"I was a terrible master," the old man stated, weeping.
"Palpatine is worse," Vader replied honestly. This was the opportunity of a life time. A drunk, powerless Obi-Wan who, he could tell, didn't completely understand that Vader was truly there.
"Probably," Kenobi muttered morosely. "I mean, almost certainly. But he's a Sith Lord. You can't expect servant leadership from a Sith Lord. Me, I was supposed to be better than this. I'm so sorry, Anakin ..."
"That name no longer has any meaning for me," the Dark Lord replied stiffly. Though as a matter of fact, he'd been answering to Anakin repeatedly tonight. But it was Padme saying it, and Padme was allowed to say anything.
"Vader," Kenobi muttered. "Vader, Vader, Vader, Vader. It's kind of a cool name, really. It sounds so ... so menacing. It's a good name."
"Thank you?" Vader replied, rather unsettled.
"I should have killed you."
"You did kill me, Obi-Wan. You cut off my limbs and left me to burn ..."
"But I didn't kill you," the old man wept. "I was a coward. I should have plunged my saber in your chest and been done with it. To let you suffer like that? I'll never forgive myself. For years I convinced myself it was because I had to help Padme but no, I'm a coward, a cruel weakling. I couldn't take the final step. You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you!"
Vader blinked his hairless eyelids in astonishment. He had thought all these things over and over and over again in the last 18 years, and every time he had reached new heights of incandescent rage. It was truly bizarre that his old master agreed with him about their interaction on Mustafar.
On the other hand ...
"You saved Padme and my children, Obi-Wan," he rumbled reluctantly. "For that, I am grateful."
"We almost lost her, you know," Kenobi murmured. "She almost died after the birth. The med droids said she'd lost her will to live but I thought that was pretty stupid. This is Padme we are talking about. She could be in the Galactic Dictionary for Passionate Determination. I think it was Palpatine, to be honest. Something Dark Forcey maybe. I don't know. Anyway, her heart stopped and we scurried around and got her back."
Vader shivered in horror. Her heart stopped?
"Was she well afterwards?"
"No," Kenobi replied sadly. "She was in a coma for 10 years. Her family on Naboo secretly took care of her. Then she came out of it, found Luke, yelled at me, found Leia, and now, well, now she's Padme. You know what she's like. Resolute."
"Indeed," Vader replied absently, his dark spirit twisting in horror. Padme's heart had stopped and she had been in a coma for ten years. He had attacked her on Mustafar. How much of her suffering was his fault?
Most of it.
"I attacked her," he muttered, wishing suddenly that he could get drunk on Whyren's Reserve. His stupid mask. His stupid damaged stomach which couldn't handle alcohol even if he could access it.
He hated himself for what he'd done. He hated himself. He hated himself ...
But she was alive, and the twins were alive.
"It was my fault," Kenobi wailed. "I stowed away on her ship. She didn't know I was there."
"On the contrary, it was my fault! I attacked her. She had always proved most loyal ..."
"The Dark Side is like that, I guess," the old Jedi stated moodily. "You can't trust your nearest and dearest when you're all Dark Sidey. Of course, I was ... I was a friend and mentor and I cut off your limbs, and left you to burn. I'm so sorry, Ana ...Vader. I'm so sorry."
"Just stop, Obi-Wan," Vader barked. "You are growing irritatingly maudlin. We were both at fault, let us accept that and move forward."
"Al' right," Kenobi muttered, suddenly toppling to one side on the bench. His eyes fluttered shut, and a minute later he was breathing steadily.
Vader's cyborg fingers were incapable of itching, but if they could itch, they would be. His great enemy was lying there helpless and he had a lightsaber at his side.
But he wouldn't. Because he had promised Padme and the twins that he wouldn't murder Kenobi during the twins' Life Day party, because Kenobi had saved his wife and children's lives, because truthfully, Mustafar had been mostly his fault.
There was a cheer from outside the room. Vader walked over to the door and peered out. Luke was glowing in the Force like a supernova as he stared in awe at the box sitting on a table. Around him were clustered a variety of friends and the extended Organa clan, and Leia had her arm slung around her twin, her face alight with amusement.
"It's ... it's wonderful, Uncle Bail and Aunt Breha," Luke sputtered out. "I ... how did you even find it? A Nubian T-14 hyperdrive generator? These are so rare; I can't thank you enough."
"It was our pleasure, Luke," Queen Breha replied, her eyes glowing with delight at the youth's ecstasy. "Let's just say we have some contacts. I will warn you that there are apparently some problems with it, but Leia told us that wouldn't be an issue."
"I love to fix things," Luke sputtered, looking, if possible, even more enthusiastic. "In fact, I can tell that the secondary power coupling ..."
"Later, Luke, later," Leia interrupted with a laugh. "It's my turn now."
Darth Vader stared as Leia opened her own box. The girl looked down and lifted out a holopad, which she turned on. A moment later, she had thrown her arms around her Organa guardians (he would not say they were her parents!) and kissed their cheeks.
"Thank you!" the girl cried out joyfully. "An authentic Galactic Republic Book of Laws. I know how hard it was to find this ..."
"And it's also super illegal in the Empire," Padme said cheerfully. "So don't leave it around."
Darth Vader gazed at his children for a long moment, then took a step back and began pacing.
"I need to buy the twins a present!" he stated. They were his precious children! He was rich beyond the dreams of avarice! He needed to get them something appropriately exotic and luxurious. "But what?"
"I know what they would like," Obi-Wan slurred from his supine position on the bench.
The Sith turned and gazed at the man suspiciously, "What would they like, old man?"
Obi-Wan told him.
Padme's Guest Quarters
2 weeks later
"Anakin!" Padme cried out joyfully, stepping forward to embrace her gigantic monolith of a husband.
"Padme," the Sith breathed. During the last two weeks, he had experienced more than one lurching moment when he'd wondered if it was all a dream. Could it really be true that his wife was alive, that his twins were alive?
Yes, it was true. Padme was here and she now reached up to yank his head down and she planted a firm kiss on his mouth plate. He felt like fainting from delight.
"Anakin, do you mind getting out of the way?" Kenobi said from behind Vader, who was blocking the entrance to Padme's main living area.
Vader obediently stepped forward and nodded toward Luke and Leia, who were standing next to a window. Luke was smiling ecstatically, and even Leia looked welcoming.
"I brought you a present," the Sith stated.
"A present?" Luke asked excitedly. "You didn't need to do that."
"Indeed I did. I missed your infancy, and toddlerhood, and your prepubescent years, your teen years, and 17 Life Days. You need a present from me."
"Well, we can't argue with that," Leia replied diplomatically, watching as a medium sized box floated in behind Kenobi and Vader. It wafted sedately over to a table and lowered with a gentle thump.
"I do trust that you will like it," Vader continued, suddenly nervous. "Kenobi seemed to think so and if he was in error, blame him."
"They will like it," Kenobi stated with a satisfied smile, even as the old man limped over and sat on the couch.
"Are you hurt, Kenobi?" Padme asked in concern.
"I'm fine," the Jedi said with a casual wave of his hand. "Open the box, twins."
"Ok," the twosome said simultaneously.
It was covered in four layers of wrapping paper and Leia insisted that they remove the wrappings one covering at a time. Luke chuckled as the crown decorated first layer gave way to a second layer of bantha cartoons gave way to a third layer of TIE fighters gave way to a fourth layer of starbirds gave way to ...
The last lamination fell away from the box and Luke shrieked in surprise and shock. The polished transparisteel box contained a marble stand and vise on which ...
"Is that, is that ...?" Luke quavered.
"Is that Palpatine?" Leia inquired in delight.
"Yes," Vader intoned.
"His head?" Padme demanded incredulously. "Like his real head?"
"Yes," Vader replied anxiously.
There was a shocked pause.
"You don't like it, do you?" the Sith muttered miserably. "I told Kenobi I wasn't sure you'd really like a decapitated head for your Life Day but he seemed quite certain ..."
"I love it!" Leia cried out, lurching forward and throwing her arms around her startled sire. "You killed Palpatine for us? Really?"
"Of course. He was manipulative and nefarious and Sithly and he would have endangered all three of you."
"Father, thank you so much," Luke replied excitedly. "I admit it was a bit of a shock to come face to face with a beheaded cranium but it's a great present, it really is ..."
"Welcome home, Ani," Padme finished with her glorious smile. "Welcome home."
Author Note: Many thanks to you who have followed and favorited and reviewed this little story. And thank you, dear husband, for editing in your usual stellar manner.