On the Threshold:
Luke is feeling sassy and enjoying his importance a little too much. He's in for a big surprise.
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He couldn't spend the entire day dressed up and waiting to see if the plot would begin, so first thing in the morning Luke donned a jumpsuit and got to work on the fighters, focusing on his squad's x-wings. Certainly the mechanics had been doing their jobs, but it didn't hurt to double-check everything to be certain they were ready for the coming battle.
His dad was off leash, meditating or doing something quiet, and Luke didn't want to disturb him. But really! When would everything start? He was frightened and excited, but mostly worried. Feeling a tad morose, he slouched on the nose of Wedge's X and looked around the busy hangar, wondering who would be de— No, who would survive the upcoming battle. All of them, he insisted to the Force that it would be all of them. No one would die.
He slid down the nose, which would have been fun except his back pocket caught on a screw and stopped his slide. He unfastened himself and retightened the screw before jumping to the ground. The Rogue pilots were bunched together, laughing and talking. Just as Luke joined them, so did Narra.
"If you're bored, gentlemen, I'm sure I can find things for you to do."
Hobbie groaned. "C'mon, Sir, we're just taking a break!"
"Yeah," Porkins added with dignity. "We're highly skilled flying aces, and we need a break before the big action starts. Which should be… anytime now?" He looked expectantly at Luke who shrugged.
The commander frowned Luke. "What are you doing here? Why aren't you with Senator Organa?"
Reacting to the officer's scolding tone, the other pilots melted away like they were chanilla on a hot stove. Thanks a lot, guys. "I'm working! Don't yell at me! Why would I be with him?"
"I'm not yelling. Because you volunteered to be his bodyguard, remember?"
"Just for the Council meeting!" Luke moaned and laid the back of his hand on his forehead. "I didn't volunteer for forever! I have a life!"
"Spare me the dramatics." Narra sounded like his dad. "Just change into something conservative and stay at his side every moment."
"But nothing. You're the one who said he could be in danger."
"There's a whole base here to protect him!"
"His personal security team will be here tomorrow. And wear appropriate clothing. Alderaani livery is tan and brown. Try to blend in."
"Blend in? Me? And… livery?" What, did Organa keep his security people in a stable? He made a mental note to check his dictionary tape because he didn't want to embarrass himself by asking Narra. And tan and brown?! Ugh, how boring. "Thanks, but this little pony will wear whatever he wants!"
Other than an odd look (which made Luke uncertain that 'livery' meant a stable) the declaration evidently made no impression because the commander merely pointed his finger in the direction of the barracks and walked away.
"Fine!" he called, adding under his breath: "I'll go waste my time sucking up to that creep when—" He raised his voice. "I COULD BE WORKING!"
After he'd stomped halfway to the barracks, he stopped abruptly. Wait just a minute! Was Narra doing the make-them-work-together-until-they-bond thing that he'd done with Luke and Wedge? Hah! That wouldn't work with His Non-Serenity!
Well, fine. After finishing his satisfying stomp and checking his wardrobe, he decided he would wear fancy clothes because no snobby ancient senator was going to out-dress Luke Skywalker-Vader, Future Prince of the Galaxy. Maybe.
When he was finished dressing, he was resplendent in: (1) dark blue heavy silk pants, (2) stunning gray-blue suede boots, (3) blue silk balloon-sleeved shirt with silver metal armbands, (4) blue thigh-length jacket with gold stars and a nipped waist,— no, on scratch that, he didn't want to hide his sleek body under a poncho because the jacket made him look broad shouldered with teeny hips, so he ditched the poncho and instead (5) pinned the sapphire brooch to his shoulder. And (6) added his lightsaber, of course.
Seriously, he looked fabulous! All these layers (yes, plus the body glove, Dad!) were way too warm, but that was the price one paid to be fashionable. He hoped his dad still had a spy at the base who was taking snaps. Just in case, when he left the barracks he struck a pose on the top step. No one seemed to notice, but maybe they were too awed to stare openly. It occurred to him that the base needed a daily news bulletin. He could edit the Style Section as well as star in it.
Organa wasn't hard to find because he was as big as a house. Big-boned. Wide. High. Like a wall. Vaderkin was taller but much more elegant and long-limbed— unlike his short-limbed son who, however, could match him in elegance despite his lack of height.
He found His Snippiness with the commander and General Rieekan standing outside the hangar for no apparent reason other than to have a secret talk while staring at the scenic jungle. They looked at him. Narra rolled his eyes at his magnificent appearance.
Luke gave a snappy salute. "Reporting for duty, Your Senatorship! How may I protect you today?"
"Tone it down," Narra instructed, which was totally unwarranted. The commander wasn't his father, but seemed to be trying on the role for size.
Luke ignored him and focused on Organa. "Any special activities that I should know about in order to maintain the highest possible level of security for you?"
"Ensign— Lieutenant—?" Bail hesitated. "Do you have an Alliance rank?"
"I never enlisted." Luke smiled. "Too young. And couldn't get parental permission for some reason."
Rieekan looked at him expressionlessly, which was more intimidating than being scolded by Narra. Luke shifted into parade rest, his hands clasped behind his back, and subsided. The other three waited, but he was finished for now.
"Commander!" A young ensign— who was not his dad's agent— maybe— hurried over, thankfully breaking the awkwardness. "Communications are down."
Narra's head turned sharply toward Luke, before he answered the aide. "Everywhere?"
"Uh, no…. Just here on the base, sir. Outgoing only. We still have incoming communications. We're working to find the problem, probably a blown transmitter."
Luke couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief, and he felt Narra relax too.
"Thank you, Ensign. Let us know when the problem is fixed." General Rieekan frowned, something he rarely did. "It's a tense time. Luke, have you received any updates from…?"
From…? "I have not heard from General Skywalker today," he said formally, "but I'll contact him. In the meanwhile… Senator, is there a good reason why you're standing out here making yourself a target?"
"Less chance of being monitored," Commander Narra answered, because apparently he was being His Royalness's father too.
"If you tell me which areas you want to use, I'll check for listening devices." Seriously?! Had they forgotten that? "I can tell you that there is no one electronically monitoring us in our immediate area, but indoors is easier for me to secure. Out here, someone could use long-range apparatus that might be placed physically beyond my ability to sense. Or they could lip read," he added, and wondered if they believed all his babbling.
Yes, apparently they did! He loved when they tried to cover their astonishment at his brilliance. And probably at his fabulous wardrobe too.
Organa nodded. "Very well, I will defer to your professional judgement. Gentlemen, shall we return to the office?"
Professional judgement! Luke made himself as tall as possible. "I'm assigned to you 24/7 until your team arrives." He said that as a ploy to get the Alderaani team here faster and really hoped it wasn't true. He stayed at Organa's shoulder like a pesky fly as they walked into the hangar. "When you return to your quarters, I'll check that too, to be sure it's not… erm, bugged."
"Thank you." The senator was obviously thrilled at the idea of Luke being with him all day and….
Wait, and all night? What about in the 'fresher? No. No, he was misinterpreting his orders. He sent Narra a pleading look, but the officer chose to ignore it.
After declaring Command free of any lurking monitors, Luke said helpfully (because sometimes he knew when to back off) (and he needed a break because he was wearing himself out with all the quipping), "I'll station myself outside the door, if that's all right."
"Thank you," Rieekan said, and Luke decided he'd had his quota of thank yous today, thank you very much! He must be acting too agreeably.
With relief, he retreated out of the office and leaned against the wall. He could eavesdrop, but why bother? Last time he didn't like what he heard, and usually they were boring anyway. Idly, he checked on his dad. Vaderkin was meditating or whatever, so Luke tried to back away, but it was too late.
Oh! Hey, Dad! Sorry to interrupt.
What? What? Sweetheart!? Vader had called him that exactly once… or maybe twice… when he was feeling uncharacteristically sentimental. I can count on one finger the number of times you called me that. What's going on?
Not much. Anything new with you?
Seriously? Anything new? Okay, Dad, you're being weird. What are you up to?
I've simply been doing those things you nagged me to do. Healing meditations, calming meditations… Sith help me, even old Jedi meditations.
Oh. Well, that's good… I guess. You feel different.
Better? Or just different?
Both. He smiled.
Ah. I am… reasonably content, for the moment.
Huh. Reasonably content? Dad, by any remote chance are you trying to say you're HAPPY?
Happy? Is that the word I'm looking for? Vader was teasing and his heart was light— Luke could feel it. What are you doing now, Bug?
Guarding Organa. Commander Narra said I had to.
Good. Is he saying or doing anything noteworthy?
He hasn't scolded me today— does that count? I don't know what he's doing right this second. He's in the Command office with Rieekan and Narra.
Where are you?
Outside. By the door. Guarding.
You should be inside with him.
Luke clicked his tongue. Oh, c'mon!
Not all threats come from outside. There could be a danger in the office.
He narrowed his eyes. Could be or is? What are you saying? What do you know?
Son, if I suspected anything, I would tell you. I'm merely suggesting that if you are guarding him, then GUARD him. Continue monitoring his words and demeanor as you have been.
Wait! What? He wasn't sure if he'd been doing that. Well… okay, maybe he had. Sure, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. He hoped that was what his dad wanted to hear. And you— When are we starting the plan? You never tell me anything!
Hmm. His father was silent for long moments, and Luke was certain he was being quiet just to tease him.
Very well. How would five minutes work for you?
He blinked. What? Five minutes for what?
Vaderkin's aura radiated amusement. Luke, just go monitor Organa. I'll talk to you soon. With that, their link closed.
Fine! he Sent a second too late. "He never tells me anything," he grumbled. Luke wrinkled his nose, then composed himself and went back indoors where he would have to pretend he knew everything.
Narra looked up. "What?"
"What what?" Luke shrugged. "If I'm going to guard him, I'm going to guard him where he stands."
Organa rubbed one eyebrow with the tips of his fingers but kept reading a datapad. The door opened again and the ensign reappeared.
"Sir, we can't find the problem with the com."
Rieekan gestured to Narra who said: "Luke, could you take a look and see if you can fix it?"
"Me?" he asked incredulously. "You want me to tinker?"
"Tinker," the commander repeated. "Yes, please, Luke, tinker. I think the senator is safe with us."
"Fine. Just remember you said that. If something happens to him, it's not my fault!"
"Just go!" General Rieekan snapped, and Luke was so astonished that the always composed officer lost his cool that he simply stared.
"Fine! If that's what you—" His words were yanked back into his brain because….
Because what? Something was….
He felt something. It was—
Oh. It was only Narra touching his forearm. "Luke? What's wrong?"
Immediately General Rieekan stood, and even His Illustriousness lifted his gaze from his reading.
"Is it another bomb?" Narra was tense, his fingers digging into Luke's arm.
"Ouch. Do you mind?" he snapped, but as politely as possible. "I don't know. Let me focus." Sith-hell, he loved this Force stuff that made people listen to him and give him respect. Closing his eyes, he muted the sounds and sights around him. There was something he couldn't quite reach, something that transcended his senses, subverted his awareness, something preternatural, something miraculous, something that felt so ethereal and—
Honestly, Bug. Don't overdo it. It's just me.
His eyes flew open. Dad?! He was so thrilled that he nearly floated out of the office and across the hangar to the vast open entrance of the pyramid, vaguely aware of the other three following him.
Why are you surprised? I did ask how five minutes would work for you.
You—you! I can't believe— Oh, yes, I can, you love surprises! Keeping his expression as unreadable as he possibly could, he spread his arms to keep everyone back.
Narra listened to his com, then reported: "Unexpected ship. It's transmitting Alliance codes, but its configuration isn't in any registry. Luke? Is it… could it be Palpatine?"
"No." He turned around, conscious that his face answered for him because he couldn't repress his joy for one second longer. "It's starting," he announced.
Then he turned back, watching as the ship drew closer, watching as it made a perfect, delicate landing and turned sideways on the tarmac in front of the hangar. Despite how smoothly it moved and how exquisite was its sleek silver hull composed of multiple alloys and armor (and of course trimmed with gold), it was a warship that made no attempt to hide its ample armament. Luke suspected there was a lot more to the ship than was visible on the outside. Locked and loaded, Dad!
Organa straightened his robe. "I'll greet him."
"Just wait." Luke blocked the senator with his outstretched arm. "Give him this moment. It's been a long journey for him." He didn't know if they understood that he didn't mean the flight. For his father, it was the culmination of the pilgrimage to reclaim his life.
People were beginning to gather at the back of the hangar, wondering about the unusual ship and keeping clear of it. Luke gestured to his fellow Rogues. The twins Wes and Zev came closer with Wedge moving more cautiously. Porkins, however, was Right There like an obedient puppy. Hobbie joined them, scowling.
"What's going on? Who is it?"
Luke was saved from answering because a blast of (totally unnecessary) fog burst from the ship as the ramp lowered. He almost laughed because— oh, because this was his dad's time finally. And his dad was proud and happy.
And Luke, damnit, felt tears forming in his eyes again. He was getting to be a crybaby… but he couldn't help it because he was reveling in his dad's joy.
A figure began to emerge from the cloud, the edges of a swaying cloak visible first. It was—
He gasped aloud. It was ivory! His dad was wearing the long cloak Luke had bought during his retail therapy excursion in Coronet City. Crystal trim ran the full length of both front bands and around the edges of the hood. The jewels reflected the sun, shooting prisms through the humid air, making his dad sparkle like some sort of god.
Dad! You're…. Hey, you're SHORT! Well, not short, but shorter. The cloak must have been altered to fit his father's new height. Maybe— Well, no, damn, it was still too long for Luke.
At the base of the ramp, his dad paused, tossing the cloak behind his shoulders so effortlessly that Luke decided he had to learn to imitate that motion. Beneath the cloak was the matching embroidered ivory weskit and under that—
Sapphire. Blue to match Luke. How did you know? Or did I know? Oh, never mind! You knew that I knew that I needed to look spectacular today, and you— Wow. Just… wow, Dad!
His father advanced toward them. Luke remained motionless but ready to block anyone who dared approach. His heart desperately wanted to push him forward and throw himself into his dad's arms, but he believed what he'd said to Organa.
This was his dad's moment of glory. When they succeeded, there would be more honor and laurels, but for now Luke simply let feelings of pride flow from him to his dad. There had been so much pain and so much work behind his father's extraordinary transformation. And more than physical changes. His father's emotions struck him suddenly, as if they'd been held back and now they were erupting with a strange sort of gentle menace.
"General Skywalker," His Serenity finally said as Vaderkin stopped in front of him (yay, taller than Organa!), still illuminated by the sun, still haloed, still glowing like a… well, like an angel. Okay, a sort of vengeful angel, but just add crystal wings and his dad's fabulosity would be unmatched by any angel of legend.
"Senator Organa." His father greeted each one in turn, giving the appearance of ignoring Luke though their thoughts were entwined together like the melody of a fine symphony. Or maybe an opera with lots of drama and shouting and stabbing in the background. "Commander Narra. General Rieekan, it's an honor to meet you. Your military record is impressive."
"Thank you, General. Your record is also… impressive."
Ha-ha, awkward! Dad! Yoo-hoo! Don't forget about ME!
"Is that your dad?" Zev Senesca whispered, unable to hide his amazement. Or was it consternation? Next to him, Wes was staring with eyes that looked ready to pop out.
No respirator, no armor, no hint of Darth Vader. So anyone who suspected that Vader was Luke's father— Yeah, I'm looking at you two, Zev and Wes!— was completely thrown into uncertainty. This man appeared one hundred percent human with nothing to suggest he was partly cyborg. No one knew his father's true identity— except for the three officials standing around him. Luke frowned slightly. That was… inconvenient.
He almost started because he was getting used to his dad's silence.
Vaderkin… Anakin…. Luke didn't know what to call him now. His father smiled faintly, looked at him, and held out his hand, which was all the invitation Luke needed. He covered the final couple steps between them in a leap and hurled himself into arms that wrapped around his back and squeezed him tightly.
Dad! Shit! What the hell?!
Language, Vaderkin chastised.
Language?! Everybody says it! You don't scold THEM!
I'm not their father. I'm yours.
Yeah, you are. Even if you're short. He nuzzled his nose against his dad's neck. He still had to stand on his toes, but at least he could reach above the broad shoulders. You look…fantastic. Unbelievable. Gorgeous. Amazing!
And you feel different. You feel… yeah, happy, but you feel peaceful, too. Or something.
"I've been working on it," Vaderkin whispered against his ear. Then his mouth drifted over and kissed his cheek. "It's for you. It's all for you, Bug. Everything I do is for you."
Luke bowed his head, resting it as he had so often: against his father's chest. But now there was no armor, no respirator to make him cautious and gentle. Just fabric and beads and the steady sound of a real heart beating.
With a sigh, Vaderkin pulled him to his side so they both faced their audience, but kept his arm around Luke's waist. "We'll begin tomorrow," he ordered with quiet authority that was nothing like his usual manner of giving orders. "Now I need to see my quarters. I wish for them to include a meeting area."
There was a hesitation before Commander Narra nodded. "Of course, sir. Officers' quarters are limited since the explosion, so I've arranged for you to take over—"
Vaderkin raised one gloved hand (while Luke admired the flexibility of the soft leather that looked inky and new). "Anywhere is fine as long as there is room for my son too."
Luke hid a grin because he knew Narra hadn't planned for that. "Dad, we have a large area in Rogue Barracks. After the night shift pilots left, I rearranged it into more of a rec area, but I can fix that. There's plenty of room."
"Excellent," his dad agreed before adding graciously: "If you gentlemen will excuse me, I will refresh myself after my journey. Perhaps a meal? And someone to bring my personal belongings to the barracks?"
He loved the way his dad made questions into orders. As if anyone would say no to whatever General Skywalker wanted!
"Of course, sir."
"Senator, General, Commander," his dad repeated, nodding to each one before turning to Luke. "Lead the way, Son."
"Sure, I—" But as soon as he turned around, he saw his wide-eyed squad standing motionless and gawking. "Wait! Can you meet my friends first? They're right here."
"Of course," Vaderkin agreed indulgently.
"This is Jek Porkins."
"Varactyl," his dad said in the way of a response. "Perhaps we will get you to Utapau where you can ride one. They are quite friendly and docile."
Porkins was shaking a little but managed a nod.
"Also, chanilla. A large container in my ship."
Porkins sucked in his breath. "Wow, really? Thank you, sir! I mean, thank you, Luke's Dad!"
With a sigh, Luke continued. "Wedge Antilles."
"Sir!" Wedge said, straightening.
"Antilles. Hmm. You punched my son."
"No matter." An elegant wave of fingers dismissed any worries. "He tells me it was a fair fight which he won."
Luke glared at Wedge before saying: "This is Derek Klivian."
"Uh, Hobbie, sir." Klivian held out his hand, which Vaderkin ignored.
"You don't like my son."
Luke rolled his eyes. "Dad! Do you have to be so blunt?"
Hobbie looked down. "I—"
"Irrelevant," his father decided. "We are allowed to decide whom we like. I trust you were fair in making your judgement." It wasn't a question, but it sure sounded like one.
"Probably not. Sorry." Hobbie gulped.
Okay, enough of that! "This is Wes Janson."
Vaderkin's gaze began at Janson's head and continued slowly to his feet. He waited a very long moment before saying: "I trust you have enjoyed the new clothing."
"Yessir!" Wes's face flushed bright pink. "I sure have! I mean, thank you, sir! It was really generous of you."
"It was generous of Luke," his dad clarified. "He only told me after the fact."
"Oh. Right. Uh…. Hey, your cloak looks terrific," Wes offered with enthusiasm. "I was there when he… when we…."
"Moving right along," Luke interjected hurriedly, "here's Zev Senesca."
His dad said nothing. He stared directly into Zev's eyes. Zev didn't speak, but held his gaze.
His father tilted his (Hair by Luke™) head. "I see." He paused to give Zev the once-over like he had with Wes. "You have been kind to him… without being inappropriate, I assume?"
"Yes, yes, he has!" Luke intervened hurriedly. "I mean, he hasn't! Been inappropriate, I mean. I mean…."
His father looked down at him.
"Shutting up now," Luke mumbled.
"It's… interesting to meet you, sir," Zev finally said.
Luke sighed with relief. "Okay, let's go to the barracks, then we can get something to eat."
"Please join us in the officers' dining room, General. Luke too," Rieekan added generously, like it was a big deal to feed him.
Vaderkin's head tilted. "Perhaps the meals can be delivered to the barracks. Luke, is there room for all of us, including your fellow pilots?"
"Sure!" Well. "I'll start rearranging things now!" He didn't know what his dad was up to, but this should prove to be an interesting meal.
His Serene Highness Organa and General Rieekan didn't look as excited as him, but Commander Narra was trying to hide a smile and totally failing in the attempt.
"Off we go!" Luke declared, and acted on his words.
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Note: After this, please read "The Truth: Interludes, Chapter 18 You-Know Who" - Fellow Rogue pilot Zev Senesca considers father and son, wondering about Anakin Skywalker's true identity.
Note #2: If you happen to wander over to Ao3, there are two pieces of art attached to this chapter (which is Part 14, Chapter 9 on Ao3). I'm so honored to have art— and they're both Vaderkin's arrival! His magnificent ivory cloak, and another with wings as Luke fantasized.