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Saga - ST Foundations of the Force- Pre TFA (Luke, H/L, Ben) **Ch 21 up 12/3**

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    The first scene is such a wonderful combo of [face_laugh] and [face_love]
    Ben is definitely a "typical" youngling, repeating whatever he hears like a parrot :eek: :p
    The next scene with the argument -- each of them has valid points naturally. The emotions are things a youngling would pick up on and be distressed over even without enhanced sensitivity as Ben has. [face_thinking]
    Loved the exchange with Luke & happy he will be having some family time.

    **

    Back to the H/L dilemma: there really isn't a happy compromise it looks like. :( Either Han stays home more and chafes at it or is away more and Leia is resentful over it.
     
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  2. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha That was the whole idea, hehe. Glad you liked it! ;)
    Yes, kids are sensitive to the emotions of their parents. Ben just feels it stronger. :( As for the problem with Han and Leia, their personalities just clash. Leia is still trying to help the galaxy and right as many wrongs as possible, with the need for stability for her son, while Han has itchy feet and goes stir-crazy unless he's on the move. He loves his family, but would prefer them coming with him. He does *eventually* accept this (see the canon novel Bloodlines), but it takes a while.

    And now for some family time for Luke! :D
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty

    As promised, Luke arrived and promptly found a room to rent for two weeks so he had somewhere to sleep. There, after plugging in Artoo to charge, he promptly fell into bed without bothering to undress. He was shocked when, upon awakening, Artoo informed him that he'd slept for nearly thirteen hours. I must have been tired, he reflected, walking to the shower to clean up. Luke also took the time to change into his single fresh outfit so his family wouldn't be repelled by his smell. Laundry hadn't exactly been a priority. He made a mental note to wash the rest of his clothes as soon as possible.
    After briefly popping into the exotic plant nursery where his Force-infused sapling was on loan, he and Artoo headed off to Han and Leia's apartment.

    Chandrila was a generally quiet world along the Corellian Trade Spine. Not as populous as Hosnian Prime or Coruscant, it was still relatively wealthy and had been almost untouched by the ravages of war. As Mon Mothma had been elected the first new Chancellor of the New Republic and the decision had been to rotate the Galactic Capital based on elections, it was the current home of the Senate. Leia had settled her family there because, though the war was over, there was still a lot of work to be done. She was currently coming to the end of her term as a Senator and was debating over whether or not to withdraw from the next election. Han wanted her to and had been hinting as much. While Leia did want to be more present in her son's life, she also found it difficult to give up the idea of public service.

    Han did not like the place at all. He found the Chandrilans to be stuffy, stiff, and just plain stuck-up. Leia suspected that this was one of the reasons he wasn't home very often. One didn't have to get to know the neighbors when they weren't home.

    Luke saw Chandrila as the place where his family was, and had few other feelings about it. They were more than accepting of him as a Jedi, though were more interested in having them serve the Senate rather than the galaxy as a whole. As a result Luke tried to travel incognito to avoid attention. Rather than the Jedi robes he had taken to wearing, this meant a mixture of old Alliance uniforms and what the Rogues had referred to as 'Civvies'. Luke's current outfit happened to be the most casual one he had, consisting of loose flight pants, boots, a basic wraparound shirt, and a longish vest that came past his hips. He left his lightsaber in his travel bag, which was slung across his shoulder. To further keep anyone from recognizing him he'd grown out his hair long enough to be tied back in a ponytail. He'd even worn matching pilot's gloves because wearing just one over his mechanical hand made him stick out too much. Luke had tried a beard for a few months, but found it too itchy to be worth it. He still had a week's worth of stubble hanging around on his chin.

    Either way, it worked. No one so much as gave Luke a second glance, except to raise an eyebrow about how scruffy he looked. Luke just smiled and went on his way, Artoo by his side. He was still smiling as he walked up to Han and Leia's apartment door. The warm, comforting presences of sister, brother-in-law, and nephew brought more calm than he'd thought possible as he rang the buzzer.

    The door opened almost immediately. Of course it was Leia, and she immediately threw her arms around her brother. "Luke."

    Luke welcomed the embrace and was surprised to find his eyes stinging. He'd missed his sister more than he thought. "Leia...don't cry," he said, trying to laugh as he pulled back. "You'll get me started."

    Leia quickly composed herself. "All right, I missed my brother. Is there some sort of Jedi rule against that?" Despite their being twins she often came across as parentally protective of him. "Come in."

    "Stop worrying so much. I'm fine," he assured.

    "Luke! Hey," greeted Han from the living room. His pace was slow due to Ben having a ride on his fathers' foot. "I'd, uh, come give you a hug, but I got a little hitchhiker."

    "That's all right, Han. It's good to see you, too." Luke chuckled before redirecting his gaze to Ben. "How did he get so big?" he asked in disbelief.

    "He grew," shrugged Leia.

    "Yeah, they do that when you're not lookin'," remarked Han. "Right, Ben?"

    Upon hearing his name Ben's head snapped around. His big brown eyes lit up upon seeing Luke. Immediately the boy plowed into him. "Unca Wuke!"

    Luke stooped down to say hello. The boy radiated happiness. "Hi, Ben. How are you doing?"

    Ben grinned and locked his arms around Luke's neck. "Good! Ben miss Unca Wuke."

    Luke picked the boy up with a smile. "I missed you, too." He gave his nephew a warm hug before offering him a chance to get down. Ben was just as content to stay put, so Luke obliged as Leia ushered him into the living room.

    She lifted a brow at them. "Careful. If you let him, he'll stay there for an hour." They all took a seat on the family couch and a couple of chairs. Right on cue, Threepio waddled in, made several lively exclamations of greeting, and then set about finding refreshments.

    "So, how's the Jedi thing going?" asked Han.

    "Slowly. I've gathered enough information now to fill half a freighter, but still I feel like I've barely scratched the surface," admitted Luke as he settled his nephew on his knee.

    "You can't learn everything, Luke," reminded Leia. "If you try you're only going to burn out."

    "You're more right than you know." The Jedi cringed. "The Jedi existed for over twenty thousand years, and they still didn't learn everything about the Force. All I'm hoping is to learn enough so I can teach others...without being a hazard to them or the rest of the galaxy."

    Han grimaced. "Sounds like an awful big load for one guy to carry. You sure you're not taking on too much?"

    Luke shrugged. "At this point I don't have much choice. Maybe once I've trained a few students through to Knighthood, I can get some help. Until then..." He sighed.

    Leia frowned and nearly spoke her doubts about this impossible task...but shut her mouth. According to Luke, nothing was impossible. If he had faith that the Jedi would return, then she didn't want to discourage him. He was carrying around enough self-doubt already. "How are your two young students doing? Have you seen them recently?"

    The mention of Cham and Den brought another regretful smile. "I stopped by Ryloth on my way back to Devaron. They're both doing well enough, considering the circumstances. I think Cham is finally learning to trust that he's not going to be left behind again. He's a good student. He might even be ready for swordplay in a year or two."

    Leia bit her lip at the news. The idea of children handling such dangerous weapons as lightsabers made her uneasy. She threw a protective glance to Ben.

    "Don't worry," said Luke, sensing her concern. "None of my students are going anywhere near a lightsaber until I can figure out how to build a set of training blades. I don't want them hurt any more than you do."

    "Training blades?" Han asked. "Never heard of those."

    "I was reading an account from Coruscant about training young children with something called a practice saber. Apparently they weren't any more dangerous than a pole of the same size, but operated the same as a regular lightsaber. The trouble is I haven't found any blueprints."

    "What about Den?" asked Leia, eager to change the subject before Ben started asking about the laser swords.

    "Den's doing fine. He's still impatient and wants to learn everything his surrogate brother does, but isn't focused enough. Even so, I'm surprised at how much he's picked up." Luke lifted his brows. When Ben started rummaging around in his bag, he chuckled. "Hey."

    "Ben, no, that's not yours," scolded Leia.

    "He can't hurt anything. That reminds me, I brought you something."

    Han smirked. "What're you, picking up souvenirs now?"

    Luke shook his head and rummaged around in his bag. "No. Just a little something I put together on the way in. It's not much," he grimaced, pulling out a small hologram-generating frame and handing it to Leia. "Happy anniversary."

    Leia smiled and switched it on. Then she gasped. Stored in the frame was a hologram of her and Han on Endor during the Ewok celebration. The image of their embrace played on a loop. "Luke, how did you get this?"

    Luke motioned to Artoo. "You can thank Artoo for that. I didn't know until just a few months ago, but he's been recording a lot of footage into his databanks. Most everything he's seen, he still remembers. He's practically a history teacher!" Fondly he patted the droid's dome. Artoo warbled happily at the praise.

    Luke turned back to his sister and brother-in-law with a smile. "When I asked him if he had any footage of you together, he showed me this. I hope you like it."

    Leia and Han both gazed tenderly at the recording. Han wrapped an arm around his wife and kissed her cheek. "We love it," assured Leia. She switched off the recorded and reached to take her brothers' hand. "Luke, this so sweet. Thank you."

    "Yeah. Thanks. This...this is special," admitted Han. His face fell. "Now I'm gonna need to figure out what to give her!"

    "You don't need to give me anything. Having you here is enough." And Leia leaned over to give her husband a proper kiss. Han laughed and Leia groaned when they saw Ben dump out the contents of the travel bag and wear it on his head like an oversized, lopsided hat. "Ben..."

    Luke was laughing. He'd already hidden his lightsaber out of sight and started picking up the mess. "He didn't break anything. As a matter of fact, he found his birthday present." He picked up the dropped articles and fished out a round ball about twice the size of his fist. He carefully took the bag off his nephew's head and showed him the ball. "Here, Ben. Happy birthday."

    "Hap Buh-day!" echoed Ben as he picked up the ball. "Mama, baw! I gotta baw!" He showed his mother.

    "Here, Ben, can I show you how it works," offered Luke. "This is a special ball. Watch." When Ben handed it back, Luke gave the toy a gentle bounce. It went surprisingly high, lighting up and making a musical note each time it hit something. When it stopped Ben squealed and ran to pick it up. "Again, Unca Wuke! Again!"

    Han lifted his brows. "I've heard of these things. Have 'em on Sullust for the kids in the burrows. SongBouncers, or something like that. Every time you bounce it, it plays a note. When you're done, you can play back the music like a song."

    Only Leia looked uncertain. "Hopefully nothing ends up broken."

    Luke shook his head and urged Ben to let his mother hold it. "It's lighter than it looks. Chewie would have to throw it before it breaks anything."

    Leia tested the weight in her hands, then tested the bounce herself. When it hit a wall sconce without leaving a mark, she relaxed. "All right. I have to admit, it's a clever idea. And it is educational..." She watched as Ben happily tossed the ball about, and then finally gave her brother another smile. "That's very thoughtful, Luke. Ben, come here," she called.

    Ben ran back with a giggle. "Wights, mama! I make wights!"

    "Yes, I see that. What do you say to Uncle Luke?" Leia prodded. When Ben shrugged, she continued. "You say 'thank you'."

    "Fank you!" Ben told Luke with a grin. "Fank you!"

    "You're very welcome, Ben. I'm glad you like it."

    * * * * *​
    Luke ended up spending the rest of the day catching up with his family. Han told several crazy stories about weird cargo, and in return Luke told stories about the people he had met while searching for information about the Jedi...but only if the content was child-safe. Inevitably the conversation returned to training, and Leia plucked up the courage to ask about hers. Luke quickly agreed to pick up where they had left off, provided there weren't any distractions. Han, only a little nonplussed, took Ben to a local park for a few hours while Luke continued instructing Leia in the ways of the Force.

    Almost immediately both siblings noticed a definite change in the other. Luke had gained more patience in the last couple of years, and Leia had no problems reaching out to the Force now; in keeping tabs on her son, it had become second nature. Sensing other individuals wasn't that difficult, either. So Luke decided to try an exercise similar to one that Cham and Den had taken up.

    "Are you sure about this?" Leia asked as Luke tied on a blindfold.

    "You'll be fine," Luke said easily. He was going to start pitching a handful of Ben's soft foam balls at her to see if she could either block or catch them. "You know I'd never hurt you."

    "How could you? You're pelting me with Puffos," said Leia.

    Luke crouched down a few feet away to gather his ammo. He had chosen the soft toys because they were harmless and made little to no noise in flight, so Leia couldn't rely on her hearing to track them. "You're still uneasy, when you've dodged blaster bolts before. Why?"

    Leia frowned. "That was different. It was a life-or-death situation."

    "Do you want me to hand you my lightsaber and turn on a training remote?" cringed Luke.

    "No." Leia sighed. "Let's get this over with."

    "Then relax. Breathe." Luke instructed.

    Leia accordingly began taking deep breaths. In under a minute she felt the now-familiar touch of the Force surrounding and moving through her. Her shoulders relaxed and she willingly fell into it.

    Luke, too, relaxed. "Good, Leia. Much better. Can you sense me?"

    Leia nodded. "Yes...and I know you're picking one up right now," she added.

    Luke smiled. He had four in his arms already, but dropped one back into the pile. He said nothing as he circled quietly around, waiting. When he began to sense Leia's impatience he pitched a ball straight at her. It bounced off her cheek.

    Leia whipped around, hands up too late. "Hey!"

    Luke pitched another, and another. These, too, found their targets. "You're supposed to block them, Leia."

    Leia groaned. "I know...but I don't feel them coming."

    "Reach further. Don't limit yourself to what's alive and what isn't. Try and make a picture of the room in your mind. Since the Force exists in living things, it won't respond the same way to an object like a ball or a chair."

    "Hmm." Leia knit her brows in concentration. The blindfold left her disoriented, but she knew the Force was with her. Thinking like a bat which used sound for echolocation, she turned a bit to the left, then to the right. Vague pictures of where the furniture was began to form in her head. Slowly she nodded. "Yes...I see...well, I don't see, but I understand."

    Luke nodded and waited a while longer before tossing more Puffos at his sister. One hit her leg, another hit her shoulder, but the next was batted away from her face. Another was tossed to the side away from her posterior. Luke smiled, called the dropped balls back, and began firing them in rapid succession. He was pleased to see all but one batted away. Two she caught and the last she ducked to avoid.

    Leia, unaccustomed to using the Force, had to catch her breath as she removed the blindfold. "Did I do it?"

    Luke nodded. "You did. Good, Leia. You don't stop learning, even if it seems as if life gets in the way." He took her shoulder. "The Force is strong with you."

    "The Force is strong in our family," nodded Leia. She threw a glance toward the door, as if expecting her son and husband to come back early. "It's strong in Ben, too."

    "Yes, it is. But you don't have to be afraid."

    "I'm just wondering when to tell him about it. He knows what I'm feeling. He even knows what Han is feeling." Leia stared at the floor. "We had an argument this morning. Han and I...well, both of us have strong personalities. But Ben was there. He knew we were upset, and it frightened him. He could sense it."

    Luke slowly nodded. "I was wondering about that. He does seem to catch on to your moods. Leia...without your thinking I'm pushing, have you thought about letting him train as a Jedi?"

    Leia sighed heavily and sank into a chair, her temple hitting her hand. "I don't know. I used to think I'd let him decide when he was old enough. Now I'm not so sure."

    Luke took the seat across from her. "Can you tell me why?"

    Leia shrugged. "He's going to learn about his powers sooner or later. The other children he's with at daycare are noticing already. He's faster, and stronger, and more perceptive than the others...and I'm not just saying that because he's my son," she added with a smile.

    Luke smiled back. "I understand. He's special."

    Leia pursed her lips. "I know he's just a child, and I wouldn't want him to train at all until he's ready and he understands what it takes. But I am uneasy. Young children don't have any self-control. With the Force thrown into the mix-" She turned to look her brother in the eye. "I just don't want him to hurt anyone."

    "I don't see Ben doing it on purpose. He's too sensitive for that. You said yourself that strong emotions upset him. But..." Luke sighed. "I can understand where you're coming from. You just want to keep him safe, and anyone around him."

    "Exactly," agreed Leia.

    "Well, what do you want to do?" Luke asked quietly. "I agree he's far too young to be trained, at least in the usual sense. When do you want to tell him about the Force?"

    "I have no idea. Do you?"

    "I wish I did. You know more about raising children than I do, and what's appropriate to tell them when. Use your own judgment. If you want help explaining things, then I'll do my best."

    At last Leia could smile in relief. Somehow, whether he was on the other side of the galaxy or in the same room, Luke always knew how to make her feel better. "Thank you."
     
    Zer0 likes this.
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I really enjoyed the family reunion. The sibling scene was terrific with the training; Leia has really come a long way and Luke as an instructor. Great points and discussion about Ben-- his sensitivity and the need to teach him enough not to hurt himself or anyone else, even if by accident.

    @};-
     
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  4. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    It always impresses me how well you write dialogue for Ben, it just works.

    Great chapter, it's nice that they're all back together for now.
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  5. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha I'm so, so glad you're liking this fic. And THANK YOU for the nom for Reader's Choice! I'm shocked and, quite frankly, honored to even be on the board! [:D]
    Zer0 Writing how little kids act and talk just comes naturally to me...it might be because I babysat two toddlers for a year and a half, and helped care for my niece from about two months to three and a half years. They're equal parts adorable and infuriating. ;)

    More family scenes!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-One

    The next day's visit saw more trouble than Luke had anticipated. He walked right in on an argument between Han and Leia the minute the door opened. Tension and unhappiness practically ambushed his senses.

    "Han, I'd really like to, but I just can't. Not tonight," Leia said while picking up toys in the living room.

    "It's our anniversary, for cryin' out loud. Why not?" Han asked with a frown.

    "It's last-minute. We're never going to find a child-minder in five hours," answered Leia. She sounded disappointed. "I really wish you'd given me more warning."

    "What, am I not even allowed to surprise ya' anymore? Huh?" Han leaned on the counter. "Your life's so scheduled that ya' can't be spontaneous, even once?"

    Ben was unusually quiet as he ran to Luke and asked to be picked up. He clung to his uncle, radiating fear and uncertainty.

    Luke picked the boy up and smoothed his hair. Leia was right. Ben could sense his parents' moods. Both were upset, and Leia didn't seem to know her brother was there.

    Leia groaned as she tossed the last toy into the bin. "Han, you know that's not the reason."

    Han crossed his arms. "So what is?"

    Leia shook her head. "Ben. We can't be spontaneous when we have a three year old. That's just not how things work."

    Han frowned. "So find a sitter! Is that so hard?"

    "I can't. People need more warning than this."

    "Get Threepio to watch him."

    "Han, you know that won't work." Leia shook her head regretfully. "What about tomorrow? If I find a sitter tonight-"

    "It's not the same. C'mon. We haven't had a real night out since Ben was six months old. Is it too much to ask that we spend our anniversary together, for once?"

    "Han-" Suddenly Leia noticed that Luke was standing in the doorway. Her face flushed with embarrassment. "Oh...Luke. I'm sorry. I didn't see you...or sense you," she admitted.

    Han, while still unhappy, avoided his brother-in-law's gaze. "You're, uh...early."

    Luke was quiet as he approached. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I couldn't help but overhear...can I ask what's wrong?"

    Leia sighed. "Han surprised me with reservations at our favorite restaurant and tickets to a show. Tonight."

    Luke glanced between the couple and could sense Han's frustration. All he wanted was a quiet evening alone with Leia. That was more than fair. "That sounds great. Why don't you go?"

    Leia's shoulders fell. "Because it's impossible to find someone to watch Ben when it's last-minute."

    One more glance at the couple and Luke decided to step in. They've been apart for too long. They need this. "Well, I can do it," he shrugged. "I'm not leaving for another couple of weeks and Ben already knows me. And it would save you a few credits."

    Han brightened immediately. "Would 'ya, buddy?"

    Luke nodded easily. "Sure."

    Han turned in triumph to his wife. "Hey, there 'ya go. Luke gets to spend time with Ben and we get a quiet evening. Win-win."

    Leia was uncertain. "Ah...Luke, you've never watched Ben before. He's very active, and he has a bad habit of meltdowns when the schedule is off. Besides, you're supposed to be taking it easy. Are you sure you can handle it?"

    "Of course," smiled Luke. He bounced Ben on his arm.

    "Well..." Leia looked from her pleading husband, to her quiet son, to her confident brother. He has no idea what he's getting himself into. Finally she nodded. "All right."

    "Yee-hoo!" Han practically danced with happiness and swung Leia into his arms before giving her a kiss. "Y'see, Leia? All you gotta do is have a little faith and things work out."

    "Or have very good timing." Leia remarked, and headed down the hall with the toy bin.

    Meanwhile Han came up to his brother-in-law with relief. "Hey, Luke, thanks for this. Thanks a lot. I owe you one, buddy."

    Luke smiled. "Let's just call it even this time."

    * * * * *​
    Some hours later Leia meticulously went through every detail of Ben's evening routine; what he ate, when he had his bath, when bedtime was and how to get him to sleep. "In case you need it our comm frequency is...oh, what is it?"

    "1138," answered Han with a chuckle. He lay sprawled in the floor while he and Ben built towers out of interlocking, multicolored blocks. "Leia, you're stressin'. This is supposed to be a night to cut loose, relax."

    "Han, I know. But this is Luke's first time watching a child and you know how easy it is for Ben to have a meltdown," reminded Leia.

    "He's a Jedi. I think he can handle it," grinned Han. Ben poked his father urgently in the shoulder to show off one of his block creations. "What'cha got there, kiddo?"

    "Da Minimum Fowcon," answered Ben proudly. Indeed the piece was flat and roughly circular in shape, with a somewhat uneven bow and a misshapen stern.

    Han paused, blinked, and hesitated before answering. "Wow. That's, uh-" He caught a stern look from Leia and quickly pasted on a grin. "Hey, that kinda does look like the Falcon. Only you forgot the radar dish, buddy."

    "Maybe that was after Uncle Lando broke it off," suggested Leia with a wink.

    "Ha-ha," frowned Han.

    "Yeah! Bwoke! Boom!" cried Ben in delight. He ran to kick over one of his towers. "BOOM! BOOM!" A shower of polymer bricks fell to the floor.

    Han ducked to avoid them, cringed, and then collected his wits. "OK, pal. Now I'm gonna build a Falcon. Let's have a race and see who's faster on the Kessel Run." And Han picked up a handful of blocks to start over.

    Luke chuckled warmly at the scene. For as much as Han was gone, no one could deny he and his son enjoyed spending time together. Han was well suited to fatherhood.

    Leia smiled before turning back to Luke. "Did you get everything?"

    Luke nodded slowly."I think so. Dinner at 17:30, bath at 18:30, stories at 19:00, and bed at 19:30."

    Leia breathed a sigh of relief. "Right. Any questions?"

    The young Jedi looked around. "Ah...where's Ben's bedroom?"

    Leia grimaced. This was Luke's second time in the family home and as yet he only knew where the living room, kitchen, and bathroom were. "Come on. I'll give you the grand tour." Han and Ben were deeply involved in building starships, and Leia decided to leave them alone.

    Midway through the tour of Ben's bedroom, Ben himself ran in and began wreaking havoc. He jumped on the bed, dumped out the toy bin, pulled it down over himself, then popped out of it to yell "Boo!" at Luke.

    "Ben," groaned Leia. "Settle down. Don't you want to spend time with Uncle Luke?"

    "Unca Wuke!" agreed Ben, nodding. "Yeah. Unca Wuke stay....stay wif, um...Ben!"

    "Then, you have to be good. You don't want to scare Uncle Luke away," said Leia. When Luke laughed at the idea, she shook her head. "Don't laugh. He's already gained something of a reputation among the local nannies, which is why it's so difficult to find one."

    "Don't worry, it'll take more than a toddler to scare me away," Luke chuckled as Ben began climbing on him, tugging on his arms and swinging back and forth. "Hey," he said, pulling the boy up to meet his eyes. "Are you trying to pull me over?" Ben just giggled in response and dropped to the floor as his father entered the room. He then ran over to the bed and promptly hid under the covers.

    "Hey, where'd my flying buddy go?" Han demanded upon entering the room with the two lopsided Falcons. Upon seeing the giggling lump, he set down the toys and winked at Leia. "Uh-oh. Where's Ben? Where did he go?" he asked in an exaggerated tone. Even as Ben snuck peeks at his father from under the blanket, Han made a show of looking in places like the toy bin, the dresser drawer, and in the closet before sitting down and scratching his head. At the last minute he turned around and flipped up the blanket. "A-ha! Gotcha!" And he began tickling the boy mercilessly.

    Ben shrieked and giggled until his father let up to let him catch his breath. Then he grabbed Han's wrists. "Moe, Daddy. Moe!"

    Upon catching an uneasy glance from Leia, Han shook his head and instead picked his son up to set him in his shoulders. "Nope. C'mon, kiddo. We still gotta have that race!" And the pair ducked out of the bedroom, an amused pair of siblings close behind.

    * * * * *​
    Luke headed back to his rented room with Artoo to keep the droid away from his hyper nephew, and waited until the appointed time to head back to the Solo residence. From outside the door he could hear commotion. He sensed unrest yet again. Uh-oh. Now, what? His tap at the door was cautious.

    "It's unlocked!" hollered Han's muffled voice.

    Luke raised his eyebrows. Leia must have sensed him coming and told Han to let him in. He entered carefully...and saw a scene of utter chaos.

    Every cushion and pillow was off the couch and lay in various states on the floor. Half the toys from Ben's room had now migrated to the living room. An upturned drawer from the boy's dresser lay on the living room table while the shirts that had once called it home were scattered everywhere. Ben himself was running around half-naked and laughing like some sort of possessed creature while Han, half in semi-formal wear with his hair askew, tried in vain to corral his wild son.

    Luke just paused for a moment in shock. Leia had spoken of Ben's legendary messes, but he hadn't expected anything this massive. "Uh...hi," he said uncertainly.

    "Hey..." panted Han, still in wild pursuit. "Sorry...about...Ben, get over here!" A wild grab at the boy missed by centimeters. The harried man turned desperately to his brother in law for help. "Gimme a hand, will ya?"

    Luke concentrated, reached out his hand, and made Ben freeze in place just long enough for Han to catch him and put the boy back in his underwear and pants. "What happened?" Luke asked, picking up a stray cushion.

    "Darndest thing. You'd never believe it. See Ben started dancin' around like he had to go, so I let him in the bathroom. He, uh, missed the target. So while I'm in there cleanin' it up, he runs out here and does this."

    "How long did this take?" Luke wanted to know.

    "'Bout five minutes. Kid's a whirlwind, I'm tellin' ya. Ow!" Ben had squirmed in the wrong direction, trying to get loose and run to Luke. "Not so hard, pal."

    Once released Ben dashed up to his Uncle and begged to be held. He grinned when his uncle obliged. "Hi, Unca Wuke!"

    "Hi, Ben. Did you make this big mess?" Luke wanted to know.

    "Uh-uh! Daddy!" declared Ben with wide-eyed innocence.

    Han frowned at the boy. "Hey, 'member what your mother says about fibbin'? Why don't you hop down and help Daddy clean up this mess?"

    Ben willingly slid to the floor and grabbed his stray dresser drawer. After dumping an armload of random shirts and toys into it, he carried it into his bedroom. There followed a somewhat ominous crash.

    Han jumped up to see what had happened. "Uh-oh. Be back in a minute."

    After mentally checking on his nephew, Luke watched with sympathy. If he knew Leia, she'd be embarrassed that the front room was such a disaster and would then go after Han, who was clearly trying to run herd on the boy while Leia was getting ready. Wanting to spare them both some agitation, Luke reached out with the Force and took hold of every loose object. Soon the living room was back in place. Toys and shirts floated back down the hall and past the wide-eyed Han. Ben was delighted at the show and clapped his hands with glee.

    "Hey, what the-" Han frowned at his brother-in-law. "Show-off."

    "Just trying to help."
     
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  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Luke to the rescue in more than one way :) [face_mischief] Whew! Definitely Ben's a handful! :p Glad H/L get their relaxing evening. Better get going while they still can! [face_laugh]
     
  7. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    *silently jumping on the bandwagon*

    Been reading this before bed for a couple of days and I LOVE IT. Ridley Solo, you're awesome, then again, I knew that from your Kylo short and the review you left on my dare, both of which happened back in February. I'll catch-up as much as possible and give you the kind of a review this masterpiece deserves. Until then, just cheering! :)
     
  8. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Haha, Leia knows what Ben is capable of and worries about her brother being able to handle it...and you're going to find out why! :p
    Ewok Poet Welcome, I'm glad you're enjoying! [:D]

    Let's see what kind of babysitter Luke is....;)
    But just a warning...I'm not sure when the next chapter is coming. I've been struck with a sudden and irritating case of writer's block. :oops:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Two


    It wasn't long before Leia emerged. After looking over the clean living room with relief, she nudged Han to tuck in his shirttail and straighten his collar. Then she saw Ben climbing his uncle like a tree."Ben, be careful," she scolded.

    Luke held out a steadying arm as his nephew perched on his shoulders and covered one eye with a tiny hand. "He's strong, isn't he?"

    Leia pursed her lips in disapproval. "Are you sure you're up for this?"

    "You worry too much," sighed Han. He came out of the bathroom with freshly-combed hair and tossed a grin to his wife. He hated dressing up, but if he got to see Leia in something extra pretty...well, that made it worth the effort. "Luke can handle things. And Ben'll be good, won't you, pal?"

    Ben just grinned.

    Despite her husband's reassurance, Leia kept trying to quiz Luke on where everything was and what to do when.

    Han ushered her toward the door. "C'mon, sweetheart. They'll be fine. See ya, kid." Han rumpled Ben's hair and winked at Luke.

    "I'm coming," sighed Leia. She looked up at her son. "Bye, Ben. We'll see you later. Be good for Uncle Luke, OK?"

    "Have fun," said Luke.

    "Buh-bye!" waved Ben. His grin faded when his parents walked out the door without him and he slid off his uncle's back to hit the floor. "Ma-maa! Daddy?" He gave it a loud knock.

    "They went out for a special date," explained Luke.

    Ben frowned at his uncle and kept pounding on the front door. The child safety lock had been enabled, so he couldn't open it. After a few minutes he sat down and burst into tears. "Mama, mama!" he wailed. "Daddy! Wanna go bye-bye!"

    Luke crouched next to his nephew. "They're coming back soon, Ben. It's all right. Want to play a game?"

    But Ben kept crying for his parents. "Mamaaaa! Daddeeee!"

    Luke sighed. Leia had warned that Ben was clingy and a little shy. There was a general rule of thumb for his outbursts; if he was hurt, afraid, or lonely, pick him up. Luke sensed the latter two emotions and so lifted the boy into his arms. "Come here. Don't be afraid. You're safe," he said, trying to calm his nephew with the Force.

    Ben squirmed for a short while before wrapping his little arms around Luke's neck and burying his face in Luke's shoulder.

    "It's okay," Luke continued as he began pacing the floor. Ben was getting big and he had to shift his grip several times. But he wouldn't try putting the boy down until he was calm.

    Gradually Ben stopped crying. He was left sniffling and hiccuping as he clung to his uncle.

    Luke sensed that while Ben wasn't afraid anymore, he was still lonely. He didn't want to be left behind. Searching his nephew's mind found various images of people leaving...Han leaving to fly around the galaxy, Leia dropping him off at daycare, and now both parents leaving at once. He feels abandoned, thought Luke sadly. No wonder he was upset. "They're coming back," promised the Jedi. He found an image of Han and Leia spending time with their son and left that firmly planted in Ben's head. "They always come back. They love you."

    Ben seemed to accept this, though he still clung tightly to Luke. When his big brown eyes met his uncle's, the message in them was clear; 'don't you leave, too'.

    "I'm not going anywhere." Luke sat down and settled the toddler on his knee. By now Ben was calm enough to loosen his hold a little. "There. That's better. Now, it's going to be a little while before I start dinner. Do you want to play a game until then?"

    Slowly Ben nodded. "Pay a game, Unca Wuke. Ben pay a game wif Unca."

    Luke smiled. "Do you know how to play Hide and Seek?"

    Without a word Ben broke into his own little smile and slid onto the floor. "Hide n' Seek, Unca Wuke! Yeah! One, two, fwee, foh, ten, weddy oh not!"

    "You forgot a few numbers, but that's the idea. Now, do you want to count while I hide?"

    "I hide! I hide!" And Ben almost ran off right then and there.

    "Hold on, little buddy," chuckled Luke, showing his palms. "I have to count first." And he covered his eyes. "One...two...three- go hide, Ben! -four....five....six..." A noisy giggle and a stampede of little feet announced that Ben was only too happy to do his part in the game.

    Some might have thought that this game wasn't going to be fair. Luke could sense his nephew's presence easily and finding him wasn't going to take much work. But the Jedi had other ideas in mind. He was curious to see if Ben was able to do the same.

    * * * * *​
    The game of Hide and Seek was one-sided for about five rounds. Luke was careful not to 'find' Ben too quickly to keep things fun, and encouraged him to try hiding in different- but safe -places. After that the problem was Ben not knowing how to count...or cover his eyes. It took a few tries for Luke to have enough time to find a decent hiding place before Ben started looking. He sat behind the family sofa and waited while Ben had fun looking in various ridiculous hiding spots like under the lamp, under the table, and in the kitchen cupboards.

    But after that Luke sensed genuine confusion. The boy stood in the center of the room, turning about and calling for 'Unca Wuke'. When Ben just danced the boundaries of being afraid, Luke sent him a mental nudge. Within seconds Ben was giggling and ran behind the couch to discover his uncle's hiding place. "Foun' you!"

    Luke popped up with a grin. "Good job, Ben. Want to hide again?"

    Ben, of course, agreed. He had no idea that his uncle would locate him again so quickly and looked confused.

    "Ok, Ben, now you find me," encouraged Luke. He waited until Ben's eyes were closed before hiding behind a door.

    When the toddler had finished his version of counting to ten, he turned about to begin his search. It took him exactly half a minute to run for the door and do so. This success was repeated the next few rounds until Ben starting getting bored with how easy it was.

    Luke was pleasantly surprised. Ben learned fast. It was tempting to tell him the whys behind it and explain the Force...but he decided to wait.

    Of course, before long playtime had to end. Luke could sense his nephew's hunger. His own stomach was starting to growl. It was time to start making dinner.

    The only problem with this arrangement was the fact that Luke had hardly even tried to cook. When he had, it almost always turned out to be a disaster.

    Leia wasn't all that good a cook, either, so with Han- the only decent cook in the family -gone so often, most of the food in the cupboards and refrigeration unit was foolproof. She had already pointed out the dishes Ben liked and would usually eat. The boy wasn't especially picky...except when it came to vegetables. Those he hated with the exception of anything red or orange. It was usually a battle of wills when mealtimes arrived.

    Luke had no such intentions of letting this happen. He let Ben pick which supper he wanted and sit at the breakfast bar to watch the meal prep.

    Even with this kind of setup, Luke was still a little lost. The package didn't specify just what a 'medium saucepan' was, or what size cup to use for measuring. After decoding the directions as best he could, Luke held his breath and prayed for a miracle.

    After the cheesy pasta dish looked somewhat edible it was time to track down Ben. Of course the boy had been running amok since being turned loose and of course he made another large mess in his bedroom. Luke decided cleanup would have to wait as led his nephew into the kitchen and plopped him into a booster seat with a fork and a bowl of pasta, to which his uncle had secretly added some mashed root vegetable. Luke grabbed a healthy serving himself and sat down. He tensed when Ben took up a forkful and shoved it into his mouth.

    Ben chewed and swallowed with uncertainty, but didn't make any protests and kept eating. Upon tasting the concocting himself Luke had to admit it wasn't bad, just...different. At least his nephew was eating without a fight.

    * * * * *​
    One thing Luke hadn't expected was just how messy Ben was when he ate. He didn't always use his fork and didn't know how to use a napkin. Within five minutes the toddler managed to smear dinner on his face, shirt, and arms all the way to his elbows. Luke grimaced when he realized the mess in the kitchen would also have to wait. If he turned his nephew loose with food on his clothes, he'd make an even bigger mess.

    When Ben had emptied his bowl Luke put away the leftovers before carefully carrying Ben to the bathroom at an arm's length. The boy was more than happy to undress and willingly jumped right into the tub even before the water was turned on. Ben loved water, Leia had said. Luke had to laugh when Ben cheered at the rising level in the tub...which had to be drained and then refilled when the toddler lost control of his bladder.

    Of course the soap was another story. Ben hated having his hair shampooed and shrieked when it got in his eyes, even though it was supposed to be tear-free. He did not like getting his face wet and refused to hold still. Luke solved the problem by letting Ben play with his bath toys while the leftover dinner was scrubbed from his arms. This plan backfired when Ben brought down his rubber aiwha with a tremendous splash, which hit Luke directly in the face. Subsequent splashes during the remainder of the bath left the Jedi soaked from chin to waist.

    Ben's protests at leaving the tub were loud. He squirmed so much it was almost impossible to dry him off properly. At one point he broke loose and ran giggling, stark naked, down the hallway. It took time to catch and dress him.

    Wiping the splashed water from the bathroom further delayed the cleaning of the kitchen and left Ben with yet another opportunity to make messes. By the time he had chased his nephew back out of the bedroom for a third time, even Luke's patience had worn thin. He wound up mentally restraining the little whirlwind until the kitchen had been cleaned and Luke had managed to dry himself off.

    By then it was nearing bedtime. Luke, following the prescribed routine, read three of Ben's favorite stories before trying to put the boy to bed. It took another round of reading- and a bit of Force persuasion -before Ben finally obliged.

    Luke had to admit that he was very tired as he headed back into the living room to wait for Han and Leia. Minding children was far more work than he had imagined. Now he understood why his sister was still exhausted most of the time. Ben was a regular handful, and Luke suspected his Force sensitivity had nothing to do with it.

    Rather than regain his strength with a nap of his own, Luke resorted to meditating. Something told him that to let his guard down, even now, was a mistake.

    * * * * *​
    Fear...the sense of it was incredibly strong and unexpected. Luke flinched out of his meditation and had less than half a minute to wonder where it had come from when Ben screamed. It had been a little over an hour since the boy had gone to sleep.

    Luke's pace while heading to his nephew's room was quick, but cautious. There was no danger. Ben wasn't hurt. From anything Luke could tell there was no reason to rush in.

    The scene when he entered Ben's room changed his mind. The little boy lay awake in his bed, clutching the covers tightly, sobbing and curled up in a ball as if hiding from the galaxy. Ben was completely terrified.

    Luke didn't hesitate before going inside. "Ben, what's wrong? What happened? It's all right," he calmed when Ben recoiled from the touch on his shoulder. "It's just me. Nobody's going to hurt you." When he tried comforting Ben again, an invisible arm slammed into his chest. Luke froze in astonishment as he realized what that meant.

    Ben had unconsciously repelled him with the Force.

    Shocked and a little worried, Luke resorted to sitting on the edge of Ben's bed. He reached out with his mind to see if he could sense exactly what was bothering his little nephew. What he found were images of abandonment and danger, coupled with some sort of shadowy figure that spelled doom. He had a nightmare. Luke's shoulders fell in sympathy as he realized Ben probably didn't recognize his uncle in the dark.

    Luke had to pause for a minute to think. Leia had not given him any tips on how to deal with this, nor had she given any indication that Ben was prone to nightmares. The young Jed had to reach far back into his memories, back when he was little and dealing with the same thing, to see how his aunt had dealt with it. First, she turned on the lights. So Luke mentally did that before approaching Ben again.

    "Ben," he called gently, again laying his hand on the little boy's back, "it's all right."

    Ben flinched and looked up. Immediately he recognized his uncle and leapt for him, locking his arms around Luke's neck. "U-Unca Wuuuke," he cried.

    Luke hugged the boy close. "I'm here, Ben. Everything is all right." When Ben had stopped crying, he tried to start a conversation. "Did you have a bad dream?"

    Ben hiccupped and nodded. "Y-yeah."

    "I'm sorry. You want to tell me about it?" Luke invited. After hugs, Aunt Beru would ask Luke if he wanted to talk about it.

    "Nuh-uh. S-Scawy," said Ben. He laid his head on Luke's shoulder and held a little tighter.

    "Okay. You don't have to." Pushing the issue never worked. It was time to move on to let Ben know he was safe. "It wasn't real, Ben. Sometimes dreams are scary, but they're not real." Luke rocked slowly back and forth. He imagined the Force as a warm blanket of protection around them, and was relieved when he sensed Ben's fear begin to fade. "Nothing is going to hurt you, Ben. You're safe."

    "Unca keep Ben safe?" inquired the toddler.

    "That's right. Uncle Luke won't let anything happen to you, and neither will your mother and father."

    "Wheh' Mama n' Daddy?"

    Luke cringed. Maybe that was a mistake. "They're safe, too, and they'll be home real soon."

    Ben didn't like that answer. "Ben want Mama."

    "Mama's not home yet," said Luke carefully.

    "Ben want Daddy!"

    "Not yet, Ben. But-"

    "No! Now! Mama! Daddy!"

    The young Jedi sighed. Now, what? Ben was too young to have any concept of time or to accept reason. Maybe redirection would work better. "Mama and Daddy aren't home yet, Ben. But they want to come home and see you, and they'll come as soon as they can. Do you want to wait for them in your bed, or on the couch?"

    Ben brightened a little. "Wait on da couts, Unca Wuke."

    Luke nodded. He could figure out how to get his nephew back to bed later. "Okay. But let's bring your pillow and a blanket so you don't get cold."

    The toddler eagerly hopped out of bed and scrambled over to his toy bin. He reached in and pulled out his plush tauntaun. Judging by the stains, it was one of his favorites. "An' Stinky!"

    "Stinky?" Luke had to smile. Tauntauns were known for their strong odor, but it was doubtful a toddler knew this. He suspected Han had made the suggestion and it stuck. One stuffed toy was probably fine. "OK. Let's go."

    * * * * *​
    Luke never forgot that evening. He insisted that Ben lie down, wrapped in his blanket with his head on the pillow. Ben was happy about the prospect and gladly accepted the conditions. Fatigue- and the calming influence of the Force -put him to sleep in minutes.

    Sitting there on the couch with Ben's head in his lap, Luke felt a strange sense of wistfulness. His research had revealed that Jedi hadn't been allowed to fall in love, marry, or have children. He was still debating over whether to incorporate such a rule into his new Order. On one hand, he could see the sense in it. Developing strong attachments could lead to the selfish desire to keep them forever. A Jedi's calling was to put themselves last, and that included their feelings.

    On the other hand, Luke couldn't agree with the condemnation of familial love. If not for love, Vader could never have turned from the Dark Side..

    Luke had given little thought to romance in his own life, let alone children. After a long consideration he had decided he was simply too busy for it. If the Force chose him for fatherhood, he wanted to dedicate himself to it. He couldn't do that if all his energy was directed toward whatever students he ended up with.

    Sometime after Ben went to sleep, Luke sensed the approach of family. He found himself smiling as Han and Leia walked in. Both of them practically exuded happiness and shared a kiss in the doorway. I guess they had a good time.

    Leia's smile faded into a look of disappointment when she saw her son sleeping on the couch. "Luke, Ben has a bed to sleep in. What is he doing out here?"

    "He had a nightmare," explained Luke. "He was frightened and kept asking for you, so I let him wait for you. He wasn't awake for long, and I was planning to take him back to his bed."

    "Ben had a bad dream?" Han crouched next to his sleeping son and brushed back his curls. "Poor little guy. How come?"

    "I'm not sure what brought it on," admitted Luke.

    "Children just have bad dreams sometimes," remarked Leia, shaking her head and sitting on the couch next to her sleeping son. Absently she laid a hand on his back. "Did you sense anything?" she asked her brother.

    Luke had to nod. "Yes. I think I know what frightened him so much."

    Han frowned. "Hey, I thought you said Jedi can't read minds," he protested.

    The Jedi shrugged. "Not in the way you're thinking. It's more a matter of empathy than telepathy. I can only know what someone is thinking if they tell me. But this wasn't words as much as images..." He closed his eyes to remember. "All I could see was a dark shadow. Ben felt alone and in danger. He was afraid something was going to happen to him."

    Both Han and Leia grimaced at the prospect. Han carefully lowered his voice. "Y'think...maybe that shadow...was Vader?"

    Immediately Leia glared at her husband. "Han, that's ridiculous. Ben's never even seen a holo of Vader... who, by the way, has been dead for almost five years."

    Han showed his palms. "Hey, just askin'. I don't know how that Force ghost stuff works. Just don't want anybody comin' round to haunt us."

    Luke shook his head. "Only Jedi can show themselves as spirits, and they don't bring any feelings of danger. I would have sensed their presence if they'd come. Besides..." he sighed and stared at the floor. "Obi-Wan and my father told me they weren't going to come back."

    Silence overtook the family until Leia shrugged it off. "Well, this little fellow needs to get back in his own bed."

    "Here, lemme do it," murmured Han. He carefully picked his son up, blanket and all, and put the boy over his shoulder.

    Ben stirred a little and opened his eyes for a second. "Daddy," he crooned with a slight smile.

    "Hey, buddy. Let's get you back to bed so you can have some good dreams, 'kay?"

    "'Kay." And Ben snuggled against his father.

    Leia watched for a moment before turning back to Luke. "Did he behave himself?"

    Luke's smile was crooked. "He was....active. I have to admit that it wasn't easy slowing him down. Where in the galaxy does he get all that energy?"

    Leia lifted her brows knowingly. "If I knew, I'd tap into it so I could keep up. I hope he wasn't too hard to handle."

    Luke shook his head. "I'm just not used to it. I think I understand now why you're so tired. Did you have a good time?"

    Leia nodded, smiling contentedly. "It was wonderful."

    "Night's not over yet," came Han's muffled voice as he walked back up the hallway. He came next to his wife and winked at her before grabbing her around the waist.

    "Scoundrel," teased Leia, blushing as Han stole a kiss on her neck. "Luke, thank you so much. We...we needed this."

    Han nodded his agreement. "I owe you one, buddy...nah, I owe 'ya five." He gave Luke a light slap on the shoulder. "Thanks, pal."

    Luke's smile was easy as he got to his feet. "Glad to help." He yawned despite himself. "Well, I need to let you have your apartment back...and get some sleep myself."

    "Go ahead, Luke. Good night."

    "Good night, Han. Good night, Leia. May the Force be with you."
     
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Whew, that was an active nonstop evening but Luke handled it splendidly. Nice reflections there on his part about juggling training students and starting his own family. I totally understand his sense of wistfulness.

    Glad H/L had a great time.

    On the topic of writer's block, :eek: Fan Fiction Writing Resource has 2 active threads which can help: the Writer's Desk or the Scribble Pad. A while back there was a thread specifically on Writer's Block with tips and suggestions, etc.
    @};-
     
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  10. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Great chapter man. Sorry to hear you're a bit stuck, but you've been pumping this out lately so a little break won't hurt.
     
  11. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Sorry it's been so long, but I've FINALLY gotten back to this! I'm going to try and post two chapters today. Merry Christmas! :)

    NOTE: 'Broma' is a shortened version of theobroma, AKA chocolate. I loved Timothy Zahn's inclusion of hot chocolate so much, I decided to put it in my fic. :p
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Three

    A cold breeze ruffled Luke's hair as he exited the cockpit of his X-wing. He shivered a little upon hitting the ground and pulled his robe closer around him before lifting Artoo out of the astromech socket. The ground was icy and gray skies threatened more snow.

    Luke grimaced. Of all places San Tekka invites me, he picks an ice planet. Rinn wasn't quite as cold as Hoth- at least in theory -but it was still too cold for Luke's taste. He'd always hated cold weather. It was made worse by the fact he didn't have proper winter gear anymore. His woolen robe did a fair job of keeping him warm, but not nearly warm enough. I sure hope this lead bears fruit.

    He was five years into his search for Jedi lore and potential students. In the last year progress seemed to come to a standstill. He found neither holocron nor Force-sensitive. Discouragement haunted him on a daily basis. Many of the recent leads had been dead-ends due to the passage of time between the prime of the Jedi and the present. Hopefully this one would pan out.

    The one thing that had improved was Luke's reputation. Word had spread of his random acts of kindness...and unfortunately been inflated. As the tales were passed along from person to person, it became like an intergalactic game of 'comlink', with each account growing more and more exaggerated until Luke himself stepped in and stopped the rumors...and sometimes no one would believe him anyway. Now the Jedi was wary as he traveled and didn't give his name unless there was no other way around it.

    Luke's teeth were chattering by the time he and Artoo reached the small alpine village of Hevik. Snow began falling and the sun had long ago set. All he wanted was a mug of something warm and a dry blanket.

    Duty first, warmth later, he decided reluctantly. Rounding the next corner he found the local tavern that San Tekka had agreed to meet him at.

    The door was unlocked and the sounds coming from inside were joyful and loud. Upon entering Luke found himself surrounded by laughing patrons drinking warm ale and eating plates of baked goods, cured meat, and cheese. The room wasn't well-lit, but the orange glow from the heating unit was very inviting and the food smelled good. Most patrons were dressed in thick, brightly colored woolens and fur. All but three, a pair of Talz and a Pantoran, were human. Trying to ignore the growl in his stomach, Luke bellied up to the bar and tapped what was probably the owner on the shoulder. "Excuse me."

    The bartender turned around, paused, and eyed Luke for a minute before breaking into a grin. "Vell, yong feller, you look like you could use a bit a' varming up! May I recommend a hot-brewed broma vis Juuri?" The man spoke Galactic Basic but his voice was a bit high and heavily accented, pronouncing 'w' like 'v', and 'th' like 'd' or 's'.

    Luke blinked, still blowing on his hands. "Pardon?"

    The bartender chuckled. "Not from around here, eh? I figured. Yer a bit underdressed fer ze vedder, heh-heh. Broma's sveet and varm, a bit like caf but vis less of a buzz. Juuri's our local viskey. It'll varm you up right kvick!"

    Luke rubbed his palms together and shoved them deeper into his sleeves. That certainly sounded nice. "I'll have some broma...but no Juuri, please."

    The grizzled, somewhat portly man sagged with disappointment. "No Juuri? Heh! You must be a kid. Ve give straight broma to our young vuns!"

    Patiently Luke shook his head. "No, thank you. I do have a ship to get back to and I'd like to keep a clear head."

    Reluctantly the barkeep agreed and picked up a mug. "Suppose you're right. Ah, vell. Ve got ze best in Hevik, dat's sure!" And he reached under the counter for a box, out of which he pulled several shiny, thumb-sized octagonal tablets the consistency of wax and the color of forest loam. "Dis...dis is vat gives it ze flavor...fresh broma! Jus smell it!" He waved the tablets beneath Luke's nose.

    Luke had to admit that the tablets smelled very good. He watched as the drink was prepared by pouring some sort of hot local milk- thick and almost yellowish in color -into the mug with the tablets and whisking it together. The resulting beverage was a pale brown. It smelled sweet and spicy and just plain delicious. Luke paid the man quickly before taking the mug in his hands to warm them up. He decided to wait for it to cool before tasting it.

    It wasn't long before Luke was ignored by the rest of the patrons. Once they saw him behaving normally, they turned back to their drinks and food. Some left.

    "So, you meeting somevon? Somevon special, eh?" The barkeep winked at Luke. "Yong fella like you..."

    "As a matter of fact I am, but not in the way you think. His name is Lor San Tekka. Have you ever heard of him?"

    The barkeep made a dismissive gesture and rolled his eyes. "Him, I know. Crazy fellow. Still believes in dat Force business! Psh!" He shrugged. "Not here."

    Luke frowned, blowing on the contents of his mug to cool it. "He told me to meet him here. Are you sure?"

    "Yah, yah, not here at all tonight. But if you change your mind, dere's plenty a' pretty girls round here," he winked. "Jus pick a table and sit!"

    "No, I'll wait for my friend, thank you." And Luke took a seat at the one empty table in the corner with his mug of broma. A cautious sip told him it was excellent, and he eagerly drank more. By the time he had finished with his drink Luke was wondering how hard this stuff would be to find offworld. It was sweet and creamy and just a little spicy. He imagined the right kind of liquor would indeed enhance the flavor.

    "I see Henrik managed to talk you into getting a drink," remarked a voice that was familiar and much amused.

    "It didn't take that much to convince me," admitted Luke with a smile as Lor San Tekka approached from behind. "I haven't been anywhere this cold since the Rebellion."

    "And here I thought you would have built up a tolerance to it. No matter." The good humor faded from San Tekka's eyes and he bowed his head. "I only wish we could have met under better circumstances."

    Luke felt his hope fade. "Isn't she coming?"

    San Tekka gently took Luke by the arm to lead him back to the door. "Things are far more complicated than that, I'm afraid. Come."

    * * * * *

    The feeling of eager hope that Luke had upon arrival quickly faded to sympathy when San Tekka took him to the outer circles of the village. There a large bonfire had burned to cinders and a small group of people scattered, stamping feet to warm them up. A single, slight form remained, staring into the glowing coals and shaking with more than just cold. It smelled like a cremation.

    San Tekka leaned over to explain. "That is Alara Merrick. Her grandmother passed on just this morning...the only family she had left. She is the one who knows the Force."

    Luke grimaced and nodded. He knew the feeling of loss all too well. Quietly he walked up behind the girl and laid a hand on her shoulder. He could sense her grief. "You're not alone, Alara," he murmured.

    Alara flinched and took several uncertain steps back, tears still wet on her cheeks. The question in her eyes turned to amazement as she realized who Luke was. "You...You're him...the Jedi."

    "Why don't we go inside, young Alara? Master Skywalker has things to discuss with you," said Lor San Tekka.

    Alara nodded, stared at the ashes one last time, and turned to go inside.

    Sometime later they sat in a type of ice block house around a crackling fire with fresh mugs of a caf and broma blend as Alara explained about her grandmother. "My mother died not long after I was born and I think my father was a Jedi who escaped the Purge. I never met him. Nana was the one to raise me..." she shrugged and stared into her mug with wet eyes.

    Luke nodded slowly. "I know what it's like to lose someone close to you. I lost almost my entire family to the Empire. I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother."

    Alara sniffed and shrugged. "She'd been ill for a long time. I'm glad she's not suffering anymore. Besides, she...she told me a Jedi legend that when someone passes on, their spirit stays to guide the young ones. Is that true, Master Skywalker?"

    Luke offered a comforting smile and nod. "I think so. I've heard my masters long after they were gone." When the girl seemed to stem the tide of her tears, he continued. "How long have you known about the Force?"

    Alara's smile was crooked. "Not long. But Nana always told me I was special. Since I was little I've been...kind of perceptive, I guess. I knew what Nana was feeling even when she didn't show it. The last couple of years it's been...different. I see things in my dreams....things I don't understand. I know when something bad is going to happen. I knew where Nana was even when I couldn't see her. Sometimes I can move things without touching them. It's-" she faltered, brows knit with uncertainty.

    "It frightens you, doesn't it, this power you've always had?" Luke said softly. Alara nodded. "Quick reflexes...empathy... sensing danger...they're all hallmarks of someone strong in the Force."

    "That's what Nana said. She's always known I had it."

    "Did she tell you about the Force?"

    Alara shrugged. "Not until three years ago, when we heard about the one Jedi left in the galaxy who was going to bring them back. That was when Nana told me about the Force. She said it's energy, pure energy that holds the universe together and lives in everything. She said only a few people can feel it and use it, and in the old days they became Jedi, and kept peace in the galaxy until the Empire wiped them out."

    Luke nodded slowly in confirmation. "Your grandmother was right. The Force moves through, in, and around all life in the galaxy. The Jedi were the peacekeepers and used the Force to help others. I can sense the Force in you, but I'm curious. Alara...you said you can move things without touching them. Can you show me?"

    The young girl bit her lip and hunched her shoulders. "I...I've only done it a few times, and I'm not even sure how."

    Luke was thoughtful. "If you've done it once, you can do it again. I'll help you. Close your eyes. Relax."

    Alara glanced at Lor San Tekka for confirmation before setting down her mug and sitting cross-legged on her stool, hands at her sides. Reluctantly her eyes closed and she took a deep breath.

    Luke settled into 'teaching mode' with another smile. "All right. Breathe...don't be afraid. Don't think about who's in the room with you. Don't think about who's outside, or what they're feeling. Don't think about what you're feeling. Empty your mind of everything and just breathe." His voice became a low, calming drone. "Reach out with your feelings."

    Alara let out a shuddering breath and a single tear rolled down her cheek. Then she relaxed into the warmth of the Force. After a time her brows knit. "I...I feel something..."

    Luke nodded. He could sense her quest for knowledge. "What do you feel?"

    "Calm...peace...safety," answered Alara distantly. "I see something, too."

    "What do you see?" Luke wanted to know.

    "Light...a warm, peaceful light...powerful, but...not dangerous. It's you," murmured Alara with a smile. It quickly faded. "There are others...some are light, but most...they're dim...even dark. They think I'm crazy."

    "Don't think about them. Focus only on what's in this room. See it in your mind," instructed Luke.

    Alara sighed and refocused. "All right...I see it."

    Luke glanced at an empty mug on the table. "Do you know where the table is?"

    The girl nodded. "Yes."

    "And the empty mug?"

    "Yes."

    "Pick it up."

    Alara hesitated, biting her lip. After a pause she reached out with her fingers toward the table. The mug trembled before lifting into the air. In a smooth and slow arc it sailed into Alara's hand.

    Luke couldn't contain his proud smile. "Good, Alara. Very well done."

    Alara flinched and stared at the mug in her hand with disbelief. She quickly set it back on the table and pulled her hands away as if it was going to come alive.

    "Alara," said Luke, gently touching her shoulder. "It's all right. You don't have to be afraid anymore."

    "Why was it so easy?" she wanted to know.

    "Because you were open. The Force is strong with you." He smiled.

    "What do I do with it?" The bewildered girl wanted to know.

    Luke shrugged. "Well, you have a choice. I can see it frightens you. You can stay here with your people, and close yourself off to it because you're afraid...or you can learn how to use it for the good. I can teach you, Alara. You only have to be willing."

    Alara's eyes widened. "You mean I could be a Jedi?"

    Luke nodded easily. "With time and training, I believe you could."

    Alara covered her mouth in astonishment. Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. "Oh, Nana...it's happening...she always said it would. She said that someday you were going to come, and I was going to be a Jedi. It was her dream."

    Luke lifted his brows. "Is it what you want? No one can make this choice for you, Alara. Being a Jedi isn't easy. It comes with hardship, danger, and a lot of work. People don't always want to be helped, and they don't always show gratitude. It's a thankless job, but well worth it. I'll only train you if you understand this. Do you still want to be a Jedi?"

    After a pause to think, Alara looked Luke in the eye and nodded. "Yes, Master Skywalker. I want to know how to use this power to help others."

    A warm and welcoming smile spread across Luke's face. Alara's eyes were alight with wonder and determination. She would grieve for her grandmother for a long while, but there was no darkness there. All she wanted was to be a force for good. He had no doubt about her sincerity. "All right, then. I'll warn you, I'm not the best teacher...but I'll do my best." He gave her shoulder an encouraging squeeze and rose to his feet. He caught the look of joy thrown to him by Lor San Tekka and knew why there were tears.

    The old man's dream was coming true. The Jedi were going to return, and he was there to witness it.

    Luke felt a rising excitement...and responsibility. Now he had three students waiting to start their training. He was going to have to find somewhere to take them, and soon.
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fantastic!!! Alara is so receptive as a student and has strong talent :cool: Luke truly is a natural teacher. [face_love]
     
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  13. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Thanks @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha! I always appreciate your kind reviews. [:D]

    And now more Luke! :p[face_love] Again, Merry Christmas!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Four

    Think of something else. Think of something else. Think of something else...

    The Jedi Master sat with his eyes closed in an attitude that was less meditation and more desperation. Why do I keep getting hurt? Why does something so small have to hurt so much? He forcefully pushed the feelings aside. They weren't helping.

    There is no pain, there is the Force...I feel nothing...I'm not-

    "Ow!" winced Luke, fighting the urge to pull away. His scalp felt as if it was on fire.

    The redheaded woman who was stitching up the gash in his hairline groaned and firmly grabbed Luke's jaw. "Hold still, will you?" she ordered. "I know you military types are used to advanced medicine, but this is the best you're going to get. You want me ripping an even bigger hole in that shaggy head of yours?"

    "Not really," grunted Luke through ground teeth. He caught the look of sympathy from the boy in his left and tried smiling. The pain made that impossible.

    "Then quit moving." She sighed, shaking her head. "Jedi must make terrible patients. No wonder they had their own healers."

    "Maybe they had better bedside manner," muttered Luke. While efficient, this healer was not being gentle with him at all.

    "You brought this on yourself. If you hadn't stirred up that nest of vornskers, you wouldn't have had your face cut to ribbons," insisted the woman.

    "I was only trying to be friendly."

    "Vornskers don't know what friendly is."

    Luke winced and had no reply. It was true, in a way. He'd been trying to connect to an animal that wanted nothing more than to make a meal out of him...after once again leaving his lightsaber in the cockpit. Arrogance had a high price, and now his face and forearms had been slashed by the creatures' sharp claws. Force-pushing them away didn't work for long, as they just kept coming. He might well have been digesting in a vornskers' stomach if the boy hadn't been along.

    The boy...Luke couldn't keep from glancing at him. This youth of no more than twelve had called the voracious animals away with the ease of a nerf-herder rounding up his herd. The creatures had left, the boy had retrieved the Jedi, and now Luke was being treated by the boy's sarcastic aunt.

    Luke felt sure the Force was involved somehow. He waited until the frowning aunt had smeared ointment on the other scratches before speaking again. "I'd like to thank you both for your help. Miss...Jade, is it?"

    The woman scoffed as she washed her hands. "Jade. It's just Jade. And I only helped you so I can debunk those ridiculous rumors about the Jedi being invincible...and you paid me."

    Luke nodded. "Thank you just the same. And your nephew...Gavin, right?" He offered a smile to the boy.

    Gavin lifted an eyebrow at the man. "How can you smile after what those things did to your face?"

    Luke shrugged. "I'll heal. But I would like to ask you and your aunt a few questions."

    Jade glared, but Gavin looked nervous. "Um...like what?"

    "Like how you managed to connect with the Vornskers when I couldn't," said Luke pointedly.

    "Y'mean a kid's a better shot than you?" Jade laughed. "No wonder the Jedi went extinct!"

    "Shut up, Jade," spat Gavin. "You don't know anything about Jedi."

    "More than you, smart mouth."

    Luke showed his palms. "Easy. That's not the kind of connection I meant. You spoke to them, didn't you, Gavin? You asked them to leave."

    Gavin nervously licked his lips. He looked from Luke to Jade and blushed furiously. Apparently his aunt didn't know about his gift. "No," he ground through his teeth.

    Jade frowned at the Jedi. "What're you talking about? Even Gavin's not stupid enough to go near a Vornsker. 'Cause if you did, I'd kill you...if the beast didn't first."

    Luke lifted his head, giving Gavin a look of reassurance. The boy feared getting into trouble with his powers exposed. "Your nephew has a talent for mentally connecting with animals. He can sense their actions and speak to them...even convince them to listen."

    Jade knit his brows. "What're you talking about? Gavin's only talent is being a pain in the afterburner."

    Luke turned back to the boy, who by then was backing away. "You called the vornskers away. You connected with them, and convinced them to leave. You saved my life."

    "You're crazy!" exclaimed Jade, though doubt was beginning to show on her face. "Right?" she asked her nephew.

    "It wasn't me!" protested Gavin nervously. "I didn't do anything."

    "There's a power inside you that you've been hiding because you're afraid," said Luke. He glanced at Jade, who had her arms crossed.

    "What the kriff is he talking about? What power?" demanded Jade.

    "Don't be afraid of the truth, Gavin. No one is going to hurt you," encouraged Luke. He kept one eye on the fuming Jade to make sure she didn't contradict him.

    Gavin, now less a mouthy preteen and more a scared boy, finally blew out a hard breath and closed his eyes. "Okay...okay, you're right. I can talk to animals. They listen to me. I don't know how or why. They just do. I told the vornskers they didn't really want to eat you...that you wouldn't taste good. So they left." He shrugged helplessly. "That's it."

    Jade's mouth hung open and she launched into a tirade aimed at Gavin. It was part disbelief, part fury, and peppered with profanity. She demanded to know why Gavin hadn't told her about this.

    "You wouldn't believe me," protested Gavin. "You wouldn't listen. You never do!"

    "I'm sure your nephew wasn't trying to deceive you," put in Luke, "and I'm sorry I caused any tension. However I might have to answer as to how and why Gavin is able to do what he does...he's strong in the Force."

    "What!?" hissed Jade. "That's impossible!"

    Luke lifted his brows. "Why?"

    Jade sputtered in disbelief. "He's a nobody! His parents were nobodies! Why should he have the Force?"

    Luke shrugged. "The Force doesn't discriminate. It can choose anyone, regardless of background." He smiled upon seeing hope rise on Gavin's face. "No one would have thought it would choose an orphaned farmboy from Tatooine."

    Jade kept shaking her head. "No...no, this is a trick...same thing the Jedi used to pull before the Empire wiped them out. Take kids away from their families, and then no one sees them again. Besides, you're the only one who says this brat has the Force. Why doesn't he prove it, huh? Prove it!" demanded Jade, glaring at her nephew and poking his shoulder.

    Luke had to bite his tongue seeing the obvious abuse between aunt and nephew. Jade, for some reason, harbored a kind of bitterness toward the boy and refused to believe he was anything but trouble. He sensed fear in her tone...like Jade had seen the Force used before and held some sort of animosity toward the Jedi as a whole. Luke suddenly regretted asking Gavin about this in front of his aunt. He might have unintentionally created trouble between them...but how else was he to find out Gavin's talents and, possibly, get permission to train him? Legally his hands were tied. "Gavin already has proved it, Jade. Either way, he can't help what he was born with. There's no need to be angry with him."

    Jade's eyes were afire. "He's got no right to be keeping these kriffing secrets from me! Is this the gratitude you show for me raising you? Huh?" She lifted her hand to smack him...and was astonished when Gavin ducked and pushed her away. She was tossed backwards by an unseen force and landed against the wall.

    Gavin stood there with wide eyes full of fright. He stared helplessly at his aunt, then at Luke. "I didn't mean it...what did I do?"

    Luke cringed. Gavin's instincts had kicked in and he had reacted in self-defense. He showed the boy his palm and stepped between him and his aunt. "I think he just proved his power to you," he told Jade. "Are you hurt?"

    Jade recoiled in horror. "Get away from me...get the kriff away from me!"

    Gavin stepped forward. "Luke's just trying to-"

    "You, too! I knew it...you're just like her." Jade's voice trembled with emotion and she pointed to the door. "Get out."

    "Jade!" Luke frowned at this sudden and utter rejection. Even Gavin, who had little to no respect for his aunt, was still just a boy. He could sense the deep feelings of pain this caused. "He's your nephew."

    "He's no family of mine, that...that freak! I never wanted him in the first place. You're all freaks...all you crazy Force-users. The Empire was right to wipe you out!" When Gavin opened his mouth again, she glared at him. "I said get out! If I ever see you around here again-"

    "Enough," broke in Luke, now standing protectively in front of the hurt and angry boy. "If you're unwilling to show any compassion toward your own flesh and blood, then you shouldn't have charge of him. Gavin, pack your things. You can come with me."

    Too upset to protest, Gavin dashed to his bedroom while Luke held Jade at bay. Both heard the young boy choking back sobs as he hastily packed a ratty duffel bag and ran back out to stand beside Luke. "I'm ready."

    Luke nodded once, then turned on Jade with regret. "I'm sorry it's come to this. I hope that someday both of you can find healing."

    Jade glared. "Get the kriff out of my house!"

    Sadly Luke turned to go, a protective hand on Gavin's shoulder. While the Force could bring families together, it could also tear them apart.

    * * * * *

    Luke and Gavin camped beneath the X-wing with only Artoo for company and some dried rations between them. While Gavin had almost no appetite, Luke found himself deep in thought. Perhaps what he'd done was impulsive...perhaps this confrontation was partly his fault. It's better this way, part of him argued as he glanced at Gavin. He's out of an abusive situation with a future ahead of him. The problem of transportation remained, however. How was he going to move on without somewhere to put Gavin? Would there be legal repercussions unless Jade signed a document releasing guardianship of the boy?

    A flare in the campfire distracted the Jedi enough to look up. Gavin was glaring into it, breaking a twig in his hands until it was in bits, then picking up another. One tear slid down his cheek.

    "I'm sorry," said Luke quietly.

    "For what?" sniffed Gavin, wiping his nose.

    "I feel somewhat responsible for what happened between you and your aunt," Luke answered.

    "Don't, okay? Jade's always been like this." He picked up another twig to destroy. "She was in the Imperial Academy when the Empire lost the war. She was raised to hate the Jedi...even though my mom was one."

    Luke lifted his brows with interest. "Your mother was a Jedi?"

    Gavin shrugged. "I guess. She could use the Force and stuff and left the family when she was just a kid. Her parents didn't like that too much. When she came back she was carrying me...and Jade was the only one left. Mom died when I was...maybe two. And Jade was the only one left to raise me." He kicked at the fire. "I guess Jade blamed the Jedi for what happened to Mom, and saw me as the reason Mom died."

    Luke winced. Loss did strange things to people. They wanted to find a scapegoat, someone to blame. He couldn't imagine laying such a burden on the shoulders of a child. "I had a feeling your aunt held some bitterness toward the Jedi. Can I ask why you didn't follow her lead?"

    Gavin glared momentarily. "Who says I didn't?"

    Luke shrugged. "You helped me. I don't think you would have if you hated the Jedi."

    Gavin managed a crooked smile. "Yeah, well...Jade wasn't much family. I guess you could tell. I figured if someone like her hated the Jedi, they couldn't be all bad. Besides, I heard what you did...destroying the Death Stars and saving all those people. Helping you just...felt right." His smile faded into more tears. "Guess I just can't believe she'd kick me out. Ten years, she fed me and put clothes on my back and made sure I didn't kill myself. Yeah, she lost it sometimes and gave me a smack or two, but I always figured I deserved it. I'm kind of a brat."

    The Jedi winced and found Gavin's eyes. "No one ever deserves to be hurt, especially not by their own family." Luke sighed. "Gavin, I'm so sorry things happened this way. I'm also sorry for the situation we're both in now. I'm not going to leave you behind...I just need to find some way to get us both off this planet."

    Gavin smirked. "We could always just steal a ship. Between you and me, I bet we could Force-trick a whole hanger into giving up something nice and fast."

    Luke cringed and shook his head. "Jedi don't steal."

    "Ah, c'mon! You just said we gotta get off this rock. Wouldn't that be for the greater good or something? The only people with big cruisers are all rich turds anyway."

    "No, Gavin. I promise, I will get you away from here...I just can't promise how or when."

    Gavin sank into the shipping crate he was using as a seat and kicked at a rock. "There's gotta be a way. Hey, you were a Rebellion pilot, right? You musta had a bunch of friends. Couldn't you call in a favor or something? Maybe someone's got an extra ship..." he made a face as the reality of that statement hit him, and the boy groaned. "Kriffing shavit!"

    Luke eyed the boy with half a frown. "Easy on the language...but I can't say I disagree with the sentiment. You might just have a point." He rose to his feet and handed a hot mug of instant soup to the boy. "Stay here." And he lifted Artoo back into the astromech socket before mounting the ladder himself. "Power up the comm, Artoo."

    Gavin stared up the ladder with a frown. "Whaddya doing?"

    "Calling in a favor," answered Luke with a cringe. Hopefully his brother-in-law wouldn't mind following through on all those offers of help that had been piling up over the years.

    * * * * *

    "What the kriff is that?" blurted Gavin upon seeing the filthy, dented excuse for a starcruiser sitting in the clearing. It seemed to be made up entirely of spare parts, some of which didn't belong on it. It looked ready to fall apart.

    Han stared at the boy in disbelief with a raised brow. "That," he said, "is your ride outta here." He then threw an incredulous look to his brother in law. Where'd he pick up this loudmouth?

    Luke grimaced at the bad first impression. "Gavin DeMarc, this is Han Solo. Han, this is Gavin...my newest student."

    Han looked the callous youth up and down and was about to make a remark about Luke's penchant for helping hard-luck cases when something stopped him. Instead he lifted his brows. "Another future Jedi, huh? How many is that, now, eight?"

    Luke shook his head. "Four."

    Gavin whipped around with wide eyes. "Y'mean there's more? Where ya keeping 'em, up your sleeve?"

    The Jedi cringed. "There isn't an official temple or academy for training yet, so they're kind of all over the place. Hopefully that can change with this," he said, looking over the ship and trying not to say anything too disparaging. He was shocked at how quickly Han had been able to dig up anything. "It's a shuttle, right?"

    Han nodded and began going over the feature. "Yup. She's an old Eta-class shuttle from the Clone Wars. You don't know how lucky I was to find one in such good condition."

    Gavin scoffed. "Clone Wars? This thing's ancient! Does it even fly?"

    Han was defensive. "'Course it flies! Not that fast, but she'll get you where you need to go."

    Luke nodded slowly, walking around the ship. It was old, but looked fairly solid. "It reminds me of the Lambda-class."

    "She should. Same manufacturer and this baby was the predecessor to the Lambda-class. Controls are similar, so you shouldn't have a problem flying her. Most everything is standard; Class 2 hyperdrive, Mark 8 Shrike Major Ion engines, light cargo capacity, seats about ten. I did give you a bit of an upgrade and added a tractor beam setup so you can tow your X-wing. Only thing missing on her is decent armament." Han cringed. "And a paint job. But you don't need that to fly."

    "No weapons?" frowned Gavin. "Great."

    "Hey, whaddya want for a week's notice, a star destroyer?" griped Han. He leaned against the hull. "These were actually considered top-line in their day. Comfortable, reliable, and a nice enough interior to keep any Senator happy. You oughta consider yourself lucky to ride in this baby."

    "Han, I don't know how to thank you," said Luke earnestly. "This is exactly what I've been needing for my students. How does she handle?"

    "Eh, 'bout the same as a Lamba-class. Maybe a little bumpier at top speed. She's no fighter, but she ain't no barge, either. C'mon. I'll give you the grand tour." And Han beckoned the thankful Luke and the unimpressed Gavin up into the craft.

    The interior of the shuttle was worn, but otherwise comfortable. There was a bathroom and a couple of crew bunks, and the utilitarian seating had been recently redone. Luke couldn't be happier. "Han, where did you find her?"

    Han shrugged casually. "Ah, she was a junk job somebody wanted to get rid of. You wouldn't believe how cheap she was. I was planning on fixing her up a little more and flipping her to resell as a classic...but you needed her more." He slapped Luke on the shoulder.

    Luke shook his head, unable to comprehend his friend's generosity. "Han..."

    The former smuggler shook his head. "Don't mention it. I figured with all the favors I owe you, we can finally call it even. Sides...you're family." Han smiled.

    Luke could only grasp Han's arm and smile, nodding as a sort of bow. "Thank you."

    Han grinned and looked around. "So, whaddya gonna name her? Ship's gotta have a name."

    Gavin rolled his eyes. "How about Bucket of Bolts?"

    Han narrowed his eyes at the boy. "Watch it. Luke's gonna teach you that appearances ain't everything. Well, kid?"

    Luke ran his hands over the control panel and bit his lip. Then he broke into a smile. "What about the Legacy?"

    Han shrugged. "It works."

    Gavin frowned. "I guess it's okay. When I get a ship, I'm naming it something more exciting, like...The Phantom...or maybe Fangs of Death."

    Han snorted. "Yeah. A Jedi flying in on Fangs of Death...great way to keep peace in the galaxy."

    Gavin frowned petulantly. "You're no fun."

    "You sound like my kid."

    "Poor him."
     
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    #24 -- wow, we meet a "Jade" [face_love] With attitude naturally [face_laugh] but the back-story explains that nicely. =D= Gavin is another one with talent but rougher edges than Alara. [face_thinking] "Legacy" nice name. :cool:
    Great exchange between Han and Luke; you can sense their true friendship. :)
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  15. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Happy to see you back man. Great chapters, definitely has a sad vibe now though.
     
  16. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Don't get your hopes up about this Jade. She's a jerk, as you can see, and the reason Gavin has rougher edges. We won't be seeing her again.

    @Zer0 Unfortunately I can't offer you a happier chapter just now. Backtracking from The Force Awakens is going to be sad... :(

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Five

    We're not doing this again, thought Leia as she marched down the hallway. With less than an hour to go before her son had to be at school, he was cutting things close again. As much as he excelled in subjects like reading and mathematics, Ben seemed less and less eager to go. The reason was a mystery to Leia, unless- as Han suggested -the boy thrived on pushing his parents' buttons. She tapped insistently on his door. "Ben? Get up. You're going to be late," she urged.

    No answer. Leia knocked again. "Ben Solo, you come out this minute and get ready for school."

    Usually that elicited a reluctant shuffle out of the door, school bag in hand. Now there wasn't even a vocal protest.

    Worry began mingling with annoyance and Leia reached out to her son with the Force. Maybe he just wasn't feeling well. All she sensed was defiance and a deep dread. For whatever reason, Ben did NOT want to go to school this morning. Leia finally tapped the unlock controls. "All right. I'm coming in."

    "No!" Ben, surprisingly tall for a seven year old, took a flying leap off his bed and threw a blanket over something in the center of the room. Panic was evident on his face.

    Leia froze, looked past the usual messy state of the bedroom, and focused instead on whatever Ben had covered up. "Ben, what are you hiding?"

    Ben's dark eyes were wide, though he tried to bluff his way out of it. "Nothing! I was getting out of bed," he said, picking up his boots and yanking them on.

    Leia pursed her lips at Ben's similarities to his father. Both tried constantly to talk their way around uncomfortable situations, but neither was a very good liar. "Well if that's true, then why did you throw a blanket over this?" she said, indicating the lump.

    Ben made a face. "I didn't clean my room...and you hate seeing my dirty underwear," he sputtered.

    Leia glanced at the obvious pile of laundry in the opposite corner and almost laughed at the absurdity of Ben's excuses. She dropped next to him. "Ben, remember what we've told you about lying? It doesn't work. You may have the Force, but I do, too. Come on. Let's see it." And she lifted the blanket, much to her son's embarrassment. Beneath was a detailed toy model of the Millennium Falcon, lying in a hundred pieces. It had been a gift from Han more than a year ago upon seeing how much Ben liked playing in the real Falcon.

    For a moment Leia's stomach twisted, but she told herself not to be paranoid. Maybe the model had just been dropped or stepped on. But why had he tried to hide it? "Ooh, what happened here?"

    Ben pressed his lips together and blew a hard breath out of them, looking away. "I broke it...on purpose."

    Leia sank back on her heels. While surprised that Ben had admitted this openly, she somehow wasn't surprised that it was intentional. "Why?"

    Ben shrugged. "I dunno," he muttered.

    Leia sighed and lifted Ben's chin to look at her. "Ben, are you angry with your father?"

    Ben's shoulders fell and he pulled away. "He makes you mad."

    The statement took Leia by surprise, but she nodded. "Yes, he does. But I still love him. I know he loves both of us, very much."

    "Then how come he's always gone?" blurted the boy, tears forming in his eyes. "How come when he is home, you're always fighting? Is it me? Did I do something to make you mad?"

    "Why in the galaxy would you think that?" Leia asked with a sinking heart.

    "'Cause when you do fight, half the time it's about me," answered the tearful boy.

    "Ben, that's not true."

    "I hear you! You're always saying stuff about me, like you don't know what to do, or I'm impossible, or nobody wants to watch me so you can go somewhere."

    Leia's heart sank. He hears that? Often had hers and Han's discussions gone on into the night. Her concerns over Ben were the usual subject...but she had no idea Ben had overheard and interpreted them this way. She took his cheek in her hand. "Ben, look at me. Your father and I love you very, very much....more than anything. Don't you think for one minute that you're the reason we argue sometimes. As for what you've heard...we worry about you. You're a strong and intelligent boy, and you're also very strong in the Force. Sometimes that gets a little scary. We're afraid of doing something wrong."

    Ben gazed at his mother with uncertainty. "But you know everything."

    Leia had to smile. "Nobody knows everything, Ben. Being a parent is the hardest job in the galaxy. Yes, sometimes your father or I get frustrated with you, just like you get frustrated with us. But we'll never give up, and we'll never stop loving you."

    Ben sniffled. "Then how come you fight so much?"

    Leia cringed. "Your father and I have very different personalities. We have a lot of disagreements on a lot of things, and we have to talk about it to work things out. Sometimes that can get a little loud, and I'm sorry if that's frightened you. We're both trying to get better at keeping our voices down."

    Ben seemed calmer now, and he gave in to the hug that his mother offered. "Why is Dad always gone?"

    Leia rubbed Ben's back as she held him. "It's because of his job. He has a freight business and has to keep an eye on it so it runs smoothly. He wants to spend time with us, and when he can, he does."

    Ben blew out a sharp breath threw his nose and nodded. It wasn't the answer he wanted, but knew further argument would be pointless. "I'm sorry I broke the Falcon."

    "I know, sweetheart. Maybe when you get home from school you can fix it," suggested Leia.

    "Do I have to go to school?" sighed Ben, pulling back.

    "I thought you liked school," remarked Leia in confusion.

    "I'm good at it, but I don't like it," admitted the boy.

    "Why not?"

    "I just don't."

    Leia sighed and smoothed back his hair. There wasn't time for a more detailed discussion. Perhaps that would be something to talk about later... "Well, you still have to go. Everyone has to do things they don't like. Just do your best to have a good day. All right?"

    Ben made a face, but nodded. "Okay." And the reluctant boy got up to gather datapads and holochips and put them in his school bag.

    * * * * *

    Ben said little about his school day, except that he had passed a test in mathematics at the head of the class. He then threw himself into reassembling the mess that was the shattered Falcon. It worried Leia how intense his concentration was. For hours he sat sequestered in his room, meticulously piecing it together with tweezers and glue. Any mistake was met with a load groan, and the call to come to dinner went unheeded. Upon confronting him, he begged to keep going until his was finished. When asked why he was in such a rush, Ben murmured "'Cause Dad's coming home tomorrow."

    That answer was another prick to Leia's heart. Ben's feelings about his father were so intense because the boy was so sensitive. He wanted to fix the model of the Falcon so he wouldn't hurt Han's feelings.

    "I know, and he wants you to eat so you can stay healthy," answered Leia, peering at how near done Ben was. All of the larger pieces had been put back together successfully, and now there was a handful of tiny details that still needed to be glued back on. "Do you want any help?"

    "Well..." Ben bit his lip. "You're not a pilot or a mechanic," he said reluctantly.

    "You're right. I'm not. Why don't you take a little break, then? Just long enough to have some dinner." Leia smoothed her son's thick black hair.

    "Okay," mumbled Ben, getting to his feet. "I wish Uncle Luke was here. He can fix anything."

    Leia had to smile at the mention of her brother. While Luke's visits were still only once a year, his calming presence was always welcome. Ben practically worshiped his Jedi uncle and made a point to show off whatever Force skill he had been learning. The boy had already made up his mind to be a Jedi...much to Han's disappointment. Han still very much liked Luke, but jealousy at his son's preference had begun rearing its ugly head. "Well, not quite."

    The young Solo ended up devouring his dinner so quickly that Leia warned him to slow down, else risk a stomachache. But after rushing through his job to put the dishes in the dishwasher, he went right back in his room to finish rebuilding the Falcon. Leia dropped in for a few minutes to see if she could help, but an incoming message from the Senate cut this interaction short. It ended up being a very long call.

    Hours later, when Leia was finally ready to sign off for the evening, she walked back to Ben's room to check on him. The light was still on. "Ben," she said, tapping on his door. "It's past your bedtime. You need to brush your teeth and say goodnight." When there was no answer and the Force didn't reveal anything amiss, Leia entered.

    Ben had fallen asleep at his workstation, fingers sticky with glue, tears drying on his freckled cheeks. The model of the Falcon had been reassembled as well as a seven year old child could do it, though judging by the look on Ben's face he felt it wasn't good enough.

    Leia slowly shook her head at the boy. Han often bemoaned his lack of similarity to his son, but they were more alike than he thought. Han had become almost paranoid at living up to his son's expectations, while Ben seemed desperate to live up to his fathers'. She crouched next to Ben and rubbed his back to wake him up. "Hey...Ben..."

    Ben flinched awake, blinked back his tears, and regarded the Falcon with disappointed eyes. "Doesn't look good," he mumbled.

    "You did a wonderful job, sweetheart." Leia kissed his cheek. "Your father will understand."

    * * * * *

    Leia was startled when Ben woke late again the next morning. Usually he was the first one up on a day like this. He would gulp down his food and camp out by the front door until Han arrived, subsequently tackling his father in a hug. Today he didn't even ask when his father was supposed to be home...he simply shuffled through breakfast and getting ready for school.

    This sudden change in attitude worried Leia. Was Ben's worry over the broken model that deep? Was he afraid Han would be angry? Nonsense. Han was regularly frustrated with Ben, but never truly angry with the boy. Han reserved that for errant employees or associates who would cross him.

    "Your father should be home when you're finished with school," Leia remarked as she ushered Ben into the speeder. She searched Ben's face for any sign of happiness or excitement.

    "I know," replied Ben with a faint smile. He was quiet through the ride to school and left his mother with a kiss on the cheek and a single nod when she encouraged him to have a good day. Little was said when the school day was over, except a quiet "I wonder when Dad will be home?"

    "Soon," smiled Leia as they arrived at the house and were greeted by See-Threepio. Her nose twitched at the smell of sweets. "You made them. Thank you."

    "Made what?" Ben wanted to know. He poked his head into the kitchen.

    "Coronet Crescents," answered Leia. The sugar-dusted treats were in the shape of a half-moon and filled with berry jelly.

    The first and only time Han had taken the family to his home planet, he ordered a plate of them to try. They were his favorite cookie...in part, Leia suspected, because there was no way to eat them with dignity. The powdered sugar coated one's mouth and the jelly made one's fingers sticky. Ben, who had been two at the time, made a real mess of himself. Han had stifled his wife's protests by gently pushing one of the crunchy cookies into her mouth. All three of them ended up with sugar on their faces.

    Ben lifted his brows as he peered at the plate of powdered cookies. "They look messy," he remarked. "Is Dad going to be home soon?"

    "He should be here any minute-"

    Ben once again startled his mother by dashing back into his bedroom and shutting the door.

    "Goodness. Whatever is the matter with young Master Ben?" asked Threepio.

    "I wish I knew," sighed Leia, heading back to the bedroom to change.

    It was less than fifteen minutes until the object of Ben's worry came in through the door. "Hey, I'm home!" he hollered.

    Threepio happily waddled out from behind the counter. "Oh, Master Han, how delightful! What perfect timing."

    Han's grin faded as he surveyed a clean but empty living room. Usually someone was there to at least say hello. "Where is everybody?" he muttered.

    "Oh, well, I believe Mistress Leia is-"

    "Han!" called Leia, hurrying out of the hall.

    Threepio was left to stand forgotten as the couple exchanged greetings. "Never mind."

    "Hey, sweetheart." Han dropped his duffel on the floor to kiss and embrace his wife. "Ya miss me?"

    "I always miss you," assured Leia once her lips were free. She buried her face in Han's chest and breathed in his smell...a unique combination of engine grease, leather, cheap soap, and just a hint of body odor.

    Han chuckled as he held her. "I missed you, too." He looked around. "Where's Ben?"

    Leia nodded down the hall, her smile strained. "He's in his room..."

    Han was perplexed. "Huh. He's usually climbin' all over me by now. Maybe he doesn't know. Hey, kid!" He released Leia to stride down the hall, tossing the dropped duffel into the master bedroom before tapping on Ben's door. "I'm home, buddy."

    Silence. Leia moistened her lips and took Han's arm. "Han...I'd like to talk before you try and bring Ben out."

    The former smuggler knit his brows. "How come? Is he hurt, or something?"

    "Not really-"

    "Whaddya mean, 'not really'? I thought you could sense it...that Jedi stuff." There was no mocking or teasing in Han's tone, just honest curiosity. "Is he hurt, or not?"

    "No," sighed Leia, closing her eyes to get a fix on her son's emotions. "But he is upset...he could tell you why better than I could."

    Han frowned in frustration and knocked again. "Ben? Ben..." With a glance at Leia, he palmed the door open and found a red-eyed Ben slouched at his work desk. On it was a familiar model that didn't look quite right. "Whaddya up to?"

    Ben flinched and tried hiding the model. "I-I tried to fix it, I really did, but-"

    What's going on? Han strode up to his son, palms out. "Hey, hey, hey, slow down." He reached for his son's shoulder and gave him a quick squeeze. "Ya okay, buddy?"

    Ben sniffled and shrank away from the miniature Falcon, his expression one of misery. "I broke it."

    Han was startled at this news but leaned in to take a look anyway. The model had been broken. He could see well-disguised lines of glue and plasti-bond between the pieces, some of which were quite small. "Oh. What happened? Ya' run into an asteroid field?" Han joked.

    Ben's answer was to burst into tears and bury his face in Han.

    Leia's eyes spoke caution as she smoothed Ben's thick hair. The boy's emotions were fragile at the moment.

    Han followed suit and hugged his son, hefting him up as he had when Ben was little. "Hey," he said, lifting Ben's chin. "What'cha crying for? I'm not mad."

    Ben's lip trembled and tears ran down his freckled cheeks. "I b-broke it on p-purpose!" he blubbered, turning away and sobbing.

    Han knit his brows. "Ya did? How come?"

    "I w-was mad at you," Ben sputtered.

    "So how come you were mad?" asked Han. He'd caught Leia's worried look and tried to keep the hurt out of his voice. Evidently she'd heard something about this. "Why ya mad at me? Did I do somethin'? Y'know I'd never hurt you."

    "No." Ben sniffled loudly and pulled away. After a nervous glance at his mother, he spoke up. "Y-you're gone all the time...and...and when you are here, you...you and Mom fight a lot. I thought it was 'cause of me."

    The man winced. Ben's words spoke one of Han's worst fears...that his and Leia's arguments would negatively affect their son. For a moment he felt such guilt that he couldn't reply.

    Leia sank next to them and touched Ben's shoulder. "But remember what I told you, Ben? That your father and I love each other very much, and we love you more than anything. Nothing you've done is the cause of our disagreements, and we're going to work very hard to keep our voices down."

    Thankful for once for Leia's training as a diplimat, Han nodded, clearing his throat of emotion. "That's right. Don'cha ever think it's 'cause of you. We're as different as we can be, but we're also kinda the same. I mean, both of us are stubborn. Sometimes bein' stubborn's a good thing. You don't wanna give up when you're surrounded and you gotta get away from the bad guys. But sometimes bein' stubbon ain't so good, like when ya think you're right, and ya won't give up till the other person agrees with you. Sometimes ya just gotta find middle ground. 'Course your mom...well, she usually is right. I'm just too much of a nerf-herder to see it." Here Han pursed his lips in embarrassment.

    Ben wiped his nose with a nod. "Yeah. Mom was saying that earlier. I'm sorry about the Falcon." He hung his head. "I tried to fix it, but..."

    "Hey, don't knock it. Ya' did a pretty good job," Han said, looking over the re-glued model. "'Sides, the real Falcon's got ten times as many dents, and she still flies. Point is, ya' owned up to it and did your best. That's what good pilots do."

    "Really?"

    "Sure! I always fix the Falcon when she breaks. Uncle Lando always fixes his ships. And Uncle Luke always fixes his X-wing, right?"

    "Yeah, and he's the best pilot in the galaxy!"

    Han flinched and was inclined to be jealous, but decided to turn his feelings into something less hurtful. "Oh, yeah? Guess I'm just gonna have to...turn my spiders loose!" And he lay Ben down so he could tickle him mercilessly.

    Ben shrieked with laughter. "No! No, Daddy, no s-s-s-spiders!" He giggled.

    Han grinned. "Who's the better pilot, huh? Who's the better pilot?"

    Ben could hardly speak through his laughter. "U-Uncle Luke...but you're almost as good!"

    Han bit back the twinge of jealousy again and just kept tickling. "Almost? Almost? How come?"

    "'Cause...he's...got the...Force!" shrieked Ben, kicking his legs. "Stop! I'm gonna wet the bed!"

    "Oh." Han pulled back. Ben, of course, was right. It stung not to be as much of a hero in his son's eyes, but Han wasn't going to hold Luke's talents against him. It was difficult to frown at anything when Ben's smile was so wide. "Do I still get a hug?"

    Ben leaped up and wrapped his arms around Han's neck in reply.

    "I love you, kiddo."

    "I love you too, Dad."

    Han caught Leia's smile and smiled back. "Glad ya do." He set the growing child down and kissed the top of his head. "C'mon. Let's go make some dinner with lots of vegetables."

    Ben made a face. "Yuck! Why vegetables?"

    Han grinned mischievously. "So we can eat more cookies after." Upon seeing Leia's mock frown, he winked at her. Ben bounded into the kitchen ahead of them. "It's one way to get him to eat vegetables."

    Leia couldn't keep from laughing even as she shook her head. "You're just as bad as he is."

    "Think I'll take that as a compliment," Han said, capturing her around the waist from behind and planting kisses along her cheek and neck. Gods, he had missed her. Given the way she responded, Leia felt the same way. But she held him back with a wistful and telling glance.

    They would have to wait until Ben was asleep to finish what they were starting.
     
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb interactions and reacgtions. Very realistic and in character for everyone. Leia is wonderful at assurances. And those Coronet cookies -- my kid of snack - [face_mischief]

    You can tell everyone is trying and usually when persons in a family pull together and stick together, it turns out for the best. But sometimes, if things get too unbalanced and distant, they become alienated and frustrated. [face_thinking]
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  18. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thanks as always for the kind review!

    SO sorry it's taken so long to update this thing! :( I've had writer's block since New Years' Eve and couldn't eke out more than a paragraph or two for the first week and a half of 2018. I'm still debating over how to end this sucker, whether to stick with canon or turn everything on its head...

    But, here's a new chapter! It's long, but I hope you like it!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Six

    Luke's heart thumped with anticipation as he handled the controls of the ancient shuttle. He couldn't keep the smile off his face as starlines reverted back to stars and the verdant green marble of Devaron loomed ahead. The Legacy gave her characteristic 'reversion rattle' before settling back into sublight speed. Luke set the deceleration controls and leaned back just to take it in. Finally, he thought. It's finally happening.

    After eight long years of searching, learning, gathering, frustration and encouragement, Luke Skywalker was at last going to follow through on Yoda's final wish and pass on what he had learned to a new generation of Jedi. They were small in number, but strong in the Force and determined to see things through. While Luke did not feel ready to take on the mantle of 'master', he did know he'd found too many students to delay their training any longer. The last two years had been spent hop scotching around the galaxy with three teens and one child in tow. That number had nearly doubled in the last nine months, and now he had his first class of seven. They were all as different from each other as they were eager to learn about the Force.

    Beside him in a modified copilot station, Artoo warbled a question.

    Luke smiled and nodded. "That's right, Artoo. We're home." He opened the cockpit door and craned his neck to peek back into the passenger compartment. "Ride's over. Does anyone want to come up and take a look?"

    The collective sounds of restraints being undone was followed by the shuffle of booted feet hurrying into the cockpit. All seven of them crammed in.

    Den, the youngest of the group at ten, ducked and squirmed his way to the front. Brown eyes opened wide as he peered at the planet. He probably would have pushed his nose against the transparisteel if there wasn't a control panel in the way. "That's Devaron?" he said excitedly.

    "That's Devaron," nodded Luke with a smile. He looked at each of them to gauge their reactions.

    Cham, now a calm and reliable young adult, stood at his usual spot beside Den and sighed with profound relief. It had been a long way from Ryloth. "At last," he murmured.

    Alara, ducking around the others as she stood to the far left, almost looked as if she was crying. "We're here. We're finally here." The quietest of the group, Alara had an endless fascination for anyplace that wasn't frozen over.

    Gavin, brows raised, stood unimpressed with his arms crossed. "What? It's just another jungle planet." Even after being under Luke's guardianship for two years, he was still the most disenchanted and sarcastic of his peers and was somewhat antagonistic toward Den. The only things that had changed about him were his language and his skills with the Force; one had decreased while the other had improved.

    "You are mistaken, Gavin," pointed out Cham. "Devaron is to be our new home, one in which Master Skywalker will teach us of the Force."

    "Nalko agththththrees with Gavin DeMarchchch," said the young Talz, Nalko Chiroff. His Basic was difficult to understand, rife with raspberries thanks to the shape of his mouth. "Nalko thththees no pleathththure in dwelling on thththuch a warm world. However...if it iththth necethththththary, Nalko muthththt put up with it." He shrugged his thick-furred shoulders. He was one of the newcomers and, while proud of his heritage, made no protests at learning the Jedi ways. He promised to return to his people stronger than ever.

    The tall Bron Korwell hung at the rear and allowed a rare glimpse of hope into his brown eyes. Sixteen and borderline antisocial, he had only been discovered in the last week. He came from a primitive village where his people saw the Force as evil. Luke had arrived just in time to keep Bron's own parents from murdering him. The young man was brooding and quiet and answered questions in no more than two words.

    The seventh student, another human, just stood and smiled out the viewport. Chrysta Ness had been born deaf-mute and compensated for her disability with the Force. As a result her senses of sight and touch were unusually sensitive, as was her insight into how others were feeling. She was a natural empath and made it her personal mission to make people smile. However, she could not speak, and communicated with a series of hand signs and facial expressions. Thus far only two could understand her; Luke and Alara. The girl from the ice planet had become fast friends with Chrysta and now the two were inseparable. There was technology available to help; she already had an implant that gave her some hearing. But, she had opted out of the voice synthesizer and her hearing implant was usually turned off due to regular headaches.

    Presently Chrysta turned to Luke and signed wildly.

    Luke showed her a palm. "Whoa, slow down, Chrysta. I didn't catch that," he said, wishing his hands weren't so clumsy in signing back. Chrysta was an expert lip-reader but the Jedi still wanted to learn her 'native language' for better communication.

    "She said it's beautiful," translated Alara. She smiled when Chrysta nodded in confirmation.

    "It is beautiful," agreed Luke with a nod. "What do you all say we take a closer look? Go strap yourselves back in." He nodded back toward the passenger compartment.

    Seven reluctant students headed aft. Den hung back just long enough to lean on the console. "Master Skywalker, can't I watch from here?"

    Luke shook his head. "No, Den. I'm sorry. You'll have to stay in the passenger hold."

    Den pouted. "Aw, how come?"

    "The canopy is thick and landing close to the temple isn't easy. The ride is going to get bumpy and I want you strapped in with the others."

    "Okay," sighed Den with a frown. He trotted aft to join his fellow students.

    * * * * *

    True to Luke's warning, the approach into the atmosphere of Devaron had plenty of turbulence. They skimmed the treetops for a time before Luke found the nearest clearing in which to set down. Upon exit, he and his students beheld what was now their home and classroom....Eedit Temple.

    The temple itself was too badly damaged to rebuild as it had been during its heyday, so Luke had decided only to rebuild what was most intact or most needed; the main hall, kitchen, and medical bay. Separate sleeping hovels would be built out of the leftover stone and whatever wood could be found.

    Some of this work had already been done. Luke's friend Farnay managed to recruit several strong locals- paying them in drinks or repairs -and put a strong roof and four walls around the main hall. Luke hadn't asked, but he was happy and humbled to see it. He and his students had to be out of the weather somehow.

    While five out of the seven were happy or at least contented with their new home, Gavin and Nalko were anything but impressed.

    Gavin stood staring at the pile of stones with a gaping mouth and crossed arms. "This is it?" he exclaimed in dismay. "This is the temple where the Jedi are coming back? I can't believe I left Myrkyr for this!"

    Nalko said nothing, but the set of his furry shoulders and the expression on his multi-eyed face spoke of his agreement.

    While Den let out an audible gasp at Gavin's bluntness and Alara glared at him, Luke turned to his loudmouthed student with a frown. "I told you it was a work in progress. Eedit Temple's prime ended during the Clone Wars. It's one of the oldest Jedi temples, dating back thousands of years, and no one has lived here in over thirty years. I warned all of you that it was going to take a lot of hard work."

    "I thought you meant learning to be a Jedi was hard work," muttered Gavin.

    "It is, but we're also going to have to finish rebuilding the temple. Coming was your choice, Gavin. Remember? And now that you're here, you're going to have to stick with your decision. All of you," he added, looking everyone over. "I would have preferred to bring you to a place that was move-in ready, but that wasn't possible. This was the best I could do."

    "How thththhall we learn to be Jedi in ththuch a ramththththackle plathte?" Nalko wanted to know. "How are we to rebuild?"

    "I'm not asking you to restore this place to its former glory. I'm going to be doing most of the work myself. Don't worry, we'll still have time to train. But I still expect each of you to do your part and pitch in." Luke took a deep breath and studied the faces of his worried and skeptical pupils."As to how you're going to learn, that's up to you. Master Yoda trained me in the middle of a dim, damp, midge-infested swamp. At least you have somewhere to eat and sleep that's out of the rain. All I ask is that you make the best effort you can, and I'll do the same. Deal?" He held out his hand to Gavin, palm down.

    Gavin looked from the pile of stones, to the ancient building, to his classmates, and finally back to his master. Skywalker had said several times now that this was going to be a learning experience for him, too. He'd never trained anyone to knighthood. Thus far he had been nothing but honest, humble, and patient, even when they didn't deserve it. A twinge of regret poked at Gavin. Would you rather be here, or stuck on Myrkyr with Jade? Would you rather be a thief or a Jedi?

    That settled it. Gavin pushed out a deep breath and reluctantly put his hand on top of Luke's. "Yes, Master Skywalker."

    Luke nodded for the boy, and blinked with surprise when, one by one, the rest of the students added their hands to the pile. Even Bron, though his contact was brief and his expression uncertain, joined his hand to the others.

    Chrysta looked around at her fellow students with one of her radiant smiles. She motioned to the circle, then touched her closed fists together, then motioned to Luke. No one needed a translation for that. We're with you.

    Luke broke into a smile. At least his students could come together and work toward a common goal. That was half the battle with such a motley group. He nodded for each of them in turn and pulled back his hand. "All right, then. Let's get started."

    * * * * *

    The show of solidarity was well-meant, but it did not erase the feelings of antagonism between several of the students. There were many disagreements and even fights over the first month, and Luke found himself mediating those arguments more than teaching the ways of the Jedi. Gavin was usually the troublemaker and started by teasing Den about his youth and short stature, though Den did his own share of provocation. Alara had tried stepping in once or twice, but neither of the boys listened to her. Den would listen to Cham, but Gavin would not. After a full six weeks Luke finally decided to put the two on separate work teams for the time being. There wasn't time for this.

    There were other problems to deal with besides short tempers. There were no sanitation facilities to speak of, and everyone had to use the bathroom aboard the shuttle. It filled up quickly and Luke had to take more time off teaching or building to take it to a dump station. Their consumables also ran chronically short. Luke's inability to cook anything edible only exacerbated the problem. The only student who could cook- Gavin, as it turned out -lacked the equipment he was used to. Ration packs and energy bars ended up being the usual meal.

    And then there were the challenges of living in a sparsely-populated area that was rife with predators. As he was the only one with combat experience- and a weapon -he took the evening watch and ended up very short on sleep. Lessons grew shorter by the day as the lack of rest began to chip away at Luke's nerves. He went through patterns of being snappish, and then apologetic as his patience wore down to almost nothing. Often he wondered if the first Jedi had similar problems.

    On the 45th evening since their arrival, Luke sat at his usual spot by the campfire just outside the main door, struggling to keep his eyes open. Exhaustion drove them to close, and he slumped down into his blanket with a soft snore.

    He woke to a bloodcurdling scream and an overwhelming sense of danger. He instantly knew who it was and his heart sank. Hand on his lightsaber, he ran toward the shuttle. "Alara!" he yelled, igniting the blade. He found the girl facedown on the ground with a furry shadow crouched over her. With one mental swipe Luke tossed the creature back into the woods before crouching next to the girl. He already knew she was hurt. "What happened?" he asked, looking her over.

    "It...came out of nowhere," gasped Alara, yelping as Luke found a deep set of tooth marks on her calf. "I didn't even see it."

    "Couldn't you sense it?" Luke demanded as he tried to get a better look at the bite. Blood covered his hands, and he swore under his breath, trying to stem the blood. "Didn't you know there was danger?"

    "Only...just before," admitted Alara. "I tried to...run, but...he was too fast."

    "What were you doing out here in the first place? I told you not to leave the hall!" Luke's worry about the girl quickly turned to impatience.

    Alara's face went red. "I had to use the bathroom!"

    Luke growled. "Then next time, take someone with you! You never, ever leave the hall alone. Especially at night! Understand?" He didn't even notice he was yelling, nor that the rest of the students were running across the clearing.

    Alara's answer was to give a wide-eyed nod. She radiated fear.

    Luke grimaced and closed his eyes. It's your own fault. You're her teacher. You should be protecting her! "Alara, I..." He sighed heavily and shook his head before putting his arm behind her shoulders. "Come on. Let's get you inside." And he hefted the girl into his arms before heading up the still-lowered ramp and setting her down across a row of seats, calling the medical kit into his hands. "I'm sorry."

    Alara wiped her nose. "No...you're right. I should have been paying more attention with my senses."

    "You're young, and you're still learning how to use them. I should have protected you," Luke protested, cleaning up the wounds with a liquid disinfectant.

    "You can't be everywhere at once," the girl reasoned.

    "No, but...this is still my fault." Luke tossed the cleaning cloth aside and pressed a thick dressing to the bleeding wounds.

    Alara pressed her lips together and said nothing else for a long while. She hunched her shoulders when her six classmates tumbled inside.

    All at once five voices were asking what had happened and if Alara was all right. Chrysta simply dropped next to her friend to try and offer comfort.

    Luke didn't look up from his work but showed a palm for quiet. "It was a wild animal. Alara's hurt, but she'll be fine. Cham, take them back inside. We'll be there in a minute."

    As the others turned to go, Gavin hung back with a look of dread on his face. "The animal, you...you didn't kill it, did you?"

    Luke shook his head. Despite his rough exterior and penchant for troublemaking, Gavin was actually quite sensitive when it came to animals. He hated seeing one killed or even hurt. "I don't think so. If I did, it was an accident. I was just trying to get him away from Alara. Go on back with the others."

    Reluctantly the boy turned to leave.

    The bandage was tied off and Luke washed the blood off his hands. Last of all he found a hypospray and injected it into Alara's leg. "That should keep it from getting infected. Can you walk?"

    Alara rose to her feet and welcomed Luke's help back to the main hall. She waited until they'd reached the door before speaking again. "Master Skywalker?"

    Luke winced at the unasked for title. "I told you...I'm not a master."

    "It wasn't your fault," said Alara earnestly. "If I'd waited or tried to bring Chrysta-"

    "No, Alara. As your teacher, I'm responsible for each of you. I should have sensed the danger sooner." Luke shook his head with regret.

    "How could you? You're so tired all the time. You need to rest." the girl pointed out.

    "I'm the only one who can protect you."

    "Maybe, but you have to sleep. You've hardly gotten any since we arrived. Why don't you let us help? We can take shifts and rotate the night watch."

    Again the Jedi shook his head. "I can't let you do that. What if something happens?"

    Alara frowned. "Then we wake you up and stand close in a circle to protect each other. You're the one who's always saying that even a Jedi needs help sometimes. Besides, you're the first one- besides family, in my case -who believed in us...that didn't tell us we were crazy or possessed or something. You told us we could do anything if we worked together. Has that changed?"

    Luke opened his mouth, paused, and colored as he realized the truth behind Alara's words. He was trying to be a one-man show, taking on everything himself because he didn't trust anyone else to do the job. As a result his students now felt as if he no longer had faith in their abilities. They were never going to grow unless they took on more responsibilities...even if they made mistakes, those were something to learn from. He closed his eyes. "No. You're right..." He paused before helping her mount the steps of the Temple. Upon entering and helping Alara over to her cot, he waved the rest of them over. "Cham, Den, Gavin, Nalko, Chrysta, Bron...I owe all of you an apology..."

    * * * * *

    From that night on the evening routine changed. Instead of being the only one sitting on watch, Luke assigned Bron and Cham on rotating shifts. The others wanted to take their turn, but the Twi'lek and quiet human were the oldest and- Luke felt -most able to defend themselves and others should the worst happen. He also felt Bron could use the boost in his lacking confidence. Devaron's nights were short, so each shift only lasted three hours. Work was begun on a pair of indoor bathrooms, and until it was finished, no one was to leave the Main Hall alone. Even when the hovels were finished, no one was going to sleep alone, either. Everyone was going to have a roommate, for safety as well as to foster a sense of community. Bron, Nalko, and Gavin weren't happy about this, but anything was better than sleeping in the main hall with only a thick curtain separating the boys and girls.

    It took time for Luke to adjust to this new schedule, and stop keeping one eye open to look out for his students when they took their turn on watch. Cham, as the oldest and most level-headed, was the easiest to trust. Bron was something of a loose cannon, but actually seemed to enjoy his newest job. Luke suspected this was because it got him away from the others.

    Work proceeded at a slow but steady pace. By the time Luke and his students had been on Devaron for a full three months, the Main Hall was secure, Medical Bay and kitchen were coming along nicely, and the first of the two bathrooms were finished with the help of an architect from Tikaroo. Bathing water was cold for the time being, but everyone welcomed the showers without complaint. The next priority would be to build the sleeping hovels.

    One morning as Gavin and Bron were busily transporting loose stones from one location to another via hoversled, Luke paused in trying to fit the stones together into a halfway decent foundation. Wearing a distant, distracted expression, he lifted his head and turned toward the overgrown path out of the woods.

    Gavin followed his gaze and frowned. "What? Is something coming?"

    Alara, chinking cracks in a half-finished wall, frowned. "I hope it's not another happabore," she groaned. The massive plant-eaters were basically harmless but had a bad habit of knocking things over. Upon trying to shoo one off, she'd nearly been flattened. Only Gavin and his gift prevented disaster. Between Luke's passivity toward the creatures and Gavin's connection to them, the animals kept coming back.

    "No," said Luke, eyes half closed as he concentrated on the approaching presence. It was too distant to get a fix on yet. All he knew was that it wasn't an animal.

    "What ith it?" Nalko wanted to know. He set down a fresh load of stones.

    "It's not a what; it's a who," said Luke, opening his eyes.

    "Farnay?" asked Alara hopefully. She rather liked the Devaronian.

    Luke shook his head. "It's not Farnay..." He saw a teaching moment and smiled. "Here, take a minute and put down what you're doing. All of you, close your eyes. Concentrate. See if you can sense them coming. Cham, Den, you too," he called to the Twi'leks. They were busy trimming sod around what was to be the next hovel. "Reach out with your feelings...use the Force."

    As one the seven students did so, though Bron was the last to do so and the first to give up. A lifetime of hiding his talents had made it difficult for him to use the Force openly.

    The rest of the Jedi-in-training soon sensed the approach, though none of them had any more than a tenuous hold. Chrysta was the first to relax and let her arm fall. She waited until Alara was looking at her before signing that there was no danger.

    Luke nodded in agreement. "Chysta's right. Whoever is coming means us no harm. You can all relax now," he added to those who were still reaching. "Well done. Bron...a little more effort next time, all right?"

    Bron just shrugged in response.

    The next minute, the bushes parted, and a tall female zabrak with the traditional face tattoos emerged from the woods. She was garbed as an inconspicuous traveler, wearing a large rucksack and navigating the terrain with the aid of a walking stick. She paused upon seeing the activity and raised her brows, as if in surprise.

    Luke raised an arm in greeting. "Hello," he called.

    The Zabrak didn't respond, but came closer, cautious. She looked to be in her late thirties or early forties, with a face aged with stress and care. There was doubt written in her eyes as she surveyed the ruins, the construction, and especially Luke.

    "Hi," called Den with a wave until Cham shushed him. The older Twi'lek sensed that this was no ordinary visitor.

    Luke sensed it, too. Already he knew that, whoever this woman was, she was strong in the Force. He fought back the hope at finding another potential student. "Welcome to Eedit Temple. Can we help you?"

    The zabrak turned to Luke with a sigh. "On the contrary, I wish to help you...and these younglings. You are Luke Skywalker, self-proclaimed 'Jedi'?"

    Uh-oh. Luke nodded, hoping this wasn't someone coming to throw them off the property. He had permission from the government. "Yes."

    She found Luke's eyes and held them with an intense gaze. "I've come to tell you that you are making a fatal mistake. Whatever you think you're doing, you must stop, both for your safety and the safety of the galaxy."
     
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb! Very fascinating blend of talents and personalities. Very realistic too on the pragmatic up-and-downside of adjusting to new surroundings. Then this mysterious Zabrak appears with a cryptic warning. [face_thinking] What will Luke make of it and how will she convince him?

    ~~

    LOL I'm for turning everything upside down and sideways plot-wise in lieu of sticking to "canon". :cool:
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  20. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Thanks as always, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha :cool: But you're not going to find out which way I'm going until the end, muwahaha! [face_devil]You'll see what's up with the newcomer in 3...2...1....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    Luke blinked in confusion, wondering who in the galaxy this was and what her cryptic warning could possibly mean. "I...beg your pardon? Which mistake would that be?"

    The Zabrak eyed the young teenagers, pained by the hope in their faces. "I speak of the training of Padawans by one unqualified to do so." She began to circle Luke at a wide angle, keeping her gaze fixed on him. Her voice was one of stern reproach. "I've heard much of you, young Skywalker...your talents as a pilot...your strength in the Force...the last remaining Jedi...and yet I tell you that while you may have talents in the Force, you are no Jedi and have no right to be taking on students."

    Shock at her tone and words kept Luke from protesting. His students weren't so disciplined.

    Gavin stepped forward with a glare. "Oh, yeah? What gives you the right to come up here and say that?"

    Luke took the boy's shoulder to hold him back. "Gavin..."

    "Just who do you think you are, anyway?" He strained against Luke.

    "Master Skywalker is a great Jedi...the greatest that ever lived!" cried an emboldened Den.

    "What do you know about the Force, spike-head?" spat Gavin.

    "Gavin! Den!" Luke barked, yanking both of them back a foot or two with the Force and turning them around so they could see his face. "That's enough. Neither of you have any right to be rude to a guest." He blew a hard breath out of his nose. Getting angry wasn't going to make a very good impression, either. "Back in the hall, both of you. The rest of you...take a break. I'm sorry about that," Luke said to the Zabrak.

    The traveler watched the two head up the stairs with appraising eyes. "Accepted...though I see you haven't done much in the area of control." Her eyes returned to Luke. "In answering the Padawan's question, yes. I know the Force. Not as well as some, but in the past I was trained as a Jedi. That is why I see what you are doing here as a mistake."

    Luke found his mouth hanging open and for a moment he forgot her blunt warning. "You're a Jedi? You were trained in the Old Order?" Questions bubbled over in his head. There was so much she could tell him!

    The Zabrak cringed. "Trained, yes, but never knighted. I lost my master during the Purge." Noting the wild hope rising in Luke's eyes, she let her arms fall to her sides. "I can see both of us have questions."

    Luke nodded, trying not to be too eager. "Yes. Maybe you can explain to me why resurrecting the Jedi is a mistake."

    She nodded in return. "That I will. Excuse me for not introducing myself; Kusrai Bez."

    Luke took her hand in greeting. "Pleased to meet you, Kusrai Bez. Won't you come inside?"

    After a brief look at the gaping students, Bez nodded and followed Luke into the hall. To avoid interruptions, Luke sent the curious teenagers off to practice by themselves.

    Artoo found some tea and refreshments to serve as his master and Kusrai sat down at the table to talk. Luke could hardly contain his questions as the Zabrak began her story.

    "My master was Errica Denali; just a youngster, really, barely graduated to knighthood. I was no more than a youngling of about ten years when the Council paired us together and sent us off to the Outer Rim to fight with the Clones," she began.

    "That's awfully young to be going off to war," cringed Luke.

    "It was highly unusual. Most Masters didn't take on a new Padawan until the age of at least twelve. But the Clone Wars were raging then and we were already stretched thin across the galaxy. Many of us graduated the initiate classes too soon," explained Kusrai sadly. "There was a rush to put as many Jedi as possible in the battlefield...which contributed to our downfall."

    "It was the Clones, wasn't it? They betrayed the Jedi...gunned them down," said Luke in a quiet tone. Since the end of the war the true story of what had happened to the Jedi had come to light, flying in the face of the lies the Empire had told.

    Kusrai nodded and closed her eyes. The loss still pained her. "10,000 Jedi...all dead in a matter of days. I always thought that others must have escaped. There were some, I know, mostly Padawans whose masters gave their lives to save us. And most of them were tracked down and killed by either Darth Vader or his Inquisitors. Now I don't know if any of the Old Order are left."

    Luke sighed with disappointment. He couldn't expect much help in that case. "I wish I knew myself. How did you manage to escape the Inquisitors?"

    Kusrai's eyes were hard. "The only way I could, by leaving the name of Jedi behind me and trying to re-integrate into the galaxy in other ways. I cut myself off from the Force, knowing it painted a target on my back. Perhaps that makes me a coward." She shrugged.

    Luke shook his head. "I don't think so. At least you survived."

    The Zabrak tilted her head to one side, curious. "So what of you, Skywalker? Your talents in the Force are obvious, but were you trained at all?"

    Luke hunched his shoulders. "Not for very long. My first Master was Obi-Wan Kenobi. He'd been looking after me since I was small and was the first one to teach me about the Force."

    "Kenobi?" gasped Kusrai. She shook her head. "I had no idea he lived. Rumor had it he was the first to be killed by Vader. How did he train you under the Empire's nose?"

    "I started late at nineteen. He would have trained me sooner, but as you said, the Force would have painted a target on my back...that, and my uncle wouldn't let him."

    "So you were raised by a family. I see Kenobi's reasoning, but...well, never mind. Continue."

    "After my aunt and uncle were killed by the Empire, Obi-Wan started my training. He taught me how to open myself to the Force, and gave me my first lessons with my father's lightsaber."

    "Your father's lightsaber...and his name was Anakin Skywalker?"

    Luke flinched. "How did you know?"

    Kusrai raised an eyebrow. "There were rumors of a relationship between Skywalker and a particular senator from Naboo, but gossip was not something the Jedi encouraged. And your last name is not exactly common. How long were you under Kenobi's tutelage?"

    Here Luke stared into his cup for a moment. "Days, I guess. You heard about the Death Stars?" When Kusrai raised an eyebrow, he cringed. "Sorry. Stupid question. Vader killed him aboard the first one."

    Kusrai's eyes were confused, but she shrugged off her questions. "I assume, then, you found another Jedi to train under? You said Kenobi was the first."

    Luke grimaced. "Yes...but it took three years. In the meantime I was just stumbling along on my own, sometimes finding a clue, but learning mostly by trial and error until about seven months before the Battle of Endor. I carried a lightsaber, but I wasn't a Jedi."

    The Zabrak nodded sagely. She saw Luke's deep desire to learn about the powers he had, and use them to help others. In that respect, he was much like his father. "And who continued your training?"

    "An old Jedi Master named Yoda."

    "Master Yoda...if anyone could have survived the Purge, it would have been the Grand Master. Is he still alive? He must be ancient by now. He was well over eight hundred when I knew him." Kusrai's hope was again rising.

    "You knew Master Yoda?" Luke asked.

    "Of course! He was the first teacher we had as younglings. I'd always hoped he'd survive. Part of me never gave up on being a Jedi, and if he survived, then..." Kusrai's voice faded as she sensed the sadness and regret behind Luke expression. "He's gone, isn't he?"

    Sadly Luke nodded. "Yes. He has been for years. I'm sorry."

    Bez's shoulders fell and she pushed out a heavy sigh. With it went the remainder of her hopes for completing her training. "Well...at least he's at peace. He didn't train you long either, did he?"

    Luke had to shake his head. "I'm not exactly sure how long it was...it was easy to lose track of time on his planet, and he taught me so much...but it wasn't any more than three or four weeks." Luke pushed out another sigh, staring at his right hand. "It was my own fault. I saw a vision of my friends in pain, and left on an impulse, even though Yoda told me not to. I lost my hand to Vader because of it. By the time I had a chance to return, Yoda was dying."

    Kusrai had noticed Luke's prosthetic hand from the outset and cringed at his story. She nodded slowly. He had paid a heavy price for letting his emotions cloud his judgment. "Trials of the flesh...it's a hard lesson. As you see where arrogance leads, and if you know your training was never complete, why do you now call yourself a Jedi?"

    Luke took a deep breath before answering. "I suppose you've heard about the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader?" When the Zabrak nodded, he continued. "As Yoda was dying, he told me that I'd learned all I needed. To be a Jedi, though, I had to defeat Darth Vader."

    While doubt clouded her features, Kusrai stared at Luke for a long while to be sure he was telling the truth. She saw it in his eyes and sank back on her heels with a look of grudging respect. "Defeating a Sith Lord is no easy task. That alone was grounds for promotion to knighthood. If Master Yoda called you a Jedi....I suppose that makes you one. But it doesn't mean you know enough to train others. From the sound of things, all Kenobi and Yoda wanted out of you was a way to finally defeat the Emperor."

    Luke frowned at the crudeness of her statement. "They did their best. I know Obi-Wan would have kept training me until the end, but things just didn't work out that way. Besides, this was Yoda's last wish."

    Kusrai stared at Luke, incredulous. "What? That you inflict another crop of half-trained Jedi upon the galaxy? I had more training as a child, and I never attempted such foolishness."

    Luke couldn't help but bristle at that. "Master Yoda told me to pass on what I'd learned. He told me I was the last Jedi. All I want is to keep my promise."

    Kusrai sighed heavily and rested her head in her palm. Everything drilled into her at the Temple cried out against this. And yet, how could she argue with Master Yoda? "It's too dangerous. A half-trained Jedi training others is like the blind leading the blind. Sooner or later you're all going to fall."

    Silence settled between them. Luke could sense Den, Gavin, and Alara all listening at the door and mentally nudged them back with a frown. He couldn't blame them for being concerned. After all they had already gone through, the idea that their new life was about to be taken away had to be worrisome. But there was truth in what Kusrai was saying. It was Luke's worst nightmare that he would end up with a tribe of potential Vaders instead of an army of light.

    After a long while Luke reached for Kusrai's hand. "You're right. I don't know enough to train these students. I've been tracking down every holocron and scroll I can find, but still it's not enough. Kusrai, you have more training than I do; you know more. Could you train them...and me?"

    Kusrai pulled away incredulously. "Skywalker, I can't train anyone! I was a child when my master died...I haven't had any training since. I'm no more qualified than you are!"

    "Then help me," begged Luke. "I'm not the teacher they need and deserve, but the Jedi must return. I know if we work together, we'll have a better chance." Again he reached for her hand. "Please. Help me."

    Kusrai pushed back from the table, pacing back and forth in aggravation. "You, Skywalker, are the most unorthodox Jedi I have ever known. The audacity of you taking on seven at once...seven! Even the Council never took on more than one each! But-" She turned about. "What choice do we have, rebuilding the Order from the ground up? Either we start from nothing, or give up now."

    Luke hopefully rose to his feet. "Does this mean you'll help?"

    Kusrai groaned loudly and put her face in her palm, shaking her head. "We both may live to regret this...but yes. I'll help you."

    Luke broke into a wide smile of gratitude and took Kusrai's fist in both hands. "Thank you, Kusrai. Thank you so much. Things are different than when you were young, but I know we can make this work."

    The woman doubtfully extracted her hand from Luke's enthusiastic grip. "My only goal is to keep these padawans from killing each other...or us."
     
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed reading Kusrai's story of her background etc. Her concerns are understandable but the alternative is doing nothing, letting the Jedi die out. [face_worried] I think her and Luke teaming up is the better solution. [face_thinking]
    I love Luke's enthusiastic gratitude and his students' outspoken defense of him. [face_love] And naturally they don't want their new lives to be turned upside down either.
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  22. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you yet again for being such a loyal reader/reviewer. Luke has that effect on his students, and who can blame them? :D Luke's awesome!

    And now, unfortunately, we come to another sad point in the story. Hope I don't depress anyone too much! :(

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twenty-Eight

    Luke? Luke, where are you? Leia gnawed her lower lip and tried the Temple frequency yet again. Again she was answered with static. This was her tenth try in twice as many minutes, and her agitation grew with each failure. Yet again she wished her brother had a more predictable schedule.

    Luke's rebuilt temple had been in operation for nearly two years and still it was anyone's guess where he or his students were at any given moment. Devaron's unusual 19-hour rotation cycle didn't help. By Leia's calculations it was late afternoon in Tikaroo, which was the nearest depot to Eedit Temple. But Luke's teaching style was anything but structured. He alternated work times, meal times, study times, and active training depending on the weather and how tired everyone was. It suited him and his young charges just fine, but turned contacting them into a game of Ruusan Roulette. Usually Leia let Luke make the first move to be sure she wasn't interrupting a lesson.

    Things were different now. Now Leia was desperate for Luke's advice...even his intervention.

    Ben, now a quiet and studious ten year old, had been having problems at school for some time. Most of them went unnoticed by his parents for the simple reason that Ben wouldn't talk about it. His answers were vague- when he gave any at all -and he became more and more isolated from them. He spent hours at a time alone in his room, claiming to do homework. Han shrugged it off as early onset puberty, but Leia had a feeling it went deeper than that. Luke had continually assured her that everything would be fine, and praised Ben's efforts at bringing his often volatile emotions under control. He hadn't been visibly angry in months.

    Today it was as if all that work had come crashing down. The teacher hadn't seen much and the other students had varying stories, but Ben had gotten into a furious fight with another boy. The young Solo had exploded in unrestrained rage, mentally throwing his antagonist across the room and pummeling the older boy with one punch after another. His teacher's attempt at stepping in resulted in her being knocked off her feet...and subsequently calling in security. It took two full-size guards to push through Ben's mental shields and separate the two. By then the other boy was unconscious.

    Both Han and Leia had been contacted about the incident late that morning. Leia had apologized profusely and picked Ben up, who hadn't said a word since. Han was on his way, but wouldn't be home until at least the next day.

    According to the other students, Ben hadn't been the initial aggressor. The older boy had been quietly whispering derogatory remarks during study time. Ben just sat, quietly stewing, until suddenly turning around and yelling at the other boy to stop. By the time the teacher had turned around she saw Ben's mental attack. Now a twelve year old lay in the Medical Wing with a broken nose, two broken ribs, a cracked sternum, several teeth knocked out, and a concussion. Ben, other than receiving a black eye, was unscathed.

    Han was adamant that such an outburst must have been self defense. Ben had never attacked anyone without provocation, besides which the older boy had a reputation as a bully.

    Leia was far more concerned about Ben's mental state. He had been silent on the ride home, trembling either with repressed rage or cold. Any questions from his mother went unanswered as tears rolled down his cheeks. He'd retreated straight to his room upon arrival home and hadn't come out since. What frightened Leia was the fact that nothing she did seemed to have any impact. Ben wouldn't even look at her, and when she had tried to sense what he was feeling, all she met with was a hard mental wall. He had completely closed himself off from her. All she felt was a pervasive chill.

    Now Leia was desperate to reach Luke. He was the only one she knew who had a chance at getting through to the boy now.

    Tears clouded Leia's eyes, and she blinked them away, mentally reaching for her brother even as she typed in the comm frequency yet again. "Luke, please help...I need you," she whispered. "Ben needs you..."

    The call processed on the screen with a series of appearing and disappearing dots. After a minute, they disappeared and the red text of the call not being answered flashed yet again.

    Leia was about to groan when a warm, calm presence touched her mind...the Force equivalent of someone putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

    Leia? What's wrong?

    Leia closed her eyes to focus on him. "We need to talk. Now."

    Hold on... In a matter of minutes the comm warbled about an incoming video message with Luke's frequency. He was red-faced and out of breath as his grainy image appeared on the screen.

    So relieved was Leia to see her brother that she sighed heavily and found fresh tears filling her eyes. "Luke...I'm sorry to interrupt, but this is an emergency. Please! I can't do this anymore-"

    Luke, startled, showed a palm. "Leia, calm down. Deep breaths, remember?" When Leia did so, his brows knit with concern. "What's happened? Is it Han?"

    Leia shook her head, still reaching for the calm she so desperately needed. "No. It's Ben. He...he got into a fight at school today and it looks like they're going to expel him."

    Luke was confused. "Ben? But he's such a good student."

    "Things are different now. Ben's been withdrawing more and more every week, but he never talks about why. He won't tell us anything. Han and I only just heard from his teacher that someone has been bullying him for months."

    "Why would anyone want to? He's never hurt anyone."

    "I don't know, but up until now Ben hasn't done anything about it. He's just walked away or ignored them. Today..." Leia shook her head. "His teacher said it happened so fast. Something just snapped, and he turned on the other boy...no one could stop him...it was like he was using-" Leia's voice caught, and she couldn't say it.

    Luke sighed and shook his head with impatience. Leia had feared the Dark Side for years. Maybe her fears had finally gotten the best of her. "Leia...I'm telling you, he can't use the Dark Side-"

    Leia shook her head, cutting him off. "Luke, listen to me. Ben mentally threw the other boy across the room into the wall. Then Ben jumped on him and starting beating the life out of the child."

    Luke's mouth fell open in disbelief and he leaned away from the screen. "What?" he whispered.

    Leia nodded grimly. "Ben used the Force to hurt his classmate. It frightened his poor teacher and the others half to death, but they couldn't separate them. It took two security guards to pull Ben off."

    The Jedi fell back against his chair, trying to process the information. Ben, the eager little boy who loved his uncle and couldn't wait to be a Jedi, had used the Force in anger. So Leia's fears hadn't been unfounded. Deeply did Luke regret his dismissal of past warning signs. He stared at his sister. "How badly did Ben hurt him?"

    Leia grimaced. "He's in the medical wing. His nose, sternum, and two ribs are broken. Several teeth have been knocked out, and he has a moderate concussion."

    Luke winced, reeling at the violence his nephew had dealt. That explained why Ben faced expulsion. "What does Ben say about it? Have you tried talking to him...finding out why he reacted like that?"

    "Of course I've tried, but he doesn't answer. He hasn't said one word since I picked him up," answered Leia.

    "What do you sense, then?" Luke asked.

    "Nothing! He's closed himself off. He won't let me sense anything...and he's been doing it for months. I just didn't realize it because it's been happening over time. I just assumed he felt fine. Now...I just don't know what to do!" Frustration and worry showed clearly on Leia's face. "All I can feel from him now is...cold."

    Force, no. Luke covered his eyes with a gloved hand. Cold...fear...fear is a path to the Dark Side. Questions about how this had happened- how a sensitive child had been drawn to the Darkness -bounced about in his troubled mind. How? When? Why? That's not important now, he thought grimly. His hand slid from his brow to his lip before he turned back to his sister. "All right. I'm coming. In the meantime just be open and available. Whenever he does talk, let him. Don't stop him even if what he's saying frightens you. We need to find out what caused this and how to help him. Most importantly, don't leave him alone. He's probably afraid of what happened and might feel rejection."

    Leia closed her eyes and shuddered, nodding in relief. "I'll do anything if it helps Ben. Luke, thank you. I love him, but...I just can't handle him anymore."

    "I understand. Whatever it takes, I'll do my best to find out what's going on and help your son." He offered a slight smile. "I'll be there as soon. Take care, Leia. May the Force be with you."

    Leia could only nod in response and stared at the screen long after Luke's image had faded. Already she felt a little better. Luke had managed to turn Darth Vader back from the Dark Side. Ben was still a child. She had faith that if anyone could put her son back on the path of Light, Luke could.

    * * * * *

    Luke didn't bother trying to hide his presence upon landing on Chandrila. He knew that if anyone recognized him the Holo-cams would descend, but he didn't care.

    He'd left Devaron in a rush, leaving Cham in charge of the others until his return, and stayed in his Jedi robes. He left Artoo with the Legacy and wasted no time in walking directly to Han and Leia's apartment.

    He still couldn't believe what Leia had told him...that Ben had somehow tapped into the Dark Side...but while Luke's pace was urgent, it wasn't panicked. The boy was young. Surely he had no concept of what had happened.

    One thing Luke did know- and regretted -was that it had been a mistake waiting this long to start Ben's formal training. Bez had even warned him about it, but the plea had fallen on a complacent man. He had to focus as much energy as he could now to pull his nephew back from the brink. What he couldn't figure out was what had made the child so suddenly violent and withdrawn. Luke had endured plenty of teasing as a child, but not once had he lashed out with the Force. He hadn't even known what it was at that age....

    It was late evening when Luke arrived at Han and Leia's door and reached for the buzzer. His heart ached as he sensed the two troubled presences inside; Leia, heartbroken and worried, and Ben, shrinking away to hide from the galaxy.

    The door slid open almost before the buzzer had gone off. Luke was calm as Leia all but launched herself at him in relief. She was shuddering and trembling as she embraced her brother.

    "Luke...oh, Luke. You're here," she gasped.

    "Shh." Luke rubbed his sisters' back in comfort before pulling away. "I came as soon as I could. How's Ben?"

    "I don't even know," admitted Leia, staring helplessly down the hall with a mixture of fear and frustration. Her eyes were damp and red. "He won't talk to me. He didn't even want to eat."

    "He's probably afraid," reasoned Luke, frowning at how difficult it was to know for sure. "He's hiding...both physically and in the Force. I'll talk to him." He gave his sister a cautionary look. "I'm going to have to be firm...whether or not he wants to see me, I'm not going to let him hide all night. I know you're his mother, but...it might be best if you waited outside...at least for a while."

    Leia knit her brows, unhappy about this decision. But Luke was the Jedi, not her. He was better equipped to deal with this. "All right. I trust you."

    Luke squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. "Thank you." And he walked down the hall to Ben's bedroom, palming the door. It was locked.

    "There's a family rule. We knock first," reminded Leia automatically.

    "He knows I'm here," murmured Luke, mentally reaching for the lock inside the door.

    "Well his door is-"

    "Locked?" A soft click signified Luke's entry, and he turned one last time to Leia. "If he senses your fear it's only going to make him clam up even more. Try breathing for now."

    Only a little nonplussed about his insistence, Leia sighed and closed her eyes, sinking into the couch to try and drop into meditation like Luke had taught her.

    Luke turned back to the door and palmed it open, walking in and letting it close behind him without a word.

    Since starting school Ben's room had been unusually neat and organized, but today it was a disaster. Everything was strewn across the floor, from toys to clothes to datacards. His bed had been stripped of blankets and the mattress upturned. Every drawer in his dresser had been emptied and tossed aside. Every shelf had been cleared. His school supplies had endured the most abuse; Ben's school bag had been ripped from top to bottom and one of the datapads had been smashed.

    Luke pursed his lips, somehow unsurprised at the carnage. Ben's room was a fitting analogy for his emotions. He could see the boy now, half hiding in the closet and under a blanket with only his stocking feet visible. Extending his senses told the Jedi that his nephew was still deep within himself, mental shields up high. While hurt that Ben wouldn't even acknowledge him, Luke took a deep breath and sank to his knees. Pushing would only make Ben push back. Patience was the key in dealing with difficult students.

    Ben was the first to speak. "Say it," came his muffled voice from the closet. "Just say it and get it over with."

    Luke lifted his brows. "Say what?"

    Ben sniffled and shifted his feet, bringing in his knees. "That I was wrong...that you never use your power to hurt anyone...that Jedi are supposed to be good to everyone, no matter how rotten they are," he spat.

    Luke shrugged. "I don't need to."

    Ben pulled the blanket off his face. All one could see in the dim light was a pair of wet and swollen eyes. "Then say that you're disappointed in me and that I'm never gonna be a Jedi now," he choked.

    Quietly Luke shook his head. "I'm not going to say that, either."

    "Why not? It's true, isn't it?" Ben tossed the blanket aside and peered out of the closet. His face was a mess, filthy and tearstained and sporting a purpling bruise over one eye, his voice raw with despair. "I can't be a Jedi now. You'd never want to teach me."

    "Ben..." Luke began quietly.

    "I-I wouldn't blame you if you didn't even want to be my uncle anymore," Ben muttered, pulling back into the closet.

    Luke frowned deeply in bewilderment. He had been expecting an unrepentant rebel. But as the boy's mental shields were starting to drop, all he saw was a frightened little boy who knew what he had done was wrong, and now hated himself for it. It made things all the more difficult. "Ben, listen," he began, creeping closer so he could peer into the closet. "Look at me," he insisted when his nephew turned away. "Nothing you do, no matter how much it breaks your mother's heart, or your fathers', or mine, could make us stop loving you. Nothing will ever make you anything less than family."

    Ben seemed both relieved and confused. "But I...I used the Force in anger, and you told me never to do that. You said it means using the Dark Side, and only Sith do that."

    Luke eyed the boy with caution. "Do you know you used the Dark Side?" When Ben shrugged, he leaned forward. "Ben, how were you feeling when you pushed Sevron away? Don't be afraid," he added when he sensed the boy clamming up again. "Just tell the truth. Why did you hurt him?"

    Ben stared at his hands for a moment, breathing heavily as the memory came back. "I was angry...he's always mean. He says I'm a spoiled brat because of who you and Mom and Dad are...he says Dad's a no-good smuggler...he says Mom was never a real princess...and you...he says you're not a real Jedi!"

    Luke grimaced. "Children can be cruel sometimes. That's no reason to be angry."

    "But he says it all the time! It never stops! He even says Dad's not my real Dad, 'cause I don't look like him, and Mom must have-" Ben choked on the horrible lies and clenched his fists. "I just...wanted him to...stop!" For a moment his anger boiled over again, sending a lamp- the one thing left on his dresser- crashing to the floor. The boy hid his face in his arms. "I try not to get mad. I try so hard...I just can't!"

    Luke's shoulders fell and he rested a hand on Ben's back. The child felt so isolated...so alone. When he leaped into Luke's arms and sobbed into the Jedi's shoulder, all he could do was hold the boy, as he had when Ben was small.

    "Why'd I have to have the Force? Why does it make everything so hard?" cried Ben in misery. "I wish I was like Dad. He hardly even believes in the Force. He can't go to the Dark Side."

    Luke felt a knife stab into his heart and twist it. The gift that Ben had been born with was now seen by the boy as a curse. "I know. It's hard. You work and try to control it, but one day...it just seems to take over, doesn't it?"

    "Yeah!" Ben clung tighter to his uncle, his relief profound.

    "Ben, if Sevron was being mean to you, then why didn't you tell someone?" Luke wanted to know.

    Ben groaned in frustration. "'Cause they never do anything! They just say 'be nice, Sevron', and he says he will, but he never does! They think 'cause he wasn't hitting me, it didn't count."

    Luke winced, remembering some of the taunts he had endured as a young man. "Words hurt just as much as being hit...sometimes more. But what about your parents? They would have helped you if they'd known," he reminded, pulling back to find Ben's eyes.

    Ben's shoulders sagged and he turned away, hanging his head. "'Cause then they'd know I was mad. Mom's scared when I get mad," he confessed in a quiet voice. "Dad, too."

    Slowly Luke nodded in growing understanding. "That's why you've been hiding in the Force, isn't it? You didn't want to worry them." When Ben nodded, Luke peered curiously at him. "If you felt you couldn't tell your parents, then why tell me?"

    To Ben the answer was obvious. "You didn't get mad. I thought you would when you found out, but..you didn't. You're not afraid, either. You understand...even better than Mom does," he admitted in a near whisper.

    Here Luke wanted to wince. The fact that Ben trusted him more than his own parents was somehow painful. Luke continued. "I'm glad that you can trust me. But you need to trust your parents, too. They only want to help you."

    Ben just shrugged in response.

    Luke turned around to sit cross-legged next to his nephew. "Ben, I can see you know what you did was wrong."

    Ruefully the boy nodded. "Now you're gonna tell me I can't be a Jedi, right?"

    "No." said Luke, shaking his head. "I still believe you can be a Jedi."

    "But...how come? Jedi aren't supposed to use the Dark Side," frowned Ben.

    "No, they're not. But I believe in giving people a second chance. There are going to be consequences for what you did. And I think you already know what they are."

    "I'm being expelled from school. I don't care. I'd never go back anyway!"

    Luke frowned. Here was some of the defiance he had been expecting. "Well, even without school, you're not going to stop learning." He took a deep breath. "I know you have strong emotions, Ben. I made a mistake thinking you could control them by yourself, and I'm sorry. But I want to amend that."

    Ben knit his brows, curious. "How?"

    Luke put a hand on his nephew's shoulder. "I'm going to take you with me to Eedit Temple and start your training."

    Ben's eyes widened in shock. He had been expecting rejection, and now his dreams of being a Jedi were coming true. "We're moving to Devaron?" he cried.

    Luke cringed. "Just you. Your parents are staying here."

    Immediately Ben's face fell. He had never expected being a Jedi meant leaving his family behind. "How come?" he asked quietly.

    Luke struggled how to explain things without Ben taking them the wrong way. The state he was in, that might be impossible. "That's the way it is when someone trains to be a Jedi. They leave their old life and start a new one. You won't be alone. There's other students, and another Master-"

    "But you said I'm too young! You said I wouldn't go until I was twelve!" protested Ben.

    "I was wrong. I see now I should have started your training years ago," said Luke apologetically.

    "But...no! I don't want to be a Jedi anymore! Not if it means leaving Mom and Dad!" The tears returned, and stubbornly the boy crossed his arms. "I'm not going!"

    "I'm sorry, Ben. But this time you don't have any choice." Luke rose to his feet and headed for the door. "We're leaving in an hour. That should be enough time to pack."

    Ben growled in anger and picked up a toy to hurl at his uncle once his back was turned. It stopped in midair and Luke slowly turned around.

    "You're going to have to control your anger if you want to be a Jedi. I'll help you...but you need to calm down." He waved his hand and let the toy drop back to the floor before exiting. Once outside he sighed heavily and leaned on the wall. He could tell by the look on Leia's face- and the way she'd retrieved a piece of luggage and some of Ben's clean laundry -that she knew what was happening.

    Luke grimaced. Han wasn't going to be happy about this at all. He probably wouldn't understand.

    The Jedi only hoped his friend and brother-in-law could someday forgive him.
     
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Ouch! Luke was so empathic and you know he understands not just from the "grownup" point of view but also from having suffered verbal harassment too. That Ben instinctively reacted in anger is disturbing but the nonstop nature of the abuse, the fact that Sevron kept saying he would stop but never did, and the things he said about Leia, Han, and Ben's actual parentage. That would be something very hard to let go by, absolutely uncalled for.

    I can understand Luke's feelings of guilt over the fact he should've started training Ben earlier, but he was literally caught up in the logistics with the other students. [face_thinking]

    Paging @Zer0 -- LOL who may not realize there's been some updates. [face_batting]

    @};-
     
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  24. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I really felt sorry for Ben. I hope Luke is right, and it's the right thing to start his training now. Great story! :)
     
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  25. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Thank you letting me know. I'll catch up.
     
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