Sub-Zero part 2
/Luke!/ Vader called to him.
/I'm still here, but you better hurry! This hydrospanner won't hold me much longer./
As he hung there waiting for Vader to rescue him, Luke realized what had happened. The snow he had been lying on was just that: snow. Through uncounted snowfalls it had piled up until it had looked as solid as any part of the mountain. His weight had been too much and it had finally given way to gravity, falling. By sheer dumb luck, he had managed to jam his tool into snow that rested above solid rock. Swinging in the air, Luke peered down and instantly regretted it. It was at least several hundred feet to the ground below.
/I'm here, Son./ Vader gripped Luke by the arms and pulled him up onto the cliff's lip, holding him in his arms.
"It … it wasn't solid at all." Luke muttered, his sudden brush with death more frightening than any dogfight or even the lightsaber duel with Vader on Bespin. Those things he understood, they were even honest and fair in their own ways. But this, Mother Nature was finicky, tricky and could kill you if you weren't careful. "It was only fluffed up snow."
"Mountains are that way, Son." Vader continued to hold Luke close, the grappling hook attached to his belt securing them in place. "Especially mountains like this one. Many a climber has died by walking on what he mistook for solid snow to only fall into a deep chasm, never to see daylight again."
Luke never would have dreamed in a billion years that being held by Darth Vader would have been comforting. But it was. Even the loud mechanical breathing seemed gentler now, less frightening. His rapid heartbeat slowed down to a more normal pace as the threat passed. He raised his head from where it had been buried against the older man's chest to peer at his mask. "You saved me."
"You are my son." Vader simply replied, as if that was answer enough.
Luke nodded his head, understanding. He had always wanted his father but had been horrified when Vader claimed the honor. But now the rules of the game had suddenly shifted and rearranged themselves into a new order. Darth Vader was still Vader and yet somehow he wasn't Vader. Or was he? Would a Sith Lord really save his life like that? But he still was a Sith Lord, wasn't he? And was he his enemy now or a friend? The thoughts rolled around in Luke's head, muddling his aching brain.
"Come, let us get down from this cliff." Vader easily stood and pulled Luke with him. Using the Force, he snatched the hydrospanner from the ice and tucked it into his belt. Then he pressed a button and released the far end of his grappling hook, rewinding the line back into the device on his belt.
"But how…?" Luke uttered.
Vader simply gripped his son close to his chest and jumped off the cliff.
"Aaahhhh!" Luke shrieked loudly as they fell. But then he felt the Force flowing strongly around them, slowing their fall. His fear that they would plummet to their deaths vanished and was replaced with amazement. He had never realized that the Force could be used this way and idly wondered what other miracles were possible. The falling sensation actually became pleasant and he felt his father's elation and excitement. So something other than killing could thrill his father; that was good to know. Maybe Anakin Skywalker wasn't totally lost to the Dark Side after all and there was a chance of redeeming him. If he lived, that is. The mountain was doing a really good job at trying to kill him. By the time their boots touched the snow, it was like the softest landing of a drifting feather.
"Wow. That was really incredible." Luke admitted as he once again gazed up at his father's black mask. Then a coughing fit gripped Luke, doubling him over. When he pulled his hand away from his mouth, he saw bloodstains on his reddened skin. He just stared at them in utter horror. And his real hand, he noticed, was frozen in the clawed shape he had used to grip the hydrospanner. He massaged his fingers, hoping they would relax and open.
"It is as I feared. The fluid is gathering in your lungs." Vader searched the surrounding area with his eyes, looking for a suitable spot. Although Luke hadn't noticed it yet, the sunlight was swiftly fading from the sky and all too soon it would be night. If they wanted to survive, they would need to find shelter from the wind and cold. The best thing would be to dig into the snow and build them a small man-made cave underground. Truthfully, it wouldn't be all that different from the homes on Tatooine that the moisture farmers used and operated under the same principles.
"I can't believe this is happening." Luke croaked as he concentrated on massaging his real hand to take his mind off the blood spots. His fingers finally loosened up and Luke sighed, relieved. "I'm just getting to know you and trust you, I can't die now!"
"I will build us a shelter." Vader used the Force to find a hidden gap covered by snow. It was deep but not excessively deep. It wouldn't be perfect, but it was the best he could do under the circumstances. Using his lightsaber, he broke the hard layer of snow that had hid the deadly trap. It was one of the chasms he had mentioned to his son earlier and would easily accept both their bodies. "We will spend the night in here."
"Down there?" Luke peered into the dark gap, frightened at how deep and well hidden it had been. If he were out here alone, he probably would have stumbled across the hidden gap and fallen to his death.
Instead of answering, Vader simply gripped his son again and leaped into the hole, using the Force once again to slow their descent. When they reached the bottom, Vader released him and pointed to a nearby boulder. "Sit and rest. Drink more water. I will see what I can do about heating this place up."
Luke accepted the water eagerly this time. Frankly, the young Jedi was surprised he was still alive at all. Numerous things could have killed him and it was only due to his father's efforts that he had survived this long. It was odd being grateful to Darth Vader, but he was. He took a long drink, the warm liquid soothing his raw throat. Breathing was becoming harder and harder, even sitting still like this. Plus the cold was starting to shut his body down. His feet within his boots felt like blocks of ice and he really didn't even feel them anymore. If they were ever rescued from this horrible place he would need to spend some serious time in a bacta tank. He closed his eyes, enjoying the heat soaking into his hands from the water skin. It seemed he had been cold for so long that he had actually forgotten what warmth had felt like.
Using the Force and his lightsaber, Vader attempted to warm up their little hole. The red blade could melt metal slowly and cut through rock, so perhaps he could use it to create heat. Concentrating, he encouraged a few small rocks to melt and go into a pool like impression he made in the floor. It certainly wasn't a roaring fire but it did produce heat. He would be forced to stay busy all night, but it might be enough to keep Luke alive. And if it did that, than one sleepless night would be well worth it.
Unfortunately, he could do nothing of his son's lung condition.
/Why isn't this affecting you?/ Luke asked his father. /The altitude, I mean./
/Because I have my own air supply and can't breath without this mask. I also have heating inside my armor because I always found space travel too cold. My body is also tougher, in a way. When I was younger and attending the Jedi Academy I was trained vigorously. You learn to go without sleep, food and to walk nonstop for a day or more in any conditions. You do not have that training./
/I didn't realize the training in the old days was that intense./
Vader lowered himself to a rock near his son and put an arm around him. He wished he had the ability to heal as some Jedi used to but that had never been his specialty. Besides, he was a Sith now and Sith rarely healed anyone. He couldn't even heal himself and he certainly had tried enough times. No, his skills lay in the more physical of the Jedi arts: fencing, piloting and anything that required quick reflexes and a sharp mind. The healers had always been the more quite, peaceful Jedi.
Taking his cape, Vader carefully wrapped it around his son's body and held him close. It felt strange to be holding someone like this after so many years of solitude but it also felt right. He knew now that he could never turn this innocent boy over to Palpatine, for his Master would surely destroy him. But now that he had found him and had earned his trust, he didn't want to give him up, either.
Did any middle ground even exist?
/Thank you for saving me, Father./ Luke sent through their mental bond, his throat too sore to speak anymore. /I never thought I'd say this, but I love you./
/You love me?/
/I never thought I'd get my father back, not once I found out who you were. I didn't want to accept the truth then and at the beginning of this I still didn't want to. I only saw you as the enemy. I guess I was seeing everything in black and white. But the world isn't black and white but lots of shades in between. There's goodness still in you and you proved that today. That goodness proved that my real father is still alive, the one that risks his life for me and loves me enough to sit up all night to keep some heat in this hole in the ground./
/I doubt if the rest of the world will understand this./
Luke closed his eyes and rested his head against his father's shoulder. Of course, his father was right. The rest of the world would have a very tough time accepting a good Darth Vader. They were still seeing everything in black and white. If it had taken sub-zero temperatures to make him see the truth and goodness in Vader, what would it take to prove it to others?
/Then I'll make them understand, even if I have to convince one person at a time./
Another coughing fit raked through Luke's body and when it was over, he gasped for breath. What they needed was a miracle. If only Han and Leia hadn't gone off to the meeting place with the Rebels! He usually depended on Han to save him from these situations. And since he had rescued Han from Jabba last time, it was once again Han's turn to save him.
/We need a miracle!/ Luke mentally moaned.
"Hey Luke, you down there?" Han's voice called from above. "If so, you better answer because I'm freezing my butt off up here!"
"Han!" Luke managed to say, the sound echoing around and around the gap until it reached his friend's ears.
"He's alive!" Han shouted to Leia and Chewie, whooping with excitement.
/Your friends will have a hard time accepting this./
In the bacta tank, Luke opened his eyes and smiled. Everything would be different now. Where he used to see only an enemy to be destroyed he now had a father and a friend. The road in front of him would be difficult, but he accepted that gladly. There was much he could learn from Anakin about the Force, like how to do that trick slowing one's fall. He had managed to convince Han and Leia to keep his father safe on the Falcon while he healed in the tank. He wasn't sure what would happen next or if the Rebel Alliance would be willing to accept Anakin, but he was going to do his best to see that they did.
/I love you, Son./