Author: Mina (email@example.com)
Summary: When missions go bad. Luke finds himself rescued by a mysterious stranger. Suffering from amnesia and temporary blindness, they have to work together to escape a very soggy death.
Disclaimer - These characters are not my own, they belong to Lucasfilm. Any resemblance with actual persons is pure coincidence, even if a certain Luke Skywalker does seem a bit like that cute kid who played in the Eight is Enough pilot… hmmm…
Nb, please see the note at bottom.
Roughly one year after the Battle of Yavin…
Three Days, Two Nights and One Lifetime
His uncanny ability to get himself into the most excruciating of situations continued to amaze him.
Watching the burning the shell of the outsized barge he had not five minutes ago been travelling aboard begin a shuddering descent to the murky water, he accepted that he had to give credit where it was due. It had either been his provincial Force talent or a temporary insanity that had made him jump from the barge roof to the lake he was even now still falling through, but whichever it was, it looked like it had saved his life.
For however short a time…
Flames licked the sides of the barge and the water began to hammer in shock waves around him as his lungs began building a cry for oxygen. The water had a greenish-blue tinge and was bitterly cold, but he wasn't feeling that. The image of the burning ship descending was of more concern right now.
Muffled screams of TIE fighters exploded through the lake as they shot overhead, and the water around him hissed and spluttered in little tremulous waves following the hard-light projectiles, white ripples following them down when they missed the barge; great chunks of hull plates replacing them when they found their target.
He tried to swim away from the descending wreck, but there were two quite insurmountable problems. First, the thing was huge and he was still falling through the water from his jump. Secondly, desert farmboy Luke Skywalker didn't have a clue how to swim.
The barge hit in a thunderous crack that ricocheted through the water and Luke felt rather than heard a loud whumph! in his ears as the water above his head erupted into flames, hissing as they hit the water. The dark, charred hull descended rapidly towards him, waves expanding from the sinking ship twisted him into a tight spiral and he flailed, trying to gain some control over his fall and failing miserably. The TIE fire continued and bright green sizzled across his eyes before he could look away. Everything went dark with the rush of water and a sudden burning heat.
* * * *
Luke opened sore eyes warily, burning with the sting of salt water. He shivered with the clammy cold of soaked clothing stuck to his skin and coughed up salt water, bitter and making him want to retch. The sting only built as he became more aware and coughed in the water pooled underneath his mouth. Luke pushed his fists into his eyes to try and stop the pain, trying to swipe away the salt that had to be causing it.
With rising horror he realised that the brushing of his hands changed nothing, nor did opening his raw eyes. Everything remained black.
Crying out in alarm, he rushed to his feet and slipped on wet rock beneath his feet, but he didn't hear the splash of the water, nor see it. Panicking he backed away hurriedly as if he could run from the sudden blackness of his world. Something strong and demanding gripped his arm and there was a garbled noise that might have been someone talking, but it sounded far away, muffled and low. The grip shook him and he jumped back, startled. He slipped again and this time fell, flailing against wet rocks and pebbles that had to be a shore line.
"What? Who's there?" He rubbed at his eyes again and was only rewarded by more stinging pain. He heard the muffled sloshing sound of steps in water as someone clasped his shoulders. Whoever held him said something entirely unintelligible and Luke shook his head furiously.
"I... I can't understand you." He said. The grip tightened momentarily and something like cold, wet leather brushed his forehead – gloved fingertips? – and sounds descended on him again. He jumped as the man spoke, this time clearly.
"You can't hear?" The voice was deep and he shivered despite himself. Now he could hear: the gentle break of small, lazy waves on a pebbled shore; the dying crackle of an explosion, and another sound. A strange, whirring-hiss that he couldn't identify.
"No. Well, now I can, but I... I can't see." He almost implored, then bit his tongue at the pleading he heard in his own voice.
This time, he definitely heard the rustle of wet fabric as the man leaned in closer. His shadow must have fallen across him because Luke was suddenly chilled, skin crawling and puckering with goosebumps. There was an ominous silence and Luke shifted uncertainly, the pool of water he sat in cold and uncomfortable. He blinked furiously but it did no good.
"Did you look into the blast?" The voice, becoming clearer with the passing seconds and the tight grip on his shoulders, was deep and warm with concern.
"No... but some of the TIE fire hit close by. I... I guess I might have been looking at it." He shrugged uncertainly as he felt the man step back from him and the pressure left his shoulders.
"That is not good." He rumbled. There was something both intoxicating and disturbing in that tone of voice... and something familiar. Luke struggled to stand, shivering. A steadying hand was placed on his shoulder as he shook wet bangs of hair from his eyes and found the world suddenly tilting under him. "Steady. You might have a slight concussion." The other warned.
Luke swallowed around the nausea creeping in his stomach. "What happened?"
"You don't remember?"
Luke considered answering – 'of course I remember' – but the words died before they got anywhere near his lips. Panic rammed into his gut with the force of a fleeing X-wing and he reeled backwards, strong hands stopping him from falling. "No! I mean... no!"
"I..." He stumbled backwards from the man, much taller than he was if the direction of the voice was anything to go by. "Well.... I'm not really sure."
"You were onboard the barge when the TIE fighters bombed it. Do you remember that?" The voice rumbled and stopped him from backing away any further.
"Do you remember the explosion? Or the X-wings that destroyed the TIE squadrons afterwards?" The voice was concerned, but also thoughtful. Luke hugged his arms around his middle.
The man paused, breath hissing with that strange sound that Luke couldn't quite place. "But you remember what those types of ships are?"
Luke looked up suddenly, an uncertain smile spreading across his face. "Yes. I just don't remember the events..." He turned away wistfully; trying to sort through the blurred images his mind gave him little glimpses of before snatching them away.
"How hard did you hit your head?" The voice approached, the sloshing of water around booted feet now completely audible to Luke.
He grimaced, "I don't remember." He said ruefully. There was a pause, long and stretched too thin.
"Sit, you're shaking." He felt a hand try to bring him out of the water and up to the shore.
"I'm just confused." Luke said, rubbing a hand across his forehead and biting his lip. The strange presence beside him sighed and repeated the order.
"Save me from a bloody-minded child! Sit down before you fall down!" There was almost a chuckle as Luke sat abruptly at the tone of voice and resisted the urge to pout.
"I'm fine." He hissed.
"Of course you are; you're only blind with a concussion and temporary amnesia. You have a strange definition of fine, child."
Luke remained sullenly silent and tried in vain to make out the form he knew was now seated opposite on him on the pebble beach. There was nothing, and he concentrated harder, instinctively trying to reach for the ever-elusive Force Ben Kenobi had tried to hard to ingrain in his apprentice. There was something... maybe. Like a flicker of a shadow, large and cloaked, and then nothing. He shook his head disgustedly but there was nothing but the strange hiss from his companion.
"There are better methods for doing that, although I doubt they would work."
Luke glanced up uncertainly. "You... can use the Force?" He asked, sudden surprise and hope colouring his words.
There was definitely a chuckle now, strange around the hiss of a... respirator! That was it! He grinned; maybe the amnesia would be very temporary.
"What?" The other asked uncertainly.
"Oh, nothing. I just remembered something else.”
”But… who... who are you?" He asked, fingers playing nervously with the pebbles. Nervous and he didn't know why; it was, after all, a simple question. There was the nagging feeling that he was missing some vital information other than the events of the last few hours, and the lengthy silence only reinforced his unease. "If we're going to be stuck out here a while then it might be useful if I had something to call you." He tried a rueful little smile and it seemed to melt his companions steely mask because there was an uncertain sigh.
"You may call me Kin." He offered.
"Is that your name, or are we just picking names randomly? Because I've always thought ‘Your Highness’ would sound great on me."
There was a stifled laugh from beside him, "You have a dry sense of humour. I like it." Why did it sound like those words had been pulled from the jaws of a krayt dragon?
He cracked a smile. "Well, actually, I like my name just fine. I'm Luke Skywalker. Please to meet you Kin." He offered his hand into the dark, to his best guess of where his companion sat, and Kin shook it uncertainly at first, then stronger.
"Well, at least you remember your name." The firm grasp left his hand and Luke stared blankly off in the direction of the shore. His companion was quiet for a moment as Luke tried to pierce the fog over his eyes.
Another pause. Kin seemed to be treading very cautiously. "The ship you were on was attacked by a squadron of TIEs, and destroyed. You, however, jumped clear in time. No one else did. The X-wing escorts then proceeded to destroy the TIEs and head back to wherever they came from. I found you unconscious in the water, and swam to shore with you."
Luke just gaped, then forced his mouth shut. "You... you saved my life. Thank you."
"I am merely glad I... saw you."
Luke nodded. "No one else survived?"
"So where did you come from?" At the lengthy pause, Luke turned suspiciously to his rescuer. "Well?"
"I was one of the TIE pilots." He admitted. An Imperial? Luke jumped to his feet automatically, backing away and grabbing for the saber on his hip. There was nothing there, his fingers grasping air and he looked up suspiciously. The alarm must have showed but the heavy rasp of the respirator continued unaltered, unconcerned.
"My lightsaber? Where is it?"
He felt rather than saw the other stand, but not advance. "I have it."
"Give it back." Luke growled, but still felt a rush of relief fall over him. If he had lost it in the water…
There was a pause, almost sad and reluctant. "Of course. I was merely keeping it for you. You fully deserve to wield the weapon."
"What do you mean?" Luke asked as the familiar hilt of his father's lightsaber was placed into his palm. His fingers closed around it protectively, the last connection he would ever have to his murdered father.
"You're very strong in the Force, Luke. You deserve the weapon of a Jedi." There was something there that Luke couldn't begin to identify, and he shoved it aside.
"You're an Imperial?"
"Who knows how to use the Force?" Luke shifted uncomfortably.
Luke tried to pierce the darkness but got nothing, he sighed in frustration. It wasn't like he could fight this man anyway, not when he'd just saved his life. But there was still something here that he was missing, and it persisted to nag at him.
"I see." He laughed ironically when he realised what he’d said, shaking his head. It seemed to break the uneasy tension between them and Kin moved beside him.
"We should start moving." He said, tone almost affectionate.
Luke clipped the hilt back onto his hip, a familiar procedure that he could easily do blind. "Where are we going?" He instinctively looked around and stopped himself at the foolishness.
"We have to escape the tide." Kin explained, a hand on Luke's forearm. "I'm afraid we're trapped. There is a large salt lake, the shore we are on now, and a few metres away a sheer cliff side."
Luke looked up in alarm, "The tide is rising?"
"Yes. And... the tide marks on the cliff are several feet high." Kin added.
Luke shivered at the implications. "Great, we're going to drown. Or freeze to death in the water." He muttered.
The hand on his bicep tightened, almost protectively. "I will not allow that to happen."
Luke shook his head nervously at the conviction there, and it almost made him feel better. Almost. "You might not have much of a say in the matter." He pointed out.
"You will not die."
Luke wondered at the sudden use of that word -you- but said nothing. "Can we scale the cliff?" As if he could climb whilst blind...
"Even if we did, the radiation at it's top would be lethal. You forget, the sun is much closer here than on most inhabited planets. It is only because we are in the shade and have the wind from the lake that we can stand the heat."
"I never knew it, but I see your point." He shook his head sadly. "What then?"
Kin loomed over him, "We walk."
Luke looked up, and expressed his understanding of that. "Huh?"
"Along the shoreline. The lake has small ports along it at intervals. We must reach one before high tide."
"We'll never make it." He protested. "We don't have any fresh water, or food. I'm blind and you seem to have some sort of breathing problem." He winced in expectation at voicing that observation but Kin said nothing. "We have no idea how far we have to walk or long we have."
Kin chuckled again, and he almost sounded like he was getting used to the sound. "And I thought Luke Skywalker was famed for his naïve optimism in even the gravest of circumstances."
"Well I don’t see…” He stopped and looked upwards, guessing at where Kin’s face had to be “What? Famed?"
Kin took his arm and lead him forwards. "Can you walk on your own? The rocks are slippery but smooth."
"Yes, I think so. What do you mean, 'famed'?"
Kin was silent a moment, as if considering. He started to walk, and Luke followed, Kin a massive shadow in his hearing and his senses. Occasionally the black fabric of his cape would snap at Luke's cheek where he walked at his right hand.
"You are famous, son. Destroying the Death Star was no small feat." Was that... pride? Luke frowned.
"That's not good." He murmured. His feet skidded on the pebbles, but he managed to keep his balance, used to the treacherous ground of Tatooine, so far away.
Water splashed around their feet as they walked, nothing he had ever known on Tatooine. Had it not been conspiring to kill them, he might have appreciated it. As it was, it just slowed them down.
"Really, why not?"
"Well, I guess if you know it was me that destroyed the Death Star, then the whole of the Imperial Fleet must too. Leia told me I'd have to lie low when they found out. The Emperor would want retribution. The Emperor... and Darth Vader."
There was a pause as Luke wallowed in dark thoughts of impending doom if Vader ever caught up with him. He had heard the stories of Imperial cruelty to rebel prisoners. Had heard it far too many times and it made his stomach turn in tight little circles. He looked away across the shore, not seeing.
At length, Kin spoke. "You think they would kill you."
Luke laughed miserably, "No, I think they would torture me first, then kill me."
Luke couldn't help it. He had to ask. "Have you ever... flown with Vader. I mean, I know he pilots. Sometimes." Water sloshed around his feet but the reply was immediate.
"You have some very strong feelings about Darth Vader."
Luke's anger began to simmer and he balled his fists. "Yes." The word was small and cold.
"Not just because you fear him."
"No." Luke found himself stepping harder in the water. "He killed my father." The anger was very obvious and the air was suddenly stiff.
Luke's anger exploded, "Would you stop saying that! No you don't see – you have no idea." He stormed forwards despite the fast pace Kin set. "Vader 's taken everything from me and I don't suppose he even realises it. Or worse; maybe he did it deliberately and all he wants is to cause me misery." In his anger, his foot slipped and he fell, Kin catching him in surprisingly strong arms and standing him in front of him, staring at him for long seconds whilst Luke calmed himself, letting the anger drain away in the frigid waters.
"I doubt that. If he wanted to do that, child, he could have easily done it a long time ago." The voice held a strange sadness, almost wistful.
"Well then, maybe he just doesn't care. Doesn't care that he killed my father, or about me." He mumbled. "Just some farmkid with a lightsaber he doesn't even know how to use."
He turned from the Imperial and walked on, feeling his anger fizzle into something sad and wistful.
"Oh, I wouldn't say that. I'd say he cares a great deal – the bounty on your head is quite astronomical." Kin rumbled, trying to alleviate some of the tension. It didn't work. Luke continued to walk, listening to the steady splash of his footsteps.
"Yeah, that's just great. Must have something really nasty planned for me to be willing to pay that much." Maybe Han was a bad influence, but it didn’t matter. On the one hand, he wanted to meet Vader, to exact retribution, and on the other he dreaded that meeting, knowing that right now he wouldn’t stand a chance and the great Dark Lord would probably swot him like the simple nobody he was.
Luke look back on his silent companion and almost had the feeling Kin was looking at him with something like sadness before he followed him.
* * * *
They walked on for at several hours, until the chill of a falling night began to get distinct even if Luke couldn't see the twilight. His legs had begun to ache but he didn't complain, just kept sloshing on until the water reached the cliff edge and was around their calves, and making it harder to move. For a long time they had talked, mostly about piloting, about the war, about how Luke had gotten involved in the rebellion. Kin had avoided all talk about his family and Luke recognised it as a sore point and kept clear of it; Kin had recognised that Luke's unease about his current status as Rebel Hero was also not something he liked to talk about. Luke relished the moments that pilots, generals and techies recognised him as the Hero of Yavin. But it was a constant nightmare to be worrying about Vader following doggedly in his footsteps. And if he didn’t like thinking about it, he certainly wasn’t ready to talk about it with a stranger.
Now, as the water temperature dropped rapidly and they had lapsed into a tired silence, Luke finally spoke again.
"Who taught you to use the Force?" Only the pause in the hiss of respirator told him Kin had heard him. "I mean, I thought there weren't any Jedi left, and well... there's only Vader and the Emperor and..."
A wind stirred over the deceptively waveless water and Luke shivered. "I was taught a long time ago, before the purges." Kin answered, and Luke thought there was more there. But it went unsaid.
"I wish..." He broke off as something to his left attracted his attention. Without sight, his hearing was amplified and there was the quiet gurgle of bubbles off to the side.
"You wish what, Little Jedi?"
Luke smirked. "That's just it. I'm no Jedi. There's no one left to teach me." He began to wade out curiously to the sound and the sloshing steps of Kin stopped. His feet slipped along the rocks but he kept his balance, peering into the dark but with no luck, cold gripping his thighs. "I wish Vader had at least left someone to teach me..."
"So that you could train to be a Jedi and then kill him in revenge for your father?" The other asked.
"Well... yes." When he said it like that, it didn't sound like a very honourable goal. He shrugged.
"The Jedi would not have approved of revenge." Kin pointed out.
”I know. But it was… lonely growing up without a father. I often… well, I used to dream of him. Stupid, childish dreams. He used to talk to me, or at least, that was what it felt like. I think my dream-father was as confused as I was by it. I just wish they could have been true. I’d give anything to have him back.” He said sadly. The water stirred around him.
”Are you certain they weren’t true?”
Luke turned at the suddenly very quiet voice, hearing shock and understanding there, but having no idea where they came from. The sound of moving water brought his attention back to the lake and the hairs on the back of his neck stood tall. He waded further out. “Well, they couldn’t have been anything else. He’d dead.”
”I see.” Kin was very still in the cooling water. "Where are you going?"
Luke turned back to him when the gurgling suddenly silenced. "I thought I heard something. It's nothing." He stood in the water up beyond his thighs and looked down sadly.
"Why so despondent, child? I think I preferred it when you were cracking jokes." Kin tried to make his voice gentle and Luke appreciated it. He smiled.
"Thanks. I think I like you too." He grinned, eyes sparkling and there was a sharp intake of breath. "Kin... would you train-"
The words faltered when something wrapped itself around his leg and slivered quickly up his thigh in a burning trail on pin-pricks. He cried out in surprise, and then in pain as little needles dug into his flesh.
Kin called out – Luke! - as he went down in the water, a sudden tug on the tentacle wrapped around him, dragging his feet out from under him. He went under the water with a cry before the lake cut off all sound but the rush of bubbles. Luke shouted for help and his fingers scraped at the tentacle, thick and cold and pulsing faintly, trying to pry it free. Bubbles and water brushed his face as it pulled him from the shoreline and deeper out, as his lungs began to burst. Briefly his mind went back to the dianoga in the Death Star garbage masher, but there was no Han to drag him out of this one.
But there was Kin. He had run forward, grabbing for Luke and finding a handful of blonde hair. Luke yelped when Kin held it firm against the tug of the tentacle, but it at least stopped his drag outwards. In the mute dark he felt suddenly very alone, and utterly terrified. He tried not to scream hysterically, but water poured into his lungs as he fought against he strange tentacle. Then the water sizzled and the death-grip on his leg was released, and Luke was hauled head first from the water, Kin's arm across his chest and under his armpits. He spluttered hysterically and started screaming as the pain finally registered fully along with the shock and he was being carried in strong, shaking arms back through the water. He sucked in air and started coughing.
Kin laid him in the shallows and called his name, over and over, infinitely gentle and scared. Luke coughed up water and rolled onto his side. "My... leg..." He gasped, and clenched his eyes shut at the burning crawling up his calf and thigh. Kin's hands skimmed down his leg and pulled the black trouser leg upwards, hands tentatively touching the tangled lines of wounds Luke could feel burning and digging into his skin. "Hurts..." He gasped and bit down on his tongue as Kin touched one of the wounds before howling in pain.
"Shssh... Luke..." He said, but Kin didn't sound very calm himself. As he touched the leg, carefully avoiding the weaving lines burnt there, the pain receded some and Luke collapsed to the pebbles, shaking.
"What was that?" He asked, voice cracking.
"Some sort of sea creature, it was probably hungry." Kin said, hands probing the wounds.
The water sloshed around Luke's head by the cliff side. "Glad I didn't taste too good." He managed between clenched teeth.
"Luke..." The voice was solemn and Luke felt something in his heart freeze.
"What? What is it?" He didn't really have to ask as a raking pain shivered it's way down his spine and he convulsed, suppressing a screech.
"The spines in your legs. I think they were poisoned." Kin said, and the dread was infinite.
Poison. Yes, that would be about right. Typical Skywalker luck. "I'm going to die." He said softly as he shivered violently, and not from the freezing water.
The fierce determination stunned him into silence as his body disobeyed his commands to stop shivering. Big hands lifted his head out of the water as he shuddered again, skin wet not only from the lake but from perspiration as he felt nausea spreading.
"I... think I am already." He stuttered through lips growing numb.
Kin placed his wet palm on Luke's forehead and the pain ebbed away again, the nausea banished by Kin's force of will. "I did not rescue you to let you die now." He admonished him, and Luke felt like a small child being corrected by a stern, if concerned, parent. He simply nodded and murmured 'thank you'.
Kin knelt a while longer and Luke's body began to grow numb. He hoped that was Kin's doing, and not the poison.
"It is mine." Luke would have sworn that he had not voiced the question, but Kin answered anyway.
"I can't walk." Luke murmured, rolling onto his side instinctively to lean against the strong arm that supported him and finding a strange comfort in it. He coughed, "You have to go on alone."
"I will." Kin answered and Luke felt his heart shatter just a little, "But I'm not leaving you here." He added hurriedly, as if sensing Luke's sudden despair.
He pulled up the trouser leg again and Luke felt apprehension there. "This may... hurt a little." Kin said.
"What do you – agh!" Luke bit down on the scream and clenched his eyes shut, little sobs of pain barely making it through his determination not to show weakness to the man who had saved his life twice now.
Kin pulled the spines from the tentacle from Luke's calf and thigh one by excruciating one, muttering apologies at each, his hand never leaving the boy; reassurance that Luke was not alone in the dark, not suffering alone. It barely helped. Luke felt trapped in a dark, painful world and Kin was the only light. The spines were not easily removed and it took precious minutes before they were all gone. Then he lay back in the water, not caring that it now reached until it almost covered his mouth, and gasped. After several shuddering minutes, Kin lifted him to standing. Luke offered no protest, utterly exhausted and tired. He felt so much like just drifting off to a painless sleep....
"No... don't sleep. You must stay awake." Kin said. He wrapped something warm and heavy around Luke, fabric soft and supple, and tied it with the belt from Luke's waist. Luke accepted the warmth but it only made him drowsier.
"Luke, talk to me." He lifted Luke onto his back, one arm slung over his shoulder, the other under his arm. Luke linked his hands together and when Kin took his legs in his arms he tried not to cry out when he touched the tender skin on his thigh.
"Okay..." Luke murmured, feeling strangely detached from the situation. "I don't think I can keep this grip up..." His words were slurring but they were still comprehendible. Kin started walking, but he shifted Luke's slight weight over his back to balance him with one hand and used his free hand to link Luke's wrists together with a thin length of plastic. He returned Luke to a two-handed grip.
"Storage tag." Kin explained before Luke asked about the impromptu cuffs.
"Oh..." Luke said dreamily, shivering against the man's back. It was only now that he realised just how... big.... his companion was.
"Stay awake, Luke." Kin said, worry etched into even the deep bass tones of the vocoder.
"... Can't..." Luke murmured. His cheek snuggled against the damp cloak wrapped around his shoulders, and shivered again. It was so cold... so very cold. He was so cold....
"Luke, child, please. Remember what Kenobi taught you, how to reach the Force. It can help you." Kin said, voice commanding. Luke didn't even ask about his knowledge of old Ben. He murmured ascent and concentrated until the Force came to him. It was not like the other times he had touched it, not at all. It felt... amplified. Bright, brilliant, soothing. but with a darker undercurrent he couldn't place. It flooded him and he sucked it up eagerly, feeling his mind clear a little.
"Pretty..." He whispered appreciatively.
"Luke, keep talking." Kin said, holding the boy tighter. "Tell me about Tatooine."
The voice of command... he couldn't disobey. "I never told you I was from Tatooine..." He said, head resting against the back of a padded flight suit.
"Tell me anyway."
"H'okay. Well... there's not much to tell. There's nothing but sand and stone. Nothing like this. And canyons. I used to fly them...." The thoughts came randomly and he voiced them as he felt a presence flicker at the edge of his thoughts as Ben Kenobi's had done sometimes during his all too brief training. He recognised it as Kin. He let it in.
The water sloshed cold and loud around them as Kin walked on.
* * * *
They walked on through red-tinged starlight. When the shock of the poison began to wear off, the sound of the water and Kin’s heavy, rasping breathing began to lull him further into a fitful sleep, but he never got there before something swelled around him and dragged, hauled and wrenched him towards consciousness. It was the Force, bright and scared, and he didn’t resist it; was only thankful it was there for him. His left leg had gone numb and his world was darker than even the middle of the night commanded, and Kin never let him sleep. The man seemed scared, nervous almost, concerned definitely, and it touched Luke. When he asked why his companion was bothering to save him, Kin would talk about a bright future, fairytales of power and happiness that were strangely compelling.
Finally, the water had risen to Luke’s waist and Kin had stopped talking to concentrate on walking. Luke felt sleep begin to claw at him, so he tried to talk again, words catching slightly.
”Do you see anything yet?” He murmured into the heavy fabric wrapped around him and he felt Kin shake his head. Without sight, Luke had no idea where they were, how far that had come or had yet to go. It better not be too far; the water was freezing and rising still.
”No, I’m afraid not.”
Luke sighed into Kin’s shoulder. “You need rest, you’re tired.”
”There is no time for that. The tide is rising rapidly.”
Luke knew that; he could feel it digging into his skin. And as it rose, Kin walked slower, speed bled off by the pressure of the water and the icy cold freezing his muscles.
”What about swimming?” His teeth where chattering, making his slurred words even more indistinguishable from the ripples of water lapping at the cliff sides and the crunch of pebbles.
”Can you swim?”
”And I do not think I can swim with us both in this water. It is too cold.” The voice had lost some of its depth and found some sadness, more regret. Luke shivered involuntarily, from both fever from the poisonous spines and the cold.
”Then go on alone.” He whispered, wondering at himself. Had he just committed suicide? Kin did not seem surprised that he would offer, and quickly refused the it.
”I did not carry you this far just to leave you to drown.” He rumbled gently, and Luke felt his heart squeeze.
”I… I don’t think I’d like that.” He shuddered with the cold, the words increasingly hard to form between numb lips. “But you have your saber and… I don’t think I can stay awake much longer.” He was weary, so weary. His skin was burning above his waist; freezing below it. “I’m dying anyway. Go on.”
Kin stiffened and shook his head again. “No.” It was a tone that seemed used to being obeyed. Luke challenged it.
”There’s no need for you to die too.” His clenched his eyes shut again, burying he head in the soft damp fabric of the cloak he was wrapped in as he shivered again. ”I’m just sorry I got you into this mess.”
”You are no burden, and we will reach safety soon.” Luke sighed at the resilience the man seemed to have. He shivered with a fever and his hands slipped further, only the cuffs keeping him in place. He never thought he would have been glad to be cuffed by an Imperial.
”You don’t have to-“ He stopped and Kin jumped as if burnt.
He didn’t answer, eyes blinking furiously as he shook, still unseeing, still numb.
”I… there’s something there.” His lips burned with a fury. It sounded dumb, stupid, as idiotic as Uncle Owen had so often accused him as being and he bit his tongue, wishing he hadn’t spoken.
Kin, though, took him very seriously. “Where?” He even stopped, trying to address Luke slung like a broken doll on his back.
Luke shook his head, trying to catch that weird feeling he had felt a minute ago. “That way.” He whispered. There was no way he could point, not having the energy even if his hands had been free. Kin seemed to understand anyway and he hurried along the pebble beach to the cliff side. Luke clenched his eyes shut and tried to control the rolling nausea in his stomach.
”You’re right.” Kin said, definitely tinged with pride. “There’s a cave, it looks like it goes a way in….”
The sounds changed, more echoing and the water was suddenly loud in his ears as it sloshed around Kin’s feet. Luke clenched his teeth, pain growing in his legs as they left the numbing cold of the water. He barely felt Kin take his hands over his head and set him in the flat surface of the dry boulder. Luke gasped as his skin touched the hard surface, curling up on himself, not even registering that his hands were still tied. Kin was there, his hand on Luke’s forehead banishing some of the pain, calling Luke’s name. Luke shook his head furiously at his weakness but couldn’t answer.
Kin wrapped him in big arms and held his shivering body, sitting back down on the stone.
”Luke?” He was worried, Luke could hear it, but he couldn’t answer. “We might be safe here, the water isn’t up to the back yet.”
”…good.” It wasn’t much of a conversation but Kin seemed pleased.
”A few more hours and when the water falls we’ll move on.” The soft plunk of droplets of cave-water hitting the lake water echoed and Kin kept talking, but Luke wasn’t answering.
”Luke you must stay awake.”
Luke licked sore lips, dry from the salt. “Why?” He whispered against the arm holding to Kin’s chest. He could hear the steady beat of a strong heart and it soothed him, lulled him further. “I’m a rebel. You’re going to have to arrest me anyway. Take me to Vader. This is just quicker.”
Gentle fingertips brushed away the water rolling down his cheeks from his wet hair. “You’re not my prisoner, Little Jedi. What would I do with you? The Emperor… ” He trailed off, distracted, but Luke felt his gaze on his when he shivered again. “You’re not ready for Vader. I won’t take you to him.”
”And you should not fear retribution for the destruction of the Death Star. It was a monstrous waste of money and a wanton show of power. It deserved destruction.”
Luke shivered. “I don’t think Vader will see it that way.”
”Don’t be so sure. I think… I think your father would have been proud.” The words echoed through the cave.
”I’ll never know.” Luke said sadly. He lapsed into a silence Kin could not pull him from and the echoing began to fade into a dream.
At last Kin asked a tentative question, but one he apparently knew would get an answer. “Tell me about your father.”
Luke shuddered and the arms holding him squeezed a little tighter, almost apologetically, with infinite gentleness. But it got Luke talking. ”I… I never knew him.” Luke said, voice quieter than the rushing water. “My uncle said he was a navigator, but Ben said he was a Jedi.”
”And you want to be a Jedi, to be like him?”
”More than anything.” He whispered.
”And when you become a Jedi, what then? You will be the last. Alone.” Kin asked, sadly, holding him. “Believe me, that is not pleasant.”
Luke shook his head weakly and felt his remaining senses slurring. “I don’t know. I think… maybe I’ll confront Vader. He killed my father…”
The water had reached their feet and Kin moved further on top of the boulder. “You hate him, don’t you?”
Luke didn’t hesitate. “Yes.” He shivered again, deathly cold. He knew he wouldn’t make it out, so it didn’t matter what he wanted or said. “I don’t suppose he even knows what it’s like to loose family.” He murmured.
Gloved fingertips brushed hair from his eyes almost affectionately and he didn’t complain. “I wouldn’t be so sure.” There was something like irony there as Luke felt his senses grow beyond numb, beyond cold, and sleep beckoned enticingly.
Luke murmured something. He meant it to be a question, but it never made it. He recognised unwavering unconsciousness and murmured a word before he finally sank.
* * * *
His vision came in fits of cold sunshine. He wouldn’t remember much of the rest of the journey, held in Kin’s arms as he continued the walk in the dusky hues that embody the first hours of morning. He wouldn’t remember when he scrambled to be free of that grasp, muttering something about his father. He wouldn’t remember his first sight of Kin as his vision returned more reliably, and the shock that echoed through the water. He’d not remember the small shanty hospital, nor ‘Kin’ at his side through a long, torturous night full of macabre nightmares and gentle soothing touches. He wouldn’t remember, and ‘Kin’ thought that best.
Time passed sluggishly, and when he woke to a brilliant morning, ‘Kin’ was nowhere to be seen.
Han looked down on him with concerned eyes, mouth lacking the distinctive smug grin that Luke knew from over a year on the Alliance. He wet his lips, wondering at the tearing loneliness he felt despite seeing his friend, despite seeing.
”Where am I?”
Han shook his head and levered him upright. “Hospital, and you’re going to be fine, but if you ever pull a stunt like that again I’m going to have Chewie tie you to the backend of the hyperdrive, Kid.”
Luke smiled despite himself.
”Your companion? Long gone, Kid. Don’t worry.” Han dragged a chair across to his bedside and shook his head. “You sure know how to pull ‘em, Luke. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how you got out of this one.”
”Where did he go?” Luke asked, a strange tearing in his heart that Kin had abandoned him. Or perhaps not abandoned. What had he said about Luke needing more time?
”Who cares? Main thing is you’re still in one piece, despite spending a night with Darth Vader.”
Then it hit him with the force of a charging herd of banthas. Respirator, black cloak, incredibly huge, the Force…
Relief was replaced by terror, which slowly sank into twin feelings of betrayal and wonder. Luke jumped from the bed and his eyes bore into his smuggler friend. “What?”
Please review. This was a one-shot I just had to write otherwise I would have gone mad. Comments are welcome, cherished, smuggled away for later viewing on boring, rainy days…
*** I know that the name ‘Kin’ has been used before as an alias for Vader, for pretty obvious reasons. I wrote this without realising it, having the lofty presumption it was my own creation. Kudos to those who also thought of it. I did not steal it; I’m just thinking on the same wavelength. Like someone pointed out in the reviews, this includes MJ Mink’s ‘Marooned’ … this is an old story I wrote a while back, and when I read Marooned I was torn between banging my head against a brick wall and throwing this away. I settled for just letting it gather dust, then posting it now (need the space) and just accepting we had similar ideas ( when you go through writing something like this, I at least build it up around points like; ‘how could Luke not realize it’s Vader’ answer; Amnesia? Blindness? Both… ‘how do I keep them together long enough to talk without fighting’ answer; strand them together so they have to work together. ‘why wouldn’t Vader take Luke with him?’ answer; the Emperor would take him away anyway. Best to wait until he’d ready? - basically just using logic to reach the same conclusions.)
Hers is better than mine anyway.