Wedding gift

by Mireille 05-2005/2006

Disclaimers: None of this belong to me; everything in the Star Wars Universe belongs to George Lucas.

See my home page for more details.

Impossible as it may sound considering both their individual and mutual pasts, their public wedding day had gone by without an hitch.

Of course, they had taken all the necessary measures to keep that event secret from the rest of the galaxy, sharing its occurrence only with their closest friends and family, but still, they had subconsciously been ready for an interference of some sort.

Force be praised, though, they had both been wrong and they had been able to celebrate their mutual love with everyone who had been part of their lives for either a long or short while.

As the party entered its second phase after they had completed their tour of their guests, the newly-weds took a moment to themselves to admire the beautiful night sky that was shining down on them.

Holding his beloved wife to his heart, Luke Skywalker gazed up into the night as well as through his senses, fervently thanking whoever and whatever was watching over them for this blessed moment of Happiness.

At last, after everything they had been through, they were truly together as well as free to live their love without having to hide it from their friends and family. They had been through fire and back, but they had prevailed; they had grown stronger – their love had grown stronger – and they could now nourish it for the rest of their lives without anyone or anything ever standing between them ever again.

Thank you," he sent to the Force for the millionth time since he had returned from detention. Thank you 'so' much."

'You deserved it... my son," a gentle voice unexpectedly answered him from within.

Startled to hear an actual voice coming from the Force, the young Jedi master turned his focus inward to establish better contact with the living energies --- when he realized that the voice had not come from the Force itself, but from someone who was one with the Force.

Someone who was familiar to him... somehow... Then, his brain actually processed the entity's words and he paused in shock. 'Fa... Father?" he asked hesitantly.

It had been almost fifteen years since Anakin's death... fifteen years without ever being able to contact him the way he had been able to contact – or rather the way Obi-Wan had contacted him – so could it be possible that today, of all days, he would be granted the possibility to finally interact with Anakin's spirit...

His father...

Tears of disbelief and joy spilled down the Jedi's cheeks as he looked around himself, searching with both his eyes and senses for the yearned-for presence of his long-gone father---

He didn't have to look very long before he stumbled on the ghostly image of the ex-Dark Lord of the sith; like the last time that he had seen him, the older man smiled gently at him, his face a perfect portrait of kindness and selfless love.

For a brief moment, Luke feared that all they would be able to do would be to gaze at each other as they had on Endor. However, his disappointment was short-lived as Anakin not only took a step closer to him, but addressed both him and Mara.

Belatedly, Luke became aware that his wife had also picked up on the unexpected appearance of the Jedi's spirit and was fondly gazing at him. "Anakin," she greeted, bowing her head to him even as she straightened herself a bit. Luke couldn't help but chuckle inwardly at the thought that his tough-as-nail lover was slightly concerned about making a good impression on his deceased father.

"Mara," the spirit greeted in return, "Luke," he then said, a plethora of emotions swirling through his voice as he said his son's name. Love, Happiness, sadness, regret; it was all there for the living to hear and see. "Congratulations for your wedding. Congratulations from myself, from your mother," he paused, gazing meaningfully at his son, "as well as from the masters of old. We are all more proud of you than we can ever express in words."

Luke, who had never expected to ever speak with his father until his own death, was unable to reply to his father's praises. Somehow, he was suddenly as shy and inarticulate as when he had been a child and that strangers had come to the farm for a visit. He tried to shake himself out of his shocked torpor.

Meanwhile, his father went on, his voice solemn while his gentle blue eyes gazed deeply into his eyes, then Mara's. "Ever since you met, I wished for you two to find Happiness with one another. I always knew that you were meant to be together." He then focused solely on Mara's white-dressed form. "I know that you still have doubts about being the right companion for my son, Mara, but always remember this: neither I nor my wife could think of anyone better than you to share the life of our precious son. We know that he will be Happy and Loved with you. We couldn't ask for anything more."

For one of the rare times of her life, Mara Jade blushed fiercely, the powerful words of her father-in-law rendering her speechless. "Ah, huh... thank you... Anakin. I promise never to hurt him again."

"I know you won't, Mara, and that is why I can only bless your renewed union with Luke." He once again looked at the both of them. "Your marriage will set the groundwork for the new generation of Jedi to come. The Force will always protect it."

The newly-weds were once again caught unprepared by the depth of Anakin's words and could only nod in humility.

"Now," Anakin smiled, "if I may be so bold, could I ask Mara to inform Leia of my presence here. I would like to see her as well, if she'll accept, of course."

The red-head silently nodded in agreement. "Of course, I'll leave you two alone." She then smirked playfully. "You undoubtedly have much to talk about."

"And very little time," Anakin nodded, smiling as he watched Mara peck his son's cheek in tender affection before she gathered her robe and went back inside in search of her sister-in-law.

Now alone, Father and Son gazed for a moment at each other.

"I... I never thought I'd ever see you again, Father." Tears streamed down his cheeks. "I... I wish I could hug you with all the joy that I feel right now."

Anakin met his son's tear-shining gaze and felt tears slide down his ethereal cheeks. Although he only appeared to be a spirit to his son's eyes, 'he' still felt everything like a living being – tears included. "So do I, son. So do I." They gazed at each other in silence, both unable to formulate a single coherent thought or word.

Damn, Anakin rebuked himself, he had been waiting for so long to finally be able to speak again with his son, yet there he was and he couldn't figure where to start.

He then decided to take matter into his own hands and took a step closer to his son. He hesitated only briefly before he rested a ghostly hand on the shoulder of the younger man. "I'm sorry that I couldn't appear to you before, Son, but my energies were not up to the task yet. However, I can't tell you how many times Yoda and Obi-Wan had to psychically restrain me from coming to you; you and your sister were my one obsession for a long while... but I grew wiser, I think, and accepted my limits... until now, at least." He smiled sheepishly for a moment, and then turned solemn once again. "I love you, my son, and I still bitterly regret that I never told you so when I was still alive, that all I ever did to you was---"

To his surprise, the young Jedi master rested his hand over his ethereal one until their two hands merged. Even as Anakin unexpectedly felt the ghostly touch of his son, Luke gazed up at him, deep affection and relief shining in his cerulean blue eyes. "It's all right, Father. I understand well why the past happened the way it did and I don't hold a grudge against you."

"I know, Luke, but still---"

"Besides," the living man interrupted with a light smirk, "you 'did' tell me that you loved me... through your selfless sacrifice. You saved my life that day, Father, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the only proof I ever needed to know that you had turned back to the Light, that the goodness in you had returned."

Anakin's eyes were once again brimming with tears. "Oh, Luke..." How he wished he could hug him to his chest and wrap his arms around him if only once. "'You' are the goodness within me. Your love for me awakened my own love for you... and where Love, true Love shines, no darkness prevails for long."

It was Luke's turn to brush away new tears of joy even as he took a step closer to the ghostly image of his long-defunct father. "I know, Father..."

Yes, Ani nodded somberly, the boy had learnt that lesson as well even though he had seemed immune to the temptations of the Dark Side. But, he shook himself out of his melancholy, the important thing was that they were now both in the Light side and that 'he' had enough spiritual power to allow them one last talk with each other.

"Despite your recent trials, my son, I --- we, your mother and I, are prouder than proud of you. Yes, you fell, but you overcame your own dark side; you also overcame it before you had wrought chaos in the galaxy for two decades the way I did, and for that, I will be eternally grateful to your friends for bringing you back. You are a true Jedi Master now, Luke." He smiled sheepishly at his son's sudden loss of composure. "Huh, the Council asked me to pass this message on to you."

As he had expected, Luke's first reaction was humble denial. "But---"

He paternally shook his head at his reluctant offspring – a man by all rights now. "There are no buts, Master Skywalker. You have not only been through more trials than any Jedi before you, but you have also always returned to the Light even when your own darkness was festering within your heart and mind. You have also always emerged stronger and wiser from those challenges, and you have already trained accomplished Jedi Knights, the best of them being your wife. You 'are' a Master now, Luke. Accept it."

For a moment, Luke could only stare in disbelief at his father; then, he pouted and gazed down at the concrete surface of the balcony. "Father... I'm honoured by the promotion, but..." he slowly gazed back at the serene-yet-proud-looking man who had once been a Jedi like him. "What if I have decided not to pursue my Jedi life any further?"

He expected a scowl to mar his father's beatific features, or the expelling of a sharp interjection that would remind him of a certain Dark Lord of the Sith when frustrated, but to his puzzlement, his father only smiled at him. "You are and will always be a Jedi, Son; even if you choose to devote your life to other activities than teaching Jedi apprentices, you can't escape who you are. As for your status of master, it simply means that you are more skilled and able than regular knights. From time to time, the Force will call you back for Duty, but the rest of the time, the choice will be yours and if it comes from your heart, it will be the best one for you, as you have finally figured out." He smirked teasingly at him at this.

Luke, for his part, was baffled. He had just been acknowledged by the Jedi of old as a Jedi Master, yet he wasn't expected to be a Master like Yoda or... "Huh? The Force will call me back? What do you mean by that?"

Anakin's smirk became enigmatic. "You will know, my son, just like you knew that there was still some good left in my heart and soul."

Comforted by his father's confident words, Luke relaxed once again.

"Before I go, Luke, there is something I wish to give you... as a wedding gift, but also as the only gift I will ever be able to give you."

The young Jedi master could only nod in acceptance, intrigued as to what his father had in mind for a gift. It couldn't be a material one since they couldn't touch in any way, so it had to be related to their Force connection... but what could it be?

For a moment or two, Anakin remained silent, as if gathering his courage; that feeling was confirmed when he saw him turn around to gaze in his back --- Was there someone else with is father? He wondered. Then, nodding at whoever had obviously encouraged him, the older-looking man refocused on him. "I... If you will accept to know the real me... good and bad... I wish to give you a package of collective memories of my youth... my life."

Although he had been ready to be offered an occasion to somehow connect with his father's presence, Luke felt his jaw hit the floor of the concrete balcony. Collective memories of his parents' life? together?

"At first, I only wanted to give you my own and your mother's memories of each other before my fall, but Obi-Wan and Yoda convinced me that it would also be a perfect occasion to pass on to you our collective knowledge of the fall or the Republic, as well as what ensued."

Luke was shell-shocked. "Father..."

"I have heavily edited the darkest times so that you won't suffer again from those, but... after what happened, I want you to know the real me, before and after the fall, as well as how your appearance in my life saved my very soul. I want you... to know your parents... to remember them as if we had been with you, somehow..."

Tears were once again flowing down Luke's cheeks. His parents. In all his life, they had always been the one piece of his life that he had never been able to really grasp. They had given him life, yet except for his confrontations with his father, he had never had any contact with them. Although he had always managed to get by without that knowledge that almost everyone else in the galaxy held - that of their parents – he was now unable to conceive how he would be able to go on without it.

His parents! At last, he would see his parents, would probably hear them as well.

"I'm aware that I'm asking you to accept what is kind of a rotten fruit, but---"

"Yes!" Luke exclaimed, interrupting his father's sad apology. "Yes, I wholeheartedly accept your gift, Father... and Mother," he added, gazing past Anakin's shoulder even though he couldn't see anyone behind him. He just 'knew' that she was there as well. "Ever since I was old enough to miss you, I have yearned to know my parents... and if your lives are very intricately woven into the galactic events and that it's the only way to really know you, then so be it. I know that we have won in the end, and that you have returned from the darkness. Nothing else matters, Father. I give you my word."

Anakin couldn't help but wince at his son's earnest promise not to despise him after learning of his past deeds as Vader. After all, he reasoned with himself, he had done some 'very' horrific things before he had returned to his moral senses... "Son,..." he began, then swallowed the lump that was blocking his throat. "don't... don't underestimate what I was capable of in the name of the Dark Side... Although I have edited out the details of those actions, master Yoda insisted that I left some mentions of them so as to complete the portrait of the dark times. I didn't want to, but he selected those as examples for you so that you may know your enemy better for the future."

The young man tilted his head even as he narrowed his eyes. "Future? Do you mean that we'll be at war again soon?"

He regretfully shook his head. "Unfortunately, the Jedi are always at war with the Dark Side, both within themselves and without... We just wish to make you privy to what Darth Sidious, a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine, was truly like so that you will not underestimate a darksider if you ever face one again. However, our first hope with this is that you will be able to prevent such individual from emerging once again."

"I see..." Luke nodded sagely. "I promise that I will consider those under that angle, Father. You can trust me."

Anakin smiled more glibly at his dear son. "I know I can, Luke. It is just a difficult thing for me to pass those on to you when I know how painful they might be for your soul... and the last thing I ever want to do ever again is to hurt you in any way..."

His son gave him an understanding gaze. "I know exactly what you mean, Father."

A feather-like hand then appeared on the spirit's shoulder, drawing his attention to the petite person who was standing behind him. "Quit dawdling now, Ani. Remember that our son is now a grown man and that he can take care of himself."

Anakin smiled sheepishly at his wife, nodded contritely, and then took a step closer to his watching son. She was right; he didn't need to protect him anymore. Besides, he rebutted himself, wasn't it the point of this transmission? For him to learn to trust his son, thus let go of the ones he loved?

"How do we proceed then?" the young man inquired in the silence, gazing up at him.

The spirit tentatively reached up with his right hand until his ethereal fingers rested 'against' his son's left temple. "Simply open your mind to me, my Son. I will do the rest. I just hope I know what I'm doing..."

'Father," Luke chastised him through the Force, trust in the Will of the Force and in me, huh?"

Caught red-handed once again, by no less than his wise son this time, Anakin couldn't help but chuckle in repentance. All right, all right. Here we go."

Unlike what Luke expected, the transfer of Anakin's memories into his own mind didn't generate mental images or any reaction whatsoever from him. Instead, he only felt warmth caressing his mind and soul – his father's Love, he realized.

He then became aware of other familiar presences drawing closer and knew that his sister, as well as his niece and nephews, had finally joined them on the balcony.

"Father?" Leia called, approaching him carefully. "Are you still here?"

Aware that his father couldn't answer her, Luke carefully split his concentration before he told her that they would be with her in a moment.

"There," Anakin said even as the pleasant warmth slowly dissipated from Luke's mind. "When you will be ready to experience those memories, merely meditate on the past and our memories will become part of your memories."

Luke didn't know how to thank his father for the gift that he had just given him; it was the greatest gift anyone had ever given him in his whole life, he was certain of that. "Thank you very, very much, Father. I can't tell you how much this means to me."

"I can imagine, though." He turned toward the rest of the family. "Now, I would love to talk with Leia and my grand-children, but I will need your help, Son."


"Hold hands with Leia and the children. Through our connection, they will be able to see me as well as you do."

"Ah, so that's how Mara was able to see you, too, huh?" He stepped closer to Leia, smiled at her, and then took her hand in his.

"Father!" she greeted in surprise, having recognized the spirit that she had seen on Bakura.

"Grand-father?" young Anakin inquired – and Luke noticed that he wasn't touching either him or his mother in any way. Yet he could see the spirit all the same.

He once again wondered if there was more to his nephew's name than a mere repetition of his father's given name.

"Where?" Jaina asked, squinting to pierce the gloom of the night.

"Here, hold my other hand," he offered her.

"Cool!" Jacen exclaimed upon grasping his mother's hand as well.

In front of them, Anakin's spirit was silent yet his eyes spoke volumes in regards to the emotions that he was experiencing: overwhelming joy, paternal Love and pride, and sadness... infinite sadness.

"Leia, my dear daughter," he finally managed despite his constricted-sounding throat. "I am so proud of what you have accomplished both on a personal and a galactic front. You, my sweet princess, have corrected all the political and personal mistakes that I have ever made... You have led the government I wanted to serve and instead ended up destroying... As for your family, all of you prove me on a daily basis that there was, indeed, some good in the Skywalker family because no evil could have generated as unique and wonderful people as you are. Thank you."

"Father," Leia choked on her breath, "it is I who thank you for giving us a chance to start anew by destroying the Emperor. Without you, none of us would be here, under these circumstances."

"And you are not a monster anymore, so you can't be evil either," the younger Anakin interrupted in his customarily straightforward approach.

If Leia and Luke winced at the child's direct words, Anakin turned bittersweet. He watched, enraptured, as his namesake slowly walked closer to his Jedi-robes clothed figure; he reflexively knelt down to be at eye level with him. "Little one, I..."

"You were bad with Mommy and uncle Luke, I know, and with the galaxy, but you changed. You are good again,... grandpa. I love you... now."

Whether he was imagining it, or if he were actually sensing something through the remaining bond that he had with his father, Luke couldn't tell, but he knew that he felt Anakin's reaction as if it were his own. At that precise moment, the last self-directed grudge that had been remaining in Anakin the first crumbled like so much dust even as sobs of finally-freed pain and anguish overcame his attempt to retain some form of composure in front of his descendants.

Then, to his amazement, Anakin, the child, drew close enough to the spirit to touch him – and actually held him in his arms as if he were a real person, compensating for his immaterial status like only a child instinctively knew how to do. He 'hugged' his grandfather around the neck, repeating to him how much he loved him and that he forgave him for hurting his mother and uncle.

Anakin's spirit naturally returned the simulated embrace, encircling his ghostly arms around his grandson while he rested his chin on the boy's shoulder, thus narrowing the inexisting contact between them.

In a way, Anakin looked like a younger version of Luke, and Anakin, like how he might have acted if he had ever been reunited with his son while he had been alive.

Even as Luke and Leia exchanged a baffled gaze, though, a new person materialized behind the hugging pair; Leia's gasp told Luke all he needed to know.

"Mother!" the Skywalker twins exclaimed in both disbelief and joy.

"Luke, Leia, the masters have sent me to pull your father back before he expends all his remaining spiritual energies." She said the last with an askance glance at her still crouching husband who looked sheepishly up at her. She then softened again as the tall man reluctantly broke his simulated embrace with the child and stood up once again. "But they also allowed me to communicate with you though I can't add very much to what Anakin has already said."

"Mother, I miss you so much sometimes," Leia sobbed even as she took a step closer to her image, drawing her brother with her.

Luke, for his part, stared in awe at the angel-like sight that was standing at his father's side. Petite in form and brown-haired, his mother was a spitting image of Leia, yet he could feel that he had inherited much of her personality without being even aware of it. Indeed, if her looks of trust yet reprimand to his father were anything to go by, he behaved a lot like her.

Besides, he chuckled inwardly, both of them had married someone who had touched the Dark Side, yet believed in their inherent goodness. Could they be more alike?

"Mo... Mother," he tried even though the word was almost foreign to him. Even more than his father, his mother had always been a mere fantasy to him, an insubstantial concept that he would never experience.

Giving a glance at her husband, she stepped away from Anakin and took a step closer to him. "Luke, my son..." She touched his cheek with her ethereal fingers, but he didn't feel her, could only imagine her caress. "The most difficult decision I ever made in my entire life was to part with you... I don't know how many times I plotted to retrieve you without Obi-Wan's or Yoda's knowledge... It broke my heart to be away from you, to know that you were separated from your sister."

"Mother," he breathed, his emotions constricting his throat. If she had been real, he would have crushed her to himself to reassure her that he didn't hold a grudge against her either; he would have hold her just for the sake of holding her and finally feel what it was to have a mother like everyone else. "I... I know that you didn't have a choice. I always missed you in my life, but I never resented you, and especially not after learning about the past."

Even though he hadn't meant to reprimand his father about his past, Anakin winced at his statement, aware that the past was mostly about his mistakes as a youth.

"I know, my sweet, sweet Luke. I just wanted to tell you that you were always in my heart even though we were not together for a long time. I am proud of the man you have become, and I am glad that you have finally found Happiness. Congratulations again for today's union. You two have certainly been through a lot together and deserve to enjoy together your upcoming rest."

"Thank you, mother. I am glad to see that you are with Father once again; I can see the Happiness in your eyes as well and it fills my heart with content."

"Indeed, Mother," Leia rejoined, "all I remembered of you were sad expressions, but now, I will never forget your starburst smile."

"You were right, Mom," Jaina commented from her uncle's side. "She 'was' very beautiful."

Anakin's spirit stepped closer at this and lovingly wrapped his arm around his wife's shoulders. "Like an angel," he smiled softly, gazing down in her eyes.

"Ah," Mara interjected from behind. "So that's where the angel business comes from, huh? He truly is your son, Anakin."

Luke, who had turned his head to look at her, noticed that the younger Anakin was holding her hand as they joined the little circle of their reunion.

"Yes," Padme nodded. "Not only does he call his beloved 'angel', but he also has an attraction for 'secret' relationships. Although," she paused for a second, "I wonder if 'that' had to do with the fact that Anakin and his Jedi accomplices got involved in the events that finally brought you two together."

"What!" everyone gaped even as Anakin rebuked his wife for sharing with them 'that' tidbit of information.

"What do you mean, got involved?" Mara asked, her eyes narrowing in wariness.

"Oh, huh, nothing much. Just dreams that helped you face your feelings for one another and that kind of thing." Anakin gazed at the two stumped Jedi. "I knew how stubborn the two of you were and I was not gonna stand by while you would be wasting away years of love relationship."

"I see."

"Huh, isn't that against the Code, Father?"

"Actually," Anakin grinned proudly, "even master Yoda took part in this because by then, it was clear to them that the Code was not 'all' there was to the Force. Given our close connection to the Force, it was undeniable by any of us that you two were pre-destined soulmates. It was the Will of the Force; we just helped it a little, that's all."

"Uh-uh," Mara pouted. "So you were still tempted to try and control the events, huh?"

Luke laughed out loud at that. "She got you pegged down all right, Father."

"Uh, yeah... but as I said, we didn't control them; we just helped your subconscious to overthrow your conscious barriers. We couldn't do more than that anyway."

"Still...," she paused, they looked shrewdly at her father-in-law. "I knew that we were watched sometimes. I just knew it."

Anakin couldn't hide his smirk of amusement. "Indeed, you did, but you never 'caught' us."

The banter was coming so easily now that Luke almost had the feeling that his parents were truly alive and that they would simply step out of the blue light they were in and join them at their celebration party.

However, reality was still as it was and their time with them was coming to an end.

"Will we ever see you again?" Jacen asked, daring to speak for the first time ever since he had taken hold of his mother's hand.

"I can assure you that we will," his grandfather answered him. "However, I am not allowed to reveal anything about the future, so I cannot tell you when, where, or how. But, yes, someday, we will be together once again."

"I'm glad."

"I will be looking forward to seeing you again, Father," Leia added fondly.

"And in the meantime, I will hold this special moment to my heart and will not let go of it," Luke concluded, gazing deeply into his father's blue eyes. "May the Force be with you, Father, and thank you for the gift. I will use it well, I promise."

"Gift?" both Leia and Mara frowned in confusion.

"I know you will, Son. Remember, we learn from our past, and we apply those lessons to the future so as to make it better."

Aware that he was referring to his own remaining guilt over what he had done in his darker hours, Luke nodded, subdued. He, too, had been caught red-handed by his father.

"Take care of yourselves; it was an honour meeting with you at last," Mara said solemnly, lacing her fingers with her husband's as Jaina let go of his hand.

"Thank you. Farewell, dear grandchildren," Anakin said, addressing the younger ones in the attendance. "If you wish, you will all be great Jedi someday, but first and foremost, be proud to be good people to your fellow living beings."

"We will."

"I love animals!"

"Good bye, dear children! We will still watch over you for a while yet. Know that we will always love and cherish you dearly."

"Bye!.." the twins answered at the quickly dissolving image of their parents.

"I love you," Luke said just before the last of their faces had completely disappeared, one with the Force once again.

Then, they were alone once again. That's when Luke realized that the impromptu reunion had drawn a fair share of curious onlookers. He turned and smiled at his nosy friends and ex-fighter pilots.

In the Force, Anakin and Padme smiled in content at each other, then at their living children as they rejoined their companions and tried to explain to them the miracle that had just happened.

"I'm proud of you, Ani. I know it wasn't easy for you to share those with Luke, but our son is happier than ever, and that's because of the gift of Love that you just gave him. Thank you."

Anakin blushed fiercely. "I'm sorry that I stayed longer and used more of my energies than necessary... I was just compelled to do it..." He turned toward his old mentor. "Thank you, master Yoda. Thank you for reinforcing me long enough for us to tell them proper goodbyes."

The wizened elf merely nodded his head in answer.

"I wonder how long Luke will resist the temptation to open his gift," Obi-Wan commented, materializing beside them.

Anakin gave his wife a knowing gaze, then met Obi-Wan's blue gaze. "At least until tomorrow morning, I can guarantee that. I doubt his wife will let him meditate tonight of all nights."

"Yes, and was it my imagination or did you avoid to mention the storm that we provoked to finally awaken them to their true emotions for one another? I sure remember that one very well."

"So do I, but after facing her glare, I decided that they didn't need to know about that."

"Oh?" Padme ribbed him mock-sternly.

"What?" he retorted, sheepish. "Even though I'm dead, I still know better than to test Jade's temper with that kind of knowledge."

"Yeah, you leave that to Luke when he'll find those memories in the Gift you gave him, huh?"

"Figure she won't hurt the deliverer, huh?" Obi-Wan added playfully.

Anakin smirked deviously at him. "Exactly. Besides, Luke will decide if he should tell her or not. I trust his wisdom on that. Still, I put that knowledge under an extra layer of energy so that he won't find out about it until he meditates a second time on the events of the past. That should guarantee him clear skies for the duration of their honeymoon."

"Hmph, wiser he is than you are. A certainty it is," Yoda stated seriously, yet the expression on his wizened face was anything but insulting.

For one of the rare times in their after-lives, the group of friends laughed just as heartedly as did the group of living freedom fighters who were gathered on the balcony beside which they still floated.

As Anakin had predicted, Luke didn't 'open' his gift that night, nor did he do so for the following two days.

On the morning of the third one, though, he and his wife were ready to resume their more regular activities and he offered to share his father's gift with her. However, she declined, saying that it was his privilege, as Anakin's son, to witness his parents' past alone. Later, once he knew exactly what had been 'stored' in his mind, she would reconsider his offer.

Thus it was that Luke found a sun-bathed rock by the sea on which to sit. Crossing his legs in his customary meditation position, he took a moment to center his thoughts, and then remembered his parent's miraculous visit. The moment that an image of Anakin's ghostly face began to coalesce in his mind, new images rushed in and invaded his whole senses until he somehow became 'part' of the memories, watching them without being seen.

The earliest ones were his father's memories of his childhood as a slave, and then how he had met the woman he knew he'd marry someday even though she had been four years older than he.

Luke watched, fascinated, as he discovered that Anakin had, indeed, been a good person when he had been younger; he was overjoyed to learn that as a youth, Anakin had been innocent, selfless, and a natural at flying. 'Like father, like son,' he smiled, bittersweet.

Then, he saw that Anakin had met his future wife at the same time that he had met Obi-Wan; at that time, another Jedi master had been with Obi-Wan, and that Jedi master had perceived Anakin as some kind of special potential Jedi. This, combined with Obi-Wan's fascination for Anakin's strong potential in the Force, had ensured that the youth's life would never be the same.

As for his mother, whose name he finally learnt, Luke followed with both worry and thrill the crisis that she had had to deal with and that had brought her to his father's doorstep. He was thrilled to discover that she had not only been beautiful, but that she had also been strong-willed and resourceful.

'Like Leia,' the Jedi smiled to himself, aware that ever since he had learnt the truth about he and Leia, he had kind of always pictured his mother like his sister: wilful and able, beautiful, yet forever marked by the horrors of the Empire...

Then, he felt cold all over as Palpatine himself, the then gentled-mannered senator, made his entrance in his father's life. He thus discovered that his mother had once considered that man to be a friend; she had never suspected that he could be behind the crisis that had pitted Naboo against the Trade Federation.

Luke gritted his teeth as he watched the devious monster manipulate his mother into demoting a fair Chancellor so that he could claim the seat for himself. He also felt bitter bile rise in his throat when the same monster approached his then innocent father and falsely praised him, aware that young Anakin was, even then, very sensitive to that kind of emotional attention.

After seeing that fateful – dreadful – first encounter, then the ensuing ones, Luke couldn't help but understand exactly how the other had slowly twisted and corrupted his father's goodness into what he had eventually become. Indeed, he had bid his time, had carefully molded the youth with his tainted advice while offering the outsider and lonely Jedi 'padawan' the comfort and support that he sorely needed, thus attracting the 'needy' Anakin to him like a moth to the flame.

Hence, after five years of ongoing corruption, the time had come to push the distraught youth to take the final step into the darkness and Anakin had not known right from wrong anymore. His values had been horribly skewed in his heart, his vision of reality, altered, and the surrounding events – which had all been orchestrated by Palpatine himself – had not helped the young Jedi to rectify his perception of things.

Anakin had been slowly murdered even as Darth Vader had been gradually groomed and shaped with the ebbing ashes of his former identity, yet the change had never become obvious to him or anyone else... not until the end... when the change had become 'irreversible', at least for a while.

Luke's only consolation in the matter was that his mother had always been there for his father; though more often apart than not, Padme had always stood by Anakin's side, always loved him even though it had taken her a while to admit it to herself. She had always been his Light, doing her best to smoothen his ruffled 'feathers' whenever they were together. Indeed, nothing had restrained the flood of her love for the good-hearted youth whom she had fallen for, not even his own dark side and his occasional tantrums of temper.

'Now why does that sound familiar?' Luke asked himself while he also paid attention to his father's interactions with the old Jedi order.

He noticed that while Obi-Wan hadn't lied to him about how he and Anakin had been good friends, Luke had to admit that he had never envisioned his father's training the way he was experiencing it through the other's memories. Distant, judgmental... distrustful even... The Jedi had not easily accepted his father in their rank, let alone accepted him for who he was. Unlike them, his father had begun his training later in his life, had known his family, and that had made him different in their eyes.

A difference that had been marked by his need for relationship and attachment, which they hadn't approved of.

As he watched more memories of that period in his father's life, he couldn't help but wince in resent at some of the Jedi's attitudes with his father. He especially noticed Yoda's attitude with him, reflecting that the alien Jedi master had never acted with 'him' the way he had acted with his father...

'Proof that he had changed by then?' He wondered next.

He supposed so. He then conceded that Obi-Wan had also changed by the time he had met him, but not for as good a turn as Yoda had.

Still, it heartened Luke that Ben had believed in his father until their final duel on Mustafar... when he had tried to bring him back before it was too late. He hadn't wanted to kill him, hadn't even wanted to hurt him, but in the rage of the battle, events had occurred... until Anakin had been left for dead.

But he hadn't died. At least not physically.

Luke winced and cried at the flash of the event that his father had left in his memories before skipping all the way to when he had been sealed into the mask of his 'new' life.

Festering hatred had filled his heart at that time yet a last remnant of love had still burnt amid the darkness: Anakin's love for his wife and unborn child.

A love and hope that the Emperor had hurriedly crushed before letting Vader almost turn mad from the claustrophobic sensation of being trapped in an armour and mask after being nearly burnt to a crisp. Luke dimly felt tears slide down his cheeks as he discovered that the only thing that had kept his father sane at that moment had been his burning desire for revenge... much to Palpatine's satisfaction, of course.

'So even then,' Luke realized, 'the Emperor knew that selfless Love would save Father from the Dark Side. It's a good thing that he never managed to truly extinguish this emotion in his soul.' He continued to watch the unfolding events of the past.

He thus witnessed how the Jedi had watched over Padme and her newborn twins. How that, all too soon, they had understood that the twins were too powerful when united and that they should instead be separated. Luke discovered that there had definitely been an issue of anonymity at hand – as he and Leia had surmised – but he was relieved to learn that there had never been question of revenge through Anakin's children. Indeed, unlike what he used to think, the Jedi hadn't meant to use him or his sister as a mean of revenge.

However, the Jedi had been understandably shell-shocked by their recent betrayal by the Emperor as well as the sudden dwindling of their number and they had sought to protect the next generation with all their might.

They had reasonably wanted to survive and fight another day so as to save the galaxy from the Emperor and his minions.

One minion, in particular, had quickly become their archnemesis – Vader.

Deprived of his one reason to retain any scrap of goodness within him, Vader had taken the Emperor's words to the letter and had completely given himself over to the Dark Side so as to become, throughout the course of a year or two, one of the most powerful Sith of all times. He had perhaps even become 'the' most powerful, but the Emperor had always restrained him from developing his full potential so that his apprentice wouldn't be tempted to overthrow him in pure Sith tradition.

Then, approximately two years later, Vader had discovered that Padme had not been truly dead and that a deceased decoy had been burnt in her place at her funeral. From that point onward, the Dark Lord of the Sith had turned the galaxy upside down in search of her... as had Palpatine.

Luke whimpered when he saw how his father had arrive too late to save her, yet he hadn't been too late to see her die.

As had been Palpatine's plan all along.

With that undeniable proof that the last remnant of his old life had perished, a proof that had informed him with her last breath that their child had died, unborn, from oxygen deprivation, Vader had thrown himself even more fully into the Dark Side, determinate to never suffer ever again from everything that he had lost.

The horrors he had perpetrated, the lives he had mercilessly taken, the destruction he had wrought; none of it had mattered as long as he hadn't 'felt' anything anymore.

It had also pleased his master, allowing Vader to retain, as a reward, a certain measure of freedom in the ruling of the galaxy.

For almost two decades, Vader had been content by this situation, clinging to the coldness and emptiness of his life as if it were his safety buoy, convinced that it was the best way to avoid being hurt ever again. Of course, he had also been aware that the Emperor would not hesitate to betray him the moment that he wouldn't please him anymore, but he had learnt to play the other's games of mind and will and they had been at a satisfying stalemate.

Then, he, his son, had surfaced from Force knew where--- and Vader's world had collapsed like a sandcastle. All of a sudden, all his old dreams of having a family, being a father and raising his child to be a Jedi – as well as his new dream to overthrow the Emperor and rule with his child – had all become possible!

Gone had been the cold void of the past decades, replaced by the burning fire of passion, ambition and greed; greed for his son's power, ambition for their mutual future, and a passion that had bordered on madness in regards to locating and finding him.

Luke couldn't help but smirk dimly as he witnessed some of his father's unfruitful bouts of rage at the fact that his one and only son was in fact a rebel.

'Yeah,' he nodded at his raving mental image, 'we were quite the disruptive family...'

However, if his father's worsening bad temper left him somewhat shocked, he was greatly impressed by the fact that the Dark Lord of the Sith had rapidly developed genuine care for him and his well-being.

Even though they had had yet to officially meet as father and son, Vader's greed to hold his power in his grasp had quickly shifted into deep care about the flesh and blood of himself and 'her'.

In Vader's mind, Luke had become a second chance that he hadn't wanted to ruin the way he had ruined the first one.

Sadly, though, one as twisted as his father had been could not return to the good side with a mere snap of his fingers. Hence, his first attempt to break through to him had gone horribly wrong, but to Luke's disbelief, the moment that he had sliced through his wrist on Bespin, his father had been aware of his mistake. After that, he had tried otherwise to convince him, but Luke had only seen a dark monster asking him to join him.

To become as evil as Vader had been known to be.

As it was, Luke's stubborn refusal to join him, as well as his state of shock during their mental communication above Bespin, had been the wedge of Light that had truly incited the transformation in the former Jedi Knight.

All of a sudden, Vader had become aware that he had been going at it the wrong way. He had also understood that before he truly thought of reclaiming his son without causing him any new pain, 'he' first had to learn to control his bad temper. Indeed, he had suddenly become clear to him that 'it' had been what had thrown him into his cursed armour, what had almost caused Padme's and Luke's deaths... what had cost his son his right hand.

Hence, from that moment onward, Vader had resolved to stop strangling his officers when they failed him, and he had stopped cutting down droids to vent anger.

Luke, who still remembered what 'he' had been thinking at that time of great turmoil in his life, was caught totally unprepared by those revelations.

He then realized that those 'efforts' had been what he had felt in his father when they had crossed path again during his search for Han Solo. However, despite his good intentions, Vader had still been Vader and had sometimes slipped back in his old – easier – habits. Still, everybody, even the Emperor, had noticed the change of attitude in the dark Lord of the Sith, namely that he had been turning somewhat greyer, if one could describe it as such.

Then, the moment of truth had come and they had met again, face to face.

Luke also remembered that encounter rather vividly, but for the first time ever, he was in his father's mind instead of his own. What he discovered once again surprised him.

Unlike what he had thought at that time, Vader had not been endlessly plotting on how to turn him to the Dark Side. Instead, he had been interested to know more about both his Jedi training and his perception of him and of the events that had separated them for so long, and he had been genuinely regretful to have to take him up to the Emperor. As he had said at that time, though, he had had no choice; it had been too late for him.

Vader had also hoped to convince the Emperor not to kill him so that, in time, Luke would still be able to help him overthrow the despot.

'Twisted to the end, huh, Father?' Luke mused sadly. He understood all too well, though; he, too, had once been at that point in his life.

However, like it had been for Luke, the Light had been pulling at Vader's mind for a while now. Throughout the ensuing confrontation, Vader had fought to defend his honour and right to live, and when push came to shove, his arrogance had resurfaced. However, when the life of his son had become at stake, nothing had held him back anymore.

Vader hadn't felt exactly as if he had let go of the Darkness, but nothing had mattered more to him than to save his son from certain death. It had been unbearable for him to watch yet another of his loved ones die at the hands of that monster.

Thus he had braved the lightning bolts of his evil master, had picked him up over his head and had thrown him down the nearby shaft. Then, he had been in his son's arms...

And that's when the change had truly occurred. There, as he had been dying of asphyxia yet bathing in his son's selfless love and trust in him – him, the monster that he had become – Vader had completely let go of everything that had turned him into the dark Lord of the Sith and he had wholeheartedly embraced the sensation of caring – loving – someone other than himself and his plans.

He had also drunk in the love and compassion that his son had radiated, taking it in like a man dying from thirst in the Tatooine desert. He had tried to return it as best as he could, but other than bitterly regretting everything that he had ever done in both his name and the name of the Emperor, most of all injuring his own son and daughter, he had been unable to muster any other emotion.

Had he still known how to love – truly love? He had greatly doubted it, but at the last moment, when it had become obvious to him that he would not survive for much longer, he had discovered that, somewhere deep within his shrivelled heart, he had still been human. He had asked Luke to remove his helmet, aware that the greatest gift he could give to his son before leaving this world was to remove from between them the barrier that was Vader's mask. Of course, he had been scared of what his son would think of his deformed appearance, but he had just wanted to show him that there was a thankful and regretful man underneath the cursed mask of death.

As he re-experienced that momentous moment of their short common lives, Luke brushed tears from his eyes. All this time, he had thought that 'he' had been making a favour to his father, allowing him to see him with his own eyes as per his request, but he now understood that Anakin had been nearly sightless without his special visor... However, his father hadn't wanted to insult him by even hinting at the fact that he considered his monstrous sight as a gift from his part.

He hadn't wanted Luke to deny him his last chance at a good action in his wretched life.

But there had truly been goodness within him, a statement that Padme herself had imprinted on Luke's subconscious when she had been about to part with her baby boy, and that goodness had blossomed so strongly within Anakin as he had dared meet his son's judgment that his soul had not been at risk anymore to be consumed by the madness of the Dark Side.

Then, he had died --- and Luke gasped as he realized that the memories were not ending.

Instead, he witnessed his father's arrival in the realm of the Force, how he had been greeted by the Jedi of old who first distantly welcomed him before Obi-Wan wrapped him in his love and helped him complete the transition while letting go of the emotions that resulted from the life he had been through.

Luke was overjoyed to see that the two friends had finally been reunited and had made peace, then how Yoda himself had forgiven Anakin for his human weaknesses.

The Vision ended with Anakin's thoughts as he had watched the Ewok celebration from within the Force, revealing to Luke how proud, grateful and relieved he had been that everything had ended well.

Yet, aware that it was also a new beginning for a future life, he had promised himself to learn his Lessons this time so as to be able to return to his family someday.

Apparently, Luke smiled as he exited his trance, Anakin had learnt his Lesson well because he had certainly been able to return to them, if only for a few minutes. Luke sent heartfelt gratitude to his father for making the efforts that had been necessary for him to be able to accomplish such a miracle.

Thanks to him, he finally 'knew' his parents and he would always remember them.

He couldn't thank him enough for 'that' other miracle in his life. At last, he was truly 'home', his heart complete.

The End

Written 2005/2006 Mireille