Disclaimer – These characters are not mine, but please don't
mind me borrowing them for a short while.
Recovering from Bespin, a feverish Luke Skywalker lets slip his parentage, but what will the Alliance do with the son of Darth Vader? Their mistake proves monumental and delivers Luke into the hands of his worst nightmare. Destiny goes into an about turn where there's only one person who can save Luke from the dark side - his father
Note: This is a repost -- reformatted and properly beta-read -- with my thanks to Redone and Brigantia.
The Alliance believed itself fuelled by righteousness. Oftentimes it seemed to be running on hate.
C h a p t e r O n e
For a minute he thought his vision hummed, but it was just the blood rushing through his ears.
Lights pulsed overhead in time to the beat of a bruised heart. They were moving so fast, screaming across his vision. Lights like an airbus rushing over his head. Lights like lasers grazing across his cockpit. Lights like the reactor wall shaft skittering past. Light then dark then light then dark. Like life, where all things condescend into right and wrong, light and dark. Darkness when Owen and Beru lay smouldering in the desert. Light with Leia in his arms after the Death Star died. It had always been this way, he was sure; the certainty of all things classified under the labels of 'good' and 'evil. Yet now suddenly, strangely, there was grey between the lightness and the dark. Grey when they sat in the frigid nights on Hoth; grey when Leia pouted and glared at him, lowly commander-pilot-farmboy Skywalker, when he disagreed with her.
Lights of a reactor wall shaft tripping past; dark of Vader reaching for him; grey pain of screaming until your blood ran from red to raven.
Somewhere deep, deep down there was a little melancholic thought that laughed at the absurdity of the revelation that there was an existence beyond the explicit, and it loved to hide in the darkness and pretend nothing had changed. So then there was only the dark.
So dark. So, so, so black and hot... his true left hand and his burnt right stump flailed in the darkness searching for the crack in his dark little world. Because there had to be a crack here, somewhere, if he looked hard enough. And then this despair, this self-loathing, this terror wouldn't be complete, couldn't wrap around his throat and keep on tightening; the outstretched, imploring black hand couldn't keep squeezing... There was a crack, somewhere. There was. It was how the light got in if you just knew how to look for it.
"Leia, it's dark. Why is it so dark?" He was shivering and laughing and crying and... someone was clawing at his hand, his free hand, his only hand, like they would tear it away from him.
Take it. Please take it. Take it all away.
"I don't see anything." His voice tasted of bile and salt and metal. "I see him." His lips tasted of fear.
"Shh... shush Luke... He's not here. He's not here."
A soft voice like warmed honey and mandarin breathed the mantra over him, over and over and over. And he was falling, over and over and over; down the shaft, lights flickering past. Down past sanity and further. It was the only sane thing to do.
And he was falling still, lights flickering. But he was grinning, not screaming. Falling from Vader, dear Father, dear Old Dad; man he'd worshiped in the desert and monster he'd confronted in the wind.
I am your father. It was beautiful. So simple, so simple like Luke, and so destructive like Luke, spawn of Vader.
"He's not my... he is my..." Lips fumbled for the word and Leia was cooing over him, hand brushing frantically at his brow like she would push the fever away. Cold and heat settled around him over the blanket she'd tucked around his blinking, unseeing body. He was so cold. He was so hot. He was shivering in the burning confusion.
The lights stopped, trembling, and he cried with laughter when he didn't die. "Leia! I flew!"
"Shush, Luke. You're going to be fine. Please; be fine. Hang in there."
Clinging to cold metal pipework, wind shoving and barrelling full throttle into a battered, but not beaten, body. Hang in there... hang on... don't let go Luke. Come with me, rule with me, but don't let go.
He giggled furiously and Leia clamped a hand over his mouth to stop the mocking, empty noise, letting a little sob of despair leave her own lips.
Rule as father and son? Father was dead. Dead dead dead. Dead Owen, Dead Beru, Dead Ben, Dead Dad.
"Ouch." That stung, what was that? "Le-... Le-... Le-ia? Father?"
The light was all gone, all gone now. And that burned. He sat bolt upright. "Leia! I know!" He clawed blindly for her, found a handful of sleeve and clung to it. "I know."
Leia was so quiet, was she even there? Had they left him on his own? Alone? Please no! "Leia!"
"Leia! I know!"
Small, strong hands pressed him back down and he struggled as voices mused in angry tones around him, smothering him along with the blackness. He was sucking in breath and he was throwing up despair. Leia was holding his hand, his sweaty, shivering hand, and asking him to be quiet.
"Qui-et?" He forced his lips around the word. "But... Leia... I know... he's..."
Sweet, soft, sweat-scented skin touched his lips as she placed a finger to his mouth to quiet him.
Right, farmboy shouldn't speak now. He was in the presence of a Princess. Stupid, callow, tow-headed farmboy wasn't worthy of her highness.
Farmboy; that was all he was. Please, let that be all. All he was... all he was doing now... choking in the sand of Tatooine, burning in her heat, dying... please let him be dying. Please don't wake.
Ha! Ha! Who are you calling now, huh? You're so alone, you're so alone!
Tears were spilling from his sore eyes and skin brushed skin, wiping them away as voices swarmed angry around him.
"... if he knows... something..."
"... have to... get him... he knows...."
"... might be.... vital... might.... must tell us..."
Honey tones; sweet, silky, smooth honey tones bit out with sharp little teeth.
"He's been through enough! Let him be."
How could anyone deny her, beautiful Leia? Beautiful, tortured, hateful Leia. She hated Vader. Dear dad, how she hated him. How she must hate him.
"Leia, I gotta..." He broke into hysterics that tore at his throat, dry from screaming denial, so ready to scream acceptance. Father! Dad! Daddy! He giggled furiously at the thought of Darth Vader bouncing him on his lap as Beru once had and... "Ouch!"
What was that? What was... what was... What was, was dead; was gone, was left in a black cloak and mask and called Daddy.
Big, brave, role-model dad. How he loved him, cherished him, adored him. How he hated him, loathed him, despised him.
Anakin Skywalker... Sky-Walker... hadn't he flown? Hadn't he swooped down on him above the carbonite pit? Hadn't he been so graceful, like the Krayt Dragon so lethal and... and... wonderful. Hadn't he? Hadn't he flown! Wasn't he the great pilot Ben, old liar Ben, had told him he was?
"Luke, What did Vader tell you?"
Huh? Who was that? Hers was a voice as caustic as blaster back-wash, bitter and sour and... not Leia. Not Leia? Who then? One of the others, others that hung around his bed whilst he sweated out the fever under dark-bright lights.
"I... he flew..."
"Tell us Luke, what is so important?"
No no no!! My secret, my secret! Not yours! Don't you see, it's all I've got left! Nothing's right, anymore! Nothing will ever be right! Was I always so wrong? So wrong, wrong, wrong.
He only whimpered in reply and tried to roll away from the demanding voice.
"Leave him... let him... sick...."
"Father?" Help me! Help... I... They want to know! They want to know! They know!
His crying voice caught in his throat and the reply lay there waiting... praying... Help me!
Vader's voice, his mind-voice, didn't hiss. It was beautiful, it was twin suns sinking in the desert, and cool water in the noon heat. Hot and cold and wonderful. But how it hurt him.
Was that father? Was that... the others Asking him, questioning him, jabbing him with needles whilst Leia, beautiful, strong, soft Leia did nothing?
//Luke, you must not tell them.//
Panic. That was panic, and fear and something he added himself. Lust? Lust to tell them. Let them take this burden! Let them feel this fever!
Leia? Father? Vader? His mind burned in confusion; his skin burned in torment and no one was helping him.
//Little Jedi... shush... quiet now... please...//
He couldn't, he couldn't 'shush'... couldn't. His mind dragged and pulled and hauled the words into his throat with the sting of more drugs in his arm whilst he was screaming 'stop it, stop it, stop it!' in his head.
No, no, no! My secret! Mine! And I don't believe it – I don't! It's not true! It's not even true!
They were so quiet, suddenly still, and his breath wheezed in the cold med bay air. Dark figures, loomed over him (but there's no light to see) a hand reached out as if to touch his cheek (but there's no light to see!) but instead it grabbed him along his jaw and he felt that. Stars... stars it burned! Stop it!
The grip tightened and a fingernail grazed along the bone.
It was so quiet, so shocked, so deliciously unbelieving that he smiled. He smiled. And the grip got tighter. The face loomed over him, short auburn hair blazing bright with fury (but there was no light for him to see by...)
//Luke you must get out... get up...// That was Vader's voice; father's voice. He let it bath him; so cold against his burning skin; against the woman with the burning hair.
"Mon, you're hurting him!"
She had to, she had... to... what? Had to hate him. That was right. Had to hate him. His beautiful, sweet, adored Leia. Her honey tones were sour and sickly. Her choked, desperate pleas for her friend - farmboy, Sith-spawn, Little Jedi - were dying away in his hearing. He couldn't see. He couldn't hear. Couldn't taste; couldn't feel. His tongue was too big in his dry mouth and his mind too sickened to damn himself any more but...
//Father, they know...//
* * * *
"And after it rains, there's a rainbow, and all of the colours are black. It's not that the colours aren't there, it's just imagination they lack "