Luke is five years old when his best friend, Biggs, dies in a Skyhopper crash. The neighbours, if they can be called that with the nearest other farms twenty clicks away, call it a waste, a young child sneaking onto craft too advanced for his small hands. But to Luke, Biggs was one third of his world, and so he mourns.
Leia is five years old when she feels a wave of anguish pass through her, stronger than anything she’s ever felt. She looks up from her lessons on the traditional Noobian-Alderaanian alliance, her eyes spilling over with tears for reasons that she cannot understand and runs, runs to her father’s office and into his lap, sobbing and sobbing as she struggles to understand the pain that she feels.
Across the galaxy, in his new Star Destroyer, Darth Vader is in his hyperbaric chamber when the hurt and pain lash across his soul. His back snaps straight, screaming in pain but he does not care; he’s felt a spark of something that brings back memories, connections that Anakin—no!—he’s gone!—once felt as he pressed his cheek against the growing belly of his wife. Vader’s tear ducts have long since melted away with the rest of his original face, but the urge to sob almost overwhelms him, something that has not happened in over five years. And he knows, he knows that his master has lied. His child, his son, is alive and in pain.
Luke is five years old and does not know that his pain will change the face of the galaxy forever.
Luke is still five years old, three weeks later, when news comes to the Outer Rim that the emperor is dead. Darth Vader is dead along with him, in the same freak explosion that destroyed the Perilous. On Tatooine, to a boy who still keenly feels the loss of his friend, this means nothing, other than his aunt and uncle holding each other and laughing giddily. They do give him a Zucca fruit pastry from their trip to Mos Eisley and it almost makes him feel better about Biggs, knowing that his friend can enjoy all the pastries he wants, wherever he is now.
Leia is five years old when her father receives a comm and sits down abruptly. The future politician knows from his face that life as she knows it has forever changed, and her usually stoic father grins at her, gathering her into a tight embrace.
The utter destruction of the Perilous means that no one notices the small Starfighter escape with a pilot in black and their single passenger in white, crammed into the tiny storage space. The pilot appears expert in their ability to manoeuver the craft beyond the edge of the galaxy into the sister-galaxy of the Rishi Maze, to a planet that neither pilot nor passenger has visited in over five years. In the silence of the trip, the trooper can almost hear his commander thinking; the haze of terror that normally clings to the black form seems to dissipate by the hour until they land on a platform in Tapoca City. The clone trooper, the last brother that had been part of Vader’s Fist, the only one to truly know who Vader is, is handed off to the Kaminoans by Vader himself. He is given no warning of what is to come, but still reverberates in shock at the freedom of his thoughts a few days later, once he has recovered from the invasive cerebral surgery. He spends a month visiting his young brothers, those who had been commissioned too late in the war to understand the horror of it. He urges them to fight for their rights, the rights to be considered as citizens, citizens without damn biomechanical chips in their brains. He manages it too, convincing the Kaminoans that the clones will be of greater value to the Empire (Republic) with the potential for a normal lifespan. The brother fights and fights and finally receives a suppressant for the genome modification that ages him at twice the normal speed. He ensures that he has a case with enough serum for over a thousand clones. Though he does not know it yet, Vader will later threaten the Kaminoans into creating enough of it for every living brother.
Luke is five years old when Obi-Wan Kenobi leaves Tatooine to aid the rebels in reclaiming the Republic.
It takes one month for Vader to fully heal. The legs and arm are surprisingly easy (though he decides to keep his previously mechanized right arm as is), but growing the delicate tendons, bones, and musculature of his left hand and feet take time and patience. His face is even worse, as it needs to be almost entirely reconstructed from stem cell-grown tissue and cartilage. His eyes, melted by the heat of Mustafar, cannot be replaced with organic structures, but the cybernetic replacements are upgraded to the highest standard. They are identical in colour to his previous set, but, with a directed thought, they can switch to a golden yellow, just on the edge of Sith. (Some part of him, both Anakin and Vader, smirks at the potential that the control over this trait has.) The skin grafts are the last to come, including follicles extensively placed across his crown, because, kriff, he just wants to be normal again. Anonymity has been paid for with the emptied coffers of Vader. Cody finds him in his quarters one day, mechanical parts scattered around him in small piles, while others float around him, guided by the Force. A cybernetic arm is among those floating, much more precise and intricate than anything that he would have associated with Vader.
Luke is five years old when his aunt goes missing. It has been a full day since she was last seen in Anchorhead and Uncle Owen is out of his mind with worry. He tells Luke to stay here with the food and the droids and not to answer the door for anyone. He says that he will be back by nightfall. By the time a full rotation has passed, Luke knows that his uncle is wherever his aunt is. He does not worry. Something tells him that they are safe, simply held up somewhere. He does as all inhabitants of the harsh desert planet do. He survives.
Luke is five years old when a tall stranger comes to the homestead. He towers over Luke, a scarf wrapped around the bottom of his face so that only his brilliant blue eyes can be seen. Luke is not afraid. The man’s companion is shorter and somehow even less scary than the not-scary stranger, despite the wicked scar curling around his brow. He pulls down the scarf and asks Luke if he wants to come with him and see the stars, and somehow, somehow Luke just knows that this is his father that Uncle Owen never talks about, the father that he has always been told is dead. As he gathers his favourite stuffed Hutt baby and his clothing, compassionate Luke has a thought for his aunt and uncle; when he mentions this to his father, the giant blinks in surprise but says he’ll leave a note. Luke cannot read yet, and so does not know what it says, but clambers onto the speeder bike with eagerness, the moisture farm already long gone in his thoughts as he squeezes safely between the two grown-ups. Before they leave, the hulking man pays a visit to the grave of Luke’s grandmother, Shmi, who he realizes must be this man’s mother.
“He is safe. Do not worry.”
They enter the spaceport at Mos Eisley, but there is a sandstorm, and Luke can barely see through the fabric wrapped across his face for protection. The light freighter in front of them is sanctuary though, and Luke’s father seems to have bought it. He is strapped in, and watches in glee as his father enters the cockpit, sends him a shy, warm smile, and then lifts off into space.
Luke is only five, but he knows that he is never getting on solid ground again if he can help it.
One week later, Owen and Beru are released from the prison, Vader’s money having run out and their captor bored. They return home to find a door wide open and a homestead full of sand. A note seems to be glued into place on Luke’s empty bed. They rush back to Anchorhead and send an urgent comm to Ben Kenobi.
Leia is five years old when her father informs her that a good princess knows how to defend herself and so will have a new teacher. She adores him. Master Kenobi rarely smiles at anyone, but is warm and encouraging with her. He teaches her how to meditate and pay attention to the world around her and she thinks that it’s dumb, until she uses her newfound skills of listening to discover secrets. She discovers that Master Kenobi’s name is Obi-Wan, but goes by Ben when he leaves the palace. She learns that there is a family of squatters living in the stables. She learns that Master Kenobi is worried about a boy named Luke. She finds that her mother had sold her favourite jewellery to fund the rebellion, the rebellion that is cautiously a part of the peace talks scattered across the galaxy. And while she has always known that her parents sleep in different rooms, she discovers that her meditation teacher does not sleep in his own nearly half as often as he passes the night in her father’s. Mother does not seem to mind, telling Leia that she’ll understand the complexities of marriage one day. And so she focuses on using the Force to quiet her emotions and improve her Sabacc face for her eventual career in the senate.
Luke is five years old when he is completely surrounded by space for the first time and it inspires awe in him. He knows that this is where he belongs, especially with his father, who watches him with the same wonder. Luke still does not know what his name is. He supposes it must be Skywalker too, but he just calls him Dad, as Commander calls him Sir. Dad seems to have an endless supply of credits in bank accounts across the galaxy; he sets these up as Luke watches. He seems wary of touching Luke at first, but when Luke slips his hand into his father’s left, Dad takes a shaky breath and starts crying. Luke has never seen a grown-up cry, but does what his Aunt Beru does to make him feel better. He hugs Dad and rubs his back with his tiny hands as Dad chokes out a teary laugh. When he is scooped up onto his dad’s lap and then into a tight embrace, he revels in the fact that this is his dad. He doesn’t quite understand why the Commander is nervous around Dad, but sits with him to try and pull stories out of him.
Luke spends the rest of being five in a haze of joy. Dad teaches him about the Force and meditation. Luke thinks that Dad should meditate too, as he tells him one day about two months later. Luke can feel his dad’s sudden bursts of anger through their bond, and wants Dad to feel happy all the time, not angry.
Anakin does not yet know if he deserves all of this. His skin has the ability to feel and his brain is slowly but surely being unclouded from the poison of his dead master’s dark influence. Cody, loyal Cody, is always at his side, protecting his son. Luke is the greatest marvel of all. Anakin does not yet know if he deserves to be Anakin again, but he knows that he does not deserve Luke and that one day, he’ll wake up and still be under Palpatine’s control. But days, weeks, and then months pass, and Luke is still with him, gazing up at him in idolatry. And so Anakin makes sure that his son knows the way of the Force. In addition to meditation, Luke learns his katas; Anakin goes through the motions with him, though neither have lightsabers. Anakin’s new body needs to strengthen its muscles regardless (and he refuses to acknowledge the Sith-red sabers locked in a box in storage).
Most importantly of all, he tells Luke of his mother. He tells her of her kindness, her smile, her selflessness. Luke has her heart and her peacekeeper mentality and Anakin knows he must protect his precious son from the terrors of the galaxy, terrors like him. He knows that there are beings in the universe searching for Luke, but Anakin is so adept in the Force that they never find him. The trio hop from planet to planet, system to system, showing Luke the wonders of the galaxy.
Luke is five years old and Anakin is twenty-seven years old, but they are each other’s best friends, fierce in their love and protection for each other. Cody just watches and smiles.