Disclaimer - These characters are not my own, they belong to Lucasfilm. Any resemblance with actual persons is pure coincidence, even if a certain Luke Skywalker does seem a bit like that cute kid who played in the Eight is Enough pilot… hmmm….
Summary: When a mission goes sour and leaves Luke with mild amnesia and temporary blindness, he finds himself rescued by a blackcaped, Imperial Force user. Luke and Vader must work together to escape death. Unashamed Luke-Vader Father-Son story, 1 yr post ANH.
Three Nights, Two Days and One Lifetime.
Approximately one year after the Battle of Yavin...
His uncanny ability to get himself into the most excruciating of situations continued to amaze him.
Watching the burning the shell of the outsized barge he'd been travelling aboard begin a shuddering descent to the murky water, Luke accepted that he had to give credit where it was due: it'd probably been his provincial Force talent (or maybe a temporary insanity) that'd made him jump from the barge to the lake he was even now flailing in, and it looked like it had saved his life.
For however short a time...
Flames licked the sides of the barge and the water began to hammer in shockwaves around him as his lungs began building a cry for oxygen. The water had a greenish-blue tinge and was bitterly cold, but he wasn't feeling that. The image of the burning ship descending was of more concern right now.
The muffled screams of TIE fighters rippled through the water as they shot over the lake, and the water hissed and spluttered from the shots that missed the barge and sizzled down into the water, tremulous waves following the hard-light projectiles down into the depths. The barge hit in a thunderous crack that ricocheted through the water and Luke felt rather than heard a loud whumph! in his ears as the water above his head erupted into flames, hissing as they hit the water. Charred fragments of the exploding hull plates hit the water, the water fizzing and popping as the super-heated metal met the frigid water.
Luke tried to swim away from the sinking ship, but the water seemed to be sucked towards it, dragging at him, pulling him back towards the wreck. The barge was huge and descending rapidly - and desert farmboy Luke Skywalker didn't have a clue how to swim.
As the dark hull descended towards him, the waves thrown out from the sinking ship twisted him into a tight spiral, dragging at him, and he flailed, trying to swim futher - and faster - and failing miserably. The TIE fire continued, so much closer this time, and the bright green exploded in the churning water, incredibly bright, and pain lashed through Luke's eyes before he thought to look away.
He gasped in pain - and water rushed into his mouth, smothering him.
Luke opened his sore eyes warily, and immediately closed them again when he saw nothing in the darkness but the brilliant spark of pain opening them had created. They burned with the sting of salt water and he shivered. Clammy, cold clothing stuck to his skin and he coughed up salt water. The taste was bitter and he had to resist the urge to retch. The sting in his eyes only built as his awareness grew, and he coughed in the shallow water he lay in. Luke pushed his fists into his eyes to try and see through the pain: trying to wipe away the salt that had to be causing it.
With a sick, rising horror he realised that the rubbing of his hands changed nothing, nor did forcing open his raw eyes - everything remained chillingly black.
Crying out in alarm, he rushed to stand uprght and slipped on the wet rock beneath his feet - but he couldn't hear the splash of the water, nor see it. Panicking he backed away hurriedly as if he could run from the sudden constricting darkness of his world.
Something strong and demanding gripped his arm and there was a garbled noise that might have been someone talking, but it sounded far away, muffled and low. The grip shocked him and he jumped back, startled. He slipped again and this time he fell, flailing against wet rocks and pebbles that had to be a shore line.
"What? Who's there?" He rubbed at his eyes again and was only rewarded by more stinging pain. He heard the muffled sloshing sound of steps in water as someone clasped his shoulders. Whoever held him said something entirely unintelligible and Luke shook his head furiously.
"I... I can't understand you." He said. The grip tightened momentarily and something like cold, wet leather brushed his forehead – gloved fingertips? – and sounds descended on him again. He jumped as the man spoke, this time clearly.
"You can't hear?" The voice was deep and he shivered despite himself. Now he could hear: the gentle break of small, lazy waves on a pebbled shore; the dying crackle of an explosion, and another sound. A strange, whirring-hiss that he couldn't identify.
"No. Well, now I can, but I... I can't see." He'd almost sounded imploring, and he bit his tongue at the pleading he heard in his own voice.
This time, he definitely heard the rustle of wet fabric as the man leaned in closer. His shadow must have fallen across him because Luke was suddenly chilled, skin crawling and puckering with goosebumps. There was an ominous silence and Luke shifted uncertainly, the pool of water he sat in cold and uncomfortable. He blinked furiously but it did no good.
"Did you look into the blast?" The voice, becoming clearer with the passing seconds and the tight grip on his shoulders, was deep and warm with concern.
"No... but some of the TIE fire hit close by. I... I guess I might have been looking at it." He shrugged uncertainly as he felt the man step back from him and the pressure left his shoulders.
"That is not good," he rumbled. There was something both intoxicating and disturbing in that tone of voice... and something familiar. Luke struggled to stand, shivering. A steadying hand was placed on his shoulder as he shook wet bangs of hair from his eyes and found the world suddenly tilting under him. "Steady. You might have a slight concussion," the other warned.
Luke swallowed around the nausea creeping in his stomach. "What happened?"
"You don't remember?"
Luke considered answering – 'of course I remember' – but the words died before they got anywhere near his lips. Panic rammed into his gut with the force of a fleeing X-wing and he reeled backwards, strong hands preventing him from falling. "No! I mean... no!"
"I..." He stumbled backwards from the man, much taller than he was if the direction of the voice was anything to go by. "Well... I'm not really sure."
"You were aboard the barge when the TIE fighters destroyed it. Do you remember that?" the voice rumbled and stopped him from backing away any further.
"Do you remember the explosion? Or the X-wings that destroyed the TIE squadrons afterwards?" The voice was concerned, but also thoughtful. Luke hugged his arms around his middle.
The man paused, hisvbreath hissing with that strange sound that Luke couldn't quite place. "But you remember what those types of ships are?"
Luke looked up suddenly, an uncertain smile spreading across his face. "Yes. I just don't remember the events..." He turned away wistfull, trying to sort through the blurred images in his mind; the glimpses of the past that dissolved before he could get a grasp of them.
"How hard did you hit your head?" The voice approached, the sloshing of water around booted feet now completely audible to Luke.
He grimaced. "I don't remember," he said ruefully. There was a pause, long and stretched too thin.
"You should sit. You are shaking." He felt a hand try to bring him out of the water and up to the shore.
"I'm just confused," Luke said, rubbing a hand across his forehead and biting his lip. The strange presence beside him sighed and repeated the order.
"Save me from a bloody-minded child! Sit down before you fall down!" The man let ou a strained chuckle as Luke sat abruptly and resisted the urge to pout.
"I'm fine," he hissed.
"Of course you are; you're only flash-blinded, suffering from a mild concussion and amnesia. You have a strange definition of fine, child."
Luke remained sullenly silent and tried in vain to make out the form he knew was crouched opposite on him on the pebble beach. There was nothing, and he concentrated harder, instinctively trying to reach for the ever-elusive Force Ben Kenobi had tried so hard to ingrain in his apprentice. There was something... maybe. Like a flicker of a shadow, large and cloaked, and then nothing. He shook his head disgustedly at his own inability.
"There are better methods for doing that, although I doubt they would work."
Luke glanced up uncertainly. "You... you can use the Force?" he asked, sudden surprise and hope colouring his words.
There was definitely a chuckle now, strange around the hiss of a... respirator! That was it! He grinned; maybe the amnesia would be very temporary.
"What is it?" the other asked uncertainly.
"Oh, nothing. I just remembered something else."
"But... who... who are you?" he asked, fingers playing nervously with the pebbles. Nervous and he didn't know why. It was, after all, a simple question. There was the nagging feeling that he was missing some vital information - other than the events of the last few hours - and the lengthy silence only reinforced his unease. "If we're going to be stuck out here a while then it might be useful if I knew your name." He tried a rueful little smile and it seemed to melt his companions steely mask because there was an uncertain sigh.
"You may call me Kin," the other man offered.
"Is that your name, or are we just picking names randomly? Because I've always thought 'Your Highness' would sound great on me."
There was a stifled laugh from beside him. "You have a dry sense of humour. I like it." Why did it sound like those words had been pulled from the jaws of a krayt dragon?
He cracked a smile. "Well, actually, I like my name just fine. I'm Luke Skywalker. Pleased to meet you Kin." He offered his hand into the dark, to his best guess of where his companion sat, and Kin shook it firmly. Luke inwardly winced at the strength of that grip - he hadn't been wrong about his companion's stature.
"Well, at least you remember your name." The firm grasp released his hand and Luke stared blankly off in the direction of the shore. His companion was quiet for a moment as Luke tried to pierce the fog smothering his eyes.
Another pause. Kin seemed to be treading very cautiously. "The ship you were on was attacked by a squadron of TIEs, and destroyed. You, however, jumped clear in time. No one else did. The X-wing escorts then proceeded to destroy the TIEs and returned to wherever they came from. I found you unconscious in the water, and swam to shore with you."
Luke just gaped, then forced his mouth shut. "You... you saved my life. Thank you."
"I am merely glad I... saw you."
Luke nodded. "No one else survived?"
"So where did you come from?" At the lengthy pause, Luke turned suspiciously to his rescuer. "Well?"
"I was one of the TIE pilots," he admitted. An Imperial? Luke jumped to his feet automatically, backing away and grabbing for the saber on his hip. There was nothing there, his fingers grasping air and he looked up suspiciously. His alarm must have shown but the heavy rasp of the respirator continued unaltered, unconcerned.
"My lightsaber? Where is it?"
He felt rather than saw the other stand, but the man did not advance. "I have it."
"Give it back," Luke growled, but still felt a rush of relief fall over him. If he'd lost it in the water...
There was a pause, almost sad and reluctant. "Of course. I was merely keeping it for you. You fully deserve to wield the weapon."
"What do you mean?" Luke asked as the familiar hilt of his father's lightsaber was placed into his palm. His fingers closed protectively around it, the last connection he would ever have to his murdered father.
"You're very strong in the Force, Luke. You deserve the weapon of a Jedi." There was something there that Luke couldn't begin to identify, and he shoved it aside.
"You're an Imperial?"
"Who knows how to use the Force?" Luke shifted uncomfortably.
Luke tried to pierce the darkness but got nothing, he sighed in frustration. It wasn't like he could fight this man anyway, not when he'd just saved his life. But there was still something here that he was missing, and it persisted to nag at him.
"I see." He laughed when he realised the irony in what he'd just said, shaking his head. His laughter seemed to break the uneasy tension between them and Kin moved closer to him.
"We should start moving," he said, tone almost affectionate.
Luke clipped the hilt back onto his hip, a familiar procedure that he could easily do blind. "Where are we going?" He instinctively glanced around, and then stopped himself at the futility of that act.
"We have to escape the tide," Kin explained, one hand gripping Luke's forearm. "We are in danger of becoming trapped by the incoming tide. This is a large salt lake, and beyond the narrow shore we are on now on there is a only a sheer cliff-side."
Luke looked up in alarm, "The tide is rising?"
"Yes. And the tide marks on the cliff are several feet high," Kin added.
Luke shivered at the implications. "Great, we're going to drown. Or freeze to death in the water," he muttered.
The hand on his bicep tightened, almost protectively. "I will not allow that to happen."
Luke shook his head nervously at the conviction there, and it almost made him feel better. Almost. "You might not have much of a say in the matter," he pointed out.
"You will not die."
Luke wondered at the choice of wording - at the you - but said nothing. "Can we scale the cliff?" As if he could climb whilst blind...
"Even if we did, the radiation at the surface top would be lethal. You forget, the sun is much closer here than on most inhabited planets. It is only because we are in the shade and have the wind from the lake that we can stand the heat."
"Right... I see." He shook his head sadly. "What then?"
Kin loomed over him. "We walk."
Luke looked up, and expressed his understanding of that. "Huh?"
"Along the shoreline. The lake has several small ports positioned along it at regular intervals. We must reach one before high tide."
"We'll never make it," Luke protested. "We don't have any fresh water, or food. I'm blind and you seem to have some sort of breathing problem." He winced at that, but Kin said nothing. "We have no idea how far we have to walk or how long we have before we drown."
Kin chuckled darkly. "And I thought Luke Skywalker was famed for his naïve optimism in even the gravest of circumstances."
"Well I don't see..." He stopped and looked upwards, guessing at where Kin's face had to be "What? 'Famed'?"
Kin took his arm and lead him forwards. "Can you walk on your own? The rocks are slippery but smooth."
"Yes, I think so. What do you mean, 'famed'?"
Kin was silent a moment, as if considering. He started to walk, and Luke followed, Kin a massive shadow in his hearing and his senses. Occasionally, the wet fabric of the larger's man's cloak brushed at Luke's cheek, ruffled by the wind.
"You are famous, Son. Destroying the Death Star was no small feat." Was that... pride? Luke frowned.
"That's not good," he murmured. His feet skidded on the pebbles, but he managed to keep his balance, used as he was to the treacherous ground of Tatooine.
Water splashed around their feet as they walked - and that was like nothing he'd ever known on Tatooine. Had it not been conspiring to kill them, he might have appreciated it. As it was, it just slowed them down.
"Really, why not?"
"Well, I guess if you know it was me that destroyed the Death Star, then the whole of the Imperial Fleet must know, too. Leia told me I'd have to lie low when they found out. The Emperor would want retribution. The Emperor... and Darth Vader."
There was a pause as Luke wallowed in dark thoughts of his impending doom- of what would happen if Vader ever caught up with him. He'd heard the stories of Imperial cruelty to Rebel prisoners. Had heard it far too many times and it made his stomach turn in tight little circles. He looked away across the shore, unseeing.
At length, Kin spoke. "You think they would kill you."
Luke laughed miserably. "No, I think they would torture me first, then kill me."
Luke couldn't help it. He had to ask: "Have you ever... flown with Vader. I mean, I know he pilots... sometimes." Water sloshed around his feet. Kin's reply was delayed.
"You have some very strong feelings about Darth Vader."
Luke's anger began to simmer and he balled his fists. "Yes." The word was small and cold.
"Not just because you fear him."
"No." Luke found himself stepping down harder in the water. "He killed my father." The anger was very obvious and the air was suddenly stiff with tension.
Luke's anger exploded. "Would you stop saying that! No you don't see – you have no idea." He stormed forwards despite the fast pace Kin set. "Vader's taken everything from me and I don't suppose he even realises it. Or worse - maybe he did it deliberately and all he wants is to cause me misery." In his anger, his foot slipped and he stumbled, Kin catching him in surprisingly strong arms. The other man stood in front of him, staring down at him for long seconds whilst Luke calmed himself, letting the anger drain away into the frigid waters.
"I doubt that. If he wanted to do that, child, he could have easily done it a long time ago." The voice held a strange sadness, almost wistful.
"Well then, maybe he just doesn't care. Doesn't care that he killed my father, or about me at all," he mumbled. "Just some farm kid with a lightsaber he doesn't even know how to use."
He turned from the Imperial and walked on, feeling his anger fizzle into something sad and useless.
"I would doubt that, young on. It seems quite likely that he cares about you a great deal – the bounty on your head is quite astronomical," Kin rumbled, trying to alleviate some of the tension. It didn't work. Luke continued to walk, listening to the steady splash of his footsteps.
"Yeah, that's just great. Must have something really nasty planned for me to be willing to pay that much." Maybe Han was a bad influence, but it didn't matter - he was feeling quite cynical, all of a sudden. On the one hand, he wanted to meet Vader, to exact retribution... and on the other he dreaded that meeting, knowing that right now he wouldn't stand a chance and the great Dark Lord would probably swot him like the simple nobody he was.
Luke look back to his silent companion, waiting for the man to draw level with he. He had the briefest suspicion that Kin was looking down at him with sadness as he drew level, and walked on.
They walked for several hours, until the falling night began to get chill the air. Luke's legs had begun to ache but he didn't complain, just kept sloshing on as the water approached the cliff edge and was up around their calves, and making it harder to move. For a long time they had simply talked... mostly about piloting, about the war, about how Luke had become involved in the rebellion.
Kin had avoided all talk about his family and Luke recognised that seemed to be a sore point and he kept clear of it. Kin appeared to have recognised that Luke's unease about his current status as Rebel Hero was not something he liked to talk about, and he mercifully avoided it. Luke relished the moments that the pilots, the generals and the techies recognised him as the Hero of Yavin... but it was a constant nightmare to be worrying about Vader following doggedly in his footsteps. And if he didn't like thinking about it, he certainly wasn't ready to talk about it with a stranger.
Now, as the water temperature continued to drop and exhaustion tugged at the edge of Luke's mind, they lapsed into a tired silence, until Luke finally spoke again.
"Who taught you to use the Force?" Only the pause in the hiss of the other man's respirator told him that Kin had heard him. "I mean, I thought there weren't any Jedi left. And, well... there's only Vader and the Emperor and..." A wind stirred over the deceptively waveless water and Luke shivered.
"I was taught a long time ago, before the purges," Kin answered, and Luke thought there was more there. But it went unsaid.
"I wish..." He broke off as something to his left attracted his attention. Without sight, his hearing was amplified and there was the quiet gurgle of bubbles off to the side.
"You wish what, Little Jedi?"
Luke smirked. "That's just it: I'm no Jedi. There's no one left to teach me." He began to wade out, curious about the sound he'd heard. Kin stopped. Luke's feet slipped along the rocks but he kept his balance, peering into the dark, cold gripping his thighs. "I wish Vader had at least left someone to teach me..."
"So that you could train to be a Jedi and then kill him in revenge for your father?" the other asked.
"Well... yes." When he said it like that, it didn't sound like a very honourable goal. He shrugged.
"The Jedi would not have approved of revenge," Kin pointed out.
"I know. But it was lonely growing up without a father. I often… well, I used to dream of him. Stupid, childish dreams I guess. He used to talk to me - or at least that was what it felt like. I think my dream-father was as confused as I was by it. I just wish they could've been true. I'd give anything to have him back," he said sadly. The water stirred around him.
"Are you certain they weren't true?"
Luke turned at the suddenly intense voice, hearing shock and understanding there, but having no idea where they came from. The sound of moving water brought his attention back to the lake and the hairs on the back of his neck stood tall. He waded further out. "Well, they couldn't have been anything else. He's dead."
"I see." Kin was very still in the cooling water. "Where are you going?"
Luke turned back to him when the gurgling suddenly silenced. "I thought I heard something. It's nothing." He stood in the water, now up to the tops of his thighs, and looked down sadly.
"Why so despondent, child? I think I preferred it when you were cracking jokes." Kin tried to make his voice gentle and Luke appreciated it. He smiled.
"Thanks. I think I like you too." He grinned, and there was a sharp intake of breath from his companion. Steeling himself, Luke asked "Kin... would you train-"
The words faltered when something wrapped itself around his leg and slivered quickly up his skin in a burning trail on pin-pricks. He cried out in surprise, and then in pain as little needles dug into his flesh.
Kin called out – Luke! - as Luke went down in the water from a sudden tug on the tentacle wrapped around him, dragging his feet out from under him. He went under the water with a cry before the lake cut off all sound but the rush of bubbles. Luke shouted for help and his fingers scraped at the tentacle, thick and cold and pulsing faintly, trying to pry it free. Bubbles and water brushed his face as it pulled him from the shoreline and deeper out - as his lungs began to burst. Briefly his mind went back to the dianoga in the Death Star garbage masher - but there was no Han to drag him out of this one.
But there was Kin. He had run forward, grabbing for Luke and finding a handful of blonde hair. Luke yelped when Kin held it firm against the tug of the tentacle, but at least it stopped his drag out into deep water. In the mute dark he felt suddenly very alone, and utterly terrified. He tried not to scream hysterically, but water poured into his lungs as he fought against he strange tentacle. Then the water sizzled and the death-grip on his leg was released, and Luke was hauled head first from the water, Kin's arm across his chest and under his armpits. He spluttered hysterically and started screaming as the pain finally registered fully along with the shock and he was being carried in strong, shaking arms back through the water. He sucked in air and started coughing.
Kin laid him in the shallows and called his name, over and over, his deep voice demanding and gentle at the same time. Luke coughed up water and rolled onto his side. "My... leg..." he gasped, and clenched his eyes shut at the burning pain crawling up his calf and thigh. Kin's hands skimmed down his leg and pulled the black trouser leg upwards, big hands tentatively touching the tangled lines of wounds Luke could feel digging into his skin. "Hurts..." he gasped and bit down on his tongue as Kin touched one of the wounds. He whimpered in pain.
"Shssh... Luke..." Kin said, but the man didn't sound very calm himself. As he touched the leg, carefully avoiding the weaving lines burnt there, the pain receded some and Luke collapsed to the pebbles, shaking.
"What was that?" he asked, voice cracking.
"Some sort of sea creature, it was probably hungry," Kin said, hands gently probing the wounds.
The water sloshed around Luke's head. "Glad I didn't taste too good," he managed between clenched teeth.
"Luke..." The voice was solemn and Luke felt something in his heart freeze.
"What? What is it?" He didn't really have to ask as a raking pain shivered its way down his spine and he convulsed, suppressing a screech.
"The creature left its spines in the wounds. They are most likley poisoned," Kin said, and the dread in his voice was infinite.
Poison. Yes, that would be about right. Typical Skywalker luck. "I'm going to die," he said softly. He shivered violently - and not from the freezing water.
The fierce determination stunned him into silence as his body disobeyed his mind's commands to stop shivering. Big hands lifted his head out of the water as he shuddered again, skin wet not only from the lake but from perspiration as he felt nausea spreading rapidly through him, bleeding off his strength.
"I... think I am already," he stuttered, his lips growing numb.
Kin placed his wet palm on Luke's forehead and the pain ebbed away again, the nausea banished by Kin's force of will. "I did not rescue you to let you die now," he admonished Luke, and Luke felt like a small child being corrected by a stern, if concerned, parent.
He simply nodded and murmured, "Thank you."
Kin knelt a while longer and Luke's body began to grow numb. He hoped that was Kin's doing, and not the poison.
"It is mine."
Luke would have sworn that he had not voiced the question, but had Kin answered anyway. "I can't walk," Luke murmured, instinctively rolling onto his side to lean against the strong arm that supported him. There was a strange comfort in that hold. He coughed. "You have to go on alone."
"I will," Kin answered and Luke felt his heart shatter just a little, "but I am not leaving you here," Kin added firmly, as if sensing Luke's sudden despair.
He pulled up the trouser leg again and Luke felt apprehension there. "This may... hurt a little," Kin said.
"What do you – agh!" Luke bit down on the scream and clenched his eyes shut, little sobs of pain barely making it through his determination not to show weakness to the man who had nowsaved his life twice over.
Kin pulled the excruciatingly sharp spines from Luke's calf and thigh, drawing them out one by one, offering support with his hypnotically deep voice, his free hand never leaving the boy - offering reassurance that Luke was not alone in the dark, not suffering alone. It helped, but barely. Luke felt trapped in a dark, painful world and Kin was the only light.
The spines were not easily removed and it took precious minutes before they were all gone. Luke collapsed back into the water, not caring that it now reached until it almost covered his mouth, and he gasped for breath. After several shuddering minutes, Kin lifted him to a standing position. Luke offered no protest, utterly exhausted and tired. He wanted to just drifting off into a painless sleep...
"No... you must not sleep. You must stay awake," Kin said. He wrapped something warm and heavy around Luke, a soft and supple fabric, and tied it with the belt from Luke's waist. Luke accepted the warmth, though it made him drowsier.
"Luke, talk to me," Kin said. He lifted Luke onto his back, one arm slung over his shoulder, the other under his arm.
"Okay..." Luke murmured, feeling strangely detached from the situation. Luke linked his hands together and when Kin took his legs in his arms he tried not to cry out when the man brushed against the tender skin on his thigh. "I don't think I can keep this grip up..." His words were slurred.
Kin started walking, but he shifted Luke's slight weight over his back to balance him with one hand and used his free hand to link Luke's wrists together with a thin length of plastic. He returned Luke to a two-handed grip.
"Storage tag," Kin explained before Luke asked about the impromptu cuffs.
"Oh..." Luke said dreamily, shivering against the man's back. It was only now that he realised just how... big... his companion was.
"Stay awake, Luke," Kin said, worry etched into even the deep bass tones of the vocoder.
"... can't..." Luke murmured. He snuggled his cheek against the damp cloak wrapped around his shoulders, and he shivered again. It was so cold... so very cold. He was so cold...
"Luke - child, please. Remember what Kenobi taught you, how to reach the Force. It can help you," Kin said, voice commanding. Luke didn't even ask about his knowledge of old Ben. He murmured understanding and concentrated until the Force came to him. It was not like the other times he had touched it, not at all. It felt... amplified. Bright, brilliant, soothing. but with a darker undercurrent he couldn't place. It flooded him and he sucked it up eagerly, feeling his mind to clear a little.
"Pretty..." he whispered appreciatively.
"Luke, keep talking," Kin said, holding the boy tighter. "Tell me about Tatooine."
The voice of command... he couldn't disobey. "I never told you I was from Tatooine..." he said, resting his head against the back of a padded flight suit.
"Tell me anyway."
"H'okay. Well... there's not much to tell. There's nothing but sand and stone. Nothing like this. And canyons. I used to fly them..." The thoughts came randomly and he voiced them as he felt a presence flicker at the edge of his thoughts, just like Ben Kenobi's had done during his all-too-brief training. He recognised it as Kin. He let it in.
The water sloshed cold and loud around them as Kin walked on.
They walked on through red-tinged starlight. When the shock of the poison began to wear off, the sound of the water and Kin's heavy, rasping breathing began to lull him further into a fitful sleep, but he never reached unconsciousness before something in his mind swelled around him and dragged, hauled and wrenched him back towards consciousness.
It was the Force, bright and scared, and he didn't resist it; was only thankful it was there for him. His left leg had gone numb and his world was darker than even the middle of the night commanded - but Kin never allowed him to sleep. The man seemed intent upon him, almost nervous, and definitely concerned, and that touched Luke. When he asked why his companion was bothering to save him, Kin would talk about a bright future, fairytales of power and happiness that were strangely compelling.
Finally, the water had risen to Luke's waist and Kin had to stop talking to concentrate on walking. Luke felt sleep begin to claw at him so he tried to talk again, words catching slightly.
"Do you see anything yet?" Luke murmured into the heavy fabric wrapped around him and he felt Kin shake his head. Without sight, Luke had no idea where they were, how far that had come or had yet to go. It'd better not be too far; the water was freezing and rising still.
"No, there is nothing."
Luke sighed into Kin's shoulder. "You need rest, you're tired."
"There is no time for that. The tide is rising rapidly."
Luke knew that; he could feel it in a band of cold around his legs. And as it rose, Kin walked slower, his speed bled off by the pressure of the water and the icy cold freezing his muscles.
"What about swimming?" His teeth where chattering, making his slurred words even more indistinguishable from the ripples of water lapping at the cliff sides and the crunch of pebbles.
"Can you swim?"
"And I do not beleive that I could swim for both of us in this water. It is too cold." The voice had lost some of its depth and found some sadness, more regret. Luke shivered involuntarily, from both the fever and the cold.
"Then go on alone," he whispered, wondering at himself. Had he just committed suicide? Kin did not seem surprised that he would offer, and quickly refused the it.
"I did not carry you this far just to leave you to drown," he rumbled gently, and Luke felt his heart squeeze.
"I... I don't think I'd like that." He shuddered with the cold, the words increasingly hard to form between numb lips. "But you have your saber and... I don't think I can stay awake much longer." He was weary, so weary. His skin was burning above his waist; freezing below it. "I'm dying anyway. Go on."
Kin stiffened and shook his head again. "No."
And although it was a tone that seemed accustomed to obediance, Luke challenged it. "There's no need for you to die, too." His clenched his eyes shut again, burying he head in the soft, damp fabric of the cloak he was wrapped in. "I'm just sorry I got you into this mess."
"You are no burden, and we will reach safety soon."
Luke sighed at the resilience the man seemed to have. He shivered with a fever and his hands slipped further, only the cuffs keeping him in place. He never thought he would have been glad to be cuffed by an Imperial.
"You don't have to-" He stopped suddenly and Kin stiffened.
He didn't answer, eyes blinking furiously as he shook, still unseeing, still numb.
"I... there's something there." His lips burned with the cold. It sounded dumb, stupid, as idiotic as Uncle Owen had so often accused him as being and he bit his tongue, wishing he hadn't spoken.
Kin, though, took him very seriously. "Where?" He even stopped, trying to address Luke, twisting to talk to the boy slung like a broken doll across his back.
Luke shook his head, trying to catch that weird feeling he'd felt a minute ago. "That way," he whispered. There was no way he could point, not having the energy even if his hands had been free. Kin seemed to understand anyway and he hurried along the pebble beach to the cliff side. Luke clenched his eyes shut and tried to control the rolling nausea in his stomach.
"You are right," Kin said, the words definitely tinged with pride. "There is a cave, it looks to go a considerable way in..."
The sounds around Luke changed, becoming more tinny, echoing, and the water was suddenly loud in his ears as it sloshed around Kin's feet. Luke clenched his teeth, pain growing in his legs as they left the numbing cold of the water. He barely felt Kin pull his hands over his head and set him on the flat surface of a dry boulder. Luke gasped as his skin touched the hard surface, curling up on himself, not even registering that his hands were still tied. Kin was there, his hand on Luke's forehead banishing some of the pain, calling Luke's name. Luke shook his head furiously at his weakness, but he couldn't answer.
Kin wrapped his arms around him, cocooing him in what warmth he had, and held Luke's shivering body, sitting back down on the stone.
"Luke?" He was worried - Luke could hear it in his voice, but he couldn't answer. "We may be safe here. The water is not up to the far wall yet."
"…good." It wasn't much of a conversation but Kin seemed pleased.
"A few more hours, and then when the water falls we' wil move on." The soft plunk of droplets of cave-water hitting the lake water echoed and Kin kept talking, but Luke wasn't answering. "Luke you must stay awake."
Luke licked sore lips, dry and cracked from the saltwater. "Why?" he whispered against the arm holding him to Kin's chest. He could hear the steady beat of a strong heart and it soothed him, lulled him further. "I'm a rebel. You're going to have to arrest me anyway. Take me to Vader. This is just quicker."
Gentle fingertips brushed away the water rolling down his face from his wet hair. "You're not my prisoner, Little Jedi. What would I do with you? The Emperor..." He trailed off, distracted. "You are not ready for Vader. I will not take you to him."
"But you should not fear retribution for the destruction of the Death Star. It was a monstrous waste of money and a wanton show of power. It deserved destruction."
Luke shivered. "I don't think Vader will see it that way."
"Do not be so sure. I think… I think your father would have been proud." The words echoed through the cave.
"I'll never know," Luke said, sadly. He lapsed into a silence Kin could not pull him from and the echoing began to fade into a dream.
At last Kin asked a tentative question, but one he apparently knew would get an answer. "Tell me about your father."
Luke shuddered and the arms holding him squeezed a little tighter, almost apologetically, with infinite gentleness. But it got Luke talking. "I… I never knew him," Luke said, voice quieter than the rushing water. "My uncle said he was a navigator, but Ben said he was a Jedi."
"And you want to be a Jedi, to be like him?"
"More than anything," he whispered.
"And when you become a Jedi, what then? You will be the last. Alone," Kin asked, sadly, still holding on to him. "Believe me, that is not pleasant."
Luke shook his head weakly and felt his remaining senses slurring. "I don't know. I think... maybe I'll confront Vader. He killed my father..."
The water had reached their feet and Kin moved further on top of the boulder. "You hate him, don't you?"
Luke didn't hesitate. "Yes." He shivered again, deathly cold. He knew he wouldn't make it out, so it didn't matter what he wanted, or what he said. "I don't suppose he even knows what it's like to loose family," he murmured.
Gloved fingertips brushed hair from his eyes almost affectionately Luke didn't complain. "I would not be so sure." There was something like irony there as Luke felt his senses grow beyond numb, beyond cold, and sleep beckoned enticingly.
Luke murmured something. He meant it to be a question, but it never made it. He recognised unwavering unconsciousness and murmured a word before he finally sank: "... 'bye..."
Luke's vision came back to him fitfully, breaking through the darkness with the blinding brilliance of sudden sunshine. He wouldn't remember much of the remainder of their journey: of being held in Kin's arms as the older man continued their trek to the nearest port in the dusky half-light that embodies the first hours of morning, once the tide had receeded.
He wouldn't remember the first of his memories returning alongwith his vision - wouldn't remembered scrambling to be free of that grasp, muttering something about his father. He wouldn't remember his first sight of Kin as his vision returned more reliably, and the shock that lashed throug him. He'd not remember the small shanty hospital, nor 'Kin' at his side through a long, torturous night full of macabre nightmares and gentle soothing touches. Because of the fever that had taken hold in him, he'd not remember any of that - and 'Kin' thought that best.
Time passed sluggishly, and when Luke finally woke to a fever-free existence, 'Kin' was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Han Solo looked down on him with concerned eyes, his mouth bereft of his distinctive lopsided grin. Luke wet his lips, wondering at the tearing loneliness he felt despite seeing his friend, despite seeing.
"Where am I?"
Han shook his head and helped lever him upright. "Hospital, and you're going to be fine. But if you ever pull a stunt like that again,I'm going to have Chewie tie you to the backend of the hyperdrive, kid."
Luke smiled despite himself.
"Your companion? Long gone, Kid. Don't worry - when your Rogue buddies reported in we came back with a whole fleet and that musta' scared 'im off." Han dragged a chair across to his bedside and shook his head. "You sure know how to pull ''em, Luke. I don't suppose I'll ever know how you got out of this one."
"Where did he go?" Luke asked, a strange tearing in his heart that Kin had abandoned him. Or perhaps not abandoned - he was an Imperial: he could hardly have stayed, could he? What was that he'd he said about Luke needing more time?
"Who cares? Main thing is you're still in one piece, despite spending a night with Darth Vader."
Then it hit him with the force of a charging herd of banthas. Respirator, black cloak, incredibly tall, the Force…
Relief was replaced by terror, which slowly sank into twin feelings of betrayal and wonder. Luke jumped from the bed and his eyes bore into his smuggler friend. "What!"