by MJ Mink
"There is no escape," Vader stated ominously, towering above him. "Don't make me destroy you." But the lightsaber was lowered and switched off, and Vader made no attempt to kill him as he crawled painfully away from where he'd fallen at the victor's feet.
The Dark Lord continued, the Force filling his voice with potency. "Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."
"I'll never join you!" Obi-Wan and Yoda had coached him well; his shouted response was automatic and thoughtless. Luke slid across the narrow ledge, his charred, bloodied wrist still clamped beneath his armpit, but he was trapped at the end of the gantry. Trapped. Where was the escape? Obi-Wan once told him that there was always an escape.
But Obi-Wan hadn't escaped; Obi-Wan was dead. By the hand of the monster who now had him snared.
Yes, a monster, but something inside him was fascinated by the Dark Lord. How could the Dark Side of the Force be so desirable? Obi-Wan had warned him, Yoda had told him, but no admonishments could have prepared him for the exciting lure of the forbidden.
This was why they'd warned him, why they'd told him to finish his training and abandon his friends to their fate in Cloud City. They knew he wasn't strong enough, that he could fall to the Dark Side. Be tempted by the seductive Evil that was Darth Vader.
"If you only knew the power of the Dark side!" One leather-gloved fist clenched, arm thrust upwards, a graphic description of that power. Then Vader lowered his arm deliberately, voice hissing in tempo with the respirator. "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."
Father! You took him from me! How dare you taunt me with his murder now! Fury joined Luke's confusion, and he used it to fuel his strength against the temptations being offered. "He told me enough! He told me you killed him!" He swung down to balance his feet on a narrow metal ring, clutching with his one hand to the cold metal. Desperately he searched for another escape. He was still too close to Vader, much too close to resist his words. If only he could cover his ears from the enticements. He raised his face to the Dark Lord, unable to look away from the dangerous fascination the man exuded.
"No." Vader's voice was heavy with meaning, echoing over and over through the bottomless abyss as it did through his mind. "I am your father!"
I am your father. Stunned, he stared at the dark figure. The four words ricocheted through him. His father, finally, after waiting his entire life--and it was Vader? "No.... No--that's not true!" Fear and misery cut through him. It had to be a lie--a lie from the Dark side. Would Vader stop at nothing to destroy him? I am your father--no, you killed my father! Rage exploded in his heart. "That's impossible!" Father?
"Search your feelings."
It could have been Ben or Yoda speaking. Luke stared at Vader, waiting for the words of a Jedi. A Jedi who claimed to be his father. A Jedi who claimed him as his son. A Jedi...a father who finally wanted him.
"You know it to be true."
He knew. And this truth was a weapon more potent than the lightsaber had been. It slashed through his defenses, shattering his remaining will. "Nooo! Nooooo!" The scream was wrenched from his throat by a denial so terrible that it seemed to tear his soul apart.
Still the Dark Lord didn't stop. "Luke, you can destroy the Emperor--he has foreseen this. It is your Destiny."
Despite his pain, he felt a sudden stirring of interest. Into his mind came a vision of the Emperor, afraid of him, afraid of his power, cowering away from him.
As he now cowered from his father.
"Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son." The leather fist became an extended hand. "Come with me. It is the only way."
Luke stared at the open palm, his panic building. Was this his only salvation--join Vader or die? Father. Join his father. The great Dark Lord...yes. Father. He felt the tentative touch of Vader's mind reaching for him and cringed back. Below him was an endless pit with nothing to cling to. Nothing to stop his fall.
How could this man be his father? Father meant--love, purity, goodness, bravery, heroic deeds--
If his father was Evil, then so was he.
The hand remained outstretched, beckoning. Full of dark promises.
Panic numbed his mouth, and his heart beat so fast that he could feel it throbbing in his throat. The deep abyss stretched beneath him, offering sanctuary. A quick death was preferable to the slow, merciless mind-death that awaited if Vader captured him. Wasn't it?
But could his own father destroy him? Even if that father was Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, and he--
He was the Dark Lord's heir.
A hundred more thoughts flashed through his mind, but he couldn't separate them. Out of all the ideas came only two alternatives: release his hold and die, or accept Vader's proffered hand. He stared at the black glove that was extended toward him. Then he looked down into the void. It seemed like there could be no bottom, but of course there was. He would fall and fall and eventually his body would be smashed against the solid floor of Cloud City's core. He lifted his eyes toward Vader's hand, then up to the unreadable mask.
"Luke...my son. Come with me."
The voice was persuasive, warm even. But he felt so cold. The wind whipped his hair and brought tears to his eyes--it had to be the wind, because he wasn't crying. There was nothing to cry about. His father was alive, his father was Vader, his father had him trapped, and his only choice was whether to live or die.
His right hand began to throb, except it couldn't hurt because it was gone. It had fallen. He had a wild thought--could Jedi fly? Maybe he could let go and swoop down and retrieve his hand and his father's lightsaber.
...my father's lightsaber
I want to become a Jedi like my father.
...your father, powerful Jedi was he....
Power radiated from Vader. Luke tightened his grip around the cold metal as he felt his knees weaken. Was that his name? Was he Vader, too? Who was Skywalker?
Same name or different, he was still Vader. The only way to cease being Vader was to die.
Maybe he could take the hand and pull the elder Vader with him, kill both of them, free the galaxy from the evil that was Vader, father and son.
"Luke, let me help you."
And yet.... What if there was good left in Vader? What if his...father...could be saved? What if they could be together, Jedi father and son, the only Jedi left in the galaxy. Instead of dying, what if--
I don't want to die.
The realization was powerful. He'd barely begun to live--to die so soon was not what he wanted. Tentatively, Luke uncurled his fingers from the rod. Almost immediately, the wind sucked at him, trying to draw him down. He clutched tightly again. He only had one hand with which to--
He looked across at Vader. Another hand. It was so far away, and he was paralyzed. It would be easier to let go than to reach out. If he decided to let go and fall, he would die. If he decided to reach out and live, he would die while trying to save himself.
Icy terror swept through him. The wind couldn't pierce his clothes to dry the thin sheen of sweat that covered him, and he knew he was going into shock. His palm was damp, and it slipped on the metal.
He was going to die. He was dying already.
"Father!" The demon wind whipped away the word like it would take him, swallow him, eat him.
"Give me your hand."
I already did, he thought hysterically. "I can't!" Can't--can't--
...that is why you fail....
Then I fail. Because I can't both hold on and reach out when my father has stolen my hand. His grip slipped further, and he swayed. "Bye," he whispered. Could he say the word once more? "Goodbye...Father."
He didn't want to hold on anymore. He was tired. But he wrapped his arm around the metal, trying, trying-- One foot slipped off the rail, and he caught himself with his hand. But it slid the length of the cold rod and he was left crouching, balancing on one foot, the other leg dangling over the abyss, holding on with fingers that were perceptibly sliding. Without conscious effort, a cry was born in his soul, and he first heard it as it erupted from his lips.
"Father, help me--please!"
A power gripped him, and he tried to hold on to the pipe. It was the wind--the wind was taking him, stealing his life-- His grip was ripped loose, and he was too terrified to even scream. But he didn't fall. Instead, he seemed to float toward his father. Float like the rocks he'd levitated on Dagobah.
It was the Force. The Force was saving him. The Force in the form of Darth Vader.
The Force in...his father.
His feet were on metal, not round like the narrow strip, but flat and solid, as solid as the huge form he slumped against. His legs couldn't support him, and cold was creeping through every part of his body. Then he was in the air again, held not by the Force but by someone's arms, and warmth touched the perimeters of his ice. He was moving, going somewhere. The wind vanished, and there was a sudden shock of silence. Footsteps. Steady, mechanized breaths. His head lolled, and he struggled to stay awake. There was a rumble against his ear and, from up above, a voice that said something about a shuttle.
Shuttle. Fly. Safe. He always felt safest when he was flying.
Maybe he could sleep now.
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