Darth Vader stood in brooding silence doing his best to master his impatience. Around him the festivities carried on, as the Imperial elite from across the galaxy celebrated another glorious year of the Galactic Empire. Vader hated parties, hated the obsequiousness of the socially well connected. He made a point of being as curt as possible to anyone who dared speak to him, and soon he was left to himself, which was his goal all along. He was far more comfortable on the periphery, watching rather than participating, for it afforded him the chance to think without being constantly bombarded by the inane babble of the people he was forced to endure.

Vader looked over the crowd, watching with decided disinterest at the extravagantly dressed delegates. He stopped when his eyes rested upon Queen Kylantha of Naboo. Unlike her predecessor, Queen Apailana, Kylantha was loyal to the Empire, at least outwardly. Vader was aware of the changes Kylantha had made to the planet Naboo's democratic government, changes that smacked of sympathy to the fledgling Rebel Alliance. She will be dealt with in good time, he pondered. Naboo was not a planet he wanted to ever visit again, the very thought of it brought back too many painful memories. It had been almost five years since the death of his wife, who had once been the queen of Naboo herself, Padmé Amidala. His angel.

Vader pushed the memory of her face from his mind and looked away, not giving in to his weakness for her. She is gone, and nothing can bring her back. I must move on, I must put the past behind me.

"Lord Vader, the Emperor is requesting your presence."

Vader looked down at the Imperial flunkey and nodded his understanding, moving away from his vantage point to seek out his master.

On the other side of the galaxy…

"Happy Birthday, Luke and Leia, Happy Birthday to you!!"

"I get to wish first," Leia announced. "You wished first last year."

"Did not!" Luke protested. "You did! You always do!"

"I did not!! Mom, Luke is being bossy again!"

Padmé Amidala exchanged a look with Dormé, who simply shook her head with a smile.

"Now children, this is a special day," Padmé told them. "Your birthday. Let's not ruin it with squabbling, okay? Make a wish at the same time, that way no one has to go second."

Leia looked at Luke and almost stuck her tongue out at him, but thought better of it. They both closed their eyes and concentrated for a moment, and then, as though in silent communication, opened their eyes and blew out all 5 candles, amid the applause of the small gathering who sat around the table with them. Around them sat their mother, her friend Dormé, the household droids, C3P0 and R2D2, as well as Obi-Wan Kenobi, who had been a friend of their father's when he was still alive.

The birthday celebration, like every previous one, was a subdued affair, celebrated in the privacy of their family's secluded home deep in the forested region of the Outer Rim planet, Hannas II. Neither Luke nor Leia knew any different, for they had been here all their lives, or at least as long as they could recall. Padmé was grateful that infants were incapable of retaining memories, for the memory of the day they were born was something less than joyous. Padmé rarely spoke of that day, to them or to anyone for that matter; for her it was too painful, and too much a reminder of all that she had lost on that terrible day on the planet Mustafar.

Five years ago today, she thought as she watched her children dig into their cake and ice cream. Five years since I lost him.

Obi-Wan Kenobi had also reflected on that day many times over the past five years. He bore a measure of guilt over what had befallen his best friend and former padawan that day. He had sworn on that day that he would do all that he could to protect the children of his dear friend as well as his wife from the reach of the evil emperor and his henchman, Vader.

For five years Padmé had lived in seclusion with Anakin's children, having faked her death on the day they were born, leaving the galaxy to mourn both her and her unborn child. She had told Obi-Wan on that day, moments after the children were born, that she still believed that there was good in Anakin; Obi-Wan refused to believe it. Everything that was good in Anakin died on Mustafar on that dreadful day, leaving behind only darkness. He will never find this family, Kenobi had vowed. Not if I have to give my own life to protect them.

Part of Kenobi felt guilty for lying to Padmé about the demise of Anakin; yet, in every way that mattered, Anakin Skywalker was dead. All that was good in Anakin Skywalker was destroyed in the fires of Mustafar. Darth Vader was more machine than man, twisted, evil and ruthless. No, Obi-Wan reflected. He will never know they are alive, not so long as I live.

Padmé had finally settled the twins down to sleep, and went outside onto the large veranda behind the house to admire the clear night sky. The twins' birthday was always bittersweet for her; it marked the beginning of a new life with her precious children, and the end of her life with the only man who had ever captured her heart, her Ani. Padmé had vowed not to allow the agonizing memories of that day mar her children's birthday, and had done so valiantly until now, when they were asleep, and the brilliant stars above reminded her of so many night she had spent waiting for him to arrive home from the War. And when he had arrived…the passion, the longing that finally could be fulfilled was almost too much to bear. The bond between them had been forged in the deepest love, and had seemed unbreakable. Until Palpatine drove us apart…the thought of the former chancellor, her one time friend, filled Padmé with quiet rage. Her life since the death of her husband had been one living in fear of discovery, in fear of Palpatine, whom she hated with all of her being. She knew that if he ever found her and her children, they would all be destroyed. Just as their father had been. He will never find us….without Anakin, he has no way of finding us.

Padmé closed her eyes, trying with all her might to put the image of Anakin's face as he turned on her out of her mind, his beautiful face, twisted with insane rage and jealousy. What happened to the pure hearted little boy I once loved? What happened to my soul mate? How could it all have gone so wrong??

"Padmé? Are you alright?"

Padmé turned to see Obi-Wan standing there, a concerned look on his face.

"Yes," she replied. "I'm just thinking about …well, you know what I'm thinking about," she said, turning away again.

Obi-Wan nodded. He could not understand how Padmé could think of Anakin with anything less than resentment now, not after what he had done to her on Mustafar. Yet, he never truly understood the bond that they shared; a bond that Anakin threw away when he chose the Dark Side over the woman he loved.

"Yes, I know," Obi-Wan replied at last. "It's been five years, Padmé. Time to put the past behind you. Anakin is dead; he died before he ever reached Mustafar. Surely you realize that."

Padmé turned back to Kenobi, anger flitting across her face. "Don't patronize me, Obi-Wan," she retorted. "I know what happened to Anakin. You don't need to remind me."

With that she turned away and walked into the house, leaving Kenobi alone, shaking his head in wonder at the irrational nature of the female heart.