Many thanks to Csillag for chatting and analysing the many ideas that needed to be sifted for this fanfic to come to fruition! And sorry for keeping you up till 3:30AM ... And thanks to MaceVindaloo, for all the good points, as well as the ridiculous ones!
More than an absolute negative, Anakin Skywalker's protest was more a prolonged wail of defeat. The passion and pain he felt in his soul and in his heart would never fully cauterize the bleeding emotions left by his master's pronouncement that his wife had died by his own hand.
She didn't die! His mind howled with pain as his voice screeched out its angry, defiant song. I killed her! He howled to keep from weeping at the memories of attacking his pregnant wife ...
Palpatine, Dark Lord of the Sith, was outwardly full of glee for his Apprentice's rage. But he felt Anakin's pain at Padmé's loss and knew it could be delibitating. Thus, he concluded that he was right in twisting the truth. He needed Lord Vader to cleanse himself with anger; it would take the place of the love he had felt for his wife.
Otherwise, Lord Vader would be of no use to the Sith. Given the amount of work to be done to solidify his newly formed Empire, Palpatine needed the former Anakin Skywalker to be full of rage and hatred. The death of his wife would provide a stronger goad than memories of Anakin's fight with Obi-wan Kenobi. The battle with the Jedi master had left Anakin on the verge of death, but knowing that he, himself, was responsible for killing Padmé was a way to keep him willingly on the Emperor's leash for a long, long time.
That Lord Vader had survived with his rage intact was an excellent thing. Palpatine had no use for a sorrowful, regretful Apprentice.
* * * * *
"Lord Vader?" A deep voice croaked out in the darkness.
"Yes, my master," this was the standard answer Vader always gave to this inquiry. Equipped with infrared and multi-wavelength sensors, he did not need lights to know who was awaiting him in the unlit, unheated chamber.
"I sense ... something is bothering you? Something from your past. Is it your mother ... no, it's Padmé ... your thoughts dwell on her. Why do you allow yourself to indulge in her when the memory causes you unproductive pain?" For all his manipulativeness, Darth Sidious did care for he mental health of his Apprentice.
Vader's thoughts had been drifting along a painful pathway, it was true, and had settled as such thoughts often did on his late wife, the former Queen of Naboo. In the past, he wondered why she had to die, when all his efforts as a Jedi were directed at saving her life.
Like my mother, lamented the Dark Lord, when I came to save her, she died ... I killed her ... like I killed Padmé ...
"It will not do to dwell on your mistakes, Lord Vader." Like Anakin, Sidious had two names: his Sith name and Emperor Palpatine. But he never referred to Vader by his birth name; as far as he was concerned, the man who was Anakin Skywalker was dead and gone.
"Yes, my master," hissed Vader, knowing the truth.
The truth is that the thoughts Lord Sidious had detected were the ones Vader had been thinking for his master's benefit. Deeper down, in a manner that would remain hidden from any others forever, something else moved to niggle at what was left of Vader's shattered, unrepairable heart.
Long ago, when he first met the woman he took for a peasant girl named Padmé Naberrie, he took her and her companions to his mother's home. He knew he would someday marry her; every dream or strong feeling he'd had, had come true. Even after he discovered she was actually the Queen of Naboo in disguise, he never doubted he would marry her. He'd manage it, somehow.
The night before the Boonta Eve Race when he had unknowingly won his freedom from slavery, he had had a dream, but it wasn't about winning the podrace. It was about Padmé Naberrie. It had confused him at the time, not knowing she was anything more than a servant girl. In his dream she was leading an army; the outcome of the battle would determine if Anakin himself would live or die!
But to his distress, he could not see on which side she was fighting. Was it for him ... or against him?
But Padmé had died, and that dream had never came true. It was this bare fact that bothered Anakin; it never left him. He had wondered if the dream of Padmé leading an army was a metaphor, or a matter of misinterpretation; perhaps it was the Army of the Gungan and the Naboo he had dreamt of, when she managed to win the day against the Trade Federation all those years ago? From time to time, he had almost convinced himself that this was the case.
But then there was the dream he had about her dying far away from Coruscant, far away from him, dying as she gave birth to his child. He knew Obi-wan would be there for her, and it had filled him with rage and sadness. Why would his former master be with Padmé? When he had told Padmé about the dream, she asked about the baby. To his dismay, he realized he didn't know what had happened to their child ... the dream had not revealed that much to him. Or perhaps he had simply not seen that part, so distressed was he of what he had seen?
But Lord Sidious had said Anakin had killed her ... Outwardly, Vader accepted that his interference in Padmé's fate had caused his dream to not come true as he'd envisioned it. But inwardly, he wondered if Sidious had lied to him. For Anakin's dreams always came true.
* * * * *
In his meditation chamber, Vader called up the secret files from Senator Amidala's funeral. He did not enjoy watching the procession of mourners, nor the vision of the white coffin gliding along silently with his wife's body mounted in it. She looked beautiful in death, as she had in life ... He would have to stop the reel as her face came into view, but not because he wanted to focus on her features. He could not make himself see her hugely pregnant belly, knowing that he had killed not only his wife, but their child as well. Everything that was good about Anakin had died with the baby growing in his wife. Looking at her body in death was like seeing himself die ... knowing her body and the baby's would be put on a pyre and burned ... as he had witnessed Jedi Master Qui-gon Jinn's immolation so many, many years ago ...
Perhaps she might have survived if she had not been carrying his child. Perhaps it was true that if the baby had been birthed, she would not have died? Understandable as the questions were, Vader could not bring himself to research them; to do so would have alerted Sidious to the nature of his ruminations. And to do so might have hurt him more deeply ...
Though in truth, that line of thought would not have been so bad if it had been discovered. It was the deeper thought that would have caused Sidious to punish the Dark Lord.
If his dream of Padmé leading an army had not come true ... if she had not had the chance to fight for or against him ... perhaps it wasn't too late ...
Perhaps ... perhaps ... she was still alive? And perhaps he would meet her in battle. For or against him, he might see her again!
It was this sweet dream that kept him awake ... and hopeful ... It was a spark from the light side of the Force, which he kept hidden deep, deep inside him. Perhaps he hoped it might be extinguished without him knowing it?
* * * * *
Vader's mind reeled at the news his master had given to him. The name of the pilot who had destroyed the Death Star had been named "Skywalker," of Tatooine. He had known this fact for years, having received the information from a tortured rebel, but it had not occurred to him that the man might be related to him. The Emperor had referred to this boy as "the son of Skywalker," not simply as a potential Jedi-named-Skywalker who was seeking revenge. The only Skywalker that Palpatine would refer to by name was ... himself.
He'd been told to search his feelings, and he knew it to be true: the boy was his son! His and Padmé's! Where had he come from? Where was the boy's mother?
Perhaps Padmé was alive, after all!
It should have bothered Vader that if Padmé had been alive all these years, he had not felt her through the Force. Then again, he had not felt Obi-wan Kenobi, either.
No matter ... it would all be all right if Padmé was in fact alive. He'd apologize to her, no matter which side of the battle she would lead. Even if she surfaced again as his sworn enemy, he would forgive her. He'd make her love him again, for he knew she could see him for who he really was, not for the monstrosity he'd become!
The thoughts elated him and troubled him. He must be careful that the Emperor not realize why he wished to save this young Skywalker, and not destroy him. He would save the boy, but not out of fear that the boy would turn into a Jedi. And he would not save him because of the boy's potential as a strong Sith ally.
It's because he could lead Vader to Padmé!
The Dark Lord must be careful not to lose his prize to the Emperor, for Palpatine would kill Anakin's son to protect himself. Vader must be careful to protect the boy, for the sake of Padmé!
* * * * *
Lord Vader was in turmoil. His son had surrendered himself to Imperial forces, claiming to have come to save him, to pull him to the light side of the Force. The Emperor had cackled at the boy's arrogance; the man who was Luke Skywalker's genetic father was no longer. The man who had killed his wife and destroyed the will of much of the known galaxy would not turn for the sake of his son, whom he did not even know!
The Emperor was right, of course. Vader would not give up his life as a Sith Lord for the sake of a callow youth playing at being a Jedi. Obi-wan Kenobi may have trained him, but the old man couldn't help him now.
For it was not the boy who held the key to what was left of Anakin's human soul ... rather, it was the memory of the boy's mother. And the thought of Luke's mother led naturally to memories of Anakin's mother. He found himself wondering what she would think of him now ... and for the first time in many years, he felt the heat of shame consume him, hotter than the lava pit where Obi-wan had left him to die ...
My mother did not give up her son so that he could become ... this!
His emotions swirled in confusion as he thought of himself ... his mother ... his son ... and Luke's mother. How he and Luke were both men who were orphaned, too young to have left their mothers. Both mothers were gone now ... leaving only their sons to redeem them ...
My mother had a dream for me ...
"You can't hide forever, Luke," Vader intoned in a menacing manner, partly to dispel thoughts of his own mother's shame, and partly to prevent the Emperor from losing patience and going after the boy himself.
"I will not fight you." Luke's voice filled Vader's mind. The boy was clearly in anguish, knowing he could kill his father, but knowing he would not.
The Emperor saw this as a weakness to use against him; Vader knew Sidious's intention. Ever since Obi-wan had nearly killed him so many years ago, Vader had been reduced to being a cyborg, depending on machinery and technicians to keep him alive and fully functioning. Through his years living as a 'droid, Vader had learned to value what was left of his humanity. When the Emperor saw Luke, he saw the chance for a new, younger, healthier Sith Apprentice. He had felt the evil man's glee years ago, when as Anakin Skywalker, he had fought and killed Lord Tyranus, the man who had once been Jedi Master Dooku.
As it was before, it shall be once again, seemed to be the ongoing mantra of the Sith.
Crazily, Vader didn't really care right now what the Emperor's intention was. No matter what happened between him and Luke, Vader felt refreshed, as if a new source of energy had filled him. Unlike the improved batteries and circuits he'd created for himself over the past decades, this energy was like the one he used to experience, when his wife was still alive ... that of unconditional love for someone else ...
He remembered the love not only of Padmé, but of Obi-wan, and of Qui-gon Jinn, the man who saved him from slavery. And of his own mother for the son she gave up, so that he could have a better life than that of a slave on Tatooine. He wondered at the many women he'd met in his life, and how they could give up so much, out of love for their children ...
Woman ... love ... friendship ... Luke's friends ... Vader had forgotten what it was like to have friends ...
"Give yourself to the dark side," Vader's need to know where the boy was hiding was growing desperate, and his train of thought had led him to the solution. "It is the only way you can save your friends." It was working! He felt the boy's feelings crack and flow ... "Yes, your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for"
Vader blinked. Luke's friends, his love for them ... could it be coincidence? 'Droids, two of them, what were they called ... Threepio? R2? No! It couldn't be!
A wookiee ... like those Grand Master Yoda had gone to visit when he had disappeared. Another coincidence? And that smuggler, the one who loved
Vader blinked again ...
"Sister!" Vader barely breathed the word. And in a flash, it became clear to him!
That dream he's had when he was merely nine years old about Padmé leading an army ... the dream that had bothered him for all these years ... the sweet, sweet dream that had buoyed his hopes that the woman he loved was still alive ... it had not been Padmé of whom he had been dreaming! It had been a dream ... of Luke's twin sister!
"So ... you have a twin sister!" My daughter! Padmé's daughter! Who was this child? He had to know!
"Your feelings have now betrayed her, too!" Vader grew more and more excited. He had been alone in the universe; no mother, no wife, no family. And suddenly, he discovered he not only had a son, but also a daughter! His former master had hidden them well from him ... and curiously, he felt no anger at the man for his decision. He felt rage at himself!
His voice shook in anger, which Luke and Palpatine mistook for triumphant glee, "Obi-wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will!"
Anakin Skywalker was saying the words, so dark and menacing, but deep inside, he felt his heart explode open as it swelled up! I have two children, one for me, one for Padmé! He felt like dancing for joy!
In the few seconds that it took for this information to come out of Luke, his whole life had changed. At last, Anakin accepted that Padmé had indeed died, just as the Emperor had said. He had broken her heart and her soul, and she would have died from the emotional injuries he had inflicted upon her. Anakin's heart swelled, understanding that this was purely and simply the hard evidence of how much Padmé had really loved him. And also proof of her love: through the children she had birthed, she lived, and so would he!
He was almost giddy as he absorbed this information and he barely heard Luke's cry of, "Never!!" The boy screamed, and the ferocity of his attack on his father was something which took Vader completely by surprise. It shouldn't have, of course. The deep feelings the boy had for Leia should have warned the dark lord that Luke would do anything to protect her.
As Luke hacked his lightsabre against Vader's again and again! Vader realized he had stumbled on another piece of information. Leia? Of Alderaan? Organa's daughter?? Yes! It was true, for it was public knowledge that Bail Organa and his wife, the Queen of Alderaan, had no children of their own. It was known that they had adopted Leia ... yes, the timing was right!
That explained how she had resisted the torture he had inflicted on her while she was imprisoned on the Death Star! Of course she was strong! Leia Organa no, Leia Amidala Skywalker! was his daughter!
The next thing he knew, Luke had hacked off his hand. No! Luke! Don't give in to the dark side! With all the will he possessed, Vader used the Force to coerce the Emperor to intervene, but not to help him. No, he knew the old man would not save him, just as Palpatine had not saved Count Dooku when Anakin had killed him ... a whole lifetime ago ... Luke's whole lifetime ...
"Good! Good!" The Emperor cackled. Goaded by the bait Vader placed before him, Palpatine was unable to resist the glee he felt at Luke's descent into the dark side of the Force. "Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side!"
Vader felt his son's sudden jolt as Luke pulled back and away from the dark side. He understood why he felt it so keenly, for Anakin Skywalker had made the same journey just moments before. Moments? Or had I just been trying to find my way back ... all along?
He realized his son had been right. There had been good in him, all along. He had hidden it from the Emperor as well as from himself, for it had consumed him with guilt and hatred of this supposed weakness. But now he understood that the good in him was the love he had for Padmé.
As he looked upon the boy ... my son! ... he saw himself in Luke. And he saw Padmé, and he saw Shmi. He saw Obi-wan, and even a bit of Master Yoda the boy must have found the old so-and-so and learned from him. And through them, he saw Qui-gon Jinn, and all the Jedi he once knew, and even of JarJar. Everyone who had once loved him was connected through this boy.
Not just once, Ani, said a voice. Who was it? Padmé? Mom? Who else would call him Ani? Perhaps it was Jira, the old woman who sold fruit at the market in Mos Espa? His boyhood friends Kitster and Wald had also called him that ... Surely, it wasn't JarJar Binks! The dark lord let a smile pass over his lips, thinking of the ridiculous Gungan who had befriended him the first time he'd gone to Coruscant with the Jedi. He might be ridiculous, but Anakin remembered how purely the gangly alien from Naboo had loved him.
Anakin! And he knew it was the Force, speaking to him in Qui-gon Jinn's voice. The Force had not abandoned him, even after all the terrible things he had done, and all the hearts he had broken ...
As the Emperor shot Force-lightning into Luke's body, Anakin became aware of many things. He wondered where he had been these past few moments. What had happened that his master was attacking his son so viciously?
"Father ... please!"
That's your son, Anakin, said Qui-gon's voice, up over the din and the confusion. Your future ...
And Anakin lifted up his Emperor, no matter the consequence! You will not kill Padmé's child! The former Dark Lord of the Sith cried out to the old man. I won't let you!
You will bring balance to the Force, that was Qui-gon again. Doesn't he ever let up? From Obi-wan's stories, he remembered how cantankerous and annoying Qui-gon could be. Even Master Mace Windu had funny tales of Qui-Gon's moods and persistent righteousness. Perhaps it was just as well that the old Jedi had not lived to train him, after all? Anakin allowed himself a smile again at the thought of being mad at a ghost.
It was done ... he had killed his Sith master, though he did not recall thoroughly how he had managed it. All he knew now was that Luke was leaning over him, telling him he would save him. "You already have," the former Sith lord gasped.
He was dying now, and he was surprised and a little alarmed that he wasn't afraid. For so long, he had been afraid of death and what it had done to him. It had taken away the people he loved and cherished: his mother, his wife, his master ... he had thought it had taken away his child! It had taught him fear and hate. No, that was in me already, it wasn't death's fault, he chided himself.
Now as he lay dying, he at last understood: No one dies who has been loved. No one truly dies if you have friends and family.
For the first time in his life, he thought with joy that he would soon die and be with those who remembered him as Anakin Skywalker: a good, optimistic boy. A fine son and a faithful, loving husband. A solid, dependable friend. A shining example of the Jedi Order. He would die and his son would remember him!
He thought too of the people who would want to kick his butt when he got there: probably Master Obi-wan. Definitely Master Yoda! He smiled, thinking of the scolding he'd get from his mother and even Watto, his former master!
He felt the wetness of tears on his face, and he realized he had not felt them since ... since his beautiful and pregnant wife had cried to him that she couldn't follow him to the dark side ... when she declared he was breaking her heart ...
He realized his eyes were closed and the tears were not his own. He opened his eyes and he saw Luke's eyes filled with tears, dripping onto his father's unworthy face. It felt like the waterfall spray over the Naboo meadows ... like the humid, refreshing rains on a terrace high over Coruscant ... like a blessing, and a benediction.
Anakin felt his life ebbing away faster now, and he smiled again. "Luke," he gasped as audibly as he could, not so easy when you hadn't breathed with your own lungs in more than two decades. "You were right about me. Tell your sister ... you were right ..."
That was all he could manage before he slipped half pulled, but half running of his own free will into the sweetest of dreams. There, he was whole and healthy again loved and in love. Running faster and faster, with great intensity, toward his wife as she lead an army of those who had once loved him and who would, in time, forgive him. But no matter how long it took, Anakin Skywalker had returned, and he promised his wife he'd never leave again ...
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