Disclaimer Not my characters, well most of them, and not my universe. I'd love to think I was doing this for money, but it's purely for fun. But maybe one day, Lucas?
Summary: A treachery just a few years after Revenge of the Sith caused Vader to re-assess his loyalties, change his allegiances and step back from the Dark Side. But years later there are a few surprises in store for him - and 'a new hope.'
Barely ten minutes after his ship had reverted from hyperspace, the news of his arrival had begun to spread. A bubbling, eager excitement reached towards him through the Force, a boiling mass of expectant emotions stretching towards him even as Yavin Control hailed him.
He could hear their thoughts, their eagerness for him to come join in the celebration - to celebrate the first real victory for the Rebel Alliance since its formation. And what a victory that was - Palpatine's Death Star now nothing more than molten jetsam and expanding stardust. And of course they were still celebrating days after the victory. But did he want to join in? Any other day, perhaps, even though they couldn't know the part he'd played in the battle station's destruction. Any other day, to maintain his ruse... but not today.
"Where's the boy?" he asked as the X-wing's cockpit shield lifted and the wet, musky air of Yavin 4 closed in around him. Force, but it was good to feel that on his skin - he'd spent far too long under his mask and armour, this time.
Senator Organa slowed his hurried jog across the room, coming to stand beside the small fighter.
"Welcome back, General," he said, his expression expectant, smiling.
And well Organa might smile - just a few days ago he had been facing torture and certain death, and now here he was, relishing victory instead.
"I take it you've heard the news?" Organa said, oblivious to the fact that the man he addressed was the same man who, just a few days ago, had been moments away from ordering the senator's interrogation.
Stripping off his flight helmet and leaping to the ground, the general nodded. Inwardly, though, he was thinking about the volatility of fate. There had been a moment there, aboard the Death Star, before Kenobi had turned up, when he'd thought he'd have to go through with Organa's interrogation - any further delay would have risked suspicion from Tarkin, and he could not have chanced that - the delicate balance between maintaining his 'Vader' persona alongside his rebel general persona could not be jeopardized.
Trapped inside that hated suit - no longer needed now, other than to maintain his ruse - unable to rip off his darker persona, there had been little choice. So thank the Force that Kenobi had turned up, with the boy. The boy... his son.
"Where is he?" he asked again, throwing his helmet into the open cockpit and striding for the docking bay doors.
Organa fell into step - albeit a quicker, shorter step. "Who?"
"Skywalker," the general said, and the name tasted like ash in his mouth. Dead, buried... reborn. He had disclaimed that name a lifetime ago, when he first became Vader. And then, when he'd turned his back on the Dark Side years later, he'd discovered that he couldn't reclaim it. Never mind that Palpatine must not know who the Rebel's 'Last Jedi' was if his double-agent trick was to work - he'd realised that he was no longer 'Anakin Skywalker'. That man had been a Jedi, and a husband, and a father - and that was all gone, now.
Or so he'd thought, until just a few days ago - until he'd seen his son.
And since then the name 'Anakin' had come creeping back into his mind, his sense of self. To the Rebels he was General Wraith: no forename, no identification for Palpatine to trace - just an enigma. To the Imperials he was Darth Vader: volatile and dangerous and unrelenting. And to himself... mere days ago his self-identification had seemed unimportant - he had been whoever he needed to be at any given moment - but now... more and more he thought of himself as 'Anakin'.
He'd spent days limping back to Imperial lines in his wrecked TIE: long days with nothing to do but think. Days spent contemplating that name, that memory, and accepting that he yearned to reclaim it, and the son he'd never known existed.
Anakin - he could no longer deny that name, not to himself, not now - looked over at the senator, feeling a familiar, trickling hatred that he pushed back with brute determination. It had been the death of Princess Organa at the hands of Palpatine that had turned Vader back - the realisation of all that he had lost, and the recognition of who had truly taken it from him.
His daughter - the baby he had thought dead - had been assassinated by Palpatine, who had known all along who she was. And still, even after fifteen years, Anakin felt a crushing anger towards Bail Organa, who, even if it was to protect her from what Anakin had become, had taken his daughter from him and then left her in open sight of Palpatine.
Organa was talking, and Anakin refocused on the words. "... not since the party, anyway. He is probably with Captain Solo - the smuggler who assisted in my rescue," he was saying. Then he paused. "Leia would have loved Luke," he said, and Anakin curled his hands into fists to prevent the cry of pain. "I had assumed Palpatine killed the boy when he killed Leia... but apparently not."
The man focused on Anakin. Anakin focused upon controlling his anger.
"You never told me Jedi Skywalker had twins," he said, carefully.
"Yes... well... it did not seem important, until now. He was just a boy, and I thought he was dead."
"I should have been informed," he replied, the words sounded clipped and harsh - very Vader-like.
Organa shook his head. He began to reply, and then stopped, turning to Anakin.
"You must have excellent intelligence sources, General - I haven't released the boy's surname to anyone yet, not even the Council."
He stared at him with confused eyes: there was no distrust there, just mild interest. No distrust, because to the Alliance Anakin had long been above reproach. He was a Jedi, after all. At least in their eyes, if not in his own.
"I heard his name in a vision from the Force," he replied, and grimaced inwardly as he said it.
Ah, but how easy was that excuse? The Force told me where to look for the Death Star plans... the Force told me to prepare for evacuation... the Force told... it has nothing to do with the fact that I am Darth Vader, or that I've been playing you and Palpatine against one another for years now, fighting the Sith in the only way I have left, now - with duplicity.
"I see," Organa said, and nodded as if he understood.
Anakin laughed inwardly - the man's blind faith was almost embarrassing. The Rebels had such a skewed memory of the Jedi, blindly labelling the Jedi's attempted coup as martyrdom. The Alliance's single-minded righteousness was almost as bad as Palpatine's inflated belief in himself. If they only knew who their 'Last Jedi' was... but they never would: all records relating to Anakin Skywalker had been destroyed whilst he was Vader, and he'd made sure that those members of the Alliance who had known him - including Organa - retained no visual memory of Skywalker. Anakin had seen to that, using the Force they so idolised.
Organa was talking again, prattling about the victory. He clearly didn't know where Luke was, and when the senator tried to turn the conversation to mundane matters - such as their imminent evacuation - Anakin took his leave of the man with swift indifference, unable to stay in the man's presence any longer. After a curt goodbye, he let his feet follow where his heart was urging him.
Now that he was here, now that he was within mere minutes of meeting his son, now that the days of waiting and travelling were over... the anticipation was overwhelming. Anakin could hear nothing but the clatter of his heels on the flagstones and the pounding of his heart. His adrenaline was rising - he could feel the world shifting around him, the Force drawing in a breath of anticipation, as if the galaxy had tilted upon its axis and was waiting... waiting... waiting for him to find the boy: find him, touch him, make real the spectre of a past that he had mourned for so long.
The pain of stolen chances tore at his control, but the righteous anger he had expected to feel was not there. Instead, there was a sense of hope, so powerful he felt almost blind - disconnected from his own feelings, which were almost too strong to bear.
Obi-Wan had believed Anakin had turned to the Dark Side permanently, that he was irredeemable, and had hidden the children. And Anakin had believed all of them dead - Padme, Obi-Wan, and his child - and had never looked. Then when Leia had died, the pain of losing an unknown child had been so great... he'd never conceived of the possibility that there had been twins.
But now he knew. The surprise on Obi-Wan's face as he sensed the Light in Vader had been a flailing spark next to the brilliance of Anakin's shock when his old master had revealed that he had come to the Death Star with Anakin's son in tow.
The world had shrunk in that moment - it had been just him and Obi-Wan and a myriad of possibilities all named 'Luke'. He'd been so utterly blind-sided by that, so filled with a sudden, burning hope, that neither he nor Obi-Wan had sensed the shot that had felled his old master.
Then there had been a shrill cry as Obi-Wan crumpled, a burst of horror and loss ripping through the Force. And Anakin - as Vader - had turned, turned towards the voice and seen him - just before the blast doors had slammed shut.
He had gone into a rage then, attempting to burn his way through the durasteel barrier with both his own and Obi-Wan's lightsabers. But by the time he had broken into the docking bay, his son had already fled.
And in the cold light of day, that was probably for the best - for what would he have done with his son had he captured him? What would Vader have been expected to do with the boy? Take him to Palpatine for execution, as his sister had been executed? No - better that Anakin waited to meet the boy whilst in his rebel general persona. Then he could know the boy, know his son, even if he could never reveal to him their connection.
There had been time to plan during Anakin's journey back to Yavin: time to decide how much he could tell his son. In his mind, he'd decided he would tell the boy that he'd known his father, had known him very well - and perhaps Anakin could be that father, in everything but name, to his son.
He could even train him, at least enough to protect him from Palpatine - teach him to shield himself from the Sith. And even though it would not be the same as truly being the boy's father... well, better that than allowing Luke to be taken from him, either by death or the Dark Side. But the pain of waiting to finally meet Luke... it drew Anakin to the edge of his infamously short patience.
His prowl took him into and then out of the numerous tech areas, on into the pilots' barracks. Several men saluted him as he went, and he returned their greeting, struggling against the Vader-like urge to simply ignore them. He didn't allow them to slow him down, though. Somewhere around here... somewhere...
He reached the centre of the temple, dominated by a large, ceremonial hall, and stopped. He'd seen no sign of his son's presence, and for a moment Anakin stood in the centre of the empty hall and wondered if anyone would come running if he screamed in frustration. The boy was here, Anakin knew it - he had to be here, he had to be... this could not be an illusion, a cruel trick of the Force - another cruel trick of the Force.
Then, there was a flicker of movement from the corner of his eye, and Anakin turned towards it, his heart beating frantically.
Over by the wall, huddled in a wedge of warm sunlight, a figure was sleeping.
For a moment, Anakin just stared. He could do nothing more - Luke Skywalker, his mind screamed, and he knew it was right.
On uncharacteristically nervous legs, he walked towards the figure, the sleeping boy, concern and wonder vying for domination of his thoughts. He was shaking - every limb trembled, the adrenaline creating a quake in his soul.
He crouched beside the figure, taking in the features that he had only glimpsed before, and even then only whilst hindered by Vader's mask. He hesitated, the full impact of the moment pressing against him. This was his son.
Luke's face was slack with sleep. He was breathing languidly: long, deep breaths. The sight of the boy - still a boy, in Anakin's eyes, despite everything he had accomplished - made his chest tighten with too many emotions to name. Reaching out a hand, he touched his son's cheek with his scarred palm.
The pale, silver scars - all that remained of his injuries after he'd sought out the medical treatment Palpatine had withheld - stood out in stark contrast to the warm, smooth tan of Luke's face. Then the boy's eyes fluttered open sleepily, focused upon him, and widened in alarm.
"Hello there," Anakin said, knowing he should probably remove his hand but unable to do so.
The boy blinked, clearly still half-asleep. Anakin recognised those eyes - it was like staring into a mirror of his soul. Luke didn't reply, and the silence began to stretch.
"Are you alright?" Anakin asked, thinking, Respond - please. Let me hear your voice.
Luke blinked up at him. "Huh? Yeah, I'm fine. I just... well, I couldn't sleep in the barracks, it was so cold, and I thought... ummm..." The boy paused, staring at him in confusion. "Sorry, but... uh... who are you?"
And there were so many ways to respond to that - I am Darth Vader, I am General Wraith, I am your father - that Anakin just smiled.
"Come on," he said, "let's find you somewhere a bit more comfortable to sleep."
"But who are you? I-"
"All in good time, son. Come, let's get you somewhere more warm and comfortable - and then I'll tell you all about me. After all... we've plenty of time."