Notes: Many thanks to Rilla and Buttercup for their excellent beta help! This fic was written as a response to the Livejournal swhetgenathon community's challenge – character prompt 'Luke Skywalker', story prompt 'First Meetings'.
"Wait… if he's a scoundrel, why do you trust him?"
"Oh, Luke. I trust him because he's a scoundrel."
Luke lay on the small cot on the Millenium Falcon, almost sobbing in relief when he felt the familiar pull of hyperspeed. Darth Vader's call through the Force had been impossible to escape… impossible to ignore. Now the pounding pain of his severed hand began again, but it was a relief, distracting him from his thoughts, from the memory of that mechanized voice.
Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Leia's voice cut through the cloud of pain, another welcome distraction. "Luke, we've got to get you cleaned up." He blinked when he turned his head in her direction and saw a man that he vaguely recognized – ah, yes, the man that had pulled him from that pole. "Oh, this is Lando Calrissian. He… he helped us." Chewbacca roared, and Luke winced.
"Listen, Chewie, I've explained this already! I did what I had to do, I had no choice-" Lando's voice trailed off, then he shook his head and leaned against the doorframe, wearily gazing at the Wookiee. "Vader doesn't give… options."
Chewbacca growled again, but it was less fierce, this time. Luke saw Leia place a hand on one furry arm. "He's Han's friend, Chewie. He helped us escape, and he's going to help us get Han back." She turned to Lando. "Right?"
"Right. Of course," Lando said, stepping back even as he smiled smoothly. Chewbacca gave a disgruntled rumble, but Leia's words evidently had some effect – he turned away and headed back to the cockpit.
Luke stared as Lando's hand squeezed the doorframe hard, brown eyes raking over him in disbelief. "So. You're Luke Skywalker, the one that Vader was looking for?"
Luke closed his eyes, nodding once. The one that Vader was looking for.
The betrayal burned, a pain sharper than the agony from his severed hand.
Ben, why didn't you tell me?
His father's call through the Force was gone, but the memory of their confrontation remained. Only hours ago. He lived it again, stood on that platform in the center of Cloud City again, heard the deep, mechanized voice again….
No. I am your father.
Luke held his injured arm close to his body, his other arm holding his body close to the platform's pole. He looked down as the wind whipped around him, looked down into an endless sky. It could end. It could.
Darth Vader's voice couldn't be escaped, a thread of darkness and temptation winding its way through his mind. "Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way."
He looked up, staring at the dark presence in front of him. Staring at his father. It couldn't be true… it couldn't…. Vader held out his hand.
Come with me. It is the only way.
Luke let go.
He fell, wisps of cloud brushing past him in his descent, the smell of outside and exhaust and char overwhelming his senses. He concentrated on it, on the smell, anything to keep the pain at bay, anything to distract him from what he'd just learned.
Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Agony tore through him, an agony of spirit and not flesh. How? How could it be true? A tube opened, an exhaust tube of some sort, and he slid into it, cool metal guiding his fall. He could fall forever, on this planet, from this city of the clouds. Forever. It wasn't such a bad thought….
No. He had to know why, he had to know….
Reaching out with the Force, he slowed his descent as well as he could, casting about, feeling the pulse of the Force through himself, through the tube, the air, the clouds, the metal grids and poles that hung below the city… weather vanes and sensors… he shot out into open air and guided himself to one of the horizontal sections of metal. Pain burst through his legs as he hit hard, but it was a pale comparison to his other pain, and so he ignored it, gripping a vertical support with his uninjured hand.
He sat there, beyond conscious thought, and the distraction of smell and sight no longer worked to keep the sickening sense of betrayal at bay. Why had Obi-Wan lied to him about his father? His head swam and he fell backwards, his knees keeping hold of the metal pole as he stared up – no, down – at the clouds. A miasma of color seemed to drift through the clouds, and he envied the filmy wisps their peaceful existence. No worries of fathers or mentors or betrayal… just floating in the sky, hoping the wind might stir a bit to give some excitement….
To fall… it wouldn't be so bad, would it? But no… he couldn't. There was someone left to protect, someone….
Weak, worn, hurt, he cast out with the Force and called to the one last person he trusted utterly, a person who had never betrayed him in any way.
Luke opened his eyes to see Lando still staring at him. As was Leia, though her face registered more concern than curiosity. He opened his mouth, then stopped and lay back, closing his eyes once more.
"What-" Lando began, but Leia quickly cut him off, her voice sharp.
"Go help Chewie, Lando."
He heard the man leave the room and then, without further comment, Leia began to work on his arm, cleaning it as well as she could with the limited medical equipment they had on the Millenium Falcon. She muttered under her breath as she worked, irritation and worry flooding from her.
"That's the best I can do, until we meet with an Alliance ship. One with better equipment than this bucket of bolts."
He smiled, then, and opened his eyes. "Thank you."
Her brow was furrowed as she stared at his arm. "I couldn't do much-"
"Not that." He closed his eyes with a sigh. "Thank you for coming back. For hearing me." Thank you for being someone I can trust.
After a moment, she put a hand on his shoulder. "Rest. We'll rendezvous with an Alliance vessel soon."
The next day, they docked with a Rebel Cruiser that was outfitted with an extensive medical suite. It would have taken them just a couple of hours to reach the cruiser, but they took a roundabout path just to be certain they weren't followed. Luke was anxious that Vader might track him, somehow, even parsecs away, but it seemed that they had shaken the pursuit in earnest. While Leia and the others spoke to the Alliance officers on board, Luke was sent to the surgical suite. Like a damaged bit of machinery, sent for repairs.
Luke flexed the fingers of his new hand, amazed as each individual joint obeyed his wishes. He'd seen others fitted with the prosthetics during his time with the Rebellion, but he'd never known just how seamless the attachment was. He looked up at the medical droid and nodded his thanks. The droid didn't nod back, of course, just continued along its business, as it was programmed to do.
"Master Luke, what luck that we found you when we did! Oh, when I think of what could have happened to you, I am just beside myself!" Threepio's voice was a comfort, of a sort. Programmed for human interaction above all else, the golden droid was not likely to question him about any subjects he wished to avoid. And, even if Threepio did question him, he could be easily put off by a request not to speak of it. Not so his human companions.
Leia was concerned about him, and though he'd tried to keep his expression smooth when in her presence, he knew she could sense something was bothering him. He wasn't ready to talk about what he'd learned, out there on the windy platform in the center of Cloud City. He didn't know if he'd ever be ready.
As for Lando… he didn't trust him. The man was too smooth, too quick with his answers, his smile too broad and bright. Of course, Lando had helped to rescue Chewbacca and Leia, and also Luke himself, dragging him from the bottom of that weather vane and into the shaky comfort of the Millenium Falcon. He hadn't officially met him until some time later, of course, after the space pursuit that Luke had spent in near-delirium, trying to avoid the call of his father.
He curled his new hand into a fist, and closed his eyes, and the voice came again.
Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
He had trusted Ben.
"So, why don't you tell me what Darth Vader wants with you?" Lando Calrissian asked, his gaze frankly disdainful, though he hid it with a slick smile. The smile widened when Leia walked into the small meeting room, and Luke clenched his fists. It was the man's natural reaction whenever a female walked by, of course, and Luke quickly relaxed. It was obvious that Lando saw Leia as off-limits. For now. Not that Leia would fall for such a scoundrel, of course, but it still made him breathe easier.
"Whatever it was, he didn't get it." Leia's voice was firm, and the warning in her eyes evident. Lando raised his hands, eyebrows going up in an attempt to appear innocent. He failed miserably.
Luke sighed and stood, using his new hand to push himself up. He was still getting used to the prosthetic, and the pressure at both hand and wrist was strange, but not uncomfortable. "It's all right, Leia. He... he wanted me. The Emperor wanted me."
"I did blow up their Death Star, didn't I?" Luke forced a cheeky grin, and was relieved when Leia seemed to accept the explanation.
Lando tilted his head. "They wanted to make a warning out of you?"
"You're right. That must be it." Leia's brow creased in thought. "Maybe not a warning, though. They'd be more likely to torture him in private, hoping to gain some intelligence on the Rebellion."
"I wouldn't talk." Luke frowned when he caught Lando's lifted eyebrow. "You can trust me on that."
"You don't know what these Imperials can do."
"Yes, I do." Luke looked away for a moment, his thoughts on his uncle and aunt, on Yoda and Ben. On Han. "I know. Too well."
Lando eyed him a moment, then nodded. "All right. I'll just leave you two alone, then. I've got to talk to Chewie about the mission, anyway." With a flourish, Lando turned and walked out of the room. Staring after him, Luke shook his head.
"You want to work with him to get Han back? Are you sure, Leia?"
"Yes, I am. I trust him." Leia smiled softly. "He's quite the scoundrel."
"Exactly! Wait… if he's a scoundrel, why do you trust him?"
"Oh, Luke. I trust him because he's a scoundrel." Leia's smile grew wistful, sad. "Just like Han."
That wasn't such a bad comparison – maybe Lando would prove trustworthy, after all.
"Just like Han."
Luke sat down at a table in the small gathering area on the Alliance ship, a glass in his hand. Lando had already taken a seat, one that gave a good vantage point of the room at large, and he nodded at the other man as he settled into the chair. He was more comfortable with Lando now than he had been days before, when they first met on the Millenium Falcon. He was a pleasant companion, in fact, if a bit shallow.
Now, Rebel mechanics worked on the Millenium Falcon, going over every fingerswidth of tubing and metal to ensure it was in perfect working order before they all went their separate ways. Luke planned to return to Dagobah to resume his training with Yoda, while Lando, Leia, and Chewbacca worked on the plans to rescue Han. Luke would help, also, but he would be more valuable to the effort after he completed his training, and after he replaced his father's lightsaber.
His father's lightsaber.
He closed his eyes, gripping the drink tightly with his prosthetic hand. It was almost the same as flesh, but he had the feeling – at times – that he could hear the whirring of the metal bits as they performed the motions he demanded. Imagination, he knew, but it was there nonetheless.
He sighed. Did his father feel the same sensation? Or was he so accustomed to the suit, now, that it was as natural as breathing? Or not as natural as breathing, he amended, recalling the mechanical sound of the respirator Darth Vader wore. Was anything about the man natural, anymore? More machine than man, Obi-Wan had said. Obi-Wan had said a lot.
Flexing his fingers, he stared at the prosthetic. He had almost forgotten Lando's presence, and when the other man clapped his shoulder lightly, he jumped.
"Easy, Luke." Lando studied him closely, and he shifted on his seat. "For a man that needed a drink, you aren't drinking much."
Luke shrugged. "I've… I've just got a lot on my mind."
"We all do. But that doesn't mean we can't relax and enjoy life-" Lando's smile broadened as an attractive woman walked by, and his voice grew even smoother. "-to its fullest, now, does it?"
Lando winked over at the woman, who had taken a seat near them. She pretended not to see him, but Luke noticed her eyes cutting over to the handsome man when she thought he wasn't looking. He sighed again.
"A drink with a friend, a lovely lady to wink at… if you can't enjoy those, what's the point?"
"Right." Luke summoned a smile. Lando's love of the ladies was much easier to bear now that he was certain Leia wasn't one of the targets. "If you can't enjoy that, what's the point?" His smile faded and he looked down at his hand, splaying the fingers on the tabletop. Lando's eyes narrowed.
"Are you ever going to tell me the real reason Vader's so interested in you?"
Luke sucked in a breath, trying to think of an answer, and after a few moments of silence Lando raised an eyebrow. Another woman passed their table, more beautiful than the last, but Lando didn't notice, his attention now centered completely on Luke. With a smirk, Lando said, "All right, if you're not going to talk, I'll just make something up."
A chuckle escaped Luke's throat, and he shrugged. "Go on, then. Make something up."
"Well. He didn't kill you, and he never wanted to. Even after you escaped the carbonite, he still didn't kill you. Took your hand off, but for him that's the same as telling someone good morning, so I'm not counting that."
Luke's fingers twitched.
"Then I remembered how Han's blaster just flew across that room. And I remembered something about that Force stuff people talk about." Lando's eyes were keen, and Luke realized he'd underestimated the man. It was a foolish mistake, and he should have known better. Lando was a scoundrel to be sure, but a cunning scoundrel. Not a shallow fool. He had been the leader of a city, able to bring two prisoners out from under Darth Vader's nose… and somehow able to keep Chewbacca from ripping his limbs off after Han was captured. "You called Leia, somehow. We were flying off, getting out of danger, and all of a sudden she announces we've got to go back. You did call her, didn't you?"
Luke nodded slowly.
"I thought so. You used that Force thing?"
There was no point in hiding it – Lando would learn of it soon enough, anyway, at the Rebel base. He nodded again.
"So that's why he wanted you."
Luke took a long swallow of his drink. "Yeah. Something like that."
Lando's eyes were thoughtful, and entirely too knowing for Luke's comfort. "Something more than that, I take it?"
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. With a sigh, he stared at his hand, turning it in the light. It looked real. Nothing was ever as it seemed – not even Lando Calrissian.
"So. Where are you headed, anyway?"
His hand drifted down and he stared at Lando. The other man gave him a quick wink and then smiled innocently. A change of subject… he hadn't expected to be let off the hook so easily, but it seemed Lando was going to let it drop. His face must have held some of the wonder – and relief – that he felt, because Lando leaned towards him.
"A man has secrets, that's fair enough. Just so long as that secret won't get me killed…"
"I doubt it."
"Then keep your secret." Lando took a long drink, pausing long enough to nod at another passing woman over the edge of the glass. "So. Where are you headed?"
"There's a… teacher, that I have to go back to. I left my training early, and I promised him that I'd come back and complete it."
"That Force stuff?"
Luke laughed. "Yeah."
"Why did you leave?"
"To help my friends." Luke rubbed his face, realizing at the last moment that he'd used his new hand. He was obviously becoming more accustomed to it. "I didn't do such a good job. It was a trap."
"Friends." Lando nodded. "No greater reason to do anything." Catching sight of the woman from earlier, who had sat near them, Lando's smile widened and he raised his glass in silent salute. "Aside from impressing a lovely lady."
"Do you ever change?"
"Why should I?"
Luke shook his head. "Well, I didn't do either one. No help for my friends, and no impressed ladies, I'm afraid." He flexed his hand. "I guess I should just be happy to get away alive."
"Sometimes you have to make hard bargains." Lando watched his hand, then looked up at him, his gaze more serious than Luke had ever seen it. "Sometimes that bargain comes when you've got two things precious to you, and you've got to decide which is the most precious. Friends or a city. Life or a hand. And then you throw the chance cube, and hope it lands in your favor."
"Sometimes you lose a city…"
"Or a hand."
"But not your friends."
Lando raised his glass, and Luke mimicked the gesture.
"We'll get Han back."
Their glasses clinked together, and they both drank deep.