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"The thought of not being with you… I can't breathe." – Anakin Skywalker, Episode II

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It was not the flames that killed Anakin Skywalker.

As the relentless heat caught hold of the fringe of his Jedi robe and chewed upward, charring his leg, blazing through flesh and muscles and nerves, devouring ligaments and tendons, blackening his bones and boiling the crimson blood that flowed through his ruined veins, it burned. Yes, it burned. It burned like the fires of hell.

But it was not the flames that killed Anakin Skywalker.

When the agony dulled to a slow, controlled smolder, when his fire-yellow eyes faded to the purified, sulfurous gold of a Sith Lord, he was still there. The flames could not kill him. The flames could not kill what had brought him here to die.

Love and hate are very, very similar. It was love that flared like a firework in his chest, preserving the lonely flickers of life that yet remained in him. It was hate that blazed through him in a dark, bloody tide of crippling strength that he would never be able to restrain, that he would never be able to control, and in the end that power burned him. But it did not kill him.

It was not the hate that killed Anakin Skywalker.

The legend, the Chosen One, lay in ashes and blood. He moved the only limb he could feel, his mechanical hand, and cold metal fingers clutched at hot molten sand as if to say, The flames were not enough.

Because it was not the flames that killed Anakin Skywalker.

There came the moment when he could not remember how to open his eyes, and a machine saw for him, the visual receptors of his grotesque helmet deepening the shadows of the alcove where he had been reborn. There came the moment when he tried to lift his head, and knew (and feared, again he remembered how to fear) that a stranger's visage had forever shrouded his own. There came the moment when he tried to move his fingers, but it was a mechanical, electrical impulse that allowed him to move a stranger's hand.

But it was not the machine that killed Anakin Skywalker.

It was the moment when he tried to breathe, and he couldn't.

Darkness called to darkness, the void of the medical room echoed the void where his heart used to be, and the sound of a stranger's scream shattered the skeletons of an emotionless set of droids.

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A/N: I decided to write some Vader angst upon his awakening in RotS. So, I figured I'd play off of the connection between his lines in Episode II ("the thought of not being with you, I can't breathe") and the fact that his respirator replaced his lungs immediately after his wife's death. So, here you have it. I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Reviews are appreciated. Constructive criticism is welcome – flames aren't.

May the Force be with you.

~ Shadows