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Under the Stars

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Luke woke slowly, his senses coming online one after the other. First he smelled earth, burning fuel and plastisteel. He squinted his eyes open and frowned at the bright orange that blocked his view. He realized he was staring at his flight suit’s orange colored sleeve, his arm stretched above his head. Hearing returned next, there was the sound of foreign birds and wind ruffling the leaves of nearby trees, something he hadn't gotten tired of hearing. How could there be so many trees on so many worlds when Tatooine had been such a barren wasteland?

Luke groaned at the dull ache in his body and tried to sit up, but a tugging sensation on his arms and legs prevented it. He groaned again as the movement made joints and muscles flare in pain.

Something wasn't right, but his fuzzy mind was still catching up. Slowly his memory came back.

He had been flying a mission for the Alliance when they were surprised by a squadron of TIE fighters. Some X-Wings had been destroyed but most made it to hyperspace and Luke had helped shoot down the remaining TIEs. Then a TIE Advanced had engaged him and kept him busy, herding him away from his jump point and disabling his engine. But not before Luke had managed to send that TIE, in a last frantic maneuver before he lost control over his own snub, on a collision course with the planet as well. He had been unable to regain control over his Wing. It had plummeted toward the planet. Shot down.

Shot down…

Luke started, his head whipping up, ignoring the pain the action caused in his abused back. Sure enough, he found himself face to face with the smashed landing gear of his smoldering X-Wing. In fact, he was nearly hitting his nose on the snub, the cuffs on his wrists wrapped around a solid metal bar of the landing gear.

“Gah…!” Luke started and pulled. Who could have done this? Luke tried to get up but he couldn't lift his legs, there was a tugging sensation on his ankles. Luke squinted down his body to his legs. Whoever had tied him to his X-Wing also had the nerve to tie both his legs to a tree a few meters away, with what looked suspiciously like the tow cable from his X-Wing.

Luke struggled and thrashed against his restraints, but they wouldn't give. After the crash, he must have passed out long enough for someone to pull him out and truss him up like this. But who? Maybe some native wanting to hold him for ransom or… or… It slowly dawned on Luke. The pilot of the TIE Advanced who he’d shot down in the final sluggish moments in space before his X-Wing fell prey to the planet’s gravitation. What if that guy had come around first and tied him up?

Luke twisted again to better check his surroundings. His X-Wing had torn through a tree canopy and crashed in the middle of a clearing. Tall trees stood around, some with large branches broken as testament to the force with which his ship had descended. The ground was soft. It had cushioned his crash well enough to stop his X-Wing from bursting into a fireball, letting him land in more or less one piece. 

There was neither human nor animal in sight.

Luke assessed his injuries, stretching his limbs carefully. He had several bruises, and the pain in his joints and back was a result of the less than smooth landing.

Luke struggled against his restraints again. There had to be a way out of them. But the cuffs were sturdy and the bar they were attached to, though crooked and bent, was still infuriatingly attached to the ship. Whoever had strung him up like this had known what they were doing. His tow cable – for he was sure that’s what it was – was bound tight around his ankles. All he could do was shift a few inches forward or backward and turn from his belly to his back.

He pondered for a way to get out of this situation. Maybe he could bargain his way out of this. Luke turned on his back, looking up at the blue sky with its blazing sun. He was sweating in his too warm flight suit. Fear gripped Luke. Dehydration was a serious problem. He had no idea how long he had been lying in the sun with no shade or water, and his throat was already parched and sore.

He froze when he heard footsteps. And then the sound of measured mechanical breathing chilled him to the core. He twisted around to face the man who stepped into the clearing, approaching Luke with calm strides. 

Vader. 

This couldn’t be true, how was he even here?

Luke renewed his struggles, wriggling and straining as much as he could. But it was useless. Soon his eyes focused on a large pair of black boots and the bottom of that damned cape, which were way too close for comfort. The Dark Lord crouched down beside him, gripping his chin and forcing him to look up. Luke jerked back but the grip on his chin was like a vice.

“Don’t touch me.” Luke ground out, the hand on his chin making speaking difficult. Vader didn’t answer but placed his free gloved hand over his eyes, effectively blinding him. Then he removed the hand abruptly, making Luke squint at the sudden change of light. Vader's red tinted lenses peered into his pupils. Releasing his chin, Vader began patting down his body.

“I said don’t touch me,” Luke snapped.

“Yet you will learn to tolerate it, rebel.” Vader intoned in his deep rumbling voice. “You are mine now and I will do with you as I please.”

Luke’s struggling stopped when Vader squeezed a sensitive spot on his right bicep. He tried to suppress a whimper, gritting his teeth hard.

“Does that hurt?” Vader asked.

Luke didn’t answer. Like hell he was going to encourage Vader to inflict a maximum amount of pain. Vader wasn’t impressed by his silence.

“I take that as a ‘no’, then,” he said mockingly, gripping Luke’s arm tighter in the same spot. Unbidden tears shot into Luke's eyes and he couldn’t suppress a pained whimper this time. But Vader didn’t ease up. 

“Please... stop,” he gasped out.

Vader let go. “Does that hurt?” he asked again, more sternly.

“Yes...” Luke answered, blinking away tears.

“Good. From now on, you will refrain from ignoring my questions or answering with lies, or you will suffer consequences. Do you understand?" he said, voice dangerously low.

“Yes,” Luke replied softly. 

Vader resumed patting him down.

“What are you doing?” Luke twisted and turned again, but with his limited mobility he was helpless to stop the Dark Lord from doing whatever he wanted.

“I am assessing the damage you have caused to yourself by your reckless behavior,” Vader said. He hit a painful spot again and Luke tensed. “Does that hurt?” he asked him again, his hand lingering above the spot to punish him again if he didn’t answer.

“Yes,” he forced out, biting down on his anger.

“Very good, boy,” Vader said, praising him for his compliance. Luke clenched his teeth.

Vader continued to examine him then swiftly turned him on his back. Blinded by the bright sun shining in his face, Luke squirmed, feeling incredibly vulnerable and exposed. Vader finished checking him for injuries, turning him to lie on his belly again.

“You do not seem to have given yourself life threatening injuries” Vader stood and walked out of his line of sight. Luke craned his neck to find out what his father’s murderer was doing. He couldn’t see him, but by the sound of it, Vader was rummaging around his X-Wing’s wreckage. 

He returned and Luke tensed again.

But Vader simply placed some objects next to him. Four water rations, his blaster, his father’s lightsaber and his emergency homing beacon, the battery unit missing and the frayed wiring dangling out. The meaning was clear: no help would be coming. Luke’s eyes narrowed as he saw his father’s killer handling that lightsaber, anger bubbling inside of him. How he wished he could have a go at Vader, just one. Instead, he would be lucky to survive the next few hours. Or maybe ‘lucky’ wasn't the right word.

Vader sat down beside him, making Luke start. Vader’s bulk blocked the view of everything else. “Very well, boy. Now you will talk,” he announced, his deep voice sending a cold chill down Luke’s spine despite the warmth of his flight suit.

“I won’t give you anything, so you might as well just kill me,” Luke ground out. 

But inside, he was petrified with fear and self-doubt. Vader’s ruthlessness was rumored in the Alliance, though few ever survived an encounter with the Dark Lord to tell the tale. Leia had. And whenever she talked about bits and pieces of her own interrogation at the monster’s hands there was a haunted look in her eyes. Granted, Vader didn’t have interrogation equipment at hand, but who knew what he was able to do with makeshift things? He had taken the time to find out Luke’s exact weak spots. Luke eyed the objects placed next to him with apprehension.

“I have no intention of killing you anytime soon, rebel. I will take my time with you,” Vader said. Luke peeked up at him, his stomach churning at the cold threat. “For now, I offer a trade. You will answer a few questions of mine and in exchange I will give you the last water rations. You are surely thirsty.”

Luke glared daggers at Vader. “I won’t talk.”

“Have it your way, boy.” Vader sounded amused. He took the first water ration, opening it slowly. Luke stared at it. Stars, he was thirsty, but he wouldn’t let Vader have this victory. This was Vader’s plan, let him roast in the sun in his thick flight suit and deny him water if he didn’t comply.

“Last chance, boy,” Vader said, but Luke didn’t answer. Vader reached with his free hand and gripped a fistful of Luke’s hair, forcing him to look down. He then took the water ration and gradually upended it on top of his head. Luke struggled, grunting in frustration. The cold clear water was running through his hair, down his head and neck and dripping onto the ground where it was soaked up by the dry earth. Once all the water had disappeared Vader let go of his hair.

“A very unwise choice, boy,” Vader mocked him. Luke scowled at the damp spot of earth below him. He glared at Vader as he picked up the second water ration and opened it.

“Will you now answer my questions?”

“Go to hell,” Luke hissed with all the defiance he could muster, but he caught himself staring longingly at the water.

“As you wish.” This time, Vader pressed his hand firmly on Luke’s mouth, pushing his head up. He then began emptying the water on Luke’s forehead in slow maddening drops.

Luke tried to catch some drops in his mouth but the leather glove pressed down on it. There was nothing for it. As a former resident of Tatooine, he knew the effects of long-term water deprivation and he was on the fast track to a heat stroke.

Muffled though the glove he ground out, “No, please.” His words were garbled, but Vader seemed to understand him regardless.

He stopped the slow drip. “Will you now comply?” He removed his hand from Luke’s chin.

“Yes,” Luke said, looking down.

“Good.” He could hear Vader was pleased. “Here is the bargain. You answer a few questions, then receive some water. If you fail to do so or belabor under the illusion that you could lie to me, I will continue to spill the water elsewhere and you will learn just how unpleasant I can be.”

Luke looked up at the impassive black mask bearing down on him and gave a short nod.

“Good boy, let us start with something simple.” He grabbed Luke’s lightsaber and held it in front of him. “Where did you get this?”

Luke started. He thought Vader would grill him about Alliance intel and had hoped to provide useless and outdated information. He really didn’t want to tell Vader about his lightsaber. Luke had probably been pinned as a Jedi or Jedi-wannabe. But his chances of survival would vanish utterly once Vader knew who his father was.

“Well, boy. Are you violating our deal already?” Vader held the half empty water container mockingly close, but just out of reach.

“No, I… I’ll answer,” Luke said quickly, making up his mind. “A...a man gave it to me.”

“Give me a name,” Vader demanded impatiently.

Luke scowled. “Ben Kenobi.”

He stiffened at the sudden rage he felt from Vader. 

“Kenobi is dead,” Vader remarked coldly.

“I... I know. But he gave it to me.”

“And did he give you a reason for handing you this particular weapon?”

“No...” Luke tried. Instantly Vader dealt out a harsh slap. Luke flinched.

“I have warned you not to lie to me, boy,” Vader bore down on him. He proceeded to spill the water on the right sleeve of Luke’s flight suit.

“No, no, please, please don’t.” Luke strained, staring at the water uselessly wasted. Vader continued until the container was empty. He then reached for the next. Vader calmly opened the third container and began tipping it over Luke’s left sleeve.

Luke’s eyes went wide. He renewed his struggles. “Please don’t, please. I’ll answer. No… it... it was my father’s.”

“What?” Vader hissed, his hand whipping forward and gripping Luke’s chin painfully, tilting his head up. “Say that again,” he ordered menacingly.

“It was my father’s lightsaber,” Luke ground out, wondering what the monster’s reaction would be now he knew he was Anakin’s son, the Jedi Vader had betrayed and murdered. For he must have recognized the saber. Vader didn't say anything for a few dragging moments but his hand on Luke’s chin gradually tightened. “I swear, it’s the truth,” Luke gasped out, afraid the Dark Lord thought it was a lie.

“What is your name, boy?” Vader said curiously softly.

“Luke Skywalker,” Luke replied with difficulty, due to the firm grip on his chin and his neck’s unnatural position. Vader looked down on his frightened face. Was Luke imagining it or was Vader’s hand shaking slightly? Luke lowered his eyes, avoiding the intense gaze. This was it, he knew it. Vader recognized him as the son of his old friend turned enemy. Vader let his chin go and Luke quickly turned his head away.

“Your father’s name?” Vader’s demand cut through his train of thought. This was it. He was done for.

“Anakin Skywalker,” he whispered, staring into the distant foliage before closing his eyes and resigning himself to his fate. He wished to avenge his father but now he’d fall to the same man who had killed him. For a moment, only Vader’s breathing could be heard. Then the Dark Lord suddenly rose, towering above him. Luke flinched when he heard a lightsaber igniting. He braced himself for the blade to burn right through him. 

But the sound became distant as Vader stalked away. Then he heard Vader tearing through the undergrowth with his lightsaber. Luke tensed up. Vader’s rage was palpable even to Luke’s nearly untrained Force senses. Luke looked up in time to see a palm tree fall behind his X-Wing. He knew what had felled it. Long minutes passed before the sound of the lightsaber quieted and even more until Vader approach him again, the sound of mechanical breathing making his hair stand on end.

Luke turned his head away again, trying to calm himself and prepare himself for death. He expected to hear the lightsaber’s hum again and feel its deadly energy pierce through him, but there was only Vader’s measured breaths. Luke’s fear grew as he felt the Dark Lord’s eyes on him. 

An odd slumping sound made him jerk. He turned his head to find Vader kneeling beside him. The Dark Lord took hold of his chin again, surprisingly gentle this time. Luke fought the grip but was as unsuccessful as before. With his other hand Vader reached for the water ration and held it to Luke’s parched lips.

Luke frowned, but Vader coaxed him to drink. The cold clear water felt good as Vader poured it in small sips into his mouth. Once he had drunk the ration’s remains Vader let go of Luke, placing his head down carefully.

Vader stayed kneeling at his side, so close that some of his cape pooled over Luke. He didn’t speak or ask him any questions, merely staring at him. Luke was confused at this weird behavior. It unsettled him more than a continuation of the interrogation could.

“Are you gonna finish the job, or what?” Luke said quietly.

“What job?” Vader asked after a beat of silence.

“Kill me, like you killed my father.”

Luke wasn’t sure if he imagined the hitch in Vader’s breathing.

“Did Kenobi tell you that?” Vader said tightly.

Luke gave a short nod, not daring to look up at the man. From the corner of his eye he saw Vader balling up his fist. The sound of screeching metal made him freeze. First his blaster and then parts of his X-Wing began to crumble. He was scared out of his wits watching it. The X-Wing shifted further away from him, pushed by the unseen force crumbling it. Luke was pulled with it by his binders and it startled a terrified yell from him.

He thought he’d be pulled apart, but the screeching stopped and Vader grasped his wrists. The binders around his left wrist opened and the pressure in his shoulders, knees and hips eased immediately. Luke turned to break free, but Vader continued to hold his wrists in an iron grip, putting his arms behind his back and shackling them together. Luke tried to move away from him but a firm hand between his shoulder blades pushed him down.

“Calm down, young one,” Vader said. Luke heaved in a few breaths. Once he had stopped struggling, Vader stood and pulled him up with him, grasping Luke’s arms tightly. Legs still tied together, Luke swayed at the sudden change of position after lying down so long in the hot sun. Vader held him, not allowing him to fall.

Vader made a sudden movement, and Luke found himself on the Dark Lord’s shoulder, staring down at the long black cape. Breathless, Luke was momentarily too stunned to resist. Vader carried him to the tree that Luke’s cable was wrapped around and set him down so his back rested against the trunk. Vader unzipped his flight suit to his belly, revealing the white undershirt underneath. It cooled him down a little and now he was also in the shade. Vader turned and stalked back to where Luke had been tied down. He fetched the remaining water ration and returned to Luke, who watched him warily.

For reasons he didn't understand, the Dark Lord was upset by his confession of being the son of the Jedi Knight Vader had betrayed and killed. Why he didn’t go straight to executing him or at least resuming his interrogation, he didn’t understand either. But he was sure he wouldn’t like the reason. 

Vader returned to him, crouching down to where Luke leaned against the tree trunk. He opened the final water ration. Luke expected Vader to demand more answers in exchange for it or continue his cruel game of snatching it away. But Vader simply reached for him with one hand, pushing his head back against the trunk to hold him still. He placed the water container to Luke’s lips again and poured it into his mouth in small sips. After he was done Vader rose to his feet.

“Stay put, boy,” he ordered. “Do not attempt to get up.”

“Why not kill me right now?”

“I have no intentions to kill you.”

“No, you want to play with me first, don’t you?” Luke glared at the towering giant, and strained against the cuffs. Vader looked at him then turned and stalked back to his X-Wing, more ruined now than it had been from the crash. Vader began to scavenge the downed snub for anything he seemed to find worthy of retrieving. The thought angered Luke, he was rather attached to his snub. He had been flying it from the day he’d entered the rebellion and destroyed the Death Star. 

But maybe this would provide him with a chance to get away. While Vader was distracted, Luke bent forward to examine the tow cable wrapped around his ankles. If he got it off, he’d run and lose Vader in the maze of trees.

Luke wiggled a bit to loosen the cable but it was wrapped too tightly. Maybe he could open the knot. He glanced over to Vader, who still seemed distracted. Luke slowly scooted away from the tree trunk and shifted into more of a kneeling position to reach the knot. He picked at it, which wasn’t easy with his hands bound behind his back, but it seemed to loosen.

Luke was so wrapped up in his task that he flinched when two black boots appeared right in front of him. Luke gasped and stiffened, expecting swift retribution. But Vader grasped his shoulders and pulled him forward. With a metallic click his shackles opened and fell away. Before Luke could think of what to make of this, Vader began pulling his flight suit over his shoulders and down to his waist. Luke didn’t fight this. It would be good to get out of his flight suit.

Soon he was sitting in his undershirt, his legs still covered but his jumpsuit’s sleeves tied around his waist.

Vader grasped his wrists again to shackle them together, and this time Luke fought in earnest but he felt as if the air around him was freezing up and he couldn't twitch a muscle. Vader calmly proceeded to fasten the binders around his wrists in front of him. Then he checked the cable around Luke’s legs, tightening it again. He hauled Luke back to the tree, propping him up against the trunk again. All the while, Luke was held ramrod stiff by the Force.

When Luke found that he could move again, he growled in frustration. Vader crouched down beside him and reached for a small box that he had placed next to Luke. Luke recognized it as the first aid kit from his X-Wing and scowled. Vader started rummaging through it, taking out its content and placing it on the grass.

“I have always wondered what is in the rebels’ emergency kits,” Vader remarked mockingly. “One outdated medical scanner, bandages, a stim shot and a ration bar,” he said disparagingly. “Abysmal.”

“There was water in there, too,” Luke hissed, glaring at Vader.

“I know, young one,” Vader sounded wary, lifting the medical scanner to Luke’s face and running it down his body. “You will receive proper medical attention once the shuttle is here.”

Luke gritted his teeth. That was hardly a solace. Once the Empire sent a shuttle to rescue Vader he’d end up in a cell on his way to interrogation and eventual execution. With his own homing beacon destroyed his friends would have a hard time locating him.

“You have several bruises and a mild concussion. You are also dehydrated and your temperature is elevated,” Vader stated once he had finished his scan.

“And whose fault is that?” Luke bit out. “First you tie me up in the sun, then you spill my water everywhere. This is exactly what you wanted.” He didn't care he was practically yelling at Lord kriffing Vader.

Vader chose not to answer to that, but reached for Luke’s forehead. Luke cringed away. “Sit still, young one.”

Luke scowled at the belittling term, wiggling in his restraints, longing to lunge at his father’s murderer. “I’m an adult, Vader. You release me and I’ll show you. I swear, I’ll kill you for what you did to my father.”

Vader held his forehead for a moment stroking through Luke’s hair, damp from sweat and the water he had poured on his head. “Sit still,” he repeated again firmly and got up again.

Luke glowered at the patronizing tone, but decided it wasn’t worth it to test Vader’s infamously limited patience just now. He glared after Vader as he busied himself with Luke’s X-Wing again. His eyes fell on the scorched socket his astromech droid had been in. He had lost it near the end of the dog fight, a direct hit all but catapulting the badly damaged droid into space. He should be grateful it hadn't been Artoo, but Luke couldn't shake the feeling that if Artoo, who was currently undergoing repairs, had been flying with him the battle’s outcome would’ve been different.

Luke shook his head. Dwelling on this wouldn't help him with his more pressing problem of getting away from Vader. He looked around to orientate himself.

There was no sign of life around, only trees as far as he could see through the undergrowth. When his squadron had been attacked, the system they were in was uninhabited as far as he knew. But with any luck, there could be dwellings from smugglers or unchartered settlements, other people to help him out, help him get away from… A loud ripping noise from his X-Wing drew his attention back to Vader.

Vader turned to stare at him and Luke froze. The Dark Lord stalked purposefully toward him, holding in his hands a large canister he had ripped out of the snub. Luke stared, confused, until he realized with shock that it was the cooling cell. He shrank back, dreading what would follow. “Ah, no…don’t you…” he gasped.

“Sit still and keep your mouth closed,” Vader intoned, clearly unimpressed by his demands. Before Luke could do more than shift away, the Dark Lord reached him and upended the cooling cell over him.

“Hey, no… stop it, no,” Luke yelped as the liquid hit him. He quickly pressed his lips together to avoid swallowing any. It wasn't exactly cold, but it startled him anyway. Luke ducked his head. With Vader’s terrifyingly good aim, most of the cooling liquid hit its intended target and Luke had no choice but to endure. Once the cell was empty he rubbed his face with his bound hands to clear his eyes and give Vader a proper glare.

“It will help you cool down,” Vader remarked, sounding nearly amused and looking Luke up and down. He supposed he looked rather ridiculous, dripping blonde locks plastered to his head and his clothing saturated. His indignation was cut short when Vader reignited his lightsaber. Luke tensed as Vader swung the blade in his direction.

“No, please…” he gasped, but a second later the blade burned straight through the tow cable tying him to the tree. The knot loosened and Luke struggled to untangle his legs from the cable.

“Can you walk, young one?” Vader asked, offering a hand which Luke ignored. He scooted back and stood up carefully. The numbness in his legs and the fact his hands were still clasped in binders didn’t help, but Luke managed to find his balance. “Good,” Vader remarked, when Luke had stretched his legs cautiously. “You will come with me.”

Luke scowled. Like hell he would. He threw a look around. Not the best moment with Vader standing so close, but he had to try. It couldn’t be long before Vader went back to torturing and interrogating him. Maybe this was his only chance. Luke made a dash to the side when Vader looked briefly away. Elated, for a few steps he thought he had done it and caught Vader off guard, but then something heavy collided with his back. He fell onto the grassy ground, barely managing to bring his hands up in time to avoid landing face first.

“I do not recall giving you a choice, boy,” Vader said, once more sounding more amused than angry. He stalked closer while Luke tried to regain his senses. Luke rolled to delay Vader but the Dark Lord approached him with measured steps and grasped his forearm. He pulled him up again effortlessly.

“Don’t touch me,” Luke snapped, trying to shake Vader off, his calm demeanor infuriating him.

Vader seemed unaffected by Luke’s fury. He kept a large gloved hand wrapped around Luke’s arm. “Will you keep insisting on making useless escape attempts or will you comply from now on?”

“Like kriff I’ll -” Luke began.

“Very well,” Vader cut across him, and pulled Luke closer. Luke gasped when his back was pressed into the Dark Lord’s chest armor. Vader released his forearm only to wrap his arm around Luke’s body, pinning him against the giant of a man. With his bound hands Luke clawed at the unyielding arm. Vader placed his other hand on Luke’s forehead.

“Ah, let me go,” Luke shouted, but then he felt that something was terribly wrong. Blackness seeped into his vision and his legs and arms becoming heavy as lead. His hands fell uselessly from where they had grappled against the Dark Lord’s hold. Eyes ripped wide open in horror, Luke felt consciousness fast slipping away due to whatever Vader was doing to him. He tried to speak, to make Vader stop, but no words came out. The heavy hand on his head stroked through his damp hair in a manner almost soothing. A deep voice, rich and faintly reminiscent of Vader’s mechanical tones but softer and somehow familiar, spoke in his mind before Luke lost the battle against the overwhelming darkness swallowing him.

Calm down, young one. All will be well.

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Chapter Text

 

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The boy’s consciousness was slipping fast. Despite his clear potential in the Force he was barely trained. Certainly not enough to ward off Vader’s simple command that sent him to sleep. The child sagged in his grip, legs no longer able to hold his body up. Vader shifted his hold, guiding the prone body down to stretch him out on the grass, and crouched down next to him. He gazed at the boy, the wet hair sticking to his forehead, brows furrowed as if he was still subconsciously protesting his treatment. Half stripped from his bulky flight suit the boy looked even smaller and younger than he had first thought.

He had expected to find a much more seasoned pilot when he had reached the crash site. Few had managed to best him in a dog fight. Instead he had pulled this slight child from the smoking wreckage of his X-Wing. It had been easy to tie the boy up and wait for him to regain consciousness. He wouldn't have bothered, the boy couldn’t have much important intel, given how young he was it was unlikely he held any important role in the rebellion.

But he had been carrying a lightsaber on his weapons belt. And not just any. Vader had recognized it instantly. It was his old one, the one he had lost on Mustafar. Kenobi must’ve picked it up, saving it when he had left him to slowly succumb to his injuries and the burning sands.

The thought had filled him with rage, as well as having to explain to his Master that he’d been shot down by a little boy, Force sensitive or not. So he had decided he would take it out on the boy; this way he could find out where he’d acquired the lightsaber, perhaps obtain information of some hidden Jedi enclave and a clue to what Kenobi had been up to all these years. Once he had learned all he could, he had planned to dispose of the young rebel pilot.

It would’ve also passed the time until the Imperial search crews had picked up his homing beacon’s signal and sent a shuttle to pick him up. The system they were in featured a large asteroid belt, a silent witness of a planetary collision millions of years ago. There was a rare natural component in these asteroids that scrambled signals, including Vader’s beacon. It might be days until they were found.

Well, his methods had yielded results, but not in the way desired. As a former resident of Tatooine, Vader knew the effects of long-term sun exposure and water deprivation, something that would make most beings talk. Vader cursed his own foolishness. His son had lived, hidden away from him and estranged from his father only to join the rebellion and wind up his prisoner. He had needed but the name and the Force ringing true at the boy’s statement to be sure of it. The boy was his son. Now he needed to try and rectify the damage he had caused. In his misguided attempt to get the boy to talk he had wasted precious water reserves.

It would not be easy to win the boy’s trust, to sway him to his side. Especially after he had unwisely shown the boy his much harsher side. He needed to carefully break the news of their relationship when the moment was right. Kenobi had had the gall to fill the boy’s head with the lie that Vader had killed the boy’s father. Clearly Kenobi had sought to ensure that father and son, should they ever meet, would do so on a battlefield. He had armed the boy with the lightsaber and sent him on a twisted vendetta to kill the man he believed betrayed his sire.

Vader balled his hands into tight fists at the thought. He had not believed his former Master to be capable of such deceit. He should have destroyed the man much slower than he had. The boy lying in the grass shifted slightly, as if subconsciously picking up on his rage, but it wasn't enough for the child to wake up from his Force induced sleep. Vader straightened. He needed to calm himself, his anger at a dead man would not help him. His Master however, who had told him that he had killed his wife and unborn child, who had lied to him in order to bind him to his Master, was still alive. He would pay.

Vader reached out with the Force, reassuring himself that the boy was deeply asleep. He shifted his attention to the boy’s X-Wing, again searching its compartments for any equipment that might prove usable. He would need to prepare for several days on the uninhabited planet and while his suit would provide him with everything he needed, the boy would require supplies and shelter. He gathered what he could use, noticing the small tally painted to the side of the snub. It was sporting a few lines beside a larger round shape. He huffed at the rebels' foolishness in displaying this, yet it was not a difficult connection to make.

The child, Luke he had said was his name, was the same pilot he had very nearly shot down in the Death Star trench only to be thwarted by a freighter pilot that had joined the fight in the last moments of the battle. Vader should be grateful, as it had prevented him from killing his son then and there, forever oblivious to the true nature of their relationship. The boy had proceeded to nearly singlehandedly annihilate the Emperor’s prized battle station.

Vader returned to where the boy lay and crouched down. He placed an arm under the boy’s knees and the other under his back, lifting the boy up effortlessly. He was slight and slim, even for a nineteen year old. Vader started walking at a brisk pace. His TIE fighter was a good distance away, but he had more resources there to help the child, to rectify what he had done to him and ensure the boy’s survival while they awaited rescue.

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Luke had a weirdly colorful dream that he was riding on the back of a Ronto through a dense forest. Gradually he woke up, but the feeling of motion persisted. Luke finally managed to open his eyes. It took him a while to understand what he was seeing. It didn’t make any sense. Above him, the blue sky was marred by an ugly black shape, and he realized he was looking up at Darth Vader’s helmet. Luke stared up dumbly for a while, uncomprehending. The mask tilted down to look directly at him.

“Gah!” Luke started. He was actually being carried by Vader, who held him in his arms like a little child! Luke tried to punch out with his hands only to realize they were still shackled. Luke struggled until Vader stopped and put him down in the grass clearing they were in.

“Calm down, child,” he said in his deep rumbling bass, holding him down with a firm hand as Luke tried to scramble away.

“Let. Go,” Luke gasped, his memory returning quickly. Vader had shot him down and captured him. Pumped him for information. “Don’t touch me, you murd…mhh.” Luke’s outcry was cut short by a large gloved hand on his mouth, muffling any further accusations he wanted to hurl. Luke froze, the leather smell reminding him of Vader holding him down while denying him water.

“Keep still now,” Vader instructed and he moved to lift him up again.

Luke shifted away. “Ah, no, don’t…stop.” Vader indeed stilled, staring at him. “I-I can walk,” Luke ground out.

“Very well,” Vader remarked after a pause, a hint of amusement in his voice. He held out his hand to help him up but Luke glared and ignored it, clambering to his feet. When he found his balance his upper arm was seized. Luke scowled.

“Come, little one.”

Vader marched again at a brisk pace, leaving Luke no choice but to keep up if he didn't want to be dragged over tree roots. For a while they walked in silence through the forest. Luke’s clothing was wet, sticking uncomfortably to his skin and reminding Luke of how Vader had drenched him with the content of his X-Wing’s cooling cell. Luke tried to keep track of where they were headed, but he didn’t know how long he had been rendered unconscious by whatever Vader had done to him. He must have used the Force, making Luke worry at how easily Vader could manipulate his mind with it.

“Where are you taking me?” Luke demanded, trying to sound confident. He didn’t really expect an answer, but Vader turned his attention to him.

”My TIE fighter is close. I am taking you there.”

Luke frowned. “Why? What do you want from me?”

“You are in need of medical attention and supplies. You will receive both once we reach my ship.”

Luke’s frown deepened. Why would Vader bother? He had given him his name and now Vader knew full well who he was. They lapsed back into silence as they marched through the dense wood, Vader never letting go of his arm, until they stepped into a large clearing. He looked ahead. Deep furrows marked the ground in long lines leading to the TIE Advanced’s wreckage at the end of the clearing. So Luke had shot him down. He’d been unsure how accurately he had hit the enemy snub. Vader had seemed no worse for wear. But the TIE looked like it landed as hard as his own X-Wing.

“I shot you down and you shot me down, young one. That was some quite impressive piloting.” Vader seemed to have picked up on his thoughts, but he didn’t sound angry.

“You clearly came out better,” Luke mumbled bitterly.

“Indeed. I reached you first. You were still unconscious.”

“A fact you managed to exploit.”

“I will not cause you further harm, Luke. You have nothing to fear from me,” Vader stated, Luke frowned in disbelief. Vader’s changed behavior was unsettling. “Though if you plan to continue destroying Imperial property, I will be forced to curb that habit. Do not indulge in the illusion that I am unaware of your involvement in the Death Star’s destruction,” Vader stated with finality, and Luke felt like the earth had been pulled out from under him.

He blanched and cold fear made his stomach churn. Vader knew. He was barely aware of Vader dragging him closer to the TIE until they were standing right in front of it. Half-heartedly he thought of denying it all, but what was the point? Vader knew and he was capable of detecting a lie anyway.

“So, you’ll kill me now, or what?” he said, trying to sound unfazed but he stared at the ground, unable to look at Vader.

“I have told you before. I have no plans to kill you,” Vader stated calmly and faced him, releasing his arm and settling a hand on his shoulder instead. “Or harming you in any way,” he added. “Now sit down.” Vader increased his pressure until Luke let himself fall to the ground, legs crossed.

“Do not try to get away. I promise, you will not get far and if you try, I will be forced to tie you up properly again,” Vader cautioned, pointing a finger at him.

Luke glared up to him. “What happened to no harm?” he mumbled.

“I will do what is necessary to keep you secure, boy. You need to rest and not waste your energy in useless escape attempts.”

Vader turned away from him and Luke stared dismally at his cuffed hands resting in his lap. With his hands bound it wasn't a good idea to run. Luke took a deep breath and looked around. The sun was rapidly sinking beneath the tree line. Luke shivered as a light chilly gust brushed over him. With the setting sun it was getting colder and his clothing was still dank. 

Something caught his eye and Luke dropped his head to examine it without drawing attention to himself. Not far, a sharp piece of metal protruded from the ground, maybe ripped off from the snub fighter by the force of the impact and then drilled deep into the dirt. If he could use it to break his binders he could get away before Vader returned. 

Luke turned his head to see where Vader was. He was a good distance away between the trees, he certainly seemed distracted enough. Luke carefully shifted closer to the metal shard, checking on Vader every so often. Once he reached it, he pushed the sharp end into the locking mechanism of the cuffs and worked them furiously back and forth. Han had told him it was possible to break binders like this, but Luke wasn't exactly sure how it was done. He threw another cautious look to make sure Vader was distracted then Luke turned his attention back to his cuffs. Maybe just a little bit…

“Are you quite done, young one?”

Luke flinched. Vader was towering right above him, the mask fixed on him. How had he gotten here that fast? Again Luke expected swift retribution for his escape attempt, but Vader merely reached down with one hand. Luke tried to bat it away with his cuffed hands, but it didn’t help. Vader grabbed him by the neck of his undershirt and started dragging him toward the TIE with ease. Luke let out a sound of pure frustration.

Vader let him go unexpectedly and with a small yelp Luke landed on his bottom. A wave of Vader’s hand and the cuffs opened. Luke shook them off, scowling at the casual demonstration of the Force. Vader offered him water and a ration bar.

Luke stared at the packed rations, accepting them hesitantly. They had the Imperial symbol stamped on it. It didn’t matter though. He was hungry and needed to eat, if he wanted to get away from his captor then he would need his strength. He carefully opened the water container and drank.

Vader stayed close by, guarding his prisoner. It was impossible to tell for sure if Vader was actually looking at him due to the opaque lenses but Luke thought he could feel the Dark Lord’s eyes on him. It made him feel incredibly uneasy. Luke drank the water ration but it was hard to remain calm while Vader was literally breathing down his neck. That noise of measured mechanical breathing was sure to give him nightmares for years, should he ever manage to escape.

Luke then turned to the ration bar, ripping open the package and examining the bar inside. It didn’t look too bad. He tentatively tried it. It didn’t taste bad either. Vader was still standing watch over him. Luke wasn’t sure why the Dark Lord acted so differently, but he might as well try and get some answers.

“What are we waiting for?” he asked.

“A shuttle will come in a short while to pick us up, neither your snub nor my fighter can be repaired to leave the planet.”

Luke grimaced, but he had expected that. “Why haven’t they found us yet?”

“The asteroids in the system make it difficult for the homing beacon to be picked up. We might be here for another few days.”

Luke stared at Vader in horror, the idea of being stuck here with this homicidal torturer for days on end wasn’t comforting. Vader stared back at him. If Luke didn’t know better he’d say Vader was as uncomfortable as he was. Luke turned away, glancing into the distance. The bruises from the impact were aching dully. A slight breeze ruffled through his hair and Luke tried to suppress a shudder at the chill.

“What is wrong?” Vader’s sharp demand in his deep bass made him start.

“Noth-”

“Do not lie to me,” Vader growled, pointing a black gloved finger at him, making Luke swallow the rest of his sentence. He could feel something invisible wrapping and swirling around him, making him tense up. “You are feeling cold,” Vader stated with finality. Luke glared at him. Clearly Vader could use the Force not just to hold him still and knock him out when he pleased, but also to assess how he felt. Maybe even what he thought.

Luke flinched and scrambled backward and got to his feet as Vader stalked closer. “Sit still, boy.”

But Luke wasn’t about to comply. He dodged Vader’s grip and made it a few steps until Vader caught him. With one hand clasped around Luke’s arm, Vader detached his cape from his shoulders and before Luke could so much as cringe away, he swiftly wrapped the black fabric around Luke. It was surprisingly heavy.

“Hey…” Luke tried to shake it off indignantly. 

“You are getting cold, young one. In your wet clothing you will catch a virus easily.”

“And whose fault is that?” Luke muttered. 

Vader stared, disapproval hanging heavily between them. Vader proceeded to wrap the cape around him. “Sit down,” he ordered, sounding wary. His hands weighed on Luke's shoulders, pushing him down. “Good boy,” Vader praised when Luke all but collapsed. The tightly wrapped fabric pinned his arms to his sides and hindered his movement. He scowled at Vader.

Vader regarded him silently, but then his head shot up and he stiffened. Luke started. He squinted around Vader’s legs and froze too. A four legged creature had appeared at the edge of the clearing. The spiky black fur on its back stood on edge and it snarled with razor-sharp teeth. It approached them slowly, the large head low and body rigid, fixing Vader and Luke with its gleaming yellow eyes. The creature gave a dark growl. It looked decidedly carnivorous. Luke flinched again as Vader’s blade ignited next to him. The creature stalked closer to them. Vader brought up his blade and stepped forward.

Luke stared at them, considering his options. Vader was distracted by the creature, and no matter who won this fight it would most likely end badly for Luke. Vader might have been acting out of character around him, but it was only a matter of time before he went back to interrogating him like before. And if that creature mauled Vader, well, Luke didn’t want to be around for that either. For once, his hands and feet weren’t tied. It didn’t take Luke long to decide to bolt. 

Luke squirmed out of the blasted cape and made a dash for it. In mid-sprint he looked behind to see Vader fighting the beast, lightsaber ignited. More of the same creatures had appeared and were surrounding Vader. Luke forged on, dashing half blind through the woods. He looked back again to see had far he’d gotten away. His foot caught on a root and Luke stumbled a few steps to catch his balance. He gasped as he hurtled over the steep slope he had blundered upon. He tumbled down the hill, feeling like he hit every root and stone on the way, before coming to a stop at the bottom. Luke groaned, stretching his aching limbs. 

Luke took a few calming breaths before he sat up gingerly, looking around. It was rapidly getting dark now. He patted himself down. He didn't seem to have broken any bones, but the fall had not helped his already bruised body from his crash landing. Luke stared up the hill, he couldn’t hear anything apart from distant animal noises and the wind in the trees. If nothing else, hopefully his fall had taken him out of Vader’s reach.

Luke stood up, wincing at his protesting ankles. But he needed to keep moving. He turned away from the hill and headed toward the trees. If Vader was giving chase he was too exposed here. Luke sighed. Just what he needed. Shot down on an uninhabited planet and stuck with Lord kriffing Vader, a bunch of murderous predators and without any means to contact his friends.

Luke shivered in the cold wind. Maybe he should make a fire. But no, it would announce his presence to anyone in the vicinity, especially Vader. He cursed himself for not bringing Vader’s cape. He’d be able to keep warm and it would camouflage him better than a white undershirt and orange flight suit. 

A shadow emerged from the trees.

Luke froze, then backed up, his hands raised. It was another one of those creatures. Long sharp fangs were bared and saliva dripped from its jaws. It growled low, the sound a deep hungry rumble, as it slowly prowled over to him. A pair of glistening eyes following Luke’s every move. His heart pounded in his throat. This was it. He had no weapons, no means to defend himself. Luke took another step back, stumbling over a stone and falling backward. He scrambled frantically back as the creature leapt at him with a snarl, claws extended. Luke closed his eyes and held his breath. 

He ripped them open again when he heard a pitiful mewl. The creature was suspended in midair only an arm’s length away from Luke’s neck. Close enough that he could feel its breath on his face. He stared at it in confusion. Had he instinctively used the Force? But a second later a blood red lightsaber burned through the creature and it was thrown to the side, revealing Vader. The Dark Lord disengaged the blade. No longer illuminated by the glowing red lightsaber, he’d be invisible in the darkness if it weren't for the small lights on his chest plate and belt.

He stalked to where Luke lay and caught him by his shirt. “Are you insane?” Vader hissed with deadly fury, shaking him. “You could have been killed. It is a miracle you are still alive. How can you be so foolish and reckless?!” Vader’s voice had risen to a dangerous tone.

Luke grappled against his iron grip. “Ah, let… go.” Vader was angrier than he had yet seen him.

“Once we return to the fleet I should have you lobotomized, because clearly your brain is malfunctioning. Rest assured that I will put an end to your continuous recklessness. You are deliberately endangering yourself. Do you think you are immortal?”

Luke froze at the threat hanging in the air and glared at the towering giant holding him down. “I wasn’t endangering myself. I was running from danger,” he shot back despite his growing fear. Vader was the one injuring and torturing him. The one who’d kill him once he outlived his usefulness. He wasn’t sure if he imagined it, but Vader’s usually even breathing seemed to hitch at his words. Vader didn’t let him go, but he kneeled and started patting him down. Luke glowered. This reminded him painfully of his initial interrogation before he had told the Dark Lord his name. This time Vader was more careful though.

“Are you injured?” Vader asked. Luke stared at him blankly. “Are you?” Vader demanded. Luke shook his head, but he couldn't suppress a wince when Vader touched a rather painful area on his ribs. “What did you do?” Vader asked icily, feeling around his ribcage.

Luke wondered how he had ended up on the defensive yet again. “I…I fell down that slope,” he admitted, nodding vaguely toward the hill. Luke thought for the hundredth time why Vader would even care. Vader let out a particularly long breath which sounded suspiciously like a sigh. 

Once Vader was satisfied Luke didn’t have any more serious injury, he grasped Luke’s arms and pulled him upright. Luke swayed, but Vader held him until he had found his footing. “Can you walk?” Vader asked. Luke nodded. Vader’s hand was still wrapped around one upper arm.

“Come, child,” he said curtly, marching off. Vader pulled on Luke’s arm, causing him to nearly fall over. Vader caught him before he hit the ground, but he did not soften his grip. Luke tried to dig in his heels a couple times, but he was soon forced to admit that he had nothing to gain from his defiance.

It was a difficult and lengthy trek back to the site where Vader’s TIE had crashed. Several of the creatures lay dead in the clearing, most of them much larger than the one that had nearly bitten Luke’s head off.

Vader reached out with his free hand and an object soared into view. Luke looked on mesmerized at this casual demonstration of the Force. He was barely able to lift something and hold it in place, and only if he concentrated with all he had. His awe proved fatal though. The moment he realized what Vader had summoned, the cold and heavy cuff was already clasped around his right wrist. Vader let go of his bicep when the binder closed.

“Ah… no,” Luke tried to move back and rip free, but Vader easily gripped the other half of the binders and foiled him. Luke held his free wrist far away from Vader. He would go down fighting at least. The Dark Lord stared at him and, radiating gleeful amusement at Luke's futile struggling, he snapped the other cuff around his own left wrist. Luke stared incredulous at the binders. “Wh… no,” he gasped.

Vader regarded him for a moment longer then turned and stalked further into the clearing, dragging an unwilling Luke behind him. They stopped where Luke had dropped the cape. Vader picked it up and draped it around Luke. Next to him was a pile of branches Vader must’ve collected earlier.

Vader eased himself to the ground, crossing his legs and pulling Luke down with him. He drew his lightsaber and Luke stiffened in fear. If Vader decided now was the time to continue his interrogation he was nearly as helpless as when he’d been trussed up between his X-Wing and the tree. Vader, however, used the blade to ignite the dried wood and soon a fire was merrily burning, flooding Luke with much needed warmth.

Luke gazed into the flames. How had he ended up in this situation? He sat trapped, shoulder to shoulder with the armored giant. Every time he tried to subtly bring more distance between them, Vader shot his attempt down by quickly pulling him closer again.

“Okay, you’ve made your point. I won’t try it again,” Luke ventured after a while.

Vader turned his masked gaze to him. “You had plenty of chances, young one. I will not let you out of my sight again. I understand your urge to escape but your downright dangerous behavior forces me to restrain you.”

Luke clenched his teeth at Vader’s constant patronizing and belittling terms. But he also felt a twinge of annoyance at himself. He couldn’t deny that his escape attempts so far hadn’t been well thought through. He’d had a very close scrape with that creature, only to be saved by Vader of all people. Luke stared into the flames again and another silence stretched. “What are you going to do with me?” Luke asked quietly, unsure if Vader heard him over the cracking of the fire. Again Vader’s mask turned to face him, the fire reflecting in his helmet’s polished surface. Luke felt awkward under the close scrutiny.

“You should try to sleep, Luke. You had a hard day and you will need your strength,” Vader said eventually, ignoring his question. Luke scowled at being put to bed like a five year old, but again he had to admit Vader was right. He was tired and needed rest if he wanted to withstand Vader. It was against his instincts to let his guard down in such dangerous company, but if Vader wanted to kill him, he’d had plenty of opportunity to do so. That wasn’t in Vader’s plan, for now at least. 

Luke laid down, wrapped in the heavy black cape, trying to find a position that wasn’t too uncomfortable for his bruises. The short cuff binding him to the Dark Lord prevented him from moving away any further, but in the end Luke curled up in something resembling a comfortable position.

He watched into the flames until his tiredness overwhelmed him, pulling him into a surprisingly restful sleep.

+++

The boy was now fast asleep. Vader kept watch to ensure no predators could surprise them during the night. Every time the boy shifted in his sleep the cuff connecting the two would tug Vader’s arm and he was reminded that his son, their son, was sleeping soundly at his father’s side. Just as it was supposed to be. It was the will of the Force that Vader had recognized the child for who he was, before he could inflict more permanent damage by torturing the boy for all he knew.

The child, however, was unaware of their relationship and thus believed himself in mortal danger from his own father. A fear not at all unreasonable. Were he any other rebel, Vader would have disposed of the boy by now. Vader stomped down on his guilt of how harshly he had treated the boy. It was unfortunate they had met in such a way, but it couldn’t be changed now.

Vader needed to tell the boy the truth to stop his increasingly desperate attempts to escape. Then he needed a plan to spirit the boy away, hide him safely among the crew aboard his ship and train the boy until they could take on Sidious together. Only with his Master gone could the boy live in peace.

The Force sang to Vader with promises of power and dominance. But there was also a tendril in the Force that whispered to him of something different. A promise that something of his wife had survived, that the guilt he had lived with for nineteen years had been misplaced. Maybe not all was lost to the void after all.

Luke shifted again, his brow furrowed as if he were experiencing a bad dream. Vader reached with his free hand, brushing away the hair that had fallen in the boy’s face and straightening the cape around him. Vader’s hand skimmed gently over the boy’s features, glowing in the warm light of the campfire’s dancing flames. He traced his eyebrows and the line of his nose. He looked a lot like Vader had, when he was younger, before Kenobi had destroyed his former life. But some of the boy’s features were definitely hers. For nineteen years he had believed everything lost from his former life, but now it seemed that one part of it had survived.

He didn’t know how the boy had been hidden all these years, but he was basically untrained, barely opened to the Force. Secreted away by the Jedi, the boy had found a cause with the rebels and wound up pitted against his own father. His son had turned out to be a formidable pilot and he was brimming with potential in the Force.

He needed to keep the child safe. Safe from his Master, who’d use the child for himself to replace his ailing Apprentice. Safe from the Empire, that would execute the boy as a dangerous terrorist. And safe from the Rebels, who’d surely use him or even kill him once they knew of his parentage. This was Vader’s duty, the most important task he had. The boy was his and his alone, and he would ensure he’d not be taken from him again.

He shifted a little closer to the boy, tugging him firmly under his arm, his resolve strengthened. Luke, without waking up, subconsciously curled into his touch.

Son

+++

Chapter Text

+++

Luke woke up slowly, his back and neck ached and he wondered why he had slept in such an awkward position. Confused, he squinted at the bright blue sky above him. That was odd, why was he sleeping outside… Luke flinched with horrible realization as the events of the past day caught up with him. Vader! He tried to stand up quickly, but something held him back, tugging at his right wrist. He stared, finding the bulk of the Dark Lord sitting cross legged right next to him.

“Ah!” Luke yelled in shock at finding himself in unexpected proximity to the Sith.

Luke frantically tried to push himself away from the armored giant but found he couldn’t. He slumped, realizing he wasn’t going anywhere as he stared at the binders chaining him to his captor. Vader hadn’t moved during Luke’s struggling. He looked to where Luke lied in the grass, panting.

“I trust you are well rested, young one.” Vader addressed him dismissively once he had fallen still. Luke scowled at him. “Good.” He reached over to Luke, who couldn't help but flinch, bringing his free arm up to defend himself, thinking he’d be struck.

Instead of the blow Luke expected there was a sharp click and Luke felt the cuff open. He shook it off, as well as the large swath of black fabric he had been sleeping in. Once free he scooted back from Vader, finally able to bring himself out of the Dark Lord’s immediate grasp. Rubbing his wrist, Luke stared sullenly at Vader, who had his masked gaze fixed on him. An awkward silence hung between them until Vader stretched out his hand to Luke again, holding another ration bar and more water.

Luke glared at him for a moment but then reluctantly accepted them. It wouldn't do him good to refuse to eat or drink. Vader returned his attention to what he’d been working on.

Luke inspected the rations. Again they were clearly of Imperial make, stamped with the Empire’s crest. No surprise there. Vader had ensured Luke’s own supplies were already depleted, but even with Vader sharing his own provisions with him they were bound to run out soon. Luke glanced at Vader from the corner of his eyes. He was busy tinkering with some electronic device lying on the ground in front of him.

So far he hadn't seen Vader either eat or drink anything. Or sleep for that matter. Maybe the rumors were true and Vader was more machine than man or maybe he was running on his hate for rebels alone.

Luke ripped open the water ration, drank it quickly, then opened the ration bar. He took a few bites, wondering what Vader was up to. Vader picked up a multi-tool and a comlink which he wasted no time in systematically taking apart. Luke frowned, wondering what Vader was trying to achieve. With a jolt he recognized the device Vader was now shoving the multi-tool into.

“Tha... that’s my comlink,” Luke stared outraged at Vader.

“Indeed,” Vader answered unperturbed, proceeding to rip off its cover and reveal the wiring underneath.

“Hey, stop that,” Luke flustered.

“It was no longer in working order. And you have no further use for it in any case. Its parts may still be of use to repair mine, so I can direct search crews to our location,” Vader explained without looking up from his work.

Luke scowled at the back of the helmet. For a moment he considered jumping Vader, but in a physical fight he would have little to no hope of success. There was nothing he could do to stop Vader from taking apart his only means of contacting his friends. But he needed to find a way to prevent Vader from informing the Empire where they were. He might not like being stuck here with the Dark Lord, but Luke was sure that things would get much worse once Vader had dragged him back to his fleet. On the other hand, maybe he could use the comlink, once repaired, in a moment when Vader wasn't watching him too closely, to secretly contact Leia or Han to get them to help him out of this impossible situation.

“You will not try to inform your pitiful rebel friends of your location,” Vader broke the silence and Luke’s musings.

Luke tensed, his color draining. Once again he wasn't sure if Vader was able to read his mind or was just shockingly good at guessing what he thought. He hoped it was the latter. “They know where I am, they’ll come anyway,” he said with as much conviction as he could muster. But deep down he had nagging doubts. Vader had thoroughly destroyed his homing beacon, so maybe the others thought his whole snub had gone up in flames.

“Is that so?” Vader replied unimpressed, casually tearing out the wiring inside the comlink. “Most of your squadron had jumped to hyperspace before I engaged you in combat and the remaining fighters were destroyed. Only you remained, and due to the interference in the system you have not been able to communicate with your base. Or whatever dilapidated freighter you launched from. I have chased you through the system, far away from the relay station you were indubitably targeting and you have never been able to activate your homing beacon.”

Luke clenched his teeth at the remark and balled his fists.

“Even if your friends are searching the system planet by planet they are unlikely to find you in time. And if they do,” Vader continued, his attention fully on Luke and his hand touching his lightsaber. Luke tensed. “I will make short work of them. I suggest therefore, that you do not seek to contact them. I will not harm you, but I promise that anyone who tries to take you from me will come to a very quick end,” Vader finished in a dangerous undertone. Luke suppressed a shudder at the possessiveness in his voice.

Vader stared at him a second longer then went back to his work, leaving Luke fuming. But Luke couldn’t deny feeling worried. Maybe it was best none of his friends found him. As much as he wanted to be rescued, he didn’t want anyone to die for him and he had strong doubts that any of them could successfully fight Vader. The thought of his friends falling to Vader’s saber was unbearable.

Luke relaxed, trying to think. Best to get on the other side of this Force forsaken planet and hope the Alliance sent help before Vader could catch up with him again. Maybe there were even settlements on this planet, where he could find aid or a transport. Luke suffered no illusions of his probable fate once he was truly in Imperial hands. Vader knew who he was and what he had done, Vader’s promise to not harm him probably meant little more than a public execution as a traitor and rebel once Vader handed him over.

Shortly after Yavin the Empire had declared a massive alive-only bounty for the capture of the pilot responsible for their superweapon’s destruction. Luke remembered the day well, Rebel High Command had broken the news to him with such grave faces that he thought someone had died. They explained to him the most likely scenario should he be captured. A public execution, after he was stripped of all the intel he possessed. The Imperials wouldn’t go easy on him.

Luke shuddered. He had once seen such an occasion, when a high ranking rebel had been captured by the Empire. He had still lived on Tatooine, which now seemed a lifetime ago. The execution was broadcasted across the galaxy even to the small, decrepit holoreceiver Fixer had in his workshop at Tosche station. He remembered how he felt when the man, beaten and bloodied, was dragged out into an open square and surrounded with cheering spectators to face a firing squad. Luke might soon find out what that unfortunate man’s final moments were like.

Back then, when the news of the bounty had broken, Madine, an ex-Imperial, offered him suicide pills. But Luke had downright refused, appalled by the thought of throwing his life away. Right now he wondered if he shouldn’t have accepted them.

No! Luke shook his head to chase away these dark thoughts. There had to be a way out of this, he just needed to bide his time and seize the opportunity when it presented itself. He had always escaped so far, no matter how dim his situation had looked.

Luke finished his ration bar in silence. Vader set the comlink aside. “We have much to do. Get up,” he ordered, rising to his full height with surprising speed. Vader reattached his cape to his armor then stalked to where Luke sat. He grasped him by the scruff of his neck and pulled him up before Luke could recoil.

“What do you mean?” Luke asked, stretching his aching back and testing Vader’s grip, keen on keeping some space between himself and the Dark Lord. Vader didn’t answer and pulled Luke closer. Luke stumbled and Vader used the moment to quickly slap the binders back onto Luke’s wrists, securing them in front of him.

Luke reared back but it was too late. He glared at Vader, who seemed utterly unimpressed. Vader went for a pouch on his belt, pulling out a thin metal cable and proceeding to wrap it around the binders.

Luke stiffened. By the time the Dark Lord had finished tying the cable to his binders, the other end of the tow cable fixed to Vader’s belt, Luke’s heart had sunk to the planet’s core.

“You’ve got to be kidd…” Luke began incredulously. “There’s no need to - ”

Vader’s finger jumped up to point at his face. “You have proven immature and reckless, boy. While you are still determined to use every opportunity to endanger yourself, I will treat you accordingly until I am convinced that you can be trusted with more freedom. Now come.”

Vader stalked to the edge of the clearing, forcing Luke, still gaping and incensed, to match his brisk pace. Luke chewed over this ridiculous situation. If Wedge or any of the Rogues ever heard of Vader pulling Luke, bound and leashed like a recalcitrant child, through the forest they would never let him live it down. Well, assuming he survived this encounter in the first place.

It was tedious, clambering over the uneven terrain and trudging through the undergrowth, his hands tied together and Vader’s occasional tug on the cable making it even worse. It took Luke a while to accept that stalling didn’t help him and that it was best to stay close to Vader, sometimes walking at his side, sometimes closely behind him. Close enough that the stupid cape kept flapping around Luke’s ankles and he thought more than once about accidentally stepping on it.

The sun was rising fast and despite their path being covered by trees it soon became uncomfortably hot and muggy like the day before. The steady noise of shrill crickets followed their path. Luke started sweating and his attempts to slow down their pace were quickly shot down by Vader. A fleet of bugs and mosquitoes pestered Luke. Time and again he had to wildly shake his head to get them off his face.

Vader never slowed down even when they had to work through thicker undergrowth and Luke had to watch out for snagging branches. Vader seemed entirely unbothered by any of this, but Luke hoped it was boiling hot in that black suit and armor.

+++

They marched in silence through the forest, but the boy’s displeasure at his treatment resonated through the Force. Now and then Vader felt a sharp tug at his belt whenever Luke dug in his heels or stumbled over a root, reminding Vader that his son was at the other side of the short wire. He was not going to endear himself to his offspring by chaining him like this, but the boy’s proclivity to rush headlong into danger didn’t leave him many options.

Vader had spent the night considering the situation while sitting awake, watching their surroundings to ensure nothing stalked up on them. But not even hours of contemplating the best possible course had left him with a good plan on how to break the truth to the boy. He did not wish to jump the true nature of their connection on the boy while he was under so much pressure and fear. And no matter how much he denied it, he himself was still at a loss how to approach the boy. He would wait for an opening to get through to the frightened and angry child.

Yet while the boy remained oblivious he waited to escape, something Vader had to ensure wouldn’t happen. So this only left him with hauling the child through the forest.

“Where are we going?” Luke demanded, once more trying to dig in his heels. Vader turned his head without slowing down the slightest, forcing Luke to scramble a few steps after him to avoid losing his balance.

“We need to prepare for several days of encampment until we can expect the search crews to locate us,” Vader stated. He could feel the boy’s unease at his words. “In order for you to survive it is crucial to acquire a safe water source and adequate sustenance. There is a large body of water west from our current position, where we might find both.”

“Shouldn’t we see if there are any settlements here to - ” Luke broke off and reared back as far as the cable allowed when Vader spun to face him, nearly colliding with his black bulk.

“Precisely how long has Kenobi been teaching you?” he demanded icily.

“What…that’s none of your…” Luke began, but quickly swallowed the rest of the sentence when Vader pointed at his face.

“It is very much my business, young one, seeing that you cannot even discover that there are no other sentients anywhere on this planet. So, out with it,” he demanded again.

Luke’s nostrils flared and his face was flushed. “He trained me for a few hours!” he basically shouted back. “He didn't get to teach me to do something like that because you killed him before he could.”

Vader stared. He couldn't detect a lie and yet, despite the boy being clearly ill trained, it defied logic that Kenobi, who seemed to have always had access to his son, never thought to train the boy. “Do you mean he did not train you before he convinced you to embark on your childish mission to free the princess?”

The boy’s eyes narrowed but he gave a sharp nod. “I see,” Vader answered, calming his voice. “I will see this blunder rectified then.”

“Wha - you will not train me.”

“Do you not wish to learn about the Force and how to wield it? Your potential requires, no, begs training. It is outrageous that your talent has been wasted.”

Luke flustered, his mouth open as he seemed to search for a curse to hurl at Vader. “Never. Not from you. You have no right to say that!” Luke shouted, his eyes flashing. “You killed my father, you killed Ben, I will never let you train me in your twisted Dark Side.”

“The Dark Side, the Light Side. I see Kenobi chose to waste the few hours he had by teaching you the basics needed to fill your head with Jedi indoctrinations.”

Luke’s mouth snapped closed and he glared at Vader.

“So tell me, boy. What do you know about the Jedi?”

Luke straightened. “My father was a Jedi, and so were you until you betrayed and murdered him.”

“Is that what Kenobi told you?” Vader asked. The boy tried to shut down, biting his tongue, clearly fearing he had revealed too much. “So you wish to be like your father? I can arrange that.”

Vader was surprised at the intense angry flare he felt from the boy, deciding it was best not to press this right now. Kenobi had done his best to make sure the boy would see him as his personal enemy.

“There is no Light or Dark side. There is only one Force, young one. Now come.” He finished and whirled around, startling the boy out of his ire and into the more pressing issue of keeping up. He would give the boy some time to let his words sink in before challenging his perception of his father once more. The boy seemed to idolize his father, aspiring to follow in his footsteps, unaware how literally he was already doing it.

+++

They walked for a good two hours through patches of forest and grassy clearings until a sharp tug on his belt, the first in some time after Luke had given up fighting, made Vader focus on the boy.

“Can we… please… have a break?” the boy wheezed. Vader turned around. The boy stumbled, moving by sheer momentum and ended up running head first into him. Vader smiled behind his mask, amused, and caught the boy’s arms to steady him. Luke realized what exactly had braced him and he jumped back as far as the wire allowed.

Vader sighed. Still fearful then.

Panting, Luke regarded him warily. Vader reached out with the Force to assess the boy’s condition, surprised by the boy’s exhaustion. Luke had overexerted himself trying to keep up with Vader, still affected by the injuries and bruises from his crash landing. Vader berated himself. He should have seen this coming. It was not far to their destination, but Luke clearly needed to rest.

“Very well,” Vader eventually replied. Luke didn't waste any time and flopped down onto the grass to finally catch some much needed breath. They were at the edge of a field, within the shadows of the trees. Vader took out the last remaining water ration from his belt. With a wave of his hand the cuffs binding the boy’s wrists together fell away. Luke blinked in surprise and shook them off. Vader held out the water ration. It was a testament to the boy’s exhaustion that he just mutely accepted the water. Vader stepped back to give the boy space.

+++

 Luke slowly sipped the water, staring into the knee high grass rustling in the soft, warm breeze. He stretched out his legs, cherishing being able to sit down after the strenuous march. It seemed unlike Vader to grant him a break, but then Luke was sure he would have soon fallen face first into the dirt from exhaustion had they not stopped. Luke huffed thinking about it. Perhaps Vader wouldn’t even notice if he dragged him along.

 “Come. It is not much further,” Vader announced, interrupting his musings. Luke didn't feel like arguing. He clambered to his feet, ignoring the outstretched hand from Vader. Vader looked him up and down as if measuring him. “Will you be compliant or do I need to restrain you again?” Vader asked, stepping closer with the cursed pair of cuffs.

“No,” Luke replied hastily, taking a step back and bringing his hands behind his back to make it a little harder for Vader. “I won’t run.”

Vader hesitated. He tucked the cuffs behind his belt. “Very well, I will take your word for it, young one. Be warned, if you give me another reason to doubt your sincerity I will keep you on a very short leash.”

Luke scowled, but for now he probably shouldn't test Vader. So he nodded briefly and when Vader resumed walking, he followed. He was sure Vader was keeping tabs on how far Luke was from him, but they moved slower now, which was oddly nice of him.

Side by side they went up a narrow hill. When they reached the top Luke had to marvel at the view. A huge lake, sparkling like a sapphire jewel, stretched out below their feet. Trees and hills surrounded its shore as far as Luke could see. To their left the lake flowed into a river. In the distance behind it, high mountains rose into the sky.

Luke had seen pictures of lakes and oceans and in his short time with the Alliance he had come across a few smaller bodies of water. But this view left him stunned by its sheer beauty and vastness.

A hand touched his back and he was reminded of his dangerous company.

“Come,” Vader said, not commenting on Luke’s reaction. They walked down to the shore where the lake streamed into the rushing river, pebbles crunching with each step. Their arrival disturbed a flock of tiny yellow birds from the scraggy bushes. They flew up, chirping protests. Luke stared after them longingly, wishing he could fly away just the same.

Vader ordered him to sit down and while Luke did not like to be ordered around by the man he was glad to be able to rest some more. Who knew what Vader had planned next? He slumped onto the trunk of a fallen tree that must have washed up on the shore and Luke stared out onto the lake.

In his black armor and cape the Dark Lord looked thoroughly out of place in this beautiful and tranquil landscape. Vader bent down and filled a container with the lake’s water. He dropped a purification pill into it and handed over the container. “Wait until it has fully dissolved, then you may drink it.”

Luke accepted the container with raised eyebrows. He watched the pill slowly dissolve then tried a sip. It tasted good, cool and fresh. From the corner of his eye he could see Vader, staying close by.

There was a sudden movement on the water. In the distance a fish jumped up, silvery scales flashing in the sunlight, before plunging back into the lake.

“A fish,” Luke said, excited. His smile faded. “Too bad we don’t have fishing rods or something like that.”

Vader stared at him. Luke winced. Under his scrutiny, Vader made him feel self-conscious and inadequate, like a deformed amoeba under a microscope.

Vader slowly faced the lake and raised a hand, fingers spread. Luke watched him with a deep frown. For a long moment nothing happened and Luke was about to ask Vader about this strange behavior. But then a fish, twitching and thrashing, broke through the surface. Instead of falling back into the water it rose higher until it hung suspended in the air. Luke gaped. The fish began to gracefully soar toward them until it landed, still thrashing madly, on the pebbles next to Luke.

Luke was amazed at this casual demonstration of the Force. “But… but that’s cheating,” Luke mumbled, eying the twitching fish with some disgust and ignoring the snorting noise that came from Vader.

The Dark Lord focused on the lake again. Luke let his eyes travel. He stared at the other side of the river. An idea was forming. He was pretty sure Vader couldn’t swim because of his respirator, probably shouldn't even get it too wet. Well Luke couldn't swim either, technically, but he had seen it done on the holonet and it didn’t look that complicated.

If he managed to get to the other side of the river he’d have a massive head start on Vader, who would have to find a place to cross or circle the whole lake. Maybe this was it, his only decent chance to get away from this ridiculous nightmare before Vader broke out those binders again. His decision made, Luke glanced once at Vader, who seemed distracted by whatever fish he was now summoning. But Luke was sure his window of opportunity was small.

Luke jumped up and sprinted to the river. As he leaped he thought he could hear Vader shout behind him but the gurgle of the river drowned out the words. Head first, Luke plunged into the cold water.

He did his best to kick and stroke with his arms but he wasn't making as much progress as he liked. Within moments his flight suit was waterlogged. Nine hells, it was heavy and pulling him down. Luke kicked harder but instead of getting closer to the shore the current pulled him swiftly away from where he had jumped in. This also took him further from Vader, but it was somewhat frightening how fast the river was running.

Distantly he thought he heard his name. Before Luke knew it his head went under and water rushed into his open mouth. He fought and managed to get his head up again but he could only sputter and draw a breath, then he was pulled back under.

It dawned on him how serious his situation was. Adrenaline spiked and his heartbeat hammered loud in his ears. He felt heavier and heavier, like a concrete block was chained to his legs and dragging him down. Luke kicked desperately to the surface and his head bobbed up. He gulped down air. He wanted to call for help even if Vader was the only one that could hear or aid him. But before he could clear his lungs and gather his voice, Luke became aware of a large rock in the middle of the river, and he was being swept to it with terrifying speed. He scrunched his eyes, bracing for the impact, sure this was the end.

+++

Luke’s eyelids fluttered. The sunlight was painfully bright and he scrunched his eyes shut again. He tried to move his hands but they wouldn’t obey his command. So, he must be dead. The thought filtered through his brain but it was cut short by the violent cough that shook him.

Strong hands gripped his shoulders, turning him to the side so he could cough out the water he’d swallowed. Finally Luke managed to open his eyes. He was dripping wet and lying on a boulder. The river rushed past nearby. How had he gotten here? Luke frowned. Well, the answer must be Vader. He was kneeling at Luke’s side, his hands holding him firmly while he was coughing.

Luke finally caught his breath and Vader put him flat on his back. Luke peered up, dreading what Vader would do to him after his latest escape attempt. The mask was tilted down and he thought he sensed the Dark Lord’s eyes on him. Nothing was said. The only noise was the churning river, so loud that not even the mechanical rasp of Vader’s breathing could be heard.

In a blink, Vader reached for him again. Luke tensed. A moment later he was pulled into a crushing embrace. He found himself tightly pressed against Vader’s hard armor, his arms trapped and only barely able to see over Vader’s shoulder.

“Don’t you ever dare do something as stupid as that again, little one,” Vader’s deep voice vibrated through Luke’s whole body. “I nearly lost you.”

+++

Chapter Text

+++

Luke was being held by Lord Vader. By the Dark Lord of the Sith. Was Luke still unconscious and this was some bizarre dream? He was so tightly pressed against Vader’s armored chest that his mechanical breathing vibrated through Luke’s body. The Empire’s second-in-command was not behaving how he should be at finally getting his hands on the relentlessly hunted Death Star pilot. Not at all. Shocked into silence, Luke stared with wide eyes over Vader’s shoulder and into the foliage.

When Vader made no move to let him go, Luke wiggled to see if he could get out of his hold. Vader let go of him as abruptly as he had picked him up.

A shiver ran through Luke and he was uncertain why. Vader only stared down at him as an awkwardness hung between them.

“I will ensure that you do not try something so abysmally stupid, ever again,” Vader said, sounding much more like himself now.

Luke opened his mouth to defend himself but he clapped it shut when Vader pointed his finger at him.

“I am not done with you yet,” Vader said. “Now come.”

Luke winced at the sharp tone, dreading returning to him. Vader had promised dire consequences for his resistance more than once. Still, he didn’t object when Vader took firm hold of his flight suit and pulled him up. Luke looked around. It seemed the strong current had pulled him far from the spot where he had foolishly jumped in.

A fast move of Vader’s made Luke tense. Vader closed in on him, hooking his arm around Luke waist. Before he could even think of moving away or protesting Luke was hoisted over Vader’s shoulder. A grunt escaped him when the hard armor dug uncomfortably into his stomach. Vader wasted no time and marched off at a brisk pace. 

“I can walk,” Luke protested weakly when showed Vader no intention of letting him back down. But Vader didn’t even acknowledge him. Indignant, Luke twisted and tested the grip, but Vader’s hold on him merely tightened. Luke gave up, he felt too drained to fight back. It was easier just to slump into a half comfortable position, though he was sure that he didn’t look very dignified, hanging over Vader’s shoulder like a roll of wet rags. He stared down at the cape cascading to the ground, just as dripping wet as his own clothes and making Luke wonder how exactly Vader had managed to save him from the raging river.

At least he had the comfort of knowing no one else could see him right now. The Rogues would surely be torn between horror and dying from laughter if they ever found out about Vader carrying him around like a ragdoll.

The path seemed difficult to traverse, more than once Vader needed to climb over larger rocks blocking their path. After a long hike they arrived back at the lake’s shore, close to the spot where he had jumped in. Vader loosened his hold so Luke slid off his shoulder and dropped down onto the washed out pebbles. Luke only had time to orientate himself before Vader rounded on him. 

“Take off your flight suit,” he demanded and Luke blinked at the strange request.

“What… why?” he tried to take a few steps backward, but Vader quickly caught him by his arm again.

“Your suit is wet and you will easily catch a virus if you keep it on. Now take it off or I will do it for you.”

Luke floundered. Vader pulled him closer and Luke held his hand up. “Okay, okay. I’ll do it,” he rushed. Vader didn’t seem to be in a joking mood. He meant business.

Vader released him and Luke sat down on the pebbles to take off his boots. He upended them and water splashed out in a small waterfall. Maybe it was for the best that he let his stuff dry while the sun was high, as he knew how cold the night would be.

The sun gleamed with golden warmth, and after the long shady hike in his wet clothing Luke wanted to lie down and bask in it. Vader tapped his boot impatiently. Luke sped up, unwilling to risk Vader making good on his promise. He unzipped his flight suit and was left sitting in only his undershirt and shorts. Luke grimaced, feeling quite self-conscious. Especially as Vader did not bother to give him any privacy.

The second he was done Vader snatched out his hand and gripped Luke’s undershirt. Luke tried to rear back but once again he was not quick enough to evade the Dark Lord. Vader hauled him up and dragged him over to where the shore was lined by several little trees. Pushing Luke to the ground, Vader planted himself in a way that promised a dressing down. He raised his finger at him menacingly. Luke braced himself.

What were you thinking?” Vader growled and Luke suppressed a shudder.

"I won't do it again," he tried, painfully aware how feeble his voice was.

"Of course you will not do it again," Vader snapped. “I will put an end to your continuous attempts to escape. You will never do something so dangerous, so reckless, so stupid ever again,” he promised, his finger stabbing the air to punctuate his anger. “You will immediately cease trying to get yourself killed,” Vader continued.

Luke winced. “I didn't try to kill myself! I… I just wanted to get away,” he tried to defend himself, once more wondering how he kept ending up on the receiving end of Vader’s lectures.

“By jumping into a river?”

“I thought I could - ”

“Can you even swim?” Vader demanded icily.

Luke bit his lip, feeling stupid, before he shook his head, embarrassed. Vader balled his hands into fists. Luke stiffened. Vader stared up at the sky as if using all his might to keep himself from snapping. He straightened suddenly and pointed at him again. “You will stay put. If you so much as move, I will incapacitate you permanently.”

Without waiting for Luke’s reply Vader turned and strode a few steps away from him. Luke eyed him cautiously. For now he probably shouldn’t test Vader’s patience by trying anything. Considering where his last escape had gotten him maybe it was better to rest. For a while, Vader merely stared out onto the lake, perhaps debating what punishment was proper for Luke’s defiance.

Luke kept his eyes glued to him, wary of his next move. In this peaceful and tranquil landscape the black form of Vader looked very much out of place. Not for the first time Luke asked himself how a standard mission with the Alliance had gone this far south. The Force, if it had guided him here, must have a wicked sense of humor.

Vader turned sharply. Luke sucked in a nervous breath when he strode with large purposeful steps toward him, radiating renewed resolve.

Luke stiffened as Vader crouched down in front him. He avoided meeting his masked gaze. He was dreading what would follow, Vader’s stern warning about how he would stop him from escaping once and for all was still fresh in his mind. For a long time Vader seemed to study his face.

“I did not think I would…that I could…” Luke began, before Vader could resume his earlier lecture, but he broke off. It was a meek defense and he couldn’t even bring himself to finish. His blood ran cold every time he thought about how close he had come to drowning. Despite that he was still at Vader’s mercy, he really didn’t want to die.

“Perhaps you did not,” he said eventually, his voice softer than before. Luke looked back at the dreaded mask, surprised at his tone. Vader’s eye lenses remained unwaveringly fixed on him.

“Obi-Wan has lied to you, young one.”

Luke blinked. Of all the things Vader could’ve possibly said, Luke had not expected this. He narrowed his eyes and set his jaw defiantly. Vader was probably trying to get under his skin by ridiculing his training once more. But his next words brought Luke’s thoughts to a screeching halt.

“I did not kill your father, Luke. Your father is not dead.”

The ground tilted. Wide eyed Luke stared up at the mask, so close to his own face. The Force seemed to be whispering but it was hard to concentrate on it over Vader’s overbearing presence. This was stupid, of course his father dead. His aunt and uncle had told him. Even Ben had confirmed it.

“I am your father.”

Luke blinked, sure he must have misheard. But Vader didn’t take back what he had said and seemed to be waiting for his reaction. His heart had stopped beating.

“… n-no, you’re lying.” he stammered, more to himself than to Vader. He turned his eyes away from Vader’s impassive visor. His mouth was dry. This was ridiculous, so obviously a lie, and yet the Force was humming in anticipation, waiting to see how he’d react. ”You can't be… Ben said… No! He said y... you killed my father.”

Large gloved hands reached for his shoulders. Luke twitched back involuntarily. He shook his head, still avoiding Vader’s gaze. “You can't be,” he whispered.

”I thought you unborn, dead in your mother's womb. I did not know of you until you told me the lightsaber you carried was your father’s."

Luke felt like he was paralyzed as he stared up at the man, unable to look the other way.

“Search your feelings,” Vader urged him. Luke shook his head. It couldn't be true, it just couldn't be. Tears were welling up in his eyes and his breathing was quickening. He tried to edge back but the firm grip on his shoulders prevented it.

+++

The boy looked like he was half ready to attack him and half ready to run. Vader kept his hands firmly on Luke’s small trembling shoulders. The boy grasped his hands with his own much smaller ones to pry them loose, but he ended up holding onto them like a lifeline, an anchor to guide him through the storm. Vader cautiously reached out through the Force to gauge the boy’s emotional maelstrom. He never stopped muttering meaningless denials, yet Vader could sense a muted spark of curiosity and hope behind them. Hope that he was speaking the truth and that his father was indeed alive.

“Reach out with your feelings,” Vader instructed him again, and despite the boy still shaking his head Vader could sense that he did.

Vader too reached out through the Force. He lowered his own heavy shields, and, holding nothing back, shared his own thoughts and feelings with the boy. Luke had only received a bare minimum of tutelage from the cursed Kenobi, but he already had a strong hold on the Force far exceeding his training. It seemed enough for him to feel the truth ringing clear in the Force. The boy’s breathing hitched and he closed his eyes when he felt the irrefutable truth in his words.

“Ben… why?” The boy’s voice was a mere whisper, laced with pain and hopelessness.

“Luke, listen to me…” Vader pressed again. The boy’s head snapped back up. He looked at Vader with desperation.

“J…just leave me alone… please.”

Vader regarded the boy. It was a delicate balance between making his son understand and yet to give him the chance to process this new truth and come to fully accept it. It would be best if he gave his son a moment to himself. There was a risk he’d bolt again but Vader could not sense any desire to escape, just fatigue and defeat. The revelation had truly overwhelmed and exhausted the boy, shattering everything he thought he had known.

He released the boy’s shoulders and rose. Shakily, Luke got to his feet as well and staggered a few steps away from Vader. Luke slowly walked to where the water was gently tapping against the pebbles, the murmur an ever present noise in the background. Vader reached for the Force, the Dark Side fueled by his worry and anger at how close he had come to losing his child mere days after finding him, ready to unleash it should the boy change his mind and run. Luke took in his surroundings with haunted looks. Vader stretched out his hand, gathering the tendrils of the Force, ready to seize the boy. But then Luke fell to his knees, head bent. A sob shook his body.

It took all of Vader’s willpower not to go to him. But Vader couldn’t stop himself from keeping his eyes on the boy’s small form.

Vader interrupted his own musings. It was getting late. There were other issues he had to deal with. Luke’s rescue had cost them valuable time and it was too late for them to return to their camp before sunset.

Vader looked around to locate a suitable spot where they could spend the night and began preparations.

+++

Luke knelt on the shore, watching the sun setting behind the trees lining the far side of the lake. The sky was painted in fierce reds and orange, setting the landscape afire. Occasionally he heard Vader moving behind him. He was grateful to be left alone for once. Still, he was sure that Vader was closely watching him.

Luke huffed at how desperately he had tried to escape mere hours before. What was the point? There was nowhere he could go, nowhere he could turn to and escape the horrible truth he had just learned. Vader was his father. The thought made him feel empty and strangely drifting, like when he had discovered his dead aunt and uncle. His purpose and place in life was once more taken from him. He longed to deny it, to continue to believe what Obi-Wan had told him. But he couldn’t. He had clearly felt it in the Force and in the familiarity of Vader’s presence.

He remained kneeling until the sun finally set. Luke took a deep breath. He had stalled long enough and his legs were numb. Luke rose with a sigh, stretching. He looked back to where Vader had set up their camp for the night. Vader sat cross-legged next to a campfire. His mask angled to him, but he looked away quickly and busied himself with the stacked wood to his side.

Luke hesitantly walked closer. Vader didn’t comment on the time Luke had spent brooding, he didn’t say anything at all. The fish Vader had caught earlier with such annoying ease was skewed on a stick, slowly roasting over the flames. The temperature was dropping. Luckily his suit had dried well and he put it back on, grimacing at the hole it sported at the knee. His excursions had taken their toll while Vader was still irritatingly immaculate, as if all the troubles in the wilderness couldn’t even dirty his boot.

Luke dropped next to the fire, as far away as he could get from Vader, and stared into the dancing flames. They sat in silence, but every now and then Luke’s eyes were inadvertently drawn to Vader. How could the Dark Lord ever replace who Luke had thought Anakin Skywalker had been? He had daydreamed about his father. He had pictured him as a cunning and daring spacer, who had shared Luke’s love for flying. And while his features in Luke’s dreams had always been obscured, he had been strangely certain his father had shared his bright blue eyes.

Then Ben had told him that his father had been a Jedi Knight, a fighter and protector of peace in the galaxy, only to be betrayed and murdered by Vader. From that day on, after the celebration on Yavin IV was over and Luke had slumped into a bunk aboard a rebel vessel going to a new base, he had dreamed of becoming like his father. To learn about the Force, to become a Jedi himself. And avenge his father one day. Only a day ago, he had even thrown it in Vader’s face.

It all made horrible sense now; Vader’s strangely caring and careful behavior, his determination to keep Luke close at all times and his anger at Luke’s escape attempts that would’ve cost his life if not for Vader. But he couldn’t forget the sheer terror when he had awoken, tied up and at the mercy of Vader. How he’d pressed Luke for information, exploiting his helplessness. Had Vader known all along he was his son?

“You…” Luke broke off hesitantly, before he took heart and began anew. He had to know. “You didn’t know who I was before?” 

Vader turned his head, and despite his unease Luke met the impassive gaze head on. 

“I did not,” he replied. “The lightsaber you were carrying, it was once mine. I lost it to Kenobi in a duel. When you gave me your name there could be no doubt. You are my son.”

Luke suppressed a shudder. He had longed to hear his father call him son, but Vader’s voice, deep and rumbling through the vocoder, was full of possessive claim. It made Luke’s hair stand on end. At least this meant that Vader hadn't known when he had shot him down and interrogated him.

“What would you have done, if I hadn't told you my name?” Luke asked.

Vader regarded him briefly before turning away again. He did not answer and it dawned on Luke that he’d had a close scrape indeed. He didn't want to think about what would’ve happened if he hadn't given his name.

“It was the will of the Force,” Vader said eventually. “There is nothing to fear, Luke. I will now protect you from anyone meaning you harm.”

Luke shivered. And it wasn’t because of the chill skimming over the lake.

+++

The boy was sleeping. His Force presence resonated strongly, but its cloudy vagueness indicated Luke was lost to dreams. He lay curled up by the fire, his back to Vader and as far away as possible from where he sat. Yet it was a victory that he had acquiesced to sleep in his company.

When Vader had suggested he lay down to rest his son had radiated renewed mistrust. He was obviously near convinced he’d wake up in cuffs again despite Vader’s promises to the contrary. But even his wary son had understood that he needed sleep to regain his strength.

Vader watched him just as he had the night before. The boy’s blond mop obscured his face, but in the glow from the fire he could see the steady rise and fall of his side as he peacefully slumbered.

Vader tore his gaze from his young son, staring out into the surrounding darkness. He gathered the Force and reached out. He could feel a myriad of life forms around them, none of them aggressive. It seemed that for tonight the planet’s more predatory natives would leave them alone. But he remained vigilant. He had come too far with his son to lose him now.

Luke had taken the truth reasonably well, though Vader suspected his current compliance was not only due to his acceptance of his parentage but also due to his exhaustion. Vader was still angry over the boy’s recklessness. Twice already the child had been all too ready to throw his life away with frantic escapes that were bound to fail. But he shouldn't blame his son. It was Kenobi’s fault, he had fed the boy disgraceful lies, leading him to believe he was in mortal danger from his own father. It was no wonder Luke had acted the way he did. Yet whether the boy liked it or not, Luke was his son and he would have to get used it.

Vader raised his gaze to the night sky. The dusting of white stars were now hidden by churning clouds. A flash of lightning forked and tore through the darkness for a split second. Thunder rumbled and rolled across the lake, threatening rain. Luke didn’t even stir.

+++

This was it, he was going to die. The roar of the water was becoming louder and louder until nothing else could be heard. This time it would be too late. He would drown. He kicked and clawed to reach the surface. He held his breath until it burned and his head was pounding. But the surface remained unreachable and he only sank deeper into cold darkness. Redness was seeping into his vision. Luke couldn’t resist anymore and had to suck in a breath. Instead of blessed oxygen he swallowed water and filled up his lungs. He made one more desperate bid for the surface, to break through and call for help…

Luke woke with a start and sat up, panting. He cherished the feeling of being able to breathe in the cool night air. He looked around. For a few breaths he remained disorientated until sleep finally left him. He was still by the lake. A heavy rain had set in, the water pouring down. It seemed this was the reason for his vivid nightmare.

Luke blinked into the cascading rain, wondering why he wasn't soaked. He looked up. Supported by tree branches at one end and propped up at the other by two long sticks driven into the ground, the black fabric of Vader’s cape was like a canopy above him, sheltering him from the heavy rain.

“You should try to sleep some more, young one,” Vader said from behind him and Luke flinched despite himself.

He turned around to find Vader sitting cross-legged behind him, the mask tilted down towards him. “You are awake,” Luke stated before he realized how stupid it sounded. He sat up completely, turning around to face Vader. “Don’t you ever sleep?”

Vader regarded him for a moment. “I rarely have the need to sleep, for those attuned to the Force meditation provides all the rest needed.” Luke frowned at that explanation. Meditation as a substitute for sleep didn’t sound healthy. “Besides, it is necessary for me to keep watch during the night,” Vader finished.

Privately Luke thought Vader meant that he needed to ensure Luke wouldn’t run again. He couldn’t blame Vader for being skeptical about his promise, he had grasped at every chance to escape no matter how slim the possibility of success had been.

The rain had chilled the air and Luke shivered. The fire had burned down to glowing embers, but still radiated comforting warmth. Luke shifted closer to it even though it also brought him closer to where Vader was. He let his chin drop to his knees, hugging them with his arms in an effort to keep warm, and stared into the distance. The amount of water pouring down was truly amazing. Nearly a year off Tatooine, and he hadn't gotten used to this spectacle.

“I never knew that it could rain like this,” Luke said thoughtfully. His words were drowned out by the rain and he was unsure if Vader had heard.

“Where did you grow up?” Vader said eventually, sounding interested.

Luke bit his lip, uncertain how much Vader knew or guessed about him. But then, there was no harm in telling him this. “On Tatooine.”

Vader seemed to digest this. “Did Obi-Wan raise you?”

“No, I barely knew him,” Luke shook his head. “My aunt and uncle, Beru and Owen Lars, they were my guardians, until…” Luke trailed off, a lump in his throat.

“I see,” Vader replied vaguely. “Then how did you end up in his company?”

“I...” Luke broke off and looked down, debating whether to answer. He took a deep breath, staring into the dying embers. “We lived on a small moisture farm. One day we accidentally wound up with... with the droids that contained the Death Star plans.” He stopped again. Thinking back to the day he lost his aunt and uncle and his former life, no matter how much he had hated it at times, was painful. Vader waited until Luke found his voice again.

“One of the droids left the farm in search of Ben because Leia had sent him there. I followed to get him back and got attacked by Sand People. Ben rescued me and told me about my fa… that you killed my father. He asked me if I could drive him to Mos Eisley, but on the way we found that the Empire had killed the Jawas we bought the droids from. I went home to warn my aunt and uncle, but I… I was too late.” Luke swallowed, the burning farm and the remains of his guardians was an image imprinted onto his brain, and in so many sleepless nights he had gone over it again and again.

“I… I returned to Ben, I had nowhere else to go,” Luke finally continued when he was sure his voice wouldn’t break. He didn't know why he opened up to Vader so easily, he had only ever told Han and Leia the full story, but it felt right somehow. “He hired a freighter to take us to Alderaan, but it was gone when we arrived and…”

Luke looked away from Vader, not wanting him to see his pain. He blinked his eyes rapidly to stop the tears that were welling up and heaved in a deep breath.

“I see. Do you miss your guardians?”

Luke kept his head stubbornly down but gave a short nod.

“It is regrettable they died,” Vader said after a moment. He placed a hand on Luke’s shoulder and squeezed. Luke did not look up, ashamed of the tears that had slipped from his eyes, but for once Vader’s touch didn’t fill him with fear or anger.

Luke looked back into the smoldering fire, his mind drifting over the events of the past days.

“You should go back to sleep,” Vader said unexpectedly, breaking the silence. He gave him a small pat, dragging Luke from his thoughts.

Luke grimaced. He didn’t really want to, he had so many questions of his own. But he was more tired than he would admit to himself. Maybe it was best to just deal with everything he had learned in the morning. He shifted a little closer to the fire and lay down, trying to find a comfortable position. But before he could drift off to sleep a thought occurred.

“Thanks…” he mumbled. “For rescuing me.”

It was a while before Vader answered.

“I will not let you die, Luke.”

+++

Chapter Text

+++

The sun was shining brightly into Luke’s face, its rays creeping under his eyelids and pulling him from his deep slumber. Luke turned around with a small groan, putting his arm across his eyes to block out the annoying light. It was surely way too early to get up and Luke tried to reach the peaceful folds of slumber again. Despite his wish to go back to sleep a low gurgle of water was penetrating his ears, waking him up fully now and his still slow-moving brain began connecting the dots and the events of the past days came back to him.

Luke blinked the sleep from his eyes and pushed himself to his elbows to take a look around. He was still on the edge of the shore where they had camped the night, next to the burned down remains of the fire. The heavy rain of the night had passed and the sun was again shining brightly from the blue sky above making him squint. A rustle of fabric over him made Luke look up, spotting the canopy of the black cloth of Vader’s cape moving slightly in the fresh morning breeze that blew to him over the lake. The water of the lake was glistening in the early morning sun, blinding Luke.

Luke groaned and flopped back down, memories now fully returning to him of the dramatic events of the day before and the horrible truth he had been told. Vader was his father. He wished he could convince himself that this was all a lie, but the Force had rung undeniably true with Vader’s words and he knew if he refused to accept it or not, it wouldn’t change anything.

What should he do now? Half of him still wanted to get away, it was practically his duty to do so, yet he couldn’t deny the muted wish to get to know his father. Didn’t he owe that to him? He felt like he was betraying his own endless childhood dreams and hopes of his father one day finding him and closing him into his arms. Now that his dream had come true, only in this twisted way, he felt guilty for wishing it wasn’t true. And really what did he know about Vader for sure? All Ben had told him had been a lie and while with the Alliance he had heard hushed stories, some surely blatantly exaggerated, by the pilot’s who told them in the barracks to scare newbies.

Yet how could he be sure that Vader didn’t mean him harm, especially when he’d refuse to join the Dark Side. He has done nothing but to save you, a small voice in his head said. It was you who nearly killed yourself twice. Luke sat up and shook his head to clear his mind off the memories of his near fatal accident, leaving a hollow feeling in his stomach. Besides, all his musings wouldn’t lead him anywhere. He would have to wait and see what Vader would do.

Talking of Vader, where was he? The spot on the other side of the fireplace Vader had been sitting in the night was vacated, but it was hard to believe that Vader would have left him alone and unwatched, even after their nightly talk. Luke winced in embarrassment when he thought of how emotional he had gotten, he couldn’t imagine Vader to be someone who would appreciate such a display of feelings. Luke let his gaze travel down the shore. He spotted the black form on a bench of washed up pebbles some distance away.

Luke watched him, the familiar form still managed to make Luke feel deeply uneasy despite their claimed family connection. Besides Luke wouldn’t be the first rebel with family ties into the Empire and none of those fathers had seemed overly concerned about disowning their sons and daughters for picking up the mantle of the rebellion. Why should Vader of all people be any different?

Luke got to his feet, stretching his arms and legs. After sleeping outside for two nights straight on uneven ground and still sore from his crash landing, Luke found himself craving sleeping in his own comfortable bunk again. He threw another look over to where Vader stood, his hand was now extended toward the lake like he had done yesterday when he had been fishing. Luke took a deep breath, there was nothing for it, he would need to remain cautious, but he couldn’t evade Vader either.

He set off down the narrow beach to where Vader was. He stopped right behind him, staying a cautious distance away. Luke was unsure how he should announce himself. Vader seemed too formal, yet father seemed not quite right either. He was still busy debating with himself what to say, when Vader beat him to it.

“I see you are awake,” he remarked, his head only turning a little acknowledging Luke, before he returned again to the task at hand. He stretched out his arm toward the lake and a few moments later a twitching fish broke the calm surface of the water. Like yesterday it moved through air on a direct line to them where it dropped on the ground on top of where another fish was already lying, glistening in the sun.

Luke had watched the performance with the same fascination as he had yesterday and had to jump back a step to avoid the fish landing on his feet.

“How do you do that? You can’t see them under the surface, so how do you get a hold on them?” he burst out, before he had really made up his mind if he wanted to ask Vader the question that was burning on his mind. Vader turned around to face him.

“You wish to learn, then?”

Luke cringed. He could still very well remember how he had shouted at Vader just yesterday that he would never let him train him. But Vader was his father and he was maybe the last living Force user left in the galaxy. Ever since Kenobi had died, Luke had tried in vain to find someone able to teach him about the Force. But other than some Alliance veterans telling him about how the galaxy was when there still had been droves of Jedi roaming around and fighting on the front lines of the Clone Wars, he had been unable to find anyone knowing something that could help Luke advance in his training.

“Not of the Dark Side,” Luke said, crossing his arms defiantly.

“I told you there is no such distinction between a Light and a Dark Side. There is only one Force.”

Luke looked doubtfully up at the impassive mask. But before he could open his mouth again to voice his qualms, Vader interrupted him.

“Do not be ridiculous, son. Any half-trained Jedi learner could perform such a feat,” Vader said with a hint of impatience in his voice. He stretched out his hand towards him beckoning Luke to step closer.

Luke blinked him in surprise at how casual Vader called him son. It would surely take him a long while to get truly used to this. He took a step closer to Vader, who didn’t waste time to briskly pulled him closer as soon as Luke was within reach.

Luke’s nerves fluttered at being in such proximity. Despite Vader’s assurances that he wouldn’t hurt him and with last night’s events still fresh on his mind, Luke couldn’t help but still feel nervous so close around Vader. Nor could he shake the memories of their first terrifying encounter when he had come round after the crash. Vader let go of his arm quickly as if he had sensed Luke’s discomfort. Luke didn’t retreat, determined not to be a coward, despite his discomfort at having the Dark Lord at his back

“Very well, close your eyes and concentrate on the Force. Let it fill you and guide you.”

Luke squared his shoulders. He closed his eyes reaching for the Force, its beckoning folds as usual lingering just at the edge of his mind. He focused on them. They eagerly responded to his call, coming closer and filling his presence with their calming light. Ever since he had first felt the Force flow, guided by Ben, Luke had come to greatly enjoy the soothing universal energy.

“Good,” Vader said behind him, his dark voice seemed to reverberate through Luke. “Now reach out with your feelings, become aware of your surroundings. Find the signatures of the beings around you and concentrate on them.”

Luke frowned but he tried to follow the instructions, even though they were very vague. Well, so had Ben’s been, maybe every Force user adopted convoluted and cryptic teachings. First all he could feel was Vader, his presence overwhelmingly strong and so close it seemed to extinguish anything else. Luke squeezed his eyes shut in concentration, trying to focus on the lake in front of him instead on Vader. It took him a while to find any other signs of life through the Force, but the more he focused on the water in front of him the more he became aware of a multitude of them.

They felt less vibrant and complex than the Force signatures of other people, but the more Luke focused on them, the stronger he became aware of them. Now he knew what to look for he could feel many living beings beneath the surface of the water, some of them lazing in the upper warm layers of the lake, some hunting and moving rapidly through its depth. It was like staring into a lively fish tank.

“Very good, Luke,” Vader’s voice sounded, pulling Luke from his intrigue. The cool leather glove of Vader’s hand closed around Luke’s right wrist, making Luke stiffen again, but he let Vader guide him. He brought Luke’s arm up until it was stretched out to the lake. “Feel the beings around you, reach out further.”

Luke did and was was thrilled at the teeming life he was now keenly aware of. He had never been able to feel it all so clearly as he did now.

“Concentrate,” Vader said, interrupting Luke’s musings. “Now chose one of them. Reach out, gather the Force and take a hold on it.”

Luke pressed his eyes shut in concentration, his forehead furrowed. But every time he had selected a fish it slipped from his grasp. He broke off with a frustrated sigh and Vader let go of his hand.  “I can do it with small stuff, but not with something that moves around. It’s much more difficult like this.”

“No, it is not,” Vader denied. “You have convinced yourself that it is more difficult. That is why you are failing.”

Luke grimaced. He turned back his focus on the Force, determined not to be a seen as a failure by Vader. He tried it again, with a calming breath he reached out with his hand and the Force, all focus set on this task. This time he succeeded. The fat slippery fish that he could see before his mind’s eye struggled against his grip, but he still managed to lift it from the water.

Luke opened his eyes in triumphant delight, but in that moment his carefully honed concentration slipped. He lost his hold on the fish and with a splash it fell back into the water. Luke's smile vanished as he stared in dismay at the circles on the surface of the lake where the fish had fallen back into its blue depth. “Oh no…” he groaned in disappointment, picking absently at his dirty and torn flight suit.

“It is of no consequence, young one. You did well for a first attempt and we already have enough to nourish you for another day,” Vader said, surprising Luke who had expected a rebuke or at least some scathing remark. “Work on your focus and in time you will learn to master the skill.”

+++

Vader eyed Luke from a distance while the boy was finishing the small breakfast he had given him. Luke was staring out on the lake like he was hypnotized, giving Vader plenty of time to watch him without Luke noticing. Vader could easily understand the boy’s fascination with water. He had been very much the same when he had been finally freed from that cursed planet and Luke had been forced to spend a considerably longer time there than himself, thanks to Kenobi’s doing.

The boy had just showed him a truly promising talent and focus. With time and proper guidance he could become a great asset in his inevitable fight with the Emperor. But he would first need to win his son’s trust. For now Luke remained wary and reluctant to accept Vader’s tutelage, but this was not the time to press him on it.

They needed to move. While the lake was ideal to provide fresh water and food for Luke, they had to head back to his TIE fighter to retrieve the comlink. They couldn’t stay on this planet indefinitely and despite his assurances to Luke that no one but the Empire would find them, Vader would not be surprised when the rebels would put a considerable effort in their search for the boy.

Without establishing contact with the Navy, there was a good chance that they had to stay on this planet much longer, even if his subordinates weren’t happy to be rid of him and had long since abandoned their own search for him.

 “We need to move,” he announced briskly the moment Luke had finished his breakfast.

The boy peeked up to him, squinting in the bright sunlight. He looked wary. “Where?” he asked.

“We will return to where my TIE fighter is located. I will finish repairing the comlink to direct the search crews to our location.”

Luke nodded and clambered to his feet.

On their hike back, Vader was careful to choose a slower pace, mindful about Luke’s condition, but the boy seemed already much fitter and more agile than he had the days before. Luke stayed by his side and was much more comfortable around him, confirming his decision that it had been right to tell the boy the truth. He had proven to be quite resilient despite the events of the past days that had shaken him visibly.

+++

Luke had just been about to ask Vader for another short break, when he spotted a metal gleam between the trees in the distance. A few steps further he was sure that it was indeed Vader’s snub that was glistening in the sun of the clearing where they had spent the first night.

With great relief Luke let himself drop into the grass, glad that they had arrived and he could finally rest again. Vader seemed as energized as ever and marched off to do whatever he wanted to. Luke didn’t bother finding out what it was, too content for the moment with catching his breath after the slog. Instead he just stared up at the scattered clouds above, floating leisurely across the deep blue sky and the occasional large insect soaring past him.

The hike back had been much nicer than the day before, the planet seeming much more hospitable on a second glance, though Luke suspected that was more because Vader had refrained from pulling him bound through the undergrowth this time.

Every now and then he could hear Vader rummage behind him. Curiosity finally got the better of Luke and he got up, approaching Vader where he sat in the grass. In front of him the comlink lay on the ground, some small tools and wires spread around it.

“Did you manage to fix it?” Luke asked.

Vader looked up from his work to regard him instead. “The wiring is in functioning condition, but the range is not sufficient to overcome the disturbance in the system.”

Luke frowned, fixing mechanical problems was something he had always enjoyed and which had helped him a lot both on the farm and later with the rebellion where there was always a piece of dated equipment to be fixed. “Maybe if we can hook it up to a larger power source…” Luke mused. “We could try the power cells from your TIE if they still are charged.”

“It would increase the range, but the wiring would not be able to process it without shortening out.”

Luke thought. There had to be a solution to this. “Well, my X-Wing has a build in power converter, perhaps we could use it between the comlink and the power cell to get a signal at least to the relay station, then it won’t fry the wiring. We can’t be that far from it, can we?

Vader regarded Luke pensively for a moment. “Indeed, that may work.”

“That is, if the converter isn’t too damaged,” Luke added. The way his X-Wing had been battered he wasn’t sure anything was still working in it.

“There is only one way to be sure,” Vader rose surprisingly quick for his huge bulk. “You will stay here, while I go and see if the parts from your ship are still usable.”

Luke stared in surprise, wondering if he had heard right. “What about me?” He asked warily.

“You need to rest, young one, and you would only slow me down.”

Luke’s eyes fell on Vader’s hands brushing dangerously over the cuffs still attached to his belt as he seemed to scan the area for a suitable way to fix him.

“I won’t leave, I promise,” Luke said hastily.

Vader eyed him for a moment suspiciously.

“I believe it goes without saying that I will find you should you decide to betray my trust and use this opportunity to leave the vicinity,” Vader said eventually, his infamous finger pointing back into Luke’s face.

Luke nodded hurriedly his acceptance.

Vader marched off to the wreckage of the TIE fighter, climbing nimbly into the cockpit and rummaging for a while in it. Luke eyed him with confusion. When Vader reemerged he went straight up to Luke, holding a blaster in his hand.

 “I trust you know how to handle this?” Vader asked, dropping the blaster into Luke’s hands. Luke turned it over in his hands, merely nodding again.

“Good, the local predators do not seem active during the day, but use it in case any hostile creature should attack you.”

Luke stared in surprise. He had actually managed to convince Vader to leave him just like that. He fought to keep his face straight despite his elation as not to give Vader a reason to doubt his sincerity.

“Very well. You will stay here. I will return as soon as I can.”

Vader turned briskly and left without another word. Luke stared after him until he could no longer make out the black form between the trees.

+++

Luke sat in the shadow of the TIE, his back leaned comfortably against the solar arrays of one of its slant wings, fidgeting with the heavy blaster resting in his lap. He suppressed a yawn.

Vader had left what were surely hours ago and the shadows of the trees had already gotten longer. Over time Luke had become quite tired. Croaking bird noises sounded through the clearing and the occasional breeze was rustling through the canopy of the trees around.

Luke had debated with himself for a while if he should stick to his word and stay where he was or if he should make at least one last attempt to run. He had decided against trying to escape. Without the comlink fixed no one would find them here and his chances of survival without Vader were considerably smaller. What was more, Luke was sure Vader would rather tear through the whole planet than let him escape and Luke he didn’t want to destroy the surprising trust Vader seemed to be having in him.

The moment he was sure that Vader was far enough away Luke had turned his attention to the Imperial snub perched like a giant bird of prey at the edge to the forest. He was unable to resist the siren’s call having the chance to inspect the enemy technology undisturbed. Lots of Alliance pilots would love to be able to study the controls of a regular TIE that so often swarmed them in combat, never mind having the opportunity to have a closer look at Vader’s specially designed and improved version of it.

The outer hull of the TIE was marred by scorch marks, quite a few which must have been from Luke’s own laser cannons. It left an oddly cold feeling in his stomach to think how close they had come to fatally shoot each other down and not for the first time either. Still, Vader had been clearly able to land his snub with much more control than Luke had. Compared to his X-Wing’s crumbled remains, the damage to the TIE, apart from the port side wing half buried into the ground and the smashed viewport, didn’t look too severe.

Luke had climbed into the cockpit, finding most of the consoles still intact. It was an odd feeling sitting in it after flying for the Alliance and everything it stood for for months. A reminder of where he might have ended up had his uncle allowed him to submit his application for the academy just one season earlier.

For a while Luke had entertained himself with daydreams of flying one of these maneuverable and fast ships, bristling with fire power. But even that had gotten boring over time and Luke had instead made himself comfortable under the snubs wings, keeping watch.

Luke yawned, the heat and the steady chirrup of crickets was lulling him to sleep. He got to his feet, deciding that he needed to move if he wanted to avoid dozing off. Vader surely wouldn’t be impressed if Luke would drop off in a potentially hostile environment.

He eyed up one of the long slim twigs from the pile of fire wood Vader must have collected while Luke had still been busy catching his breath. It was approximately the length and thickness of a lightsaber and it brought Luke to an idea. If he needed to keep awake, then why not use the opportunity to practice the moves Ben had shown him on their way to Alderaan.

He picked up one of the sticks and got into the ready stance, swinging it in a wide arch like he would his lightsaber. He could only hope that he’d eventually have an opportunity to get his lightsaber back. It felt unfamiliar not to be wearing it on his belt. But why would Vader do that? He had even said that the saber Luke had been given by Ben had belonged to him, so maybe Vader would just keep it.

Luke spun around, raising the stick to block an imaginary attack.

“I hope you do not plan on making a habit of your unorthodox techniques,” Vader’s deep voice sounded from behind him.

Luke whirled around in shock, pointing the stick in defense. Vader stood just a few steps away from him. How long had he been there and watching him? Luke lowered the stick, feeling embarrassed how he had let Vader stalk up on him without noticing, catching him play sword.

“How long have you been watching me?” he asked chagrined, staring at the ground.

“Long enough to tell you that your footwork is abysmal and that you do not follow any recognizable form.”

“Well, I didn’t get much training, did I?” Luke said sullenly in defense. Vader’s lightsaber skills were legendary and the thought that he would think that Luke was a disappointment in combat hurt his pride more than he would admit to himself.

“Indeed, you lack proper instructions and training. But that is easily rectified,” Vader replied unperturbed. “Get into a ready stance.”

Luke looked skeptical. “Now?”

“Yes, unless you prefer - ”

“No, no, now is good!” Luke interrupted him quickly. He quickly fell into the stance he had learned from Ben when he had trained with the little remote aboard the Falcon.

“Take your left foot a half step back,” Vader said. “And blade up,”

Luke turned embarrassedly the stick in his hand. Playing fighting using sticks was something kids would do. But Vader seemed unperturbed by his chagrin. Using the Force he summoned another stick from the small stack, roughly the same length as Luke’s was and he moved into a ready stance.

Luke couldn’t help but grin. Seeing Vader fight with a stick seemed even more ridiculous. “I can’t learn like this. It’s not the same, it’s just stupid pretend.”

“If you do not honor the blade that you wield, you will not succeed, young one,” Vader said, taking two rapid steps forward. Luke raised the stick halfheartedly, but before he could even bring it up all the way into the ready position Vader had already landed a well placed blow with his own impromptu weapon and Luke’s stick was sent flying. In a heartbeat Vader’s stick was at Luke’s neck.

Luke’s eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat.

“You need to learn the basics first, before you can swing anything else than practice weapon,” Vader said, sounding amused. “Try again.”

Luke gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes in annoyance, throwing Vader a dirty look. He was determined to do better this time to proof to Vader that he could do it. He raised his weapon and this time he was better prepared for Vader’s attack that followed promptly. He managed to counter a few hits before their weapons locked. Luke pushed with all he had to avoid getting pressed back by Vader’s strength.

With a simple twist of Vader’s stick, Luke lost hold on his own and it fell to the ground yet again. Luke straightened up a little disappointed, but Vader still advanced on him. Luke jumped back with a yelp and ducked, managing to narrowly avoid the stick aimed at his head in full swing. “Hey, wha –“

But Vader was not listening. Luke stumbled back another half step when Vader’s hand flew out, palm stretched out towards him. Luke’s indignant exclamation stuck in his throat as a split second later the Force blow hit him in his chest and propelled him backward. He landed in the grass.

“That’s not… fair,” Luke heaved out, winded by the unexpected blow. “We were fighting… and not... using the Force.” Luke tried to catch his breath and get to back his feet, but just when he had managed to get himself to his elbows, Vader extended his hand still holding the makeshift weapon, pushing him back down with a firm prod of the stick to Luke’s chest and holding him pinned. Luke stared up at Vader frozen, unable to deny the slight fear creeping into his stomach at seeing Vader towering above him even if all he held in his hand was a stick and not a real lightsaber.

“You are the first to try to invoke fairness in a duel with me,” Vader said eventually with dry humor in his voice, breaking the silence. He pulled back the tip of the stick from Luke’s neck and began circling Luke like a predator. “You should not expect fairness in any duel that you engage in or you will lose.”

Luke finally got himself up to a sitting position, rubbing his chest where the blow had landed and scowling up at Vader. Still he took the hand Vader extended to him and let his father pull him up to his feet. He raised his stick again, determined not to give up. He didn’t want Vader to think that he was a pushover, but Vader waved him down.

“You still need to learn a lot,” Vader said, handing Luke the stick he had been using himself. “But apart from the points I mentioned you show promising talent and determination. With time and training you will become an exceptional fighter.”

Luke blinked in surprise at the unexpected praise.

“I will continue to train you, if you wish,” Vader continued. “Once you are ready for it, you may also have the lightsaber back.” Vader’s hand brushed over the lightsaber he had taken from Luke which was hooked at his belt together with his own.

“You mean it?” Luke asked, but then he bit his tongue. Vader would probably not appreciate his farm boy enthusiasm that Han was always teasing him with. “I mean, I would like that.”

Vader did not comment on it, but merely nodded and turned. He walked over to the downed TIE fighter. Luke followed him a few steps behind, chucking both their training sabers back onto their stack of fire wood.

“Did you get the converter?” he asked when Vader resumed his work on the comlink.

“Indeed, it seems to be in workable condition.”

Luke sat down beside Vader looking at the small converter that Vader held out to him. Luke took it and turned it over in his hands. It looked a little charred on the side, but otherwise it seemed to have survived his crash fairly well.

Vader handed him a multitool, and Luke went to work, attaching the small cable clamp to the frayed wiring where Vader had ripped it from its position in his X-Wing. Before he knew it, they were sitting peacefully side by side, tinkering on the comlink.

+++

“It works,” Luke said excitedly when he switched it on and the small read out of the comlink flashed a short message, indicating that it had picked up another frequency nearby. “That must be the feedback from the relay station.”

“It is,” Vader confirmed. “With that I will be able to direct the search crews to our position.”

Luke’s face fell. Of course that had always been the goal of their work, but he couldn’t help the twinge of uncertainty and disappointment. Tinkering and training with Vader had been actually enjoyable, but their time alone together seemed to come to a rapid close. Luke feared that Vader’s behavior to him would change once he had him safely locked up aboard his ship.

“Right,” he replied, getting to his feet.

Vader seemed too busy with entering a complicated code into the comlink to notice Luke’s mood swing. He turned away and walked a few steps, not interested in listening in the conversation. The dread he had felt since he had woken after his crash and that only today’s events had managed to chase away, was back.

+++

Chapter Text

+++

Luke was poking with a small stick listlessly, drawing little X-Wings into the stretch of sandy ground in front of him. Vader was still busying himself with the comlink at the far side of the clearing, attempting to reach out to the Empire. Luke wondered what Vader would tell them. Would he say that he had captured the Death Star pilot? Or would he merely inform them of his own survival and demand a pick-up?

He looked up as a shadow fell over him and Vader’s booted feet stepped right on top of his last masterpiece.

“Did you manage to make contact?” Luke asked, not bothering to look up to the looming form above him.

“Yes, the signal I have sent was received by the relay station. From there it should reach the search parties.”

 “How much longer do you think they will need to find us?”

“The signal contains our coordinates, it should not be much longer than a day… for their sake.”

Luke nodded. He could easily imagine the scrambled rush of activity that would erupt once Vader’s signal was received by the Imperials. They would sure throw in all the effort they could to retrieve their supreme commander as fast as possible and get them out of the wilderness of this planet.

He should be happy about getting rescued, too. Their rations wouldn’t last them forever and survival would become a lot harder once they were up. But inside Luke felt disappointed and worried.  He wouldn’t mind it, if whoever would come to pick them up would take another few days or even better weeks. At least it would buy him time to sort out his conflicting feelings and the looming prospect of Vader’s friendly act around him changing the moment they stepped aboard his ship.

 “You seem unusually dispirited by the prospect of rescue, young one,” Vader said.

“No, it’s… nothing,” Luke said.

“Very well. Then get up, there is still work to be done.”

Luke frowned. “What work?” he asked suspiciously.

Vader threw the grey bag into the grass next to him.

Luke eyed the bundle with interest. „What is this?” he asked.

„An emergency shelter. You will sleep in it tonight.”

“Oh.” Comprehension dawned on Luke. “Hang on. Why didn’t you get it out earlier?”

“Our trip to the lake took longer due to unexpected circumstances, so we could not return.”

Luke winced at the choice of wording, quashing his feeling of unease that surfaced whenever he allowed his own thoughts to drift to his near drowning.

“And during the first night there were… other reasons that prevented the use of the shelter.”

Luke gave a small lopsided smile, glad of the change of topic. “You mean you didn’t want to take off the binders.”

“How perceptive,” Vader replied dryly.

Luke grinned a bit broader. At least he had another day to figure out how to deal with all this.

He pulled the package closer to him, loosening the straps bundling it up. Unfolded it fell into a tangled mess of poles and dura-weave. He had never built a tent before, but he figured it couldn’t be that hard. Luke got to work with enthusiasm. But no matter how much effort and time he put into the task, the result did not look quite right to him. Luke stared skeptically at his handiwork, his arms crossed.

„This does not look remotely like it is supposed to,” Vader remarked snidely when he returned, eying the tent.

„Maybe you could help me instead of making unhelpful comments,” Luke mumbled.

„The shelter is designed to be easily erected by a single person even under adverse circumstances.”

Luke shot Vader a filthy look. “So you don’t know it yourself.”

Vader ignored his comment. He circled the tent, inspecting it, his hands clasped behind his back. „Perhaps if you would not try to use the cover of the sleeping bag as the outer fly you would have met with more success.” he pointed out.

“Maybe if youwould -“ Luke fired back, but he stopped when he spotted movement in his peripheral vision behind Vader. He squinted to the edge of the clearing, seeing several of the four-legged creatures that had attacked them in their first night together.

Vader whipped around. “Stay behind me,” Vader snapped, pushing him back with enough force to make Luke fall into the high grass. “Take cover.”

Vader pulled out his lightsaber and started forward. He ignited the blade as he marched to meet the pack of creatures head on. They prowled slowly closer, black fur bristled.

From his spot in the high grass, Luke watched. The first creature attacked, lunging forward with impressive agility and power. It aimed to pounce on Vader and Luke held his breath. But his worry seemed to be unnecessary. Vader swung his lightsaber with astounding speed and plunged the blade into the creature midair. With a mewl it fell to the ground.

It didn’t seem to put off the rest of the pack. More of them charged. Luke watched in awe as Vader fought them off, using the Force to push them back and his lightsaber, a blinding whirl of red as he tore through the attacking creatures. But from the edge of the clearing Luke saw even more of them approaching, fanning out to surround Vader.

“There are more of them!” Luke warned urgently, but he was unsure if Vader could even hear him in the heat of the fight. Luke reached for the blaster still hooked to his belt. He didn’t need to hide, he could help, too.

Luke started forward, but he quickly sank back into his hiding spot. A whisper went through the high grass, setting off Luke’s danger sense. Luke looked for the cause of it, having come to associate this feeling with the gentle prod of the Force, warning him of impending threats.

Stalking over the clearing, its body and the large head low and every muscle of its body tensed, came the largest of the creatures Luke had ever seen. It was fixing Vader unwaveringly with its gleaming yellow eyes. It must be the pack leader. Vader didn’t seem to notice the advancing danger at his back.

“Watch out,” Luke called, but Vader was still too busy keeping the pack of smaller creatures at bay and from surrounding him.

Luke needed to do something or the creature wouldkill Vader. He couldn’t let that happen. His heart pounded furiously in his chest. He raised his blaster, whishing he’d have his lightsaber instead which still dangled uselessly from Vader’s belt. Luke fired. He caught the creature square in the neck. But his shot was absorbed by the thick fur that covered its body. It shook its large head and rounded on him with a furious roar, its fur on edge and maliciously flashing yellow eyes now unwaveringly fixed on his new prey.

Luke took a few steps back, pounding the beast with blaster fire. None of his shots seemed to have any effect on the creature, expect angering it further. The sharp fangs were bared in a snarl.

The creature leapt with a howl and Luke threw himself to the side, letting the Force guide him. He landed in the high grass and rolled to the side to avoid the sharp claws aimed for his chest. He could feel the earth under him vibrate as the pack leader landed on the ground next to him.  Adrenaline was pumping in his veins.

“Luke!”

Luke heard Vader bellow his name, but he had no time to react. He scrambled to the side and raised the blaster again. He shot as the creature lunged, vibroblade-edged fangs bared and aimed for his neck. He hit it at point blank range in its throat. The creature toppled over, fatally hit at last. He rolled again, desperate to get out of the way. Luke narrowly managed to avoid being crushed under its falling body.

“Luke!”

Luke heard his name again and he looked up to see Vader approaching with huge steps. His single-minded fixation on reaching Luke however left him open for attack. One of the creatures sprang at him, burying its fangs into Vader’s arm.

Luke raised the blaster to help, but it was impossible to get a clear shot without risking hitting Vader. Luke scrambled to get on his feet and dashed to Vader. But it didn’t prove necessary. Vader managed to bring his lightsaber round, killing the creature. He shook it off.

Vader turned on the spot to meet the remainder of the creatures, his cape flapping around Luke. Another one turned up in Luke range and with two well aimed shots he managed to down it. Back to back he stood to his father, fighting off the predators together, until none were left.

Luke was still catching his breath when Vader rounded on him.

“That was reckless, young one.”Vader stabbed a finger at him to punctuate his anger.“Cease trying to get yourself killed at once.”

“I wasn’t,” Luke protested in between shallow breaths. “And you needed help!”

“I told you to stay down,” Vader said sharply. He straightened up. “But your aid was welcome,” he finally conceded.

“You think there will be more of them?” Luke scanned the undergrowth around them.

Vader was silent for a moment, staring into the distance. “There are none in the vicinity, I doubt they will attack again.”

Something clicked in Luke’s mind. “It bit you! You were injured!”

He reached out to take Vader’s right forearm, the leather glove covering it was visibly mangled. But Vader ripped his hand from Luke’s grasp. He turned away from him, his injured arm out of reach for Luke.

“But you need help. I need to stop the bleeding and bandage-“

“There is no need for that,” Vader snapped.

Luke recoiled at his harsh tones, hurt by Vader’s rejection.

“I am not injured, son,” Vader said, his voice softer again. “My hand and forearm are prosthetic.”

“Oh,” Luke finally caught on. He took a cautious step closer to Vader again. “But is the hand still working?”

Vader still had his back to Luke. “It is of no consequence. It will be dealt with when we are back with the fleet.”

“Maybe I can help,” Luke insisted.

“I do not need your assistance,” Vader said, impatience tinting his voice again.

But this time round Luke refused to let himself be cowed by Vader’s temper. “Maybe you don’t, but it’s not like we have much else to do.”

Vader stared him down and Luke held his gaze.

“Very well,” he finally said. “You may try to fix it.”

+++

Vader sat crossed legged in the grass, his arm obligingly held out to Luke who knelt next to him. Every tool and spare wiring his son had managed to commandeer was spread out around them. Luke’s tongue was between his lips as he concentrated on the exposed, frayed wiring of Vader’s forearm.

“I think I’m done,” Luke finally announced shyly by the time the sun reached the treetops of the surrounding forest.

Vader straightened up and stretched out his hand, moving each finger individually to test the response of the prosthetic.

You are indeed a gifted mechanic, young one.”

Luke looked away, looking embarrassed at his praise. He helped Vader replace the glove. Luke gave him a surreptitious glance. While Luke had been working, Vader had sunk himself into the calming folds of the Force, as he so often did whenever maintenance to his suit or limbs was required. Through the Force he had sensed Luke’s apprehension and fear, that had been muted as long as Luke had been preoccupied with his task. But now that he was finished, it returned in full. Uncertainty was heavily weighing on his son’s mind. It affected the Force itself around them even though Luke seemed to be unaware of the subtle changes in it as it responded to his mood.

“What is bothering you?” Vader asked. Maybe he could address some of his son’s fears and alleviate them.

The boy looked up in surprise, unaware of Vader probing and watching him. “It’s nothing, really.”

“It clearly is notnothing,” Vader said. “I can feel your bad mood in the Force.”

Luke bestowed an irritated look on him and he refused to answer. But he needn’t to. Vader could very well imagine what was on the boy’s mind.

“Do you think I would let them destroy you?”

“I… I don’t know,” Luke was taken aback by his directness. “Would you?”

“If that was my intention I would not have bothered saving your life repeatedly.”

His son seemed to miss the heavy sarcasm in his voice, or he simply chose to ignore it.

“But I thought…” he said hesitantly. “All that effort hunting for me, the bounty you set out…”

“I did not know of your identity, son, nor that it was you who destroyed the Death Star. But rest assured that had I known, I would have redoubled the efforts to bring you in.”

This time his son scowled at the humor in his voice. “That’s not funny,” he mumbled.

Vader sighed inside his mask, confident that his vocoder wouldn’t pick up the noise. He hadn’t had yet any opportunity to seek guidance from the Force himself, still unsure on which path to take from here. But he knew he would not let his Master or anyone else take his son from him. Vader placed a hand on Luke’s shoulder. “You are my son, Luke. I told you that I will protect you, no matter who seeks to harm you.”

“So… what are you going to do with me then?” Luke asked, his voice sounding nonchalantly, but Vader wasn’t fooled. He could clearly hear the boy’s worries and fears in it.

“Your situation remains difficult,” he said. “You are strong with the Force and there are many who would wish to destroy you for it or use you to their own ends. Once the Emperor learns of your existence he will seek to have you for himself.”

Luke shuddered, which had nothing to do with the chill of the setting night. Vader reached out with his hand and tussled his hair.

“Do not worry. I will teach you everything you need to know to protect yourself one day. Once you are strong enough we will strike against the Emperor. Only when he is gone you can life in peace.”

Luke’s eyes widened in surprise. But a frown of doubt clouded his son’s face before long.

“I will not turn to the Dark Side,” he said firmly.

Vader had hoped that with time Luke would come to reject the narrow-minded Jedi teachings that insisted to divide the Force in light and darkness. But it seemed this would be a repeating argument between them. “Using your emotions, fear, anger, joy or love will help you connect to the Force,” Vader argued. “It will make you stronger and help you to stand against the emperor.”

Luke eyed him sternly in response, his arms firmly crossed in front of his chest.

“Very well, if you insist, you need not employ the Force in any way you don’t feel comfortable with,” Vader said.

“You mean it?” Luke’s face brightened up in an instant and he could feel his joy rippling through the Force. Vader found his promise was worth it for just this.

“I do, my son.”

+++

Night fell. Luke had tracked down wood for another bonfire, insisting that Vader needed to rest, unperturbed by Vader pointing out that malfunctions of prosthetic limbs weren’t the same as injuries. The fire was crackling merrily in front of them and Luke basked in its warmth. It chased away the chill of the night. Luke picked up a stick and speared the last of the ration bars on it. He held it close to the fire. Vader eyed him, shaking his head in disapproval.

“What? They are better this way,” Luke said.

“You mean burnt?”

Roasted,” Luke said, rolling his eyes.

“I will take your word for it,” Vader replied, giving him a small affectionate pat on the back.

Luke picked up the bottle with water and took a large swig. He held it out to Vader, who merely shook his head. “Do you really never eat or drink?” he asked with a frown.

“The suit provides me with everything I need,” Vader replied shortly, his impatient tones made it clear that he didn’t want to discuss this topic any further.

Luke pressed his lips together to stop more questions from tumbling out of his mouth. How had his father even ended up in this suit? Luke had never really given it much thought before. He had believed what most of the rebels thought anyway, that the suit was merely a useful tool to scare the nine Corellian hells into whoever had the misfortune to run into Vader on a battle field.

“Can’t you ever take it off?”

Vader was silent for a long while and only his breathing and the cracking of the fireplace were disturbing the quite of the night. “It is possible under suitable circumstances,” he said eventually.

“It was Obi-Wan’s fault,” Vader spat after another long silence between them. Luke stared up at Vader in surprise. “He convinced your mother to betray me and he was the one who took care that I am confined to this suit. While I recovered from the injuries he inflicted he stole you away to hide you from me,” Vader declared bitterly.

Luke stared into the flames for a while, trying unsuccessfully to chase away thoughts on what horrible injuries his father must have sustained to require such life-support even decades later.

“You should not have grown up on Tatooine.”

“I… I don’t regret it,” Luke said. “We didn't have much, but Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru always made a great effort for me. When I got sixteen they even bought me a used T-16, I know how long they had to saved for it, and Uncle Owen helped me fix it.”

Luke tried a small smile.

“You know, I always hoped you were still alive and that you would come one day for me,”

“It was the will of the Force that brought us here,” Vader said.

Luke fell silent again and stared up into the sky. No oud was covering the myriad of stars that blinked back at him radiantly. It reminded him of those nights he stood outside the moisture farm staring at the night sky, dreaming of becoming a pilot to explore the wonders of the galaxy or thinking about his father. Well, as it had turned out his father hadbeen out there all the time. The number of times he had gotten into fights in school back in Anchorhead when some older students had teased him over his endless daydreaming of becoming a pilot and finding his father.

Maybe it had been the Force even back then when he had still been oblivious of it that had prodded him not to give up on the hope that his father was not dead. Luke eyed Vader.It was still hard to imagine that he should fill the father-shaped hole that had gaped in Luke’s heart throughout his childhood.

“There are so many stars,” Luke said, still lost in thoughts. “To think that most of them have a system of planets around them.” He gazed over to Vader. “Have you been to all of them?”

“That is impossible, young one.”

“Still, you must have been to a lot of them. Don’t you keep a list or something like that?”

“I do not bother myself with keeping track of such inconsequential things,” Vader said.

“Oh, come on. Not even when you were younger?” Luke asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No.”

“Well, then I can still be the first one to see them all,” Luke grinned. But his smile slipped. Despite Vader’s reassurances he still was very much his prisoner and he doubted Vader would let him go. “That is if I ever get to it.” he said, hanging his head.

“You still have many years ahead of you in which you can discover the galaxy,” Vader said firmly.

+++

“It’s time for you to sleep, young on,” Vader announced unexpectedly.

“…’m not tired, Luke mumbled, blinking a few times to chase away the tiredness that weighed down his eyelids. Luke stared at the bonfire, now burnt down to smoldering ashes. Somehow the picture in front of him was tilted in an unnatural way. Luke frowned.

“I beg to differ,” Vader said with amusement in his voice. He shifted and Luke’s head lolled as it slipped of Vader’s shoulder against which he had leaned his forehead.

Luke sat bolt upright, chagrinned at falling asleep, resting his head on Vader.

“I-,” he started.

“It is alright, Luke. Sleep.”

Luke blinked rapidly again as another wave of tiredness overcame him. He frowned, this time half sure Vader could manipulate the Force to make him doze off. But he was right, with or without a Force enhanced suggestion. Luke slipped into the small tent. It was small, designed to only fit one, but Vader insisted that he did not need one anyway. Luke curled up in the sleeping bag inside, enjoying its comfort and warmth. Through the open front of the tent Luke could see Vader still sitting unmoving at the fireplace staring into the embers, the orange shine reflecting from the facets of the helmet.

“Good night, father,” Luke said.

Vader’s mask turned to regard him.

“Good night, son.”

Luke smiled to himself at the soft tone in the usually so cold mechanical voice. Maybe getting used to saying it would be easier than he had thought.

+++

Chapter Text

+++

“Your snoring was truly impressive,” Vader remarked dryly, the moment Luke clambered from his little tent in the morning.

“Good morning,” Luke said pointedly, stretching his stiff limbs.

“I trust you can handle yourself for a while,” Vader said, ignoring Luke’s comment. “I suspect there is a spring close by, used by the pack that attacked us yesterday. I will attempt to acquire more fresh water for you to last until the shuttle arrives.”

Luke didn’t bother to ask Vader how he knew where to look, else he would get another lengthy lecture about the Force and how little he knew about it.

“What if they have stopped looking for us?” he asked instead, hoping that his voice didn’t sound too hopeful. He wouldn’t mind if it would take another few days, weeks or even longer until he had to face his potentially grim future.

“I thought you were not keen on being found?” Vader said with a little humor in his voice.

“I’m not… I just don’t want to be stuck here for the rest of my life.”

“There is no need to worry. I am sure our unwanted stay here won’t last much longer.”

Vader brusquely turned and marched off, leaving Luke to stare after him until he was out of sight between the thick undergrowth.

Luke closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the warmth of sun shining on his face and driving away the last coldness in his limbs still lingering from the night and the dismal thoughts of their impending rescue. It had admittedly been more comfortable to sleep in the little tent than to sleep out in the open.

Luke had sat in the grass and finished the last remaining ration bar and some of the grilled fish that was still left over from the evening before. The sounds of birds singing in the trees around floated over the clearing. Luke finished his meal. He had no idea how long Vader would take and he was growing bored rapidly.

Well, while he was waiting for his father he might as well practice some of the lightsaber skills Vader had taught him yesterday. Luke got up, stretching his back. He attached the blaster to his belt to have it handy in case Vader was wrong after all about the native predators only showing up around dawn. Luke picked up a long stick, wrapping his hands around it like he would hold a lightsaber. He could only hope that Vader would be true to his word and hand him his lightsaber back when he deemed him ready to handle the blade again. He slipped into the ready stance, bringing up his prop blade. He went through the simple form which Vader had showed him yesterday with more and more enthusiasm.

“You are progressing fast, son,” Vader said behind him, making Luke freeze up. Once more he hadn’t heard Vader approach him. “You have already greatly improved.”

Luke couldn’t help but grin at praise and he turned around to face Vader who stood a few meters away where he had apparently watched him going through the forms he had shown him.

“Thanks,” he said shyly.

“Now you merely need to shake yourself free of the imposed boundaries of the Jedi to unlock your full potential.”

“Ben said you used to be a Jedi…” Luke said, ignoring the jab and instead deciding to voice what had been on his mind for a while now.

“Kenobi always liked his little point of views,” Vader said.

Luke frowned.

“But he was right. I used to be a Jedi before I saw the errors of their ways.”

The sharp whine of an engine broke the surrounding noises of nature. Soon a shuttle became visible that approached from over the hills. Luke’s smile froze. It was a Lambda shuttle, gleaming in the sun. This was it, their time together was over.

The dread that had left Luke over the course of the past day was instantly back in full swing. Just how fast would Vader drop his friendly and understanding act or could he really be genuine in his concern for him? Luke wouldn’t be surprised if rescue would mean that he left this planet a prisoner of the Empire now Vader no longer needed even a semblance of Luke’s cooperation.

“Please, can’t I just stay here?” he ventured.

Vader approached him so rapidly it made Luke flinch.

“Do you have another sun-stroke?” he demanded, his hand snatching out to take hold of Luke’s chin and tilt his head up before Luke could sidestep him.

“What? No!”

“You will not stay here. Much less on your own,” Vader said, firmly. “Nor will I allow you to regroup with that little insurgency of yours.”

Luke grimaced dismayed, but he had expected as much. He shook his head. “No, it’s not that.”

“Do you not wish to leave this place?” Vader asked, letting go of Luke’s chin, his masked gaze studying Luke’s unhappy face. “There is no reason to be nervous, son,” he said eventually, breaking Luke from his worrying. “I will pass you off as an Imperial pilot. If you keep quiet on the shuttle ride, nobody will question this version of the story.”

Luke huffed at that. “Not like I look the part, do I?” he said, gesturing down himself, his orange flight suit might be torn and dirty by now, but there was no way any Imperial would ever mistake him as one of theirs. As practical as the color of their jumpsuits was to locate downed pilots in almost every terrain, it was simple for even the most shoddily trained stormtrooper to peg the wearer for a member of the Rebel Alliance.

“That is easily rectified.” Vader turned and stalked towards the wreckage of his TIE fighter. When he returned he held a bundle of black clothes in his hand. He held it out to Luke who accepted it with a frown. Luke unfolded it, realizing when he had that he held an Imperial made pilots suit in his hand.

“Put it on, young one,” Vader said.

“Wh… you mean to tell me you had this the whole time and still let me run around in this? Why didn’t you give it to me earlier?”

Vader turned to stare at him, giving him a once over taking in the ripped and dirty suit. “It was not necessary,” he began slowly. “Besides it would have been easier to locate you in that infernal orange, should you have decided to attempt another escape.”

Luke’s mouth hung open incensed.

“Get changed,” Vader interrupted him, before Luke could voice his indignation at the casual remark. “The shuttle will land very shortly and if you do not wish to leave this planet as a prisoner you need to put these on.”

Luke bit his lip, but still didn’t budge. There was still so much he wanted to ask Vader, about his past and what would come now after the Imperials had found them. Over the past day Luke had actually become more and more comfortable around Vader, even if he would have never thought it to be possible. What if all of this would change and be undone once Vader had him back with the fleet.

“Do not worry. I will watch out for you, son,” Vader said, as if he had sensed Luke’s fears.

Luke gave a small nod, some of his worries reassured by the honesty he could feel from Vader over their bond. The engine noise became louder again as the shuttle came closer in a wide arch, homing in on their position. Luke unbolted his feet and made his way to the edge of the clearing. Just as he slipped behind the wreck of the TIE fighter that would hide him from view, the grey painted Lambda class shuttle passed over his head. Luke stared at it for a moment, his nerves fluttering, but then he shook himself from his musings. He really better got out of his rebel fatigues before anyone saw him.

He hastily unzipped his own flight suit and peeled it off. Luke stuffed it under some twigs. He merely took his Alliance dog tag, sown into a pocket of the suit, a token of his true affiliation. It felt weird to just leave his suit behind, but in the sorry state it was he couldn’t keep using it anyway. Still, putting on an Imperial uniform felt wrong. The noise of the shuttle’s engines got a little quieter as it sat down in the clearing.

There was nothing for it, he would have to do it, at least for now. Luke unfolded the black jumpsuit and slipped into it. It was way too large for him and with a grimace Luke rolled up the sleeves and trousers of the suit, hoping the ill fit wouldn’t be too obvious. He pocketed the metal dog tag deep into one of the many pockets of the black suit.

Luke stepped out from the shadow of the TIE fighter, feeling incredibly foreign and awkward in the black suit. He was sure the Imperials would realize there was something amiss about him the second they spotted him, but no one batted so much as an eye when he slowly approached the shuttles open boarding hatch.

Vader still stood a few steps from the ramp away receiving a detailed report from the very nervous looking officer in front of him on what he had missed out on in the past three days.

“Sir,” someone called out into his direction when Luke came closer, hesitant if he should join Vader. Luke looked in the direction of the junior officer approaching him quickly. “Are you alright, Sir? Do you require any assistance?” he asked, holding out a water bottle to Luke.

Luke took it and shook his head. “No,” he mumbled, his eyes darting again to Vader, standing a few steps from them who didn’t bother to turn and acknowledge Luke. The officer’s eyes had followed Luke’s gaze. When he turned back to Luke he looked at him almost pityingly. Luke took a big gulp of water, to save himself from having to answer to any awkward question.

“If you wish you can already board, Sir,” the officer said, nodding over to the shuttle. “The medic will want to check you over.”

Luke nodded and thanked him he trotted over to the open boarding ramp closely followed by the officer. He passed his father and the officer at the foot of the ramp, the man still giving a detailed report to Vader.

“… gathering near Kuat…”

Luke threw another brief glance at Vader, but he didn’t dare to stall. The junior officer was still right behind him and he was sure it would raise questions if Luke tried to listen in to the conversation. So far no one seemed to have realized that Luke wasn’t who he pretended to be and he was thankful for that.

The interior of the shuttle was only dimly lit in comparison to the bright sunlight outside. It took a moment until Luke’s eyes had adjusted to it and he could orientate himself. By the time he had spotted the medic the man was already onto him. Luke let the man steer him to one of the seats lining the passenger compartment of the shuttle and let himself be pushed into it. Before he knew it he had a medical sensor stabbed into his face. For some reason, the robust attitude of the man helped soothing Luke’s nerves. Nothing as reassuring as a bossy medic. In this regard, there seemed to be no difference between the Alliance and the Empire.

Vader boarded the shuttle shortly after him, he gave Luke a once over and Luke felt Vader’s Force presence brush against his own for a moment, assessing his mood. An unexpected explosion from outside made Luke flinch. Luke looked around, seeing through the closing boarding ramp the smoldering remains of the now fully destroyed TIE Advanced. His moment of shock passed. It made sense for the Imperials not to leave intact equipment behind that could fall into the wrong hands.

“My Lord, what about the other TIE?” The senior officer that was following Vader nodded to where Luke was sitting.

“No further action is necessary, his ship was sufficiently destroyed by the landing,” Vader replied dismissively, barely stopping in his determined stride toward the cockpit to throw a side glance at Luke himself. He glared in annoyance. Vader made it sound like he had wrecked his ship so thoroughly when in fact it had been Vader who had damaged his poor X-Wing beyond recognition. Luke chewed on his lip.  It would raise uncomfortable questions if he’d tell Vader what he thought of this remark so he chose to stay quiet and swallow this one.

“Understood, my Lord.”

Vader marched through the compartment and disappeared into the cockpit as the ramp fully closed. Luke turned his head quickly to catch a last glimpse of the greenery of the planet. His nerves fluttered again when the ramp sealed and the engines of the shuttle fired up. Within moments the ship took off and blasted away from the planet’s surface, off to an unknown fate. He could only hope for the best. Luke swallowed and tried to rip his attention away from his uncertainty to the present.

He took a look around in the passenger compartment. Once more he had the feeling like everyone else in the shuttle was regarding him with sympathetic looks. Luke suppressed a small sigh at the notion that the Imperials might think that his silent manner was because he was shell shocked after having been forced to spend several days with Vader. Luke looked down, avoiding the collective stares of the shuttle crew. This was promising to by an awkward trip.

+++

++

+

++

+++

Epilogue

Luke picked absentmindedly at the stiff collar of the TIE pilot’s of duty jumpsuit that Vader had procured for him. It was a slightly better fit than the bulky flight suit he had disguised himself in, but it still felt foreign for him to wear. He had rarely had the opportunity to wear black so far. On Tatooine dark clothing was very inadvisable and in the short months with the Alliance he had mostly borrowed Han’s stuff when he wasn’t wearing the brighter colored fatigues the Alliance had provided for him.

The moment they had landed aboard on whatever star destroyer had been tasked with picking the Supreme Commander up, Vader having led him away from the shuttle crew. On their way through the grey, uniform hallways of the huge ship, Luke lost his orientation after a few turns, despite his best efforts. Vader had organized food and water and clothing and then left Luke to his own devices for a while when he had announced he had to catch up on the paperwork that had been piling up in the past days. Running the Imperial fleet seemed to be a lot more boring and tedious than Luke had imagined.

So Luke was on his own in a room, Spartan, but furnished with a seat and a cot. Luke had ignored the bunk and instead taking up position in front of the floor length viewport offering a stunning view onto the ship stretching out in front of him and into space beyond.

He gazed into the ever-changing constellations as the vessel made its steady way through the system they were in. In his thoughts, Luke was still on the lush, hot planet where he had . This was how Vader found him. Absorbed in his thoughts, Luke didn’t notice him until Vader stood right next to him. Luke looked up, seeing Vader’s mask reflected in the viewport.

“I sort of miss that place,” Luke said, a twinge of sadness in his voice. “It was so green and peaceful. Well maybe apart from those dog things.”

“We should do that sometime again,” Luke said, staring back out into the stars beyond the viewport. At least on the planet he had other things to think and worry about than the greater good of the whole galaxy and his destiny and place in it.

“Crash landing?” Vader enquired with a thick layer of sarcasm in his voice.

“No,” Luke rolled his eyes. “I mean a holiday.”

“I would hardly call this a holiday.”

Luke grinned. “Well, we didgo camping. I mean technically.”

“I have no inclination to repeat this,” Vader said firmly. “It was dangerous and a pointless waste of time.”

“Oh, come on. It was fun…” Luke broke off at the funny noise that escaped Vader’s vocoder that sounded very much like a derisive snort. “Well, not all of it and you could have told me earlier you are my father, but it was fun in the end.”

Vader took a stepped behind him, placing both his hands on Luke’s shoulders. Luke looked up into his father’s reflection in the transparisteel and he was sure Vader was watching him too for a long moment. “It… was at times enjoyable,” he finally replied, some fondness in his mechanical voice that Luke was sure he hadn’t just imagined.

Luke smiled and as if in response Vader gave his shoulders a small squeeze. Staring at their reflection, Vader towering behind him and easily a head taller Luke thought briefly back to how much terror he had felt when he had first spotted the black form between the trees, still tied up in the wreckage of his X-Wing awaiting his interrogation.

As if in response to his thoughts Vader pulled him a little closer to his chest. “I will watch out for you,” Vader said, a fierce conviction in his voice. He brushed a hand over Luke’s blonde mop of unruly hair, ruffling it. The bond somehow seemed to exist between them felt a little stronger to Luke.

And Luke knew, that despite his way wouldn’t be easy, he wasn’t lost. The common ground they had found on the green little planet was still there. There wasstill good in his father and he would bring him back to the light.

Vader gave him a small pat on the back and turned to leave. Luke turned his head, following him with his eyes. In the door Vader stopped for a brief moment and Luke caught some of Vader’s feelings through the Force.

“You were about to lock me in,” Luke said, exasperated.

Vader straightened, his helmet tilting a little to the side. “I was not,” he replied.

“Yes, you were,” Luke said with certainty, unable to stop himself from grinning. “I said, I’ll stay with you, father. And I mean it.”

Vader was silent for a long moment before he replied.

“I know, son.”

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