When Leia had first heard the rumors, she had dismissed them as propaganda. Or that cult, Vader Lives, indulging in wishful thinking. Her few remaining contacts in the New Republic certainly thought so. Vader, alive? It was either fake, or they had stuck some poor Force-sensitive in a replica of his suit.
Unlike her contacts and her allies in the Resistance, there was no denying the reality of the situation when a month into the galaxy spinning itself into chaos on the rumors of a fake resurrected Sith Lord, a presence brushed up against her mind in her sleep.
“Lei-Your Highness,” it said. For a moment Leia allowed herself to hope it was Luke. Or even more improbably Ben. They were the only ones who would even think of reaching out to her like this.
Then her sleeping mind recognized the title, not her name. She puzzled over that for a moment, sleep-fogged brain trying to figure out who would start to call her by her name, then switch to a title she hadn’t answered to in four years.
She reached out, trying to get a sense of the presence waiting patiently at the edge of her mind, and everything in her snapped to immediate attention. Even in her sleep, she recognized him. She might not have been aware of what caused the feeling of danger dancing along her skin in her youth. But she knew enough about the Force to know what that meant now. Vader. It was Vader, who had so softly been saying her title. His presence was still like a large moon, blocking out all light, but she thought she caught the glimpse of warmth, here and there. She didn’t remember that from before. All she could recall was the frightening cold and dread whenever he was near her.
“Wonderful,” she hissed, mind coming awake, even if she didn’t consciously leave the dream state “So the rumors aren’t just rumors. You really are here.”
“Yes,” he said in a hesitant sounding voice. His mental voice sounded nothing like his vocoder. It was light and mellow. And then there was his tone. If it weren’t for the uniqueness of how he felt in the Force, Leia would have doubted this was him. Vader didn’t do hesitant. “And I have something to offer you.”
“You have nothing I want,” she told him, shouting in as loud as a mental voice as she could manage. “Go away.”
“I have your son,” was all he offered in return.
“Ben?” Leia’s heart skipped at the thought. “You have Ben?”
“Is that his name?” he sounded amused “All he tells me is that he is called Kylo Ren. I was wondering about that. You don’t strike me as the type to give such a pretentious name to a child.”
Leia’s eyes snapped open, and she sat bolt upright in her bed. She didn’t sever the connection to him though. “If you hurt him, I swear by all the gods-”
"No, Your Highness,” now his voice sounded regretful “the boy is not seriously injured.”
Leia’s eyes narrowed, thinking of Luke’s missing hand. “Define seriously injured.”
There was a wave of sorrow and regret from him “He has a few bruises, but the only major injury is to his pride.”
There wasn’t even a question in Leia’s mind what her next move was. “Where do I meet you?”
A long pause, then “I will allow you to pick the meeting place. I am not as familiar as I should be of the current planets that would suit best.”
So she selected Crait. It was isolated, out of the way, and far enough into New Republic territory, that the First Order couldn’t easily strike at it with an aerial bombardment.
The Resistance High Command was sufficed to say, apoplectic, when she informed then where she was going.
Poe and Ackbar were both convinced that it was a trap, laid out by her son. Leia shook her head “It’s Vader,” she said, “I don’t know how or why he is here, but it is Vader.”
Amilyn was silent during most of the shouting, but when things quieted down she asked in a soft voice “Do you believe him?”
Leia blinked “Vader?”
Amilyn nodded “Do you believe him when he says he has your son?”
Leia nodded. Amilyn looked thoughtful “Do you think he means you harm?” she asked.
“Means to harm me?” Leia chewed her lip, thinking about that cautious voice in her head “No, I don’t. Doesn’t mean he won’t, but I don’t think that is his goal.”
Amilyn nodded, “Then you should go. At the very least we might learn what his intentions are.”
So Leia left, alone. Vader hadn’t specifically put that as a condition, but she wasn’t willing to risk anyone else's life over her son. She wished, briefly, she knew where Han was, she could use his support, but he had disappeared from her life as thoroughly as Luke had. And Luke, while ideal to deal with their father, wasn’t someone she wanted near her son. For both their sakes.
Leia entered the system and landed near the old Rebel base. All the while she continually scanned the planet and the surrounding system. There was nothing there, except one shuttle, exactly where it was supposed to be.
As she landed across from it, she drew in a deep breath. She could feel both of them, her son and her father, she didn’t need to look through the viewscreen to know they stood not fifty feet from her. The Force moved between the three of them, in ways she didn’t understand, but could feel the pull of in her bones. Leia moved to the back of the cabin, and flicked the ramp, descending down onto the salt surface.
Vader was standing there, silent except for his respirator. His armor didn’t have the dark gloss polish that she remembered. In fact, it looked downright scruffy, and there were several rips and tears in the cape billowing in the wind. Whatever he had been up to, he hadn’t had an easy time of it.
Her son, on the other hand, was anything but quiet. He was bound in cuffs, standing on Vader’s right. He was yelling about how Vader was a traitor, that this was not what he was brought here for, that Leia had denied him and their legacy.
Vader said nothing as Leia approached, and then said in a rough voice as she came to within feet of them “I tortured your mother boy. Twice. That gives her the right to do whatever she wishes in regards to me.”
Ben fell silent at that and turned wide amazed eyes at Leia. She gulped at the betrayal in them. Another secret she had kept from him.
Vader’s voice was quiet “You didn’t tell him?” he asked Leia.
Leia’s gaze never left her son, but she did answer Vader “Would you?”
“No,” he said.
Ben’s face twisted, and Leia’s heart broke “Are you going to save my soul grandfather?” he asked in a sneering voice.
Vader gave out a bark of laughter at that. “No,” he said, “I cannot even save my own.”
Leia finally managed to tear her gaze away from Ben to look at him, “Then why are you doing this?”
Vader shifted on his feet for a moment, then said “Snoke is dead.”
Leia’s mind blanked at that “What?” she whispered.
“Snoke is dead,” he repeated, “Hux is now the Supreme Leader, but I imagine he will not be able to hold the position for long.”
Leia gaped at him. At the careless tone as he described how he had just set another system-wide government into chaos.
“Your Highness,” Vader said respectfully, “Snoke thought he could use me as my Master once done. That is the reason behind my ‘resurrection.’” He sounded tired then, even though the vocoder. Leia wondered if this Vader remembered his death, and the peace he found there. “He underestimated me, and himself.”
Leia snorted in derision at that. Snoke really thought he could hold Vader’s leash?
Vader nodded his head in acknowledgment of her disdain of Snoke’s ego. “Then what is your goal?” Leia asked.
“My only goal, as you say, is to see to your, and your brother’s, happiness and welfare. What do you wish of me now?”
Typical Vader, Leia thought, of course, he would make such an offer. When had the man ever done anything half-assed?
“I don’t know where Luke is,” she said softly, addressing the least fraught part of that statement.
He nodded his head, “Then may I suggest you see to your son, and I will look for him?”
“He killed you!” Ben howled “Just like he tried to kill me!”
Vader sighed “I don’t know the circumstances of your encounter with Luke grandson, but I can most assuredly tell you Luke did not kill me.”
Ben fell silent at that.
Leia looked into those red tinted eye lenses, debating with herself. A Vader without a guide was a Vader who would careen through the galaxy with no thought of the damage he would inflict. She wondered at how far his offer really went. If she asked for his life, would he give it to her?
No, Leia dismissed the thought. No, that was not the way now. That was not the way to repay him for bringing Ben here. And if there was one thing she knew, it was that Vader would tear the galaxy upside down in an effort to find Luke. Give him that goal, and when Vader found him, let him be Luke’s problem. “First we get you out of that suit,” she decided.
“Concerned for my welfare?” he sounded disbelieving.
Leia shook her head, “You are not what I would call ‘inconspicuous’ in that thing. If you really want to help me, I need you to be able to go places without people breaking out into mass hysteria everywhere you go.”
“And after that?” he asked.
She looked at her son, who was pale and shaking “Then we see.”
Vader bowed, “Thank you, Your Highness,”
Leia shook her head “I’m no longer a Princess. Please call me Leia.”
There was a flicker of shock, and then an almost shy “Thank you, Leia.”
Leia looked at her son and her father and sent a prayer to every god willing to listen that she hadn’t just doomed them all.
And as promised, the Luke POV of Redeemed Vader.
The Millennium Falcon had come to Ahch-To. Luke had been on the highest peak on the small island, looking out over the ocean, when he had seen it fly overhead not ten minutes ago. Luke had known it was only a matter of time before someone found him. He supposed he should be grateful that it was a friend, instead of an enemy, but all he could muster was a resigned exhaustion.
“Someone is coming,” a voice tried to whisper to him, and in an automatic response, Luke tightened his hold down on everything connected to that voice. After all these years, it had become second nature to him to shutting himself off from the Force.
What he did not do, was go down to greet whoever was in the Falcon with Han. If they were going to come here, and drag him back into the galaxy for the “greater good”, he was damn well going to make them climb those steep stairs. He continued to stare out into the ocean. Even now, after being here for five years, he never got tired of the sight of that much water laid out before him. Perhaps he had never grown much past that long ago idealistic desert boy after all.
Ten minutes after that, Luke heard the faint sounds of someone walking up the stone steps. He was vaguely surprised to realize that it was Han, and he was, by the sounds of the curses floating up to meet Luke’s ears, alone. Luke would have thought he would have merited at least Han and Chewie. Or Leia...as Luke’s thoughts turned to his twin, he tried to ignore the grief and ache in his heart. He had caused her so much pain. She had trusted him with her son, and he had failed.
Luke hardened his resolve. He had always had a hard time saying no to people he loved needing him. He needed to keep Ben in mind. He needed that reminder why it was best for everyone, especially the people that he loved, that he remain here, and let the Jedi die out with him.
Han’s voice became clearer and clearer as he came up the hill. Luke distinctly caught the phrase “Skywalkers, lunatics all of them,” before he heard the sounds of boots moving from stone to the much softer sound of them hitting grass.
Luke continued to stare at the ocean, hoping rather than believing that Han would get the hint, and just go away.
There was a long pause. Then Han’s voice came over Luke’s shoulder, complaining “Does anyone in this family make things easy?”
Luke sighed. So much for hoping. He turned around, but didn’t remove the hood that was covering his head. He wore the cloak up here because the wind was bitterly cold when it blew, and Luke still had a deserts born person’s aversion to the cold. Now he was using the hood that was on it to hide from one of his dearest friends. “That was the point Han,” he said tiredly.
Han was leaning over, hands braced on his knees “No really?” He said sarcasm thick in his voice “I thought you were all the way up here and refused to come down just to add a sense of drama.” He straightened then, looking Luke full in the face. “Take that thing off your head Kid. Even with it on, you can’t lie to me.”
“I’m not leaving this planet with you Han,” Luke said in a firm voice. Maybe if he repeated it enough times, Luke would believe it himself. He did know, that if he had to look Han full in the face, there was no way he could keep to his original resolve.
“Okay,” Han said, tone even. “You want to stay here and pout, fine. I’m not going to stop you.”
Luke blinked “Okay?” he repeated. “Just okay?” That wasn't the response he was expecting or bracing for. Han came all this way to insult him and then just leave?
Han let out an exasperated sigh “I would love for you to come home with me to the Falcon Luke.” Luke started at that. “But if you don’t want to, great. I’m just here to deliver one passenger. He’s officially your problem now, Leia said so.” Han announced.
Luke felt like the ground was shifting to fast underneath him to keep up. Han had come here to drop someone off? Who? Why? And no matter how sarcastically he put it, if Leia had told Han to do something and he was here, doing it, then Han agreed with her. There was no budging Han when he agreed with Leia. So who would Leia send here?
There was a moment of fraught silence as Han waited for him to speak. Luke could only gape at him. Shrugging, Han told him, “Well, it’s been great seeing you, and talking to your hood. I’m leaving now.”
What? Han was just dumping some unknown person on him, and leaving? Without an explanation or even a name? Then the thought of just who Leia would see fit to abandon to this isolated world hit him. Desperately Luke took a step forward throwing off his hood. He needed Han to see him now, to see his pain and the depth of his refusal. “You can’t leave your son here. I can’t help him, Han, I think I proved that years ago.”
Han stopped and turned around, a puzzled look on his face. “Ben? Why would you think Ben is here?”
Why wouldn’t Ben be here? Who else would Leia condemn to live on this isolated out of the way world in exile with Luke?
Then Han’s eyes widened. “You don’t know,” he said shocked. “You have no idea who came on the Falcon with me. Who is sitting down there now, waiting for you.”
“Know what?” Luke asked, feeling his fear recede as he realized Ben was not here, and rapidly starting to head to annoyed. He waved his hands around the wide empty glade they were standing in “It’s not like I have access to the latest holo news Han.”
Han actually laughed at that. The man was having a hard time remaining standing, he was laughing so hard. He said nothing to Luke, just started wheezing and holding his stomach.
Despite the fact that Luke was overjoyed to learn that his mistakes with his son hadn’t robbed Han of his ability to find joy, he was rapidly losing patience at the fact that he was the one Han was laughing at. “Han,” Luke demanded, putting his very rusty “I-am-the-Jedi-Master-Here” tone to use. “Who have you brought here?”
Han managed to get control of himself, straightening up. He wiped away the tears that had been forming in the corner of his eyes. “Come down and see Kid,” he said, still chuckling. “I’m not about to ruin the surprise.”
“Han!” Luke protested and took another step towards him.
Han only shook his head and turned back around so he could head down the stone stairs. “Nope,” he said over his shoulder “But I think you should come down and meet your guest. Because once I’m back in the Falcon, you have an hour before I leave. And if you aren’t on the ship, he sure as hell isn’t coming.”
“Han!” Luke shouted. The damn crazy stubborn ass Corellian pilot didn’t even turn around, just continued along his way, chuckles still escaping him.
Luke scrambled after him. “Han, you can’t just maroon random people on this planet!” he called out, following Han down the steep steps carved into the hill.
“Watch me!” Han called back, still determinedly making his way down to the little huts.
Luke followed him, letting out his own curses that his Aunt Beru would have rapped his fingers for.
He followed Han, peppering him with questions the entire way. Han refused to answer, only kept on his path. They walked through the small collection of huts where Luke’s home was and continued on to the broad field on the other side of the small island.
The Falcon was parked there, on the edge of one of the cliffs, and Luke could see the ocean beyond that familiar ship. Chewie was there too, standing guard over a figure who was sitting on one of the large boulders strewn in the meadow.
No, Luke realized with a start, coming to a stop as Han continued on. Not just standing guard, Chewie was actively threatening whoever this person was. He had his bow caster up, pointed at the figure, who was ignoring the weapon, and the Wookie holding it, and was instead choosing to look out at the ocean. Luke could hear Chewie's soft growls, even from here, and he could see that furry finger flexing back and forth on the bow caster’s trigger. He looked ready to fire at a second’s notice. Whoever this person was, Chewie wanted to kill them.
Luke took a few steps forward, trying to get a look at who Han had brought here. He couldn’t see much. The figure had his back to him, and was wearing a dark brown cloak, a hood covering their head. Luke’s “guest” had a vaguely humanoid shape, but that didn’t mean there weren’t other limbs Luke wasn’t seeing because of the angle.
Han, for his part, didn’t reprimand Chewie at all for his threatening stance. He also didn’t bother to greet the sitting figure, just walked past them and spat “You have an hour to convince him to leave. If you don’t, I’m leaving you here.” Han continued to stride past them, and had one foot on the Falcon’s gangplank before he stopped.
“No wait,” he said, turning around “even if you do convince him to leave, unless the Kid asks for me to bring you along, you are staying here. Understand?”
“HAN!” Luke said, aghast at the threat and the pure venom in his friend’s voice. He took several steps toward the figure “He didn't mean it like that-” he started to say.
The figure let out a bitter laugh, “I rather think he does.” Luke stopped in his tracks. It was a light mellow masculine sounding voice. It had a slight raspy quality to it, like at one point his throat had been damaged, and an Outer Rim accent. Luke frowned. He didn’t immediately recognize it, but there was something familiar about it. Like he had heard it before, but under vastly different circumstances.
“You have heard it before,” The Force whispered, promising answers. Luke batted it away. He could figure this out on his own.
The man didn’t seem all that perturbed by Han’s outrageous behavior, “I understand you perfectly Captain Solo.”
“I’m so glad we are communicating clearly with each other,” Han said with false cheerfulness. Then he looked at Luke, and pointed a finger “Your problem. You have an hour to figure out what you want to do with him,” he said firmly, then spun on his heels heading up the Falcon’s gangplank.
Chewie gave one threatening growl at the figure, then followed Han into the Falcon. To his credit, this stranger didn’t even flinch at an armed, and fully enraged Wookie snarling at him.
Luke just stood there for a second, trying to gather his wits. His life here was one of routine, and chores. It was how he managed to get up every day and keep moving, instead of allowing the weight of all his mistakes to sink him entirely into despair. Uncle Owen had always said work would keep one focused and he was more right then Luke had ever understood at nineteen. But Han’s sudden appearance, along with his unexpected actions was leaving Luke flailing as he tried to figure out just what was going on. He was long out of practice of adjusting to changing circumstances on the fly.
In that silence, the man stood up from the rock. He was tall, whoever he was, and moved like he had the weight of a world on his shoulders. He paused after he stood, and Luke could hear him as he took in one long breath. Again, something was tickling at the back of Luke’s mind at that gesture.
The man turned around, and when his eyes met Luke’s, a wide and open smile broke out across his features. “Hello Luke,” he said reverently.
Luke blinked. There was such love and open welcome in that phrase and voice. Like Luke was the water this man had been searching the desert endlessly for.
He was human, probably around Luke’s age, although it was a bit difficult to tell. He had faint scars on his cheeks, and a rather more prominent and large one on his bald head. No wonder he was wearing the hood, Luke realized. The sun here, while not as brutal as Tatooine’s binary suns, was still fairly bright.
Even with that precaution, Luke could see the edges of a sunburn on the man’s nose. The rest of his skin had a light tan to it. It was from the sun though, not because he possessed that skin color naturally. He was wearing a simple dark brown tunic, over a pair of black leggings and boots under that cloak. Luke took a step closer, trying to see what it was about this person that had Han and Chewie so on edge. The man’s bright blue eyes tracked every move Luke made eagerly.
“Uh, hello?” Luke said hesitantly back. Nothing about him outright suggested to what his identity was, or why Luke should know him. He wasn’t carrying a blaster, and besides the scars, there were really no identifying features to him or on his clothes. But there was something about him, something that was hovering just beyond Luke’s reach, like a word on the tip of his tongue.
“You know who this is.” Luke bit off a curse. That was three times in one day that the Force managed to get through to him. Where had his control gone?
Yanking his attention to the man in front of him, Luke debated on what to say. Figuring it would be rude, and more importantly hurtful, to confess to someone who was looking at him like Luke had given him the galaxy, that Luke didn’t have the first clue who he was, he asked hesitantly “Why are you here?”
The man looked surprised. “To find you, of course.”
Oh, of course. It wasn’t like Luke didn't understand the consequences of what would happen when he disappeared from the galaxy like he did. He understood that the New Republic, the First Order, Leia, Ben, Snoke, all of them would be tearing the galaxy apart, trying to find him. But the way this stranger talked, it was like he expected Luke to know, that he, this person wholly unconnected to Luke, was the only important player searching for the last Jedi in the galaxy.
Then sadness filled this stranger’s expressive face. “You don’t recognize me, do you?”
Luke but his lip, and then shook his head “No, I’m sorry I don’t.” He scrambled to think of why someone would come looking for him. His heart sank as the only reason that anyone besides his family would want him. “Did you want to be trained as a Jedi?” he asked dully. “Is that why you are looking for me?”
A whole complex set of emotions passed over the man’s face, but he said softly “No, that isn’t why I’m here.” Force, it was like talking to an adolescent. Every emotion and feeling was right there for anyone to see. Hadn't this man ever learned to keep what he was feeling off his face? Luke was better at it than him, and that was saying something.
Luke put his hands out in a helpless gesture. “Then why are you here?”
Astonishment was on his face “You really don’t recognize me?” he asked. Luke kept his snort to himself. Obviously, he did not. The man went on “Leia did, and she was half asleep at the time…” the man’s voice trailed off.
Luke frowned at his twin's name. Leia knew him? Leia had recognized him? That narrowed the possibilities down a bit. He brought his wandering mind back to his visitor as he realized the man had stopped speaking. His eyes were wide with horror, and he took an instinctive step back from Luke “You cut yourself off from the Force,” he whispered, barely audible.
Luke stiffened, stung by the censure implied in the man’s words. “I don’t see how that is any of your bus-”
“LUKE!” the man didn’t even let him finish. Just cut him off as he stomped over to him. Luke was shocked when his head was grabbed between two very hard, and probably mechanical hands, as this stranger peered frantically into his face.
“Didn’t Obi-Wan warn you how dangerous that is?” he said, voice high pitched in panic. “Or Yoda? Didn’t they tell you how much harm you can do? The Force is part of you. Cutting it off is like removing a limb, only you are walking around with the wound constantly bleeding.”
“Excuse me,” Luke said, his anger rising up at this man’s presumption. He jerked his head out of those hands and took a step back. “What gives you the right to be concerned about that?”
The man didn’t appear to hear him “You need to see a healer,” he went on, voice rising “We need to leave now, and get you to a healer. There is no telling what you’ve done to yourself.”
Luke, insulted beyond belief, said, “I’m sorry, but who do you think you are?”
The man opened his mouth to answer, but Luke didn’t let him talk. “And to answer your very intrusive question, no. No one ever said anything to me about it being dangerous.” His eyes narrowed at this pushy interruption into his carefully constructed life. “Also, I actually have had a limb cut off” the stranger let out a pained whimper at that, “and I can tell you that cutting off the Force is in no way comparable or as dangerous.”
Luke, ignoring the pain that his words were causing to show on that scarred face, went on. He had his comforting routine interrupted by Han, this demanding man dropped on him, and lectured as if Luke didn’t have the first clue as to what he was doing. Luke had tried to be polite, but he was at the end of his patience, and all he wanted now was to be left alone.
“Furthermore, I am a grown man, and will not be lectured like a child on my life choices. Who do you think you are? My father?”
The man’s eyes widened at that, and there was such profound loss stamped onto his features. This close, those faint scars on his cheeks looked much more prominent. The man had no eyebrows, Luke realized dimly. Take that with the scars on his cheek, and the one on his bald head, and he looked like….
The man straightened and tried to school his features into a neutral mask. He failed miserably. Like it had been a long time since he had too. Like he had been wearing a mask for decades and no longer knew how to hide his thoughts. And he had mentioned Obi-Wan, and Yoda, like he knew them.
“You are quite right,” he said, and that voice. Stronger sounding, now that he wasn’t dying, and competing with his breathing apparatus. But Luke knew that voice.
“You were right about me.”
The man went on, as if Luke hadn’t just had his entire worldview rearranged. Or he had finally slipped into madness. “I’ll just leave you to-”
“HAN!!!” Luke yelled, so afraid to believe, but not taking his eyes off this tall figure who was hunched miserably in front of him.
“What!?!” a cranky voice yelled back from the Falcon.
“Is the person standing right in front of me, by any chance, my long-dead father?” Luke asked, aware of how insane he sounded.
There was a long pause from the Falcon. The man in front of him just looked at him, hope rising in his eyes at Luke's question.
“Yeah,” Han finally shouted back. “It’s him.”
Luke’s eyes closed involuntarily, too stunned for a moment to think. Then they flew back open. “You didn’t think to mention that!?!” he howled. Father was still standing in front of him, dumbfounded at Luke's’ anger.
Luke heard Han’s boots echo on the gangplank. His eyes left Father's face to look as Han stomped down the plank to the ground. “First of all, I thought you knew,” he said, pointing his finger at Luke in emphasis. “Second, when I figured out you didn’t know, I was already at the top of that damn hill.” Han pointed to himself, aggravated “I am not a young man anymore Luke. Was it really necessary to make me climb up all those damn stairs to get you?”
Luke just looked at him, words refusing to come. That, that was what Han was focusing on here?
Han took in his baffled look and his hands fell to his hips, “Okay, maybe it was petty of me,” he admitted “But it did get you down from your lonely mountain of solitude and woe. And really, would you have believed me if I had told you?”
“No,” Luke said, gaze falling back to his father. “I would never have expected this miracle.”
“Miracle?” Han’s voice was incredulous “Travesty is more like it. Leia won’t let me shoot him.”
Father’s eyes were still anxious, but a small smile played at his lips, “That has done you no good in the past.”
“It would make me feel better!” Han insisted.
Luke reached out a slow hand and cupped his father's cheek. “How are you here?” he whispered.
Father flinched, and answered in a strangled voice “Snoke.”
Luke’s hand dropped away. “Snoke?” he repeated.
Father nodded, and then a bitter smile twisted his lips “Apparently he thought Ben wasn’t living up to the standards of his bloodline. When he found a way to resurrect what he wanted…” Father's voice trailed off.
“He brought you back?” Luke whispered.
“I’m so sorry,” Luke said. He had felt Father's peace in that glade on Endor so long ago. To be taken from that, unwillingly. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around him..
Father froze for a moment. Then slowly his own arms came up, returning the gesture.
Luke stood there for a long moment, enjoying the feel of his father, his father, giving him a hug.
“Not that this isn't touching and all,” Han’s voice was cutting “but you have forty minutes to decide what you want to do with him Luke.”
Luke reluctantly withdrew from that embrace. “Why is it my decision?.”
“I told you,” Han said patiently “Leia has decided he is your problem.”
Luke shook his head “No, I mean why isn’t he in custody?” Father looked away, and Luke reached out a hand, to grab his arm, offering reassurance “I don’t mean to be cruel,” he said, “I just thought that the first thing Leia, and the New Republic would do, is throw you into the darkest cell they could find.”
Father looked up at him then, eyes uncertain “I might have accidentally brought down the First Order?”
Luke fought to stay on his feet “You did what?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.
“He killed Snoke,” Han’s voice cut in, “And brought Ben home to us.”
“Oh,” Luke said faintly. Of course he did. His father, whether he was calling himself Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader, was nothing if not bold. “Is that three governments you’ve brought down now?” he found himself faintly asking.
Father bit his lip “System-wide ones, yes," he admitted
Han’s voice was demanding “System-wide ones? Just three system-wide ones? That sounds suspiciously like you've brought down other non-system-wide goverments."
Father said nothing.
Han's voice was exasperated "How many governments all together?”
Father shrugged “I lost count. Between the Clone Wars and the Empire, there was a lot of planet-wide government's I helped destroy.”
“He’s lost count,” Han muttered, “Of course he did. Why couldn’t my other father-in-law have been the one miraculously resurrected?”
Luke ignored Han, and focused in on Father “So the New Republic let you go because of that?”
Father shook his head “No. There is no consensus on what to do with me. There are those who would let me go, as you said, as payment rendered for eliminating a threat to the New Republic. There are also a lot of people who would love to throw me into that dark cell you mentioned.”
Then his face took on a slightly amused quality “There is also a very small, but very vocal contingent who says there is no legal precedent to deal with someone who was dead for almost thirty years, and brought back to life. It raises some interesting ethical questions as to whether I can be found guilty of any crimes I previously committed.”
Luke arched an eyebrow “Really?” he asked.
Father shrugged. Then his face grew sour, “Then there are those who are convinced I am fraud, and not really Vader.”
“So, they assigned me as your jailer?” Luke tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. He understood that the galaxy at large would never forgive his father for what he had done. But that didn't mean Luke wanted to be the man’s cage.
Han interrupted “No, Luke,” And for the first time since he arrived here, he sounded deadly earnest “that's not it at all. Leia argued to the New Republic that if they couldn’t make up their damn minds about what to do with him, or if they were going to even more stupidly argue if he even was Vader, then they should allow him to be with those who claimed him as family. He clearly has no interest in ruling the galaxy since the first thing he did after killing Snoke was run to Leia and the Resistance.”
Luke looked at Han in shock. “She did not,” he protested.
Han shrugged, and then a mischievous smile crossed his face “She might have used fancier words.” At Luke’s impatient look, the mischievousness melted away “I told you, Luke.” Han said, voice serious again. “He brought Ben home. That bought a lot in Leia’s mind.”
“And yours?” Luke asked.
Han looked uncomfortable “I really want to shoot him,” he said “But kill him? Nah. Too much drama all around.”
Luke looked at his father “And what do you want?” he asked.
“Me?” Father looked surprised.
Luke nodded “Yes, you. You get a say.”
Father's face was a wonder to behold. Luke wondered when the last time Father actually got to decide, for himself, what he was going to do. “I want to stay with you.” Then he looked thoughtful “I want to be able to see Leia. I want to get to know my grandson.” Then a mulish look crossed his face “And I want you to see a healer.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do,” Luke said.
“Wait, why does Luke need to see a healer?” Han asked.
Father scowled “Because he did something rash and ill-advised without considering the cost.”
Han just stared at Father “Gee, who does that sound like?” he drawled.
Luke reached out and touched Father's shoulder. “Give me about ten minutes okay?” he said, aware that for the foreseeable future, Father was probably going to hover over him and want to know Luke's every move. “There are things I need to get before we leave.”
“Alright Luke,” Father hesitated, then came in and gave Luke a quick hug. “Don't take long.”
“I won’t,” Luke promised, then quickly walked to his hut. This wasn’t at all how imagined this day would go when he woke up this morning, but then again, hadn’t his life been full of days like that? Overall though, he had to think this was the best one of them.
It wasn’t going to be easy, Luke acknowledged. There was Ben and all the issues around that. Father and Leia might have some sort of truce going on, but he doubted either one of them had really thought about anything other than keeping the peace while searching for him. There was the New Republic, and it’s ever-changing whims, but for now, on this day. Luke would only focus on the good, instead of borrowing trouble from the horizon.