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In the end, he held Padmé’s hand.

There was so little else he could do. He could not wash the taste of Mustafar from his mouth, nor the sound of Anakin’s screams from his ears. He could not change what had happened, or what was happening now, but he could hold her hand. He could be there for her. He could make promises.

Obi-Wan always kept his promises.

And then his duty was to the living she and Anakin left behind. It was brutally unfair that Anakin had sacrificed everything to save her, and it had killed her. It was equally unfair that he had destroyed everything to save the children, and now it was Obi-Wan, not Anakin, who held them. Obi-Wan, not Anakin, who stayed by Padmé’s side.

The wrongness of it twisted up inside him, eclipsing even his grief. Across the Galaxy, Jedi died, and Obi-Wan sat, an infant held in the crook of each arm, watching the unfamiliar stars of Polis Massa. The Darkness in the Force pressed in on him, closed around him, suffocating and cold as the space beyond the great curved windows of the medical bay.

The Dark closed in, but could not reach him, for in his arms he held two beings utterly uncorrupted, not yet touched by the Dark, repelling it simply by being. The twins looked up at him, and the Dark could not touch him.

So there was grief, and there was fear in him, and anger, too.

But no hate.

In Obi-Wan Kenobi, there was no longer peace, but when he looked at the children of his dearest friends…

There was love.

~~~

He took Leia to the Organas.

There were no better people in the Galaxy to raise her, none who would love her better. He couldn’t make her a Jedi, but he could let them make her a princess, and so much more.

“She will be strong,” he told Bail. “And the Force will be strong with her. I cannot see her future, nor any future now, but I believe she will be a great power for good, one we will need badly. I believe, with you, she will be where she needs to be to use that power.”

“Stay here,” Bail offered, “ with us. We will protect you, hide you.”

Obi-Wan smiled his softest smile and shook his head. “It’s too dangerous. I cannot stay.” Much as he would like to, here in the richness and beauty of Alderaan. But there would also be reminders of everything he had lost and all the ways he had failed. “Thank you.”

“At least leave the boy,” Breha said, Leia already content in her arms, looking like they were made for each other. “We have the resources, we can raise them together. At least they should have each other.”

She was right, of course. Breha had the kindest way of being right. Shouldn’t they have each other, as even Jedi younglings, taken from the arms of their mothers, had each other? But Leia would have a mother, as she could not have a brother. It was not his preference; it was what he simply knew had to be.

And Obi-Wan smiled his saddest smile and shook his head. “It would be too dangerous,” he repeated. “If they are together, that kind of strength would attract too much attention from… the wrong people.”

~~~

He took Luke as far as possible from the Empire’s notice, far from Leia so there could be no connection between them. He took Luke to the one place he was certain, in the deepest part of his instinct - beyond question or conscious understanding, the part he knew to listen to above all others and that had never failed him - that they would never be found. As the twin suns set over Tatooine, Obi-Wan walked through the rippling desert heat to the Lars moisture farm…

And stopped.

The boy was awake, large blue eyes staring straight up into his. How could something so new to life look so wise, so knowing? He felt again that infinite safety of the pure Force that surrounded the children of Anakin and Padmé, and knew he could not let go of this last reminder of them, this last piece of the life that was all he’d ever wanted or known.

Nowhere else on this planet, perhaps on any planet, could Luke learn what he must learn. The Lars could give him family, as the Organas gave Leia, but they could not give him opportunity.

Obi-Wan could not give him family, but if he could be to Luke half of what Qui-Gon had been to him, what he had tried to give Anakin, it would be worth it.

But the truth was much simpler than any justification. As he walked away from the small and common comforts of the farm, he knew how simple it was.

He needed Luke.

~~~

Obi-Wan knew very little about babies. He’d never spent much time in the Jedi nurseries, and his only Padawan had been ten when they’d met. But he had nearly inexhaustible patience, and preferred staying awake with Luke to the nightmares that plagued his sleep. Wrapped in his robes against the night chill, he walked through the dark with the baby in his arms until Luke fell asleep. And kept walking, walking, the steady rocking of his steps soothing them both, until walking was more restful than sleep, a nightly meditation.

The nice thing about a baby was that Luke kept him busy. Constantly. And being busy kept him from thinking, and kept him from remembering, so that his world became smiling when Luke smiled, feeding him and holding him when he cried. He couldn’t fix the Galaxy, but he could fix all the parts of Luke’s Galaxy that needed fixing, and for now, it was enough.

Sitting in the shade with Luke in his arms, happily guzzling blue milk from a bottle, Obi-Wan began to know peace again.

~~~

It was impossible, in the deserts of Tatooine, to raise Luke as Obi-Wan himself had been raised. There were no teachers, no peers, no soaring Temple with its profound stillness and depth of wisdom and tradition. Obi-Wan kept the best parts, the parts dearest to him, and did his best to instill them in the sandy-haired child. Compassion, he taught, and respect.

There were no masters here, either.

There was only Luke.

And Uncle Ben.

It didn’t seem right to call himself a father, but in practice, that was what he became. Father to Anakin’s son.

~~~

“Uncle Ben! Uncle Ben, come quick!” Luke’s high voice preceded him over the crest of the red cliff. Obi-Wan flicked his hood up to shade his eyes and stepped out of the shelter of the converted cave they’d turned into home. Luke came scrambling down the rocks, tunic flapping, scuffed boots kicking up thick yellow dust. He staggered a little, because his hands were clasped around something; he wasn’t using them for balance, but holding them to his chest.

“Uncle Ben, look!”

Obi-Wan waited for him as he came huffing and panting up and skidding to a halt in front of him. He held out his hands.

A juvenile meewit lay in his palms. Only about the size of an adult’s fist, its bristled tail curled inward, it was little more than skin and bones.

“Can you fix it, Uncle Ben?” Luke asked eagerly, staring up into Obi-Wan’s face with huge blue eyes and a five year old’s perfect confidence. “You can fix it, right?”

“Come inside, Luke. I will show you how to fix the meewit. But you must understand, not all things can be mended, not all lives can be saved.”

“But we will save this one,” Luke said, following him inside. They put the meewit in a box, and Luke lined it with his old socks, saying, “He likes me, and my socks smell like me, so he’ll feel safer.”

Obi-Wan didn’t argue, but helped Luke give the meewit water squeezed from a cloth, and then bantha milk. Luke stayed up with it all night, even when his head nodded and he slumped against the box. Obi-Wan didn’t try to make him sleep, but let him keep his vigil, watched him give the rodent water and milk every hour.

His compassion, his dedication, would have made him a great Jedi.

The meewit survived.

After two days of continuous care by Luke - and Obi-Wan while Luke slept, because otherwise Luke insisted he would keep himself awake - the meewit began to walk on its own, stumbling after Luke, climbing into his lap when he knelt down for it. The box could no longer contain it, though it returned there during the hottest hours of the day to sleep.

Obi-Wan came in one evening to find the meewit box empty. Luke was already asleep, the two suns set, the stars spread like a blanket over the dark sky. At first, he thought the creature must finally have returned to the wild where it belonged.

But when he went to check on Luke, he found the spiky little rodent curled up in Luke’s arms, both of them snoring quietly.

Obi-Wan let the curtain over his doorway fall.

~~~

“Uncle Ben?”

“Yes, Luke?”

“If you’re my uncle, where’s my father? Did he go away like Biggs’ dad? Where’s my ma?”

The meewit sat in Luke’s lap. It was five years old now, old for a meewit, and grey around the muzzle and ears. It spent most of its time sleeping, either on Luke’s bed, or on Luke himself. Their days of mutual mischief were over. Now, Luke had other friends to play with, long hours spent pretending to be fighter pilots, arms outstretched as they ‘whooshed’ over the dunes with scavenged helmets on their heads.

Obi-Wan sometimes wondered if he should discourage these games, but he told himself they were harmless. Let the boy play.

And he knew, in the part of himself that knew without question, that he could not protect Luke from what lay waiting for him beyond the safe bounds of the place Obi-Wan had made for him to grow. Let him play. Let him learn his loyalties here on the ground.

Nevertheless, Obi-Wan could not escape Anakin’s shadow. So close to where they’d met, raising the boy who looked much like him in many ways - though he had Padmé’s cheekbones and her gentleness - and watching him dream of flying…

With friends, of course, came questions. Friends had parents. Luke had Obi-Wan.

Was he enough?

“They died,” he said, gently, but plainly. No use beating around the bantha. “In the Clone Wars. Your mother was a senator, one of the bravest and kindest people I’ve ever known. Your father and I were Jedi Knights. He was the greatest pilot I ever knew. And my dearest friend.”

Far short of sorrow, Luke’s eyes lit with delighted interest. “A pilot! A Jedi! You were a real Jedi Knight and you never told me?” He leaned forward over the table, nearly unsettling the meewit from his lap. “Will you tell me about it? Pleeeeease?”

“All right, all right.” He held up an open palm in surrender. “I’ll tell you some of it. Now, I know you’re familiar with the Clone Wars…”

So he told him the parts he could bear to speak of, the parts he could stand to remember. For the first time in ten years, he talked about Anakin. He unearthed the memories and smiled at the old jokes.

And wondered, not for the first time, and not for the last, how he could have missed the signs. How he could have been so wrong, and failed so utterly. As a master. As a Jedi. As a friend.

“I want to be a Jedi Knight when I grow up,” Luke declared, raising his fist in the air as if it held a weapon. “With a laser sword and a starfighter, bringing peace and justice to the galaxy!” Then he lowered his hand, bright face clouding. “But the Jedi are gone, aren’t they, Uncle Ben? That’s what everyone says. Except, if you’re a Jedi…”

Obi-Wan nodded slowly, and his heart ached in his chest. Luke was too old to learn, as old as Anakin… too old… and somehow not old enough. He couldn’t make the same mistakes again. Did he dare try to teach him? Oh, he’d taught him tenets of the old ways, taught him to respect the Force, but not how to use it. Taught him to love, but not how to fight.

“The Jedi are not gone, though the Empire tried very hard, and destroyed the Order. But they are not gone while I am here, and while you wish to learn.”

~~~

Even as summers on Tatooine went, the next one was very bad. Even the hardy native livestock died. Moisture prices soared. Had Obi-Wan not known moisture farmers personally, they might have been in trouble themselves. He could survive on very little, but Luke was growing fast and could not spare either food or water. Beru and Owen gave them what they could, and Obi-Wan promised in return the only thing he had to give.

His protection.

The evening the Tusken Raiders came, Obi-Wan knew before they appeared over the crest of the dunes. They were having dinner with Beru and Owen in their little open courtyard, welcoming the first traces of relative cool as the suns went down, when he felt it.

“Luke, stay here. Stay inside.” He got to his feet, sharply aware, for the first time in so many years, of the extra little weight on his belt, hidden beneath his cloak. He hoped very much that he would not need it.

“But–! What if you need me?”

“Stay here, inside.” Obi-Wan put a hand on Luke’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “That’s what I need you to do.”

Then, taking the stairs two at a time, he went up onto the still-hot sand. The air was smokey orange, as if the sky itself was burning, the Tusken sand speeders silhouetted against the setting suns.

The Raiders believed all water belonged to them, so attacks on moisture farms were already not uncommon, but with the summer like it was, well, it was not a surprise they’d come. Two held cycler rifles, but the rest had gaffi sticks raised in their cloth-covered hands.

Obi-Wan walked calmly out to meet them, hands folded together inside the sleeves of his robe. He knew only a little of their speech, but greeted them as best as he was able. They called back, jeering, demanding he move aside.

“Hello there. I don’t want to fight you.”

They laughed at him, shaking their gaffi sticks as if to say, what could one old man do to nine of them?

He raised one hand from his sleeve, palm up, fingers flared like a flame. It was more than a decade since he’d used the Force this way, but it was as easy, as natural as breathing.

“We will give you some water and you will go on your way.”

Several lowered their weapons and started to turn away, but two stayed where they were. The raid leader stared at Obi-Wan, inscrutable behind his mask.

And the second Raider with a cycle rifle raised it, and fired.

His aim was good, sending the tiny projectile straight for Obi-Wan’s chest, hissing through the air faster than a human eye could track.

But Obi-Wan was faster. Even after so many years, reflexes trained by Qui-Gon Jinn and honed in the Clone Wars did not fail him. Blue light burned bright and blazing arc through against the orange sky. The lightsaber spun once in his hand, humming, familiar as an old friend.

The bullet melted on impact, vaporized into nothing. Shrieking and hooting, the Tusken Raiders recoiled from the blue blade. Three broke and ran, and then the others followed, mounting their speeders, they roared away.

The lightsaber vanished just as swiftly back into his cloak, plunging the dunes into a darkness deeper than before, full of the shadows of the memory he had conjured. Memories of another blade of blue light, one that had not stopped at self-defense.

As he turned back towards the farm, a small figure came pelting across the packed sand towards him.

“Luke! I told you to stay inside!”

“I didn’t know you had a laser sword!” Luke shouted, skidding to a halt in a puff of dust. “You didn’t tell me you still had one! That was wicked! I can’t wait until I tell Biggs I saw a real laser sword–”

But Obi-Wan was shaking his head. “You can’t tell Biggs about this, or anyone.”

“But–”

“Do you understand why?”

Brought up short in the midst of his excitement, Luke shook his head, bright expression fading.

“Because,” Obi-Wan said, more gently still, “if Biggs tells someone, who tells the wrong person in Moss Eisley, and the Empire learns there are Jedi on Tatooine…”

“They might send stormtroopers?” Luke asked.

“Or worse.” Obi-Wan had deep suspicions about the Sith called Darth Vader, but they were not suspicions he meant to share with anyone. Perhaps not ever. Anakin was dead.

“I understand, Uncle Ben.”

“I know you do.” Obi-Wan reached out and gently ruffled Luke’s hair.

“If I can’t tell anyone about it…” His excitement unquenchable for long, Luke began to bounce on the balls of his feet. “Can I see your laser sword again? And- and hold it?”

Obi-Wan considered this request for a moment, a moment in which Luke continued to bounce expectantly. He was past the age he should have been learning to use one, and build his own...

“If you are very good in your lessons, I will let you see it again. And maybe – maybe – hold it. But they aren’t toys, Luke. They are tools, and weapons, by which Jedi live and die. Only to be used at great need, and only in defense.”

Luke’s eyes reflected the last light of the binary sunset.

~~~

The first time Luke held a lightsaber, something seemed to click into place inside him. Obi-Wan saw it in his eyes, felt it in the Force.

They sat together, facing each other, on the floor of the cave they had turned into home. All the furniture was cleared away to the sides of the room, as always when they practiced or otherwise needed the space. Home was a simple place, austere, but comfortable. It was theirs.

It was his own lightsaber he passed across the space between them, for Anakin’s he kept carefully shut away. Something he neither knew what to do with or could bring himself to part with. Luke took the weapon carefully, his wiry body wound tight with a combination of excitement and reverence. His hand slid easily over the cylinder, and the blue blade blazed to life. Luke’s mouth dropped open in awe, washed pale blue-white in the light as he waved it slowly between them.

“Can it really cut through anything?”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help but smile at his obvious delight. He smiled even though he ached a little inside and couldn’t figure out quite why.

“Almost anything.”

“And deflect blasters?”

“Oh, yes. But that’s a lesson for another day.”

But other days came. Days of guiding Luke through the training exercises he’d learned at the Temple and later taught Anakin. Days of laughing at failures and praising successes.

Days of memories.

He borrowed a rudimentary blaster from a neighboring moisture farm and, on its lowest setting, began to implement their lessons to practical use. Blasters were crude, uncivilized weapons, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a good shot with one. Good enough to not actually aim for Luke, so that when he missed, he got his hair singed but never actually hurt. He didn’t trust the farmer’s blaster settings very much.

At first, like all students, Luke missed. A lot. But not as much as most students, and not for as long. What had once taken Obi-Wan months to master, Luke learned in weeks.

It made Obi-Wan face, in ways far more concrete than their meditation sessions or any other training they had done of either mind or body, just how strong the Force was in Luke. Obi-Wan had always been just strong enough to recognize it in others, and he saw it now. The fledging and unfolding of a connection far greater than his own.

One he had seen once before.

If anything, it was possible Luke was even stronger than his father, and that frightened Obi-Wan. It frightened him, and he had no Council now to advise him. No Master Yoda to calm and direct him.

What calmed him, instead, was Luke himself. Because Luke feared absolutely nothing. Luke’s fearlessness was half brash youthful invincibility, true, but the other half was a kind of certainty and serenity that Anakin had never had. Where Anakin had held secret fears and losses tight inside him, Luke had none.

So Obi-Wan released his own.

And barely leaped aside in time as a blaster bolt shot past his head in a smear of crimson light. For a second, they both simply stood there looking at each other, Luke so surprised by his own success he’d frozen.

Then he came running, the lightsaber powering down in his hand an instant before he plowed into Obi-Wan and threw his arms around him. He was getting big now, still growth-spurt-skinny but nearly matching Obi-Wan’s height.

“I did it!”

“Yes, you did. Now do it a thousand more times,” Obi-Wan said, but he held him very tight.

~~~

The night before the droids came, Obi-Wan could not sleep.

The desert had changed him, stripped him down to the core of himself, physically and otherwise. At the same time, it had made Luke more than what he might have been elsewhere. Stronger, more resourceful. Safer, too. At least, he liked to believe that at night when the doubts came and the dreams of things already past but not yet over.

Beru and Owen bought the droids while Luke was helping at the farm. So it was Luke who brought him the message. Of course it was. There were no coincidences; it could not have been anyone else.

“I think he’s searching for his former master.” The wind blew Luke’s sandy brown hair over his eyes. He was looking very intently at Obi-Wan. “He says he’s looking for an Obi-Wan Kenobi. Is he a relative of yours? Do you know who he’s talking about? Do you know him?”

And Obi-Wan looked at him, and at the droid, for several long moments of silence.

“Well, of course I know him. He’s me.”

Nothing was ever truly over.

No one was ever truly gone.

Not even Obi-Wan Kenobi.