Left Guardian Welcome to Bast Castle
Right Guardian

Home Fiction Art Mail List Staff Links

Power Lust

Part 2

Chapter 8: Vader's Guests

They approached the other cells.  Vader keyed the left-most door open then turned back toward his son.  "I think that you should take care to wake them up," he commented seriously.  "I doubt that Solo will be happy to see me."

"Okay," Luke nodded in agreement as he took a food bar from his father's offered hand, then walked away from his side and into the opened cell.

Silently, he went down the short steps that were so typical to imperial cells.  As he set his foot down on the last one, he dimly wondered which purpose they served other than tripping their prisoners on the way in or out, then surmised that it was probably their sole utility.  He turned around and closed the door that was behind him to prevent his father from hearing what he and Han would say before joining him outside.  Next, he walked up to Han's side, then finally pushed a slight jolt of adrenaline into his friend's system.

Han stirred.

"Han, it's Luke, can you hear me?"

Solo groaned.  "Hmm, what's wrong, Kid..."

"Nothing's wrong," he smiled in slight amusement.  "Only that nap time is over."

Solo grumbled something and turned on his side, obviously settling in to sleep for a while longer.  "Go away, Luke...," he barely mumbled. "Get some more sleep."

For a very brief moment, Luke could only gape at his friend in confusion.  Sleep? How could Han think...?  Then he understood.  His father had put Han to sleep while he had knocked 'him' unconscious.

Suddenly aware that his father was deliberately walking on eggshells around Han, he shook his head in amusement.   His father, although a cold Dark Lord of the Sith, didn't want to anger the smuggler because of his relationship with his children, and yet, Luke smirked to himself, Vader didn't feel 'that' well-disposed toward Han either also 'because' of that same relationship with them.

Sooner or later, he promised himself, his father and Han would have to have a serious talk to get to know each other better.  He refocused on his sleeping friend.  "Han, come on, wake up.  You want to see Leia, don't you?" he offered the slumbering man.

That did rouse the pilot.  "Leia?" he asked, leaning up on his elbow while rubbing sleep from his eyes.  "Where is---" His friend's eyes suddenly bulged as he took stock of their whereabouts.  "Hey, what's going on?" he asked, completely awake now even as he sat bolt upright on his pallet.

"We're in Vader's palace, remember?" Luke supplied soothingly.  "Leia's been brought to his personal medcenter and we can now see her whenever we're ready."

"What about us?" Solo asked, standing to his feet, now completely awake.

Luke answered him by offering him the food bar; the moment that the pilot identified what he was given, he tore it open and ate it twice as fast as Luke had.

"We're free from our cells," the young Jedi informed him while he waited for him to finish his meal.  "At the moment, Vader's waiting for you and Chewie to come out before showing us where we'll live while we'll be here."

"What has he done to us after the landing?" Solo asked angrily as he crumpled the already empty package and threw it in a corner of his cell.

Luke gave him a wry smile.  "He put us to sleep," he half-lied, aware that Han wouldn't react well to the news that his father had knocked 'him' unconscious again.  "Shall we?" he asked his friend, inviting him to exit the cell.

Solo didn't follow him; instead, he took a strong hold of his right biceps and stood almost nose-to-nose with him.  "Wait a minute, Kid," he interrupted him seriously.  "What's the real deal here?" he inquired next, his voice dropping from grim to distrustful.

"What do you mean, what's the deal?" the youth frowned sincerely.  "It's like we talked---"

"All of a sudden, you seem real chummy with Vader," Han pointed out dangerously, not letting him go.  "I think that you know more than you're telling me," he then informed him grimly.  "What is he up to?"

Aware that he couldn't try to sweet talk his friend when he was like this, Luke relaxed to quiet his friend's suspicions.  He knew that he had to convince him this time or else Leia's safety would be a risk.

"Han," he began earnestly, "I give you my word that Vader isn't fomenting any dark plan," he continued as soothingly as he could.  "He is the only one who is able to heal Leia, and since he knows that we want to be with her.  He keeps us with her but under his protection for her safety.  That's all there is to his plan.  This, and Mon Mothma.   But as far as we are concerned, we are his guests, nothing more, nothing less," he finished coolly.

"And what about his desire to turn you?  Do I have to remind you that---" Han pointed out--- but Luke interrupted him with a sharp movement of his head even as he locked his gaze with his friend's.

"No, you don't," he answered more coldly as he was once again assailed by the memories of his own torments at his father's hands, "and no," he continued as he pushed them back in the back of his mind, "he doesn't want this anymore.  The Emperor was pushing him to do these things," he reminded himself as he shared this information with Han.  "Unlike the despot," he continued grimly, "Vader doesn't feel threatened by the existence of a Jedi.  He doesn't have any design on me."

Han's gaze remained locked with his for a good five seconds, as if seriously pondering how far he could trust 'him', then he finally let go of his arm.  However, he still pursed his lips in obvious, if unhappy, comprehension.  "All right, it sounds true and good...Too good in fact," he muttered lowly.  "I'm not as convinced as you are, Luke."

"Figures," Luke shrugged mock-seriously to relieve the tension that was barely laying in wait to resurface.

"Right... Jedi stuff, huh?" Han asked in a lighter tone.

"Without any doubts," he smiled more easily.

"Well I will still keep my eyes wide open for any treachery," his friend warned him, pointing his index at him as if to add weight to his statement.

"So will I," he assured him, not showing any sign that he was worried about Han's warning regarding Vader.  True, he conceded, he himself 'would' keep his eyes open, but he would also trust his father.  He only hoped that he wasn't being too naive once again... and that Han, for his part of their good behavior, would talk to him first if he ever considered that something strange was going on.

Or, he amended, at least stranger than three rebels finding refuge in the private palace of Darth Vader, their arch nemesis.

"Now how about waking up Chewie?" he suggested to put an end to their actual conversation.

"Okay," the other nodded and keyed the door open.

Waking Chewbacca up was Solo's job; while his friend tried to avoid being hit by his barely awakened co-pilot, Luke remained in the corridor with Lord Vader.

"Chewie, calm down," the pilot suddenly billowed as he visibly ducked under the Wookiee's swinging arm.

*I take it that he still doesn't believe your arguments,* Vader sent to his son as they waited for the smugglers to join them.

*Why do you say that?* the child asked him almost innocently.

"What do you mean: where was I?" Solo asked again from the inside of the cell.

*I don't need to hear words to recognize signs of distrust, Son,* he reminded him coolly.  *Hadn't you had to reassure him, you wouldn't have remained inside the cell for as long as you did,* he pointed out to him matter-of-factly.

*Well,* Luke uncomfortably shifted on his feet. *you must understand his reaction.*

*I perfectly understand it,* he rumbled with just a trace of annoyance at the thought of the smuggler with his daughter.  *but frankly,* he continued, more level-headed, *his trust in me is the least of my problems.  The most important thing is if he trusts 'you'.*

*Yes, he does, but he is asking himself why I seem to trust 'you',* the youth explained with just a hint of irony in his voice.

*How have you explained it?*

*That the Force tells me that it's the right thing to do. A Jedi thing,* he shrugged naively.

*A good explanation indeed, but do you really believe in such guidance of the Force?* he asked him seriously.

*Of course!* Luke answered without any hesitation.

A silence.

*You... don't seem to agree,* the boy commented, his voice less confident than a few seconds before.

*Blind trust in the Force can make you a monster, Luke.*  Vader's words were suddenly slow and measured. *The Force itself is immoral; it can guide you but it can't make the decisions in your place. It can suggest the easiest way to do something, but it's up to you to choose.*

*But the guidance of the Light can't be...*

*The Light is inside you, not outside,* his father interrupted.

'Like the darkness' Luke thought to himself.

*It's not the moment to discuss such matters,* the other commented, having read his thoughts yet again despite Luke's best efforts to shield his mind.  *Later. Your friends are coming.*

Vader crossed his arms as Solo and the Wookiee came out of the remaining cell;their distrust was more than obvious in their wary stances and looks.  *If Solo is to become my son-in-law, Luke,* he reflexively warned his son, *he will have to work on his attitude.*

Luke twisted his lips in annoyance.  Things would indeed have to change between the two men.  *Then it's valid for you too, Father,* he retorted, then prepared himself for the outburst... that didn't come.

*Perhaps. But only when he'll show his real face. I can hardly appreciate his current mask,* the Dark Lord commented half-scornfully.

Luke frowned at his answer.  *Mask?  What are you talking about?*

A small smile almost showed through the black, unchanging face-plate. *Sometimes, you're amusing, Son...*

*But wha--*

*Later.  We'll talk about everything later,* he told him with finality.  *Greet them; it's time to go.*

Luke sighed, then did as he was told.  "Ready?" he asked his friends.

"Yeah, I want to see Leia," Han said, his eyes already locked on the dark lord.

Luke also noticed how his hand was twitching against his hip, as if hitching for a weapon, he realized before he conceded that it was a good thing that they were still unarmed.

"Of course, Captain Solo," Vader shortly bowed his helmeted head, as if in cordial agreement, Luke realized.  "In a few minutes at most, you will see her.  But first, something must be clear between ourselves."  The cooler, much cooler voice returned instantly.  "Unless I tell you otherwise, you'll be free to go wherever you wish 'inside' these walls."

"But not outside," Solo sneered.

Vader remained silent and turned around; he led the way toward the turbolifts that were gathered at the end of the block.  "Surely you understand the lack of wisdom of such an act, Captain Solo," he finally commented seriously.  "It would be stupid to go to lengths to make your coming here look like it was forced, only to have a spy see you free..."

Luke remained silent, walking beside Chewbacca while Solo sidled closer to Vader, bunching his fists in frustration.

"Oh really," Han sneered, "and once we'll be free to go, that is if we ever are---"

"You will be, Solo, your Jedi friend knows that you will."

Solo turned toward Luke, who nodded quietly.  The lift opened.  They all filed in, then it shot upward.

"So, if it is unwise to go out now, how will it be any different once we leave?" Han cleverly observed.  "How do you think that you'll make it safer then?"

The tension in the enclosed room became practically palpable.  Han's tone grew more dangerous; Luke kept a wary eye on his friend, ready to keep him from making any physical attack if need be.

"I don't know yet, Solo, but I can assure you of one thing, all of you" he added, gazing at the two other occupants of the lift.  "Mon Mothma's little war is about to end."

Luke, who had been closely monitoring both Solo and his father, heard Vader's subsequent thought: 'And so will Jade's.'

Jade? he wondered.  Who was that Jade person to summon such dislike from his father?

He filed the name away for a later conversation.  His father threw him a look; he raised an eyebrow in answer, then shrugged.  His father didn't have to worry about his eavesdropping; he couldn't make any sense out of it anyway.

The lift stopped.  Vader was the first through.  He walked quickly.  "Your quarters will be on the same level than the medcenter," he informed them, ever-so-coolly.  “I thought that you'd appreciate being close to your friend."

"How attentive," Solo sneered.

Luke, who was now beside Han, elbowed him in the ribs and threw him a warning look.  "Give him a break, will you," he muttered.

Surprised by this request, Han briefly gaped at him, then frowned before he finally shrugged and refocused on the dark lord.  Behind them, Chewie smelled the air, as if to detect any sign of danger.

*Thank you, Son,* his father then told him rather dryly through the Force, *but I don't need your help to defend myself.* He stopped in front of a nondescript, wooden door.  "These will be your quarters.  They are the best suite in the castle and will more than accommodate your needs."

He invited them to take a look inside.  Luke accepted the implicit invitation and stepped inside.  Chewie followed him.  As he looked around himself, the youth admitted to himself that it was strange how he could easily trust his father despite what he had put him through in the past.

In fact, he then conceded, he now felt ‘quite’ safe in his presence and even wanted to know more about him...  All of a sudden, the Dark Lord had become quite an unexpected puzzle.

He refocused on his surroundings.  The living room was well furnished while warmed by colorful tones of rich reds and purples.  The coloring was slightly darker than Luke’s liking, but he noticed that it gave the room a very elegant look.

It was also quite roomy, he added as he noticed the smile on Chewie's face.  "That'll be perfect," he reassured their host, reflecting that he almost had to pinch himself to believe that he had said what he had just said.

He discreetly shook his head in wry amusement, then turned back toward the door.  Han was still standing there, his eyes boring into the Dark Lord’s helmet.

"Enough dawdling, Vader.  Where's Leia?  I want to see her now!" he demanded adamantly.

"She's at the end of the corridor, Solo," Vader replied, unconcerned. He indicated a certain door.  "My personal medics are preparing her.  You may see her as much as you wish, but only from the observation room."

He had barely finished his sentence that Han was already striding toward the indicated door.  Chewie was not long to follow him.

Luke, for his part, remained behind.  He leaned against the door frame as he watched his friends practically run toward the medcenter.  "Well, he at least didn't jump you," he commented mock-seriously.

"If he does, he will be the only one to blame for the consequences," Vader returned matter-of-factly.

Luke shook his head and made sure that they were alone before answering the other.  "Father,” he began seriously, “nourishing thoughts such as these isn't going to help you forge a healthy relationship with him."

"Ah, my wise son," Vader snickered. "thank you for giving me a so appreciated advice on human relationships."

Luke threw an annoyed look at him.  "What I meant was---"

"That I must not decide what he is before knowing him better,” the other interrupted him, then nodded his helmeted head.  “I agree, but I can't know him better if he continues to wear his mask."

Luke openly frowned at this.  "What mask are you talking about?"  He was downright lost when his father was talking in riddles.

"You must know it, Son," the older man slightly sneered.  "The I'm-a-hot-headed smuggler, 'the'-number-one-pilot-this-side-of-the-Empire."

"But he is the best!" Luke defended.  "He's not pretending to be someone else."

"Really?" his father inquired very seriously, leaning closer to him in a fashion that brought back Luke’s memories of far-less amiable circumstances with his father.

"Well," he hesitated even as he reflexively stepped away from the imposing dark-clad man.  “Not really,” he admitted, suddenly worried about what his father would do if he had the feeling that he was lying to him. “He is not ‘only’ that..." he finally conceded as he remembered events that had allowed both him and Leia to discovered Solo’s true, caring nature.

A silence followed, then his father, who hadn’t moved closer to him during their quiet face-off, turned toward the end of the corridor.  "Perhaps you could help me to know him better, Son," he offered, all trace of danger gone from both his stance and voice, which had, he belatedly noticed, never carried any threat at all toward him.

"I'd like to,” he nodded while he walked out of the entrance of their assigned quarters.  “What do you want to know?"

"How did you meet him?" his father asked him, inviting him to walk with him.

"It was a few years ago..." Luke began wistfully.  "I was eighteen at the time."

And, years later, he could still remember those heady days; his first experiences in the real world, and the Force, and Ben... He suddenly made a not to avoid that name with his father.

"We were looking for a transport to Alderaan,” he explained simply, deliberately omitting the details of who ‘we’ was.  “Han was there, and available."

"So you didn't know him before the Death Star?" his father inquired as if in great interest.

"No,” Luke shook his head in answer.  “It was our first adventure together, and an unplanned one I might add," he smirked slightly.

"Most adventures are," his father commented wisely.

Luke blushed upon realizing how foolish he had sounded right about now.  Indeed, considering all the experiences of adventures that he had to his credit, he should have known better.  "Uh, yeah... anyway, he was in it for the money, nothing more.  I got him into rescuing Leia, whom I didn't know then, and... you know the rest," he shrugged slightly.

His father remained silent throughout the following steps.  "Interesting," he finally commented.  "Do you know that you were reported as a team who had prepared well for your operation?"


"Yes... It obviously wasn't the case.  Psychological chemistry perhaps?"

"Psychological what?" Luke frowned, stumped once again by his father's level of vocabulary and culture.  He himself had been to school, sure, but he had never heard about this kind of chemistry.

His father fortunately seemed to understand that.  "Some physical factors always affect the way two people react to one another on the psychological plan.  I guess you two have what is called ‘bent atoms’."

"You mean the three of us," he corrected.  "Leia's been a part of this too ever since the Death Star."

"Yes, of course,"  his father nodded agreeably before he fell silent.

Luke felt a somber mood invade his mind.  "What?" he inquired.

He was surprised to feel his father brace himself before he answered him.

"Can you help me to convince her to accept my help?" he inquired somberly.  "If she doesn't ... I will not be able to heal her and the treatment will be much longer... and less complete."

Luke gazed blankly at his father--- until he realized that he had been staring.  He shook himself to regain his composure.  "Of course, Father,” he reassured him earnestly, all traces of ‘his’ own fear gone now, “but how ‘exactly’ can I do that?" he inquired.

"Make her see your love,” he told him seriously. Make her believe that she is loved and cared about despite the fact that she shares my blood.  She hates me primarily because she thinks that because of my being her father, all her life, and anyone's love, are lost to her.  Thus, it makes her hate me even more.  Make her see that the blood relations are not important."

Luke was shocked.  "They are not?" he gaped.  "I mean, you really think that it's not important at all?" he asked in disbelief.

"For the definition of one self, it certainly isn't," his father answered wisely.  "She is no less Leia Organa because she's my daughter.  For the moment, she thinks that being my daughter negates her identity as Leia Organa. She is wrong but this kind of thought is very dangerous for her mental stability."

"I see."

"Will you help me?"

"You can count on me," Luke assured him, his devotion to his sister utterly wiping away whatever misgiving he had begun to have once again in regards to his father.  "How long will you need my help?"

"For as long as she won't wake up.  When she will recover her consciousness, the treatment will be in its final phase, hence, less of an emergency,” the Dark Lord informed him.  “We'll then be able to give her time to consciously accept my help."

"Okay.  What about Han?  When will we tell him about the truth?" he asked him.

They were now approaching the medcenter room.

*You know him better than I do, Son.  I will let you judge of this,* his father stated.  *However, it must be done before Leia wakes up. When that time comes, he must have accepted her legacy or not be here at all.*

Luke agreed with him.

They entered the observation room.  Han was standing at the window, unmoving.  Behind the glass, the medics were gently manipulating Leia's broken body.

"What are they doing to her?" the pilot asked angrily, suddenly whirling toward them.

Luke hurried to put some more distance between his father and himself, thus shortening the distance between Han and himself.

"They're preparing her for her next treatments,” Vader answered coolly.  “The precise order of procedures will be set this evening.  As soon as it will be established,  you will receive a copy of it.  However, I can tell you that her spine injuries will be treated first."

"And her face?" Han inquired worriedly.

"At the end only. Do not fear, Captain Solo,” the Dark Lord tried to reassure the worried smuggler, “Princess Leia will be completely restored."

As he studied the unfolding scene, Darth Vader smiled slightly behind his mask.  So many variables were detectable in the room: Luke's protective feelings, Solo's very obvious anger and distrust, and the Wookiee's deadly readiness to act if needed.

Yet, underneath it all, he reflected in dim awe, those three men were bounded together by their love for the young woman who was on the other side of the glass.

The last time that he had seen so much willing and boundless devotion to someone was when he himself had fought for his then future wife...

"Han, she will be fine,” his son entreated in the silence.  “She will suffer even less while in his care than in any regular medcenter."

As he watched his Jedi son comfort his friend, he conceded that it still intrigued him how Luke, whom he had hurt and wounded more times than he could count, found in his heart to trust him not only with his own life but with his sister's life as well.  He had, of course, noticed his slight reaction to his looming closer to him while they had talked about Solo’s mask.  Even then, however, it had been short-lived and quickly controlled once again until it didn’t show anymore.

By all means, he conceded that his son shouldn't have trusted him even this far, especially since the past was obviously not in the past in the youth’s heart...  And yet, he had.

He himself had to admit that he was glad that he had.

Never in his life, especially since he had found out about his children, had he thought that he would someday have a normal, family oriented discussion with them.  He had also never thought that he would someday ask questions to his son in the context of a normal, free discussion... not a forced one, and certainly not a non-aggressive one.

However, what was even more surprising for him was to become aware that he 'wanted' to have time to speak with his son again, as Father and Son, nothing more.

He refocused on the ongoing dialogue.

"Han, we can't go in there," Luke was trying to reason with his friend.  "She's fragile to any kind of infection right now; we can't take any risk."

"Then find another way.  I want to talk to her."

The young Jedi shook his head.  He was beside Solo now;  the pilot had visibly calmed down since they had entered the room.

"She is unconscious and will remain so while it is necessary"  Vader answered the other.  "Besides, even if it were not the case, she could not speak with you now."


"It would be impossible with her facial injuries," Vader explained coolly yet without any details.  He was aware that the other knew how far her injuries went.

Hence, the pilot's reaction didn't surprise him.

Solo was shocked. And outraged. And...

And after a second of dumbness, he simply sat down.  "I just want to see her," he explained softly. "I just want to sit by her and hear her breath.  Nothing more."

The mask was down, Vader realized.   It wouldn't last for much longer than a moment of pain, but it was at least down.   Beneath it was the face of a very worried man.

"Tomorrow, you and Skywalker will be allowed to go inside, in medical outfits," he reassured his daughter's chosen lover.

"Why not now?" Han asked, putting his 'mask' back on.

"Because, Captain Solo, she will be better installed and stabilized tomorrow. Do not press matters.  In this case, the haste will lead to nothing but disaster."

"So, you're asking me to wait," Solo summarized, his eyes grim once again.

"No. You have 'no other option' but to wait. Here, or in your room, or at her bed," Vader reminded him.  "You cannot do anything to help her now-- accept it. Your childish displays of anger will lead to nothing, and certainly make no impression on me."

Solo seemed to consider it.  "Don't tell me what to do, Vader," he finally spat angrily.  "You're not the master of my life!"

"Oh but I am,” he stated calmly.  “Since you have ... accepted my proposition, you've lost all control of your life for as long as you will be here," he reminded him coldly.  "Accept it. And quit these childish manners.  You're far too old for them," he finished dryly, his gaze pinned on the smuggler's glare. "And now, if you excuse me, other matters are requiring my attention."

The Dark Lord turned and left the room.

Behind him, the rebels remained mute for a long, long while.

Chapter 9: Darth Vader

Later that evening, after an excellent dinner had been served in Luke and his friends' suite, Luke paid a visit to the medcenter, then decided to explore the castle and find his father.

Trying to justify his actions to himself, he admitted that, first and foremost, he wanted to know the decisions of the medical meeting and second, well, he shrugged, he wanted to see the library that he'd talked about. Hence, there wasn't any harm of any kind in regards to either of his reasons.

As he walked down the long, deserted corridors, he reflected that the castle was really huge, and rather strange. The architecture itself was normal, although he hadn't expected to find five inner gardens, which were linked by a small river and waterfall, in what looked like the Dark Lord's dungeons, but there was something definitely strange about the castle itself.

Then, he understood what was puzzling him. To him, the place looked more like a museum than a house where someone, even a Dark Lord of the Sith, lived.  The cold weapon collection, the painting collection, the three-dimension art; everything was in as good order as if they were in a real museum.

To his continued surprise, even the living suites were giving off the impression that they were part of a museum, partly because of their opulence, but also partly because of the empty feeling that they had.

Nobody lived in them for long, he slowly understood.

His father's personal part of the castle was a completely different matter though.

There, gone was the opulence of the "museum" part. Everything was meant for the sole purpose of cold functionality.

The only decorations were the paintings on the walls--- Sathed writing, he belatedly recognized. With a larger sample than what he had seen in his father's office, he was beginning to identify it as some form of calligraphy, but from some unknown planet and some unknown alphabet.

As he walked onward, he passed training rooms, working rooms, a wide conference hall. They were all empty, not only of people... but of 'life' as well.

Luke finally found his father in one of the small conference rooms. The meeting with the medics was over; the table was covered with datacards. Vader was sitting by the window, seemingly reading one of them.

"Come in, Son," he invited him in his coolly-modulated voice.

"How did it go?" he asked as he sat by his father right side. Vader didn't move to acknowledge his presence in any way, obviously absorbed in his reading.

"Rather well. We begin the treatment tomorrow at 7 a.m. I'll need your assistance."

"You'll have it," he assured him once again.

A pause.

"What are you reading?"

"The plan for the operation. I'll assist the medics; you'll help me with Leia's rejection. But," the Dark Lord raised his head from his reading and looked at him, "you must not interfere with the healing itself. Even in the case of an emergency."

"I won't." Luke reassured him. "I know that I'm not trained enough."

"It's not a matter of being trained in the Force," his father countered. "You simply don't have any medical education."

Luke raised an eyebrow in shock even as his jaw fell on the table, thanks to his  bafflement. "You mean that you do?" he gaped in confusion.

"Yes. Why are you so surprised?" Vader observed, commenting on the obvious.

"Well..." Luke fumbled, trying hard to recover his composure, "Not so long ago, the only thing that I knew about you was that you were a warrior and Dark Lord of the Sith. That kind of implies killing men... not..." he hesitated slightly as he bravely met his father's unwavering gaze. "Well, not healing them."

His father shook his head upon hearing his answer. "Luke," he began rationally, "I spent a quarter of my life in hospitals of all kind. I can't survive without a constant medical attention and a life support system. Given these circumstances, it would be strange to 'not' have medical knowledge, don't you think?"

"... I see." He flushed. "I'm really stupid sometimes."

"No. Slow perhaps, but never stupid."

The young man gazed at his father; he could swear that he was smiling in amusement under that mask of his. And to think that he was complaining about Han's 'mask'... "Thanks. I guess," he returned with a wry smirk. "But speaking of the training..."

"You want to see my library."

"Yes, I'd like that very much."

"Very well." Vader laid the document on the table and stood up. "Come."

The Dark Lord led Luke to the part of the castle that he hadn't seen during his exploration.

The library was taking up five large halls; each one of them was filled with books and manuscripts of all kinds and all languages. Even to Luke's inexperienced eye, they looked very old.

"This is the old part," his father explained coolly, as if reading his thought once again. "You most probably won't need to touch anything here. Besides, all these books have been scanned and can be accessed from the terminal, so are the most recent ones."

"...OK. Father?" he inquired somewhat hesitatingly as they walked past rows of books.


"Have you read all this?" he asked, looking around himself at the large quantity of documents that were gathered in the shelves that were around them.


"Even in other lang..." Luke frowned. "How many languages do you speak?"

"Eleven. Plus five dead ones."

Luke stopped in his tracks and gaped at him as if Vader had transformed in something strange.

The Dark Lord stopped his forward progress and looked at him . "What?"

"I..." the youth hesitated as his eyes slid from the dark Lord, to the books, and back to the Dark Lord.

"You didn't expect this from a Dark Lord of the Sith?"

"Well... no, I didn't," Luke admitted with a shameful blush.

"Strange enough," Vader commented as he resumed his walking. "I have, after all, told you that I'm a Sith of the Circle, the symbol of memory... and knowledge."

Luke followed him. "I... Yes, but... I mean, your manners... I mean, you are brutal and cold, so I..." he fumbled inarticulately and feeling quite foolish for it.

"Luke," Vader sighed, turning around to face him. "I may be brutal, cruel and cold, but it doesn't mean that I am uncultivated or stupid." He resumed his walking once again. "It certainly doesn't mean that I am only interested in killing."

"Sorry," Luke apologized contritely as he once again fell in step beside him.  Man, he could be so foolish sometimes...

"No need to apologize, you didn't offended me," his father reassured him, then pointed toward a big computer bank that was coming up in front of them. "This is the terminal..."

As he skimmed through the directory, Luke reflected that his father's library was much more understandable that any other that he had ever seen before.

After a brief introduction to the storing system, it was almost impossible to not find the needed document. It also seemed to be the most complete library that existed nowadays.

History, philosophy, religion of most civilizations, sciences, languages, political archives...

"It's huge!" he finally whispered in awe.

"Yes, it is.  If you don't find what you are seeking, you can access Coruscant Main Library. If you don't find it there, then it does not exist."

"I'm interested in Jedi teachings," he informed him.

He sensed his father smile. "As expected. I think that there are some books for students... Here." The list of titles came up on the screen. "By the way, do you have some education other than highschool level?" his father asked him conversationally.

"Er.. Well, not really, but..."

"But what?"

"I have the Force," Luke commented, feeling kind of uncomfortable to admit that he didn't know much about anything.

Especially now that he knew what a cultivated man his father was.

"Even a complete idiot can feel the Force, Son," Vader observed rather coldly.  "The Force can help you to choose a variant, but you must have variants from which to choose. If you don't know some language, the Force can't teach it to you, even if you're a Jedi Master and need it to survive. Begin with this."

Luke looked at the screen. "First level, first year... For the beginners?"

"And what do you think you are?" his father asked mock-seriously.

Luke pursed his lips in acceptance; was he going to stop making a fool of himself while around his father? "I suppose you're right... "

"If you have some questions, call me."

"Thank you," he answered as he picked up the card that slid out of the distributor slot.

Vader nodded to him and left. Luke installed himself in a chair in the reading room, then began to study.

The next morning, Luke was back in the observation room.

Behind the window, his father entered the operation room and knelt beside Leia.  Meanwhile, Luke, Han and Chewie were watching the last preparations before the beginning of the operation.

"Where were you last night?" Solo suddenly asked him.

Luke threw an askance gaze at his friend; there had been something in his voice... "Why are you asking me this, Han?"

"I could return the question to you, Kid," his friend replied unpleasantly.  "Why are you so close to Vader all of a sudden. Care to explain?" he challenged him.

Luke knew he had no choice to explain, but now was not the time for Han to learn the truth... not the whole truth at any rate.

"We made a truce," he finally said, revealing part of his secret to his friends.

"A truce," Solo repeated, expressionless.

Luke slowly walked away from his friends and sat in the chair that was located near the wall. He wasn't proud of having lied to Han, but he had had no choice.  Besides, most important of all, he didn't regret it, not when it served Leia so well. "When I found out about Leia's disappearance and Mon's betrayal," he began, glumly, "I had no one to turn to... except him."

Solo choked on his own breath. Even Chewie expressed his disbelief. "You're even crazier than I thought," his friend shot disparagingly.

"It's not what you think," Luke defended himself.

Han frowned at that. "Kid, you've been telling me that ever since we've been brought aboard his ship. Now spit it out!" he ordered him.

Luke knew that tone of voice. If he didn't tell him the truth, Han would ignore him and start giving trouble.

"All right..." he sighed. "With no one to turn to, I spent some time analyzing the situation, and I realized that he hadn't chased me down since Bespin... I meditated a lot on that fact, and discovered the truth."

"Which is?" Han prompted.

"The Emperor wanted me, Han; not Vader. And the Emperor is out of the circuit."

"What do you mean, out of the circuit?" the other frowned confusedly.

"He's lost in harmless insanity; Vader is the true ruler now, but nobody knows about this, except the Force... and Mon Mothma."

"So you actually trusted the Force and contacted him?" Han inquired in disbelief.

"Yes," he admitted. "He came alone, we talked, and made a truce."

"You realize, of course, that this could've been your end."

"I knew that the Force wouldn't lead me into a trap," he replied seriously.

Chewie seemed to agree with him, for once.

"All right, so let me get this straight," Solo said as he began to pace in the small room. "You have been working with Vader ever since you resigned your commission, which means that you faked your duel at the Massacres' base, as well as our capture outside their headquarters."

He reluctantly nodded, then apologized: "I'm sorry, Han... I couldn't tell you."

"You're damn right that you couldn't tell me, Kid" the other nodded energetically. "For one thing, I would have knocked some sense in that head of yours."

"And Leia wouldn't be safe," Luke retorted, feeling some of his temper slip from his control.

"We would've found another way..." his friend argued with him. "Just tell me something; why did he take it so hard on me at the fortress?"

Luke tried his best to restrain his amused smirk. He, of course, couldn't tell his friend that his father didn't approve of his relationship with his sister... He tried to imagine another reason.

In the end, it was easy to do so.

"Between the two of us, he knew that I would go along; you were the wild card.  He had to control you, but he couldn't leave you behind either."

"And now?"

"Now is different and you know it," Luke reminded him. "He hasn't even threatened you once, even though you have yourself. How about giving him a break, Han?" he offered.


Chewie's expression matched Han's.

"I mean as long as he doesn't try anything, why not let him be?" he suggested earnestly. "After all, he is working with us in this matter."

Han's conflicting emotions ran wild on his face: doubt, love, anger, frustration, worry. His features were like a mosaic of feelings.

He settled for cooperation.  "All right, but only for as long as he'll behave himself," he warned him.

This time Luke openly smiled at the use of his father's preferred expression.

Solo turned toward the window, only to find it darkened. "Leia!" he exclaimed--- and bolted for the door.

His friend caught him as he ran past him. "Han, don't! It's okay!"

Solo fought against him, easily freeing himself. Luke hurried to slide forward and stand again in front of his friend; he grabbed hold of his biceps and kept him from going out.

"Out of my way, Luke," Han warned him vehemently, "or you'll be responsible for the consequences."

Luke noticed the words yet again, slowly growing aware of how similar his father and friend were, then he noticed the close presence of the bulky Wookiee.

"Han, listen to me," he tried again. "Everything is fine; this was a request of the medical team. They don't want any disturbance, the operation is too difficult."

"No!" Solo objected. "He's hurting her."

He moved to throw Luke's hold off of him; the Jedi strained against him. "Han, please." Chewie moved closer. Luke changed tactics. "Chewie, believe me. She's fine, I can feel it. Remember, she's my sister. I know how she feels, when she's in danger. She's not." Meanwhile he continued to strain against Han, who managed to slip through his arms and barrel for the close-by door.

Han had barely stepped inside the corridor though when Chewbacca caught him by the scruff of his shirt and pulled him back inside.

*Listen to the cub,* he said. *He knows what he's talking about.*

"Let me go, Chewie!" Han raged impotently.

He began to try and set himself free from his co-pilot. Luke caught one of his flailing arm and helped Chewie to control him.

"Han, think about it. Why would I lie? What possible motivation could I have to lie to you?" he asked earnestly

"'He' is lying to you!" Solo continued to argue.

Luke exchanged a look with the Wookiee, who was holding Han's other arm. The both of them were now dragging him toward the middle of the room where they could pin him more easily.

*Chewie, we can't let him disturb the operation! It's too dangerous!*

Faster than Luke thought possible, Chewbacca pulled Han down onto the floor and easily pinned his hands above his head.

Han was furious. "Skywalker, I swear you'll regret this!" he spat.

"I'm sorry."

He exchanged a look with the Wookiee; Chewie agreed with his decision. Luke set his hand on Han's temple and knocked him out with the Force. Their friend slumped in their hold.

*Now we know that he really loves her," Chewie commented.

"I've never doubted it, Chewie. I can't keep him that way for the next two months though... You've known him for longer than I do. What will make him change his mind?"

*To see for himself that she is fine.*

They were stuck then...

"Let's get him on the bunk. If we can't figure out a way to do that, we'll have to make sure that he doesn't barge into the main room or knock on the window."

*I will keep an eye on him. You keep an eye on Leia."

For a moment or two, Luke gaped slightly at the tall creature who had just told him to use the Force to check on his sister. It was the first time that Chewie had clearly demonstrated his belief in the Force. "Thanks," he nodded in agreement, "I will."

Leaving Chewie to care for Solo, he himself sat on the floor, cross-legged, and reached out. He quickly found the nearby presences of his sister and father.

*What took you so long?* his father inquired.

*Trust problems... It's arranged. For the moment at least.*

*For the next operation the isolation will not be necessary, and after this one is finished he will be allowed to see her,* his father informed him, obviously aware of 'who' he was talking about. *That might help to calm him*

*Thank you.*

*Are you ready to begin?*


*Good,* the other nodded mentally. *Follow me...*

They found themselves facing a moat of deep dark water that was surrounding a high, beautiful tower of ice.

*Princess Leia Organa, hear my call,* the dark Lord sent out.

Her answer came almost instantly. *Go away, Vader.*

*Let me enter in your fortress, Daughter,* he beseeched her. *Lower your walls.*

*No, learning the truth about you has hurt me enough,* she spat vehemently *I will not let you hurt me again.*

*I don't mean you any harm, Leia. Let me help you. Let me guide you back to your former self,* he pleaded with her.

*No. There's no light,* she retorted vehemently. *no love, no reason to fight.*

*Leia, please,* he entreated her.

*No, I'll die before I let you in,* she defied him.

*Leia,* Luke suddenly sent, *hear my call.*

*Luke?* she asked, shifting her focus to the new, unexpected presence of her brother.

*Yes, it's me. Let him help you, Leia,* he pleaded with her. *He won't harm you, I promise.*

*How... can you be sure--?* she asked, her voice suddenly devoid of the strength that she was pretending to have with their father.

*Look at me, sister. Look in my heart,* he instructed her. *What do you see?*

*Trust... and care,* she added after a long silence.

*Now look in my heart, Leia,* Vader told her. *What do you see?*

An even longer silence followed the dark lord's question.

*Care,* she finally admitted.

*Will you let me help you?* her father asked her.

*Please, Leia...* Luke sent in the silence.

A small candle appeared to the window of the tower, showing her weary acceptance of the dark lord's help. A 'door' opened to allow them entrance in her walls.  In common agreement, Luke and Vader's spirits slowly moved forward to cross the moat and enter the princess's first wall.

As they continued to move inward, they ran into more walls. The sturdiest of the lot was Leia's desire to protect her identity. As the faced it, they discovered that she thought that if she were to let the dark lord inside, it would mean that she would become like him.

Her father didn't force down her wall. Instead, he tried to reason with her.

*Leia, can you see yourself?* her father asked her anew.

*Yes...* she whispered, having given up any pretense of strength.

*Do you really see that much difference between Leia Organa and Leia Skywalker, daughter of Lord Vader? It doesn't change who you are.*

*You're lying,* she cried in a small voice.

*No, he isn't, Leia,* Luke cut in. *You are still the wonderful woman I've grown to think of as a sister even before I knew the truth.*

*And you are still the young woman who has earned my respect despite the fact that you were with the enemy, daughter. You are still as courageous, as kind, as exceptional as before.*

A ponderous silence answered them. She was thinking.

*Let me help you, sister,* Luke pleaded.

*Let me bring your light back, daughter,* Vader added.

The wall that was blocking their progress suddenly dissolved into thin air.

*Yes,* was Leia's answer.

Their father found her healing center without any other mishap and initiated her Force healing. Luke watched from a distance, taking care to soothe his sister's mind whenever she showed an inkling to fight them off.

Many hours later, they left her mind to reintegrate their own bodies.

*Oof! We did it!* Luke breathed, wiping perspiration from his forehead.

*Thank you, Son. Next time will be much easier.*

*That's a relief,* he smiled tiredly.

*Now, I'm sorry, but I have to concentrate again,* his father told him, switching back to the Force.

Luke understood that the older man was going to continue the healing, but without him this time.

*Okay. I'll see you in the evening,* he told him, then slowly recovered his own senses.

The moment that he opened his eyes, Han assailed him with questions about Leia.

Chapter 10: The Truth

Throughout the following month, the rebels lived with Vader. While Han didn't leave Leia's observation room, Luke spent most of his time with books, or with his father to speak about his books.

Never before had he had so much knowledge laid before him. To the farmboy that he had always been up to now, it was intoxicating, overwhelming. It was like finding a water hole in the desert. The moment that he had some spare time, he retreated to the library to select a new book to devour.

Meanwhile, Leia's condition improved slowly at first, then more quickly when she stopped resisting her father's help.

In short, almost everything was as fine as it could be... except for Han.

Luke knew that something was bothering his suspicious friend --- and that this thing was his relationship with the dark lord. More and more, the looks that he gave him seemed to scream: "What the heck is going on here???"

The young Jedi knew that someday, probably sooner than later, the looks wouldn't be enough and he would have to tell the truth to his friend.

He tried to prepare himself for this moment.

He was still surprised when it arrived.

That day, he was sitting in a chair that was by the observation window, reading. Since Leia's condition was improving, he himself could concentrate on the other main 'concern' of his situation: his studies.

Thus, he completely forgot about Han's presence, but was reminded of it rather rudely.

"Kid!" Solo clipped.

"Umm?" Luke slowly raised his head.

"Are you here?"

"Um.. Yes, Han. What is troubling you?"

Luke wasn't aware of it, but the way that he said those words was purely like his father's. Han noticed it; his eyes narrowed in mistrust.

"I have some questions and you're going to answer them," he stated, leaving no room for argumentation. "I'm not blind, you know."

"What are you talking about?" the youth frowned. He was naturally aware of what this was about but he preferred to let his friend bring up the subject.  Perhaps, he reflected, he would even drop it once again.

"Perhaps 'you' are blind, Kid," the older man commented sarcastically.

"Me?" Luke asked, puzzled.

"Okay," Han sighed, raising his hands to the ceiling in annoyance before he locked his hazel gaze with his blue one. "I'll go straight to the point here. What's wrong with you and his lordship?"

"What do you mean what's wrong?" Luke scowled.

"Now, now, Kid," Solo sneered vehemently. "I'm really not as stupid as you think I am."

"I've never said---" Luke began defensively.

"But you think it, huh? I may not be gifted with your mumbo-jumbo, but I have eyes. What's going on, Luke?" his friend asked him seriously. "What 'really' is going on here?"

Luke eyes went from his friend, who was standing in front of him, to the Wookiee who was sitting a few chairs away. He refocused on his friend.

"You'll never give up, will you, Han?" Luke commented in a slightly playful voice.

"Don't lead me astray, Kid," Solo warned him grimly. "What's going on in Vader's dark mind nowadays? Which nut has burst away?"

"Nothing has---"

"Then what's wrong with you, Skywalker??" Han asked, changing angle in his approach.

"Me?? Nothing's---"

Solo lost his patience at this. "Damn it, Kid," he thundered angrily. "You're acting as if he is your best friend! You read his books, go in his personal rooms; you speak with him every time that you can. Is he messing with your mind or what?"

Luke shook his head as he straightened his composure. "No, Han, he's not. Really , there's nothing..."

"Enough," Solo cut in, obviously on the edge of losing what remained of his temper.


"Enough white lies, Luke. I want the truth; no persuasions, no manipulations, just the truth."

"The truth," Luke repeated seriously.


He sighed warily. It was too early ; his friend was not prepared for this. What if Han didn't accept it?, he wondered uneasily... Perhaps he could invent something until later on...

No!, he objected with himself. His friend trusted him to tell him the truth, so the truth it would be. "OK," he nodded, "the truth." He took a deep breath.  Force be with him. "He's our father."

Han gaped at him in disbelief. "Wha---?!"

"Vader. Is . Our. Father," Luke repeated very seriously, straining every word in his sentence.

"Your father?.." Solo whispered, unable to spit a smart remark at this.

Chewie, who had been watching the ongoing exchange with wariness, was also dumbfounded.

Luke sighed in acceptance, then bent his head to gaze at the floor. He had a pretty good idea how his friend was feeling at the moment. "I found out on Bespin, and discovered the truth about Leia a few months later..." he explained warily. "I know that it sounds horrible, Han... Believe when I tell you that this hasn't been easy for me to accept..."

"But you've accepted it," Solo pointed out.

Luke raised his head to meet his gaze once more. "Of course I've accepted it.  He's my father, Han, and he hasn't hurt me for the past two years."

"Sure, but he tormented you to no end before those quiet years," his friend reminded him caustically.

Luke shook his head in exasperation and stood up. "He's changed, Han. You've felt it yourself; he cares about us. Leia and I are his children and he doesn't want to hurt us anymore."

"So?" Solo demanded with a barely concealed sneer.

"So," Luke stated, planting his fists on his hips in defiance "we can trust him, at least this far. Besides, we are presently in one of the rare places where we're completely safe," he reminded him.

"Yeah, or totally vulnerable," Solo snarled sarcastically.

"Han---" Luke began warningly.

"Kid, don't ask me to trust him like you do, okay. He is not my family, and I haven't been craving for a father like you have."

"I haven't been craving for a father, and certainly not Vader!" Luke defended himself, his temper rising out of control now.

Solo grabbed his arm and forced him to meet his stare. "Oh yeah? Then how do you explain that you've bonded with him so easily?"


Han dropped Luke's arm to jab his finger on his chest, right where his heart was. "Your heart is playing tricks on you, Kid, and Vader will milk it for all its worth. Oh, he might not hurt you physically, but you said it yourself: he isn't a good guy," he reminded him meanly. "He is a monster and I bet that he knows it as well as I do. In the end, he will take advantage of you, one way or another," Han finished very seriously.

Luke was stung by Han's words. "No, you're wrong," he finally defended as he stepped away from him, putting some distance between himself and his friend.

Chewie was still watching him from his sitting position. Like usual, he seemed to side with his captain.

"The Force is guiding me," Luke tried to argue. "not my heart. Father won't do any of that; I know it."

Solo shook his head in annoyance. "Luke, listen how you're referring to him already. He isn't a god, nor a hero; he's a vicious darksider who merely happens to have participated to your creation."

"Shut up!" Luke spat all of a sudden before turning away from his friends.

Enough was enough; he didn't want to hear what he himself had been thinking  until up to a few months ago.

"Fine," Han shrugged and took a step backward. "Look at yourself though, Kid.  You've even begun to talk like him."

That simple example cooled down Luke's anger... Han was right about that. He turned back toward him.

Solo spoke up again, his tone friendlier than a few minutes before. "I only told you what I thought, Kid. If you don't want to hear what I have to say, then it's your choice. You'll deal with the consequences yourself though."

The two friends looked at each other, then Luke realized that Han was only trying to protect him. Well, he didn't need his protection, and certainly not in this matter. Solo was an orphan, a loner. He didn't know anything about families, nor Jedi relatives for that matter.

"There won't be any consequences," he reassured him and himself yet again. "I know that you're trying to protect me, but I'm not a little brother, Han. I can take care of myself, and I know that I'm safe here; we all are. I understand you though; I used to feel exactly the same way..." He expelled a breath in frustration. "You wanted to know, Han, now you know, and now you too have to deal with the weight of such knowledge."

"This isn't knowledge..." Solo grumbled.

*More like fate," Chewie commented.

Luke shook his head in annoyance at their reactions, then forced himself to calm down. Getting angry wouldn't help him in any way, nor would it help Han deal with his father when the time would come... and thinking of which.

"I understand why you don't approve of my father, Han, but you will have to talk with him as soon as possible."

Han's eyebrows arched up in surprise. "Why? I'm not going to--"

"He doesn't approve of you either. He thinks Leia has made a wrong choice," he  explained.

The outburst came, as expected. "She's got nothing to do with him!"

"Han, I said that he was 'our' father," he reminded him seriously. "Not only mine. He's Leia's father too."

"That doesn't matter. She still has nothing to do with him," Han argued vehemently. "Blood is not important. 'She' has nothing to do with him; he has no right over her."

Luke was practically gaping at him now.

'Blood is not important,' his father had said.

"He agrees with you," he heard himself say. "Blood is not important for the definition of one's self."

"Oh?" Han asked. "Well... good. It's the first time that I agree with his darkness."

"However, he isn't happy about you and Leia," Luke reminded him.

"Well, it's mutual; you can tell him that too," Han smirked smugly at this.

"I will."


Everything was said then, and it was time to deal with the facts. Despite his unexpected wisdom, Luke conceded that Han just didn't seem to understand all the implications of what had been said. Luke decided that it would be a good time to leave his friends alone and let them ponder what he had just told them.

He headed for the door.

"Hey! Where are you going?" Han asked him in genuine surprise.

"I'll leave you alone to sort this all out, Han," he explained. "I don't think that my presence here would help you. I'll come back when you'll be ready to speak about it, or simply when you'll be ready to see me again."

"I'm... well," the pilot fumbled. "I don't know if I'll want to talk about it or not, Kid... That's some revelation... but I'm not angry at you, just at how you seem to be falling for a trap," he told him earnestly.

Luke sighed. "I know, Han, I know, but you'll have to trust me in this matter."

"It looks like I don't have any other choice," Han agreed.

Luke turned away to leave.

"Say, how will you know when I'll want to speak to you if you're not here?" the smuggler asked him.

"I will feel it," Luke smiled wistfully, then was gone.

Han and Chewie exchanged a dubious/bemused look.

"Vader's son all right, uh, Chewie?" Solo finally commented.

*Like yet so unlike his father," the wise Wookiee crooned.

In the library, Luke sat heavily in favorite chair and thought.

No, Han was wrong, he tried to reassure himself. He 'had' to be. He hadn't felt any deceit in his father, he argued with himself and him, thus he knew that the other wasn't manipulating him.

He also knew his heart well enough to know when it was playing tricks on him. Sure, he admitted that he had always wanted a father, but, he thought in slight frustration, Han 'didn't' know the horror and utter defeat that he had felt when he had first heard of his father's true identity.  He didn't know that he had wanted to die because he had been utterly ashamed of his true origins...

He didn't know that it had taken him a long, long while to come to grips with the fact that the dark lord had indeed played a part in his life, although an absent one.

Once he had dealt with that fact though, he hadn't looked for Vader, hadn't sought him for a Father...

And Vader hadn't looked for him... until Leia's disappearance.

No, he reminded himself, Han didn't know any of those details which gave him undeniable proof that right now, he could trust Vader and himself, that he wasn't drawn to him like a blind orphan, nor that the other was playing tricks on him.

Instead... it was the Force, he slowly understood as he analyzed the events of the past months. At first, he had really thought that he had been left with no option to help his sister, but more and more, he could detect subtle stirrings in the Force whenever his family was growing closer.

His calling on his father's help hadn't been a coincidence, he finally Accepted, then wanted to tell his friend. It had been the Force... and that was why Leia would be completely restored to normal, thanks again to the Force.

It had taken a desperate situation to bring them all together, he realized, a situation which would allow them to 'know' each other, not just fight and make assumptions, and here they were, brought together through the will of the Force.

Sure, he conceded, Vader wasn't the exact picture of what he wanted in a father, but he cared for him and he respected his choices, as long as he himself returned the favor toward his father. Anyway, he shrugged to himself, he couldn't judge Vader yet. He had barely begun to piece together the puzzle that was Darth Vader...

And truth be told, he was even almost looking forward to completing the picture now. Of course, he knew that his father wanted to do the same thing with him, but what surprised him most about this was that he didn't mind.

Not anymore, and as long as things would go as well as they did now, but if they ever changed, he decided with finality, he would flee away and accept that his father was dead.

His dream-father had never been, leaving him with the very opposite of what he had hoped to find.

Or was it the opposite of his dreams? Perhaps not completely..., he carefully admitted to himself.

He would see in time.

He let his mind wander along those thoughts for some more time before his eyes rested on a book that was resting on a table near him. He picked it up and began to read some more about the old Jedi Order.

Three hours later, he was still in the library.

*Luke,* his father called in his mind--- but from right beside him.

*Huh?* he looked up and stared blankly at the black figure, unable to understand how he could be beside him when he was with Leia at the moment.

After a moment though, his mind seemed to synchronize with the present and he was able to reassert himself in his actual situation. Time had passed and his father had left Leia's side to rejoin him in the library.

"Sorry, I was a little lost in the book," he admitted with a blush of foolishness.

"So I saw," Vader commented as he sat down near his son. "You're disturbed. What is it?" he asked pointedly.

"I've told Han everything," he admitted truthfully in a small voice. "It wasn't pleasant."

"I see. How did he take it?" his father asked, a note of gentleness tainting his normally cool voice.

"Well... He's in shock, even if he's refusing to admit that fact. But he's accepted the truth itself."

"Good," Vader nodded before turning somber once again. "Luke, I must talk about something with you."

"Yes?" the young Jedi asked, his sad mood turning to worry in the space of a few heartbeats. There was something in his father's senses...

"I want to wake up Leia," his father explained simply.

"What?!" Luke gaped. "But she's not completely healed! It would be too pain---"

"She is almost healed," Vader countered reassuringly. "Her scars look more painful than they truly are and her body can function without the help of the monitors," the dark lord explained seriously. "Only the esthetic of her face is left now. Besides, she might even wake up on her own now: she's perfectly stable."

"But she'll be in pain!" Luke reminded him with animosity, unable to bear the thought of his sister in more pain.

"Yes, and that's why I want to do it," the dark lord nodded coldly.

Luke's mind seemed to make a one-hundred-eighty degree turn upon hearing those words. His mouth went dry. "W-What-- why?" he finally managed to ask in uncertainty.

"Don't worry, son. I shall not do it without your consent. Just let me explain."

"Yes, please do," Luke nodded, unable to hide his distraught state anymore.

"How did she feel to you when you last helped me?"

"Well...," Luke thought seriously, "passive. Accepting. Calm. Why?" he frowned next.

"She's allowing herself to die," his father stated somberly. "She doesn't see any necessity to struggle."

Luke eyes bulged in surprise this time. "What? but that's ridiculous, Father!  Leia would never do this. She's a fighter. Besides, you just said that she was in good condition! She can't die!" he stated, as much to deny his father's opinion as to reassure himself.

No, he pleaded the Force, he couldn't loose his sister... not now that he had found her.

"She can," the wise Dark Lord told him.  "She is physically well, but she's mentally dying."

"And this is why you want to wake her up?" Luke summarized for him.

"Yes. The necessity to heal will wake up her personality. She's a warrior, Son, you said so yourself. Her need to overcome both her physical and mental pain  will make her stronger."

"What mental pain?" Luke asked him, getting worried once again.

"Her subconscious knows the truth about us," the dark lord paused briefly, "but her consciousness does not... yet. When she will wake up, she will become aware of the truth about our family."

"Oh no..." he breathed in horror. Not again... "I-I thought that she was done with it."

"Unfortunately not."

So not only would Leia have to deal with her physical pains, he summarized, but she would have to process her dark secret as well... It was Bespin all over again, he sighed forlornly. It was the very thing that he had tried to protect her from.

"She is not you nor me, Father," Luke told him, hoping against hope that his father would understand that Leia wasn't always strong.

"Fortunately. But, she is much more like me that you are allowing yourself to see," his father slightly rebuked him. "Luke, I know what I'm talking about. It will help her."

Up to now, Luke reminded himself, his father's advice had always been sound... Perhaps he should also trust him in this matter, he thought hesitatingly.

"Perhaps..." he agreed, gazing down at his hands, then something occurred to him and he raised his head to meet his father's gaze once again. "Are you asking me to decide?" he asked him in slight disbelief.

"Yes. Take your time," he counseled him as he stood up. "When you will have made your decision, you know where find me."

"Father!" Luke said, taking hold of his father's forearm to keep him from leaving already.


"If..." he began hesitantly, suddenly aware of what he had just done, namely deliberately keeping the Dark Lord from leaving him... "If I say no," he tried again, "will you respect my decision? Will you let her wake up 'all by herself'?"

An electronically-altered laugh. "You know me well, Luke, but you can trust me. I will respect your decision, don't worry. Now think well, consult the Force if you 'really' need to," he finished in mild sarcasm.

The Dark Lord then left him alone to his pondering.

Chapter 11: Awakening  

Luke took his time to consider the weighty question.

If he only thought about his sister's needs, then he didn't want to wake her up to a kaleidoscope of pains.

On the other hand, if he only thought about himself, he couldn't wait to have her back with him, in the world of the living and the way she used to be. Even though he regularly contacted her soul to help her healing, it wasn't like when she was awake. Her warmth, her very essence wasn't there anymore; only her thoughts were there, and they were cold and emotionless except for her hatred that was directed at their father.

If only to break this awful stillness that was isolating her from him, he admitted shamefully, he wanted to wake her up.  However, if he thought along those lines, then whatever happened next would also be worth it, for her, him, but also for Han and their father.

And what if he thought about those two men? he wondered next. If he did, then he realized that he would also wake her up, but for different reasons.

The two of them loved her in a different fashion than he did. Both men were so protective of his sister that if he didn't know better, he would think that they were vying against each other for her attentions.

It was ridiculous of course, and even if it were the case, he conceded to himself, nothing could rival with Han's selflessness when it came to Leia... although their father seemed to be able of boundless love in some cases... like he had been with their mother.

At this, Luke forced himself to remain on his track of thoughts: his sister.

One thing was sure, he surmised for himself: both men loved her and wanted her back with them.

Han had long since stopped pretending to be aloof when Vader was around. He now openly showed his worry and desire to help his lover. He wanted to do something for her because he couldn't 'bear' anymore to be helpless in face of his lover's torment. Of course, he still had a tendency to take it out on the dark lord, but he at least didn't have an urge to pound on him anymore.

Luke smiled slightly as he remembered a few scenes of the past month; yes, he nodded to himself, Han had 'behaved'.

And his father... his father... Vader had also dropped part of his mask, he had to admit.

Well, as much as he could anyway. After all, his real mask wasn't helping him to look like anything else but the dangerous dark lord who had caused them all much torment... but, he cared about his daughter, if in a cool fashion.

Naturally, Luke conceded that he wouldn't be the type to hug and kiss his children if he had the chance, but he would definitely lend them all the support that he could find, as well as protect them from any harm.

Vader didn't love, Luke summarized to himself, but his boundless care compensated.

Now, if only Leia knew what he had already done for her, he then thought earnestly. Ever since the medics had begun to rebuild her face and body, the dark lord had tripled-checked every procedure to prevent any side-effect or oversight ; he had also always been at her side during the procedures, much like a watch dog that was ready to defend his master at the slightest sign of danger.

Unlike a dog though, their father wasn't restraining himself to her physical safety only; he was also keeping an eye on her soul, baring his own soul to hers whenever dark hatred seemed to resurface in her senses.

At first, it had happened very frequently, but it was less so now.

Because..., Luke sadly realized, she was truly letting herself die.

He closed his eyes in acceptance of the horrible truth.

Never in his life had he ever imagined that his sister would just give up. No, he tried to deny his discovery. She was a fighter, a stubborn woman who embraced life like she embraced her family and friends: with passion.

She just couldn't possibly let herself die.

Yet, he sighed forlornly, she was... His father was right, he admitted sadly.  Even though her body was healing well, and even though her scars were much less disfiguring than they had been, her soul wasn't healing at all.

For a fleeting moment, he reached out and checked on his sister; he got no answer whatsoever.

It helped him to put the final touch to his decision; even without the Force, he now knew what he had to do.

He stood up and went in search of his father.

It was time to wake his sister from her coma.

Han was in the observation room, as usual.

What was not usual though was his absence of reaction to Vader's presence. He barely spared a glance at the Dark Lord when he entered the small room, then he turned back to watch the medics who were examining Leia.

Vader silently stood beside him, also watching the progress of his daughter.

They eventually broke the silence a few minutes later. Or rather, Han did.

"I still can't understand how she can be your ..." he hesitated. "Your daughter. And still..."

"The more you study her and the more you will understand," Vader answered coolly.

"I hate to admit it," Han muttered unhappily, "but you're right.

"I know."

"She is very much like you," the smuggler conceded with a sigh.

Much was expressed in that sigh, Vader noted. Weariness, acceptance, worry.

"You can't imagine how painful it is for me to know that she is your daughter," the younger man half-whispered, "But she does have your explosive temper and will for power..."

"Yes. Fortunately though, she is also everything that I am not," Vader said warmly.

"What do you mean?"

"She is good, Solo. She is inhabited by a Light, like her mother was... She will never become as twisted and cynical as I am," he tried to reassure the confused smuggler, yet he inwardly added: 'She will never become a monster like I am.'

"I'll see to it," Han commented lightly.

"I see that your feelings haven't changed," Vader observed in relief.

Now that Solo knew the truth of Leia's parentage, he had truly feared that the other would reject her. Thus, he had tried to prepare himself to deal with a heart-broken and soul-broken daughter, but it seemed that he had underestimated the pirate's feelings for Leia.

Exactly like Luke had warned him against, he then admitted to himself.

"In your dreams," Han snorted in answer to his previous comment. "Your being her father isn't important; what is important are my feeling for her... But," he shrugged a little, "let's just say that I understand her better now."


"Good? Just like that?" he challenged in disbelief. "Luke said that you're not happy with the idea of me as your son-in-law?"

"I'm not, but my feelings in this matter are not important," the dark lord answered simply.


"As long as you behave," he added, as if in after thought.

"What does that mean?" Han asked, suddenly irritated anew.

"That I will not tolerate anymore foolish displays of your well imitated temper," the dark lord warned, and Han could almost swear that the man was smirking under that mask of his.

"What you are tal---"

"Exactly like what you're doing now. Stop hiding behind that mask, Solo.  I know that it isn't the real you," he sternly reminded him.

"Oh..." Han nodded and stopped trying to pretend being angry. "Well, it's valid for you too, then. You want to understand me; the same goes for me."

"What do you want to know?" Vader offered.

"Do you love them?" he asked bluntly.

"My children? Yes."

"Enough to not sacrifice them to your goal, even if they make the difference between victory and defeat?" Han asked pointedly.

Vader took a moment to reconsider his opinion of his future son-in-law. Solo was indeed clever, sharp, as well as more attentive than he had thought. And unlike Luke, he could see both the evil and the good in him, which meant that he remained wary about his intentions.

Luke, he then reflected thoughtfully, was still too naive to make that dichotomy by himself. He himself needed to constantly remind him of his true self if he didn't want him to 'fall' for him.  "You understand me well, Solo," he admitted with a slight bow, "but yes, as far as my children are concerned, I would not sacrifice them."

"Do you care enough to not harm them?" Han asked, demanding for precision.

"Your meaning of harm is not mine. In my terms, I do not harm them."

"I see," Han commented matter-of-factly, accompanying his retort with a raised eyebrow. "And what of me and Chewie?"

"You are a matter of great importance to my daughter.  Harming or destroying you would harm her badly, so I will not touch you either."

"I see... Do you hate me? personally?" Han inquired although it seemed to be a difficult question for him.

"No. What for?" Vader frowned in confusion.

"Because I used to hate you," Han admitted bluntly.


"Yeah," the smuggler shrugged. "I don't think that I do anymore."

"Why?" Vader asked, genuinely puzzled by this turn of events.

"I don't have any hatred left," Han shrugged again. "It's all burned away. Besides, she is your daughter. I would probably not help her healing if she knew that I hate her father."

Vader added wise to the list of qualities of his son-in-law. "Do you really love her?" he inquired much like Solo had done with him the previous instant.

"Yes," came the instant reply. "Even more than I love my own life."

And with that, he knew that he had pierced Solo's mask, as well as ascertained that their children had indeed well chosen their best friend. Solo was a man of heart, head, and ideals.

"My compliments for your mask, Solo," he answered coolly. "Very impressive."

"I used to be like this, a long while ago," the smuggler tilted his head slightly. "It seems that people appreciate more the hot-headed stupid smuggler that I pretend to be than the cynic bastard that I really am.  Leia loves him tough."

"And my son cherishes your friendship," the dark lord reminded him coolly. "In your place Solo, I'd give more credit to my children. They know you better than you think. As do I."


"That your mask is a double protection; a reflection of your real self as a first level mask, and a monster's face as a second level. An excellent trick, but I can't confuse the illusion with the reality.  You are as much a monster as I am an angel."

"I see your point... But... I'm a smuggler, an outlaw."

"And a man with ideals," Vader returned playfully.

"Damn you!" Solo suddenly exclaimed in annoyance at being cornered so efficiently by his most probable father-in-law.

"I am already, thank you very much."

Solo stared at the Dark Lord, then his hard gaze softened. "What do you expect of me?" he asked him pointedly.

The Dark Lord indicated the nearby bay-window. "Love her. Help her. With Luke's agreement, I'll wake her up tomorrow. She might need your assistance."

"What??? You will harm her again!?" he suddenly exclaimed in disbelief. "Why?  I thought that---"

"To insure her survival, Solo. Mentally speaking, she's dying right now."

Much like Luke had done in the library, Solo calmed down and took a long moment to consider his words, then finally nodded in agreement. "I'll help her, and I'll behave."


"As long you're doing the same," the younger man then warned the dark lord, the ghost of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

Vader openly laughed. "Very well, Solo. I think that we can call it a truce."

"A truce? On what terms?" the smuggler frowned.

"That we both behave ourselves and help Leia to heal."

"Deal," Han said, offering his hand to the dark lord.

They strongly shook hands, then Vader nodded and left the room, satisfied that yet another element of his daughter's recovery had been dealt with.

The next morning, father and son were inside the princess's room. Luke was dressed in a sterile suit, but unlike the other times that he had been allowed in his sister's room, his face wasn't covered. Only his hair and body were.

At first, his father hadn't agreed with his decision to be in the room upon his sister's awakening, but in the end, the dark lord had relented. He knew all too well that if something wrong happened, he needed him in the room, ready to help and physically close by to reassure his distraught sister.

And gods knew that many things could go wrong during their upcoming session.

Luke stood beside his sister, gazing down on her badly scarred but now recognizable features. In time, he knew that they would completely disappear, becoming little more than faded marks on her skin.

He could only hope that it would be the same for her psyche.

His father broke his silent pondering of the future. "When you're ready, Son," he informed him warmly.

Right, Luke reminded himself, bringing himself back to the present. The time to consider the advantages and drawbacks of his decision was over and it was time to act. Besides, he reminded himself, even though he knew that he would be responsible for his sister's torment, he still remained true to his decision: it was time to wake her up.

He rested his hand against his sister's head.

*Forgive me, Leia,* he sent her, then looked up and nodded to his father.

Vader lightly rested his fingers against Leia's right temple; Luke felt his senses search for Leia's presence. He followed him in.

Unlike the first time that they had contacted her, they didn't have to coax down any wall. The dark lord's spirit easily slipped inside Leia's mind. However, he didn't establish contact with her healing center this time ; instead, he focused his attention on her center of awareness.

*Leia, daughter, hear me,* Vader called out in a gentle voice.

*Go away,* Leia answered, her mental voice devoid of any emotion.

*Leia, you are a fighter, you can't let this challenge destroy you,* he sent her.

Luke watched from a distance, as he had agreed to do.

*I can and I do; it is all your fault, dark tormentor that you are,* she spat venomously in answer.

Luke wanted to step in, to tell her that she was wrong. Vader continued to try to make her rouse herself.

*And if you don't fight back, you will loose. Do you really want to loose, Princess?* he asked her.

*I don't care...* she answered, once again drawing away from Vader's presence.

*You might lie to yourself in this state, daughter, but deep down, you know that you want to live.*

*Prove it,* she reflexively challenged him.

Vader was more than glad to prove her wrong. He pushed a jolt of adrenaline in her system, rousing her from her deeply inactive state.

Luke reintegrated his senses just in time to hear his sister's gasp of shock and surprise as she recovered her own senses.

Then, she began to scream.

Not a weak scream, nor one of pain, but one of fright.

"NOOOOO, NOOOOOO, it's not true!!!!!!!" she wailed in horror, weakly trying to draw away from the Dark Lord's presence.

Luke instantly understood what was going on; she had indeed become aware of her family's secret, exactly like her father had told him she would. Coupled with her conscious torment, it had to be horrifying; he hurried to comfort her.

The dark lord also tried to soothe her.

"Leia, calm down, you will only---".

She only screamed louder and continued to writhe away from her father. Behind the observation window, Han was forcing himself to remain where he was instead of dashing inside the room.

Luke finally took hold of his sister's free hand and leaned closer to her still laying body.

"Leia, it's okay, sssh... calm down..." he crooned as he tried to keep her from hurting herself.

Even his best efforts didn't soothe her except for the fact that Leia took hold of his lapel, aware that she wasn't alone with the dark lord anymore. However, her level of fear remained alarmingly high.

Sadly understanding that his father's presence wasn't helping her, Luke threw him a serious look. "Leave us, Father," he told him. His request seemed to surprise the dark lord. He repeated it. "Wait outside," he instructed him over his sister's muffled cries of anguish and despair.

The dark lord finally noticed the way that the weak woman was clutching at her brother's clothes as if she would never let go, how she was burying her tear- streaked face against his shoulder. He nodded, then turned away and left without a word.

Once they were alone, Luke turned his face to see his sister's tears' streaked features. He gently wiped her tears with his fingers, careful to not touch her scars.

"Ssssh, Leia, it's okay, you're safe now, ssshh."

She didn't open her eyes ; she continued to sob. "Luke, please don't tell me that it's true--- he can't be---" she whispered.

"I wish that I could lie, dear sister," Luke sighed, " but I can't... I'm sorry."

"No...," she moaned, then clutched Luke's medical suit with her surprisingly strong right hand.

Luke, who had no choice but to loom over her as if he were bodily protecting her, took hold of it in his own right hand, enveloping it with the warmth of his hand. "Leia..." Luke half-whispered, searching for a way to help her cope with the truth.

"I want to die, Luke..." she whispered listlessly. "I'm tired to hurt, to be unloved..."

"Leia, you 'are' loved," he told her earnestly. "You are more loved than you could ever imagine."

She opened her beautiful brown eyes to look at him.

"I hope that you will forgive me for not telling you about our father before... and for waking you up, sister, but I love you... and so does Han---"

She meant to tell him that he wouldn't love her anymore; Luke didn't give her the chance to argue.

"He already knows about the truth, about our secret, Leia. His love for you hasn't changed since I've told him." He smiled at his sister. "In fact, I think that it has redoubled."

His exhausted, pain-afflicted sister gazed at him with her half-closed eyes, then she resumed her crying.

This time though, they were tears of joy. Luke carefully leaned close enough to hug her while not adding to her pain.

"We all love you and care for you, Leia. Don't ever doubt the depth of our feelings for you, princess Leia Organa, sister of Luke Skywalker,... daughter of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader."

Leia's strong right hand clutched his clothes as strongly as she could while she sobbed in relief. "I was so afraid... that you wouldn't---" she hiccuped through her sobs.

"I know, Leia, I know exactly how you feel," he comforted her, sending her warm feelings through the Force.

When he felt her recover a somewhat cooler composure, he slightly drew away from her.

"That was why you were so holed up..." she reflected weakly as she referred to what he had hinted at in his last comment.


"Yes..." he nodded, "I didn't want to tell you; I was afraid to hurt you worse than he did aboard the Death Star... I didn't want you to bear this knowledge, even after I discovered the rest of the truth about ourselves."

"Luke... you know you could---" she said, barely shaking her head in exhausted annoyance.

"Have trusted you? Yes, I know. Do you forgive me?" he asked her.

"Yes..." she whispered.

"Even for waking you up in this state?" he specified.

"It was your decision?" she asked him with a slight frown.

"Yes. I knew that even though it would hurt you... that it was the only option that we had left to truly heal you," he answered softly.

Her eyes brimmed with tears once again. Luke gently rubbed her cheek dry.

She took a deep breath, then brought her hand from his shoulder to his own hand.  "Yes, brother, I forgive you. I needed to know that you and Han still loved me," she told him in a breathy voice.

"Father does too, you know?"


"Yes. Well, it is more exact to say that he cares, but he has done everything he could to help you, and if you let him, he will do so until you're back to your feet."

"Vader?" she asked again in bemusement.

"Yes... Some things have changed in his life, Leia, and while he isn't the epitome of a father, he is not too bad. He is demanding, coolly disposed, but underneath his mask, he cares about us."

"Has he hurt you?" she asked him, slight worry piercing her weakened state.

"No. He has made me study all kinds of stuff to be able to read the books in his library, but otherwise... he hasn't pressured me in any way."

"And Han?"

"Han and Chewie are fine too, but I'll let Han tell you that himself, okay?"

He gently pried himself loose from his sister's hold, then motioned toward the observation window. Han didn't wait for more incentive and rushed toward the preparation room.

"He's here?" Leia asked him, some eagerness creeping into her still weak voice.

"Yes, and I'd say that he's more than eager to see you again," Luke smiled at her. "I'll come back later on, okay?" he informed her.


Luke had almost reached the door before she spoke again.

"Luke?" she whispered.

He turned around toward her. She forced her eyes to remain open.

"If... Vader wants to see me... can you come with him?" she asked him.

"Yes, I will," he promised her.

It was a first step, he reflected. Instead of completely refusing to see their father, she had decided to slowly make acquaintances, but not without her brother's presence.

There was hope.

The door opened to reveal the worried/relieved features of his friend.

"She's waiting for you buddy," he told him, then left him alone with his sister.

Chapter 12: Family

Han entered Leia's room almost timidly, as if afraid to wake her up, then sat by her bed. "Hello, sunshine," he told her in a very soft, almost never-heard- before register of voice.

"Hi." Her voice was small too. "Han, I..." she began hesitantly. "Luke told me..."

Solo leaned closer and delicately touched her right hand in reassurance. "Yes, I know, he also told me everything. No need to worry, Princess," he smiled gently.

"Don't you care?" she asked, her voice slightly rising.

Han raised an eyebrow. "That you have a much-less-than-ideal parent?" he queried.

Leia's nod was barely perceptible.

Han shook his head. "That doesn't matter, Leia. Not for me." He smooched her knuckles with his lips, rendering her speechless.

"I... Thank you," she barely managed to whisper.

They gazed at each other for a few moments.

"How are you feeling?" Han asked her solicitously.

"Like.. being walked on by a kraat," she told him, her tiredness now creeping back into her voice.

"That has got to be uncomfortable," Han tried to joke.

Leia barely creased her lips in a ghost of a smile. "Yes, it is," she agreed. "Han?" she asked next.

"Yes, dear?"

"Am I... ugly?" she queried, the shadow of fear slowly reappearing in her restored eyes.

Her beautiful eyes.

Han looked at her ruined face and smiled. "Well... You're slightly in need of some makeup, but beside that.. Everything will be all right."


Han nodded in assurance. "We've been solemnly promised by the medics here that you won't see the difference once the treatments are finished," he reassured her.

"Oh... And where is 'here' ?" she asked him although she already knew the answer.

"Coruscant... in Vader's castle," he answered, then, when he noticed that she was beginning to panic once again, hastened to add: "It's a long story but everything is okay."

"Okay? Aren't we--- prisoners?" she asked in confusion.

"No," Han shook his head. "Vader insisted that we would be his guests; that's why we accepted. Don't worry, things are going very smoothly for the moment.  Besides, you are in the best medical center in the Empire, or so it seems. Luke knew that things would turn out this way, and we simply couldn't let this occasion pass by, could we?" he finished in a lighter tone.

Leia smiled slightly. "I missed you so much..." she whispered faintly.

"I badly missed you too, my love," Han told her, gently squeezing her right hand, the only part of her body that seemed to be healed enough to be touched and held. "Don't worry, Leia, everything will be all right. I promise," he reassured her, kissing the back of her hand once more.

"Thank you..." she said sleepily, her head slightly lulling sideways to rest deeper against the pillow.

She fought to stay awake; Han noticed it. "Sleep, Leia. I'm not going anywhere," he promised her.

"You'll stay with me?"

"For the rest of our lives if you want, my princess," he answered with all his love.

"I'm tempted to say 'yes'," she smiled sleepily.

"Then say it," he smiled gently, his voice and heart filled with love for this unique woman who meant the universe to him.

"Yes..." she answered, finally feeling at peace with herself since... since the last time that she had been with her lover and brother.

A minute later, she was deeply asleep.

------Two levels down, Luke searched for his father.

He hadn't meant to kick him out of his sister's room, but he had had no other choice even though he himself knew that deep under Vader's armor, way past the dark figure of their arch enemy, lay a being who still felt emotions.

He cared about his children, he wanted to help his daughter... And he probably resented being expelled from her room---

*Not really,* the dark voice commented in his mind.

Luke whirled around, surprised while pleased that his father would finally reveal his whereabouts to him. He walked closer to the door nearest to him, then stepped inside as it opened.

He stopped in his tracks when he saw where his father had found refuge.

It was a dark room where an holo of the whole galaxy and more was lighting the whole room. It was hard to miss the dark shape of his father as he stood in front of the awe-inspiring, three-D holo.

"How is she?" his father asked him coolly.

"Huh... she's okay. Han is with her at the moment."

"Good. Has she aggravated her injuries before you calmed her down?" he inquired diligently.

"No. She's come to accept the truth without raging over it, but I doubt that she will truly become comfortable with it," he told him as diplomatically as he could while he stepped closer to the mesmerizing holo.

"That wouldn't surprise me, Luke," his father retorted wisely, turning his imposing silhouette toward him. "The opposite would, though."

"Father,---" Luke began.

"Son, be realistic for once," he suddenly 'almost' snapped at him. "No matter what happens, Leia will never accept me. I've hurt her and her friend--- her brother, even worse than anybody ever has... I am responsible for the death of too many people to be forgiven, especially by her who has sworn to fight me to her last breath."

"Father," Luke interrupted earnestly, "I too once made that promise, and I changed my mind. I can see that there is more to you than a Dark Lord of the Sith."

Vader whirled back toward him at that, as if greatly angered by his statement.

Luke bravely continued, not allowing himself to be unsettled by his father's now-familiar intimidating attitudes. "There is within you a human being who is willing to help others the way he can. If this doesn't warrant redemption or at least forgiveness, then nothing does."

For long minutes, father and son sized each other up, then the dark lord turned away, chuckling slightly as he did so.

"You truly are naive, Son," he commented in mild reproach. "If I were as evil as the Emperor were, you wouldn't have resisted me for long. You're too easy to manipulate."

Luke flushed red at that.

"Human beings are not black or white, pure good or pure evil, Son. Our souls are a perpetually shifting pattern of grays. It's a price for the absolute liberty of choice. Even you have some darkness in you, my dear son of the Light."

"I know," Luke admitted. He remembered fits of anger that he had pulled sometimes, and how he had killed other beings... No matter if they had been enemies or not, they had been living before he had pulled the trigger or pushed a button...

His father continued to speak. "Because I am of the darkness, Leia will not accept me." Luke meant to argue; Vader silenced him with a warning finger.  "Even 'you' can't change anything to this, Son. I will always be apart from everybody else... that is as it is... A price for power. Perhaps, it was meant to be," he finished more wistfully.

"What do you mean, meant to be?" the young Jedi suddenly frowned.

"The prophecy of the Balance," his father shrugged slightly. "Have you heard of  it?"

"Well, I've read about it," Luke shrugged slightly. "It's about a Chosen one that must come to bring balance to the Force, which is disturbed by Great Wars, right?"

"I am the Chosen one," Vader answered simply.

It was Luke's turn to gape at his father. "What??"

"For years, I didn't care about the prophecy, the rumors; I simply followed my guts... right into Palpatine's hands. Thankfully, the Circle found me then. If not for it, I would have been consumed by him. The Chosen one," he continued more seriously, "was conceived by the Force to bring back stability in our world... Once the Sathed had been eliminated, and the Jedi order shone, the Jedi began to," he hesitated visibly on his next word, "to alter the ways of the Force, to corrupt it... and it was up to the Chosen One to restore the balance... It was up to me..."

Luke couldn't believe his own ears. "But they were fighting for goodness!" he interjected in astonishment.

"Yes, they were," his father agreed coolly, "but their ways were also dangerous, too set in false beliefs and made-up traditions that led to the unalterable instability that ensued. 'That' is why they were destroyed."

"The Jedi Purges?"

"Yes. It was quite an ironic shift of destiny that the prophecy that had been made by the Jedi implied the destruction of the Jedi Order, not that of the Sith..."

"But," Luke objected reflexively, "it was Palpatine who ordered you to begin the purges, wasn't he?" he asked, still trying to make sense of this strange accounting of the past.

"No," Vader shook his head. "He liked the idea, but the beginning was mine."

"What?! But," he choked on his own disbelief, "that was inhuman!" Luke accused him despite himself.

"Yes," his father agreed, "but it was necessary."

"You decided that it was!" he shot back angrily. "How could you---"

"No," Vader interrupted warningly, taking a step closer to him; Luke understood the implicit, serious threat and quickly subsided. Whether his father cared for him or not, he was suddenly wary of him once again. "The Force itself decided, Son. It was not my delusions. Ask it," he instructed him. "It will tell you the truth."

"But the Force can't..." Luke's voice died as he felt that his father was, once again, telling him the truth.

The death of the Jedi Order had been the way of the Force.

"But it was..." he half-whispered in horror.

"Inhuman. Evil. Necessary. I don't think that it can be forgiven- at least here, and by our kind."

"But how can the Force...?" he wondered again, still unable to process what he knew and what he had just been told.

"The Force is not good nor evil, Luke," his father calmly explained, having recovered his own coolness as well.  "It's neutral. 'I' accepted to do it's bidding. I, and only I, did the evil, by my choice," he finished neutrally.

"But if it was your destiny, that it seemed inevitable, couldn't you refuse it?" he inquired, this time in hope.

"I don't know," his father shrugged. "I didn't try. But now that I look back in time, yes I think that I could have. Nothing can take away one's liberty of decision. It was purely my choice to obey the will of the Force. Now try to remember it," he sternly advised him, "while searching for the good in me."

Luke was silent for some time.

"I want to restore the Jedi Order" he finally said seriously.

"I know," his father nodded.

Luke swallowed hard before asking his next question. All of a sudden, he was 'really' worried about his father's goals once again. "Will you... eliminate me too?"

A tensed moment ensued his query, the silence of the Dark Lord worrying him more than any word that he might have answered him at the moment.

Finally, his father spoke up again. "No," he stated with finality. "Not you," he reassured him, "Your eventual students...perhaps, but not you."

"My students?" Luke frowned, feeling both reassured and unsettled once again.  He would not train new Jedi if his father were to exterm---

"Only if they restart the old path, Luke," Vader commented, having once again read right through his mind. "Otherwise, if they follow your new path, I will not intervene in their destinies."

"I see." Luke nodded shortly. He did not like what was hinted at in their conversation, nor how easily his father could still read his mind despite the training that he had given to him. If he could do that, then he probably also knew how suddenly afraid to fail he was, how uncertain he felt about his project, and duty, to restore the Jedi Order.

"That's why you're learning," his father commented in the silence, "It is your destiny to find a new way to use the Force and not blindly trust the ways of necessity and 'traditions'," he finished with a sneer. "When you will leave, you will be ready for this new beginning."

Or else his students would be killed someday. He pursed his lips in anxiety.  Unless, he then reflected, he asked his father to not let him leave until---

Suddenly aware of the word that his father had used, Luke paused to think about, then became aware that with this last comment, his father was wordlessly telling him something that he hadn't noticed earlier. "Father?" he queried.


"Why are you trying to push me away from you?"

Vader turned toward him, looked at him for some time, then said in a calm voice: "Because I don't want you to suffer even more than you already have."

"I will not suffer," Luke assured him.

His father sighed wearily. "I can't give you what you desire, Son. I can't give you the lighthearted father that you dream about and are trying to find in me."

"I'm not trying to find anybody in you!" Luke defended, his temper rising once again.

"Really?" his father surly challenged him. "Then why don't you accept that I 'am' the Dark Lord of the Sith? A Sith by choice, and not a lost and manipulated Jedi Knight?" Luke was speechless for a moment; Vader continued. "Why can't you accept that Anakin Skywalker is dead?"

"I understand all this," he finally answered. "I accept it!"


Luke wanted to say "Yes", but somehow he couldn't.

It was not true. The man before him had nothing to do with the father that he dreamt about.

Nothing 'at all'.

He looked at Vader as if for the first time.

Did he really accept him? he asked himself. Did he really care for him? Could he really ... see in him something that he could care for? But then, how could he care for the inhuman monster who was the Dark Lord of the Sith?

The darksider didn't even regret his horrible actions. He accepted that he was evil, that he was a monster. It was, he realized, as if it were just a fact for him.

Just a choice.

A choice to damn his soul, he seethed as he finally began to come to grips with the choices that his father had made for himself. A choice to kill millions of people just because it was needed. Just because somebody had said that it was necessary. Somebody that he had blindly trusted.

Just like he himself had.

He gazed once again at his father, with new eyes.

"Yes," he answered steadily. "Yes, father. I really accept it... Now, and I," he swallowed, "I'm sorry, for trying to judge you. I have no right. I'm a monster too," he finished humbly.

His father whirling on him was the last reaction that he had expected from the stoic giant, let alone him resting his large hand on his two shoulders in obvious care.

"No, Luke!" he scolded him warmly. "You are not a monster. You are gifted with true Light, something that I don't have and will never have. It is a most precious gift," he continued in a gentler tone. "Don't lose it. Make it your guide in the ways of the Force."

Luke was at a loss for words.

"I--- I'll try..." he whispered, unsure as to how he should take his father's words.

Down to a T, or figuratively speaking only? And what did he mean exactly? "So.. do 'you' care about me?" he asked him instead.

"Of course."

"And for Leia?"


This puzzling answer brought him back to the beginning of their argument. "Then why do you keep your distance with us?" he asked again.

His father let go of his shoulders, then took a step away and began to pace the room. "I'm a loner, Luke. Always was, always will be," he began. "I'm too dangerous for anyone to be around me."

Luke shook his head. "You aren't alone now, Father. I'm here."

"For the moment, Luke, but once this will be over, you will return to your life, and I to mine," his father said matter-of-factly.

Luke couldn't answer to this. True, he hadn't exactly entertained the idea of staying with his father afterward, but at the same time, he wasn't exactly opposed to it either.

"I don't know that yet, Father, so neither can you," he retorted as lightly as he could.

Vader remained silent.

"Leia asked me to be present in the room when you speak to her," he informed him next in the heavy silence.

Still no answer.

"She is at least willing to speak with you," he lightly rebuked his father's pouting attitude.

"When she does speak with me," Vader answered seriously, "it will be when she will ask for me," he finished, then swiftly exited the room, leaving his bemused son in his wake.

On his way to his private chambers, Vader reconsidered the last minutes of his conversation with his son.

Long ago, he had promised himself to never let feelings invade his heart ever again. He had always held true to this promise, even since he had forged an alliance with Luke and his friends... but today...

His boy had challenged that promise.

He had tried, he had really tried to keep his icy barriers up around his heart, but the boy's suggestion that things might be different afterward had begun to make them melt under his warmth.

No, he couldn't hope for anything, he rebuked himself, couldn't even imagine what it would be like to finally have his children home... because he knew that it would never happen.

There were too many things between the three of them to ever close the gap.

Luke was naive, that was all, he was still daydreaming instead of facing reality as it was.

Leia would always hate him, yet he did hope that she would let him help her.

Luke would always try to save the whole galaxy and make his delusions come true.

He... would always be a dark lord of the Sith... a loner with a dark soul, without any God but the Past, and without any light, except for his love for these children of his cursed blood.

Children that would always be strangers to him.

That was it.

And now he had some work to do. He headed for his office where stacks of reports on the rebels were waiting for him.

Four days passed during which Leia's status improved.

Luke often visited her while Han stayed with her almost all day. She also made acquaintance with her medics and accepted the treatment that they proposed, but she didn't see even the shadow of Vader.

For the first two days, she didn't complain about this fact, but on the third day, she began to wonder what he was waiting for.

On the fourth day, she breached the subject with her brother.

"He is waiting for you to make the first move, Sis," he told her simply.

His answer stumped her. Since when did Vader wait for anybody's convenience, let alone interest to see him before he barged in whichever place he wished?

"He will wait forever then," she growled, "I will never ask him to come."

"Are you sure?" Luke queried seriously.

"Of course I'm sure," she told him earnestly. "I'm not going to tolerate his presence around me like you do, Luke. I am not interested at all to be friend with him."

Luke's eyes became slightly hurt. "I am not friend with him," he defended. "I am just taking advantage of what he's offering me."

"That's exactly what I mean, brother. You've claimed your place as his son."

"I have not."

"Yes, you have," Leia argued with a little more strength than before. "If you hadn't, we wouldn't be here."

"And you wouldn't be with us," he defended with some animosity. "Don't you understand, Leia?" he continued more earnestly. "Without him, we would have lost you. I had no choice but to contact him, to go along with him, but I don't intend to become Vader's son."

"Then why don't we leave now?" she asked him seriously.

"Because you aren't completely healed yet. We still need his help."

"No. I will not let him---" Leia stated adamantly.

"Only he can restore you to your former health and beauty, Leia..." Luke sadly pointed out. "Do you really want us to leave this soon, to perhaps fall into Mothma's trap once again?.."

No, she didn't want that, but she didn't want to be within a thousand yards of the dark lord either.

"Leia," Luke said, taking her right hand in his own, "we need his help if we want to be safe once again. Why not take what he has to offer for the moment?"

Because it would be like betraying Alderaan, she wanted to tell him. But then, she remembered the data that she had found that had proved that the selection of Alderaan as the Death Star's target had been the Emperor direct order. The Emperor's doing, not Vader's... not her father's...

And her capture by him had been due to Mon's betrayal, Mon's subtle manipulation... because Mon had known what would happen to her... except that she hadn't counted on a reckless farmboy and a dare-devil pilot to ruin her perfect plan to take control of the Rebellion...

Vader had merely been a tool... A tool which could hurt... or heal...

She knew that she wasn't healed yet, and yes, she wanted to recover her former attributes.

She sighed in resignation. "All right, tell him that I'm ready," she informed her now smiling brother, "but you have to be present with me when he comes," she reminded him.

"I will be with you, don't worry," he promised her. "Now get some rest, sweet sister. There's no need to fight for the moment."

As if lulled by his words, she almost instantly fell asleep.

Chapter 13: Daughter and Father

When Leia woke up, Luke was still with her. He waited for her to awaken completely before he informed her that the Dark Lord was waiting for her convenience to see him. "Let's get this over with," she sighed in answer.

To her surprise, Vader almost instantly stepped through the doors; he had indeed been waiting for her convenience, she noted. He slightly bowed his head to her, then sat on the usual place of the medic, by her left side. Luke remained on her right side.

"I trust that my medics are taking good care of you, Your Highness," he commented coolly.

"Yes, my Lord, thank you," she answered, equally coolly.

Luke couldn't help but shake his head at his sister/father interplay. Leia could deny her link to their father, he reflected wryly, but she had inherited his pride.

"Luke told me that you were ready to see me, Your Highness. What can I do for you?"

"Well, first," Leia began regally but with a slight, fatigue-induced tremor that gentled her voice, "I want to thank you for your help, Lord Vader.  You didn't owe us anything, yet you helped; despite our differences, I appreciate this part of our actual situation."

"It was a pleasure to assist the last princess of Alderaan," Vader answered in kind.

"My other reason isn't so kind though," she warned him meaningfully. "I want myself and my friends to be free, right this moment," she said in a voice that left no place for argument.

Vader still found some place for it. "You and your friends are my guests, Your Highness," he reminded her coolly. "You are already free, but for your safety, you are confined to my castle."

The young woman openly snorted in disbelief this time. "Since when does Lord Vader treat the leaders of the Rebellion as his guests, let alone offer them shelter?"

"Since these leaders were betrayed by the said Rebellion and happen to be my children, Princess," the dark lord answered, slightly upset now.

Luke noted that no matter how much his father was impervious to any kind of feeling, he was vulnerable when himself and his sister were concerned.

"I see," Leia commented coldly. "I haven't asked for your care, Vader. If you are doing it in hopes that I will turn to your side, you can forget your plans to use me," she almost spat. "I was betrayed by Mothma, and by Mothma only. This doesn't change anything to my commitment to the goals of the Republic."

Luke tightened his hold on his sister's hand, trying to calm her down. *He's only trying to help, Leia,* he reminded her through the Force. *Give him a chance.*

His sister turned her annoyed glare toward him, then refocused on the sitting dark lord.

"My plan, Princess, is, yes, to use you only against Mothma, but only if you want to take part to it. As for yourself and your friends, if you really wish to leave, then you are free to do so right this moment."

Upon hearing this, Luke felt Leia's shock, then he saw her narrow her eyes once again in suspicion. "What about our condemnation to death, Lord Vader? Aren't you digressing Imperial laws by sheltering us then letting us go?" she asked him coldly.

"Your death marks have been lifted years ago," Vader answered with what felt to Luke like a shrug of carelessness.

Although he was beginning to feel like he knew his father, even Luke was stunned by this new information; he hadn't known about that at all. Oh, he had noticed that he wasn't being chased anymore, but he had never thought that his father had completely lifted the bounties on his and Leia's heads...

"After Bespin, right?" he asked wistfully.

Vader only nodded.

Leia gaped at her brother, then her father. "But the Emperor would never accept it---" she began to object, trying to reason her brother back to his more defiant senses.

"The Emperor is out of the game now," Luke commented seriously.

She turned toward the Dark Lord, asking him to confirm this statement. "He doesn't decide anything anymore," he nodded. "He is senile."

"So you took his place!?" Leia suddenly understood in shock.

"Unofficially," Vader answered simply. "The medics, as well as other people who have been involved with the operation, have kept this information secret.  However, it seems that Mon Mothma knows about the Emperor's illness, but I do not think that she suspects its true extent."

"So she's preparing the offensive... " Leia mused to herself as a piece of her puzzle added itself to what she had already gathered 'before'... before, she decided coldly. She did not want to remember her captivity.

"Yes," Vader nodded in agreement. "Her ultimate plan is to take the throne, so she's removing anyone who can be a possible danger to this plan. You were the most dangerous, Luke was the second one to be hurt, I have proof of it now."

Luke whirled toward him, stumped. His father had found proof that he would have been a target too had he remained in the Rebellion...?

"I knew that she was trying to make a bid for power in the Rebellion," Leia reflected out loud, "but not with the Empire as well."

Their father sighed, then continued. "There is no limit to this woman's lust for power, Princess. Ever since I've taken control of the Empire, I have had to delay some of my plans because of Mothma's constant harassing of honest populations. I can't let my guard down because 'she' is still in power."

She looked in this black mask, then sighed forlornly. "All right, let's stop this game..." she swallowed, "Father."

"As you wish."

Luke noticed the discreet look that he threw in his direction, as if sharing a small victory with him; there was progress, he smiled back.

"What do you really plan to do with us?" Leia inquired tiredly.

"Besides healing you and taking care of Mon Mothma, I don't have any plans, Leia."

"This is hardly believable," she commented harshly, annoyed that the other would continue to lie to her now that she herself was willing to put an end to their cool face-off.

"I am not hiding anything from you, quite the opposite," he warned, throwing yet another look in Luke's direction. "I want to crush Mothma's Rebellion, and I'd really like to destroy Mothma herself," he admitted truthfully. "Your help would be welcome, but not necessary," he concluded.

"Well, I will not help you!" Leia answered almost instantly.

Luke, though, displayed a great deal of indecision; it greatly surprised the other two who were present in the room.

"Good," Vader finally answered his daughter.

"Good?!" Leia gaped, abandoning her study of her brother. "You mean that you can do it alone?" she inquired worriedly.

"Most certainly."

A small silence, which Leia spent seeking her brother's eyes; he was lost in his own thoughts. She turned back toward her father. "I will never forgive you for what you've done," she stated.

"I understand, but will you accept my help for your healing?" he inquired coolly.

"Haven't you heard what I've said?" she scolded him hard. "I will never forgive you!"

"I'm not seeking your forgiveness, Leia," Vader countered calmly. "Nor your love nor care. I only want your acceptance of my help."

"Huh, you mean that my forgiveness does not matter to you now?" she frowned in confusion.

"It does," the black-clad giant nodded, "but I'm not asking for it," he added wistfully. "I never ask for the impossible."

"I see..." she mumbled, seeking her brother's opinion once more.

Luke refocused on her.

"Will you accept my assistance or not?" her father asked her once again.

"Can you make me walk again?" she queried as she studied her brother. As she took note of his unusual behavior in front of Vader, she decided that she would have to speak with him.

"Yes," the dark lord nodded soothingly.

"Then I accept."

"Very well. I will heal you completely," the dark lord stated as he stood up to leave.

"Thank you," she told him, then added. "but you'll never have more than that from me, Vader," she reminded him. "Understood?"

"As I said, Your Highness," he repeated on his way around the bed, "I never ask for the impossible. Good night, Princess. We'll begin tomorrow morning.  Luke," he then said, addressing her brother for the first time in minutes. "I will be working in the library. Feel free to join me."

"Okay," her Jedi brother nodded as if in a daze.

She suddenly tightened her hold on his hand, silently warning him to not leave just yet.

Leia waited until they were alone before she spoke up again. "Luke," she began almost rebukingly, "what's wrong with you? You are not going to help him, are you?"

"Why not?" he scolded at her patronizing attitude. "Mon Mothma has betrayed you, has fomented plans to also get rid of me, why shouldn't I help him?" he inquired with sudden animosity.

"Because he will destroy the galaxy's last hope for freedom," his sister reminded him sternly.  "As a Jedi, you must defend it, not destroy it."

Luke took a deep breath as he fought once again the battle that he had become familiar with lately: his heart, or his head? "Perhaps 'he' is the last hope," he finally muttered grimly.

"What?? After what he's done, you'd---"

"Yes, after what he's done, and what he hasn't done," he argued earnestly.  "Leia, I took a look in his office while he was tending you. He has done unspeakable things, I agree, but he has also saved millions of lives, especially since the Emperor has 'stepped' down."

His sister naturally fumed at him at this. "Hasn't it ever occurred to you that he's prepared all that just to lure you to his side?"

Here we go again, Luke thought humorlessly. "Yes, and no, he isn't pretending," he answered inarticulately, then shook himself into a more coherent mental pattern. "Look, you might not accept him as your father... but I do," he admitted after a moment of silence. "There's more to him than a Dark Lord, and that little extra is not destructive at all."

"But the rest is..., Luke," she continued more gently, "you've never had a father before, you've yearned to have one for years..." she tried to remind him without upsetting him. "Vader is simply filling this hole in your heart. It's normal, but not necessarily----"

Her new approach with him didn't work; he jumped to his feet in annoyance.  "Yes, he is filling my heart," he nodded in agreement, "but only that. He is not filling my mind with delusions, nor is he lying to me. I will never claim the name of Vader, but he is my father, and yes, I will help him to avenge you and the years that we all lost in pointless strife."

Leia was speechless. Luke knew that she was probably convinced that he was turning to the dark side, much like Han was believing... but he knew that he wasn't.

He had just finally come home... where he belonged.

"Look," he told his stunned sister in a gentler tone as he became aware of how upset they had both become, "just trust me, okay?" he offered her. "I know what I'm doing ; everything will be all right."

Leia stared at him for a long while, then, she finally nodded slightly and closed her eyes in acceptance of his decision.  She refocused on him, softening her eyes; he also relaxed.

"Tell me what he's planning when you'll know, okay?" she demanded.

"No problem... that is if Han doesn't beat me to it," he finished with a smile.

She returned his smile; he kissed her eyebrow in sign of their truce and surviving love, then left her room.

A week passed.

Leia now felt much better. She hated to admit it but her father's treatment were doing wonders to her.

Still, she hadn't spoken with him very often, and when she had, it had only been to ask to have a reading terminal in her room. Vader had agreed with a nod, then had continued her treatment in silence.

His attitude toward her, she had to concede, was exactly as if he were a professional medic versus a complete stranger.

Cold, distant, and efficient.

Somehow he had even managed to make his presence completely non disturbing. She barely noticed his dark shadow anymore. Instead she spent most of her time with him lost in her thoughts, simply obeying his requests when he needed to test her articulations.

He was just another medic, she would remind herself. Just a tool to heal her. Just a stranger.

Hence, there was no necessity to speak with a stranger. No necessity to feel something for him.

On the other hand, as a stranger, she could not hate him anymore either.

Besides, she shrugged, her body would not support the fire of this feeling, and mere thought that she could have any kind of feeling for him disgusted her.  Thus, she felt nothing.

Nothing at all.

Strangely enough though, she felt betrayed when she read about one of his inhuman orders on her terminal.

A small city was being ravaged by an epidemic virus, and his order was to burn it to the ground. She should have expected it, she reminded herself. She knew that he was a monster.

So why did she felt betrayed?

Because of Luke, she decided. Because of his blind trust in this tyrant.

When the monster came in for the another treatment, she was ready. She was sitting on her bed, her back held straight, her face hardened.

"Lord Vader," she began without preamble. "I want an explanation."

He looked at her, apparently surprised for a couple of seconds, then finally nodded. "On my decision considering the epidemic virus on Sargad?" he offered.

"Exactly," she nodded coolly although she was shocked that he knew what she had in mind.

"It's too long to explain, Princess," the dark lord answered simply, "but I assure you that we cannot do anything else to save the planet."

"But you can't burn all these people! They are living beings! " she exclaimed, outraged.

"Not for long, I'm afraid," he shook his head. "The virus that has escaped from the laboratory is lethal. No treatment is known."

"But they are not all ill!" she argued. "There must be another solution, you--- you just don't want to find it," she then accused him vehemently.

"And why would I do that?" he answered, recovering some of his colder edge under he continued attack.

"It was your laboratory! Your project!" she pointed out accusatorily. "You only want to eliminate the witnesses."

"First," he began seriously, almost warningly "almost all research projects are, as you say, 'mine'."

Leia was speechless, thanks to both her sudden unease with the dark lord as well as his admission of the truth.

"Second: the elimination of the dangerous population cannot be done without burning towns to ground. Third: If you find another solution I will gladly accept it. You have two days maximum. Is that clear?"

Despite her growing worry, Leia noticed that Vader's voice was rushed.

"You will really accept it?" she asked, bemused by the darksider's explanation while recovering her own composure as she understood that the other did not mean to hurt her again.

Instead, he too had a body language when he argued, and especially when he was arguing about painful truths. She had to conceded that she had not expected him to admit the reality of the situation.

As if reading her mind, Vader sighed. "It might surprise you, but I don't enjoy burning towns," he commented in a weary voice. "I'll authorize you highest level access to all data. If you discover that I've made an error- good," he clipped.

"Huh," she gaped wide-eyed at him. "You mean that you can accept to be wrong?" she asked, thoroughly confused now.

"I always did, and considering the situation," he added more conversationally, "it would not surprise me in this case."


"Too much work," he answered evasively. "I 'could' have overlooked something vital. You have two days."

"You will have your answer," she answered with determination. "You will see."

"Very well," he nodded. "Can we proceed with the treatment now?"

"I'm ready," Leia nodded, putting an end to one of her rare conversations with the man who was her biological father.

Two days later.

She hadn't slept. She almost hadn't eaten. She had read, and read, and read.

First with anticipation.

Next with determination.

And now with cold dread.

The virus was lethal and was transported by air, ground and water. The concerned town was small. It was in a valley that was calm but for the wind season.

Which was beginning the next day.

While winds would not represent any problem normally, in this case, they meant that the virus would be carried to the megapolis that was nestled at the end of the valley.

Some five hundred millions inhabitants.

The small, infected town was already blocked, of course but nobody could stop the wind.

There was no solution, she finally admitted in horror.

None at all.

It couldn't be, she thought for the thousandth time since beginning her study, it simply couldn't be. Couldn't...

The only answer to this planet's problem was to burn the small town and the virus with it.

And some two hundred inhabitants.

The work on the treatment was progressing well, but the wind season... If not for it, they could wait for it to be ready.

But the wind season was beginning in less than twelve hours, and even the Empire had not found a way to control the winds yet...

Megapolis. Five hundred millions inhabitants.

Her blood turned to ice when she understood that she had already made her decision. She could wait, she told herself, she could pretend that she hadn't reached a decision, that it was still up to him... that she wasn't also condemning two hundred people to their deaths...

She called him at the last possible moment.

"Lord Vader," she began shakily, "I... I approve your order," she half-whispered despite her dry throat, then broke the communication.

She buried her face in her hands and wept for all her worth. She simply wanted to die once again.

She too had become a monster now.

Luke stormed into Vader's office.

His father barely acknowledged his presence, intently listening to some man on his screen. Since he had to wait for the communication to finish, his anger kept growing with each passing minute.

"Calm yourself," his father finally commented, switching the communicator off.

"What? Calm? How can you..." he began vehemently.

"You spoke with Leia," his father stated matter-of-factly.

"Yes, I did," he confirmed grimly. "How could you?"

"How could I what? Give this order?" the dark lord asked his righteous son.

"No," Luke shook his head. "Involve Leia in it."

"She insisted," the darksider answered coolly. "I gave her the chance to change the situation."

"Which could not be changed and you knew it," Luke pointed out. "So why?"

"I repeat," Vader answered, his voice becoming strained under the barrage of questions and baseless accusations. "She insisted. She wanted to try."

"But you knew that it was impossible! Why did you let her do it?"

"Do 'what'? " the older man finally inquired, this time letting out some of his own frustration break into his voice.

"Approve this... this monstrosity," Luke finally managed to spit. "You want to break her, don't you?" he accused him defiantly, "To taint her with your darkness? Why?"

"Taint her with my darkness?" Vader repeated, this time slightly incensed by his son's rude behavior. "Corrupt her? Make her approve?"

A cold, icy wind brushed over the room. His anger was now perceptible in the Air and the small room in which the two of them stood.

Luke's words died on his lips even as his eyes widened in slight fear. He had forgotten who his father was, he realized.

The Dark Lord stood, turned his back to him, and stepped closer to the large window. He was silent for some time, trying to calm himself.

His son also remained silent.

Once their anger was drained from both their being and the room, Vader spoke again.

"Luke, she wanted to try," he explained regretfully. "Do you think that I could deny it to her? By what right? Everyone has a right to try."

He heard his son take a deep breath, then Luke answered: "But you made her approve..."

"'I' made her?" he asked, whirling toward his boy.

The young Jedi couldn't help but cringe away from his stormy silhouette.

Upon seeing this, Vader forced himself to calm down again. "She made her decision alone, Son," he explained more gently. "It's very easy to remain pure, good and clean while making no decisions or choices. But what value will have this goodness? And will it be goodness at all?"

Luke remained silent, thoughtful.

"She made a decision, an evil one, yes, but the only one that was possible."

"It made her suffer," Luke pointed out sadly.

"Yes, because she knows that it was evil, and because she knows that she approves it. Perhaps she will now see the darkness that lies within her."

Luke raised his head again, obviously about to retort to that, but Vader didn't let him.

"It's the first step to overcome it, Luke. You can't defeat an enemy if you don't know that it is there. You yourself have been through that fire," he reminded him more gently. "She has yet to do it."

The young Jedi could only nod, all too familiar with the fight against his own darkness. He had found peace with himself when he had finally accepted that he was Vader's son, if not by philosophy, then at least by flesh.

Just like his own father had come to grips with his own darkness by taking over the Empire and turning it into a fairer government, but a government all the same.

Yes, he nodded to himself, Vader wasn't Light, nor Dark. He was only... a human being... who had been through hell and back.

"I'm sorry for my outburst, Father," he apologized earnestly. "It was uncalled for."

His father stepped closer to him. "No, I understand your emotions. But if you want to be a true Jedi, Luke," he told him more seriously, "you will have to learn to not judge too quickly, and to set aside your own strict definitions of Light and Dark because you will have to both save and destroy every single being of the galaxy."

Luke looked up in confusion.

"Everyone carries both Light and Dark in their hearts. No one is pure Light or Darkness."

"Then how will I know?" he asked, confused about his heritage.

"Follow the Light, Son," his father advised wistfully. "Believe in it, and everything will be alright."

"Light? But you've just said that there was no Light and Dark..." he reminded him in confusion.

"No," Vader shook his head. "I said, that you can't find human beings of pure Light or pure Darkness. However, the spark of Light that I am talking about is in your heart and you can follow it if you manage to see it in spite of your own assumptions of what must be. Call it Love if you prefer," he then simplified for him. "That is the true god of the Jedi as well as the true Light and hope of this galaxy. A pity that the old ones forgot it and made the Force their god."

"Because the Force is neutral?" Luke inquired, trying to understand what his father was trying to teach him this time.

"Yes. It's like... a road," Vader explained. "It can lead to the Light, or the darkness. You'd be stupid to make your god a road instead of the goal, don't you think?"

"Yes..." he agreed carefully.

Somehow, he had always known that, but... he had always thought that he had been confusing things since his teachers had always talked about the Force, not his heart... well, not that way anyway.

Once again, he realized that the Dark Lord of the Sith was right. Before he could say so though, another call came for his father.

While the other answered it, he himself silently bade him good night, then was gone.

Chapter 14: Making Plans

Two days went by.

The treatments continued, then Leia was transferred from the medcenter to a personal room.

The chosen room was large and sunny, furnished in cream whites and light brown. Large, high windows were allowing her to take in the astonishing view of Coruscant even from her location in her bed.

At the moment though, she was not looking at it. Instead, she was sitting in bed, silent and pensive, her legs covered by her blanket; she didn't seem to be even aware of her father's presence with her.

Eventually she broke her wall of silence. He had completed the usual treatment and was standing up to leave when she addressed him: "Father?"

"Yes?" he answered, as coolly as ever.

"I have been thinking a lot," she began hesitantly, "and I am wondering... What does the Empire represent to you?" she asked him nervously.

"Everything," he answered simply, then walked toward the nearby windows. There, he watched as the evening slowly overtook the city. "Everything," he repeated more thoughtfully, "my whole life," he explained with a few extra words.

"... would you say that you consider it as you do your children?" she inquired uncertainly.

He nodded somberly, keeping his back turned toward her, "In some ways, yes, I do."

It was her turn to nod slowly. "I think that I understand what it means to you then," she commented as she reluctantly made a parallel between herself and her father. "You want to change it, but..."

"I don't want to destroy it," he finished for her as he turned back toward her.

Leia unflinchingly met his cool gaze. "I feel the same way about the Rebellion," she explained, admitting for the first time in her life that she had a point in common with her genetic father.

Like her father, she did not want her 'child', the Alliance, to disappear completely. She absolutely cherished the goals and ideals that she, and all her comrades in arms, had come to embrace with a fervency that allowed them to overcome any type of obstacle.

And yet, she conceded glumly, it was dead---

No!, she decided adamantly, she wouldn't let it die. She wouldn't let it wither so that the deaths of their heroes would have been for nothing. Instead, she would make their death worthwhile.

As if reading her thoughts, her father spoke up. "I understand your point of view, Leia, but I will not let Mon Mothma, nor anyone, destroy the Empire. I will not let anybody profane all the sacrifices that countless have made in its name. Do you understand?" he inquired seriously.

"Yes, but you must also understand that I will be against every plan that you have in mind to use her betrayal in order to eradicate the Rebellion. The countless men who have fought in this war... who have suffered and/or lost their lives..." she continued, her throat tightening as the poignant memories assailed her mind. She locked her determined gaze with her father's. "I will not allow you to make their lives and deaths meaningless. Do 'you' understand?" she inquired grimly.

Her father didn't answer this. Instead, he changed the topic by mentioning the traitor once again. "Don't you want her to be judged?"

"Yes, I want her to be judged and punished, but..." she commented more sadly,  "at the same time, I don't want it."

"Why so?"

"This knowledge would kill the Rebellion and everything that I and the others had been living for, Father. I told you that I---"

"What do you live for exactly, Princess?" her father interrupted, taking a step closer to her bed.

Mildly chilled by his involuntarily threatening movement, the rebel leader took a second to not lose her composure before she answered him. "I want the galaxy to be a better place," she declared solemnly, defiantly. "I want to give people the right to choose their lives, their religion, their education, everything." As she spoke, she visualized her dream in her mind and loved what she saw.

"Good," her father commented, breaking through her reverie.

"Good?" she frowned in confusion as she refocused on him.

"I want the same thing," he answered simply as an almost shrug seemed to move his broad shoulders.

That stumped her. "Really?" she asked in confusion.

"Yes," the Dark Lord confirmed once again. "I want what you mentioned, but," he raised his right index in warning, "I don't want it to happen through the destruction of the Empire," he specified. He continued more coolly: "I think that it can be done without it."

"Huh," Leia began inarticulately, "so you mean formally the Empire... but functionally the Republic?" she summarized in quickly growing disbelief.

"Exactly," he nodded in agreement, then seemed to smirk a little. "Think of the Emperor as a life-long president."

Leia couldn't help but smirk too. "And I thought that 'I' was an idealist," she teased him before she turned more serious. "Do you think that it's truly possible?"

"I never ask for the impossible," he reminded her. "Not from the others, nor from myself."

"I see..." she commented as she began to consider the situation from her father's point of view. "Since Palpatine will probably not be alive for much longer, you will become the next emperor, right?" she said with a mild note of displeasure in her voice.

"Yes," the black-clad giant answered, ignoring her sign of distrust.

"And after you?" she began more unhappily? "Will you corrupt Luke---"

"Well," her father interrupted her rising tirade once again, "I was thinking about a certain princess from Alderaan..." he offered as he stepped closer to the head of her large bed.

Leia felt her jaw hit the mattress as she stared at him. "Me???? Are you crazy?"

"Not at all," Vader commented seriously, shaking his head.

"Why not Luke?" she asked despite herself. She couldn't comprehend how her father could think of her as his successor instead of her brother. After all, 'he' was a Jedi. She wasn't... and her brother had already joined his side, whereas she hadn't.

"He is a Jedi," he agreed with her silent thought, "not a politician, and you're one of the best that I have ever seen... Not to mention that you are very charismatic."

"You're crazy," she repeated, unable to react in any other way but defiance. "I will never accept it."

"You have some time to think about it," her father openly shrugged this time, "I am not planning to die just yet."

Leia looked at him in bemusement, then chuckled despite herself at the other's surprising dry humor. "Honestly Father, this is... Can you imagine Han as a royal consort? He would die of shock simply upon hearing this," she suddenly smiled wryly.

"He will survive, don't worry. He is rather resistant," he pointed out.

Leia realized that her father was dead serious about his offer. "Father..." she tried again, more somberly when the humoristic approached failed, like the defiant one had.

"As I've said," he shook his head in refusal of her argument, "you have time to think about this proposal."

"The answer will still be 'no'," she told him adamantly but with less strength in her voice than she had first planned to use.

"I'm not asking you to decide now," her father reminded her, thus making it clear once again that he wasn't accepting her actual answer.

She pursed her lips at that.

"What have you decided about Mothma?" the dark lord inquired, bringing them back on their first topic of discussion.

"I ... I don't know," she admitted. "I want her to be judged, but I don't want her betrayal to become public knowledge."

"I see. Who, in the Alliance, would you trust as judges?"

"Any general except Madine; he is with her," she explained, her eyes becoming harder at the mention of that name.

Vader didn't seem to notice; he nodded in agreement. "Five for the Republic, Five for the Empire... Good. I think that we can do it."

"How? By presenting proofs to the Alliance?" she offered him, then shook her head, "I have no doubt that she destroyed all evidence right after you destroyed the pirate's base," she reminded him.

"She did," her father confirmed grimly. "I have already ascertained it. What I had in mind though was to make them see her for who she really is. It will be a long, twisted game..." Vader commented, and Leia reflected that he sounded pleased.

"What game?" she frowned, not sure that she understood what was going on in her father's head now.

"Will you help me with it?"

Leia still wasn't sure that she could trust the Dark Lord of the Sith, but she knew that she wanted revenge against Mon Mothma. "Only if her betrayal will not be publicly known," she finally stipulated, "nor used for the destruction of the Alliance."

"Agreed," he nodded. "If I had wanted to use it," he then commented, "I would have already done it."

"What?? You waited for my approval??" Leia gaped once again at her surprising father.

Now she understood what her brother had meant by unpredictable. He was truly surprising her at every corner.

"No, but the Alliance is less stable at the moment. If I had wanted to destroy it with the truth, it would have been the best moment to strike," he explained seriously; Leia was speechless. Her father continued. "If I used that against them though, the result would most probably be chaos, and I can't afford chaos right now."

"So you keep the Alliance alive for purely political reasons," she observed, suddenly mildly angry.

"Yes, I do," he asserted. "Now, do we have a deal, daughter?" Vader inquired, offering her his hand.

Leia looked at the black glove that had once tormented her even in her nightmares, then leveled her gaze to study the masked man. She could trust him, she reflected... she could somehow feel it... and he had promised her not to destroy the Alliance. She took his hand in hers. "Deal," she agreed grimly.

"Thank you," he bowed in a formal way. "Good night, Princess."

"Good night, Father," she answered, and for the first time since she had woken up after her ordeal, she felt safe from even the Dark Lord.

He truly was her father, she admitted to herself as she went to sleep on her new pillows. He was not like Bail, she thought dimly as she let her tiredness pull her into restful sleep, but he cared like the other had.

"Come in" the deep voice said from the other side of the door.

Luke lowered his hand; he hadn't even had time to knock, he thought ruefully.  He chuckled in slight amusement and entered his father's favorite working room. Vader set the datapad on the table and turned toward him.

"A good attempt at shielding," he commented. "You make progress."

"But you felt me," he answered, slightly dejected. Just how powerful was his father?, he wondered yet again.

"Only when you came by the door," his father replied smoothly. "It was a good achievement indeed."

"Thank you," he smiled shyly. "Am I disturbing you?" he then inquired seriously as he looked around them to gauge in which activity his father had been absorbed before he had come in.

"Not really," his father reassured him. "Take a seat."

Luke complied. "I have a question," he said matter-of-factly. "I need to know something."

"I know. Go ahead."

Briefly surprised by his father's cold certitude about his own mindset, Luke hesitated briefly before he plunged in. "... How did Anakin Skywalker die?" he finally inquired, a tremor of incertitude and reflexive wariness inhabiting his voice.

Vader looked at him for sometime in silence, then lowered his head again to refocus on his datapad. "Painfully and slowly," he answered coldly. "It happened when Palpatine showed me what I really was, and what had created me."

"The Force?"

"The Dark Side," he specified coolly.

"What?... what do you mean, the Dark Side?" Luke stuttered slightly, unsure that he had been right to ask this question to his father. "I thought that there was only the Force and that our hearts defined---"

"I was created in a goal of destruction, Luke," he interrupted him, looking up from his chosen read to lock his hidden gaze with his. "I was given life by the side of the Force that the Jedi Order call 'Dark'."

Even though he had been ready for a painful accounting, Luke couldn't help but feel his jaw hit the table, then floor in stupefaction. It couldn't be...

"I am blind to the Light Side, Luke," his father continued more gently, as if feeling his sudden discomfiture. "That is why I became Sith- the Jedi path was the way to Hell for me."

"But..." Luke began hesitantly, "you were a Jedi, weren't you?"

"If you define Jedi as 'one following the teaching of the Jedi Temple', yes, I was," his father confirmed. "However, this way was one that required blind trust in the Force as well as the need to bow to different kinds of insane traditions that don't mean anything to the Force. It was not for me, Son. I was dying there," the dark lord explained simply. "The only true path for me to live with the Force was the aggressive side, the Dark side. Only then... could I grow, accomplish myself, and fulfill my Destiny."

Luke swallowed hard, trying to moisten his suddenly dry throat. "And the Circle?"

"It doesn't impose anything on me... It gave me a possibility to see all my possible choices, to see what the Light and the Dark are. I admit that this knowledge was second-handed since it came from others' memories," he then conceded, "but it was better than nothing."

"But you do feel the Light that you talked about the other day..." Luke frowned uncertainly. "You care and love... You loved our mother, didn't you?"

"I think so... I hope so," Vader answered earnestly after a brief hesitation.  "I do hope that it was love and not a mad desire of possession..."

That literally floored the younger man. "You mean that you don't know?" he whispered, feeling less and less sure about anything anymore.

"No, I don't," his father admitted truthfully. "Anakin loved her, but Anakin himself was just an illusion. As for me, I simply don't know. What I do know is that I, as Darth Vader, would give anything just to see her again." The dark lord then gave him some time to digest this. He slowly stood up from his chair and walked closer, then Luke felt his hand on his shoulder. "I know that I care for you and your sister, Son. If this 'is' love, then you are right and I know what Love is."

So gentle, Luke thought, yet the other didn't feel any regrets for what he had inflicted upon others, himself included. Never had Luke thought that he would someday encounter such a strange demon... let alone his being his father... "So you don't see the Light in yourself..." he reluctantly summarized in a chagrined voice. As he did so, he dimly reflected that it was just a last ditch attempt for the orphan in him to save his dream.

Deep down, he now knew that Vader was Vader, not Anakin Skywalker... And he was his father.

"I don't," his father agreed with his last statement, "But I see it in others... and especially in you, my Son."

Yes, Luke thought forlornly, a father indeed... one that he could count on, one that wanted to see him well and happy... a being who was trying to restore freedom in the galaxy,... yet he was also a Sith lord who was made of darkness, nothing else.

Luke slowly understood that he had to accept it, or else forget him forever.  "You know," he said, not considering his father's last comment, "I'd like so much to see your face..."

"That mask is my face," was the suddenly curt reply even as the other removed his hand from its perch. "What you see is how I really am. As for the flesh, it's burned and scarred; I don't look like a human anymore."

Luke flinched in compassionate pain at the mention of what was underneath the mask.

Vader continued. "Nothing is left from Anakin Skywalker, Son. He died a painful death, but he is dead and better left that way."

Luke raised his head at this and locked his gaze with his father. "Something has been left, Father. 'I' was left. I am his child," said Luke-the- orphan.

Left in this galaxy, and left in the care of guardians who had never replaced his lost parents...

"No, Son," Vader slowly shook his head as he rested his hand on his shoulder once again. "You and your sister are mine. When you were conceived... he had already been dead for a year," he informed him gently, "at least mentally so if not in the flesh."

Luke cast down his gaze to keep his father from seeing the shadows of tears that were threatening to flow from his eyes.

His father, Anakin, was truly dead... and had resurrected in Vader. Gathering his courage, he looked up at the mask; he dimly noticed that the pattern of the overhead light on it was giving him the impression that the black faceplate was smiling softly, almost fondly.

"You cannot flee your inheritance, Son," his father told him gently yet seriously. "Even if you want to."

"I will not flee," he answered his father, "But you scare me sometimes."

"You have nothing to fear from me," his father reassured him even as his mask seemed to take an even more caring composure.

"I know. It's not that..." Luke explained, then turned away from him, slightly drawing away from his hold. "Perhaps who I'm really scared of is myself," he muttered.

Afraid to become like him, he acknowledged for the first time ever since he had been told the truth on Bespin.

"You will never become like me," his father stated adamantly. "You will be a great Jedi. I will never let you fall in the Hell that I live in," Vader's hand touched Luke's. "You have nothing to fear."

"I hope so," Luke said glumly as he kept his back turned to his father. "I really hope so..."

A week later, Leia made her first steps out of bed. Ten days afterward, Palpatine died in his private rooms.

As everyone expected, Vader was declared Emperor. What was less expected though was that he immediately contacted the Rebellion to set up peace talks; a peace conference was quickly organized and scheduled.

Then, the four ex-rebels began to see Vader's plan set itself in motion.

"'What' did they ask for?!" Leia growled in unpleasant disagreement. She was sitting in a chair in a small conference room, wearing a large cream-white gown that made her look like an angel.

An angry angel, Luke reflected.

"They want me to return Luke and Han," their father explained. "It seems that their arrival here was seen by spies, as I feared."

Leia exchanged a gaze with her brother and lover, then turned back toward her father. "We are not giving them back to Mothma," she stated with finality.  "Ignore that request, Father."

"I can't," he answered her. "It's the price for the peace conference: both sides must return every war prisoner."

"Then tell them that they are dead," she commented harshly.

"Leia!" Luke rebuked her. He couldn't believe that she was lowering herself to such vile manipulations in order to keep them with herself.

"What?!" she scowled back, then refocused on their father. "You could have killed them, couldn't you?" she inquired.

"Yes," he conceded with a nod of his head, "but we really need allies on the Alliance side."

"Allies! But they will be in danger there with Mon!" she exclaimed, sitting more upright as her energies seemed to return to her.

"No. She will need them now. As," the Dark Lord bowed his head a little, this time in amusement, "living proofs of my cruelty."

"As if she needed more proofs..." Solo muttered.

Luke winced at Han's words, but his father remained stoic.

"Very true, captain," he agreed, then continued. "Second, she will most certainly need a Jedi ally to control me. Third, without you, Princess, your friend and brother aren't any threat for her, or at least not an immediate one."

"Not immediate, that's right. But..."

"And last," Vader interrupted his daughter, "they will be protected, as will you be."

Luke gaped at that; he hadn't expected to leave with any kind of protection other than his own abilities, which his father had carefully honed throughout the past months.

"Protected?" Leia frowned. "By whom? Your... er.. stormtroopers?" she sneered, the irony of her voice cutting in Luke's senses like a knife would.

"No. Alkahrak," the Dark Lord said in the air, "you may reveal yourself."

Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie gaped in utter shock at a gray-skinned, wiry alien  appeared in a corner as if out of the thin air. A Noghri, they identified, the three of them having seen their newest spies the day that they had joined their side... but not all of them, Luke reflected even as he searched his father's mask for implicit explanation. Meanwhile, the alien bowed intricately at Vader's feet. "What is thy bidding, my Lord?" the alien mewed, keeping his face against the floor.

"You may rise, Alkahrak," Vader instructed coolly yet not completely haughtily either.

Luke thus understood that his father cared about his loyal servant.

"I need your assistance to protect my children and family."

Luke, who hadn't expected Vader to talk about them, let alone identify them as his heirs, continued to gape in confusion and shock as the imperial Noghri turned toward himself and his sister and bowed again in front of them.

"It is an honor to meet you, children of the Lord Vader."

The twins exchanged a bemused look, then simultaneously turned toward their father. He silently invited them to answer the alien servant.

"I... uh, it's an honor to meet you too, Alkahrak," Luke began while he made a note to himself to remember that not all Noghris had joined the Republic yet.  He had never suspected anything about the Noghris before, but as he gazed at Alkahrak's figure, he 'felt' that it was the truth.

"Thank you for your help," Leia added warmly.

The average-tall alien straightened once more, bowed his head to them, and then refocused on his overlord.

"How may I serve you, my Lord?" he inquired respectfully.

"My son, as well as my son-in-law," Vader began seriously---  Han gasped aloud as the other's words settled in his mind.

"will go to the Rebellion in a highly dangerous mission," he continued as if he hadn't noticed Han's reaction. "They'll need protection."

"The clan of Areshetar will be honored to protect them," the Noghri mewed respectfully.

"My daughter will also stay alone in the castle for a while. She must not be seen by anyone from the Republic," he instructed him.

"Yes, my Lord. She will be safe."

"Good. Before the conference I'll give you instructions concerning my own protection as well as the ...mistakes in it, " he commented cryptically.

"Yes, my Lord," Alkahrak said once again, although in a slightly disapproving tone.

"I know that you would have done better, Alkahrak, But it's known that you are under my service."

"This ..skarlt 's too young. Ash't aha lert," he then commented in a somewhat displeased voice.

"Ash leht erta, Alkahrak. Shart'astkara," his father replied in the alien language.

The Noghri bowed in obedience. "Yes, my Lord."

"You may go."

"Ah, if I may," Leia interrupted the alien's imminent departure.

The Noghri looked at Vader, who nodded yes. "How may I serve you, daughter of Lord Vader?"

"I was wondering... How many of your people are still at the service of my father?"

Alkahrak appeared surprised. "My whole people is serving Lord Vader, my Lady."

"No, I mean now. After the Republic discovered that the imperial installations on your planet had poisoned it, your people allied yourselves with the Republic."

"All of us are serving Lord Vader," the Noghri repeated simply.

"But what about the ones who joined the Republic?" she inquired, and Luke could feel her slight worry.

"They are serving him too, of course. Lord Vader saved us."

"He didn't save you!" she exclaimed with slight animosity. "You were betrayed, we proved that to---"

"No," the alien creature gently shook his massive head. "We always knew of the poisoning. Our Lord had told us about it. The Emperor wanted our people dead, but Lord Vader saved us. Now, our planet is healing."

"But... When the Republic discovered..." Leia fell silent and gaped at Vader. "A game, is that it? " she inquired in awe. "You manipulated us to welcome the Noghris in order to gain allies inside the Republic while protecting  your spies?"

"And my children," Vader nodded amiably. "Yes, of course."

Even Luke, who was beginning to grow familiar with their father’s genius, admitted that these were amazing news. He had never, ever suspected that their new spies were still working for his father. "All those people were involved in a plot?" he inquired in a half-whisper.


"Crazy..." Leia commented in awe. "I would never have thought that it could be possible..."

"Are you satisfied with this protection?" their father asked both of them.

"What? Oh, yes," Luke agreed.

"Completely," Leia added, then she noticed that the Noghri was still there. "Thank you for your help, Alkahrak."

"It's an honor to serve the daughter of Lord Vader," he answered, then disappeared almost out of thin air.

"Well, that is settled,” Han commented in obvious satisfaction, “but there's still something that I want to ask you, your Lordship," he added more warily.


"Why did you call me..."

"My son-in-law?" Vader finished for him.

"Exactly. As far as I know, I'm not married with your daughter."

"It can be arranged," the Sith shrugged as if it were the least of his trouble at the moment.

It was not exactly reciprocal as far as Solo was concerned. "Ww-w--what?!" he gaped in utter confusion and disbelief.  Luke, who was witnessing Han’s complete loss of composure, tried hard not to double over in a spasm of silent laughter.

Leia, for her part, looked at her lover and smiled. "Yes," she told him earnestly.

"Yes??” Han gaped in worsening confusion at her.

"Yes in answer to the question that you haven't asked yet. Yes, Han Solo, I will marry you."

"Ah.. Er.."

Chewie couldn't contain his own chuckle after that, which earned him a glare from his partner.

"Con.." breathed Luke, trying recover his own composure although he couldn't stop but smirk at Han's discomfiture. "Congratulations, Han."


"Do you refuse my daughter, Captain?" Vader inquired seriously.

"No!" Han hurried to answer. "Of course not. But... Oh, hell. Thanks, Luke."

"And when will we marry?" Leia smiled sweetly at him after she pecked his cheek in reassurance.

"You want a great marriage, don't you?" Han commented.

"Oh, no. I always wanted something small. You know, a family thing," her smile grew predatory. She focused on her father. "Could you arrange it tomorrow? In secret?"

"Of course," Vader nodded in a so constricted voice that Luke had no doubt that he was also laughing silently.

Han opened his mouth to speak--- but no sound came out. For a moment he looked at everyone with protruding eyes, then after a moment, joined their laughter.

"Tomorrow. Oh boy, what can I say... I can't wait for it!"

And so it was that Han and Leia were married the next evening in Vader's castle in the most perfect secrecy.

Two days later, Luke, Han and Chewbacca departed for the Alliance.

Chapter 15: Lies and Truths

"We are so relieved to see you three alive," Mon said with a most sincere smile."We missed you much."  She then sobered visibly.  "Sadly though, I have bad news for you..."

"What it is?" Luke inquired, then frowned knowingly. "Leia... It has something to do with Leia, right?"

"Unfortunately..." she nodded, mimicking a sadness that she didn't feel at all.  "It's difficult to explain," she continued mock-sorrowfully.  "but we have unfortunately received irrefutable proofs that she's been killed."

"No!!" Han exclaimed as he stood up from his chair in apparent despair. "It's impossible!"

"I wish that it were not true, Captain." Mothma shook her head gently. "I know how hard it is to hear this truth.  Our reports informed us that she was captured by pirates, but before we could rescue her, their base was destroyed by Imperial forces."

"Vader," Luke muttered with mock-palpable hatred. "It's him. I'm sure that it was him."

"Probably," Mon sighed once again, as if in compassion. "And now, it appears that he wants peace. Even if he did kill Leia, I cannot turn down this offer."

"You must not believe him," Han shot, suddenly putting an end to his worried pacing.  His unshed tears were glistening in his eyes.  "He is a liar, a monster, a torturer..."

His last word caught Mon's attention.  "Has he questioned you?" she inquired solicitously.

And probably fishing for proofs to demolish Vader, Luke calculated.

"Tortured? No, not me..." Han defended.  "Nothing much anyway," he then amended, "But he has not held himself back with Luke."

Mon turned worried/interested eyes toward the young Jedi.  "Is it true?"

Luke tried to pretend that he was still reeling from bad memories of pain and agony instead of ones of sharing and understanding.  "He attempted to turn me," he finally half-whispered as if in psychological torment.

"But he didn't succeed," Mon smiled as if proudly.

"He came really close though..."

Mon walked around her desk and laid her hand on his shoulder.  Luke forced himself to not cringe under her touch.

"It's all over now," she reassured him.  "Everything is over."

"Will you still negotiate with him?" Solo inquired, trying to draw her attention away from Luke.

"I have to. But," she smiled cryptically. "that too will be over some day..."

That day came on the fifth day of the Peace talks.  The government of the coalition had already been established and the peace treaty were signed.

That day, Luke knew what to expect.

Thus, he wasn't truly surprised when the 'assassination' took place. Even then though, he only saw a swirl of black and red cloak, like a body of flame that assailed his father's throat before it disappeared almost immediately from sight without any logical explanation as to its vanishing.

What most people really saw though was a flash of color, then Vader collapsing on the floor.

"I certainly wouldn't want to face such an assassin," Han muttered under his breath as he watched the scene of panic that unfolded in front of them.

Chewie moaned an agreement.

"Do you know who it is?" Solo inquired with his new brother-in-law.

"A young Noghri," Luke barely whispered while he kept his eyes locked on his father's prone form; he hoped that he was all right.

Finally, Mon took the direction of the conference in her capable hands and stopped the panic.  That allowed the medics to pass through to examine Lord Vader.

He was alive, to the dismay of Mothma, but nobody but a Jedi could know this about her feelings.  To everyone else, she appeared to be genuinely worried about the suddenly 'benevolent' Dark Lord of the Sith.

She sighed in mock-relief when the medical team transported him to the nearest medical center for stabilization.

A few days later, after the capture of Vader's 'attacker', it was announced that Lord Vader had survived the assassination attempt but had entered a deep coma.

Nobody knew if he would came out of it someday.

Mon Mothma was unanimously elected as the chief of the government and, provisionally, the chief of State.

Or more technically, the new Empress, but with a new, less worrying title.  Safely hidden in her father's castle, Leia warily watched the proceedings.

Luke entered the medcenter.

Officially, he was here to check for Mothma the status of the Dark Lord, as well as savor his victory.

In fact though, he was merely visiting his father.

Vader's body was on the bed, attached to external life support system.  His whole armor had been removed, thus allowing him to see him without it for the first time since he had met him.

His skin was even paler then the pristine medical sheets, and his face was almost completely covered by an opaque respirator, but what was left uncovered allowed an extrapolation that he had never had a chance to indulge in before.

What he quickly noticed was that his father hadn't lied.  He did not have a face anym---

"My gods" Luke breathed in horror even as he refrained himself from bolting toward the closest 'fresher to relieve his stomach.  In a way, he had known what to expect, except that he had not believed his father.

Vader's mask was really more his face than his scarred flesh.

*Father* Luke called. *Can you hear me?*

The reply came almost immediately. It was weaker then usual, but calm and coherent.  *Good afternoon, Son.*

*Did I wake you?*

*You did, but it doesn't matter. I have plenty of time to sleep now,* Vader answered tiredly.

*Dr. Forester must be happy,* Luke cracked lightly, referring to his father's personal medic.  As he had quickly found out upon entering his father's world, the man's personal crusade was to make the Dark Lord sleep as much as he had to.

*Ecstatic. At last I'm under his complete power,* his father answered in kind.

*How are you?* Luke inquired more worriedly.

*Good. In a month I'll 'need' to maintain coma artificially.*

*And the medics? What will they do?* he asked in relief.  *Won't they become aware of the subterfuge?*

*No, only of the healing of my injury... and the need to replace some of my implants.  When they will do so,* he then warned him, *I'll be Force-blind for some days. I'll tell you beforehand though,* he promised him.

*Ok.. So,* he inquired uncertainly, *will you be all right?*

*Yes. I'm a Sith,* he reminded him coolly.  *Being here doesn't matter. Besides, I finally have some free time to listen to the Circle.*  The feeling of a smile caressed Luke's mind. *How are you? And Leia?*

*We are all right,* he reassured his father.  *The plan is proceeding smoothly. Leia is gathering all the information that we need via your spy network, as agreed.  I think that she is really enjoying it.*

*She is a born politician,* his father mentally nodded in agreement, *like your mother.*

*I agree.  By the way, the Nohgri are doing an admirable job protecting her,* he added in genuine awe.  *The castle was searched but they never found Leia, nor your real archive for that matter.*

*Good. And you?*

*Well... Han, and myself are in the 'imperial council'. Mon is just 'great',* he commented sarcastically.  *She's managed to gain all the Emperors' privileges and power without alerting the Alliance.  She is wonderfully balancing at the edge at the moment.*

*It will not last long,* Vader commented knowingly.  *When the ecstasy of the end of the war will be over, the planets will ask for the promised reforms, which I don't think that she will be able to honor. The absence of respect of those engagements will pull the Alliance apart.*

*Why? She's managed the Rebellion so far,* Luke pointed out.

*Because she was leading a war against a common enemy, and she had the help of your sister,* his father reminded him more sternly.  *Now though, she's alone, and, as you yourself have once complained, the managing of power is more a dull everyday work than a thrill-filled ride.  This is something that she does not know how to handle.  Hence, she will always want more power to keep herself from falling into a tedious routine... She will follow in Palpatine's tracks.*

*I see,* Luke nodded in grim understanding.  *How much time then?*

*Six months at the most. I don't think that more will be necessary.*

*That long?* Luke gaped, dumbfounded.  He had not expected this kind of answer at all.

*Patience, Son,* his father wisely counseled him, then seemed to smirk at him.*Consider it as a good practice for you to strengthen this aspect of the Jedi's virtues.*

*Okay,* he reluctantly accepted, then tilted his head as he felt something enter his Force senses.  The guards at the door were beginning to wonder what was taking him so long.  *I must go. I've already spent too much time here.*

*Take care, Son,* his father sent him warmly.

*You too, and see you soon,* he bid him earnestly.  Six months, he then thought to himself.

It would be an eternity, he whined in an unjedi-like fashion, but he didn't care.  He already missed his father's presence around him.

------Six months passed, gradually filling themselves with the boring tedium that Vader had mentioned... and things began to go wrong in the Republic/Empire.

Now that the war had ended, pleas for pacification came from some still besieged planets... and went ignored by the new government.

At first, nobody noticed anything wrong in regards to those... But after a while, pleas for the reforms also went ignored, then the only thing that the government seemed to do was talk.

Then the taxes were increased.

Next, some rising resistance simply vanished without a trace --- until their Leaders were found some time later... Dead.

Then, a general of the old republic disappeared too.  It was said that he had contradicted Mothma.  After this incident, nobody dared speak against her anymore, silently accepting her slowly growing reign of terror.

Later on, some planets decided to leave the Alliance while the construction of some scientific station near Endor was announced.  This announcement went unnoticed--- but for four people who were waiting for such a blunder to take place.

The woman's lust for power needed to be quenched for good now.

Thus, during a session of the council, Luke requested the permission to speak. He naturally obtained it without any arguments.  He was their 'trustee' Jedi advisor now.

"I want to inquire about the scientific station that was announced yesterday," he began somberly.  "I simply wonder what kind of scientific station can cost some two-hundred millions credits," he stated, locking his defiant gaze on Mothma, then sent his information to personal screens of each councilor that was present to this meeting.  They all gazed at their screen, then gaped back at him upon seeing the station's financial plans.

Mothma paled, then tried to interfere, but surprisingly couldn't.  She wasn suddenly forced to muteness.  Luke continued.

"The plans of that station are also peculiarly interesting," he commented with a hint of sarcasm in his voice, a sarcasm directed at Mon herself.

The woman began to glare daggers at him as Luke loaded a datadisk in the main holoprojector of the conference table.  The plans of a Death Star appeared above the middle of the table.  The councilors' eyes widened in horror, then The men began to mutter between themselves in earnest.

Beside Luke, Han closely monitored Madine who was giving them signs that they couldn't trust him anymore.

Luke released Mon from his control.  "This is ridiculous!" she exclaimed. "You're mad, Skywalker. Who would give an order like this?" she demanded, gazing at her councilors.

"But you of course," said a new, yet familiar and long-heard voice.

Everybody turned toward the direction of the mellifluous voice--- and saw an angel-like lady Organa who had seemingly appeared out of thin air.

The ex-princess smiled serenely as she slowly advanced toward the woman who was responsible for her torture and her near death.  "Hello, Mon. Did you miss me?" she inquired with a concealed sneer that only Mon Mothma could detect since she was facing only her at the moment.

However, her even voice resounded throughout the whole room, calming the distraught Councilors while it captured their complete attention.

Mothma was still gaping at her in disbelief.  "L--- Leia??" she inarticulately blurted out.

"Yes.  You didn't expect to see me again, did you?" she asked her former ally.

"I thought that you were dead," she admitted with the slightest edge of hatred in her voice.  "How did you escape Vader?" she then inquired as kindly as she could manage.

"How I have escaped your mercenaries you mean?" Leia corrected.  "How have I recovered from the cruel beatings and punishments that you have ordered them to accomplish perhaps?"

"Where do you get such ideas, Leia?" the other hurried to defend herself, "I would never---"

"Correction," a deep voice stated from behind the petite brunette before the black form of Darth Vader appeared behind Leia's white silhouette, definitely out of thin air this time. "You would have, and you did."

While the gathered councilors definitely backed away upon witnessing the apparition of what they thought was a ghost, Mothma stood her ground, but not as convincingly as she intended to.

"How-how can you--- You are in an incurable coma----" the woman of state stuttered in utter bafflement.

"Your bid for power is over, Mon Mothma," he declared darkly, pointedly ignoring her question.

"What bid?" she asked, desperately trying to recover some kind of control on the quickly degenerating situation.

Luke saw her throw a nervous look at the councilors that were gathered at the other end of the table, then he saw in her features and senses that she had realized that there was no going back after this latest surprise.

She had lost their blind trust.

"The bid that made you betray Princess Leia's location when she retrieved the Death Star Plans," Vader explained seriously.  "The bid that made you kill the population of two whole cities on Brummuri in order to fuel the animosity of your rebel troops once I kept the Fleet away from your ships."  The rebel councilors began to express their distrust in their up-to-now irreproachable leader. "The lust that made you want to kill me so that you could take the throne," Vader finished darkly.  "And of course, that very same lust that made you attempt the construction of a new Death Star."

"You can't prove anything!" the almost-Empress suddenly spat vehemently, giving up any pretense that she wasn't guilty.

Luke, who was closely monitoring the cornered woman, saw in her mind that if they didn't win, they were all dead.

"Oh, but I can," his father answered suavely.  "I can prove most easily your ordering of the Death Star construction. I have three witnesses of this deal. As for proving that you organized my demise is simple; the Noghri who has been arrested is 'my' agent, not yours as you thought he was."

When all the colors drained from Mothma's features, Luke knew that they had won. She was whiter than her robe.

In front of the young Jedi, Madine, was as red as a beet. Luke shifted his concentration from one enemy to the other.  The general was the most threatening danger now.

"No" Mothma finally shook her head. "A game? This whole Peace Conference was only a game to draw me out?"

"You were more perceptive before, Mon," his father observed critically.

"Why? I thought that we were... at least friends," she commented, obviously trying to gain the pity of the Dark Lord.

His father remained unmoved while the Rebellion's generals looked at her in disgust.

"Friends?" Ackbar stuttered." What does it mean?"

"Mon Mothma has tried to win the game of power, Admiral," Vader explained coolly, his gaze never leaving the red-headed woman.  "This war, as well as the Rebellion, were merely tools for her to reach the throne of the Empire."

Madine suddenly drew his weapon, but Luke was ready.  Even before the other had cleared his holster, he himself had grabbed the man with the Force and hurled him above and away from the meeting table.  The man crashed against the far wall, then fell on the floor in an unconscious heap.  The young Jedi called his blaster to his hand, then refocused on the wide-eyed, frightened faces as he set it on the table beside himself.

"Skywalker?!?" Dodonna breathed in fright and uncertainty.

"He was her secret lover," he explained simply,  "her sole accomplice in this scheme of hers... and the one person behind all the murders and the supposedly kidnappings of the past months."

"What?!" the aging general whispered, whirling toward the newly revealed monster.

"Is that true?" Ackbar inquired wearily.

"No need to lie," Vader commented almost gently. "You're beaten, Mon."

"It does appear so." she smiled without humor, then sighed in defeat. "Yes, everything is true," she admitted coldly, not giving any sign of regret for her machiavellian manipulations.  "I created the Rebellion to dethrone the Emperor and take his place; I also tried to kill the Princess in order to achieve this goal."

Her hateful glare pinned Leia, who didn't flinch in the least.  She equally glared at the woman of state.  "How I hate you, Leia," she muttered, then refocused on the dark lord.  "I wanted to take Palpatine's place, yes, but I am different from him for one thing: I know how to lose."

She slowly walked around the end of the table and approached her enemy, who was now standing near Luke's seat.  The councilors swiftly moved further away from the table, obviously afraid by the upcoming, final face-off.

Once beside the dark lord, Mon brazenly glared at him.  "Why have you gone to so much trouble to get your revenge?  Was it for the pleasure of the game? Your own cravings for power? Or the throne?" she inquired, intently looking at him.

"If I had only wanted the throne," the Sith lord began calmly, "I would have dealt with you alone. My revenge was based on purely personal reasons, which have nothing to do," he looked at her and Mon dropped her gaze, "with what you think."

The defeated woman smiled a little.  "I'm disappointed, while not surprised. What it is then?"  she inquired, raising her head once again to meet his gaze. "I don't think that there is anymore need to keep this secret.  As you've said," she glared askance at Leia and Luke, "you've won."

"Remember what you have discovered ten years ago?" Vader answered her seriously. "What has been promptly denied and banned from discussion? It's true, and I care."

She gaped at him, then at Luke and Leia.  "I... see," she nodded in Understanding, then briefly bowed her head, as if in respect.  "Congratulations. It was an excellent game and it was an honor to have you for an opponent."

"Entirely my pleasure," Vader answered, bowing a little in return.

The two opponents gazed at each other for a little longer, then everything became a blur.

Mothma dove for the blaster that was lying on the table beside Luke, then she grabbed hold of it before she turned around.

The young Jedi had barely begun to focus on stopping her from aiming at either him or Leia--- when she fired at her own head.

He turned away in horror, clenching his eyes and trying to not register the awful after image of what he had just witnessed.  Behind him, the distraught councilors muttered in terror, then one of them called for security.

Then, he felt his sister's hand touch his cheek; he opened his eyes and gazed into her understanding eyes.  *It's over, Luke,* she sent him reassuringly. *Let's get out of here.*

He nodded wordlessly, then raised his head to gaze at his father.

He too nodded in agreement.  He saw him throw a last gaze at the woman's body, then he turned and exited the room.  His children and their friend followed him, leaving the chaos behind themselves... for the time being.

As Vader had promised to Leia, no one except the present councilors were told about what had happened in the small meeting room; the present men had also agreed that this horrifying truth was better kept secret and forgotten.

Mothma was thus reported dead after having suffered from a heart attack.  The Empire rejoiced in the miraculous reestablishment of Emperor Lord Vader, who quickly set the wrongs right and listened to the pleas that had gone unheard for too long.

The unifying process between the Empire and the Republic began anew.

On the family side, things were not so clear though.

Leia had finally made her peace with her father, but she still wanted her freedom.  She didn't want to have anything to do with the Force, the Jedi Knights or the Sith, except for her ability to mind talk with her brother.

Since the Rebellion wasn't needed anymore though, at least, for the moment, she didn't have a cause to defend anymore.

Hence, she only had a few options.

She could either remain on Coruscant and become involved in the new government, or else, she could leave and travel all around the galaxy with her new husband. One thing was clear for her though: she wanted to make sure that no more injustice, such as the ones that the Emperor had brought upon the galaxy, would ever happen again.

Luke for his part couldn't decide whether to stay with his father, or to leave with his friends.  Whatever he chose, he knew that he would be leaving a part of his family, something that he had always wanted in his life.

He couldn't imagine abandoning Leia, his dear sister who could understand him so much better than anybody else... who was the strength that he didn't have when times became rough...

On the other hand, he also couldn't imagine leaving his father, the man who was helping him to become a man instead of a perpetual teenager, the accomplished Force User who was guiding him toward the completion of his training... the father he had always wished for and had finally found... albeit in a completely different 'format' that what he had hoped for.

He was pondering this difficult choice yet again when his sister and friends joined him on the large balcony of his chosen quarters.

"Hey, Kid, still rummaging those thoughts of yours," Han teased him.

"Still," Luke nodded as he turned toward them to greet them.  "What about you? Have you made your decision yet?"

"I've decided to stay on Coruscant for a while," Leia answered him after exchanging a quick hug with him.  "I want to make sure that everything will be fine... You know, no more New Order?" she winked at him.

"Yeah, I know," he nodded in agreement.  *Will you live here, in Father's palace then?" he inquired next.

"Well, hmmmm, we'll see," Han commented, his unease with the dark lord still obvious in his physical demeanor and voice.

While the two men had come closer than Luke had ever thought possible for those two, his friend still felt quite uncomfortable when the idea of living with Vader came up---

"And you?" Han queried, pulling him out of his thoughts.

He sighed wearily as the need to made up his mind 'assailed' him once again. "More and more," he finally admitted honestly, "I think that I'll stay here too for a while.  I might leave later on, but for the moment, I think that my place is here, with him."

As he shared with his true intentions with his friend, a most welcomed feeling of peace settled within him.  This was where he had to be for the moment, he realized.

"Or his place is here, with you, learning from you," Leia commented, as if reading his thoughts.

"Perhaps," Luke shrugged while he exchanged a knowing gaze with her.

Chewie crooned some warning at him though.

Luke shook his head at the tall wookiee.  "Don't worry, Chewie," he reassured his very old friend.  "I will not learn Sith teachings.  I just want to complete my basic training."

"Yeah, and whatever other knowledge he can provide you with, right?" Han ribbed him in the arm.

Luke couldn't help but blush as if he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Well, hmmm, I must admit that I'd like to get through his whole library, yes" he admitted ruefully.

"By the Force," Leia shook her head as if in disbelief, "if you do that, you'll still be here in a thousand years," she smiled wryly.

"I know, but if it's the secret of a very old life," Luke quipped, then sobered a little, as did his friends.  "Nah, seriously though, I'll try to read as much as I can."

"Well, then," Han smiled lopsidedly,  "I'd say that it's settled for all of us now.  How about telling him?" he offered.

Luke, who had slowly grown aware of his father's friendly presence around them, concentrated to listen to what he wanted to tell him, then shook his head, smiling.  "He already knows, Han," he informed his friends, "and he agrees with our choices.".

"He already knows?" Han frowned, "How?"

"It appears that he has known for days, before even we knew what we truly wanted," the youth shrugged while he wondered just 'how' wise his father was.

"Then he should have told us," Leia pouted slightly.

"And cut our fun at the moment, nah," Luke teased her.  "By the way, if you are interested, he offers you to live on one of the unoccupied level of the castle.He says that you can transform it whatever way you want."

Leia and Han exchanged a surprised glance, then smiled.

"Tell him that we accept," she told her brother, then turned toward the landscape of Coruscant.  As she gazed at it, she consciously identified it as her new home for the first time.  Ever since she had awakened in her father's medcenter, she had never thought about it as more than her prison world.  But not anymore.

She was free now, and she had chosen to help in the creation of a new, fair government.

Just like Luke knew that his place was at his father's side for the moment, she could feel that her destiny was here.

Hence, she made a note to herself to fix her 'home' the way she wanted because she could feel that she'd probably be living here for a long, long while.

Beside her, Luke studied the same landscape, wondering what the future had in store for him now.  The red-gold tinted sky seemed to be talking to him, but so were the flying aircrafts, the populated city, and the Force.

When he failed to decipher what the present moment was trying to tell him, he decided that he would simply wait... and see...


Home Fiction Art Mail List Staff Links

Graphics by Alicorna