June 27, 2000
Category: Star Wars, G
Author: BeElleGee

[Disclaimer]

Fanfare for the Invincible Poor

Summary: Lessons in misunderstandings, hope, disappointment, and the limitless aspirations of a child.

Disclaimer: Owen and Beru Lars, Obi Wan and Anakin are all George's creatures. There is no one original in this bit of fic.


Owen Lars peered out his side window. His weathered face flushed with irritation. "Peddlers," he muttered. "Or beggers. I don't know which is worse."

"Did you say something?" his wife, Beru asked as she swept into the room with an armful of laundry to be put away.

"No, nothing," Owen grumbled, still looking out the window at the approaching figures in dusty brown robes. One of them was apparently a child or one of those small, non-human species from the outer rim systems. The larger figure was human. Owen saw hands guiding the smaller figure up the path to his door.

Beru joined her husband at the window. She clucked her tongue in sympathy. "Poor things. Probably hungry." She set her laundry down on the nearest table and glided towards the kitchen. "I'll see what I can find to give them."

"Beru!" Owen protested. "Don't feed them! It only encourages more to come around once word gets out and we hardly have enough for ourselves with this damnable drought."

Beru sighed. "But Owen." She turned and faced him. "We can't just send them away. At least let me find them something to drink. Who knows how far they've been traveling."

"Can't have traveled too far," Owen murmured, heading for the door. "They don't have any bags with them." He opened the door, blocking the entrance, and braced himself for the inevitable hard luck story that preceded all begging these days.

Beru stood beside him and crossed her arms over her chest. "Probably because the poor creatures don't have anything," she whispered to Owen.

The two cloaked and hooded figures slowed and stopped in front of Owen. To his surprise, they bowed formally.

"What ever you're selling, we don't want any and if it's food you've come to beg for, we don't have any to spare," Owen started in. "The drought's been hard on us all so if you'll just kindly move along...."

The two hooded figures exchanged unseen glances with each other. Owen started to close the door on them when the larger of the two reached up and lowered his hood. Owen gasped slightly, staring into a pair of all-too-familiar blue eyes. Beru clapped her hands together in delight.

"We haven't anything of value to sell and would rather go hungry than to deprive anyone of their hard earned meal," the blue eyes twinkled in amusement. "Besides, is that any way to greet your brother Obi Wan after all these years?"

Owen seemed too stricken to move. Beru pushed him aside and flung her arms around her brother-in-law in a welcoming embrace. "Obi Wan! I can't believe it! Come in, come in!"

"My apprentice, Anakin Skywalker," Obi Wan introduced, turning to gesture at the small robed figure beside him.

Anakin uncovered his head with a sweep of his hand and bowed again. "Please to meet you," he said with a cherubic smile.

Obi Wan addressed him. "Anakin, this is my brother, Owen. This is his wife Beru."

"We're very happy to meet you, Anakin," Beru smiled. "So, you are Obi Wan's Jedi Padawan? Do you like being a Jedi?" Anakin nodded whole-heartedly. Beru suddenly looked up at Obi Wan as realization struck her. "You've passed the trials then," she guessed. "You must be a full-fledged Knight if you have your own Padawan, am I right?"

Obi Wan raised his eyes to her and nodded slowly. "Yes. Very recently in fact."

Beru looked over at Owen, clearly expecting him to say something. Owen just stared. Beru fought to keep her smile from slipping and directed her attention to Anakin again.

"Are you hungry? I put on a pot of stew for lunch. Shall we go see if it's ready yet?"

Anakin was hungry. He could also sense the underlying current of tension between the two brothers better than Beru had. He nodded readily and went with her into the kitchen just to give Obi Wan a chance to be alone with Owen.

Owen turned away from Obi Wan and closed the door to his home. Then he watched Beru and Anakin, following them with his eyes until he was sure they were out of earshot. He began shaking his head and slowly faced Obi Wan.

"After all these years, Little Brother, unless you've come to conjure up some rain with those magical powers of yours, I'm not really interested in anything you have to say," Owen began in a low menacing tone.

Obi Wan sighed heavily. "I came to visit you and Beru. You are my family."

"Family? You'd never know it," Owen growled. "Years, Little Brother. Years, and not a word from you. What makes you think I'm interested in hearing from you now? And don't tell me you are here for a visit. What are you really doing here?"

"Anakin and I were sent here, by the chancellor to help with the relief distribution. The Determined Disaster Committee of the Republic has sent aid by doubling imported grains and medical supplies to these regions until the farmers can get back on their feet again. The drought here has been devastating to the economy for all the neighboring systems as well," the Jedi explained stiffly.

Owen laughed humorlessly. "I knew you didn't come for a 'visit.'"

Obi Wan steeled himself against his brother's hostility. "True. I did not come here just to see you...and Beru. I am here in an official capacity, but how could I not visit you, knowing you are here, just twelve kilometers from where Anakin and I are presently stationed? Of course I would come to see you."

Owen leered at his brother. "What do you want from me, 'Obi Wan'?" He made a point of saying his brother's name with extra contempt. "If you think I should be charmed and thrilled because my Jedi brother finally decided to grace me with his presence, you can forget it."

Obi Wan bowed his head, struggling with unfamiliar emotions that surfaced in him due to his brother's verbal assault. "If I am truly not welcome here, then I will collect my Padawan and we shall return to the distribution center."

There was only the slightest trace of sadness in the young Jedi's expression. Something in Obi Wan's eyes and the thoroughly resigned and submissive tone of his melodic voice chipped away a piece of Owen's wall of anger. Owen sighed heavily and shook his head.

"Beru will never forgive me if you leave like that. Come in. Make yourself comfortable. I'll see how that stew's coming and we'll set a couple of extra places for lunch."

Obi Wan nodded but Owen had already turned away from him, heading for the kitchen. The Jedi took a steadying breath and glanced around. The small house was quaint and clean and cozy. Obi Wan thought fleetingly how he could live quite comfortably in a house like this. He slipped out of his cloak and sat down on the room's davenport, sinking blissfully into over-stuffed cushions. He closed his eyes and drew the quiet peacefulness of the Force to him.

Anakin came bounding into the room and flung himself on the sofa beside his master with the energy and exuberance exclusive to children.

"A real home cooked meal! I can't remember the last time I tasted something so good!" he gushed. "It's almost ready. Please say we're staying for lunch. Please."

Obi Wan smiled slightly. "We can stay for lunch," he told Anakin, now that Owen had actually invited them to stay. "But we should probably leave after we eat." He spared a wary glance towards the kitchen. "I don't want to wear out our welcome."

Anakin looked hard at Obi Wan, sensing his unease behind the warmth of his smile. "Did you and your brother make up?"

Obi Wan sighed. "No, not really. But at least he has agreed to tolerate me for the next hour or so."

Anakin slipped his small hand into his master's and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "I know you feel a little hurt by the way he treats you," he whispered. "But I think I sense some hurt in him too. I think he feels you treat him just as bad."

Obi Wan nodded. "I know he does. He doesn't understand the life of a Jedi. He never has and doesn't really want to."

"I told Mrs. Lars all about being a Jedi. How we go all over the galaxy and help solve problems and fly ships and fight crimminals with the Force. Maybe that will help." His large blue eyes were bright and hopeful.

Obi Wan grinned. "Oh, I'm sure that helped." If Owen could hear his young apprentice's tales, he would no doubt regard Obi Wan's teachings as contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

***

Owen stared at his wife in total disbelief as she continued to relay what Anakin had told her earlier about his life as a Jedi.

"And that's just some of the things that boy has done already," Beru whispered. "Just unbelievable. He seems absolutely fearless and looks at all those dangerous missions as just another adventure. He's one of the Academy's best pilots and can build a ship from scratch. He's nothing short of a hero. Obi Wan must be so proud of him."

"Who can tell," Owen muttered. "I have an automaton for a brother. He never shows the slightest bit of emotion." He frowned and gestured towards the living room. "Besides, Beru, you don't actually believe the stories that boy told you, do you? He's just a kid. Kids make up things."

Beru scowled. "He's a Jedi. He wouldn't make up things." She finished serving the stew and placed the last bowl on the table. "Go tell them it's ready. And for goodness sake, Owen, try to be civil. Jedi or no, he is still your brother."

***

Beru smiled, seating herself across from her brother-in-law and his young apprentice. "I'm sorry there's no fresh greenery. The drought, you understand," she apologized, trying to break the tense silence hovering around the small table.

Obi Wan stirred the stew in his bowl, watching the way the steam rose and curled around his spoon. "Yes," he began, his voice distant. "Hopefully it won't last. Maybe next season will be better."

Owen cleared his throat. "Can you...'see' that it will be better?"

Obi Wan looked up at him. He shook his head slowly. "No, that was merely well wishes on my part. Not any insight."

"Well, can't you use the Force or whatever, and tell us when this drought will end?" Owen pushed.

Obi Wan lowered his eyes. "No. It doesn't work like that. I can't just conjure up images and visions of the future."

Anakin glanced up at Owen and frowned. He didn't like all the negative emotions emanating from him. He looked at Obi Wan.

"Master, why doesn't it rain here? What makes the rain form?" he asked, wanting to change the subject and spare his friend any more humiliation at the hands of his brother.

Obi Wan shrugged. "Different atmospheric components need to be present. The ones that make rain haven't been able to develop here. It's a complicated process when you think about it. It's like a chemical reaction. You need the right ingredients and the right conditions to get results."

Anakin looked hopeful. "Can't we make those conditions? Can't we influence something?"

Owen looked hopeful now too. "You can make it rain?"

Beru looked up from her stew.

Obi Wan sat back with a heavy sigh. He chose not to address his brother, feeling he could answer his Padawan's innocent questions with more civility. He faced Anakin. "No. We can't. If we could, we would have. A long time ago."

Anakin struggled to understand. "But the Force gives us the connection to the ingredients we would need. With the Force we could change things. Cause something to happen that would make things right. I know I couldn't do it, but you probably could. You're strong with the connecting Force."

Obi Wan's eyes flashed a warning. He could feel his temper rising and shook his head deliberately. "Enough, Anakin. I already told you it cannot be done." He took a deep steadying breath. Anakin sighed heavily and focused on his stew.

The tension in the air was becoming stifling. Obi Wan knew he had taken out his frustration on Anakin even though the boy didn't deserve it.

"I'm sorry, Padawan," the older Jedi said and sighed. "I should have been pleased by the unwavering faith you have in me." He offered Anakin an apologetic smile.

Anakin merely nodded in acknowledgment.

Beru reached over and touched Obi Wan's hand. She smiled warmly. "I could tell from talking to Anakin earlier that he believes you are nothing short of omnipotent in his eyes."

"He believes that about all Jedi," Obi Wan replied quietly, facing her. "That we can do anything we want to. That we are immortal. And unfortunately a lot of the Republic's citizens share his distorted image." He sighed and looked at Anakin. "They don't understand how limited our abilities actually are."

Anakin looked up angrily. "That's not what Master Yoda says. You're limited only because you limit yourself." Anakin faced Beru. "He says you either do it or you don't and if you do it and just try then you're not gonna succeed cause there isn't any trying it's all doing." He nodded his head for emphasis.

Beru struggled to make sense of what the young Jedi had just told her and smiled placatingly. "Of course, Dear," she agreed.

Obi Wan bit his lower lip to keep from smiling. "Anakin, I know what you are trying to say, but you have to realize a Jedi is limited. By his own abilities and strengths. By his own beliefs and confidence. A Jedi can only strive to master the Force in the way Master Yoda speaks of. This was his intention. When he told you that, it was to give you something to strive for." He paused and took a deep breath. " Your interpretation of Master Yoda's teaching on that particular matter leaves something to be desired. I promise to explain it more thoroughly another time. For now, I'm sure Beru and Owen would rather not listen to the two of us 'discussing' Master Yoda's Jedi philosophy."

Anakin looked over at his master. "Oh. I understand. I'm sorry," he began earnestly, looking at Beru and Owen in turn.

"No need," Owen grumbled. He faced Obi Wan. "Maybe the boy is right. Maybe you can make it rain. Can't you see how the farmers here are suffering? You were a farmer once. Don't you have any empathy for us?"

Anakin seized this new bit of information. "Really Master? You were a farmer?"

Obi Wan shook his head. "I was almost a farmer. There's a difference."

Anakin faced Owen. "He wasn't a real farmer. Not like you," the boy relayed. "But he doesn't have to be a farmer to... to... sympathize," he concluded confidently.

"Prove it," Owen challenged, turning to face his brother. "Show me and all these 'humble' farmers that the Jedi really do care about them. Make it rain."

Obi Wan nearly choked on his food. He cleared his throat and stared up at his brother with an exasperated expression. "Owen, once and for all. I cannot MAKE it rain."

Owen exhaled loudly. "What in blazes do you Jedi do anyway? You're supposed to help people. You can't see the future. You can't conjure up a few clouds. You can't keep people from dying horrible deaths. Just what are you good for?" He rose from the table and stormed out of the room.

Anakin felt the sudden twisting of pain in Obi Wan's subconscious. He knew right away that Owen word's had brought the memory of Qui Gon's death to mind. He looked up at his master sympathetically. Obi Wan's face was passive and didn't betray the storm of emotions Anakin sensed simmering just beneath the surface. Anakin suddenly sprang up and darted out of the room.

Obi Wan turned to Beru slowly.

Before he could speak, Beru clasped his hand tightly and shook her head. "I'm sorry Obi Wan. Try to understand. It's not you. It's this drought. These past two seasons have been so hard for him. Our savings is down to nothing. It has to rain soon. It just has to."

Obi Wan struggled to smile. "It's all right. He has a right to be angry. At me. At the weather. At circumstances..." He sighed heavily and stood up. "Thank you for your hospitality. It was wonderful seeing you again. Anakin and I will be going now."

Beru stood up and frowned. "Obi Wan don't leave like this. Give Owen a chance to calm down. He loves you. He really does. And he is very proud of you."

The Jedi leaned over and kissed her cheek. "You're so beautiful. Take care of him and tell him I said good bye."

***

Anakin spied Owen Lars standing under the eaves just outside the back door.

"You shouldn't have said that to him!" Anakin scolded. "I know you say things just to hurt him and that's wrong. He tried to save Qui Gon. He really did. He couldn't run any faster. The energy walls were going on and off and he could have run into one of them if he wasn't careful. You don't know. You weren't there. Don't say he's no good. He killed that Sith and he could have saved Qui Gon if he could have gotten past the walls."

Owen stared down at the young Jedi in shock.

Anakin's eyes were watering with overwhelming emotion and he dashed his arm across his face in frustration.

Owen swallowed uncomfortably. "His master was killed? When was this?"

Anakin didn't answer him. Instead he fixed his eyes on the older man's, glowering his intense dislike for him.

"I... I wasn't referring to Qui Gon when I said that," Owen continued awkwardly. "I didn't even know." He looked longingly towards the now empty kitchen. "He never tells me anything. He always keeps everything to himself."

Anakin sniffed loudly. "You're mean," he announced. "And even if you are Obi Wan's brother, I don't like you. I don't have to." With that he turned and raced back into the house almost crashing into Obi Wan in the process.

"Anakin?" Obi Wan called after him, but the boy kept running. Obi Wan sensed the thick darkness surrounding his Padawan. He whirled around to face Owen, anger flashing in his eyes. "What did you say to him?" he demanded. He seized his brother's lapels and shoved him hard against the house.

"Nothing!" Owen sputtered, shocked. He couldn't remember the last time he saw Obi Wan display this degree of emotion. It stirred his heart. His little brother was still human after all. "He's just mad at me...for being 'mean' to you."

Obi Wan closed his eyes and swore softly to himself. "Anakin can get very passionate at times about things he believes in. I apologize for his behavior. You weren't being mean. You were just being honest. You just don't understand the ways of the Jedi. You never have." He released Owen and stepped back. "Forgive me as well. I feel very protective towards Anakin. I didn't mean to lash out at you like that." He dragged a hand through his hair anxiously, pushing it away from his glittering eyes. "Despite what my Padawan may have told you, I'm not an omnipotent Jedi. There is no such thing." He laughed suddenly, forcibly. "Make it rain? As you can see I can't even control my apprentice, let alone atmospheric elements." He looked up at Owen and shook his head.

Owen stepped closer to Obi Wan. "I didn't know about Qui Gon. I'm sorry to hear. He was a good man. I know you were very close to him."

"I know you weren't referring to Qui Gon," Obi Wan said softly. He straightened and cleared his throat in an effort to subdue his emotions once and for all. He placed a reassuring hand on Owen's shoulder. "Anakin and I have to get back to the distribution center."

Owen nodded. "It'll be dark soon. Do you want me to take you into town?"

Obi Wan shook his head. "No thank you. The walk will do us both good."

***

Obi Wan turned and looked at Anakin who was lagging slightly behind him.

"Do you want to rest a little?" he asked quietly.

Anakin nodded and slid down to the ground against a tree trunk. Obi Wan joined him with a heavy sigh.

They sat almost back to back, staring up through the canopy of trees at the crystal clear stars dotting the night sky.

"Not a cloud in sight," Anakin said despondantly. He pulled his cloak tighter around him. "But it feels colder."

Obi Wan nodded. "Yes, it does. Strange, when it was so warm this afternoon." He could feel the wind on his face and through his hair. "Maybe a cold front is passing through."

Anakin suddenly felt the slightest spark of hope in his master. He shifted around to face him. "Master? What is it?"

Obi Wan stared hard at the sky. "Unstable air. A front passing through. Ingredients, Anakin. Ingredients."

Anakin was becoming excited. "What else do we need? What else makes rain?"

"Ice crystals, water vapor," Obi Wan said, his voice distant and trancelike.

"Where do these come from?"

"Clouds. Clouds full of evaporated moisture. Ice falling, melting...raining." Obi Wan knitted his brow in deep thought. "Do you remember, on Tatooine, how the moisture farmers would pull the moisture out of the sky? Do you know how they did it? The kind of equipment they used?"

"Sure," Anakin said nonchalantly. He turned and focused on the darkening sky.

"Ingredients," Obi Wan muttered more to himself than Anakin. "We are just missing a few key ingredients. If they can pull moisture out of a desert sky, surely we can put moisture back in. 'Seed' the clouds that we make. Cause it to rain. To pour. Then we could help these people the way they need to be helped. Not with government handouts. Not with waivers on their loans. We need to make it rain, Anakin. We can make it rain."

Anakin smiled. "I can build the machines if they get me the parts. They're very simple actually." His mind was off and running. "I'll need binary vaporators. Tanks. We'll reverse the process. Like osmosis. Humidify the air to make clouds. The humidity will rise and freeze. On the right night, just like tonight, I bet it will storm if we do that."

Obi Wan smiled. He reached over and ruffled the boy's spikey hair. "This will work if we can convince the government to comply. I know it can work. We just have to convince them."

Anakin's face fell. "Convince the government? But this will take time and money. Lots of money. And then what if it up and rains all by itself after we spent all this time and money on this equipment?" He stood up and brushed himself off. "They'll never go for it."

Obi Wan sighed heavily. He rose and pulled up the hood to his cloak. "We'll do what we can."

Anakin shook his head. "It was a good idea, Master. But they're not going to let us build anything." Obi Wan knew Anakin was right. A project of this size would take too much time, effort, and money. The government would never agree to such a proposal.

"I'm afraid you are right, Padawan. After all, we are merely Jedi." Obi Wan started walking slowly up the deserted road.

Anakin followed, still shaking his head in disappointment. " I guess I just figured out what you meant when you said that Jedi are not omnipotent."

Obi Wan placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. "There is no such thing as an omnipotent Jedi. There never has been. There never will be."

Sighing, Anakin looked up at his master and smiled easily. "Well, maybe that's something else I'll strive for."

Walking just behind Anakin, Obi Wan shivered slightly. He attributed it to the cold.

BeElleGee

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© 2000 Dragon's Library & Ulrike Großmann