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The Path Not Taken

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"There she is," the pilot says. "Our Alderaan."

The lurch out of hyperspace still pulls Luke's heart through his stomach, but his white-knuckled grip on the armrest doesn't diminish the awe in his eyes at his first glimpse of another planet from space. It's nothing like Tatooine's dull yellows and rusty orange hues; Alderaan hangs in space like a soap bubble, glittering blue and white.

He can't break his eyes off the fast approaching world to see if Leia is as captivated by its beauty as he is. All he can do is wonder aloud, "It's so blue!"

Beside him, Leia smiles, amused but also touched. Surely he must have seen images of other worlds, even if he'd never left Tatooine? Unfazed by their change in speed as she is by the vista before them, Leia nonetheless can't help but be charmed by this beautiful boy's sincere awe. Why are your eyes so blue? she thinks, but then says aloud, resting the palm of her hand on the back of his, "It's the oceans. Alderaan's surface is mostly water and ice--over eighty percent."

"Many worlds are covered in water, Luke," General Kenobi chimes in from Luke's other side. "Typically, humans don't settle on planets as arid as Tatooine, not unless circumstances make it a necessity."

"I knew that," Luke says, unable to take his eyes off the glittering planet. Of course he knew that. He'd seen pictures and holovids and read all about other worlds. But knowing a whole world could be covered with water doesn't compare to actually seeing it. "Who owns it?" he asks. "Do you think they'd let me see the ocean?"

Leia suppresses a smile. She doesn't want him to think she's making fun of him. "No one owns it. Not really. It's the property of the Crown and the people of Alderaan, and almost all beaches are open to the public. Of course you can see it. I'll take you." She turns his hand over so she can interlace their fingers. "You can't claim land or water on Alderaan unless it's actively being used. Otherwise it's public property--there are millions of square kilometers of wilderness I could show you with lakes, rivers, mountains covered in snow...."

At last Luke looks away from the vista before him to stare at Leia, entranced immediately by her deep, dark eyes, and the kindness in her voice. His heart skips a beat. "I'd like that..." He stares at her a moment longer, but then has to look back at the world looming ever larger before him. "Snow...." He's only even heard of it.

"There will be plenty of time for sightseeing later," General Kenobi says, his voice a bit sterner than before. "You need to focus on your training, young Skywalker. Don't let pretty thoughts turn your head. We're at war."

Leia wonders if General Kenobi saw her take Luke's hand, and she doesn't roll her eyes, but she wants to. Everyone needs time off to recharge, especially after losing their family, and there's nowhere better to do it than in nature. It probably wouldn't do to contradict Kenobi right now, though, so she says, "There's snow at the Winter Palace, where we're going. It's not Alderaan's capitol--that's Aldera, a big city--but it's where I grew up, and my father and I live there most of the year. You'll see snow," she promises.

They start their approach, and the continent that fills the viewport is patched with white, some on high inland planes, some on rocky peaks edging the coasts. Leia's heart soars to be home at last, and she can't wait to show it all to her new friend.

She and Luke have only known each other a few days, but in that short time they've become closer than she thought was possible. She feels as if she's always known him, as if she'd been feeling his absence before they met. At the same time, the two come from such different backgrounds and had such different lives, that a lot can get lost in translation. He's never been off Tatooine. Never seen an ocean or snow. He's probably never been kissed, she thinks.

That will have to change.

As if reading her thoughts, Luke glances at her, smiling shyly, but eager. The last few days have been tumultuous for him--losing his aunt and uncle to the Empire most of all--but somehow in Leia's presence none of it weighs him down. Everything is new and exciting. He feels as though his life has only just begun, and that he wasn't alive before leaving Tatooine.

Kenobi pulls on his robe before the ship has even landed. "I'll need to speak to your father straight away," he informs Leia. "You're certain he knows to expect my arrival?" They've been purposefully traveling without communications out of fear of being tracked. "Bail and I were friends once, but... that was a very long time ago."

"He sent me to find you specifically," Leia reminds him, straightening her rumpled white dress as the ramp lowers. "We need you in order to continue the efforts of the Alliance. Artoo is carrying information vital to the survival of our cause. My father will explain the rest."

"So you've said," Kenobi muses, watching as she steps off, her shoulders straightening naturally as she does, making even her rumpled dress look regal. "But things are not always what they seem..."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Luke asks, stepping up beside Obi-Wan.

Kenobi shakes his head, folding his hands under his robes. "Nothing for you to mind your head about. Come on, my boy. Your destiny awaits."

The company that greets the Tantive IV is small but official-looking--a half-dozen courtiers and their aides and droids, headed by a tall man with dark features like Leia's, dressed in fine clothes and a regal cape. Leia smiles at him and bounds into his arms. "Father!"

He hugs her close, not caring much for formality at the moment. Alderaani culture is old-fashioned and tends to stand on ceremony, but it is never stuffy. "Leia, I'm so proud of you," he says. "You succeeded."

At last he releases her and bows to the old Jedi Master before him. "General Kenobi. It's been so long--hard to believe the time has finally come. I'm glad you were able to make it here."

"Your Highness." Kenobi returns his bow, little more than a nod of his head. Bail Organa is Prince Consort of Alderaan, not king, and his rank does not necessarily put him above a Jedi Master, but there is respect on both sides. "Leia has grown up well. She's a credit to you and Breha."

Bail's dark eyes twinkle as he replies with a thank you, but they turn dull again with apprehension when they fall on the blonde boy at Kenobi's side. "This is the boy, then?"

"He is. Luke, this is Prince Bail Organa of Alderaan, Leia's father, and husband of Queen Breha. Bail, this is Luke Skywalker."

Bail's hand extends in reverent greeting.

"P... prince?" Luke says, looking from Bail to Obi-Wan and back. He stares at the offered hand, and upon realizing he's staring, he quickly shakes it. He's not sure if he should kiss it, or press his forehead to the palm, or...? "You're a prince?" He glances briefly to Leia. In the brief interaction they'd had on Tatooine, she'd never mentioned that her father was a-- "Then that means you're a..." He's not sure what it makes Leia, but his head is spinning.

Smiling kindly, Bail withdraws his hand. "You can just call me Bail. My house doesn't employ titles within its walls." His gaze is keen and seems to be studying Luke's features closely. "You're a welcomed guest here. You both are. I'm glad you didn't run into any trouble."

"None at all, thank the Force," Leia says, her relief apparent. Her mission had originally been only to bring Kenobi to Alderaan--how miraculous that the plans to the Empire's secret new weapon were able to be intercepted when she was in transit as well. Now, it's over, and while she knows they can never really let their guard down, she can relax a bit. Her father, Mon Mothma, and the other Alliance elders will take it from here, though Leia will be ready to serve their cause again however she can when she is needed.

Leia turns her gaze to the snowy mountain peaks framing the high valley which encloses the Winter Palace and its grounds. Old and fortress-like, the Palace itself rises from the valley floor a hundred meters distant, obscured slightly by fluffy snow flurries. It's good to be home. She takes Luke's hand again, leading him out from under the shelter of the ship's bulk, holding out her hand to catch the clumping flakes. She's delighted to have him here, her new friend, playmate, maybe more. "Look," she says happily, showing him the quickly-melting crystals on her palm. "Snow."

Bail gives Obi-Wan a somewhat stern look as Leia leads Luke off, but it's completely lost on the two young teenagers.

Luke stares up into the sky in wonder, but it's steel-grey with clouds so thick he can't even see the sun. It's utterly incomprehensible. He's never seen so many clouds before, let alone so thick, and the snow....

"It's so cold," he says, holding his hand out to catch the flakes.

"I think that's enough for now," Bail says, stepping up beside his daughter. "You've got an important mission debriefing, and General Kenobi and his new apprentice will want to rest after their ordeal." To Luke, he says, in a softer tone, "I just learned about your aunt and uncle. I'm so sorry."

Luke stares down at his feet, suddenly feeling guilty for finding so much new joy in the world; he should be in mourning. It isn't as though he isn't; it just all seems like a dream still, sometimes. "I want to join the Rebellion. I want to help defeat the Empire."

Bail looks around quickly, putting a strong hand on Luke's shoulder. "Quietly, my boy. Alderaan is a neutral world." He smiles over to Leia. "He certainly could use some tips in dignitary graces."

"Yes, Father," Leia says, at first solemnly, then smiling at Luke. "I'd be happy to help however I can, of course."

Bail gives her a knowing but accepting look and steps away. He trusts her to do what's best.

Leia looks apologetically at Luke for a moment, then leans in and kisses his cheek softly. "I may not be an Alliance leader yet," she whispers, her fingers trailing with obvious hesitation off of his. "But I do have responsibilities." She smiles, wanting to reach again for him, but holding back in this moment. "Go rest. Get some warmer clothes. You'll freeze." She rubs his arms a little, glad when he smiles back at her, then drops her hand. "I'll see you later. Tonight?"

"I'd like that. Tonight." He's somewhat terrified of being alone in this big, strange new world, but knowing he has Leia on his side, and Obi-Wan as well, helps make him feel slightly less out of his depths.

He watches her and Bail walk off together, and doesn't turn when he feels Obi-Wan step up beside him. The Jedi Master stands quietly for a while before saying, "You will find a good and loyal friend in her, but do not let yourself be distracted by her beauty. If you wish to become a Jedi like your father, you must focus yourself completely on the task. It is an undertaking that, under ordinary circumstances, would consume years of your time. We do not have that luxury. If you wish to be an aid to Alderaan, you must dedicate your entire essence into your training. There can be no distractions. Do you understand?"

Luke locks his jaw slightly as he watches Leia and her entourage disappear into the massive structure before them. "Yes."

"Good. Then let us relax tonight. Our training will begin in the morning."

Leia spends the next few hours in debriefing, sharing what she experienced with her father and the rest of the Alderaani nobility who are sympathetic with the Alliance. There's not much to tell, as the mission had gone off without a hitch. The plans of the unfinished battle station--the Death Star, the Empire calls it--are, of course, of utmost importance, but Leia can only explain where she got them, and nothing at all about the schematics.

She and her father eat dinner together--her mother is, as usual, performing her duties as a figurehead in the capitol while Bail conducts her bidding in the shadows--and then Leia retires to her quarters when he goes back to work. Alone in her spacious apartment, she pulls out her personal comlink and connects to Luke and Kenobi's room, asking the old man to be allowed to speak with the boy.

Obi-Wan's voice is somewhat resigned, but he does as he's asked. "It's the princess."

That serves as a stark reminder of the gulf between them, and sobers Luke slightly before answering. "Your... Highness?"

Leia rolls her eyes to herself, hearing how he answers the call. "It's Leia. Nothing's changed." She pauses, swallowing her anxiousness into herself and replacing it with hope. "I'm off duty now, for the rest of the night. Can you get away?" Her heart pounds, waiting for his answer.

Luke glances to Obi-Wan, who has clearly been listening. The Jedi Master raises a hand dismissively. "I am not your father or your uncle. You are a man now, capable of making your own decisions... however, we will start our training promptly at sunrise."

Luke smiles brightly, and into the comlink says, "I'm free. Where should we meet?"

Leia smiles in excitement. "Come to my rooms." She gives him directions, makes sure he has them, and then disconnects the call.

When he arrives, she's wearing a lounging dress with a plunging neckline and bare feet. Her main suite is dimly lit, and a fire is roaring in the fireplace, rugs and cushions and a small tray with wine and fruits before it. She pulls Luke into the room, saying, "I was worried we wouldn't get any time together."

Luke's wearing what he was wearing before, having had no time to go shopping or find something else. He expected to go out and see the world, so he's a little surprised when she pulls him into her chambers. It's toasty inside, and he's been cold since they landed, so he finds himself drawing to the hearth. Even an open fire is something of a wonder to him; there wasn't much need of such things in the desert. "I could tell Ben didn't want me to leave…." He glances at her, at her plunging neckline, then back to the fire very quickly.

She notices his wandering eyes, and she warms, but hides it. "I get the feeling he doesn't approve." As if hearing his thoughts, she adds, "We'll go see the ocean in a few days--and I want to take you to see glaciers, too. Forests. But it's too late tonight, and I had to see you." She crosses to the doors of her expansive balcony and opens them. The rooms are too warm to be cooled by an open door--in fact, they might be a little too warm--so she lets some snowflakes drift inside for Luke, watching them melt as they hit the marble floor. "What have you been up to?" she asks, pulling him to the cushions in front of the fire.

Luke swallows as he settles on the big cushions. They'd spent the last few days orbiting each other on the Tantive IV, but it feels like this is the first time they've been able to spend alone. Truly alone. He feels suddenly very out of his depth. "I, uh," he takes a calming breath. "Not much, to be honest. I ate dinner with Ben... General Kenobi," he corrects, knowing he's going to have to let go of the name he's used for years now that they're in the Core. "He told me his plans for my future... training me to become a Jedi Knight, like my father was."

Leia nods solemnly. "It's a noble and ancient calling--one that the Empire has abolished, because they know it threatens them." She pours them each a glass of wine and hands one to Luke. "You'll be a great help in the war effort." She sees his discomfort. "This has been a lot for you. How are you holding up?"

Luke stares at the wine, and the elaborate glass it's offered in. "It's a lot to take in... everything is so different. This wine... this cup, the fireplace, this room, the planet...." His eyes drift from object to object, settling on her. "You." He takes a big gulp of the wine. It burns much more than the fermented Bantha milk he'd had on occasion back on Tatooine. "It feels like a dream. Or something out of a story."

She sighs. She'd meant to give him a comfortable room to relax in, but she forgot how outside of his experience... everything is. "I'm the same girl you helped find Ben," she says, intentionally using Luke's name for Kenobi in an attempt to set him at ease. She sips the wine slowly. "But... I felt out of place on Tatooine, you know. Like I was doing everything wrong. Like it was obvious I was an off-worlder. This is my home. I spent most of my childhood here, in this palace." She watches him carefully, and he isn't looking at her. "Maybe I should have told you I'm a princess."

Luke is watching the firelight reflecting in his wine. "No... it's better you didn't. I wouldn't have...." He shakes his head and looks up at her, losing his thought the moment their eyes meet. It takes a moment for his brain to reengage. "I would've acted even more foolish if I'd known. It's better that you didn't say anything." He glances around the room again. Palace, she'd called it. "And I'm sorry if I did say anything stupid... I really appreciate all you've done for me." Though perhaps he'd still have an aunt and uncle if she hadn't come to Tatooine....

"I like you," she says suddenly, sincerely. "I... began my political career young. I don't get many chances to just be... a kid. But when I'm around you...." She sets down her wine and looks back into his eyes. "You make me feel free, and accepted, and understood. Like an old friend, but one I'm still... trying to get to know." She reaches for his hand.

"I like you, too," Luke says, holding her hand when she takes his. His heart is beating rapidly, and he'd be lying if he said he wasn't afraid. "There aren't any girls like you on Tatooine... maybe not in the whole galaxy...." Though he admittedly has seen very little of it to know.

Leia smiles. She wants to kiss him, but she doesn't want to scare him away, so instead she just squeezes his hand. "I'm here, okay? If you need to talk. If things are ever too much for you. I'm on your side."

Luke manages a smile. He's terrified of her, but he trusts her absolutely. He's not sure he's ever trusted anyone so much before in his life. Certainly not as quickly. "Can you tell me more about the war? Obi-Wan says the less I know the better, but I don't agree with that. Your father says Alderaan a neutral world, but... that's just for show, right? Can we talk about it? I want to fight the Empire."

Leia sighs carefully. "It's politics. We're officially neutral, though we do fall under the jurisdiction of the Empire like the rest of the Core. Remaining a neutral world and staying out of large disputes allows my mother to keep the Empire away while my father leads the Alliance. You know that being trained as a Jedi is an act of defiance on its own, right? And that Ben is grooming you to be the Rebellion's secret weapon." They need him--of course they do, and of course she wants him trained and on their side, but she worries that he doesn't understand the magnitude of what he's getting himself into, and sometimes it seems that Kenobi wants it that way.

"'Secret weapon?' Are Jedi really so powerful?" If so, then why doesn't Obi-Wan stop the Empire himself? Why did all the other Jedi disappear?"

Leia lowers her voice. "Vader and the Emperor both have Force abilities. That's confidential--everyone knows about Vader, but not the Emperor. I only know because my father told me. He was on Coruscant when it all happened. When the Emperor came to power, he and Vader killed all the Jedi except Kenobi. They decided to hide you in the desert to keep you safe from the Empire--you're the son of Anakin Skywalker, Luke. If the Empire knew you were alive...." She shakes her head. "You're not just a farmboy from Tatooine. You're... practically the Jedi equivalent of a prince."

Luke stares at her. It doesn't seem like this day could get any more outrageous. "You knew my father?" No, she didn't. She couldn't have. She's too young. "I mean, you know about my father? My uncle wouldn't say anything... only that he was a skilled pilot. Obi-Wan told me he was a Jedi, I had no idea... and that Vader killed him." He shakes his head. "If my father and Obi-Wan, with years of training, couldn't stop Vader and the Emperor... What hope do I have?"

Leia shakes her head. She doesn't claim to understand it. "I think it's because your father was so famous for his actions during the Clone Wars, but I'm honestly not sure." She's scaring him. Probably better to choose a new tactic. "Do you want to go for a walk? I could show you around...."

Luke likes it by the warm fire, alone with her, but maybe that's not such a bad idea. Just hearing about the Clone Wars, and his father's potential involvement in it is making his head spin. "I don't know what I should do."

Now she's making him nervous by giving him too many options. If only she could help him relax. Maybe the direct course is best. Leia takes a chance and leans in and touches her lips to his, just a touch, then pulls back and looks into his eyes to gauge his reaction. "Don't worry," she says softly. "We're going to take care of you. I'm going to take care of you."

Luke's eyes are wide with surprise, and he can't decide if she kissed him because she likes him like he likes her, or because it's something they do on Alderaan. He hopes the firelight hides how hot his face suddenly feels. "Thank you," he finally manages to squeak out. "For everything. I'm usually very independent. I'm embarrassed how... helpless I feel."

She shakes her head. "Don't be." She moves a little closer to him, cups his face in her hands, and kisses him again, lingering this time.

There can be no mistake about that one, and after a moment of surprise, he closes his eyes and kisses her back. The sensation is unreal compared to the feeling when he'd stolen kisses from girls back on Tatooine. There's something electric in kissing Leia; something magnetic.

Before Luke returns her kiss, Leia knew he was special, both to her and in his own right, but she hadn't expected kissing him to be any different from kissing boys from school or dances.

She had been wrong.

Luke's pull on her intensifies when he starts kissing her back. It's as if every other kiss she's had in her life had been missing something essential. She hadn't known. Kissing Luke is... the most exciting thing she's ever done. It's also like coming home.

She pulls him closer still, almost frantic to feel his body against hers. She has to remind herself not to move too fast, not to scare him, because her instinct is to push him onto his back on the carpet and straddle him. She contents herself, for now, with her arms circling his neck.

Whatever Luke had expected to happen tonight in the Princess's quarters, making out was not on the list. Perhaps he had fantasized about it, but he never dreamed it would actually happen, not even if he thought Leia had some interest in him. Now that she's taken the initiative though, he finds it difficult to stop. Her arms around his neck feel warm and inviting, and soon her tongue is shooting sparks all through his body as she deepens the kiss. Luke's almost afraid he's going to get overly excited just sitting there.

His hands finally move up, going to touch her hips, pulling her closer, and the moment he does, the chime to her room sounds.

"Mistress Leia!" Threepio's voice rings out, muffled by the doors. "Mistress Leia! Oh, I do hope she's home..."

Leia breaks the kiss and sighs in exasperation. "Hold that thought," she instructs Luke, then rises, clearing her throat and straightening her dress. She answers the door to find Threepio standing there, his arms raised in his agitation, and says patiently, only a hint of disappointment in her voice, "Yes, Threepio--what is it?"

"Oh, you are home! Thank the maker! I've spent the last hour trying to track you down. Now that the nasty business of my debriefing is finished, Master Kenobi insisted that I make myself your personal attendant. What a welcome change that will be! And not an astromech in sight!" He straightens, peering inside the room. "Why, Master Luke!"

Luke bashfully rubs his neck. "Evening, Threepio." He gets to his feet with a sigh, going to stand beside Leia. "Chaperone, huh?"

"I certainly didn't expect to find you here! Oh, isn't the palace wonderful? The corridors are so spacious, everyone is so polite, and there's hardly any sand at all...."

"Kenobi sent you here?" asks Leia, then drops it. The Jedi knows she has feelings for Luke—he must. It's probably no coincidence that Threepio turned up when he did. "Thank you, Threepio. And I'm glad you're enjoying the palace. We're happy to have you." She turns to Luke, who's still blushing. "I suppose... you have an early morning, tomorrow...?"

"We're supposed to start training at sunrise," he says, running a hand through his hair.

"In that case you had better get to sleep, Master Luke," Threepio helpfully says. "Although it's snowing, dawn on Alderaan at this location at this time of year comes at four-thirty-seven in the morning."

"Thanks," Luke says with a sad smile. He starts uncertainly edging past Leia. "This was... this was nice," he says, wincing at how pathetic it sounds. "Hopefully I can see you again soon..."

Leia senses his uncertainty but doesn't know to what it pertains. She proceeds carefully. "I have duties to attend to during the day, during your training, but I'll be free in the evenings. And... somehow I'm going to convince Kenobi to let me take you to see the ocean. I promise."

He goes silently, and she feels like a piece of her leaves with him. She has trouble falling asleep that night. Somehow, knowing he's across the palace from her makes her restless. So close, so far. She awakes at dawn as he does, which is not her habit.

After Leia's had breakfast sent to her rooms and dressed and tended to some pressing government matters, she scribbles out some orders and gives the piece of flimsy to Threepio, asking him to take it to her father's tailor. In a few hours, the tailor's made up some warm clothes for both Luke and Kenobi. For Kenobi's, Leia ordered the tailor to make copies of Kenobi's habitual brown and cream robes, but in wool. For Luke's, Leia requested a handful of tailored white wool tunics, free of ornamentation but well-cut, becoming of a young Jedi without looking too like Jedi robes, and pants to match, with a brown leather belt and tall boots--Luke's cloth leg wrappings won't help him on wet, often-frozen Alderaan. She also sends him a white wool cloak with a large, warm hood. She doesn't realize until Threepio has already left with her notes that she's dressed Luke more or less like a masculine version of herself.

Threepio takes the clothes, protected in dark garment bags, to the old Jedi and his young protégé, explaining that they are gifts from Princess Leia. Upon seeing the fine white tunics for Luke, Ben looks at him knowingly and sidelong. "A thoughtful gift, and practical," he says. "I think, Luke, that it may be time we discussed Jedi views on attachment."

Luke fingers the fine wool cloak in wonder. He's never seen anything so wonderful at all in his life, and he can't believe Leia just gave it to him. Of course, she's a princess. She has more credits than Luke could ever earn in a lifetime, but it still feels incredible. How can he ever possibly repay her? Without looking up from the clothes, Luke makes a slight, "Mm?" to Obi-Wan, only half paying attention to what he said.

Obi-Wan purses his lips a little. "Desire and attachment to those desires can lead to dark things. If you have or want something, and you cannot have it, or it is compromised or taken from you, how do you feel?"

Luke blinks a few seconds, finally taking his eyes off the clothes. He lets his brain replay the complicated question. "Frustrated, I guess. Angry."

The old master nods solemnly. "You have good instincts, Luke, and a clear awareness of your emotions, which will work in your favor. But you must beware of forming attachments to your desires. To have a desire is natural--we are living things, and we need to want to survive, so it is essential that we experience hunger, thirst, the desire for companionship. It is when we don't get what we want, or when that thing is taken from us, that we are in danger of becoming angry, and anger is a sure path to the dark side of the Force. It is better to let it go."

This is part of training, Luke realizes, and he sets the clothes aside. "You mean I shouldn't want the new robes? Or that I shouldn't want revenge for my aunt and uncle? I shouldn't want to defeat Darth Vader?"

Obi-Wan sits heavily on a bench. He'd hoped this would not have been a problem with Luke as it had been with his father--never mind the specific object of these feelings. "I mean that the Jedi have always foregone emotional attachments. Romantic attachments."

That causes Luke's whole body to straighten up, as though he'd just been slapped. The memory of Leia's mouth against his last night floods through him; the feel of her hands against his skin. He positively aches at the thought that it's something he's not allowed. The way Obi-Wan is looking at him now, Luke knows the old man already knows, or at least suspects. "What, you mean not ever?" During training, he might understand, but to swear off love for the rest of his life?

That sends a pang of sorrow through Obi-Wan, and he remembers well the same look on Anakin's face so many times, all those years ago. "It must be willing, on your part, of course," he says with gentle firmness, "Otherwise it's much the same as loving and losing. Your commitment to the Jedi path must be absolute, and that means willingly abstaining from all passion, all attachment to desire. All love."

Even if Leia hadn't been there as an obvious choice he could pursue, Luke thinks this would be something he would struggle with. After all, he grew up an orphan, raised by and aunt and uncle. He always desired a family of his own; a chance to provide to his children that which he never had for himself. He swallows hard, lost in his own thoughts for a considerable time, wondering how anyone could possibly make that choice.

He looks up suddenly, realizing someone he knows had made that choice. Obi-Wan. He is proof of the concept. "Is it worth it?" he asks, all at once.

No one had ever asked the Jedi that before. Never. He hesitates. For himself, it has not been worth it. But if he hadn't stayed on the Jedi path, it is likely that Luke and Leia would both be dead or worse, casualties of Anakin's fall. For this boy, it has been worth it. "Jedi do not live for themselves, Luke," is all he says.

It's not a satisfactory answer, but it does leave Luke something to think on. His revenge isn't just personal against Darth Vader. It's to end a galactic war that has been growing for years--decades. He isn't becoming a Jedi just to avenge his father or his aunt and uncle. He's doing it for the benefit of the whole galaxy.

"After the war," he begins, tentatively. "When there's peace..." He's not sure what he wants to ask. "I want to do what it takes to stop the Empire. To defeat Vader. If that means swearing off love, for now, I am willing. To dedicate myself to the cause... but with the knowledge that someday... after it's all done...?"

Obi-Wan hangs his head a little, sighing. "You must do what you feel is right. But your career as a Jedi will not end with the war." He weighs Luke with his eyes again, and the sadness in the child's face breaks his heart. "I will not guard you, Luke. The choice is yours. But remember that great love leads to great pain, very easily, sometimes for reasons we did not foresee."

Luke sets his jaw and nods, but his mind and heart are heavy.