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The Boy from the Stars

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Beru knows, from the moment Ben Kenobi places the tiny infant named Luke in her arms, that this child will leave them one day. He’s a gift from the stars, and she’ll love him as her own, but eventually the stars will claim him back. Owen knows it too, but he pretends not to. He won’t talk to Ben when he arrives at the homestead, though he tells Beru to warn the strange man who was once a Jedi not to interfere if he wants to protect the child from his father’s fate.

“He’ll have a good life here,” Owen promises Beru later that night, after the baby has finally cried himself to sleep. “It won’t be easy, but he’ll have everything he needs, and he’ll inherit the farm one day, since we can’t…”

Already, only hours after the infant was charged to their care, Owen wants nothing more than to keep the boy safe. Beru loves him for it, even as she shakes her head at the plans he’s making, at the imagined future that cannot be.

Yet, for all of that, Owen is the one who suggest that the boy take Skywalker for his family name. “It’s what Shmi would have wanted,” he says gruffly.

Skywalker is not a name for a child destined to spend all his days on an Outer Rim moisture farm, but Beru doesn’t give voice to the thought -- the name is right for the boy, and she wouldn’t have Owen change his mind. And Owen is right, too. Shmi would have wanted this.

(Beru remembers the way that Shmi would go outside some nights in spite of the danger, so she could look out at the stars. She never complained, and she loved her adopted family as much as she’d loved the son who had left with the Jedi. But she had looked at the stars, with that quiet yearning look, and Beru remembers thinking that she belonged out there, with her first child.)

The next morning, before the suns have fully risen, Beru and Owen take Luke to Shmi’s grave, and they promise her that they will do the best for her grandson. Silently, Beru adds that she will let him leave, when he is ready to return to the stars, and she is sure that Owen is promising that he will keep him here, safe from the wars that have torn the galaxy apart.

* * *

He won’t stop crying.

That’s how it seems, though it isn’t exactly true. Luke will settle sometimes, during the day when Beru is holding him, or when Owen comes in for the midday meal. And at night he will sleep eventually, after he has cried himself past the point of exhaustion.

Beru has spent enough time with her sister’s children to know that some babies are difficult. But the way Luke cries isn’t the same as the others she’s known. He doesn’t scream loud enough to pierce her eardrums, he doesn’t rage or whine when he is hungry or his diaper needs changing. The med-droid at Anchorhead says he is in perfect health. But still, Luke cries on and on with tiny, heartbreaking sobs.

“What could he possibly want?” Owen asks her one morning, his voice heavy with frustration.

“I don’t know,” Beru says, because she thinks that Owen will scoff if she suggests that Luke is grieving. He would be right, too, Beru thinks -- how could an infant barely a month old be aware of all that he has lost?

The next night is particularly bad.

Luke doesn’t stop at all that night; perhaps he is growing stronger and doesn’t need as much rest. As the sky begins to grow light, Beru’s eyes grow heavy, and she falls asleep in the living quarters, with Luke still weeping against her breast.

The sense of loss is so strong that Beru wakes with tears on her own face, and when Owen emerges from their bedroom, he looks at the boy as though he is almost afraid, and Beru knows that he will never admit that he shares the feeling too.

That morning, Ben Kenobi appears at their door. He looks tired and ragged, and he seems to have aged a decade in the past month. Beru thinks that he must have risked the Sand People and travelled all night to be here now.

“What can we be doing for you?” Owen asks, his words polite, but his tone unfriendly.

“I’ve come to help,” says Ben, “with the crying.”

Owen scowls, but he hesitates.

“The boy is strong in the Force,” Ben continues, “and I can help him...”

It’s the wrong thing to say.

“Now listen,” say Owen, drawing himself up to his full height, “we don’t need any help, and we certainly don’t need you using any of your wizard tricks to spy on us.”

“But if you’d just let me…” He extends a hand toward Beru -- toward Luke.

Owen takes a step forward, his hands clenching into fists. “Go.”

For a moment, Beru thinks that Ben will fight him with some Jedi magic, but Ben just sighs and turns away.

Three days later, when Owen is off at Anchorhead to get some supplies for the harvest, Beru secures Luke in the tiny speeder they keep for emergencies, and crosses the Dune Sea to the co-ordinates that had appeared in her datapad after Ben walked away.

It’s the most foolish thing she has ever done, and she is half certain that she is condemning the boy to his grandmother’s fate. But she has barely slept this week, and she is desperate.

Ben is waiting for her when she arrives.

He greets her warmly, and uses precious water to make her an infusion of dried herbs inside the small temporary shelter he has erected for himself. When she is comfortable, he extends his arms toward her.

“May I?” he asks.

Beru hands Luke to him, and a lump forms in her throat when she sees tears gather in Ben’s eyes. Ben leans in and presses his lips to Luke’s forehead before whispering something that might be, “Forgive me.”

As he raises his head, Ben brushes his fingers along Luke’s brow. All at once, he grows quiet, and something twists unexpectedly in Beru’s gut.

She thinks, suddenly, that Owen might be right to keep Luke away from this man.

That night, for the first time, Luke sleeps well. He wakes them only once, when he needs a change and a feed. Two more nights pass in the same way.

Owen smiles at Beru in the morning, and pulls both of them into an embrace.

“See,” he says, “no need of wizard tricks. We’ll make the boy happy here, you and me.”

“We will,” Beru agrees.

Beru isn’t sure that Luke is happy; she doesn’t know if a boy who belongs among the stars can be happy here, really, even as a tiny babe. But he is content, at least.

She tries not to wonder what Ben took from Luke to stop his tears.

* * *

Luke is four, and he has started asking about his father. Owen tries to put him off.

“Nothing much to tell. He wasn’t here much. Worked on a spice freighter. Got caught up in a battle at the end of the Clone Wars.”

Beru shakes her head, where Owen can’t see. The boy might believe him, but there would always be questions.

“What were the Clone Wars?”

“Nasty business. Your father should have known better than to go anywhere near them.”

“Why was he near the wars if he was in a freighter?”

“Because he didn’t know what was good for him. Him and your mother both, running off to places they had no business being.”

Luke frowns, considering Owen’s words. Beru watches him, wondering… Luke never asks about his mother. She remembers Ben Kenobi’s hand on Luke’s brow, and she feels her heart break for the beautiful woman who had come here with Anakin Skywalker, all those years ago. Beru wonders if Luke will ask now...

But when he speaks he only says, “Was I born off-world?”

Beru’s disappointment does not prevent her from seeing the fear that flashes through Owen’s eyes.

“No more questions,” he says roughly. “You still have chores to do.”

“But…” Luke protests.

Part of Beru wants to protest with him; it’s wrong to hide so much from the boy, in the vain hope that he won’t leave them someday. Let him at least know that he wasn’t born here. But she remembers Owen’s face the day they’d learned that Shmi’s son had been cut down by the clone army; she remembers his grief for a brother he’d barely known. She knows that she won’t be able to spare Owen from the heartache he will feel on the day that Luke finally does leave them, but for now Luke is just a little boy and it will be years before that day arrives.

“You were born at Anchorhead,” Beru says, telling herself it’s a forgivable lie. “Your mother took ill soon after she had you, but she loved you very much. Now, do as your Uncle says and finish your chores.”

Owen smiles gratefully at her as Luke runs off to the workshop to clean the few evaporator parts that can be entrusted to a four-year-old. Luke returns to them half an hour later, with his hands greasy, and more questions in his eyes.

“Tell him about Shmi,” says Beru, before Luke has the chance to open his mouth. She looks over at Luke. “Your Uncle has a lot of stories about your grandmother.”

“Well,” says Owen, “I don’t know about a lot. But I do remember one time, we’d all gone over to Tosche Station to pick up some spare parts, and on our way home, we could see a storm coming in, a real big one…”

Owen goes on to tell Luke all about how the unexpected storm had come closer and closer, until it looked like they would all be caught and done for, but then Shmi had jumped down out of their speeder, and opened it up, and when she was done it went twice as fast. By the time they reached the homestead, the speeder was all burnt out and had to be sold off for scrap, but they all made it back safe from the wall of sand that was chasing them.

As Owen tells the tale, Luke climbs into his Uncle’s lap and lets his head fall against Owen’s shoulder.

“Saved all our lives, she did,” Owen finishes. He looks down at Luke, and Beru sees that the boy’s eyes have fallen shut.

“Ah,” says Owen, “he’s a good boy.”

Beru smiles and thinks she should take a holograph, but then Owen shifts, lifting the Luke from the chair and taking him to his small bedchamber. Beru doesn’t follow -- she’ll let them have this moment together.

She wishes she could pretend, sometimes, like Owen does, that Luke will learn to stop looking out at the stars. She wishes she could tell herself that he won’t head out there one day, to rediscover whatever it was that Ben had taken from him. But she remembers her promise to the kind, care-worn woman who’d been bound to the dust and sand, though she belonged in the sky. Beru remembers, and she knows that when the time comes, she will keep her word.