Disclaimer: I'm not the one who put them through their misery. Originally, at least!

Not all scars are alike. The ones he picks up through the course of a day, those are honorable. The can-opener nicks he laughs about and forgets. The scrawling white lines from shrapnel and whizzing blaster bolts he brags about, touches once in a while, and then ponders mortality. Sometimes they throb a little before storms or during stress—but it's a hot, clean pain. A pain that brings flashes of pumping adrenaline, of Mara bandaging his thumb, of brightness and of warmth. They hurt once terribly, and then the suffering is over. Those scars he wears like medals and comfortable shoes. There are so many that sometimes he can't remember where got one, and he'll make up a wild story to please Ben. Mara snorts with her best tart scorn, but inside she's smiling.

The others…the others are different. He never has to strain to remember their origin. He only wishes he could forget, and he tries, so hard. Ben never sees those, and Mara's green eyes always flicker and slide away.

They hurt him every day, and the pain is cold.

"Rise, Lord Skywalker, heir to your father's greatness. From this day forth, you, like him, are now mine."
"I am yours to command…Master."

He remembers the words sliding out his mouth like slick, half frozen oil. He remembers the feeling of it and little else. Those days he walked in a cloud, dark and smothering, and the memories he retains are too saturated with it for clarity.

Actually, the chronological events he's mostly pieced together from outside sources. Even then, he's never sure. A human mind can only absorb so much, and the memory-place of that time brims over with the cloud. There's no room for stories. Only the feelings. Mostly, he recalls the self-hatred. That's easy…some part of him still hates.

It was not the first time he wanted to kill himself. It was not the first time he had looked in a mirror and saw a monster leering back. Now it was bigger…he couldn't grasp the enormity of the despair he was lost in. He was a tiny thing, tumbling over and over in a howling void, a dark speck against infinite darkness. He didn't understand, only felt. Bewilderment. Rage. Fear, great waves of shuddering, paralyzing terror. Confusion.
But most of all, choking, urgent hatred. He hated himself, ferociously.

Some days he remembers it like a maze, looking down on himself dispassionately as a miniature Luke runs around and around until sweat pours off his forehead, then blood; until the figure collapses, only to be prodded up and forced to run again. Some days he remembers it is as a merry-go-round in a carnival, splashes of starkly bright color searing his eyes, whirling, whirling, never stopping, vomit splattering on his neck and down his shirt, hysterical laughter in his ears, on and on and on. Other days there's no image. On those days phantom blood settles in the whorls of his skin, and there's a scream in his head that never pauses for breath. He has trouble getting out of bed on those days.

"You have displeased me greatly."
"I am sorry, Master."
"She would have been a great asset."
He did not answer. It was true.
"Every deed has its reward, Lord Skywalker." He bowed his head and waited.
When the lash of white energy hit his chest, he was surprised at how good it felt. The pain crawled over his body in a spider-web of light, sizzling, prying its way in. He let it through.
It was hot agony, not cold. He hated the cold. That made it welcome.
What's more, he deserved it.

To his students, he is Master Skywalker, serene, immovable, the epitome of light and solidity. To his son he is the center of the universe. To Han and Leia he's still the good-hearted kid off the farm, grown up a little. To his wife, he's just Luke. But he's her Luke, the man she wants—needs—him to be. She would have ridiculed the thought, but he watches her eyes. They never follow him into his darkness. She's always waiting when he returns, but she finds ways to distract herself when he's gone. To no one is he the Luke of Byss. That Luke is a nightmare from distant past, long dead. He was taken aback by how quickly everyone forgot—even Han. How quickly things went back to normal. The galaxy is too scarred as it is, and it needs the few heroes it has. So it forgave him, and now he is whiter than a lamb.
He knows better. Unlike the galaxy, he can never forget.

Han had left a livid bruise on his face. He stroked it, pressed down suddenly and drank in the tingling pain that skittered over his nerves. The look in Leia's eyes rose up in his mind, and he pressed harder. It wasn't enough. He needed more…

Leia and Han went after him. He knows that they'd do it again in a heartbeat. They love him. But love wasn't enough then, not right away. He was too lost in the pretty circles of despair and hatred. Around and around and around…sometimes he still gets sucked in. Even now.

Curiosity. For curiosity he sacrificed hundreds and sold his own soul. He realized the disgusting triviality of it now, and every time another presence in the Force winked out, his loathing intensified. He wanted to stop, to get out, but he couldn't find the way. He reached for the light, but found swirling fog, up his nostrils, his mouth, pinning him to the ground, squeezing the air from his lungs. Some lucid portion of his consciousness accused him of enjoying it in some sick way, snapped at him to stop feeling sorry for himself. He heard, but the fog only thickened.
He wallowed, and the mire was cold.

The therapist's voice is carefully compassionate and calm, but her eyes betray her. They are narrow eyes, slits in a pinched face, and are even narrower with tension. She prods through his hazy memories with the velvet-covered truncheon of her professionalism, but he knows that her interest is more than professional. He has the Force. While she examines his "damaged psyche," he casually paws through her narrow, drab mind. It only takes a second. He smiles, settles back on the uncomfortable couch, and tells her what she wants to hear. She gulps it down. Let her scrabble with a few filthy bones. Let them all see what they want to see, and then let them go home and forget, minds at ease. He can bear the true horror.
It's the least he can do.

He did it quickly. For a moment the pain didn't register; he stared at the surprised flesh and felt a peculiar quiver of anticipation. Then he felt it, sharp and hot. Tiny beads of blood oozed up, bloated, and pooled together in a thin line. Tears splashed onto the line, diluting, salt stinging faintly. For a few blissful minutes, he forgot the lines of blood running down his soul. The ghosts of his victims faded to a dull grey haze in his mind. He felt relief.

One night he finds Mara alone, eyes empty, face blank. He crouches beside her and says nothing for a long time. Their minds are linked, but there are parts neither of them goes. He knows she is in one of those places. After a while, he shows her the scar. It gleams in the moonlight, slightly raised, slightly redder than the skin around it, a long, too-straight stripe. She stares at it for a long time. Then she gets up and walks softly away. He watches her go, head high and proud, hair shimmering. They never speak of it again.

He became a connoisseur of pain. Quick and sharp, slow and dull. Cold. Slowly, his soul became crisscrossed with the evidence of the torture he lived with every day. He wondered if his father felt like this. Funny. He'd gone to the dark side to find out what lure it held for Anakin. Deep within, he still didn't know. Maybe the real question was not why he turned, but why he stayed. Maybe it was for the same reason Luke did; the only freedom to the pain was more pain. White pain to ease the scarlet. Hot to drive away the chill. Because the truth was, he never stopped being Luke Skywalker, no matter what Palpatine called him. Luke watched everything he did, and every atrocity emblazoned itself indelibly in memory. Maybe one day like Anakin he'd learn to forgive, but he'd never forget.

The memories cling to the surface of his mind in tiny, round black droplets. They sting, and he cries. Mara's away and the door is locked. He only cries when he knows no one will find him. The room is dark; the covers on his bed are rumpled. He wraps his arms around himself and sobs quietly.

Incongruously, he often found himself thinking about Mara Jade. While Leia's image lashed him, Mara's was soft. Her bright green eyes did not accuse, and gazed at him with hurt, but also understanding. Empathy. Because of her, he caught himself wondering about "after." After, could she still stand to be around him? After, could he still look into her face? After, would he be capable of love? It didn't matter. Before Mara, there wasn't an after at all.

Mostly he functions well. He was redeemed, give the chance to live again, and he took it. He nurtures his students. He meditates in the smooth, slow air of dawn. He kisses his wife on the nape of her neck when she's not expecting it, and twists away before she can swat him. He sings, sometimes, and laughs when Jacen and Jaina shriek at him to stop. He gives advice. He goes grocery shopping. He does everything that's done in a life. But it's not the same as it could have been, and he knows it. He's crippled…scarred beyond repair.

It was a long time before he realized the delusion. It wasn't until everything was over, in fact.

He traces a scar with one finger.

This is the truth he hid from himself, the make-pretend he played: all scars of the night are cold. Even the surface ones; even the little ones he ran to for cowardly comfort. They burned for an instant, but it was false light. They passed themselves off as honorable wounds, but in the harsh gleam of day, they could not hide what they were: badges of shame. They would never stop hurting, because they were relics of weakness, not strength. Weakness can not heal itself. The years passed and they settled into a sullen, permanent frost, bitter as the sludge in the pores of his heart.

He knows where this one came from.

He always remembered every one, the small and the deep.

Not all scars are alike. This one binds him to his past, for better or worst, for all time.

You learn to live with your scars.


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