Catriona Campbell Boyle
He closed down the engines of the small star ship and sat back into the acceleration chair, shoulders slumped, hand going to his eyes and rubbing the tiredness from them. Then he looked up to gaze out at the scenery beyond the cockpit. Desert. Totally flat in this region, flat and boring, the blandness broken only by jutting vaporators and the dome of the farmstead. It was early morning, Tatoo one and two, still low in the sky and rising, spreading light and warmth - two things he hadn't felt himself for a long time.
It had been a few years since he had left here. Buried his mother and rushed off to save Obi-Wan with Padme.....
...should have left him to die...
He welcomed the sudden rush of anger, allowed the hatred to rise and expand, his lips curling with pleasure as the energy behind these emotions surged through him. These feelings were natural, normal, a part of every living thing. They needed to be nurtured and expressed not pushed aside, not ignored and denied as the Jedi did. They were fools, these feelings were power!
But push them aside he did, for they would do him no good here, serve no purpose now. However, later....later they could be revealed, later he would be freed to express them, let the Jedi know how he really felt and give them a demonstration of the power they were disregarding.
And he looked to the farm, wondered what kind of reception he would receive. He had barely spoken to his step-father and brother...
......how strange those words sounded, how foreign. These words meant family and he knew nothing of family, had little understanding of the concept...except for his mother, except for Padme... but these relationships were not a family in the strictest sense. These were attachments.
He shook himself from these thoughts, forced himself to consider what he was doing here. He did not know these people, had not taken the time to get to know his mother's new family. He had been too frantic for his mother's well being, too scared considering her fate to give thought to anything else. And, after....After there was just him. His rage, his horror, his hatred, his fear of what he had become when the Tusken's had died.
....powerful.....you become powerful....
Then the message had come from Obi-Wan on Geonosis, and he and Padme had rushed to save him...
...should have left him to rot....
...without a thought for the moisture farmers, without a goodbye or a thank you for their hospitality. He had given them no words of comfort as they came to terms with the loss of his mother. His tragedy and also been theirs and he had refused to acknowledge their grief, their pain. But, he could not bear to be around them, did not want to acknowledge that they had known his mother for years, had known her love, her compassion, her patience while he had gone without.
...that was your choice....
The Jedi had come. Tall, cutting an impressive and compelling figure for an innocent child to look up to - to want to emulate. Qui-Gon, so sure of himself and of the power he commanded. And she was with him. Padme, a beauty so rare on Tatooine, a beauty no child there had ever seen. How could he not have chosen to go with them; they hinted of another life, of a better life, of dreams fulfilled.
...but I was a ten years old. I was a child, I shouldn't have had the responsibility of making such a decision....
But he was a slave with only a life of bondage ahead of him. And his mother wanted a richer life for him, she needed him away and safe, wished him a more fitting future than the one to be found on Tatooine....
...and what future do I have now, mother? How proud of me are you now....
He closed his eyes against the brightness of the rising suns. Sought out the Force, turned inward and saw...
..lightsabers clashing in the darkness.....
"I still miss you, mom." The first words he had uttered since landing were thick with grief, and he grimaced and opened his eyes. "I should have come back sooner."
He had struggled with the Jedi ways, struggled to capitulate to their sterile relationships, their rules and codes. They were so alien to him, their culture and values so very different, it was amazing he had not found trouble more often! Nor were they understanding of him, they berated him for missing his mother, they had no understanding of how lost and alone he was. Obi-Wan tried, but he had been raised by the Jedi, what empathy could he truly have for one who craved......
Their mandate was pointless with him, had already failed with him before he joined the order. He already had the most important attachment of them all....his mother. He could not be cold and distant, he could not interact with other beings on a superficial level. He needed attachments, thrived on the contact with others, even his relationship with Obi-Wan....
"...you're the closest thing I have to a father."
He needed attachments, and he needed her. He knew Obi-Wan had known for sometime of his feelings for Padme, had warned him repeatedly what it could mean for him. He also knew Kenobi suspected their relationship had deepened, had been consummated, and had turned a blind eye. They were in the midst of war, to busy fighting and surviving to be concerned with other matters, until.....
Until she became pregnant, and they could hide it no more. Their marriage was exposed and he was stripped of the Jedi title and expelled from the order for breaking their precious code. He still burned at the thought, at the humiliation, could still feel the disappointment shown him as he strode from their council his head high, his tears held in check, his anger simmering as he silently vowed revenge. He was stronger than them all, it was only a matter of time and there were so few Jedi left.
Fewer still, when he left this place.
It was Palpatine, not Obi-Wan, who was there to pick him up. It was the Chancellor who broke up his war council, to give him time, to give him space to vent his rage. Who watched him pace up and down, until no more words came, until he was left with nothing but despair - what would he do now? He no longer had the Jedi. And it was Palpatine who offered him an alternative.
"Stand at my side, Anakin."
"Chancellor, I appreciate your offer, but...."
"I always said you would be the strongest of all the Jedi, and now you are."
He had snorted derisive laughter then. "Beggin' your pardon sir, but there is no chance of that now."
"Anakin," Palpatine's voice was softly chiding and there was mirth in it's tones. " Being a Jedi is not just about a title, it is a state of mind."
..and yours is so very strong...
He had turned in surprise, in horror, at the touch, at the whisper within. There was strength, there was power, there was darkness, and.... there was realisation!
"You!" He backed away then, his hand moving for his lightsaber. "You're the Dark Lord!"
"Yes," Palpatine conceded. He held his palms outwards at his side, showing no aggression. Showing little emotion at all. "And you are still my friend, Anakin. I am offering you a place to be. I am offering you a position of power!"
"I don't want, power!" Anakin announced, and knew he was lying. He also knew Palpatine heard the lie. Didn't everyone want power over something? Hadn't he announced to Padme he would be the greatest of all Jedi, the most powerful! "You won't turn me!" His hand still gripped the saber tightly.
Palpatine let his hands drop. He smiled. "I don't have too. You know that, you sense that." The Chancellor moved closer. "The Dark Side of the Force is strong within you, Anakin. I've felt that for a long time, I felt your rage, your hatred, your power when the Jedi dismissed you. I heard your cry for revenge. Join me, Anakin. We will rid Galaxy of the Jedi weakness. We will bring an end to this war, and bind the systems together under one Empire!"
Anakin staggered back under the strength of Palpatine's darkness, his presence filled the room, seeping coolly under Anakin's robes, chilling him..... "Empire? I.....Padme is waiting ....I have to go." He wanted to run from the man, from the room, from the truth. But, Palpatine's words stopped him.
"Ah, yes.....the senator." The Chancellor looked pained, grieved. "I'm sorry, Anakin, that I should be one to tell you this...."
A sudden nausea filled him, fear flooding his body...Padme? He reached out, sifting through the Force, frantically searching for her presence. And relaxed a little when he found her.....but, she was distant, distracted, anxious. Distant... He looked to Palpatine for an explanation.
"The Jedi thought it best," he explained, watching Anakin closely. "She has fled from you, fled with Obi-Wan." There was an emphasis on the name, a meaning implied there.
His face twisted with hatred, with fury, and with an awful comprehension. She had left him! She had listened to the arguments of the Jedi, had been persuaded to go, to take herself and their unborn child. Tight grief lanced through him, the pain almost physical, tightening in his chest causing him to gasp. "Padme...."
"There are times you frighten me, Anakin."
"Use your feelings, Young One. Go, and do what you must. Seek them out and take your revenge. Then return to me, return to the Sith, choose your name and the title of Darth shall be yours."
He had backed away from the Dark Lord, from the Chancellor. Hot tears marking his face. "No." He said, hoarsely. "I can't.....I...." His feelings were too wild, too deranged and out of control. How could he use them when he couldn't identify them? There were too many emotions, to many thoughts, too much to take in.
"Focus, Anakin." The Chancellor whispered. "Let the Dark Side guide, you."
"No!" He cried, and turned on his heels, ran from the room, ran from the man inside and from the truth. Where would he go now? What would he do? The Jedi should know about Palpatine. He should go to them but, Obi-Wan and Padme could be anywhere now and it was the Jedi who sent them, who thought it best she flee him. He owed them nothing now. He was free of their stifling teachings, free from the confines of their puerile mandates. He could do as he pleased.
He had to find Padme, had to free her from whatever lies Obi-Wan
had spun her. And he would find them, he would find Obi-Wan and he would
have his retribution upon his old master.
He had sat here for long enough. Contemplated the past for long enough. Glancing up he noticed the figure of a man standing by the doorway of the farmstead, he was joined by a woman, both regarding the ship with anxious interest. His step-brother and his...his what now? Still girlfriend? Wife now? It was she who was the real reason he had come here. It was her qualities, more then Owen's that drew him here. Her gentleness, her devotion to Owen and his father. These and more he had picked up during his previous, brief visit here. These were qualities his mother had, those and the capacity to love and nurture. Qualities he was very much in need of now.
He stood, and walked through the ship, leaving his companion to sleep on, and stepped out into the sunslight. He grimaced as the hot air filled his lungs. Hot, and dry. How he hated this planet, and how ironic that this should be only place of sanctuary he knew.
"Anakin?" Owen greeted, with a question to his voice.
"Owen," he greeted in return. Then he bowed to the woman. "Beru."
These people were strangers to him, and yet they represented the only family he had.
He glanced around. "Your father?"
"He's dead," Owen informed him. "Two summers ago. He never really recovered from his injuries when he went after moth....your mother."
Anakin let the slip pass him, though it twisted his gut with jealousy. "May I?" he asked, gesturing to the grave site beyond the dome.
They crossed the short distance in silence. And stood by the plots of sand, a breeze blowing particles around, tugging at their clothing and hair. His was longer now and a little unkempt; no Padawan hair cut, no braid or tail to signify his position of learner, and he had to brush it from his eyes as he stared down upon his mother's grave.
Mother. I should never have left you. You should never have let me go. You should have held me fast and....you sacrificed so much to let me go, you wanted a better life for me, I wanted to make you proud. Please, forgive me....
"Why have you come back?" Owen asked, breaking the quiet and his thoughts.
Anakin bit back his anger at the interruption, feeling a weary sadness creep over him. "I have nowhere else," he whispered. Then he drew himself up, stood taller, straightened, gathered the Force around him gaining strength from darkness. "My mother lies here," he answered curtly, "and this planet was my home. That is why I have come back."
"Do you need a place to stay?" Beru questioned, gently, breaking his mood.
"No," and he felt himself smile sadly at her misunderstanding. "I have my place, now." He turned to her, studying her face, still so fresh despite the harsh living conditions of the farm. "I know I have no right to ask this of you", he glance to Owen, "both. I need you to do something for me. I need you to do something I cannot." he hesitated, trying to find the correct words to explain the situation without frightening the farmers. "Padme and I, we had a child."
Beru looked to the ship. "Where is she?"
His voice sounded distant when he answered, as distant as his estranged wife. "Gone. She left me. I do not know where she is but, I will find her." There was grief, guilt and pain. He loved her still, but he hated her more.
Owen moved closer to Beru and placed an arm across her shoulder, not liking the mood of his step-brother, wary and a little afraid of him.
"She left her child?" Beru asked.
Anakin laughed. It was a tight, unpleasant sound. "She gave him to the Jedi. I took him back."
He had tracked them for weeks, following every clue and sighting. It became an obsession, every thought he had, every action he took was because of them. And then he found Kenobi with the child. Padme was gone, had fled yet again and left their son with the Jedi. They had argued, they had fought. Anakin's rage at his former master finding release with each stroke and parry of their lightsabers as the babe screamed among it's bundle of clothes on the ground. He had forced Kenobi back, beat the Jedi down, but he held back the killing stroke, unable to follow through. He would not be so weak the next time they met.
He had recovered his son, comforted him best he could. The Force was strong with the child, but there would be no ridged, sterile upbringing for him. No rules and regulations, no mandates, no dress code, no padawan training. His son would know love, would know attachments, if these people took him in. "I cannot care for him....there is no place for a child with me. The Jedi are dying, the Republic changing, the war continues and that is where I should be. If he were to come with me, his life would be in danger."
He had never mentioned the child to the Chancellor. Did not even know if Palpatine knew Padme was pregnant when she left. However, he would not be the one to tell him. Palpatine jealously coveted power, if he were to know of the boy, if he were to find out how strong the Force was with the child, then he may feel threatened. It was best the child be hidden. Hidden from the Sith, hidden from the Jedi, pawn to neither. When grown he would be able to chose his own path, his own fate at a time when he was ready and not......
...when he was ten years old.
"You want us to take him" Owen stated.
"Yes, he will be safe here."
"But, if things are as you said. Will we be safe with him?"
Anakin looked to his ship, watched the heat haze rise from the hull. "I cannot guarantee that. Should the Jedi find out where he is, they will come and try to claim him. But they will not harm you, it is not in their nature. I will make you his legal guardians, they cannot argue with that."
"That doesn't answer my question," Owen told him. "I don't pretend to know what's going on in the Galaxy just now, Anakin. We are simple people, with simple lives. There is more involved here than the Jedi. Padme, is a Senator of Naboo, she has family surely. Rich and influential people who could provide for your son. Why us?"
"Rich and influential will get him noticed. He needs to be hidden, he needs to be taught about life and how to live it, how to survive. Not be pampered, not have every need met when he demands...he....needs to be safe."
"From whom?" Beru asked, moving closer to Anakin.
"Others may be interested in him should they discover his existence. If they do, I will know and I will come before them. You need not fear me...."
...not yet. But, soon you will.....
".....Please, take him. Raise him?" He was pleading now, time was growing short, he would have to leave soon. Leave before his presence here was discovered. He had to return to Coruscant and to his fate.
Owen exchanged glances with Beru. He was uncertain of this, uncertain about what his step-brother was involved in, how the child figured in it all. He knew little of the Jedi except bedtime tales his mother told him. He knew little of other worlds and politics. He knew little of his step-brother, owed him nothing but.....He looked to his mother's grave, his father beside her, and to his step-mother. He had many warm memories of Shmi; of the love and succour she gave him after the death of his own mother, of the happiness she brought to Cliegg, of the meals she made, the scoldings she gave before she was cruelly stolen from them all. Anakin had missed all those times, had returned only to the tragedy.
"We'll take him," Owen announced. Beru turned to him in surprise. "I believe your mother would wish it."
Anakin closed his eyes, lowered his head. He felt relief, he felt humbled by Owen's acceptance. And he felt loss....So much loss...He had lost his mother, he had lost the Jedi, lost Padme, lost Obi-Wan and now he was losing his son.
It is better this way...no attachment....
"Come," he told them.
As they entered his ship they could hear a soft mewling coming from the passenger compartment. The child lay in a makeshift crib of packing crates, strapped onto the acceleration couch. He had kicked off his blankets, little fists and feet waving with his growing impatience for company. Anakin stood back as Beru lifted him, cradled him, smoothed back his thin wisps of blond hair.
"He's beautiful, Anakin." She told him, smiling at the child. She touched his cheek and the babe turned, mouth rooting. "And hungry!" She laughed. She turned to his father. "You've never mentioned his name."
.....Obi-Wan lay at his feet, a deep gash cutting across his abdomen, one hand held up, a poor defence against a lightsaber. "Anakin..." he gasped. "Think about what you are doing. The path to darkness is...."
"All I have left." Anakin growled in hatred.
The babe cried again, scream rising in pitch, and it drew both their attentions.
"You have, Luke." Obi-Wan told him. "The path you are following should not be for him. You know this!"
Luke....she had named him Luke....
Anakin extinguished his saber, stilled his breathing, looked at his teacher with distaste. "You're right, master," he drew the word, made it an insult. "My path is not his, but neither is yours."
"Luke." Anakin told her, "He's called Luke."
The woman drew the child closer, lifted a blanket and carefully wrapped him. "Well, Luke we don't want you exposed to these suns yet, do we? Not without protection." Again, she paused looked to Anakin. "He's not very old, is he?"
Anakin shrugged. "A few weeks, I think. Padme wasn't there and Obi-Wan...well, I never stopped to ask his birth date."
Just go, just take him, stop asking questions. This is hard enough....
"I have a few things for him," he lifted a bag and handed it to Owen. "There are some clothes, some food. I put in some credits, too, but they won't last long." He was aware of how he sounded, of how he was babbling, of the pain he was conveying, the weakness he was showing and he hated himself for it. "Thank you, Owen."
The farmer merely nodded and turned to leave the ship. Beru stopped before Anakin, held the child out to him. "Do you want to say goodbye?"
He looked upon his son, reached out with the force and touched him gently, just as he reached out his hand...and stopped himself. "No," his voice was raw, rasping. He dropped his hand. "Take him, and leave. Please."
Puzzlement crossed her features, narrowed her eyes. "Anakin, you don't...."
But he turned from her, striding quickly away through the ship. She
sighed, turned away and carried the infant to his new home as the hatch
closed behind her.
The ship seemed strangely silent and empty, void, now the child was gone and Anakin wished he could feel the same. But his emotions filled him, they were bare, blunt and bitter. His pain was coarse and abrading, wearing him down, breaking him down, until the rage erupted from within and he cried out with the power of it, hammering his fist on the control panel...
...use these feelings, My Young Friend. They make you strong, powerful. Nurture your hatred and use it against those who wronged you.....
He heaved in a steadying breath, focused on the Force, feeling calm descend to control his conflict. He brought the engines back on line, ran through a quick check before lifting up and turning the ship away from the farmstead, away from Tatooine. He vowed then not to return unless Luke was endangered, he vowed not to set foot upon it unless duty demanded it. Tatooine was home no more. He was Anakin no more. That boy had been left behind in the brightness of the twin suns, and it was the darkness of deep space that welcomed Darth Vader.
Catriona Campbell Boyle, 2003
Return to story index