Dreaming of a Black Christmas

Title: Dreaming of a Black Christmas

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG

Pairing: A bit of Han/Leia

Genre: Humor/Drama/mystery

Summary: What do you get a Sith Lord for Christmas? Luke can't decide so he asks Han for help. But what are the mysterious objects Han gives him and are they safe?

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. This is just for fun.

Author's Note: I was going to write 2 separate Star Wars Christmas stories, but they decided to combine themselves into one fic. So you get a longer story this way. As in a lot of my other humor Star Wars stories, the Rebels and Empire are both living together on Coruscant.

000

Luke Skywalker was munching on a thick, homemade sandwich when suddenly an icy chill traveled down his spine and he leaped out of his chair. "Oh no! I forgot to get father something for Yuletide and it's just a few days away!"

Gulping the last of the sandwich down in three bites, the young Jedi Knight hurried out of the room. He never knew what to get Vader, as the Sith Lord seemed to have everything already. He owned a huge castle-like building on Coruscant, commanded troops, had more money than Luke could even dream of and had been all over the galaxy at least three times. Living on Coruscant with his father was a dream come true, but holidays such as Yuletide and Father's Day left Luke totally perplexed. He felt like a country bumpkin here in the largest city in the galaxy, which wasn't too far from the truth thanks to his childhood on the moisture farm.

Racing down the staircase, Luke hurried over to the large landing pad where Han had parked the Millennium Falcon. His smuggler buddy had just recently returned from a trip to who-knows-where and he had sounded excited, saying he had gotten some great bargains on merchandise. Needing a present for his father, Luke was suddenly very eager to see what items Han had acquired. The older man hoped on selling the stuff on Coruscant to others at a high profit.

"Han!" Luke shouted as he ran up the ramp into the ship. "You have to help me! I need to get Father something for Yuletide but I don't know what to get him..."

"I'm a smuggler not a miracle worker, Kid..." Han muttered from inside the cockpit as he pressed a few buttons. Once he was satisfied with the readings on the control panel, he turned to face his younger friend. "Your old man likes choking people for fun or slicing them up with that antique weapon of his. How am I supposed to know what to get him?"

"Because you're older than I am!" Luke replied, a worried expression on his face. "And I never had a father before now. I'd like to get him something nice."

"Well, I never had any parents either, Kid. At least you had an Aunt and Uncle. I never even had that..." Han swung around in his pilot's chair, relaxed. "Get him a necktie. That's what all kids give their dads..."

"A necktie?" Luke asked, scowling. He couldn't imagine Darth Vader wearing a necktie. It just didn't seem right at all. "I don't know, Han. I don't think it suits him very well and someone might grab it during a fight..."

"I picked up a few really great ones, with these cute girls on them...Wait. You're too young to see those." Han stood from his chair and stretched, ignoring the puzzled look on Luke's face.

"Why am I too young to see a necktie?" Luke asked as he followed Han out of the cockpit and towards the large cargo bay.

"Never you mind, Kid." Han muttered as he palmed open the cargo bay's door and went inside. The room was filled with neatly stacked boxes, crates and pallets of merchandise he had picked up at various Going Out Of Business Sales, the largest sale having been at Super Trooper on a tiny backwater moon in the Rigel sector. There were military nuts and Han hoped the stuff would appeal to Storm Troopers. Heading to the boxes from Super Trooper, Han pried one open and lifted an item out. "How about this nifty thing? I bet your old man doesn't have one of these yet."

Luke gawked at it dumbfounded, his mouth partly open. "What is it?"

"What is it? Why, it's a Helmet Umbrella from Super Trooper." Han explained as he opened the short black umbrella. "See this suction cup here? It sticks to the top of a helmet…"

A sour expression formed on Luke's face and he vigorously shook his head. "I can't give Father that! He'd look like an idiot!"

Han dug in the box and pulled out a pair of weird looking glasses. "How about this pair of Helmet Windshield Wipers? They clean the eye lenses on helmets…."

"No!" Luke exclaimed, his sour expression increasing. "Where did you get this stuff?"

"From a Going Out of Business Sale. Why?" Han asked as he pulled another weird item from the box.

"No wonder they went out of business…" Luke muttered under his breath as he started to wonder away from the Super Trooper box Han seemed to love so much. He had hoped Han had picked up some great stuff, but it just seemed to be junk that no one in their right mind wanted.

"What was that? I didn't quite hear you…" Han asked as he tossed a third item back into the box and started to follow Luke down the isle between boxes.

"Do you have anything that's not from a Going Out of Business Sale, something that's a bit more classy?" Luke asked hopefully as he peered into a box here and there at random, not satisfied with anything. One item appeared to be a blender and Luke doubted if Vader cooked very often.

"Well, I did pick up these weird black things on a farm…" Han replied as he headed towards the back of the cargo bay. "Got a really good deal on them too, a whole box full of them for a single bottle of booze."

"A farm?" Luke cried, disappointed, as he hurried after the older man. "Father's not interested in farming tools!"

"These aren't any tools, Kid. They're … things." Han finally reached the back wall and shivered as he pried open the cardboard box. The back of the cargo bay was the coldest area of the ship as the heating unit there was broken and he hadn't gotten around to fixing it yet. "Never seen anything like them before, but they're black and you know your father likes black."

Wishing he had worn his warm Jedi Robe, Luke hunched down next to the box and gaped at the contents. The box was filled with straw and nestled in the straw were a dozen large egg-shaped objects. They were covered in curved ridges that ran round and round the things' sides and they seemed to have dark spots on them as well, but it was hard to see the spots unless you held the object just right to the light. Curious, Luke picked one up and was surprised by the weight the thing seemed to have. It fit nicely into his palm, whatever it was. "What do you think they are?"

"Why knows? Maybe some type of art?" Han guessed, shrugging. "If you want to give your old man something unique and black, I say give him these things. They'd make nice decorations if nothing else. You could dress them up by putting them in a fancy bowl or basket, like some people use those smooth stones in a tiny indoor fountain."

Luke remembered seeing a nice bowl in the pantry he could use. It would go nicely with the egg-like objects. Still, there was something about these things, a strange feeling that seemed to linger way at the back of his mind and seemed to give him the shivers. "I don't know, Han. I'm getting a weird feeling from these things…"

"It's just the chill back here, Kid. The heater's broken." Han replied as he pulled the Jedi to his feet. Lifting the straw-filled box, he shoved it into Luke's arms. "Here, you can have them. They're perfect for a Sith Lord, whatever they are."

Carrying the box, Luke headed back to his room. Was Han right and it had just been the chill in the air that he had felt? Even after spending time on that frozen world, he still wasn't used to the cold. How could he be, coming from a world with two suns? Besides Han had said the things had come from a farm and farmers didn't keep nasty things around. Nor were they radiating Dark Side energies. "I guess I was just nervous about being so late in looking for a gift."

The thing was that Vader wasn't a normal man but the second most powerful person in the entire galaxy. That made gift buying extra difficult, especially since Luke didn't have very much money. Nor did he know his father very well yet. He knew they shared many things in common, like the ability to fly fast in ships and excelled at target shooting. They also both favored dark colored clothing. Still, he feared he might fall short of what his father expected of him. He had lived on a farm for most of his childhood, so how could he ever measure up?

Luke reached the room Vader had given him in his castle and dumped the box onto his bed, slumping onto the mattress next to them. "What am I thinking? How could these things ever make father happy? I don't even know what they are! I might as well be giving him a bowl of rocks…"

He pictured Emperor Palpatine in his mind; the withered old man that ran the galaxy. Picking himself up, Luke wondered to the balcony door, flipped the protective energy screen off and went out onto the balcony. From here he could see the dazzling skyscape of Coruscant with its busy traffic lanes and towering buildings that disappeared into the clouds. One was larger than all the others and it was Palpatine's Palace. "I bet he doesn't have any problem giving great gifts…"

What would the Emperor give Vader? A new star destroyer, a sleek fighter ship with special gizmos on it or something even more special? His little bowl of black unidentified things would look puny and boring. "How can I compete against that?"

This would be the first Yuletide he would spend with Vader and he wanted it to be extra special, yet he was uncertain. Holidays at the Lars homestead had been very simple; just a home cooked meal of something they normally didn't have – usually a roast. Chores were cut short that day and they all sat around together and sang carols. Did his father have any traditions? He had no idea and so far they hadn't discussed it at all. He supposed he'd find out when the time came.

Not only did he have a father now but a sister as well. Getting a gift for Leia had been a bit simpler as he had made a lightsaber for her, following the written instructions Ben had left him. A girl needed to protect herself and although Leia carried a blaster, a lightsaber could come in handy. Truthfully, he didn't know what else to get for her, either, as he had no idea what girls liked. Nor was Leia like the few girls he had known back on Tatooine, the daughters of fellow moisture farmers. No, Leia was a Princess!

Why o why did things have to be so difficult?

He noted Han didn't seem to have any problems relating to Leia at all nor did he seem to worry about finding the right gift for the right person. No, Han was very laid-back and relaxed, a smuggler through and through. "He'll probably give everyone gifts from that horrid cargo he picked up. Uggh."

Sighing, Luke took one last look at the breathtaking skyscape and went back inside, locking the energy screen back in place. He needed to go get that bowl he had seen…

000

Luke carefully arranged the egg-things in the large bowl, enjoying the contrast of the black objects against the white bowl. It was simple and he liked that. Vader, as far as he could tell, preferred simple things as well. He didn't care much for gaudy, flashy clothing or the fashion trends that came and went. Coming from Tatooine, Luke didn't worry about fashion, either. The outrageous outfits that some of the civilians on Coruscant wore still shocked Luke greatly. Nor did he understand why people would wear such things, as many of them looked either outright embarrassing or uncomfortable. Some of the headdresses looked especially crazy and he couldn't help but gawk open-mouthed at them in shock, which in turn made him feel shameful, as it wasn't proper to stare.

Pausing and stepping back for a better view, Luke nodded in satisfaction at his arrangement. Instead of bothering with fancy wrapping paper – something unheard of on Tatooine – he would just cover the bowl with a bit of black cloth. It was how they had wrapped presents to each other back on the Lars farm, not that they had ever received anything really special. Most of the gifts had been practical, like clothing or tools. Still, Uncle Owen had bought him a few spaceship models and things to dress up his room. He had appreciated that and those models had helped fuel his dreams of being a great pilot someday.

The commercialization of Yuletide on Coruscant had greatly surprised him. He had never known there had been special boxes or colorful papers used just to wrap gifts, paper that was later thrown away. It seemed wasteful. But he did enjoy looking at the billions of brightly colored lights, many of the lights arranged to look like fanciful creatures that moved this way and that. More lights were twined around shrubbery, on trees and on building fronts. Now Coruscant twinkled brighter than ever and Luke was sure the planet could be seen far out in space due to all the added holiday lights.

The previous night Vader had taken him and the others on a ride through Coruscant's streets to look at the lights. It was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen and Luke hoped they could go again tonight. Palpatine's Palace was lit the brightest and had some of the biggest displays: his gift to his loyal citizens. To Luke's dismay, Leia didn't seem to enjoy the light show at all and just said it covered Palpatine's evil heart. He supposed she was still mad at Palpatine disbanding the Senate, whatever that was. Luke wasn't too sure as he never really bothered with politics all that much back on the farm. It had seemed so distant and out of reach then.

"And now here I am." Luke spoke out loud. "The son of the second richest man in the galaxy."

How would his life change now that he was with his father? It had seemed so clear once upon a time. He had joined the Rebellion and had made some good friends there, but his father was the Dark Lord of the Sith. Was Palpatine truly as evil as Lea said he was? Luke truly didn't know and he really didn't know what the war itself was about, as both sides could lie easily. Still, he did want to get to know Vader and try to save him from the Dark Side, if that were possible. And he appreciated that Leia, Han and Chewie had come with him to Coruscant. His father even seemed to accept Han's presence even though he was number one on the Dark Lord's hit list.

They would exchange gifts that evening in Vader's large, well-decorated living room. Still, it was simpler than he had expected, as it hadn't been cluttered with antiques as he had thought it would be. Perhaps it was his past Jedi upbringing and the rule against collecting material things. Vader hadn't told him very much about the old Jedi yet, but he had told him a few things and that had been one of them.

He pondered for a moment what Vader would give him and promptly gave up. He had no idea at all and it truly didn't matter. He was just happy that after all this time he had found his father alive and more or less in one piece. The numerous injuries that the older man suffered broke Luke's heart. He couldn't even see his father's true face because he needed to wear the breath mask and the special air it provided. Luke wanted to know what horrible accident he had been in that resulted in such tragedy, but he was scared to ask as it might awaken bad memories. Still, Luke pictured a fiery ship crash in his mind, as that was probably the most common. But if he could give him anything, it would be to heal him of his aches and pains. Of course, he couldn't do that, as it was impossible.

000

Time had passed and now the small group had gathered in Vader's living room in his palace. Some were happier than others with the arrangement. Leia seemed to be glaring at her father, still not trustful of him at all it seemed. She hadn't wanted to believe the evil man was her father but in the end she admitted that she knew it was so because she felt the same thing that Luke did through the Force. Han was relaxed on the sofa or so it seemed, his hand near the blaster on his hip. Luke himself felt nervous, but not for the same reason the others did. They were still a bit distrustful and he was worried if his present was good enough.

Han had found a large metallic tree somewhere and had spray-painted it a shiny black. Then he had hung bright red ball ornaments on it and had strung red-blinking lights on as well. The tree stood in a corner, near the hearth and it almost reached the ceiling. It seemed to match Vader's décor very well, not to mention his black body armor. The lights reminded Luke of the electrical panel on Vader's chest: perhaps that's where Han had gotten the idea.

A big pile of presents sat on the coffee table in the middle of the room and Luke admitted he was curious as to what the others had gotten for Vader. What did a Sith Lord get for Yuletide anyway? The more he thought about it, the more interesting the question became. As Han had pointed out much earlier, Sith were not ordinary people but the most darkest, evil people in the galaxy. Yet his father didn't seem all that bad really. The only truly awful thing he had seen him do was murder Ben in cold blood. Why had Ben stopped fighting? Why hadn't he protected himself? Luke shook his head, his mop of hair flying about. He didn't want to think about such things on Yuletide, as it would make him question Vader's true personality too closely. At the moment he just wanted to enjoy the gift exchange as he had done as a boy with his Aunt and Uncle, something he hadn't done for quite a while.

For a moment it seemed surreal, the Rebels and Vader together on Yuletide to open presents and Luke knew why the others felt edgy. They were here because he was, even if they didn't like it very much. Leia was wearing one of her beautiful dresses and she had done something fancy with her hair. She sat between him and Han on the sofa, the sweet scent of flowery perfume wafting off of her. She had once again transformed herself into the regal Princess with ease. Han was his usual messy self and Chewie was there as well, a plate of freshly baked cookies in his furry hand and cookie crumbs on his chest fur. Vader stood behind the other sofa, as he had just come into the room. Some soft music floated on the air from some hidden speaker, a piece Luke didn't recognize.

"Here, catch." Han suddenly said as he leaned forward, picked up a badly wrapped present from the pile on the coffee table and tossed it to Darth Vader.

Vader caught the present with ease, his black-gloved hand snatching the long, tumbling package out of the air. He stared at Solo for a moment and then turned his attention to the present itself. After a moment, he tore off the wrapping paper to find a black Helmet Umbrella from Super Trooper. The Sith Lord turned it this way and that, apparently unsure what to make of the crazy contraption. Only an utter fool would wear such a thing.

Luke groaned and sunk down further on the sofa, utterly embarrassed that his friend would give Vader such a horrible gift.

Han grinned, very pleased with himself. "I knew you always wanted one, so I saved you the trouble of going all the way out to Rigel to pick one up."

"Thank you, General Solo." Vader replied as he fantasized of freezing the smuggler in carbonite. Not that he could do that, no. The man was friends with his children and had helped keep them alive so they could all be together this day and he was grateful for that. Still, he was allowed to dream. He moved to sit on the sofa opposite theirs and he placed his Helmet Umbrella next to him on the sofa.

Luke gawked open-mouthed as a bright green stocking materialized next to Vader from nowhere. The young Jedi half jumped out of his seat, his blue eyes as wide as saucers. "Where did that come from?"

A sighing sound seemed to come from within Vader's black breath mask. "It's my yearly stocking of coal from Master Yoda. He used to mail them from some unknown, untraceable location but for the last few years they just materialize like that out of the air itself…"

"Yoda?" Luke gasped. "But he's dead! I was there when he died!"

"Obviously why he can't use the mail system any longer…." Vader stated.

Luke snatched the green stocking and stuck his hand inside it. When he pulled his hand out he saw chunks of black coal and a long bit of parchment that had the words 'Bad Padawan' on them. The coal, stocking and bit of paper all seemed real enough, not the ghostly Jedi figure he had seen of Ben. "Wow. I wonder how Yoda did that?"

Han rolled his eyes, unimpressed. "It's all mumbo-jumbo, Kid. Parlor tricks. Pay it no mind. That stocking was probably hidden under the sofa all along…"

"You still don't believe in the Force?" Luke asked, knowing that to Han it was all just tricks and ancient religions.

"No. I still haven't seen anything that proves it really exists." The smuggler replied as he reached for another present and handed it to Leia. "Here, this one is from Luke."

"The Force is real, General Solo. You are a fool not to believe." Vader stated.

"Yeah, well, I believe in what I can see or what my ship's sensors tell me exists." Han explained, more than a little bit nervous to be talking to Lord Vader about such things. Maybe, just maybe, the mumbo jumbo stuff scared him a wee bit so it was easier to pretend it wasn't real. And he knew Vader could choke people without touching them; he just didn't think up a reasonable explanation yet as to how the guy did it. "And I know for a fact dead people don't give out Yuletide gifts."

"Ooh, it's a lightsaber!" Leia cried happily as she turned to give her brother a hug, her slender arms wrapping around his shoulders. "How sweet of you, Luke, although I don't know when I'll find the time to learn how to use it. Or if I should use it."

"Shooting with a blaster is easier." Han added as he eyed the new silver weapon Leia now had resting on her lap. "And you remember those things are dangerous… Don't let Luke fill your head with delusions of grandeur. He's the one living a fantasy from days of old, not us. We agreed to get married, remember, and I want you in one piece."

"Married?" Luke cried, shocked, as he pulled away from his sister wide-eyed.

"Married?" Vader said at almost the same moment as Luke. Did he want a person who gives out Helmet Umbrellas as a son-in-law? Solo's tastes were questionable to say the least.

"Yeah, married. You got a problem with that, Pops?" Han asked as he wrapped one arm around Leia's shoulders. "And before you start squawking about my occupation, I'll have you know I have a shipload of merchandise to sell here on Coruscant. It's all legal, too, so you can't complain about that."

"As if anyone would buy that stuff!" Luke cried.

"There's nothing wrong with the stuff." Han defended as he pulled Leia closer, a smug expression on his face. "I can sell anything, Kid. Besides, you're not the target audience."

Luke rolled his eyes, unconvinced anyone would spend good money on Super Trooper merchandise. But then he thought of those wacky outfits the wealthy people who lived on Coruscant wore and his sureness vanished. Maybe they would buy it. But if they did, they were nuts.

Just then a flickering image appeared to the left of where Luke was sitting and the young Jedi smiled at Ben. The ghost waved his hand and a thick paper tome appeared in mid-air before the Sith Lord. Vader stared at the hovering book for a moment and then reached out, grasping it in his black gloves. "A Million and One Reasons Not To Be a Sith by Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Vader breathed loudly as he stared at the book in his hands. Even dead he found ways to pester him. That or the ghost had nothing else to do.

"Well, it's better than lumps of coal I guess…" Han commented as he bent down and tried to peer under the sofa Vader was sitting on. "Where are you pulling all those thing from? And don't tell me dead people are giving you gifts because I don't believe it."

"I am not pulling them from anywhere, Solo. There are clearly things about the Force I do not understand yet and that is bothersome." Vader admitted, not liking it one bit. He thought he had already knew everything and here was something totally new and perplexing. How did one pull solid objects from out of the very air itself? He was also uncertain if he should mention this strange phenomenon to Palpatine, as perhaps its secret may benefit him somehow. It was especially annoying that his former Master was once again a step ahead of him, standing there and gloating in that sparkling body of his!

They opened more presents. Chewie had given Vader a big box of fur he had shed for unknown reasons and Leia's gift hadn't been much better, a bottle of helmet/boot polish. At least it was something he could actually use even if it was common and not really meant for gift giving. Chewie seemed to have come to the little get together to wolf down anything eatable and leave little bits of fur all over his black leather sofas. No doubt Solo had so much Wookie fur on that horrid ship of his he was now giving it away as Yuletide gifts! Where had his innocent son run into these people?

Luke watched with jumping nerves as Vader picked up his cloth covered present carefully, holding it in one black gloved hand before removing the bit of black fabric. He was still uncertain how his gift would stack up against the others, but many of them had just been plain awful. He had expected something better from Leia, but then she didn't really like their father at all and only grudgingly admitted she was related to him. He watched with held breath as Vader tilted his head so he could see the black egg-like things through the eyeholes of his mask, his breathing loud and steady. Laying the bit of cloth down, he picked one of the oval objects up in his hand, studying it for a long moment. "What is it?"

"I really don't know…" Luke admitted sheepishly, his face heating up. "I thought they'd make a nice decoration though as they're unusual…"

"They do look nice…" Vader stated as he turned one of the objects this way and that. The light reflected off the object's curved ridges dully. The thing's surface was opaque and not highly reflective at all. More than anything they reminded him of eggs but they were like no egg he had ever seen. Perhaps they were some form of native art? "I have never seen anything like them before."

At the words happiness flowed through Luke and he couldn't help grinning. He had actually found something that his father liked and had never seen before! The odds of that happening were astronomical, as Vader had been literally to thousands of worlds and had seen countless things.

000

Later that night Luke relaxed in his bedroom, surrounded by his various Yuletide presents. Leia had gotten him a nice set of more formal clothing; Han had given him a horrid contraption called Robotic Booster Wings from Super Trooper that had more in common with a torture device than anything else, Chewie had given him a big bowl of fur-covered nuts, Obi-Wan had given him a book about Jedi exercises and Vader had given him the best present of all: a black photo album that contained photographs of Vader as a young man before his horrid injuries and his mother, Padme.

Luke sat on his bed now, the album open to a page of the happy young couple. He had never seen his mother before this; neither of his parents really. The Lars had owned no photos of them, something that had bothered young Luke a little bit as he had always wondered which parent he had taken after. Anakin Skywalker had just been a name really but now he could see that his father had looked much as he did now. They both had the same eyes and the same hair. It made him feel closer to his father, but it scared him a little bit, too. If his father had fallen to the Dark Side, did that mean he could too? Did the same evil darkness hide inside him somewhere, just waiting and biding for the right moment to emerge? Luke wished he could believe that such things didn't lurk inside, but how could he be sure? He had failed the test at the cave, hadn't he?

His happy feeling evaporating, Luke leaned back in the luxurious bed and sighed loudly. He was beginning to discover that Yuletide wasn't always the happy, magic filled day from his youth, as it could be sad, too. He missed his Aunt and Uncle, an ache in his heart that would never really go away although the sharp pain had long faded. And although he often saw Obi-Wan as a ghostly figure, he missed his guidance and the warmth of his physical presence. There were others he missed as well, like Yoda and friends who had died during the various battles with the Empire. And right in the middle of that was the task he had set for himself: to free his father from the Dark Side. Obi-Wan believed it was impossible, as no one had ever come back before but Luke knew he had to try. Waving his hand weakly, he used the Force to shut the room's light off.

The bedroom faded into blackness with the occasional bright flicker of air speeder lights that flared momentarily across the wall and then vanished just as quickly. With the dark came that nagging doubt about those egg-like things. There was something about them, something dark and nasty. The fleeting feeling scratched at his soul with sharp claws and Luke grew restless. He stared up at the inky ceiling high overhead, doubts filling his mind. "Who am I kidding? Father is far more experienced with the Force and he didn't notice anything about those things. If they were dangerous, he would have known surely…"

Being a Jedi was never easy and he still had a lot to learn.

000

Vader was in his personal quarters and was getting ready for bed. He had set the bowl of black egg-like things onto the center of his dresser. The rest of his presents he had set aside onto a small side table. He had no idea what he would do with the horrid Helmet Umbrella, as it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever seen. "Only a total fool would wear such a device! How can my daughter love such a man, such a scoundrel?"

Perhaps he should get rid of the contraption, banish it to the top shelf of his closet where the numerous bags of coal lurked from Yuletides long past. He had no idea why he kept them, but keep them he did. Perhaps Luke was right when he insisted that a bit of good still lurked within his heart. Still, he had lived with his anger, cold hatred and deep sadness for so long that it was hard to believe. His son was like the bright sun chasing dark thunderclouds away, the sky finally clearing and turning bright blue after never ending darkness.

A part of him didn't want to let go of the darkness, either. It was his old friend and had been a part of him for so long. It gave him his strength and power. He would be a fool to give them up.

Still, his son, his daughter…

The fear in his daughter's soft brown eyes caused an odd feeling deep down in his gut somewhere, a sensation he didn't care for at all. Nor did he exactly like she planned on marrying Solo. He thought she could do better, should do better. Still, he wanted her to be happy…

He hadn't been happy since he had lost Padme in his fit of anger…

Would his children inherit his anger? Could they end up where he is now, living under the oppressive yet addictive thundercloud that was the Dark Side of the Force? And it was addictive. He loved feeling the raw power course through his veins and flow through his body. It made him feel incredible and allowed him to do fantastic things, things he could never do on the Light Side. Even more addictive were the rules: no rules at all. He could do practically anything he wished at all and no one could stop him. He could snuff out a life just by willing it so and there was no price to pay later. The Dark Side was a bad person's ultimate dream, except he didn't see himself as bad. No, he was restoring peace and order to the galaxy. It needed to be done and he had the ability to see that it was so. He believed in Palpatine's dream, although he had paid a very heavy price for that dream. It had cost him his wife, his previous master who had been like a father and his children.

But now his children had returned to him. Fate had given him a second chance.

Still, he had his duty. Countless civilians depended on him to make certain dangerous criminals were locked up safely and that things worked as they were meant to. For too long the Old Republic catered only to the filthy rich and the poor had to hope that they weren't attacked on the way home from some low pay job by scummy street thugs. There had been no police force and criminals had free reign. The Jedi only went after the famous villains and the billions of small time crooks could do anything they wished. Palpatine had put a stop to that when he formed the Empire and created the Stormtroopers. All criminals were treated equally: they were arrested and hauled off the streets.

Too bad his children had gotten involved with a criminal organization, for that's what the Rebellion truly was. Still, he was protecting them from prosecution at the moment, hoping that they would come to realize that the Empire wasn't the evil thing they thought it was. The Rebellion excelled at sending out all sorts of propaganda. In truth Vader knew it was nothing more than one side having lost power and crying over it like a bunch of spoiled toddlers.

The hour was growing late and he needed to get some sleep. Just knowing his children were home at last caused a warm feeling to grow inside his heart, melting a tiny bit of the ice that had lived there for so long. He removed his long black cape, his helmet and the black breath mask. Putting each item away carefully, he sat on the bed and swung his fake legs up onto the soft surface. He never needed to remove his boots, as they were actually artificial limbs that were shaped like boots. It made things simpler for him and he never had to scramble in the morning for lost footwear. With a simple thought, the lights were extinguished.

Still, Vader's personal quarters were very hot and were the warmest rooms in his entire castle. The same was true for his quarters on Executor. Coming originally from Tatooine, he was accustomed to high temperatures and now that he had unlimited power and warmth, he enjoyed the delicious heat. It was one of his few vices, as he didn't smoke, drink or do any of the other things that men often indulged in. The Sith Lord closed his eyes and soon drifted off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that his son loved him.

An hour passed, Vader's chest rising and falling gently in deep sleep. Up on his dresser, the egg-like objects started to shake in the bowl. The one on the top of the pile moved this way and that of its own accord. Then a crack appeared in the shell, which was soon followed by a tiny hole. A thin brownish limb poked out momentarily and then the egg shattered, bits of dark shell exploding outward in all directions.

The room's new inhabitant sat still for a moment in the darkness, its red eyes glowing brightly like traffic lights. Then it leaped out of the bowl and onto the dresser's smooth wooden surface, its round body bouncing like a ball.

000

A loud warning through the Force woke Vader up and he flipped the light on without thought, sitting up in bed at the same moment. He was no longer alone in his quarters as he sensed twelve new life forms there with him. One of his artificial legs was bouncing on the bed wildly and he was shocked to see a brown, round hairball happily chewing on his leg! The thing had tiny arms and legs, a plump round body, long spines sticking out of its back and the most evil red eyes he had seen in a very, very long time. He stared at it for a moment, finding it hard to believe that the creature was actually there. His castle had the best security around and his room had been securely locked. Yet there it was! The thing noticed his gaze and it turned to grin at him. Its mouth stretched from one side to the other and was filled with countless needle-sharp teeth. It laughed evilly and spat colored wires out from between its teeth, wires that had clearly come from his leg.

Then he noticed the jabbering. The things, whatever they were, were all over his room. One was happily eating the pages from Obi-Wan's book while a second one jammed the Helmet Umbrella into its mouth. It then had the misfortune to press the button that caused the umbrella to open and its poor mouth was stretched too wide. Still, it snapped its jaws shut and the umbrella's handle was neatly bitten into two pieces. A third was inside his helmet, spinning around wildly and laughing loudly as if it were a carnival ride.

Moving swiftly, Vader used the Force to throw the nearest creature off his artificial leg and creating a shield around himself. The shield went up just in time; too, as five brown hairballs came flying through the air at him, their mouths open wide. They hit his force field and bounced off, two landing on his bed. Instantly they started gnawing on the mattress, throwing bits of stuffing up into the air to create a mess.

Using the Force, he soon had all the strange creatures caught and trapped. They would be studied and catalogued.

000

"They were eggs?" Luke cried, horrified, when Vader showed everyone one of the strange brown creatures. "I just knew I shouldn't have given you those black things! I thought there was something strange about them, but I wasn't sure. Those things could have killed you!"

"No, Luke, you did the right thing." Vader informed his overwrought son. "If anyone else would have received those eggs, then these creatures would be free on Coruscant. They would multiply and become a major threat. But by giving them to me, I was able to deal with them quickly and easily. They may look frightening, but they are no real match for a Sith Lord. They are safely locked away and pose no threat to the public."

"Eeewwww…" Leia said as she bent down slightly to stare at the creature inside the cage. "It's a really ugly thing, too. But since when are you concerned about the citizens?"

The creature jabbered to itself, its red glowing eyes looking this way and that. Then it curled up into a round brown ball and rolled around its cage, bouncing off the force field walls.

"I have always been concerned about that. Contrary to some beliefs, the Empire was formed to provide public safety. That's what the Stormtroopers are truly for. These things are clearly a carnivorous hazard."

Leia gazed thoughtfully at her father for a moment, thinking.

"And to think I had those things as cargo…" Han muttered, white-faced with shock and fear. "I didn't even know those things were eggs…."

Luke, however, hung his head downward. His Yuletide present hadn't been a present at all but really hideous monsters! "With the eggs hatched, you don't have a present anymore…"

"But Luke," Vader said as he took his son into his arms and holding him against his lighted chest panel. "Having you here with me is the best present of all."

THE END

Author's Note: A cookie to anyone who can ID these fuzzy brown creatures.