The first thing Kenobi says to Beru is a lie: "Anakin is dead." The truth, or pieces of it, linger in his grief-rimmed eyes over the holographic transmission. She can't reconstruct the tale from the holes in his story, and she's not sure she wants to. The Jedi are gone, wiped out as punishment for treason. Even if Anakin survived the massacre, he will only survive under a new name, spending the rest of his life in hiding. He was the first Jedi Beru ever met, and Kenobi is the second, and there will be no more.
Ever since she was a young girl, Beru has known when someone is lying to her, just as she has always known who will come into a room before she sees them, even known what someone is thinking without a word spoken. Nevertheless she accepts this lie without argument. "May he find peace in the Force."
Kenobi's mouth twitches, not to smile, not to sob. A twitch and nothing more. He shows her the child, Anakin's impossible boy. Jedi aren't meant to have children. They don't marry, or have families. Everyone knows that.
"His name is Luke."
Beru looks at the baby's face, all new skin and innocent eyes. The name doesn't feel like a lie. "Where is his mother?"
"Died with his birth. He has no family left." Another lie. Perhaps the mother's family already rejected the baby. Perhaps they don't know. Kenobi isn't saying and Beru won't ask.
They could say no. They could tell this liar to take the boy and leave them be. Stories from her childhood come to her mind: tiny devils set in baskets for the unwary, changelings left in place of trueborn children. But there would be no trueborn children in their home, and if little Luke is a devil, he's got the sweetest face of any devil she's ever seen. He's an orphan, the last of Owen's ramshackle family.
"He has us," she tells him. "Bring him."
The first night, they have no cradle, and only old rags to change his wet bottom. Beru brings Luke into bed with them over Owen's objections.
"He'll suffocate. He'll ruin the blankets."
"We'll sleep light. I'll get up with him."
They don't sleep at all. Luke is inconsolable all night, fussy and filled with a red-faced anger that's not helped by the spoonfuls of milk Beru pours into his crying mouth. Blue dribbles spill all over his swaddlings and he screams. Long past midnight, Owen grabs a blanket and leaves for the common area.
"Tomorrow will be better," Beru says, feeling the lie in her own mouth. "We'll get him some baby food and new clothes."
"It will be expensive," Owen tells her but the next day he buys both without complaint. Beru receives several gifts from her own family of old baby clothes and bottles, and a crib that last held her niece.
Luke has lived with them for a week when Beru wraps him up in his little clothes and another blanket to keep off the sand. She sits in the 'speeder as Owen drives them to Anchorhead. The magistrate's office does a brisk business negotiating farmer disputes and land transfers. The line today takes them the better part of an hour before they are seen by the magistrate's assistant.
"How can I help you?" she asks in a polite voice which has asked this question enough times to stop caring about the answers.
Owen says, "We want to start the process to adopt my nephew." He clears his throat once the words are free. They've talked about this for days. Anakin is gone. The best life they can offer to his child is to make Luke their own. Owen only met his stepbrother once, but he feels a deep debt to his stepmother, and Beru adored the woman. This is family, and it's the right thing to do.
"Congratulations," the assistant says, and there's some warmth in her voice. She sees a lot of dry paperwork, and little of happy families. "We can get that started today. I'll need your identification and the boy's birth record."
Beru's hand is halfway to her identichip. She pauses. "He wasn't born at a medical facility. There isn't a birth record."
Owen hands over his identichip, and Beru follows. The magistrate's assistant takes them both and enters their information on her terminal. "I understand. I'll need a witness record of the droid or person who attended the birth."
Beru watches her husband's face turn. "We don't have that either," he says as Beru mouths 'Kenobi' at him. He waves her off, and he's right. Kenobi can't be signing any legal forms, not if he's in hiding from the Empire.
The assistant pauses. She turns to look at Luke in Beru's arms. "Look, I'm sympathetic but I need to have some documentation he exists." She rubs her forehead. "I can write you up an affidavit to sign. The boy was born at home. It happens. All you have to do is affirm no members of his immediate birth family were enslaved."
Owen freezes. The assistant isn't a fool, and she waits for him to speak. "His father was freed when he was a boy. His grandmother was freed eight years ago."
"What about his mother?"
"We don't know her name," Beru says. She's positive the same pretty girl who followed Anakin to his homeworld gave birth to this little boy, but without records, who can say?
"Can you provide me with the father's manumission documents?"
Owen shakes his head. "Watto never wrote them up."
The assistant sits back. "I'm sorry," she pauses for half a second as her eyes flick to the screen to reread their names, "Mr. and Mrs. Lars. You're telling me this child is the son of at least one slave, and you can't give me any information about his birth. For all I can prove, you stole someone's property."
Beru clutches Luke closer. The door is close by and the landspeeder isn't far. They can run.
The assistant holds up her hand. "For what it's worth, and between us in this room, I'd be happy if you did. Steal more slaves if you can."
"We didn't steal him," Owen says sullenly. "My no-good brother got a girl pregnant, and he died before he could do the decent thing and marry her. We don't want Luke to suffer for his father's mistakes. That's all." His voice is coarse. Even Beru can't guess how much of his own words he's made himself believe over the last sleepless week.
The assistant sighs. "Without documents, you can't adopt him. I can make you a record for him, and I can help you apply for custody documents. You'd have legal guardianship."
It's one green leaf of hope in the desert. Beru takes it.
"Thank you," she says before Owen can argue. "We just want to give him a home."
"Then let's see what we can do."
The Empire has encouraged everyone to celebrate the first year under the glorious rule of the Emperor, or else. Beru stays away from Anchorhead and she bakes a sweetcake for the baby. Luke covers his face with seeds and gets honey down his diaper.
"It's a bath for you," she tells him, and he laughs. He has three words in his vocabulary. Beru is in no hurry for him to stop saying "Amama!" every time she picks him up.
He's splashing in the small basin when Kenobi appears on their doorstep. Beru hasn't forgotten his face, although it's been a year since he left the boy with them. Part of her wants to rush to the door and demand answers. The rest of her removes Luke from the tub and dries him off, then puts on his diaper before she answers.
"We wondered if you were dead," she says in greeting.
"I almost was," he replies, and gratefully accepts the cup of cool water. Beru might be annoyed with him but she has manners.
His eyes stay on Luke as the baby plays on the rug, crashing his toys together. "He's grown so much."
"Babies do that. It's been his entire life since you last saw him." She takes his empty cup. "Owen isn't here."
"I can talk with you as well as I can with Owen."
Beru sets the cup into the sink. Not looking at him, she asks the only question that matters. "Are you here to take him away?"
She turns. Kenobi blinks at her, confused. "Take who?" Luke makes a noise, and Kenobi's face moves into understanding. "No. I had never even considered it." His face drops in concern. "Did you think I was only leaving him here for a few months? I'm terribly sorry if I confused you. I had hoped you and Owen would adopt him."
"Hard to do without a birth record, or his mother's name, or any record of his father's freedom from his last owner." They went to see Watto, or they tried. The old Toydarian had already died.
Kenobi's face draws into surprise and growing guilt. "I suppose it would be. I'm sorry."
"You've said sorry twice." Beru sits down across from him. "Why are you here?"
"To see Luke."
"He's been here the whole time."
"I've been away." There's a heaviness in his voice Beru can read too well. Kenobi survived the Jedi purge. He's been searching for other survivors. He hasn't found any.
"Are you staying?"
"Yes. I've purchased a small parcel of land not far from here." He gives her the location and she shakes her head.
"You won't grow anything out in the wastes. You spent your money on nothing."
"I'm not interested in farming," he replies, and his face is turned towards the child. "Is he walking?"
"Yes. Talking, too. He's not very good at either one yet, but he's learning."
Kenobi watches him, lost in thought, or a memory, or a plan. Beru spends her time watching Kenobi's face. Even in the year since she saw him last, lines have crawled across his features. Pain and grief are etching themselves on his soul. Alone in the wastes, the howling sands will ablate what's left.
"You'll stay here with us tonight of course," Beru says, shaking him from his reverie.
His face is younger when he's startled, and she's startled him multiple times already. "I couldn't impose."
"You wouldn't be imposing. You're here to spend time with Luke. You can mind him while I get supper together. Usually I'm chasing him while I'm trying to cook, and the meals burn."
A smile ghosts under his beard and vanishes. "Then I would be glad to help."
When Beru checks on them next, Kenobi is sitting awkwardly on the rug. Luke's blocks dance in the air in front of his delighted face as he waves his arms. She watches them for a moment, entranced herself by the simple Jedi magic. She knew what Kenobi was from the beginning, though he's never said the words. He feels safe enough in their home to use his powers. She fills with warmth.
Owen is less pleased to see the newcomer when he comes in from checking the vaporators for the evening. "You're back."
The toys have long since stopped their dance. Kenobi has Luke in his arms and has been reading to him from one of the rugged infant datapads. With a touch to Luke's soft hair, he sets him down then stands. "I came to see how he's faring. I can leave."
Beru says, "We've already established that you're staying for dinner. You can sleep in here tonight. It's not safe to travel after dark in these parts."
"I'll be fine."
Owen meets Beru's eyes for a moment. He's wondering the same thing she did, if this stranger who gave them the child has come to take him away. Beru shakes her head. The fight goes out of Owen's shoulders. No one else would have even seen it's been there since he stepped through the door.
"Nonsense," Owen says, "you're staying tonight and that's that."
Kenobi bows his head in thanks.
Beru is used to rising with Luke's waking cries. The morning is silent, and her heart races in fear as she hurries to his room. The crib is empty. Before she can scream for Owen, she hears movement from the kitchen. Kenobi has Luke in one arm while he warms the soft breakfast food in a pot.
"Good morning," he says politely. "I hope I didn't wake you."
"It's fine," she says, and holds out her arms for Luke, who babbles "Amama!" in greeting. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yes." He's lying to her again. Anakin didn't sleep the one night he spent here, instead spending the darkness in vigil beside his mother's body. Perhaps Jedi don't sleep. It would certainly explain Luke's terrible sleeping habits.
She settles Luke into his feeding chair, and watches in surprise as Kenobi starts spooning the baby food into Luke's ready mouth. "You don't have to."
He pauses. "Am I doing it wrong? I'm afraid I don't have much experience with younglings. The two I helped raise were quite a bit older."
"You're doing fine." Luke is certainly enjoying the attention, mouthing at the spoon with his four teeth. "Did you raise Anakin?"
Kenobi pushes the spoon into Luke's mouth again. "I tried. The way it works. Worked." He clears his throat. "A master and an apprentice chose each other. The master took on the role of caregiver and teacher. Parental in a fashion, but more formal. As the years went by, the relationship became more of a partnership. The parent and child became more like siblings. Anakin was my brother." His voice is strained. He said he raised two young Jedi.
"Will you teach him?"
Kenobi sets the bowl down. He wipes Luke's messy face with a cloth. "I want to. I'd like to fix the mistakes I made with Anakin, but that's a selfish reason and it would serve Luke poorly." He smiles at her sadly. "Being a Jedi now carries with the title an automatic death sentence."
"I was lucky. Jedi Masters far more gifted than I are dead, and Jedi younglings not much older than Luke were killed with them. I brought him to you because I'd hoped he would be safe from all that here."
"Or you brought the danger to our home instead," Owen says from the doorway. His own face is bleary with sleep. They've both used Luke as their alarm, and he's confused and out of sorts with the change in routine this morning.
Kenobi nods at him. "That's one possibility. I'm willing to believe no one will come looking for him here. Luke Lars is just another child on a desert world."
"Skywalker," Owen says, and he starts the caf, pulling out Beru's favorite mug alongside his own. "We couldn't adopt him and you never told us his mother's family name."
Kenobi's face goes still for a moment.
Beru asks, "How bad is it?"
He shakes his head. "It's not as good as it could have been, but it could be worse. Anakin's mother carried the same name. Tell everyone he's from her side of the family."
"We have a story in place," Owen says, plunking down Beru's mug in front of her. He sits in his own chair. "My brother was a navigator on a spice freighter. He died at the tail end of the war, rest his soul." It's a good enough story, filled with the same hard luck as everyone else's life. Owen smiles for the baby, grinning at him until Luke grins back.
Sandstorms are fierce this time of year. Kenobi stays for three days, helping Owen secure the moisture collectors, helping Beru fix the constantly-shorting systems inside the house, spending time with Luke with his toys or reading stories to him. Beru's worried the too-close arrangement will grate on Owen's nerves. Instead, now that he's assured Kenobi isn't going to steal away with their child in the night, he welcomes another adult in the house. There's always work to be done, and an extra pair of hands is useful.
"Ben," their guest tells them over supper that second night. "It's a nickname from my childhood. A few of my fellow younglings couldn't pronounce 'Obi-Wan' when we were small together. It's a safer name to use."
Safety remains his highest priority, He's come here into hiding for Luke's safety. He's given the boy to two people he didn't know for that same reason. He'll live close by and keep guard, he says. For how long, he does not say.
Beru waits until she and Owen are alone in bed. "Tell me what you're thinking."
Owen shrugs. "I think things are more complicated than Ben wants to tell us. Is he telling the truth?" Owen has known about her knack since they met. Other boys found her strange, and called it witchcraft. He thinks it's a useful skill and he brings her along every time he needs to haggle.
"He hasn't been completely honest with us. He's not trying to be deceitful. He wants to protect Luke from something."
"No surprise there."
"Something else," she says. She hasn't told him about the first lie she picked out. It's possible that it is no longer a lie. She doesn't tell him now. Ben isn't the only one who wants to protect someone he loves. "He doesn't mean us harm. He doesn't mean Luke harm. I'm sure of it." Neither means he won't bring harm upon them by circumstance.
She rolls closer to him. Worry pushes her towards her favorite source of comfort. Owen is more than happy to oblige.
Luke can speak in sentences, putting three words together, sometimes four. His finger follows along the words in the stories they read to him, though he hasn't mastered the connection between the words on the datapad and the words they say. Beru takes him into Anchorhead as often as time allows to let him play in the common area with other children from the neighboring homesteads. She doesn't see her own family often these days, not after her sister moved away. The time spent out with others is as much for her as it is for him.
The farm isn't thriving as much as she always hopes it will. Owen spends all day trudging from site to site, mending what he can and replacing what he can't fix. Beru does the same when she can, but someone must watch the curious toddler. Having a third adult around helps them both, as often as he can visit. Ben is happy to spend long hours playing with Luke, and he's happy to spend as much time out with Owen helping with the upkeep of the farm. The sorrows on his face ease when he's helping them with one task or another. He's even a decent cook, often taking a turn to make the meals while Beru is elbows-deep in the guts of another misbehaving vaporator, while Owen is working on a different one.
She's been a farmer's daughter most of her life, and now a farmer herself. She can't imagine selling the homestead and moving away, but there are days she's with Luke in Anchorhead, watching him run around with the other toddlers and young children, and she wonders if somewhere else might offer him a better life than this. She wonders if Ben will change his mind about teaching the boy in the use of the powers growing under his skin, and if that means Luke will fly away from them one day on his own.
The Empire's news broadcasts play on the screen in the cantina where they stop by for water before the drive home. Another rogue Jedi has been captured and executed, long live the Emperor.
"Let's go home," she says in a brittle, bright voice with a smile Luke is too young to know is forced.
Ben warns them before he vanishes again. "I'm not sure how long I'll be gone," is all he can say. One month turns into five months, turns into a year. Luke wanders through the rooms of the homestead asking where he is. Luke is full of questions. Everything is "Why?" and "What?" Every answer is lead-in to a different question.
"What's that?" Luke asks as Owen examines a part under his magnifier, searching for the grit that's caused it to malfunction.
"It's a transducer."
"What's a transducer?"
Beru lifts him up out of Owen's way. "It converts the wind speed into an electrical signal the motor uses to change direction."
Owen finds the grit and gently pries it out. "The vaporators need to know which direction is the best to collect moisture from the wind when it blows."
"Why does the wind blow?"
Ben appears like a ghost on their doorstep. The sudden shadow startles her. Sand people! Stormtroopers! Beru's dreams have been haunted these last several nights. Tusken Raiders have attacked homesteads not far from here. Some well-meaning fool asked the Empire's outpost to send them help, and now white-armored soldiers walk the dusty streets of the settlement and ask questions about the locals.
Ben isn't a raider or a soldier. She recognizes him after her first shock and ushers him inside. Luke is shy now, scampering behind the chair as Beru gestures to the table. "Sit down. Let me get you some water."
"Thank you." His voice is haggard. He's aged a decade in two years, bones too visible as he pushes back his brown hood.
She doesn't push. Pushing him now would knock him to the floor. Instead she finds the leftovers from last night's dinner and warms them before setting the plate in front of him. He goes to stand, but she puts the utensils down beside his hand.
"Eat something. We can talk after."
Ben thanks her again in a whisper and doesn't speak until he's finished everything on the plate. Luke decides no one eating dinner can be a danger, and he wanders over in curiosity. "Hi."
"What's your name?"
Another brief sorrow passes over his face. "Ben."
"Hi," Luke says again. "What happened to your hand?"
Beru sees the red scars crossing the skin at his wrists, almost hidden by his sleeves. His hands have been bound, and the bonds cut his flesh.
"Luke, go pick up your toys," she says, shooing him as she sits beside Ben and waits for his answer.
"I was held captive. I escaped. Not everyone else I was held with was as lucky." More Jedi, or other friends now lost.
"Were you followed?"
He shakes his head. "I killed my pursuers. It was the only way."
"You're staying tonight," she says. "Don't argue."
"I wouldn't dream of it." After he's rested, he gets down onto the rug and plays with Luke.
Two hours later, Owen's face breaks open in honest pleasure when he comes inside. "You're staying, of course."
"I've already been informed so, yes," Ben replies with a smile.
Luke's toys are floating around the room again. Owen watches them with concern. "Is it a good idea for you to do that in front of him?"
Ben turns his head. "I'm not doing that." He's telling the truth.
At first, Ben stays until he's well again. He never speaks of his captivity. His flesh fills out with water and food and with the simple comforts of routine, helping them with the farm and the house and the child. The pain eases from his face, although the lines are etched forever. Beru feels the dessicated air drink away her own youth each day, and sees the same with Owen.
After he is healed, Ben returns to his own home, but comes to visit almost every day. He has not made a formal statement that he has begun training Luke, but his infant powers are in need of guidance and Ben cannot in good conscience allow him to use them without control. The baby is not a baby now, but a child with his own opinions and growing abilities which worry Owen and ought to worry Beru but instead fill her with hope every time she sees the pair at practice. Her child may grow up in secret, but he will learn enough to protect himself should the secret ever be broken.
When the sand howls, or the Sand People are too active in the area, Ben stays over, sleeping on the floor in the common room. Sometimes he only stays for a night. Sometimes he's there for a week.
It's late, and the sands outside are howling. Beru is used to the sounds of this remote homestead, used to the whistle of the winds. Owen is awake beside her. They made love an hour ago, but the night is wild and they're both restless. "Ben's awake," she says in the darkness of their room.
"Jedi don't," Owen says. He's said this same thing countless times, and he believes it less with each repetition.
"There are no Jedi left," she replies.
Her wrap is enough to cover her modesty and her pride. Ben's eyes are open in the low light as she comes to him. "You're not comfortable here. You can't sleep."
"It's fine," he says. "I'm more restful on this floor than in my own home." A strange honesty.
Owen says, "The bed is softer." He holds out his hand.
Ben's breaths are the loudest sounds in the room, louder than the sand outside.
He takes Owen's hand and rises from the hard floor. Truth is easy, as it turns out.