A/N: Thanks to Elli for looking it over and saying it was post-worthy. ;) And a tearjerker. ;)
Luke sighed, but stopped attempting to speak. The blood was running over her fingers – his blood. She got dizzy whenever she thought about that, so she didn’t think about that. It wasn’t Luke’s blood that was pouring out of him despite all her attempts to stop it. It wasn’t Luke’s blood that covered her hands and was smeared over her clothing.
Luke closed his eyes.
“No, Luke, look at me,” Leia insisted, whispering loudly. She couldn’t slap him, both her hands were over his wound, trying to stop the bleeding. “You can’t fall asleep, okay? You have to stay awake.”
He opened his startlingly blue eyes, and a bit of mischief briefly glimmered there, as if to say – I can’t speak, but I have to stay awake? No fair. He moved his head slightly in her lap, and sighed again, attempting to breathe deeply. Leia heard a little burbling sound with each breath he took. He hadn’t tried to move at all since Leia had pulled him into her arms.
“It’ll be okay, Luke,” Leia said softly. “We’ll get through this. We always have.” She blinked, wishing she could brush the strand of bloody hair over her eye away. Wishing . . . for more than that. But wishes were useless; she had always known that. Distractions.
She looked up at a faint noise, but there was nothing to be seen. The twisted corridor was still dark and empty. She could hear muffled sounds of battle, but couldn’t tell how far away the fighting was. She should probably be with them. It was the logical thing to do. But staying here with Luke seemed like the right thing to do. He’d taken that shot for her . . .
“Stay awake, Luke,” Leia demanded, voice breaking. Would they win? Would the Rebel medical officers reach them in time?
Luke opened his eyes again. “Wanna speak,” he slurred.
The sounds of battle were growing louder. That could only mean the Rebels were in retreat. This base lost. All of them here lost. Han still frozen, he’d missed this, but the others – too many others, it was all lost. How had they been found? But it didn’t matter now, she supposed. A wish, a distraction. “Okay,” Leia whispered. She could make no motions of comfort, was unwilling to give up the chance that he would survive and stroke his face, but maybe she could grant him this.
He blinked at her, and she tried to smile. “Love you, Leia,” he said, and his smile, faint and pained, seemed genuine nevertheless.
Leia choked out something between a sob and a laugh. “I know.”
He smiled again, dreamily. “I called him, y’know,” he breathed. He didn’t seem very lucid, he was too calm for that. Probably better that way, if he was too delirious to feel the pain, Leia decided.
“My father,” Luke said with difficulty. He paused, eyes fluttering shut. “When I was a little kid, whenever I was angry or sad, I’d call to him. And he’d never come.”
“Oh, Luke,” Leia said, shutting her eyes. She thought of her dead father, of how he had always been there for her nightmares, her dreams and aspirations. She had never known that want, as busy as he had often been. She missed him now, of course, but he had always come to her when she called.
“I talk . . . I talked with another orphan, once, a few years back. Died, dead now, but he said – we all do that. Call, and they never come. And we just get used to it,” Luke continued, stopping here and there, gathering the words. “I stopped calling. And then he came.”
Leia nodded. “I’m sure he did,” she said, wondering what he was seeing now, to be thinking this. What thoughts were drifting through his mind, that all this would come together now, and he would want to speak it. What was he thinking of? His dead Jedi father? His aunt and uncle? What dreams did an orphan have?
“It’s so messed up, Leia,” Luke mumbled. “I’m sorry. Never woulda called, before.”
“It’s all right,” Leia said helplessly.
“He’ll take care of you, right?” Luke said, weakly smiling.
“Sure, Luke,” Leia said, as comfortingly and confidently as she could, looking up again. The sounds were becoming louder and louder.
“Sorry,” Luke repeated.
Leia looked down at him. Luke. Luke couldn’t be dying in her arms. Never had she thought that she would find such a close friend, such a good friend, in someone so different from her. Different upbringing, different life . . . “Don’t be sorry,” she told him. “Everything is going to be all right,” she assured him, choking down her emotions.
He closed his eyes.
“Luke, open your eyes. Luke!” she called, louder and louder. “Luke, please. Please open your eyes!”
“Princess.” The voice was a deep, familiar and threatening rumble.
Leia’s eyes snapped up. There, at the end of the hallway, stood Darth Vader. Entirely unscathed. Hatred flourished at the sight of him, but it was quickly dimmed by the warm blood still flowing over her hands. What importance was Vader now? Luke was dying. Everything else just seemed to fade, still there but quiet and muted.
“He is injured?” Vader asked, walking forward to where Leia and Luke were, propped up against a wall caved in from concussion blasts.
Leia stared at him as he approached. “He’s dying,” she said numbly.
Vader seemed to pause, which was odd, then he quickened his step. Leia noted that he was alone. Not that he needed guards, especially against her and Luke, here and now. He knelt by her, his massive form intimidating, and Leia repressed her instinctive flinch. He reached out for Luke. Leia, her hands still over Luke’s bloody abdomen wound, could do nothing. Can’t give up. Can’t. Can’t.
“Luke?” Vader said. He paused, considering. “He is unconscious,” he informed Leia.
“I noticed,” Leia snapped.
“No,” Luke said, eyes starting to open.
“Luke!” Leia cried, relieved. “Luke? Open your eyes.”
Luke blinked slowly, then focused his eyes on Vader. “You came,” he whispered. “I called and you came.”
“Of course, my son,” Vader said.
What? Leia thought fuzzily.
Luke smiled. “Sorry,” he said, and it seemed to encompass everything. Too late, I love you, here and gone . . . Then his eyes closed, and for the first time, he went fully limp.
Suddenly, like five minutes had just vanished from her life, Vader was holding her, trying to keep her still, and Luke was still lying there on the floor, so motionless in an unnatural way. “Princess!” Vader growled. “Be still!”
Her body obeyed against her will. She turned her head, still able to do that, and Luke’s words, Vader’s words, echoed in her mind, coming together, gathering into a realization. Luke was dead. Luke was dead. Luke was dead. “He waited, and you didn’t come soon enough,” she hissed, sure of nothing but that her words would strike their mark.
Vader’s breathing halted, unnaturally, then he dragged her away from Luke’s body.
“He s-said you’d take care of me,” Leia muttered, voice cracking, mind cracking.
Vader seemed to pause again.
“Then I will.”