Ten years. It had been ten years since the blackest day of his existence, and yet everyone in the galaxy seemed to be celebrating. Today was the anniversary of the beginning of the Empire, a day celebrated in grand style here on Coruscant. And yet, for Vader, the anniversary he acknowledged in the silence of his heart was far less worthy of celebration. It was the anniversary of the death of his beloved wife, his Angel. Padmé.
Ten years had passed since her death, since the death of their unborn child, and yet Vader was no closer now to recovering from the loss of her than he was on the day it happened. He had learned to sublimate his sorrow, however; to bury his anger over losing her deep down inside of him. And yet on this day, it was impossible not to think of her.
Vader tried to imagine what his life would have been like had she lived. They would be raising their child together right now, their daughter. She would be ten years old, he reflected. And probably the image of her mother…
Vader pushed the thoughts from his mind, angry for allowing himself to dwell on them. He had taught himself not to think of her, not to dwell on the possibilities for it only left him feeling emptier than he already did. And that was no mean feat.
His life since that day had been nothing but duty. Serving his master, the galactic Emperor Palpatine, had become his sole reason for existing. Serving the Empire that they had forged in the blood of the Jedi was the sole focus of his energies. He had a busy life, a very busy life; but that was not to say that it was a full one.
The crowds began to cheer wildly as the fireworks began, a spectacular display of pyrotechnics that filled the Coruscant sky. Vader watched too, knowing his presence here was expected. If his master knew how he truly felt about this day, he would be most displeased.
Palpatine had made it quite clear to Vader over the years how he felt about Vader's relationship with his wife, and never missed an opportunity to remind his servant how it was he himself who had killed her. Vader needed no reminders, however; he had lived with the results of his actions on the day for ten years now, suffering more than his share of nightmares over that time.
"A stunning display, as always."
Vader turned to his master who stood at his side on the balcony overlooking the proceedings. The lights of the fireworks flickered over the aged face of the emperor, highlighting the deep set wrinkles that creased it. "Yes my master," Vader agreed at last. "Impressive, most impressive."
Palpatine smiled, knowing very well what this day signified. Although Vader had never said it, for he knew better than to do so, Palpatine knew that this day was a most painful reminder for Vader.
As the fireworks display ended, Vader excused himself from the emperor. The rest of the evening would be spent at the theatre, where there would be a gala of song, dance and drama commemorating the glorious inception of the Empire. Palpatine had never required Vader to attend such events, for which Vader was grateful. He secretly suspected that the loudness of his respirator was the reason Palpatine didn't want him there. Whatever the reason, Vader was more than happy to leave.
Returning to his speeder, he was angered to see that the speeder that had parked beside his had creased his back bumper. Using the Force Vader lifted the offending vehicle high in the air and then sent it flying across the parking arcade where it crashed against one of the durasteel walls. That felt good, he reflected as he climbed into the speeder. Revving the engine he pulled out and headed for home, glad that the day was finally over.
Alderaan – the Royal Palace
"Happy birthday dear Leia, happy birthday to you!"
Princess Leia Organa leaned forward and blew out the ten candles on her cake and then sat back and basked in the applause of her family and friends gathered there to celebrate her special day.
"Did you make a wish?" her mother asked as a serving droid removed the cake from the table.
"What did you wish for?" one of her friends asked.
"If I tell you it won't come true," Leia pointed out.
Leia's parents, Breha and Bail Organa, looked at one another with a smile. There was very little that Leia could have wished for, as her parents indulged her in every way. Not that Leia was spoiled; she was a loving child, bright and intelligent. Having adopted Leia as an infant, they could not love her any more than if she had been their own flesh and blood.
After opening a veritable inundation of presents, Leia and her guests retired to the enormous garden to play games while the adults remained at the table to enjoy their coffee.
"She's certainly growing up to be a beauty," one of the women present commented.
"Yes," Bail agreed. "I'll have to hire a body guard soon to keep the boys away," he added.
This created a ripple of laughter from the guests.
"I wasn't kidding," Bail insisted. He looked at Breha, who merely shrugged in response.
It was quite late that night when Breha and Bail finally got Leia settled down enough for bed.
"Today was a big day," Breha said as she sat on the edge of Leia's bed. "Your tenth birthday, that's quite a big moment in a girl's life."
Leia nodded sleepily. "Does that mean I can come with Dad to Coruscant next week?" she asked.
Breha looked back at her husband.
"It's just a boring meeting, Leia," Bail said, trying not to sound as concerned as he felt. "Political talk, nothing you'd be interested in."
"I am interested in politics," Leia insisted, sitting up in her bed. "And besides, I've never been to Coruscant."
"Yes you have," Breha countered, as anxious to keep her daughter from the capital as Bail was.
"I was a baby!" Leia protested. "I don't remember anything! Please!? Please!"
Breha and Bail looked at one another again.
"I'll think about it," Bail said at last, stalling until he could find a good reason why she couldn't go. "But now it's time for bed."
Leia smiled as she settled back down into her bed. 'I'll think about it' wasn't no, after all.
"Goodnight, Leia," Breha said, bending to her daughter and kissing her.
"Goodnight Mother," Leia replied. "Goodnight Father," she said, smiling at Bail.
"Goodnight darling," Bail replied. "Sweet dreams," he said and then left the room.
Leia waited until he had left and then looked up at her mother. "Do you want to know what I wished for?" she asked.
Breha smiled, glad the subject had changed. "If you'd like to tell me," she replied.
"I wished for a little brother," Leia told her with a smile. "I dream I have one all the time. He's beautiful with big blue eyes and golden hair."
Breha did not know how to respond to this, and merely smiled. "Time for sleep now, love," she said, pulling the covers up. "Sweet dreams."
Leia closed her eyes, the smile still on her face, hoping that tonight she'd dream again about the little brother she'd always wanted.
"A model TIE fighter! Thanks a lot! This is awesome!"
Beru Lars smiled at her nephew as he admired the ship. "You're welcome, Luke," she replied.
"How did you know I wanted this more than anything?" Luke asked his uncle and aunt.
"Oh, you've only been talking about it for weeks now," Owen remarked with a smile.
Luke smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I have," he replied. "But thanks anyway. I love it. And I'll take really really good care of it, I promise."
"Just make sure you do, boy," Owen replied. "That cost a lot of money."
Beru looked at him with a shake of her head, wishing he didn't try to make Luke feel guilty by bringing up money. Luke had so little, and appreciated everything he had. And besides it wasn't every day that a boy turned ten.
Luke, however, seemed oblivious at this point, and simply continued to admire his precious gift.
"Time for cake," Beru announced as she picked up the small birthday cake from the table and carried it into the kitchen.
"So tell me more about this trip your teacher told me about," Owen asked. "We never went on trips when I was in school, you know," he felt compelled to add.
"It's a trip to Coruscant," Luke told him, "to visit the Imperial Military Museum."
"Coruscant is pretty far," Owen said doubtfully. "How do they expect people to afford that kind of passage?"
"The school is paying for it," Luke replied. "We had that big fund raiser last month, remember?" he reminded his uncle.
"Oh yeah," Owen replied, suddenly realizing why there were so many boxes of cookies in the house all the time. "I don't know, Luke," he said. "I don't like this, not one little bit."
"What are we talking about?" Beru asked as she reentered the room, a plate in each hand with a big piece of cake.
"The trip to Coruscant," Luke said. "Uncle Owen won't let me go."
"I didn't say that," Owen grumbled. "I said I don't like it."
Beru sat down with a sigh. She knew exactly why Owen didn't want Luke going to the capital; Darth Vader was there. Owen and Beru had worked very hard to keep Luke as sheltered as possible, and as far from Vader as possible.
"Please Uncle Owen?" Luke asked. "It's only for two days, our teacher will have lots of chaperones," he said. "I've never been anywhere!" he added for good measure.
"Whining will get you no where, boy," Owen pointed out. He sighed, and looked at his wife, who, as usual, was keeping out of the argument. "I'll think about it," he said at last.
Luke grinned. "Thanks Uncle Owen," he said. "You're the best!"
Beru looked up at Owen as Luke dug into his cake, wondering how he was going to talk his way out of this one.