A/N: So, this is the last instalment of this story, and I want to thank everyone who read it!
I saw that many of you put it on the alert and favourites list, and I'm really flattered that so many of you like it!
In particular, I'd like to thank all of my faithful reviewers! Your reviews kept me going, and they brought the inspiration and so many ideas for it. ;)
I'd really appreciate if some of the lurkers would de-lurk and tell me what you thought of this story. It is the last chapter, and I think it'd be only fitting if you submitted your first review on this story.
Thanks again, and I won't bore you any longer!
Six months later…
The deafening explosions of countless volcanos drummed into her ears, and the prickling heat made her skin tingle. The endless rivers of lava were a horrible yet breath-taking sight, but Padmé saw only the reflection of the greedy flames in his cold eyes.
"Don't you understand? We don't have to hide anymore," Anakin said, a smile full of cruel triumph dancing on his lips. This cold sneer, full of malice was so unlike the warm smile of the man she loved… He kept talking, but Padmé couldn't hear him. She refused to hear him.
"Who are you? I don't know you!" she cried desperately, searching for any sign of the Anakin she knew in the man before her, but his cold, greedy eyes were all she saw. This man craved power… This man shed the blood of innocents and even children… This man wanted to destroy everything she stood for.
"Anakin," she gasped weakly, her vision obscured by endless tears. Everything was blurred, and Padmé could see only the deadly, infinite flames and the inhuman gleam in her husband's eyes. The baby kicked her hard, feeling as pained and distraught as its mother. It also ached for the love of its father, but its father had changed… And it was her fault.
"The galaxy lies at our feet, Padmé," Anakin said evenly, a cruel smile twisting his features. "I've done all of this for you."
Even though it was hot, Padmé felt icy chills running down her spine, cold claws tearing her heart mercilessly apart. The baby kicked even harder, howling in pain. Her husband was a murderer, a monster… Yet Padmé still believed that the Anakin she knew was not yet consumed by the darkness completely. The image from her nightmares flashed in her head, and the horrific sense of dread intensified.
"I need you Padmé," Anakin said softly, his eyes gleaming madly. "You and me, we will rule this galaxy, and our child will be raised in glory."
This can't be happening!
But the feeling of unbearable heat on her skin was real, and the almost physical pain of her breaking heart was overpowering. She was the one who had pushed him to darkness, and he deceived everyone only because of her. What should she choose? Staying by the side of this murderer and betrayer or remaining true to herself, to everything she valued? Should she let her child follow his true father's steps or be raised by the monster her husband had become?
I will follow you to the darkest path you take, her own words rang in her mind. Could she break her promise now, in the most desperate point of his life? If she stayed with him, would she be able to bring him back, or would she only lose herself and condemn the innocent life of her child?
"Anakin, you are walking down a path I cannot follow," she heard herself crying desperately. She felt as if it was a stranger standing next to the man within Anakin's body, not her... A volcanic explosion erupted from far away, and she felt her heart bleeding.
The look of malice in Anakin's eyes was replaced by hurt. Wild tears continued to run down her cheeks, and through the blurry cloud of moisture obscuring her sight, Padmé watched the cold blue turn into venomous yellow.
"I'm sorry," Padmé said, choking with her tears as she stepped back from the man she loved. "I'm so sorry...
"Don't touch her, Anakin," a male voice said from somewhere. Padmé knew this voice, but she couldn't recognise who its owner was. Did it matter? Did anything matter anymore? Anakin had broken her heart, and now she had broken his…
"Traitor!" Anakin yelled, his yellow eyes flashing madly at her. "You lured me into a trap!"
His eyes, filled with hatred, switched at somewhere past her back. Padmé followed his gaze, and saw Obi-Wan standing at the ramp of her ship. How did he get here? Anakin's yellow eyes focused on her again. They were void of warmth and love. Only infinite pain and the reflections of wild flames were visible.
"No, Anakin," Padmé protested weakly. Anakin extended his hand, and she felt invisible fingers grasping her throat and choking her. She tried to yank them away, but the action was futile.
"Anakin," she gasped weakly, feeling the strength leaving her. Black mist started clouding her vision, and she couldn't breathe any longer. Something hard hit her in the back, and Padmé's fading mind registered that she had fallen onto the rocky ground. Anakin's lips trembled, and a single tear was running from his yellow eyes.
The edge of her consciousness perceived a cry of pain, exactly the same one as the one from her dream months ago. His face, obscured by clouds of black mist, was the last thing she saw before falling into nothingness.
The hot, throbbing pain in his limbs was unbearable, and the hungry tongues of flames licking the remnants of his body made him scream uncontrollably. His eyesight was fading with each second, but he followed the retreating silhouette of the man he had believed to be his friend. The man who he had loved as a father. His best friend, his mentor. A traitor, who took his wife away from him and nearly killed him.
I told you that he never loved you, Vader said to him, and Anakin had to admit that the monster had always been right. If Obi-Wan had ever loved him, would he have walked away from him when he pleaded him to save him from the lava? Would he have condemned him to this horrible death? Would he have stolen his wife from him?
He couldn't hear anything except his own screams, but Padmé's words of rejection still rang in his mind, taunting him.
I told you that she would betray you, Vader whispered. He had been right all along. Padmé had already betrayed him once with the Dark Jedi, and now she had done it with Obi-Wan. Maybe she had never loved him, and he was a fool, believing in her games.
Savage flames ate at the handsome body, and the love that once filled it charred and turned into black ashes. All that was left of Anakin was a shattered body on the embankment of the lava river, burned and mutilated, and Vader was taking his place. Vader's darkness suffocated Anakin's light; the young man's bitterness and hurt feeding the monster and giving him the desire to live and to avenge, to make the others suffer as much as he did.
The young man with bright blue eyes who had wanted to bring the good to the galaxy burned away. The black sand that remained of him had nothing in common with the young boy who had wanted to free the slaves and see all the stars. Tears were the only reminder of his immeasurable love for an angel. The young man's soul burned away, and nothing was left of Anakin Skywalker's heart but the black ashes.
But a feeble light still survived in Vader's black soul, tarnished and polluted by the monster's darkness. It would wait for its hour to come.