People have been amazingly patient with me on this one. *blushes*
Thanks, as always, go to my beta, the adorable Leia_N, and to my Leigh-darling, who keeps me in line and only lets me raid the liquor cabinet for medicinal purposes. ^_~ Also, thanks go to Amber, for just being spiffy, and Miyeko, just because.
That said, I'll shut up and let you read the post.
Back chapters can be found here.
The Widow Skywalker 4a/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Padme sat on her knees, staring into the small hearth fire; into the center of the flames, where blue became white and white became all colors, as well as the absence of. Luke's gaze was on her, not heavy, but a gentle, furtive thing, calling awareness like a breeze. 'My son!' she thought, turning the words over in her mind, feeling them clamor against her vocal chords. Just minutes ago he had stood in her doorway, the past made flesh; he had embraced her and asked for her name. Tears were still streaming down her face, slow and heated-- she did not bother to wipe them away, or pay them any heed at all. Such a shyness in his eyes, as he'd helped her gather the fallen harvest and, as he'd turned to find the scattered fruits, the sun had throw shadows that seemed to make time immaterial. There was a laughter in her-- sobs, as well, and she was afraid to release either. On Naboo, mothers gave their infants nursing names like 'little bird' or 'grass cat', lest the jealous, self-devouring goddess be tempted to snatch the child back.
Biting her lip, Padme met those blue eyes. Their color was so like Anakin's and yet, there was an air of age in Luke's depths that his father had seemed to shun. She wondered at those slim, young shoulders, at the careful poise in his demeanor. In another moment, he smiled, and there was a pain in her heart. Anakin's face had always been transformed by his endearing grin, but he had remarked the same thing of her. With his hand gently tracing the line of her jaw, he'd brushed her hair back against her veil and said that he far preferred her smile to the solemn bride; someone girlish, someone just as nervous as he. She reached out, gently touching Luke's hand, before she turned back to her cooking. The act was as much for her comfort as it was for his; there were so many shadows-- she could see in his eyes that he knew it too!-- that it was sometimes hard to believe that they had not simply, at last, taken on flesh and form. As she reached for the bowl of oshiibara, he handed it too her helpfully, with just a little color in his cheeks. Artoo rocked a little nearby, beeping softly, fire turning the silver reflection of his dome to copper.
"You are good luck," she said to the little droid.
"He saved my life," Luke offered, adding sheepishly, "more than once." He looked down at his gloved hand briefly, rubbing the fingers together, features obscured by the mist of his thoughts. Padme studied him openly, before moving a little closer to him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," she said, feeling as if those words were cracking, breaking under the weight of all they were trying to hold. "Oh, Luke." His eyes were unguarded when he raised them to hers. He was so much more than simply Anakin's son, so much more than a young man.
"I was afraid to even think about having a mother, when I was a little boy," he said quietly. Gently, she touched the burnt-sand locks at the base of his neck, to ease the passage of the words. "I just... from the way Uncle Owen reacted when I asked about my father, I guess I was just afraid. If I said nothing... if I asked nothing, you could be everywhere. You could be out there, looking for me."
"I had to make myself not think of you." The blur of her tears made the world a melting landscape, but she felt that she could still see him. "No one could know you were mine. And when you were gone..." Helplessly, she moved her hands, as if to try and sort out the pieces. Taking a breath, she took one of the lopsided bulbs of oshiibara into her hands. The peeling was instinctual and comforting; the layers of her heart were not so easily pierced. It was as if her internal landscape had been utterly changed by some cataclysm; in the wasteland, there were no landmarks, and even half-familiar lines seemed unbearably changed. "I couldn't look for you. Keeping you and Leia safe was the most important thing."
Carefully, Luke took one of the meaty bulbs into his own hands, mimicking her as she peeled. Even that small thing brought tiny needles to congregate in her throat; the image of a small boy, in another woman's kitchen, standing on his tiptoes for a taste. His eyes flashed with a strange sympathy, "There are so many questions. I used to be so angry, because I wasn't allowed to ask questions. Now I find that ever answer I get only leads to ten more."
"Obiwan took you to Tatooine," Padme said, as if committing the words to some inner monologue, some long oral tradition that apprentices learned, painstakingly, around the fire. At the small start the rippled through his body, she said simply, "He thought it would be best if I didn't know where you were at all. That way, I could never be made to betray you--"
"You never betrayed Leia," Luke said with a sudden intensity. He looked out, through the clay threshold and into the violet Koe night, as if expecting someone. "I was so in awe of Ben..." he shook his head, "of Obiwan, when I first met him. He offered everything I'd always longed for. Answers, purpose, a chance to get off that dustball." His smile, while not bitter, but lacked nostalgia. It was, instead, full of a strange, half-born resentment towards a young boy who didn't not know how rich he was. "He lied to me-- and he never even admitted it! He just said that it was the truth, from--"
"From a certain point of view," Padme finished, turning away to fetch some water. "It's convenient, isn't it?" She dipped the ladle into deep jar, quick to disturb any smoothing of the surface. Luke watched her; a creature of brilliance that moved easily in the shadows, as if they heeded some command that they could not touch her. "I can't judge him, as much as I might be tempted to. We none of us have much to be proud of, from back then." Returning with the bowl, she dumped the peeled bulbs into the water, watching as they began to simmer. Silence stretched between them, full of different threads, of a knowledge that things could as easily come undone as they could be woven together.
Gracefully, Padme sat back, drawing her knees close, continuing the soft, tentative story. "He took you to Tatooine, and left you with Owen and Beru Lars."
Luke nodded slowly, "You knew them." Not a question.
"Not too well," Padme admitted. "Owen is..." she searched his face, and at last cupped his cheek. "_Was_," she corrected, compassion in each changing shade of her eyes, "your father's stepbrother. I knew Beru when they were just engaged. She was a kind woman. A good woman." Luke looked away, but she gently directed his gaze back to her own eyes. Even after Anakin had turned, Padme had recognized the valleys and canyons behind his eyes. Her son's gaze held unknown territory, full of strange and heavy roads. She felt overwhelmed; she would never know all the things that had happened between her bright, hope-filled child and this strong, sorrowful young man. "Luke," she said earnestly, "you were the son Beru could not have. You were what she wanted, so desperately. I know this, I can assure you of this. She loved you."
"It's my fault," he said in a broken whisper, "if I'd been there... Ben-- Obiwan, said I only would have been killed with them, but somehow, I've always felt..." He leaned into her touch, "It was all so pointless. They didn't even know they had something they weren't supposed to." He nodded vaguely towards Artoo. Now they sat, shoulder to shoulder, in the dimly lit room. The few, iridescent night-birds of Koe flickering out against the deepening sky, throwing brief shapes through the window.
"If anyone should have been given charge of you, it was Beru." The pot over the fire hissed, and she moved forward, briefly, to stir the contents. "Obiwan got that right, at least."
"I did ask her about you, once. She just said that the spirits are eager to take the kind and gentle into their ranks. Owen-- didn't say anything." He paused, perhaps meaning to spare her, but she knew the rest of the old saying. 'The devils in the deeps like the meat on their bones to be old and spoiling. They bide their time.'
"Your uncle had good reason to be so dour," she sighed softly, "he was trying to protect you, in his own way. He and Anakin were... well, to say they were dissimilar would be a vast understatement." Luke laughed, just a huff, and very soft.
At last, the pot began to boil precariously, and Padme draped two old rags over her hands, removing it from the hearth. She had to hunt around a little for an extra dish, and she ladled out a portion for each of them. Luke ate hungrily, a little embarrassed, but earnestly complimenting the taste.
"Oshiibara is a very useful crop," Padme said, laughing softly when Artoo began to clean up, moving his small claw carefully in the limited space. "You can eat it raw or cook it at least twenty different ways. It's slow to rot, the taste doesn't get old, and it's easy to grow."
"Have you been here all this time?" Luke asked, looking down. She sensed a carefulness in his expression, and realized he did not want her to think he was demanding an explanation.
"For eight years," she murmured, after a moments thought. "Before that, there was the prison, and..." Even after all this time, it was difficult for her to think of it in passing-- there were pains and images and tears so deeply imbedded in the very word that it seemed to roll over her, like a strong storm wave. "Well," she managed with dignity, "the last time I saw Leia was when she was five." Leaning forward a little, she asked, "How did you know, Luke? How did you find each other?"
"By accident," Luke made a motion with his real hand, "just like this. Obiwan must have known, but he never said anything... she was a girl I met. A princess I rescued--" he grinned, "er, she sort of rescued herself, though. And then, after a while, she was the best friend I ever had." His look was fond, focused on something in the past. "Somehow, I always knew."
"You were so close, even as infants," Padme took his empty plate, setting it aside to be washed. "I always had to pick both of you up. Always poking each other, just as apt to put the others hand in your mouth as you were your own." Her eyes darkened, lashes obscuring them, "She screamed so, when you were gone. She knew what had been taken from her." There was a wonder on Luke's face, and Padme imagined that it was a reflection of that very first time he'd thought, 'I have a sister.' He looked at her, and Padme has to force herself to meet steady consideration; she did not feel worthy of such gratitude or amazement.
"You're really here," he said finally.
She swallowed hard, "Yes." Taking him into her arms, she pressed her nose into his fine hair. He tightened his arms around her, and she felt rather than heard his sob, careful sobs. "My son," she murmured, rocking him gently, "oh, Force, what have I done, to be granted such a boon?"
Late in the moonless Koe night, Luke lay on his bedroll, gazing past the fire towards the silhouette of his mother, sleeping in the curved basin that served as her bed. Even in the dim light, he could see the rise and fall of her chest under the faded quilts, could see the way Artoo flickered his faint blue light over each of them in turn, as if trying to keep watch. They had spoken long hours, pausing to bank the fire, or to stir in their own silences, waiting for words to come. Finally, they had conceded to the far-off chime of Clockwork City's lone tower. He could still feel the soft press of her lips on his cheek-- could imagine their fellows from his babyhood lingering there, unseen. Sleep clamored over him, loosening his limbs, but he fought it, drawing on the force. After Bespin, he'd fought the land of dreams with a manic determination; each night was full of shapes he did not want to see, words he could not deny. Sometimes, he felt his own internal wanderings touch upon Vader's. Upon father's.
(Confusing images, lines of blood, all wrong. A man's voice, shouting the name his father had once borne, crying 'No!'. Triple moons, wavering, sinking in a sea of red sand. The sound of a lightsaber, slicing through cloth and flesh. Or else darkening shades shades, terrible blues, covering the once-bright fields of a verdant land. A woman crying, reaching out a window... Fire and death and bones made of coal. Oh, if she even lived now, she would spurn you, you are a monster, you shall never join her so live as long as you can...)
Propping his chin in his hand, Luke traced the form of his mother with his eyes, feeling true fear for the first time since the Emperor's bones had finally dissolved and burnt with energy. He understood, for the first time, the fierce protectiveness that flared in Leia's eyes when they spoke of mother. Why, when the subject turned to Father, she always seemed to be standing between the specter of Vader and someone else. He didn't have all the answers-- he and Mother had traded small snippets, but refrained from approaching larger subjects, in unspoken deference to Leia's absence. He could feel the lack keenly-- wishing she was as near to him as she was on Coruscant, so he could knock gently on her door and whisper that maybe, a little, he understood.
(She was kind, beautiful... but somehow sad.)
There was a child's resentment, irrational and impotent, towards that which had caused her sadness.
Each answer birthed questions, tens upon tens, until the world was filled with tangled constructions, as alien to the mind as a spider's web.
Luke slept-- awakening only once, just as the sky began blushing back to deep red. For a moment, he lay staring at the ceiling, wondering what had disturbed his senses. The Force rippled strangely, and Mother stirred in her sleep, loosing a small sound of distress.
He rolled over just in time to see one of the quilts move, as if on its own, to cover her shivering form.
I'm a feedback whore-- I admit it. Just don't tell my mum, she'd be so disappointed in me. ^_~
Come on, hit me with the good stuff. Please?