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“Leia,” Han murmured into her ear. His breath whispered across the skin of her neck, stirring the little hairs too short to twist up into her elaborate braids. His hands skimmed along her arms before coming to rest on her hips and she sighed as she leaned her head back against his shoulder, pulling her back slightly away from his chest so she could see his face in the darkness.

“What, Han?” she growled. He gave her his best crooked smile and her frown deepened in response. That wasn’t going to win her over this time.

“Will you forgive me?” His voice was low and quiet with just the right amount of roughness to make Leia’s heart stutter. She let Han’s hands at her hips pulled her back against him, eliminating the small space between them, but she steeled her face and gave herself a moment to calm her heart before she responded. She wasn’t going to let him off so easily this time.

“I’ll think about it,” she said, giving him her haughtiest senator voice.

“Leia, sweetheart – ”

“Don’t ‘sweetheart’ me, nerfherder, until you figure out how to get us out of here!” she snapped. She crossed her arms, managing to elbow Han in the side as she moved. He grunted and shifted his weight behind her.

“It’s not my fault!”

She tried to step on his toe, but as she was already standing on his foot, it didn’t do much good.

“Oh, really?” She rolled her eyes. “Whose ship is this again? Whose ridiculous smuggling compartments?”

“You can’t blame – ”

“I can, and I will. I don’t even know how you managed to get us trapped in here, but I’m not going to be civil to you until you figure out how to get us out.”

It was Han’s turn to sigh. “They aren’t meant to be opened from the inside. We’ll have to wait until Chewie gets back.”

“Of course,” Leia groaned.

Han moved his hands from her hips to wrap his arms around her waist and he lowered his head to kiss the side of her neck.

“Can we at least make the most of this?” he murmured against her skin. His kisses sent shivers through her and without thinking she tilted her head to the side to allow him better access.

“You did this on purpose, didn’t you?”

She should pull away, put her foot down, refuse to let him seduce his way back into her good graces, but his lips were distracting as they kissed their way up her neck.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that statement, Princess,” he growled softly in her ear.

“Oh, Han,” she sighed, before closing her eyes and surrendering to his touch.

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The weeks following Bespin were hectic, or at least Leia made them hectic for herself. She threw herself into her work, devoting every spare moment, every spare thought to the Alliance. They were still reeling from the defeat on Hoth, struggling to gain supporters in the wake of the Imperial propaganda and replace equipment destroyed or left behind during the battle. She fussed over Luke, worrying about his hand, his missing lightsaber, the distance in his eyes, and the lies she knew he told about the confrontation with Darth Vader.

Anything she could do to avoid thinking about Han.

She didn’t want to remember how her heart had beat frantically in her chest the first time he kissed her, the way her hands had trembled despite her vehement denials. She didn’t want to think about how he had jealously stolen her hand away from Lando and how it had sent little flutters straight to her stomach. Or how he had not even hesitated when confronted with Vader, but whipped out his blaster and started shooting despite the futility of it. Or the way he had stared at her before he crushed his lips to hers even as he was pulled away by the stormtroopers. Or her words to him before he disappeared in a cloud of acrid steam and emerged encased in carbonite. She did not want to remember the pain on his face or his cocky last words that held so much more meaning than what was on the surface.

But in quiet moments, when she ran out of things to busy her hands and mind with, when Mon sent her to rest, before the sleeping pills kicked in, she would wander out to the Falcon and curl up in the pilot’s seat, hoping the cloth still held traces of his scent. She would run her fingers over the controls, feeling the surfaces polished by his hands touching them countless times. There was evidence of him everywhere, if she took the time to look, and if she closed her eyes, she could almost hear him, almost imagine him walking up behind her and dropping his hands on her shoulders.

Then she’d open her eyes and the image of him would vanish, dissipating like smoke on a breeze, and she’d remember that he was gone, stolen from her by Darth Vader, the Empire, the bounty hunter, Jabba… it didn’t matter. He was gone now, and it would be easy to blame Lando, or Luke, or herself. But that didn’t matter either. It didn’t matter because she would get him back. Whatever it took, however far away he was, however tightly he was locked away, she would get him back. And every time she looked out at the stars, searching each point of light as though they spelled out his name, she remembered her last words to him and whispered them again, across the vast distance of space, hoping that somehow he could hear her.

“I love you.”

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Vader woke to the gentle swish of his bedroom door opening. He was instantly on alert, the product of instincts cultivated over years of war and multiple assassination attempts since he had taken control of the Empire almost six years ago, just a week after his confrontation with Obi-Wan on Mustafar. But the gentle shuffle of small, bare feet on the carpet made him relax. He did not move or open his eyes, waiting for Luke to clamber up into the bed next to him. The mattress barely dipped under the weight of his son’s tiny body.

“Daddy,” Luke whispered. He poked Vader’s shoulder and Vader smiled as he rolled over to look at Luke. The child’s eyes were wide, his hand trembling where it rested on Vader’s shoulder.

“Hello, little one,” Vader murmured, his voice rough from sleep. “Another bad dream?” Luke nodded, rubbing at his eyes. He sniffled. Vader extricated his arm from under the sheets and ran his hand over his son’s fluffy blond hair. “Come here.”

Luke slipped under the covers and curled up against Vader’s chest, snuggling in close. Vader wrapped his arms around him, holding him tightly and tracing gentle patterns on his back as Luke buried his face in Vader’s sleep shirt.

“What happened?” Vader asked. It had been awhile since Luke had crawled into bed with him after a nightmare. He usually dealt with them on his own, too stubborn or selfless to bother his father with them. It didn’t stop Vader from feeling his troubled sleep though.

“You were gone,” Luke mumbled, his voice difficult to hear, muffled as it was by the fabric of Vader’s shirt. Ah, so that explained why Luke had come to him, needing reassurance that he was still here. He pushed Luke away from him just enough so he could tilt the child’s head back with gentle fingers under his chin. Luke met his gaze with bright eyes, his face barely illuminated by the dim glow of Imperial Center from the window. Vader ran his thumb across Luke’s cheek, brushing away tears, and leaned down to kiss the top of his head.

“I am right here, Luke,” he murmured against Luke’s hair. “I am not going anywhere.”

Luke nodded again and grasped Vader’s hand where it rested against his face, pushing it away so he could return to snuggling up next to him. Vader laughed softly. He watched Luke settle in before he began playing with his hair, threading his fingers through the silky locks and smiling as the action soothed his son. Luke’s breathing evened out as he drifted closer to sleep.

Just as his eyelids fluttered closed, Vader whispered, “I love you.” His voice was husky from emotion and sleep, and Luke’s lips twitched into a tiny smile, though Vader was unsure whether Luke had really heard him or not.

He watched Luke sleep for a long moment before he allowed his own eyes to drift shut. Luke would be there when he woke up, probably still curled up against him, and he knew that both of them would have slept easier tonight, both of their nightmares chased away by the other’s presence.

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You said it in a way I could never return, with your head held high despite the cold metal of the binders around your wrists. You said it with each step and breath matched with mine, with your eyes as you looked at me without fear or hatred, the first person to do so in over two decades, and with your back turned to me despite the lightsaber in my hand. It is buried in your words, pleading and innocent and commanding. It’s a demand for me to listen and hear and respond.

I hear you, my son, but I cannot respond. Not like you want me to.

You don’t say it out loud, but it drives your every action. And I cannot reciprocate, with words or deeds. My tongue has forgotten the taste of those words, though my heart is beginning to remember the feel of them, and my mind no longer understands freedom. I am chained, my son, and despite your pleas I cannot break them.

You want me to run away with you, and your words are an echo across the decades. I was too blinded by power then, and now I am too powerless. I cannot protect you. You should not have come here. You should leave now, abandon me. My beautiful son, if you stay you will die. If you flee now, I will not stop you. I cannot live in your bright light, but neither can I bear to see it snuffed out, either in death or in the shackles of shadow that bind my own soul.

I try to tell you to leave me, but your willful stubbornness does not see my offer for what it is. You continue to push, hopeful that if you say just the right words, you can convince me. You will not succeed, because although you can see the outline of the chains, you do not understand that they are all that is holding my broken life together.

You will not back down and I cannot rise up to meet you. I no longer have the courage or the strength to stand against my Master. I lost them when you fell at Bespin, though you couldn’t have known and I do not blame you. So I tell you that it is too late for me, and I send you away because I cannot look at you anymore without shattering at the thought of everything I have put you through.

Your parting jab stings, but I see it for what it is, a last-ditch attempt to awaken a part of me long dead, to galvanize me into action. Anger-driven yet born from an injured love. But I am not who you think I am, and despite your bound wrists, you are more free than I have ever been.

And even as you walk away from me, flanked by stormtroopers, your head still held high, the words you haven’t said are written beneath the lines of disappointment on your face, disappointment because I still cannot bring myself to admit that I hear you.

I still cannot show you that I love you.

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Luke’s terrified scream cut off as quickly as it had started and Vader was standing before the datapad he had dropped even hit the desk. Luke bolted upright on the couch, chest heaving as he woke from his nightmare, and Vader called his name gently. His son turned towards him at the sound of his voice, but Vader recognized the wide-eyed, blank stare and knew that Luke wasn’t seeing him.

“Luke?” He took a few slow steps closer but stopped when Luke scrabbled for his lightsaber and held it out between them, the unlit hilt shaking in Luke’s trembling hand.

“No,” Luke muttered, shaking his head sharply with each syllable. “No, no, no…”

“Luke, I am right here,” Vader said. He forced his anger under control, knowing that it would only make things worse if Luke felt it. It would do no good now anyways. The ones at fault were already dead, except one and he was currently out of their reach.

His son did not seem to hear him and Vader cautiously reached out along their bond. For once, Luke’s mind was unguarded. His shields lay in shards like glass at the edges of his mind, shattered either by the force of the memories or Luke’s subconscious in an attempt to reach for help before the flashback took hold. Either way, Vader was grateful. It would make this easier than usual.

“Luke?” he asked. His son blinked, and the hand holding the saber lowered the tiniest fraction, but his eyes still did not focus on Vader. “Luke, I am right here. You are safe. Look at me, Luke. Listen to me.”

Luke blinked again and dropped his hand back into his lap, releasing his grip on his lightsaber as he did. Encouraged, Vader took another step forward.

“You are completely safe, Luke.” He continued to murmur comfortingly to Luke through their bond, attempting to draw him out of the flashback, bring him back to the present. He did not dare try to touch his son’s mind outside of the bond, fearing the intrusion would cause Luke to close his mind off or that the memories would ignite Vader’s rage. He also did not want to be pulled into the flashback with Luke, which he suspected was possible if he was not careful, considering the strength of their bond.

Vader wrapped his Force presence around Luke, holding him in a gentle, protective embrace and he felt Luke relax a tiny amount in response to the touch. He took another few steps closer, pleased when Luke did not become defensive again.

“Luke, my son,” he said out loud, adding his physical voice on top of his mental entreaties. “I am right here. I am real.” Luke closed his eyes and shuddered, bringing one hand up to grasp at his hair. Vader was now within arm’s reach of Luke and he touched his son’s shoulder gently, barely brushing his fingertips against him. Luke flinched away, but a choked sob escaped him and he curled up, drawing his legs up close to his chest.

“Father?” he pleaded, flailing for Vader across their bond. Vader caught him, mentally supporting him as he reached out to touch Luke’s shoulder again. This time, Luke leaned into the contact. Vader knelt by the couch, not heeding the protest from his legs, and wrapped his arm around his son.

“I am right here. You are safe,” he promised again. “I will not leave you.”

Luke flung himself at Vader, startling him with the suddenness of the motion, and clung tightly to him, his arms around his neck and hands grasping at the fabric of his cloak.

“I’m sorry, Father,” Luke murmured, burying his face against Vader’s neck, despite that the rigid armour could not have been comfortable.

“Do not apologize.” Vader held him close, one hand pressed against Luke’s back, the other in his hair. “It is not your fault.” Luke trembled against him and clutched him tighter for a moment, and Vader wished fiercely that he was not encased in the suit, just so he could comfort Luke properly, let his son have real human contact instead of this leather and metal parody of skin and bone.

Luke pulled away from him, keeping one hand firmly twisted in the edge of Vader’s cape where it rested on his shoulder, and shifted to curl his legs under him. He moved the blanket as well, clearing a spot on the couch for Vader to sit. Vader brushed his fingers along the right side of Luke’s face, tracing the new scar that marked his skin there.

“You know you are safe?” Vader asked. Luke nodded and tugged on his cape. Vader smiled faintly under the mask at the gesture. He could not stand without knocking Luke’s hand free of the cape, so he reached up and carefully disentangled his son’s fingers from the fabric and threaded his own through them instead, knowing the physical contact was keeping Luke grounded. He did not let go of his son’s hand until he was settled on the couch and Luke had maneuvered himself under his arm, snuggling up to Vader’s side. Luke curled up, his head nestled against Vader’s chest, and sent a wash of gratitude to Vader over their bond.

“I will never leave you, little one,” Vader promised, running his thumb in soothing circles along Luke’s upper arm. Vader felt Luke nod against his chest and relax just a shade more. His son was no longer shaking and Vader stayed with him, holding him, until Luke’s breathing evened out and his mind slipped peacefully back into sleep.

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The death of Palpatine had not immediately fixed all of the Galaxy’s problems, as much as Luke might have wished for it to, but it had opened the door for the healing to start. It would take time and a lot of effort to restructure the government and break the system of corruption that had begun long before Palpatine took power, but in the hands of people like Leia and Mon Mothma it was possible. For the first time in almost thirty years, there was hope for peace in the Galaxy.

It wouldn’t be easy, Luke knew, for people to accept that his father had returned to the Light, and there would always be people clamoring for justice to be handed down on the former Sith for his actions as the Emperor’s enforcer. But they were alive, they were alive and the Emperor was dead and they had each other, and Luke knew that they would be okay. Whatever came next, whatever they needed to face, they would face together and they would overcome, because they had already faced the worst that the Galaxy could throw at them and emerged on the other side, battered and bruised but not broken, never broken. No, they had walked through the fires of hatred and returned whole and victorious.

And that was more than he ever could have expected.

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Luke watched the entrance to the mess hall, gnawing on his lower lip as he waited for a glimpse of Wedge’s dark hair. He could feel Wes’s laughing stare on the back of his head and stubbornly ignored his fellow pilot. He wasn’t going to give him any more reason to make fun of him than the already ridiculous situation required.

It was his own fault, he supposed. Han had warned him not to gamble when he played sabacc. He wasn’t good enough at bluffing, and his increasingly lighter pockets had attested to that fact. Perhaps if he had a better grasp of the Force, he could use it to his advantage, but that was probably something Ben would have frowned upon and he didn’t have a good enough understanding of the Force anyways, so it was a useless thought.

He really should have heeded Han’s advice, but he had been bored, and the Rogues could be merciless in their teasing if they put their minds to it, commanding officer or no, and it hadn’t seemed worth the fight at the time. They had stopped playing for credits anyways; they were all broke, as the Alliance did not have a lot of funding to spare to pay their pilots any sort of decent wage. And none of them were here for the money in any case.

Wedge stepped into the mess hall, deep in conversation with Tycho, and Luke tried to worm his way out of the situation.

“Oh, look, he’s busy. I wouldn’t want to interrupt – ”

“Not a chance, Commander,” Wes laughed. “We sent Tycho to go get him.”

Luke sighed. “I should have you all brought up on charges of harassing your commanding officer,” he muttered. He tracked Wedge and Tycho’s progress across the room, wanting to wait until they were a little closer.

“Those charges wouldn’t stand, sir, and you know it,” Hobbie replied cheerfully from the other side of the table. “You agreed to this.”

“I was coerced!” Luke protested. “But you’re right. We’re too short on pilots. Speaking of which, you’re all flying extra patrols for a month.” Wedge had stopped now and was talking with one of the female techs. No, flirting was probably a more accurate word for what he was doing. Luke watched as Wedge leaned his hip against one of the tables and smiled at whatever she was saying.

“Aw, Luke, you wouldn’t,” Wes wheedled. He leaned over in his chair to get closer to Luke. “Come on, Commander.”

“I might be willing to reconsider if you drop this nonsense,” Luke said. He grinned as Wes grumbled next to him. Tycho had pulled Wedge away from the tech and they were moving closer across the room again. Luke was running out of time to sidestep this disaster.

“Tempting, sir, but I think this is worth it,” Hobbie said. He returned Luke’s annoyed gaze with a smirk.

“You are all insubordinate mynocks.”

“Come on, Commander. If Wedge gets any closer, you won’t have to do more than whisper.”

“That’s a good thing,” Luke protested.

“But not what you agreed to.” Wes poked him.

“I did not agree to anything!”

“Just get it over with, sir,” Hobbie said.

“Fine,” Luke said through clenched teeth as he stood up. He found Wedge and Tycho, only a few tables away now and glared at Tycho when the Alderaanian met his eyes.

“Hey, Wedge!” he shouted, and felt his face heat up as most of the people in the vicinity turned to look at him. Wedge looked over at him too, a question on his face. “I love you!”

Luke didn’t meet Wedge’s eyes long enough to watch his reaction, but dropped back into his seat and crossed his arms on the table, burying his face in them.

“I hate all of you,” he muttered to Wes and Hobbie, but he doubted they could hear him over their laughter.

No, they hadn’t been playing for credits, but Luke still should have known better than to play against the Rogues for dares.

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Wedge wasn’t quite asleep yet when Luke screamed. He turned his head to see Luke roll over and bury his face in his pillow. His friend was shaking, and while the pillow was doing a good job of muffling the exact words, Wedge could still recognize the cadences of Luke’s repeated denials. He had heard them often enough, first after Yavin, then Vrogas Vas, and now Bespin.

He kicked back his covers and moved across the room to Luke’s bunk, making his footsteps heavier than they needed to be. He sat on the edge of Luke’s bed and carefully touched the other pilot’s shoulder. Luke flinched away from the contact and Wedge quickly withdrew his hand.

“Luke?”

“No!” Luke shuddered and suddenly sat up, whipping the pillow at Wedge. Wedge didn’t react fast enough to stop the pillow from hitting him, and he was glad that at least this time it wasn’t something that would injure him.

“Hey, hey, Luke, calm down,” Wedge said, grabbing his friend’s wrists tightly to stop him from striking him. “Luke, hey, you’re safe. It’s me. It’s Wedge.”

Luke froze for a moment and then shook his head sharply. His arms went limp in Wedge’s grasp and he bowed his head.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he murmured. Wedge released his wrists cautiously and Luke covered his face with his hands.

“It’s okay, Luke. Do you want to talk about it?” Luke’s next exhale sounded more like a sob and Wedge closed his eyes for a moment. It was times like this, seeing his commander broken and hurting, realizing how young Luke really was, that he remembered again why he hated the Empire so much. He had been there for Luke’s first nightmare after Yavin, that first night when Wedge couldn’t sleep because every time he closed his eyes he saw the faces of the dead. They hadn’t really known each other, back then. But there had been no one else left and they had clung to each other out of necessity, once the Princess had consented to medical care and the smuggler had retreated to his ship with his Wookiee copilot. Han had offered Luke a place on the Falcon, of course, but Luke had shaken his head and muttered something about bringing back memories of Ben. So Wedge had offered Luke the other bunk in his small room and hadn’t had the heart to tell the kid that Biggs had been his former roommate.

Wedge hadn’t said anything that night, unsure how to, or perhaps unwilling to, comfort a kid who had lost far less in the battle than he had. Of course it hadn’t taken long for Wedge to realize that Luke had lost far more than it had seemed on the surface. It had been a few years, but Wedge had not forgotten the pain and rage brought about by the loss of his family, and it was then that he realized why he recognized the haunted look in Luke’s eyes. And a few nights later, when Luke had woken with his aunt’s name torn from his throat, Wedge had offered him his shoulder and his ear.

Now Luke shook his head, rejecting that same offer. It had been like that since Bespin. Whatever had happened to him there, he refused to talk about it in a way he never had before. Wedge’s eyes were drawn to the faint line on Luke’s right wrist, barely visible in the dim light. Synthskin grafted well, but it always left a small mark, if you knew what to look for. Wedge doubted it was the injury that kept Luke from talking. Everyone knew that Vader had taken his hand, and his father’s lightsaber, in their duel. If it was just that, Luke would not be so reluctant. What else had Vader done to him?

“I didn’t mean to attack you,” Luke mumbled, pulling Wedge from his musings.

“Luke, you hit me with a pillow. It’s not a big deal.”

Luke raised his head to meet Wedge’s eyes. They both knew Luke would have tried to kill him if Wedge hadn’t restrained him. He groaned and leaned forward to drop his head onto Wedge’s shoulder.

“I’m so sorry, Wedge,” he said.

“Hey, it’s okay.” He wrapped an arm around Luke, holding him for a moment. “Is there anything…” Luke shook his head against Wedge’s shoulder, his hair brushing against Wedge’s neck as he did. “Okay.” He moved his hand to the back of Luke’s head, pressing him to his shoulder for a second longer before releasing him. Luke pulled away from him, scrubbing at his face with his left hand. His right, Wedge noticed, he had dropped back into his lap and he was subtly clenching and unclenching it. So the dream definitely had been about Bespin.

“You good?” Wedge asked, his voice low with concern.

Luke nodded. “Yeah. Thanks, Wedge.”

“Okay.” He set his hand on Luke’s shoulder again for a moment before standing and returning to his own bed.

Long after they had both settled down and supposedly gone back to sleep, Wedge watched Luke through half-closed eyes as his friend stared up at the ceiling and rubbed absentmindedly at his right wrist. Wedge trapped a sigh before it could escape. It appeared that this was one of those nights that Luke would not be able to return to sleep.

Luke’s eyes flashed as they caught the dim light when he turned his head slightly to look at Wedge. “Go to sleep, Wedge,” he murmured. “I’ll be fine.”

Of course Luke would be able to tell that he was still awake. Wedge frowned at him but rolled over to shut out the sight of the insomniac pilot. He was tired enough that once he actually closed his eyes, his guilt and worry about Luke weren’t enough to keep him awake for long.

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“Stay back!” Luke shouted, holding one hand out as though it could ward off the Sith slowly advancing on him and wishing he hadn’t lost his grip on his lightsaber. He could see it on the ground behind Vader, where it had fallen after Vader had twisted it out of his hands with a flick of his own red saber. He might have been able to pull it to him with the Force if he was allowed time and space to concentrate, but he didn’t have enough training, and he dared not take his eyes off his… father? No, Luke shook his head. It had to be a lie. Less than a year ago Ben had told him Vader had killed his father. Why would he trust the word of this monster over his teacher, his father’s best friend? Vader had to be lying, trying to turn his loyalty or throw him off balance enough to get him to lower his guard.

“Luke, it is the truth,” Vader insisted, taking yet another step towards him. Luke matched his steps backwards, keeping the distance between them. Vader had deactivated his lightsaber and returned it to his belt, but that did nothing to assuage Luke’s fears. He knew the Sith did not need a blade to kill him, and right now he feared capture more than he feared death.

“No… it can’t be.” Luke shook his head furiously, trying to dislodge the creeping sense of truth he could feel in his mind. “No!”

He took another step back and bumped into the wall. He had cornered himself, or rather Vader had cornered him. He turned his head away and squeezed his eyes closed, causing the moisture that had been building up to run down his cheeks as tears. He flinched at the brush of leather against his cheek, but the touch was gentle, and Luke let out a shuddery breath when Vader’s hand moved to push his hair away from his forehead. His gloved fingers raked through Luke’s hair and he shivered, still not daring to look up at Vader.

“You are my son, Luke,” Vader said. He continued to run his fingers through Luke’s hair and the repetitive motions were making Luke relax slightly. It was soothing and reminded him of his aunt, even if the man currently standing in front of him was nothing like her.

“Then why did you never come back for me?” Luke asked before he could stop himself, the whispered words holding all the pain of an abandoned orphan. He had always longed for his father, and even now that he knew his father wasn’t who he had thought, he still wanted him, still wanted to be wanted by him. He knew he shouldn’t, he knew Vader was a Sith and a murderer, even if he hadn’t killed Luke’s father. He was the Emperor’s enforcer, a black shadow of death on the battlefield, and yet…

“I would have,” Vader said, his voice slightly softer than it had been, though Luke thought that perhaps that was his imagination. His hand stilled in Luke’s hair, resting gently at the back of his head, but Luke made no move to shake free of it. “If only I had known to. I have been looking for you ever since I learned you survived.”

“Survived?” Luke whispered.

“I thought you dead with your mother,” Vader replied. “I only realized you lived when I heard your name.” He moved his hand from Luke’s hair to touch the side of his face briefly before turning Luke’s head with gentle fingers under his chin. “Look at me, my son.”

Luke forced his eyes open to stare at Vader. He was impossibly close, much closer than Luke had ever wanted to be to the Sith. Luke tilted his head back just a bit to meet the faintly red-tinted lenses of the mask. He could not see anything behind them, could not know for sure if he was meeting the Dark Lord’s eyes, but still he could not hold the eye contact for long and he dropped his gaze.

His eyes flickered over the chest panel, which was just below eye level for Luke, the blinking lights and buttons close enough to touch and he suddenly wondered why such an important part of Vader’s life support system would be so visible, so accessible to sabotage or damage. The significance of Vader standing there, the only vulnerable part of him so openly exposed to Luke, hit him hard, and his next breath came out as a sob.

“Luke?” Vader asked, and Luke could swear he heard a hint of concern in that regulated voice. Vader released his chin and his hand moved to cup the side of Luke’s face, his thumb swiping away the remnants of tears on his cheek. Luke ignored the almost fussing motion and slowly reached out a hand to touch his father’s chest. He kept clear of the control panel and instead rested his palm against where his father’s heart would be. The armour was too thick for him to feel it beating, but he still marveled at this, that he was allowed this contact and that his father was really, truly alive.

Vader’s other hand came up to rest on top of Luke’s for a moment before the hand on his face was gone and suddenly his arm hooked around Luke’s waist and pulled him close. Luke gasped at being unexpectedly caught up in an embrace, and Vader stilled for a moment, his grip slackening minutely before Luke wrapped his own arm, the one not caught between them, around his father. He buried his face against his father’s chest, clinging tightly to the tabard with his trapped hand, not caring that the edge of the control panel was digging into his side. Whatever else Vader might be, he was his father and he wanted him.

“My son,” Vader said, holding him closer and returning his other hand to the back of Luke’s head, gently keeping him pressed against him. “You are my son.”

Luke guessed the repetition was as much Vader’s way of marveling over it himself as it was meant as reassurance for him, and he realized he had not yet returned the verbal acknowledgement.

The word stuck in his throat, unfamiliar on his tongue as a title directed at a living person, and his first attempt was little more than a murmur to Vader’s suit that even he could barely hear. But his next try was audible and he somehow felt Vader’s shock as he called him father for the first time.

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Hi, pleease write a 3 sentence fic with: 1) Pairing: Vader and Piett 2) AU setting: working together\helping each other to escape a dangerous situation

Secretly retrieving Lord Vader after one of his unsanctioned, Piett assumed, solo missions chasing after Skywalker was nothing new; in fact, it was a fairly common occurrence, but having their shuttle shot down by pirates and crashing next to their hideout was anything but usual.

The damage to their shuttle was repairable, Darth Vader insisted, though Piett was doubtful as he glanced over at the tangled mess of wires and half-melted durasteel, and Piett had been charged with covering him as he worked to fix it. Though Darth Vader was most assuredly the better fighter of the two, and would have a far greater chance of holding off the rather large gang of pirates closing in on them, there was no way Piett could manage the repairs himself, so he checked the charge on his sidearm, grabbed two extra energy cartridges just to be safe, and, standing with his back to his commander, began picking off the pirates one by one.

 

Three sentence fic prompt: anything about Ahsoka and Vader

Ahsoka wanted so badly to deny the familiar tones of the voice beneath the vocoder’s modulation, but she had heard her master say her name too many times to successfully convince herself, and despite the yellow glow of the single eye she could see through the slash she had made in Vader’s mask, she recognized it.

“Anakin…” she whispered, her heart breaking all over again; she had thought her former master dead all those years ago, after Order 66, but to find that he was alive but Fallen… She had failed him, perhaps if she had never left, if she had stayed, she could have helped him, could have prevented this somehow, and she knew she had to do what she could now to fix this.

“I won’t leave you,” she swore. “Not this time. I should never have left you in the first place.”

Vader’s, Anakin’s, whoever he was now, eye widened slightly in what might have been surprise, then narrowed again. “It is far too late for that, Ahsoka.” His voice was rough, strained, oddly amplified by the damaged vocoder, and Ahsoka winced.

“I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that. The Jedi failed me, and they must have failed you too. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. But let me help you now,” she pleaded. Anakin had been the best of them, and it hurt to see that he had fallen so far. She wanted to understand what had happened, wanted to know what could have pushed her master, who had cared so much about people, to become this, the Jedi killer, a murderer of children. The Anakin she knew had gone against orders to save her, refused to leave anyone, even a clone, behind. That man had to be buried somewhere beneath the armour in front of her.

“You can come back,” she said, blinking away the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. “You believed in me once, when no one else did. Now I’m going to return the favor. And this time I won’t walk away.”

 

For the AU thing: Reversed Twins with Luke as the prince of Alderaan?

Despite his father’s warnings, Prince Luke Organa could never understand why he was drawn to Lord Vader every time he saw him, whether it was in the Senate building or the rare times the Dark Lord deigned to “visit” them in their palace on Alderaan. There was fear too, healthy fear instilled in him from a young age, when he used to curl up on the couch next to his father and listen with rapt attention to the forbidden stories of the Clone Wars, the Jedi, and politicians like Senator Padmé Amidala whispered in his father’s gentle voice, followed by warnings to keep his knowledge secret and warnings of who and what Darth Vader was: a Sith, a murderer, a dangerous man who would kill Luke if he discovered his Force sensitivity, a talent Bail Organa had tried to keep Luke from awakening, but the Togruta who went by the name Fulcrum said he was too strong for it to remain dormant long, not without help. She taught him to shield his mind, shield his power, and also warned him to stay as far away from Darth Vader as he could, because the man had killed all the Jedi, and he would kill him too, but still Luke watched him when he swept through the Senate halls and wondered why the Force trembled in anticipation whenever they passed each other or the Dark Lord’s gaze drifted across him, and he wondered if Darth Vader felt it too.

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Ok, uuuuuuum. Luke and Vader. Raised by Vader AU with Luke (your choice how old) stealing Vader's lightsaber?

Luke peeked around the corner of his father’s desk, staring up with wide eyes at the shiny hilt of the lightsaber clipped to his father’s belt before glancing over at his father’s mask to make sure he wasn’t looking at him. Stifling a small giggle, he crept closer and reached out with tiny hands to grab at the lightsaber, barely managing to wrap his fingers around the whole of it, even with both hands, but he was stopped before he could get away with his prize.

“Not until you are old enough, Luke,” his father said, plucking the lightsaber out of Luke’s grip without even looking at him, and Luke pouted at having his plans foiled yet again.

 

I’ll write you a three-sentence fic! How about: Vader & Luke & Lightsaber training???

Luke couldn’t restrain his silly grin as he followed his father down to the training room, to finally start learning how to use a lightsaber! He tried to wrestle it under control when his father turned to hand him a training saber, knowing this was serious business, and if he didn’t appear to be taking it seriously, Father might decide he was still too young to learn.

The comfortable weight of the saber in his barely-big-enough hands sobered his emotions; he felt a sense of awe like he had the first time he had touched the Force, and he knew he had been born for this.

 

Kid!Luke pranking the imperials

Luke giggled, pressing a small hand over his mouth to quiet it as he focused on the man sitting at the desk below where he perched in the air vent. Just as his father’s captain reached for another datapad, it floated out of his reach, obeying Luke’s silent Force command (his father had been teaching him!), and the captain startled, raising a gloved hand to his heart before glancing around the room and finally catching sight of Luke.

Luke squeaked when the captain reached for his comm, losing his grip on the datapad and scrambling back down the vent, hoping to get back to his room before his father came looking for him.

 

For the 3 sentence fic, how about Piett has to babysit a toddler Luke?

This was not at all what he had expected when he had signed up for service in the Imperial Navy, and he was fairly certain that “babysitter” was nowhere in his contract, but he wasn’t going to refuse Darth Vader, of all people, especially when he knew just how much the small child tugging at his rank plaque meant to his commander. People had been killed for even looking at Lord Vader’s son the wrong way, so while being charged with the boy’s safety was an honor Piett was not entirely sure he was pleased to have, it was a sign of his Lord’s trust that he appreciated.

As soon as Darth Vader left the room, Luke wiggled out of Piett’s arms -- he was getting rather too big to be held all the time -- and immediately went for Piett’s sidearm.

“No, no, no, no, no,” Piett gasped, catching Luke’s hands before he could pull the blaster out of the holster. The son had just as much of a penchant for trouble as the father, apparently, and Piett briefly considered locking the blaster in his desk drawer, before realizing that it would be unwise to disarm himself when he was in charge of Lord Vader’s son’s safety, just in case something happened.

This was more pressure than he really wanted to deal with right now.

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For the 3 sentence fic... Luke and Vader, but for some reason it's Luke who has to take care of/protect his father

“You’re not executing him,” Luke growled, keeping his body between his father and the gathered members of High Command and an assortment of other curious members of the Alliance, “you’re not touching him, unless you go through me first.”

It had taken all of Luke’s careful persuasion, impassioned pleading, and the last remnants of his own strength just to convince his father to fight for his own life in the hangar bay of the Death Star, not to give up and let himself die there, and now in the Alliance medbay he had no more patience, no more reserves of clever words to bandy about. He was putting his foot down about this; he had just regained his father, he wasn’t going to lose him again, and if the Alliance didn’t like it, they would have to kill him first.

 

Vader & Luke where they both survive RotJ <3

Luke paced outside his father’s room in the Alliance medbay, gnawing at his thumbnail and monitoring not only his father’s Force signature, which was a muted glow in his unconscious state but stronger and more steady than it had been when Luke had dragged him off the shuttle, but also the minds of the swarm of doctors and nurses, gauging them for any sign of ill intent. He had not had the time to vet them properly before allowing them to treat his father, with Vader’s condition as perilous as it had been, but it seemed his hasty assessment of them had been enough, and none of them were contemplating taking advantage of having Darth Vader unconscious and vulnerable in front of them.

Even though he could feel the strength of his father’s presence, he still looked up in anticipation when the door opened and still felt the relief when the doctor nodded at him with a strained but genuine smile on her face.

 

Leia and Han + Vader survives ROTJ

Leia hadn’t quite believed it, when she’d heard, that her… brother, Luke was her brother, had brought Darth kriffing Vader back with him when he’d returned from the second Death Star, but now she stared at Luke kneeling next to his… father’s bedside in the medbay of the Redemption, and Han had to grab her shoulders to hold her back when she tried to surge forward and… what? Pull Luke away? Stab Vader through his heartless chest?

“Wait,” Han hissed in her ear, “listen to them.” She stopped trying to break his tight grip on her and instead focused on what her brother was saying.

“– thought you were going to die. I’m not ready to lose you.” His voice was low, shaky, and he held one of Vader’s hands clasped tightly in both his own. Leia grimaced at that. How could he stand being so close to the monster, even if he was his, their, sire?

“It was far better that I die than you, my son. I could not bear to watch him kill you in front of me.” Vader freed his hand from Luke’s and brushed his fingers gently against the younger man’s cheek. Leia shuddered at the thought of his hands touching her again, remembering only the iron grip of his fingers against her shoulders as she watched Alderaan burn. But Luke closed his eyes, a faint, bittersweet smile tugging at his lips, and tilted his head into the contact. “I had to stop him, and I was prepared to die in the process. I fear my survival will only bring you grief.”

Leia frowned. Vader had attempted to give his life for Luke’s? That was difficult to believe. She glanced up at Han, his hands on her shoulders nothing like Vader’s, and found his face equally puzzled, but his eyes were narrowed in thought rather than indignant anger.

“No, Father,” Luke gasped, his ungloved left hand, his real flesh hand, reaching up to keep Vader’s against his cheek. “I have waited my entire life to know you. Whatever this costs, it’s worth it. I have already placed myself between you and the Emperor. Nothing will be worse than that.”

Despite herself, Leia found her curiosity piqued by Luke’s statement. Why would he have had to stand between Vader and the Emperor? Hadn’t Luke been against them both? Hadn’t Vader brought Luke to the Emperor to combine the Sith’s forces against the last of the Jedi? Had Vader turned against – No. Leia shook her head. The thought was absurd, and yet… And yet, the Emperor was dead, and here Darth Vader was, lying on a bed in an Alliance medbay, with the Hero of Yavin kneeling at his side, holding his hand pressed against his face. There was more to this than she knew, even if she did not want to admit it. Even if she would never truly accept Vader as her… biological parent.

“And that was foolish, child,” Vader berated softly, an almost fond note to his rasping voice. “It was not your place to protect me.”

Luke did not answer, merely bowed his head and buried his face against his father’s chest. If he did speak, it was too quietly for Leia to hear, and she had to turn away, unease coiling in her mind at the sight of Luke so openly trusting of Vader, and perhaps a trickle of shame that he was so forgiving and she so unwilling to even contemplate it.

But no, she shoved that aside, firming her resolve. She was obliged to give Vader nothing, and he was not owed anything from her. She might decide to tolerate him for Luke’s sake, since her dear, idiotic brother had so obviously, confoundedly attached himself to the man, but she would give him nothing more. He deserved nothing more, and she would not be made to feel ashamed of this. Not by anyone, and she knew Luke would never push her, though he might be disappointed.

Han squeezed her shoulders, and she looked up at him, knowing her confliction was visible on her face.

“I think,” he said slowly, “we need to find out exactly what happened on the Death Star.”

 

Vader "playing" with Luke's hair (canon!adult Luke) if you're still doing the three sentences meme, please?

Luke hadn’t realized he had fallen asleep at his father’s bedside, his head still pillowed on Vad-- Anakin’s chest until he woke, his knees and back very sore from his inadvisable sleeping position, to the gentle touch of a hand running through his hair. He lifted his head, and the hand stilled, though it didn’t break contact, and Luke saw his father’s eyes staring at him from a pallid and scarred face, their pale blue gaze full of amazement and tender care.

Luke smiled at him, and groaned as he shifted his sore body to ease the stiffness in his muscles; he didn’t want to jostle his father’s still-recovering body by sitting on the bed, but there was nowhere else for him to move to unless he dragged a chair in from another room, but that would require him to leave Anakin’s side, something he had no desire to do, not for a long time, so he perched lightly on the edge of the mattress and caught his father’s hand in his own again, indescribably happy to have him with him, alive and safe and free.

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For the three sentences fic. Vader trying to be mad at Luke (23 years old Luke) but he can't because he loves him too much. :)

He should be angry, no, he should be furious, that Luke had decided to take a TIE fighter out without permission. Didn’t the boy know how dangerous they were if you didn’t know what you were doing, or what if the Rebels had decided to attack, and he was caught out there in the middle of a dogfight, unshielded and unprotected by a wingmate? But the sheepish grin on his son’s lips was not enough to hide the pure joy and excitment radiating from Luke, and Vader was unable to summon the proper rage he should feel in the face of it; after all, he did understand the thrill of flying, and though he would never admit it to his son, he had once been just as reckless.

 

Vader rescuing Luke?

Luke was never going to volunteer to scout out old ruins on a new planet for a potential base alone again, no matter how busy everyone else was, he decided, staring up the steep incline he had tumbled down and trying to ignore the pain from his very definitely broken leg. There was no way he could climb back up that collapsed hallway, even without his busted leg, and his comlink had been smashed in the fall; despite his attempts to replicate his call for help to Leia like he had after Bespin, he couldn’t seem to reach her.

Echoing footsteps above him and the telling hiss of the respirator was his only warning before his fa – Vader landed several feet away from him, the force of his landing enough to crack the rock beneath him, and, considering the circumstances, Luke was unable to tamp down his relief at seeing him, his only protest a small whimper when his leg was jostled as Vader scooped him up into his arms.

 

(For the 3 sentence fic thing) maybe Vader discovering Luke in a thoroughly bizarre situation (pre or post ESB, up to you) that is Probably Dangerous, and Luke is trying very hard not to be relieved to see him.

If they got out of this alive, Luke was going to strangle Wes; it was his fault that half of Rogue Squadron, including Wedge, had been captured by Zygerrian slavers, and Luke had had to suspend his search for Boba Fett and Han to come flying to the rescue. But now he was staring down a blaster set to stun, with another slaver holding a much more lethal blaster to Wedge’s temple, and Luke let his lightsaber drop. He shuddered as it hit the floor, and tried to ignore the tangled panic in his stomach when the slaver stepped forward with a pair of what looked like Force-suppressing binders, a sickening leer on his face.

Just before the binders snapped closed around his wrists, cutting him off from the Force, he felt it roil with dark fury, and his head jerked up just in time to see Vader crash through the door, his lightsaber blazing as it cut down the nearest slaver. Luke gasped, unexpected relief flooding through him and threatening to send him to his knees; he was already a little dizzy and disoriented from the sudden lack of the Force’s grounding light. His father, and it was still a little odd to think of Vader as his father, even though he knew it was true, was at his side before he could do much more than sway unsteadily, grabbing his arm and pulling him close even as all the blasters in the room were yanked away from their owners and crushed in midair with small explosions. Luke flinched, his eyes darting to Wedge to make sure his friend was alright. The pilot’s dark eyes were wide and there was a slight bruise on his cheek from an earlier scuffle, but he seemed otherwise unharmed.

“I should have allowed those to explode in your hands,” Vader snarled, his low voice vibrating against Luke’s back where it was pressed to his father’s chest, “but that is something my son should never have to witness.”

Luke stiffened, his breath catching in horror as he looked at Wedge again. His eyes were even wider now, if that were possible, and he opened his mouth as though to ask a question but snapped it back shut before he said anything. There was something like confusion around his eyes, but he didn’t look betrayed, though Luke was having a harder time reading him without the use of the Force. He had not realized how much he had depended on it, even subconsciously, until he was stripped of his connection with it. He wanted it back.

He felt Vader tense behind him and shift his grip, pulling Luke slightly to the side and out of the way as he threw his saber, the red blade scything through the air, and Luke cried out as the slaver holding Wedge pulled the pilot in front of him as a shield. But the lightsaber arched back to Vader’s hand after slicing through the rest of the slavers, leaving Wedge and his captor untouched. Luke leaned back against his father in relief.

“Release the pilot,” Vader demanded, pointing his blade at the last remaining slaver in the room. Luke was honestly surprised that none of them had called for backup yet. Perhaps Vader had knocked out the communications on their base, or they had been too caught by surprise at the appearance of the Empire’s Second-in-Command. The Zygerrian sneered and moved so Wedge was even more thoroughly between him and Vader.

“The Empire supports slavery. Why do you care if we take these Rebels off your hands, Lord Vader? You should have no objection.”

Vader growled and tensed again, and Luke feared he was going to throw the saber again, Wedge being used as a shield or no.

“Father, please,” he whispered. Vader ignored him, other than to hold him just a little tighter, the arm around Luke’s waist not allowing him to move away.

“The Empire condoning slavery,” Vader said, his low voice tightly controlled, though Luke feared it wouldn’t take much for that control to snap, “still does not excuse your attempt to enslave my freeborn son, Rebel or not.” Luke gasped at the emphasis, sudden understanding crashing in on him. He’d always known his father had been a slave as a child, but he hadn’t really thought about it in the context of Vader being his father. The two pieces of knowledge had remained separate in his mind after Bespin, the truth of Darth Vader having been a slave a little too odd a concept. Luke doubted the Zygerrian slaver would miss the emphasis, and he was sure he would also know what it meant.

Sure enough, his eyes went wide, his hold on Wedge slackening for a brief second. He opened his mouth to speak, but the momentary distraction was enough for Wedge to slam his elbow back into the slaver’s midsection and break free of his grip. The Zygerrian doubled over with a grunt, and Wedge didn’t hesitate before darting across the room and ducking behind Vader. Luke almost grinned at the ridiculousness of it, but clearly Wedge had decided that the Sith Lord was the lesser of the two threats in the room. A sentiment Luke shared, though he did not appreciate being held quite so close.

 Luke turned his head away, pressing his cheek against his father’s chest as the slaver’s neck twisted at an unnatural angle with the crunch of bone, and he collapsed to the floor, lifeless. Luke shuddered, and he heard Vader’s lightsaber deactivate before a hesitant hand brushed against the back of his head. When Luke didn’t flinch away from the contact, Vader ran his fingers through Luke’s hair again, and the action was oddly soothing. Luke sighed, a minuscule amount of tension draining from his shoulders.

“Foolish child,” Vader rumbled. His tone was difficult to read through the vocoder, and Luke didn’t have the Force to help him interpret, but the hand still in his hair tempered what might have otherwise been a reprimand into something a bit fonder. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” Luke murmured, shaking his head against his father’s hand. “But I... I can’t touch the Force.” He lifted his bound hands, drawing attention to the offending binders.

“I know,” Vader said. “I am glad I was already here when they cuffed you, or else I might have thought – ” He cut himself off and clutched Luke tighter, and even without the Force, Luke imagined he felt his father’s fear at the thought of his death.

 “I am fine, Father,” Luke reassured him, a small, confused smile on his face at the thought of reassuring Darth Vader, of all people.

“Um,” Wedge said, inching around Vader to stand in Luke’s line of sight, “as weirdly touching as this reunion is, would you mind explaining to me just what the kriff is going on?” There was a hysterical edge to his voice, and even clenching his hands into fists didn’t stop them from trembling visibly. He kept his eyes fixed on Luke’s, never letting his gaze wander to Vader, and Luke was acutely aware of how confusing the situation must be for his friend.

“Wedge, uh...” Luke smiled weakly. His mind was racing, trying to think of a way to handle this. In all the varied ways he had imagined Wedge finding out about this, this was certainly not one of them. “Meet my father?” He gave an apologetic shrug, hoping Wedge wouldn’t take this badly.

Wedge’s eyes finally darted up to Vader’s mask before dropping back to Luke’s face. “Vader’s really your father? That’s...” His eyes flickered again. “I don’t... How is that even... What?”

“I’m sorry, Wedge. I didn’t know until recently. Until... Bespin.” He shivered at the memories, his prosthetic hand aching with phantom pain, and he curled it into a fist. Wedge’s eyes were drawn to the movement, and he flinched, no doubt putting together what it meant that Vader had been the one to take his hand.

Wedge gasped in horror. “But if he’s your – ”

“I had no choice,” Vader snapped, interrupting him. “Luke refused to surrender.”

“So you chopped off your own son’s hand?” he demanded. He took a small step forward, and Luke blinked in frightened amazement. Was Wedge really telling off Darth Vader? Was he trying to get himself killed?

“Wedge...” Luke warned, speaking before Vader could. He didn’t need the Force to feel his father’s anger rising, and he didn’t want Vader to release that rage against Wedge.

Wedge took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he focused on Luke’s face. “Are you alright?”

Luke nodded. He was trying not to think about the fact that Vader would not release him once they got out of the slavers’ compound. He had been rescued only to be captured, though he knew he would vastly prefer whatever his father had planned to the life of a slave. He had briefly tasted slavery under Grakkus, though he had tried so hard since then to convince himself that it didn’t count. But he was freeborn, and it had still felt like a failure to both his father and his grandmother, who had both escaped slavery in the end. Or so Luke had thought, before he knew that his father wasn’t dead; he wasn’t entirely convinced Vader wasn’t a slave to the Emperor now, and that thought stung.

He had not allowed himself to really contemplate his fate this time, and then his father had swept in and pulled him out before the thought could settle that maybe this time he wouldn’t escape, maybe this time he really would end up back where his family had come from. The first freeborn Skywalker in generations, and this was the third time he had almost been enslaved.

Vader broke through his thoughts, though his choice of subject wasn’t far off. “I assume, considering the length of time they had you, that you do not have a transmitter?” There was rage lacing his voice, audible even through the vocoder.

Luke shook his head. “No, I’m clean.” He looked over at Wedge, who also shook his head. That sent a rush of relief through Luke, and he dropped his head back against his father’s chest.

“Good. Now we are leaving.” Vader finally, finally released his hold on Luke’s waist, though he seized his arm immediately after, and began leading him towards the door he had slashed open. Wedge stood unmoving in the middle of the room, and Luke tugged against his father’s grip.

“Wait!” he cried. “We can’t leave yet. They still have Tycho and Wes and – ”

Vader froze, his hand momentarily tightening painfully around Luke’s arm. “We will retrieve them first, then.” Luke gaped at his father’s easy acquiescence before it struck him that of course he would be unable to leave anyone, even a Rebel, at risk of enslavement.

“Thank you.” Luke lifted his hands. “Can you get these off, please? I’m more of a liability than anything like this.”

Vader hesitated, and Luke sighed. “I’ll go with you, willingly, if you take these off and let my friends go after we rescue them.”

“Luke, no!” Wedge yelled. But Vader was quick to finalize the deal.

“Agreed.” He waved his hand over the binders, and they unlocked with a barely audible click and clattered to the floor. The Force flooded back instantly, almost painful in its intensity, and Luke raised his hands to his head.

“Ah...” he groaned, squeezing his eyes shut against the dizziness, even as the Galaxy settled back to rightness with the return of this missing part of him. Vader’s hands settled on his shoulders, supporting him.

“Luke?”

“I’ll be fine. The Force is just...” Luke gestured vaguely, unsure how to explain.

“I understand,” Vader replied. “It can be disorienting, both to lose and to regain your awareness of the Force.” As the Force settled around him, Luke became aware of the dark nova of his father’s presence pressing against him. It was oddly comforting.

He straightened and nodded. “Okay. I’m good.” He glanced over at Wedge, who was standing with slumped shoulders and staring down at his feet, and Luke knew he didn’t understand. He hoped he would be able to explain before this was over. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Vader makes Piett the "placeholder" Emperor.

Of all the things he had done for Lord Vader, this was by far the strangest, and the most uncomfortable. His commander had barely finished running his blade through the Emp- former Emperor, before he all but picked Piett up and plopped him on the throne, promising he wouldn’t have to hold this position long, just until he had caught and convinced his son - his son! - to take the throne.

Now Piett sat alone in his new quarters in the Imperial Palace, staring despondently at the paperwork on this datapad that declared him the stand-in Emperor, and had never wished harder for Skywalker’s capture.

 

The Rebellion reacts to Emperor Piett.

Mon Mothma was not quite sure what to think, when she heard the reports that Emperor Palpatine was dead by Darth Vader’s hand, and that the Dark Lord had placed his Admiral, of all people, on the throne in his stead while he redoubled his efforts to locate Skywalker. On the one hand, Emperor Piett did not seem very interested in maintaining Palpatine’s iron control over the Galaxy, and he was significantly less of a threat than the former Emperor had been, but he was also a wild card, and there was the larger issue of just why Vader would suddenly turn on the Emperor. It wasn’t a bid for power or he would have taken control himself rather than crowning Piett, and the temporary status of Piett’s reign left the question of just who was Vader planning on installing permanently?

Mon’s thoughts flickered to Skywalker again, and Vader’s obsessive hunt for him. There was more to it than just the Emperor’s desires, as Palpatine was now dead and yet Vader's desperation had done nothing but increase. It was absurd, but for a moment her mind suggested that perhaps it was Skywalker Vader wanted to place on the throne. She tried to immediately dismiss the notion, after all, it was absurd, Skywalker was a Rebel. But the idea stuck, and she was forced to contemplate it before she could convince her mind to let go of it. Why would Vader want Skywalker on the throne? There was no logic to it. Skywalker would never consent to take the throne, and why would Vader want the son of a man he had murdered as an heir –

She froze. It was utterly ridiculous, and yet... And yet, it made too much sense. Vader had to have been a former Jedi, that was an unspoken that everyone knew, and Anakin had been close to the then-Chancellor Palpatine. And the inexplicably pregnant Padmé Amidala. What if... Mon shook her head, trying one last, futile time to dislodge the thought. Vader was seeking Skywalker to put him on the throne because he was his son.

 

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Darth Vader and Luke, in a "TIE fighter pilot Luke" AU please? :)

Vader stared at the profile of one of the new TIE pilots assigned to his ship, a TIE pilot with an impossible name. He never usually bothered to learn the names, or even look at the names, of new recruits because they rarely survived past their first few dogfights, but he had felt the presence of a strong, if untrained, Force-sensitive among them and wanted to know how the Inquisitors could have possibly missed someone like him. But now, with an eerily familiar face staring back at him with an unprofessional, giddy smile from the screen of his datapad, he was unexpectedly glad they had missed this boy, had not killed him, or taken him before Vader had learned his name, and he barely took the time to drop the datapad before almost running down to the hangar to retrieve his son.

~*~

Luke Skywalker knew the best way to survive on this ship was to not gain Lord Vader’s attention.  Do your job, don’t mess up, and keep your head down.

He’d gotten the briefing, along with all the other new pilots just two days ago.

And then Lord Vader stormed into the TIE hanger, and Luke, along with every other pilot, inhaled sharply.

“Pilot Skywalker,” Vader intoned. 

Luke froze, then forced himself to step forward.  “Here, milord,” he managed.  What had he done, to gain Vader’s attention?

“Come with me.”

Luke followed Lord Vader out, amid the sympathetic and pitying glances of his fellow pilots.  He was sure he would never return.

~*~

Luke kept his gaze focused on the trailing edge of Lord Vader’s cape, maintaining enough distance between them to avoid stepping on it while still nearly jogging to keep up with the Dark Lord’s long strides.

He hadn’t even had a chance to fly a single mission yet. When he had thought he’d die in space, he had meant in the cockpit of a fighter, not in a back hallway of a Star Destroyer. Luke wrenched his mind away from the morbid contemplations of his impending demise, but when it strayed to thoughts of his Aunt and Uncle, so far away on their little farm on Tatooine, he wished he could tell them goodbye, wished he had listened to them and never applied to the Academy in the first place, wished he could -

“Luke.” Darth Vader’s voice startled him, and he gaped at the use of his given name. Vader had led him to a deserted hallway, and now he gestured for Luke to precede him into an empty office.

Away from any witnesses, Luke thought, though he wondered why Lord Vader would bother. It wasn’t like he would get in trouble for killing a nobody TIE pilot.

Luke took a shaky breath before entering the office, conscious of Vader’s large frame close behind him. He stopped in the middle of the room and closed his eyes for a brief moment before turning to face Vader. The Dark Lord was closer than he had realized, and Luke skittered back when he raised a hand, even though he knew distance wouldn’t protect him. But Vader froze at his retreat, and he dropped his hand.

Vader’s head tilted just slightly to the side, and Luke had the strange notion that he was being studied. He carefully straightened his body to stand at parade rest, clasping his hands behind his back, and though he tried to remain still, he found himself nervously fidgeting with his fingers.

“At ease, Luke,” Vader said, his tone light. “Relax. I will not harm you.”

Reluctantly, Luke fell out of parade rest, but he could not keep his hands still for long, and he folded them together again, this time in front of him. Vader’s assurance that he would not hurt him had done nothing to ease the anxiety writhing in Luke’s stomach.

“Why did you summon me, my Lord?” Luke finally asked, when Vader continued to stare at him without speaking. He cursed the tremor in his voice.

“Luke Skywalker,” Vader said slowly, as though savoring the name, and Luke frowned. He held his ground when the Dark Lord took a step closer. “The son of Anakin Skywalker?”

Luke startled. How in the Galaxy did Darth Vader know his father’s name? And why was that important? His father had been nothing more than a navigator on a spice freighter, no one the Second-in-Command of the Empire should know. Luke stared up at Vader for a moment before he forced himself to nod.

“Yes, my Lord,” he whispered.

Lord Vader made an aborted motion towards Luke before falling back a step, away from him. “My – ” The mechanical breathing hitched for a moment, and Vader turned his head away from him.

Luke’s eyes landed on Vader’s hands, which were gripping his belt tightly enough to crease the leather. He wasn’t sure what to make of this situation. None of the training seminars had ever prepared him for this. But before he could say anything, Vader whirled back around and closed the distance between them with two steps. Luke caught his breath and locked his knees, preventing himself from retreating.

“You are my son,” Vader declared, and Luke blinked in uncomprehending surprise.

“Um,” Luke said, opening and closing his mouth as he tried to process that bit of news and react to it properly. “What?” Not his most articulate response, but it was all he could manage.

“I was once known as Anakin Skywalker. I am your father.”

 

Chapter Text

Luke rescuing Vader?

Luke broke into a run as he finally caught sight of Vader between the trees, slumped down not far from his crashed and still smoking TIE fighter.

“Father!” he shouted, skidding to a stop and dropping to his knees next to him, his hands fluttering uselessly across Vader’s chest. He had never before been so glad to hear the steady, mechanical breathing, though right now it was far too shallow and labored. He had come as quickly as he could, stammering some excuse to Leia that he couldn’t even remember now, as soon as he had felt the fragile brush of his father’s plea against his mind. He had been surprised at the strength of his reaction, at the surge of terror that had ripped through him when he felt how weak Vader was.

Now he reached out and took his father’s hand. He squeezed it gently, relieved when Vader returned the pressure. “I was afraid I wouldn’t -- ” Luke couldn’t finish the sentence. “Where are you injured? What can I do?”

There was nothing obviously wrong with him, no outward injuries Luke could see, and he feared any damage was internal or to his life support.

“Luke,” Vader said, between rasping breaths, “I did not think... you would come.”

“Shh, Father. Of course I came. What happened?” Vader was alone, and there had been no Alliance activity in this system as far as Luke was aware. He should not have crashed.

“My Master was... displeased with me,” Vader replied. Luke frowned. That wasn’t much of an answer. He would need more specific details later, but even without knowing exactly what had happened, his anger flared at the Emperor.

“What do you -- Hey, don’t move!” Luke pushed lightly against his father’s chest as Vader tried to get up.

“You cannot carry me, young one.” The gentle rebuke was accompanied by a hint of humor from his father, and Luke ducked his head to hide a small smile. If his father was well enough to joke with him, he would probably survive this.

“No, I don’t think I could,” Luke agreed. “But let me help you.”

He helped pull his father to his feet and let Vader drape an arm around his shoulders for support, wrapping his own arm around Vader’s waist. His father leaned heavily on him, and Luke drew on the Force to help him bear the weight. Their progress was slow, and the first time Vader stumbled, he almost took Luke down with him.

Luke kept up a steady stream of murmured encouragement, trying to soothe the growing frustration he could sense from his father. Vader did not like admitting weakness, much less showing it, and being unable to walk under his own power had to hurt his pride.

Despite Vader’s shielding, Luke could feel echoes of his pain. He worried at the sharpness of it and was glad they did not have much farther to go before they reached his ship.

“I trust you had the sense to bring more than just your X-wing,” Vader said, his voice weaker than Luke had yet heard it, and he clutched his arm a little tighter around his father.

“I borrowed a small shuttle.” Luke was trying very hard not to think about where he was going to take Vader. He would not trust a civilian hospital, and he did not think his father would allow him to bring him back to the Alliance. Nor was he foolish enough to think the Alliance would willingly treat him. No, bringing him back with him would be more of a death sentence than leaving him here, untreated. That left only one option, and Luke’s mind shied away from it. He knew if he set foot on the Executor, he would not be allowed to leave it. But for his father’s life?

His shuttle finally came into view, and his steps faltered, his body trembling with the strain of carrying his father’s weight, the Force augmentation of his strength notwithstanding. He almost lost his grip on Vader, but held on with sheer willpower.

“Almost there, Father,” he muttered, even though Vader could see the shuttle just as clearly as he could. The encouragement was as much for himself as it was his father. He wished he could have landed closer to Vader’s crash site, but there hadn’t been a clearing large enough.

Luke managed to get Vader onto the shuttle and settled into the copilot’s seat without further mishap, but as he turned away to run the ship’s startup sequence, Vader’s hand clamped around his wrist. Luke stilled and closed his eyes, unwilling to look at his father.

“I need to return to my ship,” Vader rasped. Luke nodded once, feeling his stomach twist in resigned anxiety. “Luke, look at me.”

It took Luke a moment to turn and meet his father’s gaze. “I know,” he said quietly. “I knew that when I came.” Now he regretted the hasty lie he had told Leia. He should have said a proper goodbye, or even told her the truth, even though he knew she would never have let him go if he had.

Vader released his wrist and reached up to tentatively brush the tips of his fingers along Luke’s cheekbone. Luke blinked in surprise but didn’t pull away from the contact. “You will be allowed to leave. I will not keep you,” Vader promised.

Luke released a surprised breath when Vader’s thumb swiped across his cheek, brushing away a tear Luke hadn’t realized had escaped his eye. He captured his father’s hand in his own and bowed his head.

“Thank you.” Relief lifted the weight of anxiety from his shoulders, but he felt a small, sharp jab of disappointment at the thought of leaving his father, and he spent the short flight to the Executor contemplating it.

Chapter Text

3 sentence prompt? Luke, Vader, High Inquisitor. Luke is found by the inquisitorious on Tatooine. (Luke, Vader, High Inquisitor - The High Inquisitor has captured teenage Luke.)

“Let go of me!” the boy snarled, jerking against the Grand Inquisitor’s grip as he was dragged in front of Darth Vader. Vader normally wouldn’t be involved with a new acquisition until their final stages of training, but the Grand Inquisitor had expressed concerns about this boy’s strength and had called him in – an action he would soon regret, as Vader was in a foul mood at having been pulled from his bacta tank earlier than planned. As much as the scheduled baths were a hassle he wished he could avoid altogether, going through the process of removing the suit and prosthetics only to be pulled out again too soon, soon enough he would have to go back after this little meeting, was even more annoying. The Grand Inquisitor would pay with his life if this boy wasn’t worth his time.

He gave no more than a cursory glance at the boy, noting nothing more than his short height and light coloration, though something familiar tickled the back of his mind at the sight of him, before brushing past negligible shields and rifling through his mind, his memories, searching for anything of use or interest. He could feel the boy’s raw power, untapped potential that was rather startling in its intensity. How had they missed him for this long?

Vader stopped at the sight of vaguely familiar faces in a vaguely familiar kitchen, the boy’s mind helpfully supplying the names Owen and Beru Lars to go with the faces, and an older but very familiar Obi-Wan arguing with them.

Vader took a startled step back. It couldn’t be. The child had died, he had killed it with her

He looked closer at the boy, whose pained grimace faded as Vader withdrew from his mind, and forced himself to acknowledge the stirrings of familiarity in the back of his mind. The nose could definitely be hers, and the chin was…

Vader reached out to grasp said chin, but the boy recoiled, shrinking back against the Inquisitor behind him. The Pau’an pushed him forward, and the boy stumbled, his wrists bound behind his back throwing off his balance. Vader caught him by the shoulders and steadied him, then seized the boy’s chin and tilted his head up so he could study him. His chest was heaving, his light hair darkened and sticking to his forehead with sweat, which was probably from a combination of the effort of his struggles and the heat in the air on Mustafar. Even if he was used to Tatooine, Mustafar was still a great deal warmer, and the ash in the air made breathing difficult.

The boy shook his head once, trying to break free of Vader’s grip, but Vader only tightened his fingers on his chin, and he submitted, unwillingly if the glare on his face and the indignation in his mind was anything to go by, to Vader’s examination.

A bruise was blossoming on his right cheek, most likely the result of a backhand for either mouthing off or fighting, and even though the red lenses of Vader’s mask did not allow him to see colors properly, he knew the boy’s eyes were blue.

“What is your name?” Vader demanded, releasing the boy’s chin but not retreating from his space. He ignored the surprise emanating from the Grand Inquisitor at the question. Inquisitors had no names, and potential Inquisitors were never asked for theirs.

The boy tilted his head up, masking the fear Vader could feel roiling in his mind with pride and an attempt at a show of strength.

“My name is Luke Skywalker,” he said, and Vader’s thoughts ground to a halt. He had known it was possible, as soon as he saw his old master in the boy’s mind, and despite the physical similarities, he hadn’t dared to hope…

He stared at the boy, child, teenager, he’d be barely fifteen now, his son, and his eyes fell on the bruise on his cheek.

Vader twisted his hand sharply, and the Grand Inquisitor’s neck snapped with the sickening crunch of bone. The boy, his son, Luke startled, spinning around and taking a step back as the Pau’an crumpled to the ground. He backed into Vader and yelped, but Vader grabbed his shoulders before he could run.

“Calm down, Luke.”

He was trembling, his mind a tangled mess of confusion and panic, and he was worrying his wrists against the binders, heedless of the blood that was beginning to well along the scraped skin. Vader touched his hands gently. “Stop. You are only hurting yourself.”

“What’s going on?” Luke asked. He was still shaking, but he did stop fighting the binders.

“I killed him for striking you.” Not the entire truth, but as much as he wanted the boy to know for now. He could not have word of Luke’s existence making its way back to the Emperor. He would need to ensure that the Grand Inquisitor was the only one involved in the boy’s capture.

Luke’s head jerked up, turning to try to see Vader behind him. Vader moved his grip to his son’s arm, allowing him to turn to face him.

“Why?” His voice was barely a whisper.

“You are the son of Anakin Skywalker?”

Luke’s tiny gasp was enough of an answer, but he waited for a nod before he continued.

“Then you are my son.” He reached up to lightly touch Luke’s unmarked cheek, undeterred by his son’s flinch. “And I will not tolerate others injuring you.”

Luke’s eyes widened in disbelief, and he shook his head slowly. “Anakin Skywalker?” He stared up at Vader, his eyes pleading, and Vader didn’t know if he was begging for confirmation or denial. “You’re Anakin Skywalker?”

“I no longer use that name, but it was once mine, yes.”

“You’re my father?”

Vader almost sighed, though he knew the vocoder wouldn’t make much of it but a static hiss. But the boy’s disbelief and confusion were… somewhat understandable. He himself could barely grasp the idea that his child had survived. So many years… He had missed so much.

“Yes, young one.” Vader touched Luke’s face again, reverently, before tightening his grip on his son’s arm. “Come.”

He pulled Luke after him, the boy’s short legs having a hard time keeping up with his long strides, but he needed to get him somewhere safe, and quickly. Somewhere away from his tower on Mustafar, which was crawling with Inquisitors and the Emperor’s Red Guards.

“Wait!” Luke panted, jerking his arm to get Vader’s attention. “My aunt and uncle. They don’t know where I am.”

Despite his urgency, Vader paused at that. “They are alive?” Normally, the guardians of a child… acquired by the Inquisitorius did not survive. They fought back, protected the child too fiercely, a sentiment Vader was now beginning to understand. It surprised and infuriated him in equal measures that the Larses had not seen Luke worth protecting with their lives.

Luke frowned, sudden worry creasing his forehead. “Why wouldn’t they be? I wasn’t home when… when he grabbed me.” There was a flash of remembered fear, sharp against the present low undercurrent of anxiety in his son’s emotions.

Some of Vader’s rage abated at that admission, though now he was presented with the issue of his son’s guardians being alive. They had no claim above his own on the child, of course, as he was Luke’s biological father and in a much better financial situation to care for him as well. It would be fairly easy to prove that Luke had been kidnapped from him as a baby, most likely Kenobi’s doing. It would be a simple thing to regain legal custody of his son. Luke belonged at his side, was destined to be a Prince, to rule the Galaxy, and he would have anything he desired. The only thing standing in their way was Vader’s Master, an obstacle Vader would need to remove sooner rather than later.

“If you were not home, how did the Grand Inquisitor find you?” He still needed to know if the Pau’an was the only one to know, or if other Inquisitors had been involved.

“He was looking for our farm, but it’s difficult to find if you don’t know the area, and he stopped at my friend Biggs’s house, which was where I was, and asked where to find it, and I said that was my farm and what did he want with us, and when he said he was looking for me, he gave me this look, and I just knew that someone was going to get hurt if I didn’t go with him, so I did.” Luke’s words spilled out quickly, tumbling over each other in a rambling stampede. “The Darklighters probably told my aunt and uncle that I was taken by an Imperial, but they don’t really know what happened, and they have to be worried, and I want them to know I’m alive. I want to talk to them.”

It appeared the Grand Inquisitor had been acting alone, which was unsurprising as he had always preferred solo work to going with a team. Vader would not have to dispose of any other Inquisitors, unless others had encountered Luke in his tower before Vader had been summoned. He would need to question his son on that further. Now, however, Luke was staring at Vader with wide, pleading eyes, and he found himself unable to deny the boy’s request. Hadn’t he just sworn his son would have anything he desired? This was not what Vader wanted, nor entirely what he had meant, but he could work on weaning him from his guardians later. For now, it would be best to placate him, if it would get him to leave with him.

“You may comm them once we are away from this place.”

Luke’s eyes skipped along Vader’s mask, as though he was trying to read his face, and he hesitantly nodded. Vader tried to pull him along after him again, but Luke dug his heels in and refused to move.

“Can you… take these off?” He gestured over his shoulder with his head, indicating the binders still fastened securely around his wrists.

Vader considered the request for a moment, reading his son’s intentions in the Force. He could sense the boy’s desire to run, but also his determination not to. It would probably be safe to remove his restraints, but Vader was not willing to chance it, to take the risk of the boy slipping through his fingers now that he had just found him.

“Once we reach the shuttle,” he promised. “We need to keep up appearances.”

Luke sighed, but nodded and took a step forward on his own to stand beside Vader. “Let’s go then.” His voice was low and resigned, grief and a small amount of tempered elation threading through it.

That elation sparked hope in Vader’s chest, an emotion he had not felt in a long time. Luke’s fear and sense of loss was strong, but if his son had accepted him and was even somewhat excited by the prospect of being with him… Well. He could work with that.

Chapter Text

Three sentences about Allegiance!Luke's relationship to Piett and/or Veers? :3

Luke recognized him, when Piett brought him by, and knew who he was before the Admiral had the chance to introduce him. It was impossible not to, with all of the Empire’s “Hero of Hoth” propaganda and the Alliance’s backlash against the General in charge of one of the worst slaughters in the Alliance’s history. With General Veers’s reputation, Luke hadn’t expected him to be such a gentleman, though of course, as the Hero of Yavin, or the destroyer of the Death Star and mass murder of millions, depending on who you asked, he should have known better than to judge a man based on the tales told by his enemies.

 

Chapter Text

Palpatine had been dead for two years. Two years today, in fact, Luke remembered shortly after he had woken up and saw the date on his bedroom’s chrono. Two years since the confrontation on the second Death Star, since the Emperor’s lightning had licked across his body and left pale scars that were visible even now, since he had dragged his redeemed father to the Alliance and demanded that they save his life. Two years since the declaration of the New Republic and his father’s second rebirth, this time as informant and military advisor to Chancellor Mothma. That had taken some convincing, and there were still many people unhappy about it, but Mothma had remembered Anakin, and it had allowed for a peace agreement to be struck with the Imperial remnant. He was too valuable to destroy, especially when Luke had thrown his fate in with his father’s. Anakin hadn’t exactly been pleased about that, but Luke knew that gamble had gone a long way towards saving his father’s life. No one was willing to kill or imprison or exile the Hero of Yavin and the last Jedi just to get rid of Vader.

Luke slipped out of his room and walked across the small apartment he shared with his father, heading for the kitchen. They could have easily afforded something larger, even considering that Anakin had donated a significant portion of his fortune to helping the New Republic get set up, as yet another sign of his goodwill. But neither Anakin nor Luke was used to extravagance, and their apartment was cozy and nice, and it meant they were constantly within seconds of each other. Just in case.

Anakin was already in the kitchen, making breakfast, standing with his back to Luke as he attended whatever was on the stove. He was always awake earlier than Luke, no matter when Luke got up, and he supposed Anakin still hadn’t gotten used to sleeping a normal amount of hours in a night. And they both still had nightmares, though the intensity and frequency seemed to be decreasing, if gradually.

“Good morning, Father,” Luke said, as he walked in. There was a mug of hot chocolate sitting in front of his place at the table, wisps of steam rising from it, and Luke grinned. He walked past it though, and ducked under his father’s arm, giving him a quick hug.

Anakin pulled him closer. “Good morning, Luke.” His voice was still quiet and raspy, the medics hadn’t been able to do anything about the damaged vocal cords, but between getting him proper medical care and Luke’s limited knowledge of Force healing, they’d been able to fix his lungs so he no longer needed to depend on life support. Luke knew that was a huge relief for his father, who was finally free of the mask and suit that Palpatine had put him in 23 years before. And Luke was glad to be able to actually see his father’s face. The scarring hadn’t healed much; there wasn’t a lot the medics had been able to do, but Luke didn’t care. The brief moment of horror he had felt when he first saw Anakin’s face had been at the thought of the pain the injuries must have caused, not at the sight of him. His acceptance of his father’s appearance helped Anakin be less self-conscious about it.

“One of these days, you will have to let me do the cooking, Father,” Luke said, knowing full well that even if his father agreed now, he would never actually let him.

“Maybe tomorrow,” his father said. Luke nudged him with his elbow and slipped out from under his arm. He walked back to the table and picked up his mug. It was still pleasantly warm, and he took a tentative sip. It didn’t scald his tongue, but it wasn’t too cold either. Perfect.

His father turned the stove off and carried their breakfast plates over to the table. They ate in comfortable silence, and once they had finished, Luke’s hand drifted down to his pocket.

“I, um, have something for you,” he said, not quite looking at his father. He pulled the two tickets out of his pocket and held them below the table. “I thought, it’s been two years, and we could use a break from the whole rebuilding-the-Galaxy thing and celebrate. I don’t know your birthday, but today’s as good a day as any, right?” Now he looked up to see his father staring at him curiously. Luke took a breath and held the tickets up, speaking quickly. “They’re running an annual race to commemorate the birth of the New Republic and fall of the Empire, and I thought you might enjoy going... with... me... What?”

Anakin was biting his lip, trying not to laugh, but his blue eyes were sparkling with embarrassed amusement. He raised his own gloved hand, holding two identical tickets. Luke groaned and dropped his head to the table just as his father lost control and started laughing.

Chapter Text

Luke had never specifically planned on moving in with his father. Getting a house or an apartment hadn’t been high on his list of things to do during the war, since he had just lived with the Alliance, and they were always on the run. And even after the war was over, he still hadn’t planned on settling down right away. There were Imperial remnants to track down, vestiges of the Inquisitors that, as a Jedi, he was pretty much the only one who could deal with, and crime lords who wanted to move in to fill the vacuum of power left by Imperial governors and moffs.

But as his father was still recovering and undergoing numerous surgeries to fix the damage done two decades ago and all the subsequent damage from years of neglect and abuse, combat, and improper medical care, he needed somewhere stable and private to live between treatments, away from all the staring eyes and bustle of the medcenters. And Luke was reluctant to leave his side, so the apartment search slowly turned from “this would be good for you” to “this would be good for us,” and neither of them ever addressed the change out loud.

It was a good arrangement, and Luke thought it was probably inevitable that they end up there. His father needed someone with him, considering the somewhat shaky if improved state of his health, and they both tended to get nervous if they were apart for long periods of time. And Luke didn’t think he would trust anyone else with his father’s care and protection. Not that Anakin needed someone to protect him. No, he was still just as formidable as always, but having a hero of the Alliance living across the hall did tend to give potential assassins pause. And anyone who might have wanted to hurt Luke would think twice about attacking him with his (in)famous father around.

The apartment they finally settled on was a modest but cozy affair not far from the newly rededicated Senate building, the proximity useful for both Anakin and Luke’s roles in the New Republic. Much of the move-in process was done quietly, and the building’s owner had been vetted and sworn to some level of secrecy involving his new tenants. The fewer people who knew exactly where the Skywalker family was living, the better.

Han, Chewie, and Rogue Squadron had shown up to help get the place ready, though neither Luke nor his father really had much in the way of possessions to bring in. Leia had made her apologies, citing a large stack of paperwork and governmental reforms to look over as her excuse, though she later made a traditional Alderaanian housewarming dessert for them. Luke suspected the gesture was more for him than their father, and he was never sure if she had intended for it to be a slight jab at Anakin or not. Regardless, it brought a hint of pain to his father’s eyes as he, presumably, remembered holding Leia back as the Death Star destroyed her planet.

By the time their guests and “move-in helpers” had left, both Luke and Anakin were too tired to do much more than flop onto the couch in their small living room. Luke curled up next to his father, and Anakin ran his fingers through Luke’s hair as they talked about inconsequential things, small stories from Luke’s childhood and anecdotes of the more bizarre situations Rogue Squadron had gotten themselves into, the idiocy of some Imperial governors and moffs and the ridiculous things officers had done to try to either avoid Vader’s attention or, in rare circumstances, gain it. Luke managed to drag a few stories of the Clone Wars out of his father, mostly about outlandish plans that shouldn’t have worked but had.

And later, as Luke was close to sleep with his head on his father’s shoulder, several precious whispers about his mother.

Chapter Text

The first time was only a few days after Bespin. It was nothing more than a cautious nudge against his mind, a tilt of the head across a crowded room in an attempt to make eye contact, but Luke still slammed his shields up. He was shaking, he realized, and he cradled his arm against his chest in an effort to alleviate the phantom pain. Wedge looked at him in concern, but Luke shook his head before his roommate and Second could even open his mouth to ask if he was alright. Luke tried to return his attention to the squadron progress reports in front of him, but couldn’t make himself focus. He had hoped the thread he could feel connecting him to Vader would fade with distance and time, that it had been some trick of the Dark Lord’s to lure him in, but he was beginning to realize that it was a part of him that had always been there. It had simply lain dormant in his ignorance, and no matter how hard he tried to convince himself that Vader had been lying, this… bond or whatever it was sat like a cold bonfire in the back of his mind, refusing to allow him to retreat into denial.

~*~

The second time was much like the first, and Luke tensed at the now-familiar brush against his mind, refusing to acknowledge it and pretending he hadn’t even noticed the careful entreaty of “Son?”

Leia looked at him in concern, her brow furrowed as she mouthed, “Are you okay?” across the meeting table. He nodded slightly, not wanting to interrupt the mission briefing. Thankfully Leia was the only one who had noticed his lapse.

~*~

The next time, Vader was much more insistent. Luke had since realized the futility in denying what the Force insisted was true, but that didn’t mean he had to respond. He ignored his father’s requests to come with him and returned his attention to the finishing touches he was putting on his lightsaber. He didn’t need the distraction of Vader’s voice in his head while he was rescuing Han.

~*~

Coming with the strike team had been a terrible idea, Luke admitted to himself when he felt his father’s questing attention land on him in the cockpit of the Tydirium. He didn’t respond to his father’s almost fearful curiosity regarding his presence in the Endor system, but he also didn’t attempt to shield himself. There was no point, after Vader had sensed him. He knew it wouldn’t be long before his father came after him.

~*~

The fifth time wasn’t so much a conscious attempt at contacting him on Vader’s end so much as a brightening of their connection that Luke realized meant his father was on the moon with him. It would not take Vader much time to find him, and he knew if he stayed with Leia and Han, the entire team and mission would be compromised. It hurt to say goodbye to Leia, his sister found and lost, and part of him wished he’d been successful in slipping away unnoticed. But she deserved to know, even if it was a truth she wouldn’t want to hear. And when he never came back…

No, it was better they spoke one last time before he surrendered himself into his father’s custody.

~*~

The last time his father’s mind reached for his, he was no longer Darth Vader but Anakin Skywalker, and Luke allowed the contact, reaching back across their bond to bask in his father’s Light. It burned strongly, beautiful and pure, defying the failing body it resided in. The shadows that had obscured it had been seared away by the intensity of Anakin’s love for his son, love that now surrounded Luke and embraced him. And even as Anakin’s eyes closed for the last time, Luke could still feel his presence next to him and knew he would always be with him.

Chapter Text

“What are you doing?” Luke mumbled. His father entering the room had woken him from his somewhat restless sleep, and now he frowned in tired confusion as Vader settled on the edge of his bed, his weight making Luke slide closer to him. He ended up pressed snugly against his father’s side and groaned as the movement jostled his bruised ribs.

Vader lifted Luke’s right hand from where it rested on the mattress and examined it. It had been damaged, not badly, on the same botched mission that had injured his ribs and gotten him captured a few days ago. Days that had passed in a blur of bacta and medbays and not a little fear about his future until Vader, who had hovered incessantly throughout Luke’s stay in the Executor’s medbay, had received permission from a rather gutsy medical officer to remove Luke to the room he was currently in, a room he could only guess had been prepared specifically for him by his father. Vader had assured him he was in no danger and that any discussions about his future could wait until he was fully healed. Luke had managed to relax after that.

Now Vader pulled a small multitool from a pouch on his belt, and Luke chuckled as he realized what Vader intended to do. Despite the size and strength of his hands, his fingers were remarkably gentle and precise as he fiddled with the exposed wiring on the back of Luke’s hand.

Luke watched him work for a long moment, his father silent aside from the ever-present rhythm of his breathing. Luke’s fingers twitched as Vader reconnected one of the delicate wires serving as false nerves, and Vader’s hands stilled.

“Did that hurt?” Vader asked, and Luke felt a bit of concern radiating from him.

“No,” Luke said. “Tickled more than anything.”

Vader turned to look at Luke for the first time since entering the room. He stared for a long moment, and Luke let him, waiting to see what his father would do. The moment stretched long enough to edge towards awkward before Vader reached a tentative hand out to brush Luke’s hair away from his face. The tips of Vader’s fingers lingered on his temple before trailing down the side of his face and falling to rest on his shoulder. Luke kept still, half someone frozen so as not to startle a jumpy lothcat and half an eopie caught in a speeder’s lights. It was a tender gesture he had never expected from Darth Vader, and he was unsure how to respond.

The Force was humming with his father’s emotions, strong enough that Luke could feel they were there, but well-shielded enough that he couldn’t read them. Luke turned his head away and blinked back the little bit of moisture that had gathered at the corners of his eyes.

“Is my hand up to your standards?” Luke asked quietly, not sure what else to say. The question he wanted to ask – “Do you really care about me?” – he wasn’t ready to voice, and he certainly wasn’t prepared to hear the answer, no matter what it was.

“It is decent quality,” Vader admitted. “There are still many improvements that could be made.” He moved his hand again, this time to tilt Luke’s face back towards him, then went back to examining Luke’s prosthetic hand. “Some of the wiring is overly complicated and could easily be streamlined by rerouting several sensor relays. Response time could be improved as well, though I doubt you have experienced any significant lags.” Luke shook his head mutely. He hadn’t noticed any. In fact, there were even times, recently, that he forgot that his hand wasn’t real. They didn’t happen often or last long, and he knew it was more a testament to the quality of the prosthetic than him getting used to it or moving on from what had happened at Bespin.

“Did you mean to do it?” Luke asked before he could stop himself.

Vader froze again, one hand gripping Luke’s wrist tightly. Luke winced, but Vader did not relax his hold. He turned his head away from Luke, and Luke felt a brief trickle of shame from him.

“No. I never intended to harm you.”

Luke watched his father carefully for a long moment, trying to read his minimal body language and glean any sparse information he could from the Force. The hand that was not clamped around Luke’s wrist was a tight fist, his shoulders were slightly hunched, and he still refused to look at Luke. His shields were locked down too tightly for Luke to feel anything from him after that brief moment directly following Luke’s question, but the shame he had felt spoke for itself. Luke nodded slightly.

“Alright.” He tried to sit up, levering himself up with his free hand, but gasped at the dull flare from his ribs. Vader turned quickly, releasing Luke’s hand and pushing him back to the bed with a hand on both shoulders.

“Do not move, son,” he said.

“Probably good advice,” Luke said wryly. He relaxed back against the mattress, slightly touched by Vader’s fussing. They sat in silence for a long moment before Luke spoke again. “Could you… show me how to improve it? My hand, I mean. I know a fair amount about mechanics, but I don’t have a lot of experience with prosthetics.”

Vader’s head jerked up slightly in surprise. “Yes, Luke. When you are healed.”

Luke nodded, pleased, though he suspected his father was intending to use this as a way to convince him to stay, instead of attempting escape or bargaining for release. But at the moment, he didn’t really care. It would be nice to have something to work on with his father, find some common ground with their interest in mechanics, even if the project was… unconventional and not quite what Luke had pictured as a child when he had imagined fixing speeders and ships with his idealized version of his father. But Vader was real and present, and maybe, just maybe, they could have a chance at being a family if Luke could fan the small spark of Light he could feel in his father back to life.

Then maybe Leia would forgive him for not trying hard enough to escape.

Chapter Text

The moon Luke had found himself stranded on was an inhospitable, backwater jungle of a planet, and he instantly hated it. It was warm, which he normally would have appreciated, but it was a wet heat, and he had barely managed to extricate himself from his crashed fighter before his hair was dripping and sticking to his forehead and the back of his neck. Tatooine’s heat was dry and comforting. This just made him feel claustrophobic, like the air was too heavy to breathe. And the swarms of small bugs made things even more miserable. He didn’t want to think about how many he had already inhaled or swallowed.

Of course, the worst thing by far was the Imperial presence. There were patrols everywhere, and Luke still hadn’t figured out what they were guarding. That was the whole reason he was there, after all, to scout out the Imperial installments on the planet and discover their interest in it. He had so far failed to locate anything even remotely resembling a base or even a permanent structure of any kind.

Even with the lack of progress, it was still light years better than the social event Leia had been trying to drag him to as a cover to meet with leaders of several new planets who were considering joining the Alliance. It was important work, but politics wasn’t something Luke was cut out for, and he would only have been there as a morale booster, thanks to his status as a hero in the Alliance. He would have felt bored and very out of place and could possibly have endangered the mission, if he had slipped up and said or done something wrong. He had gotten much better over the three years he had been with the Alliance, mostly thanks to Leia’s tips and the experience he had gained from being dragged along with her, but it was still something outside of his comfort zone. He was better here, on a deserted, potentially hostile planet, scouting out Imperial bases.

Luke breathed a sigh of relief as the sounds of the latest patrol faded away, leaving him unnoticed in his hiding place, a small divot in the ground he had curled up in behind some rather tall ferns to shield him from view. He waited a moment longer for good measure before standing up and brushing himself off. His camouflage poncho was covered in wet, dead leaves, but at least the dirt smudged on his black pants helped him blend into the surroundings better.

He trekked along for another fifteen or so minutes, all his senses on high alert for any life signs. The Force was buzzing around him, alight with the life signatures of the myriad of different creatures that inhabited the moon, and though most of them were non-sentient, it was often impossible to tell if they were dangerous or not, and the blinding intensity of their combined signatures made picking out the Imperials more difficult than Luke would have liked to admit. The moon was almost as alive in the Force as Dagobah had been, although the Force in this place had a distinctly Darker tint to it. It wasn’t enough to make Luke uneasy, exactly, but it was somewhat unsettling.

The vague undercurrent of Darkness Luke was trying to ignore suddenly flared up into an awareness of an all too familiar cold fire, and Luke froze even as he caught sight of Vader through the underbrush.

He wasn’t supposed to be here, Luke’s mind protested, trying to fight back images of a hand outstretched in a demanding offer, and Luke reached for his blaster even as phantom pain raced through his right wrist.

He hesitated though when he saw Vader stumble and catch himself against a tree. The Dark Lord’s weakness should have made Luke even more eager to engage him, and before Bespin it very well might have, but Vader’s declaration still rung in his ears, and Luke found that he had no inclination to attack. Part of him knew he had already accepted it as the truth, especially since the Force seemed to insist on it, even though his rational mind tried to reject it. But if Vader really was his father, there was no way Luke could ever kill him, Sith Lord or no.

Luke made sure his shields were locked down tightly and shifted to the side, dropping to a crouch to conceal himself better in the brush. As Vader limped closer, Luke got a better look at the state his father was in.

His right arm was hanging limply by his side, vicious claw marks raking through the leather of his suit into both flesh and wires. His left leg was similarly affected, though it seemed to still be able to bear his weight, if with some difficulty, and though his cape was shredded, it still obscured his back and Luke was at the wrong angle to see if it had managed to protect Vader’s back from the claws. The lights on his chest panel still glowed and blinked in turn, so it was still functioning, to Luke’s surprised relief, but Vader’s breathing was more ragged and strained than Luke was used to hearing. When he wasn’t using it to support himself against a tree, his left arm was pressed against the side of his chest, and Luke suspected a broken rib or two. All in all, Vader was in rough shape, a state Luke had never expected to see Darth Vader in, and it made him somewhat uncomfortable.

Luke contemplated him for the next few moments as he drew closer, then made a snap decision to show himself.

Vader whirled as Luke’s movements disturbed the undergrowth, and he nearly lost his balance as his weight settled on his bad leg. Luke darted forward to catch him before he could crash to the ground.

“Father,” he gasped, staggering under Vader’s weight. He was heavy, and Luke pulled on the Force to keep them upright.

“Luke?” Vader said, and Luke almost laughed at the pure confusion in his father’s voice.

“I’m right here.”

Vader pushed him away and leaned heavily against a tree. “You should not be. Get off this planet immediately!”

“Father?” The rejection stung, but Luke refused to contemplate why.

“It is… not safe here,” Vader heaved.

Luke’s eyes trailed over Vader’s injuries again, and it occurred to him that he had no idea what had attacked him, but whatever it was, if it could do that much damage to Darth Vader, Luke was no match for it. Especially since his new lightsaber was lying half-constructed on the desk in his room on Home One.

“What did this?” Luke asked. He stepped closer, reaching for his father’s limp arm. Vader jerked back, and Luke dropped his hand. Vader grunted at the sudden movement and pressed his good hand to his side again. “Are you… do you have a broken rib?”

“I am fine, young one,” he rasped.

Luke raised an eyebrow. “You don’t look fine to me.”

“You should not be here,” Vader repeated. “Return to your ship and leave.” He pushed himself off the tree and took another halting step in the direction he had been traveling.

Luke shook his head. “I’m not leaving you here like this. Besides, my ship crashed. It’s not currently space-worthy.” He reached for his father again, slipping under his good arm, careful of the potentially broken ribs on that side, and supported him. To his relief, Vader allowed him to take some of his weight.

“You are a foolish child.” There was a hint of exasperated fondness underlying Vader’s words, and Luke grinned.

“I must have gotten it from somewhere,” he replied, somewhat surprised at his own cheekiness. The whole situation was surreal, and he half expected to wake up and find it had been a dream.

“Certainly not from me,” Vader said, and Luke blinked. Had that been sarcasm in his father’s tone? He shook his head and tightened his grip around his father’s waist.

“I’ll get you close to a patrol, then I’ll let your men get you to a medcenter.” The thought of abandoning his father hurt somehow, but Luke refused to dwell on it, pushing ahead with his rationalization. “I’m still a Rebel, after all, and I still don’t plan on taking you up on your offer from Bespin, so I’d rather avoid getting captured.”

Luke wasn’t sure if he imagined his father tensing at that or if he actually did, and Vader made no comment.

They limped along for another few moments, Vader’s labored breathing more worrisome than Luke would care to admit, before he frowned.

“You never did tell me what did this to you,” he said, unease stirring in his belly.

Vader was silent for another long moment before speaking.

“I do not know,” he admitted. “A small pack of creatures hidden both from sight and in the Force. I killed… most of them.”

“What do you mean, hidden in the Force?” Luke demanded. “And what about the ones you didn’t kill?” Suddenly his father’s warnings made a lot more sense, and Luke instinctively looked around, despite that Vader had said they were… invisible? How was that even possible?

“I can only assume they have some sensitivity to the Force, which they use to cloak themselves from sight, and they are adept at shielding their presences. The ones I did not kill fled.”

Luke frowned. That was more than mildly terrifying, and there were still more out there. Hopefully they had had enough the first time and would leave them alone. “Are they sentient?”

“No,” Vader said firmly, the rasp in his voice unable to completely temper the power it held. “But they are intelligent pack hunters.”

Luke pondered that for a moment, before a stray thought crossed his mind and he voiced it before he could filter it properly.

“No offense, but why would they target you?” Vader’s hulking durasteel frame didn’t exactly scream “prey,” nor would he be very appetizing or make for much of a meal. Luke was suddenly very aware that he would and tried not to dwell on it.

“I believe they were defending their territory,” Vader said. “I must have strayed too close to their den.”

Luke made a face and hoped they were far enough away from whatever area the creatures called home to avoid running into them again.

“Luke - ”

The Force suddenly screeched in warning, and Vader didn’t get a chance to finish whatever he had been about to say. In a fluid movement that defied his current condition and left Luke gasping, he pivoted, pushing Luke behind him and up against a tree, and slid into a defensive stance in front of him, igniting his lightsaber in his left hand even as he slashed at… something, a shadow in the corner of Luke’s vision. The thing snarled as the lightsaber appeared to skid across nothing, but more in anger than pain. Vader snarled back.

“What is that?” Luke gasped.

“I do not - ” Vader cut off with a grunt as he was knocked down by a weight crashing into him from the side, his weak leg collapsing under him.

“Father!” Luke screamed, his blaster in his hand before he could think about it. He shot at the empty space above his father, horrified at the blood seeping from a new set of claw marks in his shoulder, and caught a flickering glimpse of the creature, red, huge, and angry, as the bolts deflected off its hide. It retreated under the onslaught of shots, but Luke didn’t think he had damaged it at all.

He rushed forward to cover his father, eyes skipping around their surroundings, searching futilely for the creature.

“Where is it?” he hissed, crouching at his father’s side and pressing a hand over the new wound. These scratches weren’t as deep as the older ones, to Luke’s relief.

“There are two of them,” Vader said. “Circling us. Let me… show you.” His voice was weaker than it had been, and Luke felt a deep stab of unexpected fear at the thought of his life support being compromised or a broken rib piercing his already fragile lungs.

He nodded tersely, still trying to locate the creature, no, creatures, with his eyes or the Force, both unsuccessfully. There was a tug on the bond he shared with his father, a bond he had stubbornly ignored and denied after its activation at Bespin, and suddenly his vision was veiled in red, and he gasped at the vertigo caused by watching himself through someone else’s eyes. He looked a little dazed, unfocused, and supposed that was due to whatever this was that his father was doing. Vader turned his head and the world spun. Luke squeezed his eyes shut against the dizziness, and he became dimly aware that he had been seeing double, his mind still trying to process what his physical eyes were looking at. Closing his eyes helped.

The visual changed, red-tinted reality switching to the heat gradient of infrared. Luke had time to think handy, that, before he realized what his father’s eyes were focusing on.

The two creatures were prowling around them, bright, indistinct shapes in the infrared coloring, but better than the empty nothingness of Luke’s regular vision. They were longer than he was tall, not including the whip-like tails they were each lashing behind them, and though the image wasn’t clear, he could still make out the wicked claws on their four paws. Claws he knew were strong and sharp enough to tear through his father’s suit and into the flesh beneath. His own clothing wouldn’t offer much protection.

He wasn’t certain what they were waiting for, and he didn’t really want to find out. He tried to stand but stumbled when his surroundings didn’t move with him.

“Open your eyes,” Vader commanded. His awareness of Vader’s vision faded out, and he obeyed, blinking down at his father. Vader wasn’t looking at him, staring at an empty patch of ground that Luke now knew wasn’t actually empty. He shuddered.

“Take it.” Luke looked back down at his father again to see him holding his lightsaber out to him. “Their underbellies are their weakness.”

“I can’t fight them if I can’t see or feel them!” Luke protested even as he clasped his hand around the hilt of his father’s lightsaber. The grip was almost painfully familiar, if a little larger than the one he was used to.

“I will help you,” Vader said. “But I cannot… protect you like this.” Luke felt his father’s remorse at that, their bond still stronger from sharing eyes a moment ago.

“Thank you,” Luke said, “for earlier.” He hadn’t been able to process it at the time, too shocked at suddenly finding himself pinned between the tree and his father, but the surge of protective anger he had felt from Vader had been surprisingly touching. And he felt he needed to say it now, just in case.

He stood, staring at the spot he had last seen the creatures, and took a couple careful steps forward, reluctant to stray too far from his father, defenseless as he was. Well, not entirely defenseless, but surely if Vader could use the Force against the cloaked creatures, he would have done so by now. Their inability to sense them in the Force was probably hindering that avenue of attack.

Red-tinged thermal colors filtered over his vision again, and he closed his eyes. He took a startled step back as he oriented himself with the strangely third person view of himself and the creatures, which were…

Force, they were closer than he had been expecting! He raised the lightsaber, igniting it just in time to catch one of the creatures as it finally decided to lunge at him. It was clearly unprepared for Luke’s more or less accurate knowledge of where it was, as it let out an indignant yowl at being thwarted and lashed its tail. Luke shifted to keep the second one in his sights as it slunk to the side, clearly intending to get behind him, before realizing that that movement wouldn’t help him. His father was either in tune with his thoughts or was watching him very carefully, or perhaps just wanted to keep the second creature in his own sights, because he turned his head to follow where Luke was trying to look.

The change was dizzying, and Luke instinctively strengthened his connection with his father in response, hoping to ease the disorientation. It helped.

It’s just… like one of those virtual reality hologames Wes likes to play, Luke thought. With a much more deadly outcome if you fail…

Luke was ready when the second one leaped at him, but the angle wasn’t right for him to get at its sensitive belly. He drove it back and turned in time to slash at the first one when it attacked again. They retreated quickly, but only a few bounds away, and Luke refused to be baited. He stepped back closer to his father, keeping himself in a defensive stance rather than going on the offense.

The creatures tried a few more times, experimental swipes and quick retreats, apparently not liking the lightsaber even if it didn’t harm them. Then one launched itself at him again, higher this time and snarling as it did, and Luke stabbed the lightsaber between the large fangs and into the creature’s mouth. It died instantly, but before Luke could extract the lightsaber or breathe a sigh of relief, Vader shouted a warning, his horror sharp and metallic.

Pain raked across his back as the claws dug in, and Luke screamed. It was almost worse, seeing himself fall under the creature through his father’s eyes before Vader’s sight was ripped away from him.

Luke kicked out, trying to dislodge the creature, and then the weight was suddenly gone, though his foot hadn’t connected, and he rolled quickly, reaching through the Force for his father’s lightsaber, which he had dropped when he fell.

He ignited it the instant it was in his hand, ignoring the agony his back was in as dirt was ground into the wounds. He could no longer see the creature, but he could hear it thrashing in the undergrowth. A quick glance at his father revealed that he hadn’t moved except to raise his hand in the direction of the thrashing.

Luke slumped back to the ground, turning the lightsaber off, when the sounds stopped and the creature faded into view, lying dead on the ground a few feet away from Luke and its companion.

“Why didn’t… you do that… earlier?” Luke gasped, wincing as he rolled onto his side to take the pressure off his injured back.

“I was unable to feel it until it attacked you,” Vader snarled, his residual anger still burning in the Force. “Its concentration must have slipped, which gave me enough of an opening to get a hold on it.”

Luke could fill in the rest. Once he had grabbed the creature, pure stubbornness had prevented him from losing his grip. Luke was familiar with being the object of that single-minded determination, and his own stubbornness was the only thing that had kept him from falling victim to it.

Of course, it was also possible that Vader’s sudden ability to Force choke the creature had something to do with Luke’s life being at stake and Vader’s resurging parental instincts overcoming the perceived impossibilities of the situation… or something. It was a nice sentiment, and Luke couldn’t help but entertain it for a moment.

Luke sat up gingerly, the fiery pain in his back protesting every time he so much as breathed, and attempted to stand. His back spasmed, and he slumped back down with a cry.

“I don’t… think I can stand,” he admitted. The fear he had been feeling finally shoved its way to the forefront of his mind, and he bit back a sob. So much for leaving his father with a patrol. There was no way to avoid being taken by the Empire now.

Vader leveraged himself up and limped to Luke’s side, his own breathing harsh and shallow. He crouched down by Luke and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, pushing on him to lean his body forward. Luke turned his head slightly, trying to ignore the strain that put on the slashes in his back, to watch as Vader examined him. He clenched his teeth when Vader brushed a careful hand over one of the claw marks. The glove came away red.

“You will need medical attention.”

“So will you,” Luke said. “Is it your life support or your lung that’s damaged?”

“My life support is fine,” Vader said sharply. But he didn’t deny the injury to his lung, and Luke closed his eyes.

“Your ribs?” he asked quietly.

“I will be fine, little one.”

There was a light touch on his cheek, and Luke’s eyes flew open. Vader withdrew his hand, but only to brush Luke’s sweaty bangs away from his face. Luke was pretty sure that was the same hand Vader had just touched his back with, as his right was still hanging uselessly at his side.

“Did you just get blood on my face?” Luke asked, feigning offense.

Vader looked down at his hand and back up at Luke’s face. “Yes.”

Luke laughed softly, barely more than an exhale because anything more would send spears of pain through him.

“I’m sure I’m a mess anyways.”

“I…” Vader trailed off. Luke tilted his head, confused by the flare of uncertainty from his father.

“Yes, Father?”

Vader looked away from him. “I wish I could have protected you.”

“You saved my life!” Luke protested. “You pushed me behind you, you gave me a weapon… Oh!” Luke held the lightsaber out to his father. “This is yours. Thank you, Father.”

Vader stared down at the lightsaber for a long moment before taking it almost reluctantly.

“You handled this well.”

Luke blinked at the unexpected compliment and opened his mouth to reply, but Vader continued before he could.

“However, you would benefit greatly from continued instruction. I could… provide that.”

Luke sighed, the fear returning and coiling low in his stomach. There was no gantry to let go of this time, and in the aftermath of saving each other’s lives, Luke had almost forgotten about this aspect of their fraught relationship.

“I don’t have much of a choice this time, do I?”

“I did not think you had one last time, and you proved me wrong, with almost devastating consequences.” Vader’s voice was almost gentle, as much as it could be between the vocoder and weakness from whatever was currently wrong with his lung. He touched Luke’s face again. “This is an offer only.”

“You would let me go?” Luke asked, raising his head quickly enough that he gasped in pain when the motion moved his back.

“If that is what you desire.” It clearly pained Vader to say it, and Luke hesitated.

If I accepted your offer… what would that entail?”

“Whatever you wanted it to,” Vader said quickly, almost desperately. “Lightsaber combat, the Force, anything.”

“Not the Dark Side and no visits to the Emperor.”

“If you do not wish it, though it will be difficult to hide your presence from the Emperor.”

“But not impossible?”

“I… cannot promise that. He does not trust me and has his ways of finding things out. But I will not intentionally inform him.”

Luke nodded, turning it over in his head. It was tempting, so very tempting. A chance to know his father, to learn from him, without compromising his morals or his soul. It was almost too good to be true, the Emperor’s shadow hanging over this or not.

“If I choose to go with you, can I leave at any time? Or contact my friends?” Leia would kill him for even contemplating this, would be sorely disappointed in him for not having taken the shot presented to him when Vader first stumbled into view. He couldn’t bring himself to regret it.

Vader brandished a finger at him. “I will not allow you to pass Imperial secrets back to your Rebellion.”

That… hadn’t even crossed Luke’s mind, though in hindsight it probably should have. “I won’t,” he promised. “Unless I find out you’re building another Death Star or something,” he laughed.

Vader was uncomfortably silent, and Luke stared at him. “You’re not!”

I am not. The Emperor, however, is fond of his mechanical abomination.”

Luke paled. “Is it operational?” he whispered.

“It is a few months from being operational,” Vader reassured him. “Plenty of time to pass along the knowledge of its existence to your Princess.” There was something gleefully sharp in Vader’s voice. “Your destruction of the first one is the one rebellious activity of yours that I am… pleased with.”

“My crowning achievement, and it did make my father proud, as I’d hoped.” Luke grinned.

“I have always been proud of you,” Vader said, and Luke caught a wisp of awkwardness from him at that. “I always will be, whether you come with me or not.”

Luke turned away from Vader, sensing he didn’t want his eyes on him now, even as Luke’s heart swelled with hope for his father.

His gaze landed on the creature he had killed. The thing was ghastly. Its neck was about half as long again as its body, with powerful legs meant for leaping on its prey as it had tried with Luke. Its lightsaber-resistant hide was red and almost scaly, its mouth a mess of thick fangs that looked too big for its rather small head, and Luke didn’t want to think of what his back must look like, considering the claws. His strike had sent the lightsaber blade clear through the back of its neck at the base of its head, probably severing the spine.

He shuddered and gasped at the flare from his back, and Vader rested his hand on his shoulder again.

“You need medical attention, regardless of your decision,” he insisted. “I will comm for a patrol to pick us up.”

Luke frowned. “If you could call for help all this time, why didn’t you?”

Vader was silent, and Luke sighed. He hadn’t wanted his troops to see him in need of help. How had his father even survived this long, as stubborn as he was? Luke supposed that answered his own question. He sighed again.

“I will go with you, Father.”

Chapter Text

Luke groaned as he flopped back onto his bunk. His entire body was sore, every muscle aching, and he would swear that even the tips of his hair hurt. About the only part of him not in pain was his prosthetic hand, and that was simply because the false nerves in the synthskin registered pain, sent that information to his brain once, to document the initial injury, and then ceased firing to avoid a continuous ache.

He was sure the damage to the synthskin – skinned knuckles, for all intents and purposes – had happened when he’d punched the destroyed console of the ship he’d crashed, though he hadn’t noticed until far later, once he was allowed a moment’s rest in the back of the shuttle Wedge had picked him up in.

Luke clenched and unclenched his fist, watching the wires and metal bones move where the synthskin was torn away. He hadn’t damaged any of the components, which was good, though he would have to get the synthskin replaced sooner rather than later if he wanted to keep the delicate wiring intact. He didn’t really want to visit the medbay for his other minor, if painful, injuries, knowing Leia would find out exactly how bad of shape he was in if he did. He had managed to talk Wedge out of dragging him to the medbay the instant they landed back at the base, at the price of allowing his wingmate to fuss over him and put bacta patches on the worst of his cuts. A healing trance would ease the worst of the aches from the crash. There was no use wasting pain meds on him, and he could really do without yet another entry into his med file.

He had barely managed to sink into a light healing trance, the Force swirling around him and through him, dulling the pain and healing the bruises and cuts on his body, when the holotransceiver on his bedside table beeped at him. Luke seriously considered ignoring it. He had been promised a few hours rest after his debriefing, so it wouldn’t be anything important from Command. And they would use his comlink frequency anyways. But the third beep was accompanied by a sharp nudge in the Force; it wanted him to take this call.

Sighing, Luke sat up and grabbed the device. He didn’t recognize the number, but the Force was still encouraging him, so he accepted the call.

Only to nearly end it again the instant it connected.

But surprise kept his fingers frozen, and by the time he could think to move again, Vader was already speaking, and it was too late.

“Your recklessness nearly got you killed today, my little one,” Vader said. He spoke with such easy nonchalance, as though comming his Rebel son was an everyday occurrence, that Luke nearly missed the possessive.

Luke scowled. “How do you even know about that?” he demanded. He glanced over at the door, checking to make sure that he had locked it.

“My son, you cannot expect to crash a stolen shuttle and get into a fight with half a dozen loyal Imperial citizens at a local cantina without reports of it reaching me.” Luke thought he could detect a slight bit of humor in his father’s voice.

“They started it,” Luke muttered. He hadn’t meant to get into a fight, but the wanted bulletins made his face rather infamous, and he hadn’t exactly known that that cantina was very Empire-friendly until he’d walked in and been set upon by a handful of angry and enthusiastic civilians interested in his rather substantial bounty.

“I am aware of that,” Vader said. There was an awkward pause, as neither of them were sure what to say. Luke was not quite sure what the protocol for this sort of situation was. He should probably end the call, because talking privately with the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Navy could get him in trouble for treason, even if, or perhaps especially because, the man was his father. But curiosity won him over, and he sighed.

“What do you want, Father?” The term of address slipped out far easier than Luke had expected, and it startled Vader as much as Luke, if the slight twitch of the Sith’s helmet was anything to go by.

“There was… blood at the cantina.”

“Yeah, that typically happens when there’s a bar fight.”

“Not all of it belonged to your assailants.”

Luke blinked. Had Vader really gone to the trouble and risk of contacting him just to find out if he was injured? That idea sent a little flutter of hope to Luke’s heart. If his father cared about his well-being, there had to still be good in him, right?

“One snuck up on me with a vibroblade,” Luke admitted. “Look, it’s no big deal, I’m fine. Just a few scratches. Nothing the healing trance you interrupted couldn’t fix. Besides, why – ”

Vader interrupted him. “You know how to initiate a healing trance?” Luke couldn’t be offended at the surprise he heard in Vader’s tone, because it was laced with pride.

“I may not be able to best you in a lightsaber duel, but I’m not completely untrained.” He crossed his arms over his chest and tried to bite back the wince as the motion pulled on one of the deeper cuts on his bicep. “Why do you even care?”

He needed to test his theory, needed to know if Vader’s concern was really concern, or just a ruse to draw him in. Too late, he considered the idea that the call was being traced and Death Squadron would be knocking on the Alliance’s door tomorrow. There was nothing he could do about it now, if that was the case. Their conversation had been going on long enough to have established a point of origin on Luke’s end.

“Is the Rebellion capable of treating your injuries?”

Luke frowned. “They’re minor. They’ll heal in a week. You’re avoiding the question.”

“My ship has the finest medical facility – ”

“I’m not setting foot on the Executor, Father. Why do you care?”

Luke held his breath as Vader fell silent. His father turned his head away for a moment, a display of embarrassment Luke had never expected him to make. When he finally spoke, his voice was much softer than it had been.

“You are far too valuable to me to lose, my son.”

Chapter Text

Of all the things his Master had ordered him to do, of all the places his Master had ordered him to go, Vader detested this assignment the most. Negotiating a treaty with Jabba the Hutt in his palace on Tatooine was a pointed insult, and Vader’s rage roared in the pit of his stomach like a sandstorm, painful and deadly. There was no need to send him to do this. One of the many simpering politicians the Emperor had on his payroll would do just as well. But this was a punishment, Vader knew, for some insignificant misstep the Emperor believed he had committed. Whatever he had done to offend his Master, he had not been made aware of it. Or perhaps it was simply the Emperor’s way of reminding him where he had come from, what he had been and what he still was.

The heat of Tatooine’s twin suns didn’t touch him through the environmental controls in his suit, and the light was no more blinding than the dim glow in his hyperbaric chamber thanks to the lenses on his mask, protecting his damaged eyes. But still the sand managed to work its way past the leather gloves and get into the wiring of his prosthetic hands. He could feel it grinding each time he moved his fingers or clenched his fists. How it managed to get into his sealed suit, he did not know, but he knew he shouldn’t really be surprised. It had always managed to get where it should not be able to.

Jabba’s palace was cooler and darker, but no less sandy. The raucous crowd of bounty hunters, slavers, sycophants, and guards, all varying species in varying levels of intoxication, irritated Vader. He remembered all too well Gardulla’s court, though it was many years and a lifetime ago, and he had no wish to dwell on the memories brought up by the similarities it shared with Jabba’s palace. They were the memories of another man, he tried to tell himself, though the clarity with which he remembered them contradicted that in a way he could only pretend to ignore.

Vader made sure to stay well clear of the concealed trap door on the floor in front of Jabba’s throne throughout the negotiations. He could feel the restless hunger and unconstrained malice of the rancor kept in the dungeon underneath the floor of the throne room, and though the animal would pose no serious threat to him, he had no desire to encounter it.

The negotiations had concluded favorably for the Empire, something which had never been in doubt. The whole thing was a farce, and both parties knew it. Vader was just turning to go, more than ready to leave the palace and the planet behind, when a small commotion behind him drew his attention. He paused, still feeling the desire to simply leave. Whatever was happening would have no consequences for him, so there was no reason for him to remain, regardless of Jabba’s barbed invitation to stay and enjoy whatever the palace had to offer.

He took another step towards the exit, and the Force tugged on his awareness, jerking him to a stop and nearly spinning him around with the burning need to pay attention!

He gritted his teeth, annoyed that he would need to spend even an extra second on the Force-forsaken planet, and focused his attention on the scene playing out in front of him.

Several Weequay guards had dragged a small Human boy in front of Jabba, his wrists bound behind his back, clad in a familiar sort of white outfit preferred by natives of Tatooine. His hair was light and his eyes were too, and Vader froze as he watched himself be shoved to his knees in front of Jabba’s throne. But no, the boy was not him, despite the physical similarities, and Vader almost shook his head to clear the phantom image of himself as a child overlaid on this boy.

The boy was fighting the hands on his arms, but not struggling, defiance written in the set of his shoulders and the way he held his head. His eyes were hard, determined, despite the fear rolling off of him in the Force. There was no way this boy was a slave, yet, or if he was, he had only just been captured.

“You wanted a chance to tell Jabba what you thought of his taxes,” one of the Weequays taunted. “Now would be the time.”

The boy lifted his chin a little higher, raising his head so he could stare directly at the Hutt’s face. “The water belongs to the farmers,” the boy said, and none of his terror was audible in his voice. Despite himself, Vader was impressed. He knew the boy felt fear, as Vader’s sense of it in the Force was curiously strong, but he had seen grown men cower under the influence of half as much as this boy was feeling.

Jabba laughed, a disgusting sound that made Vader grit his teeth, and the boy scowled.

“If you do not want your family to pay taxes in water, perhaps you would prefer to pay with your service?” Jabba said in Huttese, and the boy caught his breath, paling. He shook his head, but Jabba was already gesturing at the guards.

“He’s a pretty one. I want him kept that way. I will keep him for now, but he should be able to fetch a decent price if he stays looking the way he does.”

“No!” the boy shouted, and he jerked against the hands holding him down. “You don’t own me. You can’t sell me!”

The boy yelped as one of the guards struck him, and Vader had to force himself not to move forward to interfere. He should not care about this insignificant boy, and he did not understand why a long-dormant protective streak was rearing its head now. He should leave, before the scene dredged up more unpleasant memories he wanted to leave forgotten. But something in the Force protested at that thought, and he didn’t turn to leave.

The blow seemed to have tamed the boy, at least for the moment. He kept his head down, his shoulders trembling slightly, but Vader could feel his determination vibrating in the Force, and he suddenly realized that the boy was Force sensitive. His sensitivity was dormant, untrained, almost blocked or shielded, but not by the boy himself. Vader tilted his head, contemplating the boy. Perhaps this was why the Force had prompted him to stay. He would need to kill the boy, or, if he was strong enough, take him to Mustafar to train him as an Inquisitor. And if he was being shielded by an outside force, perhaps there was a Jedi hiding nearby that he would need to deal with. That would be a welcome outlet for his frustration at being sent back to this planet, frustration that could never be taken out on its source as he was not powerful enough to destroy his Master.

“What is your name, boy?” Jabba demanded.

Luke threw his head back, a gesture accompanied by a flare of defiant pride in the Force. “Luke Skywalker,” he said. “Freeborn son of Anakin Skywalker.”

Vader couldn’t breathe. His respirator forced air into his lungs at the same pace it always did, but he couldn’t breathe. He had killed… She had died before giving birth. It wasn’t possible, but the Force screamed the veracity of the boy’s claim.

“My father got out, and I will too.”

Jabba laughed again. “And where is your father now?” he taunted.

Luke stiffened, but before he could say anything, and before Vader could properly think about what he was doing, he stepped forward, igniting his lightsaber.

“Right here,” he growled. He raised his lightsaber, pointing it at Jabba. “Release the boy to me.”

Everyone in the throne room froze, not even Jabba’s guards daring to advance on him. The boy, Luke, his son, looked up at him in confusion, his eyes wide.

“Anakin Skywalker,” Jabba said, considering Vader. “You’re still a slave, boy.”

And Vader could not deny it. He clenched his free hand into a fist, and Jabba choked, scrabbling at his throat.

“Release him, Jabba,” he snarled, stalking forward. The palace guards finally regained their wits and raised their blasters to aim at him. He batted aside the first shot easily, sending the bolt ricocheting back into the body of the guard that had fired it. No one else dared attack him, most of them spellbound by the sight of the Hutt twisting on himself as he fought to escape the intangible hold on his throat.

Vader’s limbs burned with the desire to drive his blade through the bodies of every being in the throne room aside from his son and the handful of other slaves cowering with wide, hopeful eyes in the corners of the room, but he would not risk his newfound son’s life. If he started slaughtering the guards and sycophants now, the rest would begin to fight back, and though he could protect himself easily, he would not be able to guarantee Luke’s safety.

Jabba gave one last gurgle before slumping down on his throne platform, dead. Luke stared at the body, his mouth hanging slightly open. Vader turned to regard him, and one of the Weequay guards, the one who had struck Luke earlier, brought his blaster up to the back of Luke’s head. Fear snarled in the pit of Vader’s stomach, but he pushed it down with a wave of anger.

“If you so much as pluck a hair from his head, I will make your death more painful than you can possibly imagine.” He could hear the icy rage in his voice, audible even with the vocoder’s regulation, and the other guard behind Luke took a step back, releasing his grip on Luke’s shoulder.

Luke trembled, his breath shuddering as he lowered his head from the pressure of the blaster’s barrel against it.

“Hand him over to me now and I might be merciful.” The guard would die, both for threatening his son and for striking him, but he could be persuaded to make it quick and relatively painless.

The Weequay hesitated for a moment, his eyes darting around the room to see if anyone would support him. But Jabba’s death had shaken them, and Vader could feel the confused turmoil permeating the throne room. The guard lowered his blaster slowly before jerking Luke to his feet. He shoved him towards Vader.

Vader reached out and caught him, steadying him with a hand on his shoulder as he stumbled. Luke reared back from his touch, his body practically vibrating with his fear, but Vader hooked his arm around the boy and pulled him close. Luke ducked under his cape, and Vader was briefly amazed at just how tiny his son was. He should be eight years old, but he looked so much younger.

His son safely ensconced in his armourweave cape, Vader reached out with the Force and snapped the guard’s neck. The Weequay dropped bonelessly to the floor, and the other guard recoiled.

“But you said -” he stammered.

Vader cut him off. “I gave him a merciful death.”

He crouched suddenly and scooped Luke up with his free arm. It was awkward with the boy’s hands bound behind his back, but Vader balanced him carefully, aware that Luke could not hold on like this. Luke gasped indignantly, but did not struggle.

“I will free your hands once we are out of here,” Vader promised, not willing to give him any extra chances to escape. His son’s mind was darkened with distrust and no small amount of fear. If he allowed him to, Vader did not doubt that the boy would try to flee.

It was only after he cut down the other Weequay guard that the rest of the room’s occupants realized his bloodlust had not been sated by Jabba and the first guard. Even with Luke in his arms, Vader made quick work of them, moving through the room with all the determined inevitability of fate, and none of the blaster bolts touched him.

Luke had pressed his face into Vader’s shoulder sometime at the beginning of the massacre, and now as Vader deactivated his lightsaber and turned his full attention to his son, he realized the boy was sobbing.

Vader shifted him in his arms before kneeling and setting Luke’s feet back on the floor. The boy immediately tried to skitter away, but Vader’s grip on his shoulders was too strong.

“Luke, calm down,” he said, attempting to soften his voice as much as the vocoder would allow. “I will not hurt you, my son.” The words seared his throat with the heat of Mustafar. It wasn’t a title he had ever thought he would bestow on a living person. He had choked the life out of his dream of parenthood even as he wrapped the Force around his wife’s neck. Yet here his son stood in front of him.

Luke shook his head slowly, his body still trembling with the remnants of tears. “My father is dead,” he whispered.

“No, Luke,” Vader said, and his heart ached. He removed a hand from Luke’s shoulder to reach up and brush the hair away from Luke’s eyes. Luke turned his head away, avoiding Vader’s touch.

“What do you want with me?”

“You are my son, Luke. I simply want you.”

Luke shook his head again. “I don’t believe you.”

“I can prove it to you,” Vader said. He felt a brief flash of uncertainty; what if Luke wasn’t really his son? But the Force wiped the doubt away quickly, assuring him of the truth of their relationship. “Will a DNA test satisfy you?”

Luke turned back to look at him and watched him carefully for a moment. Vader’s respirator protested, and he realized he was trying to hold his breath.

Finally, Luke nodded slowly. Vader bowed his head in an unexpected surge of relief. “Good.”

He released the binders from Luke’s wrists with the Force and swept his son up in his arms before the boy could even give a startled gasp. Luke squirmed, pushing against Vader’s chest, and Vader tightened his grip.

“I can walk!”

Vader smiled, the action pulling painfully at his scars. It wasn’t enough to distract him from his humor at his son’s adorable, childish outrage. “Not fast enough. Your legs are too short to keep up with me for long.”

Luke frowned. “Where are you taking me? I need to get back to my aunt and uncle. They have to be worried about me.”

Vader tilted his head. He had no siblings, and her family were all on Naboo, so that left only one set of people Luke could be referring to.

“Owen Lars?” he asked.

Luke’s eyes widened. He bit his lower lip and nodded cautiously. “And Aunt Beru,” he whispered. Vader felt a small spark of hope alight in Luke’s mind. Perhaps Vader wasn’t lying about being his father after all, if he knew who his guardians were.

“You may comm them after we reach my ship,” Vader said, unwilling to confront his stepbrother.

Luke pulled away from him again. “You can’t take me away from them!” he protested.

Vader sighed. He should have expected Luke to have concerns about leaving with him, but he hadn’t thought about it, in the rush of realizing he had a living child. He opened his mouth to reply, when he was distracted by movement near the door to the throne room.

A young Togruta girl crouched in the shadows. She shrunk back when Vader turned his head to regard her. His anger flared again as he took in the scraps of cloth that passed for her clothing, and he was briefly reminded of another Togruta who had once posed as a slave to infiltrate -

No. Vader stopped that line of thought in its tracks. He focused again on the girl and quickly ran his awareness over her, locating the transmitter implanted in her left shoulder.

“Come here,” he told her. She trembled but did as he asked. He shifted his grip on Luke to free one of his hands, and she flinched when he reached for her.

“I will not hurt you,” he said. He remembered the promise he had made as a child, that he would one day come back and free the slaves. He had so far failed to make good on that promise, and he would not be able to complete it for a little while yet, but he could start here.

He hovered his hand over her shoulder, not touching as she whimpered when his hand neared her bare skin, and sent a tendril of the Force questing for the transmitter. He deactivated it and broke a necessary component in it so it could never be activated again, careful not to do anything to hurt her.

“I have deactivated your transmitter,” he told her. Both she and Luke gasped, and Luke turned his head to stare at his mask.

“How did you do that?” he asked.

“With the Force. I will teach you.”

Luke nodded, and Vader smiled again at the light in his son’s eyes at the thought.

“Are there others?” Vader asked, even though he knew that of course there were. The Togruta girl nodded and rushed off to gather them when Vader twitched his head.

It was a delay in getting his son off the planet, finding and deactivating the transmitters of all the slaves in the palace, but it was somehow more satisfying than even killing Jabba had been.

Chapter Text

Vader didn’t know how the insurgents had ended up on his ship, nor how they had managed to get close enough to his private quarters to snatch his son. They had only gotten off the Devastator because he hadn’t wanted to risk shooting down the shuttle while Luke was aboard.

Between his TIE, the rest of Black Squadron, and several troop carrier shuttles, they had managed to force it to land rather than jump to hyperspace, though the tracker on the shuttle would have allowed them to follow it wherever it went regardless. Vader hadn’t wanted to risk his son in their hands for longer than he had to.

The shuttle had landed near the insurgents’ base, and Vader had found himself and his troops unexpectedly outnumbered as they fought their way into and back out of the compound. Which wouldn’t normally have been a problem, except that he now had Luke cradled in his left arm, the boy clinging weakly to his shoulder, bleeding from a gash in his forehead, likely sustained during the kidnapping, and a blaster wound in his side. Fighting his way through dozens of humans and Twi’leks and Sullustans and other aliens was much more difficult when he only had one hand, and he had to worry about protecting not only himself but also Luke from both direct attacks and stray shots.

Vader clutched his son tightly, trying to hold him in such a way that Luke’s side was pressed against his tabard, in hopes of staunching the blood flow.

“Hold on, Luke,” Vader pleaded, unsure if his semi-conscious son was awake enough to understand him. “Stay with me. Stay awake.” He tried to block some of Luke’s pain, but he couldn’t afford the distraction. The insurgents had drawn them into an ambush, with Luke held hostage as bait, and though Vader had rushed in knowing what was waiting for them, he hadn’t expected them to shoot Luke without making any demands first. His fleeting glimpse of their intentions a second before the Rodian had pulled the trigger was the only reason Luke was alive, Vader’s Force pull on the blaster enough to cause the shot to go wide and low, clipping Luke’s side instead of piercing his heart. Vader had broken the Rodian’s neck before the insurgent had had a chance to realize what was happening, as much as Vader wished he could have drawn out his death.

The thought of how close he had come to losing his son made him tighten his grip on the boy, and Luke whimpered in protest. It was the first sound Vader had heard from him since he had stopped crying several minutes ago, and Vader welcomed it as a sign that Luke was still awake.

The Force was a storm of rage and fear about Vader, the Dark Side sending power sparking through him, and even with Luke in his arms, he managed to effortlessly cut down every insurgent in his path, deflect every blaster bolt before it reached them. The compound’s hallways were confusing, turning back on themselves and meeting other corridors in numerous identical intersections, but Vader allowed the Force to guide him out, as it had guided him in. The hallways were wide, which gave him room to maneuver but also left his sides vulnerable, and the many intersections allowed the insurgents to set up smaller ambushes. They were nothing more than annoyances, his deep connection to the Force warning him well in advance, and many of them found themselves short of breath before Vader even came fully into sight.

By the time he exited the compound, he had carved a swath of destruction through the insurgents’ ranks, and the Dark Side’s ever ravenous bloodlust was only partially sated. He longed to turn around, head back into the compound and kill every living thing besides his own men, but his son trembling in his arms brought him back from the edge, and he extinguished his lightsaber. His men could, and would, finish the job without him.

Luke’s breath was shallow and rapid, and the bloodstain on his shirt had spread substantially. Vader shifted him in his arms so he could press a hand against the wound. Luke shrieked as Vader put pressure on it, and his son tried to curl up. He dug his fingers into Vader’s cape with one hand and attempted to pry Vader’s hand away from his side with the other.

“No, Luke, I need to stop the bleeding,” Vader said.

“It hurts,” Luke gasped, his eyes still squeezed shut as another tear ran down his cheek.

“I know, little one.” He held him closer as the shuttle came into view, and he quickened his steps. “We are almost there. You need to stay awake, Luke.”

Luke nodded slightly, biting his bottom lip.

Vader’s Second was hovering near his TIE, the fighters useless during the ground attack, since destroying the compound would kill their own men in addition to the insurgents and would have put Luke at risk. He snapped to attention as Vader passed.

“Bring my ship,” Vader growled, annoyed that he wouldn’t be able to fly it back himself, but reluctance to leave Luke’s side won out. Slaving Vader’s TIE’s navicomputer to his Second’s would get it close enough for the Devastator’s tractor beams to take over, and Vader knew his Second wouldn’t mess up the process. He put thoughts of his fighter out of his mind as he carried Luke up the ramp into the shuttle. The pilot startled when he entered, and Vader ignored his salute in favor of laying Luke down on the emergency foldout medbed, giving instructions even as he made sure Luke was secure.

“Return to the Devastator immediately, and tell the captain to have my private medbay prepared with a trauma team and a bacta tank for my son. There is no need for them to meet us in the hangar.” They wouldn’t be able to do anything more than he could in the shuttle on the way up until they got him to the bacta tank. “You may return for the troops after you deliver us to my ship.”

“Yes, sir!”

Vader tore Luke’s shirt, wincing behind his mask as Luke cried out when the fabric pulled away from the wound. His side was in bad shape, but the blaster bolt appeared to have only barely caught him, and probably hadn’t severely damaged anything internally.

If I had been half a second faster, it would have missed him entirely. Vader suppressed a growl and ripped open a bacta patch. It would help stop the bleeding, if nothing else, and that was the most important thing at the moment. He would get Luke to a bacta tank, and he would be fine. He kept telling himself that, repeating it, holding it firmly in his mind. Luke would be fine. He would recover completely, and it probably wouldn’t even scar.

The mantra barely took the edge off his panic. He couldn’t lose Luke. He couldn’t bear it, and he knew it would destroy him. This small child was all he had left in the Galaxy, and he would burn a thousand worlds to ashes before he allowed anything to happen to him. Or so he told himself, yet here Luke was, injured and bloody, stolen from his home, Vader’s ship, the one place in the Galaxy he should have been safe!

Vader clenched his fist. He should have been able to protect him better than that. This was his fault, for not succeeding in the only duty that ever truly mattered. Perhaps he was destined to fail everyone he ever loved. His mother had died in his arms because he had arrived too late to save her. His wife… well, he had choked her in his anger, allowing his feelings of betrayal to override anything else, and he had certainly contributed to her death even if he had not directly caused it. And Luke –

No. Luke would not die. Luke would live. He would be fine. He would be fine, and he wouldn’t hate him for failing him. And he wouldn’t live now just to be taken from Vader later, by Palpatine or another rebel cell, or by Obi-Wan. Luke would grow up at his father’s side. He would trust him and follow him, and one day they would overthrow the Emperor, and Vader would give Luke the throne and the Galaxy. And if the Force allowed its precious “Chosen One” anything in payment for everything it put him through, maybe, just maybe, Luke would even love him. He said he did, with the wide-eyed devotion children show their caretakers, but he didn’t yet understand who and what Vader was, what kind of monster had sired him and now raised him. Vader couldn’t believe Luke would truly continue to love him once he realized, and he dreaded the day Luke would regard him with revulsion and horror.

Vader turned away from Luke, unable to stare at his perfect child any longer for fear he would open his eyes and look up at him in betrayal. He must know, on some level, that he had only been taken and hurt because of Vader, that if it weren’t for him, this never would have happened.

“Daddy?” Luke asked, his voice low and scared, and Vader couldn’t help but react, some part of him screaming with the parental instinct to remove the fear from his son’s voice, even if he knew he must be the source of it.

But Luke’s panicked eyes calmed when Vader stepped back into his view, and through the lines of pain on his face, he managed a small smile when Vader pushed his hair back off his forehead, careful not to disturb the blood just beginning to clot over the cut.

“Don’t leave me,” Luke murmured, his words slurring together as his eyes drifted closed again.

“I am not going anywhere. Stay awake, Luke.” Luke nodded again, but he also forced his eyes back open.

Vader hadn’t noticed the shuttle taking off, too concerned with Luke’s injuries, but he felt it as they passed through the magnetic shield protecting the hangar bay, and they soon landed. He unstrapped Luke and lifted him back into his arms, careful not to jostle his side too much, and was ready before the boarding ramp lowered. As he had ordered, no one was waiting for them, and it didn’t take them long to reach his medbay.

The trauma team he had requested all jumped to attention when he entered, and he began detailing Luke’s injuries before they could ask.

“He requires bacta immersion for a blaster wound to his right side. There does not appear to be any significant damage, though he has lost a large amount of blood. He has a minor gash on his forehead. I do not believe there are any other injuries, though it is possible. I did nothing more than place a bacta patch over the blaster wound.” As he spoke, he settled Luke onto the bed already prepared for him, and the medics swarmed him as soon as Vader stepped back.

It wasn’t long before they had Luke sedated and floating gently in the bacta tank. He would need less than a day, and the medics had assured Vader that he would have no scarring or complications. He was lucky, they said, that the blaster hadn’t hit half an inch more to the left or it would have perforated his colon.

I am sorry, Luke, Vader thought, not bothering to send the words through their bond. Luke wouldn’t hear them, sedated as he was. He looked so small in the full-sized bacta tank, so fragile floating there in nothing but shorts and a breathing mask. The wound in his side didn’t look as dire now that the blood was cleaned off, but he was still too young to have received such a wound at all. Even with all the injuries Vader had been dealt as a child slave, he had never been shot, never been at serious risk of bleeding out. He had been too valuable, and yet Luke was the Imperial Prince. Shouldn’t he be afforded value and respect for that title, more so than a mechanically talented slave? And even for insurgents and rebels who disagreed with the Empire’s rule, Luke was a child. He was not a valid military target.

But you are, his mind reminded him. People have shot at your heart before. This was just an unconventional way of doing it.

Vader growled. Unconventional and unacceptable. He couldn’t have his enemies thinking Luke was a legitimate way of getting to him. His son would not become collateral damage.

For a moment, the image of a different blond child, this one in the robes of a Jedi youngling, was superimposed over Luke, and Vader snarled at the comparison. That had been a different situation, and he hadn’t had a choice, regrettable as it had been.

But he had had a choice, hadn’t he? He could have stayed in the Jedi Council’s chamber, could have allowed Mace Windu to kill Palpatine, could have refused to march on the Temple. But he hadn’t. He had allowed his fear to rule him, and he had destroyed everything else in his life in a futile attempt to save his wife with the words of a liar.

His Master had lied to him about being able to save Padmé, and he had lied when he said that Vader had killed her. He hadn’t, or Luke would have died in her womb, there on the landing platform on Mustafar. If he had only had the strength to realize that believing the words of a Sith only leads to ruin, perhaps he would still have lost her, if her death had truly been sure to happen, but he might have saved everything else. And perhaps she would not have died, if he had not fallen. Palpatine’s knowledge of his nightmares concerning Padmé’s death had haunted him, once he had stopped to think about it. With all of his Master’s considerable strength in the Force and knowledge of mental manipulation, it was conceivable that he could send dreams, or at least alter them. Vader had done this himself, nudging at Luke’s nightmares to steer them back towards happier things.

So perhaps Palpatine had been behind his dreams entirely, using them to create the needed desperation in his desired apprentice. And if that were true… the Emperor needed to go. He had manipulated him into destroying everything in his life, and even if he hadn’t been behind it all, he had used Padmé’s death against Vader and lied about the death of his son.

Vader looked back up at Luke. He had failed his son twice now, and he would not fail again. He would destroy the Emperor, create a Galaxy safe for his son to grow up in. He would never allow the Emperor to manipulate his son or prey on his fears as he had with him. And with the Emperor gone, Luke would never be forced to turn to the Dark Side, which was something Vader had decided against from the moment he had first held Luke, three years ago now. He had been so full of light, even as a baby, and Vader had felt sick at the thought of darkening that brilliance.

Young as Luke was, the Emperor had already shown an interest in him and his Force abilities. Which, Vader suspected, was the only reason he had been allowed to keep his son, though he had managed to delay Luke’s training beyond the very basics of touching the Force. To his relief, and Palpatine’s chagrin, Luke had been all but incapable of accessing the Dark Side. He was naturally too light, and even surrounded by death and war as he was, it was not enough to facilitate the blossoming of darkness in him. Vader could only hope that this event would not be the needed catalyst.

And if it was sufficient to awaken the necessary fear, well. Vader would just have to move that much quicker to eliminate the Emperor before he could act on it.

Chapter Text

Every inch of Vader burned, as though the fires of Mustafar had become a permanent part of his skin. Movement was excruciating, the leather and fabric of his suit rubbing against charred limbs, and each mechanized breath forced air through his scorched trachea and down into ruined lungs. He could still taste ash on his tongue.

As much pain as his body was in, the ache in his heart was worse. Padmé was dead, Obi-Wan had betrayed and maimed him, and Palpatine had lied. Everything Vader had ever known had gone up in flames, either in the Temple or on Mustafar, and he was left with nothing but a broken body, an aching heart, and a new Master’s orders.

And one other thing, the one thing that kept him from falling into despair at the loss of everything else. One thing that was maybe, perhaps, worth everything else.

Gritting his teeth against the agony of his injuries, he reached down and carefully picked up his tiny child. Luke, Kenobi had called him, yelling in hopeless desperation as Vader had reclaimed him from the arms of his traitorous former master. Now Vader held him gently, cradling his son close to his chest. He was so small, brought into the Galaxy too early, born amidst fire and blood and death, but he was perfect and so, so Light.

Vader brushed a careful hand over the soft blond fluff of Luke’s hair, unable to feel it through the leather and barely-serviceable prosthetics, but also unable to curb the instinctive motion. Luke made a small sound, and Vader froze, afraid he would start crying. But Luke didn’t wake, merely squirmed a little, and Vader relaxed.

“You are the only good thing that has come out of today,” Vader told his sleeping son. He touched Luke’s little hand, marveling at how tiny his fingers were, how fragile. Luke wrapped his hand loosely around Vader’s index finger, his skin pale against the black of the leather glove.

“I will protect you, my little one. No one will take you from me again.”

Not even my Master, Vader thought. Even if it costs my life, he will never touch you.

Palpatine would do nothing but harm to his son, and Vader, Anakin, he wasn’t sure who he was anymore, couldn’t stand by and watch Palpatine destroy Luke as he had destroyed him. He would not allow Luke to bow to Palpatine as he had. He had made a mistake, and he needed to fix it.

Before Palpatine could take away the only good thing Anakin had left.

Chapter Text

Anakin woke slowly, the familiar dull haze of pain his body was in considerably less than it had been a month ago. As frustrating as the numerous surgeries were, he was grateful that all the damage in his body was finally being properly fixed. He knew his body would never be perfect, the damage was far too extensive for that, but he was already able to breathe on his own, and he would have been content if that was all they had deigned to do.

The slight fuzzy feeling in his head was definitely from the painkillers, and that had been a chore for the medics, finding a drug that his body would still respond to. He had tried insisting that he didn’t need drugs, he was used to a higher level of constant pain than most sentient beings experienced in their whole lifetimes, but Luke had frowned at him, concern filling his eyes, and Anakin had relented. And he wasn’t going to deny that the brief numbness the painkillers brought was a relief, even as temporary as it usually was.

Anakin glanced down as Luke shifted. His son was curled up on his bed, his back pressed against Anakin’s side. He was asleep, his Force presence muted from its usual blinding intensity. There wasn’t really enough room on the narrow bed for both of them, and one of Luke’s arms was hanging off the side. But the boy had refused to stray far, and he was usually at least partway on the bed whenever Anakin woke from a surgery.

Hesitantly, not wanting to wake him, as he knew Luke didn’t get near enough sleep, he moved his hand to rest it against Luke’s hair. A soft, annoyed sound under the incessant beeping of his heart monitor alerted him to the fact that they weren’t alone in the room.

I’m losing my touch, Anakin thought, if it takes me this long to realize there are other people around.

Luke spent enough time in his room that a small couch had been brought in for his use, though Luke typically preferred the chair that was easier to drag closer to Anakin’s bedside. The couch was currently occupied by the Princess. Anakin’s daughter, a revelation that both amazed him and brought a lot of pain and guilt. He had put her through far more than anyone should suffer, and certainly not at the hands of their own father. He knew she had neither forgiven him nor accepted him, and he did not expect her to, but she also didn’t like leaving Luke alone with Anakin, so she often hovered and took advantage of the couch Luke usually left unoccupied.

Her head currently rested against Solo’s shoulder, who, now that Anakin was paying closer attention, was awake and watching him with half-lidded eyes. Her willingness to sleep in Anakin’s presence made more sense now, if she knew Solo would be awake and watching.

As Anakin and Solo’s gazes met, the smuggler tightened his hold around Leia, an unspoken threat and declaration of protection. Anakin would never lay a finger on his daughter again, and they both knew that Solo would be no match for Anakin if it should come to blows between them, but Anakin allowed him his illusion of power.

Anakin dropped his gaze back to Luke and ran his fingers – still subpar prosthetics since replacing them wasn’t as much of a priority until what remained of his actual biological body was taken care of, but with somewhat better sensory input since Luke had taken to tinkering with them in his spare time – through Luke’s hair again. His son didn’t wake, too deeply asleep, and Anakin marveled again at the trust Luke showed him.

He could feel Solo’s eyes on him, just as protective of Luke as he was of Leia, and he knew one wrong move would result in the man leaping up and putting himself between Luke and Anakin. Anakin appreciated his deep loyalty to his children, as much as it annoyed him that Solo had the audacity to try to protect them from him. That loyalty was the only reason he tolerated the relationship between Leia and the smuggler. And Luke had explained, after the first altercation between Anakin and Solo, that the man had saved his life more times than he wanted to count, and he would not allow antagonism between them. He had dragged a reluctant promise out of both of them, though Anakin was sure they had both resolved to break said promise if the other hurt one of the twins in any way.

The door to the room opened, and Anakin turned his head to regard the newcomer, expecting a nurse or medic. He caught his breath at the sight of familiar blue and white montrals.

“Snips?” he said, his voice even weaker than normal, and the Togruta froze, her head snapping up to meet his eyes. The nickname had slipped out before he’d properly filtered it, and he winced, hoping she wouldn’t be offended at the informality after everything that had happened.

“Anakin,” she breathed, and she blinked rapidly several times. She was across the room in a heartbeat, and without thinking, Anakin reached out to her as she came close. She didn’t hesitate, grabbing his offered hand and pressing it between both of hers. “I knew. I knew you could come back.”

Luke stirred at the sound of her voice, rolling over to look at her. He smiled. “Hey, Ahsoka.” He glanced up at Anakin. “You’ve finally caught Father when he’s awake.”

Anakin looked at Luke in surprise. “You two have met?”

“Yeah, she showed up shortly after Endor, told me who she was. You were in your first round of surgery, and she asked me not to say anything.”

“I wanted to surprise you.” Ahsoka sounded a little abashed, like she always had whenever he had caught her doing something stupid or unconventional, despite his encouragement of her unorthodox ideas. “I’ve come around a few times, but I never could time it for when you were awake, and events have kept me busy.”

“I did not think you had survived.” Anakin closed his eyes, unable to look at either his former padawan or his son. “I am so sorry, Ahsoka.” He couldn’t help but remember the last time he had seen her, across their entangled blades, threats of her death on his lips. Even if he hadn’t killed her personally, somehow unable to do it, he had left her for dead, stranded on a Sith planet.

He tried to extricate his hand from hers, but she tightened her grip. “It’s okay,” she murmured. “Luke… explained some things. About Palpatine and Endor. And I’ve had a lot of time to think since Malachor. You’ve done terrible things, and nothing can change that, but I think I know some of what happened to you and why you did what you did. It doesn’t excuse them, but I understand, and I forgive you.”

Anakin shook his head slowly. “Ahsoka…” This was more than he had ever expected, and he knew he didn’t deserve it. Not after everything he’d done. Luke alone was more than he deserved, and he had been happy enough with just his son. To have Ahsoka back as well…

Fingers brushed against his cheek, and he opened his eyes, startled. “I never thought I’d see your face again,” Ahsoka whispered. She blinked away a few tears, and the room was silent for a few moments. Anakin didn’t know what to say to that. She had seen a sliver of his face through his broken mask on Malachor, and he knew his expression had been murderous.

Ahsoka looked back at him, a small smile on her lips. “Your son got your eyes.” Anakin glanced over at Luke, who had sat up and was now watching him carefully, a bit of bittersweet concern from him in their bond, no doubt sensing the turmoil his own emotions were in. Anakin simultaneously thanked and prayed to the Force that she would never see Luke’s eyes yellow like his had been the last time she had seen them. “I thought I had stepped back into the past the first time I saw him. No one needed to tell me who he was.” She reached across Anakin to ruffle Luke’s hair. Luke tried to duck away but didn’t quite succeed.

“Hey, little brother.” Luke grinned at that, and Anakin felt his heart constrict. He knew her acknowledging Luke as a brother didn’t mean she viewed him as a father, Leia certainly kept the two concepts very separate, but he had always thought of her as his first child, of sorts, during the Clone Wars. The mischievous glance she threw at Anakin now implied she knew exactly where his mind was at.

“Your father,” she said to Luke, her voice low enough to be considered conspiratorial, “was an affectionate softie, and never let him tell you otherwise.”

“Oh?” Luke said, turning his grin on Anakin.

Anakin glowered at Ahsoka. “Is this your way of getting revenge?”

“I’m still not a Jedi,” she said, giving him a shrug and a small smile.

“No, I don’t suppose you are,” Anakin murmured.

Luke gave him a quizzical look. “I think I’m missing something.”

“Just something I said to her once, that revenge was not the Jedi way,” Anakin said, not wanting to explain everything that had happened on Malachor. Luke’s eyes narrowed in the way they did whenever he suspected Anakin wasn’t telling the whole truth, but he let it go for now, much to Anakin’s relief. He knew he would have to explain a great many things someday, but he wasn’t ready to talk about some of the horrors he’d done yet.

Ahsoka glanced up at the chrono on the wall and sighed. “I just stopped by on the small chance you were awake, but I was assigned another mission, and I need to go. Mothma has me busy with New Republic business, but I said I wouldn’t leave you last time, and I meant it. If you ever need me, just let me know, and I’ll be there.” She smiled and reluctantly released Anakin’s hand before turning to Luke. “Take care of your father and yourself, okay?”

Luke nodded. “See you later, Ahsoka.”

“Goodbye, Ahsoka.”

“Skyguy,” Ahsoka shot back over her shoulder as she walked over to the door. Watching her leave wasn’t as hard as he had expected, perhaps because of Luke’s comforting presence, but hearing her nickname for him after all these years helped too. That, more than anything else, convinced him that she really had forgiven him. And if she could forgive him, then she would come back.

Chapter Text

The Emperor’s blue-cast image flickered out of existence, and Vader bit back a sigh of relief. Regardless of whatever else the Emperor wanted or was angry about, a conversation that didn’t include a demand for Luke to be brought before him was a successful conversation. Vader knew it was only a matter of time before the Emperor grew too impatient, or too suspicious, and decided to turn Luke himself. It wasn’t a matter of if but when, and all he could hope was that that day didn’t come until he and Luke were ready to fight the Emperor and have a chance of winning.

Vader stood, gritting his teeth at aching muscles, and stumbled off the holopad. He waited a moment for the pain in his joints to subside, finally allowing himself to acknowledge the burning anger ignited by the Emperor’s treatment of him. He always left him kneeling for far too long, needlessly, delighting in his apprentice’s agony and inability to stop it.

Once he was able to stand without the fear of his legs buckling under him, he left his comm suite and headed for Luke’s quarters. Luke was always nervous during Vader’s conversations with the Emperor, and even though it was late, far later than Luke should be up, Vader wanted to reassure him that everything was fine.

He was barely through the door connecting their quarters when Luke, who was clearly pacing his office and currently at the far end of the room, launched himself at him, arms wrapping around him tightly. Vader staggered back a step from the impact.

“Luke?”

His son buried his face in Vader’s shoulder, clutching at him even tighter, and fear stabbed at Vader’s chest. Even with Luke’s inclination toward initiating physical contact between them, this behavior was odd.

“Are you alright?” He placed his hands on Luke’s shoulders and attempted to push him back, to get a look at him, make certain he wasn’t hurt, but Luke clung to him, and Vader quickly gave up. Instead, he hesitantly wrapped his own arms around Luke and felt Luke relax a little at the touch.

Luke nodded. “I’m fine,” he said, “I just…” Luke took a trembling breath, and it required all of Vader’s minimal self-control to wait for Luke to continue on his own. The delay was enough to make Vader’s fear mingle with the anger leftover from his treatment by his Master. If someone had dared to hurt his son… His right hand clenched into a fist where it rested against Luke’s side. Luke inhaled sharply, and Vader relaxed his hand.

“I had a dream that I… that I killed you,” Luke mumbled into the cloth of Vader’s cape. His voice was shaky, broken, and it cut off into a sob.

Vader’s arms tightened convulsively around his son, and he closed his eyes, cursing whatever it was in the Skywalker blood that made them prone to nightmares.

“Luke -”

Luke shuddered and cut him off, his words tumbling over each other. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I swear, no matter what Obi-Wan says, I would never -”

“Luke,” Vader said quietly, ignoring the flare of hatred at the mention of his former master and his machinations. He moved one hand to rest it against the back of Luke’s head, and Luke fell silent.

“There is no need to apologize.” Vader cautiously lowered his shields, which were still up from his conversation with the Emperor and were, Vader realized, the reason he had not felt his son’s distress during and after the nightmare. Now his mind was assaulted by Luke’s horror and shame as it flooded their bond. Vader sent a wave of reassurance over the bond, trying to soothe the turmoil in his son’s mind. It worked marginally.

“You just stood there. You didn’t defend yourself, and I didn’t stop!” Vader’s insides froze at the pain in Luke’s voice. This was the root of Luke’s fear, and Vader could never fully assuage it.

“It was nothing more than a nightmare.” He gently stroked Luke’s hair and felt his son relax at the calming gesture. He wanted to reassure Luke that it would never happen, that dreams were nothing more than dreams, and even that he would never allow Luke to kill him, but he had made a vow to never lie to the boy, so he chose a different tact, even if it was a decision he disapproved of.

“Did you not tell me, when I first retrieved you from the Subjugator, that you would choose your own death over killing me?”

Luke nodded against his shoulder. “I still would. I always will.” Vader’s heart lurched, though its physical beating remained steady as always, at Luke’s reaffirmation. Part of him wanted to shake the boy, make him see the folly of his decision and take it back, somehow prove to him that Vader’s life wasn’t worth his and never would be, but managed to shove those thoughts away and focus back in on what Luke needed in this moment.

“Then you have nothing to be afraid of.” He hesitated for a moment, and then lost the battle against his desire to impress upon Luke the importance of his own life. “But then I, on the other hand, do.”

“What?” Luke pulled away from him and tilted his head back to meet Vader’s gaze.

“Do you think I would prefer to outlive you?” Vader asked softly. He brushed his hand against Luke’s cheek, and Luke leaned into the touch, closing his eyes.

“No,” he whispered. They stood for a moment, allowing the truth of that to settle around them, and then Luke looked up at Vader again. His eyes, though somewhat unfocused due to the moisture in them, seemed to pierce straight to Vader’s soul, and he found himself unable to speak for several breaths. Luke saw him with more clarity than anyone else ever had, even more than she had, and sometimes Vader thought he could break under the compassionate weight of that gaze.

“Then clearly the only option is for both of us to survive,” Luke said after a long moment, and it was enough to shake Vader out of whatever stupor he had fallen into. Luke gave him a small but genuine smile, and Vader could see the effort it took Luke to calm himself, to release his fear into the Force.

“That would be best,” Vader agreed. It was over-simplistic, and Vader knew there was no way to guarantee that outcome, but he also knew he would do everything in his power to prevent either of their deaths. If he lost Luke now, he would have nothing to live for, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before he followed his son. He had clung to the ghost of his friendship with Palpatine and his sense of misplaced duty after Mustafar, but he would never be able to return to that state of apathy. Luke had reawoken something within him that could not be put back to sleep. And even though he was able to admit to himself that he would gladly die in his son’s stead if it was required, if he died before his Master did, he would be unable to protect Luke, and that was unacceptable to him.

“How did your conversation with the Emperor go?”

Vader stared at Luke, gauging whether changing the subject would really help Luke or if reassurances were still needed. But Luke’s eyes were wide and pleading, and his apprehension grew the longer Vader hesitated to answer his question.

“We still have time,” Vader finally said. “He does not seem to be anticipating us moving against him and has not yet demanded you be brought to him.”

Luke sighed, some of the tension dropping out of his shoulders, and rubbed his hands over his face. “Good. I’m not looking forward to that.”

“Nor am I, but I will make sure you are prepared before you have to face him, and you will never have to fight him alone.” Vader took a step forward and reached out to place his hand on Luke’s back, guiding him back towards his bedroom. Luke gave him a sheepish look when he yawned.

Vader hovered in the doorway as Luke straightened his sheets, which had been kicked half off the bed. Luke did not reply until after he had gotten himself settled on his bed, sitting up with his legs tucked under him.

“Can we defeat him?” he asked quietly. He did not look at Vader as he spoke, distracting himself by pulling at a loose thread on the hem of his shirt.

Vader watched him for a long moment, waiting until Luke’s hands stilled and he glanced up at him. Then he moved forward and brushed Luke’s hair away from his face. He gently pushed him down with a hand on his shoulder, and Luke didn’t fight him.

“Sleep, little one.”

“Father?”

Vader turned away. There were so many things he wanted to say - empty reassurances, echoes of his promises on Bespin, things a father should say to ease his child’s mind - and truths that were probably important for him to say - that there was no way to guarantee it, the Emperor would always be strong enough to be a threat to them, even working together - but he could bring himself to say none of it.

Instead, he turned back to Luke, placed a hand on his forehead to help the Force lull him to sleep, and murmured, “We can only try.”

Chapter Text

The amount of blood soaking Luke's jacket was worrying, but Vader relaxed slightly when he located the wound. It was not deep. The vibroblade had skidded along Luke’s ribs, the bone structure doing its job of protecting Luke's heart and lungs. The wound was superficial only, though he had lost more blood than was probably safe, especially considering his lack of lucidity, though that could probably be partially attributed to pain.

Vader pressed his hand against the wound, and Luke groaned but didn't otherwise react. The slash was long, slightly longer than Vader's hand, and cut diagonally across Luke's chest, starting higher on his left side and stretching down towards his right hip. His attacker was left handed, or Luke had turned into the blow instead of away from it.

“Luke, can you hear me?” Vader asked. He brushed Luke's hair away from his eyes, and his son didn't flinch at his touch. Panic gnawed at Vader's insides even as a small part of him rejoiced at the reality of having Luke in front of him without their lightsabers crossed between them. His hand drifted to Luke's neck, seeking a pulse. He found it quickly, even with the lack of good sensory input from his prosthetics and through the leather of his gloves. His heart was still beating strongly, then.

“Stay with me, Luke,” he said as he removed his hand from his son’s chest in order to scoop him up into his arms. He was so light, fragile enough that Vader feared he would break him if he held him too tightly.

Luke's lightsaber clattered to the ground at Vader's feet as he stood up, and he pulled it to him with the Force, unwilling to leave his son’s first lightsaber behind. He would have to examine it later, when Luke was out of danger.

Vader shifted his grip on Luke so he could clip it to his belt, careful not to aggravate the wound. It was bleeding only sluggishly, which made Vader wonder how long Luke had been laying there to have lost as much blood as he had, and why he had been left alive. His attacker must have been startled off somehow or else they would have finished the job. Luke was clearly in no condition to fight back, and a wound like this, starting so close to Luke's heart, could not be mistaken for anything other than a lethal attempt.

Vader's shuttle was just down the hill, as close as he had been able to get it, having followed his son’s haphazardly shielded presence in the Force and the Force’s own urgings. That he was even in the system at all was the work of the Force, a tug on his awareness that had made him drop out of hyperspace several systems away from his destination, only to immediately feel his son’s distressed presence.

Now Vader silently thanked the Force as he settled Luke onto the fold-out medbed in the passenger apartment of the shuttle. He had no use for it himself, but had found over the years that it came in handy, so he hadn't had it removed from his personalized shuttle. He still had a standard medkit on board for the same reason, and he mentally begged Luke's forgiveness as he ripped the boy’s shirt open to expose the wound. The cut was clean, a neat slice across his chest, and Vader carefully applied bacta patches along its length.

Luke stirred just as Vader was finishing with the last patch.

“Luke?” Vader asked. He brushed the back of his hand against Luke's cheek, trying not to get blood on his son’s face. “Are you alright?”

“Father?” Luke murmured as his eyes fluttered open. Vader caught his breath, or tried to, but the respirator didn't allow it. That was not the response he had been expecting from Luke when he saw Darth Vader hovering over him, and something in his chest warmed at being addressed as “Father” by Luke. After the boy’s violent denial at Bespin, Vader had been convinced that he would never accept the truth.

“I am right here, Luke. You are safe.”

Luke slipped back into unconsciousness, though this time Vader recognized the feel of a Jedi healing trance. The boy had learned so much! But his training was still woefully incomplete, and as much as Vader was pleased that he would be able to finish teaching his son, he knew it would be safer for Luke if he was already fully trained.

Vader watched Luke for a moment more, unworried now that the bleeding had been staunched and Luke was healing himself, before strapping Luke into the bunk for the short flight up to the Executor. He did not want any potential turbulence knocking Luke to the floor.

~*~

Luke's second waking was not as peaceful as his first. Because of the trance, he had not been sedated before being lowered into the bacta tank, the trance itself serving as a form of sedation, and Vader did not want to risk pulling Luke away from the Force like that. It wasn't usually harmful, the sedation gradual enough that it was like falling asleep while meditating, something Vader had done countless times as a padawan, but Luke had been so deeply immersed that he hadn't wanted to interrupt him. That and the trance would help heal the wound faster than bacta alone could.

But several hours later, hours Vader had spent hovering in his private wing of the medbay to the distress of his medical staff, Luke surfaced from his healing trance rapidly enough that Vader hadn't realized in time to remove him from the tank before he woke fully. Luke opened his eyes and froze as he met Vader's gaze through the transparisteel of the tank. He immediately began thrashing against his harness, hands scrabbling at the slick interior of the tank’s walls.

“Get him out!” Vader ordered, reaching along their bond to try to soothe Luke's mind or even settle him back into unconsciousness. But Luke had thrown up his shields against him and refused to be lulled.

Technicians and medics swarmed the tank and controls, draining the bacta and lifting Luke from the tank. The moment his head breached the surface of the liquid, Luke yanked the breath mask and tube from his face, gasping in desperate lungfuls of air.

“Breathe, Luke,” Vader said, “slowly. Calm down, you are safe.”

A medic handed Luke a towel, which he promptly wrapped around himself, obscuring the mostly-healed gash across his chest. He stumbled back when Vader took a step towards him, so Vader stopped.

“Clear the room.” Vader sensed reluctance from his chief medic to leave without having checked Luke over after his violent extraction from the tank, but none of them dared defy his command. Moments later, he was alone with his son.

“I intend you no harm,” Vader said, finally breaking the heavy silence.

“What happened?” Luke asked, his voice low. He was still dripping and would need a shower to wash the bacta residue off him.

Vader tilted his head, confused. “I was expecting you to tell me. I followed the Force’s prompting and found you injured and unconscious.

Luke frowned, clutching the towel a little tighter around himself. He was wearing a pair of medical-issue shorts, but was apparently uncomfortable standing shirtless in front of Vader. Understandable, that, but Vader did need to see the wound.

“I don't remember much,” he admitted, then tensed when Vader held a hand out to him.

“I will not harm you. Come here.”

Luke shook his head, sliding back another step away from him.

“Let me look at your injury. You came out of the tank too soon. I need to make sure you are healed enough to be awake.”

“I can figure that one out on my own, thank you,” Luke said, glaring. “I have been injured before, you know.”

Vader crossed his arms, broadcasting his displeasure over their bond, regardless of the fact that Luke had closed his end down tightly. “I am aware. Your file is full of injuries, all of them with notes stating that you failed to carry through with the full healing regimen required for a complete recovery.”

“How do you… how do you have my medical file?” Luke demanded, indignant and incredulous.

“Medical file, psychiatric file, mission debriefs, intelligence reports, anything your Rebellion has on you, I have access to.” A rather large network of spies had been required to obtain him that access, but it was worth both the manpower and the time. Vader had a much better understanding of his child than he would have otherwise, although nothing could ever compare to real experience. Experience he was now, finally, in a position to get.

Luke scowled. “Invasion of privacy, much? Why waste your spies on me? If you've got as many in the Alliance as that would take, why not have them report on actually relevant, important things?” He dropped his gaze to his bare feet, drawing nonsense squiggles in the bacta with his toe.

Vader did not respond for a long moment, shocked at Luke's low opinion of his own worth.

“Do you truly doubt your importance to me?” he asked quietly. He risked taking a step closer, and when Luke didn't move, he took several more until he was close enough to slide his fingers under Luke's chin and tilt his face up to meet his gaze. There was moisture running down his cheeks and it wasn't bacta residue. Vader wiped the tears away with his thumb.

“I have moved the Galaxy to find you. You know that. How could you doubt your value?”

“You cut my hand off,” Luke murmured helplessly. Vader winced beneath his mask, guilt stirring in his stomach as it always did when he thought of how their confrontation had ended. He had come so close to losing Luke forever.

“A regrettable mistake, the result of my losing control. It will not happen again,” Vader promised. He released Luke's chin to brush his dripping hair away from his face.

“You can't promise that you won't lose control again,” Luke protested. “If you had control over that, you wouldn't have lost it in the first place.”

Vader stared at Luke for a moment before genuine mirth rose within him, a foreign sensation over the last twenty years. He bit back the laughter, unsure how or even if his vocoder could translate that, and settled for a snort instead.

“If you do not provoke me, I will have no reason to lose control.”

“I shouldn't have to worry about ‘provoking’ my own father,” Luke retorted, then paled as he realized what he'd just said. He staggered back a step, trying to put distance between them, but Vader caught his arms. Apparently Luke did not remember waking in the shuttle and addressing him by that title then as well.

“Luke, you do not need to run. I will not harm you again. Ever,” he swore, infusing his vow with the Force, making it unbreakable. “If I do, I will let you go and will not attempt to find you again.” It tore at his heart to promise that, but it would give him something to cling to if his temper ever rose with his son.

Luke regarded him curiously, most of his fear evaporating in the face of that unexpected bargain. “I suppose you would not appreciate me trying to provoke you.”

“No,” Vader growled. “If you intentionally push me with the goal of securing your release, I will not honor it.”

Luke made a face but agreed. “Fair enough.”

Cautiously, Vader released his son’s arms. When Luke did not retreat again, Vader rested a hand gently on Luke's back, guiding him towards the nearest bed.

“Let me see your wound,” he said as soon as Luke had sat down on the edge of the bed. Luke crossed his arms over his chest, frowning up at Vader.

Vader sighed. “There is no need to be so defensive. I have already seen you when I bandaged it for the trip to the Executor."

Luke grimaced, but he reluctantly untangled his arms and unwrapped the towel. Vader kept his distance and gave a cursory glance at Luke’s chest. The slash was now nothing more than a pale line stretching across his chest. It would likely leave a thin scar, but it would not cause Luke any lingering problems. Vader nodded, satisfied.

“It has mended well. You are skilled at Force healing.”

Luke ducked his head as he wrapped the towel around himself again. “Not really, I just -”

“Do not belittle your abilities. There were few Jedi even amongst the Council who could sink that deeply into a healing trance, and you with so little training.” For a moment, Vader wondered if the large amount of training had been the problem. Luke reached for the Force instinctively and allowed himself to be guided by it, rather than depending on set ways of interacting with it. The Jedi had limited themselves by their own dogma. Luke had no such limitations, even though Vader could easily see that Luke had received more training between Cymoon and Bespin. He would question his son on the identity of his teacher later, once he was more comfortable here.

Luke shivered, though he tried to suppress it, and Vader shook his head at himself.

He held his hand out to Luke again. “Come. We will talk after you have showered and dressed.”

Luke stood, ignoring Vader's hand, and Vader had to admit that he would have been surprised if Luke had so easily accepted his touch. That didn't stop the small bite of disappointment, but, now that he had the boy, he would have plenty of time to earn Luke's trust and, Force willing, affection.