And the healing process was quick.
Vader was not too happy to find out that he'd been played for a fool. It turned out that he could have been healed years ago, had not the cunning and ambitious Palpatine had his surgeons implant a few microscopic devices which he hadn't picked up with his repeated Force scans of his body. Instead of the medical doctors helping him recover from the lava ordeal, they had mostly made him worse.
With Luke's, Mara's, and even a little bit of Leia's help, they managed to crush the electronic devices in his body into small wastes that would be easily flushed out of his body. The ghosts disappeared soon after the healing process was over, and, tentatively, he removed his helmet.
Instantly, his senses were assaulted.
He could smell. No longer would his nose only be brought filtered air. The slight metallic scent of the bridge came to him, along with various other scents that he couldn't quite sort out yet.
His eyes no longer had a dark helmet obscuring their vision, and for once they could look at something other than his meditation chamber. The beautiful sight of the woman he once called his wife tore at his heart. He had almost forgotten what various colors had looked like!
His life support suit was off, and he took a deep breath. The echoing, hissing noise that he was so accustomed to hearing was no longer there.
Relief flooded his system.
He felt just as he had when he was younger!
His joints throbbed briefly as if to correct him. All right, so he felt almost as good as had when he had been just a reckless youth living for the moment. Close enough.
Many of his scars had healed, although a few remained (nothing that couldn't be removed by surgery), and he had only to gradually expose his face to sunlight and wait patiently for his hair to return before he would be back to what could be considered normal.
He and Padmé had quite a few issues to work out, but she had made a silent truce with him until they had time later to privately have a discussion.
She smiled at him. "Ready to make your announcement to the ship?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," he replied simply.
"Oh, can we make a brief side-trip first?" she asked, trying to sound offhand.
"Because I'm sure Jar Jar will have wrecked half the ship by now."
Surprisingly enough, after the announcement was made about the Emperor's and Vader's death (it was decided that the Rebellion wasn't likely to welcome Vader with open arms, so he was going to go to them as Anakin Skywalker, "forced" pilot for the Empire that had managed to bring about the defection of the Executor and some of its crew members), many crew members wanted to also go over to the Rebel Alliance. Several people had been given no choice in serving the Emperor, and others had stayed because of the fear of what might happen if they got on Vader's or Palpatine's bad side.
There were a few riots, but nothing that couldn't be handled by Vader, Luke, and Mara.
Leia was still slightly suspicious of Anakin (Han didn't trust him completely, but he trusted Luke's judgment, so he tried to forgive the man), but that was to be expected from a Rebel Leader.
The group confiscated weapons from the defectors, so that spies would not be of harm. The Force came in handy for them, since they could tell who was lying and who wasn't.
Those still loyal to the Imperial cause were peacefully sent out in escape pods onto a neutral planet where they could find transportation off-planet if they wished.
At last, they were in hyperspace, headed towards a very well-defended Rebel base that could easily take on a Star Destroyer with its weapons powered down (something that Leia had insisted on).
When Leia, Padmé, Luke, and Mara were chatting (Jar Jar was in the medbay having a bacta dip due to an unfortunate run-in with a startled Imperial), Han cornered Anakin Skywalker nervously. Anakin was amused at the smuggler's agitation, and he was still ecstatic about seeing his Gungan friend again. "What do you want, Solo?" Gone was the deep inhuman voice he'd had in the suit. Of course, in a way he sounded the same, but the tones were somehow softened.
"I ah...I want you to know that...my, uh, intentions...are honorable," Han managed.
"Intentions?" Anakin played dumb.
"And what intentions are these?" Anakin was having fun rattling the other man.
"Ah, well...that is—" Han was interrupted by the chuckling man, who was still intimidating even though he was no longer in his frightening black armor.
"I know what you mean, Captain Solo. And while I don't exactly approve of your job as a smuggler—" Han was about to object, but Anakin cut him off, "I still believe that you will do everything within your power to protect Leia."
Han sighed. He was glad that was over with. He started to walk off, and so he just barely caught Anakin's whispered: "I wish she trusted me to protect her the way she trusts you."
Han Solo continued walking, but his conscience tugged at him, so he turned around. "Look..." Anakin gave him a questioning gaze. "Leia has a lot that she needs to come to terms with. After all, you held us captive, tortured us, froze me in carbonite..." Anakin winced. He'd hoped that incident wouldn't be brought up. "Just give her time."
The eldest Skywalker nodded. "She can have as much time as she needs."
"Don't worry." Han had a sudden urge to pat the man on the back, but he suppressed it. Since when did he fraternize with Darth Vader? And since when did he reassure the man?
You're turning into an old softie, Solo, he chuckled inwardly as he went over to Leia's side and smiled down at her.
Seeing that Anakin was alone, Padmé quietly walked over to him.
With a hidden smile, Luke watched his parents talk. It looked like they were finally trying to resolve their issues.
He glanced at Mara and gave her a soft smile.
Yes, just about everything was right in the galaxy now. Leia and Han had each other, his mother and father seemed to have a good chance of getting back together...And he had Mara.
Mara, the fiesty, stubborn, brilliant, beautiful young woman that he loved.
Fate would never be able to tear them apart. They were together forever.
Now, they had only to round up Threepio and Artoo, as well as find something safe for that strange Jar Jar character to do. Then, everything would be perfect.
As it should be.