Title: Blood for Blood Author: Starith Timeframe: Pre-OT Characters: Luke, Obi-Wan, Owen, Beru Genre: Drama, tragedy, AU, oneshot Summary: Young Luke strays from home. Obi-Wan must keep him safe. — Dry wind blew over the desert and swept across the Jundland Wastes. The binary suns were steeping in unclouded lavender, two orbs eternally paired in the cycle of sunrise and sunset. Across the desolate salt flat, several spindly vaporators surrounded a round, quiet dome. One of its windows was emitting orange light as the evening settled. All was quiet. From the front entry, a small figure appeared, rising from the steps that led down into the underground dwelling. Sand flecked into the bare face of the young boy as he stepped out into the afterglow. His face wrenched and he blew away at the specks, having become too used to the feel of sand blowing in his face to do much else. He brought down the hood atop his head and kept his chin down. He took a look back at the dwelling, quaint and dirt-white where it sat. His shoulders bunched and twisted. He turned away again. He began a light jog, holding on to the strap over his shoulder that tied to a stuffed backpack. Gradually he scurried farther away. And gradually the evening grew more dark. Dismal purple now made up the sky, and the twin suns had melted into golden gleams trimming the horizon. The boy continued drifting away in a more pressing hurry, his gaze fixed ahead, towards the giant mountains in the far, far distance. I'm not a farmer, Luke thought feverishly. I can survive on my own. I can leave the Jundland Wastes, make it to Anchorhead. I can leave Tatooine. I can do it, no matter what Uncle Owen says. It seemed a better idea to slip away now, while Aunt Beru was busy cleaning up in the storage room and Uncle Owen was resting after injuring himself. His uncle had spent hours trying to fix several vaporators that were damaged beyond repair after a couple of wild banthas had trampled over them. His uncle had been ranting about the incident all day. The cold was going to come when nightfall arrived in full, Luke knew, it was already getting chilly, but he was prepared. He had packed a heat-cloak, food, a canteen, even some credits he had saved up, and he was sure he could find a good place to hide if he just made it to the mountains. He had seen warm-blooded animals dwelling there while exploring with Biggs and Windy, womprats and meewits and profoggs; if they could survive there, he could. At least for a while. But it would take a long time to get anywhere by foot. He had thought about taking the landspeeder, but it felt wrong; the only one he had access to was technically his uncle's, who had said over and over that Luke couldn't have his own. That annoyed Luke, who knew he could pilot a skyhopper, let alone an old, beat up landspeeder. Though his uncle had eventually said that he could have one of his own... next year. Luke dropped his gaze. The night had fallen to a dull bluish grey and the cold was becoming denser. Stars besprinkled the sky. He reached into his pocket to make sure his glowrod was there. It was... Better not use it just yet, he decided, not until he was farther away. Out of sight. He had all he needed. It was going to be okay. He could do it this time. Make it through the night, get a ride to Anchorhead. That was the plan. After walking a while, Luke looked back again. He was at least a mile away from home. The homestead was lost in the dark. He looked ahead. The mountains were a couple hundred yards away. He quickened his pace. He huffed, his soft-leather shoes smacking the sand as he ran, his backpack padding up and down. He had gone two miles. Three. Four. He came into the harder, drier patches of desert that was framed by boulders. The canyon walls loomed over him, sturdy and clustered like rock-built towers. It grew darker the closer he came. Luke hesitated a moment, and suddenly he felt unbalanced. His footing stumbled. He tripped and fell facedown in the sand. He coughed out the chalky grime that found its way into his mouth, and he got up, scowling and brushing off his clothes. He flinched and suddenly shuddered from the cold. He ran his palms over his arms and shoulders, now stopped in his tracks. I can do this, I can do this... He felt angry, like the environment, like Tatooine itself was working against him, telling him Go home, little boy. You can't survive out here. He wanted to shout that he could. He wanted to keep trudging on, to make his way into the mountains and not stop for anything. It was just a walk... All he had to do was walk there, walk away... But Luke couldn't take a step forward. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the dark, but he was starting to feel... strange. Uneasy, even though his determination to keep going remained as strong as ever. He didn't understand this feeling and he didn't want to feel it. But it wouldn't be ignored. It was like something was pressing him, insisting that he not go. It turned into a borrowing feeling, like a hole was working into his stomach. Luke swallowed. He felt scared. This feeling, was it what adults called a conscience? he wondered. And then suddenly flashes appeared in his head, memories of home, spanning over his entire eight-year-old life: Uncle Owen surprising him one day, giving him money to buy those upgrade attachments he'd been wanting. The two of them playing holo-chess, which Luke almost always won, knowing his uncle let him. Making his aunt laugh by altering the farm droids' vocoders, making them tell bad jokes in Uncle Owen's voice. Another memory: Luke complaining about just how stupid being a moisture farmer was. The stern disappointment on his uncle's face. Luke frowning at the rough clothes Aunt Beru had made for him with what little material she'd had. Trying to ignore the glint of hurt in her eyes. They had been good to him, his brain told him. They were good people, they were his family, his only family. He couldn't just... You can't leave them. And Luke knew that he couldn't. He knew, he'd always known, that he couldn't bring himself to really leave his aunt and uncle. And now he was just left feeling stupid and crestfallen, knowing that he'd gone through with it again... Luke gnawed at his lip. He turned fully around, taking in a deep breath, and started walking back. The pressure in his stomach was still in a tangle, but it felt lighter with every step he took closer to home. From a ledge of the shadowy canyons, a robed figure watched as the small boy sprinted through the craggy wilderness. Young Luke... naive, ignorant to the harsher realities, to self-preservation, and like most children, to the innermost truths. The things one needed rather than what they wanted. Or thought they wanted. This had been... what, the third time he had tried to run away from the Lars homestead? This hour alone Obi-Wan had had to steer away a venomous snake the boy had nearly trod upon, and then Force-pushed him to trip, stopping him from entering the canyons' blackened valley, where a krayt dragon lay hidden in a cave, guarding her precious hatchlings. It was a wonder the boy hadn't run into any Tusken Raiders yet. It was exasperating to be sure, how the boy redid these little ventures over and over. A slow learner... The lad's wish to leave Tatooine and his farm life was just too great for him to stay put. Still, he hadn't gone through with it. Obi-Wan was glad Luke had listened to his feelings. He had helped usher the memories in his mind, change his resolve, nudging the boy, letting him come to his own conclusion — but with the slightest persuasion of the Force. Luke was a good-natured boy at heart, Obi-Wan reflected soberly. Obi-Wan slid down the rock formations and trailed after him, keeping himself at a distance, wanting to make sure the boy got home safely. It wasn't long before Luke looked like he was utterly lost, and he even turned around a couple times as if afraid someone was following him — those keen, unharnessed Skywalker instincts — but the boy kept turning around and kept moving. They had traveled for about an hour before Obi-Wan saw the boy approach the homestead. As expected, two figures were standing there, calling out Luke's name and holding lanterns. The boy made his way toward them. "I'm here!" he said, reaching his aunt. Beru wrapped her arms around him, her voice pitching briefly before it toned down. She checked Luke over, and started speaking softly to her nephew. Owen came to her side and spoke to Luke. Then he sighed and pulled Luke away. He started yelling, though Obi-Wan couldn't make out his words. Owen pointed to the doorway. Head bowed, Luke obeyed and entered. Obi-Wan stood watching for a moment longer, waiting for all three to disappear into the small dome. He stayed until he saw the orange light in the window die out. With that, he gathered his robes around himself, shielding against the cold, and he headed off. It was an odd sense of accomplishment. Luke was safe... but it was never easy to simply watch like this from afar, to overlook this boy who was such an uncanny incarnation of his father, curious, adventurous, technically skilled, and longing for a destiny he didn't even understand. It was hard to resist the temptation just to talk to him, to share things with him, to teach him about those special feelings he experienced sometimes, those quick reflexes... It was even harder, knowing these things could make such a difference... all the difference in the universe, if only they were allowed to... But the boy had his family, he reminded himself. They were his rightful guardians...a concept that at times Obi-Wan was admittedly mixed about, perhaps because of his own traditionally Temple-raised upbringing, but he could do nothing to change it. Owen had made his opinion on Obi-Wan very clear. The man's hostility was hard to deflect, and this was when he didn't even know the full extent of his stepbrother's fate... and Obi-Wan decided it was best that it stayed that way. But today, Obi-Wan had done his duty. He had kept the boy safe, kept him from endangering himself and making a big mistake with even bigger consequences. He felt a sliver of satisfaction as he walked; perhaps he was just yearning to be useful that much, living in this lonely, repetitive existence, that he let the feeling grow inside him, thawing the static in his spirit, breathing some life back into his Jedi heart. Tonight Luke Skywalker, a last ray of hope in this oppressed galaxy, was safe and sound. Right now, that was the most Obi-Wan could hope for, he ruminated, and a wistful smile found its way above his bearded chin. He came into his own modest house, his bones tired and his muscles feeling stiff from the cold — he really was getting on in years — and he lighted his lamps and curtained his windows to settle for the night. He ate a small meal of charr-bread and a cup of black melon juice. Later he took out the heater-unit he'd haggled from a Jawa, sat in his chair, and rubbed his hands over the tinge of low heat. Slowly he relaxed into an almost meditative state. He enjoyed the several minutes of repose. Suddenly he snapped out of it, jolted, as if a scream had just rang through his ears. But there was only silence. A tremble went through his fingers. Something had hit his senses... It was as if lightning had just speared through the Force. Something had... No. White-faced, Obi-Wan hurried outside. He mustered his Jedi-trained body to increase his speed, his chest pounding as he crossed the stretch of desert, the mounds of sand, rock. He jumped over slopes and edged around the sharp stone in his path. It wasn't long before he took in the smell of smoke. Obi-Wan ran blindly through the darkness, through the lowlands and into the salt flats, until he stopped dead at the sight before him. Flames engulfed the Lars homestead, enormous flames that raised like red-smothered clouds. Figures surrounded the dwelling, some riding large horned beasts, a few retreating, most shuffling around and raising staffs. Gunshots rang in the air, along with the loud wailing snorts of Tusken Raiders. Cold dread flew through Obi-Wan's body — no, he had been here, just an hour ago — this could not be, this could not be— His dread then sharpened like a blade's edge. Obi-Wan flew at the Tuskens. A saber of blue materialized in his hand from a hilt that had hung idly on his belt for years. He swung at them. The Tuskens drew back. The ones riding their banthas stopped, staring at him. The masked scavengers let out confused, jumbled words in their language. They were afraid of him, their gazes glued to the blazing sword he wielded, but they stayed, almost guardedly, around the domed house, blocking his path. A few rose their weapons at him in defiance. Clenching his teeth and raising his weapon, Obi-Wan shouted at the top of his lungs, "Leave this place!" They all collectively jumped, then grouped together. They turned away to flee, releasing calls that were like the strangled whines of wounded Gamorreans. Scrambling, they mounted their long-haired beasts that waited in a pack nearby. But one Tusken remained. He was still facing the homestead, standing in front of the entrance as if guarding it. Obi-Wan glowered and rumbled. "Out of my way!" He waved the lightsaber threateningly, ready to slice through the masked scavenger. But the Tusken ignored him. Then without predecent he let out a series of violent, earsplitting screeches as he looked into the sky, and planted his weapon hard in the ground. With that he swerved away and darted after the others, who waited for him in the distance. Obi-Wan didn't linger on this curious incident. He exhaled, his fury dispensing, and he looked back to the flaming dwelling, stepped forward to enter it — only for the doorway's structure to suddenly cave in. Fire spewed and whipped, spilling out the window. Obi-Wan's whole body turned to ice. Desperately he reached out with the Force, trying to sense the life that flickered within... He felt none. Luke's bright presence was gone. All he felt were echoes of pain, of shock, and of death. "No," he gasped, losing all feeling. He shook his head listlessly. "No..." He let out a loud cry, then a growl, then he stabbed his lightsaber through the building. He forced himself through the burnt blackness of the pourstone structure. He searched throughout the dwelling, the crater walls broken, breaking, smouldered, smoke filling his throat and ash and cinders stinging his skin while he tried to push away the flames with the Force. They only spread. The few places that weren't caved in or blocked off were so wrecked that hardly anything could be distinguished. Obi-Wan felt himself become lightheaded as he withstood more of the smoke. Still he searched and searched. It was all afire... scorched, indiscernible heaps, melted equipment, scattered debris... No bodies... But there was, he painfully realized, the faint, nauseating smell of burnt flesh. Obi-Wan came out of the domed house like man in a stupor. His robes were torn and burnt from his scouring of the place, the hems turned to a crisp. He stood still, the blazing homestead at his back, its fire slowly dousing behind him, almost mockingly. He stared, his gaze vacant, until he found the Tusken's staff in front of the doorway. It was still forked in the ground, like a stabbing reminder of his own shame. His own failure. Obi-Wan fell to his knees, his eyes red. He spent the rest of night there, plotted down in the sand, asking the Force why. _______ A lone Tusken straggled behind on foot while his fellows rode slowly atop their steeds. All were solemn as they marched home. None of them spoke. The Tusken looked back. His gaze pinned the burning structure and the human who knelt there. His heart felt no pity for him. The Tusken's eyes swept across the salt flats, where the odd instruments of the farmers had perched in the field, now all mowed down by their pack. The corpses of two dead banthas lay in the middle of the planes. The Tusken let out a soft howl. Two banthas, shot by the moisture farmer, who had lived on those grounds. Back home, his own wife was in grief, her sacred friend gone, just as his was. As they were life-mates, so too were their steeds, as was the Tusken way. Their loyal friends had been returned to the desert. Their Tusken souls were splintered as a result, that in itself was punishable by death. Two lives lost, one lingering regret. It was then fitting that there had been two farmers and one child. They had taken from them, and the Tuskens had taken back. Blood for blood, soul for soul, pain for pain.