Disclaimer: All characters, places, etc. (excepting Ray Jopaan, who is mine) belong to George Lucas and Lucasfilm. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's notes: This was inspired by a challenge found at the LukeVader Yahoo!Group and website, about Luke and Vader hearing of a man calling himself Anakin Skywalker and investigating. I've got a couple sequels planned, though whether I'll manage to write them is anyone's guess. Thank you to thistlerose and Barbara for betaing. This fic is now complete.

--

The future was so close now. Vader could almost hear the Force yelling at him, pushing him towards what was going to happen.

It was close. It was inevitable. It was happening.

The Force was pressing him, and he let it guide him, let it take over his hands on the controls and take him where he needed to be. The desert rushed past him, the wind from his passing stirring up little flurries of sand.

In front of him, he felt a presence; it was one he'd not felt for nearly a decade, but also one that he would never forget. Kenobi was here, on this ball of sand and dirt and heat, probably thinking that Vader's hatred of the planet would keep him safe. But he was wrong, and Vader felt a quick, fierce stab of pleasure at being able to show Kenobi how wrong he was.

Even when memories of where he was kept bubbling up from his subconscious, memories of why he hated this planet so much, Vader focused on his goal and shunted them away, flying onward to where he thought he saw a homestead in the distance.

--

Owen took the news of who Ray was and what he'd done remarkably well, Ray thought, as the five of them sat around the Lars' kitchen table. Though he'd glared at Ray a few times during the story, he seemed more afraid than angry. And while Ray could understand being afraid of Vader, he still didn't know why the Lars family was being involved.

"Well, that's it, then." Owen sighed. He turned to Obi-Wan. "You really think Vader could be coming?"

Obi-Wan echoed his sigh. "I think he is," Obi-Wan said, gently. "When Jedi Jopaan said he used Anakin's name, I got this foreboding feeling…I think the Force was telling me that Vader will come. I don't know when, but I think he'll come." He stood up, and started pacing the small kitchen. "You and Beru should take Luke and hide somewhere. Try to protect him, at least. Vader might kill him, just for being the son of a Jedi and potentially strong in the Force."

Ray felt sick. So much for his brilliant plan—it seemed the only thing he'd done was put his hoped-for mentor and this innocent family in terrible danger. He should have thought it out better—surely there had been some other way of finding Obi-Wan, or of getting trained…some way that didn't involve this careworn couple and their Force-strong nephew.

But Owen was shaking his head. "Where would we go?" he asked gruffly, but regretfully. "We can't get off-planet—Beru and I don't have the money. Besides, being out in the middle of the desert seems a good enough hiding place to me."

Obi-Wan clasped his hands together tightly. "It may not be enough," he said. "I don't have the money to get you off-planet either, and I don't think I could hide Luke's Force-signature anymore if we're on different planets. I could distract Vader here, and you could disappear into Mos Eisley—"

"And what if he kills you, Obi-Wan?" Beru cut in sharply. "He's spent the past nine years killing Jedi Knights and Masters, and I daresay he's gotten quite good at it! You can't hide Luke's Force-signature anymore if you're dead, either, and then Vader would be able to find him still!"

Ray looked at Luke, sitting quietly in his chair, his face pale as he looked at each adult. Ray wondered what he was thinking, if he even knew what the Force was, if he'd known about any of this. Luke was at the heart of this, Ray realized suddenly. Obi-Wan was on this planet because Luke was here, because he'd had to dampen a presence so strong that it leaked through a Jedi Master's shields enough that Ray could feel it from blocks away, and all to protect him from a monster Jedi-killer.

Then Obi-Wan stopped his pacing, suddenly, and closed his mouth in the middle of a retort to Beru, and Ray realized he should pay better attention to the conversation if he wanted to know what was happening. "All of this is now a moot point," he said abruptly. "I thought we had more time, but…I feel his presence getting closer. I think he'll be here within five minutes."

Beru and Owen turned pale faces to each other, and quickly started moving. Owen grabbed his nephew, stopping a shout of surprise with a hand over his mouth, and took him deeper into the house.

"Come!" Obi-Wan shouted, grabbing Ray by the forearm and pulling him out of the chair as Beru followed her husband. "You're the one who got us into this mess, so you're going to help me distract him enough to let Owen and Beru escape with Luke. Follow me!"

Ray shook off his shock and ran after Obi-Wan, up the stairs and back out into the desert suns. Off in the distance he could see a black dot swooping closer and closer, and with a trill of fear, Ray recognized an advanced TIE fighter, and knew, with a sudden certainty born of the Force, that it was Vader flying it, and that this was not an encounter from which he would be walking away.

--

Luke was terrified. He tried desperately not to show it, but he was. He kept quiet even after his uncle took his hand away from his mouth, and stood silently as his aunt and uncle moved through the house, grabbing their emergency stash of credits and other things Luke couldn't see.

He stood there, pushing away all the questions he'd thought of during the discussion in the kitchen, trying to think of something he could do to help, when Aunt Beru knelt in front of him and took his hands in hers.

"Luke," she said, so quietly that he had to strain forward to hear her, "Master Kenobi and Jedi Jopaan will be out front, distracting him, while we get away. We're going out the back, and we'll try to get to the speeder, but if Owen and I," she swallowed, and the skin around her eyes tightened, "don't make it, then you need to get away. Take the speeder, drive it as best you can to Anchorhead, and go to the Darklighters."

"Aunt Beru," Luke said, just as softly, "what about what you were saying, in the kitchen? Something about him being able to find me…I don't want to lead him to Biggs."

Beru bit her lip, though something in her eyes softened. "We're hoping that he'll be distracted enough by Master Kenobi that you'll be left alone," she said.

Luke had other questions, but Beru put a finger over his lips to indicate silence, then quickly hugged him close to her. Luke hugged her back, tightly, and felt her tears on his neck and soaking into his shirt.

"Whatever happens, Luke," she whispered hoarsely, pulling back enough to look him in the face, "know that I'll always love you."

Luke felt tears prick his own eyes, but he didn't let them fall. He was nine years old, and the son of a Jedi Knight, and he wasn't going to cry. "I love you too, Aunt Beru," he whispered in return. "I love you too."

--

Four years was apparently enough time for Ray to forget his fear at the sight of the tall black figure now standing in front of him. He'd buried it deeply enough that it had gone to sleep, but now that the object of his fear was back, so was the fear, and it threatened to overwhelm him.

Vader breathed. "Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said, the deep voice sending a shudder throughout Ray's body. Then that mask turned to face him, and Ray froze. "And this, I assume, is the fool who used Skywalker's name and brought my attention to this planet?"

Vader meant to do that, Ray thought, meant to remind him of how stupid his plan really was, and cause him to despair at how utterly it had failed. But Ray would act like a Jedi, would hold his head high and not let his fear or despair control him.

"Jedi padawan Ray Jopaan," Ray introduced himself. He met the mask calmly, though he was sure that Vader could feel his fear and was amused by it. "You nearly killed me four years ago, but you failed. I think you will regret that."

"I think not, padawan," Vader replied, and gestured to Obi-Wan with his unlit lightsaber. "You led me to him, after all, and now I can take care of both of you."

Ray felt his despair returning, and stronger, at the realization that Vader was right; Obi-Wan was in danger, and it was solely because of him. 'Act like a Jedi,' he told himself, and kept his gaze fixed on Vader's mask.

Obi-Wan was standing calmly, his lightsaber held in his right hand, but as yet unlit. "You might be surprised," he said serenely. "You were in our last duel, weren't you?"

Ray felt a fierce spike of anger from Vader at that, and wondered for a moment what Obi-Wan was referring to. But Vader was replying, and Ray silently encouraged Obi-Wan in keeping up the conversation, and giving Luke and his family more time to escape.

"It is you who shall be surprised, Obi-Wan," Vader said, and thumbed his lightsaber on. Ray shuddered again at the sight of that blood red blade, which he'd last seen being pulled out of his chest. "I am not your apprentice anymore!"

'What?' Ray thought. 'His apprentice—?'

Obi-Wan just slowly brought his left hand to grip the saber below his right, and turned it on. "No, Anakin, you're not," he said, sadly.

Ray didn't even have time to react to that before Vader roared, "Anakin Skywalker is dead! I am Darth Vader!" Then he rushed forward, swung at Obi-Wan, and the battle was joined.

--

They crept out the back way, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru herding Luke protectively in between them. Tatoo I and Tatoo II felt hotter than they ever had before, even with Owen and Beru hunched over him and shielding him from as much as possible.

The landspeeder was parked to the side of the homestead, and Luke heard voices coming from the front. One of them was deep, cold and commanding, and Luke shivered because he knew it was Darth Vader's voice, and that meant that Darth Vader really was here. At his home. Threatening his family and people he cared about.

As Owen and Beru hustled him towards the speeder, Luke listened closely to the conversation, listening for any clues that Vader knew that Luke and his aunt and uncle were trying to escape.

Then he stopped, and ignored Owen and Beru tugging at his arms, when Obi-Wan called Vader Anakin. His head flew up and his eyes met his guardians', and he could see their desperate fear—fear for him, and fear of the knowledge he just realized they were trying to keep from him.

That awful cold voice had just roared that he was Darth Vader when Luke shook off the protective hands, and ran back to where he could see a bright blue lightsaber blade coming up to parry a blood red one. He wasn't thinking, didn't know what to think, but he trusted the feeling that told him run.

He ran.

--

Ray told himself not to think, but it didn't work. Obi-Wan had called Vader Anakin, and Vader had disclaimed being his apprentice anymore. There was only one thing that made sense, and Ray didn't want to think about it, but he couldn't help it.

This was Anakin Skywalker. This black-masked, Dark Side-wielding travesty of a man, this merciless Sith Lord, was Obi-Wan Kenobi's former padawan, Owen Lars's step-brother, and…Luke Skywalker's father. Ray felt a sudden rush of anger, which he quickly beat down. He knew that he'd played the biggest part in bringing Vader here, and he took full responsibility for this whole sorry position they found themselves in, but he couldn't stop the feeling from bursting inside him that the worst thing about the entire situation was that Luke, that shining Force presence, had such a miserable excuse for a father.

Ray turned his lightsaber on, and the blue blade popped up with its distinctive snap-hiss. He didn't like the idea of attacking someone in the back, but Obi-Wan needed help and Luke and his family needed defending, and they were worth this breach of honor.

So Ray charged forward, both hands clasped tightly around the hilt of his lightsaber, and thought grimly that if he died in this attempt, it would be in the defense of innocents, and a death worthy of a Jedi.

--

Fools.

Both of the Jedi, the Master and the padawan, were fools. He parried one blue blade aimed at his neck, and immediately swung around to block the other from biting into his thigh.

Did they think that, even teaming up against him, they could prevail? He had defeated teams of Jedi before, whole coordinated attacks—what were Kenobi and this other thinking, to stand against him?

Vader lost himself to the movements of the deadly pattern, exulting in the adrenaline rushing through his body. It had been too long since his last lightsaber fight against real opponents, as opposed to battle droids that died all too easily. Obi-Wan and this padawan—what was his name again? It didn't matter—were skilled, but they were nothing to him.

Block. Parry. Feint. Cut. His lightsaber danced in his hands, a whir of red energy seeking an opening. He drove the padawan back for the moment, stepped away from Obi-Wan, and then cut forward at an angle, a vicious chop towards the padawan's waist. The young man blocked it, though awkwardly, his face drawn in effort, and Vader wanted to laugh because he wasn't even starting to feel winded yet.

Obi-Wan darted in quickly, lightsaber sweeping downward to Vader's left upper leg—a weakness that Obi-Wan had exploited before in practice duels against his padawan, but Sidious was a much better master than Obi-Wan had been, and Vader blocked it effortlessly.

Something flickered at the edge of his Force sense, a teasing presence that was somehow familiar, but Vader ignored it. It posed no threat to him. It could be taken care of once Obi-Wan and this padawan were dead.

And there—there was the opening Vader had been looking for! The padawan faltered a bit, lowered his blade in anticipation of a torso strike, and Vader swung high, penetrating defenses easily. His blade hurtled towards the now-unprotected neck—and met its target, slicing down and through the padawan's neck and upper chest. The boy collapsed, his life energy quickly slipping away, and Vader smiled behind his mask in triumph. Then the boy disappeared and the robes collapsed in on themselves as the padawan became one with the Force.

At the same moment, he felt Obi-Wan at his back, rushing towards him. There was an opportunity in the charge, if Obi-Wan had put enough momentum into it. And at the last possible moment, when Obi-Wan truly gave himself to this last desperate attack, the Force trilled a warning and Vader turned around and lunged forward, letting Obi-Wan spear himself through the heart upon Vader's blade.

The shock was already leaving Obi-Wan's eyes when Vader stepped back, letting his old master collapse on the sand. Then Obi-Wan opened his mouth, and almost against his better judgment, Vader leaned forward to listen.

"Anakin," Obi-Wan whispered, clearly holding onto the last vestiges of life in order to say this one thing. "Don't hurt the boy." What boy? "Don't hurt…your son."

Then he closed his eyes, let out one deep, shuddering breath…and disappeared, his robes collapsing in on where his body had been.

The next thing Vader became aware of was someone screaming.

--

Luke hadn't even realized he'd been screaming until two weathered pairs of hands clamped over his mouth and cut him off. But the damage was done: Darth Vader, with his red lightsaber that had just taken the lives of two Jedi, was looking straight at them. Luke sagged back against Uncle Owen as he realized what he'd done—he'd fouled up their only chance of escape, and brought them to the attention of a murderer.

But Vader wasn't coming at them with his lightsaber. He was still standing there, beside Obi-Wan's empty robes, and Luke would have sworn that he was puzzled about something. Obi-Wan had said something to him before disappearing—how had he managed that anyway?—so maybe it was that that left Darth Vader standing in front of them without trying to kill them.

For a moment, the only sound Luke could hear was Vader's distinctive breathing. Then Vader took a step forward—Owen and Beru almost reflexively stepped back, bringing Luke with them—and asked, "Who is the boy?"

Luke realized that Vader was talking about him, and wanted to tremble. Aunt Beru was trembling, and Luke took her hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure her. She squeezed it back, but didn't stop trembling.

Uncle Owen cleared his throat. "He's my nephew," he said roughly, answering the question with as little information as possible. Luke, who normally hated his uncle's overprotectiveness, now felt grateful for it.

Silence for a moment, apart from the breathing, then: "Why are the boy's parents not taking care of him?"

Luke didn't like this display of interest in him from one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. He wished, suddenly and intensely, to go back to being the anonymous boy he'd been that morning, the unknown nephew of a moisture farmer. But that was impossible now, with Darth Vader looking at him and asking about him, so he closed his eyes and told himself to be brave.

Finally, Owen replied, "His parents are gone. We're the only family he has left."

"What is his name?"

Now they were for it. Luke left his eyes closed, and fought to keep his breath from speeding up. 'Be calm,' he told himself. 'He hasn't killed us yet, so he might not. Panicking won't help anything.'

Owen swallowed, and then said, gruffly, "Luke."

Vader breathed, and Luke could feel him getting annoyed. His lightsaber was still on, and Luke eyed it warily. He didn't want Uncle Owen to die. His life was forfeit if he was uncooperative with Imperials, and with Darth Vader to answer to, telling anything less than the truth was a death sentence. Not many stories from off-planet made it to the gossip market in Anchorhead, but ones of Vader had, and Luke silently urged his uncle to tell the truth and not annoy Vader. He didn't care what Vader did to him upon discovery that he was the son of a Jedi Knight, but he didn't want his uncle to die.

"Surname?" Vader asked, the annoyance coming through in the tone of his voice.

Uncle Owen bowed his head, was silent for a moment, two. "Skywalker," he whispered, finally, almost too low for even Luke to hear it.

"Speak up!" Vader snapped, raising up the lightsaber slightly and stepping towards them.

Owen's head was still bowed, and Luke looked up at him, then looked away, unable to bear the pain in his uncle's eyes. Luke could feel his uncle's fear—mostly fear for him, and for Beru, with only the smallest part for himself. And suddenly, he knew that his uncle wouldn't say any more, that he would prefer death to giving up Luke to a man like Darth Vader.

But Luke didn't want him to die. Couldn't let him die. His chin came up, and he shook off his aunt's and uncle's hands, taking a step forward towards Vader. "Skywalker," he said, loudly and clearly. Vader's gaze fixed on him, but Luke stood his ground. "My name is Luke Skywalker," he announced, ignoring the little moan of fear that came from his aunt behind him.

Then his chin came down a bit, and he wilted slightly. "Don't hurt Uncle Owen," he said, quieter now but no less clear. "Do whatever you want to me, but don't hurt Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru."

--

Skywalker.

Skywalker.

Obi-Wan had said it, and the Force confirmed it, but he'd had to make sure, had to hear it, straight from the mouth of someone who knew. And he knew that this was a true Skywalker, unlike the foolish padawan whose empty robes were lying somewhere behind him.

This was his son.

It was definitely possible, Vader knew. Padmé had still been pregnant when she confronted him on Mustafar, and she could have given birth before she…Vader shied away from the thought; even though it had been nine years, it still hadn't been long enough to take the pain away. Even if she had led Obi-Wan to him, even if she had betrayed him, he'd repaid all that by inadvertently killing her in his anger, and the thought that she had had their son first was…almost a comfort.

"How old are you, young Skywalker?" Vader asked, his voice coming out more gently than he'd meant it to. He was still testing, though what for he didn't know, because he knew the boy was his son. The Force couldn't lie.

"Nine," the boy answered, just as Vader expected he would. He looked small for nine, but Vader himself had been small, before he hit a growth spurt.

Vader closed his eyes behind his mask and breathed. He had a child. A son. Unbidden, images of the boy from his meditations arose, and Vader realized that the boy was not a young version of himself, which had been his first thought, but was his son.

His son, Luke. He had a son named Luke. It was something strange and almost wondrous, life where he'd thought it lost, family when he'd thought it destroyed. He wasn't alone in the world, aside from his master. He had a son. He could sense his presence in the Force, pulsing so brightly it was almost blinding, could feel the boy's hopes and fears and dreams.

But however wondrous it was, it brought back so many memories he'd thought safely buried or cast out, memories he wanted no part of anymore. This place, and this boy, brought them all back.

In his mind's eye, Vader could see another nine-year-old boy holding fast against an adversary without fear keeping him back, another boy running across the hot sands of the Tatooine desert under the heat of the twin suns, another boy who took a chance and put his life in the hands of an unknown man…another boy who secretly dreamed big, wild, free dreams of walking the sky and making it his own—

Vader wanted to kill that other boy, wanted to snuff out his life and grind it beneath the heel of his boot, wanted to take those dreams and pluck them out of the sky like stars and crush them in his hand. Those dreams had led that other boy nowhere. Dreams were all that boy had had, his life, and look at how insubstantial they really were, how quickly they passed away…

But this was his son, and his son's dreams, and he had to protect them, like his mother had tried to protect his own. This was his son, and he could never hurt him. Perhaps there still was some sliver of Anakin Skywalker still left in him, a weakness for family that he hadn't rooted out because his own family was gone and it was a moot point, and now it came back to haunt him. And it probably would haunt him, later, but he was living in the moment and decided not to care.

Abruptly, he realized that his lightsaber was still on, and quickly extinguished the blade. There was no more threat here, now that the Jedi were dead. There was only the boy and his aunt and uncle, and they weren't going anywhere.

--

Luke gazed nervously at Vader, but the tall man made no threatening move now that his saber was off. He'd spent the last several minutes standing in silence, as if lost in thought, though Luke didn't know what he had to be so thoughtful about. Luke was the son of a Jedi Knight, and wasn't it Imperial policy that Jedi and children of Jedi were killed?

Then Vader spoke, and Luke almost jumped at the sound of his voice, almost as gentle as it had been when he'd asked Luke his age.

"Owen and Beru," Vader said, as if considering something. "Owen Lars…son of Cliegg Lars, step-son of Shmi Skywalker, step-brother of Anakin Skywalker."

Luke felt his eyes widen. How had Vader known that? How could Vader, of all people, know that much about his family?

Behind him, Owen cleared his throat. "Yes," he said gruffly. "I am Owen Lars. Beru is my wife."

Vader was silent for a moment, then asked, "What have you told Luke about his father?"

Owen stepped up to Luke, put a hand on his shoulder. "We told him that his father's dead," he said quietly, now looking almost fearlessly at the man in black across from him. "And he found out today, thanks to that padawan, that his father was a Jedi."

Vader exhaled, loudly. "So…he knows practically nothing about his father," Vader said, his voice lower than usual, with a hint of leftover anger and violence. "Kenobi's doing, I presume?"

Owen shook his head. "Obi-Wan just brought him to us. Beru and I made the decision not to tell him, for his own safety."

Luke looked between the both of them, confused and not liking it. He'd always known that there was something about his father Owen wasn't telling him, but then he thought that the big revelation was that he'd been a Jedi. There was more to it than that, apparently.

Vader exhaled again, the breath coming out like a hiss. "For his own safety?" Vader growled, taking a step forward. Luke could feel the anger spiking in him. "Did you think I would hurt him?"

Owen looked steadily at Vader, but his hand tightened on Luke's shoulder, and Luke could feel his growing fear. "We didn't know what you would do," Owen replied roughly. "And we weren't ready to bet the boy's life on a wrong guess!"

Vader stopped his advancement, and seemed to think about that, but Luke could still feel his anger. "Everything that I have done has been done for my family," he said lowly, dangerously. "I would never hurt any of them, and definitely not my own son!"

Luke reeled back in surprise, feeling like someone had punched him in the gut.

Son.

Son.

That was the missing piece, the last one in the puzzle. That was the big revelation Luke had known was coming. That was why Uncle Owen had always changed the subject when he brought up his father, and that was why Obi-Wan Kenobi called Vader Anakin.

Luke fell to his knees on the burning hot sand, welcoming the heated pain, ignoring Owen's comforting hand on his shoulder. Owen had lied to him, and so had Beru, and Obi-Wan, and they tried to keep him as far away from this man, his father, as possible. Luke couldn't be angry with them for it, because they had been trying to protect him, and Darth Vader was undoubtedly a dangerous man, and a killer.

But he was still Luke's father. Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father, and Luke choked back a little laugh-sob, because he didn't know what to feel about the idea, whether to be happy because his father was alive and in front of him, or to be appalled because he'd just killed two men and seemed to think nothing of it, and Luke knew they weren't his first murders.

Then there were two heavy hands on his shoulders, and Luke looked up, ready to tell Uncle Owen to go away. But these hands were not his uncle's hands; these hands were covered by black leather gloves, and nothing like his uncle's calloused ones. Luke looked at his father, down on his knees beside him in the sand, and any words of reproach died in his mouth. He couldn't tell his father to go away.

And then Vader was pulling him closer, and Luke let himself be pulled. This was his father, whatever else he was. Later, perhaps, he would ask him why he'd killed Obi-Wan and Ray and so many other people, and perhaps later he'd be angry. But for now, he was in his father's arms, where he'd so often longed to be, and he was content.

--

It had been years, Vader reflected, since he'd last held someone. And though he knew he would not do it again—his reputation, and the echo of his master's voice in his mind, would not allow such a thing—he just couldn't help it this time. Luke was confused and in pain, and Vader had offered comfort the simplest way he knew how.

Then he stood up and stepped back, his arm still around Luke's shoulders, and Luke came up with him. Together, they faced Owen and Beru, Owen's mouth tight and Beru's eyes filled with tears.

"I will never hurt him," Vader said, and Owen nodded, but his mouth tightened even more. Not that it mattered what Owen thought—he wasn't in control anymore, and Vader was.

They stood there for another few moments, in silence, and then Luke's voice asked quietly, hesitantly, "Are you taking me with you?"

Vader looked down at his son, at the tousled sandy hair and the brilliant blue eyes so reminiscent of his own childhood. "I would like to," Vader replied, just as quietly. He should give the boy a choice; he didn't want to be hated or resented by his last remaining family. "But it should be your decision. Would you want to live with me?"

Vader knew he shouldn't make a promise like that, not without consulting his master first, but this was his son. He would not allow his family to be separated from him so easily anymore.

He could feel his son thinking, and without hesitation followed the thoughts. Fear, and glimmers of anger, because of what Vader had just done. Concern for his aunt and uncle. Lingering surprise over the unexpected revelation of who his father was. And underlying everything, a quiet happiness at finally having a father, a real father and not just an uncle and father-figure. And too, there was hope that he would be a mitigating influence on his father, so that Vader would not kill so casually anymore—Vader was amused at the idea, but decided that breaking that illusion could wait until Luke truly trusted him.

They would have to work at building a real relationship, Vader knew. Luke would miss his aunt and uncle, and his friends on this planet, but Vader would let him come back to visit. He remembered only too well the Jedi refusing him a similar courtesy, and the anguish that it caused him—anguish that he would spare his son. And Luke would come to see that there was still a man behind the mask; Vader felt him coming to that realization already, as he clumsily touched Vader's emotions and felt the genuine surprise, warmth, burgeoning love, and desire to have his son with him. He dropped his mental shields slightly, to let Luke feel the emotions more clearly, and hoped that would influence the boy

There was quiet, broken only by the sound of his breathing and the wind blowing sand, and then Luke suddenly leaned into him, closer than he had been before. "I want to go with you," he announced solemnly. Then he looked up, and smiled, and those blue eyes brightened even more. "Father."

Vader smiled behind his mask, and held Luke close against him. He didn't care about his master at the moment, nor about what his crew would think when they saw him come back with a young boy. They didn't matter. All that mattered was Luke. Just Luke, his bright, Force-strong, newfound son.

END