These Tender Hearts of Ours

"You're not concentrating. This offends me."

Luke's third birthday was fast approaching. He'd grown considerably over the year he'd spent with his father. At two, he was practically grown up.

Well, not quite.

With a very lazy yawn, the toddler fell from his shaky standing position and onto his rump, giving a small whimper. It appeared that the boy had grown quite tired of the lesson, and was making it very plain that he was done for the day. His father, however, did not agree.

Darth Vader brushed his mind against that of his son's, speaking to him. Come on, don't sit down. We aren't done yet.

Using the Force never ceased to amaze Luke, who looked up at his father with large, curious blue eyes. He blinked several times, and crawled back onto his little feet. Grinning, displaying growing baby teeth, the toddler took a few shaking, awkward steps in the direction of his father. Loosing his balance, the boy fell foreword, and Vader put up his hand to catch him. With a small "whump," the solid little child's stomach smacked into his father's palm, and he wrinkled his nose. The Lord of the Sith, crouched on the floor to be on a more eye level with the boy, shifted his weight, relieving the pent stress in his knees. It occurred to him that with each year that his son grew older, so did he, and he puzzled over that for a moment. Removing the black gloved hand, the Dark Lord supported the toddler using the Force until the boy had regained his balance.

Whimpering, Luke reached out his tiny hand for his father's, and tugged at the Sith Lord's cape until he relented and gave him the hand. There was no real reason for wanting the hand. He just did things because he could. His mind was not yet developed enough to figure out reasons to his actions, motives behind what he did. At the age of two it really didn't matter.

"Glove!" He sounded out the word very carefully. So far, Luke's favorite word was "plane." Darth Vader blinked and stroked back his son's messy blond hair with his free hand.

"Yes, glove," he affirmed, and somewhat praised. "Very good."

"Glove!"

"Yes, we've already established that. Now, can we continue the lesson yet?"

The toddler scrunched up his face and began to make the high pitched whining noise that was all too often followed by tears.

"Alright, alright! No lesson! Okay, we'll take a break for a little while longer."

The boy was spoiled. Utterly spoiled. He wasn't exactly bratty per say. The things he asked for were very reasonable. Mostly he just like being around his father, he didn't ask for much. But Vader was a busy man. He didn't understand the concept that some things came far before any kind of work, no matter how important.

Or maybe he did. Just not consciously.

Maybe he knew in his heart.

Luke's furious tugging on the hand had managed to get it's owner to sit, and the toddler sat opposite, babbling some utterly nonsensical game or song that an Imperial officer had taught him while he was watching the apple of the Lord of the Sith's eye. As the boy continued with the gibberish, his father nodded, adding in "Oh really?" every once in a while, for his son's benefit. Luke took it for granted that everyone knew what he was saying. It was not an entirely often occurrence that what he said registered any meaning in the mind's of his audience, but he seemed to enjoy the rather one sided conversations.

However, the jabber stopped with another yawn. The toddler blinked, and rubbed at his eye. Crawling over closer to his father, he nudged the black arm out of the way and cuddled rather awkwardly with the Dark Lord.

"Oh, come on, Luke, don't do that…."

Too late. The boy had made himself entirely comfortable, and was determined that not only was the lesson over, but he was going to take a nap to emphasize the point. on, Luke, get up. I'm being serious. Luke, wake up! Now!

What threat could the Sith Lord possibly have that would scare the child? Half he wouldn't understand, even if they were explained to him. And, besides which, Darth Vader had never harmed a hair on his son's head, excluding pricking his finger for a blood sample. He never would, could make himself do that. Too much of a fatherly, weak heart beat in his chest. His wife had been his weakness, his darkness. He'd embraced the darkness, let the weakness go. But his son? His son was also his weakness, but he was his light. Luke was Vader's soft spot, his good nature that had been buried so many years ago. Buried with memories of Queens and Jedi.

The small hand wrapped around two of the gloved fingers, and the Lord of the Sith sighed, defeated.