...so nothing dark will end our shining hour.
Hour, Carol Ann Duffy
"The Darklighter boy spends a lot of time here," Owen announced, working over a damaged vaporator with Ben.
Ben, who was sweating heavily in the heat and wanted nothing more than to get out of the burning sun, eyed Owen from under his limp reddish hair (still not entirely grey, despite Luke's most horrifying antics and Beru's merciless teasing). "Oh yes?" he said, hoping to telegraph, through vocal cues alone, that he was less interested in what Luke might or might not be getting up to with Biggs Darklighter than he was in mending this blasted vaporator and going home for the midday meal.
"Yes. What's his name, the dark one."
"All of the Darklighter children have dark hair," Ben said, torn between annoyance and entertainment. "And you know his name, Owen, you've known him since he was born."
"Can hardly escape it, can I, he's always here. With Luke."
"Yes," Ben said, having drawn his own private conclusions about that. The notion of Anakin's son - as powerful, as absolutely loving, as dedicated to those he cared for - developing close friendships with others was one that alarmed him a little. But he saw very well that it was too late, and not merely in the sense that Luke had been raised in a comparatively traditional family, rather than the Jedi Temple. Railing against his attachments had never been an option; it hadn't magically become one simply because Luke had developed a deeper attachment than usual to someone who wasn't a family member. Quite apart from anything else, it would have made Ben a hypocrite, and Luke had an excellent nose for hypocrisy in the senior members of his family. Ben simply had a lot of extended chats with Luke about the importance of thinking carefully about your feelings and maintaining your better judgement at all times.
Owen darted him a look. "That's all you've got to say? Yes?"
"No, I have a number of other things to say," Ben said, taking a larger spanner to a recalcitrant set of patent Tusken-proof - and apparently Ben-proof - nuts. "But most of them are about this vaporator."
"Huh," Owen said, and picked up a water canteen to take a sip.
Ben held out a hand, and after a moment, the canteen was pressed into his palm. The water was warm and brackish from the day's heat - yet it tasted better than any of the expensive wines and cordials he'd been given at Coruscant parties as a Jedi Master. Then he'd been vaguely proud of himself for resisting the lure of luxury; the memory of it nearly made him smile. He'd been so naïve.
Ben wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and passed the canteen back to Owen.
"What brought this on, anyway?" he said. "Normally you don't go around deliberately forgetting the name of a boy you've known since he was a baby and grumbling about the fact that Luke has friends, which I thought we had agreed was a positive thing."
Owen made a discontented noise, and began to gather up the pieces of the vaporator that were damaged beyond repair.
"He's growing up," Ben pointed out, ignoring the pang that reminded him that he sometimes looked at Luke and saw the toddler whose first steps he had witnessed, the baby he had laid in Padmé's arms. "It stands to reason he's going to rely on us less, and turn to his friends. He's seventeen, Owen, it's about time."
Owen screwed his face up. "He's not just friends with Biggs Darklighter, Ben. He was, but -"
Ben stared at him for a few moments before reality broke in. "Oh. Right." Ben suppressed an instant's instinctive panic, composed of nearly equal parts worry for Luke and worry for the galaxy. Resemblance notwithstanding, Luke wasn't Anakin. "Well, that's not bad, Biggs is a good lad..."
"Ask me how I know," Owen said, with patient grimness.
Ben stared at him, and closed his eyes in vague horror. He remembered Anakin's adolescent attachment to Padmé far too well to think that Luke would be subtle or discreet about this new relationship; any hope that Luke had instead modelled his behaviour on his subtler aunt and uncle was probably vain.
Besides. If Ben was remembering his padawan years accurately, drama was the natural teenage state - regardless of how sensible and calm the teenager in question thought they were being. Beru and Owen had been full-grown adults with life experience and common sense when they decided they wanted him to be part of their lives.
"Why don't we postpone this conversation for this evening?" he said, aware that his now Tatooine-tinged accent had been strangled by the Coruscanti he'd grown up with - a retreat into formality to protect him from whatever awful mental image Owen was about to divulge.
Owen nodded. "We've got that bottle of firewater you won off Mack Cerson," he said. "Why you play sabacc with him -"
"He insists," Ben said mildly. It was true Ben had an unfair advantage, but he couldn't go around just telling people he wasn't allowed to play card games because he was a Jedi, especially not after the hundreds of lectures on discretion he'd addressed to Luke. The Empire had tendrils even here.
"You could insist back." Owen shared another gulp of water with Ben, and then pushed a strand of hair flopping into Ben's face off his forehead. "You're burning," he said. "Again. Beru will murder me."
Ben's eyebrows twitched under Owen's hand. "More or less than she'll murder Luke for, er, canoodling on the premises?"
Owen snorted at him. "Canoodling. I don't even know what you mean by that."
"You were the one who saw it," Ben pointed out, gathering up their tools and locking the case into position on the speeder.
Owen looked pained as he settled into the driver's seat, and Ben climbed in beside him. "And believe me," he said, "I wish I never had."
Beru had just completed a minor quarterly negotiation with the Hutts' local enforcer - trivial, so far as her encounters with the Hutts went, which was why neither Ben nor Owen had stayed to act as muscle, but exhausting - and was consequently all too happy to get out the firewater and retire early that evening. Ben made a few sly insinuations, which had several positive side-effects; Owen flushed a flattering pink, Beru laughed until she got the hiccups, and Luke screeched the screeches of offended adolescence and closeted himself in his bedroom with The Young Human's Guide To The Imperial Fleet. So Beru, Ben and Owen were free to change into comfortable sleeping clothes, pile all the blankets and cushions around their bed, and pass round glasses of firewater and small sweets - without letting Luke suspect a thing.
As systems for ensuring parental conferences remained undisturbed, it had been highly effective for the last ten years, and they had every reason to believe it would stay that way.
"It feels like ages since we've done this," Beru sighed, resting her back against Owen's chest and putting her feet in Ben's lap with an imperative air. He grinned and set his glass of firewater aside after a healthy gulp, taking her left foot in his hand and massaging the sole firmly with his thumbs. She sighed and melted back into Owen, her head lolling against her original husband's chest. Owen's face softened, and he ran one hand through her hair and pressed a kiss to the pulse-point in her neck.
"I don't know why we don't do it more often," Owen said.
"Child-rearing," Ben said dryly. "Hutts. Womp rats. Young Camie, who never met a rockface she didn't try to climb and then get stuck up. Sand People. That south-west bank of vaporators which I am going to take apart for scrap -"
Beru kicked him with her free foot.
"I could stop," Ben pointed out, grinning at her.
One bright blue eye cracked open. "You won't," Beru said with conviction.
Ben brought his palms together on either side of her heel and ran them up her ankle, halfway up her calf; then he slid them back down again, and drew a firm line along either side of her foot with his thumbs.
Beru let out a quiet little sigh and went boneless.
Owen muffled a laugh in her hair.
"Traitor," Beru said, barely moving her lips. "I married you first."
"I thought it was the other way round," Owen said, amusement in his voice.
Beru treated this remark with all the contempt it deserved. Ben smiled, and took another sip of firewater.
"So," Beru said, struggling to sit up a little. Her hair was still largely blonde, and the lamps they'd lit shone off it like gold. "What brought this on?"
Owen and Ben fell awkwardly silent, and glanced across at each other. Ben did his best to communicate through eyebrows alone that he wasn't going to be the one to explain that Owen had caught Luke necking with their next-door neighbours’ son.
"It's about Luke and the Darklighter boy," Owen said finally. "They, er. They're... sweet on each other."
"Oh, that," Beru sighed, sliding back down in Owen's arms. Owen stared at her with a look of total stupefaction that made Ben want to laugh until every muscle in his stomach hurt, and then kiss Owen's offended expression off his face. "I don't remember you being so prudish when we were courting." She prodded Ben with a toe. "Or when we were courting this one."
"Luke is seventeen," Ben said, startled. "Biggs is several years older -"
"That's how old I was," Beru said, "when Owen and I met. Biggs and Luke were in the same class at their school, Ben. They may be a few years apart, but they're peers."
Ben glanced at Owen, who nodded. Ben tried to fit this piece of information into his head, and match it up to Luke, who still seemed so incredibly young to him.
"Elly Darklighter owes me ten credits," Beru said comfortably, helping herself to a fistful of sweets. Owen held her glass to her lips, and she sipped at it, then kissed his hand; Ben knew the imprint there would tingle from the firewater. "She bet me you'd take three months to guess." She popped some of the sweets into her mouth and kept talking. "It's been two. Well done."
"Are you patronising us?" Ben enquired, and ran a too-light finger up the arch of her foot. She giggled involuntarily, and threatened to kick him again. Ben tightened his grip on her ankle so she couldn't, and grinned at her.
"Maybe," Beru admitted, grinning back, and then tipped her head right back to look up at Owen. "You have to admit it's funny."
Owen kissed her. "You weren't the one who found them plastered all over Luke's speeder in the garage. You know he thinks of it as his personal property."
"The speeder?" Ben asked, deliberately stirring.
Owen scowled at him. "The garage." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Skies have mercy, I will never be able to unsee that. Neither of them even noticed I was there, I just... left."
Unkindly, both Ben and Beru snorted, and Beru started to laugh outright again. Ben hadn't meant to; he'd been as uncomfortable with the notion of Luke finding someone for himself as Owen had been, and he still felt a nameless discomfort with the idea that Luke might decide to settle down here before he'd ever seen anything of the galaxy. It was probably the safest thing for Luke, of course, and as such it was extremely unlikely that he would do it. And then there was whatever possibility might lie in the Rebel Alliance, always buried somewhere at the back of Ben's mind, next to the name of Luke's twin sister.
Sometimes he wondered if they looked alike, or if Leia took after Padmé more. Right now he wondered whether Viceroy Organa and Queen Breha also had to deal with adolescent love affairs, and if so, how they managed.
"Oh, shut up," Owen grumbled. "Both of you."
"Well," Beru said, getting partial control of herself, "obviously we'll have to tell him to - to stay out of communal areas in that case. But - ah - it's not like we can talk."
"Ah," Ben said, slightly lost for words. "Well, yes. We may have violated the spirit of that rule. And also the letter of it, come to think -"
He caught Owen's eye and his sentence disappeared into a snort of pure hilarity, and he had to clap a hand over his mouth to stop himself laughing. "Force help us all. This is serious. Do we need to, er. Update our discussions with Luke?"
"It's probably a bit late," Beru said, in a tone of extreme pragmatism that made Owen screw his face up. "But it can't hurt. Owen, that'll be your job."
"What!" Owen yelped, dropping his glass and catching it again, spilling firewater over his hands. "Why?"
"Because Luke will be mortified you saw," Beru said calmly. "And because Ben and I are going to have a little chat with Biggs."
Ben thought of the talks he had attended, sitting and smiling with Anakin beside him, one hand on his lightsabre; the planets he had fought his way through to end small wars, the grinding hours in the Senate, the negotiations he had carried out singlehanded, with no backing but the faraway reinforcement of the Jedi Council, and Anakin's total faith. He thought of the fools and sycophants who had called him the Negotiator. And then - a much happier thought - he imagined them coming face to face with his wife.
He looked at Owen and Beru and grinned broadly. "Don't you think setting you on him is unnecessarily harsh, Beru?"
Biggs dropped by the farm only a few days later - ostensibly to pick up Luke to go and watch for a podrace just west of Tosche Station with some of their contemporaries, although Ben had private reservations about the entire truth of that story. Growing up so close by, Biggs had learned young to use the truth to lie to Ben, but there were still tells.
Ben intercepted him before he could leave.
"Stop and see Beru before you go, won't you," he said blandly. "She has a couple of jars of feijoa preserves for your mother."
"I will," Biggs said promptly, with that charming smile - he was handsome, Ben thought, despite the moustache, and given Ben's own early attempts in that direction he could hardly criticise. "Thanks, Tad Ben."
Ben smiled back. 'Tad Ben' - a family friend, a member of the community, but not blood. Biggs had grown up running in and out of their farm, calling them Tad Ben and Nan Beru and Tad Owen with an ease that belied the fondness they all felt for him, an ease that Luke showed just as plainly at the Darklighter homestead. Ben strongly suspected that Biggs would be calling Beru 'Madam Whitesun Lars' by the time she was finished with him.
Ben picked up the datapad he'd been reading the news on and stretched out comfortably on a bench on the courtyard. It was getting to evening, and the temperature was perfect, a soft balmy heat rather than the painful blaze of midday; it was late to be letting either of the lads out by themselves, but the podrace, to add to its danger, was being held overnight. Biggs and Luke were two of the best shots and the finest pilots on the continent, and Luke drew on the Force so effortlessly to protect himself that Ben had no fears for their safety. Ben did, however, wonder whether Luke intended that they should skive off the podrace to enjoy themselves alone, or that he should race in it. Ben had tried to impress the dangers of podracing on him, but given the other activities he took part in - the hunting for food, the womp rat culls - it had been difficult.
Ben set these memories carefully aside and turned back to his datapad, flicking idly through news stories, gossip and scandal and rare nuggets of real information, pausing to smile at a small item that quoted Bail Organa declaring that there were no Rebels in the Senate.
He was interrupted in his perusal of this priceless piece of irony by Biggs, walking out of the kitchen into the courtyard very carefully, carrying a couple of jars of feijoa preserves. Ben suppressed a smirk and lowered his datapad.
"Better hurry," he suggested. "Or you might be late."
"Yes," Biggs said. He looked a little paler than he had done when he'd gone inside. "Sir."
"You look like you've caught the sun," Ben said solicitously. "Be careful with that speeder, won't you."
Biggs gave him a look that said he understood what was happening here very clearly. "Luke will be driving, sir."
"You don't need to call me sir, Biggs." Ben stood and stretched, then gave Biggs a bland smile. "You've known me all your life."
"I had a discussion with Madam Lars," Biggs said. "I thought it was best to be... polite."
"Sounds serious." Ben strolled towards the front door, where Luke would be waiting. Biggs walked alongside him. "But then, Beru can be quite a serious person."
"I was surprised," Biggs said. "I was expecting to hear from Mr Lars."
Ben made a neutral noise. "Well, if you heard it from Beru, it came from all three of us." He paused, halfway up the stairs. "Biggs?"
"This is just from me." Biggs was the same height as him now; Ben remembered when he had been a scrawny, gangly kid, but those days were gone. Ben smiled across at him, friendly and relaxed. "I served in the Clone Wars, Biggs, alongside Luke's father, and then I brought his child home and raised him. We share no blood, but Luke is my nephew. I've raised him as if he were my own son." Ben folded his arms across his chest. "Before she died, I promised Luke's mother I'd defend him, no matter what." He held Biggs' eyes, and thought of all the promises he'd made: to Yoda, to Bail, to the Anakin Palpatine had murdered - and how, in the end, the one he'd made to a dying senator was the one that mattered most. I'll protect them, Padmé. He couldn't be there to act directly for Leia - he had done the best thing he could when he gave her to the most loving and the wiliest parents he could think of. But Luke...
What could heartbreak do to Luke? If it was someone he trusted absolutely? Better to warn Biggs now, and ensure good - or at least honourable - behaviour later.
Ben took a deep breath. "I don't believe you mean Luke any harm. You're a good man. But you should know - I keep my promises."
"Understood," Biggs said. Then he grimaced, and the tension broke. "Am I going to hear from Mr Lars, too?"
Ben snorted. "Probably not. We persuaded him it was better to leave it to us."
They climbed the last few steps, and emerged into the evening, where Luke was all but dancing with impatience by the speeder.
"Have fun," Ben said, and raised an eyebrow at Luke. "Don't crash."
"No, I know, you never do," Ben said. "Apart from all those times when the rest of us have had to peel you off the floor. Go on, boys. See you tomorrow."
Biggs nodded, quite formally. "Evening," he said.
Ben nodded back.
"What's got into you?" he heard Luke saying as he headed down the stairs. "It's just Uncle Ben."
"Uh," Biggs replied. "I'll tell you later."
Ben stuffed his sleeve into his mouth to stop himself laughing - at least until he got to the kitchen, where he found Beru having hysterics into a half-cooked dinner, and Owen shaking with mirth.
"Served in the Clone Wars," Owen repeated to Ben, mockingly. Evidently he'd overheard; sometimes sound carried oddly in the ventilation shafts. "Sir yes sir."
"It's perfectly true," Ben said, trying to hold his laughter in and keep a straight face; every muscle in his cheeks ached with the strain. "And you know what has just occurred to me?"
Beru laid her chopping knife down and wiped her streaming eyes. "Is it that we have the entire house to ourselves and no fear of interruption for at least twelve hours?" she said, and smirked at both of them, face crinkling with mischief and a familiar invitation. "Because I thought of that, too. I think we should try and break every rule we've just set for Luke."
"Ambitious," Ben said, smirking back at her.
"Everyone should have goals," Owen said, and kissed them both.