Chapter 1: Reorientation
Obi-Wan rockets to awareness despite never having lost it. It’s a disorienting feeling, all things considered. He knows where he is, he knows where he was. He knows what is going on.
Which is a good thing, he thinks, considering droid ships are currently firing on his starfighter. Still, he barely manages to dodge a missile at the last moment, leading Arfour to squeal indignantly at him.
Perhaps he is more dazed than he thought.
He sinks into the Force, the action alien and familiar. Unsettling that he slips so deep so easily. Strange that even then he still feels too separate, too apart. He lets the ancient energy guide his actions completely while his mind tries to make sense of what, exactly, just happened. He has to, otherwise he is not sure he’ll survive this battle.
He’s not scared of death, it’s an old friend, but dying right now would be… bad. Very bad. He can’t die yet. Or is it again? Either way, definitely not now.
At the edge of his senses he catches the edge of Darkness that outlines the Rupture, a nearly unheard of Force phenomena, nearby. Relatively speaking, of course. He’s left it clicks behind already, but he knows that he passed through it the moment the awareness took hold.
No. Not pass through it. The Rupture came into being around him. And now his mind is torn in two. Past and present. Or is it present and future? Here in battle in the cold recesses of space and there in the-
He’s shocked out of his trance and the split second causes him to nearly collide with a vulture fighter. He pulls up and out of the way, sparks flying as he scrapes the hull. Here and now, Kenobi, he lectures himself. Here and now.
Here and now he’s leading a squadron of clones in a firefight with a droid interceptor. Only a little away from here and a little before now he and the 212th were patrolling trade routes in the mid-rim.
But at the same time, right before the awareness, he was one with the Force. He should still be one with the Force. He hadn’t fought in an actual battle in over twenty years. Not in the conventional sense. No, he had been fighting… fighting… fighting on the planes of the Force itself to stop the Sith from— He and Anakin were protecting the twins from—
Arfour screams and Obi-Wan once more forces his attention back to the fight at hand. A clone’s voice comes over the comm. He can’t be bothered to figure out which is talking to him, too busy fighting off the remembered panic the voice evokes.
“Sir? General Kenobi! Are you all right?”
Obi-Wan forcibly shoves everything from There and Then behind a durasteel wall, anchors himself as tightly as he can in Here and Now. His hold is tenuous, but will last until he can stop and meditate and reorient himself.
“There was a disturbance in the Force.” Lying is not worth the effort at this point. “I’m afraid it’s left me a bit disoriented.” He can’t spare the attention to lie, so half-truths and understatements will have to suffice. He has a battle to win.
Commander Cody greets him when he steps out of his starfighter and onto The Negotiator’s hanger. Obi-Wan had attempted to brace himself in the brief period between the end of the fight and landing, but the discord in his mind is playing havoc on his ability to keep the two sets of yesterdays straight. His attempts at balance are thrown into greater disarray as he breathes in the recycled air of the hanger. Scent is strongly tied to memory and the last time he’d inhaled a spaceship’s air was— when he took off not too long ago—was when he stepped off the Millennium Falcon to sneak past Imperial Stormtroopers. The mundane wars with the maudlin in his head. The maudlin is winning.
As such, he’s wary of seeing the clones face to face, as unfair as it may seem. Cody has been nothing but loyal and true, a good man and a fine soldier these past several months. Obi-Wan is proud to be able to call such a man his second-in-command.
But Cody is also the one who gave— would give— might give the order to fire on Utapau.
“Are you all right, sir?” Cody’s voice holds nothing but concern, yet how many years has it been that even the whisper of a Mandalore colony accent would send a spike of fear through him?
Obi-Wan viciously squashes that reaction now, as well as the fight or flight response that threatens to tense every muscle in his body. Instead he lets his body move on autopilot, disconnecting his thoughts from his actions. If he let his instincts rule him, he’ll start attacking men who have done nothing wrong. And, as he steps in line with the commander, he fears that if he thinks too hard about where he’s at and where he’s going, he’ll end up lost on his own ship.
“Quite all right, Cody,” he lies. “Nothing to worry about.” He can’t bring himself to smile right away, settles instead on that trademark Jedi stoicism. He pushes past Cody as he speaks, hopes the clone fails to notice the minute hesitance.
No such luck.
“Sir?” Cody’s brow furrows ever so slightly as he catches up. Force does his concern feel sincere. “You said there was a disturbance. In the Force. Are you sure you don’t require assistance?”
Oh, Obi-Wan knows he needs help. He feels disconnected and hollow and something is missing.
“It’s nothing a bit of meditation won’t solve,” he says, instead. Cody gives him a Look. And, oh yes. He definitely remembers having discussions with his commander about severity of injuries and leaving med-centers early, and these are recent memories. A genuine, fond smile makes its way across his lips.
…and now Cody looks concerned. A moment too late Obi-Wan realizes that he’s been asked a question.
“Could you repeat that?”
The furrow between Cody’s brows has deepened enough to pull on the scar. “Sir, if you’ve been injured, you really should go to medbay.”
Obi-Wan scoffs internally. As much as he admires them, there is not a damn thing that the medical officers aboard ship can do for him right now. Even Bant wouldn’t be able to help him, provided he could find a conceivable way to explain what happened to begin with.
Externally, he chooses to go with gentle amusement.
“Over mild disorientation? I think they have more pressing concerns right now, Cody. Now what was the question?”
“With all due respect, General Kenobi, inattentiveness during battle is no small matter.” OH, but Cody can be a stubborn one. Good thing he can be as well.
“I agree, but as we are not currently in battle, I’d like the chance to parse what I experienced first, Commander. Now, your question?”
Cody hesitates, but Obi-Wan won’t back down. There’s a niggling feeling in the back of his mind, guidance from the Force that he was deposited at this moment for a reason. He knows he won’t be able to figure out what that reason is if he’s being hovered over by well-meaning but ultimately useless medics and med-droids. So yes, Cody, he knows he’s not well, he hasn’t been in the habit of lying to himself since, well… since he was finally forced to confront the truth about Anakin by—
He feels a hot splash of unJedi-like fear in his stomach and the blood drains, not just from his face, but out of his heart, leaving it a hollow vessel that echoes one word:
No no no no no. No.
For 24 years he has held one Force signature more dear than any other in the galaxy. For 24 years, he has attuned his every sense to the well being of that single being. And now it’s gone. Disappeared as if it never existed.
It has never existed.
In that moment there is no Here and Now. No Then and There. He is not the Jedi General, the Council Master, the Negotiator.
He is simply Ben Kenobi, Wizard of the Jundland Wastes.
And he can’t feel Luke.
Luke was never his to raise, barely his to teach, and yet for over a third of his life, Luke was his everything. His boy. His brother’s son. His greatest pride and joy. His reason to keep living. And now. Now… Here and Now…
The durasteel wall once more slams into place like a thunderclap. Here and Now.
He needs a moment to think. Where he isn’t trying to cover, or lie, or find his footing. He needs a moment where he doesn’t feel like a ghost trying to maneuver a puppet one snapped string away from collapsing.
But that moment is not now. The stoic Jedi mask comes up and he is once more General Kenobi of the 212th. And he needs to reassure his second.
Cody is still gripping Obi-Wan’s shoulder, steadying him. Oh dear, that’s actual fear there and Obi-Wan knows he only has one shot to get out of reporting back to the temple to see the mind-healers. Force, he could use a drink.
“I’m all right Cody. Truly, I appreciate the concern, but this is a Jedi issue, not a health one.” Cody looks like he’s coming to a decision. Obi-Wan knows it’s to contact the council even if he has to wait for Obi-Wan’s back to be turned. Dammit, he needs time. “I will contact the council about the rupture. Tomorrow,” he says, before the clone can suggest heading towards the communications room. Speaking of, where are they heading anyway? The downside of letting the body move on autopilot, he supposes. Though these hallways look familiar, more familiar than most. Had he led Cody to the officers’ quarters?
“Sir,” the clone starts. Hesitates. Goes for it anyway. “Will you at least rest tonight?”
Right. Still need to placate his commander. Force, the war can’t be that far along. Has he already developed that particular reputation as well?
Obi-Wan sighs, rubs the middle of his brow, and sets his shoulders. “The Force in the Rupture was unsettling, Cody. I need to work through what I was shown before I can report it to anyone else. But,” he cuts the clone off, “I assure you, I will be well rested before tomorrow.”
They’ve reached Obi-Wan’s door, and he is glad that it looks like this was the his goal the entire time. Cody does not look placated, but Obi-Wan is certain that the clone will no longer contact the rest of the council as soon as he steps inside and recommend he meet with the mind healers. Yet. As such, the clone salutes again and leaves Obi-Wan to his own devices before heading back to complete his duties.
Upon entering the room, Obi-Wan takes a deep breath and goes about preparations for meditation. Automatic as it is, the routine should help quiet his mind. First he needs to remove his armor. He takes off his chest plate and pauldrons. The movements are as familiar as they always are, yet he can’t help the feeling of disconnect and unease. No matter, that should be taken care of when he connects with the Force.
It’s when he takes off the vambraces and peels off the gloves beneath that he realizes he won’t be meditating anytime soon.
His hands- strong and straight, not pitted by sandstorms or curled by arthritis- are the hands of a young man. He knows this is normal. Knows he shouldn’t be surprised. But the utter feeling of wrongness is overwhelming. What is a body to a ghost? One simply will the appearance of movement and it happens. But this… he curls his fingers in and feels his breath catch when short nails bite into the flesh of his palms. Force, this is real. This is Real.
The durasteel wall crumbles like so much sand, and all the things Obi-Wan has Not Been Thinking About rush in at once.
And Obi-Wan finds himself rushing for the ‘fresher. He needs confirmation. He needs to be elsewhere. He needs water. He knows he should trust the Force, after all eyes can deceive, but he’s only human. Only, against all reasoning, flesh and blood. He clumsily palms open the door and skids to a stop in front of the mirror.
A copper haired young man stares back at him.
“Anakin, what did you do?” he moans, young hands clasping the edges of the sink. His arms shake with the effort to keep him upright.
He glances up again once he steadies them, part of him expecting to see white hair, to see a blue glow. He’d never looked at his reflection as a ghost, never had a reason to, but he remembers Qui-Gon had a definite outline when he’d visit.
He flinches when once again he sees red-gold.
Grasping the sink tighter, he goes back to the breathing exercises of his childhood. Forces calm into lungs launching into hyperactivity and a heart that pounds against his ribs.
Think, Kenobi, think. What do you know?
As he concentrates on the questions answers start coming to him, as if they were only just out of focus, needing little effort to make them clear.
He’s thirty-five. No. Thirty-six. His life-day wasn’t too long ago. He’s a Jedi Master. He’s a general in the Grand Army of the Republic. The Clone Wars have -officially- been going on for about six standard months. Anakin Skywalker has been knighted for five of those. Ahsoka Tano’s been his padawan for nearly three. He’s in his personal quarter on The Negotiator and has been on this particular patrol for the past three weeks. And at the end of this one, he’s expected to report back to Supreme Chancellor Palpa—
His knees collapse beneath him and Obi-Wan barely manages to turn his body towards the toilet before the contents of his stomach can empty onto the floor. The action is so physical, so visceral, it grounds him in a way nothing else has. He’s here. He’s alive.
He’s dry heaving.
Well, he thinks when he finishes, at least I just saved myself an existential crisis.
He takes a moment to simply exist, appreciating how nice and cool the seat feels against his forehead, overly warm and overly crowded as it is. The disconnect is gone. The disorientation dissipating. Mind, body, soul, Force. All are tied together as they should be. And he’s finally able to concentrate on the old knowledge that feels so, so raw.
The Supreme Chancellor is a Sith Lord. The Sith Lord. This entire war is an elaborate trap designed to weaken, undermine, and slaughter the Jedi and all they stand for. And they’re playing right into his hands.
An alert wakes Obi-Wan the next morning. Amazing, he thinks, that he actually managed to get some sleep after all. Cody will be so proud. He sends an acknowledgment of the alert to the bridge with a thought, ending the alarm, and forces himself upright with a luxurious stretch. When was the last time he slept in a bed?
Yesterday. As far as his body’s concerned it was yesterday. Well, maybe the day before yesterday, but not twenty-odd years. Probably the most confusing part of the whole thing, he decides as he begins to get ready for the day, is that he’s not quite sure how to organize all his memories, how to structure his personal timeline. If he could just pick up at the latest-in-time memory, that would be one thing. He’d be a sixty-two year old inhabiting the body of his thirty-six year old self, easy enough. He figures that timeline would look like a loop starting and ending at the point of the Rupture. Then everything past that point would veer off onto a different course as the old, experienced Ben made entirely different choices.
But that’s not right.
The problem is that, in examining his own self last night, he didn’t feel like the old hermit. Not… not entirely. He doesn’t expect aches when he moves. With the barest of effort, he can recall the things that happened a week ago (an update from the Jedi temple. Anakin, Knight Secura, and the others had been found, thank the Force). And he’s just… not as centered. There’s an unsettled undercurrent that is very familiar in his psyche. One that he’s not too keen to examine right now.
The assumption, then, would be that he’s the thirty-six year old Jedi master who experienced a very vivid series of visions. A Jedi who was simply shown, in the span of milliseconds, what the future would be if it continued on this path. That timeline would simply be a straight line.
But that’s not right either.
He’s had visions before. They plagued him as an initiate. No, these are memories. He’s lived (well, existed for) those twenty-odd years. He knows the anguish of finding the Jedi Temple in flames to his bones. He’s intimately familiar with the taste of Tatooine cuisine (and not just what Anakin occasionally forces on him). He turns his face and expects to feel the burn of twin suns and the sting of sand in the wind. None of which are things he’s experienced at thirty-six.
Somehow, he is both the young Jedi Master and the old Jedi Exile, both General Kenobi and Ben the Wizard.
Of course, this is yesterday’s conclusion. The only clear one he was able to reach after he’d finished re-internalizing the knowledge of the Sith Lord’s true identity. Well, that, and that if he has managed to travel to the past, he should probably assume that Sidious at least partially achieved his ends.
Which was just great, he thinks to himself as he retrieves his haphazardly discarded armor. Not only does he have a Sith Lord in the highest office of the Republic, but that Sith Lord has future knowledge and more than enough paranoia to be on the lookout for Jedi who know too much.
I don’t know how this happened, he thinks as an early headache begins. I don’t yet know why. But this is definitely Anakin’s fault.
As he makes his way to the command center, Obi-Wan cannot shake the growing feeling that he needs to be going somewhere. Doing something. The Force, his eternal companion, seems impatient. He finds himself hurrying his steps to match.
However, the pull seems to originate far beyond his ship. Nothing he can do now. Yet he aches to follow it, familiar as it is. The last time he felt a pull this strong was when Luke had wandered into that Tusken ambush.
He spares a moment to feel his grief at the lack of that shining light in the galaxy before releasing it into the Force. If Luke and Leia are meant to be, then he will see them again. And if he is to see them again, his first duty is to prevent the rise of the Empire.
It’s with this resolution firmly in mind that he steps through the door. His concentration is almost immediately shattered, however, by the presences at the other side. There, standing next to the holoprojector, are Master Plo Koon and…
“Ahsoka! I wasn’t expecting to see you so early.” The smile he’s wearing is genuine and gentle, the fond smile of a grandmaster, but inside he’s falling to pieces. Anakin’s beloved padawan. The girl the Jedi order failed so entirely. For a moment he sees her as she will be in only a few years. Rather, as she might be in a few years. How she was the last time he saw her in the flesh, before Anakin’s Fall. He blinks, and returns to the present. Instead of barely healed betrayal and melancholy, he sees the bright, hopeful eyes of a child all too glad to see him.
If seeing Cody was difficult, seeing Ahsoka Tano once more is devastating. He suppresses a shudder at the thought of facing Anakin.
“Master Kenobi,” she bows in greeting, trying and failing to school her face into Jedi stoicism. Ah, yes, they are early in the war, aren’t they?
Memories of might-yet-be’s are shoved behind the wall, along with all the other thoughts not currently useful. Instead, he replies to her bow with one of his own. “Padawan Tano, Master Koon. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Master Kenobi, it is good to see you my friend. If only it could be under better circumstances.”
“Well that’s not ominous at all.” This is all beginning to feel alarmingly familiar. More so than the rest, that is. Something about what’s coming next stuck with him through all the years on Tatooine. What was it?
“Oh nothing too terrible,” the Kel Dorian master says with his characteristic good cheer. “I was simply escorting Little Soka.”
Anakin exacerbated his injuries fighting on Maridun, Obi-Wan thinks, and that isn’t all.
“It would appear that Knight Skywalker caused himself some damage defending Maridun against the Separatists, and has requested that his padawan learn from you while he recovers,” Master Koon begins. “However, circumstances have changed while we were en route. Master Yoda and Master Windu will explain it more in depth, but I shall be relieving you on this patrol.”
The Force surges with impatience around him once more. This is fine, this is right. Obi-Wan is needed elsewhere, so the faster he can go the better.
“I understand. I assume that was the cause for the alert?”
“The Generals are standing by, Sir.” And there’s Cody, ever ready. The clone still looks concerned, but Obi-Wan can’t handle placating everyone when the Force is so very loud. He’ll just have to trust in Cody’s professionalism to keep him quiet until they are out of others’ earshot.
“If you will, Commander.”
The holoprojector buzzes on, the staticky blue images of Jedi Master Mace Windu and Grandmaster Yoda coming to life in the center of the comm. The exchange of greetings is rote, and Obi-Wan spares his attention to study them, his old friends, refamiliarizing himself with features not-yet forgotten. The Force flares a gentle warning. His actions aren’t too noticeable. Nonetheless, someone, not Cody, is paying him close attention.
“I understand I am to be removed from my patrol?” he asks, clasping his arms behind him. Here and Now.
“Yes. Master Koon will take over the rest of the clean up. For you, we have a new mission, an urgent matter that must be addressed right away.” Oh, Mace. Always so straightforward. The Force nudges him to pay attention before he can get unmoored in his disordered memories again. “Over the past several hours we’ve been receiving reports about strange occurrences in the Force, Jedi encountering tears in existence. There is speculation that these waves are originating from Ruptures.”
“Felt, have you, these disturbances in the Force?”
“I… feel a pull, masters. My attention is being driven elsewhere, perhaps to the source of these Ruptures? The Force is quite insistent that there is somewhere else I am meant to be.”
Cody is judging him. The man won’t say anything, but Obi-Wan is blatantly refusing to bring up his own experiences and thus the clone is judging him. Thankfully, for now at least, the Commander is loyal to his General above all others and doesn’t seem likely to say anything. However… oh. Oh dear. While Obi-Wan is a master at shielding, his commander has very little practical experience at this point in time. Both Master Koon and Ahsoka are picking up on the clone’s Obi-Wan centered concern. Well, that could be trouble. Master Koon will want to discuss things, surely, at some point in the future. Well, the Council may have to be brought in sooner rather than later, anyway. Ahsoka on the other hand…
Once more, the Force looks out for Its distractible child and guides his attention to the meeting taking place and away from what-ifs better contemplated in private quarters.
“The source of these disturbances appears to be on the edge of wild space, on the planet Jakku. You are to go, investigate, and report back any anomalies you find. And it must be you, Obi-Wan. The Force is being extraordinarily clear on this.”
“As if calling you there, someone is,” Master Yoda chimes in.
And Obi-Wan remembers this all now, oh so clearly. The Jakku mission had stood out in his memories for so many years, not for any particular happenstance, but rather for how maddeningly uneventful the whole thing had been. Despite being one of the rare cases during the war where the Force was completely clear about who needed to be where and when (“Obi-Wan”, “Jakku”, and “Now”), absolutely nothing had happened. Obi-Wan had been dragged away from an active patrol and sent to the middle of nowhere without a separatist in sight. There was a strong pull, sure, but all he discovered was a weak disturbance in the Force in the middle…of the… desert…
There are no such things as coincidences to a Jedi and there are too many here to count. Desert planets seem to be where everything began, after all. Where everything began multiple times over.
The dry orange dust of Geonosis ushered in the opening salvos of the Clone Wars.
The red canyons of Utapau brought about the death of the Jedi Order and the start of his life in exile.
And it was on Tatooine that Anakin was found, and Luke was raised. It was where the Sith announced their return. It was where Anakin took his first true steps into darkness. It was there that Obi-Wan discovered the secrets of the Force and the path of the Whills. It was where Luke took his first, and final, steps towards becoming a Jedi knight.
Jakku, though, Jakku had been where the Empire chose to stage it’s death throes. Where Luke and Leia and their Captain Solo were right before…
The Force soars with triumph as Obi-Wan’s will fully aligns with Its own. He has to get to Jakku.
Sand in his clothes. Sand in his hair. Sand in the machinery. If he didn’t have his goggles and scarf, there would be sand in his eyes, nose, and mouth too.
Jakku, Luke thinks, is depressingly similar to Tatooine.
He digs deeper into the guts of the vaporator in front of him, trying to bury homesick thoughts of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. He still misses them, but it’s a familiar ache now. He’d made his peace with losing them, really he had. Just, given the circumstances, the pain feels particularly acute right now.
But what he really wants, more than anything else, is to talk with Ben. As soon as the thought crosses his mind, he instinctively reaches out for his mentor. His father may be more powerful in the Force, may have returned to the Light and offered to teach Luke all he knows, but Obi-Wan is still the one Luke relies on. The one he goes to for guidance. So Luke sends a query into the Force, hoping to summon his friend.
He’s almost used to the silence he receives in return. Almost.
With a grunt of exertion, Luke hefts the faceplate back into place and snaps it closed.
Luke Skywalker, he thinks, former farm boy, ace pilot, last student of Master Yoda, first and only Jedi of the New Republic, Savior of the Rebellion, and now odd-job repairman.
Repair-boy, he corrects himself as he stands. He doesn’t give himself time to dwell on the thought, instead turning to begin work on the droid responsible for the broken regulator. As he gives himself over to the task, the heat bakes his neck and sweat pools at each dip of his spine before rolling down his back.
Not for the first time Luke is grateful that their “situation,” as Han refers to it, restored his Tatooine tan. If he was still space-pale, he’d be as red as his twin. A true matching set.
He resettles the goggles over his eyes and tightens the strap. The tan wasn’t the only thing restored to him a little over a week ago. With gear he hadn’t seen in years, and homespun tunics that he knew had burned with the homestead, Luke had been properly prepared to go back to the life of vaporators and moisture farms when he regained consciousness in the sand.
Han and Leia, on the other hand, were not at all prepared for the desert heat. The moment they’d found civilization, Han had zeroed in on a merchant the way only a smuggler could. His heavy nerf-hide jacket was stripped and the pieces of soft leather traded for much needed water and supplies. Leia’s fine Alderaanian dress had fetched a decent price too, even with the cut they took for the more desert-appropriate clothes she’d gotten in return.
Luke smiles to himself as he remembers the trade, his narrow, nimble fingers dancing around the droid’s innards, searching for servos stripped to uselessness by wind and grit. Unfortunately, his sister has always been a bit of a tomboy, so the grass-stained, slightly frayed dress didn’t fetch as high of a price as Han had been hoping for. Not nearly enough for three tickets off this dustbowl.
With a sigh, Luke sits back on his heels as he stares at the fluffy little source of his most immediate problem. A sandwhipper has made a nest right over one of the droid’s sensors.
“You didn’t want to dislodge ’em huh?” he asks the little D9 unit. It squeaks and beeps an affirmative. “Well, you should’ve when it started building the nest. Now it’s got babies.” The droid whistles an apology, promising to do better next time. “Yeah, well, I’m supposed to get you working again before I head back. How’m I supposed to fix this?”
There is an easy solution, of course, but he’s not sure he should use it. They haven’t heard anything for or against the Alliance so far on this planet, but still…
He checks around him first, but of course, no one’s around. It’s the desert. Everyone with any sense and no transport has already started to head back to the settlement. Luke’s just the unlucky one who got stuck fixing a droid with an empathy streak. Satisfied that he’s really alone, he closes his eyes, holds his hands up to the droid’s service panels, and calls on the Force.
Gently… gently…. Luke nearly holds his breath as he feels the soft tuffs of Bantha wool and the prickly spines of desert fruit as the sandwhipper’s nest settles in his hands. Quickly, he gets it settled in his tunic and retightens his belt to minimize the skin exposed. It’s second nature, really. But it’s another habit he knows he got out of when he went years without setting foot on sand.
It should be frustrating how quickly living on a desert planet comes back to him. It should be, but it isn’t. Everything beyond his life on Tatooine feels a little distant and disconnected. Somewhere between a memory and a story.
Except for Leia and Han. And the Force, obviously.
Luke finishes cleaning off the sensor by hand, and scolds the droid once more. By this time, the sun has started to reach its zenith and the true heat of the day has begun to bear down on him. A shadow offers him momentary relief. Luke grins and looks up and up and up.
“Hey, kid. You ready to pack it in?”
Han has come to bring him back to Leia. Their work that morning, like each morning before it, has begun to unravel and his sister will need his help to face the rest of the day.
“Yep,” he grins, even as he worries over the mysterious illness that saps his sister’s strength and concentration that only meditation seems to help. He grins because, despite the Situation, despite Leia’s sickness, despite being stranded out here in the middle of nowhere, the Empire and the Rebellion nowhere to be seen, the three of them are together. “I’m done. Sorry to keep you waiting.”
“Y’know, you don’t have to come out here to sand-dune hell everyday. We’ve got enough to last us awhile,” Han says, even as he helps Luke up and dusts the sand off of him.
“Y’know, at least one of us has to do real work so we can get off this dustball,” Luke slings back.
Han grumbles, but leads Luke back to the third-rate junker of a speeder they’d gotten with the one bracelet Leia had been willing to part with. Though, even if they sold every scrap of valuable they had between the three of them, the likelihood of getting off planet was still slim. Jakku was so off the beaten path that the price of transport anywhere for three was ridiculously high. Higher even than what Han had charged to go to Alderaan.
Plus, any chance of bartering their services in exchange for a ride was out of the question. Not because they were wanted generals and Jedi from the Alliance to Restore the Republic. No, it was because spacers took one look at them and decided that Han was the only capable worker worth taking.
Because, and this really causes Luke frustration whenever he tries to figure it out, for reasons still unknown and after the thing that had warped the Force so badly above the planet, when they had regained consciousness on the surface of Jakku, Han Solo had woken up as an awkward, nearly grown teenager.
And currently, along with his twin, Luke Skywalker, Last of the Jedi, Savior of the Republic, Destroyer of the first Death Star, is all of twelve years old.
Luke makes Han stop the speeder by one of the shrubby desert plants that grows near the settlement. Han watches, a bit incredulous and plenty amused, as Luke sets a nest down in the branches with profound care. It runs into fond exasperation as the kid pats the little creature inside it and her children awake.
“No more nesting in droids, okay?” Luke whispers. Han holds back the urge to roll his eyes. He’s learned from experience that nothing’s gonna dislodge the kid’s softheartedness, so why even bother?
“C’mon, kid. The princess needs us back pronto.” With one last pat on the mother’s feathered head, Luke hops back in the speeder and they travel the last little stretch of desert to their temporary home.
The settlement they’d found the first day was populated mainly by spiritual types who tended towards isolation, though weren’t nearly as bad as the old fossil, according to Luke. Despite Han’s concerns about the three of them sticking out like a Twi’lek among stormtroopers, the locals tended to be willing to look the other way for three humans who couldn’t be from more vastly different backgrounds. Luke and Leia didn’t seem to think much of it, but Han knew they made a weird picture: a spacer, a moisture farmer, and a noble complete with a dress costing more than most spacers and moisture farmers’ total yearly income, walking into town together. That they looked young (they aren’t kids. Han refuses to think of any of them as kids. The twins were nineteen when they met and he’s a decade older than ’em, there’s no way any of them can be considered kids) hadn’t helped. But the people of this planet are weird. Not only had they not commented on Han and his charges, some of them had even offered to lend a hand for the three “poor dears.”
Jakku is extremely different from Tatooine and other rim planets in that regard. Despite the hardships of living in a desert, Tatooine thrives in a way. It’s close to trade routes, but not actually on any. It’s near the populated planets of the Arkanis sector, but had never really fallen under the Old Republic’s jurisdiction, although there were a lot of settlers pushing for it before the Clone Wars. Plus, there’s a demand for trade in the hardy, sweet, and sometimes hallucinogenic plant life that grows there. All these factors combined to make Tatooine oddly attractive for those who want to try their luck, be they frontier settlers like Luke’s family, hoping to start a new life, scoundrels looking to hide out or make a quick buck, like Han had been, or crime lords expanding their empire like the Hutts.
Jakku, though, is nowhere near any main population centers. It’s so far away from the hyperspace lanes that, had the X-wings not had their own hyperdrives, it could have taken the Alliance fleet months to rally over the planet. So the only people who come to live on Jakku are people who really want to be left alone by the greater galaxy. Some of the settlers even think that the Clone Wars are still ongoing. Han jokes about being out of touch, but even he knows that’s to cover how unsettled their conviction makes him. The fact is, those settlers all seem to be recent transplants to Jakku.
Outside of a few who have managed to piss off the Hutts far beyond what even Han had managed, the population of the settlement they found amounts almost entirely to religious aesthetes of various faiths. The rest of them seem to make their living selling goods and supplies for desert pilgrimages.
Which works well for Han, Luke and Leia. Neighbors might look out for a pilgrim’s hut, but the shed behind it gets no attention. Gifts seem to come their way more often than not, pious people doing their fair share to bring Light to the galaxy by giving in a little too quickly when haggling with sad baby blues or warm but tired browns. Or by throwing in an extra bread packet or water ration. They do this most often for Han, since the locals seemed to have decided that he was the one doing most of the supporting. It’s really Luke, but hey, Han’s not above free food. Luke might be. The kid still has that Tatooine stubborn independent streak sometimes. Leia doesn’t. Too practical from years in the Rebellion. Early Alliance people were like that, Han had noticed, willing to take whatever kind of help they could get when it came to necessities.
Plus, the twins had a grand ol’ time during the the evenings debating philosophy and all that junk while Han’s busy trying to hustle their way off this rock.
Han parks the speeder, for once not worried about anyone trying to claim it for their own. He tosses Luke the flat instant-bread pellets favored in the markets and grabs the water today’s labor bought them. Together, they duck into the abandoned shed they’ve claimed as their own. There’s a lump in the darkest corner, settled on the mats and blankets they’ve managed to beg, borrow, and in Han’s case, steal.
“Hey Sweetheart, how you feelin’?” he whispers.
There’s a grumble from the vicinity of the blanket pile and Leia, cheeks reddened from sun exposure, hair tumbling out of the messy braids Han helped her with that morning, pokes her head up to glare at the boys.
“I’m not an invalid, laser brain,” she growls. The effect is lessened by her higher pitched voice and chubby cheeks, not nearly as terrifying as she was in the cockpit of the Falcon a few weeks ago. Still gets under his skin, though.
“Then you’re doing a damned good impression of one,” he snarks back.
Luke rolls his eyes at their antics and pushes past the older boy. “Hey, Lea, I’m back.”
The girl’s harsh glare softens into the smile reserved for her brother. “Hey Lu.” The pet names are new, started only after they woke up on Jakku. It’s another thing Han is trying not to think too hard about.
“You’ll never guess what I found today in the dunes…” Luke launches into the story of the soft-hearted droid and Han starts preparing lunch. It’s worrisome how quickly they’ve sunk into this routine.
Han’s mind is drawn back to the pilot he talked to this morning. Another dead end, another derisive snort. It would be easy enough to find passage for himself off planet. Even if he looks like a greenhorn, he can pass for eighteen easily enough, maybe even twenty if he swaggers just right. Besides, young, strong, and clever are traits that can always be useful on your average freighter. Even more so for a smuggler’s ship.
The issue, and this makes Han grind his teeth, is that not a single captain will take on Luke and Leia as well. A pair of young twins, one potentially ill, was too much trouble apparently. All of Han’s assurances to the contrary, the captains, to a one, see tiny little Luke and assume the twins will be nothing but dead weight. Not to mention the assumptions they come to regarding a teenager and a couple of younglings traveling together. For some reason, they refuse to believe that Han is their older brother.
Okay, so that’s not all entirely true. There are a couple of pilots who hear “twins,” “young,” and “no parents” and get extremely helpful. Too helpful. Then they have the opposite problem. The barves want Luke and Leia but become sketchy about taking on Han. Thankfully, when he makes it clear his presence is non-negotiable, the barves back off. Han’s grateful that he woke with his old blaster, ancient model that it is, strapped to his thigh, because the pilots usually require having a blaster drawn on them before they understand just how serious he is about not being separated from the twins. Han has yet to worry about murder charges, so it’s effective enough. He just wishes he was as good at figuring out this Situation as he is at keeping them together.
He doesn’t sigh, or slump, or let any of what he’s thinking reach his face. But Luke’s a kriffin’ Jedi and Leia’s got the same power even if she isn’t trained. As one, their voices drop and they turn towards him.
“Han?” Luke asks.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Leia demands.
Stupid kids, wasting their worry on him.
“Nothing, all right? The food here. The sand. Kriff. This whole situation. Doesn’t it bother you how okay we are with the weirder stuff?” He turns and joins them with the plate of food in his hand, instant bread and fruit.
Luke shrugs. “My life’s been one big pile of weird since two droids showed up looking for Ben. It’s easier to just go with things.” Luke’s face doesn’t fall, but it does twinge a bit at the corners.
Leia rolls her eyes. “I thought we got all the freaking out out of the way when we first got here. Why are you dwelling on it?”
Han can feel his hackles rise. This. This is what’s bothering him the most about the whole damn thing. It’s not that either one of them is avoiding reality. They aren’t. It actually does not seem to bother them. He’s not sure if it’s a Jedi thing or some sort of after-effect of whatever the hells it was that landed them on the planet’s surface, unharmed except for their ages being slashed in half. Whatever the hells it is, Han’s worried for them. It’s not like either Luke or Leia to just accept things.
“Dwelling?” his voice cracks, but he plows on. “It hasn’t become any less weird since then and we still don’t know why it happened. And don’t say it’s because of the Force.” Luke shuts his mouth and pouts. “I just… I’m kriffin’ seventeen! And that’s not a guess! And it should feel weird and awkward because I haven’t been seventeen for seventeen years, but it’s not and that’s weird. And you guys are prepubescent! You’re just kids. But here we are, making a karking life for ourselves on Jakku, the most desolate, Force-forgotten, abandoned sith-pit part of the unknown universe! The only reason we were even here to begin with was because we chased the Empire down here for the killing blow.
“Then a weird-ass lightning storm, so far above the planet there’s no atmosphere, shows up. Next thing I remember beyond pain is us waking up in the kriffin’ desert. No ship parts,” he pushes down a finger for emphasis, “no emergency escape pods,” down goes another, “no Goldenrod or Artoo,” a third, “no Chewie. We weren’t even on the same kriffin’ ship during that battle. Luke was planetside! But we woke up, together, on Jakku, right under where the Falcon was flying, and all half as old as we’re supposed to be. Our credits are useless, our reputations are non-existent, our names mean nothing, and we look like kids! So yeah, I’m still dwelling on this whole damn thing. And yeah, I’m still freaking out! What I want to know is why aren’t the two of you?” They’re not standing, but he and Leia are still nose to nose, ready to shout at each other.
“I can’t feel Ben.” The admission is soft, but heartfelt, derailing the conflict altogether. Instantly he and Leia back off. The one thing they’ve always agreed on, even at the start when they were at each other’s throats, is Luke.
“Luke?” Leia prompts.
“I can’t think about how weird everything is. I mean, I’m not doing nothing, but I can’t figure it out on my own. I usually ask Ben, but… but he’s… he’s…”
“Being a good fossil for once and not talking?”
Leia smacks Han on the arm.
Luke shakes his head, but doesn’t comment on Han’s disrespect. It’s an old argument. After four years of knowing Luke, after both Death Stars, Hoth, and escaping Jabba together, Han was more than willing to admit the existence of the Force, was even willing to allow that Vader had turned on the Emperor, that Leia could sense Luke more than a planet away, that Luke could do some amazing things with his mystical energy friend. But talking to ghosts was still something beyond his credulity.
“No, it’s…,” the boy pauses, gathers his thoughts. There’s a pout on his face, irritation at Basic’s inadequacy to describe the esoterica of the Force. Han’s going to have to have a talk with Luke one of these days about using large words just to make yourself look smart.
“I didn’t know it at first, but everyone’s got a different presence in the Force. Even twins. I know you don’t believe I see him, but Ben, even as a ghost, feels unique. But since he’s one with the Force, even when he’s gone and I can’t see him, I can still sense him. I know he’s still around and keeping an eye on things, even if he can’t interfere. But he’s gone now. I look and I look and I look and he’s not there.” Oh Force, Luke’s voice is cracking. It’s got that too full sound it gets sometimes, like the tears will spill out of his words because there’s just too much there. “I haven’t… the Force is Lighter, talking to him should be easier. I’m trying to ask him, but Ben’s not here.”
Leia’s at her brother’s side in an instant, thin arms wrapped around boney shoulders, pulling him in tight. Han feels like an ass. He knew Luke was struggling with something, but he thought the boy was putting on a brave face about basically being right back where he started. Because Luke’s played it close to the chest, he just ignored it. And Leia’s got enough on her plate with whatever’s making her so tired halfway through the day.
“Look, kid. I…”
Luke shakes his head, cutting Han off. He doesn’t think Han needs to apologize. Besides, they have work to do. He pushes away from his sister’s comfort and settles into one of his meditation poses.
“Are you okay, Luke?” she asks.
“Yeah, I’m fine. If Ben’s gone, I gotta figure out how to deal without him. We’re just gonna have to figure this out ourselves. First things first, though.” He reaches his hands out to his twin, and Leia sits back, settles into a cross-legged seat mirroring Luke’s own and takes his hands in hers. “Let’s get rid of this headache so we can all enjoy the sunlight, yeah?”
Leia nods, and Han sits back to finish his portion of the meal. They’ll be doing this thing together for the next half hour or so. There’s really not much he can add at this point. The original problem is nowhere close to being solved. They’re still stuck on Jakku. The Alliance is still nowhere to be found. He’s still missing his ship, his other best friend, and even the bloodstripes on his trousers. But Luke and Leia are still with him. Right now, they’re safe. That’ll have to be enough.
By evening there’s a strange feeling in the Force. Luke’s jittery, restless. He keeps finding himself compelled to check the horizon, back out towards where he, Han, and Leia first arrived. The distraction nearly costs him a finger while trying to repair yet another sand-encrusted speeder. But he can’t help it. The Force is nipping at his heels, kicking up a fuss, and it’s getting frustrated that its Jedi either can’t or won’t respond.
Leia can feel it too, he’s certain. She’s gotten increasingly irritated and jumpy as the day goes on. Sure they argue from time to time, even before they learned of their actual relationship they were closer than most siblings, but this is petty and vindictive. For the first time since arriving, they both feel the oppressiveness of being stranded, and neither is dealing with it well.
Leia especially, Luke thinks, as she tosses him another tool with a little more force than necessary. He can’t blame her, though. Of the three of them, she’s the most ill suited for their current existence. Her skin is royalty pale, so she can’t join Luke for long days in the sun. Her certainly Force-related headaches are making her irritable, so she’s too ill-tempered to muster any patience for the spacers Han deals with, either to ask for passage or to earn a wage unloading cargo. She won’t beg, and neither he nor Han would ever ask her to. So she’s stuck running small errands around the settlement for the various pilgrims passing through and helping Luke in the evenings when the sun is low so he can help keep her migraines at bay.
She’s proud, and more than competent in her chosen sphere, but a twelve-year-old doesn’t have much influence to wield and information peddling doesn’t seem to have much truck with the people of Jakku. They’re even more practical than Tatooinians in that regard. But Leia’s spent her whole life refining the skills of a politician and survival as a spy. She’s spent the last few years learning to be a soldier, commander, and a pseudo-Jedi with Luke. None of those skills are doing her any good here, and Luke can’t blame his sister for being angry at feeling useless.
But right now Leia is getting on his last nerve.
He could yell at her. That would make him feel better right now, definitely, but would only come back to bite him in the end. Instead, he focuses on the work he’s doing, turning it into a sort of moving meditation. Keeping his hands busy always helped him clear his mind before. It shouldn’t be any different now just because he knows a few more techniques that don’t require broken machines. So he tunes out Leia’s fuming and turns his focus inwards.
The Force has been eager for listeners, it seems, because he barely draws in his first breath before he is being shown what, exactly, it is that he is meant to be paying attention to. In his mind, the Force paints a picture of rolling sand dunes broken occasionally by tall wind-worn stones, but his attention is drawn to the layer of reality beyond. And there it is. That horrible, yawning cavern that no eye can see in the middle of the desert.
The tear in the Force has been bothering him ever since they left it behind in the dust. It’s unnatural, unwanted. The Force rebels at its edges, offended by its very existence. But there was something on the other side of it. Something he knows he has to see, has to understand.
He’s pulled out of his meditations when the speeder’s engine sparks. Leia’s trying not to laugh at the look of betrayal on his face. The vision is gone, but the loss is worth it to relieve some of his sister’s stress.
Luke finds himself dwelling on the vision again as he and Leia make their way back to the shed. Leia’s humming an Alderaanian lullaby under her breath, tonight’s dinner swinging in the makeshift basket in her arms. She’s a pretty good mechanic too, all told, though she lacks the sheer amount of practical experience Luke and Han have, and when the sun started to cool off she was finally able to put her own skills to use. Being able to work a meaningful job has done wonders for her attitude.
Luke, on the other hand, is pensive. The vision was not the usual kind. No future events or far away ones, just the tear in the Force waiting for him in the desert. He feels another tug, and pulls up short. There’s more to the vision than just the tear, something else he has to do. Something else that must happen. But what?
He’s standing in front of a market stall of some sort, the type that caters to the less foolhardy pilgrims. The thought reminds him of Ben and he smiles a little, but why did the Force stop him here? He closes his eyes and tries to concentrate like Master Yoda taught him on Dagobah. To be absolutely still and listen.
He comes back to himself fully only after Leia’s dropped him on the bed mats and started telling Han what had happened on the way home.
“He just stopped?” Han asks. “At a supply stand?” The worry in Han’s voice cuts through the fog of the Force vision.
“I couldn’t help it,” Luke complains, rubbing his head as he tries to knock his thoughts back into focus. “The Force was yelling at me.” Leia is at her brother’s side in an instant.
“The Force was yelling at you,” Han’s voice is dry. “And what, exactly, was it yelling?”
Luke becomes solemn. It’s hard to translate the ominous feeling crowding the edges of his senses into words, but he’ll try. “A storm is coming. And we can’t be here when it arrives.”
“We’ve been trying to leave since we got here. How does the Force propose we get off this rock?”
Luke shakes his head, irritated at his own inability to make himself clear. “That’s not… we’re not leaving Jakku, not yet. We have to go back to the desert, back to where the Force is all messed up.”
“Back to… how the hell does that help?” Han’s never had much patience for the less concrete Force abilities.
“I don’t know,” Luke shouts back. It’s frustrating that Han has more trust in vague bad feelings than more concrete guidance from the Force. “All I know is that a huge storm is coming and if we want to survive, we have to go. Now.”
Han switches tactics, hands going up defensively. “Kid, we’re barely making it day to day. If you think-“
“Han.” Leia’s voice stops the boys cold. “I feel it too.” Her eyes go distant before snapping back to them and Luke wants to cheer at having his sister backing him up. “We have to go. If we don’t, we’ll miss our chance and be stuck on this dustball for a long time.”
“Please trust us, Han,” Luke turns blue eyes on Han, widens them and even trembles his lower lip as well, knowing the older boy can never stand up to him and Leia together. “The Force hasn’t lead us wrong yet. If we ever want to leave Jakku, we’ve got to go back to that gash in the Force. Tonight.”
Sorry for the delay. Yeah, I was not expecting it to be almost four months before chapter 2. Sorry! Funny thing is, most of this was actually written during NaNo. What happened was that, well, first there was NaNo burn-out. It took me until nearly January before I was ready to write again.
Then there was the real kicker: I thought I needed 2 more scenes. Unnamed scene (never a good sign for me) 2.4 fought me for WEEKS. It was terrible. But thankfully, a happy accident with my Beta showed me how useless those scenes were.
Chapter 3: Planetside
Obi-Wan's path takes the first of many detours, as the simple and peaceful research mission he remembers is immediately derailed by the presence of separatist droids. Armies clash as the leaders of both sides race to find the disturbance in the desert and the secrets that it holds.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Sergeant, I need back-up over here!”
“Someone call Helix, Spark’s down!”
“Clankers on your three!”
“Droid poppers, on my mark!”
Grenades kick up a spray of sand, covering the battlefield, burying the first wave of droids, obscuring the morning sun.
This is not how the mission went the first time around.
Obi-Wan deflects blaster fire, wrists twisting in a complicated Soresu defense. Three more droids fall.
This is all coming back too easily, he thinks. Then immediately corrects himself. It can’t come back. It never left.
“Here and now,” he mutters to himself, knocking another droid back.
There are no tanks, thank the Force for small blessings. It appears that both sides were thinking along the same lines when assembling their landing parties. Enough soldiers to discourage their opponent from searching the desert, but not enough to waste resources.
No one actually wants Jakku, anyway.
Which was why his original mission to this desolate wasteland of a planet had gone so smoothly and quickly the first time around. No clankers, no separatists, no Dark-siders. Just a sandstorm that made taking off difficult. The worst damage anyone had suffered was a touch of sunburn. At the time he had thought it was deceptively easy; the silence had wrecked havoc on his nerves as he waited for things to go wrong. Except the other shoe had never fallen.
Figures that it would the second time around.
The Separatists’ presence only confirms what he already suspects: Sidious has partially succeeded in his aims. At the very least, the Ruptures have granted the emperor-to-be foreknowledge. If they hadn’t, if the Sith had no clue what might potentially be on the line out in the deserts of Jakku, he would have kept to his usual patterns. Like the first time around, he would have allowed the Jedi to do the footwork and merely used his position as the chancellor and Anakin’s confident to gain the Order’s knowledge for himself.
That he’s ordered Dooku to divert precious time and resources to Jakku, well, there’s really not much of a better explanation. After all, the enormity of the disturbance in the Force only becomes obvious upon nearing the planet.
As his thoughts settle, so does the sand. His men lazily pick off the few stragglers. This won’t be the end of the droids or the battle on Jakku, not by a long shot. But they have a moment to breathe. He extinguishes his saber and nods to Cody. His second will oversee triage and adjusting their lines. Obi-Wan has other things to see to.
The disturbance in the desert teases, brushes delicately at the limits of his senses. He needs to get out there and soon. He’s grateful, though, for the battle, for anything that can ground him and keep him focused in the moment. Force knows it hasn’t been easy this last week. He’ll be lucky at this point if only Cody recommends him to the mind healers.
He breathes in the desert air, relishing the familiarity of the grit and heat after days of stale ship air, then coughing as the unfamiliar grit and heat irritate lungs used to kinder climes. While the battle was unexpected, here is where things will truly divert from the known path. He can’t simply wander into the desert himself. Not while their escape is unsecured. Once he’s found what the Force has sent him seeking for, he wants off this planet as quickly as possible. Thus, while his presence is still required here, he must send another in his place.
Last time he’d left Ahsoka on The Negotiator, acquiescing that she’d better spend her time catching up on her studies than trekking across the desert sands. This time he finds her climbing onto a swoop bike as Wooly and Meist finish packing the saddlebags to his specifications. Another deviation, he supposes, and one he’s glad he’s made.
She brightens when she catches sight of him.
“Master Kenobi!” the girl chirps. He smiles, but if it’s a little rueful, no one needs to know. She’s still so formal, so unsure of her place with him. He misses being “Master Obi-Wan” and the teasing, though he knows that familiarity isn’t long in coming.
“How are preparations coming along, Ahsoka?”
The girl’s face contorts for a moment, awe and respect and her own rambunctious nature war for dominance.
“Do I really need all this stuff, Master?” the result is confused, but slightly challenging.
Obi-Wan hums to himself and idly rifles through the saddlebag contents. Every item was chosen either by the Force’s insistence or his own knowledge from Tatooine. Granted, it seems like a lot for a small trip to the desert and back, but they’re getting a later start than Obi-Wan had hoped for and-
“There’s a sandstorm coming, padawan. You’d do well not to underestimate the desert.”
“But a second lightsaber?” She lifts up the makeshift hilt he’d put together during the week. A slapdash job, he must admit, modifying the design for much, much smaller hands than the last that had owned the kyber crystal inside.
That… that one had confused him as well. Both the first time and now. The modified hilt was new but the crystal… He’d grabbed it weeks ago, before he’d even left on this tour, for reasons that were beyond him at the time. And why this one?
Why Qui-Gon’s saber crystal?
The unsettling feeling of being prepared for this, of this eventuality being an option prickles under his skin again. First the repeat mission and now, the certainty that he’d need the crystal, that he needed it in a new lightsaber specifically for this mission, something that he hadn’t needed the last time at all. It was all too much.
So, like with everything else that required time and communion with the Force to sort out, he shoved it behind the durasteel wall.
“I follow the will of the Force. You are studying Jar’kai are you not?”
“Well, yeah. But with a shoto blade. And Master Skywalker says I’m not good enough to use it in the field yet.”
“Far be it from me to contradict your master’s assessment, but we’ll likely need this blade in some capacity or other. It stays.”
“Yes, Master Kenobi. And the poncho?”
Obi-Wan feels his eyebrow lift. Her master grew up on a desert planet. Of all the things to be concerned about, this is what confuses her?
There’s a word for the moment your understanding of life shifts around you. Obi-Wan really should look that phrase up, given that the feeling has become an essential part of his everyday life these past few weeks, past two decades. For it suddenly occurs to him that he has lived on Tatooine much, much longer than Anakin ever did. That the desert has seeped its way into his bones in a way that seems to have survived even time displacement.
It is a credit to Qui-Gon’s training that none of this shows on his face or in the Force.
“I’m honestly appalled that Anakin has yet to teach you better, but I suppose the last time you were on Tatooine it was night time for the most part.” His recovery is flawless. “And Anakin tends to avoid deserts as a general rule.
“Ahsoka,” he fixes her with a severe look and it is Ben-The-Wizard addressing her, the unwary visitor to this desolate place. “A sandstorm of enough strength can strip the hide from a Bantha. You will find shelter before it gets that bad, but the extra protection will help prevent welts and guard you from the sun. So yes, the poncho is necessary. As is the lightsaber and everything else I’ve had you pack.”
Ahsoka quails under his gaze and Obi-Wan reins himself in. Here and Now, General.
“I believe that should be all,” he walks himself back with a reassuring smile. The girl relaxes and adjusts the cloth hanging on her shoulders. “We will engage the enemy shortly and hopefully lock them into a siege for the time being. When we do, that is your cue to leave. Understood?”
The girl flashes a rakish grin that matches her master’s. “Got it, Master Kenobi.”
“When you reach the disturbance, you are to observe only. Even should the Count himself managed to have beaten us there, you are not to engage unless absolutely necessary. Understood?”
“Yes Master. I’ll be safe.”
“Good. I’d hate to have to explain to Anakin how I lost his padawan on a simple research mission.”
“Master Skywalker says there’s no such thing as a simple mission where you’re concerned.”
“Given how many painkillers he was on when you left, I’ll let that one slide. Now, finish applying your sun protection. And may the Force be with you, padawan.”
“May the Force be with you, Master.”
He has barely walked away before Ahsoka’s opportunity presents itself. The droids recovered quicker than he thought they would. Someone is desperate to keep him busy, to keep him here and far away from the disturbance.
No matter. He will be there when he is needed. He knows this with the same certainty that he knows the sandstorm will hit before evening. The certainty that hums in his veins as he turns towards their opponents once more, sinking deeper into the Force than his men have ever seen on the battlefield.
And as he descends and expands his awareness, he catches a glimpse of the Rupture in the Force he was sent to find.
It’s smaller than expected, and in the jagged edges twisted by darkness, amongst the pain and sense of wrongness that saturates his senses, there’s something bright, something familiar, smoothing the damage and stitching the edges together.
Repairing the damage Sidious had done.
In the split second before he engages the enemy, in the hair’s breadth between his saber igniting and meeting the first wave of blasterfire, Obi-Wan’s heart clenches.
Ahsoka grumbles as she skims the sand in her swoop bike, saddlebags of totally unnecessary supplies making the ride awkward and unwieldy. It’s been hours and she still can’t seem to compensate without over-relying on the Force. Skyguy will be so disappointed with her and her absolute lack of flare driving this bike. If she ever tells him about this pointless errand.
Okay, yes, she is being a little… unkind. It’s not like Master Kenobi to just send her away to get her out from underfoot. It’s not his style. Instead, he would sic Waxer and Boil on her as babysitters. Not necessarily stopping her, but making it a lot harder to get up to anything interesting.
Ugh. Sand. Sand sand sand sand sand. That’s all there is to see out here. No wonder Anakin doesn’t want to talk about growing up on Tatooine. It was probably boring as hell. Why the Sith would Master Kenobi send her out like this?
She pulls up short in the shadow of a dune, drinks from her canteen, tries to find her bearings. The Force is… disrupted here. Kinda like it was when she and Master Plo met up with Master Kenobi on The Negotiator. Wrinkled. Crinkly. But at the same time… like the whole galaxy is holding its breath, waiting for what comes next.
She tries to center herself, to let the Force guide her where it will. She can feel clarity coming. Just… a little… more…
There! She can’t believe she almost missed it. The Force is flaring like a miniature sun in the exact direction Master Kenobi had told her to go.
The only time Ahsoka had seen a signature that powerful was when she’d made the mistake in the first week of their partnership of looking at Skyguy during an unshielded moment. He must have thought it was hilarious to blind his padawan like that.
The similarity hits her with a wave of dread. Whoever that is, they are definitely not shielding. And Skyguy was a danger magnet at the best of times; she does not want to think about how much more attention they would grab if he always shone like a beacon.
No doubt in her mind now, she’s on the right track. She berates herself as she settles back on the speeder bike. She never should have doubted Master Kenobi. He is her grandmaster, and on the council. Just because he’s been a little odd lately does not mean that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
She settles her goggles back on her face and thanks the Force that Master Kenobi made her wear this ridiculous poncho. The sun out here is brutal, and she wonders what Anakin would have had her do if their mission to Tatooine had taken them there during the day.
An hour later and she is still heading towards that flare at a leisurely pace when the Force surges around her, urging her forward. She guns it, accelerating the bike as fast as she can; Togruta balance and Jedi reflexes allowing her to take the dunes at a breakneck speed now that it’s important. Eventually she reaches the source of the flare. In the middle of nowhere, a series of standing rocks the only shade to be found, the Force roils with the clashing of the Dark and Light sides. And while she hears the telltale hum of a lightsaber, the electric clash of two meeting in battle is lacking.
Ahsoka pulls her goggles down; the wind is beginning to kick up sand around a pair of figures, but she can’t make out any details with them on. For just a moment, the sand settles. On the side nearest to her stands a humanoid, blond haired and dressed in dusty shades of sand. On the other, as unmistakable as the sudden chill down her spine that shatters the warmth of the day is-
In the next breath Ahsoka can tell it’s a boy facing the white hag; he doesn’t even glance her way. What’s a kid doing facing off against the Sith witch? Unarmed? Because he is. Facing her and unarmed and Ahsoka wonders if Master Kenobi would call this an emergency.
As soon as the sand settles, the boy is stirring it up again, blasting the fine grains at the bald wonder. She realizes in the same moment that the boy must be the source of the Force-brightness from before. Asajj Ventress looks pissed. Whatever cool she had has been long lost. And to Ahsoka’s surprise, she actually looks hurt, bleeding even. Somehow, the kid’s managed to injure a being that gives even Master Kenobi and Master Anakin difficulty.
But whatever grace the Force gave him seems to have run out. Ventress is forcing her way forward against the wind, deflecting it with a wave of her hand. Ahsoka can see the next few seconds as clearly as a holo. The witch will raise her one saber, the boy will dodge, then she’ll ignite the other and catch him off guard.
Ahsoka doesn’t even have to think twice before she’s moving. The bike is abandoned carelessly. Lightsabers, both her own and the one Master Kenobi foisted on her, ignite. She dives into a roll. Stands, blades crossed in one of the most basic Jar-kai defensive moves, and intercepts Ventress’ downward strike.
The blow drives her into the dune. There is no solid surface beneath her, no ground to grab purchase. She is unsteady and unstable.
“Well, well, well… another padawan brat. Where’s your master, little one?” Ventress has the upper hand and they both know it.
“He’s got better things to spend his time on than you. Better things to look at, too,” Ahsoka grunts back. Fierfek, but she can’t adjust her grip or anything. Ventress is going to end the stalemate sooner rather than later. Either she’ll break the guard and overpower Ahsoka, or she’ll retreat and the padawan’s scrambling to regain her footing will give the witch plenty of openings to attack.
Ventress isn’t given the chance to decide. The boy, who Ahsoka did not completely forget about, slips under her bent arms and lands a powerful kick on the Sith witch’s side. Ventress does not double over, but it’s a near thing. And it’s enough. Her grip on her sabers is disrupted, and the pressure on Ahsoka is released.
“We just need to hold her off for a few more minutes,” she hears. The boy is back at her side, and… wow. The Force definitely likes him.
Ventress recovers quickly, though. Her sabers are as quick as sandvipers. Ahsoka rushes to get her blades in position. She has only just started studying Jar’kai. She hasn’t expected to need it in the field so soon. But why else would Master Kenobi have given her a second saber, cobbled together as it is, unless it was for her to be prepared to use the style against Ventress?
However, Ahsoka is outclassed and she knows it. Kriff, Skyguy doesn’t even try to go after the witch without Master Kenobi’s backup.
But she isn’t alone. The boy is fighting by her side, completely fearless. No, not fearless. His fear is obvious in the Force, but so is trust. In what, Ahsoka’s not sure. But whatever it is, it gives him strength. With it, Ventress has to decide between breaking the padawan’s guard and keeping the boy away from her soft underbelly.
After the next clash, Ahsoka realizes why it is that the boy can keep up. Unlike Ventress and herself, the boy has no difficulties moving on the sand. He is at home on the shifting surface. Unfortunately, his skill only buys them a few minutes.
After three or four repeats of the holding pattern, Ventress changes things up. There is a slide. Then a flick. Then Ahsoka’s loaned saber is sent flying. Next to go is the boy, Force shoved violently off to the side. Ahsoka’s alone now, one blade against two.
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. This is not how she is going to die. It is not.
“So… the little loth-kitten bares its teeth. Be smart child,” Ventress rasps as she draws to her full height. Ahsoka knows she is trying to intimidate her. She refuses to let it work. “You don’t even know what it is you’re protecting. Don’t throw your life away on worthless orders.”
“I know the Sith want whatever’s out here. Since I am, you know, a Jedi, kinda means I have to keep you from it by default.”
She can feel the boy’s attention focus in on her. Didn’t he know he was facing a Sith? It doesn’t matter. He knows now, and she is going to buy him as much time as possible to escape.
“Then you shall perish, little padawan.”
Ahsoka braces herself. Well, if she has to go, at least she’ll go out as a Jedi.
The next onslaught is quick and overpowering. As she feared, she loses purchase on the sand and her feet slip out from under her. There is the barest sliver of regret in Ventress’ eyes and Ahsoka finds herself at the witch’s mercy.
Finds herself rescued, too. The bright green blade Master Kenobi insisted she take is blocking the killing blow. The boy stands over her protectively, a mimicry of the start of their battle.
Ahsoka repays the earlier favor as well and swipes at Ventress’ feet. The hag steps clear and the boy sticks his saber into the sand.
“Stand back!” he shouts. Whatever he’s doing, Ventress seems to see it as a legitimate threat. She’s crossing her blades in front of her, taking a defensive pose for the first time in the exchange. So Ahsoka takes it seriously as well and dives behind the boy. And then he… oh. OH.
The Force cracks, and something shatters. At the boy’s feet, a puddle of molten glass breaks into a cloud of razor sharp projectiles, which he flings towards the Sith witch. Ventress is good, but not good enough. The glass catches her in a thousand little ways, slicing through exposed skin, cleaving through any cloth, embedding itself in leather and plasteel. Ventress lets out a bloodcurdling cry and steps a meter back.
It is the breathing room Ahsoka has desperately been needing. But the boy doesn’t let her wait. He grabs her hand in his and drags her back towards the standing stones.
“C’mon. We’ve got to regroup. We can survive if we hold her off a couple minutes more. Just until Leia’s done.”
“My sister. I’m Luke, by the way.” The boy grins over his shoulder at her. It’s as dazzling as the sunlight. Just as warm, too. Shouldn’t he be a little worried here?
“Ahsoka. Done with what?”
“Keeping that witch from getting what she wants.”
Okay, vague, but… “And after she’s done?”
“Reinforcements should be here by then. Can’t you sense them coming?”
No, she can’t. She’s been too busy fighting off a much more powerful, more skilled, and more experienced Darksider to look for reinforcements. Too busy focusing on the here and now like a proper Jedi should. How was he able to?
The kid’s still got a good, proper, grip on the loaner lightsaber. Is he a lost padawan, or what?
He tugs her around a corner and, oh. There’s a girl sitting in a meditation position, eyes open and upwards, focusing on nothing. Except… no, she is looking at something. The Force is even crinklier here, even more warped. But it’s smoothing out. The girl is smoothing it out.
“We’d be going faster if I was the one fixing it, but Leia’s never fought another Force user before. Except me. So I’m on defense for now.” And there’s that smile again, self-deprecating but still bright.
A throat clears. She turns. Pressed against the side of the stone is an older teenaged boy, dark haired and lanky, blaster in hand.
“Your brother?” she asks, voice dry.
Luke laughs. “Almost. That’s Han. He’s been looking out for me and Leia for a long time now. Well, we look out for each other. Han, this is Ahsoka.”
“Charmed,” is the laconic reply. “Didja kill the witch?”
“No. I don’t think we’re supposed to, but we’ve got a few-“
He’s interrupted by the scream of a lightsaber slashing against stone.
“Break’s over, kid,” Han yells before shooting blind towards the sound. An enraged yelp tells Ahsoka at least one of his shots hit true.
Luke gets in a mocking salute before hurling himself back around the corner. Ahsoka barely has a moment to wonder what she’s gotten herself into before she joins the fray once more.
The padawan has only been gone an hour before Obi-Wan gets his own opening. The 212 th is entrenched, barriers up between the waves of droids and the ships. Cody seems to have a hold on the situation. Both armies know they are not there for any reason other than to keep the other side busy. So there’s no threat of risky, aggressive maneuvers.
And now Obi-Wan can commit himself fully to the search. He has a few advantages over both Ahsoka and whoever it is that Dooku has sent to investigate. To begin with, he knows exactly where he needs to go. More importantly, he knows how to travel in the desert. The sand will be no hindrance to him. As such, once Cody gives him the all clear and settles down into the siege, he hops onto his own prepared swoop bike and takes off in the proper direction.
He makes good time. he estimates he is only fifteen minutes or so behind Ahsoka when he feels it. The whisper in the Force reaching out to him, grasping for him. He is forced to momentarily slow down to catch his breath.
That… that is…
Luke Skywalker is here. Really, truly here. He had suspected, had hoped, that the reason why the Force had sent him this way was tied to the boy’s last battle, but to have it confirmed…
He silences himself, stills his pounding heart. The desert, the whisper of Luke’s presence, being the only sentient for miles…. In this moment he is back on Tatooine, listening to the Force on the wind. In the space between breaths, the whisper is as loud as a shout. The half-formed, once might be broken, not yet made connection he has with Anakin’s son is reaching into the distance. It can not, will not, connect, but the Force gifts him with insight regardless. Luke is here, present on this planet, and is located exactly where Obi-Wan needs to go.
More than that, the boy is not alone. Along the barest remains of a path long unused he can sense Leia Organa, her exhaustion weighing down that fragile thread. And echoing between the twins is a presence beloved by them both. That would be Captain Solo, of course.
All this he gleans in an instant. Along with guidance from the Force comes the familiar sense of imminent danger. Sidious sent his apprentice. Dooku, in turn, sent his assassin.
The knowledge sets a grim determination in him. Luke is his to protect and, barring others, Leia is as well. He will not allow anyone to place a finger on either’s head. With that thought as good as a vow, Obi-Wan brings the vehicle up to speed and sets off once more.
The standing rocks are as he remembers them in the distance. The abandoned speeder is new. He is getting close.
At the whim of the Force, he swings wide, abandoning the bike with the rocks between him and the battle. As he approaches, he can hear the clash of lightsabers. He crests one of the rocks, finds himself standing over the battle in the sands. The wind is picking up, the sandstorm he felt brewing this morning is coming to fruition. He keeps his eye protection hanging around his neck, but pulls his hood up, asking the Force to keep it secure. With a sandstorm coming, he cannot risk leaving his robes behind. Satisfied that he has everything on him that he certainly needs to survive a mad-dash to shelter later, he assesses the fight below.
Ahsoka and Ventress are easily discernable, their sabers and styles of battle intimately familiar. But along with them is a smaller form, blond haired, sand colored, and wielding the saber made from his master’s crystal.
Well, that explains a few things, he thinks.
The boy, Luke, his Luke, slips. The Force roars.
That’s his cue.
“Attacking children now, Asajj? A little low, even for you.”
The woman looks up at him and purrs. “Dearest. I was wondering when you’d be joining us. Where’s your little pet?”
Obi-Wan’s glad that his antagonism against the Dathomiri never was as strong as Anakin’s. He could not dredge up such genuine disgust even if he wanted to. He knows too much about her and her struggles now. Knows how much of her loyalty to Dooku is a lust for power and how much more is a deep seated loneliness and desire to belong.
“Duties elsewhere, I am afraid. My apologies that you must simply settle for me as your dance partner today. Shall we, my dear?”
The slightest widening of her grin is his only answer, and he is leaping off the rock, using his master’s favored Ataru to give it a little bit of flare, preparing to meet her blade with his. It is his first true fight since the Ruptures started, and he can tell that something is different already. The Force laughs around him, glad to be finally doing something, accomplishing something more vital than waiting around. He’ll have no problem calling upon it for assistance today.
Immediately her attention is off the children, focus entirely on him. Somehow she senses that he is a greater threat than before, that she’ll need all her attention on him to keep up in this skirmish.
His landing drives her into the sand, fast and deep. He bounces away from the clash and immediately Force pushes her back even farther. Not expecting such an aggressive overture from the typically defensive Kenobi, Asajj is sent rolling back several meters; the somewhat forgiving sand the only reason she is not concussed.
“Master!” Ahsoka cries. She and Luke both are rushing towards him, but he can feel the attention of at least two others. Han and Leia must be hidden somewhere, then. He holds back the instinct to bundle his nephew in all but blood close to him, to hide him away from Ventress, the Sith, the galaxy at large, and to do the same for his sister. They are approaching a crossroads, the five of them, a shatterpoint to use Mace’s language, and he has to handle things properly. There are too many unknowns for him to act on those instincts now.
And of course, there’s also an irate Sith acolyte regaining her bearings not too far away.
So he does as any good diplomat would and stalls for time. Time to think, time to plan, time to get them safe.
“Ahsoka, take the young ones and go,” he commands, eyes intent on Ventress’ form. “The sandstorm is nearly upon us and you have to find shelter before it grows too strong. Head west. Take the speeder I saw behind the stones. You should find shelter before long.”
“He’s right.” Force, but Luke’s a child. “There’s gonna be a wall of sand showing up any time now. We have to go.” Out of the corner of his eye he can see the boy tugging at Ahsoka’s unmoving arm.
“But Master, you said we shouldn’t face Ventress alone!” Whining must be a Skywalker trait: learned for Ahsoka, inherited in Luke.
“I said you should not face her alone. I don’t have to defeat her. I just have to make sure she can’t follow us when the storm starts. I believe we’ve retrieved what we came for.”
“Did you get it?”
He suppresses the desire to roll his eyes under his hood. It does not matter that neither child would see it, but the question is textbook Anakin impertinence. “It is safe, Ahsoka, but it won’t be if you do not take the speeder, the children, and go.”
Luke’s staring at him, and he spares a glance. There is no recognition on the boy’s face, but it is near. He’s grateful for the hood. If Luke is like Obi-Wan in his situation, then there might be no problem. However, there is a chance he is a very confused twelve-year-old wondering how he got separated from his aunt and uncle by nearly the width of the known galaxy. If so, it won’t do for him to be questioning “Old Ben” Kenobi in front of Ahsoka. Counterproductive, actually.
“C’mon, Ahsoka. Leia’s done. We have to leave. Now.”
Obi-Wan files that tidbit away for later and turns his full attention to the padawan. He has but a few moments before Ventress starts her attack again. But a few moments is enough. “If you won’t listen to me, fine, but you must listen to the Force, padawan.” That, finally, gets through to the stubborn girl. She hesitates, closes her eyes, and stills. Weighing her options, and Obi-Wan knows she learned this technique from Master Plo for all she usually fails to use it.
Bright blue eyes open and there is a determination in them. But she nods, once, sharp and short.
“Don’t die, Master,” she has the audacity to order before she turns and runs back towards the abandoned speeder, pulling Luke along behind her. Obi-Wan trusts Ahsoka, and trusts the Force, to keep herself and those in her charge safe.
And with a sudden uptick in the wind, the moment of quiet is over. Asajj is sprinting back towards him, sabers combined into the double-bladed staff that she favors.
“You’ve been holding back-,” she grunts, their blades clashing, “-on me, Kenobi.”
“Not at all, my dear. You’ve just never been foolish enough to threaten children in my presence before.”
“Those are no ordinary children, darling. Everyone knows your precious little padawans are fair game on the battlefield.” Another morsel to digest at a later point.
“Are Jedi not allowed to protect their own younglings?” he grins at her, feral and fond at once. He has missed this, for all that he is annoyed by the repetition. On Tatooine, his rare opponents were never interested in trading quips or insults, if they even spoke Basic at all. There was no battle of wits; the only thing that mattered was being stronger than your opponent.
But dear Asajj, beautifully tragic Asajj, was committed to proving that she was his better in every way that mattered, of finding out what the something was that separated them so much that Dooku kept trying to recruit Obi-Wan rather than being content with teaching her.
Speaking of which…
“If you actually protected them, they wouldn’t be out here. Funny, how many of your younglings get abandoned the moment they become inconvenient,” she snarls. He’s hit close to home. It had taken nearly the whole war, but Asajj’s weak point for padawans and other young beings had been one of the traits he had come to admire about her. It was personal, to her, whenever she perceived Jedi failing their next generation. And it was an in. No time like the present to start working on getting her out from under Dooku’s influence. It never hurt to have another ally out in the galaxy, especially one who would end up wanting the Sith eradicated almost as much as the Jedi did.
“I am here, on Jakku,” he blocks another two strikes, one high, one low, “gathering several ‘inconvenient’ younglings.” Jumps over a swipe at his feet. Asajj cannot hide her slight awe at his ease dancing over the sand. Truly, just a judicious and exact application of the Force was all that was needed. “I do not know what happened to you in the past, but I really wish you would stop judging all Jedi by that one incident.”
And where before he had irritated her, this time his attack struck true. Gone is all composure, all attempts at unsettling him. She gives a feral roar and focuses all her rage and pain at him. It is a dark side attack, but sometimes to remove the poison one must make the wounds bleed. He lets her rage wash over him, sinks into Soresu’s calm center. She is a wounded child in so many ways. He’ll let her tantrum play out as long as he can.
But the Force rises over him with a sense of urgency. His own warning to the children echoing on its currents. The sandstorm is coming. The children are a safe distance away.
Time to wrap things up.
He lets Asajj knock him down, rolling onto his back. Once she comes in for the kill, he is kicking her up and away. The push from his Force assisted blow rams her into the standing stones back first. She collapses on the ground, but the Force is insistent she’ll be fine.
Regardless, Obi-Wan spares a moment to run to her side. He does not help her up, but stands over, watching. When he is certain she is conscious enough to hear him, he speaks.
“You deserve so much better than what Dooku can give you. You do not have to settle for scraps of affection, my dear.”
She is too injured to talk back, still stunned. But he hopes the words will stick with her. Hopes he can get her started on the path that leads to her becoming an ally to the Jedi, regardless of her snark and facade of uncaring distance. But that is all the time he can spare her. More, actually. The sandstorm is nearly here, he can feel it in the air, along the back of his neck, and he must hurry to shelter himself. And the Force isn’t urging any further actions in regards to her. Just that he needs to get going.
He turns and runs towards where he believes Ahsoka left her own swoop bike. He pulls the sand resistant lenses over his eyes, draws his hood close, and grabs the extra scarf he made Ahsoka pack form the saddlebags. He knew there was a reason he was guided to give her the entirety of their supplies. He wraps the scarf as he learned from watching the Tuskens, making sure to cover both mouth and nose with the gauzy material. Gloves on hands and he is ready to brave the storm, should he end up running late.
Once more, he is only fifteen minutes or so behind the girl. He’ll catch up sooner rather than later. Besides Luke, and Leia as well, is a beacon in the Force. It takes the barest sliver of his concentration to direct the swoop bike through the desert towards them.
The rest of his attention is given over to what he has learned since arriving at the source of the disturbance. For, while feeling smoothed, almost scarred over, there was indeed a massive Rupture at the battle grounds. He hadn’t the chance to inspect it, but there is no doubt in his mind. That scar in the Force was exactly where the disturbance he’d found the first time he walked this path would have been.
A disturbing thought comes to mind. Or perhaps, a slightly heretical one. The disturbance without cause, a mission without a purpose, the planet being one and the same as the battle where Sidious made his post-mortem attack. It was almost as if… as if the Force was preparing him to find Luke and Leia here. Just in case.
For the first time in his life, Obi-Wan wonders if perhaps the Force deals in contingencies. It would make sense, he thinks. Redundancies in the universe, in the plan, to allow for both free will and the Will of the Force. Luke and Leia’s very existence is proof of that. Children of Light, conceived as their father became increasingly drawn to the Dark Side, choosing to believe Palpatine and his “wisdom” over the concerns of his best friend and his wife. And twins on top of that.
The thought is filed away. It is a philosophical discussion. One with grave concerns for the immediate future, of course, but one better held on Coruscant with other Masters, not on Jakku with just himself in his own head. Besides, he has more pressing concerns.
Like a child-sized Luke. Which likely meant a child-sized Leia, with Captain Solo probably affected as well. He is glad the three of them have each other, and if the timeline matches up, have been looking out for one another since the Ruptures started. But there are too many worrying unknowns. Chief among them, the question of the children’s mental states.
He knows better than to think they are in the same situation he is. His consciousness from Then and There was simply… merged, for lack of a better term, with his self from the Here and Now. Luke and Leia won’t even be conceived for another two years, though it is possible that Captain Solo is in the same situation as himself. The thought amuses him as much as it worries him. Han would only be six or seven at this point in time. Obi-Wan can barely make sense of his head even with the help of the Force; he would not wish that on a child for anything in the galaxy.
Besides, it wouldn’t make sense. The boy was likely still growing up on Corellia at this time. He’d have come to awareness there. Not in the middle of the desert on Jakku.
No… no. The other options are much more likely. The one he fears the most is that they are children of their apparent ages in every single way. That Leia, as far as she knows, was lifted straight from the Alderaanian Court, that Luke was stolen away from the Lars’ farm on Tatooine. He would still have a chance to keep them quiet about their identities, depending on how old they actually are; Luke could be anywhere from 10 to 13 from the glimpse he had. But impressing on them the uniqueness of the situation, keeping Leia from Senator Organa or Luke from Anakin… he’s not sure he’d have the heart to do so if they pleaded without understanding.
The other option, far more uncomfortable than harmful, is that it is only their bodies that have been brought backwards, and that their minds are intact. He rather hopes that is not the case, for their sake alone. He cannot imagine being fully grown yet stuck in a child’s body, entrapped by the whims of adults.
Or, and this is being hopeful, despite being children, they retain the knowledge, if not the memories or experience, that they had when they were last full grown. A Luke that knows of the Jedi, a Leia that knows her brother, a Han that knows to keep a close eye on the twins. The last would be preferred, but his trust in the Force is counterbalanced by his own pragmatic knowledge of how rarely life turns his way.
Regardless, he needs a way to test the waters, so to speak, without letting Ahsoka know that anything may be amiss. A way to surreptitiously determine what Luke’s mental age is compared to his body, what his knowledge is, whether he can recognize “Old Ben Kenobi” in the Jedi General. More importantly, a way to reassure a true child Luke Skywalker that he is indeed “Old Ben” and a friend as well as convince a more knowledgeable Luke that the much younger than remembered Jedi Master is the man who knows him from Tatooine.
A touchstone that works for both possibilities.
He’s settled on just what to say right as the sandstorm begins to pick up speed. Now, to find the speeder he knows Luke and Ahsoka will have half left buried in the sand, signaling shelter.
So... long wait again. It's on me. I keep trying to force scenes that don't actually work/aren't needed. I'm only willing to cut them when I get desperate. Then I'm merciless.
Anyway, next is my favorite chapter so far, and the one that I think most of you have been waiting for. I make no promises (for that way lies madness. And disappointment. Mainly in myself), but chapter 4 has fewer gaps to fill than 3, and thus, less spaces where I have to force things.
Again. No promises.
Anyway, leave kudos, comments, and <3 's in the comments if you've already left kudos and don't know what else to say.
And as always, feel free to check me out at delicatefury.tumblr.com for TDPL spoilers, sneak-peeks, and meta and Star Wars (and now Miraculous as well) fangirling.
Chapter 4: Reunion
The Force has brought Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker together once again, along with Leia Organa and Han Solo. But there's one last hurdle to cross before they can finally decide what to do next. They have to get off Jakku
Okay, it's 10 days late, but still...
HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY TDPL!
How perfect that on the one year anniversary I would finally get to post the scene that started it all.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A lightsaber waving Togruta. Terrifying bald woman, with two lightsabers, attacking the kid. Mysterious robed man ordering them about. Also with lightsaber.
What the kriff have they gotten themselves into?
Now they;re holing up in a cave with the Togruta, a “padawan,” whatever the Sith hells that was, fleeing from the terrifying bald woman, and waiting on Mr. Mysteriously Robed. He knows the kid said something was coming today, that things were going to change, but Han could do with a little less change if it came with a lot more answers.
He’s beginning to miss Goldenrod. At least the droid might’ve had some sort of reference for the situation. Right now the three of them are completely winging it.
Here’s the situation as Han sees it. Leia is still sick, and whatever the hell she was doing with Luke this morning hasn’t exactly helped. She’s still too quiet, too compliant; she hardly fought when Han picked her up out of the speeder and carried her into the cave. This… thing that's going on with the Force, it’s really messed her up.
Luke is… practically vibrating actually. He’s seeing something that Han isn’t, but that’s pretty par for the course nowadays. His attention is completely absorbed by the Togruta girl. Can’t blame him for that. The girl’s pretty enough, but he knows that’s not what Luke’s interested in. It’s the lightsaber at her waist and her ease with it that’s got his attention.
Luke’s pretty easy like that.
The Togruta is standing guard over the cave entrance. She’s waiting for her master, the mysterious robed man. Han pats the blaster on his hip once or twice, reassuring himself of its weight. He’s not sure what to make of her. She seems nice enough, but he’s known plenty of perfectly nice people perfectly willing to stab you in the back at the first opportunity. Nice means nothing.
Himself? He’s got his blaster, he’s got the twins, he’s got his wits. It’s not the worst situation he’s found himself in. But his hands are sweaty and his breath feels too shallow. They’d left before things got too intense, but that witch and man fighting… Han’s never seen Luke clash with anyone who’d used a lightsaber before. If it looks anything like that, Han’s gained a lot more respect for the kid.
But with the speeder unburdened of its supplies, there’s really not much left to do but sit and wait. The sandstorm that Luke promised that morning has started to pick up. It’s looking to be even worse than the one they got caught up in on Tatooine, the kind that can strip the meat from your bones if you’re not careful. Part of Han hopes the robed man completely misses them because of it. That would be easiest. Sorry you gotta wait for the guy, scary lightsaber girl, but we’ll go our separate ways now. Hope to never deal with you or crazy bald woman ever again.
Yeah. Not likely.
For starters, his gut’s not kicking up a fuss. He’s not sure if he can trust the guy, but the man isn’t exactly a danger. Except it’s more than that. He’s got an absolute lack of a bad feeling about this. And that’s putting him on edge. He’s always got at least a bit of a sense on the way a situation is going to play out. You don’t get to be one of Jabba’s best smugglers if you can’t anticipate the pros and cons better than the rest. But he’s got nothing. That undercurrent of anticipation is there, but not to run. Kinda reminds him of an ack dog waiting for its master. Or maybe… he laughs a bit to himself about this, but it reminds him of Luke whenever he’s got a new Force trick or Jedi artifact to show him and Leia. That’s what he’s picking up in this cave.
And it’s setting his teeth on edge, because there is absolutely no reason for him to be feeling this way. So instead of relaxing, like the mood seems to warrant, he’s pacing the wall near Leia, watching Luke and the Togruta girl.
“Will you stop, nerf for brains. you’re making my headache worse.”
Those are the first words Leia’s spoken since she last went into that creepy meditation with Luke.
“I’ll relax - Fine. I’ll stop. As soon as Luke gets over here.”
Leia rolls her eyes. Han wants to rejoice, his little spitfire is getting some of her vinegar back. “You’re such a mother gundark. Luke! Han wants you away from the entrance.”
“Traitor,” Han mumbles. It does the trick though. Luke comes back to join him and Leia, the Togruta trailing after him.
“What’s wrong with the entrance, Han? The storm isn’t going to really hit for another hour or so.”
“Yeah, well, call me paranoid, but I don’t like presenting a nice obvious target when people are trying to kill me for no damn good reason.” Han grumbles.
The Togruta is smiling at him, clearly amused. He has to fight the urge to stick his tongue out at her. He’s older than all 3 of them, he has to set a good example. Be the adult.
“So what’s your story half-pint?” Be mostly an adult.
“My name is Ahsoka Tano. I’m a Jedi padawan, thank you for asking,” There's snark there. She’s probably only being so polite because it’s a first meeting. And she’s a - wait.
“I know you probably don’t get a lot of us out here, ever, but yes. I am a Jedi padawan. We follow the ways of the Force.” Force damned, but that explains Luke’s fascination. Someone other than him claiming to be a Jedi? Hells, the kid probably thinks this whole fiasco was worth it for that alone.
“I know what a Jedi is, sister. What I want to know is why you were out in the middle of the desert. What were you looking for?” He has to be the cynic. Between wide-eyed idealism and a politician who actually believes what she’s selling, someone has to keep their feet on the ground.
The girl, Tano, doesn’t think too highly of his question. She’s squinting at him, like she can see right through him. If she’s anything even remotely close to the Jedi of old, maybe she can. Before she can reply, though, there’s a commotion at the cave’s entrance.
Han doesn’t give Luke a chance to fight him. He’s got reach on the kid and he uses that to his advantage. One lanky arm loops around Luke’s waist and hauls him back towards his sister. In nearly the same motion, Han’s got his blaster up and stuck himself between the twins and the stranger at the cave entrance. Leia scrambles up behind him. Always on the same wavelength, she grabs onto Luke, holding him in place, forcing him to help her stand. Han barely pays her attention. He’s focused on the entrance.
“Hello there,” a man’s voice shouts over the growing noise of the wind. It’s muffled, but Ahsoka seems to recognize it.
“About time you showed up, Master. I was beginning to think you got lost.”
“Apologies. I had to finish up some unpleasant business first.” The man steps forward to meet the girl, and his garb reminds Han of Luke in so many little ways. Like the kid, he's got nearly every inch of his skin covered, obviously prepared for spending time in the desert. But he’s pulling the scarf away, leaning down to talk to the Jedi kid.
It’s great that Ahsoka seems to trust the man, but Han’s policy is generally to keep a steady hand on his blaster until he can verify for himself. He barely knows Ahsoka, for all that Luke’s already managed to make friends through the time honored tradition of barely surviving someone trying to kill you together.
But if Ahsoka, a Jedi whatever, is calling the man “‘Master,” he might be a Jedi too. He’s got the saber, though Han knows that that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. And the familiarity of the man is driving him up the wall.
The man, the Jedi, has finished giving Ahsoka her instructions, and she heads towards the cave entrance with a nod. Han prepares for the worst. Ahsoka, while mainly an unknown, had at least already helped them. Now he’s being left alone with the man, one twin incapacitated, the other showing really questionable judgement.
The Jedi raises his voice to call back to the padawan, something about a heating unit and tea. Then he turns his attention to the three at the back of the cave.
“As for you three…” he starts. Han stiffens at the voice. It’s light and casual, with a crisp Coruscanti accent, but there’s an undercurrent of absolute authority. Han hates to admit it, but he panics a little at the tone. With the man’s focus on them there is no doubt in his mind; the force of that gaze, hooded or not, bears all the weight of Luke at his most somber.
This man is a Jedi. He is a Jedi and Han is just a kid. He’ll freely admit that now. Just a kid with no ship to escape to, no Chewie for backup, and he knows Luke and Leia are Force-Sensitives, that the Jedi can probably just take them with him if he wants to, but Han has to keep them safe. Because they are so much smaller now, and so much more reckless, his princess and his farm-boy. Sure he has his blaster, but the memories from his childhood are so much fresher now. Against a Jedi, a real Jedi, the blaster is just so much junk.
The man shifts to face them fully, face still obscured by the folds of his cloak, the outline of an auburn beard all that is visible in the half-light created by the glow sticks Luke had insisted on packing.
“I am certain you’ve heard this before,” the Jedi says, voice droll, “but the Jundland Wastes are not to be travelled lightly.”
Han can feel Luke’s sudden tension beside him, coiled tightly, but he can’t figure out why. All he knows is this Jedi has no karking clue where in the galaxy they are. Did the man damage his head out there?
“Tell me, young ones, what brings you out this far?”
Despite his ingrained wariness, the kindness in the voice has Han dropping his guard. “This ain’t Tatooine, old man,” he says, rolling his eyes. He pauses mid roll, realizing that he may be poking the sleeping kraayt right now.
“We’re in the Goazon badlands, Master,” Ahsoka calls over the noise of the storm, hauling in what looks like saddlebags from a swoop-bike. Her tone is teasing, but a little disbelieving. So she doesn’t think the Jedi would get things that wrong either.
“Are we? Hmm… curious.” Han can hear the raised eyebrow accompanying that statement. But Luke is nearly trembling next to him, and while Han doesn’t know the Force from the sand around him, the air is saturated with a vague, tentatively hopeful feeling. Before he can stop the younger boy, Luke lets go of his sister and ducks under Han’s arm.
“Ben?” his soft question cuts through even the raging wind blowing across the entrance. Is he asking for guidance from his ghost? Should Han be worried? Luke’s reaching for something, reaching without moving an inch but Han can feel it. He’s sure everyone else can too.
The padawan pauses in her tasks to watch the scene unfold. Han can see her mouth the name to herself, white brow-markings furrowing. He can feel Leia pulling in closer, tucking herself under his other arm. She seems to only have a vague idea of what is going on in her brother’s head. Seems intent on reassuring Han that Luke knows what he is doing. But Han’s attention is immediately drawn back to the Jedi.
The edge of the beard twitches slightly upward, almost like the Jedi is smirking, and his hands go the the edges of the cloak. He pulls the hood down and reveals a much younger and gentler looking man than Han was expecting. The now-teenager pegs the Jedi as his own age, or rather, what his age was before things went to the ninth Corellian hell over the planet last week. The Jedi’s auburn hair is as neatly trimmed as his beard. His eyes are blue-green and kind, and the hinted smirk is instead a lopsided, but fond smile. But though the Jedi looks familiar, Han can't place him. Had he been famous during the clone wars? A survivor of the purges?
The Jedi speaks again and his next words stop Han’s train of thought dead.
“Hello, Young Luke. It’s good to see you again.”
It becomes clear to Han that everyone else in the cave has frozen. “See you again?” What the kriffin’ Sith Hells did that mean? Him, Luke, and Leia? They’re in the wrong place and the wrong ages and no one here has had any clue who the kriff they are. Leia must be thinking the same, because the tension in the room snaps back with a vengeance, ratchets up in intensity by several degrees and she reaches up to grab at Han’s vest, torn between hiding from this absolute stranger and protecting her brother.
But even without directly seeing him, Han can tell Luke lights up.
“Ben!” The blond boy pushes entirely past Han’s protective, grasping reach and darts across the cave’s floor. The Jedi kneels down just in time to catch the boy as he flings himself into the other’s arms. “Boy, am I glad to see you.” Luke buries himself as far as he can go into the embrace, hands clutching the fabric at the man’s shoulders as tight as his small fists can. Han can hear the telltale sniffle of a trying not to cry Luke Skywalker, muffled in the layers of the man’s tunics as all the fear and worry of the past week leaves the boy in a rush.
For his part the Jedi, Ben, clutches the boy back just as hard, folding him up in his arms so Luke nearly disappears behind the dark brown sleeves of his cloak.
“It’s all right, Luke,” he mutters into blond hair. “I’m here, I’m really here.” He pushes the boy away for a moment and looks him over, tip to toes. “I’m glad to see you’re in one piece.” His eyes linger on Luke’s right arm, right above the wrist, eyebrow quirking, and Han knows that wasn't an accident.
Without letting go of the boy, the Jedi looks up and catches Han’s eye, beard twitching upward again, before turning to the girl still tucked into his side. “That goes for you too, Leia.” She stiffens at the acknowledgement and Ben turns that intense gaze back to Han. “And you as well, Mr. Solo.”
And somehow that is the last piece needed for it all to slot into place. The blue lightsaber. The smirk. The accent. The twinkle in the eye. Ben.
Han knows this man.
It's the padawan who breaks the following silence, supplies forgotten at her feet. “You know these guys, Master Kenobi?”
And there’s that smirk again, the one that asked Han a lifetime ago: who was more foolish?
“Oh yes, Ahsoka. Luke and I are old friends, aren’t we?”
Han and Leia have inched forward, her fist still lightly gripping his vest, and he can see Luke’s sunshine smile through the tears as he nods his head vigorously.
“Yep, we are.” The boy sighs. “I missed you, Ben,” he whispers, head bowing close once more.
The Jedi, Ben, desert wizard and generally crazy old fossil as well as a, apparently former, Force ghost, bends his head until their foreheads meet, smile turning soft and fond.
“I missed you, too.”
Leia had seen General Obi-Wan Kenobi in person exactly once in her life: on the Death Star, from far away, and only moments before he died. Her impression then had been that he was tired; alone but resolute. Even from a distant she could sense the firmness of character that her father had so admired.
But then he’d been gone, the Imperials were firing at them, Luke was breaking, and there was a battle to plan.
He’d been a figure of stories and myths, legendary and larger than life. The Great General Obi-Wan Kenobi. The only Jedi to face Darth Vader and live. And he’d died, blade raised, forcing all of Darth Vader’s focus onto himself and giving them the opportunity needed to escape.
She shudders at the thought of Vader intervening in their escape. She still has nightmares where he turns his great powers on them rather than investigating the general’s sudden disappearance.
However, this man… He looks exactly like her father’s old holos, all dash and charm. And when he’d arrived, flying through the air and fighting off the witch, she saw the hero of her childhood come to life. In addition, she had gotten to see his legendary diplomatic skills in person during dinner as he’d skillfully guided the conversation wherever he willed, keeping their strange circumstances hidden from the Padawan with ease. He had truly lived up to his reputation.
But all the same, the general had disappeared when struck by Vader, had died, and Luke had confirmed that multiple times. That he would be here, on Jakku and with a student no less, was so unreal as to be unbelievable, even with their current circumstances. She wouldn’t have believed it at all if Luke hadn’t been so completely certain.
And the worst part of it all, she thinks, is that she is absolutely tongue-tied around the man. She nestles deeper into Han’s side and clutches her mug of tea tighter. She isn’t a little girl, meeting the knight who always saves the princess. She is Leia Organa: Imperial Senator, Rebel spy, Alliance Commander, and leader of the remnant Alderaanian people.
And she is in awe of the Jedi who, according to to Bail Organa, had encompassed all the greatest traits of the Order. The last time she’d had this much trouble speaking was when her father presented her to the Emperor, and certainly the situations couldn’t be any more different.
Leia’s own apprehension diminishes in the wake of Luke’s happiness-amazement-affection racing across the bond they share, accompanied by a great sense of relief. She had known that the lack of General Kenobi’s presence had weighed on her brother, but she hadn’t realized how badly it had upset him until the General was standing in front of them calling Luke’s name. Tentatively she probes the connection between them, investigating her brother’s mind and hoping to borrow some more of that feeling of trust and calm he’s settled down into.
There was something different, she could tell. Ever since Bespin, when she and Luke first became consciously aware of the way the Force intertwined them, she’d felt that there was a place in Luke’s mind, in his presence, that had been broken. It wasn’t like Leia’s heartbreak over Alderaan and her people, a heartache that waxed and waned but forever shadowed her heart. For Luke, it was a piece of shrapnel; physical, in a way. More akin to a snapped bone that would not heal right. A jagged shard of pain that would not go away.
That wound is gone. Or perhaps, the break had healed? That place in his mind isn’t torn or painful, but whole and glowing and happy.
“What are you staring at, Princess?” Han’s voice breaks her concentration. Dammit, she had been so close to figuring out what had changed, then the nerfherder had to go and ruin things. She’s not sure she can get such a clear read on Luke again. That single burst of energy and focus has exhausted her.
“Leia?” Han’s voice is worried as she sags against him.
Now that her focus is off Luke, the low pounding headache of the last few days is making itself known. She feels like she did when they first woke up on Jakku. Miserable. So she moans a little and buries her head in the older boy’s shirt. So what if she overplays it? Honestly, she’s doing Han a favor, letting him concentrate on her. Otherwise he’d still be freaking out; over the near miss, over their situation, over the appearance of “the Old Fossil” as he’d always referred to General Kenobi.
She feels a gentleness in her own head and the pain subsides. Luke. Her dear little brother, always looking out for her. She smiles at him, reassuring, and he answers it back before returning to watching General Kenobi and Padawan Tano.
Soft snores break the silence. The Padawan has drifted off. The general breaks his meditation and makes his way over to the girl’s side. Leia watches as he places a gentle hand on her forehead, and feels something shift in the air around the girl.
The princess snaps to attention. “What did you do to her?” she demands, righteous concern for others overriding any sense of fear or unease. A part of her is ashamed of the outburst; she’s practically accusing the general of harming the Padawan.
But she can’t help it. Sometimes the use of the Force still unsettles her. It’s fine when it’s Luke, and she trusts her brother unflinchingly, but the thought that someone could reach into another’s mind, influence them to obey, to act against their will as the Emperor had done… Well, she doesn’t know General Kenobi. Not like her brother does.
Thankfully, the general does not appear to take offense. Rather, he gives her a gentle smile and sits back on his heels.
“Nothing to fret over, my dear. I just used a basic healing technique to deepen Ahsoka’s sleep somewhat. She’ll get a more effective rest and will not likely wake until it’s time for her watch. We four have many things to talk about that aren’t for outside ears. And, well, I’m afraid you three are likely to drift off yourselves before she’d reach deep sleep on her own.”
Leia nods, mollified, and feels an alarming amount of embarrassed heat creep up the back of her neck to her already red cheeks as she retreats again. Of course General Kenobi would never harm his student. That’s not the type of man her father would have befriended. And he is right; they do have a lot to talk about.
The general walks over to their side of the cave, away from the slumbering Padawan. Luke is by his side as soon as he sits down, and Leia sees that the affection her brother has for the man is returned. Luke still looks distraught, though. Unsure. He keeps reaching out towards the man, as if to reassure himself that General Kenobi is actually there.
Luke did say he often saw his Ben as a ghost.
Like everything else since the fight, the Jedi takes Luke’s actions in stride. When her brother makes yet another abortive movement to touch the General’s cloak, the man simply places his hand palm up on his knee. Luke grabs it without prompting, and Leia sees her brother truly relax for the first time since they woke up on Jakku. Possibly she sees him at ease for the first time since she’s known him. There is a weightlessness there, that lack of never ending ache that had echoed along their bond almost as long as they’d known each other. Could the reason for its absence be General Kenobi?
“Now, I know the lot of you doubtlessly have questions. I have several myself. I’ll do my best to answer, but first…” the General trails off and looks to his side, where Luke is beginning to lean into him. The slight frown softens to something warm and fond before becoming concerned. “How old are you?”
“Me and Leia are twelve,” Luke answers around a yawn, meeting her and Han’s eyes rather than the General’s as he freely shares. Letting them know he won’t hide anything from the man. “Han’s about seventeen.”
General Kenobi nods, free hand coming up to stroke at his beard. “Yes, I thought as much. Not the exact ages, of course, but the general range. And the last thing you remember before…?”
“Well, I remember landing on Jakku.” This time her brother does look to the General, neck bending at an awkward angle, refusing to shift from his position tucked into the man’s side. “During the battle with the Empire, I mean.”
“You remember all the way to the Battle of Jakku?” The General looks surprised, and somewhat impressed.
“Remember’s a strong word,” Han says, pulling a face. The same face he’s pulled every time they’ve had to confront their strange situation this last week. Their memories, appearance, and yes, even behavior not matching exactly what it was a little over a week ago sits as sourly in his stomach as it does in hers. “It’s kinda more like we know we were at the battle of Jakku, and what we were doin’ there. If that makes sense,” Han trails off into a mumble.
“Hmmm… yes. More than you’d think.” The General goes quiet again, lost in thought. He stays quiet for longer than Leia’s comfortable with. Long enough for Han to start sagging back against the cave wall and for Luke to start fighting off sleep. Almost against her will, she tries to get a sense of the man. It only occurs to her that she’s trying to read him through the Force when he sharply turns towards her at the same time her headache spikes.
Luke must sense her unease at the attention, because he’s interrupting with a question of his own before the General can form the one on his mind.
“Ben? What happened? There was something wrong with the Force during the battle. It tore a hole in… in everything.”
“To put it bluntly, the four of us appear to have travelled through time via the Rupture in the Force.”
Leia swallows hard. It’s impossible, but it explains so much. Especially what she and Luke had seen while closing up the rift in the desert. But still…
“Time Travel? Not possible. I mean, how even… What the hell?” Han says, beating her to her own question.
“Oh, I assure you, that is most definitely what happened.”
“So, what, getting your age halved is just a side-effect?”
“Why do you say that?” The general asks, suspiciously bland in tone.
“I mean, how far back could we have travelled? The tech isn’t that far off.”
“You aren’t wrong. We haven’t ended terribly far back in the grand scheme of things. Welcome to the first year of the Clone Wars, Captain Solo.”
“The Clone Wars,” Han splutters. Leia agrees. Of all the time to be brought to. “But… you get what I’m saying. That wasn’t even thirty years ago…” Han trails off in the face of the General’s pleasantly expectant look. To Leia, it seems like he’s noticed Han digging himself into a hole and is quite cheerfully willing to hand the teenager a shovel.
Han swallows, sensing a trap of some sort but not sure where. “And, y’know, compared to when you died…” he gestures vaguely at the man.
General Kenobi gives a funny sort of half-smile, equal parts teasing and self-deprecating. “I’m sure I should be flattered, but unlike the three of you, I am the correct age and state of existence for the time period.
“Now, as for how we found ourselves in this situation… Darth Sidious happened.” The name is unfamiliar to Leia, but the way the General says it strikes her cold.
“Darth… like Vader?” Han asks.
“The Emperor.” Luke’s voice is barely a whisper, and horror drips through Leia’s veins at the implications. “But how? He died. Father killed him.”
“Hmm, yes. Quiet thoroughly, too. But leave it to that Sith,” the General says, but Leia can heard that he means something quite fouler, “to have something this vile in reserve. I don’t know the specifics as to how, but Sidious was able to retain some sort of existence after his death.”
“I thought only Jedi could do that,” Luke says.
“Oh, he did not become one with the Force as I did. Whatever he did, his was a twisted perversion of existence. But that is besides the point. From what I can recall, Sidious and his followers used the battle of Jakku to gather dark energies from across the empire.”
“Wait, Luke, didn’t you say you weren’t talking to your ghosts so much because they were supposed to be looking out for dark side stuff? How the hell’d you miss this?” Han says, back on the offensive.
“We were busy trying to repair the damage Sidious had managed to inflict on the Force Itself. There had been no new Sentinels for near centuries. The knowledge on becoming one had been lost to the Jedi for quite some time and there was much work to be done. Too much work to be focusing on a man who supposedly could do no more harm.” Of course, she thinks, the General ignores Han’s posturing.
“Our mistake was in assuming that Sidious’ machinations would end with his death. This is a creature who organized multiple wars on both sides of the conflict, numerous assassination attempts on himself, and the downfall of both the Jedi Order and the entire Galactic Republic in order to begin his new Sith Empire. Of course he wouldn’t risk even death keeping him from enjoying his spoils. When the remnants of the empire assembled on Jakku, Sidious couldn’t resist making his presence known.”
“So the storm was him,” Luke says.
The General nods. “Yes and no. That was a Force Storm, a powerful dark side ability used as a show of power that was rumored to be able to split space in two. It was theorized that a powerful enough Sith could use that ability to move great forces across the galaxy in an instant.”
“That seems pointless. All the Empire’s forces were already gathered in one place.”
“You assume winning the battle was Sidious’ goal. No, time travel was certainly the objective from the start. With all that gathered dark energy…well. Time and space are truly one and the same. The damage from the attack to space and the Force itself was so great that time began to unravel. He was tearing apart existence. Trying to get to a specific point, I assume. We did our best to contain him and his attack, but… we were caught off guard, and it was as if he were attacking everywhere at once.”
The General’s voice goes distant with his recollection. Luke leans farther into the man’s side, and Leia can feel her brother nudging at the General in the Force, trying to keep the man grounded. She herself is glad for Han’s reassuring presence next to her. That much power in the hands of Palpatine is far more sobering than the existence of another Death Star.
“Then why-” she begins.
“Wait, why do all this at the battle of Jakku?” Han asks, disrupting the somber silence. Leia bites back a frustrated groan; again he’d stopped her before she could force past the block. “It’d make more sense to do this voodoo dark magic thing far, far away from the only Jedi and his light side guardian spirits.” Leia catches the briefest impressed look on the General’s face at Han’s insight before the man schools his features.
“Because Sidious was attempting to use Luke as an anchoring point for his landing. He’d have the most reason to go after the three of you, after all.”
“The three of us?” And once again, Han swoops in with the question Leia would ask if she could get around the lump in her throat. She really wants to growl at the nerfherder to back off, but she will not lose her temper in front of General Kenobi.
“Well, if not for Luke, Anakin would have remained Vader and never betrayed him. If not for you, Luke would never have survived the Death Star or several other incidents,” her brother flushes, remembering the many times Han has had to pull him out of the fire, “and if not for the princess, then none of us would have left Tatooine in time to stop the Death Star from destroying the heart of the Rebellion. There’s more to it, of course, but in the Emperor’s eyes, Luke and all those who helped him were the direct cause of his downfall. As such, to him the best time to come back to would have been somewhere along Luke’s life. Until the two of you were born, all of his plans came together perfectly.”
“If he was aiming for Luke’s lifetime, he missed by a few years.” Now Leia knows that Han’s getting tired, his sarcasm has gone from sardonic to hard.
“Yes, Anakin came up with a… well, not exactly a solution, but a workaround.”
“Father? What did he do?” Luke takes over.
“He tried to protect you. Luke and Leia especially but, well, Anakin can be a bit… sloppy, when he is worried. I believe that’s how you, Captain Solo, got caught up in things.
Han scoffs. “So the guy finally does a decent thing, by accident, after he dies.”
Leia and Luke both hit him, with hand and foot respectively, though for vastly different reasons, Leia suspects. So much for keeping her temper.
“Whatever else the effects, he was able to protect you at least somewhat from Sidious’ attack.”
“How’d’ya figure that?”
The General simply rakes his gaze across the three of them before raising his eyebrow rather pointedly
Han flushes and breaks eye contact first. “Ah, we’re, uh, we’re not dead. Right.”
“Well, dead isn’t really the word for it. Unmade would be better, though in your case, Captain, you’d be simply reliving your childhood. Most likely, you’d be like every other person in the galaxy, living your life unaware that Sidious had changed things at all.”
“So he-oof,” Han tries to recover, but Leia’s small fist gets him right under the rib this time.
“So he protected us,” she says in the brief silence that follows. She is fighting not to flush under the General’s amused attention. She is Bail Organa’s daughter and has stood toe to toe against Darth Vader, dammit. So what if this is the famed Negotiator? “How is that a workaround?”
“Oh, that wasn’t the solution,” the General corrects, his attention solely on her once more. “It was simply the first thing Anakin did. Sidious was attempting to reach a very specific point in time. If I had to guess, I would say he was aiming for sometime immediately following the fall of the Republic, after all his plans had come to fruition but before the seeds of the Rebellion could take root. As he was focusing on Luke’s life, I am led to believe that Sidious was trying to intercept the two of us on our way to Tatooine.”
“Us?” Luke perks up, fatigue pushed away in favor of bright eyes and open ears.
“Of course. How else do you think you got to your aunt and uncle? It would have been the ideal time for an attack, too. I would have made an easy target for Imperial Forces if they were prepared for me. Far too exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally to properly defend myself while trying to protect you. There would have been one less Jedi in the galaxy to oppose Sidious and he’d have successfully stolen yet another Skywalker child from me.” The General’s eyes harden and she can see his grip on Luke’s hand tighten.
“Obviously that didn’t happen,” Han says.
“Obviously. Because Anakin figured out a way to prevent it. We couldn’t stop Sidious. We couldn’t even slow him down. So instead, Anakin added his own considerable power to Sidious’ efforts and forced him to overshoot.”
“Okay, that explains us,” Han says. He’d removed his arm from around Leia to rub at the sore spot she left on his side. Good, maybe he’ll remember to let her do the talking more often. “What about you?”
The General sighs, and she can see atension in his shoulders and neck that indicate he wants to roll his eyes but won’t. “As for me, I had every intention of fighting to hold back Sidious until I was unmade as well. But Anakin, and I cannot fault him for this, Anakin must have realized that forcing Sidious to overshoot would actually accomplish very little except giving Sidious more time and foreknowledge to put his plans into place. And so he decided to… throw me, for lack of a better term, along after the three of you. Quite without my say so, might I add. At roughly the same time you were landing on Jakku, I was coming to awareness from my own Force Rupture. In the middle of a battle.”
The three of them flinch. It was disorienting enough waking up in the desert, just the memory is enough to trigger the throbbing behind her eyes. She can’t imagine having to adapt while being shot at.
“But, as I said, I had no physical body to unmake, so instead my Force presence… merged, I suppose, with the ‘me’ of this time. Conveniently, as it were, for it has saved me several awkward questions.”
“Still…” Han shifts, uncomfortable with the whole situation. “Time travel’s a pretty out there concept to get my head wrapped around.”
“It’s true, though. This is our present now,” Leia speaks up. With the added context from General Kenobi, the rift… the Rupture in the desert makes sense. “When Luke and I were closing the Rupture,” she can feel the General’s attention focus in on her. She keeps her eyes on Han. “When we were closing it, I saw what was on the other side. There’s hints… impressions… visions of our own time, but there’s nothing else. Everything… everything we knew is gone.” Her head is pounding, her thoughts muddying, but she knows that going back is as impossible as returning to Alderaan was.
“So the two of you did close the Rupture,” the General’s voice is low and serious.
“Should we not’ve?” Luke asks.
“No, no. It was the right thing to do. Leaving it open would have led Sidious right to you. He surely knows more about the mechanics of this situation than we do, and that rift was far larger than the one I travelled through. But you closed most of it before Ventress could get a good look. As it stands, he has no way to ascertain how large the Rupturn was and thus no indication of what, or who, was able to make its way through. That was quick thinking on your part.”
Luke preens under the praise, but Leia still feels uneasy. Before, it was easy to pretend that their situation was only somewhat temporary, but their worst fears have been confirmed and surpassed. There is no Rebel Alliance, no allies, no resources. They can’t reverse what has happened to them except by time. And while Palpatine isn’t at the height of his power, he’s on the rise.
“So what happens now?” Han asks.
“Now, since the Force disturbance has been investigated, there’s no strategic value left out here. Tomorrow we’ll make our way back the the landing site. Once we leave this planet I’ll be returning to the Jedi temple to make my report and consult with the Council, then back to the front.”
“I meant with us.”
The General draws back, brows furrowed in mild concern. “I had assumed you were coming with me. Unless, of course, you’d rather stay on Jakku?”
“We would be delighted to accompany you, General,” Leia rushes to assure him. Getting off planet is their first priority and they won’t find a safer, or cheaper, alternative than with General Kenobi. “Thank you for your generosity.”
“No need to thank me, my dear,” the General says, practically radiating kindness, or maybe that’s the aura taking over her vision. “I’ll feel a lot better with you three where I can- Leia? Are you all right?”
The last sight she sees before closing her eyes against the pain is the General lunging towards her.
“Leia!” Luke’s reaching towards her in the Force, but she can’t reach back.
“Master… what’s wrong?” She can see a pale orange blur rise from the ground.
“Ahsoka, take over the watch. I nd… mmf…a” The voices trail off with the pain and Leia sinks into a restful sleep for the first time under Jakku’s night.
The next morning Ahsoka stumbles out of the half buried cave to find Han loading the last of the saddlebags into the old speeder.
“Morning, sleeping beauty. And how are you on this lovely day?”
She growls, longing for the hot caffe one of the shinies would usually have ready for her at camp. She reaches a hand out blindly while her eyes continue to adjust, waiting for the cup of tea Master Kenobi has prepared.
“What are you doing?”
She blinks and notices for the first time that she and the older teenager are the only ones by the entrance.
“Where’s Master Kenobi?”
“The Old Fossil? He and the twin terrors are over in the shade, meditating.” Ahsoka makes to join them, but Han intercepts her with a canteen and a meal bar. “Hey. Don’t disturb them, okay? He’s helping Leia with her… ‘psychic exhaustion’. You mess with her getting better and you answer to me.” The words are said casually, almost dismissively, and with a smile.
The padawan stands to her not yet impressive height and snatches the offered breakfast. “I think I can take you.”
“Sister, you wouldn’t get the chance,” he waves her off and heads back to the speeder.
“I think Jedi beats… what are you again?” After the tearful reunion between Luke and Master Kenobi last night, which was odd on so many levels, least of all some kid from Jakku calling Master Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Jedi High Council “Ben”, Ahsoka had tried to learn more about their new friends. But Master Kenobi was so skillful with his words that she hadn’t even realized the lack of real answers until halfway through her shift on watch.
“Spacer. From Corellia, before you ask. And Padaban or not-”
“Padawan,” she corrects.
“Padawan or not, the Force itself won’t help you if you hurt either of those kids. Of course, this is assuming you don’t get incapacitated by Luke’s ‘disappointed’ look.”
“Luke’s what now?” the boy in question asks, popping up on the other side of the speeder. Ahsoka jumps, not used to be taken so off guard since leaving the temple. It doesn’t take long to see why she missed his approach. Compared to yesterday’s supernova, today the boy’s Force presence nearly matches the desert around her. Meditating with a Jedi Master must’ve done him some good.
“Hey, kid. What’s the news with the princess?”
Luke smiles a greeting at Ahsoka and throws her a little wave before he turns back to his friend and sighs.
“It’s not terrible. I mean, it’s gonna take a while to recover, but at least it’s nothing life-threatening or long term.”
“How’d she push so far past her limits like that?” Ahsoka asks.
“It turns out that Leia’s been unconsciously shielding and blocking her own abilities pretty much her entire life, up until we met-”
“Wait, I thought you said the two of you were twins?”
“We are twins,” Luke looks affronted at the very suggestion. “We were separated when we were born and raised apart. I went to our-”
“Kid!” Han interrupts. “Leia’s headaches?”
“Oh! Right. So all her ability with the Force was kinda locked up internally. We’d been working on getting past that, but Ben says that when we encountered the Rupture, that door in her head we’d been opening was flung wide open and she just got overwhelmed by everything pouring in at once. Closing the Rupture again didn’t help things much either.”
“Okay, that’s understandable. I guess.” The mysteries surrounding these kids just keep getting weirder and she’s only known them for half a day. “Any word on the plans for today from Master Kenobi?” Ahsoka steps to hand the canteen over to Luke. She startles when she realizes that Han has packed the swoop-bike saddle bags with their own. “I guess you’re giving us a ride?”
The boys exchange a look before Han shrugs and moves to check the recently sand-buried engine, leaving Luke to face the Togruta alone.
“Actually… we’re going with you. All the way to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant,” he says. There’s a strange wistfulness to his tone in the last sentence. “Be- Master Kenobi wants me and Leia to tell the Jedi about what happened at the Rupture.”
“That, and there’s a psycho lightsaber wielding assassin who might want to talk to the twins, too,” Han says from inside the hood.
“Right. Ventress… I forgot about her. What makes you so sure Master Kenobi didn’t just kill her?”
“Because it wasn’t the time to. If the Force wants her to live, I have to trust that that’s the right action to take,” Luke shrugs at her and joins Han under the speeder hood. All she can see is his shoulder wiggle a little before he rushes back around to the driver’s seat.
“Seems like a pretty passive way to follow the Force if you ask me,” Ahsoka says, arms crossed and eye marking raised in the slightest imitation of her master.
“On the contrary,” Master Kenobi’s voice comes from right behind her and for the second time this morning Ahsoka is taken off guard. Forget what she said about Luke blending in with the desert, Master Kenobi might not even leave footprints when he lifts his feet for all the presence he currently has. “It can often take a great effort to toss aside one’s own instinct and desires to truly listen to the Force’s will. And then one must always make the choice on whether to follow it.”
The speeder’s engine comes alive with a whine.
“Are we finally getting off this dustball?” Leia steps out from behind Master Kenobi and pulls herself into the backseat. The girl’s hair is in an even greater disarray than last night, and the circles under her eyes are dark enough to pass for bruises. Still, the stress lines are missing from her face and her entire demeanor is brighter.
“Han just needs to finish making sure there’s no sand where it shouldn’t be, then we’re good to go,” Luke says. He crawls over the seat to join Leia in the back. Without being asked, she turns to give him access to her hair and he starts messing with it.
Han slams down the hood. “We’re good to go.” He moves to the passenger side and Master Kenobi takes the driver’s seat.
“I guess I’m taking the bike?” Ahsoka asks. Master Kenobi tenses and actually hunches his shoulders as he replies.
“The, ah, the bike didn’t quite survive the storm, I’m afraid. I failed to bury it properly before the winds picked up.”
The girls sighs and climbs in next to the twins. “It was a nice swoop-bike…”
“It was only an object, and it served it’s purpose well. Now, you might as well get some rest. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us.”
Ahsoka settles down in her seat and determines to stay awake on principle. She’s just woken up and there’s so much to think about, especially when it comes to their new friends.
She wakes up several hours later, groggy and disoriented. The twins are still sleeping; Luke’s feet are curled up on the seat between them and Leia’s hair has been braided into a simple cord hanging over her shoulder. The landscape around them has changed. They’re still driving through dunes, but they’re shallower, and occasionally they pass over flat sandstone. They’re almost back to the battlefield.
Her mind is still trying to catch up and figure out what exactly woke her up when Master Kenobi swings the speeder to a stop. She and Leia are thrown against their restraints. Luke tumbles to the floor. Master Kenobi abandons his seat and races up the nearest dune, Han close on his heels.
Ahsoka fumbles out of her restraints and follows, leaving the twins to catch up at their own pace.
“Why’d we stop?”
“Something isn’t right. Given the droid’s numbers yesterday, Cody should have already contacted us with the all clear. That way, Mr. Solo.”
Han lifts a pair of macrobinoculars and scans the horizon in the direction Master Kenobi pointed out. He must find something that way, because he lets out a low whistle before offering them up for anyone else to take.
“Still feeling good about letting the witch go?” Han asks. “‘Cause it looks like she sent reinforcements.”
Ahsoka grabs the macrobinoculars out of Han’s hands to look for herself. He’s right. The seppies have been busy since yesterday, they now outnumber the men by ten to one instead of five. And are those…?
“Uh, Master Kenobi? I think you need to see this.” She hands the device over and Master Kenobi takes a turn.
“Tanks. Well now, that’s just being petty.”
“How are we supposed to get past them, Master?”
The Jedi hums and reaches up to stroke his beard. “We could circumvent them but…”
“That’ll take too long,” Han’s got the most serious face she’s seen on him yet. “At least an hour to sneak around without them noticing us, probably more if we want to be safe and cut a wide enough path.”
Leia nods along, and Ahsoka wonders what kind of life these three led that they were confident giving tactical advice to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“They’re just waiting for us, right?” The girl asks, looking at the Jedi Master for confirmation. “Then our goal should be getting through enemy lines as quickly as possible. If we’re too cautious in protecting ourselves, we’re just wasting their lives.”
“You’re both right. Getting off planet with minimal loss of life is the goal. If we had some way to cut across,” Master Kenobi trails off, hand going up to stroke his beard.
“Like a giant distraction?” Luke asks.
“Yes, exactly. A distraction.”
“Like a herd of Banthas stampeding?”
“That would indeed be distracting…” Master Kenobi says. The hand drops down and he looks at the boy with eyes narrowed.
“Like that herd of Banthas?” Luke nods towards something behind them and they all turn to look. Far to their right, a large herd of the beasts discolor the desert with their sand-encrusted hides.
“And how do you propose getting them to stampede when a battle won’t even phase them?” Han drawls.
“Oh, I’m not going to get them to stampede,” Luke says, smile in his voice. He’s looking, quite pointedly, at Master Kenobi.
“If I strain my vocal chords,” Ben starts, as he helps Leia climb atop the lumbering beast, “all four of you are on tea duty for the entire flight back to Coruscant.” Luke can’t help but smile. Outside of the occasional adventure where Old Ben caught him wandering the Dune Sea too far from home, he’s never seen the Jedi get so much as annoyed.
“What did I do?” Ahsoka asks, securing one of the saddlebags into a makeshift backpack.
“You didn’t come up with a better idea,” Ben huffs before turning to help Luke up as well. He glares at the boy in turn, but Luke can feel that it’s more for show than not and his smile widens. He can’t help it. Young Old Ben can be downright cranky and it’s one of the best things Luke’s ever seen.
Honestly, Luke could have climbed up the bantha himself; he’d done it enough on Tatooine, but then he’d have missed all those nearly hidden eyerolls and sighs and mutterings Ben did while his other three charges bickered and adjusted and questioned Luke’s crazy plan.
Seriously. The Best.
“Are you all settled?” The Jedi runs a discerning eye over all of them, ensuring Han’s got a good grip on their supplies and on Luke, who’s been put in charge of controlling their beast. When he’s satisfied, Ben gives the three banthas providing transport a pat and a quick cuddle. “I’m sorry, my friends, to put you through this,” he says. He swings himself up and behind Leia, and flashes them a smile that reminds Luke of cantinas and threats being efficiently dealt with, but somehow even sharper than that.
“Are we ready?”
“Yes, Master Kenobi.”
“Just go already, ya old fossil.”
Ben gets a good grip on Leia’s waist, tucking her in close and Luke digs his knees into the bantha’s side so his hands are free to cover his ears. The others may not know what’s about to happen, but he sure does.
Leia rushes to mimic Luke. Han does as well, keeping one hand anchored into the hair at Luke’s side and the hand closer to Ben pinned over his ear. Ahsoka looks at them like she thinks they’re crazy, one elegant eye marking arching higher than the other, but Ben’s taking a deep breath and Luke leans even closer to the massive bantha horns.
Whatever the padawan is about to say is cut off by the unholy, wailing roar of an adult Krayt dragon.
The effect on the herd is instantaneous.
Ben’s bantha rears.
Ahsoka’s bellows and bolts.
And Han nearly crushes Luke when he dives forward to lay flatter on the beast’s back.
The first moments are total confusion. The bellows of the herds drown out any sound of the battle they’re approaching. Even with Han pinning him down, Luke’s jostled from side to side; he wasn’t even given the chance to close his mouth and now he’s intimately aware of what bantha hair tastes like. In the Force there’s confusion and fear and Leia’s muffled shock. There’s also something steely and bright, like the blade of a lightsaber, gently guiding the chaos.
The animal below him finds its stride. Luke pushes against its back, forcing Han to let him up.
What he sees is breathtaking. All around him is a sea of furry bodies, moving in concert. Ahsoka has pulled herself up into a crouch on the back of her ride, one hand tangled in it’s long hair. Leia’s head is thrown back in laughter at the utter insanity of their plan. Ben’s grin is self-satisfied and sharp.
The sea crests the last dune before the sandstone plain of the battlefield. Luke can’t see the exact moment the droids become aware of the stampede bearing down on them, but he can see the result. The colors of battle shift almost imperceptibly as basic brown battle drones turn towards the source of their fellows’ cries and start firing behind them at the incoming herd.
Luke lets out a bellow of his own at the success of his plan. This is going better than he could have hoped.
“Don’t get too cocky, kid,” Han shouts in his ear. “As great as riding on giant furry monsters has been, I think you failed to account for fliers!” Luke follows Han’s pointed finger to see several discoid drones take off from the crows and head their way. Ben turns to look as well, and the look he sends them is as knowing and sure as ever. But there’s an edge of confidence, of excitement and joy that Luke has never seen in his old mentor before this.
“Fliers are easy, Mr. Solo. Just keep to the plan.” The Jedi leans their way, and Luke can feel the Force at work. Can feel Ben’s intent and confidence coming down that something that was fixed the night before.
So he’s already reaching out with the Force to help when Ben scoops Leia up and tosses her behind Han. The Jedi ignores Leia’s squawks and Han’s swears and stands on the back of his bantha, igniting his lightsaber.
Without removing his eyes from the fliers, he gives out final instructions. “Luke, you have a ‘saber. It’s up to you to deflect any stray shots that head your way. Ahsoka, come along.”
“Wait,” Han yells. “Where the hell are you going you-”
Ben practically disappears. It’s only by using the Force to enhance his senses that Luke can find him.
The Jedi flips easily in the air. Lands feet and blade down on the nearest droid. Sparks fly at his feet as he blocks two blaster bolts from another. A third is sliced in half before the inevitable crash begins. Then he jumps to the next flier.
Han swears and Luke turns to look. The deflected shots took out two more droids on the ground.
Ben continues to lead the way, using the droids as stepping stones, making his way to the tank in their path. It is the work of seconds before the behemoth is sparking a death knell. Ben doesn’t stop to watch. He dances in and out of the stampede and the droid forces, feet never touching solid ground.
Ahsoka, while not as efficient, is no less elegant. She spends more time on the broad backs of the banthas than the droids, but she is winnowing their numbers, destroying any that the master lets through.
Luke tries not to dwell on being relegated to the last line of defense. It’s necessary, he thinks, as the Force warns him in time to ignite his own blade and block a bolt aimed at his head.He drags his attention from the awe-inspiring sight of Jedi from the Order’s heyday and back to the task at hand.
“Glory. Adventure. A Jedi seeks not these things,” Master Yoda’s arose come back to him. A Jedi’s duty is to serve the Force. And Ben has given him a job. It’s on Luke to get Han and Leia past enemy lines in one piece.
Luke stands, shrugs off Han’s attempts to pull him back, putting half his concentration into keeping his balance. The lightsaber is clumsy in his hands; a little too big, a little too generic, his form stunted and slow. So Han will have to take offense with his blaster. Luke needs all his focus to be able to shield them. So the other half of his concentration goes to listening to the Force and blocking every incoming shot. It’s just like on the Falcon. It's just like the trench run. It’s just like facing the witch in the desert.
His trance is broken by an instance of triumph from his other half. Leia shuts it down quickly, but it’s enough to draw Luke out of his tunnel vision. There’s blasterfire being exchanged ahead. They’ve finally reached Ben’s forces.
“Storm troopers!” Leia shouts a warning and Luke can see the white armor. His stomach drops. The bantha’s rollicking gate sloshes his insides. A field of white armored soldiers face the droids, precise blaster shots driving them away from the barriers around the ship. And they’re careening right towards them.
Instinctively, Luke pulls back, slowing their bantha down by the weight of his apprehension in the Force. He can feel Leia’s desire to turn around and flee.
Han’s only just noticing them. Luke hears the string of curse words before Han gets a fistful of his shirt and yanks him down.
“Don’t you dare slow us down, farmboy! They ain’t aiming at us!”
Han’s right. Of course he’s right. It’s the Clone Wars. There’s no empire, no storm troopers. Not yet.
“Now get ready. We’re almost there.”
The sea of banthas begins to swirl. That guiding power is forcing the stampede into a turn before it meets the barriers. The Force is telling Luke to prepare. Once again he tucks his feet up and under him and turns outward. Their bantha reaches the curve.
“Now!” Han shouts and jumps. He’s got Leia tucked against him and Luke sees them roll to a stop at the feet of a cluster of troops. He freezes at the image of his sister and best friend surrounded by white armor.
It's only for a moment, but before he can force his limbs into action, Ben’s there next to him on the bantha.
“No time to lose, my boy.” The Jedi hoists Luke up by his arms and makes a Force assisted leap. Luke is vaguely aware of Ahsoka following close behind. Surely enough, when they land near Han and Leia, she rolls to her feet right behind them.
Despite Luke’s earlier concern, There’s no room for fear when Ben puts him back down. The Jedi is projecting calm and absolute trust in his men as he passes through their ranks and Luke can’t help but follow along, basking in that warmth.
“This way now.” Ben is looking for something. Someone. And the battle’s still being fought.
Luke can feel the men’s, the clones’ eyes following them. The curiosity is almost heavy with how prevalent it is. He knows they’re a strange bunch even if Ben didn’t seem to randomly pick them up in the desert. So he puts on his best “I didn’t cause any trouble, I promise, Aunt Beru” smile and crowds a little closer to Ben’s side. Without breaking stride, Ben drops an arm over Luke’s shoulder and gives him a quick squeeze.
“Ah, Commander! There you are,” the Jedi says, waving over a man who appears to be giving orders.
“General Kenobi, Sir. Was your mission successful?” Luke sees the man’s eyes turn to him and the others for a bare second before returning Ben’s gaze. There’s a long jagged scar trailing over his temple.
“Quite, though not exactly in the way anyone was expecting,” Ben smiles and uses the arm that was around Luke’s shoulder to gesture to the three of them. “Commander Cody, I’d like you to meet Luke, Leia, and Han.” Commander Cody turns his full attention towards them and Luke waves with one hand while the other finds Leia’s.
“Have one of your men help get them settled the empty quarters near mine, if you would. They will be accompanying us on our return to Coruscant. As for the battle, it is a fight not worth winning. Begin evacuation procedures.”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll send out the order.”
“Thank you. Now,” Ben turns to the three of them, “I’m sorry to abandon you so quickly, but the faster I get back to the battle, the faster we can take off. Commander Cody will make sure you're taken care of and I’ll come find you as soon as everything’s settled here, all right?”
“Don’t worry about us, old man. I’ll keep an eye on the twins. You just get us off this hellhole,” Han says, but his eyes won’t quite meet Ben’s. Instead he keeps glancing around at the men around them, a furrow to his brow as he studies their armor. He seems to be searching for words but can’t quite seem to find them.
“We’ll be okay,” Luke reassures the Jedi.
“Thank you, General Kenobi, for all your help,” Leia adds for good measure.
Ben’s quirked smile is back. “It was my pleasure, my dear. Now, Ahsoka, I believe we have some work to do.”
“Yes, Master. See you guys later!” The Padawan gives them a jaunty wave and a smile and follows Ben back towards the barriers, leaving the three time travelers alone with the clones.
“Wooley,” the commander hails another white armored man over, and Luke takes a good long look at Ben’s men. Their armor isn’t pure white. Most of the clones’ armor is accented in a golden yellow and covered in unique designs to boot.
Han must have just noticed it too.
“212th Gold. That’s 212th gold on your armor,” he says. His voice sounds oddly strained. Luke’s never heard Han sound quite like this before.
“That’s because it is 212th gold, sir,” the new clone, Wooley, says.
“You’re wearing 212th gold, and you’re Commander Cody.” Is that awe Luke hears? Couldn’t be. This is Han, after all.
“That I am. CC-2224, Marshal Commander Cody of the Seventh Sky Corps. Wooley here will escort you to your rooms on The Negotiator.” Han makes a strangled noise. “Unless you need to see a medic first?”
“I’m good,” Han squawks. Luke can’t believe Leia’s missing this, but she’s too busy sweeping her expert eye over the men breaking camp even as battle wages.
He lets go of her hand to tug on her sleeve. “Leia, Leia. You have to see this.”
The commander politely dismisses them to return to his battlefield duties and Wooley, friendly if a bit stiff, leads them onto the nearest transport ship.
“Kenobi. General Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Han mutters under his breath as they climb inside and begin takeoff preparation.
“Han, are you okay?” Luke asks. He can’t hide a smile at how distressed his friend looks.
“Fine. Great. Just… yeah. The old fossil is General Kenobi?”
“Yeah.” Luke’s not entirely certain what Han's problem is, but he's beginning to get an idea.
“General Obi-Wan Kenobi?”
“You know he is. What’s the problem?”
“He’s General Kenobi. And these guys are the 212th.”
“Han, you know all this. We had a ceremony after Yavin and everything. I told you he was a great man.” If he’s right, he’ll have fertile grounds for teasing for years.
“Yeah, but you never mentioned he was the kriffin Negotiator!”
“Oh Force, you’re star-struck,” Luke accuses, sensing victory.
“No, I’m not.” Han won’t meet Luke’s eye, focusing instead on strapping himself in.
“He’s your hero!” His grin grows wider.
“No, he’s not!” Han is actually blushing.
“Leia, Leia! Get this!” Luke yanks Leia’s attention away from the rapidly disappearing planet below them, practically crowing. Seriously, Ben is the best and he isn’t even here. “Han is Ben’s fan.”
“I am not!”
“Will you two keep your voices down!” Leia scolds. Unnecessarily, Luke thinks. With Wooley in front, the three of them are alone with the supplies. “Wait. You didn’t know General Kenobi was, is, The Negotiator?” Leia leans around her brother to join in teasing Han.
“It’s not like it was obvious! Who the kriff expects to run into a war hero in a cantina on Tatooine?”
“He didn’t even change his name, you nerf.” Leia is trying to sound insulting, but Luke can hear the grin in her voice. Han can too, which only increases his frustration.
“Maybe Kenobi’s a common name on Tatooine.”
“Kenobi’s not a common name anywhere.”
Luke smiles and leans back, content to let his family bicker around him, Jakku quickly becoming a golden marble in the viewport. He should probably be more worried They’re heading into a completely unknown future facing against a forewarned Emperor during his rise to power. But Ben’s here. Ben’s alive. And they’re heading to the Jedi temple on Coruscant, to a thriving Jedi Order, to take the first steps in fighting the Sith.
Finally, the waiting is over.
Okay, so it's been a while (*cough* five months *cough*) and this chapter was supposed to be easy (*cough* blatant lies *cough*), but what can you do? When writer's block hits, it hits hard. I reached a point where the stuff in all those dropped scenes from earlier chapters finally had to be addressed. And making it fit was hard. (So. Many. Rewrites).
Anyway... Happy One Year Anniversary! I can not get over how much love this fic has gotten. Seriously, you guys are the greatest. Very few days go by without me getting a kudos notification or another dozen hits.
And the *comments*! Even when I was hitting a total wall, knowing how much you guys enjoyed my story really made me able to push through.
So here's to all of you and thank you for an incredible year.
Hopefully it won't be another five months before the next chapter goes up.
(Hopefully TDPL won't take over my NaNoWriMo project like it did last year and I can avoid burnout).
And as always, you can find me, sneak peeks, and behind the scenes stuff at delicatefury.tumblr.com