The speeder that whined into the gully and sputtered to a halt near Obi-Wan’s new home was the first he’d heard for weeks. Whoever it was was probably safer than the local wildlife, and no threat to a fully-trained Jedi, but Obi-Wan still slipped his lightsabre into a fold of his robes before stepping out of doors. He blinked very hard when he recognised his visitor, and wondered if lack of food, or lack of water, or some peril particular to Tatooine that he was about to discover the hard way - again - was making him hallucinate.
Beru Whitesun Lars was too real to hallucinate, though, with her solid curves and shrewd eyes. She cast a glance around the gully he had set up home in and smiled at him.
It was only a little patronising.
Obi-Wan was amused despite himself, even as he politely turned down the invitation for a visit Beru delivered so persuasively; no wonder Owen Lars managed to survive out here, running his farm, if he had Beru to do the accounts and manage the Hutts. Obi-Wan knew diplomats who could have learned a thing or two from Beru, and he treated her like one - invited her in for the limited hospitality he could offer, refused to say either yes or no, and then (when it became apparent that Beru was determined to leave with him at once) tried changing the subject entirely.
“I thought I was difficult to find,” he said, hiding his lightsabre better in his robes. Beru had found and packed up the few possessions he had collected, since arriving on Tatooine with nothing in his hands but Luke. She handed him the bag, and shepherded him towards her speeder. She looked almost worried, even as she complimented him on how well he’d done to survive this long, considering he was an off-worlder. Dimly, Obi-Wan supposed he should feel embarrassed and annoyed, but Beru had given him water and he was too busy drinking it to complain.
“You forget, I live here.”
“I live here now,” Obi-Wan protested, even as Beru backed him up towards the speeder.
“You’re not doing a very good job of it,” Beru said bluntly, taking his arm, and - Obi-Wan realised - supporting a not-insignificant portion of his weight. “You’ll be dead inside the year.”
“That wouldn’t be the worst thing,” Obi-Wan said, with unintentional honesty, and regretted it instantly when Beru lost her grip and he fell over. The clatter of his collision with the speeder broke a suddenly loud silence, and the dust rose reproachfully.
His back and side ached where he’d hit a protruding spoiler and the fixture for a saddlebag. He rubbed at the sore spots absently, without bothering to climb off the dirt floor of the gully, and looked up into Beru’s face. Her expressions didn’t change fast, he’d noticed - it was like watching the suns rise or a stormcloud form - and she did a good line in placid. It had failed her now: she looked horrified, round blue eyes rounder than ever with worry.
“Life is precious,” she said finally. “Terrible, sometimes. But precious.”
“Life is cheap,” Obi-Wan said, as kindly as he could manage. Every small skirmish of the Clone Wars flashed through his head, a permanent loop of death and loss. “Have you ever seen a battle, Beru?”
“No,” Beru said, and threw a question back at him. “Have you ever fought a raid on your home, Ben?”
Obi-Wan let out a short breath. He’d almost forgotten how Shmi Skywalker had died, and hard on the heels of that recollection came Bail Organa’s descriptions of the destruction of the Temple and his own memories of the fight on Mustafar.
“In a manner of speaking,” he said, and found himself unable to look Beru in the face. He knew her hands had fallen to her sides, though, an invitation revoked. It hurt more than it should have done.
In the silence, the cutting desert breeze whistled down the gully. Obi-Wan still wasn’t used to the way it sounded like blaster fire.
He began to get up.
Beru spoke again, and Obi-Wan found himself frozen by the pleading note in her voice.
“If you won't come because I say you're welcome - if you won't come because Owen says we could use someone like you on the farm, will you come for Luke? There are only two of us to defend the farm. To protect Luke."
Beru sucked in a deep, painful breath.
"You know what happened to Shmi. Tuskens like the vulnerable."
Obi-Wan straightened up at last, and looked down at her. She was so small, he thought suddenly. Strong and stocky, yes, stubborn and undaunted, but small.
And when she put it like that, the answer was obvious.
"I'll come," he said, and watched the twin sunrise of one of those slow smiles spread across Beru’s face.