Disclaimer: Star Wars does not belong to me, and I make absolutely no money out of writing this.
This fic was written quite some time ago, but for some reason I never got around to posting it. Making up for it now, as I'm putting it up pretty much everywhere I can think of. My humble thanks to lovely beta Hlglne, without whom this would never have left its safe spot on my hard drive.
Night on Coruscant, planet of endless city, roaring heart of the Empire –
Coruscant, where darkness is but an option. At any given moment, the city is lit up by more artificial lights than there are stars in the galaxy.
There are places, however, even here –
Behold the palace. Made of stone, cold and hard, it looms over the surrounding buildings. Here darkness is not an option – it's the only reality there can ever be.
Behold the chamber. Empty and sterile, it contains nothing more than a black tube, made of plastisteel, connected to a mass of electrical cables. It does not resemble a bedroom. It seems more fitting for a machine than a man.
Behold the man. Rid of the armour now, safe in the chilly embrace of the hyperbaric sleeping tube. The mask is gone, revealing an old face, pale and ravaged, scarred and scared.
The chest rises and falls unevenly. Artificial limbs twist uneasily.
The man sleeps, but finds no rest.
Everything is dark. Everything is cold. Nothing to be seen, except for the boy writhing in pain on the floor. Nothing to be heard, except for his anguished screams.
Nothing to be done. Nothing he can do. He wants to move, but he cannot.
Everything is dark, except the boy. The boy is a shining light, burning brightly even as he is dying. Soon, the boy will be gone, and with him the last light there will ever be.
He wants to move. But he cannot.
Nothing to be seen, except for the boy writhing on in pain. Nothing to be heard, except his screams.
Darth Vader woke, a choked scream caught in his throat. Sweat bathing his forehead, he tried to sit up but found that he could not. The sleeping tube was too confined to allow anything but a strictly horizontal position.
He tried to calm his ragged breathing. Calling upon the Dark Side, he tried banish the vivid images dancing before his eyes. But no matter how he tried, he could not calm down. The images would not disappear.
Luke, screaming in pain. Luke, dying.
Bile rose in Vader's throat as the fear clawed at him with clammy fingers. Fear like he had not known since –
No! Desperately, he focused all his strength on fighting the memories suddenly threatening to overwhelm him.
Padmé. Her beautiful face distorted by pain. Calling his name. Begging for his help. But he was not there, he did not help her. Far from it –
NO! With a violent gesture of his hand, the top of the tube flew open. Gasping for air, Vader stumbled towards his meditation chamber where he kept his mask and armour. For a few moments, he could survive without it outside the hyperbaric environment. But he needed it now, and not only because of his medical condition.
Without it, he was weak. Without it, he was just a man, with nothing to protect him against the memories of a humanity he had long ago renounced and vowed never to acknowledge again.
Hurriedly, with shaking hands, he donned the armour. Leather, boots, overtunic, belt, cape, gloves. Everything black, black as the night and black as his heart, black as the glass sand of Mustafar –
Finally, the mask. It felt cold against his fragile skin, but it was a chill he for once welcomed.
Slowly, Vader rose, and left the meditation chamber, each step as hesistant as if he was learning how to walk again. He strode through the dimly lit corridors of his empty castle, not sure of where he was going.
Eventually, he found himself standing at a balcony, staring out over the city. It was the middle of the night, yet the place buzzed with life, millions of tiny lights brightening the darkness. The light did not reach Vader's palace.
Luke is going to die.
The reaction was instant, reflexive. Vader clenched his fists. This was foolish. Luke would live, or Luke would die, and what was that to him? A pawn gained, or a pawn lost, it should not matter. In the end, it was all the same.
And there was nothing he could do about it in any case –
...it seems in your anger, you killed her...
It was as if he was standing on an unstable bridge, Luke opposite him, the turbotrain speeding towards them. If Vader moved, the bridge would collapse, taking Luke down with it. If he did not move, the turbotrain would crush the boy.
Perhaps, if the boy would turn... It was a faint glimmer of hope, but hope was not something he could afford. The boy would turn, or he would not, and in the end it was all the same. In the end, there was only darkness, limitless, unending darkness.
The boy cannot save you. The boy cannot ease the pain. You are alone, as you will always be, and you are damned, as you choose to be. As you deserve to be.
Alone, always alone. Damned, forever. ...it seems in your anger, you killed her...
Please...I don't want to kill him, as I did...her...
His master's face before him, smiling cruelly. But you have no choice. You chose this path, and now you can never turn back. If the boy will not turn, you will kill him, as you killed her.
You have no choice.
Far away the sun slowly rose over the Imperial Center, but no matter how high it rose, its light would never reach the balcony where Vader stood. Still, he remained where he was, staring at the glowing globe of fire as it made its way across the sky, turning night into day.
Morning on Coruscant, planet of endless city –
Sunrise. A city that never truly sleeps wakes to a new day.
High above the ground, on a balcony shrouded in shadows, a long figure stands silently, watching the morning happen. He extends his hand, perhaps trying to catch a few rays of sunlight. But he lets the hand fall again. Turns around and walks inside.
After all, there are places no light can ever hope to reach.
After all, there are nightmares you can never wake up from.
After all, once you've given yourself to darkness, you can never go back.
Somewhere in the atmosphere an incoming spaceship catches the glint of day, and reflects it back. A single ray of light falls on the empty balcony.