Title: The Other Side of Silence
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me.
Summary: Sometimes longing and fear can be the same. Desiring to speak with his Father, Luke is nevertheless nervous about the possibility of meeting with Vader. Resolution can be hard to come by.
An uneasy truce had settled over the assemblage. It was, Luke mused, an ironically appropriate description. The senior personnel of the Rebel Alliance, those who had served on the Imperial Senate or who were raised in politics, were more at ease in the Grand Ballroom. The familiarity of things long past was comforting to them. For the rest.... certain members of Rogue Squadron, lower-ranking Officers and staff, and the general riff-raff which constituted the make-up of the Alliance, Luke Skywalker included...this was an extremely uncomfortable situation. He felt, and he was sure his friends could return the sentiment, completely out-of-place. He’d never in his life owned something as formal as what he was forced to wear for this event, though Luke had fared much better than the other pilots. He was conceded his rank of, if not Master, than at least Jedi Knight, and allowed to dress accordingly. No doubt the Alliance higher-ups wished to flaunt their ace-card in front of the Imperials. Luke shifted uneasily. His dark Jedi cloak hung over his ornate tunic, shielding his lightsabre from view. It was still an odd contrast in terms for him. As a Jedi, he’d decided to take a simpler path, but the delicately embroidered tunic made out of Force-knew-what expensive material he wore was in direct violation of that choice.
Luke sighed. He really had other things to worry about than his attire. Case in point: he was a very wanted man, according to the rewards offered by the Empire. And yet, here he was, surrounded by those very Imperials who sought to exact revenge, namely for the destruction of the Death Star, but for other minor crimes as well. The Alliance was attempting to strike some sort of compromise with the representatives of the Empire, and this was the first of several planned so-called peace meetings. The higher-ups had made the decision that a more formal event would foster the sense of goodwill and at least the cloying feel of decorum, but Luke was not convinced. Neither was Han. Although Luke was quietly certain that Han’s reticence came less from distrust for the Empire and maybe more from a dislike of his required formal wear. But they were not the only two Alliance members who were wary of the Empire. Even Leia had said something of that nature to him. ‘It’s just a masquerade, Luke. Everyone hiding behind the masks of their court manners and dress. Don’t let the shimmer-silk blind you....’ Luke certainly wasn’t about to lose his head in the swirling colours worn by the visiting dignitaries, or in the sweeping melodies coming from the Imperial Orchestra, which had been brought in from Imperial Centre and the Coruscanti Performing Arts Theatre especially for the event. No, Luke was coldly levelheaded tonight. He had to be, for one very important reason.
His Father was here, now, in this building.
Luke was outwardly able to steel himself, and stop the trembling. Force, what a Padawan he was! The Dark Lord of the Sith hadn’t even arrived in the ballroom yet and he was already a shaking mess. Well, that was understandable...with Bespin always in his mind and the truth of his parentage finally revealed to him. He hadn’t really yet recovered from it, and the sense of betrayal from Obi-Wan still resounded in him. When the announcement had been made about the upcoming peace summit, Luke had felt his heart turn to stone in his chest. He was terrified, and it showed. Mon Mothma had even offered to have him excused from the event, although as the Alliance’s most celebrated hero, he would have been expected to attend. Leia had seconded that offer. She knew, if not about Luke’s family ties to the Empire, than at least that something awful had happened between Vader and her friend. Not wanting to see him hurt again, she was aware, perhaps more than anyone else in the room save Luke, what an encounter with the Dark Lord did to a person’s soul.
But Luke had decided to stand firm. He’d face his fears head on. The fact that he was desperate to have some sort of conversation with his Father, to reach the other side of silence in a non-confrontational setting was a desire he kept secret and held to him closely. Although Luke was loathe to appear in front of the entire delegate factions of both the Empire and Rebellion, he was more willing to overcome his stage fright to see his Father again. This was the chance he had been waiting for, in a sense. Nothing could touch them here, not during this peace summit. They would only be able to use their words, and Luke was prepared to wield his wisely. That preparation ran both ways, and he readied himself to be wounded emotionally, a knowledge that was somehow more disconcerting than anything else. Luke knew that Vader’s words could cut deeper than a lightsabre blade. He’d learned that on Bespin. The pain from his lost hand was nothing compared to the searing agony his Father had inflicted on him with the truth. And the lingering anguish of that truth echoed in his very being, every moment of every day. The legacy Luke had aspired to live up to was now his deepest, darkest shame. But still.... the quivering anticipation he felt at the possibility of seeing his Father again was palpable. He was almost afraid to admit that to himself. He must not let Vader see him at a disadvantage. He had to be as pulled together as possible. So, he’d taken extra care that evening in preparing for the event. His most formal and new tunic, boots polished, lightsabre similarly attended to and hung at his hip. Simple, sleek, collected.
Inside, he was still a mess. It was going to be a difficult evening. Part of him wanted to be at Leia’s side.... at least he could take his cues from her. But that would mean being more in the spotlight, and he truly wished to avoid that. Would his Father seek him out, or would he ignore him completely? If Vader felt one-tenth of what Luke was feeling, than no amount of Imperial or Alliance dignitaries crowded together in that ballroom would be able to keep him from finding his son. Luke wondered if he should attempt to contact his Father through the Force, but thought the better of it. He’d leave himself open, not throw up any barriers.... and if Vader wished to contact him he could do so. It would be, Luke believed, a good test as to what his Father had planned for the evening. Luke was still wary of a trap. But it was a chance he was willing to take.
Stepping up next to him, drinks in his hands, Wedge gave Luke a skeptical grin. “You don’t think this stuff is drugged, do you?” He held up the glass, contemplating, before handing it to Luke.
“That’d be one way to end a peace summit real fast, wouldn’t it?” Luke laughed in return. He turned the glass in the glow of the Nova-crystal chandeliers, as if he could discern treachery in the liquid by the light passing through it. Wedge watched him expectantly, but all Luke could see was the pale blush colour of the wine.
“Well...?” Wedge asked.
“Well what?” Luke retorted. “You don’t really believe I can tell if it’s been tampered with by looking at it, do you?”
Wedge gave a can-you-blame-me sort of shrug, and it reminded Luke of Han. He wondered if all Corellians were taught that particularly endearing gesture. “I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe you could.... oh, I don’t know...use the Force to test it or something.”
Luke sighed and lowered his glass. “It’s not like that, Wedge. It’s.... difficult to explain how it works. I’m sure the wine isn’t poisoned. Besides, everyone else here has been drinking it all night. If something were wrong, we’d know by now.” He took a drink of it to prove his point.
Wedge eyed him uneasily, but drank his wine anyway. No point not having any fun...even if it was poisoned. He took in the room...too overwhelming for him. Wedge turned his attention back to Luke. “So.... how are you holding up?”
Luke knew what he was asking. It was the question everyone else had been dancing around since the event had been planned. They all wanted to know how Luke felt about seeing Vader again, but no one wanted to ask him directly. But Luke wasn’t surprised.... Han had made it perfectly clear to the entire Rebel Alliance that Luke was not to be questioned about Vader, or Bespin, or about anything else relating to the whole sorry event. And with Chewie backing him up, no one argued with Han. So far, not one person had made a single passing remark about it, for which he was grateful. But the unspoken and avoidable had finally converged.
He didn’t immediately turn to Wedge. Instead, he surveyed the crowd. He knew, through the Force, that his Father was not yet in the room, but he needed that visual confirmation to settle his nerves. “I’m doing as well as can be expected, I guess. It’s not going to be an easy night.” Luke finally faced Wedge.
Antilles nodded slowly. “I thought as much. Do you have any idea what to expect from Vader?” Wedge took another sip of his wine. “What do you think he’ll do?”
Taking a deep breath, Luke held it in for a moment, considering all the possible outcomes of this nights impending and unavoidable encounter with his Father. The rest of the room was waiting as well, he knew. He felt as if the eyes of the entire galaxy were watching him now, at this moment, and holding it’s collective breath along with him. He could only answer, “I don’t know Wedge. But I’m sure I’ll come out the worse for it...for various reasons.”
“You don’t think he’ll try anything here, do you? In front of the entire Alliance? He couldn’t possibly attempt to finish what he started on Bespin now, no matter what the bounty on your head is. Vader would be a fool to try to take you into custody tonight. Too much is at stake.”
Luke leveled a liquid blue-gaze straight at Wedge. “He’d be a fool not to try it tonight Wedge, because, in a sense, you’re right. He has too much at stake.”
Knitting his brows together, Wedge asked, “What’s that supposed to mean.... it’s not like you to be cryptic, Luke.”
Another sigh from Skywalker. “It just means that...well, there’s a lot about what happened that no one knows, Wedge. I’m just not ready to explain right now.” He finished his wine to still his courage, and simply said, “All I know is that I have to speak to him alone. We have.... a lot to discuss. And I believe that tonight we can do that without anyone losing their tempers... or their hands.” He gave a self-effacing laugh, and flexed his one real hand in front of him. “I hope.”
Wedge didn’t fully understand what Luke was trying to convey, but he let it pass. His friend had been under quite a bit of stress as of late. He wouldn’t push the issue. Attempting to find something to take Luke’s mind off the situation, he scanned the room. “There are sure quite a few beautiful women here tonight.” Wedge looked at Luke from the corner of his eye. “Maybe one or two wouldn’t mind dancing with you...what do you think?”
“I think they probably wouldn’t.... and if they’re Imperial.... then they probably won’t mind sliding a knife between my ribs either.” Luke gave his friend a sly smile. “Nice try, Wedge, but I’m not paying any attention to anything tonight other than staying alive.”
“You may as well try to have a good time, Luke.” Peering over the edge of his glass, Wedge picked out a target. “Look...over there talking with Mon Mothma...do you know who she is? I mean, Imperial or Rebel? Cause’ if she’s with the Alliance, I’d like to know why I’ve never met her before.”
Trying to remain as casual as possible, Luke turned in the general direction of Mon Mothma. She was, as to be expected, surrounded by the higher-ranking dignitaries of both sides of the summit. Leia was nearby as well, a scowling and unhappily attired Han Solo by her side. Luke had to laugh at that.... poor Han. In the melee of people around Mothma, Luke finally spotted her. A slender red-haired woman, only slightly taller than Leia, though her bearing made her seem to have greater height than she actually possessed. Like Leia, she was formally dressed, although more simply and less ostentatious than many of the other women attending. Wedge was right.... she was strikingly beautiful. And, Luke had to reason, obviously intelligent enough to have gained the group’s full attention. There was no evidence that she was with anyone.... not simple arm-candy then. An enticing combination...beauty and brains. Luke told himself to look away, there were other things to focus on, but he found he was not able to take his eyes off her. Who was she? Somehow familiar to him, he knew he’d never met her. Perhaps she was, as Wedge speculated, a part of the Alliance, and he’d somehow seen her in passing. Luke found it hard to believe he’d have forgotten a face like hers, though.
As if sensing him, the woman looked up, and Luke was treated to a sight he’d rarely seen before. Green eyes...the colour of jade. Another exotic combination, he mused. He didn’t break the eye contact and neither did she.
Both Mothma and Wedge were aware they’d lost the attention of their respective participants in the conversation, which had now become one-way. Luke received a small smile from the woman, and a curious look from Leia. Han gave him a lop-sided grin. Next to him, Wedge was speaking, but Luke couldn’t hear him. He’d even lost the sound of the orchestra playing. Leia made a motion for him to join her across the ballroom, but Wedge’s hand on his arm prevented him from moving. Turning to his friend with annoyance, Luke felt the connection to the woman break, and he gave an irritated, “What, Wedge?”
But he didn’t need an answer. He could sense the change in the room instantly. The din of the orchestra came flooding back to him, and he recognized the sound of an Imperial theme resounding through the ballroom. Someone was coming, someone important. An Imperial delegate or dignitary...he stretched out with the Force, trying to identify who it was.
Wedge tried to catch the wineglass in mid-air as Luke let it drop uselessly toward the coloured marble floor of the ballroom, but he missed. The sound of the delicate glass breaking somehow carried over the strains of the orchestra, and it seemed to Wedge the entire room heard it, their eyes finding Luke. If they’d had any doubts as to just who was arriving, they were confirmed in that moment by Luke’s unusual reaction. As one, the room turned to face the massive entrance to the ballroom, enthralled. They were not disappointed. Striding through the stately carved framework was the very reason for Skywalker’s lapse in self-control. His greatest adversary.
Darth Vader had finally arrived.
Luke pushed his shoulders back and tried to stand taller. There was no need to lay blatantly open to the entire room just how unsteady he really was. There was no need to show his Father how his mere presence affected him. A sad semblance of calm was the best he could muster, and although the rest of the room accepted it, Luke knew it would not fool his Father.
He’d not be expected to formally greet the Dark Lord in any case.... that would be up to Mon Mothma and several other Alliance dignitaries.... Leia probably included. He could stay where he was with Wedge and ignore his Father until he was able to find a way to meet with him, without the eyes of the entire delegation watching them.
As the Alliance representatives made their formal introductions, and were greeted in kind, Luke remained standing tall. Only when Vader stepped away from the receiving committee and scanned the ballroom did he feel for the moment as if he might fall to his knees. He steeled himself. His Father’s eyes, Luke was certain, found him instantly in the crush of people. All around him, the crowd gave the proper ceremonial reverence befitting Vader’s status...whether they were Imperial or Rebel. Only when they’d all stood again, and turned their attention to Luke, did he respond. A slight, but respectful bow to his Father. Luke performed it with no small measure of grace. The orchestra had stopped playing, and the entire room was able to hear Luke’s quiet utterance. “My Lord.” Again, as one, the crowd turned back to Vader, waiting for his reaction. As Luke held no high rank, at least militarily speaking, a response was unnecessary. He received one all the same. A brief nod of the head, and a flat, unemotional, “Commander Skywalker.” Turning his back on his son, Vader moved away to discuss something with Piett, who’d entered with him. The murmur of the crowd started low and grew to a fevered hum, as they commented on what they’d just witnessed.
Luke let out a ragged breath he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding. Wedge placed an understanding hand on his arm again, and said, “Don’t worry about them, Luke. Why don’t you take a walk, get out to the balcony or disappear for a while. No one here will blame you.”
Watching the receding figure of his Father, Luke nodded slowly. “I think that’s a good idea, Wedge. I just need some time to collect my thoughts, that’s all.” A strange feeling of emptiness came over him, a cold, hollow sensation. Luke was shaking, though from being acknowledged by his Father or watching him walk away, he could not say.
“Get another glass of wine, Luke, that might help. Better yet, maybe I can fix you up with some Corellian whiskey. That’d probably do you better than just wine. Try to find that red-head you were eyeing up...where’d she go, anyhow?” Wedge turned in a circle, searching the milling crowd. The orchestra had started again, and many people were beginning to pair up, taking the floor. Luke felt suffocated. The persistent press of people and the suddenly too loud music overloaded his senses. Backing up, he spun on his heel and made his way straight for one of the doors that led to the gardens outside of the ballroom. Wedge followed him until he reached the first overhanging vines and flowers draping the arched entranceway. With a venomous look, he stayed to guard the doorway, lest anyone attempt to bother the young Jedi.
The gardens had been there for thousands of years, even before the palaces encompassing them had been built. The indigenous beings of the planet on which the summit was being staged held a sacred reverence for the natural world, and had taken great pains to include the local flora in their buildings. Most of their constructions were centered on whatever pre-existing natural formations were there, and as a result, their designs followed no set pattern. The hallways veered and twisted, letting in some tree or riot of flowers. The levels and landings were never the same, allowing for the already present foliage to designate the flow of the construction. While beautiful, it could also be confusing. And, as Luke had never been in the gardens, and with his mind already focused on other things, he was soon disoriented in the maze of flora. Not that he cared. It would do him some good to be away from the ballroom, and he was certain he could find his way back. For the time being, he needed to gather his thoughts.
With the now soft and gentle notes of the Imperial Orchestra floating in the air, Luke wandered aimlessly through the greenery. He pulled his cloak tighter to him in the slight chill of the evening. Finding an ancient stone fountain, he stopped to admire the water and the play of light on its surface. With a deep sigh, he stretched his arms out and placed them on the sides of the fountain, head bowed. Just a few moments, he only needed a little time to gather his thoughts. He inhaled deeply, trying to find his focus and calm his nerves. But the thought of actually facing his Father would not give up its assault on his senses.
He lingered for a time by the fountain, not really wanting to go anywhere, certainly not back into the organized chaos of the ballroom. He should, he knew, at least check in with Wedge before the Corellian came looking for him. That would just attract more attention than he’d want, as Antilles would probably end up bringing the entire Rouge Squadron with him. No denizen of the garden would be safe. Better to sneak back in and wait the evening out. His mind still revolved around the fact that his Father was so close, possibly waiting for him in that ballroom. Luke turned this over and over in his head, and he had gone several paces before he realized he had no idea where he was. The surrounding foliage was really quite thick, and although he could just hear the orchestra, the vibrations of the music seemed to enfold him here. Luke couldn’t tell from which direction it was coming.
He stopped, closed his eyes, and reached out with the Force. Concentrating, he located the source of the music. Behind him. Sighing in dejection, he wondered absently if he had to be worried about the local fauna at all. Good thing he had his lightsabre with him. He took a half-step back and swung around...and found the path back was blocked.
By his Father.
Impassive and imposing, the Dark Lord of the Sith merely stood before him, as if carved from the same granite as the fountain. How had he not sensed that? Luke silently chided himself. He knew exactly how. He’d been thinking too much about the confrontation and too little about his surroundings. A foolish, very un-Jedi like mistake. Unable to stop himself from reacting, he took two quick steps backward, hand going to his lightsabre.
Vader did not move. Only the sound which had haunted Luke’s dreams as of late could be heard…the rasp of his Father’s breathing.
Each waited for the other to disturb the silence, Luke counting down the seconds. The pressure was building in his mind, it seemed to him the entire universe was watching them both break down, waiting for one or the other to snap. Over and over he told himself, it’s alright, slow down...you can say what you want.... we’re alone now...we’re alone now... but his tongue was fettered by the chains of uncertainty.
Vader spoke first.
“That is unnecessary, my son, as you are well aware. This is, after all, a peace summit.” His Father’s deep voice was somehow more subdued than Luke had ever heard it. Was that a trace of humour he heard? He hadn’t thought it was possible for Vader to speak so softly.... but perhaps it was the dense foliage soaking up the roiling vibrations from his voice. Still the Dark Lord made no movement toward his son. Luke, to his credit, did not back down. He fought the urge to snort at the irony of his Father preaching peace. A few tense seconds ticked by, and then his hand dropped from his lightsabre, and he straightened back up. They watched each other a long moment, each with much to say, but uncertain where to start. Far off, a night bird gave a haunting cry. Luke shivered inwardly.
Finally, from Vader, “I was pleased to see your name on the invitation list, Luke, but I confess I was uncertain that you would attend. I commend your courage for that, boy.”
Luke was stung. Unsure if that comment was meant to be praise or an insult, he settled for something in the middle. An underhanded compliment. Thinly veiled. “I’m not afraid of you.” Luke sounded more assured than he actually was. Stang...this was not how he’d wanted this meeting to go. Vader had gotten the upper hand and he was completely unprepared.
“I have no desire for you to be so, Luke.” It was the second time in less than a minute that he’d heard his Father utter his name, and Luke would have been lying to himself to say it didn’t affect him. Silence again. Then, “You are uneasy, my son. Is my presence so disturbing to you?”
Luke let out a ragged breath. “Considering our last meeting, are you surprised to find me so?“ He unconsciously flexed his artificial hand. “I was a little worse for wear after Bespin. It’s...surreal to be standing in front of you and not have your lightsabre at my throat.” Luke admitted honestly. “Thinking you were dead hurt me, learning you were alive almost killed me.”
The Dark Lord shifted slightly. “Surely you must realize the necessity of your treatment at the time. I believed that by overpowering you, by crushing your sense of self, I would succeed in turning you.” He paused, weighing his words. “I did not expect to find you so.... resistant.... stubborn...”
“Independent?” Luke finished for him archly.
“No, not at first,” was his Father’s answer.
“I’m not going to be what you expect me to be.” Luke countered, with rancor. He felt pushed...the greenery was closing in and the sensation of being trapped was overtaking him.
“To the contrary, Luke, I have discovered you to be exactly what I should have expected.” Vader moved toward his son, one slow step.
Warily watching him, Luke took a step back of his own, lowering his stance and keeping the same distance between them as before. He would not allow Vader to come any closer...not yet. “And what is that?” Luke was not certain he wanted the answer.
Then, simply, “Your Father’s son.”
Luke narrowed his eyes at that. Again he was unsure if it was meant to be a compliment. If so, it too was an underhanded one. They both knew what Vader’s descent into the Dark Side had done to him. It was not, Luke decided, a compliment he was willing to accept. He would defy it. Straightening up, he pushed back his shoulders. “That‘s an unfair comparison, and a low blow at that. Don’t mock my emotions.”
“I will do no such thing. We are more alike than you know, Luke.”
Unprepared as he was for this type of exchange, all Luke could do was blindly snap back. He didn’t want such associations.... it riled him. “Really? I don’t seem to remember enslaving millions of innocent people recently.”
Another step now, and Vader was edging nearer to his son. “You are being vague, Luke. I speak in more particular terms. Similarities which are closer to home.”
What could Vader possibly have to say now? That the same power flowed through them both, or that they were alike as pilots? Or something more mundane.... they shared the same homeworld? Luke was unsure what his Father would tell him, and he used his bravado to play up a sense of conviction he did not fully have. A whisper now from the young Jedi, “Alright then...astonish me.”
“You have Anakin’s eyes, boy.” Looking back later, the Dark Lord would still be amazed that those five simple words could so crush his son. He watched as what he’d said to the boy was first met with disbelief, then pain. And Vader knew that if someone else had said those same five words to Luke no less than four months ago, that his son would have been filled with delighted dignity. But now...now they only served to inflict more wounds on the boy. True, they were emotional scars he was causing, but Vader could see them nonetheless. Luke stumbled back as if struck. Vader could sense Luke’s overwhelming desire to be with his Father completely at odds with his revulsion of the Dark Lord. The two emotions warred within his son, and Vader knew his presence here did not help the situation.
Vader kept a careful eye on Luke as he fought an intense inner battle. He felt, for a moment, the boy’s desire to break down. The turmoil quavered off his son, rippling the Force with the intensity of it. Vader could feel it hit him like being buffeted by the waves of an angry sea. Slowly, Luke calmed himself, and the Dark Lord felt the sensation of pride prick at him, watching his son regain control of the Force. He could sense, emotionally and visually, the moment Luke was able to centre himself again. The feeling of pride grew, and Vader did not attempt to hide it.
“If you’re saying that in an attempt to sway me, you will not succeed.” Luke hesitated, sorrow lacing his tone. “I’ve accepted that you are not the man I believed you were. You may be my Father, but I cannot go with you now.”
Vader made a sound, deep in his throat. “So, you have accepted the truth.” It was not so much a question as a statement of fact. He sounded pleased.
Luke aimed a clear blue gaze back at him. “I’ve accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my Father.”
Another advancing step from Vader. “That name no longer has any meaning for me.”
This time Luke did not back away. “It is the name of your true self, you’ve only forgotten.” His voice was full of conviction. Now Luke moved closer, edging in as he pleaded with Vader. “Come with me, Father. You and I.... I’d like to believe we both desire the same thing.”
“And what is that, my son?” Vader’s tone was gentle.
Luke blinked in surprise, as if the answer were so blatantly obvious, it should be naturally the foremost thing in his Father’s mind. “To stop the conflict between us, to end this downward spiral which can only result in ruin for both of us. To be together...somehow. Make up for lost time...” Luke’s voice ended in a dejected whisper.
Sobered, Vader looked at his son in a new light. It was possible, just as the Emperor has suspected but Vader had not allowed himself to believe, that his child cared for him still. Felt something deeper for him than simply acknowledging him as his Father. That Luke loved him. The earnestness in his son’s tone moved Vader in that moment...he sounded so like Padme.... but he stifled it down, brushed it aside. How in the Maker’s name would he ever be able to abandon everything he was, everything he’d worked for and leave the Empire? “Are you so certain of that, Luke?”
Again, Vader was taken back at the ease of wounding Luke with his words. It was not his intention...he was merely gauging his son’s feelings on the matters at hand. He had hoped the boy’s feelings had changed since Bespin, but as this conversation moved on he realized that Luke was just as confused as ever.
“I’m...not so certain of many things anymore...Father.” Luke took one step back, slowly, then another. He turned from Vader and headed the way he had come, toward the fountain. The Sith Lord followed a few paces behind, knowing that the young Jedi was not running away, merely gaining space to think. The trapped feeling from the trees gave way as the sky opened up above Luke in the clearing. But his Father would not allow him that respite. He pressed his advantage.
“Luke, it is all too easy for you to be together with me. Give in to the Darkness and join me.” Vader let the Force infuse his tone.
“Abandon my friends now? Father, we may be on the brink of establishing peace with the Empire.... I cannot leave.” Luke trailed at the water in the fountain with his fingertips, distorting his image in the light of the distant, pale moon. “Besides...I am a Jedi. Like you were.” He favoured his Father with a haunted glance then, and turned back to the bubbling water. The gray and ancient stone beneath his hands was worn, and held many memories. He savoured the feel under his palms. It brought a sense of realism to his disoriented and addled mind.
Vader’s retort was cold and to the purpose. How naïve his son was. “Luke, surely you know that the Emperor will never settle on a truce with the Alliance. The entire event is a sham, his attempt to buy more time in order to gather intelligence on the Rebels and finish construction on another Death Star.” He circled around, closer to Luke now, forcing his son to look up to him. “The second motive was to draw you out, Luke.” His tone was level, even. “I had hoped that you would leave willingly with me.”
“Nothing you say can convince me to turn. You may as well give up.” Luke said gravely.
“I would not rely so implicitly on your misguided sense of righteousness, boy. Do not pretend to forget your birthright.” Vader leaned in, accusation lacing his tone. “Laying claim to such innocence is foolish and futile. Your bloodline intervenes.”
Luke rounded with tempered aggravation. “You can’t honestly believe that I’m condemned to suffer the same consequences as you just because of genetics, can you Father? That a parent’s blood suffices to predestine a child’s fate?” Luke shifted his weight as he argued his point. “I won’t accept that my future, my life.... my very being, is as influenced by biology as my eye colour.” A heavy moment. “Even if they are my Father’s eyes.“ He stopped then, pushing away from the fountain and running his hand wearily through his dark-blonde hair, lapsing into silence.
Vader stood a long moment, deciding what to say to his son. “Luke, listen to what I am telling you. This is something that you must accept. You may believe you have already done so, but it is obvious you have not. You must reconcile yourself to the fact that you are my son.” Vader watched as his words sank into Luke. “You cannot escape your destiny but you can be the master of your fate.” He baited the hook. “You have already started down the same path I tread upon, Luke. The Rebels have acclaimed you, but they will revile you as well, should your parentage become general knowledge. Search your feelings, boy. You will find yourself doing just as I have, Luke.” Vader paused again, wanting Luke to really hear what he was saying. “You are your Father’s son.”
Disgusted, Luke turned away from his Father. Then, quietly, “I have done things.... I’m not proud of. Things I wish I could take back, change...undo.” He inhaled deeply, bracing himself, and swung round to face Vader. “But I understand that I cannot blame you, or Mother, whoever she was, for those things. I made those decisions, I chose those choices. Not genetics.”
Frustrated, Vader tried a different tactic. “I will not debate science and fate with you, Luke. The galaxy can be yours to command, my son, if you will only give in. I am not certain you understand the gravity of the situation.”
A quick retort. “I understand, Father. I appreciate all too well what you are known for...what the Dark Side has done for you. It’s quite distinct.”
“It has given me power and control, Luke. It has given me the opportunity to use the Force for the betterment of the galaxy.” Vader was pushing again.
“That’s only true from a certain point of view, Father. The galaxy as a whole certainly doesn’t believe it’s been ‘bettered’ as you call it.” Luke looked up through the clearing to the stars beyond, tilting his head and turning in a circle to encompass all of them. Vader watched him quietly, musing on the fact that his son was as stubborn as he had been at his age. The Dark Lord softened, for a moment, recalling the convictions of his own beliefs as a young Jedi. He was getting glimpses of Luke's view on himself in the boy's own words.
“It is humbling, Luke, to see my life through your eyes,” his Father conceded.
“Perhaps it will help you realize what you’ve become, Father...and perhaps you that will convince you to turn back.” Luke said wearily.
“Perhaps,“ his Vader rumbled slowly. “And what of your destiny?”
“I’m just trying to survive this night, Father. Just this night. Then I’ll worry about the rest of my life.” And then quietly, “Besides.... now you are being too vague. I was speaking in more particular terms as well. The Dark Side may have given you what you believe is ultimate power, but it took away something far more valuable, Father.”
They were at a reversal now, and Vader stated, “Very well then...astonish me.”
“It took away your family....” Looking upward again, Luke gestured out with his hands and turned in a circle as before. “You have this...all this, and yet you do not have what you most desire, do you Father?” He ceased to turn and dropped his hands back to his sides again, that piercing blue gaze finding Vader. “You do not have me.” A difficult moment, as Luke prepared to ask what had been gnawing at the unguarded corners of his mind for months. “Unless I was simply some mistake...an unplanned accident which ruined all your schemes...is that it?”
Vader was quick to reply. “No. Never an accident. Your birth may have been unplanned but you were never unwanted. The day I discovered your Mother was with child was one of the happiest...” He trailed off, realizing he had revealed too much.
From his son, softly, “Then why go through with this? You know if we part now, unresolved, that we will have to meet again. And even if you bring me before the Emperor, I will not turn, and you’ll be forced to kill me.”
“If that is your destiny, my son.” Luke could almost convince himself he heard a hesitation in his Father’s voice.
“That cannot be true, Father. How are you able to speak of a destiny with you and a destiny where you destroy me? Can they exist together?”
“The future is always in motion, Luke. I speak of the two possibilities that I have foreseen for you.” Now Vader felt pushed.... Luke was attempting to press an advantage.
“Then there are others as well. Neither one of those scenarios has to happen, Father, can’t you see that? We can create our own future together.... unless I mean nothing to you at all.”
Now it was Vader who turned away from Luke. He was not pleased with the direction this conversation had taken. He’d been in control at the beginning, but now, it was spinning out of his grip. The Dark Lord was here to sway his son, not have a heart-to-heart with him. But he knew, deep in his darkened soul, that it was a tête-à-tête that would have to happen at some point. “If that were so, Luke, I would not have come here tonight, under these circumstances.” He swung around to face his son. “I would have seized you by force, not offered you a choice.”
Luke nodded slowly and blew out a breath with a resigned sort of laugh. It held no humour. “There is an odd sort of beauty to this dance, don’t you think?” His Father made no comment, so he went on. “You and I, back and forth, neither giving way. Moving in the dark…so close, yet so distant… stepping around each other over and over...” he trailed off, his voice surrendering to his emotion.
Luke paused, gathering his courage, then forged ahead.
“I’ve come to see the truth in your lies, Father...the painful beauty of your every failing. And I forgive you...but I’m not sure I can ever forget. And I’m thankful for that. Because it means I am better able to cling to my hope.”
“Hope... to accomplish what, my son?”
“To save you, Father. To save you.” It was a hushed whisper, almost reverently uttered.
Luke hesitantly advanced toward his Father, speaking slowly with each step he took. “I don’t know exactly what happened, Father, but I want to know. How you fell.... why you turned. The galaxy may have failed you in some way...Obi-Wan may have failed you.... but you could have chosen a different path. And that’s what I am doing. I will not turn.” He was now toe to toe with his Father, and Vader again felt that pride well in him at the audacity of his son, and his conviction of belief.
“Then I believe we are at a stalemate, my son.” Vader looked down into Luke’s eyes, the same one’s he’d just labeled as his own. “For now.”
His son nodded up to him. “For now, then, Father.”
Neither moved, but instead both savoured quietly the moment of just being with each other. The last time they were this close things had ended disastrously.
Luke started to speak, thought the better of it, and fell silent. He began to move when Vader reached out a black-gloved hand and placed it under his son’s chin. Taken aback, Luke did not shy away, but instead met his Father’s gaze with a searching one of his own. For a moment, he let his shields down, and Vader could feel the plaintive ache resonating from his son. The Dark Lord studied Luke for what seemed like a fleeting eternity...it was a contrast in terms that neither could explain. Vader chose his next words carefully; mindful of the impact they may have on Luke.
“I was too hasty in my assessment of you, my son.” The gloved hand lingered an instant longer under Luke’s chin before dropping away. “They are your Father’s eyes...that much is certain. But they possess a sincerity which never graced Anakin’s...and a colour too touched with Light to be considered an exact match.” He backed away from Luke, giving his son space. “You have so much of your Mother in you, Luke.”
Luke felt like he’d been blindsided by a herd of wild Bantha. At a loss for words, he merely watched the Dark Lord melt into the surrounding shadows. Luke was now quietly certain his Father was as incapable of killing him as ever, and even more convinced of the goodness he’d sworn still lived in Vader. He felt vindicated and yet confused. A sense of unrequited reconciliation was the best label he could offer.
The ambiguity Vader caused Luke was palpable in the night air, and the Sith Lord for himself was concerned he’d lost his control, his focus, and his head. His swirling emotions matched his son’s; Vader was merely able to hide them better. But he’d once again spoken before he’d thought things through, just as when he’d been a young Padawan. And now, his son doubted even more his ability to deliver him to the Emperor and destroy him without emotion. And perhaps Luke was right.
Tentatively from Luke, “Father.... I... I’m not sure..,” he trailed off into silence.
“Tomorrow, Luke. We will continue this conversation tomorrow. There is time, my son. We each of us will have the opportunity to say what we need to say.” With that, Vader turned and strode back to the ballroom, moving with more grace than possible for his imposing size. The foliage seemed to part around him and then swallow him up, enfolding around and absorbing him into the darkness.
Luke backed up until the worn stone fountain pressed against his shoulders. The granite was comforting in a way; solid, supportive, constant. Slumping to the garden’s age-old pathway, Luke sat a long time, and watched the slow-spinning stars.