Your name is Darth Vader.
It wasn't always your name; you used to have another name but you don't think about it anymore.
Over the years, you have become very good at not thinking about certain things. You try to keep your thoughts centered on your master’s bidding, on maintaining order throughout the galaxy, and on the Dark Side of the Force.
You drown yourself in hate and anger in order to survive. You remind yourself about your broken body. You remind yourself about all the resentment and failure and betrayal. You remind yourself that the Dark Side has ensured that you will never feel afraid again. You wrap yourself in darkness and you try to forget everything else.
You try to forget that you ever had another name or another life. You try to forget that you used to be happy. You try to forget but sometimes you feel like you're lost in a storm of memories so fragmented that they resemble grains of sand: Obi-Wan laughing in spite of himself, Artoo’s triumphant whistling at the end of a mission, Ahsoka rolling her eyes at you even as a smile spreads across her face, the feeling of your mother's arms around you…
And Padmé. Always Padmé. Memories of her that cut so sharply that you flee back into the dark and hope that it obliterates you.
You try desperately to forget. Sometimes it works.
The Emperor, your master, has sent you to observe a meeting of the Senate. You hate being here in this building with memories so thick that the walls around you feel like they're screaming remember, remember. You hate being here and your master knows this and that is why he ordered you to go.
You sometimes think to yourself that if you were a real Sith, you would shove a lightsaber through his eye socket. It wouldn't be a surprise; a Sith apprentice is expected to try and kill his master. You've never tried, though: you're pretty sure that he implanted some kind of kill switch in your suit that would keep you from doing it. You try not to think about how it's really no different than the tracker Watto put into you when you were his slave.
You stand in the Senate chamber, out of sight but never truly out of sight: you are far too noticeable to be overlooked. You stand in the shadows and feel the Dark Side fold itself around you because being here fills you with rage. You despise these people, petty and pampered, playing at being an authority. You imagine bringing the whole building down on their heads.
You don't look at the Naboo delegation.
Your attention does wander at one point over to the pod reserved for the Senator from Alderaan. You try to forget that you knew Bail Organa once. You are fairly certain that he is involved with the Rebellion but you have never been able to prove it.
Today, however, he isn't there. A young woman, practically a child, is sitting in his place. Something about her is bothering you but you can't put your finger on it.
She rises to deliver a speech and the feeling gets worse. The Force is practically hammering away at you and you don't know why.
Someone from another delegation jeers at her and she turns to respond. Her voice is like polished steel: “If you strike my voice down, know that a chorus of thousands will rise up in its place.”
She goes on to say other things but you are no longer listening. You know those words.
It was a line that Padmé once used in a speech she delivered at a conference on Alderaan. You weren't there in person for that speech but there were times during the Clone Wars when the only thing that kept the loneliness from eating you alive was watching every recording of your wife that the news could provide.
It isn't a surprise that someone would repeat it, especially someone from Alderaan, but the girl said it the exact same way that Padmé would. In her exact voice.
The cameras in the chamber focus in on the girl from Alderaan and you feel like you're falling. You can't stop breathing, the suit won't let you, but you still feel like the wind has been knocked out of your ruined lungs.
She looks so much like Padmé that you wonder if you're dreaming or in the middle of some horrible Force vision. You even recognize the hairstyle: a bun covering each ear, the way Padmé wore it the day you returned from the war and she told you…
...she told you that she was pregnant.
You storm out of the Senate chamber. You don't care how it looks or what your orders were. You have to know the truth.
Your name is Darth Vader and you do not have a past.
You keep telling yourself that. The past belongs to another person and he died a long time ago: killed by the Jedi, by years of war, by Darth Sidious, and by you yourself. He is dead but now he keeps showing up at the edges of your vision, whispering remember, remember.
You tell yourself that you don't have a wife, that you never had a wife. She was his wife, she loved him. She loved him even though she had no reason to and even though that love was probably what killed her… but no, you're the one who killed her. Your master lies, as all masters do, but you know he was telling the truth about that: you killed her and it made everything that you did before and after completely pointless.
You weren't the only one who killed her, of course: Sidious twisted your mind, Obi-Wan turned her against you, the Republic demanded every last ounce of dedication that she had, and the Jedi lied to you both. In a way, you all killed her. It took all of your combined efforts to bring her down, that was how strong she was.
And now… some part of her may have survived.
Even at her age, the girl is a public figure, which makes your research easy. She is sixteen years old, barely older than Padmé was when you—he—first met her.
Born sixteen years ago, two days after the birth of the Empire.
The timing is exactly right.
It takes every bit of self-control that you have to not immediately go to the Imperial Palace and cut your master to pieces. You can't take the risk that he would survive and find her himself.
You reassure yourself with the fact that since he hasn’t tried to capture her yet, it means that he doesn’t know that she exists. You have a head start.
You refuse to waste it.
Her name is Leia Organa. That shouldn’t be her name, but the name that it ought to be is the one that you don’t think about anymore.
You have a daughter and they took her away from you.
It must have been Obi-Wan who came up with the idea of giving her to be raised by people who hate you. He was there with Padmé on Mustafar; he must have helped her survive long enough to give birth, even though he couldn’t stop her from dying because no one could do that, not even you in the end.
For a moment, you wonder if Obi-Wan killed her. But then you scoff; he couldn’t even bring himself to kill you.
You are fairly certain that he isn’t dead but you have never been able to figure out where he would go to hide. Maybe he was on Alderaan this whole time, poisoning yet another mind against you.
One thing at a time, you tell yourself. Finding your daughter should be your top priority.
You try to intercept her before she leaves Coruscant but she eludes you. You are forced to resort to your backup plan and arrest Bail Organa on suspicion of treason.
Your name is Darth Vader and that alone should strike fear in the heart of every single Rebel.
You expected Organa to be difficult but you honestly didn't expect him to be this difficult. Nothing about you has ever been gentle, even in the past that you don’t think about, and your methods of interrogation are even less so; however, despite your efforts and the interrogation droid, he still won't tell you anything. He claims that he doesn't know anything about the Rebellion. You don't need the Force to tell you that he's lying, and he knows that you know that.
A suspicion begins to coil in your stomach but it isn’t until you ask him directly about his (not his) daughter that several things become very clear:
He knows who you are; rather, he knows who you used to be. And he knows that you know about your daughter.
You thought that the knowledge would break him but it ends up doing the opposite: at this point he is practically daring you to kill him. You almost give in and do it—you’ve been itching for blood ever since that day in the Senate chamber—but you have another idea.
You send word to the Alderaanian delegation that you will release Bail Organa if Leia agrees to come to Coruscant for questioning.
By this point, Organa is barely coherent but he manages to spit at you that his daughter would never risk herself like that, that she knows what the stakes are and that he isn’t worth throwing her life away for. You hear him call her his daughter and you come dangerously close to breaking his neck.
Besides, you both know that what he said wasn’t true. She isn’t his daughter. Furthermore, she would absolutely come to his rescue because that is exactly what her mother would have done.
Her name is Leia and she is here.
Your assumption was correct: she turned herself in almost immediately after receiving your message. You hold up your end of the bargain and send Organa back to Alderaan; you also make it clear that he will be under heavy Imperial surveillance from now on.
She is wary but not as afraid as you thought she would be. You don’t ask her about the Rebellion; in fact, you’re not sure what to ask her because you are still reeling from the fact that she is actually here in the room with you. Mostly you just want to watch her, picking out every last resemblance to Padmé that you can find.
You are uncertain and afraid and grasping desperately for the Dark Side because you weren’t supposed to feel this way ever again. Your past self is still whispering in your ears to remember but he also starts spinning out the scenario that you vowed never to think about: the impossible other life that you might have led if you hadn’t trusted the wrong people, if Padmé hadn’t been in danger, if the two of you had managed to escape Coruscant and the crumbling Republic and lived out the rest of your lives together with your family on Naboo.
The suit won’t let you not breathe but it somehow becomes very difficult.
You manage to pull yourself together long enough to ask her what she knows about her birth parents. She says that she doesn’t know anything about them, only that the Organas adopted her shortly after she was born. You think to yourself that this might actually make what you’re about to say easier.
You have faced down some of the most deadly things that the galaxy has to offer and you still have to steel yourself before you tell her: her mother was Padmé Naberrie Amidala, the best thing that ever happened to this galaxy, and you, the worst thing that ever happened to the galaxy, are her father.
You knew that she wouldn’t take this well but her reaction still surprises you. She isn’t horrified; she is furious. You are still trying to work out who exactly she is angry with and why, when you realize something that nearly knocks you over.
The look on her face isn’t anything like her mother’s. That expression is entirely your own.
For once you are actually glad to be wearing a mask because it means that she can’t see your reaction. You were an idiot. You were so obsessed with her resemblance to Padmé that it never occurred to you that she might also be like you.
And if she’s like you then she can use the Force… which opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
Sidious might be able to stop you from killing him, but there’s nothing that would stop her from killing him if she was properly trained.
You explain to her that there is a way for her to use her anger to make herself more powerful. You offer to teach her, which catches her off-guard initially, but she doesn’t immediately refuse. She does, however, point out that your offer isn’t exactly an offer if you’re keeping her prisoner. You aren’t thrilled with the idea of letting her go, though it does occur to you that if she remained in Imperial custody, the odds that your master would find out about her would increase dramatically.
You amend your offer: you will train her in the ways of the Dark Side in secret. It doesn’t matter to you if she goes back to the Rebellion; she might be one of them in name but if she is your pupil then ultimately she is yours. You don’t say that last part but she picks up the implication anyway and warns you that she will never join the Empire.
You want to argue with her that the Rebellion is ultimately doomed to fail, but you get another idea. You want the Emperor out of the way and so does she. For the moment, you and the Rebellion share the same goal. You propose working together.
She agrees and the two of you begin crafting a plan.
Your name is Darth Vader but, in a completely surreal turn of events, you are also somehow a Rebel spy.
Only temporarily, of course: the moment that Sidious is dead you plan to grind the Rebellion into dust. But, for now, you only think about two things: the plan and your daughter.
Leia is extremely careful and you are proud of her even though it means that you’ve learned almost nothing about the Rebels. Fortunately, that caution extends both ways: none of them know about you. Nobody knows that every time Leia leaves on a “mercy mission,” she is also taking the opportunity to meet up with you and go over the next step in your plan.
You use the time to train her on how to use the Force. For a moment so brief that you refuse to acknowledge it, you actually wonder if this is how Obi-Wan felt when you—no, not you, the other one, the one you keep trying and failing to not think about—first became his Padawan. She is so powerful in the Force that it’s almost frightening and you worry that you will somehow ruin this with your own shortcomings. But she is smart and a quick learner, and also has a surprising amount of anger to tap into.
Sometimes, when she does something particularly well—her first time employing telekinesis, or whenever she gets the upper hand in a lightsaber duel—she smiles and you almost feel happy.
This makes it dangerous, of course: you’re having trouble touching the Dark Side yourself lately and you’re constantly worried that you will slip up in front of your master and expose the whole plot. Your past self has stopped whispering to you but you are beginning to get the feeling that he is now further inside of you, warping your emotions and working to tear down all of the walls you built around yourself.
Your name is… well, that is beginning to get extremely complicated.
Somewhere along the line, between undermining your master’s plans and training your daughter and having to remember and remember, you reconcile yourself with your past. You still despise your past self but you’ve stopped thinking about him as a separate entity. He made choices and you are the result of those choices, just like everyone else.
After two years of work, Leia is finally ready and everything is in place.
You plan to distract your master long enough to give Leia a chance and you are fairly certain that this confrontation is going to end in your death. You warn her that Sidious will lie to her, because all masters lie, and that she can’t let that stop her from doing what has to be done.
Your master likes to boast about all of the things he has foreseen in his rise to power. He might believe that he can see the future, you think, but he manages to miss a lot of things in the present. He never thought to look too closely at the naive do-gooder from Alderaan or notice how her travel schedule seemed to match up with all of the times you left Coruscant to track down another Rebel cell. You can’t help but feel amused that someone who spent most of his career on Naboo, where women went into politics at a young age, missed such an obvious threat to his rule.
But even you don’t anticipate what happens next.
You've spent so much time with her that you no longer compare her to her mother every time you look at her, but the resemblance is still very much there.
Which is why, when your daughter enters his throne room in the Imperial Palace, he thinks that she’s Padmé. He is caught so off guard that she manages to get close to him. He doesn't have time to lie to her. He doesn’t have time to disable your suit.
Leia draws her scarlet blade and cuts your master down.
After that, it doesn’t take long for the two of you to take care of the guards and secure the palace.
The Emperor is dead and you are alive and now you are going to rule the galaxy with your daughter at your side. You’re happy. You’re actually happy and you don’t know what to do with that feeling.
But then you look at Leia and realize that there is something that you missed.
She didn’t lie to you when you first met: she will never join the Empire.
She tells you quietly that the Rebel forces are on their way and that you need to leave before they get here. She won’t try to stop you; in fact, she says that she’ll stop you if you try to stay.
You warn her that killing the Emperor won’t bring back the Republic, but she counters that it’s a start. You don’t know how to explain to her that she will probably end up ruling the Empire anyway, even if she doesn’t plan on it, because the alternative is chaos. But you know that she is smart enough to figure it out eventually.
You leave your daughter to the work of repairing what Sidious destroyed. You know that she will be able to find you later if she wants to.
Your name is Anakin Skywalker. Darth Vader was the name that your old master gave you, and now that you’re free you don’t need it anymore. You can’t really come up with another name so you might as well use the one your mother gave you.
You alter the suit and the mask. That was all Sidious’ design and you don’t have to look like that anymore. You change the vocoder to disguise your voice; you never liked it being that low anyway. What you end up with is more nondescript and easier to hide under robes. You make sure that it can keep out sand.
You don’t really have anywhere else to go so you decide to go back to Tatooine. You figure that no one will bother to look for you there. No one ever looks for anyone there. You can blend in until you work out what to do next. You can’t bring yourself to go back to Mos Espa but Mos Eisley is an acceptable alternative.
One day, you finally get up the courage to go visit the Lars moisture farm where your mother is buried. You arrive before you are able to come up with a good excuse for being there and find yourself standing awkwardly at the edge of the property. You wonder if you should tell them that you’re Shmi’s son, that you’ve been in hiding from the Empire all this time, and hope that they’ll keep your secret.
You’re so distracted that you don’t notice the landspeeder coming towards you until it’s right in front of you. You initially assume that the teenager who hops out of the driver’s seat is Owen Lars, the step-brother that you met only briefly all those years ago, but you remind yourself that time has passed and this is probably Owen’s son.
He asks you if you’re lost. You answer truthfully that you are, even though you’re not lost the way that he means. You tell him that you used to live around here and that your mother is buried nearby.
The boy gets a strange look on his face. The Force starts pushing at you, telling you to remember, and you realize that he looks nothing like Owen; he’s too blond, he looks far too much like…
He asks you who your mother was. You tell him that your mother was Shmi Skywalker.
His blue eyes widen and that’s when you know for certain who he is.