The thing about Force-ghosts—or whatever the proper term was, neither Obi-Wan nor Yoda ever said—was that they didn't feel like living beings. They were nothing like a real, live, sentient being, and the more Luke learned about the Force, the more obvious that was. Living beings didn't create the Force, but it sometimes feels that way. Maybe a better way to describe it would be that living beings condensed the Force into usable trickles like a vaporator condensed water from the air.
Force-ghosts didn't do that. They were part of the Force, more like ripples in a puddle. It wasn't that there was more Force-energy where a ghost was, but what was already there was disturbed, forming a new pattern. Luke had gotten pretty good at spotting Force-ghosts, the ripples caused by their passage, whether or not they were trying to make themselves known.
And there had been, for the past week, a Force-ghost hanging about him. "Hello?" he said, and wasn't surprised when it vanished without ever becoming solid enough he could tell who it was. That seemed to be the pattern.
Chewie said hello back, then laughed when Luke startled. He'd been so intent on the Force-ghost he'd forgotten he wasn't alone.
"Talking to yourself, eh, kid?" Han said, bringing a tray over to sit down across from Chewie. "Sign of a disturbed mind." He took a bite out of his dinner.
"I wasn't talking to myself," Luke said, but didn't say anything further. He hadn't actually told anyone that Jedi could become ghosts, because he wasn't sure they'd believe him. And why did it matter, really? Luke was the only one who could see or hear them. But, on the other hand, telling them was probably better than Han giving him grief about being crazy. Han was still on the fence about whether or not Luke really was a Jedi, or if that was just "delusions of grandeur."
Chewie asked who he'd been talking to, if not to himself.
"I don't know," Luke said. "For the last week, a Force-ghost has been following me around. Doesn't seem to want to talk, though—it goes away as soon as I let on I can sense it."
"Force-ghost?" Han asked. "Like, a scanner ghost where interference or miscalculation causes random stuff to appear?"
"No," Luke said. "Dead Jedi can sometimes manifest themselves in the Force, like a ghost. It's how I trained on Hoth; Obi-Wan would give me advice, and then he told me how to find Yoda. This one's a bit shy. It keeps hanging around but won't let me catch a glimpse of it."
"So, is this Obi-Wan just hanging around, then?" Han asked.
Luke shrugged. "It could be, but I doubt it. Why bother to show up if he doesn't want to talk? Same goes for Master Yoda. Either of them might want to watch me, or give advice, but I can't imagine they would hover and not respond to a greeting, at least."
Chewie pointed out that they knew a Force-user who had died just a week ago who wouldn't want to talk to him, and, sounding very disturbed, asked if it could possibly be Palpatine.
"Of course not," Han said with confidence. "Luke here could tell that." He turned to Luke. "You could tell, right?"
"Yes," Luke said, after some thought. It hadn't occurred to him that it might be Palpatine; he was pretty sure he knew who it was, and anyway, hanging around watching didn't seem like something the old Emperor would do. "I could tell. And it wasn't him. It didn't feel dark, at all."
Chewie pointed out that Palpatine had to have been good at hiding his darkness, having worked closely with the Jedi Council back during the Clone Wars, before he was Emperor. Luke hadn't thought of that, but then again, Chewie was the only one of them who'd been alive and old enough to follow Galactic politics then.
"I still think that I'd be able to tell," Luke said. Besides, if Palpatine was still around Luke would bet he'd be trying something rather than just … watching. Taunting him, maybe, or trying to corrupt him somehow. Or finding an untrained Force-sensitive he could manipulate into doing his bidding No, there was another, much better candidate for the unknown ghost: a Jedi who'd just died, who would be interested in him, who might (given the complexities of their relationship) feel awkward about talking:
Anakin Skywalker, his father.
He sighed, wishing he knew how to initiate contact with a Force-ghost. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda just sort of showed up when they wanted to, on their own initiative. And his father—if it was his father—disappeared whenever Luke acknowledged his presence.
"I'm sure it'll go away eventually, kid," Han said, mistaking his reaction. "Lotta dead Jedi in the last twenty-five years it could've been."
"Hm," Luke said, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and took his dishes back to the kitchen to be washed.
The next time the Force-ghost tickled on the edge of his senses, Luke didn't acknowledge it. He continued on in the meeting, which required all his attention. The Alliance had been prepared to destroy the Death Star and the ships assigned to guard it, and trumpet that achievement to the galaxy; they hadn't been prepared to kill the Emperor himself in the same fell swoop, because they hadn't known he was going to be there until three days before the attack. They had no plans for what happened next, and were making it up as they went along.
For Luke, the questions mostly revolved around the issue of how to start rebuilding the Jedi, and what of that final confrontation should be made public. They were thorny enough problems, and he was very glad not to be Leia, up to her eyebrows in a combination of political and military strategy, though she seemed to thrive on it.
The ghost watched, silently, never speaking or allowing him to see it. It tickled at the edge of Luke's perception, but he had learnt Yoda's lessons on concentration well, and it did not distract him from his task.
As he'd hoped, the ghost was still there as he retired for the evening to his room. Luke stood in the center of the room, hands clasped behind his back, and said "Father? Are you here?"
The ghost … paused, and flickered slightly, as if uncertain whether to go or stay, before gathering itself to manifest. Anakin Skywalker appeared before him as a young man, dressed in Jedi robes. And although he was still not a living being, he felt more like one than Obi-Wan did. Whether it was because he was more recently dead or some other factor, Luke didn't know.
"I thought that was you," Luke said. "I've been feeling you hovering for a week now."
"I apologize for distracting you," his father said carefully. "I didn't know if you would want to see me, but I couldn't stay away. I wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm doing fine, but I would love to see you," Luke said. "You're my father."
"And I cut off your hand, killed your mentor and many other Jedi, tortured your friend to get to you, and destroyed your sister's home planet." Anakin shook his head. "You can't just pretend none of it happened. You shouldn't."
"That wasn't you," Luke protested.
"Yes it was," Anakin said. "I don't know what Obi-Wan told you, but I chose to turn to the Dark Side, I chose the consequences of that act, and I kept walking down that path for years, long after I knew there was nothing there but ashes and betrayal. One heroic act at the end saved you, but it doesn't change what I did."
Luke was fairly sure that the reality of his father's fall to the Dark was a bit more complicated than that, but he didn't want to spend time arguing. "All right. But I forgive you, Father. I did a long time ago. Or I could never have done what I did."
"Thank you," Anakin said, sagging a little. "Did you want to talk about anything in particular? Because I am happy to do anything … I missed so much …"
Luke had had a thousand questions he'd wanted to ask his father, growing up, and they'd only multiplied the more he learned of the truth, but now, faced with the reality of actually being able to hold a conversation with him, he couldn't think of any of them. But his father was waiting, fidgeting as much as a ghost could, for Luke to set the topic. "Why do you look so young?" he asked, sitting down on his bed. "Yoda and Obi-Wan look about how they did when they died. You don't."
Anakin shrugged and took a seat on the empty bunk opposite. "I'm not quite sure—it's not like there's a manual for this."
"I thought it was a standard Jedi skill that Yoda hadn't gotten around to teaching me, yet," Luke said. "You all seem to know it."
"No," Anakin said, surprised. "Obi-Wan was only the second Jedi to figure it out, that we know of. And then Yoda, and me."
"That's all three of the Jedi that I know," Luke pointed out.
Anakin winced. "I'm so sorry. Again. Anyway, the form we take seems to be a combination of how we see ourselves and how you see us—what you expect to see. Neither of us want to see me in a great black mask, and I haven't seen my own face since the Emperor first put it on me. This is the last appearance I remember, before the suit. And you—"
"I spent years with only a small holo of you, dreaming of what my father might have been like," Luke said. "Even after I knew, Darth Vader never really replaced that old image of you in my head."
"Ah," Anakin said. He shifted a little. "What, uh, what did Obi-Wan tell you about me?"
"He told me you fought in the Clone Wars together," Luke said, "that you were a great pilot, a cunning warrior, and a good friend." Which was about the sum total of what Obi-Wan had said, if you ignored the bit about having been killed by Darth Vader. "Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru told me you had been a navigator on a spice freighter, and that you died around the time I was born."
"Owen and Beru?" Anakin frowned. "However did you meet them? And why?"
"Well, they raised me," Luke said, confused. They were his aunt and uncle—why wouldn't he know them?
"They what?" Anakin said, staring at him. "Where was Obi-Wan?"
"Living in a hovel on the edge of the Dune Sea," Luke said. "Calling himself Ben. I'd see him in Anchorhead occasionally, but I had no idea that he was a Jedi—or that you had been—until I began my training."
"And when was that?" Anakin asked.
"The day we left Tatooine to take Artoo and Threepio to Alderaan with the news of the Death Star."
"You were eighteen!"
"Well, yes," Luke said. "Why is that important?"
His father stared at him. "When I was nine, a Jedi Master named Qui-Gon Jinn found me, won me in a podrace, and took me off to the Temple on Coruscant to be trained."
"I knew that," Luke said. "Aunt Beru liked to tell me stories."
"The Council almost rejected me—in fact, they did reject me at first—because I was too old. At age nine. And Obi-Wan and Yoda both approved training you starting at age eighteen? When Obi-Wan could have been training you from birth?"
"Well, Uncle Owen wouldn't have allowed that," Luke said. "He didn't like Obi-Wan, and he didn't want me to ever leave the farm."
"And, of course, Obi-Wan would allow Owen's opinion to matter in the training of a Jedi," Anakin said, scornfully. "In the Old Republic, Force-sensitive children were turned over to the Jedi Order at birth or shortly thereafter, regardless of the family's wishes, precisely so that no lasting attachments could be formed and the child would grow up with Jedi ways of thinking and training from the earliest possible moment. Attachment of any kind was forbidden—which was why my marriage and your mother's pregnancy had to be hidden from the Jedi. Do you honestly mean to tell me that Obi-Wan Kenobi took a child that he knew was Force-sensitive, handed that child back to its family rather than raising it as a Jedi, and then didn't show up again until the child was an adult?"
At Luke's nod, Anakin sat back, shaking his head. "I would never have believed it. I'll have to ask him what he was thinking, and why Yoda allowed it. No wonder you don't act much like a Jedi…."
Luke had always dismissed the Empire's claims about the evil of the Jedi Order as pure propaganda, and was quite surprised to hear that at least one part of those claims—that Jedi kidnapped babies—had a basis in fact. (Although, given that the Empire murdered those Force-sensitive children instead whenever it could, they still didn't have any moral high ground.) And he deeply wanted to know more about the Order, and why it viewed attachment as bad, and why Obi-Wan and Yoda hadn't really mentioned it to him. But this was his first real conversation with his father—ever—and hopefully the first of many. He didn't really want to spend it talking about the Jedi.
"What was my mother's name?" he asked.
"If Beru liked to tell stories, why didn't she tell you?" Anakin asked.
"She said she didn't know," Luke said.
"Well, I brought her with me the one time I went back to Tatooine after leaving to become a Jedi, and Beru met her then," Anakin said. "As a matter of fact, Beru spent more time with her than she did with me, while we were on the planet. Though, granted, we weren't in a relationship yet. And it wasn't a social visit. But we weren't very subtle, or at least, I wasn't."
"That would have been when you retrieved Grandma Shmi's body from the Tuskens, right?" Luke asked.
"Yes." From the way his father was shifting, there was something about that visit he didn't want to talk about. But that, too, could wait.
"So what was her name?"
"Her name was Padmé Amidala, and she was a Senator from Naboo," Anakin said. "She was brilliant, and one of the only politicians I ever met who truly believed and acted out her principles." He got a faraway look in his eyes, and his whole posture softened.
Luke settled in to listen, fascinated, wishing a holocorder could capture a Force-ghost so he could have a record of this. This was what he'd yearned for all his life, this connection, to know more about who and where he had come from. And if he would rather have had his father alive, beside him, well, he would take what he could get.
"She was kind, and determined, and beautiful," his father continued. "Your sister may know more about her, because Padmé was a close friend and ally of Bail Organa, which would probably be how Leia ended up with him and his wife. I first met her when I was nine, when she was Queen of Naboo, because Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were escorting her to Coruscant to request military aid when their ship was damaged and they had to put down on Tatooine for repairs …"