but Old Ben wasn't the same as he was and Luke didn't know what to make of him still. It was like he didn't fit into the normal version of Old Ben anymore. "Say hello," Old Ben instructed.

He didn't want to. Luke looked away and at one of the traffic queues by a tall building to his left. Old Ben squeezed his shoulders and Luke couldn't tell if he was trying to be nice or chiding Luke for not doing as he was told.

"Come a long way, you have," the green creature said, watching him. "Dangerous it is."

Luke glanced at him and then away again because he was starting to feel the creeping unease of not knowing what he was meant to do. He'd done as Old Ben has asked and that was all he'd ever known to follow and now…now he had a feeling that he had done something wrong and he didn't know how to fix it.

He hated not being able to fix things. Then he was a burden and useless and no-one was happy to have him around. He could feel everyone looking at him and Old Ben's hands anchored him in place, not letting him dart off and take a moment to think and work out what he was doing wrong.

There was movement and Luke glanced back and up as the people who might be Jedi parted, letting a woman through. Behind him, he knew that Anakin had stirred and was pleased as the woman marched up to the green person.

"Enough," she said firmly. "You are scaring him."

"We need to know-" the tall man started to say.

"I don't particularly care what you wish to know. Anakin and I have explained enough in the last twenty four hours." The woman paused when she finally had a clear look at Luke. She sucked in a breath and then looked…well, maybe scared? Luke wasn't sure. "Surely you can at least give us this," she said and it didn't sound like she was asking a question or expecting a reply.

"Padme," Old Ben said softly. "Meet Luke."

He still had everyone's attention but it was a little bit easier this time. He couldn't explain why. The woman was pretty and she almost looked like someone he'd seen before. As she knelt down in front of him, her skirts billowing out, he gazed up into warm brown eyes that looked like the ground when lots of water had fallen on it. Her face was smooth and soft, framed by curly brown hair that looked like it might be the softest thing he had ever touched.

"Hello," she said gently.

He stared down at the dark blue skirts. The material looked like it was heavy and it almost seemed to whisper as it moved. When he risked looking up again, she was staring up behind him, probably at Anakin and her eyes were filled with worry.

"There is much that we need to discuss," the tall man said, stepping forward, his eyes flitting between Old Ben and Anakin. Luke watched as Padme's eyes shut briefly, as if the idea was hurting her. "Then we will deal with the youngling."

That was enough to set a fire in her. "Deal with?" she asked, turning and standing, almost as if she were shieling Luke.

"He poses a threat-"

"And what do you propose-" she stopped when Anakin stepped forward and took her elbow, murmuring something down at her.

"Perhaps we should go inside," Old Ben said calmly.

The green alien nodded and turned. The tall one seemed to look gazes with Old Ben, and then nodded and followed, as did the others.

"Shall I take him?" Ahsoka asked, stepping close as Padme and Anakin stood together, not talking but seeming to have a conversation all the same.

"I can give you five minutes," Old Ben said to the pair. "Any longer and they may start to object."

Anakin nodded, his thumb stroking over the sleeve of Padme's gown. He still looked annoyed, like one wrong move might just make him explode. Padme glanced back over, looking at Luke with concern. "You won't let them take him?" she checked.

Old Ben sighed and then bent down close to Luke and picked him up. "There," he said. "Five minutes, Anakin."

Over Old Ben's shoulder, as they walked away, he could see Anakin and Padme lean in close together, their clothes brushing against each other as they leant their foreheads together. The sight of it made something in Luke feel…good.

He didn't understand it. Instead, he turned his head away and stared out at the buildings and the speeders, cheek resting on Old Ben's shoulder and the back of his neck pressed to the side of Old Ben's throat.

"You had no knowledge of this marriage?" the tall man said as they stepped into what looked like a seating area. The walls were glass and they could all see the couple outside on the landing path, albeit at a distance. He was watching the couple, hands inside his robe sleeves as he did.

"I didn't know how far it had gone," Old Ben said, shifting Luke a little. "I believed Anakin had made a choice to follow the way of the Order even if the feelings were there."

"Married," another of the Jedi sighed. "Force above, why didn't he just leave the Order?"

Old Ben said nothing, but Luke could sense he was annoyed. To his side, Ahsoka seemed to catch herself watching Anakin and Padme and looked away as if uncomfortable.

Old Ben nodded suddenly and then sat down, manoeuvring Luke on his lap. Thankfully, he seemed to have his back to most of the Jedi apart from one. A tholothian female sat down on the other side of Luke facing him.

"Do you know who we are?" she asked him.

"Jedi?" he asked, unsure. It was certainly who they wanted him to think they were.

"You doubt it?"

"Jedi are dead," Luke said, plucking at Old Ben's cloak. "Everyone knows that."

The room felt controlled suddenly. It was the only way that Luke could describe it. Like it was tight but channelled and organised in a way, like when you fed a lot of power through a perfect circuit.

"How long have the Jedi been gone for?" she asked, reaching into a pocket. He watched as she took out a wrapped-up chunk of bread. Slowly, she broke a piece off and handed it to him.

"They've always been gone," Luke said as he studied the bread and turned it over in his hand before shoving it in. It was a little crusty and flavoured with something strange.

"But you know Obi-Wan?"

"Old Ben," Luke corrected and eyed up the rest of the bread. There was a ghost of a smile on her face at what he said. "He's always been there."

"Always?"

"On Tattooine with Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. Then we left. We had to run." Luke shrugged.

Old Ben shifted him a little. "Do you remember who we ran from?" he asked as the Tholothian broke off a piece of bread for Luke again.

"The Empire."

"He mentioned that before," Old Ben said looking up at the others. When Luke glanced over after taking the next piece of bread, they were closer, sitting close now and Ahsoka was still stood, arms folded and looking worried. "And Storm Troopers."

"Luke," The Tholothian said firmly. "Do you know what the year is? Or what year you were born?"

"I'm the same age as the Empire," Luke said after a moments' pause to think about it. He chewed on the bread, enjoying the flavour.

"And the year?" she pushed.

But he shook his head. It was all jumbled and no-one really mentioned the year or date to him. He lived by deadlines and by Old Ben leaving and coming back. That was it.

The door opposite opened and Anakin came through with Padme close behind him. They were holding hands and both seemed to be holding their heads in a determined way. Anakin took a deep breath and then let go of her hand. "Are we doing this?" he demanded.

"We'll talk at the Temple," the tall man said, standing. "We should all-"

"Leave the child for today," the Tholothian instructed.

"We need to know-" the tall one started to say firmly.

"We need context and for him to trust us."

"Then he needs to come with us-"

Padme stepped forward towards Luke, coming close. "Try it," she suggested mildly. "He's exhausted and he's seven. I believe I am legally responsible for-"

The tall man shook his head and Luke heard the Tholothian sigh as he spoke. "There has been no evidence confirming that yet. Only Jedi Skywalker has been confirmed."

"Try it," Padme suggested again. "I am a senator in the Galactic Republic and I have more allies than you. Try to take him without my permission and you will find out how ill equipped for politics you truly are."

There was a momentary silence at that and Luke was almost sure that Anakin was trying to keep control of his face as his lips twitched a few times. He was studiously not looking towards Old Ben.

"Help us, this will not," the green Jedi said and Luke peered past the woman's skirts to see him again. The green Jedi watched him thoughtfully and then let out a very long sigh. "But speak we will have to," he said eventually. "Much repair is needed for this youngling's mind."

The Jedi left, walking in one direction while Luke was bizarrely left with Padme, even if that had been what she had been arguing for. They went back out onto the landing walk but headed down towards a speeder parking bay where a man called Typho who had an eye patch and a blaster and flew so he had to be ace as far as Luke was concerned. He didn't look surprised that Luke was there, but did stare at him like Luke might have the secrets of the universe buried in his head.

The thing was, Luke wasn't exactly sure if Padme was who he was meant to be staying with because no-one Old Ben had ever left him with had lived in a place like the one he was staying in.

He stopped as they came in and stared at the ground, baffled. It was the colour of metal, but it was soft under his boots and, when he ducked down to touch, so so soft. Maybe the softest thing that he had ever touched.

She was staring at him when he looked up and she looked like someone had hit her. Unsure, he stood and drew his hand up to his chest as if she might scold him.

"We should get you out of those clothes," she said in a suddenly cheerful tone. He stared at her, trying to work out what she wanted and how to make however long his stay with her was to be a successful time. But everyone he'd been left with cared about profit or work or hiding from the Empire.

He didn't think she wanted those things.

She took his hand and he could feel the callouses where she'd wielded blasters or sticks. It was reassuring in a way. Maybe he could help her with shooting or fixing blasters.

She led him into a chamber with a strange shaped pot in it and turned the taps. Water came out and Luke darted forward, in awe despite himself.

"Obi Wan said you'd lived in Tattooine," Padme said as she sat down with her back to the tub and watching him. "Have you had a bath before?"

Luke shook his head and then caught her smiling. "Well," she said, turning to swirl her hand through the water. "At least we still get some of your firsts." Then she shook herself and gestured to his hands. "Arms up," she instructed.

He did as asked and she pulled the shirt over his head and then threw it to the side of the room. She paused and pulled back a little, studying his chest.

"That's a lot of bruises," she said quietly as she started with his boots.

Luke squinted down and shrugged. "I got shot once," he announced proudly.

Her hands stopped and she stopped. For ten seconds and then she restarted. "Did you?" she asked in that same quiet, controlled voice. "How did that happen?"

"Storm Troopers," Luke said carelessly. It probably wasn't smart to admit that he'd been wriggling out of a vault at the time because the smugglers had been using him to bump up their stocks when a deal fell through. "Look," he added and pointed at the scar in his shoulder.

Her brown eyes looked at the scar and then she looked down again, pulling off his boots. "Step out," she instructed and then sighed when she caught sight of his feet. "Are they sore?"

He peered down. His feet looked swollen and smelt and ached a little because the soles were thin and he never really had a chance to take the boots off. "Nah," he said.

Padme didn't say anything more as she finished stripping him off and then he clambered cautiously into the bath, not entirely sure whether he trusted all the water being in one place.

"Duck your head under," she instructed. He did and gasped when he realised that he couldn't breathe through the water.

She pulled him up and smiled at him as she helped him wipe some of the water off his face. Then she got behind him and started lathering up his hair in something that smelled like plants.

They went through three tubs of water before she declared that he was clean. In that time, someone had appeared with clothes for Luke and he stood, wrapped in the softest piece of cloth he'd ever felt as she helped him into even softer clothes.

Someone else brought up some food and Luke inhaled it, not pausing because it was delicious and no-one was going to take it from him, not even Padme.

Then they sat together under a blanket and Padme stroked his hair and started to tell him a story about a brave boy who rescued a whole planet because of his cleverness.

He woke up on a soft thing and he scrambled up, hating the sensation. The room was too big and everything was too quiet and he didn't know what to do-

He rolled off of the bed and then underneath it, taking the blankets with him. It was safer under the bed. More firm and stable and it made sense under there.

He tapped his fingers on the floor, humming to himself until he felt sleepy again.

Chapter Text

When Luke woke up, Padme was on her side by him. She wasn't under the bed, but their faces were opposite each other and her eyes were red as if she'd been crying. It was light again now and light flooded in through the window, illuminating her and picking up on stray hairs to create almost like strands of light around her. It was like another one of the stories, but when she smiled down at him, it was wobbly and fragile.

"Good morning," she whispered.

He didn't say anything, but snuggled into the blankets, enjoying the cosy, safe feeling from being tight and secure in a place.

"Did you have a bad dream?" she asked.

He shook his head, a little confused, but got it when she looked up at the bed and then at him. "Too big," he tried to explain. "It's…quiet and big."

He didn't think it made sense, but she smiled sadly at him all the same. "Are you ready to come out now?" she asked.

Luke peered past her and stared at how wide the room was. "When am I going back on a ship?" he asked.

Her mouth tightened and she shook her head, then sat up so that all he could see were her legs. She wasn't wearing a dress today, instead she was in soft trousers and a tunic and he wondered if she would need him to be useful today.

"Do you want breakfast?" she said eventually. And he scrambled out at that because the food here was amazing and he would always want to eat.

He knew she was watching him. It was okay, sometimes the people Old Ben left him with watched him too and they were often the nicest ones. They gave him extra food or blankets and told people to lay off when he wasn't being useful enough.

After they'd eaten, he was told to get changed and then he had some new boots and they went outside into a speeder that he still wasn't allowed to pilot, though Padme barked out a laugh when he asked hopefully. Captain Typho flashed her a grin. "Not today, youngling," he said , ruffling Luke's hair. "But you can watch what I'm doing, if you like."

Captain Typho really was ace. Luke clambered as close as he dared and stared at the controls with envy, barely paying attention to Padme as she joined them in the back.

The traffic was so strange too. At times, Luke was sure he could reach out and touch the other speeders (though when he tried, Padme quickly gathered him into the back with her and rested her chin on his head).

"He's a Skywalker, all right," Captain Typho said with a smile. "Good job he's still young, otherwise you'd have a job keeping him there."

Padme made an annoyed sound. "Force help me," she sighed. "It's Anakin's fault," she huffed. "he can deal with it."

The Jedi Temple was somewhere that Old Ben had mentioned once when he'd had too much to drink a year ago. It was creepily quiet and Luke wasn't sure that somewhere so big and with so many people was meant to be so silent.

They ended up in a circular room that overlooked the buildings around and Luke was almost more interested by the ships than he was the people in the room. They were the same five that had welcomed them yesterday and he stared at the Tholthian hopefully because she might have a bit more of that bread.

Padme was nervous, he knew that. She looked around and then stuck close to Luke, as if he might leave any second which was stupid because she had soft blankets and good food and she smiled at him as if he didn't have to be useful.

"Where is Anakin?" Padme asked, her hand firmly on Luke's shoulder.

"With Master Kenobi," the tall man from yesterday said. The Jedi were all sat on chairs and they looked very serious. "It has been agreed that he will leave our Order."

Padme sucked in a breath. "You'll just let him go?"

"We do not keep people here by force," the Tholthian said simply. "He was offered a choice, that is all."

"Powerful message, the boy carried," the green Jedi said. "Obey it we will. Trust in Obi Wan, we do."

"Message?" Padme questioned, her thumb rubbing circles in Luke's shoulder which he liked.

"Obi Wan Kenobi planted a message in the boy's mind before he sent him back. The message remains jumbled, but one thing was made clear. Separating father and son must not happen."

"You'll let us keep him," Padme breathed, the soothing motions pausing.

"Under conditions," the tall Jedi said, steepling his fingers.

Luke glanced up at Padme who drew in a breath and raised an eyebrow. "Such as?" she asked, her tone changing to that firm, ordering one that Luke was pretty sure most people would have to obey.

"Come here, child," said the Tholthian. Unafraid, Luke stepped forward.

"What is the image that I am holding?"

Slam it in a metal box. Wrap it up in energy beams. Lock it in a ship. Send it out to space where you can't see.

Luke shrugged. The floor under his feet was decorated; he was inside a circle and the patterns made him want to stare and work out how it had been put together-

"Reach out with your mind," another of the Jedi ordered. A Cerean who was leaning forward in his seat a little.

Luke scratched his head. "I don't know," he muttered petulantly, sliding his gaze out through the window and at the traffic. He'd give anything to jump in one and leave them and their enquiring faces alone. He wanted to be back under the bed where no-one could see him and he could pretend that no-one would ever find him.

The masters all exchanged a look and Luke waited, not really sure what they would do next.

A swooshing noise indicated that the doors were opening and Luke turned his head to see Old Ben and Anakin come through. Anakin was dressed a bit more like Captain Typho now, the robes he'd been wearing yesterday were gone.

So was the belt with the lightsabre attached.

"I was under the impression that we would wait for the youngling to recover before questioning him again," Old Ben said in that light voice that meant he was actually a bit angry.
"There appears to be no natural ability," the Cerean Jedi said, sitting back. "The boy is not force sensitive."

Unnervingly, the green Jedi was still watching him. "Doubt that I do," he said thoughtfully. "Clever little thing, he is." Then he waved a hand when another master seemed to be about to ask a question. "Bring the boy to me once a solar month, you will. See what we can do, we will. Our only condition it is," he added and then held up a hand when the tall Jedi and the Cerean Jedi opened their mouths as if to debate the issue. "Patience we will all need."

Luke had the oddest feeling that the Jedi had been scolded, but for the life of him he couldn't work out how that had been a telling off.

Xxx

Holding Padme's hand as they left The Temple was odd. They gained looks for it and apparently the news had already spread because no-one was surprised, but they were all wary of it, of him.

Anakin wasn't sure what to make of it all.

If he were honest with himself, it hadn't been as bad as he'd thought it would be. They council had asked him once and only once if he would consider giving up Padme and he'd said no. And that choice, apparently, had been that.

They'd talked. Obi Wan had sounded confused as to why he hadn't simply made the choice earlier, but it wasn't in the Jedi code to have ambitions, to want the power to protect, to feel validation and as if you were worthwhile because you were a Jedi. It didn't seem to be something that Obi Wan or Yoda or even Adi Gallia understood; that he wanted to be a Jedi because of what it gave him for himself.

"Will it be enough for you?" he'd asked Padme last night on the walkway. "For me to be nothing but-"

She'd looked at him as if he were mad. "I don't love you because you're a Jedi," she'd whispered, furiously. "I love you because you're you."

He had to trust that she knew herself and her love well enough. Living without her wasn't an option and the Jedi weren't exactly giving him any other choices.

Ahead of them, the youngling was with Captain Typho, chatting away with more enthusiasm than Anakin had seen from the boy in the entirety of their flight.

"He's fascinated by the speeders," Padme sighed. "I had to hold onto him otherwise he'd have tipped out trying to see all the different makes." She gave him a long side glance.

Was he meant to be pleased that Luke shared something in common with him? He felt nothing but a weary numbness and the unending urge to sleep, to hold Padme and to have time to think. The idea of going home and Luke being there and expecting things-

He didn't look back as they left the Jedi Temple and got into the speeder. Captain Typho looked a little wary that Anakin would take the controls, but he wasn't in the mood. He and Padme sat in the back while Luke was in the front, still jabbering away and asking a million questions.

The journey was blissfully silent between him and Padme as she gave him time to think things over and react. There was no judgement, no questions and no demands. Just the precious gift of time and space while she held his hand.

"Is Old Ben coming?" Luke asked, turning around in his seat to peer over the headrest. He rested his chin on it and hugged his arms around the back of the seat as he stared at Padme in question.

"No," she said calmly. "He has missions to do for the Jedi."

Luke's face scrunched up a little. The boy had his colouring, though Anakin had been blonder at that age. He wondered idly if that had been because he'd been trapped on Tattooine for longer than Luke had.

Why had the boy even been put there in the first place? He'd never have gone back. Never would have wanted any child of his to be raised there.

Not your child, a voice hissed desperately. He's nothing to do with you. He's destroyed everything.

Luke stared down at the seat and then poked at the head rest with a grimy finger. "Were the Jedi hiding before?" he asked sounding terribly confused.

Padme shook her head and then looked away. Luke deflated a little and glanced at Anakin before he turned around, apparently sensing he would get no more from Anakin than he
had from Padme. The boy quickly seemed to switch his attention back to the panels, edging closer and closer to Typho and the controls.

The man seemed to have endless patience for Luke. Maybe he could take the youngling.

xxx

Luke wasn't entirely sure how he felt about colouring in.

When they got back to the apartment after a very quiet and tense ride, he'd been given something to colour in. The concept had baffled him, but the woman with him had sat and shown him how to do it and there was something nice in completing the task and filling up a blank hollow with colour.

He bored of it after a while. There was a comms unit on the side and he picked it up, studying it from every angle.

"That's broken," he was told by one of Padme's staff.

Well, he could see that. Rolling his eyes, he reached for the screwdriver and hopped up onto the table as he started to take it apart, feet on the seat of a chair and balancing the components on the top of the back.

He had just fixed the problem when Padme came out looking very tired. "Luke," she said, sounding a little annoyed. "Please just-"

"Fixed it," he said, sticking his tongue out between his teeth as he examined the circuitry. It'd probably keep shorting if left as it was and he looked along the table for some spare wire.

He knew she didn't believe him, but she stayed quiet as he made his adjustments. Then, methodically, he started to replace the rest of the comms. When he looked up, she was leaning against the wall, watching him with a strange expression.

"I can fix things," he said, a little firm now. "It's how it works."

"It?" she asked.

He nodded. "I fix things. You feed me."

But she shook her head, her hand up by her mouth and hiding her expression. "Is it?" she asked, sounding a little…dangerous in her tone. He couldn't explain it, except that he knew he had gone wrong somewhere.

He scanned over what might have annoyed her. "I mean…you gave me clothes as well," he said slowly. "I can run messages," he offered, unsure.

And just like that she burst into tears.

Luke froze, completely lost as to what to do. Thankfully, Anakin came out of the room pretty fast and gathered her into his arms as she sobbed something into his chest.

And Anakin was a new entity. He hadn't seemed to like Luke much when they'd been on the ship and every meeting with him since had been tense and uncertain. Luke stayed where he was, already working out how to get to the exit, just in case.

"I…" one of the younger girls, Halle hovered at the edge of the room. "Food is ready," she said hopefully.

"Go and get something to eat," Anakin ordered and Luke took the opportunity, leaping down and almost running from the room.

They joined him almost five minutes later when he'd finished and as soon as the pair entered the room, Luke wriggled down and under the table, trying to work out the easiest way to escape.

The force gripped him and gently pulled him back up and into his chair.

"Ani," Padme scowled, taking her seat next to Luke. "He isn't a droid you can summon."

Anakin waved a fork in her direction, apparently unwilling to argue.

"I thought you might like a treat," Padme said and nodded at Halle. "Have you had chocolate before?"

Luke stared at the thing on his plate and twisted so he could see all the way around it. It looked like the ground where he and Old Ben had been in the Temple together or like Padme's eyes.

Anakin put his head in his hand. "It'll be too sweet," he said tonelessly to his plate of food. "It took me ages to adjust to the desserts here."

But Padme looked hopeful, so Luke prodded the thing with a fork. It crumbled a little.

"It's cake," she said. "Chocolate cake."

Clumsily, he scooped part of it up on his fork and lifted it to his mouth. The sensation was overwhelming and he spat it out, shuddering. He even dug his fingers into his tongue to try and get rid of the taste.

"Here." Anakin rolled a bit of fruit towards him. "It's a pear from Naboo," he said. "Try that."

Luke stared down at it and tentatively bit.

It was…he didn't know what it was only that if anyone tried to take it from him he might bite them. He curled back into his chair and sucked at the flesh, slurping down the juice.

Padme sighed as she reached for the plate. "I…all I want to do is spoil him," she confessed. "Ani, when I saw those bruises-"

Anakin kept eating. "It'll overwhelm him," he said softly. "Just…" he put his fork down again and watched her. "At some point we'll meet in the middle," he said lightly.

"Bet we won't," she said wryly. "There's no way I'll have calmed down in a week."

Anakin said nothing, but he did glance over at Luke. "Sit at the table properly," he sighed. "Unless you don't want me to give you one tomorrow night."

There were more?

Eager, Luke unfolded himself and leaned forward again, hovering over the place setting as he ate. "I can finish all of this?" he asked carefully.

Anakin nodded.

With a shy smile, Luke started to take his time with the fruit, savouring it and making sure he got every last piece. In the time it took him to do that, Padme and Anakin had finished dinner and seemed content to sit quietly, Padme sipping at her glass of wine and nursing it longer than he had ever seen anyone take to drink a glass.

He was told to wash (again!) and he was then sent back to do it properly (wash again) and then change (again).

They put him in the bed again. And, as soon as they left, he scrambled under the bed, took a blanket and fell asleep feeling completely content.

Xxx

When Anakin walked in from the fresher, Padme was sat at her dressing table brushing her hair absently.

These sorts of nights wouldn't be rare, he thought with some wonder as he walked over to her and ducked to press a kiss to her shoulder. How often had he had to sneak in and out? How careful had they had to be with their time, always one eye on the hour, calculating how long they had left before suspicions might be raised?

She smiled at him in the mirror, raising her free hand to his hair and turning into him to breath in his scent.

"You're sad," he whispered to her.

She let out a breath and then let go of him. "Come," she said, standing and tugging him to the door. He let himself be led, steeling himself when she started to led him towards the bedroom that she'd given to Luke rather than a security officer now that Anakin was around.

Frustration welled within him. He was trying. He was…a lot had happened and so what if he didn't feel for the youngling the way that she did? He would protect the boy as he would any other youngling his age and that surely would have to be-

Anakin wasn't quite prepared for the blast of panic that hit him when she opened the door and the bed was empty. Not just empty, but bare of its blankets too, apart from the pillows that looked like they had been shoved away.

But Padme was calm as she knelt down by the bed and Anakin could see a slither of blanket so he had some idea of where Luke had gone before he joined his wife on the floor.

Luke was in a nest under there. Curled up with a hand under his face, on his side. In the darkness under the bed, his face slightly lit up by the lighting from the window and his colouring hidden by the dark of night, Anakin could suddenly see Padme in those features. The delicate mouth and nose, the sweep of his eyebrows. And maybe…maybe something of Anakin's mother in the shape of his eyes.

It was oddly fascinating to pick out people he cared about in that little face.

"Why?" he asked, sitting up and looking at Padme who looked seconds away from bursting into tears.

"He says it's too big. Too quiet." She shrugged and then her lip wobbled and she leaned into Anakin heavily. "We failed him."

They hadn't. They hadn't done anything, not even had the joy of conceiving the youngling. But he knew Padme didn't see it like that, was surprised at how quickly she had taken to the idea of a child…

"You never said you wanted children now," he said as he wrapped an arm around her. "You said we could wait."

"You were at war, I was negotiating. How would that have been fair or wise to a baby?" she asked, placing a hand on his chest. "But if there hadn't been a war, if you had been ready to leave the Order? Yes, I'd have liked to…" She shrugged. "I knew we'd have to wait a little. You weren't ready for them yet."

He wasn't sure if he liked the idea that he might have made her wait. And a baby…one that they made and loved and raised from the start, maybe a little girl with Padme's brown eyes and smile…that sounded…well…perfect actually. But this boy…

"I don't feel anything," he confessed. "I wish…I wish I saw it the way you do."

"Do you blame him?"

"I…part of me wants to," he admitted. "I…I don't know."

"Will you try?"

He would. He knew he would, for her.

Chapter Text

This time, when he woke, Anakin was on the floor. It was morning and Anakin was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling, his head level with Luke's. He was awake and Luke was sure that Anakin knew Luke was awake, but they stayed silent, without looking at each other and that was nice.

It was good to watch him. He was strong and brave and he'd protected villagers from pirates. And he was a Jedi, just like Luke's-

No. Slam it in a metal box. Wrap it up in energy beams. Lock it in a ship. Send it out to space where you can't see.

"What are you doing?" Luke asked.

"Thinking." Anakin turned his head so that his blue eyes met Luke's. "What are you doing?"

"Waking up."

Anakin nodded and then looked back at the ceiling. "Your mother has food waiting for you."

"My mother's dead," Luke said cocking his head.

Anakin almost jolted at that, as if Luke had electrocuted him and suddenly, Luke had Anakin's full attention for the first time ever. "How?" he demanded.

"I…" Luke pulled the blanket up to his chin. Then he shook his head. "Aunt Beru said she was pretty," he offered. "She named me."

They were probably the only two things he knew about her. He watched, oddly protective of the information.

Anakin let out a strange noise and looked away. "You don't know anything else?" he asked harshly.

"No. Old Ben said…she was upset?" where had that come from? "She was sad."

And he knew that suddenly to be true. And he hadn't looked for it, so it was fine, but he was in dangerous grounds again.

"And your father? Where was he? Why didn't…he should have stopped it."

Luke shrugged. "He died before I was born," he said, twisted to stare up at the bed slats so he could mirror Anakin's pose. He glanced over a few times to check that he had it just right, "Uncle Owen said he was a Navigator on a spice freight."

But Anakin was now staring at him in disbelief. "Did he?" he asked, sounding put out. "A navigator?"

Luke nodded. "Maybe she was sad because he'd died," he offered, hopefully. "My mom, I mean."

Anakin turned a bit so that he was facing Luke, but he seemed to be thinking hard about something. "You lived with Beru and Owen?" he asked.

The way he said it… "Did you know them?"

Anakin nodded and then shook his head. "There are better things to talk about. You need food."

Yes he did!

Luke wriggled until his feet were free of the bed and then kept shimmying down and leapt for the door once he was free. He didn't bother checking if Anakin was following or think to retrieve the blanket.

xxx

"What does this say?"

Luke frowned at the datapad and at the amount of words on it. He recognised a few – it was in basic and he could do the smaller words and recognise the ones from manuals and the technology he'd used. But they were all strung together and there were dots and marks that he didn't understand and it was broken up into sections with no reason to why.

Padme was sat on the sofa with him, curled up in a tunic and leggings, her hair in one long braid that Luke could barely stop staring at because he'd never seen anything like it. The braid had lots of little braids and he'd seen Anakin sit doing it that morning, a distracted look on his face.

He swallowed when he saw her encouraging look, as if she believed he could do it. On one of the sofas, the one to their right which was part of the square of two seaters in the small pit slightly lower than the walkway, Anakin was sprawled, looking through a datapad that had screens and screens covered in writing, just like the one in front of Luke.

"The," he said, glancing at the first word. The next was a jumble though and he didn't remember how to work out what it said. He curled up a little and fought the urge to run into the bedroom where he could hide under the bed.

"What's this letter?"

He didn't remember the letters, just the words. Sometimes the shapes and the sounds were different and he couldn't remember how you knew which sound to use and what the names of the shapes were.

He bit at his thumb nail. "I told you I'd fix things," he muttered, annoyed. "I can do it without reading."

"When was the last time you went to school?"

School?

He stared up at her blankly, not really knowing the word. He muttered it to himself under his breath, trying to see if it connected at all in his mind, but there was nothing.

"They would have called it that on Tattooine, right?" she asked Anakin.

The man sighed and looked up. "Beru, did she teach you letters?"

Luke nodded. "A bit."

"There's no law," Anakin said, sitting up. "I think she would send him though." He tilted his head. "How old were you when you left Tattooine?"

"Four?" he tilted his head too because Anakin did it. "Old Ben said we'd run nearly four years," he announced proudly. "Four." That was definitely right.

Padme reached for the data padd and it showed sums. Those he could do, he thought as he reached for it happily.

"Do you remember some of the places you went to?" Padme asked, reaching out for her coffee and wrapping her hands around the mug.

"Genosis, Gamor, Dandoraan, Kessel-"

"Kessel?" Anakin demanded. "What the stars were you doing at Kessel?"

"Hiding," Luke said and scowled at a tricky equation. "Hiding by prisons is easy, everyone knows that. No-one ever checks there. And they never count the food. Just have to not get caught in a cell."

The pair of them had one of their silent conversations which let Luke get on with the math work. He liked it. With a bit of work, everything slid neatly into place and it all made sense.

"Did Obi Wan take you there?" Anakin asked eventually.

Luke shook his head. "Saw did," he said tapping his fingers as he tried to think. "Old Ben was mad. But we had to get people out and Saw needed me to not get in the way."

"Wait," Padme interjected. "You were left in a prison-"

"By a prison," Luke huffed.

"-on your own while this 'Saw' went out on a mission?"

"You sound like Old Ben," Luke complained, looking up. "The guards never even saw me. Old Ben didn't take me back," he added, still a bit sulky about it. At least Saw had taught him how to use a blaster. He handed the datapad back to Padme. "Here," he said hopefully, wanting to scrub the infuriated look off her face. "Did 'em."

Xxx

For some unfathomable reason, the council wanted to have him check in every few days. Possibly to keep on how things were doing with Luke, but also because Obi Wan couldn't leave anything alone.

"You're agitated," Obi Wan said as he met Anakin in the grounds. They'd agreed that the Temple itself might be a little…unwise.

Stars, when Obi-Wan was trying to be tactful, you knew you were in trouble.

"Luke," Anakin said. "Your future-self left Luke with laser-brained idiots," Anakin complained. "Who left him at Kessal while they rescued some prisoners."

Obi Wan looked speechless. "I…oh," he said, looking away. "I cannot imagine what was going through my head," he said faintly.

"Neither can I," Anakin snapped before he collapsed onto a bench. "Except, apparently this is a future where I died before he was born, Padme was sad, the Jedi Order was extinct and you and Luke were chased across the galaxy for four years." He stared up at the sky, knowing he was probably radiating his unsteadiness like a Loth Cat in space. "It hasn't happened yet. What can I do about something that hasn't even happened?"

"That's…" Obi Wan frowned down at him, seemingly trying to recoup, as if his mind had gone elsewhere. "In his mind…there were my memories. The other me," he said, waving a hand as if that might help all of this be less insane. "Padme tried to conceal her pregnancy in Luke's timeline. I imagine you were still hiding from us."

What?

Granted, Anakin hadn't given it a lot of thought, but he'd always half imagined that when he and Padme started a family, it would be out in the open. He'd leave the Jedi Order to be a father, maybe after-

After what? a weary voice asked. When would he have felt enough success and as if he'd done enough to let himself leave?

"But…I also got the impression that Padme didn't live long after giving birth. The boy said she was sad?"

Anakin nodded and then looked up at his former Master. "Maybe he overheard something or you said something," he offered, trying to steer the conversation away. Just the idea of Padme dy-

No.

"Padme's determined to get him caught up at school," Anakin continued and another sinking feeling hit him, though for an entirely different reason, "but she can't take much more time and chances are she'll be sent off for a diplomatic mission-"

"It will be you and the boy, alone?" Obi-Wan asked, guiding them towards the centre of the gardens. There were a few meditating; most of the adult Jedi were either injured or in the Temple for training purposes now and Anakin was surprised at the flicker of sorrow he felt.

It wasn't home any more. No longer was it the place that he knew he could return to and just breathe it in. And he'd never realised that he'd felt like that or thought that he needed the Temple. Most of the time, he'd been plotting the various ways he could leave.

Well, he thought wryly as he glanced around again, half wondering if he would ever be allowed back in without an escort. Mission accomplished.

"I'd rather face a hundred fighter droids," Anakin muttered, fighting the urge to sink down the bench.

"We can offer help," Obi Wan said and levelled a disapproving look his way when Anakin scowled. "Do not look at me like-"

"What experience does anyone here have with a troubled child? One who has been abandoned repeatedly and has no concept of fearing prison but is terrified of a large bed?" Anakin snapped, shifting as he felt the urge to pace. "Tell me, with their sedate lives and no attachment-"

"You used to fall asleep on your robotic projects because you couldn't sleep," Obi Wan said firmly, not reacting at all, even his voice remained even. "You refused to be parted from my side. No Anakin, I cannot imagine what advice I could give you about this matter."

"You are different," Anakin said woodenly, deflating as he stared at the floor. "And you will not be here. Not all the time."

"I can be here when Padme is not."

"I'd really rather you were there protecting her," Anakin said honestly, shaking himself as he looked around again. Above them, in the Temple, he could feel the watching eyes and he couldn't help but wonder exactly what they were watching for.

They always watched.

"I will…we will find a way." He tried to flash an easy grin up at Obi Wan, suddenly eager to leave and willing to do anything to leave. "I usually muddle through in the end."

Obi-Wan's gaze had followed his. "We would like for you to join Master Yoda for some meditation," he held up a hand when Anakin moved to protest. "You are experiencing a lot, Anakin. We do need to ensure that we are not sending you out into the Galaxy in a state that will make it easy for an opportunistic Sith."

Force, at this point, he'd almost rather take his chances.

Xxx

Luke didn't know why the nightmare came that night. Only that it did. The snap of a red lightsabre, a choke around his throat and something in his head, ripping through to find what he needed and then the backlash of horror-

He was screaming, he knew that. But calming hands had him and held him and rocked him. And there was horror but worry and concern and a soothing sensation that he'd once felt with Aunt Beru.

When he opened his eyes, Padme was there with him, holding him and looking a little bit wild with her hair all over the places. She'd managed to pull him out from under the bed and they were huddled by the corner where the light came in form the window.

"It's all right," she was whispering into his hair. "You're safe."

Too tired to argue or worry about it, he buried his face in her neck and didn't want to let go. She sat, holding him close and then they were on the bed together, but that was all right because Padme was with him and it didn't seem such a vast threatening emptiness when she was curled up with him.

He was almost asleep when the door opened.

"What in force name happened?" Anakin asked, sounding out of breath. "Obi Wan and I felt that in the Temple."

Then: "Padme?" he asked, sounding less sure. He was coming closer and Luke winced a little, his head getting confused for a moment.

"He had a nightmare," she said, sounding unsteady and Luke felt Anakin come to a stop by them. "Ani, I've never seen…I thought he was dying for a moment. He couldn't breathe."

There was horror again and Luke flinched. Then the horror vanished into an odd curiosity that thrummed with something else. It was better and Luke relaxed a little again, snuggling in to Padme and she let him.

It was nice.

"Look at me," Anakin's voice instructed gently as the bed shifted. Then he was there, cupping Luke's chin as he absently wrapped his free arm around Padme. When Luke blinked up at him, Anakin's face was half in shadow from the city lights outside, but his eyes were kind and almost…wondering. "What am I feeling?" Anakin asked.

"Sad," Luke whispered.

A very small smile crossed his face, "And now?"

"Pleased," Luke said, yawning and trying to wriggle free so that he could snuggle back into Padme. But Anakin didn't let him go even though his touch was gentle.

"Ani?" Padme asked.

"Look at me," Anakin asked again and Luke blinked back up at him, surprised that his eyes had almost closed. Then Anakin let out a surprised laugh. "You're content," he murmured, his thumb stroking Luke's cheek.

"He-" Padme sounded as if she were about to argue that.

"I can feel him," Anakin whispered. "I've never…I've never felt anyone like this." He looked almost awed. "Hello," he said in a strange tone as he stared down at Luke and there was a fragile, bubbling sensation that felt both soothing and terrifying.

I can feel him

I can sense him.

Slam it in a metal box. Wrap it up in energy beams. Lock it in a ship. Send it out to space where you can't see.

"It's gone," Anakin said, sounding almost hurt. "How-" he broke off and withdrew his hand which wasn't as nice and Luke grumbled a little.

It was like they were without gravity for a moment, moving without moving in a strange way…Luke couldn't explain it other than something was happening without them making effort. Anakin was staring at him and he could feel that Padme's gaze was fixed firmly on Anakin.

The man's eyes shut and Luke was sure that he was reaching out again, but he couldn't feel anything now. Anakin's eyes slowly opened and he stared at Luke again.

Then, for the first time, Anakin leaned forward and wrapped his hands around Luke's waist. He had big hands and it seemed effortless for him to pull Luke into his arms. Padme let him go and he watched her wrap her arms around her knees, resting her chin on them with a smile that made him feel warm inside his stomach.

Anakin shifted and then Luke was sat sideways on his lap and he leaned in. It was different to Padme, safer and more secure because Anakin knew sometimes how Luke felt and didn't push. And he hid Luke better, almost completely engulfing him.

"What was your nightmare about?" he whispered into Luke's ear.

It was better somehow. Less real if they whispered. Luke shifted turning more towards him and reached up. "Him," he breathed into Anakin's ear. "I don't like thinking about it," he confessed, staring at his fingers as they rested on Anakin's shoulders

"Who's him?" Anakin asked in that same whisper then pulled back to watch Luke's face carefully.

Him! Luke whined at the thought of saying his name, almost as if he would appear out of nowhere and finish what he'd started. As if he understood that it was scary, Anakin reached to stroke Luke's hair out of his face with his gloved hand.

Luke glanced back at Padme who was still in the same position, watching him.

"You're safe here," Anakin whispered into Luke's ear as Luke continued to stare at Padme. "I won't let anyone hurt you."

Luke debated that. People couldn't promise that, but, he supposed that if anyone could, it would be Anakin.

"We won't," Padme corrected firmly.

Luke relented and rested back against Anakin's shoulder, eyes on Padme. "Vader," he muttered. "Darth Vader."

Xxx

"And that was all he said?" Obi Wan asked as they sat in Yoda's meditation chambers. Anakin hated the room; he was usually sent here when a Master decided he was lacking direction or needed to be told why he wasn't doing the right thing.

"A Sith Lord," Yoda sighed. "Powerful. And unknown."

"Padme said he couldn't breathe, it was like he was being choked," Anakin said, staring out the window that for once had the blinds raised and allowed him to see the view as he tried to keep control. A cowardly part of him was relieved he hadn't seen it. "If this is the Sith Lord that kills the Jedi-"

"Luke may be able to identify him," Obi Wan suggested.

"No." The view from here let him watch the younglings in their training. Smaller than Luke and more at ease, they were starting to learn how to feel the force. He couldn't imagine Luke sitting down for more than five minutes, let alone the hour that these younglings were up to.

When he turned back, both were watching him closely. "He refuses to think about it," Anakin explained, folding his arms. "He needs time. You said it yourself," he added to Yoda who nodded slowly, as if to concede the point.

"We don't know when Luke was born," Obi Wan said softly. "When I saw Padme with child, she didn't look much aged. By the time Luke was born, you were dead, an Empire was beginning and the Jedi Order was ending. We may not have as much time as we hope."

"Changed things already, he has," Yoda pointed out from where he sat. His ears were flat and his eyes had closed.

"For the Jedi, not the Sith," Obi Wan argued. "I agree, Anakin," he said when Anakin opened his mouth to protest. "I know Luke needs time to explain things. I know the dangers of us pushing him, but…I fear what will happen if we leave it too long."

"Fear the future, we cannot," Yoda said as he slowly opened his eyes. "Understand his past, we must. Met this Sith Lord, you believe Luke did, yes?"

Anakin nodded. Luke's fear had been tangible and the few flickers he'd managed to connect to…still, he wasn't sure. Getting the name out of Luke had been hard enough.

"How did he escape?" Yoda asked.

Anakin opened his mouth before he realised he had no answer for that question. "Obi Wan must have gotten him out."

"Alone? With a child to protect against a Sith Lord who had killed our Order?" Obi Wan asked. "I'm flattered, Anakin, but I have to confess, doubtful. Perhaps he merely let the boy go," he offered up instead. "The boy shows no signs of force sensitivity-"

"You still believe that after last night?" Anakin demanded. "He's hiding it. I felt him. I've never felt anything…" he frowned as he remembered it. That connection, the strength and purity of it. The part of him that had helped make Luke, still inside the boy. "He's hiding it."

"It takes years of practise to hide the force that securely-"

"Four years?" Anakin asked snidely.

"Children do not have enough control to-"

"Agree with young Skywalker, I do," Yoda said firmly. "Powerful, he is and controlled. The question remains. How did he escape?"

Chapter Text

In the week that Anakin had spent with Luke he could admit that maybe, just maybe, he was starting to change his mind about Luke. But that did not mean he was ready for this.

At all.

This was not what he'd planned either. Perhaps he and Padme had been a little idealistic when they had married and talked of a distant future when Anakin was no longer part of the Order because he'd had images of her being finished too and them spending endless days together without being disturbed.

Not Padme being sent on a diplomatic mission while he was left behind to watch their child. That…well… it wasn't what he'd planned on.

"You'll keep her safe."

"Yes, Anakin," Obi-Wan said, already sounding bored of it. Ahead, Ahsoka was in the pilot's seat and he felt a bolt of envy that he wasn't with her, arguing about who would fly because according to her, he always crashed when he was piloting. "Thank you for explaining my purpose here, I was worried I would forget."

Luke was flat on the walkway, zooming his toy in the air as he lay on his belly. Anakin couldn't help but glance over at him, half convinced the boy was about to roll off and fall, even though the child had survived in far more perilous conditions for most of his life.

"It's a necessary diplomatic meeting," Obi-Wan said, folding his arms. "You know how important Malastare is. The Dugs are being most irritating about their fuel and the bomb is-"

"I do not need a lecture," Anakin snapped. "I know. Just because I'm not-" He broke off frustrated. "I should join up as a pilot," Anakin mused. "In the navy. I could be of use there."

"By all means, Anakin, make life choices while the rest of us load up your wife's luggage."

How was it that no matter what happened, Obi-Wan always managed to make him feel like he was Luke's age again and as much of a burden? Scowling, Anakin folded his arms and glared at nothing as Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and strode onto the ship.

It was only when Luke tried to get up the ramp that Anakin stirred into action. Reaching out, he tugged the youngling towards him, reluctantly amused when Luke just turned his head at Anakin in a questioning manner, apparently now used to the sensation.

"Don't get in the way," Anakin said, putting the boy down by his feet. He rested a hand on the blond mop of hair and felt another creeping sense of unease when he remembered that he would be responsible for keeping the boy alive and vaguely civilised for the next three days.

Luke's attention was tugged away and Anakin felt the group coming forward. Padme and three other senators were in deep conversation as they walked while, in front of them, the Chancellor was saying something to a PA before the woman darted away.

"Anakin," Chancellor Palpatine greeted. "How are you?" he asked, quietly, a glance at the ramp and towards where Obi-Wan had gone. "I was hoping to see you."

"Adjusting," Anakin said and glanced down when Luke leaned against him, staring up at the Chancellor. "Luke, say hello to the Chancellor."

Luke however really seemed to have something against saying hello to people. He continued to stare with big blue eyes then turned away, apparently deeply uninterested in one of the most powerful men in the galaxy.

The Chancellor, mercifully smiled. "It must be overwhelming for him," he allowed. "You and he are always welcome at my office. Perhaps we could discuss a few ways to ensure we make the most of your abilities."

Anakin nodded, part of him relieved. "Thank you," he said honestly. "I'd appreciate that, your excellency, thank you." He turned his attention to Padme as she came close, dressed more for combat than for talking. "Are you planning on some aggressive negotiations?"

She smiled weakly. "We both know what Dugs value," she said simply before she leaned into him. "This bomb, Anakin. I know it's necessary but I fear what it will bring."

He didn't blame her. Part of him felt that same concern, always did when something like this was released into the field.

And Obi-Wan had the nerve to act as if Anakin was just being annoyingly over-protective!

She reached up for him. It was still new and strange not to look around in fear or have to find some privacy to do this, though standing in front of an audience for a goodbye was not something he had ever longed for. But he was distracted when she reached up for him and he felt Luke step away before Padme kissed him.

"Take care of yourself," Anakin whispered against Padme's lips. "Promise me."

"I will," she swore, pressing another kiss to him. "Take care of yourself," she said, running her hand through his hair. "And you," she added in a different tone as she pulled away and looked down at Luke who was stood slightly away from them and looking at them curiously. "You be good for Anakin."

The boy's eyes flicked between them and then settled on Padme as she knelt down by him. Padme reached up to take his hands and pressed them to her lips. That seemed to confuse Luke who shot a panicked look up at Anakin.

"Okay," Luke said still looking baffled.

"I'll see you soon."

Anakin watched as her face fell because Luke looked uninterested in the promise. Instead, he was squirming as if to get away from the situation he was obviously finding to be uncomfortable. Padme sighed and ran a hand through Luke's hair, ruffling up the blond strands. "I will come back," she added.

Luke avoided her gaze. He turned his toy around in his hand and then, hunching his shoulders, he raised it in the air as if to hand it back to her.

"That's yours," she said softly. "You keep it."

The boy dropped his hand, but kept a wary eye on her, as if expecting that she would change her mind at any second.

"We are ready, Senator," Obi Wan said stepping down to the bottom of the ramp and holding onto the rails above his head. For a moment, he looked as if he would say more, but wisely remained quiet.

With a last look at Anakin, Padme stepped over to the ramp. Force, this was strange; watching her go off to a mission that he probably should be on, watching his padawan and master leave without him.

The reason for it was still stood on the walkway, toy clutched to his chest and unfathomable expression on his little face as he watched them prepare for take-off.

"Luke," Anakin called, holding out his hand. "Come along now."

Obediently, the boy stepped close and they stayed until the ship ascended into the atmosphere and became nothing more than a speck against the sky. And still Luke gave no sign that he felt anything about being left alone with Anakin.

In truth, Anakin wished he could say the same!

xxx

Luke continued to appear to be unconcerned that Padme was no longer around for the rest of the day. And Anakin wondered if that was something to do with the life he'd lived or whether it was because no-one had yet tried to explain to Luke that he wasn't in the same time, that he'd been sent back in time and was now living with his dead parents.

Force, even the thought of explaining that to Luke made his head ache. Not to mention the panic it induced because the thought of placing himself irrevocably in the role of father made him want to hand the boy in to the Jedi Temple and hop on the nearest transport going off planet.

He could sense though that Luke was getting bored. Safe, his life might not have been, but Luke was used to being in space and probably enduring criminal activities that would make giving him a colouring book foolish.

It was probably wrong, but Anakin gave him a droid to fix. He barely saw the boy for the rest of the day, happy as he was. But the toy spacefighter that Padme had given Luke yesterday always sat close and, sometimes, Luke would move it around as if the spacefighter needed to get a better view of what Luke was doing.

"Anakin," Halle said edging into the office room that Padme used. It was currently the only room Luke hadn't gotten into and therefore safe. Plus it had monitors in it so Anakin could observe the boy at a distance and make sure he didn't run off or electrocute himself. "Chancellor Palpatine is here."

For a moment, Anakin was certain he'd misheard her, but he could sense the truth and feel the man's presence. Gaping, he stood and scrubbed a hand through his hair. "I…" he swallowed when the Chancellor came in behind her. "Your excellency," he said, sucking in a breath. "When you said-"

"Anakin," Chancellor Palpatine said waving a hand. "Sit down. You do not need to be so formal," he said before turning to Halle. "Thank you, you may leave us."

With a last apologetic look, Halle left the room.

"I cannot believe it," Chancellor Palpatine said, turning back to Anakin, concern in his eyes. "You are the most gifted Jedi I have ever met and they've removed you from the Order?"

At least someone was annoyed by it. "I…I broke the code," Anakin confessed. "I love Padme. They asked me to choose."

"And of course you chose her," the chancellor said. "I will never understand the Jedi and their codes. They are too cold to-" He cut himself off and shook his head. "I apologise, I do not mean to criticise them, especially to you. I know how loyal you have been, but to reward that loyalty like this…" he shook his head.

Cold. It seemed a fitting word, Anakin thought as he glanced at the screen that showed him Luke still happily tinkering.

"He must have been a shock," the Chancellor mused as he caught where Anakin was looking. "How far into the future is he from?"

"We have no idea," Anakin confessed, an odd sense of embarrassment flooding up. "He doesn't know dates or read or-" He cut himself off with a heaved sigh. "In his future, myself and Padme are dead and Obi Wan drags him across the galaxy running from something. He's… it's like he's missing bits." He stared at the screen again. "I mean," he said, shaking himself. "He says he's seven so…I dunno. I guess that narrows it down a little."

The Chancellor was silent, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Most of the Jedi Order cannot understand the parental bond," he said eventually. "I'm surprised they allowed you to take him. They are not usually so concerned when it comes to keeping families together."

No, that was true. For a second, all he could see was his mother's pained face, gasping out his name as she died in his arms. If they had taken her, gone back for her, valued her in any way-

"Well, he failed their tests," Anakin said, the image of them trying to get Luke to predict the cards coming to his head. He'd been too…exhausted? Defeated? for the fact to properly sink in, but now it spun around his mind, taunting him. What would they have done had Luke shown an ability with the force? What might they do if he did start to show more signs?

"Ah," the Chancellor said softly. Then: "I am here to discuss you, Anakin, and I have some promising ideas, but, before we start, might I recommend this?" He slid a data pad towards Anakin.

"A psychologist?" Anakin asked, blinking down at it.

"I do not mean to doubt the Jedi, they have their strengths, but younglings with such troubled backgrounds…I know how alone you often seemed to feel. The doctor and I are old friends, she will see Luke, if ever you feel he needs it."

Anakin stared blankly at the pad. "Why…why would he?"

"I couldn't help but notice that the youngling failed to respond to the Senator leaving. I have heard of it among some of the orphans of the war; they fail to trust adults will keep promises or return. The boy tried to hand back his toy?"

Anakin nodded, reaching out for the datapad now. "Yes?"

"Do you think he understands that he can own something? That he might be entitled to a permanent residence? A reliable caregiver? Not to mention whatever was done to his mind to allow for the garbled message to find its way back here. Has there been any mention of that?"

Force, he hadn't even thought of it. "I…Yoda mentioned that his mind might need time to heal but…" Anakin scanned over the contents of the datapad with a sinking feeling.

"Of course, I am certain that Master Kenobi would never have done anything so damaging without good cause, but," the Chancellor's face crinkled with worry. "From what I understand, the message remains unclear. Something seems to have gone wrong."

What if he was right? Anakin blinked down at the datapad and then at the screen. What if Obi-Wan's future self had wrecked Luke's mind? The thought didn't sit well at all.

"I apologise," the Chancellor said. "I can see that this is an overwhelming situation. I cannot imagine how you are coping with it all. I will leave these here," he offered handing over some data discs. "For you to examine. And contact me, Anakin, whenever you need to."

Anakin nodded dumbly.

Xxx

If there was one thing that Luke enjoyed the most since getting to stay at the apartment, it was the regular meals. A close second though was the baths. But Padme used to give him baths so that probably wouldn't happen anymore.

But, after dinner, Anakin took him into the fresher and started to turn on the taps.

"But Padme left," Luke pointed out, staring up at him, trying to understand.

"You're still having a bath," Anakin sighed. "You're filthy."

Luke looked down. There was grease all over his fingers and chipped rust on his clothes and hair. His dinner had blue sauce that he had found delicious and that had merged with the grease to form a sticky substance that seemed to stain anything he touched.

Anakin wasn't really looking at him as he yanked Luke's top over his head. Then he stopped and something started to rumble in the room like a ship starting up.

Anakin was staring at his chest, at his ribs and at the scar that Luke had so proudly pointed out to Padme ages ago.

"Got shot," Luke said because that usually made people respect you, though he left out the part about it being a Storm Trooper because that was embarrassing.

The rumblings grew and the water in the bath started to slosh as Anakin clenched his fists. "Any other scars?" he asked tightly.

Mmm. "Here," Luke said bending his elbow and trying to find it. "Glass," he sighed. "And," he bent to sit on the floor and held up a foot. "That was stupid," he confessed, a little bolder now. "I ran over some tools. A bolt went into my foot."

That had hurt! And it had been probably the scariest injury because he hadn't been able to run properly for weeks.

Anakin's gloved hand caught his waving foot and he studied the underside of Luke's foot before looking at his toes. His thumb smoothed the still irritated skin there and he swallowed. The room stopped rumbling and Luke wasn't really sure what that meant. Maybe the apartment was part of a ship after all.

"Padme used to say I should always make sure to take off my boots otherwise my feet'll hurt," Luke said, wise now. "I'm gonna try to."

Anakin's eyes jumped up to him. "She is coming back," he said slowly. "You do understand that, right?"

The idea made him want to squirm. The only person that always came back and always left was Old Ben. "Can I get in the bath?" he asked.

It seemed for a moment as if Anakin would argue, but then he dipped his non-glove hand into the water and nodded, lifting Luke by the armpits and putting him in. Then he sat down by the bath and trailed his ungloved hand through the water. "Here," he said, turning. After a moment, the spacefighter that Padme had given him came through the door and Luke watched it solemnly.

Anakin snorted as he saw it up close properly. "Do you know what it is?" he asked, making the ship do lazy circles around Luke's head.

"No," Luke confessed, grinning as it perfected a barrel roll in front of him.

"It's a Delta-7," Anakin said. "A Jedi fighter. We…" he winced. "They're build to be used by someone who can tap into the force."

Luke's eyes followed it, grinning as it shot down into the water and then lifted up again into the air, spraying him with water. "Can you fly it?"

"I used to fly in one," Anakin said. "But I'm not a Jedi anymore."

"My Dad was," Luke said, as the fighter rose up high above him so that he had to tilt his head back. "Old Ben said so."

"You said he was a navigator."

"No," Luke shot Anakin a secret smile. "I said Uncle Owen said he was a Navigator. Old Ben said not to tell anyone."

"You're telling me."

Luke didn't know how to respond to that so, instead, he ducked himself under the water, enjoying the feel of the water as it shut the whole world out and made noise go funny and blurred. When he surfaced, Anakin was holding the Delta 7 and staring down at it thoughtfully.

"What do you know of your father?" Anakin asked very quietly.

"He lived on Tattooine," Luke said, squinting through the water that ran down over his eyes. "I think you're meant to put the smelly stuff in my hair."

Anakin glanced up and then nodded, reaching for a bottle and then hesitating. He selected a different one to what Padme had used to use and edged behind Luke.

"We used to visit Grandma and Grandpa's graves," Luke added. "I don't know where he was."

The cold feel of the smelly stuff for his hair never came but the air felt thick and heavy. "It wasn't…" Anakin sounded annoyed. "You don't have a grandpa."

Luke hunched his shoulders and glared at the taps. He flinched a little when the smelly stuff was put on his hair and then gentle hands started to rub the liquid in. "What else?" Anakin asked.

Luke remained stubbornly silent, clenching his jaw because there was a tell-tale prickling in his eyes and he couldn't cry.

He was never allowed to cry. Crying was annoying.

The hands in his hair slowed and he heard Anakin sigh. "Clegg Lars," he said slowly, "married your grandmother after…he wasn't your father's father."

No. Luke still glared at the taps. He had a grandpa, once. He had!

"Luke-"

"Sleemo," Luke snarled. "He was. I had a grandpa," he shouted. "I did." He rocked forward and put his hands over his ears. "And Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. And they were there once."

He didn't dare say the other word. He wasn't sure about that. But they had been there. He wasn't some runt, like some people said.

There was a very long silence. "You need to get the shampoo out of your hair," Anakin said sounding annoyed still. Then he stood and Luke heard him walk out of the room before he slammed the door shut behind him.

Xxx

They'd barely spoken to each other after the bath. Anakin had opened the bedroom door and Luke had gone in without a second glance, cradling that damned ship in his arms and staring ahead like Anakin was dead to him.

Clegg Lars was not that boy's grandfather; he was the one who had failed to protect his mother, as far as Anakin was concerned. The man had been weak and useless as had the whole Lars family.

Case and point was his son showing off his scars as if that was perfectly normal for a seven-year-old.

His son.

Anakin paused in his pacing. Where in the force had that come from?

In typical Luke fashion, the boy fell asleep quickly. Still under the bed and still wrapped up like he was in Hoth for winter, but still. At least asleep he was easier to deal with.

Anakin crept in after about an hour and lay on the floor, peering in at the boy and felt something in him break at the sight of tear tracks on the youngling's cheeks.

He'd made Luke cry.

Without thinking, he reached in and smoothed a thumb over the warm skin. And Luke wasn't a deep enough sleeper not to stir and blink at him in confusion.

"I'm sorry," Anakin whispered.

Luke continued to stare at him. Anakin tugged on the blankets with the force until Luke was closer and they were lying so close he could feel Luke's breath on his face. "Tell me about your family."

There was a Padme-esque glare in those blue eyes. "I had a Grandpa," Luke started stubbornly. "He used to give me blue lollies."

Ah.

"Then he died," Luke said, and for someone so determined to include Lars in his family, Luke seemed unconcerned by the death. "He used to have to always sit down. He never stood." Luke seemed to puzzle over that and then shrug it off. "And Aunt Beru read me stories and Uncle Owen used to take me to Anchorhead. Sometimes we'd get blue lollies there too and not tell her."

He was not jealous of Lars. He was not.

"Then we left," Luke said. "And we had to not say anything."

Anakin could sense something there, something to prod at… "Did you say goodbye?"

Luke shrugged. "Don't remember." He plucked at the edge of his blanket. Then he brightened a little. "Old Ben said my dad rescued him once. Old Ben's really good at rescuing people and my dad rescued him!"

Anakin stroked Luke's little face.

"We couldn't talk about him much," Luke added. "Because he was a Jedi and Imperials kill you if you talk about Jedi. Apart from here," he added, scrunching up his face again. "But if you meet an Imp, you can't tell them you used to be a Jedi," he told Anakin seriously.

"Is that why you have to hide the force?"

Luke froze then stared at the floor. "Don't know what it is," he said woodenly.

Anakin would bet a million credits that wasn't true. "It's what Jedi use," he said softly.

There was a little war going on in Luke's head, he could feel it. But the boy seemed reluctant to say anything or commit to anything so he just stayed quiet.

"I shouldn't have upset you earlier-"

"Wasn't upset," Luke mumbled, and this was a terrible time for this conversation; Anakin could see Luke was tired and not really in the right mood. He tugged the youngling forward until he had Luke in his arms and clambered to his feet. Luke blinked at the movement, but yawned and seemed disinterested in what was happening.

How many times had 'Old Ben' plucked Luke up and moved him. Maybe it had been to keep Luke alive, but surely by the force that had to have been a better way.

In his and Padme's quarters, Anakin settled them onto the bed, his head on Luke's and he stroked the soft hair until Luke's mind quietened and he settled into the blur of sleep.

Chapter Text

Luke accepted Padme’s return with a small amount of suspicion. When she came through the door, he sat bolt up and watched her with a wary expression on his little face.

“Hello,” Anakin said, standing to greet her. “That went quick.”

“It was…” Padme frowned and then accepted his kiss. “The bomb works,” she allowed. “It does create shock waves and deactivates any technology in the radius. But it…” then she blinked at him and smiled. “This is different,” she confided with a grin. “I like coming home to this.”

He lifted her into the air and twirled her a little. He almost stepped in the direction on their bedroom before he remembered the small person watching them and groaned, letting her slip to the floor. Instead, he gathered her into his side and turned their attention down to their son who head tilted his head as if he was trying to see the galaxy from a different angle.

Then suspicious eyes fell on Anakin.

“What are you building?” Padme said, pulling out of Anakin’s hold to kneel down by Luke.

“Droid eye,” Luke replied after a moment. He looked back down at the device in his hand and then cuddled it close to his chest as if Padme might take it from him.

“I missed you,” she said, shifting to sit with him properly. “Do you want to hear what I was doing?”

Luke seemed to be debating it. He glanced at Anakin, and then back at Padme. “Anakin said you were just going to talk to stupid people.”

His wife sighed and turned to give Anakin that look. “Really?”

“You’ve described it like that at least three times,” he said, joining them both on the floor.

She remained unimpressed. “Well, the Dugs accidently awakened a creature. The Zillo beast.” She looked at Anakin. “Ever heard of it?”

No. He craned his neck when Padme brought up an image as a holo and gaped a little. “That’s huge,” he yelped dragging it closer.

Luke was craning to see it too. “It’s massive,” he crowed in delight. “Can I see it in real life? Can we see it?”

“No,” Anakin replied absently. “What happened?”

“The Dugs wanted to kill it,” Padme said slowly. “We tricked them into thinking it was dead so that they would still sign the treaty-”

Delighted, Anakin pressed a kiss to her hair. “So where was it relocated?”

“It’s…going to be studied.” Padme winced at that. “I have made them promises to relocate it again afterwards. It’s not my first choice, but…” she shifted to watch Luke, “The Chancellor believes it may help the war efforts.”

As much as Anakin wished it otherwise, it was the sort of compromise that the Galactic Republic often demanded. The debating that meant no-one got their way and it was some watered down middling decision that meant nothing to anyone.

Luke was angled over the holo and waved his hand through it. “Is that a tree?” he asked, pointing to something to the side of the image. He seemed to be trying to measure how much taller the beast was than he was.

Stuck by a playful mood, Anakin hummed and then grinned at his son. “It’s huge,” he agreed. “And deadly. And maybe there’s another one out there.”

Luke tilted his head without fear, just curiosity even as Padme started to murmur in protest.

Letting out a silly roar, Anakin reached for him. Luke looked confused and then laughed, letting himself be gathered up because Anakin knew how quick his son could be when he wanted to be. Luke shrieked when Anakin went to tickle him.

“Think I’ve found another beast,” Anakin said to Padme who had leaned back to avoid Luke’s kicking feet. “Smells like a wild beast,” he added when Luke shrieked again.

“Not a beast,” Luke burst out between giggles. “I keep having baths.”

Padme was watching them both with a strange expression; it was both happy and…almost envious. He couldn’t really remember if he had ever seen her being silly; she’d always seemed like an adult, even when they had been young she’d been a Queen in every way.

“Now you,” Luke yelled and turned, launching up at Anakin and squirming free with reflexes that had to have been helped by the force. The boy clearly didn’t know what tickling was or how to use his fingers. His brow wrinkled and he paused, staring at his fingers as if they were to blame.

Padme leaned forward and gave Anakin a playful push down. Luke gaped at her and then howled with laughter when she started to tickle Anakin instead. And, with the weight of his son on his chest, he couldn’t properly wriggle away without risking hurting Luke.

And it was worth it because Luke was beaming down at him.

“Do you surrender?” Padme asked.

“To you?” Anakin asked. “Always.”

She smiled and leaned down to kiss him. When she pulled away, Luke was looking thoughtful.

“Do you two fuck?”

Anakin choked and gasped, stunned at the word coming out of his seven-year old’s mouth. Padme’s mouth dropped. “Luke,” she scolded. “Where have you heard that word?”

Force, there were a thousand places Luke had probably heard that word from. True to form, Luke seemed to start counting as if trying to work out who had said the word to him first.

“I…” Padme sat up and Anakin pushed himself up carefully. “Do you know what it means?”

Mid count, Luke peered up. “Yeah,” he said, as if they were the stupid ones. “You share a blanket and make silly noises.” He seemed to debate it. “Sometimes you kiss. Depends if you have lips and like each other.”

Stars!

“No,” Padme said firmly. “We do not ‘fuck’. We love each other very much and sometimes we show that physically.”

Anakin choked a little. “Pretty sure we don’t need to-”

But Luke shrugged. “Just asked,” he said, a little defensive.

“What you’ve…” Padme winced, “Seen?” she said almost asking, but Luke didn’t react, staring up earnestly and waiting for the end of her sentence, “isn’t something I want you to feel like you have to do when you’re older. Far better to fall in love and express that feeling in your actions that way.”

“We have years before-”

She tapped his shoulder without looking. “We have enough issues now without leaving one to become a problem later on.” Luke was still looking at them as if they were half mad before he nodded, though Anakin suspected he was doing that more because he didn’t understand the conversation and just wanted Padme to stop talking.

“Come on,” Anakin said, moving and lifting Luke over his shoulder. “You need a bath.”

“Need the Delta-7,” Luke crowed and yes, of course, Anakin waved his fingers at the toy letting it follow behind him so that Luke could watch it. In his arms, Luke turned around so that he was face up and could watch the toy upside down.

xxx

When Luke was smelling like a human again, and fresh from his bath, Anakin stood at the doorway and felt that feeling in his chest unhook slightly, shifting again at the sight in front of him.

Padme sat with Luke in bed. The boy’s hair was still damp and stuck up from the bath, his cheeks pink and a robe around him as his feet dug under the quilt cover. Padme, dressed for bed too was reading to him and he tried not to laugh when he realised that she was reading a racing mag to the boy. Luke would interrupt at times to point out something in the design or tell her about someone he knew who had flown a craft similar to the one in the picture.

As Luke explained something with vigour, Padme glanced up at Anakin and smiled, tightening her arms around Luke and resting her cheek on Luke’s hair. She smiled at him looking happy.

“Look,” Luke yelled, spotting Anakin. “It’s the Delta-7!”

Amused, Anakin walked over and climbed onto the bed so that he was on the other side of Luke. “Ah,” he said sliding down a little. “So it is.”

They’d calculated the speed of his last run, he realised, scanning the article. But Luke was peering at the other page, a frown on his face.

“What is it, sweetheart?” Padme asked, stroking Luke’s hair as she lifted her head from his. “Are you looking at the new model?” she asked. “It’s still in design mode but-”

She stopped abruptly when Luke slammed the thing shut and then studied the front cover again. Then he opened to the page he’d been reading. Then repeated the process.

Then sat and stared at nothing.

“Luke,” Anakin asked, but the boy wasn’t responding. Anakin took the mag and flicked to the page while Padme tried to coax Luke to speak. The boy still refused to respond, but turned into her nonetheless, curling into her and hunching his shoulders right up to his neck.

It was a piece on a new model. A new spec that they were updating readers on. The basic template of something that they were calling a TIE fighter. He’d scanned over it the other day, half debating offering his services as a test pilot to refine it, but he’d become distracted. Still, there was nothing that should mean that Luke would respond the way he had.

“Can he stay here?” Padme asked as Luke continued to refuse to respond and sulkily tried to burrow himself into her neck instead. “Would you mind?”

“He’s slept the past three nights,” Anakin responded absently. “It’s fine.”

Padme nodded and shifted down a bit. Anakin held his arm out to her and she rested her head on his shoulder, Luke shifting so he was pretty much on top of Anakin. The boy still seemed to be a hundred lightyears away, his mind obviously turning something over.

Anakin lifted his metal hand and combed it through Luke’s hair while Padme stroked the boy’s back.

“So it took two weeks,” Padme said softly. When he blinked down at her, she smiled in soft amusement. “Dad,” she mouthed.

He didn’t deny it this time. “Yeah, all right,” he said, holding her a little closer. He drew in a breath. “It’s not gonna be easy though,” he pointed out.

“Skywalkers never are,” she said resting her head on his shoulder again and he could feel the smile on his skin as she kissed him.

 

Xxx

 

When Anakin woke, Luke was staring at him.

It was unnerving. Those blue eyes, so much like his, were narrowed and thoughtful. Almost suspicious and it made Anakin long to reach into Luke’s head and find out what was going on.

Unwise though, considering how much Luke’s mind had already been tampered with.

“I’m from the future,” Luke stated quietly. His eyes watched Anakin very carefully. “And from Tattooine.”

Ah, the proposed TIE fighters? If Luke knew his ships then Luke had known the model wasn’t new.

Anakin nodded and stroked Luke’s hair. “Yes,” he said quietly.

“Old Ben isn’t Old Ben,” Luke said again. “He doesn’t know me.”

Anakin nodded in agreement and glanced down at Padme who was still asleep.

Luke chewed his lip and looked as if he was going to ask something, then seemed to think better of it.

Sitting them up, Anakin pulled a mirror from the dressing table over using the force. Padme blinked at him sleepily, raised a delicate brow at the floating mirror and drew in a breath as if to try and wake up.

“Come here,” Anakin instructed and sat up, turning Luke so that he sat facing outwards. The mirror hung in front of them. “Look,” he said as he settled Luke down. “Look at your eyes and at mine.”

Padme sucked in a breath again and then sat up crossed legged to the side of them, her face worried but curious as she fixed all of her attention on Luke.

In the mirror, Luke stared at himself and then at Anakin. His hands curled around the blanket.

“And your nose,” Anakin added “and Padme’s nose.”

Luke touched his nose and peered at Padme.

“Do you want to ask?” Anakin said gently. But Luke shook his head and looked away from the mirror and Anakin reluctantly left it alone.

 xxx

As far as Padme was concerned, the difference in Anakin was astounding. There were times when Padme almost wanted to check that she had only been gone for three days. It was like he was finally settling into the person he was, rather than constantly comparing himself to some inhuman version that he thought he should be.

Still, even Anakin needed a break at times.

“He’ll be fine,” Padme said as Luke bounced in the speeder, talking to Captain Typho. “And you need some time to yourself. Didn’t you say that you wanted to think about what to do next?”

Anakin’s eyes slid to Luke and Padme had a suspicion that eventually Anakin would come to the conclusion that he wanted to stay at home with their son, just for a while at least. But he deserved the chance to make that decision. “Yeah,” he said, sounding unsure. “Okay.” He heaved a sigh and scrubbed at his face. “Luke,” he called.

Obediently, Luke scrambled back, clutching the toy to him. “Yeah?” he asked, running into Anakin and resting his chin on Anakin’s stomach. “What?”

“Padme’s gonna take you to the Senate,” he said, stroking Luke’s hair back from his face with both hands until he was cupping Luke’s head. “Then maybe, if you’re good, we can go to Dex’s.”

Apparently, Anakin had mentioned that before because Luke’s face brightened. “I will be,” he promised.  Then he shot Padme a fierce look that seemed to imply that she should help him out.

“Think you can say hello to people?” Anakin asked. Luke grumbled at him and scowled before running back to Captain Typho.

“One day, that boy will say hello and goodbye,” Anakin mused and then shrugged. “Call if you need me.”

“He’ll be fine,” Padme insisted, pressing a kiss to his lips. “Rest.”

“I’m-” Anakin broke off and corrected himself. “I used to be a Jedi knight fighting for the freedom of the galaxy. I’ve faced armies and pirates and bounty hunters for weeks on end. You think our seven-year-old son for three days is worthy of me needing a rest?”

“It is when our seven-year-old son asks us about fucking.”

Anakin’s face crumpled. “Well played,” he admitted.

 xxx

To that seven-year-old son, a chair that fully rotated seemed to be the best toy in the world when you had a Space-fighter to try and fly through the air in complex manoeuvres. Padme was half convinced that Luke secretly resented the fact that she couldn’t fly the ship using the force like Anakin could because he’d sighed grumpily when she’d confessed she couldn’t.

Most of the senators that came in seemed to find Luke cute from a distance, but they didn’t try and pry. Luke, for his part, seemed content to ignore them as he played. Bail Organa was the only one who went to him and asked him about the toy. The poor man then had to sit through Luke’s very detailed explanation of the Delta 7 and its flight capabilities.

Force, that was going to be it from now on. She had two of them at home rambling on about engines with an almost obsessive amount of detail.

Well, she thought, at least they’d have each other to talk to.

As evening drew in, Luke hovered by the window apparently content to stare at the speeders and at the people below.

“Come on,” Padme said, holding out a hand. “We’ll see the Chancellor briefly and then Anakin will meet us there.”

Luke remained at the window for an extra minute before he meandered over to her. He took her hand and followed quietly. They stepped into the lift and then, almost seamlessly out into the Chancellor’s chambers.

“Ah,” the man said looking up at them as they entered. “Senator Amidala, what a relief to see you back.”

“Was the Zillo beast transported successfully?” Padme asked as Luke let go off her hand and seemed to find the Chancellor’s desk fascinating. He paused right by it and then crouched to look underneath.

“It was received this morning,” the Chancellor said, blinking down at Luke for a moment before deciding to ignore the youngling. “In fact-”

“The big thing?” Luke asked curiously, popping his head up and cutting across the most powerful man in the galaxy. “Padme caught it,” he announced, as if she’d done it single handed.

“And young Skywalker,” the Chancellor greeted with a smile as Padme hushed her son. The smile fell off of his face quickly. “I do fear, Senator, that we are not going to see eye to eye over the creature.”

“Luke,” Padme said firmly. “Have a look out the window. It’s the best view on Coruscant. Find the most interesting part of it for me.”

Luke gave her a look that she was sure meant he was wise to what she was doing. Thankfully, he scampered off without much protest.

“In order to make the most of the beast’s scales, we need to remove them,” the Chancellor began. “It will cause the beast a terrible amount of pain.”

“Then it should be let go. As the last of its kind-”

“I cannot do that,” the chancellor sighed. Then shook his head at whatever showed on her face. “My dear, I admire you greatly. At times, I wish I could be as uncompromising in my morals, but I am responsible for billions of life forms, and they are dying. How can I let that continue when we have the means to make better armour?”

“At that cost? What does it owe us? And we are talking about armour that protects against a lightsabre. How many lightsabres is the average soldier likely to face? It isn’t as if we are fighting the Jedi Order.”

“Force users do not have the monopoly in creating and using lightsabres,” the Chancellor replied. “And you are being terribly literal, Senator. Weapons such as lightsabres will always be a threat and there are enough inventive beings out there that I do not doubt new weapons are being invented every day.”

“Killing it in defence is one thing,” Padme argued. “But this is murder.”

“I agree,” the Chancellor said sadly. “And yet, I do not see another option.”

He wasn’t moving from his position, Padme realised with a heavy heart. “You’ve already given the order,” she said, looking past him.

“I have.” Chancellor Palpatine watched her closely. “You are often the voice of morality, Senator. I thank you for that. But practicalities demand some harsh choices. It is not one I wish to place upon your shoulders.”

“Sometimes when you sacrifice to win, it isn’t a win at all,” Padme said staring back at him.

“Quite.”

The elevator swooshed open and Anakin stepped out. He seemed to pick up on the atmosphere quickly and frowned, though perhaps part of that was because, as usual, Luke seemed to refuse to acknowledge their comings and goings.

“The Chancellor was just informing me that we are to kill the Zillo beast in order to make better armour. Apparently, we are currently torturing the poor thing,” Padme said as he stepped closer to them.

For a moment, Anakin glared at her as if he wanted to turn around and leave them to their politics. Then he glanced between them both, staring at him and waiting for him to say anything.

“I…I am not sure my opinion-”

“Nonsense, my boy, you have more experience of battle than either of us,” the Chancellor said and Padme bit her lip at the almost fatherly tone that the Chancellor was using. Still, Anakin and the Chancellor had an unusual relationship, one that she struggled to work out but knew Anakin valued deeply. “It is a terrible choice,” Chancellor Palpatine continued. “And I do feel the price of it, but we cannot leave troops poorly equipped when facing dangerous enemies.”

She nearly snapped at Anakin when she saw the agreement on his face. Only the memory of how poorly Anakin reacted to feeling public humiliation kept her jaw closed. “I do hope that you do not start to set a precedent for killing innocent creatures for the greater good,” she said pointedly.

Anakin blinked at her, looking slightly taken aback. “The troops do need help,” he said quietly. “This war is going on too long,” he added as his eyes made their way to Luke who was still gazing out the floor to ceiling windows.

“Quite,” Chancellor Palpatine agreed. Then turned when the Speaker called to him. “I would appreciate your time in a moment. Let me just take this call.”

Anakin nodded, studiously avoiding Padme’s gaze as the Chancellor went to make some private holo call.

“Ani,” Padme began, but her husband was already striding over to Luke. “How can you condone this?”

He stopped and turned to her. “Not here,” he said and went to turn again.

“You’ve started to voice your opinion already,” she said, not willing to let it go as she strode towards him.

“And it’s different to yours,” he sighed, looking at her and she could see the start of his temper starting to rise. “I don’t want my son being touched by more pain. If the troops having better armour allows that to happen then fine.”

Padme could feel her mouth drop open. “You want him to grow up in a world where we make those kinds of compromises?”

“How about him not having to watch us fight?” Anakin asked. “Hmm? Maybe let’s not ruin his first trip out with us that hasn’t involved a damn committee deciding whether or not we get to raise him.”

“That’s unfair.”

“Life is.” He turned away from her fully this time and closed the gap between him and Luke.

And Luke pulled away.

She could practically feel Anakin’s hurt at the move. Luke had darted away, along the window and was staring out at the night sky, eyes fixed on something. Anakin placed his metal hand in a fist on the window and seemed to be counting his breaths as he leaned into it. The darkening light meant that she could see the faint hints of his reflection.

“Ani-”

“We appear to have a problem,” the Chancellor said striding back over. In the distance, warning sighs started to whir and Anakin lifted his head, staring past his fist and across the city. Luke still hadn’t moved. “The beast has managed to escape.”

Xxx

As far as Luke was concerned, the office was huge. Everything in the building was huge and complicated and people talked in big fancy words that meant they might as well have not been speaking basic.

He darted a glance up at Anakin who was still feeling…bad? Luke shifted and stared back at the city, like Anakin was and frowned, almost able to see himself in the glass.

He thought that maybe, just maybe, he looked a bit like Anakin. He liked that idea. But then there was a whispering suspicion that he was trying to ignore because life was just starting to become safe and good and those wonderings would make it hard and confusing and…well…

He wanted life to freeze. To always stay as it had been. To always have Anakin looking at him with a smile and have Padme stroking his hair and Halle with food.

A twitch of something made his shoulders curl up and he froze, not sure if it had come from outside or in his mind, but knowing that either way it wasn’t a good thing.

“Escaped?” he heard Padme say, sounding horrified.

Luke turned back to her and watched her. He was almost sure that Padme was the prettiest woman in the galaxy, but at the moment, her face was looking a bit pinched like she was going to yell at someone.

“I fear so,” the Chancellor said. Luke wasn’t entirely sure what the man did, but he was nice to Anakin and he seemed to boss people around. Maybe he was like the Captain of the ship, just for a planet.

Or more than one planet. He’d heard Padme talk about a lot of planets today.

One of the guards was looking out across the city now too, but with purpose and he could see Anakin shift, his gaze becoming more focused. Curious, Luke looked out over the city too-

There. He could see one of the walkways in the distance buckle as a looming heard broke up into the top layer of the city and- huh. It looked like the image that Padme had brought up earlier. All long, stick thin limbs that waved and swept people like they were nuts and bolts to scatter across the floor.

There was a wavering sickness for a second. He pushed it away, disliking a sensation that had become all too familiar.

Often he could ignore it, muffle the sensation until it became something like background noise, but he’d never really felt it at this magnitude. People were scared and dying and hurting and in pain.

A soothing hand swept over his hair and paused over his temple and then the sensation was gone as if swallowed up in an engine exhaust fumes. Anakin was closer now, and he didn’t feel bad now, just almost buzzing with energy and the need to move.

The man let out an annoyed noise. “Seems to be heading this way,” he said, turning and pulling Luke with him. “It’s killing.”

Opposite, Padme winced and turned away. The Chancellor’s head dipped down, as if he was sad, and there was an awkward silence in the room.

“We need to evacuate,” Padme said firmly, turning back. “Send all staff to the lower levels,” she added to the woman in the corner. “If they have transport, then they need to head east and away from the beast.” She turned her attention to the Chancellor. “The gas is being loaded?”

Anakin was already herding Luke to the lift, even as Luke strained to peer back at the city and check what was happening. “Who’s gonna stop it?” he asked, concerned.

“The Jedi,” Anakin said firmly. “Come on, Luke. In the lift.” He was gesturing harshly at Padme too, indicating the open lit up doors.

“There is a shuttle below in a hanger,” the Chancellor said as he tapped in a code to the elevator doors. “It-”

The room darkened suddenly and an unearthly green glow illuminated the Chancellor’s office as the doors started to close. Anakin shoved Luke backwards into Padme as the creature’s eye peered in. The eye was huge but…there was something in it that Luke couldn’t take his eyes off of. But the elevator doors closed and the eye vanished from view, even as a loud, agonised roar echoed throughout the building, making the walls shudder and jolt.

Padme ducked down, her hands checking Luke as if they’d been in a battle. She ended up cupping his face, as she knelt in front of him, eyes searching his. “You all right?”

Yeah?! “Why is it angry?” Luke asked, twisting towards the doors as if they might open again.

“Luke,” Padme snapped. “Are you-”

“Yes,” he sulked, rolling his eyes and pulling away a little. “Was it being hurt?”

Her eyes glanced at the Chancellor briefly and then she stood and drew in a breath. “We have to consider the possibility that it’s here for a reason. The beast was intelligent.”

“We can consider that when we’re far away from here,” Anakin said, staring at the lift doors as the levels flashed between the doors.

No-one was paying attention. Not that it was new, but it was annoying. It had been a while since adults had ignored him and he backed up a little, miserable that it was going back to the normal way of things.

The elevator stopped and the doors opened to a loading bay with a shuttle prepped and waiting. Padme reached out and grabbed Luke’s wrist, keeping him by her in an iron fast grip as they marched towards the shuttle.

She didn’t even let him get close to the controls. Instead, she went towards the seats, then hesitated. Anakin came up behind them and lifted Luke clear off the floor and then onto his lap as he sat down, fastening himself in and Luke knew, somehow, that even if they got shot down, Anakin wasn’t gonna let go.

“Is there a plan?” Padme asked as she took a seat by them. The Chancellor and a guard strapped themselves in too as the pilot started the launch sequence. Luke peered out the sides at the dark walls that started to lighten as hanger sky doors opened.

Anakin nodded, eyes lifting to the sky. “We can’t risk trying to contain it,” he said softly.

As they lifted into the air, Luke caught sight of the creature again. It was screeching out into the night sky like Luke sometimes felt like doing and, as it swung its head around, Luke caught a glimpse of those eyes again.

Gentle hands stroked his cheek and Luke ignored it, still staring at the beast. Around it, he could see shuttle carriers and they were firing on the beast.

“They’re hunting it,” Luke whispered to nothing in particular. But Anakin heard and shifted him, as if trying to look into his eyes, but he hated it suddenly. He didn’t have to share everything and Anakin was helping the people hunting the creature.

“Luke,” Anakin was saying. “Luke-”

He’d lost track of the beast for a moment in trying to keep his head away from Anakin and suddenly the shuttle they were in lurched weirdly. Then they were moving in a way that wasn’t part of any kind of flight and the next outraged roar was much, much closer.

The good thing was that Anakin’s attention snapped away from him and looked up and around.

“Can you do anything?” Padme was asking in those clipped tones that Luke was starting to recognise.

The noise was getting too much and it was confusing because Luke couldn’t work out who was being hunted and who was hunting and he wrapped his arms over his head, wanting a pause from it all. He wanted it to be quiet and all stop.

“Hold him,” Anakin was barking and the wold moved in so many directions that Luke nearly screamed. Then he was with Padme and she was quiet and there wasn’t an echo or someone trying to get into his head. She just sat, head on his and stayed still so that there was one less thing to distract him.

 “I am almost certain you were meant to hand that back to the council.” Luke almost looked up when she scolded, but it was almost all right again and he didn’t want to risk it.

“You wanna have that argument now?” Anakin as a familiar snap-hiss of a lightsabre rung out. Then he could hear it clash with metal. He was certain there was a scratching creaking noise as the metal started to warp under the blade. “If I can get through this, the shuttle will split open.”

“Are you sure?” Padme asked as her arms tightened on Luke and that was nice.

The creature screamed again and Luke wanted to join in suddenly. Being trapped and for a second he was back in a loading bay, crammed into a box as Old Ben kept a hand over his mouth and there were Troopers hunting and already Zak was dead on the floor and they were coming, they were coming and Old Ben was keeping him trapped as surely as the Troopers were. He doubled over, fighting the hands on him and screamed.

It was a blur of noise and shouting and panic and trapped, still trapped and they were hunting and hurting and he couldn’t do anything but want to hit back and that was wrong but he wanted to hit back. He wanted to so much. Everything was moving and out of control and he was lost and trapped and ignored and left.

Always left.

The hands were different this time. Different and something reached out to his mind and he shoved at it. Panicked because if it happened again then he wouldn’t survive, he knew that. They’d rip him apart and he just wanted to hide and be alone and quiet and still and running without being chased.

A sensation was creeping up on him and he knew that feeling. He fought it as hard as he could and then the sensation changed slightly, as if it came from something else.

And he fell asleep.

xxx

Part of him was half expecting to be scolded or disciplined in some way.

Across the roof, balanced neatly on the edge, was the surviving half of the shuttle carrier, left where Master Windu and Obi-Wan had placed it. Droids and clones were swarming the room now along with the sparse Jedi and Anakin found he didn’t care. Below them, the beast was dead and the last of the toxic gas was fading away. Anakin sat on the roof, still shaking. In his arms, Luke slept like a newborn and as if he hadn’t been screaming like he’d been tortured earlier.

“You said,” Anakin said, staring out into the night sky. “You said that his mind might need repair and then you did nothing-”

“Easy fix, this is not,” Yoda sighed, his hands still on the boy. “Time he needs. Progress this is.”

“Progress?” Anakin demanded.

“Starting to acknowledge trauma, his mind is.”

“Starting?” Anakin asked, horrified. In his arms, Luke didn’t react, his smooth little face at a false ease and his hair sticking up everywhere from panicked sweat. He was too little to have this, too…force, his son had been feeling empathy for the beast because he was his mother’s son and had her heart-

Across from them, a medical team was looking over the rest of the group. Padme had fallen awkwardly from the shuttle and they were checking for gas inhalation from the canisters that had been released when it had become apparent that there were enough Jedi to keep the gas from harming the Chancellor using a force shield.

Or rather, once Yoda and Anakin had finished sending Luke to sleep. He hadn’t spared a second thought for the Chancellor as Luke has almost convulsed with pain.

 He could feel Padme’s gaze on them as well as sense the general fuss from the medical droids who so clearly wanted to obey their programming and check over the three of them too. And Luke would need to be checked over.

He couldn’t get into his son’s mind. He’d been thrown out the second he’d thrown caution to the wind, unable to bear hearing Luke in pain. The force of it as well…stars, his son was strong. And terrified, he’d felt it in the brief second he’d made full contact.

“Love the boy, you do,” Yoda said quietly.

Force, the Jedi were idiots sometimes. Anakin said nothing to the ridiculously obvious statement, still trying to work out a way of keeping Luke closer to him. The idea of letting go of his son was more than he could cope with at the moment. He pulled Luke’s head under his chin and listened to the breath as his son slept.

“If you try and take him-”

“Unwise that would be. Change our minds, we will not,” Yoda said calmly. “Our help however, you do need.” He came close. “Turn him around and wake him up we will. Need to know what mental state he is in, we do.”

Reluctantly, Anakin agreed. Turning Luke around a little so that he was facing outwards, Anakin pressed his right cheek to Luke’s hair and used his flesh hand to cup under Luke’s chin so that they boy was staying up. There was a small hint of jealousy that Anakin watched Yoda reach out for Luke. Luke had managed to fight off Anakin’s sleep suggestion and Obi-Wan’s attempt had been met with an almost violent refusal.

Luke started to stir as Yoda withdrew and waited. Anakin peered forward and watched Luke’s little face. Luke shifted and then started to peer around like he was looking for something.

Yoda shook his head wordlessly at Anakin and so they waited for Luke to start the conversation. But Luke radiated relief at their silence and turned a little into Anakin.

He flinched when Obi-Wan walked over and Anakin said nothing, just ran a soothing hand through Luke’s hair. “How is he?” his former master asked.

Anakin shook his head. “Thank you,” he said, honestly meaning it. “I didn’t know what to do-”

Obi Wan waved a hand as if it had been nothing to risk the beast and get into the shuttle to help Anakin and ensure that they all got out alive while Luke was in the middle of what could only be described as a force fit.

“Unfortunate as it is,” Yoda said slowly. “Associate you with bad memories the boy does. Away from him you will need to stay.”

Regret tumbled across Obi-Wan’s face like debris in a sandstorm as he tried to get his emotions under control. “I…” He nodded and Anakin would have felt sorry for him had he any emotion to spare at the moment. Ob-Wan kept his distance and then his shoulder slumped a little as he stepped away.

“Come,” Yoda said. “Finish the business with the beast we shall. Get the child seen to, you must.”

Anakin got to his feet, easily manoeuvring Luke whose fingers tightened a little as if to make sure that he could stay put.

“Not letting go,” Anakin promised. “You’re stuck with me, youngling.”

Chapter Text

How…fascinating. How completely fascinating.

It de-railed things. Already, he could feel Skywalker becoming less frustrated with the Galaxy and his place within it, more controlled. But there was a crack in there he could exploit.

It was dangerous though, would need to be carefully managed to ensure that any attempt at using the boy didn't backfire.

The boy was seven years old which gave a rough time frame. The Jedi had remained a little guarded about exactly what had led the child to be sent back, but the child's poor social skills and defensive ways told its own story. Skywalker's worries had allowed him to get a little more information.

Kenobi running, the Jedi gone. The Skywalkers dead…

Well. He thought watching two of the Skywalkers as they sat on the roof, Kenobi walking away and Yoda watching. When the boy had screamed there had been a glimpse. Not of what was within those formidable shields, but just of the shields themselves.

Those were not the defences of a Jedi. They were the same blocks and shields he used. Which meant someone else had protected that boy and that someone hadn't been Kenobi, the apparent last Jedi left. It had been someone he had trained, taught the ways of the Sith to.

This would require careful planning.