I stepped into my master's main room, knowing what was to come. My black clothed emperor sat at the end of a long table, tapping his fingers on the sleek wood impatiently. My loud artificial breathing filled the room, echoing and drowning out the silence, penetrating my very being. Right then and there I would seel my soul to the devil to be human again, to be normal.

'But your soul's already been sold, hasn't it?' A nagging voice reminded me. 'To the Emperor, even worse than the devil.'

I blocked out the voice and focused on Palpatine again. He sensed that I'd pushed through my dark thoughts and began to speak. "I heard you trip to Aldaraan was . . . unsatisfactory," he said cooly.

"Master, I saw--" I began to explain, but was interrupted.

"Do not insult my intelligence, Vader," Emperor growled, putting his hand up to let a bolt of blue lightening fly straight to my chest. I was knocked out of balance briefly, but I quickly regained my footing, standing up straight to face him.

"I apologize, Master," I said quietly.

"You have a weakness, Vader," Palpatine said coldly. "I thought I'd knocked it out of you years ago, but it proves to be a challenge." He stood up and folded his hands behind him, giving me a look that made even I, Lord Vader, cower. "You are not human."

"I am not human," I repeated dully, used to this exercise by now.

"You are a Sith lord."

"I am a Sith lord."

"You are above any other being."

"I am above any other being."

"You do not have feelings."

"I do not have feelings."

Another lightening bolt hit me, and I staggered, holding onto a sturdy chair for support.

"You are lying to me!" the Emperor hissed. "I know everything, Vader, do not try to lie." A sickening smile light up his face. "I have a surprise for you, Lord Vader."

My throat constricted. "No . . ."

Another lightening bolt. I was weaker now, in terrible, aching pain.

"Do not reprimand me!" Palpatine yelled, his strict, no-nonsense voice becoming harsh with penetrable anger. "You have one chance to live, Vader," he continued, softer and calmer. "This is your last. If you can watch your weakness die at my hands, you will prove worthy of living. You cannot afford a distraction, Vader."

"I cannot afford a distraction," I repeated firmly. It was true . . . but a part of me was dying with each of Palpatine's words.

The dark Emperor strode out of the room in his very self-assured walk. I followed him in my own tall stride, wanting to appear unnaffected, even though Palpatine knew I was not. I was led into a dark room used specifically for torturing difficult victims, or ones that had information that we wanted. It was actually a sign of respect to be killed in this room.

I let out a strangled noise when I saw a figure standing tall, strapped to a table standing right side up. I would recognize her graceful form anywhere, even with the cuts and scratches muddling her perfect, smooth skin. She met my eyes at the sound, and I was shocked to find no anger there. No fear. She was not afraid to die, she had died when I left her, when I became Lord Vader. When I left her with child.

Palpatine's eyes swerved to me and I was hit with another bolt. Would he ever tire of this? I thought. I put my hands on my knees, trying to rid myself of the pain with the Force. It didn't work as well anymore. Palpatine was too strong. I was stronger though, wasn't I?

"Palpatine," Padmé acknowledged respectfully.

"I don't like your tone, young girl," Palpatine said, seething. He hit her with a bolt. She shrunk into herself -- she wasn't as strong as I, she couldn't hold up as long. Palpatine turned to me, studying my response. I held myself. I would not appear weak because I was NOT weak. I was Lord Vader, nothing could touch me, nothing could break me.

"Perhaps that was a little too soft for our former Queen here," I said, sounding stronger than I felt.

"Yes, I think you're right," Palpatine said, sounding pleased.

Padmé met my eyes, and I felt . . . dirty. She had lost all hope in me at my words. She was no longer the woman I loved. The woman Anakin had loved! I corrected. I had never loved Padmé, I was not Anakin Skywalker.

"Would you do the honors?" Palpatine asked. He stepped away. "I always feel so proud when you strangle them."

I stepped forward and avoided her eyes. I held my hand up.

"I still love you," Padmé whispered before I could do anything.

I recoiled, stepping away. Palpatine hit me from behind. "Kill her! Kill her for your master, Vader. She means nothing to you."

"She means nothing to me," I repeated loyally.

"Yes I do," Padmé said. "You still love me. If you didn't, I would be dead by now."

"Stay quiet, stupid girl!" Palpatine roared, stepping forward and striking her so violently she screamed. My Padmé screamed. My strong angel who had vowed never to show her weakness was screaming in pain so intense. A pain that even I could not tolerate.

I spun to strike Palpatine. "Leave her alone!" I growled.

The room went quiet very suddenly. Palpatine was on the floor, leaning over, his face hidden from view. I was standing very still, wondering why I had done such a thing. Padmé was gasping a few feet away from me. I could feel her emotions as if they were her own. She was stronger now, fueled by my outburst. She still loved me, as she said. She was proud of me.

Palpatine sat up very suddenly and my lightsabre was out with a flash. I blocked the blow he sent towards me and stepped forward. He was intimidated by me. I felt a thrill at this.

"You will leave her alone," I commanded.

His breath was shallow as he stared defiantly back at me. I brought the lightsabre up to his neck and repeated my words more forcefully.

"I will leave her alone," Palpatine repeated, a sarcastic glint in his voice.

"You will die," I said softly.

"I will NOT die," Palpatine spat. "Forget about this girl, Vader. You are above her, you are a Sith lord. You are MINE. DO you forget what we have worked for?"

Did I? I laxed my hand, thinking about it. He snapped his hand up at my distraction and the lightsabre was quickly brought against me.

"You are unworthy, Vader. I had higher hopes, of course. But I do not need you. You have already fulfilled your duty. After all, without you the Empire would never have risen."

I stepped backwards. "That's not true!" I cried.

"It is. You know it. I used you, Vader. I used you because without you I could not have overthrown the Jedi, could not have overthrown the Republic. You are a powerful Jedi and Sith lord, Vader, but you are not more powerful than me."

Was this true? I knew it wasn't . . . my hand shot upwards in a bout of anger. "I am the most powerful. I have more power than you, and that terrifies you."

Palpatine actually growled, like an animal, and shot forward with the lightsabre. I used the Force to bend it in two. The unusuable item dropped to the floor, and the Emperor looked up at me in slight wonder. A lightsabre is indestructable.

"You see that I speak the truth," I said, stepping forward. "Now, Palpatine, you will die."

"I will die," Palpatine said weakly. He looked up at me with a mad glint in his eyes. "But not before Amidala does." His hand went up before I could react and an unearthly scream filled the chambers. I turned to the woman creating them and was distracted, as Palpatine had suspected. Another strip of energy cackled towards me, and my cries of agony joined Padmé's.

I used everything in me and brought my hand up, forcing it towards my former Master. The lightening stopped. He was choking, looking at me in amazement. I used the last of my energy until he was a crumpled mass on the ground. Blackness surrounded him, more complete than just with he was of the Dark side. This was a different blackness. The black of death.

I turned to Padmé, afraid of what I might see. She was still breathing, her eyes were dull though, as though she would not survive much longer. I was such an idiot -- I had used the last of my strength to kill Palpatine when I should have saved it to heal her.

I moved to the side of the door and pressed a button. "I need a healing droid in here right away," I commanded into the speaker. No one would dare to defy me. I let go of the button and walked to Padmé. "You can't die," I told her, my voice choked.

"I can't die," Padmé said, her face smiling jokingly at me. "That's how it works, isn't it? I re . . . repeat you?" She heaved suddenly.

I used the Force to free her and layed her on the floor. I kneeled at her side and did something that I knew would garuntee my own death. I pulled off my mask, the dark black mask that hid me from her.

Her eyes softened at the sight of me, and she brought a hand up to cup my face. "Ani . . ." she whispered. "My Ani."

"Your Ani," I said, unconsciously repeating her, as I was so used to doing. "And you are my Padmé. You were always mine. I never stopped loving you."

"And I, you," Padmé said. Her eyes were warm now, full of love.

My chest was heaving. I wasn't going to last much longer. I leaned down and kissed her lips tenderly. She responded. It was not a kiss of passion, as the many we'd shared before were. This was a kiss of good bye, a kiss of love, a kiss of forgiveness.

I pulled away and smiled silently at her. "You won't die, Padmé. I'll make sure of it."

She sat upwards a little, concern evident. "Anakin, put your mask on."

The door began to open.

"Anakin!" she screeched, clutching for me. I collapsed backwards. I had just wanted to make sure that she would be safe, that the droid would heal her.

But instead of her, my last sight was of the droid standing over me, placing a hand on my chest, and a sudden sense of power filling my senses. I felt like I was rising up, like years were being lifted from me. My chest began to move regularly, I gasped in deep gulps of breath with my lungs. My eyes opened once more, and I saw Padmé with a look of amazement on her face. Almost as if out of a dream, my limbs were growing. The black costume that had become part of me began to melt, turning into whisps of nothing. I was naked, but I didn't care, because I was ME, Anakin.

I pushed the droid away. "Heal her," I commanded, pointing at Padmé, who was looking better. I had thought she was dying . . . The droid followed my commands and began to place it's hand on her stomach. I crawled across the room and tore the Emperor's clothes from his body, putting them on myself. They were slightly too small, the old man had shrunk into himself as time went by, but they were enough. I was clothed. I was me. I looked down in wonder at the flesh staring at me, the fresh flesh of my youth.

"T-24," I read from the side of the droid. "You are a life saver. Literally. The highest respects, I pay to you."

Padmé put a gentle hand on the droid's own on her stomach. He took the hint and stepped backwards.

"Thank you, Lord Vader," he said in a quirky voice. It was slightly reminiscent of . . . C3PO. I smiled at that thought.

"Ani," Padmé breathed. She stood up, and I ran to her. She collapsed in my arms, and we melted into each other, becoming one again.

* * * * *

I hope you liked it. This is my first attempt at angst with a happy ending. I would have written about them getting away, and perhaps I'll write a sequel . . . that sounds like a good idea. Expect one soon.


P.S. Remember to review. And only four days till the 16th!!! I'm listening to a radio station I hate, hoping to win tickets to see it on Wednesday instead.