A/N: Fault goes to RebelMom, for suggesting Luke/Akanah. I don't have the Black Fleet Crisis books anymore, so most of this is from memory.
We move frequently from
planet to planet, barely seeming to alight before picking up again and going
elsewhere in search of safety. The war with the Yuuzhan Vong has thrown the
galaxy into chaos, and where once we could stay somewhere for a few years, now
that halt lasted only months, if not weeks. This place, though, is a good place
for the Fallanassi. The world is out of both the New Republic and Imperial
territories, and strategically, there is little here for the Yuuzhan Vong,
It's not a flourishing world, but it is alive, and the Force glows with it, untouched by any other sentient life. We will leave no mark of our passing when we leave, maintaining that purity here.
It is comforting, this place, not only for that reason, but because it is untouched by the Vong.
How much we thought we understood, and how little we truly knew.
It is said the Jedi cannot sense them in the Force. Neither can the Fallanassi. For the first time in my life, in my memory, I saw something other than serenity in the Elders' eyes. Our talents, our tricks that we had used for decades, would not be effective against the Vong. And so we run, knowing that if we are caught, we will die. Somehow now that was more significance, because our enemy refuses the touch of the Force. We will pass on and be within the Current, but will they? The Force cannot whisper to them of right and wrong. And neither will they pass into it when they die, making it more imperative than ever that we remain as we are, unwilling to do battle. Perhaps one day they will know the Force. I don't know. I hope so.
I had once spoken to Luke Skywalker very arrogantly, saying that the Jedi knew little, and were fools if they thought they understood the true nature of the Force.
Now . . . I wonder if feeling like a child is the first step to wisdom.
Luke had opened his eyes to another path, even if he did not agree to it. Of late, the Fallanassi have been forced to do the same.
What happens, I wonder, if the Vong succeed? Will the presence of every living being be choked off from the Current?
They have undermined everything we believed about fate. We cling to our ignorance; all will be well in the Current one day, even if we cannot see how.
I sigh and open my eyes, looking around the tiny village we are building. My home. My people. The thought still fills with my joy – how I arrived here, to my home at last, was not the best of ways, but I am here nevertheless. They are unpacking boxes, working in quiet harmony, the Current flowing through us all.
I get up, not wishing to leave my family alone to their work, but wanting to be alone to think, for just a little while. They understand that. As I walk out of the village, they do not bother me or ask questions about where I am going. If there is an emergency, I will feel it and return.
There are no true forests on this planet – the life of it is not thick enough for that. But as I walk, the trees slowly block my view of the tiny village. Soon it is nearly invisible; to anyone else passing by, it would be. Our talents would be ineffective against the Vong, but against the Empire or Republic that might seek us, they would not be.
The plants along my path are scraggly and tough, fighting for survival in the hard ground. I sigh, opening myself to the Current.
I am completely startled when I hear the noise of someone nearby.
It is not one of the Fallanassi.
I am outside the village, where the elders constantly weave invisibility around us. Looking around and seeing nothing, I weave the Current around me, trying to disappear in the way that I have been taught.
I whirl, frightened.
Luke Skywalker is standing there. I am uncertain of where he came from, and how he can see me – how he can see past the trickery – I don't know, but he is looking directly at me. In his arms he carries something, a bundle. He looks aged, older than when I knew him. Gray has appeared at his temples, and there are more lines on his face. A lightsaber is hooked to his belt, making me feel uneasy.
"I'm not here to hurt you," Luke says calmly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you, but I wanted to talk to you alone."
"What you have to say to me, you can say to the Elders," I reply, lifting my chin.
"I don't think they would listen," Luke says dryly.
"We will not join the war," I say bluntly.
He nods. "I know that. That is not why I'm here." He steps closer to me, and I stand my ground, despite the weapon he so nonchalantly carries. "Look," he requests softly, and brushes aside the covering of the bundle.
It is a child. I step closer, surprised. Young, less than a year old – a boy. He has blue eyes, and soft golden-red hair. "He is yours," I say with finality, knowing it to be true.
Luke nods. "Yes, he is," he says very softly, tenderness in his eyes as he glances down. He takes a deep breath. "I want you to take him."
"What?" I say, startled, meeting his gaze.
"I called you here, with the Force," Luke says urgently, the directness of his words somehow tense and emotional. "Away from the village, so I could talk to you. The war worsens, Akanah," he says.
"You called me?" I ask, astonished. To weave his way past my defenses, to call me without me being aware – surely he did not have that power, that skill. And to use it so . . . And yet. I look at the child. His son. I can understand why he called me, even if I do not understand how.
Luke briefly closes his eyes. I wonder what has changed him so, what has made him so desperate to do this, to come here. And how did he know where we are? For all of his vaunted Jedi skill, almost ten years ago he could not pierce the simplest of our illusions until I began to teach him. The Current flows around him and through him so strongly now, I sense, but more quietly. I realize he has dampened his sense in the Force, stilled the waters so my people cannot feel his presence.
He has learned much since our last meeting. As I have. "Why?" I ask.
He looks at me earnestly, his intent pure and clear, no shadows in his eyes. "Because I want my son to be safe, and he can't be safe with me."
"You wish us to raise your child?"
"You," he gently corrects. "You would care for him. You were not always in the White Current, and that has changed you."
I shake my head, still surprised, this making no sense to me. "You could not agree with our path and our beliefs before. I do not believe that has changed, with the lightsaber you carry. Nor do I see," I say quietly, "how you could stand for your child to be taught things you have no belief in."
Luke shrugs. "My eyes were opened through your deceit," he begins, and I wince.
"That was wrong of me," I say lowly. I had not considered, in the beginning, how hurtful my actions would be at the end. Luke was an orphan, and to manipulate that was wrong. The Elders had taught me that, over the years, wishing me to fully understand how deeply I had gone against the Fallanassi ways in doing what I did.
"You have long been forgiven," he murmurs. He adjusts how he is holding his child, looking away. His son gazes at him with the same blue eyes his father has, innocent and trusting. "I – know who my mother is," he says. "Who she was." He smiles, and there is both sadness and joy in his smile. "I know so many things I didn't know before."
I meet his eyes.
"There are many paths in the Force, Akanah," he tells me. "The Fallanassi accept this to some degree, though I didn't fail to note your abhorrence for my path, what I was. And that is somewhat hypocritical," he says, the last more of a spoken thought.
I do not want to argue, so I do not. And there is truth in his words. For all that we strive for humbleness, I do not think we often have it. Instead, I say softly, "Your violence disturbs us."
He sighs. "And you feel it is against the Force, against the Current. I know that. We are all called for different things, Akanah, and to be a Jedi is what I was meant to be." He smiles sadly. "You can't understand. The Force brought my father into this world, my family line, and when it is time, it will take us out of it. My father's existence, even my existence, were known, a very long time ago. The Jedi had seen that for a very long time. How can you say that what we are is wrong, when the Force has led and told the Jedi for thousands of years of these things?"
I shake my head, speechless for a moment. "That cannot be."
"And yet it is. The Force is more than you can imagine, Akanah. There is Light and Darkness, and a time when there is simply the Force," he says, some strange light in his eyes.
"I do not understand your words," I insist.
"It doesn't matter," he says to me. "To argue philosophy is not why I am here. The war is worsening, and I don't see it getting any better for a long time to come." He shuts his eyes, hiding his pain, then opens them again. "My wife is dead."
"I am sorry," I whisper, seeing the agony in his eyes.
"Many are dead," Luke says. "I know that if you take my son, you will teach him the Fallanassi ways, and I wouldn't insist otherwise. Being out of the battle entirely is what is safest for him. I – I want my son to live, Akanah," he whispers. "I love him. I would do anything for him, even give him up. As my mother gave me up."
His eyes are dark with compassion, and I feel fresh pain at how fractured things are, and must be, between us. I feel such sadness, that he did not choose to walk the Fallanassi path – the gentleness I see in his soul is very much of us. Was that he can never join us my doing, I wonder, in my deception?
"The Elders –" I begin.
"Don't ask the Elders," Luke interrupts. "This is your decision, Akanah, not theirs. Or have you given up so much of your individuality?"
"I would ask for their wisdom," I retort.
"What does the Force tell you?" Luke asks, undeterred.
I sigh, and listen to the Current, letting it fill me and guide me. My doubts rise – could I raise a child? The child of a Jedi? Would he be different, or like his father? What path would he take? The Fallanassi accept so few . . .
And yet, the Current is pushing me, and I am wading against its strength. The Elders would have to listen – if they did not, I would still remain in the right, and the child with me. "It tells me to take the child," I say at last.
Luke nods, no surprise in his eyes. "I have felt it," he says quietly. "I have felt its call. It led me here."
I nod. I hold out my arms, and try to still their tremble.
He is trembling, too. He looks down at his son, and his eyes fill with tears. He kissed the child on the head, gently, stroking his hair. "I love you," he whispers to the child. Then he loosens his hold, and I gently take the child from his arms. The boy is so warm in my arms, so alive. Precious to touch and feel.
I can feel Luke's lingering touch in the Force, wordless waves of depthless love. Grief and pain is behind it, but he keeps that from the child, shielding it, though I still sense it. It is powerful, overwhelming. Soul-shattering. The kind of feeling of loss I had at one point not granted non-Fallanassi, because surely anyone who can kill another cannot love.
But I know that is not true.
"His name is Ben," Luke says at last, his voice rough. Tears have slipped down his face, but we both ignore them. "I would like him to keep that."
"He will be known as Ben Skywalker," I assure him softly.
"Ben Jade Skywalker," Luke says, not really a correction, but I take it as one.
"His mother?" I ask.
"Mara Jade," he says, his voice so gentle as to caress the syllables. He takes a deep breath and suddenly strengthens, time pushing him forward; I can tell he wishes it to stop, to tell me much, so the knowledge remains for his son. Yet something here feels pressing, as if Luke is being pulled away. "I have one last request."
"I am listening," I say.
"When the time comes, when is of age to make his own decisions – if he wants to leave, don't stop him. Tell of me, or not, as he grows up, but when it is his time, tell him everything," he says bluntly, his gaze fierce. "Let him seek his own path, find the Jedi – if any of us remain – if that is what the Force wills."
I nod. "I will," and I can barely force out the words. My throat is tightening. My relationship with my own father was hardly loving, and I truly only found home with the Fallanassi. I had felt pain, before, but I had never stopped to consider . . . What love there must be, between father and son, for Luke to do this. To give up what was most precious to him. Finally, as I watched Luke stare at his son, I understood what Luke had told me of his own father, Darth Vader. I had sensed and seen much of Luke's life and pain before going to him, in the beginnings of my deception, but I had never truly understood with empathy.
Luke looks away, and I can feel him struggling for control. He wipes his eyes, and the fact that he feels no shame in his tears makes my heart ache. "I must go," he says. He opens his mouth, then closes it. A pause, another breath. "I must go to fight," he begins again. "The war continues, and I have to be there. It's where I'm supposed to be."
I look at him, wanting to beg him to stay, not wanting to see those hands darkened with blood, not wishing to see him die as violently as he had lived. And yet, what right do I have to demand he set foot in another path?
Perhaps this is the only path laid before him.
"I understand," I say finally. Impulsively, I add, "I will love him, Luke. With all that I am, I will love your son."
He nods, his breathing uneven. He takes a small datachip out of his belt, and hands it to me. "This is a map. It has areas, planets, that I believe will be safe from the Vong, at least – for a while, even if we don't succeed in driving them off. I don't know if your Elders will deign to use it, but it's there if need be." He stiffens slightly at the last.
I just nod, again, and take the chip. "Thank you." I pause. "I will do all I can to see that your son is not in the path of the Yuuzhan Vong. Even if I will not kill," and I wonder if a parent would, if that is a failing of Fallanassi parents, not willing to sacrifice their beliefs – or if in following it to the last, right is done even so. "I will die to ensure that."
"I know you will," he says, and a shaky smile reaches his lips. He exhales. "May the Force be with you, Akanah."
"Be in the Current," I reply gently.
He hesitates. I step over to him, his son still in my arms, and I place my free hand on his cheek. His sense in the Force is one of staggering loss, so great I do not understand how he does not buckle under its weight. The pain in his eyes is so real. I wish, in vain, that I could do something to ease his pain. He will be like you, are my thoughts. He has your eyes, and I think he has taken a part of your soul.
Remembering that one night, so many years ago, and thinking of all that separates us, I make one last decision. I pull my fingers through his hair, and he watches me, no judgment in his eyes. What could have been, I wonder? If we were not so different. I kiss him lightly, his lips warm – less sexual than comforting. He holds still, and as I back away, my hand dropping, I feel the feather-light touch of his fingers on the back of my hand, a reassuring touch.
Hesitating just so, just ever so slightly, he walks away. He glances back, for what I feel is the last time, his eyes on his son, and then – his step steadies, and within moments, I can no longer see or feel him.
He is gone.
I look down at his son. Ben. I gently stroke the small head, and the golden-red hair is as soft as I thought it would be. His blue eyes are wide as he looks at me, calm and unfrightened for the moment. I wonder if he will cry, when he realizes his father isn't coming back. I wonder what he will lack, with us. With me. What we will fail to give him, that his father could have. For all that I will teach him of peace, I know that he will never know his father, and that is a loss. "But you'll live," I whisper, and it's a promise.
Then I turn away, to return to the village.