"You haven't been taking your medication, have you?"

"No," the patient replied. "I don't need it."

The doctor shook her head. "Lord Vader, I know you hate taking meds, but in this case I must insist."

Vader stood up. "If you had been doing your job all this time, I would not need them," he retorted angrily.

The physician swallowed hard, his anger more than a little frightening. "Lord Vader, when you were assigned to me fourteen years ago, I dedicated myself fully to your care. Considering the shambles your health has been in all this time, I hardly think it's fair that…"

"What you think, Doctor, is hardly important," he snapped. He clenched his fists in frustration, knowing cognitively that she was not the one to blame; yet she was here, she was convenient, and he needed someone to direct his anger at.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," she continued. "But believe it or not, I do care about your well being. I swore an oath to attend to my patients and to go to any length to give them the best possible care. But I can't force you to do anything, can I?"

Vader looked at her, knowing her well enough after all this time to know that she was being honest with him. And yet, the unspoken truth that had hovered somewhere in the back ground still persisted, the same hidden truth that every physician and medidroid had withheld from him for fourteen years. Any attempt to uncover this truth had resulted in punishment from his master.

"No, you cannot," he replied. "Therefore you are not to blame, Doctor. I take responsibility for my actions and inactions. You needn't burden yourself."

I beg to differ, she reflected. The emperor had invested a great deal of time and money into the care of his right hand; should anything happen to him under her care, she would be very much responsible.

"Please reconsider the injections at least," she said at last.

He stopped. "And how often would I have to submit to that?"

"At least every two months, milord," the doctor replied.

Vader nodded. "I understand," he replied. "I will reconsider, and I will see you in six months time, then," he added, standing up to tower over the medic. "Barring any complications I suppose."

She looked up at him, accustomed to his acerbic sense of humor. "Yes, barring any complications."

Vader turned to leave when she spoke again.

"Oh, and Lord Vader?"

Vader turned to look back at the doctor.

"Happy birthday," the woman replied with a smile.

Vader left the doctor's office without another word, leaving her as perplexed as ever. She knew him perhaps better than most, and yet he still remained an enigma to her. Charming and dignified one moment, angry and taciturn the next: Lord Darth Vader was a volatile, dangerous man, but he was also a man who needed her help. Vader hated medical droids, hated medical intervention of any sort; so the fact that he trusted her enough to submit to her ministrations every six months for the past fourteen years was truly remarkable.

Happy birthday? What sort of an idiot wishes me a happy birthday? Vader thought angrily as he strode down the corridor. When was the last time I actually had a happy birthday?

Fourteen years had passed since the blackest day of his life, the day that would define his existence henceforth. His thirty-sixth birthday was hardly one he was in the mood to celebrate, just as the previous thirteen had been. Celebrating inferred happiness and happiness was an alien concept to Vader. It had been a long time since he had felt anything resembling happiness; fourteen years in fact. It hardly seemed possible that at one time he had known utter happiness, that his life had been so full of promise and joy. But you threw all that away when you killed her, when you killed them…

Memories of his dear wife, his beloved Padmé, haunted him still, even fourteen years after her death. The loss of her and their child had left an indelible mark upon his soul, rendering him incomplete and irreparable. Somehow the fact that his body was in the same shape seemed fitting to him, and a just punishment for what he had done to her on that day.

"Report!" Vader demanded as he entered the bridge.

"The Rebel ship has been brought on board sir," Vader's second in command replied. "The survivors are being held in the detention block."

Vader nodded. "I will interrogate them one at a time," he decided. "You have the bridge, Ozzel."

Ozzel nodded, watching his commander leave again. Everyone on the bridge knew what awaited the rebels. Darth Vader's interrogation methods were brutal and effective. He would get the information, leaving the informant little more than a vegetable when he had found what he needed. Ozzel couldn't hold back a shudder at the thought of it, and turned back to the computer terminal he was working at, confident that Vader would have a location for them in short order.

As Vader made his way to the detention block, he felt a great surge of pain through his chest. He was forced to stop and brace one hand against the bulkhead, his breath faltering for a moment. The pain was not like anything he had ever felt, except for the occasions when his master would punish him with Sith Lightning. It made him wonder if it had been projected onto him somehow. Is the emperor angry with me again? He thought as he fought to master the pain. Is he doing this? Finally, after what seemed like hours, the pain started to lessen, leaving Vader shaken. He headed straight for his quarters, momentarily forgetting about the prisoners. Once inside his sanctuary, he made his way to his hyperbaric chamber. Sitting down inside of it, Vader tried to decide what to do next as the pain finally began to subside. If the emperor was angry with him, then surely he would make contact, wouldn't he? Or was this just another one of his mind games that he was so fond of playing? The psychological torture Sidious inflicted upon his servant was every bit as painful as the physical punishment. Memories of Mustafar, of Padmé…

Checking his personal messages, Vader was surprised to see no message from the emperor; however, there was one from Viceroy Organa. Vader frowned, wondering what the traitorous Organa wanted now. He activated the message, and soon the image of Bail Organa appeared on the screen.

Lord Vader, your presence is urgently requested on Alderaan as soon as possible.

That was it, that was the message. Why does Organa want me on Alderaan? Vader wondered. He knew that Organa was a member of the Alliance, even if he couldn't prove it yet. So why would he invite the enemy to his home world? Unless it was some sort of trap…you'll have to do better than that, Organa, Vader mused as he made contact with the royal palace on Alderaan. He wasn't kept waiting long before he was face to face with the Viceroy.

"Lord Vader, thank you for responding to my message," Organa began.

"If you are trying to negotiate for the release of the rebels I have in my custody, you can forget it," Vader snapped. "They will be interrogated, and then they…."

"This isn't about any prisoners," Organa interrupted. "But I can promise you, Lord Vader, it is a matter of tremendous import, particularly to you."

Vader frowned. "What do you mean?" he demanded.

Organa hesitated, and Vader could sense that the man was holding back a great deal. "Just come to Alderaan," he replied. "If you ever loved Padmé, then come to Alderaan as soon as possible."

The mention of his wife's name both enraged and stunned Vader. "What does she have to do with this?" he demanded. "How dare you use her name to manipulate me!"

Organa said nothing, and Vader knew that he was desperate. Why, he could not even guess; but despite himself, Vader found that he was curious.

"Will you come?" Organa asked at last.

Vader nodded. "I will be there in twelve hours. And I warn you, Viceroy, this had better be worth my while."

Relief spilled out of Organa. "I promise you that it is," he said. "I will see you then."

Vader ended the transmission, his mind working feverishly for a way to justify a trip to Alderaan.