Force of Destiny
After Leia got up grumbling about Darth Vader, Han found himself unable to go back to sleep, as much as he tried. Not that he was concerned that Leia might do something to Anakin. Heck, if anybody could defend himself, it was that half-crazed ex-Dark Lord! Or that Anakin might intentionally hurt Leia. It was strange, but the more time he spent with the man, the more Solo found himself trusting Anakin.
Turning over, Han Solo closed his eyes in another attempt to continue his interrupted slumber when a loud crash from the kitchen brought him to his feet in an instant.
He was in the kitchen, blaster drawn and ready, before his brain had a chance to catch up with him. The sight that greeted him, however, was as non-threatening as it could be. Anakin was down on his knees, picking up what looked like – porcelain shards? Han blinked and forced his body to relax. So somebody had dropped a cup. Big deal.
Anakin climbed to his feet, a little self-deprecatory smile on his lips as he addressed Han and Leia: "Sorry about that. I guess my nerves are pretty shot."
He deposited the shards in the trash, and, turning to Leia, sketched a bow. "Excuse me, your Highness. I believe a walk will do me good." That said, he turned and pushed his way past Han.
"So, what was that about?" Han drawled as soon as Vader was out of sight. His right hand, still holding the blaster, was dangling loosely at his side.
"I'm not sure." Leia's gaze was fixed on the door through which the former Sith Lord had just made his exit. Her eyes were narrowed. Something was definitely not right here. In all the years of their acquaintance, first in the senate, later as enemies on different sides of a civil war, Leia had never known Vader to be so jumpy. He had reacted to the news of Padmé being her mother so suddenly, so violently, as if... but no, that was ridiculous. Leia pushed the half-formed suspicion to the back of her mind. It was impossible. Preposterous, even. Not her mother and... she could not even bring herself to think both their names in the same context. Besides, the man she knew as Darth Vader appeared to be in his early forties if she was any judge. Much too young to have been... involved... with Padmé. Oh, he had known her, that much he had said. But probably from a distance. Amidala had been elected Queen of Naboo more than thirty years ago, when Vader was still a boy. He probably was assigned to some mission or other as a Padawan when he met Padmé. He must have admired the beautiful handmaiden like many others did, perhaps even feeling more than a Jedi was supposed to.
A small grin tugged at Leia's lips as she imagined a teenaged Darth Vader mooning over a woman years older than him. It caused Han to look at her with curiosity.
"Are you going to tell me what your grinning about, sweetheart?" he asked.
"Oh, it's nothing, Han", Leia told him lightly. "I just found out Lord Vader used to have a crush on my mother."
Han tried valiantly to keep a straight face at that new wrinkle, but failed. Not Vader and the wife of Senator Bail Organa! If Leia was anything like her mother... the mental image of a starstruck Darth Vader following a political power in the shape and form of a petite woman with an impossibly big hairdo around like a puppy was simply too strange for the Correllian. He blinked a few times, snickered, snorted, and finally howled with laughter.
Anakin wandered around the edge of the farm proper with no particular destination in mind; he simply wanted to clear his head and calm his frantic thoughts. Leia - his daughter! It was unbelievable. It had been a shock for him to find out he had a son, but a daughter as well? And how, how could he have missed it? He had never questioned Leia's parentage. How could he have been so blind? He had been so wrapped up in Palpatine's machinations, the idea that Leia could be anything else but the daughter of Bail and Saché Organa never even crossed his mind. Looking back now, there had been plenty of cues. Leia's rebellious streak. The way she put her people before herself. Certain mannerisms she shared with her mother. Force, how could he be so blind? How could he ever have done what he did to her on that first Death Star? His wanderings finally led him to a small group of older, weather-worn grave markers not far from where the first vaporators used to be. There where four now when at the time of his last visit there had been only three. Anakin dropped to his knees in front of one of them. The inscription was still readable. Cliegg Lars had done a thorough job when he carved his beloved wife's gravestone.
"Hi, mom", Anakin whispered, drawing the fingers of his right hand through the sand. "Guess you're not proud of me now, are you? I really messed things up." He sat there for a while, thinking. "Maybe I should have never left Tattooine in the first place. Maybe I shouldn't have gone with Master Qui Gonn to become a Jedi. Things might be very different now."
"Or maybe not", a voice behind him said.
Anakin turned to look over his shoulder. "Luke", he greeted his son. "Are we ready to leave?"
"Soon", Luke responded. Nodding towards the grave marker, the young Jedi continued: "I used to visit Grandmother's grave sometimes. I always thought that Grandfather Lars must have loved her very much."
Anakin nodded. "In his own way, he did. I wasn't here too often... but Owen told me he wasn't the same afterwards. Harsher, less forgiving." He paused. "Cliegg did not survive Mom for long. I don't think it was because of the injuries he sustained when the Tusken took her. Not the physical injuries, at least."
He got up and brushed the sand from his trousers. "He was a good man. Even if we didn't get along to well after mom's death." He turned to look at Luke. "Do we have time to pick up my shuttle in Mos Eisley? She could be useful to the Rebellion."
The younger Jedi smiled. "The Tydirium. Veers told me about her, and I have a feeling she'll play an important part yet. Of course we don't leave her behind. Do you want to pilot her back to the fleet?"
The two men, father and son, started the short trek back to the farm buildings.
"I shall have to, although I would rather spend the time with you and your friends."
"Not necessarily. Lando could take the shuttle back, or General Veers. However, I'm not coming with you."
Anakin shot Luke a look. What was going on here?
"I promised Master Yoda to return and complete my training."
"Yoda! He is still alive?" Anakin was surprised, to say the least. Yoda being alive explained a lot. So it was the old master who had continued Lukes training. And the boy had certainly profited from the ancient Jedi Master's experience.
"Yes, he is still alive. He was... disappointed when I left", Luke answered. "He feared I would... never mind." Luke stopped himself from mentioning exactly what Yoda's fear was, realizing that it might hurt Anakin to be reminded of his own failure. Anakin, however, needed no reminder.
"He feared you would fall like I did", he stated in a flat voice.
Luke's gaze held a wealth of compassion. "I'm sorry, Father."
Anakin shook his head. "There is no need, Luke. It is not you who is responsible for my faults." His lips quirked up in a small smile. "I would wager that Master Yoda told you you were to old to begin the training. Am I right?"
His son laughed. "How did you know?"
"He said the same about me, and I was only nine."
Luke laughed at that. "How young is young enough?" he asked.
"You mean you don't know?" How much knowledge had already been lost? "The candidates came to the temple right from the cradle. For many centuries, no-one was accepted who had been weaned from their mother's breast for more than a year."
By now, the two Jedi had reached the farm buildings; Han Solo caught the tail end of the conversation as he was packing some gear into the speeder.
"But you were older, weren't you?" he interjected.
"Indeed I was", Anakin replied. "The council rejected me when I first came to Coruscant with Master Qui Gonn. The Masters told me I was to old to begin the training. Qui Gonn insisted. I remember that Yoda was adamant about his decision."
"But you were trained in the end. What happened?"
Anakin smiled. "They changed their mind after I blew up the Trade Federation's droid control ship in the battle of Naboo." A look of sadness crossed his face. "Master Qui Gonn died in that battle."
Han frowned. "Now wait just a minute... you faught in a battle at age nine?"
Anakin shrugged. "I wasn't exactly supposed to... Qui Gonn told me to hide, and the safest place I could find was the cockpit of that fighter. But the blasted thing was on autopilot, and I found myself in the middle of a space battle before you could say podrace."
Solo shook his head. "You must have had more luck than planet full of pro gamblers, man."
"Not necessarily, Solo." Anakin grinned. "Don't forget I used to race pods from age six. I had ample experience as a pilot already, and once I figured out the controls of the fighter... well, the rest was child's play."
Luke and Solo both groaned. "I bet you have been waiting all your life to deliver that line, huh?" the Correllian inquired. "Anyway, I'd like to meet that Master Yoda of yours. What say we all go? Lando could take the shuttle back, and we can slave Luke's X-Wing to the Falcon."
"But you are needed with the fleet", Luke protested.
Han snorted. "It's not like I'm a regular member of the Rebellion. They did well enough without me. And I'm not planning to stay with your Jedi friend, Luke. Just meet him."
"Then it's settled. Well, get going, we haven't got all day."
Contrary to Solo's opinion, it still took the better part of the day until the group had picked up the Tydirium and Jix's courier ship in Mos Eisley and said their goodbyes. At the last moment, Jixton decided to join the group on board the Falcon, leaving only Lando and Veers to pilot the other two ships to the Rebel fleet.
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