Rising Light

Chapter 2 / West of Anchorhead

The suns are beginning to brighten the dim expanse over Mos Eisley, leaving the planet in blue hour for an all too brief period. It's the only time of day when the temperature is hospitable. It is almost, almost reminiscent of Naboo's summer mornings, if Sabé closes her eyes and imagines. Which she has done a few times, but wouldn't admit to if asked. Not that anyone is asking her anything. Luke doesn't speak yet, obviously. And Obi-Wan? He's all but mute these days.

She trudges after the man in question with her bleary, sore eyes that beg for more sleep and an aching back that protests from another night spent on an uncomfortable bed. Worn at her chest, ready for another day of searching out a place to call home, Luke is gurgling pleasantly, having just had a bottle. All Sabé can think at the moment as the ghost of a smile touches her haggard expression briefly: at least one of the three of them is in a good mood.

They're meeting Max Orbo earlier than they did yesterday to go look at another place. Sabé anticipates today to be another repeat of all the others: riding in a scalding speeder to see properties that even a stray eopie wouldn't take shelter in followed by a disappointed return to this vile city and all its danger to try and find a meal and supplies. Luke will grow irritable in the afternoon, Obi-Wan will say little, Sabé will keep her ever increasing despair inside where it rots at her. Night will fall and leave them feeling drained of all energy and drive. What little sleep they can achieve will be interrupted, and often. This has been the pattern for days and days now: going through the motions and doing what it takes to survive. All else is forgotten. Sabé has completely forgotten what uninterrupted sleep feels like—her body and mind cry out for exactly that. But mercy is not in supply on this barren desert world.

At this point, Sabé is beginning to wear down and accept that they'll most likely have to live in a tent or an all out slum. Homes and houses here are all absolute sleemo piss—only citizens who have been here for generations seem to have any sort of real estate to boast. And even if you do have a house, it can be taken from you, and easily so too…

Casting a discreet gaze left and right a couple times, Sabé remains alert to danger as always. The streets this morning are a little quieter than she's seen them before. A lot of drunks and homeless sentients litter the area, and the ones who are awake stare at the little group boldly, challengingly. In step with Sabé, Obi-Wan is similarly mindful and watchful. Strapped to his side where a lightsaber should be, he now carries a blaster. It's a sight that is hard to bear. He's lost almost everything.

Sabé focuses on deep breaths and staying out of her more despairing feelings. Losing sight of the mission will only compromise, detract, and potentially sabotage any progress they make. The use of the words 'mission,' 'compromise,' and 'sabotage' in her thoughts makes her feel fractionally more bitter and rueful. That's ex-agent language—and she can't think of the Department without feeling betrayed and angry and crushed. She wonders constantly about The Group and if any of them survived. Braxis died in front of her. But as far as Leda Voth, Jego Tavu, Platt Daggoth, and Rett Chronos… she will most likely never know. She thinks of the younglings she helped save from Anakin often, and she thinks of the ones she couldn't save far more often still. She holds Luke all the closer when she remembers small bodies flying out into the void to fall to Coruscant below…

Obi-Wan isn't the only one having nightmares every night.

In the waking hours, Sabé is still spinning and unable to fathom everything that's happened to her. To Obi-Wan. To the Jedi Order. To the Republic. It's all gone and blown away like dust, lost among the scattered sands to never be reclaimed again.

That's the cynic in her, and Sabé forcefully shakes her head, trying to banish her pessimism. But how can she in a time like this?

She sighs heavily against another wave of exhaustion that rolls over her mind and body. Wondering briefly if the constant fatigue could be due to her pregnancy, Sabé feels a familiar twitch of fear about the new life inside of her. She worries day and night that she won't even carry to term—that miscarriage or deformities will result from the rough life here and lack of medical resources. In her arms, a baby who was born to a queen reminds her that women still die in childbirth even in these modern times. And Padmé had the assistance of a clinical team—what will Sabé have?

It's alarming and stressful to dwell on, and there's little Sabé can actually do about it right now either. So she looks at Luke, needing to turn her mind to other things. He's looking up at her and sputters happily when their eyes make contact. Despite it all, the heaviness melts a little and Sabé smiles too, her heart expanding with affection. It's been four weeks with him, and while at first it was quite the job—newborn care isn't too complicated but it is very time intensive and tiring—she's most assuredly fallen in love with this little boy. His big trusting blue eyes are innocent to this galaxy, to his heritage. For now, he remains blissfully unaware of the pain, loss, and devastation he was born in the midst of.

His future and safety are absolutely important to her and to Obi-Wan both. She's clear on that much. As far as who he'll become, or what role he'll play in facing down this new Empire, Sabé can't even think that far into the future. Raising him intentionally is of absolute importance, but what kind of childhood can a youngling have here? Tatooine isn't exactly the galaxy's hub of information, medical resources, or education, nor is it child-friendly. There are a couple of run down 'schools' in Mos Eisley they seem to function more as orphanages. Apparently, many children here are born into slavery or lose their parents to crime and violence.

The more Sabé learns of Tatooine, the more keenly she mourns the loss of Naboo.

"Look." Obi-Wan suddenly halts and puts a hand out, stopping her too. Startled by his dire tone, Sabé looks at him sidelong in confusion, then follows his pointed, harrowed gaze.

A Holo display is set onto a small table under a marketplace tent, and a withered old woman with skin like leather squints, watching a news segment. With a shocked feeling plummeting her stomach low, Sabé recognizes the Coruscant Sun broadcast. In flickering blueish tones, a grid of faces is shown. Wanted Persons. Below the grid on display, the RDI logo spins in a slow circle, causing a distinct ripple of angry nausea to roll across Sabé. Only, it's no longer RDI.

A voiceover gives instructions: "Report any sightings or encounters with these members of the now-disbanded traitorous Jedi Order and any of their allies to the Imperial Intelligence. Frequency Alpha Tango 657…"

Sabé grits her teeth and shakes her head. Imperial Intelligence. "Sickening," she whispers angrily, reviled and afraid of the agency she used to work for. She doesn't have a chance to hunt the faces—the grid fades and the entire display is taken up by the image of a ghastly all-black wearing, helmeted figure. Standing with folded arms and a black cape rippling behind, the imposing figure is flanked by two clone troopers. It's impossible to tell if the figure in black is human or machine. The mask, almost skeletal in design, is instantly intimidating and monstrous. Sabé's feelings of anger give to a prickle of ominous fear. The caption underneath the image of this person reads "Darth Vader - the Emperor's Fist."

Even as Sabé tries to understand what she's seeing, a news reporter comes on the screen and begins to pleasantly elaborate on the Emperor's 'special and personal right-hand agent' who is responsible for hunting down any remaining 'Jedi traitors in our midst to keep the peace of our illustrious new Empire.' The propaganda and corruption makes Sabé absolutely ill. She holds Luke a little closer, understanding that the stakes are even higher than she thought before, and fearing for their safety anew.

Obi-Wan is stiff beside Sabé. His eyes remain locked on the the visual, and while he remains outwardly neutral enough, Sabé recognizes his very present shock and dismay. After a moment, he speaks, but quietly. His voice sounds scratchy, unused. "That's him." Two words that immediately confound Sabé, making her ears ring as the world closes in around her, rendering her small and terrified. Surely he doesn't mean…? His expression grows faintly ill as he stares at the Holo. "That… is Anakin."

No. No! Sabé can't speak for a long few seconds as she first stares at Obi-Wan, then at the display of Darth Vader. Luke's father. Alive and breathing and tracking down any survivors. "…How?" she asks in a tight, dumbfounded whisper.

There's a long, wounded pause. "I can sense it," is all Obi-Wan can whisper as he faintly shakes his head, his eyes unable to tear away from what his old apprentice has become.

The newscast changes. The photo grid of wanted people comes up again, and this time, Sabé's heart seizes and mouth goes dry when her eyes find Obi-Wan's likeness in the center part of the screen. Underneath his name it says High Treason. Then as she scans the rest of the grid her heart jolts to see her face a few rows down and over—it's a photo she recognizes from an old ID badge. Underneath her name: Conspiracy to Commit Treason.

It's a moment Sabé will never forget, a moment that makes her new reality all the more appalling and final. This broadcast reaches billions galaxy wide. This Darth Vader is on the hunt, and the purpose is clear: erase and wipe out every last Republic loyalist. Skin prickling with adrenaline-laced alarm, Sabé swallows against a sandpapery throat.

Nowhere is safe anymore. Not even here.

Sabé nearly jumps out of her skin and jumps when Obi-Wan's hand suddenly touches her shoulder. He hasn't touched her purposefully like that in weeks.

"We should go," he says in a low voice, his eyes darting all around, then he pulls her closely along with him by the hand. Sabé holds on tightly, too temporarily paralyzed mentally to do anything by comply, follow, and breathe. Newly paranoid to be recognized, she shuffles her cowl up over her mouth, praying that to any curious eyes, she and Obi-Wan look like just another pair of hapless, worn down Mos Eisley dwellers.

West of Anchorhead

It keeps settling in. The enormity of everything. The permanence.

From the spaceport to now, it's a bit of a blur for Sabé. Darth Vader looms in her mind. Her thoughts are frantic, jumbled, and disjointed, jumping from one thing to the next. Overall, she's come to the conclusion that they need to get out of Mos Eisley as soon as possible, and pray that the Empire doesn't attempt to establish a presence here. Surely the locals wouldn't want any oversight—the Hutts and the local councils wouldn't accept the Empire's rule. Right? Sabé has no way of knowing. And that's the most terrifying part. She's has always preferred an offensive to a defensive, but in this case, there is no room to do anything but dodge, hide, run.

Sitting in the back of Max's speeder, the suns beat down onto them harshly, leaving Sabé feeling hot all over as if by fever. There's a cooling pack she's got pressed to Luke to keep him from overheating, and thanks to that pleasant chill underneath her fingers, she imagines water. Closing her eyes against the bright sand whizzing by on both sides of the vehicle, she focuses on the coolness, imagining waterfalls, rivers, lakes, dew, rain. Things that don't even exist here. She summons the memory of being young and diving into sparkling crystal blue waters, then floating encapsulated in undulating light underneath the cool surface.

Will I ever swim again in my life?

It's silly. It's small. But the thought of never experiencing that simple joy breaks her heart all over again.

Beside her, Obi-Wan shifts and puts a hand lightly onto her leg, just above her knee. Curious and startled at the touch, Sabé's eyes open to look at him questioningly. Careworn, he gives her a small, sad smile, and then she understands that he's sensing her feelings and mood. She forgets that he can do that sometimes, especially now. He's been so withdrawn to his inner world. It hurts, but she also understands—after all, she's been shut down too. How could they not be? Everything is so tiring, so exhausting, so wretched. Thankful for the small gesture, Sabé returns the sad smile and as an act of truce, of making sure he knows she's still there, she rests her fingers lightly over his.

"All right folks, straight ahead!" Max announces from the front of the speeder, and both Sabé and Obi-Wan turn their attention. And for the first time at initial glance, Sabé's heart doesn't sink when she sees what Max is pointing out. Instead, a breathless, interested feeling of oh comes over her.

The disrepair and damage is woefully and instantly apparent, but still… something about this place immediately plants a seed of hope. Featuring the classic Tatooine architecture of all-sandstone walls and domed roofs, the house is nestled on a sandy ridge, behind which the dark brown Jundland Wastes jaggedly span north to south, providing a sort of back wall to the property. Sabé briefly thinks she spots some cave mouths in the dark, rugged details of the close mountain range. The house itself looks sizable and pleasant in design—even though there is errant junk scattered everywhere and serious damage (huge blasted holes in walls, a caved in roof), the place has a different feel than everything else they've seen. As the speeder slows and comes to a stop just adjacent to a sunken courtyard that's half collapsed and mostly full of sand, Sabé takes in the house. It has a somewhat cobbled-together look to it, as if it's been added onto or rebuilt a few times. There's a story here, to be sure. As they exit the speeder, Sabé realizes there are actually twin courtyards, separated by a small walking path overhead. She glimpses a carved doorway meant for passing between courtyards at their ground level. Letting her gaze sweep around, she sees broken vaporators dotting the nearby landscape. It's a moisture farm. Or rather, was a moisture farm.

"So!" Max claps his waxy green hands together and leads them toward the front door, which hangs off a bolt precariously, obviously kicked or rammed in some time ago. "You're looking at quite the interesting piece'a property." They enter into the main area, which is missing its ceiling. Bright blue sky shows through the gigantic hole, and rubble is scattered across the space. From what Sabé can tell, this is the lounge area—the kitchen is just off of it. Old belongings are scattered everywhere: bent cookware, torn fabric, shattered glass, pieces of technology that are cracked and corroded, old broken furniture. Someone raided this place, clearly. Perhaps several times over. Beside her, Obi-Wan is eyeing the place just as curiously as she is. At Sabé's chest, Luke is quiet and sleepy from the heat.

Max scratches his head and joins them in gawking around. "Right, so first this place was a storage facility, then got built onto and turned into an old speeder repair place, then we had some people come through and turn it into a home and a moisture farm, but that lot was slaughtered by Tusken Raiders, mm, 'bout five years ago I'd guess. S'been empty ever since." That piece of information causes a brief look between Sabé and Obi-Wan. Max sounds unbothered, like he's commenting on the weather. He motions for them to follow, then picks his way down an adjacent hall that is littered with timber and spare parts of some sort. "Anyway! Quite a few acres here for you, lots of privacy. Not much in the way of neighbors 'cept one little commune a kilometer or so that way, over that ridge." He motions south then quickly shows them the home's three bedrooms: two smaller, one larger. Every room has wall damage, leaving gaping holes to the outside world. Max then takes them back to the lounge and kitchen and continues to the other hallway, which is shorter and leads into a large dark room with a roll-up door—maybe this was the old workshop where speeder repair was accomplished. Either way, the space is usable and generous, if not the same as the rest of the place: in need of a lot of work. Max finishes the tour by bringing them back into the lounge area and telling them, "There's a basement too, but last I checked it was half full of sand. Anchorhead's just about a twenty minute speeder ride that way, then Mos Eisley—well, you know that one already since we just came from there." Yes, Sabé did—it was about an hour and a half. "Motesta Oasis's close too, maybe a half hour speeder ride," Max continues, interesting Sabé immensely. "Oh, and Jawas pass through here pretty regular. Those little crinkers always have something interesting to sell, I'll tell ya that much." The little sentient concludes with that and then smiles pleasantly, waiting for their thoughts.

Sabé glances at Obi-Wan, gauging his reaction. He's thoughtful and quiet, but in a way that seems different than before. To look at him in his brownish getup of leggings and a layered tunic—he certainly could play the part of moisture farmer well here. When he replies to Max, he's diplomatic, pleasant, and brief. He sounds more clear and confident, much more like the Obi-Wan Kenobi that Sabé so keenly remembers. "It is a very promising little place indeed. May I ask why has no one purchased this place from you yet?"

Max grins, but it's not exactly pleasant. "Too afraid of the Sandheads."

Obi-Wan acknowledges that with a shrewd nod. "A fair concern, I'm sure."

"You bet your ass, flyboy. This is Tatooine! Odds aren't good for a long life here, forget comfortable or safe!" Chuckling, Max starts to waddle out. "I'll give you two a sec to talk it over, Ben."

The use of Obi-Wan's cover name is always strange for Sabé to hear. As Max exits, Obi-Wan wanders over to the lounge area, by all appearances evaluating the structure and considering all the work that would be required to set the damage right. Sabé takes a moment to look at the kitchen. The stove top and refrigeration units aren't even there—probably stolen or scavenged. The tile flooring is cracked in many places. But the window over the non-working sink boasts a view of the courtyards in front of the house, then the great sandy plains beyond. In the distance, Sabé can only just make out a small, dark mass that must be Anchorhead. She imagines, briefly, a little blonde haired boy and a little girl playing just beyond the courtyards. Sabé wonders about their daughter: will she have dark hair like her mother? Auburn hair like her father? It's a pleasant thought. A relaxing thought. For a moment, Sabé imagines a happy life here, somehow, despite all the odds.

A soft sound and then a sixth sense feeling alert her that Obi-Wan has approached and is standing right behind her. For a moment from another lifetime, she imagines or perhaps wishes he's about to circle his arm around her and rest his cheek to hers, nuzzle his face into hers. But he only stands closely, and doesn't touch her. "What do you think?" Obi-Wan asks after a moment.

Sighing out her disappointment in the lack of affection, she lets go of that and focuses on more pressing matters. "Well…" Sabé contemplates the enormous task of fixing this place. "It's needs a lot of work… which means a lot of credits…"

"Bail's generosity will help with that."

He's right. Bail gave them enough to live on for a very long time. Sabé turns around and regards him thoughtfully for a moment. They don't have much choice and they both know it, but… "What about the Sand People?"

Obi-Wan is wry and reluctant, seeming to have already thought about that. "I'll take my odds with them over the alternative."

There's a short, somber silence. He's referring to Anakin—Vader. "True." Sabé contemplates the place again, chewing the inside of her lip slowly, trying to weigh everything rationally before making decisions. "Do you really think he'll never return here?" She asks cautiously. "How sure are you?"

His eyes slink around the room, giving away his low state of mind. The easy, gentle, wizened air of command he always carried before is currently nowhere to be found. "Right now, I'm not sure of anything," he admits, not bothering to hide his distress over the matter. "But Anakin told me—only a handful of years ago—that he would never return here. I believed him then. I still do." Sabé's unsure silence prompts him to continue. "We knew how dangerous it was here. We'll have to take our chances—with a plan of action in place for any attacks too, of course."

Sabé nods, deep in thought. "This is the first place we've looked at that seems even remotely promising…" she concedes. "The rock face makes us a little more defensible. And I think there might be caves… which could be a good makeshift hangar bay for the ship." She pauses and darkens. "Or a hiding place." Danger and risk is a guarantee here on this desolate world, and there's no escaping that fact. She truly likes this house—it has good bones, and the way it could be, in her mind, is quite beautiful. "But who would fix all the disrepair? I certainly don't know how." She's willing to live humbly, in poverty even. But repairing walls and fixing ceilings is quite beyond her.

Obi-Wan glances around appraisingly. "I think I could manage to make things much more livable here within about a week's time," he says. "At least get the walls back up and patch the roof." At the softly surprised, curious look Sabé is giving him, the smallest ghost of a smile flits across his face. "Remind me to tell you about the time Qui-Gon and I helped build homes for a month on Aygeran II."

The mention of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's younger years is unexpected and stilling. "I certainly will." Remembering a time when she knew very little of Obi-Wan, Sabé recalls feeling this very same sense of curiosity and intrigue about him. A small, growing smile is on her face as she studies him with a fond feeling of nostalgia—that's quickly followed by a more distressing feeling of uncertainty. She only wants to be close to him again. Especially through this.

Obi-Wan finds a bittersweet smile for the baby, stroking the back of his index finger against the boy's cheek, dipping his head to look into the youngling's eyes. "And what does little Luke think about growing up in this place, hmm?" he asks. The baby grunts softly—he's trying to go to sleep. Obi-Wan straightens and regards Sabé with familiar crystalline eyes that inspire great welling feelings in her. "…You did always say you wanted to be a moisture farmer."

So he noticed the vaporators, too. Heartwarmed so suddenly and deeply that she could cry, Sabé feels her eyes wetting. The nod to their old life and banter, the joke that grew between them over the years—it feels like a reminder that his love for her isn't gone. It feels like the extension of hope, however wavering. "I did, didn't I." Her eyes sting with emotion and she smiles and nods, despite the way her face works. "Well. I think this will do, then." She takes in a very deep breath, relieved and overwhelmed and afraid all at once. "Home," she says softly as her eyes sweep over the place once again.

Her valiant struggle to keep composure has touched Obi-Wan deeply, inspiring the familiar glint of guilt in his eyes. "It won't always be like this," he manages to say to her in a suddenly weak, ravaged voice. "It can't be." The brief show of vulnerability and feeling that lay behind the numb mask he wears so often compels Sabé greatly.

She nods, unable to keep her true emotions off of her face: despair, loneliness, fear, sadness, exhaustion. "I know." It's all she can to to not break down. But tears still spill out on her cheek. Ashamed of herself and the lack of control over her feelings, Sabé fights the tears bitterly. Obi-Wan reacts with a pained expression, his eyes watching one of the rolling droplets. Wordless, he reaches for her and wipes the tears away with his thumb, then softly draws her and Luke both into his arm for a very long awaited hug. Squeezing her eyes shut and holding him back as tightly as she can without pressing on the baby, Sabé fights all out weeping. She had almost forgotten how it felt to simply have his arms around her. She never wants to again.

The embrace is rain on parched earth, it's rising light after an endless dark night. It's a promise that somehow, despite all of the odds against them and burdens they beat both together and separately… they'll find their way back to each other. Here, in the place their love first began.

Author's Note: Next chapter we will get into Obi-Wan's head a bit more. Thanks for reading + reviewing! :)