Third Parent
Rating: PG

Diana deRiggs

Many thanks to Csillag and MaceVindaloo for useful discussions and for helping with the scramble for half-remembered research pieces. This story was inspired by the very last shot of Ep3: Revenge of the Sith. Consider the problems of handing a baby to a couple who'd never seen you before. And Beru did look like she expected Obi-wan to be there ... how did that come about? Thus this fanfic. Enjoy!

I'll should become famous as the man who aged 20 years in a day.

Obi-wan Kenobi tumbled planetward in a round escapepod, and all his concentration was focused on a safe landing for him and his charge, the son of Anakin Skywalker.

Anakin had been more than his student; Anakin was the Chosen One, the one who would bring balance to the Force. Obi-wan understood that the how and why of this action were not specified, but never did he imagine that "balance" meant the former slaveboy from Tatooine would murder all but two Jedi ... then join the Sith. Indeed, there was balance now: two Jedi, two Sith.

Anakin was also more to Obi-wan than a blood brother. They shared a bond through the Force, and it pained the man who had been called "master" for thirteen years to have to live his life without that connection to his padawan. No, it was worse — he had to actively hide the stump of the link; severing it would not be enough to keep himself safe.

And he had to stay safe, for the sake of his best friend's child, and for the future of the galaxy.

Obi-wan had promised Master Yoda that he'd look after the child, act as his eccentric uncle, to be brought up by the man Obi-wan knew to be his actual blood brother, Owen Lars. It was a complicated thing to explain, but Obi-wan — like most other younglings — was taken by the Temple in infancy. His parents had had another child years later, and fearing losing their second son to the Jedi, they fled their poor life for an Outer Rim planet where the Republic had no influence.

Obi-wan had not had time to contemplate how the Force had brought about this confluence of coincidences. Obviously, Qui-gon Jinn had been right to follow the Living Force; no one had really understood him when he was alive, but now it was Qui-gon who had survived. He had learned the nature of death and the Force, and had discovered a pathway to immortality: to be part of the Force, but to still move and think independently of it. The Force moved in ways that no one could understand.

However, even before the abrupt landing in the middle of an expanse of sand as far as the eye could see, Obi-wan had made a decision. He would honor the friendship between him and Anakin. Master Yoda had cautioned him that this was in violation of the Jedi Code. Holding on to memories and bonds which no longer existed was a path to the Dark Side. "Mourn them not, miss them not," the wizened master had counseled many Jedi.

But it was all Obi-wan felt like doing; besides, the Jedi Order was no more. It had been destroyed by the Sith, engineered by Emperor Palpatine. And so, he would raise Luke Skywalker as his own child.

He and Anakin had been closer than brothers, even closer than lovers. They had been an inseparable partnership; Obi-wan dared to believe that even Padmé, Luke's mother, was not as close to Anakin. Even the holopress lauded the pair as "Kenobi-and-Skywalker" or "Anakin-and-Obi-wan." They were one entity, one word, one thought.

And thus, Obi-wan felt that Luke Skywalker was, in fact, really his child. He was the third parent to Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia.

As Obi-wan forced himself to change the diaper off the baby, he did thank the Maker that he was not literally the father of twins. Leia would be raised in the lavish surroundings of royalty and aristocracy on Alderaan as the only child of Queen Breha Organa. Obi-wan doubted that Bail, the Queen's Prince Consort, would ever have to perform the task of diaper changing.

Unwilling to leave traces of their presence, Obi-wan had to pack away the soiled diaper and everything else he'd managed to bring with him on the escape pod. He understood that he would need housing and some means to support himself and his baby. The pod itself would eventually serve as salvageable and tradable goods, but in the meantime, it would serve as temporary shelter. From what Anakin had told him about his home planet, any matter of metal or electronics could be traded or stolen. Even cleaning electronics and rebuilding things could afford a meager living. In fact, Anakin's mother managed to make quite a bit of credits doing just that, even as a slave.

How ironic that the life Anakin escaped has become the life Obi-wan would live!

Obi-wan had managed to contact and commune with his long-dead master, Qui-gon Jinn, while he was still aboard the TantiveIV and had received several lessons from him before being forced to leave. Obi-wan had been taught how to tap into the Living Force years before, but was refreshed by the lessons. After years as a General in the Clone Wars and having to be the perfect master to reign in Anakin's wildness, it felt good to do as he was told by someone obviously wiser!

The training enabled him to search for and find a specific and unfamiliar tremor in the Force. There was as huge transport, full of beings that Obi-wan would have referred to a lifetime ago as "pathetic lifeforms." He felt their minds and recognized they were traders of a sort. It was an easy matter to make the wrecked escape pod gleam temptingly in the sunlight, irresistible to the desert scavengers. As they got closer, Obi-wan realized their lumbering transport was full of wrecked 'droids and even contained a portable smelter on board. His spirit soared, seeing the opportunity — at last — to create his new identity as a single father on this outlaw-filled planet.

* * * * *

Obi-wan wondered if babies ever stopped leaking body fluids or stopped their constant cycle of napping and wailing. He had managed to carry enough nutrient pellets for Luke when he'd left the TantiveIV, so feeding him wasn't a problem; instead it was the outflow. In a desert planet with no ready sources of water, washing such a helpless being was nigh on impossible!

Still, he felt that the Force was with him; within hours of crash-landing on Tatooine, a Jawa sandcrawler had come to inspect the escape pod. Obi-wan established that he was the rightful owner of the scrap and electronics. The Jawas were wary, having never seen this man and his baby before, but the promise of a rich payday overrode their caution.

In exchange for the pod and its computers (Obi-wan had been careful to wipe the memory and destroy any identifying markings and transponders), they offered Obi-wan supplies from Anchorhead. Obi-wan refused, telling them that he would be losing his home; they had to come up with something better to compensate for the loss of the pod.

After much conference among themselves, they jabbered to Obi-wan that there was an abandoned hut on the edge of the Dune Sea. It had been a moisture farmer's homestead before it had been attacked by Tusken Raiders, and it was now empty, but was still standing. They did not think anyone owned the property, nor would want it; it was well within the Tusken roaming territories, thus the attack on the previous tenants. It was said to be haunted.

Obi-wan negotiated a bit more and managed to get a few vaporators as part of the deal, as well as a promise for parts for the hut and the vaporators in exchange for repairing the navicomputer on the pod. It was an easy enough thing to do, considering Obi-wan had been the one to damage it, and the Jawas were suitably impressed when it was fixed and humming. Squatting down to their height, Obi-wan shook hands with the many members of the sandcrawler crew to seal the deal. He learned they all came from the same clan; one female named Herat had been especially helpful in their negotiations. She did shyly ask to see the baby ...

The Jawas chittered as Obi-wan opened the swaddling clothes; Luke had been asleep, but stared out with his bright blue eyes at the smelly little creatures surrounding him. He stared for long moment ... then sneezed, causing the skittish Jawas to jump. Obi-wan laughed, for the first time in many days.

Hearing the man's laughter, the Jawa's offered Obi-wan and his "son" a lift past Wayfar to the abandoned hut. They were so charmed by the infant that their only charge for the ride was a chance to be with him for the trip.

* * * * *

Obi-wan had managed to get the vaporators installed and humming. The hut was rudimentary and he understood that he'd have a lot of fixing up to do. He had started cleaning and digging to build more space for him and Luke, and he thought that repositioning some of the walls of the place would make it harder to see from below. The shack was positioned very well on a high cliff so he could see anyone coming up the rise long before they could see him. And he had a view nearly clear to Anchorhead, and found he could see all air traffic, too.

He found that baby Luke needed quite a lot of attention. He barely found time to commune with Qui-gon. The long meditations he thought he could practice were always interrupted by something — anything! It wasn't always Luke's demands; sometimes it was the danger of Sand People nearby, or urasais circling overhead when a creature died. Or the sandstorms and groundquakes. He often did not sleep; it was too hot, or too dry, or too cold, or Luke was colicky. Obi-wan tried to use the Force to calm the boy, but he learned that sometimes, the Force was not enough ... then memories of his failure to keep Anakin safe would fill him with dread. What if he failed with Luke, too?

He couldn't leave Luke alone at home, and so he took to carrying the infant with him everywhere. He needed to get out at least to Bestine, the closest settlement, to trade for supplies and work. It wasn't always bad, since many traders — no matter how gruff they appeared — enjoyed the presence of a cooing, blue-eyed baby in their midst. Obi-wan found that negotiating for food and supplies "for the baby" happened more easily and with equanimity. One of the merchants even offered Obi-wan an old eopie to help him carry the boy around, in exchange for some repairs on her old cooling unit. Her name was Jira and she told Obi-wan that she'd bought the unit with money a slaveboy had given her; he'd won the money in a podrace and generously spread his wealth to his friends. "But I wish he'd had the time to build me one before he left," she nattered on, "then it wouldn't have broken! When he built something, it worked!"

Obi-wan knew it was far from a fair trade, and asked the old woman why she would give him a beast of burden when he'd fix her cooling unit for some of the fruit she peddled. She really was very old and had trouble seeing, but she looked deeply into Obi-wan's eyes. "Something about you," she whispered, "something of Ani in you. It's telling me to help you; it's all I have, please take it. For Ani's sake." Then she was back to her normal high-pitched loud chattering about the weather and the state of her her bones. She asked to hold Luke and cooed and clucked at the infant.

Obi-wan was visibly shaken by the old woman's explanation. This woman had obviously known and loved Anakin. He should have expected that his relationship to his padawan would have affected his own spirit, but he hadn't realized it would be so obvious to those who knew Anakin, even over a decade ago.

Still, he was grateful to Jira for the eopie. It did, indeed, make the trips to the settlements faster and easier, so that he was even able to go as far as Anchorhead and Mos Eisley, where he could find more work repairing and assembling computers and 'droids. Once he managed to go as far to the north as Mos Espa for a promising commission, but vowed not to return to that city again. For one, it was too far, with no real settlements between his hermitage and Mos Espa. For another, the repairs he made drew comments on how, "he was a lot like that Skywalker boy, you know, the only human to have won a podrace. Could fix anything, that Ani was amazing!"

The wounds were still too fresh.

It was on these regular trips to markets to peddle or trade that he met Beru Lars; from Anakin's descriptions and through the Force, he recognized her as the woman who married Owen. She was shy but friendly and Obi-wan responded in kind. It didn't take long before they were talking about his baby. Finally, he asked her to join him for a drink. She blushed and told him she was married to Owen Lars. Obi-wan assured her that he was not looking to steal her away; he simply enjoyed her company, and could she help him with the baby, if only for an hour? "He does seem to like you," smiled Obi-wan. What woman could resist?

The Jedi noticed how Beru held Luke, and how longingly she looked at him. Luke, in turn, chortled and gurgled happily at her. Beru gazed down at the trusting blue eyes batting their lashes up at her and her eyes grew very bright. "He's a beautiful boy. You must be very proud. You poor man, you don't have a wife?"

"She died in the Clone Wars," Obi-wan wasn't lying, in his mind .. not really. He was telling the truth — sort of — about Padmé's whereabouts, even if it was not a direct reply to Beru's question.

"Oh, I'm sorry," whispered Beru, who put her hand on Obi-wan's in a comforting gesture, which he did not find unpleasant. After a little silence, he explained that he had no experience with babies, and found looking after Luke to be more than he expected. "Who knew babies could have so many needs," he joked.

Beru cast her eyes down. When she looked up again, she looked very sad. "Owen and I have been trying to have a baby for three years. We haven't had any luck."

Obi-wan took a sip of his gizwater. "I'm sorry to hear that, Beru. And here I am, a single man looking after an infant! Life hardly seems fair, does it?"

After another awkward silence, Beru asked quietly, "You fought in the Clone Wars?"

Obi-wan put his hands flat on the surface of the coolinth-chilled table. "Yes, which is why you've never seen me before; we arrived not long ago. After his mother died, I came to raise my son away from all the turmoil at the Core. It may be lawless here, but at least one knows where one stands."

Beru grew thoughtful, "You know, my husband, he has a brother who fought in the Wars, too." Her voice lowered to a faint whisper as she looked around her to see who might be listening. "He was a Jedi."

Obi-wan didn't have to feign surprise at this statement. "Don't say that so loudly! Someone might hear!" He was genuinely concerned actually, since all Jedi were declared enemies of the Empire.

"Maybe you knew him?" Beru continued talking in the furtive whisper. "Were you ...?"

Obi-wan gestured to Beru not to say anymore. He held out his hands to take the baby and led her out of the cantina.

"I'm sorry ..." Beru hoped she hadn't offended the man, "what did you say your name was?"

"Obi- ... Kenobi," he replied, wondering if he should have confessed his name.

But Beru smiled, "You're hardly 'old,' Ben!" And so he became Ben Kenobi; "Ben" was a common enough name on Tatooine, and she had misheard him. She thought he'd called himself "Old Ben Kenobi."

Ben smiled, "Thanks, but I do feel old when I'm responsible for Luke. Well, best get going; Luke and I have a long trip ahead of us and we need to make Arnthout before it's too dark. We'll need to stay there overnight, we have a long way to go after that, too. Thank you for the company, Beru! I hope to run into you again soon!"

But before he could secure Luke into the basket to mount onto the eopie, Beru put her hand on his elbow. "Please Ben, won't you and Luke come stay with me and my husband? We're not far from Anchorhead, we're practically on the bottom of the Xeltric Draw, so it's actually on the way to Arnthout. You could get an early start and make Bestine well before nightfall tomorrow."

Obi-wan was surprised again. He hadn't expected the invitation; it was likely the Living Force at work. And when the Force calls a Jedi, he must follow. "Thank you, Beru! It would be a pleasure, but you're sure your husband won't mind? An old man and a baby are hardly good company!"

Beru laughed, "No, he's a bit gruff at times, but he's a good man. We get so few visitors being so far south, it will be a treat for us! I came in an old speeder, and I can't take your eopie on board. Can I give you directions? I'll get home and prepare your room and a meal; it'll all be ready by the time you and Luke arrive!"

She gave him directions to the Great Chott Salt Flats, past Tosche Station and the big Darklighter farm. Though he'd been here only a short time, Ben knew about the Darklighters and had intended to travel there sometime to see if there was any work he could do for the rich family. When he indicated this, Beru told him she'd invite the Darklighters to dinner, so he could meet them.

As Obi-wan directed his eopie southwest, he wondered at his luck. But he also wondered what the Force was telling him to do — should he let Beru have Luke? Or was this windfall simply a way to make a living so he could raise Luke on his own?

Master Yoda has been right — attachment did indeed confuse the issues of right and wrong. But only the Sith dealt in absolutes, and so he left it to the Force to reveal the clear pathway to him.

* * * * *

Obi-wan — now "Ben" — left the Lars homestead feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Beru Lars had been a gracious hostess, but there was no hiding that she had proffered the invitation to stay overnight because she wanted to be with Luke. As soon as Ben had arrived, she commandeered the baby, dealing with the diapers, washing, feeding and cradling of the child. And since Ben was the child's father, Beru spent a lot of time with him, talking about many things.

Owen had sat silently, staring at his wife and Luke. Once in a while, Ben felt Owen's glare on him. The feelings coming from the man were confused ones, tinged with jealousy and resentment. This, even though Ben had repaired several items for them, as his way of thanking them for sheltering him and Luke for the night.

For his part, Ben longed to tell Owen that they were blood brothers, but knew it might never be appropriate to reveal their relationship. So he settled for talking with the Darklighters, who were genuinely interested in his skills with machines and animals. Owen had at least admired Ben's repairwork, and they noticed the old eopie that Ben and Luke had come with was healthy and bright.

In the morning, Owen had sought out Ben.

"Beru tells me you fought in the Clone Wars? Is that right?"

"Yes, that's what I told her," nodded Ben. "Came here after the boy's mother died, to raise him."

"So, you're on the run, eh? Deserted your post?"

Ben stared at the younger man for a moment, then nodded. In a sense, this was all devastatingly true. Perhaps Owen had the Force, too?

Owen sighed. "She told me something else, and I thought she was daft. But now that I've met you ... I think she's right. I know you aren't him, but you have the feel of my brother. Did you know Anakin Skywalker?"

Again, Ben didn't trust himself to speak, and he simply nodded.

"He was my stepbrother, actually. His mother was taken by Tusken Raiders, he came home to try and save her but he was too late. You," Owen hesitated. "You wouldn't be my brother, would you?"

Ben honestly didn't know how to respond. Yes, it seemed Owen did have Force talent, but it wasn't channeled or controlled, and he seemed to be mixing up the information he was feeling from Obi-wan. They were blood brothers, it was true; but he was also right to feel Anakin's presence in him.

Fortunately, Beru came in with Luke. "Owen, let the man pack up his eopie! He has to make Bestine by nightfall, don't you Ben?"

"Yes, yes ... thank you, Beru. It was very kind of you and Owen to offer your hospitality to me and Luke. We'll be on our way as soon as I —"

"Oh! I nearly forgot, I packed you some food for the trip, I'll be right back!" Beru bustled back into the kitchen, carrying Luke over her shoulder. She and the baby seemed genuinely to have bonded.

But before he could get up to finish his packing, Owen had one more thing to say to him, "I've never seen Beru like this ... I never understood how much it hurt her not to have a baby of her own. Listen, I know you're a widower. If you ever find Luke to be too much to handle ... well ... I know my Beru will be a good mother to him." And with that, he left quickly.

Ben finished saddling up the eopie and went to find Beru. "Thank you again, Beru. You and Owen have been more than generous."

Beru gave him a small bag of drisi bread sandwiches, but held onto Luke. Her eyes were bright, "I wish you didn't have to go ... I really enjoyed having Luke ... and you ..."

Ben smiled at her as he gently pried the baby, who squawked in protest, from her arms. "We'll be back again, Beru. I promise."

* * * * *

All the way up the Xeltric Draw, Luke howled and screamed. Nothing Ben could do would console the child. Because of all the necessary stopping to feed and change the baby and to check on his shrieks and cries, they didn't even make Arnthout by nightfall. The little group was forced to camp out in the middle of the desert, with no settlement or homestead nearby.

Ben was afraid they might be attacked by Tuskens, and he did indeed sense some observing him. But Luke's yowling seemed to frighten them and keep them away. Between the noise, Luke's stress, and fears for their safety, Ben had gotten no sleep at all, and when morning came, his resolve was clear.

Instead of heading up toward the Jundland Wastes, he turned his eopie around and headed back southeast, toward the Lars homestead. Forced along at the same slow pace due to Luke's inconsolable-sounding wails, it was twilight when he reached his destination.

Without Luke, Ben could travel and range farther, commune with the Force, study the secrets hidden from him when he was at the Temple. He could plan for the future of the galaxy for uninterrupted stretches of time. The living he made could be more meager, having to support only himself. There were obvious benefits to being without a baby.

But this is how a heart breaks, he thought to himself, as he got closer to the homestead. "Luke, I'm not abandoning you. I didn't abandon your father, but I failed him when he needed me. I won't do that to you; but you need a mother who will love you for you; I love you for your father's sake. I never realized what a big difference that could mean to your life."

Surprisingly, Luke had calmed down and seemed to be listening.

"Someday," Ben whispered to the baby he held in his arms, "you'll know the ways of the Force. You will learn the truth about your heritage. You will know the truth about me, and of your father. But now is not the time. As I promised Master Yoda, I am delivering you to the right place ... you will live with your family. But I promise ..." Ben's tears flowed down and dropped onto Luke's swaddling clothes, "I promise to look after you. For your father's sake. May the Force be with you, Luke Skywalker."

He'd drawn close enough to the Lars place to see Owen standing on the ridge behind the house, staring up at the twin suns as they set over the horizon. The man looked back, saw Kenobi, and seemed to call down into the underground home. Moments later, Beru came running up the stairs to the surface entrance and forced herself to walk slowly to meet the eopie. Owen stayed on the ridge.

Wordlessly, Obi-wan Kenobi, one of the last of the Jedi Order, dismounted the eopie and cradled the son of Anakin Skywalker in his arms for the last time. He felt like crying, but he composed himself. Still, he dared not speak, for he knew his voice would crack.

Words would have been too much. Beru joyfully took the baby in her arms, and gave Obi-wan one last look, before she turned away from him. Trying not to run, she met her husband at the ridge and stood beside him to watch the sunsets. Her heart was full; life had at last given her everything she had ever wanted.

They had said nothing to Ben. Suddenly feeling very much older and wiser, the now-old Jedi knew that this is how it must be. To fight the Force was a path to the dark side, and Obi-wan felt a weight lift from his soul.

But still, his heart broke again. Being human, he still had feelings he could not control or resist. He had felt this pain when his girlfriend Siri had died; and again when Qui-gon had been killed. He felt it a third time when he finally accepted the truth about Anakin and the truth about what he must do to his former apprentice ... he wondered how many more times in his life he would know this pain. Being a Jedi would not protect him from it.

But this pain felt right, that he was doing the right thing. He had lost his position as Luke's third parent; he was now Luke's fifth parent. This is ridiculous! That boy has way too many parents, he chided himself, as he rode away from the homestead.

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