His mother, he thinks, is like a star.
Or at least, she must have been one in another life, anyway – kind of like those legends he hears the kids talk about at school, where spacers would get stranded on strange planets in distant unknown corners of the galaxy and fall in love with mysterious women who seemed to have fallen straight out of the heavens.
He supposes that it’s an idea not too far-fetched and childish, even for his grown-up nine years, because Mom is pretty mysterious (mostly), and beautiful (definitely), and sometimes, when the lights from the speeders passing their apartment shine behind her they catch in the curls of her hair and it looks like there’s a halo around her head. Sometimes, she’ll smile a smile that is reserved just for him and her eyes twinkle like a star would, her cheeks dimpling and the little mole on the left side of her face almost disappearing. Sometimes, she will sweep into a room as though she is walking on air, her head held high and her eyes blazing, just like a star. And sometimes, she will gather him up in her arms and kiss his tousled yellow head and provide all the comfort and guidance that any spacer worth his salt would find in the night sky.
So really, not that far-fetched at all.
But most times, she’s just Mom, and most times she tells him funny bedtime stories about little boys his age and wild pod races in deserts. Most times, she pretends to bargain with him about how many Alderaani sweetmeats he can have before bed and whether or not she can make scrambled eggs in the morning without burning them (she can’t – they order takeout instead), and most times, he tries to imagine that she doesn’t look like the weight of the world is pulling down at her slim shoulders, that her smiles that aren’t Just For Him never really do reach her eyes, and that she sometimes wakes up at night and goes and sits on the patio and stares out into the traffic whizzing by and those times, he never, ever knows what she’s thinking.
He wonders if it has to do with Dad (no questions, Luke, not today) or the Emperor (please, Luke, you musn’t say things like that about him) or how sometimes she gets this hard, angry look in her eyes and more often than not sinks into the sofa and presses her palms into her forehead and pretends she isn’t crying when he crawls up beside her and tucks his head into her side.
She wipes her eyes, then, always, and pulls him into her lap, and he breathes in the smell of her perfume that makes him think of stardust and nebulas, reveling in the way the stray curls around her face tickle his nose as he hugs her back. Because she may be a star and she may be a broken, bruised senator (and she may be an angry, outspoken rebel, but don’t tell anyone he thought that because he’s not supposed to know), but under all of that she is his mother and he loves her more than anything in the entire universe.
When he is held prisoner in the Imperial Senate building – because whatever bantha poodoo Tarkin and his cronies spouted, his is a prisoner, and his mother a possible criminal of the state –
He dreams of a little girl his age, and he thinks that her eyes are sometimes just as sad as Mom’s, her hair just has dark, her cheeks flaming just the same shade of rosy. He watches as she walks towards him, dust and sand tracing a path around her dirty tunic and muddied boots and braids, bunched loosely at each side of her head, and she smiles at him.
When he wakes up to the sound of yelling in the corridor and the door opening and sees a little girl with pink cheeks and dark braids in bunches and dusty tunic and boots standing in front of him, he presses himself to the wall and swallows, because his mouth has gone completely dry.
He follows her without question.
He remembers the circumstances of his mother’s arrest with frustrating clarity.
He doesn’t want to remember. He doesn’t want to remember the panic in Mom’s voice, even as her face slipped into a mask of steely anger the likes of which he had never seen before; doesn’t want to remember the way she had pressed the recorder into his hands and told him that if she wasn’t back by that evening to tell a General Kenobi to come for him, because she wouldn’t be able to.
He doesn’t want to remember how he had been ordered into the trap door under the sofa, how when the storm troopers broke down the door she had stood taller than he had even thought possible, the shimmery folds of her blue dress (inky, like the midnight sky in which she shone so brightly) hanging down her back with a rigidity that he had never seen before.
When he sneaks through the open window in the back room into the apartment, now plus one tiny dark haired rescuer, one teenaged mercenary, and one dirty, matted wookiee, he flinches (and tries not to feel sick to his stomach, his lip caught between his teeth and take deep breaths, Luke, you can’t break down in front of the others ), because he can see the spot on the floor where the blood from Mom’s mouth had splattered when Tarkin backhanded her across the face.
He shows Leia and Han and Chewie into the living room and calls anxiously for Threepio and hates that Tarkin’s snake-like voice is louder in his brain than Mom’s icy-sharp eloquence, hates that he can still smell the smoke of the ‘troopers’ blasters where they shot open the front door. He absolutely despises the upturned state of the caf table and the sofas, the holos on the walls thrown to the ground and the nice Calamari vase that Mom had on the small ledge in the corner in pieces on the carpeted floor.
Of course, he’s seen all of this before – seen it when the ‘troopers came back for him, because when Mom was taken he was supposed to be in school and it was nothing but coincidence that he’d come down with a cold and Mom and let him stay at home so that they could play board games together over hot soup because damn the senate, she wanted to stay home and take care of her little boy.
(They didn’t know that he was watching from a crack in the trapdoor under the sofa, that he heard Mom’s overly-sweet, “if you think I’ll come quietly, then you’re obviously more entrenched in your own crippling stupidity than I first though.”)
(He remembers it as though it had all just happened seconds before.)
Tarkin; scoffing, and stepping forward.
“Senator Amidala. Charming to the last, I see.”
“Governor Tarkin. Still Sidious’s lame puppet, I see.”
A scowl, his expression soured. “Where is he?”
He can see Mom’s back stiffen from his spot under the sofa. “Where is who, exactly, Governor?”
“Don’t play games with me, my dearest little vixen. Did you think we wouldn’t know?”
“Governor,” says Mom, and if he had been a little older and known what the word “contempt” meant, he would have known that her voice was positively dripping with it. “If you are going to take the time to break into my home and interrogate me in my own living room, I would ask that you at least ask me questions that make an iota of sense.”
Tarkin makes a funny noise and takes another step forward, his face looming over Mom’s. “You stole top secret Imperial military blueprints, Senator. Are you going to tell me that these actions had nothing to do with your – ah – husband?”
“If you recall, Governor,” Mom says, her voice threaded with ice, and he can see her fists clenching involuntarily under the sleeves of her gown even as she ignores the deliberate mocking emphasis put on the word “husband” – “I left my husband years ago, when it was clear where his loyalties lied. I was under the impression that he had been killed in action quite some time ago.”
And it is only because he knows her so well, because she is his mother, that he can sense the sudden sliver of what could only be described as terror that creeps into her voice, its waver infinitesimal and its lilt barely changed – but it’s there, and if he didn’t know how much of an outright lie the words that had just come out of Mom’s mouth were already (because his father was a starpilot that died in the Clone Wars, he knows – he has to have been, right, because if he wasn’t, then – what?), he would have guessed right then that they were.
“Fine, then.” He clasps his hands in front of him. “Where are the stolen blueprints?”
She is silent, and her silence draws out venom in Tarkin’s voice that up until that point has been nearly entirely dormant.
“Alright, Senator. I’m going to repeat myself one last time, and depending on your answer, you may or may not be here to tuck your son to bed tonight.” He hears Mom’s slight intake of breath and holds his own, waiting.
“Where,” says Tarkin, his black eyes boring into Mom’s brown ones, “is the criminal known as Anakin Skywalker?”
He remembers barely having time to register his confusion (because Anakin Skywalker was a legend and a hero and a Rebel and Mom spent half her time telling Luke that no, we don’t talk about the Rebels, we don’t play pretend about them at school or idolize their piloting skills because they’re against the Empire, Luke, don’t you see? Except that usually Luke could tell that she didn’t really mean it and what in the nine Corellian hells that Sabé always swears by is going on?) before Mom lifts her chin slightly and says, “I can assure you that I have no idea.”
Tarkin takes one last step forward, and Luke feels a flare of pride somewhere in his stomach because Mom does not take a step back. And then –
“Tell me, Senator Amidala, was it worth the few extra hours in his filthy bed to be arrested and taken from your son, or are you not picky about who you sell yourself t –”
She spits in his face, her eyes blazing.
(And he would have thought, supernova, had he not been terrified about a hundred other things.)
When the back of Tarkin’s hand whips out and connects with her jaw, Luke has to shove his fist into mouth to keep himself from yelling out. Because if there is one thing he knows that Mom can’t deal with it is his being taken as well, and Mom already has far too much to deal with in the first place and –
And he feels a hand tugging at his sleeve, the image of the ‘troopers grabbing Mom’s shoulders and wrists and leading her out the door (she didn’t struggle, but left with a sort of dignity that Luke knows he can probably never even hope to possess), Tarkin’s disgusted snarl of “get her out of my sight!” sliding away from his mind.
“Luke?” asks Leia, and he turns to face her big brown eyes and he feels, suddenly, that he is glad to have a friend, even though they’ve only just met and it would be silly, on principle, to call Leia a friend. “Are you okay?”
He swallows. “I’m okay. Let me see if I can comm Sabé.”
They camp out in the living room because for some reason his room would be too weird, dragging blankets in and draping them over the up-turned sofa that is no longer up-turned, because having a wookiee around can be surprisingly useful. He and Leia curl up on the caf table because both of them fit there, and Han, looking absolutely exhausted because he kept insisting that he keep watch the night before and nine year olds can’t be trusted with these things so just shut up, okay? slides awkwardly onto the couch, the ends of his feet sticking out the end and causing Leia to giggle.
(Chewie takes the floor and waves away his apologies, because there are unfortunately no wookiee-sized beds in the house.)
Threepio fusses and Artoo makes those funny noises that are inherently Artoo and if he squeezes his eyes shut hard enough, he can pretend that he’s just having a (really awkward definitely uncomfortable weird as all hells why would we ever chose to do something like this) sleepover with his friends. Who he just met. A day before. After breaking out of a government facility.
When Senator Organa finds them in the apartment, he thinks that they are profoundly lucky.
(And he knows the word profoundly; Mom used to – does, he corrects himself, because she cannot be something that exists in past tense – use it all the time.)
When they first hear the noises at the door, Luke nearly chokes on his piece of bread, Leia goes absolutely still, and Han swears.
Chewie grabs the last of the food and points to the trap door.
Only then there is a familiar (but not too familiar, because Luke has barely seen them interact in anything but public, and in public, they barely interact at all) voice calls out, and then Sabé’s voice is also there, and Luke is crawling back out of the trapdoor and into the living room before Leia can yelp and swipe at the back of his tunic or Han can finish hissing “are you crazy?” in a voice that suggests that the question is extremely rhetorical.
Sabé gives him a hug and Senator Organa looks all four of them up and down critically (bordering on sympathetically, because the man’s eyebrows go up when he takes in the singed quality of Han’s shirt and the tangles in Leia’s hair and the small bruise on Luke’s cheek) and Threepio hovers awkwardly in the background with Artoo. But then they are being herded quickly onto a ship and Han is looking marginally less suspicious and Leia is telling Senator Organa all about how they found Luke and wasn’t he smart, calling for Old Ben like that? Only she doesn’t know where Ben is, when the good Senator asks, and that puts a slight damper on the proceedings.
(But they’re sitting in the three bunks in the back of the senator’s ship – Luke and Leia are sharing one – and Han admits that at least none of them are starving or dying or running from the law, so all in all it’s an improvement, at least.)
If his mother is a star, he decides, sitting in a corner of the recently-rescued Falcon and swinging his feet, then Leia is a comet – blazing and streaking across the sky, her trajectory already decided in her determined ten-year-old mind, cheeks flushed and bright as the tail end of the thing. And Han is an asteroid, because he can’t think of anything else to compare him to, and he thinks vaguely that don’t comets sometimes slam into asteroids, because that’s definitely something that’s happening a lot, and for Force’s sake, guys, will you give it a rest.
Chewie grunts in agreement from the corner and Leia pauses in calling Han some variation of “stupid” for the infinitieth time.
Luke pretends that Han didn’t just throw him a wink, because damn him (he’s learned the word “damn” now, a feat of which he is particularly proud), if he’s riling her up on purpose and adding to his headache then Force help him he will try to destroy something with his mind.
Not that that would mean anything, because he is very much incapable of doing anything with his mind, but Leia promised him that it’d take time to learn, and he trusts her – fiery comet tail and all.
They find The Holo-Recording Of Mom (capitalized, because it’s that important) in Leia’s father’s travelling bag, left on the almost-but-not-quite-because-the-Rebellion-is-still-mostly-an-idea Alliance base on Dantooine, its contents spilled on the floor by a Leia determined to figure out “where in nine hells Dad disappeared to”. And the entire world implodes into dust and gas and planetary debris, because Dad is not dead and Dad wasn’t a starpilot and Dad is Anakin Skywalker and he needs a moment to breathe because, wait, doesn’t this mean Mom lied?
(Leia is the one who tells Han. She claims that it’s because she wants to enjoy his reaction to the fullest possible extent; but he knows that she is only insisting so much because the way Leia operates involves needing to control the most mundane aspects of her life.)
(She has no power over anything else, he thinks, so why not?)
(To be fair, though – Han’s reaction is pretty funny.)
He learns to shoot a blaster straight (Leia declares loudly that she is going to teach him, after one unfortunate run-in with a pickpocket and two missing teeth later, but he is sure that any of the “teaching” was mostly Han’s work, though he’d never tell her that), one chilly night in a corner of the Dantooine base. They are wrapped in thick blankets that Han filched from what he can only presume were a senator’s bags and his fingers fumble slightly under his too-big poncho, but after ten tries he manages to hit his target mostly straight-on.
He imagines the bursts of light going straight through Tarkin’s skull.
He would imagine Sidious instead, but he’s never really seen the man (Han calls him a “slimy bastard”, and he asks what bastard means and Leia gives him a sympathetic look that he doesn’t quite understand before telling him), so he sticks to imagining Tarkin.
(They find out some days later that Tarkin is dead, killed when his Star Destroyer was blown up.)
(They don’t find out who did the blowing up.)
(Not until later.)
When Mom hugs him again, her dress torn, her hair a tangled nest, her face bruised and her lip swollen, having just stepped down from the small craft that he registers only later is definitely a Jedi ship, he can smell the space dust in her clothes and breathe the warmth in her bones and he feels, once again, like he is hugging starlight, bright and always-there and beautiful.
Because whatever else she may be, she is still, always, his mother.
(And he loves her more than anything in the universe.)