His ears are ringing, but that’s the least of his worries because he was expecting everything to be on fire. So when Luke wakes, he’s pleasantly surprised to see blue sky above him as he blinks. Smoke filters across his vision from something behind him, probably his crashed x-wing, his mind supplies numbly, dazedly. His thoughts are hazy, overlaid with static as he tries to process precisely why he’s not on fire and somehow nowhere near the cockpit of his ship.
Both questions are simultaneously answered when he feels a hand brush his arm. He jolts up immediately, with a force that makes his head pound and white nothingness flash over his vision briefly. But he shakes it away, breathing through the spikes of pain from his temple. Because kneeling over him is Darth Vader.
Something’s definitely wrong, Luke concludes. Because his first reaction is not running as it should be. Instead, he just stares dumbfound at the black skeletal mask, his thoughts not processing correctly. When did he get here? He shouldn’t be-
But no cuffs are digging into his wrists. Luke blinks, staring into the red lenses blankly, his prosthetic hand clenching and unclenching at his side.
And then the mask tilts slightly, regarding Luke, and the vocoder spits out, “Don’t look,” and then Vader turns away, looking down toward Luke’s leg.
Luke doesn’t even understand the words for another five seconds, still blinking and confused. Look at what? What’s happening? And why is he so utterly devoid of fear? That doesn’t seem like the right response to the man who chopped off his hand. But apparently, his addled mind hasn’t received that memo because confusion and a creeping numbness are all he feels.
And then Vader’s words register, and he finally tears his gaze away from the side of the dark mask. He considers the command for a moment--don’t look--but it’s not even a question. He’s a Skywalker; of course, he looks.
He immediately wishes he hadn’t. His leg is broken, the bone jutting sharply through bruised and bloody skin as Vader’s hands flit around the glaring wound. Luke’s eyes shutter as he tries to steady his breathing. Unconsciously, he reaches out to steady himself, a hand blindly twisting into fabric, finding comfort in its warmth. His other hand grabs at the dust and rock on the ground, feeling it slip through his fingers, his stomach twisting. He’s been injured before; this is war, after all, but the image of his own bones sticking through his skin is proving more visceral than he can handle right now.
Slowly, after what feels like an age, his stomach once again calm, Luke pries his eyes open, blinking again at the bright daylight. “I told you not to look, young one,” breaks the silence, and Luke almost jumps at the deep rumble. He doesn’t bother responding, not sure his brain is completely caught up enough to be arguing with Darth Vader.
But he can’t look at his leg, and the easiest thing to see, because it’s blocking a majority of his vision with its bulk as it leans over him, is Darth Vader. So he stares pointedly at the mask, trying to push the image of his mangled leg out of his mind. Blankly, he realizes his hand is still clutching tightly to Vader’s cape. And for some reason, the thought of letting go doesn’t even register.
He needs something else to fill the silence, though: some distraction. “Why can’t I feel it?” The question just slips out, and Luke winces at the hoarse sound of his voice as it rings out over the barren wasteland of rock. But Vader doesn’t seem to be in a killing mood, and Luke’s just realized that he really can’t feel his leg. He hasn’t tried to move it yet, but right now, his leg is effectively numb. It should be blazing with pain, and he hasn’t seen any medical supplies that could relieve it, so how-
The mask tilts towards him again, and he feels the numbness in his leg shift, creeping further up. That can’t be good. Panic sparks in his brain, and his gaze flicks to his leg without his permission. His stomach churns again at the sight, but Luke can’t look away. The ringing in his ears is drowning out everything else, and the air in his lungs is thin. He tries, desperately, and probably unwisely, to move his leg with all his remaining control. And he succeeds; the bone shifts, sending a roar of burning pain that blacks out his vision for a moment. Definitely not a good idea.
But then the numbness crashes back into him with a vengeance, like ice as it immobilizes his leg. Something’s echoing in his ears, buried underneath the static. Luke doesn’t understand. Why do his lungs feel empty?
Warmth wraps around his fingers twisted in Vader’s cape. It’s another hand, strong and gentle and encasing his smaller one. It feels like safety. And Luke is finally able to tear his eyes away from his leg and meet the red lenses of Vader’s mask. He feels like there should be words coming from it, but he can’t tell, can’t breathe, doesn’t understand .
Luke. His name filters through the static as clear as day, said right inside his mind, and Luke tries to flinch back, his thoughts spinning out of control, but the hand wrapped around his where it’s tangled in the cape keeps him from rocking backward. Luke, breathe, the voice echoes.
Breathe? He’s breathing… Isn’t he? Wait… No, that’s why his lungs are burning. He finally sucks in a shaky breath, trying to filter air back into his body. There’s a comforting warmth settled like a blanket over his skin, but even it can’t erase the numbness in his leg. Why, why is it numb? The panic spikes again, and he desperately tries to keep his breathing steady, his hearing coming in bursts as his mind tries to catch up.
Luke. The voice echoes again, deep but soft, and Luke stares at the red lenses of Vader’s mask. It’s him; the voice is him. Luke, it’s just me. I blocked your nerves from the pain temporarily. Breathe.
And that shouldn’t be comforting; Darth Vader is messing around with his perceptions. But it is comforting. His ears aren’t ringing as much, the sound of the respirator filling them instead. Luke doesn’t stop staring at the lenses, hyperaware of the hand wrapped around his own. Why would Vader bother to help with Luke’s pain? Is this him caring?
Luke doesn’t know, and he’s not sure he wants to. But at the moment, there’s a more pressing question. “Is… Is it-” He doesn’t know how to ask, and he can’t bring himself to look at it again, fear creeping into his veins.
Vader seems to understand, “You will not lose it if you get medical treatment, which will be here soon.”
And that eases something else in Luke’s chest. He doesn’t quite understand why Vader’s here or why he’s helping, and maybe it’s because he’s not thinking clearly, but he feels hope bloom in his chest, hope that maybe his father wants him, and not for the Empire, but just because they’re family.
So they stay there--it’s not like Luke could get away if he tried--but Vader’s blanket of warmth is draped over Luke in the Force as he stems the pain in his leg and… it’s not uncomfortable. Luke’s hand remains twisted in Vader’s cape like a child seeking comfort from a parent, and maybe that’s what it is. But Luke doesn’t mind because Vader’s hand doesn’t move either, still wrapped tightly around Luke’s. And even when the Imperial shuttle appears, Vader doesn’t pry Luke’s hand away.