May 15, 2000
Category: Star Wars
Author: FernWithy

[Disclaimer]

Dragonslayer

A time before words or understanding, when there is no difference between "we" and "I." There is only warmth, the occasional moment of gentle coolness, and the steady beat of the rain on the large green leaves above. He is aware of two other presences - one small, like himself, the other larger. The small one feels as he feels, as their arms and legs twist about each other and they press their heads together; the larger one has a shadow in her gentle touch, but she holds all of them together and he knows that she is the place from which everything comes, including himself. Both are warm and safe and comforting, but he does not feel separate from either. So it has always been, and so it always will be.

But "always" ends, and suddenly there is a rush of coldness, and he is ripped away from the other presences, becomes aware of them as separate as they and the leafy green place fall backward away from him. Another strange and frightening presence has entered his world, wearing rough cloth. The body is hard and unyielding, and he can't imagine how to take any nourishment from it. But this presence is also sad, like the other, and wants to protect him.

An awful scream, and the old presence is suddenly back, and tearing him away, and crying. He can feel her anger and fear. Voices, murmuring gently, then he feels sadness and acceptance. But he is still in the known arms, and he is glad of it. They are back in the leafy place. Her face comes close to his, and his eyes can see all the details. She kisses him, then whispers to him, just between them. He cannot understand words yet, but these words remain with him, and he will hear them again many times, in dreams he will not quite remember. "Trust your heart, my precious son. Believe."

Then he is taken away, and she does not come after him again.

***

Twelve years later.

Luke Skywalker woke up in the desert, the shreds of the dream blowing away in the dawn winds like they always did. Soft brown eyes, a gentle touch, something secret whispered to his mind, then...

He didn't know. He just had weird dreams, and that was all there was to it. He used to talk about them at breakfast, but Uncle Owen said that dreams were just hot air, and there was plenty of hot air on Tatooine already. Aunt Beru had scolded Uncle Owen gently for being tactless, but she hadn't encouraged Luke to remember any more, and he was starting to come to the conclusion that his uncle was probably right.

"Hey, Wormie!"

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, and looked at the girl who was climbing up the dune to watch sunsup with him. "Hi, Camie."

She sat down and pulled her skirt under her. Aunt Beru thought it was awful that Camie's parents let her go camping with boys, but the truth of it was that Camie had a houseful of brothers, and her parents sometimes just forgot that she wasn't one of them. So did Camie, most of the time. She was twelve like him, anyway, and only just starting to look like a girl at all.

But, Luke had to admit, she was awfully pretty, what with her long dark hair and big dark eyes. He sure didn't mind sitting up on the dune with her, watching the first sun float up over the horizon.

"So," she said, "did you dream anything good?"

Luke shrugged.

"Come on. Last time you said you were beating a monster from Jabba's, with a giant bone for a sword."

"And you guys ragged me on it for a week!"

She tipped her head and smiled. "We tease because we love."

"You tease because you haven't got anything better to do."

"That too," she said amiably, looking out across the desert. Her voice got far off and dreamy. "So, did you?" she said, seriously.

"I don't remember."

"Oh. Too bad. I never have any cool dreams. I kind of like hearing yours." She lapsed into silence.

Luke knew she might be setting him up for some kind of teasing from the older kids - they were both allowed to tag along, but she had their ear in a way he didn't, and she wasn't always nice in how she used it - but something about her tone said that she was just telling a simple truth. Luke trusted his instinct about her, and said, "I really don't remember. I'd tell you if I did. At least if it was any good."

"Could you tell me that one about the green world again? And the bike racing? And the girl who wins all the time?"

Luke shook his head, embarrassed. There was something about that dream that seemed strange to him, and the others had laughed at it (including Camie, though she'd asked for it to be told again when the boys had left), and that was without any of them knowing the really strange part of the dream. In that dream, he hadn't ever seen the girl who won all the time, because he'd been her. And that was definitely not something that he'd tell the guys, or even Camie, even if he hadn't believed she'd tell everyone. That was just too weird. He hadn't even told Aunt Beru. "I've told it to you already," he tried.

She tossed a rock off the dune. "I never dream of anywhere except here! Weirdest thing I ever dreamed was that Fixer actually spent all day doing work, 'stead of leaving most of it to the droids."

"Well, that would be weird," Luke said. Fixer was the oldest of the group - eighteen - and he had a job at Toshi Station, but he almost never did it.

"Tank says he's going to run away and join the Imperial navy. All the posters say that they'll take you all over the galaxy."

Luke had seen the posters. He'd once shown one to Aunt Beru, and said he'd like to do that, and her face had turned white as a dragon bone. He hadn't suggested it again, but he thought he might be able to get his friend Biggs to talk them into letting him think about the Academy. The Academy made officers, and officers usually weren't right in the war, so maybe she wouldn't be so worried (not that Luke himself wanted to stay out of the war - he just didn't really want to be an Imperial soldier, but just about everyone knew that half the people in the Imperial Academy ended up joining the rebels anyway). "Tank's just going to get himself killed," he said thoughtfully. It was true. Tank had gotten his nickname for a reason: he lumbered along knocking things out of his way, and didn't engage too much of his brain in thinking about it. A perfect stormtrooper, in other words.

Camie just shrugged, and rested her chin on her hands (which she had folded neatly over her knees with a compact grace and neatness that Luke admired). The second sun began its march up the sky. Luke tried to think of something to say to her, but nothing came to mind.

Behind them, about a quarter of a kilometer, the older kids were starting to wake up. Luke heard Biggs Darklighter swearing as he tripped over a pile of cooking gear, which clattered on the rocks. It was time to head back to camp.

As he'd expected, Camie slipped into her normal tone around the older boys, picking on Luke's changing voice and clumsiness (his feet were growing faster than the rest of him; it wasn't his fault that sometimes they tripped him up). Biggs told her to put a sock in it - count on Biggs to be decent - but the others gave her more attention, and Camie loved attention. But she didn't say anything about his dreams, and he thought she looked at him like she was a little bit sorry, at least, for being mean.

"Come on," Biggs said after breakfast. "Last one back to Anchorhead's a rotten dragon egg!"

There was a scramble to the speeders, loading the gear into them with abandon. Biggs had a Skyhopper - Luke really wanted one, but all he was allowed was a beat-up old landspeeder, at least until he was fifteen - so he could only fit himself. Tank and Fixer and Windy jumped into Deak's speeder. Camie tried to jump in with them, but they laughed. "Kids go together, and we know you want some time with Wormie anyway!"

She gave an indignant yell and kicked the speeder. "I wouldn't ride with you jerks anyway!" They sped away, still laughing.

"Come on," Luke said, and she sat down morosely in the passenger side of the speeder. "I know a shortcut through the Wastes. It'll be fun."

She gave him a look of guarded interest. "Long as you actually know where you're going."

"'Course I do." He was pretty sure, anyway. It looked like it should work. Uncle Owen had only let him start driving the speeder last year (technically, kids were supposed to be fourteen to drive anything, but out on the farms, there was a lot of space to get around, and it couldn't be done on foot; Luke was glad of this - he loved driving). He smiled giddily at Camie, and stepped on the accelerator.

***

Obi-Wan Kenobi looked up from his meditation with a start.

He had felt the boy's presence often as he kept his quiet vigil here in the desert - Luke's presence was no subtler than Anakin's had ever been - but never this close, never this in tune with the Force.

"Flying," Kenobi muttered, not even needing to seek Luke's mind to find that out. He recognized the joyful turn of the heart, the sense of perfect freedom, and missed Anakin acutely. As always - and somehow this was the most unfair, that the good, joyful memories had been so completely overtaken by what came later - that brought with it the memory of the last time he'd seen Anakin, falling deep into the fire, his hair alight, even his eyelashes burning, turning the frightened, hateful glare into something bordering on the demonic. Obi-Wan often awoke from nightmares of fire and falling, and that flame-defined face would be hanging above him, just out of reach. He couldn't see young Luke - his eyes so bright and similar, his presence in the fabric of the Force so prominent - without seeing Anakin, Anakin in all his glory and all his darkness.

Anakin, my student, my brother, my son.

Anakin, my friend.

Anakin, my personal demon, master of my own private hell.

Obi-Wan snorted a humorless laugh at the last. If Anakin had been contain to reign merely over Obi-Wan's private hell, the galaxy would be in far less trouble than it was.

Luke was the way out of that trouble.

And Luke was flying fast and careless over the Jundland Wastes, as likely to destroy himself and his speeder as he was to actually arrive at his destination. Obi-Wan gathered up his long cloak, and headed out to meet the boy.

***

Luke barely noticed that Camie was cheering up. He'd caught a canyon wind, and it increased the speeder's capacity a lot. He was exhilarated, and rode the back of the air current with abandon. Beside him, Camie had taken the tie out of her hair, and was yelling into the wind. He could see that she was smiling, and it made him glad, but she was only at the very edge of his consciousness. At the forefront was the speed, and the thrill, and the sense of reaching into every part of the speeder, and into the air, and becoming part of the canyon walls themselves. He knew where everything would be, and how the wind would turn, and when he would need to suddenly brake and -

A low but rising scream broke the air, and the krayt dragon appeared from the side of the canyon as if by magic.

Luke hit the brakes and swerved up and to the left. The speeder brushed the edge of the canyon, and Camie screamed as a pile of rocks came loose and fell, jostling them. Luke struggled to keep the speeder straight, and pushed it up. Its repulsors were getting beyond their capacity to rise, but it was okay. They were clear. Beneath them, he could see the long body of the krayt dragon falling into the canyon. The rockslide had killed it instantly.

Luke settled the machine down, feeling chagrined and a little ashamed. He'd been so sure he could see everything, and now, here he was, in the middle of the Jundland Wastes, with a possibly damaged speeder, and Camie curled up and shaking.

He settled the speeder to a stop. "I think we're okay," he said. "I just want to check out the speeder before we get out of the shade."

Camie nodded, and got out of the speeder shakily. She looked across at the bore where the dragon had come from. The body and a pile of rocks blocked off most of the entrance. She started to wander over as Luke opened the engine cover on the speeder to check the equipment.

"We're okay!" he called after her. "Nothing's broken."

She turned. Her face was no longer frightened at all. "Let's look around in here!" she called back. "I never saw a krayt bore before."

"I don't think that's such a good idea...

But she was already climbing over the rocks, and Luke didn't have much choice but to follow her. Besides, he'd never seen a krayt bore, either.

The first thing he noticed when he reached the top of the rock pile was that it stunk inside. Bits and pieces of half-rotted prey were strewn on the floor of the cave, and air didn't circulate very well. Camie looked at him with a wrinkled nose, but her eyes had a little bit of mischief in them. He wondered, not for the first time, which Camie was real - the sometimes nasty, half-spoiled girl who teased him when the others were around, or the one who showed up when the others weren't around, the one who wanted to think up adventures and pestered him to tell her what he dreamed about because she thought his dreams were more interesting than her reality. He didn't know why the question was important to him, but something about it ate at him.

How do I know what's real when I know that one of her faces is false?

(trust your heart, my precious son... believe...)

He blinked away the whispered memory and returned to the presently more interesting question of just what one would find in a krayt dragon bore. The voice only tugged at him now and then.

Camie stopped at the entrance to a subcavern. She turned around. "Should we go in?" she whispered.

He shrugged.

"Don't you ever just answer? You always shrug."

"Sorry. Yeah, let's go in. As long as we're here."

She laughed. "Maybe we can bring them a rotten dragon egg."

Luke reached into the small bag he carried over his shoulder, and pulled out a glowstick. He wasn't exactly a survivalist, but no one who traveled around Tatooine was stupid enough to do it without a few basic necessities. Camie had already gotten her own, but he decided that he wanted to go into the cavern first anyway. He held up one hand, and went in ahead of her. She rolled her eyes as he went past.

"I wonder if anyone's every been in here before," she said, holding her glowstick against the wall.

Luke's glowstick caught the edge of a bit of graffiti on the wall. "Yeah," he said. "Looks like kids have been here. Probably before the dragon moved in." A thought occurred to him. "I wonder if my father was ever in here."

Camie let out an exasperated sigh, and Luke winced. Most of his friends - double-faced or not - were pretty sick of his wondering about his father. Camie was sicker of it than most of them. "Why don't you ever wonder about your mother?"

Luke caught himself before shrugging again. Truth was, he just plain didn't wonder about her, though he sometimes wondered about the not-wondering. His father was a question, a mystery, a stranger who he missed and longed for. He had scraps and tattered shreds of information, and he was desperate enough to not care much where they came from. An elderly Dug named Sebulba, who had apparently once hated his father, told him that Anakin Skywalker used to race pods at the Mos Espa arena. Luke had been pressing for more information - and Sebulba had seemed ready to gleefully reveal something - but Uncle Owen had swept in, sent the Dug away, and lectured Luke about talking to strangers.

But his mother? Luke couldn't ever recall asking anyone about her. He wouldn't wonder about her any more than he wondered about the dunes and the wind and the rhythm of the suns. He didn't miss her, because she never really seemed to be gone, which was a stupid thing to think, since he'd never known her at all and he wouldn't know...

But it was true. He trusted his heart. And he thought that maybe he didn't miss his mother because in some strange, mysterious way, she hadn't left him. She had taken up some kind of residence in his soul, and it's hard to miss someone who never leaves. He couldn't have figured out how to say this to Camie, though, so just shook his head blankly and went further into the cave.

A few meters further down, they began to hear the scratching and mewling. "What's that?" Camie asked.

"I don't know." He went toward the sound, glowstick raised. When he got to the end of the cave, at first he didn't recognize what he was seeing, but of course it didn't take long. Krayt dragons were reptiles, after all, and they didn't change that much from infancy to adulthood. They just got lots bigger. The baby dragons were only about the size of womp rats. Big enough to hurt him, but they didn't look like they knew what they were doing yet. Their eyes were misty, and Luke thought maybe they were blind.

Camie's eyes widened. "That must have been their mother outside."

Luke nodded. "Yeah. And I don't think they can hunt yet. I think they're really new. We should get them out of here."

"And take them where?"

Luke thought as much as he could about what he'd learned about the native animals in school last year. "They live in family groups," he said. "If we get them over the rockslide, the mother's mate should find them." This was instantly followed by the sobering thought that the mate was probably somewhere nearby as it was, and if they didn't get out of here soon, they'd have company. He decided not to share that thought with Camie.

"Well," Camie said, heading toward them, "I guess if we each take one end..."

Luke caught her arm. "No. Don't touch them. If they smell like us, the father will probably kill them."

"So how do you want to get them out of here, genius?"

"We have to just get them to follow us."

"Oh, is that all?" Her voice was sarcastic, but Luke thought she was interested in the idea.

He looked around the cavern, and nothing really suggested itself. There were bits of rotting meat, but the babies had apparently already rejected them... "Hey, I've got it," he said, pulling a knife out of his bag. He put small cuts on the palms of his hands, then put the knife back. Camie looked at him like he was crazy, then suddenly seemed to understand. She followed suit.

Luke went over to the closest of the baby dragons, and waved his bleeding hand about six inches in front of its nose. It stretched its neck toward him and took a shuffling step. He saw Camie doing the same with a second one. "Don't let 'em get close enough to bite," he said.

"And here I thought I was going to give them lunch." Intelligently, she smeared some of her blood onto the glowstick, to give herself a longer reach. Luke did the same.

Together, they began to back out of the cave, adjusting their pace to the uneven bursts of speed from the baby dragons. The two they'd led were the most aggressive - probably because they'd gotten to cleanest whiff of blood - but the siblings came shuffling along after them. A few times, Luke stepped into some kind of offal. He tried not to think about it too much.

It seemed to take forever to reach the entrance again, and he almost missed it - the rocks cast a shadow over the aperture, and it wasn't as bright as he was expecting it to be. "Okay," he said. "I don't know if they'll all follow us over the rocks."

"One at a time," Camie said. There wasn't a trace of the spoiled girl now, and Luke saw the way her face was completely relaxed. This was the essential Camie, he thought.

He nodded, and started toward the pile, leading the first of the babies toward it. "Come on," he whispered to it, holding his hand closer. The blood on the glowstick had dried, and the baby took little interest in it. "Come on..." He made his way up the inside edge of it. The baby struggled on the rocks, and Luke waited patiently at the top. Finally, it was close enough that Luke felt comfortable going out into the sunlight. The baby sniffed carefully at the fresh air, not seeming to know what to do with it, then, with an effort, came outside. Luke found a shadowy place under an overhang, and quickly led the baby over to it. He felt a real sense of accomplishment. He'd done something that would make this animal's life harder when he set off the rockslide, but now he'd saved it, and that was good.

Camie was coming along, the second baby in tow (a third had tagged along), which would leave only two more inside. Luke wondered if he could get them both to follow him.

He clambered back into the cave, and waved to one of the remaining babies. It was shaking, smelling some of the new air that had been stirred into the cave by their motion. "It's okay, little guy," Luke said. "Come on outside and see what's there. Or smell it or whatever you do."

"I don't think it's worried about semantics," Camie said dryly from the rockpile. "Just get them and let's get out of here."

"Just trying to keep him calm, right buddy?" Luke didn't take his eyes from the baby dragon. It started to follow him, and its brother - or maybe sister - followed it tentatively. They were social animals. Maybe it didn't want to be left alone.

At the top of the pile, the babies suddenly became aggressive, and Luke and Camie had to jump aside. "Why'd it..." she started, but didn't need to finish.

This time, they were close enough that they heard the very beginning of the low screech of an adult dragon.

Which was too close for comfort.

The shadow closed in on them fast, and the canyon was suddenly filled the rotten smell of a carnivore's breath. The male krayt was descending from the lip of the canyon. With one swipe of its tail, he pushed Luke's speeder into the canyon wall, shattering it. Luke had time to think, Great, I'm really going to catch it at home this time, before the animal landed with a bone-shaking jolt between the babies and the mouth of the cave. The broken speeder was on the babies' side. The landslide and the body of the female krayt blocked any retreat.

The male roared in fury. Luke could almost feel it. The creatures were stupid, but stupid didn't mean they didn't have any feelings. This one was angry and it was scared. Luke tired to figure out how to use that to get away.

"I don't have a blaster," Camie said.

"I don't want to kill him," Luke told her. "The babies are still blind. He needs to hunt for them."

"Oh, great."

"I'll get us out of this." He looked around. "Look, you've got to get to the speeder and get on the comm-band to Deak. He can swing out here and get us." And, Luke thought, get material to make fun of me with for a solid year. But there was no helping it.

"How am I supposed to get around Daddy here?"

"I'll keep him busy. You just run when we get a window."

He saw her tense and prepare. She wasn't half bad for having adventures with, he thought.

The sun glanced off a piece of shiny metal - a piece of the speeder that had flown this way. That would be good. He dove for it and grabbed it. The dragon's head followed him, and a snap of teeth just missed him. He hadn't cleared any space for Camie; she was still blocked by the bulk of the dragon's body. He rolled back toward her to get the dragon to double back. He waved the piece of metal.

Camie tried to run, but the dragon saw her and blocked the way. Luke would need to think of something to keep his attention. He looked up at the dragon, then looked at Camie. There was only one thing he could think of to do. He raised his left hand, stretching the cut open again. Blood flowed out of the wound. He waved it toward the dragon.

"Are you crazy?" Camie whispered.

"Just go."

He wasn't looking at her, and it took him by surprise when she kissed his cheek. She whispered, "Not half bad, Wormie. But don't do anything dumber," then ran.

The dragon bobbed his head toward her, but the smell of the blood kept him focused on Luke. She cleared him and Luke saw her in the open, running for the speeder, before the dragon blocked everything from sight.

Luke rolled out of its way, its teeth snapping just above him. He needed to get around.

Then the dragon was there again, and he had no choice. He put all his strength into swinging the piece of scrap metal, and it fell across the dragon's nose with a thud. The dragon pulled its head back with a look of pained surprise that might have been comical under other circumstances. It howled.

Luke tried to run around, but the dragon was too quick. With another roar, it launched itself into his path, protecting its young from this intruder. Luke struck its face again. The surprise didn't last as long this time. It just backed up, then swung its head. It caught Luke in the ribcage, and threw him into the pile of rocks by its lair.

At that moment, Luke thought it might be possible to crawl back into the cave. The adult was too big to get through the clogged aperture. But his mind was clearer than he ever remembered it being, and he could see himself - almost as if it had already happened - becoming trapped inside the cave, the sun setting as the dragon kept his place outside. With Luke trapped, it would go after Camie.

The cave wasn't an option. He had to go forward. He had to go through the dragon.

Another roar, and Luke was drowned in the carrion breath for a moment, losing all clarity of thought. He scrambled backward.

The teeth snapped again. Luke swung his makeshift club, drawing blood as a sharp edge dragged across the dragon's skin.

He felt a wave of pain and anger coming from the animal, and he felt awful. It was a poor, stupid beast, just doing what it was born to do. It was protecting its young.

But it's going to kill me to do it.

He gripped the metal club tighter, and prepared to fight.

***

Obi-Wan was reaching instinctively for his lightsaber before he remembered that he no longer carried it. It made his life easier that people didn't wonder why crazy old Ben carried a Jedi's weapon. Rumors had a way of wandering up the food chain.

Below him, he could see Luke Skywalker on a patch of bloody ground outside the krayt dragon bore. The male of the family-group - Obi-Wan had seen him many times - was threatening young Luke, pinning him against the wall. The corpse of the female was spread out in the canyon. Obi-Wan mentally measured the distance to the male. Too far to go unnoticed by the creature's keen sense of smell. He could see a girl in the remains of a broken speeder, using the communications equipment, but he didn't think she'd be able to get to him either.

Luke was wielding a piece of broken tailpipe as a weapon, swinging it surely and cleanly, much as Anakin had used his lightsaber... no dancing or extra motion, just simple, direct blows. Was Luke even aware of what he was doing?

Obi-Wan didn't think so. The boy was acting on pure instinct, and fighting as well as a padawan with several years of training.

He reached out, touching the Force as it surrounded the boy, and was startled to find not confidence, but anguish. Young Luke did not want to be having this fight, did not want to do what he needed to do to save himself. His mind was elsewhere, on...

Obi-Wan spotted the nest of youngling dragons not far from the speeder. They would be orphaned by this. Luke felt compassion for their plight. And it would get him killed if he didn't learn focus.

The dragon lunged again, pushing Luke against the rocks. Obi-Wan very clearly heard Luke yell, "Stop it! Please!"

(stop it just stop coming please don't make me do this...)

Obi-Wan shut Anakin's voice out of his own mind. If Luke was going to learn focus, he would need a better example.

The dragon didn't stop, and Luke - the guilt and pain of it coming off of him in a powerful wave - lunged forward, and drove the pipe into the dragon's eye. It was a killing blow, and the dragon staggered backward. It fell with a thunderous crash, blocking the canyon between Luke and the girl.

Luke sat down on the rocks outside the bore, and stared at the weapon. He tossed it away and covered his face with his hands. Obi-Wan thought he might be crying. It was time to go down.

He made his way down the canyon wall, along a rough series of stones. He could hear the girl's voice calling to Luke, but Luke wasn't answering her. "He's all right!" Obi-Wan called. "I've got him. Have you got transportation?"

There was a hesitancy, but she answered, "Yes. They're coming for us. Soon."

Of course. Crazy old Ben was a desert scavenger, possibly a wizard, certainly unsavory company. She'd want to make sure that he knew both she and Luke were known to be here.

"B-Ben?"

Luke's voice came from closer than Obi-Wan had expected. The boy had stood up, and climbed the rockpile, coming higher up the slope. His face was tear-streaked.

"Hello, young Luke."

"I didn't mean to..."

"Of course you didn't. But your life was threatened. You couldn't have made it understand."

Luke nodded, looking at his feet. "You live out here, right?"

Obi-Wan sensed that the boy was going somewhere with this. It wasn't just a slight tremor in the Force. It was the way he kept looking up through the tangle of blonde hair that fell over his eyes, then glancing down again. Anakin had always looked like that when he planned to ask for something. A moment of triumph went through Kenobi's soul. The memory of Anakin had come purely and cleanly, with no -

The flame-defined face came back into his mind, laughing, wiping out the memory of the hopeful padawan.

Obi-Wan put a hand on Luke's shoulder to steady himself as much as anything. "Yes," he said. "I live out here."

"There are babies," he said, looking over the male's carcass.

"Yes. I saw them."

"Camie and I saved them from the cave. They're not big enough to hunt yet. They're still blind."

Obi-Wan sighed and sat down, motioning for Luke to sit beside him. "Luke," he said, "the krayt dragons are wild animals. Their lives are short and - "

"It's my fault! I was going too fast, and I'm not supposed to be here, and I made the rockslide, and I killed both their parents - "

Forget Anakin, Obi-Wan thought. Now, he sounds like Amidala did near the end. If I had... if we had... if only. He put up one hand. "Luke, what has happened has happened. It is neither the first nor the last time."

"Look after them. Please."

It shouldn't have come as a surprise, and Obi-Wan supposed that it hadn't not on the deep levels of his soul. "Luke, they - "

"Please."

Why did the boy believe he would do this? Why...?

Because he'd done it before. Because Luke remembered, on some level, being carried to safety.

No. Luke remembered nothing. Obi-Wan had searched his mind, and found no memory of Amidala at all. It had been a relief. There was no memory of the girl Leia, either (from the few times he'd spoken to Bail Organa over the years, he judged that Leia had no memories of Luke, either). No questions, not now when he was too young to handle the answers.

He shook his head and sighed. "I'll get them to shelter..."

"Don't let them die." Luke's voice was intense and deep, and his eyes seemed to darken... or maybe that was just a trick of the light. "Please. Promise."

Obi-Wan heard the terrible cry that had come from Amidala when he'd taken Luke from her, saw the moment she'd stolen him back and run away, saw her leaning over him and whispering. He saw all of this in Luke's face now. And he knew that there was only one way to move Luke from this place. "I promise," he said. "I'll take care of them."

Luke looked at him narrowly, Anakin coming back into his face. "Really?"

"Yes, really. Now, I believe your friend is waiting for you." He stood, and helped Luke onto a series of rocks that would take him around the dragon's corpse without needing to step on the flesh too often. Obi-Wan followed, and they found Luke's friend in the shade near the younglings. The younglings were sleeping peacefully. All three humans took great care not to wake them up.

The children's transport arrived twenty minutes later, driven by a teenager. The girl went to it without saying goodbye. Luke looked at Obi-Wan solemnly. "You promised," he said.

"Yes. I did."

Luke nodded, and headed over to the speeder. He called back over his shoulder, "Thanks, Ben!"

"You're welcome, young Luke!"

Obi-Wan shook his head ruefully at the younglings, and sent a gentle pulse of energy through the Force to wake them and send them a sense of safety. "Come, my little friends," he said. "It seems old Obi-Wan has gotten himself stuck in another promise."

The babies followed him across the desert. They stayed with him for the better part of two years.

***

Uncle Owen was mad about the wrecked speeder, but not as much as Luke had figured. At first, he said Luke wouldn't be driving any more, but by the time dinner was over, he was already planning to get a new speeder from the jawas the next time the traders had one. Luke was grounded and had extra chores, but the gruffness seemed to wear off fast.

It was sunset, and he sat out on the low wall near the shed, looking out across the Jundland Wastes and watching the suns sink. He was thinking about the baby dragons.

He felt Aunt Beru sit down beside him, and smiled at her absently. He loved both his guardians, but his aunt was definitely the one he liked better. "Will Ben keep his promise?" he asked.

"Oh, I think you can count on that."

He wanted to say something to her. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her something, but he couldn't find the idea of what it was. There were times he felt like Aunt Beru wanted to tell him something, like all it would take was the asking... but he couldn't seem to find the right question. He settled for leaning against her, and letting her put a comforting arm around him. "I was thinking about that dragon..."

"What about it?"

"Do you think my father would have died to protect me, if he had to?"

Aunt Beru put her other arm around him and hugged him tight, kissing his head hard. "I know he would, Luke. You can always believe that."

He didn't say anything else, and after awhile, his aunt went back inside. Luke heard her words in his mind, doubling over with that other whisper.

(trust in your heart, my precious son... believe...)

He fell asleep in the sand, and didn't wake up when his uncle came out and carried him safe.

THE END

FernWithy

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