You Already Will
Disclaimer: In Star Wars George Lucas is God. I'm just the minor deity who has taken what he made and rearranged it for your enjoyment. If anyone gets paid for this, it is definitely not the author. Mar'isu is mine, but she's the only one.
Author's note: This is AU on just about every level, but you already knew that from the summary. To those with the belief that Anakin and Vader are one and the same person, you will be sorely disappointed. Be prepared to treat them as two people with the same body, nothing more. Thanks to everybody who reviewed my other stuff, keep talking to me, I'm listening.
Chapter 1: The Death of Vader
"You already have, Luke," Anakin Skywalker whispered to his weeping son. "You were right . . . you were right about me . . . Tell your sister . . . you . . . were . . . right." With those final words he died. Mustering all his strength, Luke dragged his father to the last remaining shuttle and left. Halfway through planet fall, Luke sensed a brief flicker of consciousness from the general direction of Darth Vader. When he reached out through the Force to confirm it, though, he encountered nothing. Returning his attention to piloting, he was surprised to see Ben Kenobi in the co-pilot's seat.
"You've done well, Luke," the Jedi told him. "Now all that remains to be seen is if Anakin will live up to your expectations for him."
"Uh, Ben? I hate to burst your bubble, but Anakin's dead," Luke informed his mentor.
Obi-Wan gave his former pupil an enigmatic smile. "Are you so sure about that?" Startled by the insinuation, Luke let the shuttle crash-land as he ran to the back to tend to his father. When he replaced Anakin's mask, the suck-hiss of the respirator resumed immediately, a soothing sound accompanied by a mental caress from Anakin. Luke vowed then that Anakin would never again come to harm because of him.
"Luke!" Leia burst out of Han's arms as the shuttle crashed through the canopy of the forest, barely missing the Ewok village. She ran blindly toward the wreckage leaping tree branches and generally behaving like a squirrel in her need to make sure her brother was well. Han followed dead on her heels.
"Leia, no!" he yelled after her, catching her arm in a grip meant to keep her from falling out of the village.
She turned on him with an animal fury and swatted his hand away. "But Luke's on that shuttle!"
"Do you know that for a fact?" He asked critically.
The fire in her eyes blazed even brighter. "Yes I do! I have to get to Luke!" Again she took off at breakneck speed. Han had no choice but to follow her, picking his way carefully where she had, through the grace of the Force, placed unerring feet. The sight of the crash brought her up sharp. Metal shards from hitting one too many tree trunks were scattered through the canopy. Willing herself to be strong enough, Leia tore the shuttle door off its hinges. "Luke!" she yelled. Please let him live, she prayed silently. Force, don't let him die.
"Leia, here," came the faint cry from the back of the shuttle. She treaded her way through twisted metal toward her brother. Luke was kneeling over the still form of Darth Vader. His face was tear-streaked and he held one of the Dark Lord's hands lovingly in his own.
"Luke are you all right?" she asked with concern as she kneeled on Vader's other side. "He's . . . Is he . . . He's not dead, is he?"
Luke looked up and flashed her a brilliant smile. "Leia, meet Anakin Skywalker, our father."
Even with the mask covering his features, Anakin managed to convey his surprise at the identity of his daughter. "Leia," he purred softly, lifting a metal-clad hand towards her, "my beautiful, beautiful girl."
She jerked back roughly before the gauntlet fouled her skin. "Luke," she growled through clenched teeth, "tell me he's hallucinating; tell me you're hallucinating. Tell me I'm hallucinating just tell me this isn't real. Whatever either of you say, he will never be my father."
"Whoa, whoa, tune back a few kilobits, sweetheart," Han interrupted, ducking under what was left of the doorway. "Let's see if I heard right. He's," Han gestured toward the prone form of Anakin, "your father?"
Leia fled into Han's arms and threw her own around his neck. She started crying against his neck. "It's not like that, Han. I never knew anything about all this. I won't accept it now."
Luke began at the same moment. "It's not like that, Han. He's not the same person; he's changed!"
Han held his hands up for silence. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, you know. I mean, the Emperor's right hand man is on our side now. What could the Empire possibly do to us now?"
Anakin spoke up feeling the sting of his daughter's rejection. "Leia," he rasped, "your lover has accepted me, why can't you?"
Surprisingly, Leia did not react to the statement that Han was her lover. She shrank into Han's chest and he put his strong arms over her neck, trying to protect her from the threat that was her father. "You stood by . . . you forced me to . . . you watched as Alderaan was destroyed. You've almost killed Han, Luke, and me too many times to count. You destroyed everything good in the galaxy. Why can't I accept you? How can't I not accept you?"
Luke started to reply, but his answer was cut off by a wave of Anakin's hand. With difficulty Anakin stood up and took a step toward his daughter. "That was Darth Vader. I am Anakin Skywalker." He explained as if that clarified everything.
"I don't see any difference," Leia hissed, forcing Han to take a step backwards in her attempt to get away from Anakin.
Mara Jade tossed restlessly in bed, her last communication with the Emperor still ringing through her mind. It had been several hours since she'd felt the Emperor's death, rolling through the Force like a shockwave, bowling her over and upsetting her normally iron constitution. Yet even now, she did not dare to close her eyes because she knew that if she did so, she would see it all again. Unwillingly she drifted further and further toward sleep until finally, as she knew it would, she saw it . . .
Master, she though toward the wrinkled face which had superimposed itself on her vision, The Twi'lekk Jedi you foresaw arrived after my report yesterday. She met with a Rebel collaborator and immediately left.
Why was this collaborator on Imperial Center? The Emperor's voice held no accusation. He was only questioning how a Rebel spy had managed to infiltrate the city-planet commonly known as Courouscant.
My lord, he was only discovered this morning. When I found him he had already taken steps to ensure that I would get no information. With this statement she pushed across the mental bond a picture of the man as she had found him. He was lying on the floor stone cold, his body contorted as though every muscle had tightened and then frozen into place. She pushed a fair amount of regret at this fact over the bond as well and was rewarded with a brief feeling of approval from her master.
So be it, Palpatine's mental voice also included a half-heard muffling of his physical voice. It usually happened when he was multi-tasking. You will find this Jedi and bring her to me so that I may deal with her. As for the Rebels . . . the Emperor's focus changed suddenly and the image that flooded Mara's brain was so crisp and clear she half-believed herself in the throne room of the second Death Star. Vader was dueling with a sandy-haired young man about her own age. She had time to recognize that the young man was holding his own against the Dark Lord before the fight came to a sudden and unheard-of halt. The stranger nodded his head in response to some sort of mental communication and deactivated his lightsaber. Meanwhile, Lord Vader turned and began lumbering toward the . . . the Emperor.
"No!" Mara screamed trying to run toward her master. But the air itself was like jelly and it prevented her from getting any closer to Palpatine. Horrified, she watched as Palpatine lifted his hands and sent blue-white energy bolts through both Vader and the stranger. The stranger dropped like a rock and began to convulse. Vader kept coming. Desperate, Palpatine diverted most of the energy bolts towards Vader. Out from under the worst of the onslaught, the stranger slowly and painstakingly mastered his muscles and joined Vader as the Dark Lord came up even with the throne. Both men raised their sabers, ready to deal the fatal blow.
In the moments before he was cut down, the Emperor stared straight at Mara Jade. Their gazes locked, and his cold, blue eyes seared his final commandment into her brain. YOU WILL KILL THE SKYWALKER.
Mara Jade shot upright breathing hard. Her sheets were knotted around her and the holdout blaster that she kept beneath her pillow was cocked and ready in her hand. Nothing moved in her room. Focusing, she brought her breathing back to normal and mopped the sweat off her face with the trailing end of a sheet that had miraculously escaped knotting. She wouldn't be able to sleep tonight, might as well do something useful, like find out who this Skywalker was she was supposed to kill. Warily, she stalked over to the data center in her room and keyed in a request. The computer churned and squawked an indignant request for patience while it processed her query. Mara sighed, this could take a while.
The insistent beeping of the data center called Mara out of her light doze. Well, well, this was interesting. Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker before the Empire came into power. Mara waved over a brief reference to a son, her purpose clear. She was supposed to kill Vader. Easier said than done, but Mara Jade was the Emperor's Hand, she didn't say, she just did.
Luke didn't attend the Ewok celebration that night. Concerned about her brother, Leia searched him out. She found him in the village's make-shift workshop intent on fusing Anakin's respirator to a gutted suit of stormtrooper armor. He was so focused on his work that he didn't notice when she walked up beside him and perched on the counter-top next to him.
Luke why are you doing this?" she asked, needing to understand what drove her brother to be so loving toward the one who had cost them so much. "I mean, think of all he's done to us, to you." She picked up the black glove that he had worn ever since their little adventure to free Han on Tatooine. Luke hadn't wanted the medics and engineers worrying over what he said was ultimately a cosmetic blemish in his artificial hand. So he'd worn the tight leather glove and never said anything about taking a blaster bolt to the hand. Now that glove was lying unheeded next to her brother and she watched the pistons and cranks in his mechanical hand shift and dance as he manipulated the cast-off armor. The blackened bits of synthflesh that still clung to the burn stretched and cracked as he moved his hand. She brushed the wound with the back of her hand and looked at him, her eyes begging the answer to her question.
Luke sighed and took her hand in his artificial one, putting down his work to turn toward her. "He's our father, Leia, and no one will acknowledge him if he still looks like Vader. You won't even accept him as Anakin. Vader is dead, Leia, and Anakin is alive and wants to help us. Will we accept his help while he's still hidden by his mask?" Luke looked around at the techs and assistants scurrying around repairing machinery for Alliance use. "Most of us have code names here." He fixed her with a pleading gaze. "Wouldn't it be refreshing, just for once, to see someone as he truly is rather than as we imagine him to be?"
"But Luke . . ." she began.
"He killed the Emperor, Leia, the Emperor, his Master, his ruler. What greater proof do you want that he's changed?"
"He may have killed the Emperor," Leia murmured, "but what about all those innocent souls on Alderaan?" She hopped off the counter and began to leave, but Luke called her back.
"Leia," he called, holding out a small silver cylinder. "Here. I thought we could spar some time, just the two of us. Then maybe, later, we can add Anakin into the fight. Either way this is yours."
Leia took the weapon gently, staring wide-eyed at the innocent looking device, knowing full well what it was. She gingerly touched the little red activation button. A pale amethyst blade sprouted from the cylinder, humming gently with every movement. An easy swing of the wrist brought the blade full circle in a pattern she'd seen Luke do a million times. A dark thought crept into her brain; she could mortally injure someone with this blade of light. Hurriedly she shut down the lightsaber and pressed the hilt back into Luke's hand.
Luke chuckled slightly, but became serious when he saw the panicked fear in her eyes. "Don't worry, Leia" he assured her, "You can't kill anything with this. It'll slice through metal if given enough time, and it'll give you a nasty red welt if you touch it, but it won't kill." To prove his point, he ran the fingers of his real hand through the blade. Leia gasped and tried to pull his hand away from the weapon's edge, but stopped when she saw them emerge on the other side, intact, if red and irritated. Luke closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, allowing the Force to heal the self-inflicted injuries. Red faded to pink, which vanished into normal skin tones. Then he opened his eyes and smiled sweetly at Leia. "See? No harm done." He put the lightsaber back into her right hand and closed her fingers around it.
It took a while for the knowledge that this was a safe practice lightsaber to sink in, but when it did, Leia jumped into a bone-crushing hug with her brother. Equally exhilarated, Luke lifted her off the ground and spun around before letting her go. "Thank you, Luke," she breathed in his ear, finally releasing him. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
Luke shrugged expressively, "It was Anakin's idea." He explained.
Luke stood perfectly still as the toothed jaws of the hyperbaric chamber closed around him. There was a hiss as oxygen was pumped into the chamber. Luke's vision became hypersensitive, the small amount of ambient light reflecting blindingly off the white walls. His hearing picked up the harsh rasp of lungs seared to the brink of non-function behind the unbearably loud sounds of the respirator. The antiseptic smell of the chamber choked him. Even his connection with the Force seemed hyperalert. Luke could almost see the ebb and flow of ethereal energy through and around himself and Anakin. But it didn't take long before his body got used to breathing air that had double the usual amount of oxygen and pressure, putting an end to the disturbing sensations.
Once his son stopped quivering with the oxygen high, Anakin moved. Reaching up, he removed the back portion of his helmet. He then turned to Luke who helped him remove the rest of the mask. "Thank you, son," Anakin rumbled, not in the cold, impersonal way he'd called Luke "son" before, but in a warm inviting tome which promised a long future of bonding. "It did not seem right to go to the Rebels while I was still Vader in their eyes. Now at least I have a chance. Let us begin."
They removed the left arm coverings first. Carefully, so as to not break any of the vital components, Luke removed the black gauntlet. He gently placed each piece on the deck of the chamber before thinking about the next. By the time Luke had finished his task, Anakin had expertly stripped the rest of his arm bare. Luke knelt, coming level with his father's arm and scooped up the left arm of the white suit he'd spent last night molding and fusing. He breathed deeply, trying to steady himself for the final test of his skill as a mechanic. Each component needed to support Anakin's failing frame, without hindering his motion. Luke looked at his father, for the signal to continue. Anakin was staring down at his exposed arm, still-remembered pain clouding his eyes. Concerned, Luke followed his line of sight and almost choked in horror. Anakin's face was beautiful in its own way. Despite that fact that it was pasty-white from lack of any light at all and crisscrossed by deep scars, there was something inherently lovely about its features. Anakin's arm was nothing if not hideous. From mid-forearm on down it was nothing but scar tissue drawn gaunt over bone. Wires and metal rods protruded from the chalk-white tissue at several points, some of which Luke recognized as being surrogate nerve endings and rotational points. Above the scarring though, there was no flesh. Bleached bone peeped out at them from among numerous sensors, pistons and durasteel support structures.
A lightsaber slashed toward his head, he ducked, barely enough to avoid decapitation, taking a glancing blow to the back of his skull nonetheless. He jumped backwards, too quickly. The edge of the pit was too close. Just as he fell, he looked into Obi-Wan's eyes, and saw the sorrow in them. I'll make you sorry, "Master" don't worry. You only have yourself to blame, he thought as the boiling rock engulfed him bodily and equally hot rage engulfed his mind.
"Luke," Anakin's voice pulled them both away from the accursed memory, "Lava is nothing to play with, and a friend never deserves betrayal."
"How did it come to that?" Luke asked fighting the idea that Obi-Wan and Anakin had ever been at odds.
"Many ways," Anakin answered taking the suit arm from his unmoving son and snapping it into place himself. "Each one as false and wrong as the last. Many words. Many quarrels. Anger on both sides over many lies told and implied. Too many rules broken. Too many hearts broken. Too many levels of trust that would never again be whole. Everyone made mistakes; everyone fell a little. I just never had the courage to come back."
"You've come back now," Luke assured him, helping Anakin strip the right arm of its coverings. Thankfully, Anakin's right arm was long gone before he was scarred beyond recognition. Anakin snapped the right gauntlet off as well.
"Have I?" he asked his son, fear filling his eyes.
"Of course you have," Luke looked his father full in the face letting his hands attach the new suit without engaging his mind. "The first time I saw you, I felt the good in you. Even with the pain of loosing a mentor," Anakin flinched at the oblique reference to his final duel with Obi-Wan, "I knew I couldn't fully hate you," Luke pushed on working the arm coverings on and Anakin's black boots off at the same time. "I felt conflict, and I felt pain, but I always knew there was a chance for good. I knew my father could come back. Now he has."
"You comfort me, Luke," Anakin whispered, tears threatening in his eyes. He pulled his chest plate off as Luke finished with the legs of his suit. "The last person I allowed to comfort me was your mother." The tears finally came, rivers of sorrow washing away years of evil. Luke snapped the new chest and back plates into position. Then he kept his arms around Anakin as his father sobbed on his shoulder. "Oh, Padmé, Padmé what have I done? What have I done to us all?" Anakin groaned.
In the garage of the Lars home, a twenty year old boy wept for grief and remorse as the one woman left in the universe that he loved held him and whispered comfort.
The same woman, older, wiser and expecting a child, wrapped her arms around him. "Anakin, there is still hope. There is still a chance. Things don't have to be this way, and you know we can make it right."
"There's never been a chance, Padm" he replied. "It was a dream that we could keep this secret, any of this," he felt the tears stinging his eyes. "I can't fix this, Padmé. I don't know what to do."
The woman hugged him for the last time, holding him tight as the tears began to flow down both their faces. "Whatever you do, Anakin," she whispered in his ear, "remember. I love you. I will always love you. There is nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you. Many things will change soon, Ani, but my caring for you will remain, no matter what."
"She was beautiful. She was an angel, and I drove her away." Anakin had poured out his life to his son, everything he regretted, everything that he wished he could change. Luke was drowning in the emotional backwash of memories and words and tears. But the torrent was slowing, and Anakin's choking gasps were ebbing. Finally everything was calm. "You must think less of me for such a scene," Anakin commented regretfully to his son.
"No," Luke told him, "I think more of you. Remorse is the only way to wash off the stain of the Dark Side. Vader, and the past that goes with him are dead. You have nothing to hide."
As if to prove his point, Luke held out the helmet he had made. Gone was the impersonal black lacquer that had denied the human in Darth Vader. Anakin Skywalker would see out of a clear plate with his own eyes, and would in turn be seen for the man he was. Luke set the face plate on the neck of the suit, making sure that voice pickups and breathing aides were all in their appointed place. It all fit perfectly. Relieved, Luke picked up the final piece in Anakin's new armor. Little more than a modified stormtroooper's helmet, the piece, nevertheless constituted a vital link. If it did not create an air-tight seal, Anakin would have to live in the hyperbaric chamber until one could be found to suit his needs. Father and son held their breaths as they lowered the helmet into position. Quiet clicks informed them that the seal was made.
Anakin stood and surveyed himself. "I feel like I'm missing something. Ah, a cape." He smiled at his son and shrugged as if to say, no matter, I can do without.
Luke grinned enjoying the chance for a surprise. "We certainly wouldn't want you to feel incomplete." He hit the hatch release for the bubble.
The hiss of decompression caused Leia to stand up. She wore a white gown she had sewn to replace her senate garb, which was close to disintegrating. However, there was still enough materiel holding together to make a decent cape from her old dress. She presented it stiffly to Anakin. Anakin slung the cloth around his shoulders and fastened it into place, wondering if maybe Leia was finally warming up to him.
Leia beat him to the thought. "Listen, Dad," she spat the word out, "I made that cape because Luke asked me to. I did this for Luke not for you. I owe you nothing and all you owe me is a quick trip out of my life so you don't screw it up any further."
Anakin opened his mouth to contend that he had not "screwed up" her life, but a few moments of quiet reflection on the times he had seen his daughter over the last three years forced him to admit, she had a point.
Mara powered up her small headhunter and set a course for the location of the second Death Star, Vader would have to be around there somewhere. It was going to be murder flying where the Emperor had so recently stood, but if she didn't face that aspect now, well, then she deserved to have Palpatine haunting her.
That's all for now, folks. This will be at least 5 chapters long, probably more. Send reviews, please. I need to know what you like, hate and want to see. No guarrantees, but I'll try.