Title: Thankful

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG

Archive: Yes, please. If you want to put this on a web page please let me know.

Teaser: A Thanksgiving story with Luke and Anakin (Vader) set after ROTJ, where Vader lived.

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to George Lucas and Fox. This is just for fun.

Anakin Skywalker stood in the kitchen doorway watching his children prepare a feast, a lump in his throat. He still couldn't believe that things had changed so rapidly. One day he was the Sith Lord serving Palpatine and now he was a father with two grown children and free of the Dark Side. Even more amazing, the feast they were fixing was in his honor. The whole situation seemed like a fairy tale that would fade at any moment and he was almost frightened to blink less he miss something. The kitchen was toasty and warm, the heat from the oven warming him as the twin suns had done long ago. A smile on his face, he watched as Luke chopped the greens for a salad and Leia pulled a large roasted bird from the oven. Other assorted finished dishes sat upon the table and he licked his lips in anticipation of the upcoming meal. This would be his first meal with his family and he truly was grateful that he was finally free of the awful black breath mask that he had worn for so long. That hateful mask, more than anything else, was the symbol of the Dark Side and his reign of terror. Free of it, he had a chance of a normal life and one he meant to spend with his children.

At first he had worried of his fate with the Rebel Alliance and sure he would be ripped away from his son, but Luke's words on his actions that fateful day upon the Death Star did wonders. To his utter amazement, the Alliance had accepted him with open arms and had practically declared him a hero. They had even supplied the doctors that had fixed his various medical problems and for the first time in twenty years he could breath on his own. With wonderment, he reached up and touched his unencumbered cheek. It was amazing to reach up and touch skin instead of the hard, angled surface of a mask. And the scents! The smell of roasted meat mingled with that of sweet fruit pies made his mouth water in anticipation.

"Father," Luke said softly as he placed a hand on the older man's arm. "Come and eat. The food is ready."

Anakin nodded and followed his son to the prepared table. Stopping at the head of the table, he gazed down at the feast before him. Had his children worked so hard just for him? The roasted bird sat upon a huge platter, golden brown and cooked to perfection. Fresh fruit, colorful and perfectly arranged, added color to the table as did the flower arrangements Leia had created just that morning. Steam rose up from the pies and a beautiful cake sat high upon a glass stand, the white frosting dusted with coconut. And then there were the dishes Luke had prepared with his own hands: a fresh green salad, a dark red berry sauce and a big platter of spicy stuffing. Tears appeared in his blue eyes and he shook his head sadly, his mechanical fingers gripping the back of the chair tightly. "You worked so hard on making this lovely meal, but I … I don't deserve this…"

"Of course you do, Father!" Luke hurried to Anakin's side and placed his arm around his shoulders. "You deserve this and much more! We couldn't have won without you. I wasn't strong enough to destroy Palpatine. You saved me, remember?"

"But …" Anakin thought of all his long years as Darth Vader. "I did so many terrible things…"

"Out of love!" Luke replied as he hugged his father tightly. "You did it to save Mother. And it wasn't entirely all your fault. Palpatine was influencing you just as he did the Senate! Even the Council was deceived! Palpatine led you step by step until he had you in his grasp. The past is gone. You can't do anything to change it, so just let it go. You're here with us today and we're both grateful you are. So allow us to have this simple celebration of being reunited."

"And you can have the honor of carving the bird." Leia said with a smile as she held a knife out towards Anakin handle first.

Anakin's blue eyes shifted from the knife to his daughter's brown eyes. "Do you trust me with a knife?"

Leia sighed, but continued to offer him the knife. "I won't lie. It wasn't easy for me to accept the truth. I was shocked when Luke told me. It was just so unexpected. But you're different now. You saved Luke's life and I'm grateful that you did. You didn't have to but you did. So yes, I trust you with a knife."

Tears welling up in his eyes, Anakin accepted the knife with a trembling arm. He still couldn't believe that his children had accepted him after all the horrors in his life. He had been a monster and he knew it, yet they both apparently loved him. Wiping his face with his free hand, he gazed upon his family with love glistening in his blue eyes. "I … I have so much to be thankful for. Luke, thank you for caring about me so much that you risked your own life to save me. It was risky and foolhardy, perhaps, but it pulled me free of the Dark Side. I can't express my gratitude enough for that…"

"There's no need to thank me, Father." Luke replied as he gazed up at Anakin's wet face. "I'm just happy that you're here with me. That's all I ever wanted, really."

Anakin hugged Luke and then released him. Turning, he drew Leia close and hugged her as well. At first she was slightly stiff in his embrace but then she relaxed, hugging him back. Joy of acceptance filled his heart as he felt her arms tighten around him. His daughter loved him after all he had done to her, even destroying the world she loved.

"I'm so grateful to have both of you. You can't possibly understand how much it means to me…" Anakin choked out, his voice unsteady.

"And we're grateful that you're cured of your injuries." Luke replied with a smile as he hugged both his father and sister.

"And that the war is finally over." Leia added.

Anakin smiled at the two twins, more at ease with himself. The knife clutched in one hand, he moved towards the plump, juicy roasted bird. "I'm grateful that you two went through all the trouble fixing this lovely meal for us. We should eat before it gets cold."

Luke and Leia took their seats at the table and watched as Anakin carved slices of the bird. They had a lot to be thankful for.

The End

Happy Thanksgiving!