Title: Anniversaries of the Heart
Author: rhonderoo
Rating: PG
Characters: Anakin/Padmé (flashbacks), Vader (Angst), OC
Type: Intertrilogy (Post ESB)
Genre: Angst, Drama
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, and and no money is
being made on this story.

Anniversaries of the Heart

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Chapter One

The day turned to twilight as iron and silver tipped clouds succumbed to the luminosity of a gold dusk, then gave up their glory to the indigo night and twinkling stars that blanketed the skies of Coruscant, now called Imperial Center.

It would always be Coruscant to Lord Vader though, the Dark Lord thought as he looked out of the viewport to the city outside from his official chambers inside Imperial Palace. It was one of the only indulgences of disagreement with the Emperor he would allow himself, as the thought of banishing the planet's former name from his vocabulary left with him with an ironic bitter taste in his mouth.

One would think that for its past transgressions, this bastion of Imperial might would be given fully to the Empire in Vader's judgment. It was something he could not explain himself, but he did not waste precious time pondering it. In fact, he did not waste time pondering anything these days. Everything presented itself to him through the Force in stark contrasts of black and white, or it had until recently. That clarity could almost be quite refreshing when one allowed oneself to feel, which was very rare.

Lord Vader frowned under the mask. For someone who didn't ponder, he was doing it with increasing frequency of late.

It was the height of Imperial Fair, as the local elite on Imperial Center called it, or Feté as it was known in the Old Republic, and the week long celebrations were starting.

Darth Vader loathed this time of the Galactic Year.

The pomp and tradition tried his patience immensely. Anything to do with the holiday or its former Republic name of Feté Week galled him. For him, only bad memories of a time when the galaxy wore a gilded veil of bureaucracy and corruption remained. Much like what was left of the accursed holiday of Imperial Feté. He did, however uncharacteristic, allow his subordinates time to celebrate and attend the many balls and celebrations held at Imperial Palace and on their various home worlds. It afforded him time to get his affairs at his residences in order.

He would have liked to have thought that this year was the same, but it was not. The incident with Skywalker at Bespin now haunted him, and he found himself thinking about his son more than was either healthy or intelligent. There were plenty of things to keep his mind occupied and away from Skywalker: like Black Sun crime lords, the ever-increasing presence of the Rebel Alliance on the Outer Rim or appointing the planning commission of the second Death Star.

That these items eluded him so strongly made him realize that he needed to focus his energies, now more than ever. He needed time to meditate and draw strength from the Force, the darkness always served to calm and center him. The comm on his desk buzzed and the presence of Admiral Piett drew Vader away from his reverie.

Although it was not widely known outside the Imperial Navy, serving in Darth Vader's fleet had its advantages. Besides being the most elite and prominent assignments, it provided the best training for advancement. It was not as bad as one would think it would be, if one played their cards right and kept a low, but dedicated profile.

The Dark Lord had a private, mysterious streak and if one was successful enough to make it to his "inner circle" - if it could be called that - they were privy to his more private moments, and his calmer demeanor. If they were really efficient and worthwhile, they might also know more important tactical and dangerous secrets, like the fact that his hunt for Skywalker was often left unlogged.

That was a matter of confidentiality that would surely be dangerous if exposed.

Often those who served Lord Vader well and had good heads on their shoulders were rewarded with commendations and promotions. Lord Vader had, in the recent past, started allowing officers and enlisted men time off around Feté to refresh and be with their families, although Lord Vader would never call it family time. Admiral Piett doubted there had ever been family for Darth Vader, or if there was, it was long, long ago. No, he couldn't imagine Vader with family at all, he mused as he entered the lift in the executive wing of Imperial Palace, and pressed the button for the floor of Lord Vader's official chambers.

"Aye, you're the lucky one today."

Piett turned to look at the speaker, another occupant in the lift, a Grand Admiral's personal assistant, judging by his insignia. He gave a soft sniff of derision and raised his eyebrows at the assistant. "I beg your pardon?"

"Something for Lord Vader, eh?" the assistant smirked. "I've always wondered what devilry he cooks up in those chambers. You look awfully calm for someone about to go in there."

There were always tensions between the Grand Admirals and Lord Vader. Darth Vader didn't give the self-important Admirals the time of day, and they were both jealous and leery of the special place he seemed to have in the galaxy. It could be said he was number two, maybe even a little more than that. Sometimes it was even whispered that deep down, Palpatine must be scared of him.

Piett regarded the assistant with hooded eyes, as the lift slowly stopped. Vermin, he thought. His upbringing in the Outer Rim had taught him the ability to recognize those who had attained status as a result of their family name or a favor owed to those in higher government. He loathed them.

He sometimes thought that he and the Lord Darth Vader himself were the only officers to work their way up in the Imperial government. When Piett first met Lord Vader he served under Moff Tarkin. He also remembered hearing that Vader had been a General in the Clone Wars. Darth Vader had paid his dues, maybe not all of them, but some of them. The suit left no doubt about that, but you could also tell by his bearing.

"Don't be ridiculous. He's only a man," he said disdainfully, and left the gaping assistant to continue on to his destination.

He punched in the private code to Vader's outer chambers, and received the signal that he was expected. Piett entered quietly and found him standing at the window, regarding the dying sunset pensively.

"My Lord," Piett said. "Will you be staying on Imperial Center as usual for the holidays?"

"No, Admiral," Vader said without turning from the viewport. "Please have my shuttle prepared for Vjun."

"Right away, My Lord," he replied, mildly surprised. Lord Vader rarely went to his private home.

He started to wish him a happy Feté season, and then stopped himself, thinking how absurd the statement would be. He bowed at the waist and left as quietly as he had come in.

Vader turned and walked to the far wall of his official chamber and punched the keypad beside a particularly drab piece of cityscape pretending to be art. It lifted to reveal a safe hidden in the wall that held the residential documents he would need for his trip to Vjun.

His gloved hand brushed the side of an item he had just recently acquired. A holo reporter had been paid anonymously to procure the item, and it had been secretly delivered to him two days ago. He had put it away in hopes of forgetting of its existence. The temptation was too great, however, and he withdrew the item from the safe.

It was a holopicture taken of Luke Skywalker by a reconnaissance reporter. Through one of his most trusted sources, Darth Vader had paid handsomely for it. Why, he did not know.

With a tap of his thumb, the lid popped open and the holo of his son flickered to life, spinning slowly. Vader stood transfixed by the blue eyes that stared into his knowingly. He closed the holo and went to put it back in the safe, then stopped. He shut the door to the safe and put the holo in the case with his documentation that would be making the trip with him. Snapping the lid on the case shut with finality, he turned and left for the shuttle.

To be continued…