Ya gotta graduate from toeing the water to jumping in the deep end eventually. Title: Enough Author: ThreadSketch Timeframe: during TESB, between the Falcon's escape from the Executor and the closing scene aboard the medical frigate Characters: (unnamed) Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Genre: angst, introspection Summary: One possible way that Luke manages to cope with his Heroic BSOD immediately following Papa Vader's bombshell. Disclaimer: This is merely non-compensated playtime with the intellectual property of George Lucas, and purchased property of Disney. Author's Notes: The purpose behind this short piece is to provide a reference point that would be picked up again in a later, much, much longer story. I guess this means I'm trying to...establish my own continuity. (*gasp!*) I had originally planned on writing this as a novella-length fic in ordinary third-person, to cover the span of possible events between escaping Bespin and the end of the film, but decided to shorten it severely and use a drastically different writing style in hopes of, frankly, making it more interesting. Perhaps the original version might see the light of day, perhaps not. I appreciate any thoughts, observations, and typo or grammatical catches, as this is un-beta'ed. (I'm still conspicuously brandishing the n00b hat.) Without further ado... He doesn't believe it. He doesn't believe when a familiar roar thunders through the ship, when inertia tosses him and everyone else back into their seats or toward the nearest bulkhead, when the stars flare and stretch to infinity, that they've escaped. He doesn't believe, until the shift to hyperspace instantly hurls them away far enough to rip out the iron talons buried in his brain, that they're free. And even then, he knows he'll never be free again. No matter how far he runs, no matter how many light-years he puts between himself and that black spectre, those claws will have left festering wounds that will burn him with the fever of nightmares and poison his heart with a cancer of dread. No. I am your father. It would be so easy to deny it. The word of a Sith Lord against so many others – others who have fought alongside him, sacrificed themselves for him, drilled wisdom and discipline and humility into him, loved him – should be meaningless. A murderer is a liar at heart, denying all that is good and true in the universe. An enemy only seeks to undermine and manipulate. And yet...and yet. The Force cannot lie. The power that has saved his life and strengthened his hands and mind to wage war, the energy that has renewed him when his body could not take another step, the essence that has connected him to the glorious radiance of all life, can obscure the future and cloud weak minds, but on its own it cannot deceive. It is a revealer of thoughts. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. He has, and it is. Just as his own face has met him within the abyss of a shattered helmet, it is his own self that reflects back from the black pit reaching out to him across that gantry. Blood calls to blood. A liar speaks the truth. And that terrible echo, the resonance that vibrates to the tune of his own soul, will not be silenced. He will carry it with him, beneath the hum of his mind and the beat of his heart, when he sleeps and when he wakes, on the most distant base or remote coordinates, in the thick of battle and the moments of idle quiet. Until it breaks him. His wrist is numb, but it isn't. There isn't an anesthetic in existence that can wipe out that searing agony, not just of superheated plasma slicing through flesh and bone, but of words. Those five words have cut deeper than any blade, and it feels like his soul is leaking out through that wound and the auto-tourniquet sealing it. Vaguely he's aware of other words around him, those of a stranger and a beloved. He comprehends them enough to follow them as he's lifted up and walked back to the medical cabin he abandoned. Deep brown eyes, both smoldering with subdued rage and misting with concern, never leave him as small, gentle hands continue their interrupted ministrations. Comfort streams from her lips and alights from her touch, but he doesn't hear her. All he can see are the invisible scars of terror, anguish and sorrow hidden in the faint lines around her eyes, the sharp angles of her face, and the tightness of her mouth, all etched into her by the same one who has just crushed his own identity into his opponent. She loves him, and there is nothing else he needs as desperately as her right now. She loves him, but she would hate him if she knew. And so he will become a liar himself. He understands now why he has been insulated from this awful knowledge, even as every fiber of his being wants to summon the ghost of his mentor or fly back to that repulsive jungle world so that he can scream accusations at both of his teachers. His deceivers. He will be one of them too. No one must know. He is urged to rest, but he is so frightened of what will meet him behind his eyelids and what will come out of his mouth when he is not in control. Raving like a lunatic is something he's been told he does well when he's sick and insensible. It's not funny anymore. This time his cries won't earn him sympathetic gazes or affectionate ridicule, but rejection and perhaps even the walls of a holding cell. Once death inexplicably refused to take him the first time at the bottom of a city in the clouds, he'd lost his nerve to face it again in the smothering embrace of toxic gases and bone-crushing pressure. Now he wishes he'd simply let go. He should not be here. If he is the spawn of a Dark Lord, he is a danger to himself and all those around him. He should have denied the darkness any chance of claiming him. Every moment more that he lives is another moment of doubt and confusion and horror, crumbling his mind away. Anger, fear, aggression – the Dark Side are they. If once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will! His blaster is still in its holster, shed and lying on the deck less than a meter away. But she will not leave him. At last even his own body betrays him, pulling him down into the chasm of sleep, where his fall will continue forever. * I feel cold...death... That place...strong with the Dark Side it is... In you must go. That rasping breath, in the last place expected – - blades clashing, their heat a faint reflection of the stellar flares of vengeance and self-righteousness – - a victory too easily won – - cold, sightless eyes of blue piercing through the haze – What's in there? Only what you take with you. Black tendrils grow from the wet earth, sown from fear and watered with grief, twisting and grasping as the vines overhead stretch forth, creeping and binding, as serpents descend to strike – - the darkness is upon and within, all-encompassing, stifling, choking – It is the only way. * Consciousness returns with all the violence of a hull breach. Blind panic makes him forget as he reaches up to tear away phantoms, and he smashes his stump right into his nose before she can grab his arm. Her loud, urgent reassurances are drowned out by his own screaming and gagging and gasping. Air has never seemed so precious. Acid burns the back of his throat, and he has to fight to keep from heaving all over himself. Then he's seized in a grasp so tight that the resulting blast of pain jolts the senses back into him. Most of his body has become one massive bruise, and oh, how it hurts to be held that hard, but he clings to her just as fiercely as that antenna, that last lifeline between him and hell. In this moment he doesn't know how he will keep going. He doesn't know how he can ever be a Jedi, bereft of his weapon – a weapon whose memory is now tarnished with hypocrisy and betrayal – estranged from his masters, undone by the shattering of dreams and legacies. He doesn't know how he can contain the immensity of this secret that will tinge his world in shades of gray and blood-red where once his purpose shone with sun-drenched clarity; a burden that can scarcely be borne over the weight of death and loss and relentless struggle already pressing upon him each day. He doesn't know how he will live with a permanent reminder of his arrogant stupidity and humiliation, of how narrow the gap is between defeat and destruction. But between breaths he reminds himself whose arms are around him. The same arms that were pinned by merciless gauntlets as the world that had shaped and inspired her, with all its life and beauty, was reduced to vapor and rubble before her eyes. The same arms that fight back with deadly accuracy and lead with stoic authority, refusing to hang subdued in the face of overwhelming tragedy. She has persevered through suffering that he can't begin to fathom, and in the gale of affliction she is at times bowed but unbroken. Even in weakness she is strong. They are now bound by the kinship of torment, and he is enveloped in understanding. For her sake, he wishes it were not so, and knows that she feels the same for him. But he drinks in her presence, her resilience, like precious water found among the desert wastes. In this moment, her strength is enough.