Part 3 of 3
She was running through the hills outside her father's estate on Alderaan – not fleeing an enemy, simply running for the pure thrill of it. The wind, sweet with the coming spring, tangled her hair and tugged at her clothes. The grass felt cool under her feet. The warm sun lay across her shoulders like a cloak. There was no danger here, no concern…
But there was someone here with her.
Luke flashed her a daring smile. "Race you to the lake."
"I'll wait up for you," she teased, and was off.
Several minutes later, slightly winded but exhilarated, she felt the soft sands of the lake shore under her feet. She had almost made it to the water's edge when Luke put in a burst of speed and tumbled into her, knocking them both into the water. Gasping with the shock, she disentangled herself from her brother and made to climb out, but he swept an armful of water at her, and she retaliated with a splash. The two of them laughed as they continued the water fight.
It was some time later as they lay sprawled on the sand, letting the sun warm and dry them, that she finally questioned what was happening.
"Did we both die?" she asked. "Is this some kind of paradise?"
"No," Luke replied gently. "It's a dream. I've been allowed to come back and visit you for a short time."
She reached over and grasped his hand. "I don't want you to leave."
"I don't want it either." He squeezed her hand. "But I won't leave you – not really. The Force is with you, Leia. And as long as it's there, I'll be there."
Somehow, that knowledge did more to comfort her than all the words spoken to her that day.
"Leia, there's something else." Luke propped himself up on one elbow. "The Jedi. There aren't any more. The Order has to live on."
She sensed what he was implying. "I'm not a Jedi, Luke. I can't use the Force like you."
"You can with some help," he assured her. "Leia… I know you don't like Father… but he's the only one who can teach you. Promise me, Leia, that you and Father will restore the Jedi Order. The galaxy will never have order until the Jedi return."
She wanted to say no – what he asked was incredibly daunting – but she couldn't refuse. He was her brother. What he asked wasn't a selfish request, but an appeal on behalf of the galaxy. And if it meant that she would have to continue a relationship with the man Luke called Father…
"There's something else," Luke went on. "Father's very badly hurt. His heart and lungs don't work on their own, and there's more damage…" He sat up completely now. "Leia… I want Father to have my organs."
"What?" she exclaimed, sitting upright.
"Please, Leia. Tell the droids to give him my heart, lungs, and liver. And convince Father to accept them. It's the only way for the Order to survive."
Leia knew, with all her heart, that she could not deny her brother anything. And yet what he asked was so huge…
Luke reached over and embraced her. "It's time for me to go."
"Luke…" She squeezed her eyes shut, hot tears seeping from behind the lids as she clung to him, desperate to keep him by her side.
"I love you, Leia," he murmured. "I'll always love you." He squeezed her tightly. "Take care of Han and the droids for me."
"I will," she vowed.
"Chewie, hand me that alluvial damper."
The requested item was thrust into his hands, and Han worked on wedging it into the appropriate socket aboard the Falcon. "Thanks."
The damper hit the floor, breaking apart, but Han didn't seem to notice. Within a fraction of a second he had extracted himself from the Falcon's workings and was staring – no, gaping – at a perfectly healthy Luke.
"Luke!" he shouted. "How did… you're all right!"
Luke smiled. "How's it going, Han?"
"It's… I… Luke…" Han pulled Luke to his chest in a crushing hug. "How did…"
"You fell asleep banging on the Falcon's shield generator," Luke replied. "I'm just visiting you in your dreams. I'm sorry, Han, but this may be the last time we speak face to face for a long time."
Han stared at him, at a complete loss for words for perhaps the first time in his life.
"Thank you, Han, for everything," Luke told him. "You've been a great friend. I'm really going to miss you."
"Yeah," Han murmured, blinking. "You too."
"Han," Luke went on, "I know you and Leia love each other. But Leia needs you more than ever now. She's going to need someone to support her in her training and in her duties to the Order. I'll give her all the support I can, but I'll need you to help her too."
Han smiled. "Luke, I'd never do anything to hurt Leia. You know that. Of course I'll be there for her."
"Good." Luke smirked. "Or I think you'll have a pretty irate father-in-law to deal with."
Han rolled his eyes. "Joy, Darth Daddy."
Luke laughed. "Take care of yourself, Han."
"Yeah, you too."
Luke turned and began walking away.
"Luke?" Han called. "Uh… may the Force be with you, kid."
Luke smiled fondly. "And you too."
Vader's reaction to Leia's request was immediate. "No!"
"It's for Luke's sake," Leia told him, having a seat beside his bed. "He wants this…"
"He still does not understand, does he?" Vader demanded angrily. "I am a Sith Lord, a murderer, a criminal! I deserve death, nothing more or less. I refuse to accept his organs. If he must donate them, let them go to an injured Rogue or someone else who may need them."
"He doesn't want anyone else to have them," Han replied. Leia had told him everything, and for one who had professed not to believe in the Force, he was surprisingly receptive to the idea that Leia had met Luke in her sleep.
Vader leaned back and glowered at the ceiling. "I'm not worth saving. I told him that so many times. And he refused to listen. He died for me – died! – when he should have left me to die…"
"And you'll have him die in vain by giving up!" Leia exclaimed. "Vader… I can't call you Father yet… if you won't do this for yourself, do it for him." She sighed, deciding to tell him the entire truth. "And do it for the Jedi. Luke is gone. I promised him I would restore the Jedi, but I need training. You're the only one who can teach me."
Vader laughed bitterly. "The one who destroyed the Order, your Jedi Master? You would do better to find Yoda or some other Jedi who escaped…"
"Yoda is dead. All the Jedi are dead. You are the last, Vader. You have to help me." She leaned forward and rested a hand on his arm. "You're my only hope."
Vader was silent for a long time. Leia was about to leave the room to try again another time when he spoke again.
"Your brother… took after me in many ways. He was an exceptional pilot, a cunning warrior, a spirited and headstrong young man. And yet… yet he inherited his mother's heart."
Leia listened, intrigued.
"She was a compassionate woman, always seeking the good in things. You look… so much like her, daughter…"
Leia reached down and clasped his gauntleted hand. "Tell me more. I don't know much about Mother…"
"Another time," Vader replied. "For now, I would like a moment of rest. And I will think on your request."
She nodded, then stood and left the room.
The desert suns pounded down on his shoulders as he shot across the sandy wastes, leaning into the curves, hot wind blasting his face and robes. The hoverbike beneath him thrummed with power. The horizon on every side shimmered with the heat. He inhaled deeply of the dry, grit-filled air and punched the throttle.
It was good to be home.
A speck blinked into existence on the horizon, shooting toward him at breakneck speed. As it approached it resolved itself into a black-robed rider straddling a hoverbike identical to his own. The second rider flashed him a challenging smile as he roared past, his blond hair flapping in the wind. Grinning with the thrill of the chase, he executed a tight turn and pursued the other rider.
He pulled up even with Luke, and almost as one they shrieked across the desert, uncaring of victory and simply reveling in the raw energy of the race. Stars, had he died and reached some kind of heaven? If he even deserved heaven… but for now he would not question…
At last Luke slowed to a halt, and Anakin cut the engine to ease to a stop beside him. Climbing off their bikes, the two men embraced each other.
"I thought I would never see you again, my son," Anakin breathed.
"I had to do some fast talking to the Jedi Council," Luke replied. "If they're as stubborn now as they were then, I can see how you had problems with them."
Anakin released Luke and stared into those brilliant blue eyes, so much like his own. "My son, why? Why did you save me? And why did you ask Leia to…" He couldn't finish.
Luke smiled. "That's what family does, Father. They look after each other, to the point of being willing to sacrifice all. From what Obi-wan told me, you know that."
He did indeed know that – all too well. "But Luke, you know what I am. I'm a monster. I cannot accept your… offer. Surely there are others more deserving of it than I."
"No, Father. I want you to receive the donation."
"How can I, knowing my son died before his time in order to give it to me?"
"You accept it knowing it can give you a second chance at life. You accept it knowing that not everyone gets a second chance. And you make good on that second chance."
"And do it for Leia. She's a Jedi now. But she needs a Master. You're the only one who can be a Master for her." Luke flashed him a knowing look. "Look on the bright side – maybe you can take the opportunity to correct some mistakes in the Order."
Anakin choked back a burst of laughter. The Jedi Council would go into conniptions if they heard the blasphemy coming from Luke's mouth right now!
"I have to go now." Luke held his father close one more time. "I love you."
"And I you," Anakin murmured, tears welling in his eyes. "Thank you… for everything."
One year later…
There were two markers in the Naboo glade now. Beside Padme's headstone, separated only by a patch of wildflowers, was a white marble edifice solemnly proclaiming "Luke Skywalker – Commander, Jedi Knight, brother, son, friend." Over the etched words, a symbol had been carved, an image of an X-wing fighter over crossed lightsabers.
Seven figures stood before the headstone to pay their respects – Han Solo, Chewbacca, See Threepio, Artoo Detoo, Wedge Antilles, Princess Leia Organa…
And a tall figure in dark brown robes and gloves.
Anakin knelt before his son's grave, one cybernetic hand reaching down to rest upon the soil, as if he sought to touch his son through the layer of earth that separated them. He had been true to his promise to his son, taking Leia under his wing as an apprentice. Though not quite as strong in the Force as her brother, she was learning quickly, and it would not be long before she was ready to take on students of her own.
The transplant operation had gone smoothly. He and Luke had shared blood types, making them the ideal donor and recipient. The scars Anakin bore from his duel with Obi-wan would never vanish entirely, of course, and he would always need occasional medical attention. But he was free of the mask, a forceful blow against the darkness of his past and a sure step away from that twisted era of his life.
He placed his hand to his chest, feeling the heart beating there… Luke's heart, now his. The heart that his son had inherited, if only figuratively, from Padme now beat in his own body. Luke had quite literally given his heart to his father, making the ultimate sacrifice for him. The price that had been paid for his life still haunted him sometimes, but it also further strengthened his resolve to not make Luke's sacrifice a vain one.
/I will not fail you, my son. The Order will live on. And I will be a Jedi, like my son after me./
Leia knelt beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I miss him."
"As do I, Leia," Anakin murmured. "But as long as we remember him, he is not entirely gone."
Wedge cleared his throat, interrupting gently. "We'd better go."
Reluctantly Anakin rose and turned toward the Falcon. But a hand on his arm stopped him.
"Father," Leia whispered.
"What is it, Leia?"
She nodded toward the grave markers.
Anakin smiled at what he saw. Three figures watched them from behind the stones, suffused with an ethereal light, smiling proudly – Obi-wan, Yoda… and Luke.
/I love you, Luke/ Leia sent. /Not a day goes by when I don't think about you./
/We will meet again, my son… someday/ Anakin vowed. /But I have a debt to pay first./
/I'll wait for you/ Luke assured him. /We'll be together again eventually. I promise you that./
Okay, NOW I can explain the challenge. The rules of the challenge were to write a story in which either Luke or Vader needed a transplant or transfusion, and only the other could give it.
Normally I would have written something with a lighter feel to it, but the plot bunny for this sadder, more poignant tale popped up and begged to be written, so… there you have it.
Back to lighter fare now…