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 darkside - his father. 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 darkside - his father.
E p i l o g u e
12 months later…
Luke let out a loud whoop as the speeder gunned past his opponents, the tang of fuel and sweat hitting the back of his throat and lifting his cry higher, louder. " 'Greatest starpilot in the galaxy'?" he yelled into the comlink attacked to his collar. Sand and grit came up from under the engines, drying his lips, "You having an off day or just getting old?"
The look of indignant rage on Anakin Skywalker's face when Luke whipped his head around to see him was enough to make him start laughing again. Anakin, a shock of blonde regrowth on his head and a scowl worthy of a hutt, yelled right back at his son, "I thought I'd go easy on you, take pity on those less gifted than I, but now…"
Luke felt the tug in the Force before the accelerator cut off and Anakin's speeder shot past his, followed by Luke's shout of cheat! as he tore up the Tatooine wastes.
Up there, somewhere on the ridge, Acting Chancellor Leia Organa Solo was watching with a wide smile on her face. She was thinking, remembering, lapping up the last minutes of a sorely needed vacation from holding together the remnants of Alliance and Empire under the name of The Republic. Not the Old Republic, or even the New Republic. Just the Republic; hoping the Empire would one day just be a momentary blight in the Republic's long history. The merge hadn't proven easy, but she'd never thought it would.
She was thinking whilst she watched the race ripping up the sands below her, admitting that sometimes, just sometimes, she wished her father had stayed in a place of command after Palpatine's death. Maybe even holding the Empire together under the guise of Darth Vader. That wish, she knew, was just a manifestation of how weary she sometimes felt. But Anakin Skywalker was always there, always offering help, advice and support after the mysterious 'death' of Darth Vader and his 'rescue' from an 'Imperial prison' by his Jedi son. She smiled at the story they had given. Not quite the truth, not quite a lie. Most eagerly took up that particular 'fairytale' when they heard it and few knew the extra details that were required to get the full picture.
She lifted her head to the sky and Tatoo 1 and 2 screaming over the horizon, to the sound of repulsors hammering the ground as a group of ten x-wings and a very familiar, very sorely missed Corellian freighter eclipsed the light. For a minute she mulled over mixed feelings of happiness at seeing Han return from a 'special' mission for her, and resignation at having to leave Tatooine behind to go back to Coruscant.
The shadows of the ships waved and rippled as they shot over her head, drawing strands of hair towards the sky.
Another loud cry drifted upwards with the heat waves, Luke's laughter at drawing level with his father again. He was the slighter of the two, but he lost no control over the heavy speeder for it. Especially, she noted, now he had completed his Jedi training with his father. Their father had insisted Luke take the title of Jedi Knight after his defeat of Palpatine, but Luke had been unsure and, they both agreed, his training had neglected some of the less combat-orientated aspects of being a Jedi. And… when they had travelled to Dagobah to consult Master Yoda they had found only the ghost of the Jedi Master, who had given his blessing to their father continuing the training.
Nobody had been surprised when they had both chosen Tatooine for recuperation and, eventually, that training.
Leia had been here when Anakin had declared unilaterally that Luke was fully trained, adding with a proud grin that he didn't think his ego could take training the boy anymore, as it frequently left him nursing a bruised backside from being knocked to the ground whilst duelling. Luke had give a sunny smile and shrugged, backed by a dusky sunset.
A fairytale ending indeed…
Well, not yet, but soon…
They crossed the finish line – an outcropping of rock that had eroded in the middle to make twin pinnacles – together in a dead heat and Leia started down the crumbling path after them even as Luke's shout of surprise reached her as the x-wings made another pass and settled to the ground.
"Father?" Luke narrowed his eyes but the taller Skywalker shrugged.
"Nothing to do with me."
The ships settled with a final cough of hot dust into the atmosphere and Luke peeled the goggles off his face and scrubbed at the grime collected on his face from the ride with an equally dirty sleeve. He jumped from the speeder saddle and ran for the ships as the nearest cockpit cracked open and a figure jumped to the ground and tore the helmet off.
"Wedge!" Luke threw himself into the welcome like a bug hitting the screen of a podracer going through Beggars Canyon. Both men nearly barrelled to the floor with the enthusiastic greeting before a second figure joined them, Luke greeting Han with a smile as wide as the Dune Sea.
"Luke, it's been… ages…" Wedge grinned and shook a mop of brown hair free of desert dust.
"Longer than that," Luke agreed. Anakin walked up behind them, arms folded over his chest, a quiet grin on his face. He watched on whilst they greeted the others, some his son appeared to know, others he didn't but greeted with enthusiasm. Leia appeared at his side and winked. He raised a querying eyebrow.
"Just watch," she whispered.
"What are you guys doing out here in the backend of nowhere anyway?" Luke finally asked.
Wedge slapped him on the back, Han laughed. "Well we didn't come out here for the nightlife, kid," Han grinned.
Luke managed to both laugh and look confused. "What then?"
"Wait here." Wedge winked and leapt up to the cockpit of his x-wing, he rooted around inside whilst Luke raked sandy fingers through his hair. He dropped back down and threw a dusty, long unused helmet into his hands. He recognised it immediately, of course. After all, a pilot's helmet is the only thing standing between them and repeated concussion.
Luke looked up, wide-eyed. "Wedge…?"
Han stepped forward and slapped him on the back as Leia spoke from behind them all, trying to speak with an official voice around her own smile, "Commander Skywalker? On behalf of the Republic Navy, I'd like to reinstate your rank. The Republic is in need of good pilots."
That was certainly true, Anakin thought. Despite their best efforts and the use of Darth Vader's connections and Imperial secrets, many corrupt members of the old Empire had decided war was preferable to peace. Especially those who had been near the top of the command ladder.
"And if you've stopped convalescing in the desert, Rogue Squadron wouldn't mind having its commander back." Wedge grinned. Luke just looked down abashed at the helmet in his hands.
"I… Wedge, are you sure? I know you were given command when…"
"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't, Luke. We've lost a lot of pilots, but we've gained some new aces too. And... I try, but there's no one like Luke Skywalker for getting his squadron into unhealthy raucous good fun."
Luke grinned, then tried to school his face into something more Jedi-like. Anakin almost felt his emotions cool palpably. "I'm supposed to be a Jedi now." Luke coughed. "I don't think…"
A heavy hand settled on his shoulder, warmth and encouragement spreading between Luke and Anakin. "The old Order might have objected, Luke, but the old Order is gone. If we're going to rebuild the Jedi, maybe following their rules to the letter isn't such a good idea. I don't see how it would do any harm and I for one am not ready to start training any new students yet. Finishing off your training was one thing… starting with a whole bunch of new students, that's something else. In time, yes definitely, but for now…" He didn't say it, but Anakin knew Luke would always be happiest in the cockpit. He was a Jedi in his head and a pilot in his heart. Just like his father.
Luke nodded, closed his eyes and smiled. "All right, I accept but…"
Wedge narrowed his eyes, the same expression he got whenever Luke was about to give out a really stupidly brave mission plan. It brought back good memories. "But?"
"You've only got ten ships here. With me that makes eleven…" He looked questionably at his friend.
Wedge nodded. "Right, we need another member."
Luke grinned, again, and waved his hand theatrically. "Well, I think I've found him. Father?"
It managed to take Anakin by surprise, and it also managed to get him mimicking his son's wide smile. "Luke, they might not want me…"
Wedge slapped him on the arm, a friendly gesture he hadn't known in… years. It shook him more than he expected. "Want you? If you've even half the skill Luke used to boast about, you're welcome in this squadron."
How to tell them… How to tell Wedge Antilles he just offered to fly on the same side as Darth Vader? And then… looking into the other man's eyes, he realised he didn't have to. Wedge knew, and had accepted, whether from cajoling from Solo or respect for his son, Anakin didn't know but suddenly, the future was bright.
"Thank you," he almost whispered. "I'd be honoured."
Solo was embracing his wife with a fierce, possessive hug, his chin resting on the top of her head, "Well, now that's sorted, anybody fancy trying Mos Eisley for a celebratory drink?"
"I thought you weren't here for the nightlife, Han." Luke's eyes were laughing.
Han snorted, "Got me there, kid. But the liquor stalls are okay, and I need a stiff drink before we go ferret out Isard." Leia was rolling her eyes, the hot sunshine making her sleepy. Or maybe it was just being this close to Han that made everything seem... contented.
Anakin listened to the idle conversation, the good-natured banter of old friends. He followed when the suns began to set and everyone, Rogue Squadron, General Solo and Chancellor Organa Solo, headed for the Falcon. His lips pursed in curiosity, and then his eyes widened in recognition as he spotted one member of the Rogues lingering back and watching the suns sink. Red-gold wisps of hair stuck out from a tight plait.
He nearly approached her, nearly demanded what Mara Jade thought she was doing in Rogue Squadron. And then… sitting with Luke under the green glow of a nightlight, his eyes half-glazed as he recounts those months with Palpatine. Talking about his first conscious moment, when Mara Jade was in the room, saying, "It's strange. She brought me there, but Palpatine got rid of her quickly. Too quickly, maybe. I don't know why, but she was the only one that ever seemed like she might give a damn about what was happening…and I can't seem to hate her for it."
Mara turned to him. She might have seen the recognition there, but she just winked and turned to follow the rapidly disappearing group into the freighter.
Well, he supposed, everyone deserves a change to turn their life about.
He picked up pace, crossing a short distance of desert cooling in the welcome arms of a Tatooine night to stand next to his son. And he would have sworn that standing up on the ridge above them, backed by the sunken twin suns of his home world, the eerily blue-washed figures of Masters Jinn, Kenobi and Yoda were smiling. And nodding approvingly.
* * * *
Acknowledgements and Thanks.
I can't believe I managed to finish this, but now I have there's some people I need to wholeheartedly thank.
Achika Thanks for being supportive, ever-enthusiastic and greeting every chapter with a grin. She's the one that wanted all that darkness, folks.
Brigantia Always supportive, always full of colourful ways of stroking my ego. Cheers babe.
Cathy/Rabbit Better than sugar.
Redone for the fab beta and support
and Starr For writing better than I do.