Summary: This is part of the Force Bond series, an AU where Vader raises Luke, but is a complete story unto itself. It is set between FB2 and 3. Luke is twelve. Vader faces the challenge of trying to get a nightmare-plagued Luke to go to the dentist.

Background: This was one of the Force Bond oneshots I wrote for the lukevader yahoo group in 2003. The tone is more humorous than the more serious main Force Bond series. This was originally posted in April 2003.

Last Revision: March 2020


Dentist


The flashing chronometer light caught Darth Vader's attention as he felt the slight tremor of the shuttle's landing. It was a few minutes after 0300, Imperial City time. It had been a long, exhausting, yet successful mission in the Arconeb system. Many Rebel ships had been destroyed, and there was a mine of information waiting to be discovered in the various spies and traitors they had taken prisoner. Interrogation would keep him busy on Coruscant for at least the next month.

At least, he was hoping it would. This was the first time he had returned to the Imperial Palace in the last three weeks.

He walked swiftly down the shuttle's ramp, starting before it had touched ground, and made his way to the line of elevators. He could sense curiosity among the guards, undoubtedly wondering why he was in such a hurry. It was the early hours of the morning, after all, and the Emperor would not be awake.

But unless they were also parents, they could never understand. Three weeks was a long time to leave a twelve-year-old boy to his own devices, and he couldn't help but worry about his son. Even though he trusted the palace staff to ensure the boy was safe, he couldn't expect them to supervise him constantly. Artoo and Threepio did their best, but an adventurous young Skywalker often proved too much for even their formidable skills.

As he rode the elevator up to his personal floor, he couldn't help but wonder if Luke resented his constant absences. He had never complained about it during their regular calls, though, so he had to assume the boy was comfortable with, or, at least, understood the situation. It wasn't as though it could be changed—he doubted very much his master would be willing to grant him parental leave.

He would make it up to his son, anyway. He would arrange some space in his schedule to spend time with the boy. The way things had been lately, he wouldn't be surprised if the royal guards knew more about his son than he did.

Walking carefully as not to wake his son, he made his way down to the corridor towards Luke's room. As he came closer, he realized he needn't have bothered. A thin crack of light could be seen shining through at the edge.

He reached up to open the door, hoping Luke had simply fallen asleep and forgotten to turn out his light. All hope of that faded when he saw his son was very much awake. Sounds of explosions and laser fire reverberated around the room, coming from the holovid projector. Luke was staring at it intently, while fiddling with the controller in his hands. He didn't look away.

"Luke?!"

"Hi!" Luke said, still unable to tear his attention away. "When did you get back?"

"What are you doing?" Vader said, stepping closer.

"Playing the Galactic Bandits hologame," Luke said. "I'm nearly up to the tenth level! No one I know has got this far!"

Vader looked at the corner, where Artoo and Threepio sat, completely powered down. They would be having words about this tomorrow.

"Turn it off at once. You should have been in bed hours ago."

"Just a minute!" Luke said. "I've just got to—"

"Now, Luke," Vader said, becoming annoyed. He looked down at the floor, seeing the carpet was hidden under a layer of candy wrappers and empty fast-food boxes.

"Is this what you have been eating?" he said in disbelief, gesturing at one of them.

His son was still focused on the game, and did not answer him. Vader stretched out a hand, and used the Force to cut off the power. The holograms disappeared into nothingness.

Luke yelled out in annoyance. "NO! I can't believe you did that! I was just about to win!"

"Luke, it is a school night. It is far too late for you to be awake. I can see you have been taking advantage of my absence."

"Another few seconds, and I would have made it!" Luke said, jiggling the power button in a vain attempt to get it working again.

Vader pointed at the game machine, causing it to fly through the air towards him, wires pulling away from the holovid projector on the way.

"Hey!" Luke protested. "Be careful with that!"

Spying another three unopened bags of candy on the desk, Vader lifted them off the ground and gestured at the disposal unit. The candy obediently flew into it.

"They weren't even opened!" Luke protested. "Stars, you are so mean!"

"I am surprised you have any teeth left to eat them," Vader said. "When was the last time you went to the dentist?"

"Who cares?!" Luke said, turning away in a sulk.

"Tomorrow, I want you to clean up this mess."

"Why should I?"

"Luke, I am not going to get into an argument with you at three am," Vader said, trying to stay calm. "Now go to bed."

"Why couldn't you stay away a little longer?" Luke suggested.

Not trusting himself to respond, Vader left the room, ignoring the insults his son was mumbling under his breath. So much for Luke resenting his absences.


"Luke?"

"Mmmm?" Luke said, sleepily.

"Luke!"

A half-eaten piece of fruit bounced off his head, and Luke sat up in shock. "Ow!"

"What were you doing last night?" Ben asked.

Luke rubbed his eyes, gazing around the cafeteria. Before him, his lunch sat, barely touched. He thought for a moment about his friend's question, while peeling the crust off a sandwich.

"Playing Galactic Bandits," Luke said, his mind beginning to clear. "I nearly got to the tenth level, too."

"You did? Wow! I'm still stuck trying to kill that boss at the end of level seven."

"I was so close," Luke said, taking a careful bite from the corner of the sandwich. "But then my father came in and unplugged it! He confiscated the gamebox, too."

"Parents," Ben said. "They just don't understand hologames."

"Tell me about it."

"When are you getting it back?"

"I don't know," Luke said. "I'll try groveling for it this afternoon."

"Would groveling work with your father?"

"If he's busy enough, it will."

"Well, if not, you can come over and help me finish level seven," Ben suggested.

"Okay," Luke said, throwing his sandwich back on the lunch table.

"Aren't you going to eat that?" Ben asked. "I'll have it."

"Sure," Luke said, passing it over.

"Want some fruit twists?" Ben asked, offering Luke a bag of candy.

Luke held his stomach. "No thanks. I ate three bags of those last night."

Ben nodded and began to devour Luke's sandwich.

"This is great," Ben said, swallowing the last of it. "Why didn't you want it?"

Luke passed over the rest of his sandwiches. "I just don't feel like them."

It wasn't the real reason why he wasn't eating his lunch, but Luke didn't feel like going into the intricate details. He knew what Ben would say, and he didn't want to hear it. Luckily, the signal for the end of lunch sounded over the school comm system, saving him from answering any more questions.

"I'll contact you after school and tell you if I'm coming over or not," Luke said, packing up his belongings.

"Good luck with your father," Ben said.

I'll need it, Luke thought.


Luke pressed the door comm, and shuffled from one foot to the other as he waited for a response from within. As seconds of silence ticked by, Luke tried again, and a third time, before finally coming to the conclusion that his father was not in his meditation room.

Artoo whistled beside him.

"Yes, you were right," Luke agreed. "Okay. Do it, Artoo."

Artoo was already plugged into the wall terminal. A few clicks, and the doors slid open.

"Great, now stand guard," Luke said, slipping inside. "This'll need to be quick."

At the sight of the empty room, he let out the breath he'd been holding. Now all he had to do was find that gamebox. It shouldn't be too hard. The actual meditation chamber looked completely sterile; there was no point checking there. He walked around it, until he spied a storage compartment, built into the wall.

"Bingo," Luke mumbled to himself, as he reached up to open it. The door slid into the wall, and Luke squinted into the dark depths. As he stretched up to feel for a light switch, he knocked over a datapad, which fell underneath the lower shelf. Then a round red light glowed from the space where the datapad had landed, followed by the noise of a machine powering up.

Luke stepped back, trying to figure out what bizarre contraption this was. It began to tick, rising up off the floor. It was a hovering droid, spherical in shape.

"Oh, this is all I need," Luke said. "Droid, turn off! Go back where you belong!"

It didn't respond to his commands, it simply began to move toward him, glowing eerily. Luke took another step back as it came closer. His mouth dropped open when he finally got a good look at it ... it had a syringe on the side, and two nasty looking pincers on top.

"Just a medical droid!" Luke told himself.

A spark of electricity jumped between the two front pincers and another side implement extended.

"Go away!" Luke shouted, moving around it. This thing was starting to scare him.

It followed his movement, red sensor eye blinking every so often.

Panic was just setting in, when the main doors slid open, causing Luke to whirl around in shock. His father stood, silhouetted in the doorway.

"Um ... hi!" Luke said, trying to look innocent. He would need to have words with Artoo about what 'standing guard' actually meant, because clearly he had no idea.

The spherical droid rushed forward, making a dive at him. Luke threw himself to the ground, and heard the droid pass over the top, missing him by a hair's width.

His father walked over, holding up a hand. The droid powered down and sunk slowly to the ground, while Luke rolled over into a sitting position. His father guided the droid back into the cupboard and shut the door, before turning and offering Luke a hand to help him back up.

Luke accepted it. "What was that thing?!"

"A droid programmed to torture intruders who enter my private room without permission."

"Oh, very funny," Luke said, rubbing his shoulder where he'd fallen against the floor.

His father folded his arms together. "Why are you in here, Luke?"

"I was looking for you!" Luke insisted.

His father didn't reply; he simply stared.

Luke crumpled under the clearly disbelieving gaze and decided to push on with the groveling. "I just wanted to apologize for last night. I didn't mean all those things I said ... I was just tired."

"I see."

"I was glad to see you! Really!"

"And I was relieved to see you hadn't destroyed anything or injured yourself in my absence," his father said, sweeping past Luke, and making his way up to the meditation chamber.

"Uh ... Father?"

"Yes, Son?"

"Can I have my gamebox back?"

"No."

"Aw, come on. Pleeeeeease?" Luke whined.

"Did you clean up your room?"

"Yes!" Luke insisted. "Well, mostly," he mumbled.

"Then I will give it back to you, on one condition."

"What's that?"

"You don't take advantage of my absence to stay up all hours of the night and eat junk instead of meals."

"I don't usually do that!" Luke insisted. "You just caught me at a bad moment."

His father gestured beside him, and Luke glanced down, seeing Artoo was rolling up.

"Artoo tells me you argued with him so much about your diet that he ran out of power, and you deactivated Threepio whenever he reminded you about going to bed."

"That's a complete exaggeration!" Luke said, frowning at Artoo. "Besides, it wasn't my fault that you ran out of power."

Artoo merely whistled.

"Son, I don't like having to leave you for such long periods of time, but it cannot be helped. I need to trust you to be mature in my absence. I would hate to have to resort to getting you a babysitter."

Luke held up his hands in shock. "Okay, okay, you've made your point. You can trust me, I swear!"

"Good."

"Are you back here for a while?" Luke asked, watching as his father retrieved his gamebox and walked down to give it to him.

"Yes. There were many prisoners taken on my last mission and I have to process them."

"We should do something together," Luke said, grinning as he recovered the gamebox from his father. "You said you'd teach me more about droid repair."

"I will see when I have some time."

"Great," Luke said, moving towards the door, clutching the gamebox tightly in excitement. Artoo rolled along after him.

"And Luke?"

Luke turned back.

"Stay away from that closet. Next time, you may find yourself electrocuted and injected with truth serum."

"Sure," Luke said, wondering whether his father was serious or not. You never could tell with him.


Three hours later, Luke was so excited, he could hardly calm down enough to enter Ben's comlink frequency.

"Guess what?!" he said, when his friend answered.

"You got to level ten?" Ben asked.

"Better! I finished it!"

"Really? Do you kill that mutant rancor at the end?"

"Yes. That's the final boss. There are eleven levels, then the last bit, where you kill him. Did you manage to get to level eight?"

"No," Ben said. "I haven't been playing it. I've been doing the galactic geography homework."

Luke rolled his eyes. Trust his friend to be doing homework before a weekend.

"I'll come over tomorrow and help you," Luke said.

Ben nodded. "By the way—are you going to be home next weekend?"

"Of course," Luke said. "Why?"

"What do you mean, 'why'? It's the blade racing final!"

"Oh yeah! I programmed it into my calendar, too. I guess I've been distracted with this game."

"I'll bring the food," Ben said. "I've still got candy left over from last weekend."

"You want to watch it here?" Luke said, surprised.

"You've got the biggest holovid. And that pay channel where they show it live."

"You realize my father will be here, don't you?"

"Luke, this is the blade racing final. It's worth facing your father for."

Luke grinned. "You must be really excited about this."

"You bet. Listen, I have to go eat dinner."

"Okay," Luke said. "I'll come over tomorrow to help you finish level seven."

Luke cut the call and sat back on his bed. Dinner ... he really should start thinking about that himself. It was half an hour past his usual eating time, and he was starving. Not surprising, after no breakfast and only a few bites of lunch.

But, hungry as he was, he still didn't want to eat. Although if he didn't order anything, there was always a chance it might get back to his father, and he couldn't risk that. Luke leaned forward and pressed the comlink button for the kitchen droids. One of them appeared immediately.

"Greetings, Master Luke. May I take your order?"

The menu list appeared down the side of the screen, but Luke ignored it.

"Can you just bring me some ice cream? And ... uh ... some mashed up vegetables? And when I say mashed, I mean really, really mashed."

"What kind of drink would you like with that, sir?"

"Water. In a big glass ... and can you make sure it's cold?"

"Yes, sir. That will be five minutes."

Luke sat back to wait, and began flicking through the thousands of Holonet channels. He paused on the news channel when he heard his father's name mentioned.

'...Lord Vader was in command of the operation. Protestors caused disruption and mayhem on the Arconeb shipping route this afternoon.'

The shot changed from the anchor to a hologram of the protestors. Luke was about to change to a different channel, when his eye fell on one of the protestor's signs.

'Vader, stop torturing the innocent!'

Luke frowned to himself. Why did people have to accuse his father of things like that? The picture changed back to the anchor droid, and the voiceover continued.

'The Imperial navy were quick to deal with the disruption and peace has returned to the region.'

Luke turned it off when his door-comm beeped, and he stood up to collect his dinner. Just as he had ordered, there was a plate holding a pulp he could only assume were finely mashed vegetables, and a bowl with green ice cream.

He gingerly scooped up a mouthful of the vegetables, and tried to swallow it. A second later, he screwed up his face in pain. The problem was still there, and, if anything, it was twice as bad as yesterday.

He sighed, putting the food aside. There was no way he was going to get through this meal without some painkillers.

It had all started a few months ago, when he had noticed a slight pain in a back molar. It had come and gone for a few weeks before settling into a dull ache. He had learned to eat around it and purposely chosen foods not to exacerbate it, all while hoping it would eventually go away. Instead, it had only grown worse.

Luke pushed the food around the plate, waiting for the pain to die down enough so he could attempt another mouthful. This was going to take a while, but he had plenty of time. So much time, he might as well make a start on his weekend homework. Luke reached down to retrieve his school datapads, surprised at how much of it there appeared to be. He'd been so addicted to the game, he hadn't had much time to work on it.

After almost an hour had passed, in which he alternated attempting to eat and doing homework, his door-comm interrupted him, once again. Luke quickly dragged a blanket over what was left of his dinner, just as his father entered. Luke frowned—his father never did bother to wait.

"You're doing homework," his father observed. "You must have sensed me coming."

"I did not," Luke said, annoyed. "I've been doing this all evening."

"What happened to that game you were so addicted to?"

"I finished it," Luke said, sitting up.

"I see." His father stepped closer, clearly intending to sit down. Just before doing so, he paused, and lifted up the corner of the blanket. Underneath was the tray of food.

Luke quickly moved to shift it out of the way, but he was too late to avoid questions.

"Do you normally keep food in your bed?" his father asked, sounding puzzled.

"Uh ... I was just trying to keep it warm."

It sounded ridiculous as soon as the words left his mouth, but his father let it go.

"It is late for you to be eating," he remarked.

"I saw something about you on the news earlier," Luke said, putting the food on the desk. He needed to change the subject.

"About the prisoners captured on Arconeb?"

"Yes, I think so. Why are they protesting?"

"Because they are misguided," his father replied.

"Father," Luke said, after a few seconds silence, "would you ever torture anybody?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I'm just curious."

"Because of the droid you found?"

Luke shrugged.

"Spies and traitors will not willingly give up information. Harsh methods are required, sometimes."

Luke felt slightly sick, imagining just what his father meant by 'harsh methods'. He'd definitely be throwing away the rest of his dinner when his father left.

"You will understand when you're older," his father continued. "Now, there is something I forgot to mention to you, earlier. I arranged for you to see a dentist, tomorrow afternoon."

Luke's mouth fell open. "Did you just say dentist?!"

"Is there a problem?" his father asked, clearly surprised at his reaction.

Luke stared at his father, wondering if, by some cruel twist of fate, his father had discovered his problem.

"Why do I have to see a dentist?!" Luke asked, desperately. "There's nothing wrong with my teeth!"

"When was the last time you had them checked?"

"Just a few months ago," Luke insisted.

"I don't recall."

"You weren't here."

"You are making this up," his father said, pointing at him. "Your doctor told me there is no record of you having seen one since you left Tatooine. That is assuming you even saw one there. There is a dentist located near the medcentre in the senate office building, and he recommended I make an appointment for you as soon as possible."

Luke set his jaw, stubbornly. There was no way, in a million, billion years, he was going to the dentist. The actual last time he'd been was when Aunt Beru had forced him to go to one in Anchorhead, and the memories of that event were bad enough to put him off going for life. There had to be some way he could talk his father out of this.

"I hate the dentist!" Luke insisted.

"Sometimes, we have to let go of our personal desires and do the things we hate. For instance, I hate having to attend policy planning meetings with the Grand Vizier, like I have to do in five minutes."

"That isn't the same thing," Luke said, sighing.

"Your appointment is at 14-hundred," his father said, walking towards the door. "Do not forget. I will have an assistant remind you."

Luke didn't reply.


"Please, take a seat, sir," the receptionist droid said, in a clear, soothing tone. "The dentist will be right with you."

"Thanks," Luke said, his voice coming out as a parched whisper.

He sat down on the hard waiting room bench and looked around nervously. The walls were all sterile white, and there were no magazines to read. There was nothing to do but sit here, contemplating the terrible fate that awaited.

Out of nowhere, a shadow fell across him.

"Hello, Luke."

Luke turned to the voice, looking up slowly, dreading what he would see. The actual sight only served to increase his fear—a gloomy figure, hidden entirely behind a pitch-black robe. He tried to focus on the face, but all he could see were dark shadows. In the depths of the hood, he could just make out some blood-shot, glowing eyes.

"W-who ... are you?" Luke asked.

"I'm your dentist, Luke."

His voice was low and raspy.

"D-dentist?"

"Follow me."

Luke slowly got to his feet, surprised to find his legs could actually support him. He walked behind the dark figure as he was led down a long, narrow corridor. The floor was hard, and their footsteps echoed around them.

As they passed one of the doors, Luke jumped at the sound of an ear-shaking scream from within.

His guide didn't bother to explain the noise; he simply paused in front of his own surgery door.

"In here."

Luke paused as he read the name on the door. "Darth ... Dentist?"

"Yes. Go on in."

Luke lifted his hand and pressed the button to open the doors. He stepped back in shock as a chilling gray fog floated out. Once that had cleared, he peered into the black room. It was in sharp contrast to the sterile white corridor.

He stumbled forward as Darth Dentist gave him a push from behind. His touch was cold; it caused his whole body to shudder.

Behind him, the doors banged closed, and Luke heard the sound of a lock.

"Just sit down in the chair, Luke. I'll be right with you."

Luke looked around the murky room, before spotting a steely gray dentist's chair.

"Okay," Luke whispered, trying to keep calm. He climbed into the chair slowly. It was very cold. Then restraining binders snapped out of the chair, locking around his wrists, ankles, and neck.

"Ah!" Luke yelled, struggling desperately. "No!"

Darth Dentist loomed out of the shadows, holding electro-pliers in one hand, and a hydro-spanner in the other. "This isn't going to hurt a bit," he said.

"NOOOOOOOOO!" Luke yelled.

He sat up, heart pounding in his chest and sweat coating his forehead. It took several seconds before he stopped gasping for breath and relaxed enough to look at his bedside chronometer.

Five am.

He gazed around his room, half expecting to see Darth Dentist still waiting in the shadows.

As he became calmer, he climbed out of bed and went into his refresher, intending to get a glass of water. As he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he was shocked to see how pale he looked.

Definitely one of the worst nightmares he'd ever had.

"There is no way I'm going to that appointment," Luke said to the mirror.


After lunch, Luke went to Ben's apartment, deciding that helping his friend finish Galactic Bandits would be a good way to take his mind off the nightmare.

As he lay on Ben's floor, watching his friend trying to defeat a holographic monster, he couldn't help but notice it was getting closer and closer to his appointment time. The sound of his comlink beeping caused him to jump in fright.

"Are you going to answer that?" Ben asked, after it had already beeped six times.

Luke groaned and reluctantly clicked it on. Please don't let it be my father, he begged

When Lev's image appeared, Luke sighed with relief. "Hi, Lev."

"Luke. Your father told me to remind you to go to your dentist appointment. Do you need a ride over to the senate, or are you already there?"

"I'm just in the waiting room right now," Luke said, quickly.

Ben glanced over in his direction, curious.

"Great. Good luck."

"Thanks," Luke said, switching off the comlink.

"You have a dentist appointment?" Ben asked.

"Yes, but I'm not going."

"Why not?"

"I hate the dentist."

"Oh, so do I," Ben said. "I hate the way they keep saying 'open wider, open wider', but your mouth can't go any wider."

"Don't talk about it," Luke said. "Have you killed it yet?"

"No," Ben said, "I'm hiding behind the rock."

"Run around in circles," Luke said. "That way it won't be able to target you."

Ben followed his advice, while Luke leaned forward to study his friend's technique.

"It's nearly dead," Luke said, watching the monster's life bar drain away.

"Just ... one more ... thermal detonator ... there! Finally!"

As they waited for the next level to load, Ben glanced at the chronometer.

"What are you going to do if the dentist contacts the palace, wanting to know why you missed the appointment?"

"Do you think they'll do that?" Luke asked, surprised.

"Mine always does. They'll comm at the end of the day, wanting to reschedule. Sometimes, they'll even try and charge you a fee for missing an appointment and not telling them in advance."

"Stop it, you're scaring me."

"Hey, just being logical. Maybe you should go. If you hurry, you could still get there by—"

"I'm not going!"

Ben didn't mention it again.


Luke left it until late to return to the palace, hoping Lev would have finished his shift and gone home. No such luck. He had barely made it to the elevators when Lev appeared out of nowhere, carrying a stack of datapads.

"Hi, just going up to my room," Luke said, quickly entering the elevator.

Lev joined him. "The dentist's office called to say you'd missed your appointment."

Luke shrugged, pressing the floor button.

"What happened? When I called you, you said you were in the waiting room."

"Well, I wasn't exactly there," Luke said. "More on my way there. Then I got side-tracked. Long story."

"Uh huh," Lev said slowly, not sounding entirely convinced. "Well, I arranged another appointment for tomorrow morning."

"You what?" Luke said, glancing over. "Forget it! I'm not going!"

Lev just smiled. "Do I detect some dentist-phobia?"

"I'm not going," Luke repeated, stubbornly.

"If you don't want to go, you'll have to argue with your father. Which I wouldn't advise. He wasn't happy when he heard you missed the one this afternoon and ordered me to personally accompany you to the one tomorrow morning."

"Where is he now?" Luke asked.

"Over at the detention center. He won't be back until late."

Luke sighed. Too late to argue with him about the appointment, he'd wager. Even if not, he doubted his father would change his mind.

"Listen, don't worry about it," Lev continued. "I've been to this dentist before, and it was fine. Very professional. You'll be in and out before you know it."

"But what if there's something wrong?" Luke asked, one hand straying towards his cheek. "Like they need to remove a tooth?"

"Have you got a toothache?"

"No," Luke insisted, letting his hand drop. "My teeth are fine."

"Then you have nothing to worry about. It won't hurt a bit."

Luke shuddered. He'd heard those words before.

"What time is the appointment?" Luke asked.

"11-hundred. I'll see you then."

"Okay," Luke said, miserably. "I guess there's no choice."

"It'll be fine," Lev repeated, just as the elevator doors slid open. "I promise."

Luke sighed, long and loud as he stepped out of the elevator. He wanted to do nothing else but crawl into bed.


"Hello, Luke."

He was back. Back in Darth Dentist's surgery. The steely gray chair sat waiting.

"Go away!" Luke yelled. "You're just a dream!"

"No, Luke, I'm as real as you are. You left last time. Why did you leave? We were just starting to have fun!"

Luke tried to run, but his feet wouldn't move.

"Sit in the chair, Luke!"

Luke, despite his best efforts, found himself drifting towards the chair. Just like last time, cold metal binders snapped around him, holding him tight to the chair.

A faint humming noise in the background caused him to stop fighting and he strained to listen. Above him, two red blinking lights appeared. As they came into focus, he recognized two shiny torture droids, just like he had seen in his father's meditation room.

"NO!" Luke yelled.

"Just relax, Luke, they're only my assistants."

Beside him, he felt Darth Dentist come closer. "Open up!"

Luke shook his head, keeping his mouth tightly closed.

"Come on, Luke."

Two slimy gray hands gripped his face, forcing his jaw open.

Luke heard one of the interrogator droids hover closer, and he fought desperately.

"Hmm. Looks like one of these teeth is rotten. You know I'm going to have to cut it out, don't you?"

He let go, and Luke shifted his face away. "Leave me alone!"

"It's going to hurt, but sometimes we have to do things that hurt, right Luke?"

"Go away!" Luke yelled.

"Besides, I need it for my collection."

Darth Dentist pulled open a nearby cupboard. Inside, Luke could see rows and rows of glass jars. They contained teeth of all shapes and sizes, bobbing up and down in murky water. He gasped.

As the dentist began to walk towards him again, Luke struggled desperately.

"No, you can't have it!"

The interrogator droids buzzed closer and one extended its syringe.

"Sedate him."

"Ah! NO!"

A steady beep-beep beep-beep began to echo around them. It caused Darth Dentist to pause.

"What's the noise?!" Luke gasped.

"Your alarm. It's time for you to wake up, Luke, and get ready for your appointment."

"NO!"

The nightmare faded, and Luke sat up, looking around.

Ten am. He had one hour to get out of here, before he was going to be forced into ... into ... Luke didn't even want to think about it.


Within half an hour, Luke crept up to his door and looked carefully around the corner. No one in sight. This was his chance.

He nearly made it, too. The elevator took a moment to arrive, and he stepped into it while looking back over his shoulder. Then he heard the sound of artificial breathing. A second later, he found himself bumping into his father, who was already in the elevator.

"Ah!" Luke jumped back, but his father held him steady and then pressed the button for the main entrance floor.

"I believe you have a dentist appointment."

"Uh ... I know!" Luke said, looking up. "I was just going down to find Lev. He's flying me over."

"The lieutenant is waiting on the entrance floor."

"He doesn't need to go with me," Luke insisted.

"Yes, he does."

Luke sulked as they began to ride down, and his father didn't miss it.

"Luke, you are too old for this. It is just a dentist appointment."

Luke sighed. Maybe his father was right. He should stop acting like a wimp and just face it. After all, it couldn't really be as bad as his nightmare, could it? There were only two Sith Lords that he knew about, and neither of them was a qualified dentist. As far as he knew.

Lev was waiting outside the elevators, looking annoyingly relaxed.

"I will be at the palace detention center," Luke heard his father tell Lev. "If there are any problems, contact me immediately."

"Yes, sir."

He then turned to Luke and waved a finger in his direction. "Son, behave yourself."

Luke frowned at the patronizing tone.

His father then strode off towards an exit corridor, leaving him and Lev alone.

"We better get going," Lev said, guiding Luke towards the stairs down to the administration floor. There was a speeder bay along the corridor from Lev's office, filled with boring black speeders branded with the Imperial logo.

"It's not eleven yet," Luke said, hoping to stall.

"I know, but we'll want to get there before eleven. Maybe the last patient finished early, then we can be in and out quicker."

As they entered the hangar, Luke tried another angle. "Are you sure you want to fly one of these boring speeders? Why don't we take one of the modified open top models in my father's hangar?"

"Let's just stick to the boring ones today," Lev said, opening the passenger side door for Luke. "Hop in, please."

Luke took his time getting in, but much too soon, they were rising into the air and on their way. This was it. No turning back now. His stomach churned as they joined the traffic heading to the Senate, and Luke shivered, feeling clammy.

"I think I'm going to throw up," Luke said, when they began to drop down towards a landing pad. Lev was a very steady pilot, but the slightest jolt made Luke feel queasy.

"You do look very off colour," Lev said, glancing over. "What did you eat this morning?"

"Nothing," Luke said.

"That explains it. You should have had breakfast."

When they came into land, the queasiness turned into full on nausea.

"I think I really am going to be sick," Luke said, struggling to open the door.

Lev climbed out and walked around to Luke's side to unlock it. "Cheer up, Luke. It won't be so bad."

"How would you know?" Luke said, finally staggering out onto the landing pad.

"Because you look like you're about to go before a firing squad. It's just a dentist appointment."

Luke sighed. "Maybe you're right."

"I am right."

As they walked into the building and down the corridor, Luke began to sweat. It reminded him of his dream—all sterile and white. Come on, he told himself, you can do this.

"When was the last time you went to the dentist?" Luke asked, trying to take his mind off the appointment.

"Three months ago," Lev said. "All navy personnel get free dental care. Free medical insurance, too. They even pay for your funeral."

"You mean people actually pay to go to the dentist?!" Luke said. "I'd pay not to go. And do you have to talk about funerals?"

"Here's the place," Lev said, stopping outside two glass doors with a large sign. The word 'dentist' was much larger than it needed to be.

Luke hung back, before following Lev in. Immediately, he got a whiff of the clean, sterile dentist smell. Uh oh.

He glanced at Lev, who was talking to the droid at reception.

Now was his chance. He turned and sprinted back through the doors.


Vader knew as soon as his comlink beeped that it would be about Luke. He glanced at a chrono. Eleven-thirty. Luke should have finished his appointment by now. He picked up the device and switched it on. He only needed to look at the lieutenant's face to know that Luke had not got past the waiting room.

"My deepest apologies for interrupting you, sir."

"Where is he?"

"I don't know. I'm sorry, sir. He ran off just as we reached the reception desk. I've been looking everywhere, and I have the senate guards on alert, but there's no sign of him."

"There is no point wasting your time trying to find him now. He could be anywhere. Arrange another dentist appointment for tomorrow, and I will deal with him when he returns home."

"Yes, sir."

Vader switched off the comlink and slammed it down against the table. His son had to be the most stubborn young man in the entire galaxy.


"No, he hasn't called me either," Ben said. "I don't know where he is."

"Ben, if he does happen to stop by, can you tell him to come home immediately, please?" Lev said. "We're all getting worried about him."

"Sure thing," Ben said. He then disconnected the call, and turned to look at Luke, who was sitting on his bed.

Luke grinned. "Thanks for covering."

Ben just stared for a moment, and then said, "All this over a dentist appointment?"

"You wouldn't say that if you knew how I felt."

"So when are you going home?" Ben asked, glancing at the chrono. It was getting late.

"I'm not," Luke said.

"No way," Ben said, standing up. "No way are you hiding out here. Your father could send out the army if he wanted. My Dad won't be happy if this apartment gets bombed because you don't want to go to the dentist."

Luke sighed, knowing Ben was right. "Okay. I'm leaving." Luke fidgeted for a moment. "In an hour," he added.

"Luke!"

"All right, all right." Luke sighed.


Vader was pacing in a conference room, worrying about his son. It wasn't like him to stay away this long. Perhaps he had become lost, or injured, or worse ... perhaps he had been abducted. Vader clenched a fist, trying to convince himself to calm down and stop being ridiculous. His son was likely hiding at one of his friend's homes, hoping to sneak back here when he thought his father wouldn't catch him.

Vader paced up and down for another three cycles, before turning and heading for the door. This had gone on long enough—he was taking a speeder and going out to find his son.

As he stepped out of the conference room, he was met with a welcome sight. Luke was coming the other way. He skidded to a halt in front of him and attempted to dodge past. Vader reached out with the Force to stop him, and looked him up and down briefly, making sure he was not injured. Once satisfied, he met his son's gaze.

"How nice of you to drop by, Son," he said, dryly.

Luke only looked anxious in response. He then ran quickly to his bedroom and disappeared inside.

Vader looked after him, trying to make sense of his own conflicted feelings. Part of him was angry; he wanted to shake Luke and tell him to never worry him like that again. The other half was concerned that his son would rather hide all day than go to the dentist. Something was seriously wrong.

A Sith Lord should probably go with the reaction that stemmed from his anger, but a good father would try and get to the source of this issue.

Vader let out a weary breath as he walked towards Luke's bedroom—Sith Lords were never meant to be parents.

He opened the door, and found Luke sitting on his bed.

"Where have you been?" Vader asked, stepping forward to let the door close behind him.

"Hiding out until you had a chance to cool down," Luke said, off-handedly.

Vader was about to reply angrily, when he paused, thinking about it. "Probably a wise decision," he admitted.

He felt Luke's relief at his remark, but the smile didn't quite reach his son's mouth.

Vader moved over to sit next to him, and Luke shifted aside to make room.

"Why did you run off this morning?" Vader asked.

Luke fidgeted for a while, looking down at his hands.

"I just couldn't go through with it," he said, eventually. His voice sounded shaky. It was clear that even the memory of it was terrifying him.

Vader considered carefully what to say. His son's fear was serious, so he had to treat this seriously, despite the temptation to simply ridicule it and brush it aside. "Luke, running and hiding from the things you are afraid of only makes the fear worse. And fear is far more destructive than anything life may have in store for you. Face what you are afraid of—you will feel far better about yourself if you do."

Luke didn't reply; he appeared to be considering his father's words.

"I have arranged yet another appointment for you, tomorrow morning," Vader said, deciding that letting Luke down quickly was the best route.

"Tomorrow morning?!" Luke said, turning to face his father. "But I've got school!"

"I don't care if you have an appointment with the Emperor himself—you are going to the dentist tomorrow, Luke."

Luke frowned.

"I will be accompanying you, personally," Vader added.

"Oh, stars, NOOOOOOOOO!" Luke said, covering his face.

Vader had expected this reaction. "I am aware you are embarrassed to be seen in public with me, but you have no one to blame for this but yourself."

"It's not you I'm embarrassed about," Luke explained. "It's the way people stare and point."

"There will be very few people around," Vader said. "Your appointment is early. 0800, in fact. I expect you to be ready to leave half an hour beforehand."

Luke stared at his father, his wide-eyed expression communicating clearly his feelings about being made to get up early.

"You can be unbelievably cruel at times, Father," Luke said, finally.

"All in a days work," Vader said, standing up to leave.


Luke looked down at his wrists. They were securely bound to the steely gray platform he was resting on. That could only mean one thing ...

"Back again, Luke?"

Luke flinched at the sound of the overly familiar, raspy voice.

"Go away!"

"I can't go away. This is my surgery."

The two interrogator droids came into sight above Luke, causing him to struggle.

"Open wide, Luke."

"No!"

"Luke, you know we have to take that tooth out. It will only get worse if we don't."

"It's fine!" Luke insisted.

"Just relax while I get my trusty tooth-remover."

Luke's heart nearly stopped when he heard the sound of a lightsaber switching on. The red blade waved into view above him.

"Open up! This will be over before you know it!"

"AHHHHHH!"

Luke felt someone shaking him. He opened his eyes and found himself staring up into his father's mask.

"Father," Luke said, sitting up and wiping the sweat from his forehead, "I can't go!"

"We're leaving in fifteen minutes," his father said. "Hurry up and get dressed."

"Fifteen minutes?!"

"Yes. I will be waiting by the elevator."

His father left the room, leaving Luke to drag himself out of bed. As he made his way into the refresher, he wondered what his father would do if he simply locked himself in here, and refused to come out.

Slicing down the door sounded like a likely scenario.


Twenty minutes later, Vader was getting impatient. Just as he was considering sending a few stormtroopers to retrieve his son, Luke came shuffling down the hallway, looking like he was going to his death.

"Hurry up," Vader said, impatient.

"I'm moving as fast as I can!"

"You are moving as fast as an Imperial walker with a broken leg." Vader stretched out a hand and used the Force to drag Luke forward.

"All right, I'll hurry!" Luke said, trying to resist the grip. "Stop it!"

When Luke eventually made it to the elevator, they rode down to the hangar-bay floor in silence. Vader glanced at his son, testing his mood. He didn't seem to be planning to make a break for it, but you could never be entirely sure with Luke. He'd need to be vigilant.

"Can I choose which speeder we take?" Luke asked, suddenly.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I said so."

There was a time in his life where he couldn't have imagined ever using that phrase. Probably when his former self was Luke's age, and Obi-Wan had used it on him. It was depressing how quickly parenthood had turned him into the cliche of a middle-aged father. He wasn't even middle-aged.

"There will be no stalling," he said, deciding to offer more of an explanation. "And if you attempt to escape, I will drag you back and handcuff you to me."

"You don't even have any binders," Luke said, rolling his eyes.

"How would you know, young one?"

His son looked at him for a moment, clearly trying to decide if he was serious. Then he looked away, putting his hands in his pockets.

Vader watched him for a few more seconds, letting the threat hang in the air, before they were interrupted by the doors sliding open.

Luke was silent as they exited the elevator and remained that way as he climbed into the passenger side of the nearest speeder. Vader ensured the door on Luke's side was locked, before walking around to get in the pilot's seat.

Once they were in the air and heading for the senate office building, Vader did another quick test of Luke's mood. On the outside, he appeared to be sulking, but Vader could sense past all that. His son was genuinely frightened.

Perhaps he should attempt to distract him.

"So how else did you occupy yourself while I was away? Besides staying up late and playing mindless games."

Luke made a vague sound, which was a cross between a mumble and a grunt.

"Did you learn anything interesting at school?" Vader prompted. Luke's doctor had suggested he should ask such dull questions to 'keep the lines of communication open', whatever that meant.

Luke made another vague sound.

"Am I supposed to understand that, Luke?"

"I don't remember," Luke mumbled.

Vader let out a weary breath as he brought the speeder down to land. He sometimes wondered why he even tried. Luke was struggling to open his door, obviously unaware that he had locked it. He walked around to let him out, expecting some more protests, but his son remained in a silent sulk until they had entered the building.

"Is there a refresher around here?" Luke asked, suddenly.

Vader looked down at him. "Why didn't you go before we left?"

"Because you were so busy hurrying me I didn't have a chance!"

Vader looked at a wall chrono—they certainly had time.

"There will be one inside, somewhere," Vader said. He looked around, before spotting a building directory outside a nearby elevator. He briefly studied it, before moving on. "This way," he said.

Luke walked behind him, until they reached the refresher.

"I will wait out here," Vader said.

"Okay," Luke said, going through the door.

Vader tapped his fingers together, and placed himself in front of a nearby window, studying the view of a hundred thousand ships flying between twice as many buildings.


After entering the refresher, Luke took a quick glance around. Pretty standard ... three stalls, three basins ... and a second exit. That's what he'd been counting on.

Luke hurried over—this was his chance. He'd be out of here before his father realized he hadn't come back.

He ran for the doors, taking a sharp right turn as he emerged into the corridor. He had barely moved two steps before he found himself smacking head first into his father's chest.

His father reached out to grab him, preventing him from bouncing back into the wall.

"Ow!" Luke said, rubbing his head. "That hurt!"

His father kept a firm hold on him and began to half-drag him down the corridor.

"Wait a second," Luke said, still rubbing his head. "How did you ... you were on the other side!"

"Good observation, Son."

"Okay, I know you can do some pretty amazing things but walking through walls isn't one of them!"

"I walked around through the corridor."

"But how did you know I was going to ...?"

"Intuition."

They turned a corner, and Luke saw the dentist's surgery up ahead. His stomach began to churn.

"I recall trying the same thing, once," his father continued.

Luke looked up at him in surprise. "What were you trying to avoid?"

"An inoculation of one sort or another. Needless to say, it did not work." Vader looked down at Luke. "Obi-Wan was also somewhat intuitive."

Luke couldn't help but smile. His father continued to watch him.

"That is the first smile I've seen from you since I first mentioned the dentist," he remarked.

Luke shrugged. They were standing outside the reception area now.

"You go first," Luke said, gesturing.

"No, you go first. This is your appointment."

Luke hung back, until his father forced him through the doors. Luke immediately got a whiff of the sterile, dentist smell and felt a wave of nausea. He heard his father tell the receptionist droid who he was, and he began to sweat.

"If you'll just take a seat in the waiting room, the dentist will be with you shortly," the droid said.

His father pushed him gently towards the waiting room, and Luke reluctantly moved forward.

"That smell is making me sick," Luke said, faintly.

"Ignore it."

As they entered the waiting room, Luke saw they were not the only people there. A boy who looked about six or seven sat, reading a picture book. He looked up as they entered, staring at them curiously.

Luke sat on a bench, and slouched down, folding his arms. His father stood beside him.

Presently, the boy stood up, and shuffled down the row of chairs until he was sitting opposite.

"What are you staring at?!" Luke asked, irritably.

"Is he really Lord Vader?" he asked, sounding awed.

"Yeah, he is," Luke said. "And if you stare at us too long, he'll make your eyes fall out."

"Luke!" his father said, annoyed. "Act your age."

"He started it!" Luke protested.

"Look what I got!" the boy said, holding up a bright yellow sticker, with a smiley face. "The dentist said my teeth were perfect!"

Luke was about to reply, when the boy jumped up and ran for the door, at the sound of someone calling.

"That's my mom," the boy said. He waved at Luke as he left, grinning.

Luke sighed and reluctantly waved back. Afterwards, there was only silence, apart from his father's constant breathing. He fingered one of the magazines, but decided against reading one. They all looked boring, anyway. The walls were filled with projected holos with messages about how to look after your teeth, which apparently meant not eating anything that actually tasted good and spending half your life cleaning them.

"Why do we have to wait so long?" Luke asked, wiping the sweat from his palms.

"First you complain about going," his father said. "Now you complain about waiting."

"Waiting makes it worse," Luke said.

"Makes what worse?"

Luke didn't reply.

"It will be over soon," his father said, finally. "Afterwards, I have business at the detention centre, so I can drop you off at school on the way," he added.

Luke looked up at his father, his mouth falling open in surprise. "School?! Can't I have the day off?"

His father let out a weary breath. "Luke, if I have learned anything this week, it is this: if I let you do what you wanted, you would be uneducated, malnourished and missing half your teeth."

"I just want one day off!"

"No."

"Aw, pleeeease!" Luke tried.

His father turned to stare at him. "Luke, I have a reputation for being completely heartless. Do you honestly imagine that whining will work with me?"

"No harm in trying!" Luke said.

"That is debatable," his father said, pointing at him.

A minute later, Luke heard footsteps and watched the doorway. He could hear someone talking with the receptionist droid. This wasn't looking good.

Luke wondered if his father would be fast enough to stop him if he made a run for it right now.

"Don't even think about it," his father said.

"Think about what?" Luke asked, innocently.

"What you were just thinking about."

"I can't help what I think about!"

"Yes, you can."

"No, I can't! Besides, you shouldn't be reading my mind, anyway! That's not fair!"

"Is there a law which states that I must be fair?"

"There should be!"

"You write a draft proposal and discuss it with the Emperor, then."

"Maybe I'll do just that!" Luke said. "And while I'm at it, I'll suggest he outlaw all dentists! Psychotic, pain-inducing—"

"Excuse me, Gentlemen."

Both of them turned towards the door. Apparently, the dentist had been waiting there while they argued.

Luke took her in immediately. About mid-thirties, short, spiky yellow hair, warm-brown skin ... she looked nothing like Darth Dentist, but then, that clean white lab coat made her look like the weapons research scientists who sometimes came to visit his father. She could still be dangerous.

She looked right at him. "Luke Skywalker?"

Luke nodded. His throat was too tight for him to form a coherent reply.

"I'm Doctor Ferner. I'm ready to see you now."

Luke felt his father's hand grip him by the collar and haul him to his feet. "Go on. I will wait here."

Luke hesitated and shuffled a few steps forward. His heart was beating so loud he was sure the dentist must be able to hear it. He glanced back at his father, before taking another reluctant step. So, this is what it felt like to walk towards your doom ...

Doctor Ferner had folded her arms and was leaning against the doorframe as Luke made his slow approach. She glanced at her wrist-chrono after a while, and then yawned. Finally, she seemed to lose her patience.

"Perhaps Luke would feel more comfortable if you accompanied him, sir," she said to his father.

Luke looked back at his father, hopefully.


"I regret it took three appointments to get Luke here," Vader said to Doctor Ferner, as the woman began looking through the computer for Luke's file.

"Oh, we're used to it," she said, waving a hand, dismissively. "I have one patient ... we always double book her appointments, because she only shows about one in every six of them. It's like a lottery."

Vader glanced at Luke, who was sitting nervously on the edge of the dentist chair. The dental assistant, a cheerful looking green droid which played soothing music, was busy putting a napkin around his neck, but he was squirming away so much it was finding it a challenge.

"I remember when I first told my parents I was going to dental school," she continued. "They were shocked. 'Why would you want to do that? Everyone will be afraid of you!'"

I know the feeling, Vader thought.

"How long has it been since you last saw a dentist, Luke?" she asked, looking over in Luke's direction.

Luke's voice was barely audible. "I don't know."

"Three years? Five?"

"Two, I think."

"Okay. And do you have any allergies, or any special medical conditions?"

"I have a prosthetic right hand," Luke said.

The dentist began to enter something into the file.

"That won't cause a problem, will it?" Luke asked, sounding hopeful.

"No, no problem at all." She put on her surgical gloves and mask, and then shifted her chair over until she was next to Luke.

"Righty-o, Luke, if you'd just like to lean back, and open up, I'll take a scan."

"A scan?" Luke said, sounding as if the dentist had just asked for a sample of his flesh.

"See this?" she said, holding up a small tool. "This allows me to take a scan of your teeth. Then, when I plug it into QB's output emitter, like so—" she demonstrated the manoeuvre on the assistant droid. "Then I can see a holographic image of your teeth."

"Is this going to hurt?" Luke asked.

"Not at all."

"Are you sure?"

"Cooperate, Luke," Vader said, shifting around to the other side of the dentist's chair, beside the droid.

Luke reluctantly shuffled further up on the chair and slowly leaned back.

"Open up," Doctor Ferner said, shifting closer to Luke.

Vader watched as she began to scan Luke's teeth with the tool, hoping that Luke wouldn't embarrass him. The dentist seemed to understand Luke's reluctance, however, and was moving quickly.

"So, how is the Emperor?" she asked, voice somewhat muffled behind the surgical mask.

It took Vader a second to realize the question was directed at him. It was so unusual for him to be addressed in a casual manner like this. Although, ever since his son had moved in, these situations were becoming more and more common. Somehow, having a son made him seem more human in people's eyes. He still found it hard to recall just how he was supposed to act.

Luke saved him from answering by making a vaguely disgusted noise.

"What's wrong?" the dentist asked, sounding concerned.

"My son and the Emperor do not get on very well," Vader explained.

"Ah, I see," she chuckled. "Open wider, Luke. I need to reach those back teeth."

Luke did so, and the dentist continued to scan each tooth carefully.

"Does Luke like to eat a lot of sweet foods?" Doctor Ferner asked, after a few seconds of silence.

"Yes," Vader said. "Last week, I found enough discarded candy wrappers in his bedroom to feed an entire planet."

Luke made an angry noise of protest.

"Is there tooth decay?" Vader enquired.

"It appears so, yes," the dentist replied. "I'll see the extent in a moment."

"UMMP!" Luke moaned, as the dentist moved the scanner on to the back molars.

"What's wrong?" Doctor Ferner asked, pausing.

Luke sat up, holding his left cheek.

"Is something sore?"

Luke nodded.

"Sit back, and I'll have a look."

Luke shook his head, pulling away from the dentist.

"Luke," Vader said, "she can't help you if you don't cooperate."

"Just don't touch it!" Luke said.

"Which one hurts?"

"The last one, down the bottom," Luke said.

"I promise I won't touch it," she said. "I just need to finish the scan."

Luke reluctantly leaned back, and allowed the dentist to run the scanning tool over the back molar.

"There, all finished," she said.

Luke sat up, still holding his left cheek.

The dentist plugged the scanner into the droid, and it projected the image so Luke and Vader could see it also.

A holo image of Luke's teeth came into view, color-coded with reds, greens and blues.

"This is the top view," Doctor Ferner said. "Not too much wrong here, just a surface cavity over here—" she gestured with a lightpen. "And plaque build-up, as you can see by the green areas."

The dentist then gestured to the droid, and the view changed. "This is the bottom view. There's another cavity there, and some plaque build-up, but over here— She pointed to the tooth which had been causing Luke trouble, "—we've got real problems. The tooth has rotted almost to the nerve."

"Will it have to be removed?" Vader asked.

"Yes. It's a little too far gone to do much now. But we can embed a new, prosthetic tooth, and Luke will never notice the difference. They last for decades."

"You're going to pull it out?" Luke said, looking shocked. He attempted to climb off the chair, but Vader reached out a hand to stop him.

"It's a simple procedure."

"No!" Luke said, becoming distressed.

"You'll feel much better once it's out," Doctor Ferner said. "It must have been causing you a lot of pain—I'm surprised you could eat at all."

"Well," Luke said, "I have been struggling. A little."

"You've known about this?" Vader asked, surprised.

Luke nodded, looking down.

"How long has this been causing you pain?" Vader asked.

"A few months," Luke said.

"A few months?! Why didn't you tell me?"

"You'd have made me go to the dentist!" Luke said.

Doctor Ferner cleared her throat. "Removing the plaque build-up and repairing the surface cavities will just take a few minutes. If you prefer, we can remove and replace the tooth at a later date—I can prescribe a pain killer which can tide Luke over until we remove it."

"That sounds good!" Luke said.

"I would rather we do this now," Vader said. "It may be difficult to get Luke back here a second time."

"No!" Luke said. "It's my tooth! My decision!"

"Luke, this tooth has to come out. There is no point delaying it."

Luke frowned, looking away. "Will it hurt?" he asked, eventually.

Vader looked at the dentist.

"I'll neutralize the nerve, which will dull most of the pain. It may hurt a little when I pull it out, and it may tingle while the prosthetic tooth—"

"What's 'a little'?" Luke asked. "Is that just dentist talk for agonizing pain?"

"I think you should get this over and done with," Vader said, firmly.

Luke sighed.

"I need to go and retrieve the correct equipment from the lab next door," Doctor Ferner said, standing up. "I won't be a moment. Come, QB."

She left, and the droid rolled after her, leaving an awkward silence between Vader and his son.

Vader turned, gazing out the surgery window.

"I cannot believe you kept this from me, Son," Vader said, eventually. Another parenting failure to add to the list.

"I told you why," Luke said. "You'd have made me go and get it pulled out."

"If you had gone earlier, it would not need to be removed." Vader gestured towards the door. "She must think I neglect you."

"Oh, so this is really about your reputation?" Luke said. "Typical!"

"No. It is about you not letting me do my job. Luke, being your parent doesn't only mean we spend time together working on engines and droids. It means I am responsible for keeping you well, and I cannot do that if you pretend nothing is wrong when you clearly need help."

Luke folded his arms, looking away. "Well, maybe I don't want you to be my parent if it means dragging me here," he mumbled. "Imperial Family Services never made me go to the dentist."

During those first few months when he was still brand new to this entire parenting enterprise, Vader knew he'd have been hurt and angry at Luke's words. Now, with some more experience, he knew not to take what his young son said at face value.

"One day, you are going to appreciate that I care about your health."

Luke sighed, but he didn't argue with the idea. Vader suspected that he already appreciated it ... he just wasn't quite willing to admit it.

Vader sensed the dentist's return, moments before she appeared through the door. If she had overheard any of the argument, she did not comment. Instead, she returned to her seat beside Luke.

"Open up. I'll tell you when I've finished removing the plaque and fixing those surface cavities."

"Is this going to hurt?" Luke asked.

"No, you won't feel a thing."

Luke reluctantly leaned back and opened his mouth, and the dentist began to resume her work.

Vader hovered on the other side of Luke, not quite trusting his son not to make an escape attempt. The assistant droid worked around him, and fortunately for its sake, didn't ask him to move.

"Luke will have to cut down severely on the sweet foods," Doctor Ferner said to Vader, as she worked.

"How severely?" Vader asked.

"Eating bags of sugary candy is definitely out. Especially eating them over a long period of time. Occasionally, as a treat, would be all right, but not on a regular basis. If he likes to snack, then try him on sugar-free foods. Likewise with sweet drinks."

"I'll see to it," Vader said, firmly.

Luke made an angry moaning noise.

"You should meet my kids, Luke," Doctor Ferner said. "They think I'm the meanest mom in the galaxy, just because I won't let them touch those ever-popular fruit twists."

"No candy?" Luke asked, as the dentist went to retrieve a different tool. "That's not fair!"

"You will survive," Vader said.

"I'm ready to remove that tooth now," Doctor Ferner said. "I'll just neutralize the nerve."

She leaned over Luke, and moved the tool in to hover over his back tooth.

"AHHH!" Luke yelled. His left hand shot forward and gripped his father by the right arm.

Vader felt the mental echo of Luke's pain, followed immediately by the real thing as Luke dug his fingers tightly into his arm, right on the joint between flesh and prosthetic. He reached his left hand over to try and pry Luke's fingers off.

"It should soon start to feel numb," the dentist said.

"You didn't tell me that was going to hurt!" Luke said, rubbing his cheek.

"It shouldn't have been too bad."

"It was!" Luke said.

Vader succeeded in prying Luke's fingers from his arm, only to have him grip his hand, instead. He tried to pull it away, but Luke squeezed tighter.

Vader sighed to himself. Dark Lord of the Sith and heir to the Imperial throne, reduced to holding his son's hand while he had a tooth removed. As long as this never left the room, he could live with it. He didn't have much choice.

Luke was beginning to sweat, as the dentist re-entered his mouth with a tool to remove the tooth. Luke began to grip his hand harder and harder. Vader stretched out to channel the pain into the Force, hoping his hand wouldn't be crushed under the strain. After one agonizing squeeze, a moan from Luke, and a pain echo in Vader's mind, the dentist held up Luke's tooth and placed it off to the side.

"See, now, that wasn't so bad," she said, preparing to put in the prosthetic replacement.

Vader found himself fantasizing about choking her.

It took another five minutes for the dentist to finish with the replacement, and then it was all over. Vader didn't know who was more relieved, himself or his son.

"It will take a few weeks until you're used to the feel of the prosthetic," Doctor Ferner said, as Luke climbed off the chair. "Comm me if there are any complications, but it should be fine."

"When does he need to come back?" Vader asked.

Luke rolled his eyes, obviously not wanting to think about it.

"A year's time at most ... six months may be better. I'll send you a reminder."

"Great," Luke said, already standing next to the door. "Can I go now?"

"Yes, you can, and I'll see you next year."

Luke started to leave.

"Oh, one last thing," Doctor Ferner said, beckoning the droid forward.

Luke paused.

"QB will give you a smiley sticker for being such a good patient."


Vader was walking slightly in front of Luke as they headed back to the speeder.

"Don't even try," he said, as he sensed Luke attempting to attach the sticker to his cape. He paused and waited until Luke had caught up. "Now, was that really worth all the stalling?"

"Yes!" Luke said, rubbing his cheek. "It was horrible! I never want to go back."

"I am sure you feel much better without that rotting tooth."

Luke made an unintelligible mumbling noise.

"I suspected as much."

"I guess it is a relief," Luke admitted, eventually. "To know that everything is fine in there, now."

"Yes," Vader said, as they walked out onto the landing pad. "And it is going to stay that way. No more junk food."

"Sure," Luke said, climbing into the speeder. "I'll give it up after the blade racing final, this weekend."

"You will give it up immediately, young one," Vader said, starting the speeder's engine.

"Don't call me that," Luke sighed.

"Besides," Vader said, as they entered a main speeder traffic lane. "I am sure you will be enjoying yourself too much in the VIP viewing box to bother with eating candy."

"Huh?" Luke said, turning to his father in surprise.

His father gestured at the speeder's glove compartment.

Luke opened it and pulled out two tickets to the blade racing final, marked with a bright red VIP stamp.

"Wow, how did you get these!?" Luke said. "It's been sold out for months!"

"I get free tickets to all Coruscant sporting events," his father said.

"Have I ever told you," Luke said, "that you're the best father in the galaxy? I can't wait to tell Ben!"

"You can bring that irritating friend of yours as well, if you like," his father said, shifting out of the traffic lane as their home appeared below. "Although he may be reluctant, considering his constant terror in my presence."

"I'll convince him," Luke said. "I'll use that inspiring speech you gave me last night. Fear is worse than the thing itself, right?"

Luke studied his father for a moment. "All though, in your case ..."

His father set the speeder down with a purposeful bump, causing Luke to smirk.

"Careful, Son," Vader said, "or I may change my mind about letting you stay home today."

Luke grinned wider. "So much for your complete heartlessness."

"I will be back this afternoon," Vader continued, as Luke climbed out of the speeder. "I will teach you some more droid repair. In the meantime—"

"I know," Luke said. "No junk food, no hologames, no HoloNet, and no doing anything besides homework and chores."

"Good."

Luke was about to push the speeder door closed, when he paused. "Uh ..." he started, shuffling uncomfortably and glancing aside.

"What?"

"Thanks for coming with me," Luke mumbled.

"I considered it my duty."

"I know," Luke said. "But thanks anyway. I … I actually am glad you're my father. Even when you make me go to the dentist."

He then ran off before Vader could think clearly enough to respond.


Epilogue


A chilling, clammy mist.

A steel-gray chair.

It could only mean one thing.

But why was he back here? It was all over now, wasn't it?

"Hello, Luke."

Luke flinched at the low, raspy tone. The gruesome figure stepped out of the shadows, illuminated by a single overhead light.

"I need to remove your tooth."

He switched on his lightsaber, which immediately turned the walls blood red.

Luke stepped back in fear. "NO! It's already gone, I swear!"

"No, not that tooth. Another one. I need a tooth for my collection—"

Luke took another step back and found himself tripping against a wall. He turned around, and saw it wasn't a wall at all. It was another person dressed in black ... his father!

"What are you doing here?" Luke said, looking up to meet his father's gaze.

"I sensed your fear on my way past your room," his father explained. "I thought I would see what was giving you nightmares. I never know what life-threatening traumas you might be hiding from me, do I?"

"I wish you'd let that go," Luke said. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you!"

His father looked past him. "Who is that?"

Luke turned around and saw Darth Dentist, waiting with his lightsaber ready. Behind him, his torture robots had hovered into view.

"Darth Dentist," the apparition said. "I need Luke's tooth for my collection."

Luke looked away in embarrassment.

"Darth Dentist?" his father repeated, sounding truly bemused.

Luke covered his face.

His father studied the figure for a few more seconds. "I suppose I should be grateful that he looks more like the Emperor than me," he said, finally. "Or your next appointment would be with a psychiatrist."

"I don't know where he came from!" Luke said. "It's just one of those crazy dreams. Don't you ever have crazy dreams?"

Darth Dentist stepped forward, brandishing his lightsaber. "Hand over the boy. He's mine!"

His father grasped his own lightsaber and ignited the blade in one quick movement, causing Luke to jump back in surprise.

In three seconds, not only had Darth Dentist been sliced in two, but the interrogation droids had been taken care of as well. The remains turned into dust on the ground and faded away.

Luke gaped in shock. "You ... you killed him!"

"He was no match for me," his father said, reattaching his lightsaber to his belt. "Now, I will leave you in peace to dream as you wish."

"Wait," Luke said. "Don't you want to stay? I've never shared a dream with anyone before. This could be fun."

"I have a feeling that we have opposing ideas about what is fun, Luke."

Luke was about to protest, when he saw his father's point. "Okay. Goodnight, then."

"Goodnight, Son."

His father's form faded away, leaving Luke's consciousness to slip back into peaceful, formless dreams.