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Darth Vader's Private Chambers
Darth Vader, clad in his black armor, respirator hissing its endless repetition, strode out of his meditation chamber and into his stark and bleak office.
It had been, from a purely professional point of view, a productive four days on Imperial Center since he'd returned from unsuccessful Jedi hunting in the Mid Rim. He'd cleared a backlog of minor projects and written three reports to his master, who was on 'urgent business' on Naboo. The urgent business in question involved a great deal of expensive wine, gourmet food, and the joy of having multiple syncophants bowing and scraping before him on the Emperor's planet of origin. Vader was tasked with keeping Imperial City in order while his sovereign was gone, and he would, with excellence. As usual.
He'd also spent a full six hours in bacta this day. Not that bacta helped a great deal, but it helped a little. He was always in pain, sometimes more, sometimes less. At this particular moment, less.
The Sith strode over to the transparisteel window and gazed moodily at the metropolis that was Imperial City. With the sun setting, many tens of thousands of beings were scurrying here, hurrying there, rushing home from their jobs, or to work if they toiled through the night cycle. It made Imperial Center both bright and dark in the Force; bright with life, dark with purpose. As it should be. The reality of the galaxy was that the Dark Side was stronger. Those myriad people below all hoping for ... what? Purpose? Fame? Power? Love? They were doomed to disappointment. Best to realize that as soon as possible and submit to the reality of the galaxy, which was that Emperor Palpatine, also known to a few as Darth Sidious, reigned with absolute power and it was best to cooperate. Those who chose to submit had a reasonable chance of living some semblance of a comfortable life. Or not. Plenty of sentients suffered and died for reasons which had nothing to do with their own actions.
As it should be. He himself, one of the strongest Force users in the galaxy, had reached frantically for love and commitment and belonging and joy and fallen far short, doomed to spend the rest of his miserable existence locked away in dark armor, a slave to his master. Doomed to hate himself for what he had done to ...
But no, he would not think of her.
A beep interrupted his morbid thoughts. With an irritable tendril of the Force, he turned on the com.
"Lord Vader," his major domo Klastin stated calmly. "Senator Leia Organa of Alderaan requests an audience with you."
The scarred face frowned beneath the mask. Senator Organa?
"For what purpose?" the Dark Voice rumbled.
"The Senator wishes to discuss the growing humanitarian crisis on Kothlis, Lord Vader, and the Empire's current policies there."
Vader frowned even harder. He was familiar with the issues on Kothlis: a plague, a partial quarantine, limited medication, and starvation. But he wasn't in charge of the Kothlis crisis. Nor did he remotely care about the Kothlis crisis. Why ...?
"The Senator is most insistent," his steward continued, his voice somewhat less calm.
This piqued the Sith's interest. Leia Organa was fiery and passionate and indeed insistent, but Klastin was entirely capable of warding off dozens of bureaucrats in his sleep. The man was born to be dismissive.
Furthermore, Bail and Breha Organa of Alderaan, the Senator's parents, were elbow deep in the burgeoning Rebellion. If Leia Organa was flustered and upset, she might well let something of import slip.
"Send her to my main audience chamber," Vader ordered.
"Yes, my Lord."
He took his time about descending two levels to the audience chamber where he hosted the all too frequent sycophant or arms manufacturer or minor member of the Core World nobility. He never enjoyed these meetings, but they had served his master. And after he lost Pa ...
No, he would not think of her. It was enough to know that all he had left was Palpatine.
Somewhat to his surprise, his guest had not yet arrived. He strode to the far wall and turned, just as he sensed the outer elevator open and two sentients exit.
That too, was odd. Klastin had spoken of Organa but had not mentioned a companion. The door slid open seconds later, and the familiar form of Leia Organa of Alderaan, clad in the flowing white robes of the heir of Alderaan, entered at the room. Behind and to her right strode a young man of roughly the same age as the princess, dressed in somber gray. An aide, no doubt, of so little importance that Klastin hadn't bothered to inform his master of his presence.
Vader shot the youth a cursory glance and then focused on the senator. He was reminded, for the 35th time, that she looked so much like ...
(No, he would not think of her.)
She was beautiful, Leia Organa. Radiant. Tiny. Fiery. Popular. She would be arrested and executed for crimes against the Empire, eventually, but not yet, not now. His master's orders.
He sensed, with the Force, her anxiety about this meeting, though her face was studiously calm. He had observed her more than once in the Senate chambers and during political functions. She always maintained an outward façade of control. It was impressive in one so young.
"You wish to speak to me of the crisis on Kothlis?" he rumbled softly. "I have no jurisdiction ..."
He stopped speaking because she was waving an irritable hand even as she shook her head.
"No, not Kothlis, Lord Vader," she replied, her face tight now. "I know you have little authority in that situation, and even less interest. No ..."
She turned now to her aide, who stepped forward and lifted his chin.
"I want to introduce you to ... to my friend, Lord Vader. This is, this is ..."
"Luke Skywalker, Lord Vader," the young man said, his voice determined. "I am the freeborn son of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Naberrie Skywalker. And according to my mother, there is a 76% chance that you are my father."
Darth Vader's heart beat on steadily, as it always did.
Thump thump thump thump thump thump.
Son of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Naberrie Skywalker.
His mother said ...
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Vader stared at the young man in front of him, this boy with eyes like the skies of Tatooine and blond hair like that of the young Anakin Skywalker. And even as he stared, the youth's shields dropped and the powerful presence of a Force sensitive, a strong Force sensitive, bloomed into full glory.
He found himself shaking his head slowly, the great mask suddenly heavy on his head. It was impossible.
"She died," he muttered softly.
There was a sudden, violent maelstrom of emotion from the boy, mixed oddly with a parallel, though less intense, roil of passion from the girl at his side.
It was Leia Organa who spoke first, and her face wore none of its former calm.
"It's true, isn't it?" she whispered. "You were once Anakin Skywalker ..."
The boy chimed in now, "You think she died on Mustafar? No, she didn't. She lost consciousness after being choked, but Kenobi returned in time to take her to Polis Massa. She gave birth there and spent 9 years recovering from the accompanying medical crisis."
Darth Vader stilled completely now. This boy knew of Mustafar, knew of his attack on Padme. And he was saying that she lived, that she gave birth. That this youth was his son? His son. His wife. His Padme ... was, was alive? Could it be?
The young man stepped closer still, lifting his face to gaze fiercely into his masked eyes.
"You are my father, aren't you, Lord Vader?" he asked softly.
It seemed impossible, but the Force sang that it was the truth. His son lived. His wife lived. All that he had thought true for 17 years was a vicious lie. (Sidious had said that he had killed Padme in his anger. How had she survived? Where had she been all these years? Where was she now?)
"Yes," he rumbled slowly. "Yes, I was once Anakin Skywalker. I am indeed your father."
There was a surge of powerful emotion between the young people: confusion, amazement, hesitant ... hope?
The Sith continued anxiously now, "Where is your mother? Where is Padme?"
He had to see her! He had to touch her with his own hands, to know with his own (scarred) eyes that she was truly alive, that he had not committed that sin above all sins, the murder of his own wife and their unborn child.
Luke shook his head now, his forehead now furrowed with anxiety, "That's why we are here, Lord Vader. She disappeared six days ago and ... and ..."
The face now looked younger as fear resonated from the boy.
"I've been having dreams of her. Nightmares. Of Mother in pain. Something terrible has happened. We came here to see ... please, if you have any vestige of love left for my mother, please help us to find her."
Author Note: This is alternate reality similar to the AU that I wrote about previously in the fanfics "Dalam Enterprises" and "Bespin Intervention." The circumstances are similar but not identical, and you don't need to have read the other 2 stories for this one to make sense. Also, many thanks to my wonderful editor, my husband!